This is the second issue of Caledonia I have edited, and itâ€™s been as enjoyable as the first. Thank you to everyone who submitted, and everyone who is reading this magazine. Compiling the work of the artists and writers at Castilleja is such a rewarding and inspiring process, and I hope that this peek into their imagination is as wonderful for you as it is for me!
Sincerely, Paulina Choh
By Hannah Knowles
A Dissection By Hannah Knowles Let me take a physician’s steely scissors to the tendons that are your puppet strings, snip with the precision of a bird. Let me pry apart the muscle that is your meat, peel it back from the scaffolding to watch your lungs rise, exhale. Puncture their tissue with tweezers chilled in hydrogen peroxide, to hear it hiss, hot on cold. Let me expose each pulsing membrane of each vein and artery, lay them bare till I can see you’re an Earth that’s threaded with rivers and wonder— is this what it’s like to look down on the world? I’d unzip the skin so it falls to your sides as neatly as an orange; separate your layers until nothing is left but sinew and soul.
By Charlotte Jones
Who You Are and What You Do By Amy Rosch I tell them that the cut on my hand is from a shard of glass from a plate I dropped last night when I was walking from the kitchen table to the dishwasher. They believe me. Why shouldnâ€™t they? I am known for being clumsy, for crashing into desks and doorways and on occasion, tumbling down the stairs. That is what I tell them because simple lies are so much easier than the painful truth. I did not break the plate as I went from kitchen table to dishwasher because I did not eat at the kitchen table last night. I stood in front of the window and listened to the music that was played this afternoon. It was the prelude to Bach Cello Suite Number 1 and it sounded like sirens, blaring, pounding in my head, repeating again and again and the flashing lights and the screams. I could not breathe and the sirens would not stop, so to get air and the quiet I broke the window.
I broke the window with my fist and sighed when the glass shot into it, a hundred little bullets. And I stood there, hand dripping, stinging, feeling so alive, feeling the pulse rush down to my fingers. I felt so alive and I sobbed until I couldnâ€™t feel my fingers and it was impossible to catch my breath. I told my therapist that I hurt my hand on a shard of glass from a plate I dropped last night when I was walking from my kitchen table to the dishwasher. He thinks I have a fear of rectangles.
By Charlotte Jones
By Nickie Pereira
An Unconventional Meal By Monica Taneja She sat at the table while he made her favorite: peas, carrots, roasted potatoes, and of course filet mignon. He set the table with their best dining ware: the white tablecloth, china plates, and gold-rimmed glasses. He wore his best suit and even put on his summer cologne. He said grace, and began to eat before he exclaimed, “Honey you’re dripping!” He swiftly mopped the pool of red that collected under her pale body. Then continued eating.
Nighttime Adventure By Monica Taneja The stars were bright and the moon was glowing in the distance. The orange, blue, and red planets swirled around him. He could see the whole universe from the spaceship and he was in control. Suddenly small aliens in the distance stared at him from their universe. Their beady white eyes, webbed feet, and neon green bodies were contorted into abnormal positions. From his spaceship he could see them starting to approach him to take him back to their planet. He only had one chance for survival. Without warning Earth command came on the radio, “Jimmy! Turn out the lamp and put your toys away!” As quick as it started the mission ended and Jimmy fell fast asleep.
By Shifrah Aron-Dine
To The Promise Kids By Smriti Pramanick Hundreds of eyes followed us expectantly as we passed the window, Waiting for us, as if we were stars. We walked in, and you immediately rose to greet us, It was stunning. Overwhelming. I hadn’t expected to be received this way. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I felt a sense of pride in being connected to you. Very special children. The Promise children. Smiles spreading across your faces, brimming with hope, spirit, and respect, Kindled with love and joy. You sang, you danced, you recited poetry. I was in awe. We were your guests of honor. I taught you dance, martial arts, and art. You gave me one hundred percent of your attention, Eager to learn, eager to know me. You were shy, you were timid, you giggled, But soon we became close, the gap between us gone. I was special to you because I was different and new. You were special to me, more than you can ever imagine. I am proud to say I think I even influenced you. I taught what I knew best, And you taught me much more, Much more than I can ever thank you for. You soaked up every bit of information from every class, and craved for more. You were passionate about learning, you appreciated your opportunities. You ate with such zeal, not leaving a crumb, Your genuinely generous hearts saved your sweets for your family at home. You made gifts for us – origami flowers and drawings, Things that I keep close to my heart and will cherish forever. You have so little, but give so much more. You helped me to see the true beauty and value in life, To become a better person. I have so much to be thankful for – Family and friends, education, privileges, food on my plate! I will appreciate everything I have, Enjoy every moment of it, Just as you do. Promise.
By Saloni Kalkat
Is It Worth It? By Lexie Kirsch “Do you think she’s going to the dance this weekend?” “I doubt it. What would she even do? Who would she hang out with?” “Good point. She doesn’t have any friends; it’s only fun if you have friends.” “Maybe I’d be her friend… if she wasn’t so weird.” I don’t blame them for talking about me behind my back. It’s easy to judge someone you don’t know, and nobody at this school knows me. I get gossiped about all the time; I know because I hear it. I don’t really care though. Not anymore. Their comments bothered me freshman year, when I was first immersed in school and anxious about fitting in, but now that I’m a senior and I know that I don’t need to deal with these people for much longer, I don’t let them get to me. Besides, they’re only commenting on the part of my life that they know, which isn’t much. Like I said before, nobody at this school knows me, or at least not the real me. Eighteen years ago, when I was a baby, my parents were in a plane crash; the engine failed and the plane plummeted into the Pacific Ocean. A couple of passengers drowned, but there were many survivors, two of which were my parents. They, along with some other survivors, struggled into a lifeboat and floated around the plane, pulling everyone they could to safety. I was one of the people they pulled onboard. My parents asked if I belonged to anyone, but nobody claimed me as their own. Figuring that my real parents had drowned in the crash, my current parents decided to raise me as their own. “We’d always wanted a daughter,” they say. They thought that this was a sign and it was meant to be. Then they took me to their home and I’ve been living there ever since. With my new parents I lived a pretty ordinary life. I went to public school, I had a couple of close friends and pretty good grades, I liked to play sports even though I wasn’t great at any of them, I was in the school play and the chess club, and I had a pet dog. I liked my life; everything was going smoothly. But that all changed when I turned thirteen. When I woke up on the morning of my thirteenth birthday, there was a black cube at the foot of my bed whose sides were about a foot long. I crawled over to the cube and examined it, looking for an opening. I didn’t see anything on the sides facing me so I reached out to turn the cube over.When my fingers got within a few inches of the cube, the cube started to glow. When my fingers touched the cube, it began to open itself. The faces of the cube unfolded to reveal a small black book without a title. I opened the book and started to read the small black font. That’s how I learned everything about myself that I know now. The book explained that I didn’t come from Earth, or even the Milky Way, but somewhere entirely different – a place I’m not sure how to pronounce. It also told me that now I was immortal and had a list of powers so extensive that the book didn’t even bother to name them. The book said that I would have to find out all the things I could do by myself. Lastly, it warned me to keep all this information and my powers a secret.
If anyone found out, I would lose all my powers and become mortal. However, if I managed to complete high school undiscovered, I was free to enjoy the rest of my immortal life doing as I pleased. I would even be granted an extra power: the power to erase memories. This would mean that I could reveal my identity to everyone so long as I made everyone forget about it afterwards. I was ecstatic. The only downside was that I couldn’t share my news with anyone. It hurt to realize that I would never be able to be myself in front of anyone I knew, but it seemed like a small sacrifice for powers and immortality. Despite what I had thought as a thirteen-year-old, keeping my secret was not a very small sacrifice. I had no idea how difficult it was for someone as incredibly special as I was to blend in! Not only did I have the powers that the superheroes I read about had (like super strength and flight), I had more. I had control over about every aspect of myself. Correction, I have control over about every aspect of myself. Every morning when I wake up, I levitate over to the bathroom. I put on contact lenses, not to assist my vision because now I have perfect vision, but to dull the striking bright blue color of my irises. Next I run gel through my hair to take away some of the volume. I eat breakfast, my taste buds picking up every little flavor. If I weren’t able to control my metabolism, I’d need an incredible amount of self-control to resist all the delicious food around my house. After breakfast I drive myself to school, which is always the worst part of my morning. When I can run faster than I can drive, I get road rage like you wouldn’t believe. School is enjoyable though; even though I retain everything I hear, I don’t know everything to begin with. That’s one of the things about me that doesn’t change after I develop my powers. My good grades don’t change either. I make sure to intentionally mark some wrong answers on all of my tests so as to not stand out, but I never get lower than a B.I know that I could win valedictorian if I want to, but why deprive that opportunity from someone else when I know it would mean more to him or her than to me? I like to think that I’m doing them a favor. I’m thoughtful in that way, even though many of the students at my school definitely don’t deserve my kindness. They think that just because I don’t hang out with other students after school, I don’t have any friends or “a life.” What they don’t know is that I would rather race cheetahs, swim with whales, or fly with falcons than waste my time watching reruns of television shows. It may be “better the second time” for them, but when you have a perfect memory it’s not the same; once is enough. I like to mix things up. Sometimes I go to parties where I know I won’t see anyone who knows me, and I dance my heart out. I take out my contacts and let my hair do whatever it wants; I do all the cool break-dance moves I know, as good as a professional break-dancer; and I let myself be the center of attention for a time. Afterwards I return home and never see any of them again. It’s all worth it though, it really is.
I keep telling myself that. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. Sometimes I wonder if it really is. Surely it’s easier to be “normal,” but is it better? I’d be less lonely and not constantly worried that someone will see through my cover, but what about everything else? Isn’t it too late to go back to average sight, hearing ability, sense of smell and taste, appearance, speed, intelligence, coordination, etc after experiencing them all at their finest? After watching movies nowadays, the old, blurry, black-and-white movies just give me a headache. Would my life feel like that too? I don’t think that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I wonder what other people in my situation would do. I wonder if anyone has ever even been in my situation. I wonder what life is like back where I came from and why I’m not over there now… and then I drift off to sleep. The next morning I’m headed to school again. It’s the same old routine on weekdays: go to school, go home, repeat. I hate routines. I have an extensive list of powers and I’m cooped up in a classroom where I can barely use any of them! It’s frustrating. I’m counting down the days until my graduation. Eventually that day comes and I have never been more ready. I ace all my finals, knowing that I can erase the memory from anyone suspicious if I need to, I put on a flattering white dress, I don’t put in contacts or mess up my hair, and I wear a smile, a genuine one. This is the day. This is it. I sit quietly on my chair on stage, beaming. Other students find their seats and the parents file into the auditorium chattering away. On their faces I recognize a combination of both anxiety and pride. On some of the mothers I can see smudged eye-makeup and the path of tears that had recently filled their eyes and cascaded down their cheeks. I meet the eyes of my parents. My mom has done a good job of keeping her tears controlled within the confines of her eyes, but when she sees me sitting on stage she loses that control. She wipes her tears away and tries to laugh off her embarrassment at revealing her sadness, but I know she can’t stand the thought of my growing up and leaving her to go off to what she thinks is college and I know is the world in its entirety.I make eye contact with my dad next. We may not be genetically related, but we have a connection that my mom and I do not. Using only his eyes, he tells me not to worry about my mom, that everything will be fine, and that he’s proud of me. I mouth the words “thank you,” and the reception begins. A faculty member walks on stage and commences a long, boring speech. I had heard the speech at the graduation rehearsal the day before, so I decide to tune out of it. I think I get engrossed in a daydream for the remainder of it and more, because I am about to accept my academy award when my name is called to accept my diploma. Feeling a little disoriented, I stand up, walk across the stage, and reach my hand out to receive my diploma. When my fingers get within a few inches of the paper, it starts to glow like the black cube I found on my bed five years before.
I smile to myself, knowing exactly the power this flimsy piece of paper holds, and I take the diploma in my hands. The rush I feel is hard to describe. For that split second it is as if I am in one of those commercials for 5 Gum. And then it’s over and I turn around to wave at my parents and smile at the photographer. I walk back to my seat, my mind going crazy with all my potential. When the last student’s name is called and the last diploma is doled out, I act on my impulse and take the opportunity while everyone is still clapping to get out of my chair and run to the podium. I smirk at the “what does she think she’s doing?” looks I receive from nearly all the parents in the audience. Then I clear my throat and say plainly into the microphone, “I have a confession to make.” “I could tell you all about how different I am from you and your kind, but I think it’d be better to show you,” I say, keeping my eyes on those of my parents. Both of them furrow their eyebrows in confusion. If they’re confused now and I haven’t even done anything yet, I think to myself, then I must’ve been better at hiding my identity than I thought. I decide to take things slow. In the back of the room on my right there is a jug of lemonade. I extend my right arm towards the jug, keeping my palm flat and facing the ceiling. Then I slowly curl my fingers into my palm as if I am beckoning the jug over to me in slow motion. The jug obeys and hovers above the table before floating over the heads of the people in the audience and over to my side. I set it down on the podium, put my hand back by my side, and look down at the audience to see their expressions. Everyone is transfixed, not daring to make a sound in case I say something else. Satisfied, I turn to look at my classmates. All of them are staring at me in the same way as their parents, except one. Her name is Kyle, but I call her “Vile Kyle” behind her back because she’s a vile bully who for some reason has never accepted me.“I always knew you were a freak. I’m calling the cops,” she cries. “Don’t call the cops,” someone else exclaims. “Call animal control!” She starts to pull out her phone and, forgetting that I just could brainwash her, I use my super strength to hurl the jug of lemonade straight at her. It hits her in the stomach and knocks her to the floor. It feels good to finally get a little payback for all the times she bullied me, but I never expected it to be in this way. I am hoping for a round of applause or something afterwards, but my action is met with nothing but silence. I look around at the faces of everyone in the audience. For a couple of seconds everyone is stunned, and then chaos ensues. Everyone in the auditorium jumps out of their chairs at the same time and scrambles out of the room, screaming as if I were some sort of serial arsonist that was about to light a match setting the building and everyone in it on fire. This was not supposed to happen. People were supposed to be incredibly impressed by me and I was supposed entertain them with my extensive list of talents! I would show them that I could fly, and let them climb onto my back and fly them around the room. I would show them that I could simply will my hair to change color and it would. I would awe them with my one-finger pushups. I would lead them outside to the pool and prove to them that it is in fact possible to walk on water if you’re fast enough. Maybe I would even recite a couple million digits of pi…
There were a large number of things that I could and would have shown them. Instead I’m faced with the stark reality that I don’t have much time before someone calls the police and my secret gets exposed. Knowing that that’s not an option, I bend my knees and push off from the ground, breaking and then soaring through the ceiling of the building. I levitate there, where I can see everyone frantically trying to escape, and pray to my home-planet that I can successfully erase this memory from everyone, all at once. A voice in my head hears this plea and tells me what to do. I extend my arms, straighten and flex my fingers, and watch as all the people below me freeze. Then I slowly bring my fingers down and curl them into my palm as if I were pretending that my hand was a jellyfish and my fingers are the tentacles. I watch as little blue wisps of smoke escape from the heads of all the parents, teachers, and students and float up to where my hands are ready to absorb them back. When every last wisp is returned, the people unfreeze and collapse to the floor. I don’t want to be there when they wake up. I realize I don’t want to be there ever again. Still hovering above the auditorium, I extend my arms and fingers once more and wipe the memories of my existence from everyone’s minds. My eyes start to water when I see how large the wisps I extract from my parents’ minds are, but I force myself to do it anyway. I turn around and am about to leave forever, when I hear someone on the ground yell, “Hey, wait up!” I flip back around and scour the ground for the source of the sound. Finally I spot him, standing outside the door to the auditorium. How? I ask myself. I am completely bewildered. The answer becomes clear as the boy bends his knees, pushes off the ground, and rises to my level. He smiles as he levitates before me. I am still too stunned to say a word. This must be what it felt like for everyone else, I think to myself before I register that the boy in front of me is like me, that I’m not the only one of my kind on earth, and that he’s waiting for a response. “H-Hi,” I stammer awkwardly. “Hey,” he replies casually. “Where’re you going?” I don’t know who this kid is specifically, just that he was in my English class back when we were both sophomores. I don’t think I ever even made an effort to learn his name. I decide that I am certainly interested in making that effort now. I finally have an opportunity to be myself around someone. This boy is someone I can confide in and share my experiences with. He probably has loads of information and stories to share with me too. I am not about to let this opportunity slide. “I’m not sure yet,” I reply with more confidence. “Do you want to come?” “I’d love to,” he says with a smile.
That’s when I realize how “worth it” everything was. All those years dealing with bullies and pretending to be mortal were worth putting up with. It would’ve been such a waste to lose my powers and immortality because I was tired of being lonely and the only one of my kind when someone else like me was only a classroom away. And even though I failed in trying to show my school who I was, it was also worth doing because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met this boy. Thinking about all of this makes me smile, and I realize that the boy is watching me and laughing. I pull back from my thoughts, give him an apologetic smile, and together he and I fly far, far away. We stop only once, at my house so I can pick up my black cube as a memory of my childhood, my parents, and the day I was rewarded my powers, and after that we are gone. We are free. We do everything worth doing, learn everything worth learning, and go everywhere worth going. We explore the world in its entirety, together.
By Nickie Pereira
By Anne Li
The Sunburn By Amy Rosch It spreads over the nose, the arm, the chest, until every bare inch is painful red like the shell of a lobster when it has been cooked for hours. The press of the fingers feels good at first cool against the burning, burning. But the fingers stay feeling out the pulse deep beneath the ruins, for hours pressing, reveling in the sweet relief and the burning, burning pain.
By Alice Winham
The Spinner By Caroline Harris Draw back the curtain, watch the plot unfold A web of lies will fuel this tragedy The spinner hides behind a heart of gold In wait to plot the next calamity From rose to thorn, the poison slowly spreads It trickles to the core of those it meets Attacks the love until it lies in shreds To strip Othello始s speech -- from man to beast The words his weapon, he begins to weave He crafts the script as though he were at ease And disregards the cries of those who grieve His taste for vengeance is never appeased Iago was the schemer from the start His evil hides behind an honest heart.
By Anne Li
Calypso By Amy Rosch We sit together in the fields surrounded by the green green spring and the deep dirt and the tickling of the grass, soft against the leg. We sit together in the fields, knee pressed against knee. He picks a daisy, twirling the yellow center, hypnotized by the petals circling around and around and around and around. He passes it to me and picks another. The cycle repeats again. And again. And again, until I have a pile of daisies in my lap. I make a chain from the flowers, one by one, keeping even the ones with broken stems until it is large enough to wrap around his head twice.
By Riya Modi