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TheCriterion The Literary Magazine of

American International College

Spring 2013


THE CRITERION EZINE – SPRING 2013 EDITION President of the College Provost Dean of Arts, Education, and Sciences Englsih Department Head English Department Liaison Editor-in-Chief Editorial Assistant

Vincent Maniaci Todd G. Fritch Vickie Hess Robin Varnum Lori A. Paige Julie R. Bodnar Rachael A. Salyer

Featured Writers Abriana Morales

Forever Unanswered Questions

Jasmine Kearse

To My Adoring Fans

Alexander Hill

Shakespearean Sonnet

Shannoya Scott

Lost One Running

Ashleigh Cardinal

A Friend

Maegen English

The Vampire Goes to College

Lyndsey Letourneau

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Wind

Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme

Self-Control – Listen to the Spirit

Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme

Your Time is Now

Lindsey Letourneau

Papa

Seferina Starks

Times Like These

Jean Marrero

Do Not Weep

Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme

Teamwork

Lindsey Letourneau

Autumn Breezes

Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme

Goodness is Contagious

Meagan English

Real Life Monster

Featured Visual Artists Rebecca Hardy Kelsey Malloy Stefanie Ormeche Seferina Starks Cover Art by Seferina Starks


Forever Unanswered Questions Innocent civilians running around the city in fear Innocent children running around the classroom in fear Innocent movie-goers running around the theater in fear The places where we should feel safe and most comfortable are now violated, and as we try to move on the anxiety of horror whispers in our ear The killing of innocent lives is not something we should be getting used to These atrocities are heartbreaking hearts are aching But what can we do? Do we sit back and fold our hands and be happy it didn’t happen to us and move on with our lives? Do we live in fear until the next one arrives? Our world is facing anarchy and disarray We need to stop thinking about how we will make these people pay We need to think about how we stop these people from turning out this way By Abriana Morales

Photo by Seferina Stark


To My Adoring Fans, Before I start, I want to notify you of the purpose of this letter. I am writing this for the sole purpose of a warning. For the actors that get wrapped up in your craft, good for you. You understand the sanctity of a script, of the theatre, and of the stage that overtakes its players and literally ignites them from the inside out, being almost a puppeteer, manipulating people to tell stories. I looked up the definition of an actor. The dictionary defines it as "somebody who pretends: somebody who pretends to be somebody else or to feel something so as to impress or deceive." That's all we really are, right? Pretenders. The question is: once someone erases their own identity and replaces it with a stranger's, how can one go back to their own lives? As you probably know, Shakespeare wrote plays that transcended the art of theatre. To say he was a visionary would be an understatement. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, he played with people's emotions and showed how love can make, literally, an ass out of its suitors. In Macbeth, he showed the world that fate is the ventriloquist of our lives. People always say that you write about what you know. Were Shakespeare's plays his version of a warning to his readers, knowing that in theatre, there is no such thing as a fourth wall? Did he write a sort of prophetic text, challenging actors to not act, not only pretend, but to be? I think so. Actually, I know so. And that is why I'm doing you a favor by writing this letter. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold. My name is Clay M. Ortis. My friends call me Mortis for short. Now I know what you're thinking. There is no way a loon like me who has tried this before (and failed miserably) has friends. On the contrary, friend, I have a plethora of comrades and I'm pretty well off. I live in a five-story walk up in Greenwich Village that overlooks the park. My apartment is the last door in the hall. When you walk in, straight ahead, there is a sword in a mounted display case that I used when I was in Anthony and Cleopatra. I had to pay a lofty fine for "misplacing it,” but it was worth it. If you look to the left, there is an exposed brick wall that leads to a small kitchen with all aluminum fixtures, counters, and appliances. Opposite the kitchen, there is a sliding door that leads out to a small balcony. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I like to act out that famous scene from Romeo and Juliet. Now don’t stab me, but in my opinion, that play is completely overrated. If you ask me, those kids are annoying, and a tad bit overdramatic. The only part that isn’t completely barf-worthy is the very end. Nevertheless, I digress. Those are basically the thrilling parts of my place. I wouldn’t really describe it as warm and inviting. I guess you could say there is a cold sterility that is present, merely due to the lack of inhabitance. Because of my hectic schedule of eight shows a week, I truly only utilize my bed. Okay so at this point, you have to be wondering why. Why I’m doing this to myself. Well I don’t believe that it was truly my choice. I was a pawn in life’s twisted game. It all started when I was cast as Hamlet. Now, as I mentioned before, good actors are the ones that fully immerse themselves into their job. And that’s exactly what I did. When I received the script, I


inhaled the sweet-smelling combination of the fresh, unbroken binding and freshly printed pages. I began my process of living with my script. Although I am very familiar with Hamlet, seeing that it is one of my favorite plays, I decided to approach it like I’ve never read it before. When sitting in my kitchen, sipping glass of scotch, I read through the play. And then read it again, and then once more. Now this is where things get dicey. It was dusk by time I got to the third reading. I felt a chill come over me, which I thought odd because I was now on my third glass of spirits. In fact, a chill came over the entire room. I didn’t think anything of it. As I read on, I got to Act I: scene v. “And for the day confined to fast in fires/ Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature/ Are burnt and purged away,” I read aloud. Right then, that cold air that was I feeling was now somehow a dark, dagger-like energy eerie enough to make my fingers itch. And they did, so I scratched them. The next day at the read through, I kept to myself, only giving a polite smile when prompted. Now, you probably won’t believe what happened next, after all I didn’t. Two weeks later, I was in my kitchen, studying my script again, and the same chilling front embodied me, making my fingers itch again. I scratched and scratched until my fingernails broke the skin. Next came production week. I had fully submerged myself into my character. I moved like him, spoke like him, and talked like him. I had basically decided to method act, meaning that I put myself in Hamlet's skin, approaching every daily act of mine the way Hammy would. To the ordinary actor, that might sound great. To our good ole friend, Willy Shakes, it was the beginning of the imminent manifestation. Now since the last time in my kitchen, I hadn't really felt that ghostly presence. I knew, however, that the master of our destiny wasn't done with me. So, it was opening night and I was doing a bomb job. First Act? Gold. Act II? You're welcome, audience. Now here's where it gets extra dicey. In Act III, I have this awesome conversation with myself, debating the pros and cons of suicide. At this point I also remind myself of Dante's Inferno. The seventh circle of Hell can't be that bad, right? I mean at least you're all the way in there. And plus, I'd get to meet Pietro della Vigne. Heard she was a real smoke-show. Anyways, back to the story. I got to the part where I say, "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/ when we have shuffled off this mortal coil/Must give us pause." Now see, I love that part; however, I started to feel that evil energy - this time, even more so. It's almost like this dark being begun to creep up to me from behind and slither up my body from my feet, disturbing each and every inch of my body. Only instead of leaving like before, I felt it latch onto me, and intertwine its cold, stony fingers with mine. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I was seeing the ghost of Shakespeare or something like that. No. I'm not some weird freak. I'm just saying it was like a baneful spirit with an obvious malicious intent. This scared me. It gave me the chills again, but this time, all the way to my bones, making my fingers itch again. They started to bleed again. I tried to madly wipe the blood off my fingers. “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him,” I thought. "Out damned spot!” I yelled. That's when I looked out into the house of the theatre and realized that I was still in the middle of my soliloquy. I hadn't even gone halfway through. But, for some reason,


the audience looked unchanged. It's like they didn't even notice my outburst, or more apparent, the geyser of blood that was spewing out of my hands! As I quickly pulled myself together, I noticed that the blood was gone - completely gone. So naturally, as any Hamlet would, I went through my thoughts and weighed my options. I started to believe that that wicked spirit was helping me. Guiding me, I had never felt more like Hamlet. I grunted, and sweated myself through the next hour. I was Hamlet. I am Hamlet. For the next couple of shows, the negative energy stayed with me, still latched on. I couldn't complain though because my pretending started to get better and better. I wasn't pretending. I wasn't acting. I just was. “But, ah, here's the rub.” I think that Shakes made a mistake with this play. The more I lived with Hamlet, the more I knew that I understood him more that he did. I hope you're familiar with the play. If you aren't, you might get lost, and if you're an actor and you aren't familiar with it? You should most likely rethink your career choice. Okay so what Shakespeare didn't consider with suicide is that it's the ultimate power play. Hamlet was running around town trying to convince people he was crazy, playing mind games with that chick Ophelia, and stabbing people by accident. Like come on, man. Get a hold of yourself. He basically did all of that for nothing. His big plan obviously goes completely awry and he's left with nothing. Yeah, I guess he avenged his father's death by killing his uncle. BUT, his uncle basically killed him too, AND his mom died. He probably could've avoided all of that tomfoolery by ending it before he someone else ended him. I was thinking about this on the walk home from the theatre two weeks after the opening with my deliciously malicious appendage. Though I came up with the idea, my fiendish friend definitely confirmed it. I must give Hamlet his rightful ending. And who better to do it, right? I had received rave reviews for my performance. “Bravo,” they said. “I know,” I responded. I think that no matter what I did at this point, it would still end this way. Shakespeare was probably too chicken to do what needed to be done. However, he knew an actor like me with such prowess, such intelligence, and such talent would do what needed to be done. Now for the deed, I’ve decided in true Hamlet fashion to go with the sword (good thing I stole that prop). As for the place, I choose the park across the street from my apartment. Theatre was meant to be performed outside, after all. As for the reason, I’ve explained it all in this letter. As for my adoring fans, don’t get your panties in a bunch. Just like the most manipulative woman to set foot in Scotland said, “what’s done cannot be undone.” I “sleep: perchance to dream.” I am now single-handedly responsible for changing the definition of an actor. I didn’t pretend. I was. Actually, I am. I suggest that you heed my warning, “for all the world’s a stage and its men and woman merely players. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold.” Best, Clay M. Ortis By Jasmine Kearse


Shakespearean Sonnet The walls around me are dark and dirty The doorways are open, but barred with steel The others are young, but look like thirty I look around, I question what is real I feel as if I do not belong here Clothed in white and black, life seems rather plain The expressions are subtle, hiding fear The inside is windowless filled with pain I question the motives, the reasons why Sadly, I may never understand him Yet here I am, is my life one big lie? Every day I see the one man named Tim Even this close, I feel so far away Still, I will never forget my Father. By Alexander Hill

Lost One Running She’s always on the run around, She always wanna run around, Keep on the streets like rolling stone. Sullied and alone She opens up her heart, body parts, and soul to the unknown, Then lies prettily to herself to better days and nights, Shameful and alone, she went seeking for a piece of sanity to call her own. Broke down and torn, Running around breaks to the ground and graveled at the feet Of a man she barely knows, trying to get something of her own. A taste of bliss, he had his fun, now he’s gone, she’s back on the run. Another city, another man in the back ally, smeared lipstick for a penny, Milk curdles in her belly Mascara runny Running from the woman that she is Running from her sins Trying to find where the real her begins But perhaps she’s lost her Somewhere in the running… By Shannoya Scott


A Friend It was near the Holidays A time for joy and cheer But our homes filled with tears When Linkin Park comes on All I can think of is you I guess it was your favorite I wish you could listen with me But you’re too far now I remember your smile You seemed so happy What went so wrong? I sit here and wonder What you are doing Since you are not here I imagine you filled with joy As I write this my heart sinks Cause we’ll never see you again I can’t believe it’s been two years Since you chose your friend With his deadly name Suicide! By Ashleigh Cardinal Photo by Seferina Starks


The Vampire Goes to College This semester, during the spring of my junior year of college, I made the wise decision to take a class about vampires. I thought it would be simple. Who doesn’t know what a vampire is? I sat there mesmerized in every class, absorbing as much as possible and taking notes. Of course I didn’t believe in vampires, and I would gladly be one of the first to admit it. “Who thinks vampires exist? Be honest,” asked the professor curiously. Naturally, no hands were raised and the class was silent. As I glanced around the room, I noticed a man around my age sitting in the back of the classroom. He had a smirk on his face, like the kind a person with a secret usually has. It was like he had his own inside joke, and as I looked at him all I could think was that I wanted to be included. There was just something about him, but I couldn’t figure out what. Looking around the room, I also noticed that it had the same eerie feel to it as some of the castles in the gothic novels I had read in another class. It felt like I was being watched at all times by something not human at all, but more like something supernatural. Even the building the classroom was in is extremely old. Could this building be haunted? I’m definitely losing my mind. Our reading assignment for the next class was to read John Polidori’s Vampyre. I read it rather easily and recounted the basic events in my head; a handsome man named Lord Ruthven, the vampire, wreaks all kinds of havoc and essentially gets away with murder. I thought the discussion in class would be as simple as the story, but I was wrong. We had to get into groups of two during the next class. My favorite. Everyone in the class had paired up faster than I could count to three, so I was left with the young man in the back of the room. I moved closer to where he was. When I got there, he pulled my chair out for me and smirked again. I couldn’t help but stare. He was handsome, sure, but there was more to it; he had a charismatic, magnetic quality to him. I hated thinking it, but he reminded me of Lord Ruthven. Am I crazy? I think I had too much caffeine. I blurted out, “I don’t know how people didn’t realize Ruthven was a vampire,” to get these absurd thoughts out of my head. He looked at me for what felt like hours while I found myself getting lost in his eyes. I finally snapped out of it when he shifted in his seat. He effortlessly wrote his name on the top of a piece of blank paper in cursive. Hunter Rev. What an interesting name. “I can understand why they thought vampires are real - because they are,” Hunter said. I laughed. “You can’t be serious.” He smirked. “Oh, but I am. Where else would people have gotten all those ideas? Sure, people argue that medicine wasn’t as advanced so vampirism was used to explain away unknown phenomena, but think about it. There’s usually some truth to things like that.” I looked at him blankly, taking in what he said. I wanted to believe it, simply because he said it. Use your brain. Say something. “Then what happened to Lord Ruthven? He got away at the end,” I proposed.


“Vampires are able to adapt. I’m sure Lord Ruthven is living out his life somewhere, probably trying to blend in. He’s most likely waiting to make his next move, and I’m sure every situation he puts himself in ends the same way: he leaves a trail of victims behind him and disappears before anyone becomes any wiser,” he said, almost whispering. We both laughed, and I took that as him admitting he was messing with me. After all, he couldn’t be serious about believing in vampires. That night, the security alarm in my house woke me when someone tried to open a window. I tried not to think much of it, even though I lived in a city that wasn’t exactly well known for the safety of its residents. I guess strange things were going on around the city because the professor who taught the class coincidentally disappeared, and so did Hunter Rev. Thanks to modern technology, I did some more research on the college. Apparently, the school used to be part of a castle that is said to have inspired the setting for a gothic novel. Even stranger than that, I found out that every few decades, students mysteriously disappear. I noticed one of the students always has the same letters in his name… A clear anagram for Lord Ruthven. By Maegen English

Photo by Seferina Starks


Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Wind A snowy evening approaches Not a soul stirs The sound of the wind is heard The trees move softly As the wind carries through the forest Delicately flowing across the country Grass bends at the gentle command of the wind A man and a woman Are one. A man and a woman and the wind Are one. The river is moving. The wind must be blowing. Howling through the dark, cold night the wind brushes limbs of tree swirling snowflakes A voice in the distance A howl The wind speaks Like the brush of a feather It touches my face The wind so gentle A thief by day The wind takes a balloon A child cries Destructive it can be Throwing things around, swirling in cyclone fashion The wind rips through the land Carrying whispers at the park Napkins and love letters floating gently A messenger in the wind


Winding and stirring Making trees dance The wind is playful today Driving with the top down Hair blowing in the breeze Wind upon my face By Lyndsey Letourneau

Photo by Stefanie Ormeche


Self-Control - Listen to the Spirit The body says: food, sleep, give me more sleep The Spirit says: plan, work, or tomorrow you’ll weep The body says: buy now, spend now, nothing obsolete The Spirit says: save now, or tomorrow you'll be picking from the street The body says: cars, clothes, I need more The Spirit says: that's enough for now, or tomorrow you'll be poor The body says: chips, burgers, give me without measure The Spirit says: not too often, or you will get high blood pressure The body says: meat, meat, give me red meat The Spirit says: not too much, or it will put you to sleep The body says: cookies, cakes, fill the whole plate The Spirit says: take only one, before it is too late The body says: drink it all, have some more, make this night a blast The Spirit says: if you continue this way, you'll be a memory of the past The body says: take it, fake it, there is no harm The Spirit says: don't do that, you'll set off an alarm The body says: go here, go there, and go with your feet The Spirit says: don't go there, it's a dark and deadly street The body says: women, men, give me pleasure The Spirit says: wait, wait, and don’t give out your treasure The body says: go with the flow, your spouse is in the house The Spirit says: avoid situations that will make you aroused The body says: do it for today, don't worry about tomorrow The Spirit says: your actions today may lead to tomorrow's sorrows The body says: that's me, I know, I may lead you to destruction The Spirit says: obey me, my friend, follow my instruction The body says: that's me, I know, I don't follow any rule The Spirit says: listen to me, my friend, I care about you By Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme


Your Time is Now Live each day like it's your last Don't worry about the past Don't be mad Just be glad Live each day like it’s your last. The race of life is so real Please don't move like a seal Think well and think fast So you don't end up finishing last. There’s a time to work And a time to play Time waits for no one Let's make the most of today. There are 24 hours in a day Some use it, some abuse it and some just throw it away. Let us sit up and invest our time What we achieve now can feed us for a lifetime. By Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme

Papa There are so many things I wish to say You were taken so suddenly from me Now when I wish to talk, I have to pray The disease held firm, but you were set free God saw the struggle you were going through Plagued daily by the tenacious illness Being gone, there was not much I could do The house is now quiet, complete stillness Your dog tag will stay with me forever Reminding me that you were a strong man Courageous, intelligent, and clever Cheering me on, always my biggest fan You might not be just a phone call away But I know you'll be with me everyday By Lyndsey Letourneau


Times Like These You need times like These. You need times like these to be alone to be forgotten to be hated to be ostracized. You need times like these So you may know and understand… That it’s nothing. But there’s nothing like the in-between times To set you STRAIGHT To Enlighten To Grow And let the world FIND YOU. You need times like these Just as I do. We are one in the Same… and I THANK the World and You. By Seferina Starks


Do Not Weep Do not weep when all is in the abyss For the stars seem brightest throughout the night Bridges thought lost are rebuilt with a kiss The bonds you hold dear, once gone, you will miss The clouds are lonely without the sun’s light Do not weep when all is in the abyss Friendships thought strong break when one goes amiss A boy and wind estranged without a kite Bridges thought lost are rebuilt with a kiss Just eating an apple can kill one’s bliss Man and God at odds by taking one bite Do not weep when all is in the abyss Yet a parent’s love spawns your forgiveness Do not waste precious time so full of spite Bridges thought lost are rebuilt with a kiss But now we know to beware a snake’s hiss One learns from mistakes and looks towards what’s right Do not weep when all is in the abyss Bridges thought lost are rebuilt with a kiss By Jean Marrero

Photo by Seferina Starks


Teamwork Let your light shine for all to see There’s a gift in you, there’s a gift in me Let's get together; we'll make a great team One can do so much, one can do so little Let’s put our minds together, and solve this world's issues If you go alone, you may hit a stone Let me go with you, I’ll be your backbone There's a lot more to achieve Let us have faith and believe There's a jewel in you and a jewel in me Let's get together and let us dream By yourself, it's as far as you can see But stand on my shoulders and you'll see beyond that tree Teamwork is good, it creates healthy conversation One can move a city but two will move a nation Why are you in confusion? While I have the solution Two can make a vision real But one may live an illusion There's a star in you There's a star in me Me plus you, our strength is infinity Partner with me, let's move with certainty I assure you, we'll make a landmark for eternity By Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme


Autumn Breezes The death of summer, fall trees now aglow Crisp leaves crunch underneath lonely footsteps The night is cold and the days passing slowly Awakened autumn winds begin to blow Cool winds fill the air with flurrying leaves The death of summer, fall trees now aglow Branches cling to stems, unwilling to show The breeze teases leaves to release their hold The night is cold and the days passing slowly Upon a bare branch, alone sits a crow Surprised by the transformation of trees The death of summer, fall trees now aglow Weak leaves fall covering the paths below Red, Orange, Yellow consume the mountains The night is cold and the days passing slowly Winter approaching within a stone’s throw Coldness creeps in, carrying frigid wind The death of summer, fall trees now aglow The night is cold and the days passing slowly By Lindsey Letourneau

Photo by Seferina Starks


Goodness is Contagious He says shut up I say okay He says sit down I just obey I look at him He turns away But I still say hello Every single day He walked away When I came to stay I cooked him rice But he threw it away Here we are Yet another day He hates it when I chew and crunch He throws a punch But I still cook lunch Whatever he would do Didn’t change my mood Soon he discovered And he said something good The good in me changed his attitude Hello, he said How are you today This is a short poem About how good will prevail By Chukwubuikem ‘Ike’ Ekwueme

Photo by Kelsey Malloy


Real Life Monster (Inspired by the story “Of Man and Woman Born” by Richard Matheson) I’m upstairs, hiding from my “child.” I feel like such a terrible mother. What mother feels no maternal connection? Me, that’s who. I used to, but not anymore. Sometimes I forget that there’s a real-life monster living in my basement, but then I’m reminded by the sound of its chains moving around. Eight years ago, everything in my life was just the way I wanted it – normal. I was close to giving birth to my first child. My husband and I were so happy because we were having a boy, which was just what we had wanted. In comparison to the current state of my life, giving birth was the easiest thing I’ve done in the last eight years. When he was first born, he was as close to perfect as possible. He was an adorable newborn and he rarely cried; I constantly thought about how lucky I was that I didn’t have a screaming newborn like other parents did. Some would say I even gloated a little. “He never cries. He’s absolutely perfect. Sometimes I forget he’s even in the same room as I am,” I told my husband. “We sure did get lucky, but it’s probably not good to tell people you forget about our child,” my husband said. That’s how things were for the first year of our lives as parents. Everything was like a dream. My mom told me it was too good to be true, but I ignored her; she was just jealous that I was blessed with such an angel. But then he turned a year old and nothing was ever the same after that. Take a look at things now; our lives are a mess. Our “son” is living in the basement of our house, chained to the wall. I can’t even say he is living there, because in reality, we are hiding him there. What else can we do? We even hide him from his younger sister, who was born a few years after him and still hasn’t shown any signs of being a monster like her brother. The first thing we noticed was how sticky he was all the time. At first, I thought maybe he had somehow found honey or jelly, or maybe even glue. We were always so good about keeping things like that away from him, but we weren’t perfect parents. Then, we noticed bumps near his hips. I rushed him to the hospital, afraid that it was some kind of allergic reaction. “It has to be an allergic reaction, right? I’m not even sure what he’s allergic to,” I told the doctor. “Is it normal for only two bumps to show up the way those have?” my husband asked. The doctor had no answers for us. He poked the bumps and examined them as closely as he could, all while my son cried. He didn’t think it was an allergic reaction, but he couldn’t explain what the bumps were from. When he felt them, he said he noticed how hard they were; this made him believe that they might be calcium deposits of some sort.


It was all a little weird to me. The stickiness, the bumps… all after he had turned a year old. Could it be a coincidence? How could there be anything wrong with my perfect child? Maybe I had jinxed myself. While we waited for the results of all the tests and scans the doctor had ordered, I blamed myself. I ran through everything that I could’ve done to make this happen. Was it bad luck? Was it bad karma? Did he have some rare disease the doctors never caught? Is this something he got from one of us? That day, we found out that our son was slowly growing another set of legs. The doctor had no idea what was wrong or why another set of legs had started growing; he assured us it was some “weird anomaly” that could be taken care of. The bumps weren’t large now, but we were warned that they would grow if we didn’t intervene. We gave our full consent to do whatever was necessary to help our son. Our son, crying and looking terrified, was scheduled to go into surgery the next week. The doctor didn’t want to wait any longer than that, and neither did we. However, before the surgery could happen, we got even more disturbing news. Our son’s blood was green and was completely different from anyone else’s. “Green blood?” I asked. “Are you sure?” “Yes, we’re sure. With no additional blood for him, we can’t perform the surgery,” the nurse explained. Looking back now, I wish I had made them do the surgery. I wish I had bribed them, because that would’ve been a win-win situation for us. Either our son’s second set of legs would’ve been removed, or he wouldn’t have made it. This is why I’m a terrible mother and a terrible human being; I would rather have no son at all than have this monster. After we found out there would be no surgery, we didn’t know what to do. His legs began to grow at a faster pace, breaking through the skin and causing him more pain that I’ve ever seen anyone go through. With the appearance of his legs, we decided to keep him in the house as much as possible. Unfortunately, he wasn’t happy about this. He was angry with us, and he made sure to let us know it. He came close to hitting me one day, so my husband decided it would be best if we moved him to the basement. We kept the door closed most of the time, and I felt so horrible that I couldn’t even go down there to see him. To be honest, I didn’t want to see him; my maternal connection to him had vanished. This was not my son. With the news of the pregnancy of our second child, we were so scared. We waited patiently for the first year to pass to see if any changes would begin; we felt like we knew the pattern and we knew what signs to look for. Thankfully, nothing happened. She restored some of the normalcy to our lives that we had been missing. We added the chains in the basement, afraid that the green liquid he dripped would somehow end up on our daughter and turn her into what he was. A few times he tried to come upstairs. Each time, my husband beat him. I guess that was his way of taking his aggression and his pain out, but he used the excuse that the monster would never learn to stay downstairs if he didn’t hit him when he broke the rules. The beatings, however, did not teach him kindness or right from wrong.


One day, my daughter went downstairs to see what one of her friends had seen through the window. She brought her cat with her, and it was her cat that discovered the monster living in the basement. He killed the cat that day and was punished for it. Again, my husband beat him. I always wondered when the monster in the basement would get sick of the beatings from my husband. All it took was one more beating. My “son” tore his chains from the wall, barely using any of his strength. My husband’s screams could be heard all the way down the street as our monster of a child killed him. By Maegen English

Photo by Rebecca Hardy


Seferina  Starks  –  cover  photo  


The Criterion 2013, The Literary Magazine of American International College