The Jonathan R. Reynolds Young Writers Workshop
June 15-22, 2014
Table of Writers Samantha McLaughlin ........................................................... 3 Liz Winhover ..................................................................... 4 Sam Corrigan ..................................................................... 6 Ronneice Williams............................................................... 8 Anonymous ...................................................................... 10 Kate Busatto ..................................................................... 12 Anonymous ...................................................................... 13 Noah Mains ...................................................................... 15 Addie Schneider ................................................................. 17 Sarah Wilson ..................................................................... 19 Katie Milders .................................................................... 21 Amelia Berg ...................................................................... 23 Melanie Barnett ................................................................. 24 Juliette Sabine Rishell .......................................................... 25 Leah Nutter ...................................................................... 26 Audrey Capelo .................................................................. 28 Andrea Nickel ................................................................... 30 Kali Muhly-Alexander.......................................................... 31 Maia Sowers ..................................................................... 33 KT Bugenstein ................................................................... 35 Page |1
Grace Blankenburg ............................................................. 36 Emil Kee-Tui .................................................................... 37 Olivia Newman.................................................................. 39 Tommy Adamiak ................................................................ 40 Andrew DeBacker .............................................................. 42 Fyodor Badkhen ................................................................. 44 Grace Guilliams ................................................................. 46 Isabel Taswell .................................................................... 48 Nomin Jigd ....................................................................... 50 Kira Baldwin ..................................................................... 51 Allison Overholt ................................................................ 52 Emmaline Bennett .............................................................. 54 Grant Johnson ................................................................... 56 Anonymous ...................................................................... 58 Catherine Carroll ............................................................... 59
You One thousand ways to say hello One thousand ways to say goodbye When you are away They spit words about you Words of malice No one knows, correct or false But I persevere to know the truth What really hides behind those oddly colored eyes? One thousand days to spend with you One thousand ways to say I love you Words will never suffice But I live to pay the price Of loving you so passionately that I murdered you the first time we kissed I watched you die as our bodies collided I gazed as your heart ascended to pleasurable skies. One thousand ways to touch you One thousand ways to memorize you A kiss or two every now and then An embrace strong enough to make my head spin An electrocution so fine I never dreamed you would be mine. One thousand ways to remember you One thousand ways to hold your soul I remember your smile The way your hair curls behind your ears Your hands that are at home in mine Two puzzle pieces finally converged You are a sculptorâ€™s great design I daydream of what we could grow to be But never will become Your absence is why memories pierce my gut With breathtaking force. Where are you now? I ask myself everyday It feels like you are with me But I know you are one thousand miles away.
Free Climb The weak rays of what remained of the sun cast long, haunting shadows across the junk yard. Haphazardly stacked tires became long spears, rusted cars transformed into faceless monsters, and piles of perilously stacked junk were unquestionably mountains- home to beasts of the wild. As I slowly walked deeper into the untamed metal jungle, my combat boots met with scattered shards of glass and tin that crunched hungrily beneath my feet. I told myself not to shiver- this was nothing new, after all. Climbing over the remains of the junk yard fence, bravely ignoring the ‘No Trespassing’ sign, and tip toeing through its gems of dirt was something I did every Sunday night. But the smell of autumn was in the air. The changing of the seasons was never an easy time for me. The uncertainty of the forecast after an entire season of the same weather just added to the unannounced changes I, by now, knew were unavoidable. The moves, the name changes, the destroyed hope- it was enough to tear anyone to their emotional bone. With every step, the deeper I breathed, the more it smelled like fall, and the more I wished it wasn’t. There was a sharpness to the air that hadn’t been there before, an extra kick to the previously gentle air. I press on, pulling my jean jacket tighter around my traveled body. Take a left at the green car with the abstract art adults called graffiti. Duck at the basketball pole stacked horizontally across the walk way. Begin to climb at the faceless washer, grab hold of the flag pole and pull yourself up, say “Thank you, America” and continue to climb, using dresser drawer hand holds and doors as foot rests. Half way up, sit down on the old puke green sofa that has been protected from the elements and nature by its plastic grandma covering. One line commands. That’s all it takes to escape the pressures of home and world. Up this high, it smells less like rotted garbage and neglect and a little more like freedom. But just a little. The sun was gone now. It had moved on to shine light on a billion other problems, leaving darkness for the rest of the populations of the world.
When I ran my palms across the plastic covering, an angry farting sound erupted into the darkness, startling a group of hunting birds from a treasure trove over. Now I was alone. I sat quietly, listening to the creaking and settling of the world around me. Even with no one there to tell them what to do, the objects around me still found a way to get on just fine- to find a way through. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness around me, I scanned the uneven ground beneath me. The shadows were gone, replaced by engulfing darkness that showed no want of light. Yet it was there, and it bobbled closer. “…and go. Damn sparkplugs aren’t sold… ’48 and thank the Lord.” I squinted into the darkness at the approaching figures. There were three of them. The one in the lead held the flashlight, the other two followed. All three were dressed in complete black- the obvious clothes choice of ninjas. They came closer still, I watched with untamed curiosity. My perch was far enough away. They broke up, the leader and one of the followers peeling away in search of their much needed sparkplugs, but the third stayed at the foot of my mountain. My courage faltered. “Do you come here every night to feast your eyes upon the disposed needs of the world, or is it just a weekend thing? I myself have never seen your cat eyes light the night before.” I didn’t reply. My heart began to beat heavily in my chest. I told it to stop. There was no way this decidedly male person could tell I was here. I was too well hid. He began to climb. I turned to run.
Remembrance Patrician Theotane Karistes was dying. The dust of the battlefield was beginning to settle. The corpses of his countrymen surrounded him. The battle had been less of a fight and more of a massacre, the poorly trained plebeian levy had been slaughtered by the Sarimian Empire’s Praetorian Infantry, who were now combing the narrow pass, searching for survivors. The Empire had been split by civil war, and one of the halves had set its ambitions on the free city of Aemnos. Theotane Karistes had met the Imperial forces in the narrow pass outside the city limits. The Aemnites had been killed to the man. The Imperial commander approached Theotane, stepping over a corpse missing its face as he did so. He squatted next to Theotane and removed his plumed helmet, revealing a plain face framed by a crisp white beard and set with eyes as brilliant as emeralds. “Why did you do it, Theo? What insanity drove you to sacrifice your people like this? I expected better of you, old friend.” Theo coughed into his hand. It came away bloody. When he spoke, the hole in his chest whistled. “Patrus Ariskonys. I never expected to see you in person.” “Well here I am, and I want answers. You could have surrendered, Theo. You were my friend, once, and I would have spared your men for your sake.” Theo’s cracked lips curved into a wry smile. “Remembrance, Patrus, Remembrance.” “What do you mean, remembrance?” “You’ve read the histories, Patrus. I’m sure that you have noticed the trend.” “Is this going to turn into one of your philosophical rambles, old man?” Patrus chuckled. “I have better things to do, Theo.” “You can make time. Listen to me, Patrus, history is endless. Only those who do great things can be remembered. The great victories and the heroic failures, good deeds and evil. All of these men will be remembered, but your army has done nothing unique or valorous.” Patrus laughed harshly. “Why should they care?”
“They might not, but the future will. They will remember the day that five thousand Aemnite warriors stood strong—” He coughed again. More blood. “…stood strong against the invaders. They gave their lives for their city, and they will be remembered.” Patrus shook his head. “It’s foolish. It was suicide, nothing else. This battle was a waste of human life.” Theo coughed again and raised an eyebrow. “Was it?” The war horn sounded close. It was accompanied by the sound of hooves. Thousands of hooves. Patrus leaped to his feet. The Praetorians rushed back to their formations. “What have you done, Theo?” Theo grinned, red teeth showing behind cracked lips. “It’s a civil war, Patrus. There are opportunities to be had.” Patrus curled his lips into a snarl, drew his shortsword, and buried it in his old friend’s chest, driving the steel through flesh and bone. Theo grunted in pain, but the smile returned as the Loyalist cavalry came into view around the end of the pass. “Aaaah. Sweet remembrance.” Patrus pulled out his blade and drove it back into Theo’s torso. Again and again and again. The war horns blared, the hooves thundered, and Theotane Caristes died with a smile on his cracked lips.
Someone’s getting good cell phone service with this height difference!
Randy’s Story It had started out as a dream; a series of dreams might be a better description. His dreams had not started out as cryptically disturbing as they became; it had all begun with a vision of complete darkness and seemingly impenetrable silence. Both of which were soon broken: the darkness by a large door that had been violently carved with strange symbols suddenly materializing before the child; and the silence, as if cued by the door’s appearance, gave way to sharp whispers. “Don’t go in.” various voices spoke calmly. Voices that the boy did not recognize advised him against what boyish curiosity and an unknown, beckoning energy from the door itself urged him to do. He found himself standing, reaching for the door. “Don’t go in…” the closer he got to the door, the louder and more desperate the voices became. “Don’t go in!” He seemed unresponsive; or perhaps curiosity had fueled the need to be rebellious. “Boy, don’t go in!” the voices drifted into frightful screeches, begging: “DON’T GO IN!!” But the knob was turned, and all the voices screamed in terror as the portal opened with not any sound, but a burst of sudden heat. The darkness was ignited with deep fiery colors, and the heat complemented it deviously well. The invisible, screechy worriers were chased away by another invisible being that snarled and seemed to take up space without actually existing. And there came many others: creatures massive in height and black in color, blending into the spaces of darkness that the reds and oranges did not touch. The boy was not prepared for such horrible spectacle. He whimpered fearfully at their size. The sound seemed to alert the beasts, and they lunged at the child with a sick type of hunger. But instead of devouring the small human, the beasts circled him: a few floating, and the others stalking around him, watching him with nonexistent, yet heavy eyes.
“Boy…” an otherworldly voice rasped. “By releasing us, you have accepted us…You have accepted the shadows…You have accepted the darkness.” The word ‘darkness’ seemed to be uttered by all of the creatures at once, creating a ghostly harmony with the first voice. “The Shadow of Power…” One creature reared up at attention. “It will be your strength to command.” “The Shadows of Lithe and Obstruction…” Two stood this time. “They will be your defense.” “The Shadows of Sight…” the flying beasts halted their circling to stare pointedly downward. “They will allow you to see into my realm.” “The Shadow of Mind…” the largest beast rose even taller. “Shall allow you into it.” The child, unable to understand all of this so suddenly, prayed to wake up as all of the monsters shrieked and lunged for him again. This time though, they did not stop. They entered his body, creating an unbearable pain reminiscent of being torn in half. And all the while, the boy could hear soft laughter at his pain. “Awaken now…Shadow Mage.” The voice said calmly. The boy suddenly sat up in his bed, his face warm and his entire body covered in sweat. His body ached, but he forced himself out of his blankets to run to his mirror. It had to be a dream; he thought as he leaned in close to examine himself. He could have cried when he saw them: the strange symbols from his dream were now in his eyes…
Untitled Come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure Where I’m from. Because parts of me can be found In those 7 hours of class time Lost in notes and due dates And equations and definitions. I’ve left all my cares and worries On the floors of a concert hall. Because only the jumping and dancing and yelling and screaming And singing and the way you can feel your ribs shake because the music Is just so ear-shattering Is the only way I feel at home. There are bits and pieces strewn about The upper floor of my homes; Scraps of paper and filtering sunlight and burning candles And film canisters and the ticking sound of clocks and the rumbling of music That was way, way too loud Made me feel welcome in the strange new world that was my own. I’ve left myself behind in All the books with cracked spines raided from library shelves And empty CD cases at the record store And the drained coffee cups, lying on their sides In the little old coffee shop down the road. And there are scattered trails of me on the mountain paths From all of the long roads driven in the late nights To places with people Whose faces and stories and first names and best friends I wont ever recall. There are treasures lost to me On the streets I’ve adventured upon The winding sidewalks across the world with shops and fashion models and artists And the homeless and street performers and hotdog vendors trying to make a living And scattered dollar bills and forgotten words said from one to another
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Small cracks have developed in the very center of my soul Allowing screams of ecstasy and shrieks of grief and tears of joy and The laughter of someone who cares too much to truly laugh To escape into the very world that I Have spent my whole life hiding from.
Villanelle Since the last full moon has come and gone, Remembrance for all those lost and the few that were found Through the struggle, we all carry on. And yet, they say, the pain and suffering has been drawn The new king has been crowned Since the last full moon has come and gone. With the brave winter soldiers of war withdrawn, Emotions unbound Through the struggle, we all carry on. The ancient plain, when nigh comes on, Shakes to a ghostly battleground Since the last full moon has come and gone. But into the soundless dawn The remnants of battle; nothing but dead leaves on the cold, harsh ground Through the struggle, we all carry on. The fires of hell dwell on Those who have fallen, now world-renowned Since the last full moon has come and gone. Through the struggle, we all carry on.
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Rest A field of voyeurs crave the sound of gods, young as glass, emulating Romance in the Jeep Cherokee in the cemetery in the dead of winter. A moment of passion transcends the inevitable bleakness. Beauty, terror, revelation— the steady disintegration, body to sand, grain by grain, pauses. A palpitation, a meditation. Cracked lips try to smuggle sound through pores of earth. Suspend! Live! In that moment: all that your sandy hands can hold.
Fyodor discovered that Reynolds can be a real balancing act … P a g e | 12
Park Street, Act IV Scene 3
Joe down the street is slipping a gram of wonder to a fresh-faced beauty queen, and she cries in the hallway while outside a bell is ringing and ringing— and the children keep skipping rope. one day they’ll learn to tie nooses. around the corner Joe is laughing because he knows in the peculiar way that men down the street know about children and nooses and innocence. Beauty queen’s got powder in her nose and mascara running down her cheeks. She collapses. The doctor’s on campus—
tires leaving imprints behind. He needs wings to keep up with her, cause beauty queen’s learning how to fly. Officer Kent and his red moustache aren’t far behind, sirens straight from East 22nd Avenue at nine with a teenage delinquent in the backseat who only wanted to watch. Oh, and Susan the secretary— friends with beauty queen’s mom— she missed the whole thing because she went for coffee and came back with beauty queen’s iced half-caff sugarfree cinnamon dolce soy skinny latte— she got the order wrong
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Marymount Hospital, 75 Years I count the years of your life like sand, You breathe the tide pools with an early dusk. We often lived in the now, and pretended there was no “then” and there will be no “tomorrow”. Please do not leave me with your coin jars and all the books you bought me that I tried to read, but never did— your ridiculous sock collection, and my heart in a jar on your bedside table. I have a handful of memories that are no more than mothballs. Our apartment is tiny, but it is an ocean without you. I remember your laugh on rainy days— You took up my entire heart and left no room for anything else.
Maybe it is better if you do not wake up so I can sit all day with you. I count the dollars in our account with a growing worry, for you have not woken up yet and you were always the one who did our taxes. I am a person hollow as the rushing of the wind through our curtains. I grow tired of tripping over your ghosts and squeezing my clothes in the closet where you hung your forgotten friendships. Maybe it is better if you do not wake up so I can sew the spaces smaller into oblivion.
Getting comfy in the Huffman lounge! P a g e | 14
A Certain Bond When Nigel Connolly, British immigrant, lived in Washington DC, he saw one of the most sadistically well-organized cities in the United States. Almost without exception, every street vendor looked Hispanic, and every security guard and janitor was African-American. Every morning as he traveled to work, he saw the same tired stereotypes, and he was bored of it. When he rode an escalator down into the Metro’s Federal Triangle stop, he shoved by a cop, got past the turnstile as quickly as possible, threw himself through a closing train’s doors and found himself taking a seat without thinking. A USA Today was draped over the next seat down; perhaps it didn’t have the comics, but he picked it up anyway and started to read. People were still writing about the Twin Towers attack, still trying to force their biases on others. The train began to move, sodium-yellow lights whipping past the car with perfect regularity. “Christ almighty,” said a well-dressed aide in the next aisle, staring at the picture on the paper’s cover, the picture of both buildings in flames. The man fidgeted with the flag pin on his lapel in what might have been fear. Nigel mumbled his assent, trying to ignore the man. He despised subway conversations. Even at his best, he could barely speak to strangers. Nigel looked outside. Metro tunnels, he noticed, look disturbingly like bomb shelters. Clunk. A half-second later, the fluorescent lights on the ceiling shorted out, and someone threw the emergency brake. Nigel lashed forwards, hit his head on the pole in front of him, and fell to the floor clutching his skull. He began to hear screaming, although it wasn’t his own, fortunately. As he got to his feet in complete darkness- the outside tunnel lights were gone too- someone opened a phone and, in its gleam, helped him to his feet. Nigel thanked him half-heartedly. More phones came on, and the car was suffused in a decently bright blue glow. “Terrorists?” queried a bald man in the corner, nervously, always nervously. Soon his comment was murmured all about the car. Half-shouted moans and cries made the air thick, tense, stifling. A woman began to slam her body against the outer door, bruising herself.
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Nigel took half a breath and tried to keep his mouth dry. Something needed done. No one else was doing it. While half-standing on a chair, he parted his lips to speak. “Excuse me,” he began, his voice all too quiet and lost in the paranoid hysteria. He doubted himself again. He was an unobtrusive nothing. He’d not be listened to. And then he saw a tall older woman on the floor, with blood coming from a cut on her head. The man who had helped Nigel up, stooped at her side, cleaning off the blood and pressing his necktie to the wound. An older Texan, a tourist, came to the man’s side. Almost reverently he kept the woman’s head still, as the other stifled her wound with a makeshift bandage. That was why Nigel kept speaking. Call it a sudden, barely-justified faith in humanity, he thought. “Damn it!” he roared. Instantly, surprisingly, the entire car was quiet. Nigel hadn’t thought past the first two words of his speech; he was surprised that he’d been able to say those. “We don’t know what’s happening, do we?” he asked rhetorically, improvising as quickly as he could think. “But if it’s someone that’s trying to hurt us, then we’re doing their job for him. The point of terrorism, if this is what it is, is to frighten us, to the point where we lose hope. If we’re terrorizing ourselves, then we’re just being stupid.” In a moment of inspiration, he remembered an old war poster he’d once seen in a London museum: “Keep calm and carry on.” Not too long after, a small maintenance tram passed by and the power came back on. It was a relief to all the passengers, but most of all to Nigel, who was shivering quietly in the aisle. “If you don’t mind, I’d like you to have this,” said the aide who had spoken to Nigel earlier. He offered the American-flag pin off of his lapel. “That was a good thing you did there.” He never spoke to anyone in that train again. But he felt, nevertheless, a certain bond that he shared with them all. Nigel’s office was still three blocks further, but he got out at Jefferson Central and decided to walk, half-relishing and half-praising the May sunlight.
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Narcissus I will become a lily. I realize this as I stand in the shower with steam rising in hazy columns around me, rivulets of hot water drawing a gleaming curtain across my skin. My thoughts tangle like threads pulled from someone’s knitting, double back on themselves and spiral in wild helixes. They converge only when they stumble into the regions of consciousness where I myself reside. I ought to know that this is a terrible thought. It is also, perhaps, a true one. Each person can lay claim to only what they hold inside their own head, the flotsam and oddities they’ve stuffed inside the curio cabinet of their minds. The only universe we know is the one we can imagine, the points of light we hold in motion within the macabre basilicas that are our skulls. The world outside of us throbs with human action, expression, damage, battles, scars; the world inside races like a rodent in a maze along paths of emotion and thought. And yet, the only things we can truly comprehend are those that we create. All the world can offer or impose upon us is filtered through our minds before we can internalize it. The way we process the world taints it, brands a signature serial number onto everything we feel or know. And so I fear will become a lily. All I know is that which I hold within my own mind, the words and notions and fleeting images echoing against the grey matter folded into my head. The twisted threads of my thoughts can never detangle themselves from my existence, cannot hope to shake off the cloying presence of what essentially is their very selves. I can’t find a way to make sense. And all I know how to do is experience the world from behind my eyes. So I stand in the shower and let soap rise in a swirl of foam from my dripping hair, close my eyes like curtains against the rest of the world.
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I think of myself, or of other things. I think of the vastness of the world outside of me and feel panic rise and swell like a sick balloon in my chest, unease churning in my stomach like waves breaking against a jagged wall of stone. I try not to think about lilies. In the back of my mind, like a fallen petal sending ripples across a pond, the fear waits.
Flash Flood I watch the rain fall past the gutters of the front porch and rush to gather in the deep basins of potholes on the road. The ground, weighed down and choking beneath the burden of the unexpected summer storm, churns and thrashes as the drops that were meant to be a blessing beat the earth’s exposed back. I remember what it feels like to drown. I felt the first cool drops of you and mistook them for a sweet shower to dance in, but thunder tore at your throat and lightning crackled in your eyes. I’m not drowning in you anymore, but my heart aches for the battered ground as I sit to watch the rain alone.
So many happy faces! P a g e | 18
Ophelia, Drowning My best friend drowned when I was twelve. Her name was Lila. We used to ride our bikes down the hill our houses were built on, tall and leaning on each other for support. If we closed our eyes, with the wind screaming in our ears and the pavement falling away beneath us, we could be flying. She had messy dark hair and a mouth that was given to smiling. I had cornrows with colored beads at the ends. She liked the noise they made when I shook my head. It reminded her of the patter of tiny raindrops on the roof. I loved her immediately. I loved her drooping hair ribbons and the sparkly pinkness of her sneakers and the wicked way she grinned. She lived on the same street as me, in a row house painted purple and filled with brothers. Mine echoed with ghosts of kids long moved on. When Lila was there, it felt less empty. She drowned in the reservoir in the woods, at six forty-five on a warm evening in June. One of her assorted brothers was too busy sticking his tongue down Jessica Ostrowski’s throat to notice. Lila’s fingers slid off the rope swing a second before she was over the water. She hit her head, not hard enough to break bone, but enough to stun her. When she slipped beneath the surface she would have been barely conscious enough to be afraid. The spring flowers were in full bloom, dragging their branches down to kiss the surface of the water. The current tugged the petals away. They gathered where she floated, clinging to her skin and trapped in tendrils of her hair. She looked peaceful, her brother said, when I locked the basement door and made him speak into the recorder I found in a dusty drawer in the attic. She looked like a water fairy sleeping or an angel fallen from the sky, but not like a girl, not like a person. Maybe it made it easier for him to look at her, if he pretended she wasn’t real. “I didn’t want to disturb her,” he said. I didn’t say: if you had, maybe you could have saved her.
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Sometimes, I thought I could bring her back. I thought it would be try, try, try again, the stars disappearing into the light of morning while I poured over dusty old tomes. I would close my eyes and tap into the old magic sitting just beneath my skin. No one talked about it, but I thought it must still be there. I could feel it, electric, in my blood. I thought it would be like this: if all I had was stardust and bones, could I make a girl? But I wasn’t the descendent of witches burned at the stake, of girls with danger in their eyes and moonlight in their hair. Any magic still thrumming through me was saturated with the ordinary.
“I don’t want to read anything that doesn’t teach me how to be alive.” Mike Croley
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Gone Has anyone from the team talked to you yet? The worried pit in my stomach quickly turns to dread as my “pretty in pink” iPhone buzzes with a notification for the new text. I see that it’s from my best friend and teammate, and the words I read rattle me to the core because, somehow, I knew what she was going to tell me before she even had the chance. I close my eyes gently and can’t force myself to respond, tears building up behind my eyelids and threatening to race down my already hot cheeks. I had prayed that my mom got false information earlier that day. But she isn’t wrong. Not ever. I dial Morgan’s number with shaky fingers and hold the phone to my ear, the ringing like a jackhammer to my pounding head. The phone stops ringing but no one speaks. I hear Morgan on the other end, her sniffles and heavy, sob-filled breathing filling the lonely, infinite space between us. Just being together on the phone makes the situation too real. I stop trying to hold back my tears; it’s pointless now anyway. They come like a tsunami, flooding my cheeks, dripping from my chin onto my arms, drowning my hope in a never ending wave of despair. “I think. I know. What you’re going to tell me,” I admit, my own howls of agony forcing me to pause and breathe heavily between words. “It’s about Kathryn, isn’t it?” She doesn’t respond immediately, but by the change in the severity of her cries, I can tell that I’m right. We wail together, our misery completely unique to anything we have ever encountered before. Suddenly, nothing matters like it did mere minutes ago. I throw the homework I’ve been working on to the floor in anguish, anger even, and collapse my tear-stricken face in my hands. I try to remain quiet, not wanting my mom to come check on me because no matter how many times she kindly asks, I am not “okay,” and I don’t “need anything.” My shoulders heave with great sobs, choking me, suffocating me. “I don’t understand,” Morgan finally speaks, begging for answers from me, one year older than her and therefore the fearless leader in this situation. “I just know she died. There was a fucking group text to half the damn team. ‘Hi guys, this is Maddi. Just so you all know, Kathryn
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Hamilton died this afternoon. I don’t have any details, but I thought someone should tell the team.’ None of us even know what happened!” “Um,” I stumble through gasps for air, unsure of how to break the news to her as I bite my lip nervously, “based on what I’ve heard, she killed herself after school today.” “No,” Morgan whispers in stunned disbelief, sobbing as she speaks. “Oh my God. What are we going to do? I don’t understand. Why is this happening?” I just shake my head, able to do nothing else. We say our goodbyes, and then hang up as if there is nothing left to be done. There is nothing we can say to each other to fix the situation, so we don’t say anything at all. My chest tightens and I weep alone, my cries too hard, the woe too deep in my soul, to make any noise, any noise at all. I don’t try to understand why she did it, and I don’t pretend to know how to react because Kathryn was practically my little sister, my responsibility once she got to high school. I’ve never had a sister die before. So how am I supposed to react? All I know is that she did it. And she’s gone. It somehow seems like a huge part of me is gone, too. Just gone. No - taken. Taken like God needed a sick souvenir of his magnificent creations, His handiwork, and for some reason, He chose Kathryn, and she didn’t argue, just went with Him, leaving behind the broken pieces of her life before, leaving behind the broken pieces of me. And I know they’ll be broken forever.
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Abyss Here I am. Standing on the edge of a cliff, Overlooking the sharpness of the rocks, Not caring about the rushing waters below. Only thinking of How much I want this, How much I need this. This relief, This escape, From this abyss I’ve been living in. The smoke from the fires of hell Is choking me, Caught in my lungs, Suffocating my throat, Making every breath Shorter than the last. But I keep breathing. I want to stop. I can’t stand this torture, Why should I have to? I am already in hell. Just one more step And I’ve saved myself. I never needed anyone’s help, I never had anyone anyways. So just One more stride, One more pace, And I’ll finally be done. After 16 years of this I can finally be done. All I have to do Is Take That One Last Step
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Melanie Barnett Â
A Kiss Her virgin lips Soft flower petals Delicate to the touch His eyes blaze Setting fire to her soul Burning green and bright He stoops in close Her eyes droop shut His darkness consuming her Silent mouths connect Petals catch ablaze Wilting within the flame Dark Clouds roll overhead Lightning crashes Thunder booms Droplets poor Fire ceases abruptly Disappearing with a hiss The flower grows stronger Stem absorbing moisture Petals vibrantly pink His clouds roll away Her petal lips out of breath Wind gushing between them Light peeking through his clouded eyes Warm smiles escape Soft murmurs exchanged The flower beautifully glows Beneath the bright grinning sun Light embracing her petals.
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Juliette Sabine Rishell Â
London, Recalling Walden Light and rain have common ground, Dripping and seeping through the cracks in clouds Falling on the heads of heroes Instead of capes, briefcases filled with mundane rainbows. Clocks strike, they fly home. Fire leapt across the sky, banishing the peaceful color of day Burning away, reds, oranges, and yellows consume the sky Underneath the war torn horizon was a wise man. Another face in the crowd Only, his cloak was made of midnight, bejeweled with the stars of far way realms. He calmed the fire and lulled the world to sleep. Eyes grew dry and thoughts became weak and strong. Darkness, Plagued with dreams of sunshine and warmth An earthshaking whisper, Awake.
Garden of Time A garden of time ticks though the ages. Containing trees, scraping the sky Branches covered in crystals, Crystals covered in string, Strings caught and tangled, Stretched and pulled. Cut. Life inside. Hiding unforeseeable future The garden is lush, never touched. The garden is tamed, tainted. The garden is ash. The phoenix is balanced between life and death To catch one in your hands is to catch a shooting star. To kill one is for the fires of hell to consume your existence. To love one is for the heavens to become your heart. Beating with the clock of forever. Heart strikes, strings snap, crystals shatter, ashes scatter. P a g e | 25
Annihilation I stood across from Mr. Davenport’s house and surveyed it careful not to linger too long and raise suspicion. Mr. Davenport had a quaint home. It was the perfect place for a single teacher to live, but the size of the house made it very hard to sneak into undetected. He was asleep, I could tell because, in his bedroom, there was a speaker that transmitted back every sound from his bedroom. From the quick observation I acquired by looking at his house, I knew how to get inside the house without being seen. I crossed the yard swiftly and silently using every bit of training I had to stay hidden. It was the middle of the night, or maybe early morning, and dew was just beginning to settle on the perfectly trimmed blades of grass. This was the perfect setting for a job like this. I stopped and blended into my surroundings, and felt my way along the wall of the house, careful to stay in the shadows, until I found what I was looking for. Mr. Davenport had a door in the ground on the outside of his house that led straight to the basement; it was unlocked, but of course, I already knew that. Don’t be fooled, I told myself, there is something waiting on the other side of that door. For caution, I placed my hand on the cool, black leather of my holster and retrieved my shooter, a deadly weapon, more deadly than any gun or poison dart you will come across because, unlike a gunshot wound, once the wave from the shooter hits your body, you drop dead. No chances of survival, you just die. However, it is also convenient, for it is as silent as the black abyss of a sky that I stand under now. Grasping the shooter very firmly, I quickly opened the door to the basement and floated inside. The silence pierced my eardrums and the length of it almost assured me of safety. At that moment, I heard a slight shuffle behind me and, holding my left wrist, swung my right elbow completely around and brought my it down hard on the boy’s—or at least I think it’s a boy—pressure point. It would have been easier to use my shooter and just kill him, but a shooter isn’t a weapon you waste on just anyone, and I already had a target. I left the body on the ground figuring I had about 30 minutes before he woke up and realized he failed his mission of protecting Mr. Davenport. I couldn’t fathom what kind of punishment he would get for failing his mission; punishment is different for each chain, but if his punishment would be anything like
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my chain, then he had much to fear. I quickly made my way up the stairs and into the front room avoiding the squeaky floorboards I already knew the location of. I was also careful to avoid looking at any family photos on the walls or sitting on shelves. Jobs like these are delicate and must be done thoroughly; there is no time for sympathy. At last I had made my way to the upstairs hallway and now stood in front of his bedroom door. This was the most crushing part of the entire mission, if I failed the punishment would be brutal and that is not what I want. Soundlessly, I entered his bedroom and looked upon his snoring figure. He was peaceful and patiently waiting for his alarm clock to go off at 6:30am, but he wouldn’t live to hear it buzz. I took a moment to remember everything I could about Mr. Davenport, as I often do when I am assigned to annihilate people I have known for a long time. I’m not supposed to do this because it cost time and risks getting caught, but I feel like I need to, so I do it anyway. He is—soon to be was—my English teacher. I was assigned to watch him every day, sometimes skipping my lunch period to spy on him. I remembered his subtle smile and wink he would give me when he would mark me down as present even when I was tardy. My conclusion was that he was innocent, but the Board wanted to be safe and get rid of him anyways. They can’t afford to take any chances—not now. I pulled the trigger without mercy. The room rang with silence.
A trip to_the cemetery!
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F+B Forever The pair stood in front of a convenience store. Each held a dog mask and a pillowcase. His hands were dirty and rubbed grime off on everything he touched. His nails were covered in chipped black nail polish. His hair was as dark as his nails and hung just above his shoulders in greasy waves. His face was calm and as unwashed as the rest of him. His skinny body was clothed in only a tight pair of ripped black jeans. The face of a tiger glowered from his thin, slick stomach. She was nearly as tall as he was and just as skinny. Her hands were cleaner than his, but the dirt underneath her fingernails never seemed to leave. Her hair was straight, dishwater blonde. She wore jeans that were too big and a t-shirt that had been torn in half. Her pale stomach rumbled sluggishly as she stared at the food inside of the store. Her feet were bare and the asphalt beneath her toes burned. “Baby, I got something for you,” he said as he released her slender hand. “What is it, Fox?” she asked, turning to face him. His eyelashes scratched his skin as he blinked away the sweat that had slid into his eyes. His hand reached into his back pocket with slow movements that could only be caused by a summer day in Texas. “I got you a gun,” he answered, handing her a black pistol. The barrel was crudely engraved with F+B Forever. She looked delighted at the gift and casually clutched it in her greedy hands. “Thank you, Foxy!” she cooed, kissing him sloppily. “Anything for you, Baby.” “You ready?” she asked and placed her mask over her face. He only nodded as he mimicked her motions and slipped on his own mask. They walked confidently into the gas station together; hands entwined and dirty skin touching. Baby’s blistering feet were happy to be on some tile.
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“What’s going on here?” the cashier asked as the pair walked inside. With practiced movement, Baby aimed her gun at the place between the cashier’s eyes and barked at him to put his fucking hands up and don’t move a damn muscle or she would blow his head off. He obeyed. Fox roamed the aisles and stuffed food into his pillowcase as Baby steadily kept the cashier still. Seconds ticked away as he perused the aisles. By the time he was done, his pillowcase was bloated with corn sugar and sodium and the cashier was a mess of sweat and fear. Fox took his place beside Baby and aimed his gun at the cashier’s swollen gut. “Now give us all the money you’ve got,” Baby growled. He did not obey. The cashier’s right moved in an attempt to press the emergency button underneath the counter. Baby’s eyes did not miss this movement. She pulled the trigger.
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Venenosa Her red mask hides who she is. It conceals everything that she hides inside herself. The men in the room seem only to be able to see what is clearly there and nothing else. They see a woman with a short red dress, and heels which elongate her legs, already long. Fingernails painted to match her dress, and her hair falls down her back like the leaves on a willow tree. Although her beauty is obvious, the men only watch her. They are too intimidated to take a step near. All men except for one. This man is brave, he asks the woman for a dance. She argues with the man for a while, and he argues back. The woman tries to push him away. She tries to get him away for his own safety. He ignores her. He grabs her hand and twirls her around. She giggles and finally complies to the man’s request. This dance is the first dance the man will have ever danced. He smiles at the woman, and all of his thoughts are of how perfect the dance was He dips her down, one last time and leans in for a kiss. “Are you sure you would to continue?” The woman asked before he could seal deal. In response, the man’s lips met hers and there they stayed. The room, once loud with conversation soon quieted. The man tried to pull away, but the woman holds him tight and close. She gracefully twirls away from the man before he she lets him fall to the ground with an echoing thud. She leans down and kisses his cheek before fading away as if the air opened its mouth and swallowed her whole. Some members of the crowd scream in horror and they run over to the man. He should have listened to the beautiful woman because when he decided to dance a dance with death, his first dance also became his last.
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A Voice from the Hills Spring at my childhood farm in West Virginia was the time for the peepers to sing from the pond and the whippoorwill to coo softly in the dark of night. Everything smelled green and earthy. Daffodils and crocuses sprung forth from the ground, the first flowers to turn their faces to the sun since winter had come six months earlier. Spring was when I ran outside in bare feet, splashed in creeks that were still cold from mountain snow, laid down on new grass under warm sun, and bit into wild onion that was freshly grown. At night I slept with my windows open to hear the symphony of owls and crickets and to feel the gentle breeze blow through the curtains and cool my face. I awoke at the crow of the rooster (I never did like him much) and readied for the day in the calm, quiet hours of dawn with the newly arrived robins from the south. Spring was a time of second chances, hope and new beginnings. However, this year my home among the hills brings sadness in its remembrance. West Virginia is known for its industry in oil and gas, and my home county is an especially prime location for these “precious” non-renewable resources. Recently, many oil and gas companies have taken advantage of mineral leases that were created long before current drilling technology was realistic. Current practices permit drilling and fracking inside my county’s borders and, within only a few months, the beautiful farmland where docile cattle once grazed had become bulldozing sites. Entire hillsides full of trees and undergrowth were cleared for pipelines. The days were filled with the continuous whine of machinery and the grumble of numerous trucks, sputtering exhaust as they passed. Sometimes, at night, once the wells had been drilled, the excess gas that had collected at the top of the well was “flared” of in a plume of fire that rose over thirty feet into the air, making the entire countryside look aflame. The animals left. Deer vanished deeper into the hills, rabbits scampered off in fright to search for new homes, and the birds flew far away. Even people left. A well-liked middle school teacher and her husband, both of who are passionate about the environment, packed up their decades-old farm and moved to Maine when drilling started on their own land. Some tried to speak out, but the oil and gas companies
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wouldn’t listen. It was thought that much-needed jobs were being brought to the state. In truth though, the companies were bringing mostly their own employees from states like Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. I stood among it all with the questions of how? and why? roaring inside my head. The picturesque West Virginia with green rolling hills, golden pastures, and healthy creeks was now gone. In its place was a construction pit. It was during this time that I began to question it all. It wasn’t fair, I felt, that my home, and many others’ homes too, had been stripped from us without our consent. My family and I had put years of work into our farm. Whether it was the garden my mother spent hours hunched over during the summer, the solar panels my father installed so the house now ran on the bright sun’s rays, or the fruit trees my brother and I tended to during times of drought over the years, we had all put, quite literally, blood, sweat, and tears into making our house a home. My anger over the injustice of it all bubbled up inside of me, turning me bitter. I have since channeled my energy and feelings into writing. I wrote letters to the governor, to my state representative, and to the owners of the oil and gas companies. I have never sent any of the letters, though. What could the voice of a sixteen year-old girl say to make any difference? But I have made a vow to myself that someday I will have a voice that people listen to. I will make a difference. I will speak out in defense of my old home. May it one day be restored to its original grandeur.
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Dreamer She was a dreamer. She loved to dance in the meadow, stepping in the soft dirt as sunlight made its way through the leaves. She was whimsical and always looking forward to what the next day would bring. She often dressed in sundresses, giving off the aura of innocence and beauty. She was like a delicate flower, beautiful yet breakable. She lived in the clouds; her entire life was written in the stars, set in the stones that lay beneath the sand. Her blond hair cascaded down her back in loose waves that were always perfect; her blue eyes shone with the excitement of pure existence. Her laugh sounded like the tinkling of bells lost in the wind, her voice as soothing as ocean waves hitting the shore. Her smile held mystery and adventure. She was a dreamer. My mother was a dreamer. Some could say being a dreamer was her best feature, but I disagree. I believe that being a dreamer is what got her killed. I was ten years old when it happened, a fifth grader. It happened quickly. One minute, I was sitting in class, the next my teacher was beckoning me, tears in her eyes. “Your father is here for you, I’m so sorry for your loss,” the teacher told me, engulfing me in a tangle of arms, an itchy sweater, and overwhelming perfume. I was confused but still walked to the office, happy about getting out of class. As soon as I got there, I knew something was wrong. My father’s eyes were red as if he had been crying (he never cried). The next few minutes were a tornado of words, hugs, tears, and confusion. I looked to my father, unable to really understand what was happening. “What happened?” I asked, my voice seemingly disconnected from my brain. “Your mother…she was killed,” he spoke, his voice shaking. “She was in the meadow… dancing around, and a deer went by. A hunter mistook your mother for the deer and accidentally shot her.” Mother. Killed. Meadow. Dancing. Deer. These words echoed in my mind as I attempted to process what was happening.
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Three days later, I was at her funeral, dressed in a black dress my father had bought me just for the occasion and black patent leather shoes my mother had bought me for my birthday that year. It didn’t feel real. When people gave speeches, eulogies as I would later learn they were, I stared numbly at the coffin, the wood coffin that seemed to shine in the bright light; a wreath of flowers had been placed on top of it along with a photo of my mother. In the picture, she was smiling—she always was so it was nothing new—and she was wearing a purple headband that didn’t really keep any of her hair out of her face because she did that weird thing where she put it behind like an inch of hair. I never really got the purpose of that because aren’t headbands supposed to help keep hair out of your face? So why would you let hair still fall into your face? “She was a dreamer, for better or for worse. She was a dreamer and I loved her for it. I will love her forever and always,” my father finished speaking, snapping me out of my thoughts. My father returned to me, tears finally racing down his cheeks. I hugged him, feeling as if that was the right thing to do. That’s when I decided I never wanted to hurt him like that. Never wanted to be like her. It was there in that funeral home in fifth grade when I vowed I would never, ever, be a dreamer.
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KT Bugenstein Â
Intestines I have never looked inside the pit of someoneâ€™s stomach, their guts curving, tangled under skin like the Metro in New York, London, Parisfaraway places hidden from sight Where I live it is not big enough to have a metrobut Iâ€™ve ridden them on vacation My heart dropped waiting for the train Scared of the chance that I would stand too close to the edge and get sucked in Or separated from my parents Gone forever I do not ride the metro oftenit scares me that I might get lost in the maze of trains and graffiti platforms and shifting bodies I will never be a surgeon or a denizen of the underground
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Satisfaction I am a figure of great capability. Often seen ice-fishing and parasailing, I make it my duty to explore the unexplored, fulfill the unreached, and imagine the unseen. I have friends in seventy-five different countries, a good lot of the regions unknown to man, and an exotically-colored bird from the Netherlands, most likely illegal. I don’t yawn, I don’t whine, I don’t cry, and lest there be a lifethreatening situation, I never forget to double-knot my shoelaces. On Tuesdays I hunt for whales and on Wednesdays, if time permits, I aid elderly ladies in crossing the street outside my six-story mansion or practice par-kour, scaling buildings and jumping over gaps beyond fifteen feet wide. At 4 p.m. sharp, I continue my research in curing the most deadly disease known to man. By 5:00, I’m practicing six different instruments at once. On an off day, I’ll hang glide over busy beaches, rescuing damsels in distress from the ocean’s greedy tide before the lifeguards can even bat an eyelash or raise a finger. On a good day, I might discover the solution to global warning. During the weekends I go curling with my ten bohemian lady friends, and when the sun is at it’s zenith, I make balloon animals into the shape of Komodo dragons for children with terminal cancer. My car runs on dignity. I’ve walked the world in one full circle, touched the North Pole while eating a chili cheese dog, and planted exactly eight chrysanthemums on the moon. Never do I miss a “please” or a “thank you”. I can touch my nose to my toes, survived being struck by lightning a total of eighteen times, and once saved a herd of gazelle from a zeal of zebra with only a pair of underwear and a bag of chips. I gallop, I leap, I sing, I dance, I smile, and my sense of humor is unmatched. Some say I am a god. Others agree. I’ve surfed for a mile before falling, answered the question before asking, and seen the afterlife before dying. My breath can be held longer than my bladder. I’ve never been lonely, never felt unloved, never been bored. I’ve tasted every flavor of ice cream ever created and stared at the sun for a full twenty minutes before blinking. I marvel, I skip, I laugh, I hug, and I always make direct eye contact. But I have yet to write a book.
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Untitled Susan’s lovely summer dress was now covered in thick globules of mud that obscured the pretty rose pattern her mother had admired. She would have preferred a catapult for her eighth birthday but mother said it wasn't ladylike. She knew what would happen when Gogo found her but she didn't mind. She hadn't seen Thandie since she started going to boarding school and if Gogo's hiding was the price of playing with her she didn't mind. Sure enough, Gogo came over the hill moments later. Gogo was a granite boulder of a woman; Almost as wide as she was tall. Her uniform seemed to hang feebly on to her frame. Not revealing anything, but it was certainly strained to hold her girth. Her face used up only a meager area of her head. And so she seemed to grimace continually because her brows strained under competition from her forehead. She could only tell the children apart by Susan's dress, which still stood out white against the mud. Gogo was more agile than her build suggested and in a few leaps she bounded towards Susan and plucked her out of the mud. "Wena!" She growled. “Do you know how long it will take to clean your clothes now?" Now she held her up by her hands and gave her several quick smacks on her bottom. Susan remained still and resolute. She was comforted that she had a companion. Then sure enough Gogo picked up Thandie too. She pleaded in vain but was given the same punishment. "You want to get me in trouble?" Gogo said to Thandie. Her brows shot up. She didn't want an answer. Gogo was Thandie's grandmother. Susie wondered if Gogo had bought Thandie a nice dress too. She didn't remember what she was wearing. "I can't take you into the house like that." Gogo said. Her anger had subsided and was now only exhaustion. She dragged them both to her small mud hut. Susan always wondered how the grass roof kept the rain out. She had been in the bush many times when it was raining and the tall grass
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hadn't stopped the rain. She also wondered why she would use mud to make the walls. It was dry now and she could trace patterns in the cracks and lines. But even she knew that it would fall down soon. The dusty ground around the homestead and the few skinny chickens kicked up a lot of dust. They didn't look like papa's chickens. His were big and fluffy, at least twice the size of these. Gogo fetched a pail of water from the well and splashed them both. The water was warm and she felt the sand grains sting her cheek. She didn't see why she was dragged away from the mud pool if she was just being doused in sand. The water went up her nose and she felt it run down her throat. It made her cough. Gogo did the same to Thandie. But now Susan looked at Thandie and wondered if Gogo used the same water because Thandie's dress was still brown. The water had removed the bigger mud blobs and there was only a faint a stain. But Thandie's clothes we're completely brown and she noticed the end of her shorts were not even and there were small strings and hanging down from them. Then she chuckled when she saw Thandie had a small hole in the seat of her pants and she could see her buttocks. "Come." Gogo said, "not you, Thandie!" turning back to look at Thandie. Thandie fell back. Susan noticed Thandie had stopped coming to the house. Maybe it was Gogo who stopped her.
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Different I grasp the wind-torn needles From the ground and let Them slowly slide through My fingers. There’s something lonely About being surrounded By people, but not feeling Adequate enough to be In their presence. Yet among the pines, It’s calm. Because trees Don’t judge, or talk. They live. Trees live without Warrant. They exist In a mystical world Of their own occurrence. And loom like statues. I escape because all I want Is to curl up inside of myself, Forget about my differences, And simply vanish.
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Tommy Adamiak Â
Stars We lay there, two people, awash in a sea of stars. The towering forms of the nearby trees were nearly indistinguishable from the great billows of silhouetted smoke rising up out of the factories across the bay. Staring up at that sky, speckled with tiny suns, felt like floating, and the soft touch of the grass was the only reminder of the earth underneath our backs. Then came the sudden streak of light, racing across the sky for an instant before vanishing into the blackness. It lasted only a moment, as brief as our lives in the great infinity of the universe, but we leapt with excitement, and exclaimed our surprise, like children who catch snowflakes with their tongues. Only when the night pressed in again, making our eyes drop heavylidded with sleepiness, did we quiet. But we did not rest. Not yet. We lay there, watching. "Hey, Nate," rang Theo's voice beside me, gently, like a wind-chime. "Yeah?" "You ever think about shooting stars?" "I thought about one a few minutes ago," I joked. He seemed unsatisfied with the reply. "No," he said, "I mean, have you ever really thought?" "About what, exactly?" "About their lives." "Their lives? They're rocks, Theo. Space-debris." "Think about them as if they were people," he urged me, sitting up. "People, living up there, in the sky. People who are born and appear just long enough to light up in a ball of fire-" He made a gesture like an explosion with his hands as he said this, only visible as shadows in the moonlight. "-and then... they just disappear." "... That's kind of sad," I said after a moment. "It is, isn't it?" He laid back down, and we allowed the silence of the night to wash over us again. "What would you do?" Theo asked me suddenly. "What would you do, if you were one of them?"
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My answer must have pleased him, because even in the darkness I could see his smile, as clearly as I could still see the stars draped upon the black backdrop of the sky, as I spoke my words with confidence. "I'd put on a hell of a show." No more shooting stars came. We had only the one to treasure in our memories. By the end I don't think he could remember it. But as I sat by the hospital bed those last few days, I told him about it again and again, spoke his own words to him, and mine, like a story for a child afraid of a storm. And every day after that day, when I wept bitterly, I remembered him as a ball of fire, cutting a blazing swath across the sky, and smiled as I cried.
Julia looks pretty comfy!
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Andrew DeBacker Â
Selfish Disillusioned, disenchanted, discontented. You are so ugly now, Why could I not see it before? And now you threaten others around me, Will you harm them too? You work so hard But for your own selfish reasons. You give so much But you expect so much more. You sang the lyrics of wickedness. I can taste those rancid lies you fed them, You caused their humiliating failure Because you are so selfish. But so am I. Oh how low are you in your Frivolous clothing. You waste your Wealth on the wealthy. I try to warn them Of the unspeakable evil that resides within you. But they are too innocent to understand. I beg you, Please spare them from what you did to yourself and me. Life is a Mix Life is filled with events that bring you joy, But it also has those times that evoke a certain sorrow. A scientist calls it a fact, A priest calls it a gift, And a wise old man calls it an opportunity. Still life is a mix and I donâ€™t think that any of us Would want to live a life without any of the ingredients. Life is so short yet too long, It can have its satisfying parts and times that are so disappointing. Life is happily sad. Life is beautifully ugly.
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Life is funnily scary. Life is a mix And just like any mix There are those parts you look forward to And those you try to avoid. The mix is best enjoyed with a little bit of everything.
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Always Here Enoka drew her wings around the young man as he crouched, staring into the distance. His eyes, usually so full of life, now had no luster, no shine. His hands rested on the ground by his sides, forgotten completely. It was as if, in that moment, he felt absolutely nothing, knew and saw absolutely nothing. Nothing but the corpse of his father, burning to a crisp. His house, engulfed in orange flame. It pounded into his head, searing his skull from the inside out. And the Angel was right there behind him, arms around his neck. Her blonde hair cascaded in front of her in rivers of gold, tumbling down over the man’s shoulders, enveloping him in light beauty. She was there to serve as his guard, his guide, his companion. She wouldn’t leave his side, even if he had forgotten about everything. She had promised him, again and again, that she would be there for him. He raised his head ever so slightly. “...Enoka. Why are you here right now? I don’t have anything you could possibly want.” Years ago, when the two of them first met, Enoka had been smashed against the side of a cliff, her sides bleeding and her head faint. Immediately, the boy sought out to treat her, to bandage her wounds and bring her back to the world of the living. He was a wide-eyed child, someone who all the beauty of life, and immediately knew that this was his chance to help someone. To save her life would mean more than the world itself to the boy. It would mean success and pride. It would mean peace. When she finally woke up, the Angel found her wounds healed and her body clean, a small boy not halfway through puberty sitting by her, waiting for her to open her eyes. His face burst into a joyous grin when her eyelids fluttered and her wings twitched, and he wrapped his arms around her neck. In the days following that moment, she told him the story of an Angel who was cast out of Heaven for disobeying the orders of her superiors. It was a terrifying order, she said, an
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order she would never say out loud. “Angels,” she told the boy, “believe their justice is ultimate justice, irrefutable justice. Anyone who disobeys their orders deserves the ultimate punishment.” After telling her tale, Enoka turned to the boy and offered her own soft, sweet smile. An Angel’s smile. “You saved my life. I would have definitely died were it not for you. For that, I shall offer you a gift. No matter how great your trial, no matter what danger you find yourself in, I’ll always be here to protect you.” The boy just nodded. The deal was signed. “You’re wrong.” The Angel’s bell-like voice rang out once more, and the boy looked up in surprise. Shaking her head, Enoka gave the same smile she had given him all those years ago. The man found his gaze brightening. “I want you to walk. I want you to stand up again. I want to see your smile. I am always with you.” The young man faced forward, and in that moment, he remembered one other thing she told him. In the language of the Angels, the name Enoka meant ‘Hope.’
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Smoke Signals Cole calls me just before I’m about to go to sleep and asks if we can go out. I used to be scared of this fake-tanned, long-haired boy. I was scared because the rumors are true. He drowns himself in cologne to mask the stench of pot smoke, but his eyes are still bloodshot. He bleaches his teeth to cover the stains. And for a while I forgot because his smile is so bright, his dark eyes are genuine, and he believes in the absurdity of his own stories. His goal is to deceive everyone he comes across; for the most part he is successful in this, but only temporarily. Cole has never stopped running away his family, his preppy clothes and perfectly combed hair, just calculated illusions. Yet every time I’m with him, I feel as though my blood is on fire. He lives in a universe of his own, totally indifferent to the rules of society. When he’s not running away, his parents kick him out, exhausted after a huge fight. I stare out the window of his car, considering how much trouble I would be in if I spoke to my parents the way Cole does. A lot. I ask what the fight was about, but Cole deflects my question, laughs at my unsatisfied expression and says that it doesn’t matter. He changes the subject and hits the accelerator. His “ingenious plan” for tonight involves cutting out a photo of himself, changing the birthday on his license, gluing a legal age on the card, and laminating it—all with the help of the local drug store. “Well why wouldn’t they have a copier machine in Rite-Aid?” he says. “Oh! Do you think they’d have a laminator that I could use too?” “You’re crazy,” I say while trying to steady my breathing. “You can’t make a fake I.D. at a Rite-Aid. And anyway it’s really late. My mom will kill me if I’m not home in a few minutes.” He groans loudly and turns his eyes from the road to look at me. Even at his most alert he is not the best driver. “It’s not even late, Grace.” It’s almost 2 a.m. He glances at my white-knuckled hand—I am gripping the arm rest. He’s going eighty in a forty-five zone. “I have the SAT tomorrow morning, Cole.”
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Another throaty groan from his dimly lit side of the BMW: “Okay, just let me get some cigarettes from the Cit-Go.” The shadiest gas station in town is the only one that will sell cigarettes to a seventeen yearold. I bite my nails as I wait; a few minutes later he strolls through the parking lot and slides inside. Cole lights the cigarette and then turns up the volume of the rap song until the car starts to vibrate. It’s an unusually cold summer night in South Georgia, but the fresh air clears my lungs. He has to slam on his brakes to stop for the light. As we wait he shows me his new trick. “It’s called ‘the French,’” he says just before taking a long drag, curving his lips into an “O” shape and blowing smoke rings out like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. I can’t tear my eyes away—the grin of the Cheshire Cat spreads devilishly across his face. When we pull on to my street, I wonder how much longer the street lamps will remain lit. Now I wish the BMW had been going even faster. The car creeps onto my long driveway; before I can unbuckle my seat belt he stops me. “Can we walk around the cul-de-sac for a while?” His eyes change then, exaggerating his dark circles and making him look much older. “Okay,” I say, humoring him. I know he dreads the thirty-minute drive home at night. But there’s something more. What he hates is going home, to his farm and the dark corners of his mind, no longer able to hide from himself. The pictures of his older brother, Jonathon, who passed at just nineteen, are displayed in nearly every room. Perfectly preserved, Jonathon’s room is a forbidden museum; just as haunting is the secret of Jonathon’s passing. Cole stifles the truth of his past, but he can’t drink away his grief. He can’t pretend to be someone else. He can’t escape what haunts him just down the hallway. He can’t leave his past on the pavement of the Georgia’s dark back roads. He can’t take a deep breath.
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Tribute to the Moon There was a time before time, and there was a time before that. The moon was young and powerful. She was born into a realm of darkness, and she emitted the first light. Her light, albeit weak, was beautiful. It danced around her, encircling her in a flurry of elation and mystery. It was white, but it wasn’t pure white. It had a blue tint to it. The blue had a calming effect. It was soft and innocent and gentle. Her light grew, as she did, and together she and her light watched the universe grow with them. She noticed mountains form and stars collide. She noticed forests emerge and streams flow into rivers. She noticed birth and death. She noticed peace and war. She loved noticing. She noticed everything and one day I noticed her. I was young but she was not. My skin was as black as the night, contrasting sharply with her white. My hair was tied up in my customary bun, too big for my head but surely big enough for hers. My green eyes reflected her beauty but they didn’t flaunt it. I wore my traditional khanga, as I did on many days, embossed with an old African proverb. Haraka haraka haina baraka. “Hurry hurry has no blessings,” it reminded me. I listened, for once. I slowed my actions, my thoughts. I slowed my heartbeat and my footsteps, and the world slowed with me. I lay quietly on the African sand. Nothing moved around me but nothing was still. I felt the sand beneath my back cool slightly as the shadows of the evening deepened. I heard the jackals, their high-pitched howls sent off into the night. There was a gentle breeze, and I let down my hair to feel the wind blow through it. The breeze carried the faintest scent of lamb meat, and I wondered who in my village was lucky enough to eat the lamb. I closed my eyes, just for a moment, to take everything in. I let myself rest and when I opened my eyes, there she was: elegant, charming, graceful, pure. She was everything and she was nothing. I stared up at the moon and the moon stared down at me and together we were one and we were so far apart and I smiled because there, in that moment, everything was right. I opened my mouth and I spoke to her. I told her of my fears and my passions, my regrets and my sorrows. I told her of love and of loss. I told her my story and she listened. I fell in love
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that night. I fell in love with the moon. I fell in love with the way she laughs with you and cries with you and I fell in love with the way she forgives you for not knowing her before, even though she has known you for forever and I fell in love with her radiating kindness and the knowledge she silently possesses but has sworn never to share. I fell in love with the secrets she whispers to me late at night when she thinks Iâ€™m not listening. Be still and feel the wind through your hair, she said. Be still and feel the hot sand beneath your back. Be still and notice. Be still, my darling. Be still.
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Amongst the Destruction Amongst the Destruction She looks outside: The ruins of the garden are still. A palette of black is painted. There’s no sound. There’s no life. The girl walks down the stairs. She proceeds to crush the deceased roses with her bare feet She notices a small glimpse of life The only glimpse of life. The red rose lies flat on the ground. Fearful of the unknown atmosphere Picked up by the girl, the rose barely holding on Petals fall one by one and the girl falls with them She has had her share of problems With parents once joined by love yet now broken by its lacking. She also escapes to her garden to forget her problems The aroma of lilacs and lilies overpower the pungency of her parents’ dying love The tone of the soothing wind suppresses the cries of her soul Like the cries of the charred crumbles of the roses around her.
The Sunset I despise sunsets and I despise the way they make me feel. Their blinding rust centers pierce my eyes And overwhelm the horizon Its warmth suffocates the air around me As I try to turn back time to the lighter hours. They promise to come down towards us But breaks the promise by disappearing in mystery. As soon as I get a glimpse of its spoiled and bitter orange color I realize that another day is gone Another day wasted Right as I see the promise of life for the day It rears its unsettling reflection over the blue water, contaminating its purity. It invites the darkness and the fear of the unknown As I tremble in anticipation, waiting for the sun to rise again.
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Gone Lungs fill and deflate, like a pathetic balloon that longs to be empty. She dreads to inflate them again, to give her heart its required fodder. Her ribcage expands grudgingly. Her eyes flutter closed – blocking out the glow-in-the-dark stars that promised protection and hope. She listens to her heart thudding a steady rhythm. She imagines herself stripping out of her skin, revealing her weakened muscles and undue fat. She tears away at the lard, sparing the strained muscles. It peels off her like a ripe banana shedding its peel. She tries on her skin, zipping it up with ease, loving the unbroken melody. She checks the mirror. It’s not enough. She starts in again. But this time, she declares war on her muscle. She vigorously claws it, sighing, relieved when she eyes the heap of flesh on the tile floor. She slips her birthday suit over her skeleton, not bothering to unzip it before diving in. She is freezing, you see. Her teeth chatter, body trembling as she glances in the mirror. She smiles, her face sunken in, the shadows of her hollow eyes hiding the hunger, displaying the exhaustion. Her fingers trace her ribs, Expanding, Shrinking. She lets them.
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Drowning I can’t stop myself from staring. Can’t tear my eyes away. This Thing, this great, looming beast, dark and cold, stirs threateningly. It’s low, liquid murmurs drag thickly through the space between us, catching in my ears and sliding slowly down. Their sickening weight drops heavily into my stomach, and my insides twist uneasily. I gaze out at the black, churning expanse as dread fills my body, rising into my throat; choking me. I stand there gasping in the darkness, struggling against the fear that threatens to consume me. This Thing which lays before me is bursting with power and menace— I know. I can feel it. I can sense the hideous strength where it lies shrouded beneath the surface. The dark, undulating skin writhes restlessly, glistening in the moonlight, and I shudder. I know it is longing to break apart, break open; surge forth and cover me up… release miles upon miles of dark depths hidden far below, where light is lost forever and freezing darkness reigns;
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where horrible, crawling creatures linger in the shadows or slide, suspended, through the silence, waiting. I don’t want to drown, I don’t want to drown… please, don’t let me drown...
Some of us hit the lamp … Others, not quite!
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This is How the World Ends: An Excerpt Smoke was rising out of the chapel, mingling with the white February sky like the pollution from a factory or the remnants of a funeral pyre. The smoke was black. If Fritz Haber had still been alive, he could have explained that this smoke, or fumata nera, was colored black by a combination of two compounds and an element: potassium perchlorate, anthracene, and sulphur. This differed from the chemicals used to produce fumata bianca, which were potassium chlorate, lactose, and resin. And it differed very clearly from the smoke produced by the crematoriums at the Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, which, having been produced from organic carbon-based matter, consisted mainly of carbon dioxide and water with trace amount of other compounds. But this was 1948. And the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel were electing a new pope. The crowd of human beings huddled in St. Peter’s Square were shivering in the February cold. They knew the election had been unsuccessful. From the top of the Sistine Chapel, burnt bits of paper fluttered down and interlaced with snow the smoke had turned black. And inside the Sistine Chapel, Karl Jablonski was shivering too. He was huddled alone in the back pew, shaking, his hands faintly coated in sweat. He knew, too, that the election had been unsuccessful. They would have to stay. He had heard for many hours the hushed voices of cardinals that reverberated around the noiseless cathedral. The voices echoed off the ceiling and into his brain—names and names and names, varied and confused. In the quiet confusion he had made out, multiple times, his own name—and it was this that made him most fearful. Our nothing who art in nothing, nothing be thy name thy kingdom nothing thy will be nothing in nothing as it is in nothing. That morning in February was a beautiful one for the human beings huddled in the square outside the Sistine Chapel. Everything about it was beautiful—the white sky, the black smoke that P a g e | 54
mingled in it like pollution or a funeral pyre, the black burnt snowflakes that flew in the air and fell down on the streets. It seemed to them that all these sinners had been forgiven, and that there was nothing left. It was a beautiful emptiness, perhaps an imaginary one, but a beautiful one nonetheless. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. Three hours later, from the top of the Sistine Chapel, smoke came out and mingled once again like pollution and pyres. It was white, and nearly invisible against the white sky.
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Liar Story I am a chronic liar. Let me say that right away. I lie about pretty much everything. If I’m heading to the store and someone asks me where I’m going, I’ll say I’m going to see a movie. If I’m studying for a math test and someone asks me what I’m working on, I’ll say I’m writing a book. The funny thing is, there’s no real reason behind 99% of my fabrications. At this point in my life, it’s just an impulse to invent false stories. I’ve started keeping a diary, which I hate doing, to keep track of the things I’ve said. Before I started doing that, it was really difficult. There was this one time when I ran into my Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Bovenzi, at the Natural History Museum downtown. She came up to me with this perplexed expression on her face, and I spent a couple seconds trying to figure out why she was so confused, until I remembered I had told her that I was going to the Bahamas over break. Frantically, I made up some crazy excuse about our tickets being lost in the mail, and the whole thing probably would have been fine if Mr. Rockwell, my English teacher, hadn’t approached us at that very moment. I had told him that I was flying to Sacramento to visit my dying cousin for the week. Jeez, the museum was swimming with teachers that day. I blame my lying on the fact that I’m a middle child. They say the middle child is the worst one to be, because his brain receptor for love can get atrophied, or something like that. In most families, the oldest kid gets all the attention, and the youngest kid gets spoiled half to death. It’s even worse in my family, since my older brother Chris and my younger sister Claire are practically child prodigies. Chris is an amazing quarterback. In the football championship, he led our varsity team to victory with 6 touchdown passes and 2 rushing scores. It was incredible. After the game, all the players carried him off the field on their shoulders. Claire, on the other hand, is an amazing singer. One time, we went to a Red Sox game in Boston, and the lady that was supposed to sing the national anthem got sick. They were all ready to be unpatriotic and skip the song, until Claire
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marched down there, grabbed the microphone, and sung it herself. Everyone there said she had the best voice they had ever heard. So you see, I was destined to be a liar, because I just haven’t gotten enough attention in my life. My parents did their best, of course, but I can’t blame them for focusing less on me and more on my amazing siblings. Chris and Claire are perfect people. I probably would have done the same thing myself. I think the truth is overrated anyways. Everyone always says, “Tell the truth, tell the truth,” but they don’t realize that sometimes lies are better. With all the bad news that’s being shown every day, sometimes people need a guy like me to provide bogus information every once and a while. The real stuff that’s going on is just too horrible. Let me give you an example: I saw in the newspaper a little while ago that there was this family that was driving a minivan on the highway. They weren’t breaking any laws or anything, but this truck came out of nowhere and smashed their car off the road and into a tree. The mother died, the father died, the oldest son died, and the youngest daughter died. The only one that lived was the middle child in the back seat. Stories like that make me wonder why the world is such a crazy place. Why do some people get to live while others have to die? It just seems so random that I can’t rap my head around it. So I keep lying. Who cares if I do? My lies don’t hurt anyone. They don’t take away lives. They don’t murder brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers. Our planet is an unfair place. Why face the real world when you can hide behind an imaginary one?
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Amelia Dyer (1837-1896) There was a little old lady Who lived down the lane Across from a lovely orchard And sometimes she would pass my house On the way to the river With a heavy carpet bag in her drooping arms And I would say to her, “Good Morning” She used to get a lot of visitors Young women with tearstained cheeks And eyes shining with hope Plagued by whispers of scarlet sheets They would come with wailing blankets And leave with empty arms Carrying something much heavier Heavier than they could know That, if they knew, they could not bear The weight of that little old lady’s smile Was seven pounds, three ounces And every week or so That little old lady Would walk down to the river that was just deep enough So she’d go down For fresh air, she said With a strange glint in her eye And maybe it was true For her house stank of rotting flesh and silenced wails Though there was nothing kept in it And the river coursed. Powerful, unmerciful— Wailing.
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Opening Somewhere under a soft honeyed sun you wander, lonely, across swells of morning-damp grass, down, following a path paved with the sweet watery aroma of orange blossoms and rainstorm horizons. Somewhere far from here, you’re happily lost. I know you’re wandering. It’s simply what you do. You wander, enveloped in the music of the earth, your mind enraptured wholly by the ebb and flow of the wind. I met you by the ocean on a cool, grey, autumn Oregon morning. I had come to the shore to escape the noise of my mind. I was a thin, stormy-browed, freckled teenaged nothing with ingenuine friends and absolutely no talent. I was the most boring guy I knew. Exhaling heavily, I sat down; the cold sand embraced the skin on my ankles and hands. The rush of the cloudy sea resonated with the ache in my chest, the hollow throb of discontent. My life was all work and no play, no rest, no joy. Life was an exhausting, monotonous routine. Sighing, I flung a stone with reckless force, angry at life and nauseated with myself. The stone fumbled awkwardly through the air and hit the water with an unsatisfactory clunk. “You have a terrible arm.” I started, my breath catching in my throat as I spun to see the source of the voice. Dark, lucid green eyes smiled down at me. Grunting, embarrassed, I turned away. I’d never seen you before, and there you were, a total stranger, worming your way into my space. “Don’t worry,” you laughed, lightheartedly tossing your messy brown braid over your shoulder. “I’m not judging. I have four brothers and none of them can throw either.”
angry and embarrassed and I wanted to be alone, but you plopped yourself down in the sand a comfortable distance from me, pulling your knees to your chest. Like a petulant child I ignored you, glaring hard at the rough sea. “Well,” you said, breaking a long silence between us. “Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m here?” “No.”
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“Because I like the morning,” you said, not skipping a beat. “The ocean, on cloudy mornings like these…it’s in the air.” You inhaled deeply and leaned back on your hands, smiling. “I come here whenever it’s cloudy, sometimes even in the snow.” You leaned toward me, eyes curious, childlike. “Have you ever been to the shore when it’s snowing?” I just glared at you, not having any of it. “Because it really is lovely then, the sea. The snow mutes the crashing of the waves, and even though you’re freezing and you’re wet, you really won’t mind because the sight is just so magical.” “I have to go,” I said, looking sideways at you, a stranger, a Chatty Cathy, weather-loving lunatic. Picking myself up I nodded a farewell. You just smiled and looked back to the sea. I trudged away, annoyed to bits that my attempt to release my anger only resulted in a sourer mood. But I was so oblivious. Walking away that morning, I couldn’t recognize that a true gem of a human being had just pushed its way into my life. I was blind, by God, so blind. Today, I often find myself recalling that day in bittersweet nostalgia, chuckling sadly at your persistence, my resistance. If only I had known how entwined our lives would become, how your influence, that sparkling perspective would wash through me; opening, smoothing…transforming.
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Published on Dec 9, 2015