Issuu on Google+


Table of Contents A Story called Tragedy...

by Kylene Harrington

4-6

Petticoat Hysteria

by Iris Gwon

7

Brutal Brake Fest

by Iris Gwon

8

Seventeenth

by Iris Gwon

9

Mrs. Williams

by Jason Hsieh

10-11

The Future of Food

by Michelle Lin

12-13

Unpainted Pictures

by Mrs. Parker and

14-15

Grace Wang Worth

by Kylene Harrington

16-18

by Michelle Lin

19

by Yo Hung

20

by Isabel Chen

21

That Face

by Grace Wang

22

Inferno

by Grace Wang

23

Two Sides of Time

by Hunter Putzke

24-26

Happy Balloon Needle What Could Kuso Be? Up and Down We Went


A Story Called Tragedy with Passionate Emotions and a Touching Plot Kylene Harrington

4

“Hi,” That was the word that started it all. Let the reader decide if all this leads to a comical tragedy or a tragic comedy. “Hello” was the reply. That was the second key word to the inevitable catastrophe. “I am sad.” This sentence is important. It indicates to the reader that the speaker is sad. “Why are you telling me this?” “I am sad.” The second character, at this point, is confused because he does not want to know (or want to care) about the first character’s feelings. They are strangers who met only a minute ago. “Well…” he replied at a slight loss of words. “I am sad.” “I get the point.” Feeling uneasy, the second character slowly began (this word is important because it shows the reader that the character is not moving at a fast pace) to walk way. This offended the first character. “Why the hurry?” he snapped “Because…because…eh,” started the other, again at a loss of words. Then he came up with the most logical explanation he could think of. “I am not sad and you are making me sad,” the second character finished. “Are you saying I don’t have the right to talk about my feelings!?” “Well, no, but-“ “And you do!?” “Well, no, but-“ It was at this point that the first character let out a cry of passionate anguish (representing how sad he was) and proceeded to grab another character, who happened to pass by the duo at the moment of their conversation. This character will be represented with the pronoun he/she so the reader has the freedom to choose the gender of this particular character. “Are you saying he/she doesn’t have the right to talk about his/her feelings!?” continued the first character, yanking the arm of the third character. “Now you’re getting out of hand! What does this person have to do with anything!?” was the furious response from the second character. The first character shouted a series of obscenities at the second. This offended him. Photo by Iris Gwon

The Talons


In fact, it offended him very, very much. He was so offended that the second character pounced onto the first. The fight that ensued consisted of several sound effects and descriptive details of who got hit and where. “Get away from me!” shouted the third character, shoving the other two characters aside as she/he tried to leave the scene. This is the turning point of the story. This point is so important that the characters will now only be referred to as “first,” “second,” and “third,” as well as their respective pronouns, instead of (insert number) character, so the reader can focus more on the plot. “We have the right to talk about our feelings!” shouted the first, again grabbing the third, and preventing him/her from leaving. “I don’t care!” replied the second, before immediately covering his mouth. ‘You don’t care do you!?” Then do you want to know why I am sad!?” “No!” Ignoring the second’s words, the first began to talk about his tragic past which consisted of the deaths of several strangers, a lost puppy, and a heart-wrenching romance. However, most of the details in the touching account were lost due to the second and third not really paying any attention. In another dramatic display, the third pulled out a weapon of some type. It will be referred to as the gun/knife/cane/other weapon so the reader can choose which weapon would suit the third most appropriately. “Now, there’s no need to get-,” started the second. “I don’t care about your feelings!” said the third, waving the gun/knife/cane/other weapon. “I don’t care about you not caring about my feelings! Let’s see how that makes you feel!” said the first. “We end this now!” screamed the third. “End what?” asked the second; this question went unanswered. The third had lost his/her mind from the pressure of the conversation. She/he was extremely sensitive, especially around the subject of emotions. He/she then fired/stabbed/hit/ (other form of violence) the first in a scene that described the emotions they both felt at the moment, the detailed action that took place, and the pain that resulted from the firing/stabbing/hitting/(other form of violence) to him/herself. At this point, the second could only stare in shock (this indicates to the reader that he is not calm at this moment) at the dying bodies of the first and third. The next sentence consists of several more details about the feelings and thoughts that the characters go through as they lie dying. Let the reader decide if these descriptions should be heart breaking, touching, downright depressing, beautiful, gruesome, dumb, or pleasant. The first and third died. This is important because it shows the reader that these characters will no longer appear and that the story has significantly progressed. This means that the ending is near. The second only stood next to the bodies; let the reader decide if he felt solemnly, dumbly, joyfully, or sadly. It had been a terrible day for him; first, he accidentally insulted a possible lunatic, witnessed two consecutive murders, and ended up being the only one left at the scene of the murders (this automatically makes him the one who has to clean up the situation and that does not make him very happy). At least no one would be sharing his or her feelings with him for a while. This last sentence was his only consolation. The ending is here, but it is unexpected to the reader, because the reader will think the ending will be in this sentence, but it is not. The reader will also not expect a fourth character

The Talons

5


to show up. However, a fourth character did show up; he walked toward the two bodies littered on the street and came face to face with the second character. It was awkward for both characters. There was only one way to break the silence. “Hi…” said the second. There was a pause. This pause indicates that the fourth character is thinking of a logical response, because the situation still felt strange to him. “Hello…” was the reply.

The End

6

The Talons


Petticoat Hysteria Iris Gwon

Discard all my white dresses Lace my corset Slide into black frills I have decided to follow The Victorian Mother Farewell, naïvety! Farewell, hypocrisy! I salute the truth Yes, he was holding me I heard every beat of his heart I used to be obsessed with this piece of music But now it’s becoming brainwash With paranoia and horror I sunk the silver crescent in, deep I interrupted the Pavane And learned how to paint roses into crimson An evanescent dream I woke up Head leaning on his cold lap I don’t remember anything My legs in my maroon Mary Janes Automatically dance toward The wardrobe with a fishy metallic odour Open sesame, Why are my white dresses soiled by crimson rust?

Drawing by Carol Lin

When did I put on this mourning dress? Reality is merciless

The Talons

7


Brutal Brake Fest Iris Gwon

rush before the minute-hand reaches the abyss with paradoxical thoughts, needle-ticking is unheard eggshell cracks fragile fragment of fracas melts into the iris of the sanpaku eye eyes unable to focus saliva drooling from the corner blade is ready Dali is ready will the vehicle crash this morning?

Drawing by Carol Lin

8

The Talons


Photo by Iris Gwon

Seventeenth Iris Gwon

Just a rebellious, indigent punk Grasping a grey coin Looking up to the grey-coloured sky.

All the years of sham glamour, deluxe Rusted Before daybreak.

Sigh.

Bed of roses Burned to ashes and the Rose Trimmed Again.

The sky isn’t gray but it is grey. Fantasy Garden --garden of chimeras-No longer exists, Like a silver coin that has

Coin held in the left hand One remaining rose petal in the right. Rubbing it gently like It’s supposed to be a lucky charm.

Faded into grey

The Talons

9


Mrs. Williams Jason Hsieh

In a small quiet town of eight hundred where everyone knows one another, no one seems to know anything about the old lady. In Wallace, Texas if you set foot outside of your house, some friendly folk is bound to say howdy. No one has ever talked to the old lady because she has never left her house. Allow me to explain how I know all this information before you go off thinking I’m a no-good, devil-dealin’ crook who spends his time snooping around. My name is Andy and I work at the local grocery, Wayne’s Produce. Wayne’s Produce is owned by a Jonathan Duncan who began this delivery service 40 years ago as a request from many of the elderly residents. I have delivered groceries for 30 years now for Jonathan and to folks like Old Man Reggie, who is the oldest man in Wallace at 93, and David Horton’s little boy, Jared, who just came back home about four months ago from Iraq. Jared left his legs there. Anyway, I just drive around town in a white truck with the Wayne’s Produce logo on the side and the trunk full of groceries and deliver them to people of need. The old lady’s house happens to be a customer and on my route. The old lady’s name, as listed on my delivery list, is Edna Williams and it says she has been a registered customer for over thirty years. I have a delivery to her house every second day, and it’s been the same order for thirty or so years. I pull up to her house, take out her groceries, and march into her garden of meter-high grass up to her front steps. It’s a sorry sight. Her house, that is. It is more of a shack, a beaten up and weathered shack that has its paint peelPhoto by Carol Lin ing everywhere. Surprisingly, all the windows are still intact, but the window sills look like they are ready to fall right off. I have never spoken to Mrs. Williams on my deliveries and I am instructed to just leave the groceries on the front steps. I’ve spoken to Mrs. William’s neighbors several times and they have never seen her open the door for her groceries. They told me sometimes when they peer out their windows before they hit the hay; they can still see the bag of groceries on the front steps, with the bright green “W” on the side of the bag. Mrs. Williams just sits in her house. I have seen Mrs. Williams through the large window of her living room, sitting and staring out the window, with a candle burning on the coffee

10

The Talons


table next to her. Her expression is blank and she doesn’t seem to focus on anything in particular. The boys around the area have come up with the rumor that Mrs. Williams is a witch. The older folk around town say she’s insane and escaped from a mental asylum. But I know those rumors to be false, I can see it. Mrs. Williams is suffering from a broken heart. Someone broke her heart and that someone left her there alone. That must be why she hasn’t spoken to anybody in so long. Just yesterday I drove up her street towards her house. The bagging boy must have packed in one of those large jugs of milk; something is soaking through the bag and darkening the bright green “W” on the bag. I pulled up in front of Mrs. Williams’s house and killed the engine. No matter how many times I have delivered to Mrs. Williams, walking up her house is always unnerving. I grabbed the bag of groceries and carefully walked through the chaotic front lawn and stopped at her front door. Like all the other times I’ve been here, I knocked. Like always, no answer. After a few more seconds I let out a sigh and left the bag of groceries on the front steps for my mother.

The Talons

11


The Future of Food: A Documentary Summary of the Controversy over Genetically Modified Foods Michelle Lin

As early as the Neolithic revolution in 10,000 B.C., our progenitors had already begun cultivating and domesticating crops to feed themselves. Such practice continued for thousands of years until the 20th century, during which some of the most deadliest wars had been fought, and human folly instigated our exploration in toxins to extinguish each other’s existence. In our hands, these toxins further developed into insecticides, then pesticides that killed insects hindering growth and production rates of plants, and then characteristics inserted into plant genomes. This is the Gene Revolution, a viral-like pandemic that has almost completed its invasion in the Americas, one that has spurred controversy throughout the globe. “It’s only unnatural if you don’t know the biology,” said Stewart Brand, an influential American writer who believes that technology is vital in human progress. He expressed in a speech on October 9, 2009 that the use of Genetically Modified (GM) foods is, in fact, a better deal when one realizes the brutality of Darwin’s widely-accepted theory concerning survival of the fittest in the natural world. Brand believed that GM crops have a milder impact on our natural environment. Moreover, he pointed out the inability of several organizations, such as the European Union, Friends of the Earth, and Green Peace to grasp the beneficial qualities GM foods bring to our civilization. Indeed, GM foods may be drought-tolerant and flood-resistant, yet such benefits are merely superficial and unsustainable. GM crops, many would agree, are cash crops designed to provide profit for its developers. In addition to GM crops’ apparent revelation of human avarice, GM foods interfere with biodiversity. In several cases, pollen from a genetically modified corn has caused the death of monarch butterflies, and recent studies have shown that 97% of all known vegetable species are extinct today. Monoculture, an issue rising from the production of GM foods, may cause the extinction of not only organisms but also plants and even mankind. Advocators of GM foods may bring about the discussion of how such foods are perfectly safe, yet on April 4, 2000, the Washington Post reported that “the biotechnology industry spends $50 million per year to convince consumers that biotech crops are safe.” GMO advocators have obviously fallen into the pitfalls of excessive GMO advertising

12

Photo by Tina Fun

The Talons


from companies. One of the most notorious companies is Monsanto, which strives with all its might to insinuate all connections into influential governmental positions. Like termites they doggedly search for entries that lead them to their desired solution: Monsanto domination. Former CEOs, secretaries, and lawyers from Monsanto are currently holding administrative positions in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the White House. They second every bill for GM foods and slowly try to shape our minds into believing that there are no faults in GM foods. Moreover, in the United States where GM foods are of mass production, no labels are required for genetically processed foods. Without labels, there is no traceability and no liability. When one gets sick, one is unable to trace the actual cause of illness. The introduction and promotion of genetically modified foods aimed to prevent famine, yet they do the opposite and promote it. More and more people in this world, especially farmers, are suffering from starvation ever since GMO companies have started taking away their part of the share in the farming business. Is it like what Stewart Brand described earlier about the inability of certain NGOs to see the prospective greatness of GM crops, or rather, the inability of ignorant people, impressionable to advertisement, to see the evident damage they have inflicted on our civilization?

Photo by Tina Fun

The Talons

13


Unpainted Pictures

Ms. Parker and Grace Wang

Mountains, tall endless ranges of them, with limitless beauty, look, no doubt, better than any of the pictures you can find as digitized images. They curtsy, pausing now and then waiting for the world to spin, but nothing can capture the essence of the mountains. Nothing. Mountains mysteriously exist. Guardians of time. The spirit of the mountains floats and infinitely spreads out too far for anybody’s mind to grasp. Have you ever rambled alone in the mountains? The voice of mothers’ “That’s dangerous” has always warned me, but who can resist? Look closer. Mountains merge with white fog, star lights on a Christmas tree, trapping the spirit of life, Majesty wearing crystallized hats, layers of green, and earth greens. Listen closely. You hear the erupting rhapsody that the mountains bellow to you: light, bewitching, and peaceful music, an angelic choir. The earth smell calms you. The frigid wind blows through the trees, making them shiver. Birds ruffle. A sparrow calls out from somewhere above and another answers, dualing minstrels. The leaves crackle under feet. A squirrel sprints halfway up a tree and tilts its head, this way-pause-and-that waychecking and continues to nibble on its acorn. Stop again. Listen. The melody increases in tempo Photo by Carol Lin and emphasizes the bass and baritones. Look. Listen. Walk. Look closer. The mountains and its secrets guide us towards the peak-as the music goes through a crescendo- while leading us with the unbreakable beat. Further. Higher. More. I check my watch. The tune stops. Half past four, almost sunset. Knowing the way, nature sweeps me up into its arms and pushes me to the peak of the mountain as the music quickens and rings delightfully in my ears. The temperature drops a couple degrees. Peace enters my lungs. I curled myself onto a boulder, a move perfected from years of mountain hiding. This boulder friend boasts and thrusts its chest out waiting to greet me,

14

The Talons


as old friends do: timeless, no counting of conditions.

Look again‌ Closer again‌

Scratches made years ago as my fingertips trailed along the traces. Music builds up in speed and volume and suddenly changes tempo into a calm lullaby. The boulder stands huge with a perfect place for me to sit in and smooth places for me to lean on. White paint covers it with some gray wavy patterns, Picasso’s nature. Long time, no see, old friend, I think, and I settle into the embrace of my friend. Time check. Five to five. Excellent! Just about time. Endless mountain ranges encircle the world. In the middle, a lake winks at the sea. The sea serves as a perspective for the prima-dona, the setting sun. This image, so familiar, always startles me, leaving me breathless. The soundless landscape wraps around me, binds me, strangles me. Imagine this. Beautiful mountains to your left and your right, growing closer to engraving-black-white-muted greys and purple. Birds fearing the night dart bat-like to their sanctuaries, wings flapping to a soundless rhapsody. You can never find a painter or a camera even close to good enough to sketch this all onto a thin sheet of paper. Colors of purple, red, orange, and yellow join arms, fading towards grey as time flies. Then, there sits the setting sun like a pearl waiting in its shell. The world as we see it has transcended sound and replaces sight. The silver ripples from the lake blink away at the cloud hazed sun, which hangs suspended with pause. Sinking slowly. Slowly. Till it sinks well below the horizon, hurling us into the darkness.

The sleeping willow tree murmurs its thanks for the intermission well played.

The Talons

15


Worth

Kylene Harrington Fire. The red and orange flames danced across the vast courtyard. They made their way through the kingdom and over the country’s once luscious hills; they consumed everything in their path, excluding nothing. Smoke was everywhere. He watched the whole show, from the opening act to the finale with the spreading fire. The man laughed. The man sobbed. And laughed. And sobbed. The little girl stood by him, stroking her coal dark locks. She stared at the display in front of them and marveled at how the flames moved in perfect unison, at how they danced with perfect grace. Indeed, the show was amazing. The corners of her lips curved. “You knew this would happen,” muttered the man, eyes still on the fire. The child continued to smile. It was the perfect time for such a “dance”; the sky was tinged with red and yellow as the sun began to set. “You knew this would happen!” repeated the man, increasing his volume. All around him were burnt houses and destroyed paths. Everything reflected the color red, the color of the merciless flames. Once the finest kingdom in the land, it now lay in ruins. Even the sky, obscured by the heavy smoke, was filled with red. “Answer me,” commanded the man, bringing his hands up to his face. He buried his head in his hands and strained his expression, letting out several loud cries. “And what if I did?” came a sweet voice at last. The man continued to sob as his body sank to the ground. “Why?” he asked. He knew it was too late. It was too late to ask; no matter what the answer was, the kingdom was gone and the people were dead. Only the blackened ruins were left, cruel reminders of a fatal mistake. “What do you mean ‘why’? Wasn’t this what you wanted? I was only trying to please you,” said the girl, her expression like the Cheshire cat. “Your highness,” she added tauntingly. He lifted his head from his hand until his watery eyes met hers. She was the very embodiment of perfection, from her red lips to her porcelain cheeks to her wide eyes. He felt sick looking at her features. Her inhuman beauty had once reminded him of an angel, but now he knew that beauty for what it really was: a façade. Angels were not the only beings that had perfection; demons needed it too because a demon was the one that needed to tempt. “I’m no longer king,” he said. “Nonsense, your majesty. I promised to make you the most powerful man in the land. You were afraid, weren’t you? Of those that lusted after your power? Of being overthrown? Of betrayal? You needn’t be afraid anymore; you hold absolute power over your kingdom now,” she replied in the same mocking tone. “This wasn’t what I wanted!” “You’re the most powerful now.” “I’m the only one now!” The former king roared before beating his fists on the ground. “You little imp! You lied to me!” he shouted with as much force as he could muster. The girl laughed. She laughed so sweetly that the raging fire seemed out of place. Then her laughter ceased and the smile fell. “Perhaps I did lie. But it wouldn’t make a difference now, would it?” she said solemnly.

16

The Talons


The man made no response. “Your kingdom is gone and you brought it down, you, their king, destroyed his own people,” she continued, “because you believed me, because you wanted more power.” She started walking until she was standing in front of him, the shadows from the fire falling on her face. “But it’s too late now, your highness. It’s too late to even die.” He looked at her, watching the shadows flicker across that sculpted face; the beauty seemed distorted by the dark shadows and the moving flames that seemed to be outlining the girl’s body. What was standing in front of him was truly demonic. “A life not worth living.” He never knew how it felt to have absolutely nothing, to have even less than a beggar, nor did he ever think he would know; he was wrong. His queen gone, his children dead, and his people destroyed. Even the city itself, along with the land was marred beyond repair. The former king had nothing left in his life. “A love not worth having.” He pounded the ground again. He had nothing to blame but his own desires; anything and anyone he had loved was gone. The thing was right; he had gotten rid of the things he claimed to love. He was unworthy of love. “And a hate not worth keeping.” Again, it was right. It wouldn’t matter how much he blamed the girl, it wouldn’t matter how much he hated her, and it wouldn’t matter how much he hated himself. Nothing could redo what’s already been done. He was unworthy of hate. “That describes you perfectly, doesn’t it? Your highness,” concluded the girl. The words struck him harder than lightning. This was because they were the unforgiving truth. He had ruined himself and everyone around him. “How did this happen?” he asked, directing the question at no one and nothing. He remembered her showing up at his palace, he remembered her making a garden of wilting flowers fresh again, and he remembered her telling him she was sent by the gods. She said she was sent to fulfill his every desire because they knew he deserved to hold absolute power, because they were upset with everyone who opposed him. He believed her. The king gladly believed every word that spilled from her mouth. He could have doubted her; he wasn’t a dumb man and he could have banished the child from his kingdom then and there, but he didn’t want to. The king believed the black haired girl because he wanted to… “You know exactly how it happened,” replied the girl, voice taking on a predatory edge. Had it been a day ago, he would have laughed at the irony of a king destroying his own kingdom. Never in his life would he have suspected himself to be that very king. Also, ironically, he was the only one that was spared. No laughter escaped his mouth. “Do you want to know why I came to you, your majesty?” she asked lowly. The voice was grating and deep, sounding as if three people with different tones were speaking at once. None of the voices sounded like that of the original. “Yes,” he said emptily. “Because I wanted to play, to play with a pitiful, insecure man who had everything and yet, had nothing,” replied the inhuman voice. “You weren’t worthy of your people, of your position… but you could have been. You chose not to be, your highness, always worrying over so much and always wanting so much. And that’s what made it so much fun,” it continued. The fire was still raging around them and all the man smelled was still smoke. “I could kill you now, but why should I even bother,” it finished in the devilish voice.

The Talons

17


The man made no effort to sit up or beat the ground. “No reply?” the girl asked, her voice echoing all around the pair. The former king sighed. He once more met the girl’s eyes, her beautiful, hideous eyes. “After all, I’ll never find someone this fun again,” she said, again letting the voice echo around them. “So, I’m denied of death?” said the man hollowly. “I would never deny you anything, your grace,” replied the girl, reverting back to her childish tone. It didn’t matter anymore; feelings wouldn’t change anything, not one thing. He could cry and laugh all he wanted, but nothing would change. It wouldn’t even matter if he lived or died. “I don’t want you to grant me death,” he stated. “And why is that?” “It’s not worth it.” The thing grinned. The smile of the devil on the face of a cherub. “Then what do you want now?” asked the girl. He said nothing. The former king pondered a decision. He could leave then and there, putting the smoldering kingdom and the child behind him for good. He could never look back and allow the kingdom to be forgotten, to allow its downfall to become nothing more than a myth, and to allow he himself, the ill fated king to be forgotten along with the ruins. It would be too shameful an end for an already disgraced man. “Nothing? Please don’t tell me there’s nothing you want, your highness,” continued the girl. The man slowly stood up, legs trembling slightly, un-dried tears still staining his face. The fire continued to burn as he made his way over to the child and roughly yanked her by the shoulders. Her grin never left, even as he violently shook her tiny frame. The grin even grew wider. “I’ll tell you what I want, you filthy little wretch,” he whispered into the flawless face. “Tell me then, your majesty,” replied the unnatural voice; it spoke gleefully, sadistically. The shaking stopped and the man shoved her aside. “I want to end your game; I won’t give you the pleasure. I won’t let you best me,” the former king said hollowly before turning his back on the girl. He walked toward the flickering flames, arms outstretched. The man had made his final decision. The fire licked at his feet as the distance between them decreased with each step. He let the swirls of red and orange engulf him, and he welcomed the searing pain as his world was dyed red and yellow. Through the heavy smoke, he took his last breath and caught his last sight. A black haired child stared back. “You lost,” he mouthed. The raging flame consumed the fallen king.. The girl stood alone, her grin gone. She had hoped to play a little longer, but the game had already ended. The cycle of the dying kingdom had been completed; the king had chosen to join his people in a tragic blaze. It was indeed a fitting end for a doomed man. In the end, the demon had managed to obliterate everything in all the land. The red lips curved to form another smile. The End

18

The Talons


Happy Balloon Needle Michelle Lin

Waterfall tickles Spine chuckles Citrus squeezes Spasmodic shivers Forgot a pill, perhaps?

Lilies charm Eau de parfum Spider spinning gossamers Web caught Forgot a rule, perhaps?

Washed over Concrete irradiates Content beams Skin soaked Forgot a towel, perhaps?

Dissonant symphony Azure incarceration Fluffed shakes Lips parted Forgot a pandemic, perhaps?

Zephyr swirls Earlobe excites Waltzing butterflies Grass acupuncture Forgot a shoe, perhaps?

Photo by Carol Lin

The Talons

19


What could Kuso be? Yo Hung

What could there be With Bible Biology By Darwin Origin of Species What could there be Without end And an (s)elf What could there be With and without You So

Photo by Iris Gwon

20

The Talons


Up and Down We Went Isabel Chen

You clasp the tongs and I the garbage bag, uphill we go. Beverage cans squashed, Scattered in the gutter beside the asphalt road,

Photo by Isabel Chen Crumpled tissue, smoked butts, smashed glass. One hand in, one hand out, In the garbage, out the tongs. With our load of “people’s not-wants,” We walked downhill, Feeling full.

The Talons

21


That Face

Grace Wang After she terminated him in front of me, she moved on to me. She flipped my textbook to the front cover, squinted at the name, and turned to face me. “Are you Grace?” flared she, her eyes, black as coal, gushing fire. I cringed at the sting but fought back, ignoring it. Looking back into those blazing eyes, I caught bits of ash. My heart strained inside to defend me. I looked on, resisting, top to bottom. That forehead engraved with millions of lines as if etched by a black pen. Lines of anger and pressure, and of course age, overlapped and criss-crossing. Beads of sweat emerged as time tensed. A husky voice chuckled in the other corner of the room. Looking on, my eyes lingered on the eyebrows for a while. Bushy, white, and brown. How spooky can anything else get? Back to those eyes. “Pits of hell.” Strands of hair started tingling as goose bumps rose. I felt every single set of eyes on me as I faced her silently. Her glasses fell on her crooked nose. Smoke seemed to whisper its way out of her. Her glasses, smudged with fingerprints, and so thick, the exact reason why she thrust that face so close to mine. Moving on. Those lips. All spread over her teeth, waiting for an answer. Her breath covered me, making it hard for me to breathe. Her teeth. All crooked. Some silver, some gold. Not wanting to get into more details, I forced myself to stare back at the stinging globes. “Yes,” I declared, satisfied with my firm voice. She removed her glasses and brought her face inches closer to mine, staring into my eyes as if plotting to make them explode. “Are you Grace?” spitted she, keeping contact. Having years of out-staring experience, I glared back. Something bothered me greatly. The husky voice laughed again, my English teacher. Why, of course, Grace. He knew fairly well that the person here, sitting in my seat, facing her, demands me, and only me, Grace. “Yes,” I breathed. Ahah! She blinked at me. She still seemed suspicious but some tiny part of her revealed her growing satisfaction. She then reluctantly brought me back to Earth and moved on to the next victim. Having enjoyed all this, the owner of the husky voice winked at me and stuck out his tongue. Dust settled on the floor.

22

Photo by Iris Gwon

The Talons


Inferno

Homage to Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror” By Grace Wang

I lie coiled, waiting to spring. No admonition. The slight touch of the shields quickens my arms, As they lick and devour, insatiable, rapid Free at last, first moments craze-filled I melt down her shield and encircle, watching as she falls to Elpis’ back. My strength lives on, facing the frail creature and Dawn, unmoved by wails and words. My veil rises, making her wheeze, tears stream, her emotions sting. Rageful, I strive on, daring her to escape. She looks at me, dull-eyed. The last ounce of spirit evaporated. She turns to look up. Thoughts lie. Clouds roll over, censoring the sun, shameless of their deeds, and my veil twirls to join them. Shock shakes me as the morning penetrates, but no,

nothing survives. Nothing. Eyes blurry to hope, useless, now or later. Nothing. Crackling, a different veil sweeps by, this one a traitor. As I lie dying, she snaps. She snaps. My final flames fade, from the last spark, a-rose, the Phoenix.

Photo by Iris Gwon

The Talons

23


Two Sides of Time Hunter Putzke

The alarm chips in a steady cadence as my consciousness swims to the surface. I roll from my bed and reach for the tiny stub to shut up my alarm clock. The vermilion glow casts unfamiliar shadows. Silence washes about, eddying to and fro, casting the detritus of noise into the streets. The runner’s hour ticks as I watch jagged shards of time drip from the clock, reminding me of here and now. I search for a shirt to run in and my hands slip over a long white sleeve. The soft cotton gently cushions my hands from each other as I paw my way deeper. My hands drift back to the top and I pull the shirt free. The faintest lines of stitches ensnare the scowling pirate. Destination Imagination scarred this shirt. The predawn breaks as the rumble of the bus enters the parking lot. Seven students bustle around a couch. We discuss how we can move all of the props onto the bus and still leave room for human cargo. The top of the couch tumbles toward the floor. Several people catch it and reset. We scoop up all of our stuff and brace ourselves for the cold. Quickly, the couch slips into the bus, just as planned. The green vinyl aids the slashing coldness, slicing through my three layers of fabric. The sun catches a glimpse of our bus, trundling away into the new morning glare. The seven members of Waterloo’s Destination Imagination team are headed to regionals and my nerves fling themselves at the gilded cage of enthusiasm. Soon—far too soon—the bus pulls up to the school and the doors slide wide open. I jump off the bus, too impatient to use the stairs. My backpack swings and clatters, bouncing crazily. The sharp click of cleats echoes through the tiled halls. Flipping out my collar, I watch the opponents sprint for the bench. A soccer ball skims the ground, laughing as it twirls past an outstretched foot. Bags fall from my shoulders, shoes tighten one more time. I exhale, focusing on the glad release. I unzip a bag and begin chucking orbs in every direction, waiting for teammates to scramble. One scorches the earth on its way toward my foot, but a deft move later, it soars away. The final step comes as I unshackle my wrist and feel the cool breeze waft across the pale skin where my watch lays. Wearing my trusty watch, I step through the doors of the elevator. I greet the guard with a quick nod as I head out into the humid air. The small plaza across the street is devoid of life except for one lonely old woman slowly stretching. I reach for my toes, snugly tucked into bright red shoes, and feel the aches of yesterday’s soccer game. My pre-run rituals spin into the darkness with my voice stumbling sleepily in a ragged percussion. Today is a five-mile run through the empty streets. I think back to my last run and the staccato beats dancing out into the urban wasteland. My legs unfold and my neck swivels in preparation. I reach for my watch and gently caress the start button. “Begin.” The Destination Imagination team leaps into action, a swirling frenzy of props and costumes. The couch drops into position and Beau jumps up. I sneak inside the couch as I wait for Beau’s fall. He crosses his arms as we yank him down and out of the couch. We lift him to his feet and quickly march him around to the front of the couch where a fantastic scene sprawls magnificently. A railroad track follows the contours of the hills as a watchful

24

The Talons


Pegasus peers down. A black hole twirls malevolently over fields of buttons, loose change, and homework. Atlantis hides just beyond those hills of lonely socks. Welcome to the land of the lost things. Our team leader, the mighty ugly green one, steps forward, resplendent in his canvas shirt and burlap pants. I stand next to Beau, feeling goofy in my white dust bunny minion outfit. More characters join the scene as I steal a quick glance at the clock. Bare minutes from the end, my heart pounds as I watch the ball soar into my area. A quick nudge from my head and it spins away, darting between opponent’s legs. My teammate rushes forward and chips a perfect shot at the goalie. A beautiful save, but so very close. The grass grinds under my feet as my cleats tear into the turf. Spinning in place, a hoarse shout causes me to whip my head to my blind side. A fellow defenseman surges into coverage. Our coach shouts the time left in the half as I drop my head for one final sprint. I bring my head up from my watch. I am running a perfect pace, one that I can hold for hours. Light streaks mark businesses, flashing colors the betel nut stands. The sidewalks stretch toward the horizon, free of stalls and people. In two hours, all movement will be choked out onto the street, but for now, I enjoy the quiet solitude. A car horn blows as a maniac driver rushes to his destination, paying no heed to the red lights swinging overhead. A bus burbles along the road, pitch whining up, then down. My footsteps mark the time as the symphony of the world begins. The first strains of our final song fling themselves into the air. The mighty ugly green one has been vanquished, the bunny minions have disappeared, and Beau found his remote. The frenetic recap of our short skit accompanies happy guitar. Lyrics jumble in the room to be sorted by the judges and audience. The final lines of our song drop into the world. Our coach taps the stopwatch and shows us the results. Photo by Iris Gwon

My footsteps break into a slow plod. The glowing face of my watch hints at times beyond my expectations. Labored breathing clouds my comprehension of the time. I relieve my famished organs as I urge breaths of air deep into my lungs. The time winks gaily as I find a new personal best in front of me. It has taken me nearly four years to build my endurance to this honed state, but I have never regretted a minute. Silent elation floods my body as I wait for the elevator to open.

The bus doors flick wide. We gather our belongings and clamber on the bus. Our trusty

The Talons

25


couch, waiting for its eventual destruction at the tongues of fire, slips into the back of the bus. The warm vinyl sticks to my now bare skin as oppressive heat impedes action. All the time we spent building, writing, practicing, joking, culminated in this event, these brief eight minutes. Months on months of time marked by a ticking stopwatch, the ticking of our hearts, have woven themselves into the skit. A final cheer for the Destination Imagination team rings through the bus. The final whistle pierces the air. Our team clusters at midfield, hands ready for congratulations. Both sides graciously shake hands and slap backs. No ill will is seen between these two mighty competitors, only jovial rivalry and subtle jibes. Hours of preparation reach a crescendo every time I step on that glorified rectangle. For the thousand beats of a stopwatch, I drain my pool for experience, yet at the end, it brims once again. So many moments in my life are traced by the tocking thump of a stopwatch. And yet those times congeal into solid chips of memory, flecks of emotion. Some say I waste my time by running in circles or creating worlds of pure fantasy or chasing a ball. I say it is time well spent.

26

The Talons


The Talons Literary Magazine