Archway Review: Issue #1

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Issue 1, December 2021 www.archwayreview.com


Masthead Founding Editors and Editors for Issue 1 Sara Cahill Linli Chen Robert Elkins Shayna Griffith Mary Kate Hynek Dee Olabi Faculty Advisor Dr. Beth McDermott

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Table of Contents Sara Cahill, “The Beginning of Second Grade”......................... 5 Alexis Ceballos, “And so, I play the harmonica” ..................... 9 Linli Chen, “All I know” ....................................................................... 11 “Please answer” ............................................................... 12 “When you’re in the rain” ................................................ 13 Kathryn Drey, “Void and Voice” .............................................. 16 Robert Elkins, “Perseverance Prevails!” ................................. 21 Maxine Elliott, “My List” ......................................................... 24 Shayna Griffith, “Barb’s Bed and Breakfast” ........................ 25 Mary Kate Hynek, “Apple Pie” ................................................ 27 Mary Mathieu, “It Is Good”.......................................................................29 “Surrounded by Dark” .................................................... 30 Hayden Minor, “The Winter’s Chill” .......................................................... 31 3


“Venus” ............................................................................ 32 “Eyes” ............................................................................... 33 Dee Olabi, “Fair Is Never Fair”.................................................34 Christopher Parra, “The Man in the Dark” ............................ 38 Rodolfo Perez, “Cokehead” .................................................... 41 Jack Shields, “Memorial Day” ................................................. 42 Contributors’ Bios ....................................................................45

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Sara Cahill The Beginning of Second Grade Robbey laced his shoes at 7am for his first day of second grade. He remembered how the bunny loops crossed one another while his chubby fingers pulled the laces snug. With a bit of empowerment and pride for not having to ask mommy for help, he walked into the kitchen with a bright smile across his face. Mommy had buttered pancakes stacked on top of each other, syrup drizzling from each side that soaked the bananas lining the side of the plate. Thankfully, he had gotten over his fear of his food touching, and he gladly scarfed down the meal before leaving for school. For a second grader, Robbey was a skilled line leader. His teachers had always applauded him for his ability to walk in a straight line and not get distracted by the many squirrels on the path. Robbey had to stop himself from wondering how many acorns the squirrels stored in the winter or what their homes looked like in the trees, but that was all fine due to the praise he received from his teachers. Although, Robbey had recently noticed his attention drifting to the pale gray house on the corner of the street next to Mrs. Sapphire. Two months ago, the house had a family of six move into it. Robbey had noticed that one of the family members came out to grab their newspaper every morning as he walked by. This figure resembled a light post, tall and slender. Robbey was never able to get a good look, but he had noted this person had piercing bright yellow eyes. He hadn’t seen someone with eyes like that before, but he knew that people used colored contacts for Halloween costumes and concluded that as the source of inspiration. However, this family member sent chills down his spine and the eyes lurked in the deep corners of his nightmares. He had told his mommy about these nightmares, but a parent can only do so much to relieve a child from a haunting image. He only hopes that one night, he can make it through without the eyes coming to pay him a visit.

*** Robbey’s daddy died when he was three years old. A fire had swept through their last home, and he had been trapped inside after getting Robbey and his mommy out. Robbey watched it all happen. The glowing flames that engulfed his living room where their Christmas tree and presents were and his bedroom filled with his favorite dinosaur decorations still burn crisply in his mind. He couldn’t remember the sounds, though. He forgot what it sounded like to hear his mommy screaming and the crackling of the house 5


as it crushed his daddy. All he had were images, and whether or not that made the pain less, Robbey wasn’t sure. Robbey and his mommy had to move somewhere new. She had said it would do them good to leave their area and restart together. Robbey was four by the time they moved to Darkcrest and he didn’t understand what it meant to “restart.” He was confused for most of his early childhood; he would wander around the new house aimlessly in search of something to make him feel more at home. Robbey had met Mrs. Sapphire on a Sunday morning while on a walk with his mommy. Mrs. Sapphire stepped off of her front porch, coffee mug in hand, and waved enthusiastically for the two to stop. She was a skinny woman, her skin seemed to stick to her bones, engraving a sharp jawline and features to her face. She wasn’t young, Robbey knew that, but she had a youthful glow, and her personality was spunky. Her hair was cut short into a gray pixie, and she wore dangling purple earrings in a shape that Robbey would describe as an upside-down ice cream cone. Robbey felt a sense of home from Mrs. Sapphire. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew he felt safe when she approached him and his mommy. She told them that she had lived in the Darkcrest for 30 years and has a handful of grandchildren that visit her from time to time. She invited Robbey over to meet her grandchildren, and for the following years, Robbey would become a regular visitor at Mrs. Sapphire’s home and befriended all but one of her grandchildren; Suzie would constantly steal his crayons and he was not fond of that. *** Robbey had a memorable first day of second grade. His teacher, Ms. Norris, chose him to pass out homework, help a student find the nurse’s room after taking a big tumble, and asked him to resume his role of after-school line leading. He was very proud. Robbey grabbed his backpack and walked out of his classroom to the front sidewalk of the school. He was led by one of the teacher’s aides and were heading in the direction of Mrs. Sapphire’s house. The sun was high in the sky, as it was around 3pm, and the flowers danced in the breeze as Robbey walked. Squirrels chased one another up and down the trees and many kids were stopping to gaze at the wonders of nature. Robbey was not distracted, however. He kept a steady lead and trotted promptly towards Mrs. Sapphire’s house. As usual, Mrs. Sapphire stood outside of her home, waiting for the children to pass by. She stretched out her arm to frantically wave “hello” and Robbey instinctively responded with his short, chopping waves. “Way to go, Robbey!” Mrs. Sapphire hollered from her porch step, and a smile crept across Robbey’s face. He thrived on being the center of attention. 6


As Robbey passed Mrs. Sapphire, her neighbor’s pale gray home came into view. Chills ran down Robbey’s arms and legs; a feeling of sheer panic leapt into his throat that formed a knot large enough to make swallowing a chore. While his body was still in motion, he kept his eyes glued to the front door. He was waiting and hoping with every ounce that no one would step outside. Waiting and hoping that the bright yellow eyes wouldn’t peak from the windows, that they would stay locked away forever. Robbey’s tension was noticed by the teacher’s aide, who came to his side, and while gently placing her hand on his shoulder, guided him along the sidewalk to the street of his house. *** The eyes didn’t leave Robbey after the walk home. While he slept, the haunting yellow eyes crept into his dream. They chased him in every corner of his mind-- teasing and preying on him until he shrunk into a ball. They clouded his sense of time and space to where he wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or if the eyes were lurking underneath his bed or inside of his closet. He broke into a cold sweat, and desperately tried to pry his eyes open to relieve the insanity. He was stuck in his bed, paralyzed by the intense glare the eyes had on him. But, this all came to a halt when Robbey started to hear screams from outside of his window. He couldn’t recognize if he was still dreaming, but the constraints holding him to his bed released as he rushed to see the commotion outside. The only streetlamp lit was next to his driveway; the rest of the road was submerged in a sea of black. It wasn’t until Robbey squinted his eyes to see the small head bobbing down the cemented way, arms flailing from each side, desperately waving to get attention. The light reflected off of the person’s silver, short hair, and Robbey knew instantly that it was Mrs. Sapphire. Dread, fear, and panic surged through his veins, but he was frozen. Nowhere to go besides to watch. “I NEED HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME!” Mrs. Sapphire rang through the empty, sleeping street. Her purple cone earrings rattled as she spun her head from side to side, hoping to find a place to run next. Robbey watched as she turned back to the direction she came from and came face-to-face with a six-headed creature barreling down the road on twelve legs. This creature was spider-like, six legs on each side while the heads poked in every direction. Robbey didn’t understand where the creature came from or what it was. He only imagined this creature as a frightening bug his mommy used to scream for his daddy to squish. Every eye on the beast was staring down Mrs. Sapphire; she had nowhere to go and nowhere to run and she knew it. Her screams shrieked through the air as the creature stopped ten feet from her. Robbey was still frozen in fear and could feel his pulse beating in every inch of his tiny 7


body. The creature didn’t step towards Mrs. Sapphire, but she was frozen like an ice cube. The worst part of this story came for Robbey in the following seconds. The eyes on each face of the creature swelled to a watermelon size and began to streak yellow, blinding light towards Mrs. Sapphire. The light baked in her face, searing her eyes, nose, and skin. There was no blood, just the light that penetrated her physical being into her soul. There was no noise, at least Robbey couldn’t hear; all that was there was the bright image of the yellow eyes and Mrs. Sapphire’s frozen body. Ten seconds later, Mrs. Sapphire’s head swelled to a balloon and floated off her body into the night sky. The yellow light absorbed the inside of her head, resembling a floating lantern Robbey’s family used at his daddy’s funeral. Robbey couldn’t move. The creature’s eyes still burned an intense light and started to turn back in the direction it came from. But, without warning, it abruptly stopped in its tracks, and Robbey’s heartbeat began to quicken. The creature turned towards Robbey’s house, and the heads shifted to his bedroom window. The yellow beading lights engulfed Robbey’s bedroom; every item was basked in the sizzling brightness. Robbey had nowhere to hide. That’s when he knew he was next.

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Alexis Ceballos And So, I Play the Harmonica

I bought a harmonica, It only cost five-ish dollars. I don’t even know how to play. But I like the sound it makes. I’ve realized I may have started A rubber duck collection. Accidentally. I actually only have two. I seem to always choose to wear my Crocs On the rainiest days. I also spent an hour learning to Make paper cranes. And another two spent on making Paper crane mobiles. I paint pictures. I hate raisins. They do not correlate. I tried writing about love And turns out I can’t. I’m not hurt about it. My memory sucks, But that just means I can learn things twice And still be amazed. I write my thoughts down before I go to bed 9


So I can re-read my sleep-deprived rambles, This is one of them, And have a good laugh. I like 6 AM sunrises And late summer cookouts. Tiger lilies are my favorite flowers Because of a story called “Freckle Juice” And I liked the way the freckles in the story Matched the ones across my friend’s nose. I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Penguins and ducks. I’m scared of birds. And I think there’s something About those almost-late-to-work drives Because I always leave my house when I know for a fact I won’t make it on time. My sister bought me red Converse And a chicken egg holder. I collect mugs to hold my colored pencils And journals that stay empty because They're too beautiful to write in. And I sit there And blow unknown notes into my toy harmonica, That only cost five-ish dollars, The one I don’t know how to play, And I think that, yeah, This kind of makes me happy.

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Linli Chen All I know They expect some words from me Sorry for not being the type you hope The shell outside me is getting thicker than before Sorry for walking on the road no one’s taking Dreams I once hoped to achieve were not glistening Sorry for not meeting you in the conversation Changing color of the leaves is changing me Sorry for having that emotional temple My inner world was wrecked and yet to fall Sorry for not stopping the rain the day you met me All I know is A thousand excuses made me drown already

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Linli Chen Please answer Questionnaire about life Laziness wrote the answer for me Stupid it Wrong line in every question Write down sitting when I should exercise Choose a game when I should learn Run Back when I should move forward Now life ends I have nothing

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Linli Chen When you’re in the rain 1 In April, in Jinzhou, the rain is drizzling. In the mountain, the villa, it’s quiet and distant. There he stands in the drizzling rain, the raindrops gently on him. There is no brimming with life on his clean and solid face. It seems like he has lost his soul so he couldn’t care less about anything now. The girl in the villa rushes out to the boy with her umbrella. “It’s raining. Let’s go inside!” She seems to beg because she cares too much about him and she can’t bear him being hurt in any possible way. He remains silent like there’s no one surrounding him. After a while, the girl can’t hold back her emotions anymore, dropping her umbrella and rushing into the house. She knew it all long. She has made the mistake that he would never forgive. In that cold ocean, she was struggling desperately. Suddenly someone took her to get to the land. But at the very last moment, that person pushed her up with the last ounce of her strength. She made it to the shore, sitting on the beach. That beautiful figure disappeared in the endless sea. She was too panicked to think, sitting like a nerd. And then, the boy came, screaming that beautiful name, rushing madly into the sea. But that girl was brought away forever. The boy closes his eyes. It’s not the sound that the umbrella dropped that he could hear but that familiar sentence: When you’re in the rain, you definitely will think of me! 2 Xu, the sole heir to his family group, grew up with everything he could imagine. His family plans everything for him. It seems that he can know how his life goes since he was born. He was arranged by his family to study in the United States to prepare for inheriting the family business back home. He accepted this plan just because he could stay away from his family. But he never knew, on the other side of the earth, that he would meet a girl whom he would never forget—Yu. Yu is supposed to be a well-mannered socialite. But she hates all those labels and sets herself apart from the good girls of the world. She smokes, drinks, gets tattoos and fights with people when gets pissed. Why should we live under people’s expectations? She is 13


a girl that you could never imagine. She can be anyone. She moves effortlessly between the mundane and the self. She has the ability and also the capital. 3 Someone has ever said that all encounters in the world are reunions after a long separation. So it was Xu and Yu. They have never met each other before. But they had each other at the very first sight. It was a public service activity. Yu was wearing a white long dress, and her brown wary hair fell freely. He was looking at her, so was Yu. All of a sudden, there seemed to be thunder and lightning in the air, sparks flying. All of a sudden, there seems to be a breeze blowing towards them, cozy and comfortable. After the activity, she showed him around New York City. She took him to get a tattoo, to drink, to go skydiving, to do everything he hadn’t done before. They ran in the rain. She said to him: “When you are in the rain, you definitely will think of me!” They both laughed. It was a cold New York winter night that he held her hand for the first time. She was wearing gothic makeup, ripped jeans, and a black leather coat, trembling slightly in the night. He hugged her from behind and counted down the new year coming. “5,4,3,2,1.” 4 How many times have I looked at you and thought that was as good as life could get. Xu and Yu decided to get married. He arranged for his family to meet her. She was dressed in a flaxen flower dress, with her hair straight. The whole person exudes gentleness. As if this were the real her, she had stripped away all splendor and arrogance. However, nobody knows how much she’s changed except Xu. He pushed aside her long hair and saw the gently washed away tattoo mark on the back of her neck. “I love you.” He whispered to her. Simple and meaningful words. Xu’s family was satisfied with Yu. Everyone was happy except her—Jin. Jin almost lost her mind when she heard the news that they were about to get married. No one can take Xu away from her, even though Xu never belongs to her for any second. 5 14


Sometimes when we think happiness is right in front of us, and the next second, everything is ruined and gone like the wind. Jin is in love with Xu when she was young. She was supposed to marry him if Yu didn’t show up. There is nothing she wants that she can’t get. So how could she let them be together this easily? She made bold remarks: If you get married, I will die immediately! Xu and Yu ignored her. Jin tricked Yu out in the name of Yu’s friend. That was a windy afternoon. The wind tossed the waves one after another. Yu came, wearing her white dress. She even forgot that since when she started to dress up like a classic good girl. She had light makeup but she still looked gorgeous. Jin saw her, jealousy in her eyes burning like a fire. When Yu found out it was Jin, she turned around and walked away. “If you leave today, you will regret it your whole life!” Jin yelled, seeing Yu walking away. “You should be mature.” She turned around and said. “If you dare to, I will die in front of you, I promise!” Yu turned coolly, walked a few meters, and turned back. She saw Jin struggling in the water. She rushed into the sea without hesitation, swimming to Jin. She held her and swam to the shore. The water was so cold, and Yu can feel that she can’t take Jin to go any further. But her subconscious told her to save Jin. She pushed Jin to the shore with the last of her strength. But she was carried away by sea forever. 6 After Yu died, Xu lost his soul. It seems that his heart was drowning together with Yu, but his body is still alive. He doesn’t care about anything now, accepting any arrangements from his family. The only thing he could feel is the rain. Because it reminds him of the good times when being with Yu. It seems that her voice still going around him saying: When you are in the rain, you definitely will think of me! You know what, I forgot to say: More than thinking of you in the rain, I will never forget about you my whole life.

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Kathryn Drey Void and Voice

She never knew what it was like to lose her voice. To feel unworthy. To feel used. She only knew what it was like to be loud, verbose, unable to signify what she was feeling in a few simple words. She had enough force in her voice within her body to fabricate stories, change minds, and reveal the intelligence she has kept inside. She was beautiful and miraculous with an illuminating presence that made everyone turn their heads and want to know her. She exhibited sophistication that seemed to take years of practice, but she caught on in a matter of seconds. She was kind and caring, always asking to help, asking to be a friend. To her, everyone was worth the time and the effort, but some did not take to her being. Some assumed she tried too hard; that she was the fakest person alive and that no one could demonstrate that level of perfection. They went on to beat her down physically and mentally, and spoke of the rumors that were not true, but most thought they were. She was then labeled as a ditz, a freak, a fake, a prude, a whore, anything and everything imaginable. She soon started to lose her voice, or more so, they stole it from her. She started to hide, lose her sophistication, not show her intelligence, and hide from those who needed aid. She traded in her effort for laziness and lack of motivation. She fell. She fell farther and farther down a black hole of despair in which she did not know when it would end. It was never-ending, bottomless, cold, and dark. Were her intentions not good? Did she fail? She started to believe the notion that she was a fake, that she was lesser than everyone else, but she refused at the time. She refused to give in, to believe what everyone thought was the truth. She tried denying the backlash and the agony it caused her, but she was not strong enough. Her strength. Her power. Herself. All was lost the minute she started to doubt herself. So, she continued to plunge into the darkness. As she fell deeper into the hole, she heard a voice. This voice was not her own. It was not the voices she had been hearing in her head from the minute she was outcast to now. It was different, soothing. She found great comfort in this voice. It had a motherly tone to it, as if it was singing a lullaby and telling the girl that she would be okay, that she did not need to be scared or fall any longer. The girl argued with this disembodied voice, saying it was wrong, and all the other voices she heard were the truth. As she fought, the voice listened, and gave her 16


reassurance. The voice discredited every negative thought that resonated in the girl’s mind but could not seem to find the end of the pit the young girl threw herself in. When the voice started to falter and fade, this dark pit soon became plastered with neon writings of all the negativity the girl faced. With the voice gone that had kept her somewhat afloat, she started to succumb to the words that soon flew off the wall and sliced her from wrist to thigh. She no longer had any control of the thoughts that encompassed her mind for they were alive. They cut deep into her body, leaving her falling, bleeding. As she bled, she began to have no recollection of her past life as this was her life now. She was a broken shell of the girl she used to know and be. In her head, she started the flashbacks to the streets she used to walk, but they were plagued with blank, sullen looks from those that once idolized her and wanted to be around her. She was shouldered in the hallways and spat at. There were snickers and glares where there used to be smiles and laughter. The undercut mockery that she was never exposed to in her mind felt like the world imploded. She gained more insecurity within herself, her beliefs, her motives. It started to become too much and the blood just kept dripping into the bottomless abyss. She grew faint, wondering if she would ever be free from the pain she felt within her as well as out of her. The excruciating pain she was suffering from was unlike any other. It emanated from the depths of her soul and worked their way up to the surface of the cuts: taunting her, abusing her. “You’re Worthless.” “You’re Nothing.” “You will never amount to anything.” Those thoughts ran clear as a bell. They raced within her mind as the bars of the prison she was locked in. There was no key. No way out. She tried to run. She tried to flee with every ounce of her being that she could possibly muster from herself, but nothing. Nothing. She found no solace in her mind, the pit, there was no one and nothing to hear her screams. When a tree falls in the forest when there is no one present, does anyone hear it? No. So why did she think she would be heard? Why did she think she was that certain percentage that could be helped, could be aided? “You’re Nothing.” “You’re Worthless.” The voices increased. A few became many. The silence became deafening. She was drowning in the flood of negativity. Her cuts started to burn; the blood ran thicker than water. There was no door. No key. She just fell. She plummeted further and further and found no relief until she heard the voice. 17


The voice bellowed her name and told her to swim. “Swim out of the seas of negativity and come back to the light.” “You are worth it.” “You are everything.” “You can amount to so much.” The girl, trapped in an endless stream of lies and rumors and projectiles of hurt mustered all that was in her to find her way to the light. She struggled for what felt like days, weeks, months. She broke and blocked out the deprecation with her own thoughts. Why put in the effort? Why fight the inevitable? Why face a world where no one cares? No one matters? No one takes the time to truly understand the fear, the contemplation, the agony of the heart? A heart of gold is encompassed in a tomb of loss, struggle, and heartache. None of that goes away; none of that is fixed. Why fix the unfixable? I have gotten to the point where I cannot control my tears. There have been nights or just times when I wanted to, no, needed to cry, but nothing would emerge. As I have been falling, it has proven to be ceaseless. No matter how hard I try, I cannot force them to stop. They just keep streaming down my face like the waters of Niagara. I consistently thought I was strong. Act like nothing could hurt me. I thought I could protect myself from anything life threw at me, especially in affairs of the heart. I thought I could perform in a mask of happiness and serenity. I am strong right? I am beautiful, or so I think. I am the best version of myself that I have ever been, but then why does this hurt? Why do these comments torment me to my very core? I feel like a shell of who I thought I could be. I learned my worth. I learned to not be pushed around. I learned to make friends and to have fun. Every ounce of my being wanted to prove it and display it for everyone to see. Needless to say, I messed up. I know what I need to do, what I have to do, but I simply feel weak. I feel useless. I feel like the nothing they perceive me to be. Every part of me aches to give in and give up, but I do not know how I would recover. How would I face the world if I choose to rise from this hole? I am scared. Scared of what would be said. Scared of the backlash that would befall me. From this descent, I have lost focus. I fear failure as my rival. I have lost the motivation to ascend. I do not know how to heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon me. I will never rid my head of the past even when I assume that there is a bright future awaiting me. Losing myself was so easy. Finding myself will prove to be difficult. I do not know where to start. I do not remember what “healthy” is anymore. As the girl furthered into the depression that wreaked havoc on her mind, the voice called out again. It was the alarm; the faith she needed to escape. It rattled her to her core, and she broke from the chains that bound her to the cave. As she made her ascent, she refocused herself to what she knew. She began to wrap her wounds; one day they will soon fade, leaving her scars that she could turn into beautiful artwork to 18


remind her of the resilience she found. The resilience was that shard of hope that, if she did not gather, it would have been the end. The voice proceeded to usher her along to scale the abyss. She stumbled; she would fall a few steps, but never did she surrender to the web that had been spun beneath her. She was a fly, a prisoner, but she broke free. She found solace in the voice. That simple, disembodied voice was her savior. She was free. She found the voice. She could not define what she saw in front of her. It was not a mirror; it was not her past. It was her future. The girl examined the voice that was now in a physical form. She noticed the cuts; she recognized the sorrow drawn eyes. The manifestation was broken. That much was clear to a naked eye. It knew pain. It knew the brokenness and the afflictions from a few effortless words that hit too hard. But, It was beautiful. It was fearless. It was everything that the girl wished herself to be. That she will be. She cried. She laughed. She tried to hug this apparition posed in front of her, but all it did was smile, give her a nod, tell her she was going to make it, and disappeared. It was not a disappearance per se, for the girl knew that she would meet the being again, this time, when she was ready for it was stationed within herself. She cried not knowing what to do, how to restore her now-tarnished image. She was broken. She was afraid. She cried for hours until her eyes were puffy and she fell asleep. When she rose, she started anew. She began to write. She wrote from sunrise to sundown. She went for drives to the middle of nowhere and laid in fields covered in sunflowers and watched sunsets where the sky touched the ground. She sang and danced to her heart’s content. She wrote and burned all the nasty comments ever made toward her. She went on to be herself. She felt invigorated. She felt amazing. She felt fresh. But yet, she was still consumed by numbness. She could not place why she felt this numbing sorrow, but it was unsettling. She had covered the scars with the same sunflowers she would lay in, but she was still unsteady. She wrote letters to herself, reassuring her that she was okay. That she was alive. That she was newly born. She could not erase the thoughts that once plagued her mind; they were only thrown to the back of it, still haunting her. That is the fatal flaw of being shattered. There is no cure, only renewal and mending. People are fragile plates of humanity. They can be broken, taped back together, but they will never be the same. She will never rid herself of the demeaning utterances that were shot at her. She can only work to improve and join forces with the solidarity that infects her soul. One cannot 19


change the past, only work towards the future. The disembodied voice of herself confirmed that for her. All she can do is become the author of her story. She had begun writing her ending too soon. She received a second chance to make an alternate ending, but that comes with time. It cannot be sped up nor forced. She will never be able to hide or flit from scrutiny and negativity, but she can fight with all her might and live. Live in the way she finds fit. Live for herself. Live to make better for who she knows she can be and who she is. She rediscovered her voice. She never truly lost it; it was just silenced in the void. She was torn down. She was destroyed. She was rebuilt. She is beautiful. She is strong. Her voice runs true.

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Robert Elkins Perseverance Prevails! To most, the first Monday of each month usually isn't a memorable day that is tattooed or stamped onto the brain. Except in Mr. Brucio’s class, the first Monday was always the same. The same silent and eerie Monday that sent chills through my body. Mr. B, as usual, was walking around, passing out a paper that determined the fate of everyone’s ELA grade. Was I bound for an increased, lowered, or motionless grade? The thump of my heartbeat matched the tapping of his footsteps. Every one of my peers, including myself, appeared to make themselves look busy. Filling out their planner, meticulously organizing their folders, looking each and every way; making it a point to not come into eye contact with Mr. B’s neutral facial expression which was complimented by intensely dark bags under his eyes. He was always disappointed on these Mondays. Even if you were to tell him he was holding a winning lottery ticket, that wouldn’t change his mood. As his slow, echoing footsteps neared me, he slowly stretched out his arm to hand me my rubric with my distressed essay stapled to the back of it, turned upside down. I felt a sudden flash of heat, but I managed to, with sweaty palms, get a hold of the paper. It was in my hands now, damp from the uncontrollable moisture of my hands which slightly bled through the lined paper my essay was written on. It was in my hands; everything was in slow motion from that point on. When I turned the paper I was in disbelief and as I looked up, I saw a small grin on Mr. B’s face. I couldn’t help but think that this may be a different type of Monday. Mr. Brucio’s 7th grade ELA class was simple. All a student had to do was pass a vocabulary quiz or periodically present to the class about an English related topic or participate in discussions. Overall, it was easy to manage, especially when a teacher like Mr. B made class enjoyable. The only downside was the seriousness of our monthly book reports. For our monthly book reports, we had to summarize, relate, and cite any book of our choice. Those book reports worked as an underlying assignment that we were expected to complete outside of class by independently reading a book of our choice. However, it was heavily weighted and made up the bulk of our grade. Whenever the reports were brought up Mr. B would turn into an entirely different person. There were countless times where he would emotionlessly say, “Your book reports are due this Friday. I will give you your graded rubric the first Monday of next month.” I tried my best to sensor “book report” out of my vocabulary. I never was successful at those reports Mr. B assigned and he didn’t have a problem letting me know. He didn’t seem to be satisfied with my work and showed it by giving me a 38/50, time and time again. I was doing everything in my power to improve this score. I always 21


found myself at my dining room table, sitting down with the rubric in hand while writing the report. With every minute of my polished pencil scraping my lined paper, there was quick erasing to go with it. I spent more time on this assignment than anything in a day. When I started the sun would expose itself to the fullest and when I was finished, or thought I was, the moon would selfishly share light. When I was finished it would be pitch black with cool air whooshing near my window. I went against my usual writing style and put so much effort into this one to show Mr. B I had grown as a writer and critical reader. I have never been the type of person to disagree with a grade since they are earned not given, but I felt like Mr. B was just giving me the same grade on my reports with no applicable feedback. And the amount of time and work I put into these reports were not reflected in this pitiful grade. In order for change to occur, I had to confront Mr. B head-on, like a car crash, which was something I didn’t usually do… Although the process of creating these reports seemed bad, turning them in was even worse. Every Friday, I would break into a sweat. Butterflies would fill my stomach. My heart would pound, and my hands start to feel unpleasantly damp and sticky. I always found myself pacing back and forth, unable to sit in my chair with so much at stake. My peers frantically tried to pull their reports together, while timidly asking each other, “Did you do yours?” Then after my hands dry and I take just a couple more paces, I would build up the courage to finally drop my thin two-page report into the glossy-blue bin marked “Period 4: Book Report Turn-in.” My paper, which always stared at me with a doleful look, and I both knew it would receive the same 38/50 that was written in red ink and carefully placed on the top of my rubric. …When Tuesday morning hit, I was struck with confusion, since I never confronted or verbally disagreed with a teacher. That was just not me, so I didn’t know how to execute this plan. While I was sitting at my desk, barely listening to Mr. B rave about literary devices, I played out different scenarios in my head on how to address this unfamiliar situation: Was I going to take the aggressive approach? Boldly saying, “Mr. B, why do I keep getting the same grade on my reports?” But no, I wouldn’t feel right afterward and that just wasn’t me. What about the clueless approach? Act as if this was my first C on the reports by asking, “Mr. B was there something wrong with the last book reports I turned in?” I was so desperate to get away from a 38/50, I even considered getting on my knees and desperately squealing, “Mr. B I can’t afford to get another C on my report! Is there anything I can do?” But none of the options I came up with sat well with me....

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I just felt as though Mr. B was just handing out the same grades on my reports no matter what I did. When the bell for lunch rang, which interrupted my thoughts, I saw everyone file out of the room like their lives depended on it. The time was now, as Mr. B was the only one in the classroom. The time was now, and I didn’t know what to say so I casually walked to Mr. B’s desk. He was eagerly getting ready for lunch too, like a kid at a candy shop. Setting up his desk and pulling out all the food he brought for lunch. This toned the confrontation down a bit, in my eyes, as I took a deep breath in and nervously asked him, “What…How can I…Am I missing something important in my b-b-book reports?” He vaguely said, “Take another look at the rubric and you’ll find what you’re missing.” “I-I-I follow the rubric every time I do the reports?” I responded. At the same time, I was thinking, “I knew the rubric like the back of my hand, so what was I missing?” “Reread the rubric in its entirety and then write your book report.” “Thanks,” I replied, with a frazzled look on my face. Taking that advice from Mr. B was like trying to translate an unfamiliar language from scratch with no resources to help. I always made sure to have the rubric on my side while writing every report. I just didn’t understand what he was looking for. Later in the month of April, the final book report was due. I tried to take Mr. B’s advice, but it wasn’t any help. I tried to look at the rubric in different ways to find the fine print that I was overlooking, but I saw nothing. I started to doubt myself as a writer in general. I did amazing on Mr. B’s other assignments, but maybe his standards were too high for these reports. Maybe I was just an average writer who earned the 38/50. Maybe he interpreted the rubric way differently than I did. Even though I never found out what I missed in those numerous book reports, I continued to do them, continued to receive a 38/50, and finished out the year with this last one. It turned out many people just brushed off the book reports, which was probably due to Mr. B’s grading. It turned out that only about five people turned them in that month. That Monday was still a dreaded one, though, as the room was dead and there was nothing to enjoy. I expected another 38/50 and was down about it. “Robert,” he called. Mr. B’s rhythmic footsteps matched the energy of my heartbeat as he neared me in order to hand me my printed rubric. As the time slowed, I wiped the sweat from my forehead. My body boiled, as a flash of heat came across me. I received the rubric faced down, which was suspect of something less than the usual C. When I finally turned my rubric over, things did change that Monday. Mr. B’s blank stare turned into a grin, the once gloomy skies were filled with sunshine, and to my surprise, I received a 50/50 on my rubric with the comment, “Perseverance prevails!” After seeing this, I was relieved and could not keep myself from grinning along with him.

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Maxine Elliott My List My fish: My uncle: My tadpole: My great aunt: My hamster: My grandpa: My great grandma: My great grandpa: My high-school friend: My middle-school friend:

unknown old age unknown shingles starved dementia/Alzheimer’s cancer broken heart suicide murder

A record of death experienced in my 21 years. A somber list that will continuously grow until it’s my turn to be placed on the list.

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Shayna Griffith Barb’s Bed and Breakfast Someone must have seen her last night, because the police were at her door. “Can I help you, officer?” She said, willing herself to use her sweetest Grandma voice. A voice that says, come inside, I have cookies. It wouldn’t be hard to keep up this facade--her gray hair and wrinkles spoke volumes for her, and bright blue eyes that contrasted her pale skin just enough to be unsettling. She smiled at him and fought back a shiver as the freezing December breeze swept into her cabin. The police officer, who looked far too young to be any kind of officer, Barbara thought, had told her that an investigation was taking place in town, and that they would be searching the property next to her home. He asked her if she had seen anything suspicious in the area. Swallowing hard and focusing on her own body language, Barbara said, “Have I seen anything suspicious?” She scoffed as the words came out of her mouth. “I don’t see much of anything around here these days.” Barbara wasn’t lying about that. Northwater was a very small village, in which she lived far from any of the residents. She made her monthly trek into town to the local grocery store where she would see some people she thought she recognized, but she could not be sure. Barbara spent most of her time trying not to be recognized, anyway. The policeman stood still for a moment, eyeing her intensely. Barbara tried to read his expression, but she couldn't make out anything as she was trying to shield her eyes from the snow that was now blowing into her cabin. “Do you know if anyone lives there, ma’am?” He said, pointing halfway across the property to a bigger cabin than the one she occupied. “Oh, no one lives there. That’s my BnB. I rent it out to travelers occasionally. Mostly couples, people looking for an overnight stay on their way into the city.” “When’s the last time you rented it out?” The officer asked, and Barbara felt her body contract. She knew she hadn’t said anything incriminating, or anything that would leave the officer to believe she wasn’t being truthful, but being berated with questions was enough to make anyone wary of what they said. She paused for a second before answering. “Not for a few months.” In the silence that followed, Barbara felt her heart rate quicken, and her palms begin to perspire despite the freezing temperatures. She thought she saw the officer glance past her into her cabin, but she could have imagined it. The officer sighed. “Well, if you see anything suspicious or unordinary in the next few days, please call us.” 25


“You betcha.” Barbara smiled at him, showing off her dentures. As she shut the wooden door, she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Quickly, she shut off all the lights and peered out of the window through the blinds, trying to conceal herself from the police. She watched as the officer she had just spoken to trudged back to his group, his boots leaving footprints in the blanket of snow. Barbara sighed in relief when the officer led his team away from her property. She felt her heart rate quicken, her shaky hand resting on the frigid steel of the doorknob. She replayed the conversation in her mind, wondering if she had said anything wrong. Maybe she looked at him the wrong way. She didn’t think she did, she was pretty good at lying, but still, she was worried. What if he was trained to read body language? They teach officers that these days, she saw it on Dateline. What if he saw something in the cabin? What if he could tell she was being dishonest? What if they issue a search warrant for her cabin? Her last thought frightened her so much, she felt her breath catch in her throat. She had her story set straight, she always did, but she had to be sure. Getting up from her crouched position under the window, she went down to the cellar where her guests would be waiting. As she walked down the stairs, she wondered if they had figured it out yet: her plan. Probably not, she thinks, they never figure it out. As Barbara reached the final step, she gripped the handle to the cellar door. Reading the sign scribbled in her own, old-lady handwriting, she giggled to herself. Barb’s Bed and Breakfast, it read. “Hello again.” She said to her guests as she stepped inside. “You two are a lucky bunch. I don’t normally do this this early, but recent events have caused a change in plans.” Barbara chuckled. She watched as her guests, a married couple in their midthirties, stared back at her, terrified. When she was done with her work, she meticulously washed the gasoline off her hands and the ash from under her fingernails. The police would never know what happened, she assured herself. Of course, there were no official records of any Bed and Breakfast in Northwater. Barbara wasn’t naive enough to do that. And even if they did get a search warrant, what would they find? A little old lady living all alone, with only herself to keep company. A few Golden Girls DVDs, sure, but definitely not the bodies of two missing people. How could an elderly woman do something like that anyway? As she sat down at her kitchen table with a glass of pinot grigio after the day’s events, she felt a sense of pride. Not necessarily in her actions, but in how she knew she was smart enough to get away with it. She regretted doubting herself even for a second. Let them search, she thought.

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Mary Kate Hynek Apple Pie When I was six, I watched Solomon, my stepbrother, pound a butterfly into a pulp with his meaty fist. The unsuspecting insect was perched on a vine climbing up the front-porch railing, its wings folding in and out like the covers of a book. I pointed, told him to “look at the pretty bug,” and he smashed it, laughing as he wiped its guts on my white shirt and pushed me off the step. I cried. I pressed my face into mom’s apron and replayed the murder in my head a thousand times, leaving her skirt looking as if it had just come out of the wash. She took my soft cheeks in her warm hands and let my tears slide over her thumbs. “People destroy what they don’t understand,” she said, then warned me: “Don’t let anybody destroy you.” I hated when mom left for the morning market. Once, on one of those nervous days, my stepbrother took a rolling pin and pressed a ladybug into the kitchen counter, leaving me with nobody to cry to. On days where mom was gone, I liked to hide in the closet. But my stepfather was in there, hanging up his oily apron. He caught me. My stepfather’s hands were not warm— they stung like wasps, again and again and again until I couldn’t feel it anymore. “Tears are for the weak,” he said, then warned me: “Don’t let anybody see you cry.” When I was ten, my lips forgot how to stretch toward the sun. Mom made apple pie on the weekends— a tradition rooted in childhood. I loved eating fistfuls of apple pie filling, smudging my grinning face with golden ooze until my brimming stomach swelled like a balloon. Each week, mom had to adjust the straps of my suspenders to keep up with my appetite. But, as I grew older, the suspenders shrank with my frail frame. A fresh-baked pie always remained untouched on the windowsill, waiting for me to take a bite. By the time I was twelve, I had forgotten the taste of my favorite food. I don’t remember the exact moment I stopped feeling. My rainbow of emotions blurred into gray. I felt safe with a face made of stone. If I felt nothing, I could get through anything. Nothing could hurt me if I couldn’t feel grief. It wouldn’t hurt to let go if I held onto thin air. Pain lingered, though— a sensation accompanied by rage, disgust, and desperation. I couldn’t feel emotions that filled my body with pleasant warmth— only the festering ones that left me stinking like rot. The only time my body wasn’t screaming

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was in the stage between wake and sleep. A timeless, formless, blissful void. Then, and when I was with mom. When I was sixteen, I watched as death took my mom by the wrist and yanked her away. I remembered Solomon smashing a butterfly when I was a kid. The way I felt when something so beautiful, so innocent, was destroyed for naught. Trying not to feel was like swallowing my own vomit. Bitter going down. Bitter coming out anyway. I curled up on the murky bed of a frozen lake where nothing could touch me. The sun’s golden fingers couldn’t pry through the thick sheets of ice no matter how hard they tried. I was completely detached from the surface. So detached, that I could annihilate clusters of butterflies and walk away with slivers of their fragile wings on my hands. And I did. ***

Now, I’m sitting in a rocking chair with my crying baby. His tiny feet kick against my arm as he lets out screams and squirms against my empty chest. A human in his most vulnerable stage, I think, when the horrors of the world haven’t yet touched his heart. I wonder if he is crying because he misses his mom, who’s in the kitchen with her apron covered in plush flour and sticky honey. The warm aroma of apple pie wafts into the room. And maybe my son doesn’t miss his mom, I realize, because he snuggles his face into the midnight threads of my shirt and coos. For a moment, I feel like I should be crying. But now, when I want to feel a tightening lump in my throat and a sting behind my eyes, I feel nothing. I warn my son: “Don’t let anybody destroy you.” And then I correct myself, and I promise him: “I won’t let anyone destroy you.” My girlfriend offers me a slice of apple pie, and I refuse because it is too heavy right now. But I make a promise to her, too, that one day I will be able to finish a whole piece. Not to choke it down, but to enjoy it.

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Mary Mathieu It Is Good

It is through the silence I recognize the good. I see it in the trees, Within the singing birds, Who sing a hymn that reassures my purpose. I see it in the animals, Who sing off hope, off innocence, off freedom. I see it on a leaf, The dew that resides while the angels rejoice in tears. And finally, I see it in the creatures who walk on all fours, then on twos, then on threes. Oh, what a beautiful sight to behold. One that is so wholesome, so pure, so marvelous. It is I who sees the goodness of creation.

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Mary Mathieu Surrounded By Dark

The darkness surrounds me on this Hallows Eve. The secret within comes to be. I am a monster in disguise And I rise amid all the lies. Along with the others on this day, I no longer decay, But instead plan to stay. I am part of the curse I planned. It is one that will plague the land, The land that will no longer stand. It is now a world that is completely dark. One where the monsters lark. We must hark, Hark to that dreadful sound that is all around. We become drowned, Drowned in the dominant darkness.

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Hayden Minor The Winter’s Chill The wind leaves me pale and frigid Oh, how I long for bones not chilled They tell me of many months to come of this seemingly unnatural winter I wonder, What has suffering, such as this, fulfilled? My hands have become ugly and vile I have lips so dry, they bleed when I smile Oh, how I long for summer flowers not killed

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Hayden Minor Venus Dusk is not the end, but rather, rebirth The moon and her children resting above my earth Millions so incredible, infinite! Each frivolous in her presence, for she is beauty and all desires encompassed within it In a sky littered with stars, she is my Venus The star that never twinkles, holding my heart forever in bars

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Hayden Minor Eyes I see eyes of fiery infatuation; eyes captured by an impeccable beauty, a sensual new figure I see eyes ever so selfless, giving everything for a world slowly coming out of grasp I see eyes of painful longing, who had come to know a beautiful new world, only to watch it crumble, until those same eyes were all that was left within a void of an aching, isolated existence

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Dee Olabi Fair is Never Fair Francine’s eyes blinked before fully opening, clenched fists relaxing. Her nose burned of redolent salt filled air. A wave of nausea followed as she watched the blur of colors form the sky, sea, and sand around her. In a state of simultaneous confusion and awe, Francine stood, bare toes wiggling in the warm, flour-like sand. A black t-shirt stuck to her skin, inviting the sun’s heat. Francine recalled distinct memories of how grimy sand used to feel against her skin; ever since she was a baby, her mom would always say, Francine loathed sand. She wondered where she was, or how she’d gotten there. Francine’s last memory consisted of a knock upon thick wood, the kind that made her jump. Then, there was nothing, and somehow, there was here. A quote from her favorite author came to mind. “And of that second kingdom will I sing Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself, And to ascend to heaven become worthy.” Placing one foot shakily in front of the other, curiosity led each step. Oddly, there was no breeze, though Francine was completely encircled by ocean. That body of water seemed to melt into the horizon, the sun’s rays pouring light onto the beach. Beside the small rumbles of thunder, the weather warranted no cause for a storm, but still, dark clouds refused to hide, periodically illuminating as if lightning hid inside. Francine let her eyes wander, her feet doing the same. She played around with theories, wondering if this island hers alone for eternity. After walking for what felt like days, the sun did not retreat. There was no way to tell time. Exhaling the exhaustion swelling her brain, Francine stared back at her footprints. Why didn’t her body ache from the walking? Her brows raised as her eyes did, discovering the outline of an object a few hundred feet away. Picking up her pace, she stopped before a wooden bench. Had that bench been waiting for her? Cautiously, Francine sat, expecting something to happen. Instead, the aged chestnut bench creaked sadly. Was this meant to be Hell? From her research, it couldn’t be. If she remembered correctly, the path to paradise began in Hell. But that thought was more frustrating than anything else. 34


Francine had realistically relinquished all control some time ago, no knowledge or theory could be proved until life as she knew it ceased. Francine reluctantly waited, counting every second. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand… Julie Provis had thought a lot about her daughter, Francine, and frequently, she’d been plagued by the thought of her only daughter’s death. This was not peculiar for Francine’s mother to ponder, as the concept had gradually become a reality. With every overdose of Benzodiazepines, every cut that required stitches, or every call Julie would get from her daughter’s roommate, death seemed to have it out for her. Julie muttered God’s name in vain, which was something she rarely dared to do. But of everyone, God would have to understand that her own child was gone, and nothing could be done. Of course, He’d empathize. Right? A numbing silence filled Julie while the coroner’s lips moved. The same fog covered Julie’s eyes when Francine’s name was spoken. As the coroner draped a blanket over Francine’s pale, lifeless face, a piece of her mother was buried too. Julie watched the next seven days unfold in a blur of tears, only one thing remaining clear- a question. A plea. A curious desire, unshakeable in every way. Something that could keep the cool earth beneath her feet from collapsing. Was Francine at peace? Did she find rest? The women in her bible study assured Julie that her daughter was with God. In the place upstairs; within the so-called pearly gates. She was told Francine’s fight was over. The mother remembered Francine asking whether or not suicide could be forgiven. Shouldn’t someone filled with so much pain be absolved? Now, the same question held as much desperate significance for Mrs. Provis. But, instead of reaching out to a priest, pastor or theologist, Julie called Evelyn Walden, Francine’s roommate. She was a family friend whose mother shared the same Bible study as Julie. Mrs. Provis knew she’d likely here the exact words everyone had recited with differing tones. Evelyn had to be different, though… As a missionary and a clinical psychologist, she’d surely have a better, more educated guess. Julie politely requested they talk in person. Upon ending the call, Francine’s mother began to crumble, the words that left her lips— the ones she still felt stinging her throat—were becoming normal. Dead daughter: A daughter who chose to be dead. With a mess for a brain, she imagined all the ways her conversation with Evelyn could go. Could Evelyn Warden be cruelly honest enough to speak her biggest fear? Peach tranquility was Francine’s favorite tea; it filled the mug that warmed her mother’s fingers. On the coffee table, Julie noticed Francine’s marked up copy of “The Divine Comedy.” A book Francine’s stepfather never liked, leading to unending quarrels 35


between the two regarding “Satan’s grip” on Francine. Now Mrs. Provis had reason to think of it literally. “Julie, are you alright?” How could anyone ask that question? Julie had no response. It must have been several minutes of silence after they’d sat down in Francine’s old living room. Embarrassed, yet firmly, she asked, “where do you think she’s been sent? My sweet Francie? I need your honest opinion, you’ve studied psychology and theology, you must have a theory.” Evelyn thoughtfully nodded, and she looked at Julie plainly. The words that left her mouth were the only ones to put Julie at ease. Once Francine had entered a state of existential delirium on the bench, she reopened her eyes, escaping the consumption of anxiety. She was met with puzzlement. There Francine stood, no longer on the barren island but on scalding black soil. The blackened ground extended for miles. Crumbling rocks replaced the sound of thunder from the Island. The same confusion and awe took over. Again, she walked, her feet boiling with every step. Stifling her screams, she groaned through the pain. Francine collapsed to the ground, the palms of her hands and knees blistering. A replica of her shiny boxcutter blade blinded the girl. Reaching for the blade, she suddenly noticed thousands of them on the ground, in every direction, rows of the same blade stretched on. Francine didn’t waste a second as she grabbed the blade with haste, slicing her arm with all the strength that remained. “I don’t know.” Was all Evelyn said. Julie adopted the answer as the only one. Her fears about the afterlife soon perished when she thought of C.S. Lewis, an author she and Francine both adored. “Hell is a state of mind - ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind - is, in the end, Hell.” And so, a strict routine began with Francine’s new home. This pattern consisted of the nineteen-year-old slitting her wrists, waking up somewhere new, anticipating something good only to find herself in Hell. She held the knowledge of her whereabouts for less than a minute because as soon as her heart sank, the beginning became the end, and the end, the beginning. Her pattern rebooted, and so it kept going. Again, and again, she’d find that beach and sit, and it always sounded like a hard knock on wood when she got an hour or so in.

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Francine knew Hell for a few seconds before taking a blade to her wrists again and again, only to reappear with no memory that this was indeed the home she’d committed herself to. Nineteen years was Francine’s lifetime, which ended one morning, when she didn’t have a reason to get out of bed. So, Francine raised a steady hand, pushing into the bottom drawer of her nightstand and shook the silver blade from the pages of the last leather journal she would ever write in. Without any doubts, she held it against her left arm. Francine’s last earthly sensation was the abundance of warm liquid. But more than anything else, she longed to write about it.

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Christopher Parra The Man in the Dark At the time, I was young; I did not know what it all meant, and it still haunts me till this day, but nevertheless, try my best to forget what happened on that night but I don’t think I ever will. My name is Tom Jensen, my parents use to call me Tommy, and this happened 20 years ago. I was maybe about six-years-old, and I was going to bed. It was like any other night, but I guess the moon was actually full during that time, so evil likes it that way. I was in my room, it was about 9:00 o’clock at night since it was Sunday, and I had to go to school the next day which I was not happy about. As I laid in bed, the room was quiet, it seemed that everything was without sound, and I stared out my window and looked up at the moon. It was beautiful – the moon had that fantastic bright color and shined upon my room. I could almost see everything without my nightlight on in my room. Except for that one corner of the room, the one that always hides behind the window. I never liked that corner; it seems like there was always someone there. And that always gave me a chill down my spine. I could remember I felt cold, unnaturally cold for some reason. I was under my covers, so I thought I would be warm enough. But it got strange, I could see my breath as I exhaled, like the room was not at a high temperature, that was below 40 degrees. Then, the room smelled really bad; at the time, I did not know what kind of smell that was until I got older. It was later that I found out that it was the smell of sulfur. It reeked the whole room, I wanted to get out of the room, but I know that my parents would just yell at me to go back to bed. So, I ended up just plugging my nose with my covers. It was cold and it smelled extremely bad. I did not know what it meant at all, I was confused, and I was scared. I wanted to leave, but I did not want to get in trouble. I was afraid more of my parents than what was happening to me in the room. But I clearly misjudged the situation at that point of my life. Out of nowhere, I see red eyes coming from the corner of the room – the dark corner that I hate so much and now I was extremely scared of. I hid under my covers and tried to make a sound. Because at that time, I thought if I pretended, I was not there, then maybe they would think I was not really there at all. But I was wrong. I was under the covers, and I heard a deep-demonic voice from the corner of the room say, “Tommy…” I was scared stiff; I did not know what to do or say; how did he know my nickname? Only my mom and dad called me that. I pretended to be asleep, maybe the monster would go away. But it did not, instead it kept calling out to me. “Tommy… I know you are under the blanket. Come out, I will not hurt you. I just want to 38


talk to you,” The monster said with a dark tone. I was not able to speak, I was too scared, but the monster said, “If you don’t come out, I will eat your parents….” He giggled as he said that. That is when I pulled my head out of the covers and said, “No!” The man emerged from the darkness of the corner into the moonlight; he was palelooking, his body was slim, he wore a dark suit, and his hair was long and black. He looked like any ordinary person. He did not look like a monster; nor did his voice matched with his appearance. But they say looks can be deceiving. The man put his finger on his lips, as if to tell me to be quiet. I whispered, “Why are you here and how do you know my nickname?” The man grinned and said, “Because I’ve been watching you for some time now and I come to the conclusion that I want you.” I asked, “For what?” The man made a demonic juggle, and I could see his white-sharp teeth as he tried to hide them, while he was laughing. I was scared, I did not want to know why he was there anymore. I just wanted him to leave. “I will leave only if you let me… eat you. If you do let me eat you, I promise I will not harm your parents or your older sister.” He said this with great certainty. I was frozen solid, not because of the cold temperature, but because of this man’s whole aura he had. At first, I did not realize it. But I think that he was the Devil. I said, “You’re the Devil, aren’t you?” He looked at me with such fascination and said, “Wow… I see you are a bright young boy. Oh, you would be wonderfully delicious once I eat you.” I went underneath the covers again, just wishing this nightmare would end. But it kept on going. Why? Why won’t he leave? I started crying. I did not know what else to do. “Stop crying! Or else I will eat your family!” He said with aggression. The man out of these covers was the Devil and I did not know what to do to get out of this nightmare, it seemed like one, but it was all real. I heard footsteps coming closer to the bed, and I felt his menacing aura above me. I could see the shadow of his figure out of the covers, and I can tell that it seemed that his body was changing, it was not the same form he had before. Then, it got quiet… the man that was in the room stopped whatever he was doing… Out of nowhere, the covers came off of me and I had what looked like a horrible, grotesque monster standing in my room. The man did not have an ordinary figure anymore. He had a face of a shark, his hands looked like long talons and his feet were that of hooves. He charged towards me with his mouth wide-open. I screamed as loud as I could and ran out of the room, dodging death from the Devil. I ran in my parents’ room as I screamed, waking them up, thankfully. They jumped out of bed and asked me what was wrong. I told them, but they did not believe me; my sister did not believe me either once I seen her coming into the room. They thought it was probably a bad dream and told me to go to bed, but I did not want to sleep in my room, alone. So, they let me stay in their room. My sister told me I was being a baby, when I told her that it is true. She left with disbelief. After she left, I went into bed with my mom and dad. It was a lot warmer in there, than my bedroom and I dozed off to sleep. But I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out of the window 39


at the side of the bed and I saw him… He was standing there looking at me, licking his lips and put his hand on the window. Just staring at me. I screamed… Now, many years have passed, and no one ever believed me. “Look Tom, I don’t think the Devil ever came to you. I think you had a very bad episode that’s probably why you’re here in the psychiatric ward, you been here for many years, Tom, ever since your parents and your sister with missing that long ago.” My Doctor said, but I told him, “That’s what you think, but there is evil out there and I see every night before I go to bed, and I’ve been seeing it for 20 years now. You do not believe me now, but someday you will. Eventually, everyone will. I know he’s out there, doing horrible things to people and one day he will be making others do his work for him; my family was killed by the Devil, he ate them that’s why they are missing and someday I will go missing, too.”

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Rodolfo Perez Cokehead

What a bleak life this is! Trapped in such a dark place I’m forced to call home. Sure, I’m free to think, But I’m never free to speak. At least I’m never alone. You want the truth? The world outside these walls cannot live without lust. You couldn’t live without wanting us! Wait. Like the voice of an angel, we hear him! He whispers our names and I wait. What freedom lies beyond this dark cave! I shall be released from this prison. Out of the darkness, Into epiphany! I wait, But nothing comes. He chose Coke.

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Jack Shields Memorial Day Parking at Starved Rock is full, and people are now told to use the designated overflow parking area—a grass lot that is destined to flood at the first sign of rain. The park is home to some of the best waterfalls and mini canyons in the state of Illinois. Tourists love coming here year-round in hopes of seeing running waterfalls in the spring and summer months, the changing of leaves during fall, and frozen waterfalls in the winter. But issues tend to occur every year. There seems to always be at least one death during the summer months, and Memorial Day is usually that unlucky day. There are designated hiking trails for park visitors, and these trails include danger signs for hikers that want to try to go off path like they’re Bear Grylls. These signs usually say, “Stay on marked trails, Poison Oak and Ivy” or “No climbing. Sandstone and Limestone unstable.” But those signs to your average dumbass aren’t a heed of warning. Instead, they are a chance for someone to say “Bet” and accept the challenge of climbing the wall of a canyon. And what happens? My dad will receive a phone call from the on-duty deputy coroner. The Vermillion River has been overtaken by eccentric city people looking for something stupid to do in my rural community that we call the Valley. The river is running harder this spring from all of the rainfall we had over the previous couple of weeks, causing the rapids of this whitewater river to run noticeably faster than usual and violently thrash against the jagged rocks. Locals know that at this time of year, certain sections of the river are best left alone until the water level goes back down to around three feet. Yet, those eccentric city people that I mentioned earlier never seem to really get the message from Mother Nature. Leave the river the fuck alone—unless you want a life or death situation—then, by all means, I encourage those adventure seeking moronic amateurs who are feeling stupid enough to go try and raft or kayak the rapids throughout the river to give it a go. And what happens? My dad will once again receive a phone call from the on-duty deputy coroner. It was four something in the afternoon and I had just lit the charcoal grill at my parents’ house. We never do anything crazy on Memorial Day, but grilling is the custom among most Americans, so we follow suit—because who doesn’t like to cookout? But cooking out changed to getting a quick burger from The Rootbeer Stand when my dad received a call from the deputy coroner. Some guy from out of state was hiking the trails 42


at Starved Rock. And like everyone else, he found himself in one of the canyons enjoying the hard-flowing waterfall. The difference between this guy and everyone else there? He was one of those morons who decided to ignore all danger signs and try to climb all the way up the canyon wall (it didn’t help that the autopsy report showed that there was heroin in his system at the time of his death). Apparently, this guy had done a pretty good job climbing about three quarters of the way up…until he didn’t. As expected, he found himself clinging to a piece of limestone that just didn’t want to hold anymore. So, once again as expected, he fell, headfirst. How far you might be wondering? About seventy feet. But he died of a heart attack before his head ever hit the ground. All of these details are what the police, deputy coroner, and then the medical examiner told me and my dad when we arrived at the scene. Luckily when we got to the scene, the body was already double bagged in hopes of stopping any possible fluid leakage. After we got the body loaded up into the van, this call was normal. It was a typical drive to the Will County Morgue and our conversation was the same as it would be during any other call. We listened to the Cubs postgame show and talked about the next game on their schedule. It really was just another death call. Around nine-thirty at night my dad received another phone call. It was his friend, Rick, who is on a neighboring town’s fire department. He said for us to be ready to receive a phone call regarding river rescue. There was a report of some people from Chicago rafting the river during the afternoon. The raft made it to the boat launch, but the five people on it did not at first. Four of them were seen on foot walking the fourwheeler trails towards the launch. The fifth person, a boyfriend to one of the survivors, had been swept away by the rapids and potentially drowned due to the undertow caused by the old inactive dam at the cement plant. Sure enough, dad got the phone call from the deputy coroner. Two calls in one day that involved major accidents due to tourists not taking the danger signs seriously. Once again, my dad and I went to the crime scene. his time the body was not bagged when we got there. But it was dark, so there wasn’t much for me to see other than the chunk of meat that needed to be put into the body bag. The only visible sign of injury was a laceration on the side of the man’s head. Nothing out of the norm considering there are jagged rocks everywhere in that river. The hardest part about this particular call was getting the body back to the van. It was impossible to bring the cot down to the scene and then back up. It took five guys to haul the body (which was in the bag) up the riverbank. Once we got up there, we were back onto a dirt road, and it was possible to put the body bag onto the cot. We loaded up the van and headed back out to Joliet, where the same medical examiner was waiting for us. This car ride was quieter. Not because of what we just saw, but because we were tired. Is this emotionally draining? Yes. But are we also used to seeing this stuff on a regular basis? Also, yes. I won’t go as far to say that I hate Memorial Day. But I’m used to seeing a lot of stupid things happen, which is why it’s a day that I don’t go crazy. Not with the cookouts, neighborhood parties, nothing. It’s a day to stay home, grill 43


out, watch a ballgame, and wait for my dad to receive the annual phone call from the deputy coroner.

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Contributors’ Bios Sara Cahill is a senior English major with a concentration in Literature Studies and a minor in writing. Throughout her college career, she’s dabbled in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and recently, sci-fi writing. While at the University of St. Francis, she has been a part of the student led newsletter, The Encounter, a contributor and designer of St. Francis’s first eco-poetry digital collection, Bernie’s Paw Prints, and a founding editor of Archway Review. Her featured piece, “The Beginning of Second Grade,” was presented at the 2021 St. Francis Writer’s Conference where it won Best Creative Presentation. Linli Chen is an English major senior in University of st. Francis. She is from China, and she's been studying in the US for two years. She loves writing fictions and poems. For her, literature is another place for soul resting. Kathryn Drey is a Junior English Secondary Education major with a Writing minor. She has contributed past works of literature in the 2020 and 2021 Writer's Conference. Ms. Drey finds joy writing, reading, and volunteering in her community such as the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Joliet, IL in her free time. Robert Elkins is a senior Secondary English Education major at the University of St. Francis. When he isn’t reading and writing, Robert enjoys graphic designing, taking walks, and watching an assortment of videos on YouTube. He has been based in Joliet, IL for about ten years, and plans to teach at one of the local high schools in the area after graduation. Shayna Griffith is a junior at the University of St. Francis, majoring in Communication and Media Arts with a minor in writing. Shayna has experience editing and managing The Encounter, USF’s student-run magazine. She has the most experience writing nonfiction hard and soft local news for the Joliet, Illinois area. She aspires to achieve a career in investigative journalism. Mary Kate Hynek is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in writing. When they aren’t busy with school or soccer, Mary Kate loves writing “weird fiction” and spending time with their chickens. In the future, Mary Kate plans to publish a collaborative graphic novel that is currently in the works.

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Mary Mathieu is a college junior studying English and Theology at the University of St. Francis. Writing is her voice and it is with her voice she aspires to make a difference, especially in the lives of those impacted by mental illness. Her only hope is to make a difference in the world one word at a time. Hayden Minor is a 20 year old student, artist from the Joliet area. By exploring several mediums such as photography, painting, and writing, he hopes to put diverse themes into simpler, understandable presentations. According to Minor, art is in its greatest form when it can be enjoyed by anyone. Abie “Dee” Olabi is a junior majoring in English with her concentration in writing. At this time, she is working on a memoir titled, Raw. With a minor in psychology, Dee intends to pursue her doctoral degree in psychology. She is the president and founder of the university’s art club, “the Desc[ART]es Club,” and holds passion for various mediums of art in addition to psychology. Rodolfo Perez is a USF graduate who takes the frustration and fear of daily life, and attaches words to them. He doesn’t know whether that makes him a poet or a pessimist. Jack Shields graduated from the University of St. Francis in 2016 and is currently an MFA Student at Reinhardt University.

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