Owl Scratch Volume Two
KSC Writing Portfolio Journal Fall 2017
The Struggle for Harmony - Chelsea Birchmore
Blue Bronco - Lucas Thors
86 Boston Ave - Meaghan Piascik
What If - Tori Weinstock
The Stories of Her Skin - Courtney Janvrin
Animal Shelters: Places of Work, Not Play - Adam Filkins
The World of Abstracts - Rory Carbone
Achluophobia: Fear of Darkness - Tori Goggin
The Prince of Wolves - Joey Lendaro
Dear Santa - Patrick Ewing (Taillon)
The Final Act - Sam Whitaker
A Day at Sea - Nicholas Chasse
Snow White and the Cellar Door - Tori Goggin
Grammatical Rhyme - Lucas Thors
The Event : 1957, 2014 - Adam Filkins
A Collection of Micropoetry - Courtney Janvrin
Five Fears - Rory Carbone
Hemodynamics - Meaghan Piascik
Semblance - Patrick Ewing (Taillon)
The House That Is Home - Courtney Janvrin
The Set - Joey Lendaro
The Houses I Lived In - Sam Whitaker
A Twist of Fate - Tori Weinstock
Caught in a Storm - Chelsea Birchmore
Dhaval the Tiger â€“ A Folktale
INTRODUCTION “Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” -Henry David Thoreau As students, our minds are irons sitting on a hot bed of coals. The books we read, the classes we take, the varying interests that we have— these are the bellows that inflame our minds. We are constantly reading poems, fiction, and other literary texts to inspire and shape us both as readers and writers. We share our ideas with friends and peers, our teachers giving us the advice and tools to reach our full potential. Each poem that we write or essay that we laboriously put together is an opportunity – to work on our potential and to get a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses as writers. Thoreau insists that we should make haste and write while the ideas are flowing and use the iron while it is red-hot: a good piece of advice, we think, to young, aspiring writers, as all contributors to this journal are. We as students have all made strong connections with our writing. Through our experiences, our passions, and our creativity, we are able to fill our writing with the things that make us who we are. No two writers are the same; where one may have a strong affinity for the fantastic, another may find his or her strength in poetry. As we read the works of our many peers, we gain inspiration from the ideas that are being circulated in our writing community - our Writing Portfolio class. So of this variety of form, theme and style are reflected in this Volume of Owl Scratch. We realize we are still student writers; we know that the road to becoming a truly great writer is a long and arduous one. However, we are confident in our persistence and in our love for artistic expression. No one
simply picks up a pen and known exactly what it is they are trying to convey; these poems are reflective of our attempt to fulfill our need for creative expression. They may not be fully polished pieces yet, but they are testimonies to our dedication to our craft. The good writer gives and the good writer takes. We want our poems, prose, and nonfiction to be read and harvested by those who will truly appreciate its value. We give our writing to those who are willing to participate in it. Our influences are wide-ranging: we take from our peers, we take from the authors we admire and from TV, movies, video games â€“ ultimately to clarify and support our own insight. It is through our own writing that we aim to keep the coals burning for the next generation of students. With this, welcome to Owl Scratch â€“ the class journal of the KSC Writing Portfolio class of Fall 2017.
Nicholas Chasse and Lucas Thors
The Struggle for Harmony Chelsea Birchmore I rise from my seat as I turn the wheels of my car off the smooth pavement and onto a dirt road. As the sun melts further into the horizon, I roll down my window, letting the golden rays warm my cheeks until I disappear behind a lush curtain of trees. Behind the curtain, a chorus of crickets sing, only quieting when the soft crackle of rocks beneath my tires comes closer. After passing a pond with no sign of life, the road narrows, and I begin climbing up a steep incline. Winding up the hill in a zigzag formation, I am traveling deep within a tunnel of green. Tree branches stretch and Photo credit: Chelsea Birchmore shake hands above my head. Streams flow past me on either side, abandoned beer cans embedded in the soft mud. Moving up the hill with ease, I stop for a moment to let a family of turkeys cross the road. Their heads bob back and forth as they climb up an embankment, and make their way into sea of ferns, shaded beneath a canopy of tall maples. I start driving again, moving up the final stretch of road thatâ€™s bordered by sap lines and rock walls, and then I see it in the distance: a log house, nestled in the woods of Vermont. I grew up on Wildlife Road -- a sanctuary -- where the closest sign of commercial life is twenty minutes away. Throughout my childhood you could expect to find me with dirt between my toes, burdock on my clothes,
and flowers in my hair; I wouldn't have had it any other way. But often, I find myself wondering: who would I be if I had been brought up anywhere else? How would I have turned out if my childhood memories were composed of concrete and suburbia? If I wasn’t immersed in nature my whole adolescence, would I be as in love with it as I am today? The term biophilia, coined by E.O Wilson, explains that humans have an inherent need to connect to the natural world, and the forms of life that live within it. In my case, I can say that the people in my life all prove biophilia to be true. But, what about the people who deny the existence of climate change and reject the need to protect and conserve ecosystems around the world? Do these people have a happy place where the sun hits their face just right? Do they have a childhood memory of hiking with the biggest smile planted across their face? Do they remember a time when they were just as in touch with nature as E.O. Wilson claimed all humans to be? I’m sure they do, so, how can they be so close-minded when it comes to the conservation of our planet? Even if these people did not grow up in the woods like I did, shouldn't they still have an unbreakable bond to the natural world? If we agree with Wilson’s assertion of biophilia, then it seems unlikely that any human could be indifferent to the destruction of nature and all it has to offer. Yet there are powerful people in this world who openly say climate change is nothing more than a myth, and pollution does not, in fact, have a negative effect on our environment at all. Something has shifted within society. People seem to care less and less about the effect we are having on the world and more about material things that satisfy them in the moment. Take, for example, plastic bags. They are convenient in the short term, but in the long run, plastic isn’t biodegradable and it is made up of nothing more than nasty chemicals which take a toll on wildlife and their habitats. Humans are meant to live as a part of nature, but now, our society is trying to live apart from it, which is having a severe effect on ecosystems and wildlife. Over the years, the world has tried to combat the many issues threatening the wellbeing of the natural world, but now that the U.S. has a new President who openly denies climate change and has withdrawn from the Paris Climate accord, it is time that people realize that we, the human race, are killing what we were meant to live in harmony with. In elementary school, we would go for a lot of hikes around the Upper Valley, and I remember one particular teacher who used to say to us, “Experience nature, don’t let nature experience you”. This has stuck with me ever since I first heard it, and to this day, I think it is one of the most useful pieces of advice I have ever received. I won’t be the first person to say it, 7
but humans are one of the most destructive forces on the planet when it comes to our relationship toward the environment and the lifeforms that live within it. We are like toddlers who don’t know our own strength as we simply end up destroying things without the outward intention to even do so, and unfortunately it seems that we are only becoming more comfortable with this blatant truth. Wildlife Road is not even safe from the destruction. When my parents bought the land our house now rests on, they had to clear cut trees and disrupt natural beauty in order to live among it. To a certain extent I think this is acceptable because if we never made a spot for ourselves in the natural world, it would eat us alive, but on the other hand, the very essence of the human existence unfortunately seems to cause an interruption to the innate order in which the wild is meant to function, no matter how much compassion we may feel toward it. What I am brought to believe then is that humans destroy nature simply because it serves their own selfish interests; another example of this is litter. On my road, and on basically any road I have ever traveled on, there is trash. Aluminum cans, cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and broken glass clutter nature for no good reason other than because someone was too lazy to throw their trash away in the proper place. This is the kind of thing that biophilia doesn’t explain. If the relationship between humans and nature is so innate, why is it that we seem to only be able to exist in opposition? People’s connection to nature is powerful, but I can’t help but also think about how we unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally, harm it. On one hand, humans have a strong desire to experience and exist within nature, but on the other, we abuse and take advantage of all that the natural world gives to us. More often than not, we exist in both of these opposing realms at the same time: it’s a vicious cycle. People try to fight and raise awareness around this huge problem, but at the end of the day, they drive a car, they use plastic, and they eat red meat. This hypocrisy is in our blood, and until this lifestyle of dependence is changed, the world will continue to be exploited until it's too late. So what do you think? Can humans and Mother Earth truly live in harmony together, or is it inevitable that we exist at odds with one another until the end of time?
Blue Bronco Lucas Thors Down old Oyster Pond Road where the bayliner waits we drive Blue Bronco past Athearns Farm and past the broken fence off graded trail and onto mushy marsh our tires spinning in green, mossy mud we arrive at The Breach where sand and shells meet rippling shallows we roll our tread in the water like Blue is dipping her toes in to test then we hop out try it for ourselves Just right.
86 Boston Ave Meaghan Piascik
Photo Credit: Google Maps
You pull into the old worn out driveway just like you did a hundred times before. The comforting image in front of you is unchanged. The only blemish in your eyes is the subtle foreclosure sign stabbed into the lawn by the mailbox. The pavement is stained and cracked from years of Jeeps and vans pulling in beside each other. You notice the garage door; light blue with random disc shaped holes from your brother’s stray slap shots. It still smells just like you remember. Warm cut grass mixed with the cool summer breeze wafting off the pool that’s peaking out from the back yard. You walk through the garden bushes that line the brick walkway up to the three concrete steps to the front porch just to the left of the garage. You remember to lift your foot a little bit higher to clear the first step; two more and you’re home. To the left is the weird cast iron pig bell that your mom thought was “So me” at the Christmas Tree Shop. It’s faded now and the bell has lost its string to weather and wear. You pull open the screen door and let it rest on the back of your shoulders while you mess with your keys. The front door is dry and the once rich wood is now bleached a shade of blonde only Paris Hilton could pull off. The lock clicks with the turn of the key and you’re in.
The familiar squeak of the door swinging open flashes scenes from years ago. Your dad coming home from work, mom coming in with the groceries, or grandparents just checking in. The tiles under your feet are still cracked from that time you jumped from five stairs up and landed on your heels. You look to the left. The old blue rug spilled from the walls, lapped up against the brick fireplace, and settled at the edge of the hardwood. While walking across the rug you feel rifts left behind from the couch and table, and juice stains are plentiful—all remains of four childhoods now moved on. You look up at the stairs and notice the one dowel that isn’t like the rest in a game of “spot of the difference” before you take the first step of fourteen to the top. Out of all the doors at the top, yours stands out. All the way to the left it is closed. It’s covered in your paintings in an effort to hide the abuse it took from three siblings. The bottom two panels didn’t survive that abuse. You reach for the tarnished brass doorknob and twist. The door opens into a perfectly square room. The two windows to the right are adorned with sheer white curtains, filtering in the soft light and creating ribbons on the paint splattered rug. The wall to the left is painted as a chalkboard and is covered in your favorite quotes, pictures, and symbols. All carefully traced by you on those nights when that was all you had. The wall across from the door is badly painted a bright shade of pink with some of the previous yellow showing up in many spots. Scattered across the wall is hundreds of tiny tack holes that used to hold up pictures that reminded you of the way things were. Following that towards the windows, you see a wall that is painted a soft yellow. “It’s soothing” your mom told you that day. To the left of the windows is a large painting of Hello Kitty that your best friend Shannon insisted on spend three hours tracing. Along the frame of the window, you see all of the mindless doodles you drew while watching the snow fall onto the covered pool every winter. You continue along the window sill, admiring all of the carved in hearts, random lines, and dates scribbles in a timeline down the length. You are now facing the closet along the final wall. The door is narrow but it opens into a place you used to call home. That cozy nest created of old hoodies and ripped blankets cuddled you in nights when the noise of the world became too much. You shut the closet door and continue back towards the rest of the house. You stand at the top of the stairs and look over the space that hosted Christmas’s, countless sleepovers, tantrums, fights, birthdays, first steps, and last breaths. You bound down the stairs, avoiding all of the spots that creak. You grab the knob to the front door and pull. A rush of warm air hits 11
your face as you look at the familiar scene. The screen door clicks shut just after you step out. You take the path across the porch and down the steps towards the car for the last time.
What If Tori Weinstock
The Stories of Her Skin Courtney Janvrin Dressed in pink from head to toe, my Grandmotherâ€™s face is a canvas of her past. The stories of her life are painted in her skin. The marks life has made on her are sketched into every wrinkle, every expression, every glance.
Laugh lines surround her eyes, from the years she spent joking with her sister. Wrinkles sweep her arms, from the three children she rocked to sleep every night. Creases cover her hands, from the hours she dedicated to sewing mittens for all of her grandchildren. Crinkles furrow her brow, from the hurt the death of her husband brought. Blue veins spread across her feet, from the distance she spent walking her children to and from school.
Dressed in a pink blouse, with a pink scarf, and pink rouge to match. Pink makes her feminine. Pink makes her secure. Pink makes her strong. In the past she had used pink to cover the wrinkles of time; but she now lets them show, proud of the story that they continue to tell.
Animal Shelters: Places of Work, Not Play. Adam Filkins When I was a kid, I believed that the best job in the world would be to work in an animal shelter. I imagined it was just sitting around and getting to be with animals all day. This was reinforced when I volunteered in high school at my local animal shelter, which they told me to just walk the dogs and pet the cats. I would come to the shelter weekly, and each time it would be the same thing—walking a dog or playing with the cats (at the time I was oddly terrified of cats, so I tried to avoid them more , and with my intensely short attention span, I quickly grew tired of it and stopped going. It became ingrained in my mind that all people did when they worked at animal shelters was what I did during my short work there.; however, I found after beginning my volunteer process at the Monadnock Humane Society that this was not true. When I had volunteered at my local shelter, I walked in, wrote my name down, and began working with the animals right away. I pulled into the shelter’s driveway and realized how vastly different it was from the shelter I had worked in at home. The shelter back home was a small, white building tucked away by the sewage plant in my town, while this shelter was isolated by trees. And just going up to it when you arrive, you can see the front offices of the Monadnock Humane Society are the same size as the animal shelter in my hometown. When I entered the Monadnock Humane Society for the first time, I was given the email address for the head of volunteer workers so I could find out when the next volunteer orientation would be. “Orientation?” I asked. She nodded, and explained that there are various days that the shelter hosts orientations. I explained that I would be unable to attend those dates because my schedule was so tightly packed, but also because they were so far out that with the given time constraints, special accommodations had to be made for my onboarding process. She said that she understood, and we then scheduled a time for me to come in the next week to do the official onboarding. A week had passed with no response from the head of volunteer workers, and so I decided it was time to find out what I could do for them, and there were a few people there who appeared to be ready to adopt a pet; however, I didn’t pay as much attention to them as I should have for the sake of this assignment.. I approached the woman at the front desk and asked her if Kerri, the volunteer coordinator, was available. Kerri had just
recently gone on her lunch break, but I was assured she would be back soon if I wanted to wait for her. I gladly said I would , because that just meant I got to play with the cats. I wandered the weird apartment-like cages that lined the walls, and stuck my finger into a few cages that had cats rubbing against the bars. I stopped at Chesterâ€™s cage and petted him until Kerri walked up to me, and then we went into the offices to do the onboarding. Thankfully I was able to expedite that process slightly and schedule a private orientation because of my project, otherwise this would have been perhaps the most boring experience of my life. These orientations are set to happen every few weeks or so (depends on the amount of applicants), but the bottom line is that these orientations also were very informative and dry meetings. She and I skipped a lot of the bullet points because she already knew a lot of these points were common sense to me. I think perhaps the most interesting part about the whole event was simply that in her packet she mentioned how way back when humane societies had first started out, they were not designed the same way they are now. In the late 1800s, before the government created womenâ€™s shelters and shelters for abused children, the Monadnock Humane Society was created as temporary shelter for women, children, dogs, cats, and even abused horses. In my head I imagined walking down the section of the building where the dog kennels were and just seeing women and children huddled in them. We had continued through the packet until we reached the final page, which had a map of the building as follows:
Alright, well then it’s time for you to see the rest of the facility!” Kerri told me, and she clapped her hands as she stood up from the chair. On the map on the previous page, we then followed the path, starting from the room with the dot labeled “started here” and continued through. At one point, the tile floors changed from mainly white tiles that you see in most public buildings with interspersed colored tiles to a solely a beige color that reminded me more of the tile you would find on an old bathroom wall. “You can tell what part of the building you’re in based on the tiles. If you see this tile, you’re in the staff only part.” Kerri had said to me, gesturing to the bathroom-wall floor. I laughed a little, and we had continued through until we finished the walk-through, and eventually we finished the orientation. A week after my orientation I finally could get to the Humane Society to do actual work. I was ready to spend some time with the cats and do everything that I had imagined would be the life of a worker at a humane society. I entered and immediately went to the volunteer desk and signed
my name down, grabbed my nicely printed nametag, and went to the circulation desk. Behind the desk are two rooms, and in between those rooms is a wall with filing cabinets from door to door, and white boards mapping out where certain animals (I never actually checked to see which animals they were) were placed. I loved to see the circulation desk most when I visited this place before entering a because it was where everyone ended up. If you wanted to adopt a pet, you were there. If you were bringing a pet in, you were there. If you wanted just help working through an issue you’re having with your animal, you were there. Now that I was ready for volunteering, I was there. I walked up and stood and smiled to the first staff member I found. “I’m volunteering, and I need a job!” I said excitedly, secretly anticipating to spend all my time just working directly with the cats. “Alright! What’re you trained in?” she replied, and I hesitated. I hadn’t been trained in anything beyond the orientation. “Nothing.” “Oh, okay… Well then let’s see what you can do.” she said as we went into the backroom. We went down the long hallway that led to the backroom, and when we turned the corner we found the laundry piled high and the dishes overflowing in the sinks. The woman looked at me sympathetically as if she knew I had been hoping to work with animals, and I begrudgingly started folding an endless pile of blankets and towels while also attempting to find a place in the limited space there was for the laundry to be stored. Eventually I was cramming blankets into crevices and cracks in the shelving just trying to get them put away. I spent an hour and a half doing this. Incidentally, I had been doing my own laundry since 10am the day that I started working there, and so by the time I had gotten an even remotely visible dent in the laundry, I decided I was done. Meanwhile, I soon learned that during that hour and a half of doing laundry two puppy beagles and a mother cat and her new-born litter had all made their way into the humane society, all while I had been doing the laundry. Learning this news only helped to solidify my decision to stop doing the laundry. “I need to do research and just take a few minutes watching the people coming into the humane society, if that’s OK?” I said to rather than asked the woman at the circulation desk. I walked around the rooms in which the cats were kept, and then just stood in the lobby for about five minutes until I got bored watching the groups of college students walking around simply to pet the cats. Eventually, I asked if there was anything left for me to do. 17
“Well, since you don’t have any safe-handling training there isn’t much you can do right now.” The girl explained as she filed what I could only assume was an adoption paper into one of the many filing cabinets behind the desk. She turned to the other staff member (distinguished mostly by the maroon shirts with “staff” written across the back) and asked if there was anything else she thought they could find for me to do. “You can just socialize the cats. There are a few cats that really could use it.” In my head, I thought ‘finally, I can play with the cats’. I excitedly prepared myself mentally for the cats to be running up to me and just rubbing against me, because that’s what my cat did, so all other cats will do that, right? “These cats are the ‘spirit cats’ as we call them. They are the really skittish cats that would never actually enjoy the company of people. We’re working on getting them accustomed to people, but they’re usually pretty afraid.” The woman walked me over to the room that these four cats were kept in. When looking quickly, you could only see three—two black and white cats, and one giant gray cat. After some thorough investigation, I noticed that hidden in a leopard-print blanket (one that I probably folded a little less than a week ago) was an orange-tabby kitten. I was handed a fish-rod style cat toy and some catnip, and went into the room and sat down with the cats. Not soon after I sat down did a group of college freshmen open the door. They got down on the floor and one girl skootched herself closer to the cats. The little tabby cat scurried away, jumping up the shelving meant to be a jungle-gym for the cats, and hid in a crumpling cat tunnel. The girl looked annoyed, and went to pet the other cats in the room, which I could easily see were trying to avoid her just as much as the other cat, but didn’t want to move at all. She pouted and whined about the cats. “They don’t like people. The cats in this room never have and probably never will.” I explained to the girl, a little annoyed that she didn’t read the bright orange sign that was very obviously hung on the door to the room. I was also excited to be explaining some things to them that I deemed as “staff-knowledge”, and so I very much reveled in explaining to the group that these cats probably came from houses in which they just lived and were on their own, or came in as strays. I sprinkled some catnip on the toy attached to the end of the fishing-rod toy, and tried enticing them all into playing. None wanted to bite. It took another week to get my “feline safe handling” training. What that ended up being was just a glorified sit-down and explain how to use cleaning products, and how to properly hold a cat (which by the way is holding it with a hand under its chest and cradling it similarly to a football). 18
There was a much more in-depth process of cleaning on the “disinfection days”, which she explained were Mondays and Tuesdays, as those were the days that the shelter was closed. My training was taking place on a Tuesday, so it made sense that I was learning the most about the disinfection days. After we finished talking about the responsibilities of the training, Kerri asked me to take Mittens to the visiting room so I could comb her out. She had a skin condition which caused her to have a lot of dandruff, and she was also blind (and something else I noted was she didn’t know how to clean herself after using the bathroom; that probably comes with the blindness). After that day, I didn’t have the time to return as frequently. I did not understand what it would take to work in an animal shelter, and I believed I would be just simply spending time with cats again. For the second time, I had gone to an animal shelter imagining that it would have a similar feel—it would be sitting and working directly with the cats and just playing with them. After taking part in this project, I found that I still had the same biased outlook about what being a part of a humane societ would entail. It took me two weeks to just be able to officially work with the cats, and until then I was doing all the other work that I didn’t even think about being involved in order to make a Humane Society function. In retrospect, I should have understood that the bowls and sheets had to be cleaned, but I just never invisioned the people doing the cleaning. Working in an Animal Shelter is more than just playing with the animals, and it took me two tries at two different shelters to realize that to be true.
The World of Abstracts Rory Carbone
Painting Credit: Robert S. Neuman
Robert was out for his normal morning run along the beach when he decided to change up his route. Today felt like the day to go down to the water and continue his run on the sand. He turned to face the beach ready to cross the street. The beach was relatively empty, so it was the perfect morning to be running along the water. He took one step off the curb and suddenly felt weightless. Looking down, he saw that he was a few feet off the ground, but the ground was coming back at him fast. He landed hard and everything went black. When he came to he was back on the same curb he stepped off , except everything looked different. It was as if he was living in a world of abstracts. The road was a mashup of hard angles and different shapes in
every color of the rainbow. The people he had just seen on the beach were now just circles; each one the color of whatever clothes they had been wearing when he had seen them just a few minutes before. Looking down at his body, he was still a normal human being, not a circle in sight. What would happen if one of these people saw him? What surprised him most was the sky; it was unlike anything he had seen before. There were the normal colors of the sunrise – oranges and reds and pinks and yellows, except each was a very defined line instead of a smooth transition between hues. There was a contrail from a jet going across the sky, but it was yellow and red and orange and green. The sun was in its own defined box in the corner of the sky, and looked like a miniature rainbow of oranges and yellows. Robert was awestruck. How did he get transported to this world of abstracts? He really had no answer for himself, he just kept thinking about that weightless feeling. Deciding to ignore that nagging sensation that something was wrong, he decided he had to take a closer look at the beach. He took one step off the curb and again felt that same weightless feeling as before. This time however, he knew what was coming, so he just closed his eyes and waited for the landing. “Mr. Neuman? I’m Dr. Dorian. You’ve been in a coma. You were hit by a car.” “Give me some colored pencils, or paint, or anything NOW,” he begged, “I need to remember this.”
Achluophobia – Fear of Darkness Tori Goggin Have you ever had a name for fear of the dark? So empty and cold you can’t make a mark Because there are no walls here to write your name on No one here loves you, they wish you were gone. Monsters don’t crawl in closets and eat you alive, Humans on Earth are the true monsters that thrive. Their words and their voices will drive you insane To the point where you want to demolish your brain. With no fangs they devour you, crushing your bones, If you lived a glass life they’d pummel you with stones. They only want you when they need you, for convenience’s sake With your hearts both on the table, yours they’d easily stake. For nothing brings man more life than his joy, Even if it’s someone else they must destroy. Monsters will ensnare you, peel you to the core While humans will promise until you are no more. People are the monsters, monsters are the women and men. If I had a choice I’d choose fear over them. I’d make friends with the monsters, take their eyes for all they see, I’d rather their horrors than let human words scare me.
The Prince of Wolves Joey Lendaro He eyed the meal before him with an air of malevolent discontent, and then smashed it off the table with a backhand sweep. She had carried his plate over to the table from the fire, placing it carefully in front of him, and waited. It was a simple meal, roasted fish from the mornings catch, coupled with a pile of beans. His displeasure had escalated to rage in a moment’s time. Getting to his feet, he grabbed his wife by the arm and shook her viciously. “Feed this to the dogs, and then cook me a real supper!” he shouted. He shook her a few times to emphasize his point, then shoved her back away from him. She fell onto a barrel in the corner of the small kitchen, catching herself at the last moment, and tried to stand up straight. She said nothing for a moment, then tried to reason with him. “All we have is what you caught today, the last of the hens and pigs were slaughtered last week,” she said softly, keeping her eyes firmly on the floor. She didn’t have to add that it had been a hard year with the ongoing wars; he should know as well as she. Without replying, he stepped over to her, and smashed his closed fist into the side of her head, knocking her to the floor. Black dots flashed in her eyes as she struggled to maintain consciousness. She lay on her stomach now, and blood was already trickling from a cut on her forehead. She cried out once in pain and shock, then quieted. He will only hit me again if I cry too loudly, she thought, as she struggled to her feet once more. She half-raised her hands defensively, and still did not look at him. “I’ll go over to Madam Olivia’s to trade a few fish for a cut of meat,” she said, her voice low and emotionless. She held her breath as she waited, bracing herself for any reaction to this idea. He grunted in assent and seated himself at the table once again, and fell to whittling a small piece of wood with his knife. Sensing she was dismissed, she slowly circled past him, never turning her back until she slipped out the doorway into the night air. Once free of the stifling heat of the cramped kitchen, she walked slowly over to the running water of the nearby river. Kneeling in the pebbled bank, she washed her hands and face in the cold water. It stung the small cut on her forehead; she did not mind, and she noted with small satisfaction that the bleeding was already slowed to a dribble. Only then did
the tears begin to fall, and it was like a spring storm, a rush of anger and sadness and bitterness at her own plight, all three battering at her relentlessly as she could only endure them. She thrust her palms into her eyes, as if she could stave off the feelings and the tears with force, but soon let go, and allowed them to run their course. Eventually she quieted, the storm passing to give way to exhaustion. She stayed on her knees for a few moments longer, letting the saltwater drops roll from her face. Gathering her shift with both hands, she raised herself from the shore, and turned back towards the house, back towards her duties. Six fish hung from a line by the back door, the remainder of the days catch. She scrutinized the line, and selected the three largest and cleanest of the bunch, pulling them carefully off the hooks. Madam Olivia’s was only a short distance away, and within a few minutes she was standing at the old woman’s door. She hesitated for only a moment, then knocked briskly. “Madam Olivia, it’s me, Anabelle.” She heard the creak of a chair, and shuffling steps inside. In a few moments, the door opened inwards to admit her, and she stepped quickly inside the woman’s house. “What can I do for you, young miss?” Madam Olivia croaked, reaching out to put a hand on Anabelle’s arm. Anabelle flinched away reflexively, but quickly remembered where she was and apologized. She recounted her wish to trade a few fish for a cut of something more suitable for her husband. The widow accepted her apology easily, and proceeded to examine Annabelle with more scrutiny than before. “You look quite pale, and I see a spot of blood above your eye. Even my ancient eyes can see that much.” Anabelle said nothing at this, only holding the woman’s gaze with a closed expression. The old woman sighed, and wrung her palms together. “That bastard will only do worse to you, if you let him.” Again, no response from Anabelle, only a slight pinch of the cheeks as she held back a frown. “You can escape him, if you have the courage,” the old woman whispered. At that, Anabelle started, and looked eager to hear more. “How can I escape him? Where would I go?” she whispered back, afraid of the words, as if they could betray her to her husband. They floated between the two women, sitting on the heavy air. Madam Olivia studied her face, unclasped her hands, and told her of the rumors she had heard in the market. “There is a man roaming the depths of the woods outside of town. He is rumored to be searching for a wife to take as his queen, to rule over some land far from here.” She coughed roughly into her hand, and then continued. “Why he would be searching in the woods, no one can be sure, 24
but perhaps he would take you with him when he returned to his realm. It would mean never returning to your home as you know it, but it would be for the better.” Anabelle’s eyes shone; even a fleeting chance for escape gave her strength. “Where should I start looking for this man?” she asked quickly, anxious to be on her way. She placed the fish she had brought over on the table, now fully committed to the conversation at hand. “No one could say for certain,” the old woman responded, “but he is supposedly found by those who need him most.” With that said, she fell silent, and waited for the young wife to process what she had just heard, and consider the implications. The silence clung to the pair of them. She did not have to wait long. Instead of answering with words, Anabelle stepped forward and hugged the old woman close to her. She looks frail, but she has a hidden strength, Anabelle thought as she held the small hunched figure in arms. Both women held the embrace for almost a minute, then released one another slowly, almost reluctantly. Anabelle felt her separation once more, but was much less afraid of what was ahead. “I will pray for you," Madam Olivia promised, as she opened her front door for Anabelle. Still speechless, Anabelle nodded her thanks, and strode out through the door. Outside once more, Anabelle began walking towards the tree line on the edge of the village. The shadows were long, but the sun was still bright in the western section of the sky. Reaching the shade of the first large tree, on the edge of her known world, she stopped, turning to look back once more at the old woman who had given her hope. Madam Olivia stood in the doorway still, and raised one hand in farewell at her turning. Anabelle returned the gesture, feeling a brief warmth of the sun on her fingertips as she did, then lowered her arm back down to her side. She faced the forest, and walked on. Once inside the grasp of the gnarled branches, the sunlight was muted, an odd mix between light and dark. The trees watched as she passed beneath their arms, silent wooden sentinels over the floor of the forest. Soon the village was out of sight behind her, lost to the distance; she had no concept of time or distance, only movement. One foot was placed in front of the other, not rushed but with clear purpose. Anabelle felt no exhaustion from her journey, and no fear as the sun fully faded away below the highest reaches of the trees towering around her. Even as the sun passed the sky over to the moon, she strode silently forward. Midnight came and went. Hours of the night passed without recognition, and still she walked on.
All at once, when a flicker of doubt finally crept into her mind, she spied a glimmer of light in the distance. A campfire, she realized, and began to run towards the speck of flickering light in the distance. Soon she came upon a rise in the ground, and the moment she crested it, the mouth of a cave opened before her. A short distance inside the cave, she spied a large fire blazing merrily, eating away at the stack of timbers in its center. At its fringe sat a lone figure, completely still with his eyes closed, as the shadows danced in various angles across his face. She stepped cautiously into the cave, shielding her eyes from the light as they adjusted to the brightness within the cave. It took her eyes a moment to adjust; the bright cavern was a harsh shock compared to the gentle full moon. She examined the man before her with care, hoping with all her heart that he was the one she was searching for. He was simply dressed, in a leather shirt and breeches, with no shoes on his feet or anywhere around him. Stranger still, he had no other supplies or clothes with him. Even in such simple garments, in such a wild place, he still managed to look regal as he sat before her. There was no question in her mind, he was the man she had been searching for. As if finally sensing her presence, he opened his eyes. They were intelligent eyes, she noted, and the color of gold in the sunlight, bright and untarnished. He beckoned a hand at her, a welcoming gesture, and she took a seat across the fire from him. “Who are you?” Anabelle asked, a mix of wonder and apprehension coloring her voice. “And what are you doing in this cave?” He laughed, and the sound of it made Anabelle shudder, not entirely out of displeasure or discomfort. Smiling at her questions, he showed his perfect white teeth, and rose to his feet. “Adolph of the Wood, at your service,” he announced, bowing gracefully at the waist. “As for my purpose in this forest, I travel where I please, wherever I feel like roaming. I just happen to be quite restless, and travel eases that worry.” He sat back down after this introduction, and eyed Anabelle with amusement. “What is a young lady like yourself doing this far into the forest, to ask a better question? And now that you know my name, I would ask of yours, to level the field.” She did not smile at this, only held her hands together in her lap. Her eyes met his, and she realized he would only be sated by the truth. “My name is Anabelle.” Slowly, as if the next few words were painful to utter, she said, “I’m trying to escape a terrible beast.” He smiled wider at this, and his teeth grew, though it was more likely a trick of the light. “I think I may understand what you mean,” he said, his 26
eyes flicking upwards to the cut on her forehead, and the swollen skin around it, then back to hers. “Are you willing to leave your old life behind to escape this beast? Think wisely before you speak.” He leaned closer to her over the fire, and waited for her response. The words came at once, just as much from her heart as from her mouth. “I will do anything to escape him,” she cried, ready to accept whatever price he would ask from her. Even a servant to a prince would be more desirable than my current life, she thought, and he seems like he is better mannered at least. Again, that hair-raising laughter echoed from the man’s mouth, the flash of the teeth in the firelight. “Were you not afraid to walk the woods at night to get here? Who knows what roams these forests, they are of the oldest kind and not always friendly to trespassers,” he said lightly, leaning back from the fire to rest against a stone behind him. “I did not see a reason to be afraid of the woods, or the dark when it came,” she replied, now staring at the mesmerizing fire, holding her hands out to warm them. For a long while, he studied her across the dancing flames, and neither of them spoke. It was a comfortable silence, despite the pair being almost complete strangers. Finally, Adolph spoke up once more. “You can leave this life, and never be forced to return, but only if you face him one last time,” he told her, his voice low and full of longing. “Once you do this, you can travel by my side as my wife, but also my companion. If you so desire it, it will be yours,” he finished. Anabelle rose from her spot by the fire, and directed her gaze to his. “I would be overjoyed to do what you ask, but only if you give me your word that you will treat me with dignity and respect as your wife. It seems from your manner that you would, but I would have it nonetheless.” “I give you my word as a prince, a ruler of this wilderness, that I will treat you with dignity and respect, to honor your needs and desires, and to do all in my power to ensure your happiness,” Adolph said gravely. At these words, Anabelle moved to his side by the fire, and sat down once more. She reached a hand out and touched the side of his face, and was surprised by his warmth. He smiled at her, and raised his own hand to clasp hers. At this gesture, four of the boulders in the room began to move. Anabelle started, more surprised than frightened, and saw for the first time that there were four wolves in the cave with them. They had been lying in the shadows a bit further from the fire, unmoving for the duration of the conversation. Now they moved closer to the flames, in smooth unhurried motion, grey and black coats shining in the light. She removed her hand 27
from his, and held out a palm to the closest of the wolves, which was now near enough for her to see the gold in its perceptive eyes. The wolf sniffed curiously at her palm, made a snuffling sound, then licked it playfully, obviously accepting her presence in the cave. The rest of the wolves grinned at this, showing their sharpened white canines. She was one of them. Adolph beckoned to the four wolves, and they moved to circle the pair of humans by the fire, and lay down once more. “You must sleep now, because you have to travel back for the last time in the morning,” he said, as he leaned back against the soft coat of the wolf behind him. “I cannot go with you, this part you must do on your own.” Anabelle nodded slightly, she understood what he meant. She lay backwards onto the floor of the cave, and pressed her cheek into the softness of the wolf behind her. Together, ringed by wolves, they slept until dawn.
As the morning sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, the husband woke to the sound of the door opening slowly, an ominous creak followed shortly by a soft thump as it was closed. He kicked off the blanket covering his legs, and put his feet onto the floor, rising and walking to the door. His wife was standing there, dressed as she had been the day before, but with legs covered in dirt and small scratches. She was paler than usual, but standing straighter than he had ever remembered, and staring him straight in the face. Her impudence struck a spark to his rage. “Where did
you run off to last night, you worthless strumpet? I went to bed without supper because you decided to run off. You’ll pay dearly for that mistake,” he threatened as he reached out a hand to grab her arm, already trembling with anger that he intended to release in violence. She sidestepped his grasp, quick as a shadow, and did not reply. He cursed at her under his breath, and turned to face her, anger rising to his face, coloring his cheeks and eyes crimson. Her eyes bored holes into his head, and he realized with the beginning root of fear that her eyes were now not their usual pale blue, but a glinting gold. They watched his face, warily but unafraid, seeing every little movement he made. The root of fear began to take hold, growing in his stomach and working its way slowly up into his throat. “Get into the kitchen and make me breakfast, and quick,” he said, trying to remain calm, but the order felt as weak, paltry in face of her confidence. A flare of anger surfaced, overriding his fear for a short second, and he stepped forward to slap her, to take back the control that he had momentarily lost. As his hand swept in an arc towards her face, her own shot up in a blur and intercepted his wrist, halting the blow. Her strength was immense, and even as he tried to pull his arm free he found he was unable to break her grasp. Her face was close to his, and the eyes of gold reflected his own fearful face. He struggled to break free, shaking his arm, but her grip was like iron. “I am leaving you, dear husband, and leaving you with your life,” she whispered tonelessly. “Do not try to follow or find me, because it will mean your doom.” She pushed his arm down by his side, gently but firmly, and released her grip on his wrist. Turning away from him, she stepped towards the door. She placed her hand on the latch and pulled it free, tugging the door open for the last time. He was stunned, but only for a moment; the rage rose in him again, the black rage that had cursed her for so long. He balled his hand into a fist, and swung it towards Anabelle one last time. She turned and ducked under his fist, dropping down onto all fours, and his momentum carried him down onto the floor, face first. He cursed again, and rolled over onto his back. When he turned over, Anabelle leaped forward onto his chest, forcing him flat on the floor. She leaned down, snarling into his terrified face, and her teeth grew longer as the center of her face stretched forward into a snout, her smile now a feral snarl. Thick gray hair sprouted all over her body, her ears shifted to the top of her skull and grew to sharp triangles, and her fingers closed together to form large paws.
He opened his mouth to scream, but she snapped her jaws forward, and ripped his throat out, spraying crimson in an arc across the room. All he could manage was a few feeble gasps as his life blood emptied from his body, and then he lay still. Anabelle shook the blood from her snout, and raising her nose to the ceiling, howled long and loud with triumph. She sniffed once at the corpse in front of her, satisfied with her work, and loped gracefully through the door, never looking back at the carnage she left behind her. Once outside, she was a shadow that shifted silently and effectively across the yard, graceful, the epitome of a predator. Waiting at the edge of the forest was a massive black wolf, with familiar and intelligent golden eyes. She trotted over to his side, and together they departed the small village for the last time.
Dear Santa Patrick Ewing Dear Santa, I’m not even sure you exist, but if you do then the following is my list of demands: I require two bikes, in case one sucks. A pool full of vanilla pudding, if it’s tapioca I send it back. A new sister as I’ve grown weary of this one. A dolphin friend to swim in pudding with me, but not a dumb dolphin, one of the cool ones with sunglasses and a nicotine dependency. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Kid, I get it. Sisters are a drag. And what, you think I only have one reindeer? Make it four bikes. Also, do you want money? Kids don’t ask for money nearly enough, and I have A LOT of money just lying around this place. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Dear Santa, Yes. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Dear Kid, What up blood? So I totally wanna make all that shit happen for you, because, like, I think it’d be really good for you an shit. BUT, I’m getting some word from the company chair-elves that I need proof you’ve been good an shit. So take your time, think about it and get back to me. P.S. I’ll probably send you all that stuff anyway. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Santa, No worries, I get it. I only placed two snakes in my sister’s bed this year, an unfortunate, but none the less, massive step down from prior years. In terms of charity, I only stole the minimum amount of lunch money that was necessary every day. Also, I brought happiness to my parents’ lives by sabotaging their marriage, and now I can do whatever I want and so I do because I want to. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Dear Kid, Fuck, you’re cool. You had me with the whole sister thing – why’s she such a bitch like that though? But anyway, word is bond, got your list past the chair-elves, should be a solid Christmas. Stay you. P.S. Have you ever seen The Wire?
The Final Act Sam Whitaker I couldn’t believe my eyes. I rubbed them vigorously, trying to rid them of the fatigue clouding my vision. It proved ineffective, however, as before me, the impossible image remained. Looming up, out of the sands was a genuine circus tent. The kind that housed dancing elephants, daring acrobats, and of course, clowns. The large, dome-like structure was painted the stereotypical red and white. After hours of being stranded in the desert, this was the first sign of habitation I’d seen. Before me, the entrance flapped in the wind, and beyond that I could hear music and cheering. Despite the sheer insanity of the tent being here, I was in dire need of water and perhaps some food. I would give up my soul for a splash of water, at the least. It had been an arduous journey, my body battered and bruised from the crash landing. I decided to approach the entrance. If it was a mirage, then nothing gained and nothing lost I reasoned. If somehow it was real, then they must have some spare food and water to share. The entrance was unguarded, so I didn’t bother to signal that I was entering. If the people within were in a performance, they probably wouldn’t hear me at all. However just, as I was about to push through the flap, a corpulent, red-faced man emerged excitedly. He was a stunning sight, round as a ball, with the bright red coat of a ringleader stretched around his girth. Atop his head was a top hat with a large, scarlet feather tucked into the hat band. His legs, in black pants, were nearly bursting at the seams, but miraculously held. I stopped short of the tent flap, and merely gaped at the man. “Well how d’you do?!” The man cried out exuberantly. I was frazzled, unable to form a word. “Son, your jaw is fit to fall off if you don’t close it, or start talkin’!” “My apologies, sir. I’m just… lost,” I managed to muster up for him. “Lost? No sir, that cannot be so. I’m fairly certain most souls end up here quite on purpose. My, look at my manners. Come on in, have some refreshment and enjoy the show! Free of charge!” He grinned as he pulled back the entrance flap. My legs started before my mind caught up with my body. I was walking in and under the flap. My eyes took moments to adjust to the lighting within. It was rather dim, with only a few lanterns lit to illuminate the interior. Immediately before me was the ring, where an act was currently taking place. The
ringleader herded me towards the ring, despite my misgivings. As we emerged from among the seating, I looked about to see the faces of a soldout crowd. The entirety of the stands was filled, even the ground before them just outside the ring was host to some viewers. I blanched, I was never one for a crowd, and after having been stranded, this was beyond surreal. I turned to the ringleader. “Sir, I really cannot be out here. I just would like some water and I will be off!” I pleaded. I made to back up, but his hand clasped my wrist rooting me in place. “Goodness me, I don’t think that will do. I’ve got a drink right up here for you, don’t fret. Besides, the audience will just think you’re part of the show!” The ringleader explained. My great thirst winning out, I followed him reluctantly. We came to the very center of the ring, joining a whiteface clown standing by ladder. The clown started to do a little jig around the ringleader and me. I was growing more uncomfortable by the moment, and was about to walk away when the clown did a handstand. I was perturbed as the clown started climbing the ladder like this. It was near the top of his ascent that I noticed a large bucket at the top. The ringleader made a show of whipping the clown (with a crop summoned from who knows where). He even turned to me and whipped my ass, causing my body to involuntarily move towards the ladder. The clown whipped it’s dangling leg, since it was still handstanding on the ladder, and yanked the bucket. It flew straight up, and then overturned, splashing its contents down upon me, before crashing over my head. I was momentarily blinded, and nervously yanked the bucket off. I was stunned, but anxious, and it seeped down my spine like the water spilled down my back.. This was a trick, and I was not happy to be a part of it. What was more disturbing, was the marked lack of a response from the audience. If they had thought this was a joke, then they must be laughing or applauding. I looked out, and the sight nearly made me sick. The crowd was gone, or rather, the crowd was there, just… dead. Instead of a rapt crowd ready for a good show, there was now a macabre gathering of rotting corpses and skeletons. I turned in terror towards the ringleader, and was greeted by his exuberant smile. “Welcome to the last act of the night!” He bellowed, and with the word night, his skin began to melt right off his body. Blood flowed forth from his exposed viscera, but that too fell away. Wet slaps of unprotected muscle and sinew falling to the ground threw steaming blood onto my face and chest. His bones and exposed organs stepped forward out of the hideous mess, only to catch flame. The creature incinerating before my eyes, only to 34
give way for a shadowed form. The bones and organs, now ash, scattered as the lithe, sanguine-skinned form of a being so foul and desolate stepped forward. Hooves ground into the floor, trails of smoke billowing from each step. Wings unfurled before relaxing to fall behind the monster. Finally, I willed myself to gaze upon the visage of Hell itself. The Devil stood before me, his eyes burning pits of flame, his mouth twisted into a cruel grin. Crowning his mighty and fell head, were two, jet black horns, curling and spiraling up to a foot over the top of his skull. “I lied, you know.” The creature stated, matter-of-factly. I stared into it’s infernal eyes, a lingering question on my face. “About it being free of charge.” “Wh-what do you want with me?!” I choked. “It’s really too easy. The Prince of Lies and all, I should be ashamed it was so simple. But it’s not everyday someone as damned as you comes crashing into a desert, desperate for help,” the Beast explained. “I-I- I can’t be damned… What have I done?” I pleaded for an answer. “Mortal, I am not the chronicler of your sins. I merely mete out the punishment, and take what is mine. Besides, you offered it up willingly. Whatever failings in life you have made are irrelevant. Your soul is mine, fair is fair!” he cackled. From behind me, the clown from before giggled as well. As I turned to take him in, I noticed that his clown costume had become more than that. It was in fact his flesh. Leathery white skin, patterned like a clown, was what stood before me. Most horrifying was his face: it was cut open, the makeup replaced entirely by exposed patches of flesh, still bleeding as if the wounds were recently inflicted. I turned to run, but the clown grabbed me, his grip stronger than any man I had ever grappled with before. The creature dragged me back to the center of the ring, where there was a large red circle to indicate the absolute center of the tent. He bent me down right at the edge of it, and the fallen angel walked to the other side. He gestured with his clawed hands, wings unfurling, and the red circle sank into the floor of the ring. In moments, it was no longer a floor at all, but rather, a pit leading to Hell. I could feel heat pulsing from out of the void below me, and I began to weep in fear. “Ahahaha, the tears of the innocent. How they sustain me so!” The Beast approached, deftly catching a tear on his talon and licking it off with his forked tongue. “Delicious, but not quite as much as your screams will be.” The clown, still clutching me tightly, felt me buck and try to push. It was useless, the demon had far more strength than I -- a mortal -- could hope for. He shoved me forward tumbling head over heels into the fiery 35
abyss below. I blacked out, whether out of panic or due to the dark machinations of Hell, I could not tell. I awoke some time later to find myself on the floor of the ring. I could feel solid ground, and hear the cheering voices of the crowd. I must have imagined it all, I thought as I stood up. Only, I noticed that my hands were painted an awful pale white color, and my clothes had been replaced by a frilly one-piece outfit of a clown. I turned to find a full-sized mirror and saw my face was done up in the whiteface clown makeup. I screamed, but no sound escaped my throat. The clowns never spoke! I ran to the edge of the ring and found an exit, but as I came to the exit flap, I came to a skidding halt. Beyond the entrance I could only see nothing. There was just a void, completely lightless. There was no ground, no stars, no sky. I turned back to the center of the ring, and there stood the ringleader alone. “I suggest you perform, clown. You’ll not like the alternative. And don’t worry about the audience. They may be here for a different reason than you are, but they’ll be an attentive audience whether they like it or not.” The Devil said. I turned to look at the crowd. They were “alive” once more. Only, they were propped in agonizing positions. Their eyes peeled off, and heads affixed by stocks or chains, a differing torture for each particular individual. Some of them screeched and moaned, but most just had the most exquisite expressions of terror and horror upon their faces. They would scream louder and hyperventilate when I approached, as if I was somehow responsible for their fate. It seemed that my damnation was performing in the Hell of these other cursed souls, for an eternity and more.
A Day at Sea Nicholas Chasse
Snow White and the Cellar Door Tori Goggin A young girl was wandering through the trees, captivated by all the beauty around her. Birds cawed and the stream raced around her. She flitted through the greenery with her chin up, the sun caressing her cheeks and her long raven colored hair flowing down her back. Robins soared around her head, caught up in her enchanting glow as she sang them her sweet melody. Like buds on a tree, she blossomed, unable to hold back her giddy laughter as she twirled with the butterflies kissing her lashes. It wasn’t until the sun started to set that the girl opened her eyes and truly saw the forest for what it was. The glowing sun’s rays had faded, replaced with watchful eyes from places she couldn’t see deep within the trees. She continued to wander, no longer knowing where she was going or what she was looking for, as her unease broke out of its cocoon, damp with fear. All she could hear was the beating of her heart as she ran; pounding ferociously in her chest the way a waterfall beats down a cliff side. She started to run now, her long skirt fluid behind her but being snagged by the finger-like limbs of the irate trees; their serrated eyes set upon her wherever she went as they grabbed at her and tried to keep her. As the sky grew darker so too did her spirits, until she was as vacant and cold as the dusk around her, with nowhere for her to go to escape the haunting night hour. The song of the bird now sounded like a death call as it swooped down upon her vengefully and screamed in her ears. The sun was no longer there to offer her warmth; instead its evil white twin was glowing up above her like the menacing eye of some carnivorous bird. It appeared to be pulsating as it bore straight through her to the bone. She felt watched everywhere she ran, and it wasn’t until she came into a clearing in the woods that she uttered a cry of relief. Just up ahead she found a cottage, small and inviting as it beckoned for her to come closer so it could engulf her in warmth and make her safe. The girl ran with joy in her heart as she approached the cottage, imagining the tenderness and light that awaited her on the inside. When she closed her eyes, she envisioned soft cushions and worn old curtains, rustic flower pots and a steaming old tea kettle on the stove. She wanted to curl up by the fire place until she felt tired enough to go up to bed, where she would be overtaken by a mound of pillows and warm blankets.
She craved this security more than ever and started to run faster until the she reached the cottage’s door. With one hand, she curled her fingers and tapped her knuckles against the wooden door three times, her knock echoing through the inside of the cottage. As she waited, no one came, so she decided to knock once more. When no one opened up for her a second time, she figured no one was home. Surely whoever lived in this adorable cottage couldn’t possibly mind a frightened young lady spending the night to escape the darkness. Gently, she opened the door and crept in as it creaked like a withered old rocking chair careening backward. With a start, the girl jumped as a sword of wind sliced at her, but just for a brief second before it was gone. Along with the wind she thought she’d heard a gargle like sound, but she couldn’t be sure as it raced out the door so fast. Inside it smelt musty and mildewed, and there was dust covering every inch of both ceiling and floor. Tip-toeing in, the girl wandered over to the fireplace and poked at the still glowing embers that remained in the hearth to warm the cottage as well as light its shadowy corners. Once she had the fire going, she was able to see all the cobwebs and the dust that had accumulated inside this little chalet, which made her wonder if anyone even lived here. There had to be someone living here; the fire had only gone out recently so someone must have started it before they stepped out. Feeling her stomach growl, the girl decided to take a peek in the kitchen to see if there were any crumbs for her to nibble on. She hoped the owner would be so kind. She wandered into the little kitchen, finding it a mess with the sink overflowing with dishes and some crumbs on the floor and counter. Taking the broom from against the wall, she swept everything neatly into a little pile and scrubbed the plates until they shined. She figured she would try and neaten things up a little for whoever was unknowingly allowing her to spend the night in their home. Once the floor was swept and the dishes were cleaned, the girl flitted to the cabinets to try and find a small morsel of food to fill her hollow stomach. She opened the first and had to block her nose as a distasteful odor jumped out at her, making her cringe back a moment so she could catch her breath. The girl peered inside the cabinet, the source of the reeking stench coming from the small piles of bones that filled the cabinets. The skeletons of small birds sat tangled in the dust, small and winged with their bones tiny and fragile, some broken so they could never fly again. One lay whole on its back, its rib cages laid open like a display case for its blackened and unbeating heart. Beneath the lower cabinets she found more
bones, these a little larger along with a skull with serrated antlers on it and larger eye sockets. Unnerved, the girl closed the cabinets and backed away, no longer feeling hungry as her stomach churned. She thought to herself that perhaps spending the night would be a mistake and she had better leave. As she turned toward the door, it was as if something had grabbed her by the ankle, causing her to tumble down. The back of her head cracked against the hard floor boards, and she found that she no longer had the option to to leave. * * * She l was awakened in the middle of the night by a noise that broke her from her state of unconsciousness. She sat up, rubbing the aching back of her head, forgetting where she was a moment until she saw she was lying on a dusty old floor. Inside the cottage was dark without a single moonbeam shining from outside. Getting to her feet, the girl ambled to the door, gasping when she found it wouldn’t open. It appeared to be locked from the inside, but she didn’t know how. She called out fearfully but there was no response. ; she then locked the door for the night before heading to bed. There was no answer. A chill shuddered through her, so she added some more wood to the hearth and rubbed her hands over the flames. The girl heard the noise that had woken her again and she looked all around. Straining her ears, she listened carefully, her attention focused solely on this one sound. She heard it again; faint, yet at the same time loud so it sounded both close and far away. It had an echo to it, like it was coming from a place with perfectly smooth walls that sounds could rebound off of forever. It was now distinct and loud as it rang through the cottage, the same repetitive noise stuck on a loop. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… The girl listened harder, straining her ears to catch more of the sound and hear nothing else. She could only hear this one monotonous sound, repeating itself over and over like a broken machine. . Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… Curious to know what it was and where this strange sound was coming from, the girl wandered around cautiously.. She pressed her ear against the walls, feeling like the sound was emanating from the very core deep within the small house. It kept getting louder and louder as if it were alive, and when she stopped outside a doorway it seemed to increase in volume even more. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss…
Giving the door a gentle knock and receiving no answer, the girl slowly pushed the door open with a quiet creak. Inside she found what appeared to be a small bedroom, finding a nursery for children lined with seven infant sized beds. The covers were tucked neatly with each pillow fluffed, making the beds appear to have never been slept on. Dust and what appeared to be claw marks lacerated the headboards of each bed, and the girl started to wonder if the homeowners had any pets. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… The girl turned when the sound got louder, hearing that it was coming from behind a small black door that sat across the tiny room.. Letting her curiosity get the best of her, she turned the knob and wrenched open the door, coughing a little bit and fanning the air around her as a musty cloud of dust wafted out at her and clung to the lining of her throat. Before her waited a shadowy staircase that led down into the darkness of the belly of the cottage, down into the cellar where the noise was even louder now. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… Anxious to know what it was, the girl stepped one of her feet down on the top step, listening to it creak like a feral snarl beneath her light weight. The second the step squeaked, the sound stopped mid hiss, the cellar falling silent like it knew she was coming. The girl hesitated.,. Pausing a long wavering moment on that moldy old step, the girl waited and listened, her heart thumping in her ears. When she heard the strange sound begin again, she cautiously made her way down each step. She started down into the darkness of the spiraling stairs until she could see nothing, and she fumbled around until she came across what felt like a box of matches up on a small shelf along the wall. She struck one and allowed the small dancing flame to light her way as she wandered even deeper down. The girl felt relief when she stumbled upon a waxy feeling old candle stick and lit its wick. The flame danced in her eyes as she continued down the endless stairway to nowhere. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… She took the stairs one at a time, stepping down one foot then the other and pausing a moment before continuing on to the next creaky stair. Beneath her bare feet she could feel the cold splintered wood against her arches, the tickle of mold and crawling spiders over her toes. She felt rusted old nail heads and the powdery mushed feel of rotten spider egg sacs sticking to her heels, a small shriek rising in her throat for only a moment until she was able to swallow it. Something with more legs than her mind’s eye could envision crawled up her ankle, pirouetting its way up her shin until she started and slapped the feeling away. This didn’t stop her though; 41
her curiosity was at its peak as it drove her to keep going. Finding someone was her only hope of getting out of here. It started to get colder the farther down the stairs she went, and suddenly it became very dry. The air was so desiccated that it tickled her throat, making her choke and cough as she was gagged by a terrible stench. The girl covered her nose and blinked away the tears from her eyes as the horrendous odor pilfered her senses, making her stomach churn uneasily. She wondered what that terrible odor could be, having no name for something so putrid and heart stopping. As she continued down the steps she thought she saw a shadow beneath her feet, but when she looked down she found the shadows were permanent parts of the old wooden stairs. By the time she reached the bottom the girl realized they weren’t just shadows, but stains of some deep crimson-colored substance that seemed to have turned the wood a dark reddish-brown color. The steps at the bottom had the darkest red shadows, these ones not quite absorbed into the wood yet so it had a warm, sticky feel beneath her bare feet. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… The girl stood there at the base of the stairs with her eyes squinted as they struggled to penetrate the thick layers of darkness beyond her candle’s tiny flame. The air smelt even more putrid here than it did just a few steps above, seeming at its worst in this one area in the cellar. Her candle suddenly went out like someone had just shot a quick breath at it, and she fumbled quickly with a new match to relight it, not wanting to be left alone in the dark down here. She almost lost her flame again when she jumped suddenly and almost dropped the candle stick to the floor, clutching one hand over her wildly thrashing heart. The color drained from her face as her gaze met the dozens of beady black eyes around her, some burst open and bloody liked stepped on blueberries and some missing altogether, while others were wide open and staring vacantly into the nothingness of forever. Hanging from the ceiling above were shredded, matted-looking carcasses, fox tails and deer pelts hanging all around her at every angle. Some had their legs broken and some had limp necks; some were even headless and others were missing ears or front limbs. Sharp bits of bone jutted through torn skin and bits of cartilage and muscle hung tattered from the joints. The stench of all these mauled corpses together was too much to bear, the girl almost falling to her knees as she retched up the final contents of her stomach. The smell of vomit mixed with the rotten corpses only made her feel worse. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss…
The sound broke her out of her horrified thoughts and returned her to her place in the basement, reminding her why she was here. Coughing and spitting once more, she blinked away the burning tears from her eyes and tried to see through the dark. As the noise grew louder, the girl followed it, holding her breath as she tiptoed around the hanging carcasses, careful not to touch a single one. There were so many of them; dogs, cats, fox, deer, small birds, and some she couldn’t even recognize in their distorted state. Some even appeared to be two different animals sewn together, the upper torso of a half-mauled cat missing much of the left side of its face stitched onto the back end of what appeared to be a young fawn, the back legs broken and the hooves all bloody and splintered. She kept hearing the sound as she walked forwards, the clomping and hissing now at its loudest as she emerged from the jungle of mangled corpses. She stopped short at the sight of the large cage in the back corner of the cellar, a single light bulb swinging from above, creaking back and forth like a gentle wind was blowing it this way and that. The cage was quite a large one the bars thin and rusted. The girl suddenly froze when she met a pair of eyes staring at her between the bars of the cage, these ones wide open, a sign of life. Standing still as stone inside the cage was a small deer with some of the biggest, roundest eyes she’d ever seen. They were as round as dinner plates, coal black and unblinking as they stared hauntingly back at her; she could see her own stunned reflection along their surface. The deer watched her with its colossal all-knowing eyes, not even its ears twitching as it watched her in a focused way. The creature didn’t look startled or frightened to see her, it just watched. The girl gasped when it suddenly raised its front leg up and stepped down on the cement floor, its hoof making a loud clomp noise as it hit. She stared at the creature curiously as it continued to watch her, stomping its hoof down again so it made another clomp sound. After the clomp the deer uttered a sharp hiss sound from its muzzle, its nose twitching as the air rushed from its nostrils. Again, it raised its hoof to clomp and then it twitched its nose as it hissed quietly through its clenched teeth. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… The girl stood there and watched the deer mutely, forgetting completely about the stench of death in the air as her attention remained locked on this creature. It watched her with its large eyes, not once blinking as it stomped its hoof down and hissed through its teeth, which appeared sharpened beneath the flickering light bulb.
Stepping back warily, the girl walked into something, noticing a bucket sitting outside the deer’s cage. She found multiple buckets lining the outer perimeter all around it, dripping old stains dried around the edges. Curiously, she approached the cage to peer into the metal buckets as the deer continued to stomp its hoof and hiss at her. As she came closer it seemed to only become louder and louder until it was like it was screaming in her ear. She stopped at the first deep silver bucket and peered inside, wrinkling her nose at what she saw. There was no name for this substance; it was a disquieting shade of pink, looking mushed together like it could have been scraped from the inside of something that had once been alive. It was crimson and burgundy with hints of sinewy white swirled in, looking slimy and viscous like it would slowly trickle down the edges of the bucket if it were to be tipped upside down. It looked like something that would slosh around if jostled or like something that would make wet, sloppy sounds if dropped on the floor. It was solid, but at the same time it seemed viscous , like some of it would remain in your fist while some would ooze through your fingers. The girl glanced in the next bucket and found the same grotesque pink slop. This bucket had hair in it, not strands of hair though like what one would clean from their brush but thick clumps still embedded into the clear structure of a scalp. There was no head or any other part, just perfectly sliced scalp with some dark hair still attached at the roots to nourish it and keep it alive. Holding her nose again, the girl peered into the third bucket and found a similar gooey residue of liquid remains; only this bucket also contained a glossy ruby red high heel stuck into the mush, belonging to someone who had once had a very small foot. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss… The girl swallowed the lump in her throat as her heart rate accelerated, her stomach fluttering with unease as every nerve in her body became sparked with feelings of dread. Goose bumps prickled her arms and the back of her neck, and she knew at that moment that she needed to escape. Not only did she need to leave and never look back, but she needed to pretend that she’d never even seen this cottage. She’d have to wash in the river to rid the stench of corpses from her skin and clothes. Her body quivered with the impulse to run, but she felt rooted like an oak. Feelings of terror worse than anything rushed to her and struck her in the dead center of her chest. Her breathing quickened and her hands trembled and her knees quivered. She was trapped here, forever, and she imagined joining the remains of those buckets. Clomp, hiss, clomp, hiss, clomp… 44
She started choking and sobbing now, gasping as this uncontrollable fear tried to suffocate her like toxic fumes in her lungs. She could hear nothing but the clomping, the hissing, and the hideous pounding of her own pulse. She could feel the blood in her veins, flowing and making her alive, its movement separating her from what lay in gelatinous puddles in those buckets. The deerâ€™s eyes seemed to take possession of her mind and force her to remain in this one spot forever. It wanted to keep her here, and as she stared at her reflection in its eyes, she watched herself aging rapidly, decades in a span of seconds as her reflection shriveled up and withered away to nothing but bones. A startled scream rose up her throat, and when she looked down at her hands she felt her heart lurch with relief when she saw skin still wrapped around her fingers and veins still flowed blue like running rivers beneath her soft white skin. She felt her face and her hair, still intact and supple instead of rotting off her face like sheâ€™d seen in her reflection. All went silent in the darkness of the cellar, including the stomping of the deer. A sinking feeling hit her in the pit of her stomach, making her feel as if she were falling out of the sky. There was a solitary soft thud, followed by many more, and the blood rushed to her heart. . The soft thumping kept coming, sounding like a solid object bouncing closer to her as she sobbed silently and quivered in the depths of the dark cellar. Out of the shadows she saw it fall, a low whimper escaping her lips as she watched it bounce down the last step. A deep red apple rolled down the stairs and stopped at her feet, bruised now from its long fall and a single bite taken out of its delicate flesh. The bite mark was small, matching the mouth of someone more slender and elegant like herself, someone who had taken this one bite with caution, like they knew they would only be taking one. Her shoulders shook and a tear rolled down her cheek as she stared down at the apple, its skin barely touching her toe and making her tremble even more. She wanted to cringe away from it but she was still immobile as sweat beaded across her body and chills crawled up each individual vertebrae of her spine. The girl heard no other sounds, no footsteps following the apple and no movement in the shadows. All was silent a long moment until the deer started up again, a little faster now with its clomping and hissing. The tapping of its hoof started to match the fast pace of the girlâ€™s heart, so fast that it seemed more like one beat with a forever ricocheting echo meant to reverberate endlessly in her chest.
“Leave…” the strangled word escaped the deer’s muzzle through its jagged teeth. The girl suddenly felt frozen, like she’d just been encased in a block of ice. The shriek of terror building in her throat couldn’t find its way out; it was too lost in her horror to escape, so it just sat there like a lump meant to suffocate her. She felt as if someone with ice cold breath was breathing down her back. The stench of death and mildew suddenly became unbearable all at once. “Leave…” hiss the deer. Unable to resist the urge to look, the girl slowly turned her head until she found the source of the chilling breathing. Standing there with pulsating black eyes that stared into hers was a girl as pale as a snow bank with bruised- circles beneath her eyes like cradles of darkness. Her lips were a ruby red color that contrasted greatly with her pale skin and her dark hair; coldness seeming to seep from her pores and into the tainted air around them. There was a gaping hole carved into her chest. The blood appeared long dried, and in her hands she held a small jewel encrusted box which held a living, beating heart wrapped in veins and flowing with blood that pulsed through its core. “You’ll never leave…” screeched the deer with a sinister grin. The girl screamed, a sound smothered in lunacy as it rose higher in pitch until it crackled out as a choking howl. Her screams rose and fell, one endless note with multiple tones that didn’t stop. Nothing could be heard over her screams; not the clomping and the hissing, not the wild beating of her heart, not even the beating of the heart in the box. With lightning in her veins, her limbs carried her as quickly as they could. She took off up the stairs, dropping her candle and forgetting about the light., half- hoping the flames would ignite this horrid place of evil and turn it to ash. As she reached the dank cellar, she ran head on into the hanging bodies, being hit over and over by rotten bits of limbs and dry bloodied tails until her skin was electrified with entrails and blood. She ran up the stairs, not sure how many she was taking at a time, until she saw the light from the fireplace shining faintly through the doorway. She burst into the small room on the first floor and she slammed the door shut faster than she could blink, her wild eyes hungry for an exit. When she saw the door her legs almost melted as she ran for it, barely able to stand on her liquefying muscles. She didn’t care if it was locked; she’d break it down if she had to so she could escape. Once she reached the it she froze when the knob slowly turned before she could grab it. Cheerful
whistles and the gleeful chorus of â€œHi-hoâ€? from outside told her that she had not seen the last of the cellar.
Grammatical Rhyme Lucas Thors Talking to Trev through his answering machine made me feel lost. I was a ghost and the last vestige of my existence would be the poorly spoken message. My phone was a bridge. In my messages, I spoke about how we used to walk the dog down Wyvern Street and yank on his leash when he tried to piss on the telephone pole in front of Mrs. Lavery’s house. The hardest part about leaving messages for Trevor was the terrible pause that came in between every sentence that crept from my lips. It was a piercing silence that only reminded me of how silly it was that I was doing this. The truth is, Trev was never going to get my messages, he was never going to press that blinking red button and have the recording say “three missed messages” in the eerie monotone voice of some strange woman. It was therapeutic, like I was talking to him in my mind. I knew that even if he didn’t have an answering machine where he was, he would hear me whispering into the phone, late at night next to a dimly flickering candle.
The Event: 1957,2014 Adam Filkins The Event I was a freshman at Keene State College the year of the last Pumpkin Festival which was 2014. Everything was going the way I had imagined it at college; I was making friends; I was doing great in classes; and I was figuring out myself even further in new ways now that I didn’t have my family around. October finally came around, and I was getting very excited because I would be going to my first Pumpkin Festival, locally known as Pumpkinfest. It is a big event that the town of Keene holds every year where people carve pumpkins, and they are displayed down Main Street for everyone to go and see. Everything about that day was great for me; but then night fell. I had made it back to my residence hall, Holloway, and my roommates explained how they watched essentially a stampede go from Winchester Court through campus. They didn’t know what happened after, but then we began to hear a lot of sounds from outside the building. We sat inside and a few of us received texts and phone calls from worried parents asking if we were OK. We were told to check out the news, and sure enough there were stories being reported worldwide about Keene State College rioting right outside our building. The building went into lockdown. No one was allowed into the building, and no one was allowed out of them either. My roommates and I stayed in our room, and just as we decided we wanted to go to another room to get a better vantage of the madness outside, a searchlight went through our bedroom window and across my bed. We then heard someone in a helicopter calling out over a megaphone: “Everyone get into a building immediately.” Now we were really intrigued. We got to our friend’s room, but we didn’t have a good enough vantage point to really see anything that was happening, we just knew that the students were rioting. *** The Fiske Quad was buzzing that night in middle of March 1957. There was no snow blanketing the grass, so the shoe prints of all the men preparing the quad were embedded in the damp ground. The men of Keene Teachers College erected an effigy made of white linen bedsheets, and hung it from the light post in front of Huntress Hall. One man withdrew a Zippo lighter from his back pocket and slid his finger across the roller. The sheets caught fire, illuminating the words “Down with Randall” which were written
across the now charring effigy. The women in Huntress Hall began to hear the commotion, and although they were not under curfew yet, they decided the best way to join their brethren on the quad would be to jump from the windows. Some girls called the boys over beneath their windows and jumped. The commotion grew louder as the students became more organized and also more chaotic. Some students went around screaming for justice while others whispered for information. The story that flitted from everyone’s mouths like a snowflake was that three boys had snuck into the girl’s dormitory with the help of a girl. They were then all slated to be expelled from the college, so the rest of the students decided to take to rioting and protesting. The student body president then held an impromptu meeting in front of the gym, where he and many students created a list of “gripes” the students had for the faculty that consisted of the following: 1. A prohibition of boys and girls from visiting each other’s dormitories under a regulated system. 2. A lack of student medical supervision and athletic first aid supervision. 3. An absence of policy on the number of class cuts a student may take. 4. An absence of lockers in dormitory rooms. The Aftermath: My friends and I emerged from Holloway and found Oya Hill (the quad outside of our residence hall) looking as though a war had just been waged here. Lampposts were not just ripped out, but completely missing. The only thing left were neon orange 5-gallon barrels covering the nubs of the lamppost remains. The clouds were covering the sky, but there was no rain. We just kept going to the dining commons, and I think a lot of the students just wanted to forget all about what had happened. Soon enough, it became a thing of the past. No one talked about it. Pumpkins became a taboo word around campus, and no one wanted to talk about it. Administration refused, students begged, and the residents of the town’s hatred for the students was left to fester like a wound that had been ripped open. The students had reacted poorly to the Pumpkin Festival once before, but it had never gotten to this extreme that time. The college gained a bad reputation. Students would go home and people they didn’t know would look at them funny when they said they went to Keene State College; Alumni stopped giving the school money; Parents wanted their kids to transfer; kids transferred; the number of applications that were sent to the school dropped 50
astronomically. Two years have passed and the school still hasn’t recovered. *** The next day, a select few students (the student body president included) met with the Commissioner Austin J. MacCaffrey and Dr. Young. No one knew what happened behind the doors, but we can assume some deals were made, since the student body president came out of the event saying that the “student body as a whole does not question the decision of the administration”, and the three men were suspended, and the girl’s (referred to as “coed”) verdict was rescinded. Soon enough a new cause seemed to be bolstered by Student Government and administration alike: budget cuts. The college was having positions for professors and the overall budget for the college defunded by legislation, and McCaffrey said that he had requested a budget increase; however, despite his requests the college received substantially less. As the headline of The Keene Sentinel reads: “3 Men Suspended After Review By State Commissioner, Dr. Young”, the headline of a smaller article reads “$1.5 Million From Total Sought; [Keene Teachers College] Budget Trimmed”. It turned out the school’s budget (along with the other 5 state schools) had been transferred for things like TBar ski installations at Cannon Mountain and Mt. Sunapee. The next day, McCaffrey addressed an assembly of 700 students and 40 faculty members, explaining the entirety of the situation. He stated that he knew their understaffed faculty could not provide the students with the things they required, and so they asked for patience as they all tried to work through the budget cuts. Now: These two riots were two very different events, but they didn’t have to end differently. At the end of the riots in 1957, the students and the faculty worked together to reach their mutual goals. As a freshman, I didn’t imagine I had much of a role to play in what happened at the school, so I was complacent and rolled on my back allowing the college’s reputation to continue being tarnished. The next fall, I took a class on restorative justice. We studied the processes of restorative justice, and realized that the school needed something like that for all the parties involved. The students who just were bystanders, the students who were stereotyped because of the actions of a few others, and as I read the book Striving, I found the 1957 riots only briefly mentioned. When I saw that we had rioted once before, I decided I needed to learn more. I wished that the administration could have used the aftermath of the Pumpkinfest Riots to our advantage and helped us 51
move on from what had happened. We needed the students and administration working together to make good things happen, but both parties refused to work with the other, and so the bridges were left burning as the students and administration walked away from each side.
A Collection of Micropoetry Courtney Janvrin I've seen the way you look at her. I recognize it because it's the same way I look at you.
“I love you,” He said. “I do. Just not in that way.”
My striped sweater still smells like sage, oak, and musk… your cologne.
the day i broke the air was crisp
one day someone will say “i love you” instead of “goodbye”
Everywhere I go I search for words that rhyme with your name I don't want you to be my muse anymore.
I find more comfort writing stories about your arms than being held in them
You may have broken me, but it was me who got to choose how the pieces went back together.
I’ll never be “yours.” I belong to myself.
The ocean tries to drown me, though it was she who asked me to dance.
I’m not looking for my better half; I am whole.
I raise my glass to every woman who was told she wouldn’t and that she couldn’t-But broke that glass ceiling nonetheless.
When I’m gone think of me fondly, but not too often.
Five Fears Rory Carbone Drowning I’ve always been a strong swimmer. When I was growing up, Dad always had a pool in his back yard; 35 feet long, with a shallow end three feet deep and the deep end nine. We would spend entire days in the pool, getting up around nine or ten in the morning and stay in the pool until ten or eleven at night. Us kids We would always horse around in the shallow end, pretending we were wrestling or trying to do handstands or flips. One day that horsing around with my older step-brother Bobby went a bit too far. We were pretend wrestling, and he pinned me down, except he didn’t let me back up right away. It felt like I was underwater forever, thrashing, trying to get to the surface, the chlorinated water searing my lungs. I was in a panic, I had no idea what to do so I just kept thrashing. After that day, I didn’t pretend wrestle anymore. Burning House fires are devastating: families lose their belongings and sometimes people lose their lives. My grandfather is a former fire chief, my uncle is a fire captain, and my brother-in-law is a full-time firefighter, so we’ve always been taught to be careful around fire because of the devastation it can cause. When my little sister Rachel was still a baby, our smoke detectors started going off around two in the morning. My mom was immediately in my room, making sure I was awake, and telling me to go outside and to sit in the car while she got my sisters outside. I remember looking inside the house, looking at my mom running around trying to figure out why the detectors were going off, while my sisters and I sat in the car confused. The fire trucks came, and the firefighters told us that we just had faulty alarms and that we had nothing to worry about, but ever since that night, fire has always scared me. We all know what it’s like to burn ourselves on the stove, or while stoking a fireplace in the winter time to keep our homes warm. Imagining being caught in a house fire or a wildfire, that feeling across your entire body, breath being taken from your lungs and replaced by the acrid smoke keep me up at night.
Falling The adrenaline rush from roller-coasters is like no other feeling. I love a good roller coaster, and always go on them because the adrenaline is an amazing sensation. Moving at such speeds going up long hills or plummeting down others is exhilarating, mostly because you know that you’re strapped in and secure. Sometimes you’re not so secure. This past weekend I went to the top of the Empire State Building for the first time and it was amazing. You fly up the elevators in the building, with the readout of the floors going by tens instead of single floors because you’re going so quickly. The trip from the first floor up to the 80th takes somewhere around twenty seconds, and then you ascend the last six floors after walking through the museum. The views from the sky deck are absolutely breathtaking, until you look over the edge, and straight down 86 stories to the streets below. When I decided to look over the edge, my knees buckled and I was immediately dizzy and nauseous. I could only picture two things: falling and watching the streets coming at me, and the famous photograph The Falling Man from 9/11, where a man jumped out one of the skyscraper’s windows during the September 11th attacks. Losing Loved Ones I was eleven, I had just moved back to Hinsdale after living in Keene for close to nine years. I had to o leave all of my friends behind, and start a new life. The hardest thing in the world was to leave Angie, and I never even got to say goodbye. Angie and I were attached at the hip, and did everything together. I think our moms were convinced we were going to be one of those stories where the kids grow up together then fall in love and get married. Angie was sick. She had a rare heart condition that had claimed her dad’s life when she was seven and it made her allergic to a huge number of things, one of which was the smell of fresh cut grass; that detail stays with me to this day. The smell that kids love because it symbolizes summer and freedom, symbolized staying inside with all of the windows shut while they mowed to lawn for Angie. Right after my twelfth birthday, Angie had a surgery. She was the first child to have a prosthetic heart transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital. She fought so hard and survived almost two weeks. Ever since her passing, I have made sure my loved ones know exactly how much I care about them, because you never know when you might lose them, or if you’ll even have the chance to say goodbye.
Fear of the Unknown Death has been something I’ve had questions about my entire life, the biggest question being “What happens?” It’s always been really hard for me to believe that one day someone is there, and the next they’re just not and that’s that. People that have their different belief systems have things like heaven and hell, or reincarnation to tell them what happens after death, but I really don’t know what to believe. It’s that fear of the unknown that truly scares me. It’s like outer space or the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean. We have clear cut evidence that the universe goes on forever, and is always expanding and new planets are being created and old stars are burning out. It’s just so large that we can’t ever hope to explore even a fraction of it. The bottom of the sea seems to be just as large, and so deep that we currently don’t have the technology to go to the deepest parts to see what’s actually down there. Godzilla could actually be down there, biding its time until it goes on a rampage through Tokyo. There could be anything in space, even a carbon copy of our planet, with a twenty-six-year-old guy sitting in his bed, writing a paper about what his five biggest fears in life are, and we’ll never know, and neither will he.
Hemodynamics Meaghan Piascik Red’s tiny body was awoken by the deep breaths taken by his host. He began to flow toward the heart as his disc-like body tumbled through the now fast paced plasma. Red gathered himself together and headed to work for the day with his wife; her white body in contrast to the dark walls allowed Red to keep up with her in his groggy state. Red was a very careful cell. He liked to stick around by the heart where it was warm, because he had heard horror stories about cells coming back from a trip to the toes so cold they were blue. Stories about bruises and bone chilling cold spread like a disease in the chest and they terrified Red. Thankfully, the furthest away from the heart he had been was the fingers back in July. But it was February now and the fear of going to any of the appendages was enough to make a cell clot. Red worked at a taxi company called Hemo-GO-bin carrying air to the different areas around his host. On an average day, Red ran through the heart and was flushed through the lungs to pick up his assignment from the air distributor. From there, Red was sent on his way. That day as Red whisked throughout the veins headed toward the heart when he and his wife overheard from an anti-body that there was a small cut on one of the legs. “I heard the kid took a good fall today,” the anti-body said. “ Oh, yeah; right in the mud,” another one replied. Any type of injury was cause for concern with Red. There was potential for anything to happen but he pushed on and continued to the lungs. Once he arrived, he was sorted into a line that would then be brought by the air distributor to pick up their O2 and destination. The line moved fast and before he knew it, he was next and with a solid beat he was waiting in front of the air distributor. “You’re going to the feet,” the air sack breathed out. Red’s body tensed up and his color paled to almost his wife’s complexion. “Next,” coughed out the air distributor. Red was propelled forward and flowed toward the main artery. He inched toward the fast-moving plasma. The whooshing noise that accompanied the pressure of beating heart almost sent Red into cardiac arrest. He watched in horror as cell after cell was sucked into the pulsing artery destined for the feet. Red’s wife saw the distress on his face and came over to let him explain.
“The feet huh? Do you want me to come with you,” she asked. “No, I’ll be okay,” Red replied, his voice cracking under his nerves. His wife nodded although not convinced and hurried off back to her area. Then, finally, Red was ready to start his journey down. “You can do this, the kid is barely five feet tall, you’ll be down and back on the circulatory high way in no time,” Red mumbled to himself. Red tossed himself into the current and down he went. He closed his eyes and just let gravity take over. There were noises he had never heard before. A loud grumbling sound radiated through the tough walls of the artery; the loud thumping of the heart softened with a wet gurgling taking its place. He was being tossed around all over the place by the other cells were much more seasoned in travel than he was. He decided to pull over and take a break. “ This isn’t a rest zone!” “Keep going!” shouted the other cells as they passed a tired Red on the side of the artery. Red jumped back into the flow and continued now with his eyes open. The walls were a lot bigger than what he knew back in the chest. They were also a lot darker and much more crowded. Up ahead he could see the path split a small sign on the side of the wall read “Femoral Artery.” Slowly, Red propelled himself toward the exit and carefully continued toward the feet. Once inside of the Femoral Artery traffic got heavier. The flow of the plasma was slower and Red found himself uncomfortably close to the other cells. “This is the worst back up that has happened in a while,” one cell said. “ I haven’t seen one like this in all my 88 days,” another replied. Red knew that this back up was probably caused by that cut in the leg that he had heard about earlier from the anti-bodies. Soon they had come to a slow trickle, emergency cells had passed by and were long gone by now. Now all that was left to do was wait. After what felt like forever, the flow began to move again and the volume of the cells lessened the further down he went. Around about the knee, Red came to a check point right below the cut. He looked up and saw a tear in the wall. Hundreds of big rouged platelets linked arms becoming the only barrier between Red and certain death. The anti-body officers were lined up across the artery checking for any unwanted cells that may have gotten in before emergency responders could stop the bleed. Red’s nerves flared up with every pulse closer to the officer he got. “Employer and Destination,” said the anti-body. “Hemo-GO-bin and the feet,” Red replied. 58
“Move along,” the officer replied without even looking up to acknowledge Red. So he continued down the artery. It started to get cold, and it was getting harder for Red to propel himself forward. This was his worst nightmare, he was going to turn blue and die. “I’m too young to die, I'm only fifteen days out of the marrow,” He cried to himself as the plasma became colder. Finally, after a long cold fight, Red was finally at his destination. The toes were brighter and there was a constant tremor shaking Red around the vein. He unloaded his O2 into the toes and quickly hopped on the femoral vein and started back to the heart. Red was still cold and could only move so fast, but he felt more relaxed and kept a good pace. The vein had a different feeling than the artery. It was quiet and every cell that passed was moving considerably faster but he continued at his pace. Then, from behind he heard a voice calling out for him. “You should really pick up your pace. You heard about the accident earlier,” said the cell. “Yeah, the anti-bodies had a check point,” Red replied. “They only do that for the arteries, you better pick up your speed in the veins,” the cell said as he threw himself ahead of Red and took off. This made Red’s pressure go up and he began to push through the plasma faster. As he neared the site of the accident he began to hear muffled voices coming from the bones. “Turn back, it will get you” the voices echoed throughout the vein. Red knew there was no turning back, he wasn’t strong enough to go against the current and the more he pushed, the closer he was to getting back to the heart. So he ignored the voices and continued through the narrow winding tube up past the knee. Until he turned a corner and was blocked by a cell that took up the entire vein. The cell was a dark shade of purple and round like a pill. It had small string-like appendages coming off of it like a thousand little hands. “Look who we have here, didn’t want to listen to the marrow huh?” the large cell said as it moved closer to Red. “I just want to get back to the heart,” Red explained. At this point the large cell was getting closer and Red had no where to go. Its string-like hands were waving out in the open looking for something to grab onto. Red had to think fast and in a Hail Mary move he thrusted his way through the small opening between the wall and past the large cell. The chase was on. Red used every ounce of energy he had in him to travel up the veins but it still wasn’t enough to get away. The cold plasma slowed him down allowing the large cell to pick up speed. Red saw his life flash before 59
his eyes. He remembered the first day he was spit out from the bones fifteen days ago, they day he met his wife on day four, their wedding day on day nine. “I should have let her come with me,” Red thought to himself as his efforts turned frantic. “ You’re too slow, nothing can save yo…” the large cells voice stopped and Red had frozen in fear. Then working up the courage to turn around, Red saw his wife seizing the large cell and locking it up. “ What are you doing here?” Red asked. “ The anti-bodies never found the bacteria who got in. I was worried so I came down. Good thing I did,” she explained. Red looked at his wife with the most sincere face a red blood cell can give. She blushed and nudged closer to him. They rode the veins all the way back up to the heart and lived happily ever after for their remaining 105 days.
Semblance Patrick Ewing
A red light holds up traffic in the center of a nowhere town in the middle of a nowhere place. A pearl white Cadillac sits obediently as the only vehicle in the intersection, surrounded by an orange swept landscape cooking under the burning red sun. It’s engine roars back in defiance against the howling desert winds. The driver’s shirt is covered in engine grease with the name “Buck” woven into the denim seams. Buck’s arm hangs out of the window as blowing sands tease his skin. A glowing cigarette rests between his callused and overworked fingers. It has almost burnt completely down to the filter as his attention is consumed by the car radio. “Alert! Cataqua County, Alert!”, announces the drawling disk jockey.
“Two, possibly three men, have been seen fleeing the scene of a robbery, on foot, at Cataqua Savings. They were last seen on the corner of Myrtle and Fowler Street. They are armed and they are dangerous. Contact authorities if –…” The news is cut short as Buck tunes into the voice of God. An invisible preacher fills the air as he vehemently sermonizes of impending damnation through the static stricken speakers. Comfort overcomes Buck and he reaches for another cigarette. The passenger seat is occupied with loose paperwork and a holstered revolver which distortedly reflects Buck’s face in its chrome finish as he reaches past for his pack of Marlboro 100s residing on the floor mat. As a he looks up with a fresh cigarette hanging from his cracked lips, the sun flares into Buck’s eyes, momentarily blinding him. All along the preacher continues in a viscous tone, “The Earth will break under the weight of our sins and misgivings! The oceans will boil and swallow whole those who are left behind, forbidden from God’s kingdom!” Buck rubs his eyes back to a state of blurred vision in time to make out a figure dressed in black. Like an eclipse blocking out the sun, the figure quickly moves closer and closer towards the hood of the car. As his sight comes back into focus, a pair of wild eyes burning through a black ski mask stare into Buck’s through the sand tattered windshield. Christopher, now entirely visible, stands dressed in black with a bloodied and torn hoodie, and dirtied black jeans. Panting heavily, he holds in one of his gloved hands a pistol-grip sawed-off pump shotgun, and a backpack overflowing with dead presidents clutched tightly in the other. Buck is frozen. The two of them are caught in a standstill. Slowly, Christopher begins to raise his arm, framing the barrel of the shotgun around Buck. “Get the fuck out!”, screams Christopher. Time seemingly starts again at the behest of Christopher’s demand, and Buck frantically goes for the revolver occupying the passenger seat. In one fluid movement, Buck ducks down, grabs the chrome handle, cocks back the hammer, and removes it from the holster while sitting back up. As Buck leans upright, Benji, striding steadily towards the Cadillac from the driver’s side, grabs Buck’s wrist before he can fully extend his arm in an attempt to place Christopher in his sights. Buck’s teeth and a mist of blood splash onto 62
the dashboard as Benji cracks him across the face with the butt of his 45. caliber pistol. Christopher sprints towards the passenger side of the Cadillac as Benjamin rips Buck out of his own vehicle through the window. Dazed, a weak legged Buck is momentarily held up by Benji before being beaten down into a crumpled ball. On his knees, Buck is held up by Benji clenching him by the hair, his eyes barely open and watering, Buck looks upward into Benji’s masked eyes where only fury awaits to stare back at him. Christopher urgently yells out to his masked partner, “Let’s go, come on!” Benji mercilessly knees Buck’s face, causing the back of his head to collide with the Cadillac, leaving crimson splatter on the pearl white paint job. The door slamming behind him, Benji shifts the car into drive and turns the radio frequency from dogma to classic rock as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Run Through the Jungle takes over the airwaves. Christopher rips off his mask, revealing a youthful face with short dark hair and a tattoo extending from under his hoodie, up onto his neck and behind his left ear. The young outlaw’s head leans back against the leather seat as he stares upward in disbelief, sweat pouring out of him while he attempts to catch his breath. He’s just committed his first armed robbery. Benji grips the steering wheel and howls with adrenaline fueled excitement as the ground breaks underneath the Cadillac rolling like thunder toward the horizon. The light turns green. State lines and mile markers pass along with the hours on the two bandits’ journey towards their next venture. Benji and Christopher are phantoms amongst the outsiders of society, men for hire within the criminal underworld. With no direct affiliation, they’re the ones in the shadows whom organized crime syndicates hire for jobs they can’t risk being affiliated with, goons through and through. In a way this makes them more dangerous than the men they work for. Living from motel room to motel room and job to job, never knowing if they’ll see tomorrow, they have nothing to lose but themselves. Christopher’s hardened eyes stare, daydreaming out of the passenger window at the red clay mountains rising and falling along the sides of the winding highway. Birds of prey circle above in the crisp and cloudless blue sky. He looks almost innocent in his musings, imagining himself in the other passing cars, heading towards an actual home and an actual life, or at least a semblance of one. Instead, the
only thing Christopher was headed towards was the vast unknown, the only life he’s known. “You hesitated.” These are the first words from Benji in countless miles. “Excuse me?”, Christopher says in response.. Benji lets out a cloud of smoke from his stub of a cigar before answering. “Back there, when that red-neck pulled a piece on you, if I had been a second slower who knows what could’ve happened. You hesitated, don’t ever do that again. It’s not us or them out here, you got me? It’s just us.” Christopher looks ahead for a moment, calculating what he’ll say back to the man who gave him a life, while also endangering it on a daily basis. Christopher’s been with Benji since the age of fourteen, and in those five years has lived more than most people do in a lifetime. Having bounced from foster home to foster home around Massachusetts, Christopher met Benji by chance. At that time an enforcer in South Boston, Benji went to collect debts for a loan-shark from Christopher’s then foster father, Simon, who had taken Christopher off the grid. Simon was a, demented, vile, and utterly abusive man, torturing Christopher, and keeping him malnourished and living in a cage like a rabid animal. When Benji kicked in the door to collect the debt, a drug addled Simon charged him with a butcher knife. Almost effortlessly, Benji turned the knife on Simon and put him down. When Benji found him, Christopher was beaten, had soars all over, and hadn’t been bathed in weeks, his ribs sat pronounced within his fragile midsection. Benji freed the boy, shielding Christopher’s eyes on the way out from the corpse of the monster who had placed him in hell, while simultaneously opening his eyes to a side of life few could ever know or handle. They’d been together ever since. Starting simply as a look out for Benji, Christopher was now in on the main act. Whatever it was, whether it was a hit or a stick up job, Christopher had Benji’s back. “Did I hesitate in the bank? Did I?!” Christopher reaches in the backseat for the black hoodie he wore during the robbery. “This isn’t my blood on here. I took a man’s life for you back there when that secrutiy guard fired at you, did I hesitate then?” Shaking his head, Benji responds in a cool tone, “Hey, princess, calm down. I’m not saying any of this is easy, and I’m sure as shit not saying it 64
gets any easier, but the bottom line is this: You gotta do whatever it takes for one more breath out here, and you best take that breath on your terms and your terms alone. You don’t have to be here. You can get off this ride any time you want. You’re here on your terms, don’t forget that, so don’t give me grief because you can’t handle the messy parts of the job.” Christopher digests this statement, breathing frustrated in and out of his nostrils while examining Benji. Known for having the temperament and fight of a junkyard dog, he earned the ironic nickname “Benji” after the fictional canine from the movies with the same title. Christopher doesn’t know much about Benji’s past, just like everyone else Benji comes in contact with, he prefers it that way. Christopher’s only knowledge of the man he spends every day with comes solely from what they’ve experienced in their time together. Built like a house, and covered in tattoos with a face time hasn’t been gentle with, Benji isn’t easy to miss when entering a room. However, he speaks in an almost raspy whisper, rarely raising his voice. Instead, Benji speaks primarily through his actions. Christopher lights one of Buck’s Marlboro’s and savors its flavor before engaging his partner again in a wise-ass manner: “Well, duely noted…what’s next on our plate then, buddy ole’ pal?” First, checking coordinates on his watch, Benji abruptly pulls off the lost highway they’ve ridden all day onto a dirt road leading out into the boundless dessert. “Russians.”, Benji states in a flat tone, paying more attention to the coordinates on his watch than Christopher. Christopher chokes on the smoke from his cigarette at this answer, “…What’s our take?”. “Not sure yet…” says Benji, “I just know these guys don’t play. Everything has to be in order, no screw ups, no surprises.” They drive for almost another hour into the depths of the sandy sea. Sun beginning to set now, they land precisely where they are supposed to in order to meet their next employers. Benji stands about twenty yards away from the Cadillac, cigar still in his mouth, watching the Eastern horizon through binoculars. Meanwhile, Christopher carefully empties the vehicle, preparing to set it ablaze along with any other evidence that may still be inside. With his back turned to the Cadillac, Benji asks, “You sure you’ve got everything out of there?” Christopher doesn’t answer, instead just keeping on with the task at hand. 65
“Okay, good.”, Benji sarcastically retorts. Taking out the backpack filled with cash, Christopher closes the passenger-side door, catching his reflection in the window. He almost doesn’t recognize himself, averting eye contact with his own reflection after a momentary stare. Benji alerts him to the approaching dot on the horizon, their next employers, ruthless Russian mobsters whom they’ve never worked with before but are well aware of the possibly dire consequences of doing so. “Here they come, kid, light it up! We’ve gotta be ready to go when the Ruskis get here.” “Hold up, Benji, I gotta check the trunk, might be something worth grabbing.” The two of them can feel the pressure increasing with every heartbeat now that their fate approaches from over the horizon in a blacked out town car. The Russians get closer with every second as Christopher makes his way to the trunk. At first it doesn’t budge, causing Christopher to have to wiggle the key a bit before the trunk can reveal its contents. It finally pops open, and in absolute shock, the blood drains from Christopher’s face. He is barely able to utter the words, “Oh my God…” Benji, now concerned, “What?” No answer. “Chris, what is it?” Benji, now under increasing duress himself, storms towards the trunk of the Cadillac. There, inside the boiling hot, shag carpeted trunk, a woman lies bound and gagged, looking not with fear, but a strange sense of relief back at Christopher. They had stolen a getaway vehicle with a woman held captive in the trunk. This was going to be hard to explain to the Russians. Her dirty blonde hair soaked with sweat as runny make stains her gaunt cheeks. Her and Christopher gaze at eachother for what seems like an eternity. The two 66
of them cannot believe what they are seeing from two very different lights. For the woman, Christopher is hope, while for him she could be certain death. However, despite what he knows could happen to himself and Benji, he cannot close the trunk for two reasons. Firstly, Christopher and Benji don’t have many rules, but no harm to women or children is one of the few they abide by. Secondly, Christopher having lived a portion of his life in brutal captivity, feels an overwhelming amount of empathy for this woman. “Hey, Benji…I think you should take a look at this.” Benji finally makes his way to the open trunk and has difficulty registering what lies before him. The woman suddenly loses her cool and starts squirming wildly. “Shut the trunk,” commands Benji coldly. The woman’s eyes pop open with fear at the sound of Benji’s order. “What?!”, Protests Christopher. “She can’t be here; the Russians are expecting two of us, not three.” “Let’s just untie her an-” Benji cuts him off, “She’s seen our faces, Chris. For fuck’s sake, what’s wrong with you? She can report us. Besides, do you know what they’ll do to us, and her, if they show up and we can’t explain where she came from? Cause I don’t, and I sure as hell don’t want to find out.” During this dispute, the woman begins wriggling her hands free from behind her back, blood dripping from her calluses, eyes watering, and teeth grinding as she knows this is her last possible chance to preserve her own life. The rope binding her wrists together breaks. Christopher and Benjamin are too busy arguing to notice the woman in the trunk has willed herself closer to freedom. She rips the gag out of her mouth and silences both of them without an ounce of fear. Words spill out of her mouth as fast as she can produce them, “I won’t turn you in! I wont, I’m like you! Don’t leave me out here. Please...don’t.”
Benji and Christopher are at a loss of words, whipping their heads back towards the trunk. She continues in, what would be in any other circumstance, a very attractive Southern accent, “My name’s Roxie. I’m like you. That piece of shit you nabbed this ride from was a bounty hunte, I’m his bounty.” Benji finally opens up, saysing in a passive aggressive manner, “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Roxie, really, but-” Cutting him off, Roxie bites back, “I’m a driver, alright? Best you’ve ever seen, I garuntee it. I can work with you, don’t leave me out here! I can help you.” The Russians’ ride is now visible to the naked eye. Rolling in steadily, the setting sun frames the town car as if it were exiting a fiery tunnel out from the ninth layer of the inferno. The three of them stand in a triangle held together with tension, like gravity holding together a galaxy. The tension evaporates, and the galaxy Christopher has known for the last five years permanently alters, flaming star by flaming star, as Benji, without words, helps Roxie out of the trunk. In shock, Christopher attempts to thank Benji, but before he can, Benji grabs Christopher by the face, holding his mouth and jaw with his unnaturally strong hand. For a moment, Benji glares into Christopher’s fear stricken eyes, then looks back at Roxie, standing apprehensively, and over to the approaching Russians before letting out a primal scream of frustration into Chrsitophers’s face from point blank range. His roar is deafening. Finally, Benji defiantly mutters, “Welcome aboard, Roxie…If the Russians aren’t cool with the new addition then get ready to draw, Christopher. We’re either catching a ride out of here with them, or we’re taking theirs.” From left to right, Christopher, Roxie, and Benji stand silhouetted before the burning Cadillac. Its flames soar, reflecting in Benji’s eyes. If this goes wrong, in Benji’s mind he’s looking directly into his fate for the rest of eternity. Luckily for Christopher, he didn’t believe in an afterlife, that often makes this line of work much easier to digest. The ground rumbles and an engine can be heard more and more clearly by the second. Benji lets out a low growl, one hand on the pistol resting in his waistline, and he slowly turns to face the powerful glow of the Russian’s town car headlights. They had arrived.
The House That Is Home A Ghazal Courtney Janvrin I’ve lived in the same house my entire life; it is my home. It's where my parents still live, always there to welcome me home. There’s my bedroom where my first broken heart healed, I used to think that his arms were my only home. There’s the bathroom where I threw up from my first hangover, Being sick is ten times worse when you're not at home. There’s the living room where I built pillow forts with my two sisters, Mom would deliver us hot chocolate after she came home. And the playroom where I slayed dragons and saved the prince -I had thousands of adventures within the walls of my home. As a child I would play in our big front yard for hours until the day became night, Hearing my mother's voice calling, “Courtney! It's time to come home!”
The Set Joey Lendaro The balance is perfect. Classic Olympic bar, set up on a lifting mat; the hard, rubbery surface for grounding the feet, with padded mats on either side to soften the inevitable sound of weights falling. Six plates adorn the bar, four large plates of equal size, capped by two plates of slightly smaller size. Optimized for the task, as much as the laws of physics could dictate. I stared at this bar on the ground, knowing, visualizing, what was supposed to happen next. Inhale, exhale, inhale, then exhale again. Forced rhythmic breaths. I wonder: Do I have it in me? Other people continue their routines as I continue to study the bar, unaffected and unaware of my pause. I stand in the same spot, holding my water bottle. It rises to my lips unconsciously, and tips a small cascade of cold water into my open mouth. The liquid soothes the warmness in my mouth and throat as it flows through me. Maybe it would give me a surge of energy, one that would render the weight before me an effortless task. No such luck; no shortcuts exist on this path. The bar remains. Motionless on the mat, it stares me down. Scowling, I walk to the corner of the weight room and reach into a small white bucket. My fingers grasp a piece of chalk I deem adequate, and I begin the ritual to prepare my hands. Beginning at the palm, I trace a short line over the heavy calluses just below the fingers, swirl down over the rest of my palms, then finish by going up each individual finger. I duplicate the process for the other hand, and drop what's left of the piece back into the bucket. Hands readied for the task. The chalk is my war paint; time to go to war. With a few purposeful steps, I am back on the mat; I step easily into position, the tips of my feet under the bar. I glance down, checking my stance, out habit more than need since Iâ€™ve done this a thousand times, and will thousands more. My headphones enter my ears, headphone wire expertly manipulated to a place where it won't snag or pull. The volume goes loud, leaving me in my head, with only my thoughts in my head and the bar at my feet. Itâ€™s easy, only fifteen pounds more than before. Silent reasoning. Slowly, I bend, grasp the bar, left hand curled over the front, right hand curled over the back. Knees dipping further, I brace my lower back, head rising to stare into the mirror on the wall. I look into my own eyes, and know, I am ready. My muscles are poised to move.
Gathering my strength, I strain against the bar, feeling the tension in my legs and back. An invisible hand is pushing down on the bar, working tirelessly against me. The bar rises slowly; a few inches, then a foot, then further. My spine straightens; shoulders roll back; chest thrusts out. At the peak, I exhale sharply, pushing the air out with my lungs with force. This is only the first rep. How will I ever do three more, I wonder, as I slowly start to lower the bar. It touches back down to the mat without a sound. One. Now that I know what to expect, I do not hesitate: momentum is everything. Again, muscles engage, clenched hands pulling against the unwavering force that is gravity. This time the bar shoots up, and the shoulders and chest are already in their place. Another sharp breath released. Two. And the bar is descending to the mat, touching down lightly again, with no audible sound. I feel the calluses on my palms starting to tear; I ignore them. New calluses will soon replace them. I tense my legs and lower back, clench the bar. Again I wrench it free from gravity, and the bar soars up to waist height, shoulders back, chest out. Three. I want one more. Damn the pain, damn the effort, and damn all else between the floor and the top â€“ Iâ€™m taking it whether my body wants to or not. I feel the burning already in my quads; they tremble as I lower the bar back down; no protest from the mat. Blood burns through me; sweat once beaded now rolling down my face and arms. Can't. Stop. Must. Do. Last. One. Legs tense. Back locks. Hands fuse to the bar. Together, they pull upwards, and air is already escaping my lungs as it leaves the mat. It ascends, inches at a time, painfully slow, but it reaches the top, the final rep. My face contorts with effort as I lock out at the top of the rep, but I taste victory. I savor it for a moment, embracing the strain spread across my body, praising the blood careening from one muscle to another. This time the bar falls faster than intended, bouncing slightly as I relinquish it to gravity's jurisdiction. Another PR bites the dust, I realize, as I step off the mat, and drink down the fire burning in my body with another long draught of water. On to the next.
The Houses I Lived In Sam Whitacker There is the house in Franconia, a distant place in which I stayed for only a week. Actually, less than a week: I believe it was six days, and five nights. Some of the days, I was alone in the house. On those days, I mostly just wandered around the unfamiliar halls and strange rooms that had yet to contain memories, or rather, Photo Credit: Zillow.com memories salient to my own life and experience. There is no doubt that the rooms retain significance to those who dwelled there before. For myself, however, there was nothing yet. Perhaps the only home I found in the building was the comfort of our multitudinous pets. Three dogs nuzzling me when I sat down, cats shadowing me as I walk, hoping to slip through an open door, all gave me some sense of home. Kentucky is a home of eternal summer in my mind. Though I weathered a winter or two there, I do not recall the snow or frost. Instead, always in the eye of my mind do I see blue skies and a lazy sun. The basement was never scary, for it was a place where games were played. The upstairs was where I lay my head, a shared bedroom with my younger brother. All of the memories from within are lost, however, for the backyard and the soft grass. This house was close to a home, for here many pleasant things happened. Two of our beloved dogs came into our lives here, and for that I will always look fondly back to that time. Bright memories shine through too, of our neighbors horses coming to peer over the fence into our yard. The dogs spooking them, but in the end all is mirth. I still feel the kiss of sunlight on my sweat-dried face.
Fairfield, Connecticut, is the birthplace, but also the hardest house to recall. Vague memories of hallways, stairs, bedrooms, and living rooms swirl in the fog of lost time. Memories of this time include birthday parties that overly assert their “Nineties” vibe, and of the first taste of strawberry milk. I don’t quite recall all of my reactions, emotions, and feelings of the time in that house, but I realize that this was a foundational time. Trumbull follows, and it seems to me more of a place between two lives. Stone steps I scrape my knee on, but somehow tears do not fall. Soft, caring hands apply a bandaid and all is well. Games are played, and I at a young age discover an affinity for the Fall. I see gaps form, though. Rifts between adults emerge, and soon trouble comes in more open ways. Arguments with hot words and red-faces appear and terrify me. A crescendo of hate follows and what is left is a broken family. My last memory of the house is driving away, my father, standing on the front stoop, watching us. He would later tell us that when he went through the house, one last time before he moved out, that he found a toy or two. Physical memories of us that lay forgotten. He collected them and keeps them for when we see him later. Germantown, Maryland was a rough area. For the first time I am confronted with a sense of unease on a daily basis. My school nearby is shut down on multiple occasions due to either a nearby stabbing, or one upon the school property itself. The yard was small, and we often stayed inside. What mars my memories of this time is a dark ziggurat upon which many of my struggles would stem from. Ironically, my pain was another’s healing. New love for one was a new taste of anguish for me. This house has good memories, but it is hard to hold the grains of happiness when the water of despair washes them away. Lebanon was where I lived for a substantial amount of time. Not just in the actual, measurable span of time in which I lived there. Moreso that it contains the years in which the most change occurred. In no other place did so much change come together in my life. Growth happened there, as realizations came to light. Paradoxically, withering happened there as well. The self-confidence and extroversion of my elementary years corroded away. The soil I was rooted in had become mercurial and acidic. The trunk of my life could not endure the conditions of my roots, and as such pieces of me began to die. Only upon uprooting later was I saved, but for a time I had believed that I would turn to prune myself -- or clear-cut altogether. 73
I realize now that was missing in all those houses was a sense of home. I suppose some would say they carry that feeling of home within them, at all times. I do not feel this way, however. Instead, I feel what I understand as home in the smallest things of life. In the relaxing naps in a quiet room, warm sunlight acting as sufficient blanketing, that is home. The conversations with my friend that last an hour and an eternity, the connection between us is home. And perhaps most mawkish of all, I feel at home when reading a good book. I suppose that escapism is explanation enough, but I think if I can’t find a home in this life, maybe I’ll find it in someone else’s.
A Twist of Fate Tori Weinstock Prince Charming used to look at Cinderella the way every woman dreamt of being looked at. He now had vivid recurring nightmares of that dark day: The day when the light left his once sparkling blue eyes. He sat upon his gold antique chair in the castle's library, taking swigs of rum at 5minute increments. He blankly stared at the painting of Cinderella and him waving from the back of pumpkin carriage. She had died during labor; her once vibrant skin turned purple and cold. The prince stared madly at the crying baby hidden under the bloodied sheets. Her name was Dusterella, and she had grown into a spitting image of her mother. With her beautiful golden blonde locks, soft navy eyes, the Prince was reminded of his beloved wife every time he looked at Dusterella. For this reason he resented her. It was her fault, for she had taken away the love of his life, his fairytale ending. Dusterella was forced to work from sun up to sun down around the castle performing tedious tasks. Wednesdays she washed and ironed the linens in all 35 rooms. Thursdays she scrubbed the castle floors with a toothbrush until it was spotless or if the prince was happy with his reflection. Now Fridays, Fridays were the worst for Dusterella. She had to clean the fireplace by picking up each piece of individual ash, tidy up the royal garden, and finally set up cards, tables, and drinks for the Prince and his friends later in the evening. Dusterella sprawled out on her mismatched quilts looking up at the ceiling wondering “Gus, what was my mother like?” The stuffed taxidermy mouse stared blankly back at her. I bet she was lovely. “Thanks for always listening Gus” Dusterella kissed the stuffed mouse lightly on its head and before she turned over to curl up under her quilts. Dusterella faded into a deep slumber from another long work day. She woke up before the sun would peak over the white mountains to begin her chores. She picked out a worn grey dress and a white apron: The same apron her mother had worn when she had lived in the attic room. Dusterella opened the closet to reveal a marvelous ball gown, each stitch still as perfect as the last. The white and blue gown hung preserved in the closet, until hopefully, the day Dusterella would get to wear it. Dusterella smiled longingly at the dress tracing her fingers across the fine fabric. I hope I can wear this someday, just like you
did mom, it keeps me close to you. She inhaled deeply, hoping the smell of fresh flowers would never leave the dress. Sunlight started to trickle through the cracks in the wall as a cool breeze crept through the large open window. “Oh no, oh no!” She quickly closed the closet door and rushed down the 175 steps as quickly as she could. Dusterella was sentenced to her room tucked away in the attic once she completed her chores. She would stay up there until the Prince’s guests would leave in their drunken stupors. That crisp fall evening the Prince’s drunkard friends came over to the castle as they usually did. The guests had already begun to file in, as she tried to silently tidy up a hallway across from the card table. The prince grimaced from across the room. Dusterella could feel his gaze burning into the back of her dirty apron. “Dusterrrrelllaaaaaaa!” He snarled her name, clasping his fingers around his glass of bourbon. He began squeezing it harder and harder until his knuckles whitened. She tried working faster hoping he would just leave her alone, like he usually did. “ I knooooww you can hear me. You’re…. you’re embarrassing me in front of my friends! Dusterrrelllaaaa!” In his drunken rage he spiked the thick cut glass into the back of her head. It shattered. Pools of crimson started spilling out of the gash from her wound. Cheers from the drunkards in the other room erupted, food, and beer spewing everywhere. “Annndd clean this mess up!” He spat on the floor beside her. Dusterella winced in pain and placed her worn dirty fingers to the back of her head. She turned towards him, their eyes meeting. “Dad….” She whimpered, now curled into a small ball upon the floor with tears streaming down her porcelain skin. “I toooold you not to call me that….” He glanced long and hard into the blood that covered the once pearl white floor. He smirked back at his reflection, pleased with himself. Then his face turned back to disgust. The prince let out a long burp, before storming up the stairs towards the attic. Dusterella sobbed while trying to mop up her own blood. She swept up the shards of glass, when she heard the Prince stomping back down the stairs in his drunken descent. “Youu took her fromm me!” 76
The princess bellowed, grabbing Dusterella by the apron and forcing her to look back up at him. She stayed silent, still on her hands and knees cleaning. “Youu didn’t, you didn’t even knoooow her!” He took a large gulp straight from the bottle. “I loooved her” The prince continued. “Annnd you, you are a burdennn, a constant reminder.” The prince dropped a rusted pair of scissors and pieces of freshly cut blue fabric. At the sight of the fabric scrap Dusterella’s face turned to stone. She left the broom and sprinted up the stairs to her room. She held her breath opening the door. Jagged pieces of blue and white material were scattered throughout her room, the closet door wide open displaying the once breathtaking ball gown as nothing more than a crime scene. A chilling breeze crept across Dusterella’s skin from the window from the morning. Dried tears and crusted blood stained her skin as she walked with her fists clenched closer and closer to the wide open window. Dusterella took a deep breath and jumped.
Caught in a Storm Chelsea Birchmore Wind flows through treetops, greeting the green leaves that ripple with anticipation. Threatening clouds emerge from faded blue. Tree branches snap, crash to the forest floor. A gray squirrel scurries up a hemlock, nuts stowed between her cheeks. A clap of thunder erupts in the distance. Yet still, I sit. Caught between blank sky and my wooden perch, a splash of lightning ignites my eyes. Rain fights to be free from the clouds towering over. Wind whips moisture into my face. The crescendo of spring peepers find me through the trees, urges me to stand and walk along soft silhouettes of fallen leaves. When I reach the evergreen curtain, raindrops dangle from ear lobes, sap soaked pine needles cling to bare feet, damp wildflowers tuck into braids. I cross the threshold, a mere accessory of the wild, as I leave the natural world behind.
Dhaval the Tiger – A Folktale Nick Chasse Once upon a time there was a young tiger cub that lived in the jungle. However, unlike all of the other tigers who had bold orange coats, this cub’s fur was white as snow. His coat earned him the name of Dhaval, a Hindi name meaning “white”, and everyone who saw the cub was stricken with awe. One day Dhaval’s mother called him home and said, “Dhaval, take this bundle of herbs and bring it to the streak’s tigress, she is sick and needs them to recover.” The tigress was considered the wise woman of the streak and lived in a hut on the other side of the river, not too far from Dhaval and his mother. “Mind yourself and watch that you are respectful and say hello when she sees you. Do not stray from the path to her hut, and mind not to talk to any strangers. There are many who travel these parts and not all of them intend to be your friend.” With that warning, he set forth on his journey. Not long after Dhaval entered the jungle, he encountered a man dressed in a tan shirt and hat that wrapped all the way around his head. The man was in awe at the site of the cub’s fur and instantly wondered how valuable it might be. Dhaval had seen humans before, but never one so closely nor had he ever had the chance to speak to one. “Hello there little cub, that’s quite a lot of herbs you have there. What do you intend to do with all of them?” “I am going to the tigress’ hut. She is not feeling well and needs them to feel better.” “Now this tigress, is she a tiger like you?” “Why of course she is a tiger! She is called tigress after all!” replied Dhaval with a snicker. The man began to think about how to handle the situation. Although the cub’s snow white fur would fetch a hefty price, two tigers would prove to be even more lucrative. “Little cub, where does the tigress’ live?” “Just across the river. Speaking of which, it has been nice talking with you, but I really must go.” “Yes I understand,” replied the man, “But before you go, have this fishing rod. I understand the bridge is just up ahead. Perhaps you could
catch some fish for the tigress. I’m sure she would more than appreciate some grilled fish for supper to go along with her herbs.” Dhaval was hesitant to accept. His mother had warned him not to talk to strangers, but this man did not seem to intend to cause any harm. If he caught some fish and brought them to the tigress just like the man said, she would most certainly be appreciative; surely his mother would understand. “I like that idea sir, thank you.” Dhaval then took the fishing rod and bid the man a farewell. Once he reached the bridge, he hung his legs off the side and began to fish just like the man had suggested. He looked around at all the fish; silver scales dancing just beneath the surface of the water. Dhaval would be able to catch enough fish for the tigress in no time at all. With him now distracted, the man made his way further down the path to the tigress’ hut. Once he was sure no one else was around, he knocked. “Who is it?” replied the tigress. Not knowing what to do, the man knocked again. “Who is it?” repeated the tigress. “I’m sorry but I can’t get out of bed. The door is unlocked, just let yourself in. The man then went inside and captured the seasoned tigress with a net, and dragged her behind her hut. He then put on her clothes and hid in her hut with another net as he waited for the young Tiger. When Dhaval was certain that he had more than enough fish to keep the tigress well fed for the next few days, he continued his way along the path. As he reached her hut, he noticed that the door was cracked open. “Hello? Is anyone home? It’s Dhaval.” Dhaval called inside. He had been here many times, not once had tigress left her door ajar. “I’m in here Dhaval,” called the tigress from the kitchen. As Dhaval stood in the door way, he noticed that the tigress did not look herself. “Oh tigress, you’ve grown shorter since last time I’ve seen you.” “Yes, with age one tends to get a bit smaller I suppose.” replied the tigress in a hushed voice; Dhaval was barely able to hear her. “Oh tigress, you are ill. It seems that all your fur has fallen out!” “Nonsense my dear child, my coat is just as radiant as ever.” “Oh tigress, how dull your claws have gotten.” “No, No, they’re just the same as they’ve always been. Come take a closer look.” As Dhaval took a step forward, a net fell from the ceiling and trapped him. The man then dragged him outside and put him behind the hut with the real tigress. Just as the man began dragging the two felines away, Dhaval’s mother appeared and caught site of the commotion. Thinking fast, she pounced on 80
the man and tore his arm from his body, in turn releasing the net and freeing Dhaval and the tigress. The two tigers were free, and Dhaval never again talked to strangers as he walked through the jungle.
Credits Introduction: Lucas Thors and Nicholas Chasse Copy Editing: Victoria Goggin, Courtney Janvrin, Joey Lendaro, and Sam Whitaker Design & Layout: Chelsea Birchmore, Rory Carbone, Adam Filkins, and Patrick Ewing (Taillon) Photo and Visuals Editors:
Meaghan Piascik and Victoria Weinstock
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Brinda Charry
The journal of the KSC Writing Portfolio class of Fall 2017