The August Issue 2022 MTL YA FEST

August 2022

MTL YA FEST is Montreal’s first annual young adult author’s festival, created to connect young readers with their favourite authors, to give them the opportunity to encounter new voices in a fun environment, and be inspired to pursue their passions for reading and writing. It was launched in 2018 by librarians Talya Pardo and Nell Beaudry-McLachlan at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library. Held virtually since 2020, the 2022 edition welcomed over 250 registrants from every continent as well as moderators and authors from across the globe.

The festival also runs a writing contest, attracting hundreds of submissions from the Montreal area and beyond. In August, it is Font’s pleasure to feature the winning contributions to the 14 years+ categories, including Best Contemporary Fiction (The Colour of Emptiness), Best Sci Fi Story (Journal of Octavie and It’s a Mad World), Best Song (Cracked Up to Be), Best Historical Fiction (Tantalus’s Curse), Best Book Review (One of Us Is Lying), Best Story with a Jewish Theme (Back in Time), and Best Collaboration (The Pandemic Plot)!

The next MTL YA FEST is already being plotted for May 2023. If you have young writers in your life, tell them all about it…

Rachel McCrum

Rachel McCrum is the editor of Font.

In this issue

The Colour of Emptiness

“Why’s the sky blue?” you once asked me.

“I don’t know,” I said, looking up at the cloudless expanse. “I have no clue. It just is.”

“That’s what Mom said,” you muttered, your brows knitting together. “But I think you’re both wrong.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking down at your kid-version of a serious expression.

“I mean, I don’t think the sky’s blue at all.”

I grinned. “What colour is it, then?”

You looked up at me. You smiled proudly, like you’d just figured out some well-guarded secret.

“It’s the colour of emptiness.”

Now, the slopes on Mount Royal are deserted except for one little girl lugging her sled uphill. She is wearing a bright red snowsuit, the glare of the lamppost illuminating her in the winter darkness. She struggles with the sled all the way to the top of the hill, her legs sinking down into the snow.

“The snow, too,” you add now, lifting your head from my shoulder. “Don’t you see? The colour of emptiness. Colourless. Floating between worlds. Empty. I mean, it’s white, but have you ever noticed how a snowy mountain in the distance is blue? Well, it’s not blue. It’s empty. The colour of emptiness.”

“You’re rambling,” I tell you.

“I did that, near the end. Remember? The treatments hurt too much.”

“Can we not talk about that?”

“You’re the one who chooses what we talk about, Alex.”

I don’t say anything. You lean back onto me and we go back to watching the little girl struggle.

“Isn’t it pretty late for her to be out here?” you ask, your ear cold against my chin.

“Maybe. We were never good at bedtimes. You threw pillows in Dad’s face, remember? You wanted to start pillow fights to stay up later.”

“That was back when we shared a room! I’m older now.” You snuggle closer into me. You always used to do that when you were cold.

“I’m going to leave again, Alex.”

“I know.”

“I’m not coming back this time, okay?”

“You said that last time.” Your voice is high-pitched, like I remember it.

“I didn’t say that last time. Don’t warp this, Alex. I love you, okay? I really do. You know that.”

You lift your head from my shoulder and I turn to look at you again. Your eyes are shining in the light of a nearby lamppost.

“Don’t go,” I say. My voice is cracking again and there is nothing I can do about it. “Don’t leave me.”

You reach forward and take my hands in yours, squeezing them tightly together. You are kneeling on the bench because of how small you are, kneeling on the bench like you did two years ago when you held my hands like this and asked if I would be okay without you.

I’d wanted to save you.

I couldn’t save you.

“Are you going to be okay?” you’d asked, your eyes creased in worry. “When I’m gone, I mean. Are you going to be okay?”

“Shut up, you’re not going anywhere. It’s going to be fine. You’ll see.” I’d told you.

“Alex,” you whisper, your face close in the dim light. “Alex, I’m already gone. And you’re not okay.”

“I don’t have to be. You’re the one who keeps coming back.”

“I don’t come back, Alex. You know that.”

“I wanted to save you.” I say finally, my voice low and dumb.

“I know.”

“I tried to save you and I couldn’t save you and you just went ahead and fucking died,” I whisper, pushing a drop of venom in the last word.

“I know.”

I look back at the hill. The little girl is gone, so is her sled, so are the tracks she left in the snow every time she climbed back up. It’s like she never existed. My heart gives a little tug.

“You were everything to me.”

“I know. Alex, I love you. You know that. You remember. But I have to go now.”

“I understand.”

Your fingers are threaded between mine, the red wool of your gloves rough against my skin.

Finally, I get up. The cold bites at my cheeks as I start walking home. I look up at the sky as I walk, and it is a dark, vibrant shade of blue. Grey puffs of clouds drifting lazily across its calm expanse.

No, not blue.

As I walk down the path of Mount Royal, heading back to my house, I imagine your hand in mine and your serious face and I see it in the sky just as well as I feel it inside.

Freezing tears start rolling down my cheeks for the first time in years.

The sky is not blue.

It is the colour of emptiness.

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Journal of Octavie

Image: Ally L.
Image: Ally L.

Journal Entry #0

To those who come after me⁠—

Neither you nor I are the first to travel through the River of Alora. There were many more before us, thousands of us over millions of years. We are puppets, blank slates created by the Fates themselves, a test subject for all the futures they make. They tell us to go on this journey towards the current world … They force us through Hell. Utopias and dystopias, fantasies and realities. They make us go through all of it, seeing the false ideals to the true actualities.

Do you know why I know this? There are cries and pleas for help, for death. It’s written all over the ship, those before us took this same ship to their demise. Why do you think there’s a lamp of hellfire hanging from Brizo’s bow? Their souls linger in space, screaming to be freed from their curse. I hear them all … And I hate their sounds. It seems the Fates have made a mistake. I’ll set them free, that is my promise. I’m willing to do anything, pass through any world the Fates throw at me. I will divert from my fated path and create my own. I will make it to the current world, and I’ll sacrifice anything for it. This is my protest, my rebellion against the Fates.

You must be wondering who I am, the Fates named me Octavie, Octavie Alma. I always wondered why they named us, we are replaceable to them after all. I, like you and the others before, woke up in the Cathedral of Prophecies. “Welcome my child,” they start, the same as always. “We the Fates have given you a purpose. You are to travel through the River of Alora and reach the current world. In return, you have the right to reincarnate into the current world.” You are given three things: a ship, an atlas, and a magic compass. They then send you on your way, wishing you luck and fortune for the journey ahead of you, promising that you’ll make it with little to no obstacles.

I hate it. They make it sound so easy, but the number of souls in the cosmos say otherwise. Usually, we are all created using the same template. Our only goal is to fulfill the Fates’ commands.

But I do not follow that template. I was created with the same emotions as beings called humans. From the first step outside the Cathedral, I knew about my ability, the ability to hear souls and spirits. The Fates did not notice this, and I dare not mention it nor the extra emotions. The Fates are never wrong, and what they say goes. They are the Divine beings who dictate the world as they please.

Though even the Fates never make mistakes, they made me. A being with emotions and independent thoughts. They never realized their mistake until it was too late to go back on their promises. The Fates have tried so many times to get rid of me, to trap me in an infinite prison. In my short existence, I have become their greatest enemy and greatest threat. I shall introduce myself again: my name is Octavie Alma, and I’m the only mistake – so far – that the Fates can’t get rid of.

I got through despite everything they threw at me. Can you?

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In this issue

Cracked Up To Be

Bright cloudy sky during fiery sunset in summer or fall
Image: Chiara Bramante
Bright cloudy sky during fiery sunset in summer or fall
Image: Chiara Bramante

The day is new.

The birds are singing.

The kids are playing

and I start the day praying.

Praying, praying for a life with little pain,

blessed with full bellies and

a roof to keep us sustained.

I never thought I would wish for the day

that the entire world would fade away.

It’s a never-ending game.

A battle,

one that never fades away,

and one day we lose anyway.






That’s what life has come to be.

But what happens when

it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be?

Fighting the inevitable

is inevitable

because no one likes to lose.

Most don’t like to follow a precrafted plan,

that could change at any point,

at any time,

with a slight misstep.

Our existence measured up against humanity.

What makes it worthwhile?

What wakes us up every day?

Whether we’re tall or short,

big or small,

French or American,

we all wake up for love.

Love for our pets, friends, or family.

It’s likely that will never change.






That’s what life has come to be.

But what happens when

it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be?

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The agony, the hardship, the torment, the pain.

Above, the opening of the heavens, down came the rain.

Chained were the people, shackled to submission.

Was this part of God’s mission?

The sorrow: inveterate, pummelling, thrashing, engulfing. Could one hope for tomorrow?

They cried, “Life void of morality, full of depravity,” merely erroneous, a fallacy, hollow.

Years and years of toil, the eyes, all identical and bloodshot.

What could stop Pharaoh, that bitter man? Nothing but a disgusting despot!

Years of agony, years of hardship, years of torment, years of pain, yearning to be freed.

But God is everywhere, from the skies to the seas, His word we must heed.

The blazing sun shone menacingly, a torturing sphere of heat!

Battling back, an ambitious feat.

However, one must not allow hope to dissipate, to vanish into thin air.

A battle was to begin, the fight against despair.

The cry of the Israelites was for emancipation. Liberation a far away dream.

The Pharaoh stood pat. Down was to fall his regime.

The hearts of the Israelites severed, but in flowed the light.

Hope remained and all was to be made right.

The stream of blood in the waters, frogs, flies, lice; the Lord weaving an agonizing fabric.

The Pharaoh, a demon so cruel, so barbaric.

Soon, hail and swarms of locusts; listen to the Lord, or risk his smite.

An arduous fight was to ensue, confront the hardship, no matter the plight.

Darkness prevailed over the ravaged land, behold the power of the Lord!

Moses cried, “let my people go” to Pharaoh, the ask, plainly ignored.

Finally, the slaying of the firstborns, Pharaoh roared, “Go!”

The Israelites left the land in haste, but Pharaoh was a formidable foe.

The Israelites arrived at the sea.

It parted into two, the moment to flee.

Pharaoh, the demonic despot, a zero.

God, the Almighty, a hero!

Away went the Israelites, light flowed into the heart.

The feeling of freedom, a sweet dream, a fresh start.

They were all part of the same nation, a united front, through the strife.

The Israelites, from the newborns to the elders, shared the same boat of life.

A fissured heart brings agony and despair.

But the Light always gets in through the tear.

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In this issue

Tantalus’s Curse

Illustration of young woman at a ball observing a prince laughing with another woman
Artist: Brianna Fasoli
Illustration of young woman at a ball observing a prince laughing with another woman
Artist: Brianna Fasoli

The cold sensation of entering the ballroom had struck me by surprise once more. I don’t believe I will ever get used to it. Ladies and mothers flocking about around the wide spread marble-floored room, each eager to find themselves a match tonight. Each wanting to find their next suitor. I only had eyes for one. A certain Duke who quietly mingled in the corner with some friends of his. I did not know their names. They didn’t matter.

All that mattered was him. He was proclaimed early on as the social season’s most eligible bachelor. His light brown locks and eyes rivalled the beauty of the ocean: his grin reminiscent of a sailor who came and went. One who longed to return swiftly to the sea, desperately itching to leave shore almost as soon as they arrive. His sharp jaw seemed as though it had been carved by the most skillful potter, and his hands were calloused, engraved in them the reminder of the shape of a hunting riffle.

But then there is his laugh. His laugh is what brings the whole composition together. His joyful laugh that melts my heart only to weld it back to its original form. My heart that he takes in his hand and could easily shatter with even the smallest squeeze. His laugh is what makes me know that I love him.

Alas. I understand that it is not written in the stars nor is it ingrained in fate to be beside this man as anything but his platonic companion. I sit there in the background of his life wondering if he’ll ever notice me. If he’ll ever notice how much I yearn, how much I burn for him. How much of an effect he has on me. I hold him to my highest regards and I pray at night that he does the same even if I know it is but a fantasy. He will never be mine.

One ball it was Lady Denary from Cambridge and the following gala it was Lady Jorquillier from France. I try not to pay attention to his flower of the week. Perhaps tomorrow it’ll be some opera singer from Romania or the diamond of this year’s season. Perhaps he’ll find it amusing to dangle some mystery debutante with an over-enthusiastic mama in front of my eyes. I shouldn’t pay attention, I convince myself not to pay mind, but I always fail.

Those women are reminders of what I want, what is right in front of me but what I cannot have. I am Tantalus and he is the branch of fruit. What I would do for a taste! It isn’t long before he finds his next Duchess. She will be very fortunate. I cannot help but still hope, still dream that that will be me he will be marrying. That it will be me who will serve him as I have been taught to do.

It is months later that I discover that I am not that fortunate. It is months later that I discover that Lady Christine Velorderon is the one that got him. She will be his future wife. She will be walked down the altar wearing a gorgeous dress that is simply the latest fashion craze derived from France. She will be the one to bear him an heir. She will be the one who will wake up beside him each and every day. She will be my reminder.

The reminder that I am but a mere girl waiting in the wings, missing her chance to be on stage. Missing her love, missing her soul.

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One Of Us Is Lying

Book cover with four student yearbook pictures, their faces masked with ripped loose-leaf
Cover image of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (2017, Delacorte Press)
Book cover with four student yearbook pictures, their faces masked with ripped loose-leaf
Cover image of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (2017, Delacorte Press)

One of Us Is Lying (Delacorte Press, 2017) is a young adult mystery novel by Karen M. McManus. It is a witty and fast-paced story that follows the tale of four high school students who get wrapped up in the investigation of the death of one of their peers.

There’s Addy, the picture-perfect homecoming princess; Bronwyn, the class valedictorian who plans to go to Yale; Nate, the bad boy on probation for dealing drugs; Cooper, the golden boy and star baseball pitcher; and Simon, the disliked creator of About That – Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. The Beauty, the Brain, the Criminal, the Athlete, and the Outcast. Five stereotypical students stuck in a not-so-stereotypical situation.

One Monday afternoon, five students walk into detention, yet only four make it out. Four of them were caught having phones in class. Each argued it wasn’t their phone, but it was no use; they were still put in detention. They were the last people to see Simon: the fifth member in detention. That’s where he ultimately died due to a calamity that no one saw coming.

According to the investigators, Simon’s death was no accident. The police seem to suspect these four students, who were in detention with him. According to the police, the four of them were to be the next victims of ‘About That.’ Simon was to post his juicy reveals about these high-profile classmates the very next day.

Which one of them did it? Or rather, who’s setting them up?

One of Us Is Lying is such a good book to read if you’re just getting into mystery fiction like I was. Even if you’ve already read many mystery novels, this book will surely keep you on your toes. The twists and turns were unlike any other book, and I was constantly wanting to know more. Secrets were unravelled about the characters that you didn’t expect were there, and I did not anticipate to be so captivated. It was unlike anything I predicted. Which made me love it all that much more.

I loved the constant changing of the point of view throughout the novel. This technique brings a new layer of insight to the narrative, and McManus does so perfectly. Seeing the events untangle from all four characters’ perspective helps us see four very different approaches yet the very same outcome. The cliffhangers at the end of chapters; the moments when someone knows more than the others; being able to understand the characters through their own eyes and thoughts; its amazing. McManus can write four clearly distinct protagonists, and it shows through the points of view.

Another intriguing aspect is that it was a modern-day mystery. It wasn’t such an unusual experience that it makes the reader feel like it was a fantastical event that can never happen in real life. This scenario felt like it was something that could truly happen to someone and I was able to relate to the drama going on in the high-schoolers’ lives all that much more because of it.

I read this book over a year ago, yet I remember everything that happens so vividly. Getting to see the author at a panel during MTL YA FEST last year gave me a special connection to the book in a way I’ve never felt before. Hearing McManus’s own thoughts and ideas about her works made me see the intricacies of the plots in a whole new light. Evidently this made me want to participate in the contest using one of her books when I saw she would have another panel at the Book Fest this year.

If I were you, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up this book and any others written by Karen M. McManus, especially the sequel, One of Us Is Next. That’s right, the story of Bayview’s students is not over just yet! Be sure to get your hands on it as it digs deeper into the mysteries surrounding the Bayview High students.

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It’s A Mad World

Trees with orange and yellow leaves in a forest at sunset.
Image: Caitlin Siemon
Trees with orange and yellow leaves in a forest at sunset.
Image: Caitlin Siemon

The sounds of guns firing are getting closer, my heart is racing as my feet pound against the cold, hard ground. The trees are rustling, as the leaves crunch underneath my feet, and I can hear blood-curdling screams in the distance. This makes me run faster; I know what’s coming and I try to cover as much ground as I can to escape.

Until two weeks ago, everything was normal, then our President, Delta Montgomery, was assassinated along with the other key political leaders of our nation. The military has taken over and is setting up a dictatorship. Some people are rebelling, but they’re killing everyone who goes against the “new government.” The world has gone mad if not totally insane right now. People are fleeing, hiding, and fortifying their homes. In order to survive.

My plan is to stay home and keep my mouth shut. This is going to be very difficult for me as I have always been rather vocal in expressing my point of view, but now my life depends on keeping my opinions to myself. I have a backpack ready if it becomes necessary to leave in a hurry. Inside, I’ve packed two bottles of water, a first aid kit, a couple of changes of clothes, and a knife. Yes, I know that my knife is no match against guns and bows, but I don’t own anything else. I’m all set for this challenge. I talk to my friend Hailey about rodeos, hobbies, and whatever comes to mind, to kill time, but we don’t dare mention anything about politics to each other because we don’t know who’s listening.

At first, we were not directly affected by the change in government. All violence was concentrated in the cities. We were fine for thirteen days living in our small town of Medora until we saw the long convoy of army vehicles approaching. Now we hear gunshots and screams in the distance. I grab my backpack and head into the woods. I don’t dare go and stop by Hailey’s house because it’s in the opposite direction to the woods, and if the military comes and just kills whoever they want I don’t get the chance to escape.

I slip into the woods. The sounds of guns firing are getting closer, so I start running. The stress is starting to get to me, and I need to catch my breath. I run until I see a tree hollow, and I hide in there for a while. I end up falling asleep and I wake up in the morning to more distant screaming. That made me jolt awake, and I start running again. I jog for at least an hour, and I make it to the end of the woods. I decide to risk a move out into the open country as this is in the opposite direction to the highway. I know it’s risky as I am more visible, but it’s easier to run without having to dodge tree branches and worry about creatures that can jump out in front of you. I walk for hours trying to make it as far as possible before night falls. Just as I feel that can go no further; I see a small, rundown-looking cottage ahead.

I cautiously approach and tentatively knock on the door. It’s answered by a young lady who could’ve only been in her twenties. Seeing that I pose no threat, she invites me inside. As I was dirty and dishevelled, she lets me use her shower and change into my spare clothes. The hot water feels so good on my aching limbs as I scrub the dirt and sweat from my skin.

I thank her and offer to help her cook dinner. As we cook an evening meal of chicken and corn on a bed of rice, we talk about what brought me here and what’s happening to the country. The name of my unlikely benefactor turns out to be Denise Jackson, but she prefers to be called DJ.

After listening to my fears, DJ lets me in on a secret: she knows the location of a hidden bunker that her grandparents built during the first civil war. We could hide in there and be safe, for now.

To be continued…

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Back In Time

Nora and Josh Goldman were preparing for the Passover Seder when the Seder plate slipped out of Nora’s hands and broke. Josh looked at Nora, worried that their mom would be upset, but instead of their mom coming, a stranger appeared in front of them.

Both Nora and Josh jumped. A man wearing a long blue overcoat and white leggings was standing in front of them.

“Who are you?” Nora asked.

“I am Batin,” he replied simply. “I am one of God’s messengers. An angel as you call us. I am here to share your mission details.”

Batin nodded. “The weight of the entire Jewish population is on your shoulders.” Batin paused until both twins were listening. “There is an evil man known as Azazel. He plans to go back in time and make sure that the children of Israel never escape Egypt. Azazel is a resourceful man. He always has more plans in case the ones before go wrong. I need you two to go back in time and make sure that the Jews make it out of Egypt. Once you have crossed the sea, I will come back for you.”

The twins looked at each other before nodding in unison.

They closed their eyes, and when they opened them, they were in Egypt.

They saw thousands of men, women, and children working in ragged clothes. Nora and Josh looked down and saw that they were now wearing similar clothing. An Egyptian slapped the twins with a whip. “Get back to work!” he shouted.

Days and weeks went by. The twins were starving and tired. They saw glimpses of Moshe and Aaron but never had the chance to approach them. Every time they tried, an Egyptian slapped them painfully with a whip. They were covered in bruises and scars that they were sure would never fully heal.

Then the ten plagues arrived. Nora and Josh were working when suddenly the Nile turned to blood, the frogs swarmed the land, and the lice and flies infested Egypt. The wild animals roamed the streets, the Egyptians bodies got covered in boils, and fire even hailed down from the skies. Then darkness came and everyone banged into each other. Just when the Jews really thought they were stuck forever, the worst plague ever came. The death of the first born.

Finally the Pharoah let them go, they baked the matzah and they were off.

They finally arrived at the sea. Then the twins heard shouts. They swivelled around to find the Egyptians running after them. They clutched each other’s hands tightly.

Suddenly, a fire blocked the Egyptians. The twins knew that the flames wouldn’t stay up forever. They just needed to wait for Moshe to split the sea.

Nora knew that they had to speak to Moshe. She grabbed her twin’s hand, and they pushed through the crowd towards the front.

Moshe lifted his staff into the water. The twins expected the sea to split but nothing happened. They saw Moshe panic and heard the people’s screams of terror as the flames keeping the Egpytians at bay started to die down.

“It’s a fake!” Moshe bellowed.

Nora looked around herself in terror. Then her eyes widened. Next to a huge boulder on the side stood a man wearing a black overcoat holding a staff identical to the one that Moshe was holding.

Nora clutched Josh’s arm and pointed at the man whom she knew was Azazel.

The twins pushed through the screaming people and rushed at Azazel.

He gave them a wide grin. “I knew that you two would come,” Azazel said.

He held the staff up in front of them. Josh tried to grab it, but Azazel swung it out of his reach at the last minute. He shoved Josh to the ground.

Nora’s hand curled into fists and her taekwondo kicked in. She gave Azazel a front kick. She lifted up her front leg and hit him in the stomach with the ball of her foot. Azazel doubled over in pain and dropped the staff, Josh scrambled to his feet and grabbed it. He handed it to Nora and they ran to Moshe.

Moshe looked down at them. “What is it, children?” he asked kindly.

“We found the real staff,” Nora said confidently.

Moshe nodded. “Thank you, children.” He lifted his staff and dipped it into the sea. It immediately split. The Jews went through it with Nora and Josh at the rear with Moshe.

After they finished crossing the sea it closed back up, swallowing the Egyptians whole.

As the Jews were partying, Batin appeared in front of the twins. “Spectacular job, Nora and Josh Goldman. We are all going to be forever grateful for you.”

When the twins opened their eyes they were back at home.

Nora and Josh’s mom was staring at them upset “Nora, Josh! Where were you two? I have been looking for you for the past ten minutes! Who broke the Seder plate?”

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The Pandemic Plot

Watercolour painting of blue mountains at sunset with 12 lucky shapes outlined in the sky
Image: Asha Thomas-Paskal
Watercolour painting of blue mountains at sunset with 12 lucky shapes outlined in the sky
Image: Asha Thomas-Paskal

Lightning flashed across the skies, thunder rolled, wind gushed upon the surface of the Earth. And up above, Zeus, king of the gods, brought his lightning bolt down onto Mount Olympus, shaking the world around him. Three times he hit the ground, summoning the gods and goddesses to an Olympian meeting. Zeus sat down ceremoniously on his throne in the centre of the half-moon shaped arrangement of seats, waiting.

Hermes arrived first, holding his Caduceus and an iPhone-13. He seemed to be on a Zoom call.

A few minutes later, Aphrodite waltzed in, arm in arm with a smug-looking Ares. Hephaestus was dragging his feet.

Shortly after, Artemis and Demeter walked in. “Hey, ladies,” Hermes waved at the goddesses.

Athena, Hera and Poseidon soon followed suit.

Several awkward minutes later, Dionysus and Apollo raced into the room. Completely out of breath, they began to apologize to the frustrated gods and goddesses. “Sorry we’re late …,” started Apollo, glancing at Dionysus for help, “but there was this sick party …”

Zeus stood up, banging his staff against the marble floor. “While I’m sure we’re all glad you boys enjoyed your er … ‘sick’ party … the rest of us would actually like to get something done, so if you would be so kind as to sit down.” His menacing tone had both gods in their seats before you could say “Olympus.”

“Now that we have all arrived …” Zeus announced, giving Apollo and Dionysus a pointed look, “I hereby officially call this Olympian meeting to order!” His deep booming voice reverberated through the hall. “Demeter, would you like to explain our situation?”

Demeter stood and addressed the room in a quiet, clear and yet worried voice. “Gaia has fallen ill,” she explained. “She has been sick for the last two or three thousand years, but recently she’s been getting worse …”

”Try Tylenol,” suggested Apollo, oblivious to Zeus’s impatience. “Works like magic.”

“For mortal headaches,” answered Athena, goddess of knowledge and common sense.

“Yes, thank you, Athena.” Demeter looked slightly flustered as she continued. “This is no common illness. Gaia is suffering from something the humans call climate change. They are destroying the Earth, and their pollution has caused great damage to its mother goddess. We need to heal her, and prevent this from happening again.”

“Oh, easy,” Ares jumped in. “Kill them! Exterminate them all! No more humans, no more pollution. Gaia is better, and they never bother us again. Win win for everyone.”

“Except for the humans,” Apollo muttered under his breath.

“And without the humans, there’s no parties,” added Dionysus.

“Quiet!” Zeus ordered.

Dionysus obeyed, but Apollo wasn’t listening. “Yeah, we can’t just kill them – that wouldn’t be fair!”

Zeus had had enough. “Out!” He yelled at Apollo, making the chamber walls shake. He pointed to the door. Like a terrified schoolboy, the sun god scampered out.

Demeter spoke again. “He does have a point,” she said. “We are no murderers, we have to give them a chance.”

“True,” Poseidon agreed. “Any ideas, Athena?”

Athena, who had been sitting in thoughtful silence for the last couple of minutes, stood up, addressing the room. “So, our problem is that Gaia is ill, correct?” Everyone nodded. “We know that the cause of this illness is human pollution and destruction, but we do not want to outright exterminate them, correct?” More nods. “So …” The goddess hesitated a second. “We need something that can help heal Gaia … but not completely destroy the humans … like for example … a plague?”

“Yes, that would work well,” Artemis piped up, “Aaaand … If it’s contagious enough … people will stay home and stop travelling on those wretched airplanes! Less air pollution as well … You’re a genius Athena!”

“So I’ve been told,” The goddess answered, used to this praise. She then announced her plan. “Demeter, can you ask Hecate to create the disease … maybe a virus? It must be extremely contagious … A few different variants would be ideal.”

Demeter nodded and Athena continued, “We will start it in a place that has a large population so the disease spreads quickly. Hermes, where would that be?”

“China,” the messenger god answered, still on his phone.

“Okay it’s settled.” Athena looked around. “Any objections?”

“No, that’s a great idea,” Ares answered. “And it will put an end to Dionysus and Apollo’s ceaseless partying with mortals! Speaking of Apollo … where is he?”

As if on cue, the door opened a crack and out popped Apollos’s head. “Can I come back in now?” he asked cautiously, giving Zeus puppy-dog eyes. “I’ll be good.”

“Okay, okay.” Zeus nodded, rolling his eyes. “But our decision’s already made. Demeter will contact Hecate. We’ll spread her virus throughout China, and let the humans do the rest. Meeting adjourned!”

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