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The Empyrean Creative Writing Club Members

Illustrations by Art Club Members

Nicole Crilly

Haley Cimillo

Fausto Dominguez

Critsel Costavelo

Ruqaiyah ElSaawy

Josmarie Santiago

Amira Helwani

Nicole VanderWerf

Ashley Hidalgo Chris Hulmes Amanda Kearney Shayla Lugo Danielle Maggiore Kristin Miyamoto Nina Nadirashvili Julian Parra Abby Provencher Frances Rodriguez Natalie Tousignant Evan Voss David Zheng Creative Writing Club Advisor: Theresa DiGeronimo and Joe Verdon Art Club Advisor: Danielle Russo Cover Design and Layout: Alyssa Matos Production Design and Layout: Ruqaiyah ElSaawy 2


Table of Contents The Last Man on Earth… Evan Voss

4

A Proper Poem Nicole Crilly

24

8

M&M MASSACRE David Zheng

25

9

No Regrets Abby Provencher

26

10

Romeo & Juliet Danielle Maggiore

30

The Mediterranean Sea and Me Adam Kahn 14

Poetry is….. Collaborative Poem

31

She Ashley Hidalgo

15

Beneath the Lies Jessica Bryan

32

16

? Ruqaiyah ElSaawy

35

20

Castle Shayla Lugo

36

21

Heaven Ruqaiyah ElSaawy

37

Less Nina Nadirashvili It Should Be Raining Natalie Tousignant Red Swollen Eyes Julian Parra

Are We There Yet? Ruqaiyah ElSaawy Because I Can Ashley Hidalgo Shadowless Nina Nadirashvili

3


The Last Man on Earth‌ By: Evan Voss

4


A knock at the door. A sound, a prospect that had now left the weary mind of the old man, suddenly returned to him with a newfound sense of meaning and purpose. By now, all the people were gone, and his cries for help had gone unnoticed for as long as his memory could recall. But a knock at the door? What a strange occurrence. The old man moved gingerly from his makeshift couch-bed, turning off his radio and moving to the door. He placed his eye to the spyglass and gazed around to the ash-barren wasteland he had learned to call home, scanning for the source of the foreign sound. But his efforts left his question unanswered. His mind started to drift to the possibilities…Insanity? Hallucinations? Had the wasteland finally broken him? The questions flashed through him in an instant, and just as fast, were shot down when the knocking came again. This time, more urgent and intense. The noise startled the old man so much that he almost lost his footing and fell backwards. He groaned, regained his composure, and grabbed his only means of security: a Smith and Wesson Model 3000. He cracked open the breech, loaded two heavy-duty deer slugs, and closed it again. Must be ghouls or the undead again, he thought. Always coming to raid his food supplies. He was tired of their pernicious attacks. And this one was dumb enough to literally come knocking on his door. He laughed at the thought and unfastened the dozen locks and latches on the door. But what met his gaze on the other side was something neither dead nor cold hearted. It was a small shrouded figure, just a few inches higher than his knee. A black hood and garment concealed its entire face and body, leaving a set of glowing white eyes looking up at him with worry and need. One decent kick would have sent the tiny thing flying. The old man recoiled at first, aiming his weapon fearlessly at the intruder. It shuddered, making a faint whimper as it shut its eyes in fear. Then it put out its arm. Along it was a thick trail of crimson blood that ran between sets of dark markings and tattoos, dripping onto the ground. But the thing that stuck out the most for the old man was the color of its skin. It was bright azure, a long forgotten color that now enveloped the man’s complete fascination. It made another whimper, its eyes darting to its arm. The old man stood, still defiant in his surety. “Now, git’ outta here! Scram!” he barked at the figure. “I had enough of you and your games, tell you and your friends to leave me alone!” It didn’t move, and instead stared patiently into the barrel of the shotgun still pointed at its face. The old man squinted his eyes, waiting for the figure to attack or leap at him, like he noticed happened with the mutants, but none came. “You gonna’ move or somethin’? Or do I have to make you move?” the old man said with a cock of his weapon. He couldn’t trust it; he knew that already. They could be getting 5


smarter, he thought. This could be a bait-and-switch tactic to get his rations. But as he looked closer, something new and clear emerged. The figure had started crying. It was tears at first, deep blue and clear, like the rivers and lakes the old man used to fish at. But it was when the tears turned to sobbing and weeping that a fire started stirring inside the old man. He felt something inside of him click and trigger a wave of feelings that were long gone and forgotten. He lowered his weapon and kicked some of the ash that sat piled in front of his house. “All right, all right...” he started. “I’ll help ya’ out. But if you try somethin’, I will put you down without a moment’s notice.” The figure wiped its tears away shortly after and looked up at him with disbelief. It nodded to confer its sincerity and proceeded inside the house, under the vigilant eye of the old man. As the two entered the house, the figure’s eyes drifted to a tack board that almost completely covered the one wall of the cabin. Hundreds of photographs of happy, smiling people, along with newspaper articles and bold headlines were the majority of items of the wall. Lists, reminders, and other personal notes, hung in a small corner of the board. The creature gasped in astonishment, but it was inaudible to the old man’s withered ears. It followed the old man down a dimly lit hall, where the old man pushed open a rotten door to the spare room he always kept stocked with food and provisions. There was an ancient ruined mattress that lay on a rusty metal bed frame near the back of the room. The hidden figure climbed atop the bed, and turned to face him, clutching its arm. Its white, faceless eyes stared at him, waiting patiently. “Put your arm out, so I can patch ya’ up,” he stated. The hooded figure complied, holding out its arm while he dabbed up the blood. The arm was so small, a newborn could beat it in an arm wrestle. He also took notice that the figure’s hand possessed only four small digits. Then he took out some rubbing alcohol. “Now, dis' is gonna' sting, but it will make your cut heal better,” he said. Then he gently wiped the cut with the rubbing alcohol, eliciting a grimace. Then, once properly cleaned, the old man took its arm, and wrapped it in gauze. After all was said and done, the old man stood up and gave the figure a stern glare. “Listen, I don’t know if you can understand me, but in return for my help, I gotta' ask...” he said. The figure closed its eyes and took a deep breath. “Could you please take off that hood?” It looked down upon the ground for a second and then back up at the old man. The other arm slowly emerged from the cloak, and together, the two skinny arms peeled back the veil 6


of shadow surrounding the figure’s head. The old man’s eyes went wide in astonishment. The eyes that now looked back at him were not white and foreign, but golden like the leaves of old autumn. Its hair, or what would be called hair, was long and flowing, and changed colors slowly, shifting through the whole spectrum. The impish creature lacked a nose, but had two rather pointy ears with earrings and studs in both of them. Mottled patches of red also appeared near its cheeks and neck. On top of it all, the figure was wearing a very large, ornate purple crown coated in colorful diamonds and gems with gold embellishment. When the figure tried to speak in its native tongue, all the old man could hear were feminine, high-pitched, and almost computerized-sounding gibberish of congealed words and phrases. Realizing this, she put a hand to her throat, which pulsed bright blue quickly, before clearing it and attempting to speak. “I'm sorry for intruding upon your residence,” she said quietly, in perfect English. The old man still stood with his mouth agape. “My name is Milena. I am head scribe at the Aegrus Center of Arcane Arts and Interplanetary History…” Her crown, clearly too big for her frame, started to slide off her head, but she caught it before it could go any farther. "I was wondering if you could tell me...what planet is this, exactly?" The old man simply stood there, as he felt his mind feeling faint and dizzy. He passed out onto the couch-bed, making Milena wonder if she had laid her intro on a little too thick. She sighed and rubbed the grey hairs upon his head, and smiled. “Thanks for your help, by the way.”

7


Less By: Nina Nadirashvili I am a servant of a heartless king On my finger I wear a single ring As I walk by birds no longer sing I am a servant of a heartless king

I am a lover of a soulless lord My tongue sharper than his sword Creatures listen to my every word I am a lover of a soulless lord

I am a picture of a starless night With no defeat in my sight But there is no hope for me to find the light For I am a picture of a starless night. 8


It Should be Raining By: Natalie Tousignant Today should be dreary. It does not deserve the golden rays of light,

Reminding, with every flash of lightning, rattle of thunder, and crash of rain,

Warming and brightening the earth,

That it is over.

Spreading optimism.

That he can never come back.

It is not bleak enough.

It must be appropriately dismal today.

It can never be bleak enough

And gloomy and dreadful.

To match my gray consciousness.

Because today does not deserve sunlight.

It must be deservedly mundane today.

The sun dare not show herself today.

And sorrowful and awful.

She is not permitted to peek through the clouds.

It should be raining.

To mock with her hopeful rays of sunshine.

A sad, hard rain enveloping us all in an interminable tempest.

When today does not deserve light. Today should be dreary. 9


Red Swollen Eyes By: Julian Parra

10


It was 8:09 p.m. The hollow, droopy trees set free their orange autumn leaves as I watched the cold night drift away. My hands in my pockets, I observed my surroundings, listened to the crumbling of the gravel against my shoes. I could see the light of the full moon on the cracked sidewalk. The sounds of the wind whistling kept my mind occupied. I walked past many houses on my way to the store. All I saw were decorations for Halloween, such as bony skeletons set up on porches and jack-o-lanterns guarding the entrances of the houses. The whole setting intrigued me as I stopped to absorb the holiday spirit. One house by a dead end was different. It stuck out from all the others and had a gloomy vibe to it. The house was a small, gray, boring box-like structure with a tiny, black, antique-looking car parked out front. A lonely mid-fifties man that goes by the name of Mike with gray hair occupied that space. My whole life I’d been living in this area, and I had never seen him go beyond his house and yard. I may have seen him mow his lawn, but he had never had any company over. On this night, I walked over in front of his house and out of curiosity, I glanced into the window with the light turned on. I saw him ironing his shirt and watching the news. He then turned around and we met eye to eye. Don't move, I whispered to myself. We stared at each other from a distance for about five seconds, and I thought I was going to melt. Goosebumps ran up and down my back as I started to shake. His red swollen eyes were burning through my soul. Until finally, he closed his curtains. He was a registered sex offender and was accused of first degree murder. About five years ago, according to my neighbor, he had stabbed a young woman after sexually assaulting her. He was charged for sexual assault, but not first degree murder even though all of the evidence pointed to him. That is why I never try to affiliate myself with his being. Although he had not done anything ever since, I still didn’t trust him. My heartbeat was higher than average, but I took a breath, and just kept walking. 11


Right next to Mike’s house across the street were my favorite neighbors, Andy and Daniel. I honestly liked Andy better than Daniel because I’ve known Andy much longer. He used to babysit me when I was younger when my parents were at work. I stopped by Andy’s house to say hello. However, he seemed older and his eyes were swollen and red. He told me he was too tired to buy groceries, so he wanted me to get some for him. Once again, the decorations on the houses gave me something to think about. I whistled hymns every now and then, and I was almost close to arriving at the store. However, using my peripheral vision, I saw a strange white shadow mimicking me. I turned my head ever so swiftly and the shadow disappeared. It's just my subconscious playing tricks on me on Halloween, I thought to myself. I kept walking and once again, I had the weirdest feeling to turn around and I saw another shadow. I started speed walking to the store, sweat slowly dripping down my face. In the smallest amount of time, I started seeing ghost-like creatures surrounding me, shouting statements at me. "What do you want from me?" I yelled. One ghost responded, "Beware." Another ghost yelled, "Don't end up like us." There were fourteen ghosts around me, each with a human-like form. Each one of the ghosts had scars and innocent blue eyes. One had a stab mark below its neck, and another had a bullet in its temple. "Run and never look back," another told me. "What happened to you?" I asked them, and all of a sudden, they disappeared. "Hello? Come back!" It was no use. They left me, in suspense.

12


I decided, once again, to start my journey to the store. Until I tripped on a rock. My knee ended up with bruises and my elbow started to hurt. Looking up at the stars while laying on the ground, I saw a black shadow circling me, with red swollen eyes. It picked me up and threw me on the ground again. "Leave me alone!" I yelled. But the paranormal activity devilishly laughed and pulled out a knife. I stood up, and just started running. But the shadow was faster. It pushed me to the ground, and my head hit the cemented sidewalk. I screamed, but no words came out. I felt dizzy, watching the phantom and its knife announcing their arrival in slow motion. As the blade was getting closer and closer, I was about to give up faith, hope, life as I know it. Until... I woke up. My head jerked forward from my bed. I was panting hard with sweat dripping down my head. As a natural reaction, my hand ran straight for my chest, feeling my heart. It was like it was going to pop out of my chest. "Phew! Thankfully, that was just a nightmare." I went downstairs and poured myself a cup of orange juice. The aroma of the orange filled the room and made me smile. After I drank the juice, the doorbell rang. I walked towards the front door. My hand turned the knobs and the door opened. I saw a pair of lunatic, yet familiar, red swollen eyes greeting me at the door. “Andy?� I shouted, confused. "Hello, John, Trick or treat."

13


The Mediterranean Sea and Me By: Adam Kahn How many times I’ve tried to ride the crest of those waves Waiting for the Mediterranean sand beneath The wind was rough And I was brave

It wasn’t enough

And my vessel caved If I braved the sea

I’d walk the shore to our home Always free

Tides of pain alone

Couldn’t make me leave The waves are unpredictable So are mine

They’d crash in harmony Together they’d rhyme

Nobody to challenge the seas Crashing in time

Find someone to teach you to swim on the shores of hurt The moon can’t control the waves of her I’d swim but I’m in my best shirt And my ocean yearns

Endlessly

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She By: Ashley Hidalgo She’s the girl that is always laughing and smiling. The one who can get along with anyone. No one looks hard enough to see the pain behind her eyes. At times, her smile is broken; her laugh fake. When alone in her room she thinks about dangerous things. That’s when she lets it all go. On the outside, she’s crying, and on the inside she’s falling apart. She does all she can to hide it, but it doesn’t work. She’s a lost soul trying to get by. Hoping one day the pain will end. She thinks I can’t see it or understand, But I do.

15


Are We There Yet? By: Ruqaiyah ElSaawy

16


He thought he was going to vomit. Everything was swirling and blurry and loud and noisy and

amazing. He wasn’t sure if the swirling and blurring was him or the rides and attractions. He took another look around and spotted an interesting ride. The boy grinned and sprinted, as fast as his 10-year-old legs could take him, back to his parents, who were seeking shelter from the explosion of color and noise that was Disney World. Even in the early morning light, the colors managed to shine brightly and distract, or rather, attract attention all over the park. “Mom, Dad, we gotta go on the Harry Potter ride first! Please, please, pleeeaaase!” His parents took one look at his excitedly disheveled appearance and gave in. “All right, all right. Let’s go!” The boy brightened, ecstatically rushing to the ride, though he slowed his gait and glanced backward when his father called out to him. Regrettably, bumping into someone seemed to be the consequence of his inattention. Looking forward again, the boy was caught off guard at the odd sight of a man garbed in full white, from head to toe. The man didn’t look like he was here with his kids; in fact, he didn’t look like he belonged at all, whether there with family or by himself. He looked like he belonged in a hospital, with his white uniform, certainly not in this world of color. The boy shaken from his thoughts by his father’s arrival at his side, and his subsequent death grip on his small shoulder. Looking up at his father’s face confounded the boy. His father appeared almost afraid. His face was tense, his lips pursed tightly, his eyes darting to and fro. Yet, strangely enough, he didn’t seem to be looking at the white man, the oddity. It was as if he couldn’t see him at all. “Be careful, and don’t leave our sight. You never know what could happen.” It was his father saying the words, but his voice wasn’t his father’s. It was a small, whimpering quiver, opposite to the man’s tight hold on the boy. 17


The boy couldn’t contemplate any further, about his father or the white man, who was still standing there. His mother had finally caught up to them, and she ushered them to the line waiting for admittance. The boy’s fleeting attentions were caught by the magical Harry Potter props, glowing brightly, despite the afternoon light. By the time the ride attendee called for them to get on, the strange man was gone, leaving behind a faint echo of white that the boy was all too willing to forget about. White didn’t belong in Disney World. ~~~ The family of three returned to the hotel at midnight, leaving the boy exhausted, almost as exhausted as his parents. The last thing he saw as they sent him to bed was his dad’s twitching eyes and his mom’s deathly pale skin. Then there was nothing. ~~~ Waking up was the hardest. He could tell as soon as he woke up that he was back. He opened his eyes slowly, painfully, staring up at the blank, white ceiling that scared him. White was bad. White was— The door opened with the threatening click of a lock. He looked down to see the man. The blank white man, as white as his clothes, as white as the ceiling. White. Without saying a word, the man held out his hand, in which there was a paper cup, white, of course, rattling with the pills it held. Its rhythm sounding like the Disney theme. The once boy, now teen, quickly snatched the cup and swallowed the pills dry before they were forced down his throat by the man, although, by now, he knew it wouldn’t be necessary. He knew the teen took the pills willingly, happily. Why wouldn’t he? The pills sent him back to Disney World to enjoy the perfect family vacation all over again, away from all the white, to a place with his mom and 18


his dad and rides and fun and where the only white came from his innocence. His eyes got groggy. They were swirling and blurring and he could hear sound in the distance, getting closer. The last thing he saw before the shapes and colors slowly leeched in was the black and white news article – never in color – he knew was hidden under his pillow, with the bold headline stating: “Man Goes Insane, Kills Wife in Front of 11-Year-old Son!” before he closed his eyes and fell under. ~~~ The boy was back, staring at the attractions and rides. He looked around and saw an amazing ride. Grinning, he sprinted to his parents, who were seeking shelter from the wide variety of colors and noises that was Disney World. “Mom, Dad!” His dad’s eyes were uncontrollably twitching and his mom was pale, deathly so, but they were there, and so was Harry Potter, and the white, white man wouldn’t be interrupting for a while. “We have to go on the Harry Potter ride!”

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Because I Can By: Ashley Hidalgo You always take advantage. “Why?” I ask. “Because I can,” you answer. You’re always out and leave me behind. “Why?” I ask. “Because I can,” you answer. I try to help, but you say no. “Why?” I ask. “Because I can,” you answer. I try to mend things, but you reject. “Why?” I ask. “Because I can,” you answer. You use me despite everything I do for you. “Why?” I ask. “Because I can,” you answer. “Why don’t you leave?” you ask. “Because I can’t,” I answer.

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Shadowless By: Nina Nadirashvili

21


Times have been hard. She can’t remember anymore, can’t recall the time when she was just like everybody else. Doesn’t remember the time when she lived, loved. And on some days, she thinks that it’s always been this way—that she was never born, but was made like a weapon or a fire burning brighter than the sun, because she doesn’t remember being anything else than what she is now. What is she now? She pleads and begs to no one, her cries echoing in silence. She’s always been alone; it’s always been quiet. And so, as horrible as it is, she welcomes those times when she has to be present for her job to be done, because when she hears the screams and cries and swearing, her ears remember their purpose. It’s rare, those cases when human beings have to be forced, dragged. Most of the time, heart and soul know that the end is inevitable and accept it. But there are those that fight, cling, tell her that they can’t leave, not now, not when this is just the beginning. And she thinks she should feel sorry for them, because she knows, she knows all her children, she knows what they leave behind, and she knows how hard it is for them, even though she doesn’t remember experiencing it herself. There are flashbacks at certain times, or so she thinks, but maybe they are somebody else’s memories that she has come to know as hers, because her mind craves for explanations, craves for something to hold on to, something to know and remember. So she has several theories on the matter. One is that maybe she died before she had chance to live. She has seen it countless times, children not yet born, taken naturally and unnaturally. They are the ones who fight the most, and are the most gruesome, forever burned in the back of her mind. Thanks to this job, though, she has grown cold, so she can’t feel anymore; she just knows what it should be like. She can’t remember the last time she cried over someone she 22


took under her black robes. Below…below…below. There’s a thought that runs through her mind in the darkest of times: when she watches children being taken away, husbands and wives being torn apart, parent being buried deep in the ground—and all because of her. Maybe she never did exist; maybe she was always this, this figure bringing nothing but sadness and, at times, a pathetic form of relief. It’s an idea that hunts her like a shadow she has never had the pleasure to have, because for a shadow to be, there must be light, and there is no light here, where she has taken her permanent place. It’s dark all around, and she thinks silly of those that claim to see the light at the end of the tunnel, silly of those that have hope even after they have left the earth and the sun, silly of those trying to breath while being buried under the brownish black ground, silly of those trying to remain while their ashes scatter to the wind, silly of those who believe… And, so she has theories about who she could have been, because even for her, even the ultimate end must have had a beginning. And sometimes she floats in the darkness trying, trying hard, to remember. And sometimes she peeks under the long robe and asks one of them if they know, but she never gets an answer, and so it’s awfully quiet where she resides. And she wishes she could resign from her job, because Death doesn’t remember her own beginning, her own end, and this lack of memory follows her around like the shadow she never got to have.

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A Proper Poem By: Nicole Crilly Oh how easy this is made to seem! An yet I cannot in my wildest dreams Write a poem with proper theme. And words that, perhaps, some may deem Worthy of praise and high esteem!

I often fancy myself a pioneer Of words and phrases, pleasant to hear Like Milton and Frost, known as dear, Dickenson, Whitman, artists revered. I sometimes indulge I’m a regular Shakespeare!

But when I’m presented with a master errand To write a poem that one can share and Be praised as eloquent, intelligent, grand. Yet there are obstacles to which, is there no end!? A proper poem will never be penned!

24


M&M MASSACRE By: David Zheng There was a full moon shining that one chilly night. All was calm except for, that horrible sight. The monsters were scary beyond compare. The beasts would pillage us without a care. The terror really never ends For us delicious M&Ms. For everywhere there were hungry eyes. And so we fear as another one dies. As our home wrapper was torn apart, So was our own, chocolate heart. But we had tried hard and fought the beast, To stop it from eating its chocolate feast. We fought hard with all our might, But the battle was over in just one bite.

25


No Regrets By: Abby Provencher

26


You came as a surprise. Technically, you weren’t supposed to happen. Technically, I was supposed to have a birth father and three biological younger siblings. That’s at least what Mom’s plan was, but because my father took off before I was born, I ended up with a step-dad and a half-sister seven years younger than me. It’s all the same to me, though, if not better. Mom wanted to have even more kids, but there were so many complications when Sara was born, and the doctor said that having another kid could be fatal for Mom. We were heartbroken, obviously, but we learned to love our little family. That’s why you were such a surprise; a terrifying earthquake to our lives, but not an unwanted one. I want you to know that you were never unwanted. Part of us was excited at the thought of you, but we were all scared. We were scared to lose Mom. I was scared that I would hate you for taking her away from me. We walked around with a fear that only seemed to subside whenever we felt you kick. Mom had been feeling off that morning, so Dad took her to the doctor, leaving me on duty to get Sara from dance. I was in the coffee shop across the street from the studio when I got the call. I didn’t allow myself to think; I just answered the phone and tried to slow my rapid heart rate. Dad said he couldn’t explain much, but something was wrong, and Mom was being rushed to the hospital for induced labor. I pulled Sara out of her dance class with 20 minutes left, jumped in the car, and drove to the hospital. I’m not sure how long we sat in the waiting room before Dad came out. Sara had fallen asleep almost half an hour before, but I stood straight up out of my seat. I couldn’t get myself to walk forward, so I stood in place, watching Dad walk up to me. I don’t know what I was expecting him to say, or even what I was hoping for, but the first thing he told me was, “It’s a boy.” A boy. My brother. But there was still the looming question, the sword hanging above our heads. “Mom?” I asked. “The doctors said she’s going to be fine.” I felt a knot release within me, a grip that had been limiting my breathing for the past few months, finally loosening its hold. That is until I saw the heavy look that was still gripping Dad’s countenance; “…but,” I bit my lip, fighting back tears as if my body already knew what was wrong. “They said he probably won’t last the night.” He. You. Dad meant you. We had been so consumed by the fear of losing 27


Mom that we never even thought about the prospect of losing you. Somehow I managed to ask why. Dad said you were born too early; too small, too sick to live. But you were much too young to die. I asked if I could go see you, and Dad told me you were in Mom’s room. I expected dozens of tubes and wires to be consuming your whole body, but there was only one tube from your nose, and two wires on your chest. You were so tiny. Your fists were clenched, and your nose twitched every so often as you slept, the same way mine and Mom’s do, although the shape belonged to Dad. You had a tuft of light-colored hair. There wasn’t enough to distinguish a true color, but I imagine it would grow to be dirty blonde. We had taken bets on what color your eyes would be. Dad said you’d have Mom’s gray eyes. Mom and Sara said you’d have Dad’s brown eyes, the very same Sara inherited. We all knew you wouldn’t have my green eyes; those came from my birth father. I personally hoped you’d have your Great Aunt Cecelia’s sapphire irises. I’d only met her once at Grandpa’s funeral, but I remember how timeless and beautiful they were, and I wanted you to have them. Only now, we’d never get to see your eyes. You would never open them. We would never know what color your eyes were. People say babies can hear from inside the womb, so I wondered if you could recognize our voices. The dreary, rational part of my brain was tauntingly whispering that you couldn’t understand what was being said, that you never would. Still, the sinking reality that you would never see us, never truly know us, led me to scrape up and cling to the small hope that you did recognize us, even if only in an instinctual way. It wasn’t until I heard her raspy breathing that any portion of my attention flickered to Mom. She was lying in her hospital bed. There were dark bags under her eyes, and the paleness of her skin made them stand out. There was an undeniable heaviness to her body, and I could sense just how tired and helpless she felt, but as she watched us, her visage was one of peaceful sorrow. I wondered what your name was, or if you had been given one yet, but I didn’t want to ask. I was scared that there would be no answer, that it was too futile to give you a name. My mother, proving how well she knew me, whispered, “We decided to name him Dominic.” This stunned me. Mom had always loved Hebrew names, something like Jonathan, Matthew, or Daniel for a boy, and she had seemed set on giving you 28


one. She loved the way they sounded, and thought that Hebrew names were the most meaningful. “That doesn’t sound Hebrew,” I said. “It’s not. It’s Latin. It means ‘Belonging to God.’ I saw it in one of the baby -name books. I hadn’t really given it any thought, but now it seems perfect.” I nodded in understanding. I knew what she meant; that you were never truly ours to begin with. Of course we wish we had more time with you. Time for you to grow up—to see the person you would have become. We weren’t given all that with you, but we are extremely grateful for the time we did have with you. ~~~ Your official date of birth was February 9 at 8:06 at night. Two pounds, three ounces; twenty-one centimeters. You died February 10 at 4:40 in the morning. We never really got the chance to say hello, but we were forced to tell you goodbye. The most important thing is that you know you are not regretted. Losing you created a gap in my heart; a space that was meant for you. It hurts to think about you, but the short time we had together is worth all the heartache. You were, are, and always will be, deeply loved.

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Romeo & Juliet By: Danielle Maggiore What happens when he’s all you think about, But you don’t ever cross his mind? What happens when you get tongue-tied talking to him, But he talks to you like a childhood friend? What happens when you try to get his attention, But he never seems to notice? What happens when your heart flutters around him, But his heart beats calm and steady? What happens when he’s your Romeo, But you’re not his Juliet?

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Poetry is….. A simple pleasure; a tiny stone; a mighty treasure. Violins playing a symphony. The breath of the wind brisking over the mountain. Freedom of life away from scrutinizing eyes. Artful expression of ideas and life. A collection of plays filled with different themes and stories. The beverage in a vending machine, tumbling down to satisfy the tongue of one’s mind. The Dunkin’ of donuts. A secret message from my heart to the world that I share knowing it will be misunderstood. A Collaborative Poem by: Shayla Lugo, Ashley Hildalgo, Nina Nadirashvili, Jessica Bryan, Emily Parcells, Abby Provencher, Frances Rodriguez, David Zheng, Mrs. DiGeronimo

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Beneath the Lies By: Jessica Bryan

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I was coming home from a hard day at work to see my two wonderful children. Stopping at the store first was a must because we had no more Cinnamon Toast Crunch and that was Andy and Lucy's favorite. Because there was a storm coming , the store was packed with people buying things they’re going to need in case they get snowed in. I bumped into somebody, who apparently wasn't in a very good mood. "Hey watch it lady!" the man shot at me with an angry look on his face. "Sorry," was all I said. I wasn't in the mood to start an argument, so I just let the comment go past me. I picked up the cereal for the kids, and a few other important things we needed and headed up to the cashier. In the next line over, two ladies were fighting over whether or not the storm is going to be as bad as the weather channel was saying it would be. Flailing her arms, one lady said, "Oh, all you people are stupid for coming to the store just to stock up on water and canned food! It's not going to be bad, stop complaining!" Why she had to make such a scene over what other people thought, I didn’t know, but that's when the other lady yelled back at her, "Why did you come to the store then if you knew it was going to be so crazy?" I didn't stay to see the rest of the fight, even though most people were gathered around to see it. At that point, I was actually annoyed from all the people at the store. People were rushing in and out of the parking lot like the world was ending, just because the snow was predicted to accumulate to over a foot. Somebody was going to cause an accident, and I wasn’t about to stick around to see it. I finally got out of the parking lot, and I was on my way home. I wondered what the kids had been up to today with Adela. Adela came to America about eight years ago and had been my nanny since Lucy was about two years old. I found her on a website designed for searching babysitters. She was kind and seemed to care about kids a lot. The kids loved her, so I loved her. I was just about home when I got a call from Adela herself. "Hello. Is it ok if I can get off this weekend?" she asked. Adela rarely asked for time off, so of course a weekend wouldn’t do any harm. “Of course!” I said. "You need a weekend off after having to deal with my crazy kids." 33


"They’re not crazy; really, they’re angels. Thank you so much for allowing me the weekend off." "Anytime Adela. If you ever need more time, you tell me and don’t hesitate to ask.” "I won’t hesitate, but don’t worry, I don’t think there will be any more days I will be taking off after this weekend.” Her voice sounded oddly harsh as she said this. "Well, the offer is open always. I have plenty of time that I can take off from work. I should probably get off the phone now so that I can drive home; I’ll just see you and the kids when I get there.” “Ok. That’s fine we will be waiting for you.” The line went dead, and I said goodbye to nobody but myself. Feeling happier than I did at the store, I arrived home. I beeped my horn like I always did when I got home. Andy and Lucy always came running out to greet me. I got out of the car to get the bags from the trunk, but the kids still hadn’t come outside yet. Weird, they always do. Keys in hand, I took the bags in my arm and walked to the door. It was locked. I fumbled around with the keys for a minute, but finally got them into the door to unlock it. "Andy! Lucy! Where are you?" They must be playing a trick on me. Funny kids. I looked around and didn’t see them anywhere. I first looked upstairs. Nope, they weren’t there. "Come out come out wherever you are!" By now I was surprised to hear not even a laugh out of any of them. They were so giggly all the time. I went downstairs and looked all around. I couldn’t find them, so I yelled, “I give up guys!” Then, I noticed that the bathroom door was closed. Aha. they must be in there! They were probably thinking I would never check the bathroom. I opened the bathroom door very slowly. And then screamed. To my horror I found the worst scene I could ever see, and my life was never the same again.

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? By: Ruqaiyah ElSaawy When things are broken, what do you do? When things are broken, what can you do? You can patch them up, but what good does it do? You can try to fix them, but does that make them new? When things are broken, they never pretend, and they never forget. They just are.

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Castle By: Shalya Lugo Let me take you to a place free of scars A place where nothing can cause you harm. Let me take you to a place beyond pain A place where flowers grow without the rain. Let me take you to a place full of prosperity A place where everyone shows generosity. Let me take you to a place way up in the sky A place where no one tells a lie. Let me take you to a place where lovers meet A place where all the dreamers go to sleep. Let me take you to a place free from fear A place where no one sheds a tear. Let me take you to a place of make believe A place where you never have to leave. Catch a ride on my words; let them take you up high. Come with me to the castle in the sky, to the castle in the sky.

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Heaven By: Ruqaiyah ElSaawy Where can you be surrounded by millions of voices, yet never be bothered? Where can you travel to parts unknown, yet never move? Where can you learn life’s secrets, yet never near a school? Where are you allowed to be who you want to be? That’s my heaven.

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ACKNOWLDEGEMENTS We would like to give a note of special thanks to the following people who gave their time and support to help The Empyrean become a reality:

Mr. Barry Cohen and the entire administration for their continued support.

Ms. Russo and the Art Club for their artistic contributions.

Ruqaiyah ElSaawy for her hard work on the production end of this magazine.

Bill Skees of Well Read New & Used Books for arranging our field trip with a professional author, for sponsoring the fiction writing contest, and for hosting our launch party.

Authors Alison Formento, Karen Dellecava, Laura Kuehlke and Tiffany Strelitz Haber, for sharing their time and expertise as judges of the short story contest.

The Empyrean copyright 2013

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HHS Empyrean 2013