Juanita Kruse Callie Kuykendall Christian Marciano Abi Peck Casey Peeler Zachary Perry Eddie Pinon Bailey Sherrill Vada Sherrill Kevin Taylor Emma Tuttle Mackennon Watson Michelle Vaughn Day
PFEIFFER UNIVERSIT Y
Kayla Aiton Alan-Michael Allis Corinne Auger Lillie Brady Eli Bostian John Borza Joshua Cross Jason Emory Maranda Fisher Torrianna Foster Kevin Garcia Kimberly Goodell Kat Kelley
Spring 2016 Pfeiffer University Misenheimer, NC
THE PHOENIX STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Torrianna Foster
CHIEF EDITOR OF DESIGN Megan Hedrick
MANAGING EDITOR Eli Bostian
THE STAFF Ryanna Hammond Stephanie Carpenter Kasey Blankenship Tiffany Eddinger Molly Huber Courtney Laughlin
Kimberly Goodell Kayla Aiton Zachary Perry Angela Eury Kaylin Brewer Cheyenne Church
FACULTY ADVISER Dr. Marissa Schwalm
We would like to thank the Pfeiffer English Department for all of their support. Cover photo A Little Bit of Magic provided by Kimberly Goodell All text set in Myriad Pro Please visit our website at www.pfeiffer-phoenix.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FICTION Then Time Froze by Alan-Michael Allis You Are Gone by Lillie Brady Passing the Torch by Eli Bostian Cries from the Cornfield by Abi Peck, Kat Kelley, Callie Kuykendall, Christian Marciano, Vada Sherrill, Eddie Pinon, Emma Tuttle & Bailey Sherrill Southern Perfection by Casey Peeler The Terror at Misenheimer by Kevin Taylor
5 7 11 13 14 17
ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Black Magic Woman by John Borza Flyover (We of It) by Joshua Cross Jackson Lake by Jason Emory Mountian Goat on Mt. Quandary by Jason Emory Life’s a Journey by Maranda Fisher A German Castle in the Sky by Kimberly Goodell Qui Vivra Verra (Only Time Will Tell) by Kimberly Goodell On the Durango to Silverton Line by Juanita Kruse
POETRY Lies by Kayla Aiton Let Us–Extended by Alan-Michael Allis Sorcery by Alan-Michael Allis A Moment in Time by Corinne Auger
24 25 27 28
Fiction A Little Too Often by Eli Bostian Broken Picture Frames by Lillie Brady For You. by Torrianna Foster Honestly by Zachary Perry Ice by Zachary Perry Rain by Zachary Perry Moonlight Mary by Bailey Sherrill Mom by Mackennon Watson Gonna Stop by Michelle Vaughn Day
30 31 33 34 35 36 37 39 40
NONFICTION Time Stands Still by Torrianna Foster A Living Nightmare by Kevin Garcia Smoke by Zachary Perry
In this section readers can learn more about the authors’.
41 43 46
Then Time Froze There we were: standing on the back porch, surrounded by the void of night. The orbs of gas and fire dusted the sky above, as Orion kept watch. I could barely make out your silhouette as we stood only inches apart, but I could feel your presence. I felt safe; at the same time I could feel a hurricane of anxiety beginning to rage in the pit of my stomach, making it’s way along the organs of my chest cavity. In only a split second, it hit land, wreaking havoc on my heart as we began to say our goodbyes and good nights. Right before you turned away from me there was a moment that you leaned closer, our foreheads almost touching. Part of me wanted to jump at the chance, I wanted nothing else; the other part anchored me, holding me grounded. The moment you turned away, the surge broke all of the levies. I watched as that silhouette began to fade into the abyss. My heart sank into the treacherous currents, drowning as the waters rose. The only thought that passed though my head was ‘there goes that chance.’ I always let the moment pass like sand falling through the fingers of an open hand, an hourglass of every moment missed. I stared at my feet; disappointed, yet again, that I was defeated by my own guard-prisoner within the self-built walls around me. The sound of your foot landing on wood was like a hundred nails against the slate of a chalkboard; it was physically painful to hear. I wasn’t going to lose this chance; I couldn’t let this moment slip away. Now, a new storm of adrenaline and determination gained momentum. A perfect storm waged war; it was now or never. Before you could get too far, I leaned forward, stretching to grab something: a hand, an arm, a sleeve. My fingers glided across the fabric of your shirt, but not enough for me to grab ahold of you. Luckily, you stopped moving and turned back to me. Stepping forward, I pressed off my heels just to stand a little taller. I saw a small glint in your eye when I laid my hand gently against your cheek. In a quick motion our faces were touching. My eyes closed as tightly as I could squeeze them shut. I feared if I was to open my eyes you would vanish, and the memory of tonight would disappear like a dream when woken up, only to become a disillusioned blur of fantasy to daydream about. In that moment I could not feel the motion of time. It was like the universe stopped expanding, the earth’s spin slowed, and all of time and space watched as you 5
THE PHOENIX slipped your hands between my shirt and jacket. Wrapping both arms around me, your fingertips met on my spine. Slowly, and ever so gently, they traveled down to the small of my back, where they found their resting spot. We reluctantly settled back into reality. The universe continued expanding, the earth spun at its normal speed around the sun, and time moved right past us. I felt accomplished, for in that moment I broke away from the emotional swell, with an audience of burning orbs twinkling above.
Fiction Lillie Brady
You Are Gone
“Beep… Beep… Beep…” The heart monitor hanging over your bed has been making the same dull beeping sound for the last two hours. This room is small, desolate, and white. Everything in the hospital is white, besides the hideous blue scrubs the nurses and doctors have on; which, by the way, I wish you were awake to see how hot your doctor is, you would totally be flirting with him. But instead you’re lying there like you have for the past couple of hours, lifeless. There is a small chair by the window that looks over the courtyard where patients get some air during the day, but right now all that can be seen are the fireflies’ iridescent glow flooding it. “How is she doing?” the third nurse of the hour asks as she walks in carrying a clipboard. “Exactly the same,” I say kind of sarcastically. How do you think she is doing? She hasn’t woken up since the accident, I think to myself. “When will we know anything?” I ask. “We have her vital signs steady right now, so it’s just about waiting until she wakes up.” She walks out of the room scribbling something on her clipboard. Exhausted, I lay back in the chair and closed my eyes. Earlier that night, we were driving out past the county line towards the party. Windblown hair and music blaring, life seemed effortless and perfect. But the last thing I can recall is seeing bright white lights fill the windshield and then everything went dark. I remember waking up to blue and red lights throbbing in the skyline as I laid on my back on a gurney. Cars lined the road with onlookers peering through the mob of EMT and police officers frantically moving about. I remember looking for you and my eyes met what resembled our car. A jumbled mesh of metals and shattered glass, it sat perched against a large tree. I can still feel the feeling as my stomach dropped to my knees and my heart began to race. Frantically, I began searching the crowd, looking for you. In the back of an ambulance I saw the straps of your brown leather sandals hanging out, ripped from their seams. Looking down at my left palm I realized I had a small gash with a slow stream of blood pouring 7
THE PHOENIX from the severed skin. I wanted to walk over to you, but I remember my legs becoming stiff and paralyzed, unable to carry me forward. The sharp sting coming from my left palm was unable to mask the gut-wrenching feeling I had in my stomach, wondering what had happened. A sharp light begins shining through the blinds right on the stiff, uncomfortable chair I called home for the night. In the hospital, a new day rises, and you are still lying in the hospital bed, motionless. Your head is wrapped in dressings to protect the lacerations from the windshield glass from when you were propelled through it. Wires and tubes are attached to you as if you are some kind of experiment. I know you would have a fit if you saw yourself like this. “Haley!” your mom screams as she runs in. She leans over you and begins to weep a fabricated cry of emotions. The look on your mother’s face shows no signs of tears or a sleepless night she endured waiting for her daughter to come home because she didn’t even realize you didn’t make it home last night. Your dad walks in slowly after with his hands drilled into his pockets, chewing on a toothpick with pursed lips. I’m surprised they are even here; they haven’t done as much as cooked you dinner in the last six months. “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson,” I say quietly. Your mom’s eyes meet mine with a look filled with so much hatred that it could pierce right through someone’s heart. “What happened?” she says. My face turns the color of the fire truck that came to the scene of the accident last night. I am in such shock I can’t seem to formulate the words to tell your mother that this is one hundred percent my fault. I think to myself, maybe if I just stand here she will take her attention off me and focus it on you, but she doesn’t. “Well?” she says. Looking down at my feet, hands between my legs trying to hide the mere bandage I have concealing my wound, I freeze with fear. How am I supposed to explain to your parents that I was the one driving, I was the one who swerved into the other lane, and I was the one who hit the other car? I can’t muster up the courage to answer your mother; I just sit in that uncomfortable chair and don’t say a word. “It is time for you to go,” your mother says to me. Weeks have gone by, and I visit as often as I can. I sit in that chair 8
Fiction by the window for as long as they will let me stay in the room with you. The hospital courtyard is now a kaleidoscope of different colored leaves falling from the large oak trees. One by one I watch patients trail in and out through the doors to experience the crisp fall air. “Everyone at school is asking about you,” I lean over the bed and whisper. “People really want to come see you, but I told them they should wait until you wake up. So ya know, any time now would be nice! I have a lot to tell you,” I say. I want so badly for you to open your eyes and laugh and say “gotcha!” like it was one of the practical jokes that you were always playing on me. I want to walk out those doors into the courtyard with you and breathe in the fresh air. But you’re still lying there, motionless. Walking back into the room, your mother is carrying a coffee cup and the latest fashion magazine. Instead of a mother with a look of worry, she reads the magazine and sips her coffee with a look of delight on her face. Your dad hasn’t said much the past couple of weeks. He just chews on a different toothpick everyday and listens to whatever your mother tells him to do. I have always wondered what goes on in his head. For as long as I have known you, I have maybe heard him say two words. He just stands there with a stoic look painted across his face as if he were a puppet and his wife were his puppeteer. The leaves in the courtyard have gone from beautiful reds and yellows to bare, grey branches. A few snowflakes are falling as I sit in my same uncomfortable chair, watching you sleep. “Christmas is in a couple of weeks,” I say. “And I already bought your present and you can’t use it in the hospital so you better wake up and get out of here with me.” You are still lying in a peaceful position with the scars across your forehead beginning to fade. I like to talk to you because some part of me thinks that you can hear me, but your body just can’t muster up enough energy to respond. Tacky decorations litter the hallways and your room. Snowmen and reindeer cutouts accompanied by Christmas lights and bells remind everyone of what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. The nurses wear Christmas-themed scrubs every day and try to inflict cheer into their patients. I just wonder how they expect to celebrate Christmas in a place filled with such sorrow and death. Christmas came and went, and I have stopped visiting as frequently. 9
THE PHOENIX The hospital moved you to a different room. This one is less white, more of a homey feel. Obnoxious pink hearts for Valentine’s Day has now taken place of the Christmas decorations. At school the inquiring minds have become less and less vocal, and some days it’s like people don’t even realize you’re gone. Today is your birthday, and I decide that I am going to bring you your favorite candy, magazines, and a mix tape I made of the new songs you have missed. I walk into your room and it’s empty. The fake flowers your mother bought for the table, the “get well soon” cards and balloons that once were there are all gone. For some reason I have the same gut wrenching feeling I had the night of the accident. I leave the room and frantically begin searching for the nearest doctor in sight. Racing through the white hallways, I can’t find anyone until I see your doctor getting into the elevator at the end of the hall. “Stop, please stop!” I yell. As I reach him I see the sullen look on his face as he looks down towards his clipboard. “I am so sorry, but your friend took her last breath last night,” he says. I can feel my face turn as white as the walls in the hospital. Coldness engulfs my body as it slowly makes contact with the newly-waxed tile floor. Your gifts accompany me as I hit the ground and time begins to stand still. Images of red and blue lights, the car mangled against the tree, your tattered leather sandals ripped from their seams, all flash through my head. My chest is becoming tight as I find it harder to breathe with each gasping breath. As I look down I see the scar on my hand, and tears begin to flow down my cheeks. Uncontrolled of my body, I rise slowly. My weak, lifeless limbs attempt to carry me towards the exit, but it poses to be too much. The fate I was trying to avoid these past months has now crippled me, and reality has sunk in. You are gone.
Passing the Torch
Everett scuffed his shoes self-consciously, ducking near the entrance to the austere den as the old man offered him a yellowed, wolfish grin. “So?” the old man rasped, his bony knuckles clawing the ribbed arms of his worn, highbacked chair. “I take it you have another question for me.” He eyed the boy with the knowing cockiness bestowed only by age and experience as a weak flame fluttered pathetically in the nearby fireplace, providing little warmth and less illumination. Everett flushed a rooted-red, every fiber of his youthful pride straining to bite at the old man with a scathing retort, but he checked his temper. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at his leather shoes and, still finding them restless, crossed the room to crouch on the ancient, three-legged stool across from the old man’s chair. Garen (for that was, in fact, the gaffer’s name) cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, you’re learning!” Garen crooned, wrinkled eyes still gleaming with a mocking glint. “Perhaps you are ready to hear an answer then!” he cackled. Leaning towards the fireplace for the first time in ages, he grabbed a piece of firewood scarcely larger than kindling and carefully nestled it in the flame. Turning back, his eyes now flickered harshly in the distracting light. Everett, long-limbed and quite out of place on his tiny, world-worn stool, wrapped his fingers tightly around the seat of his perch. Despite a moment’s hesitation, he finally glanced jerkily up at the old man and said, “Please… tell me… h-how to win a woman’s heart!” If possible, Everett’s face blossomed into an even deeper shade of red, an observation not lost on the old man in the new light. “Aahhh… so we’ve reached there, have we…” the old man’s countenance grew distant for a moment, then reassembled into a toothy grin with the unerring speed of a wiry squirrel whisking through the trees. “Woman?” he spat, “Boy, you’re hardly old enough to win the glancing interest of a girl! Ha!” the old man cackled once more. Roused, Everett readied a retort until Garen’s wrinkled expression changed yet again. “Still,” the old man said, his arms relaxing on the sides of his chair, “a girl’s love is of a capricious nature, while a woman’s love, should she see fit to bestow it, can be shaken only by your own folly. Perhaps it’s best that’s what you seek.” Everett closed his mouth and unconsciously loosened the grip on his 11
THE PHOENIX stool. “The question you pose is ultimately asked by every man, yet so few find the answer due to its deceptive simplicity.” Garen’s wrinkles smoothed, his eyes looking somewhere beyond Everett’s ruffled hairline. “A woman’s love is not bought or won–leastways, not that of any woman worth pursuing. Nor is it strictly earned, at least in the casual sense. Never confuse love with affections; although the second usually accompanies the first, not all affections are accompanied by love.” The fire flared sharply as the timber cracked, casting magical, haunting shadows upon the walls. Here, the old man’s eyes began to gleam, his voice softened, and Everett leaned to the edge of his seat to hear. “True love, the steady, unwavering kind, is the single greatest asset a man can hope to gain this side of the void, and his only chance of attaining it is to bestow it himself. The way to obtain a woman’s love… you must simply ask for it.” Finished, the old man returned to himself, his eyes refocusing as he glanced at the boy sitting across from him. The fire began to die, its meager sustenance now consumed and wilted. Garen’s wiry mouth began to tweak upwards as he observed the boy’s confusion. Noticing the old man’s expression in the dim light, Everett jumped to his feet, stool thrown back, forgotten. “That’s it? After all the harassment, all you can give me is ‘ask for it?’” Arms twisting by his side, Everett’s fingers curled into fists as he glared at the old man. Garen gazed at the boy almost wistfully before the same painfully knowing smile crawled across his face once more. Finally, his gravelly voice rang out in a bark, “Boy, if you could see your face!” He crowed until he wheezed, and even still his laughter persisted until it was replaced by heaving coughs. Everett’s flushed face deepened to a full purple as the fireplace popped with its single, pale flame.
Fiction Abi Peck, Kat Kelley, Callie Kuykendall, Christian Marciano, Vada Sherrill, Eddie Pinon, Emma Tuttle & Bailey Sherrill
Cries from the Cornfield One dark, stormy night known as Halloween Eve, a bloody white goat’s head rolled into the gravel road. A slender black figure emerged from a dense cornfield covered in a coat of fog without a single star in sight. An eerie silence that would make chills run down your exposed neck and sweat begin to form on your shaking upper lip was broken by the screeching, scratching sound of broken rock forced against a trailing axe blade that fell behind the blank face of a middle-aged woman. Crouched and trembling in fear, just an arm’s reach away, were two children flattened against the towering corn husks. The children: a young sandy-haired boy of ten with his mouth covered by the trembling hand of his 12-year-old sister trying to muffle his violent sobs as well as her own that beat against her sewn lips. The young protectress told herself that they were safe, that she and her brother Bobby would make it out of here to safety. As she watched the black-clothed, crazy-eyed figure walk further into the thicket of corn, she released her captive fear with a silent cry and let her hand drop from Bobby’s mouth. As the two young children slowly stood, ready to sprint for the road toward some sort of safety, the girl heard the swift swoosh of an iron blade. She watched Bobby’s blond head tumble through the air and thud against the brown soil at her feet. With tear-filled eyes, she looked up to see the expressionless face of her own mother. The cornfield was shaken by a ear-splitting shriek that quieted the entire night. And then, all one could see was that same black figure gently tucking two lifeless children into their now blood-soaked beds. So beware, one and all, for this black-clothed mother thinks that even you are her runaway child.
Southern Perfection Prologue–Raegan
Grabbing my shiny black shoes, I try to buckle them but I can’t. After trying three times, I start to cry. Why do I have to wear this stupid dress and shoes anyway? I just want to play at the barn with Cole. That’s what I always do when I come to Grandaddy’s, I think as the tears fall harder and I hear footsteps. “Come here, Sunshine.” Grandaddy says as he pulls me into his arms. I hug him as tight as I can. “I know this is tough, but you’re a tough cookie. It’s okay to be sad. I am too, but I need you to be on your best behavior today, okay?” Grandaddy says as he sits me on his knee to buckle my shoes. Using the sleeve on my dress, I wipe my eyes and nod my head. He smiles at me. “I’m always a good girl, Grandaddy.” I say proudly as we both stand and I weave my fingers in his rough hand. We make our way to his old truck and I slip getting inside with these stupid shoes. Ouch! My knee hurts! Grandaddy picks me up and checks my knee, then makes sure I get safely in my seat. When Grandaddy buckles me in, he gives me a quick kiss on the top of my head. “I love you, Grandaddy.” “I love you too, Sunshine. We’re gonna get through this–me and you.” I nod with a smile. He smiles back and we head to the church. The ride to the church is short, but I keep wondering why Grandaddy said I needed to be good. I’m always good, but today I’m gonna try extra hard. Standing at the front of the old wooden church, I am surprised by all the people. Where are they coming from? Why are they all crying? It’s my mama, daddy, and grandma, not theirs. Every time I think the line is coming to an end, more people show up. Then I see Mrs. Talent, my teacher. “Mrs. Talent! Mrs. Talent!” I say loudly, but Grandaddy takes my hand and gives it a little squeeze. Oh no! That wasn’t what I was supposed to do. Mrs. Talent bends down to me, places her hands on my arms, and begins to speak with her soft voice. “Raegan, I’m so sorry about your parents and your grandma. The class misses you, but you take your time. Thumper, the bunny, really misses you too.” I begin to smile. I just love Thumper, and he loves me, especially when I 14
bring him an extra treat from the farm.She stands and looks at my grandaddy. Grandaddy doesn’t talk a lot, but I can tell he’s sad, too. “Mr. Lowery, we are truly sorry for your loss. Please let the school know if there is any way we can help you or Raegan.” “Mrs. Talent, thank you for everything y’all have done thus far. Raegan and I will be okay. Might take some gettin’ used to, but we’ll be a’ight.” Finally, I can see the end of the line. Yes! My feet hurt so bad! I’m tired and want to sit on Grandaddy’s porch and let my mama read to me while we swing. Oh, wait. She can’t. Thinking about her makes me sad. I miss her so much. What am I going to do without her or daddy? As the church clears, the men in suits approach, telling us we can leave. I’m glad because they are kinda scary. Grandaddy picks me up, carries me to the truck, and buckles me in. No falling this time. The ride to the farm is quiet, except for some old music coming softly through the speakers. Grandaddy starts to sing and I try my best to act like I know the words, too. As we turn onto the dirt road, I see my grandaddy’s house, but there sure are a bunch of cars. “Grandaddy, why are there a bunch of cars at your house?” I ask. “Sunshine, the people from the church have brought food for us to eat. There will be a bunch of people here, but once they eat, they should go home.” Good! “Okay.” I say. Be good, Rae. “Is Cole coming?” I ask. “You bet.” Grandaddy says as he gives my knee a soft pat. Yay! I get to see my cousin Cole! Once the truck comes to a stop, I hop out and run to the porch. Where is he? I throw open the door and run into the living room to look around for Cole. Oops! There sure are a bunch of people in here. Grandaddy comes into the living room behind me, “Sunshine, he’ll be here in a few minutes. Go change if you want while you wait for him.” I hurry up the steps and open my suitcase. I dig until I find my favorite shirt and shorts. I pull my dress over my head and it gets stuck on my shoulders. After a minute, I get it off and it falls onto the floor. Man that was rough! I pull on my clothes, slide on my boots, and grab my hat. This is way better! When I get downstairs, I follow the sound of voices into the kitchen. I see Ms. Frances and a few other ladies from the church. They stop when they see me. “Hey, Raegan!” she says too happily. “Just a few minutes and supper will be ready.” Honestly, I’m not hungry. I just want to go and play. “Okay. Thank you,” I say and turn to see if Cole is here. I walk around and don’t see him. Hurry up, Cole! I take a seat in my little rocking chair. I sit 15
THE PHOENIX there like the good girl that I am. I swear I’ve been sitting for an hour when I hear Cole. “Whatcha doin’, Rae?” Cole says. “Sitting and being a good girl.” He laughs.. “Rae, you’re always good. Come on, let’s go play out back.” I shake my head no. “Why not?” he says. “Grandaddy said I had to be on my best behavior. I can’t play.”Cole puts his hands in his pockets. “He didn’t mean that you couldn’t play. Come on,” he says and pulls me by the hand. I shake my head no. “I promise, it’s okay.” If Cole says it’s okay, I guess it is? I hop out of the rocker and we hurry out the front door.
Fiction Kevin Taylor
The Terror at Misenheimer (In Honor of H.P. Lovecraft)
[The following manuscript, consisting of weathered handwritten sheets of paper, was found in an abandoned closet in Jane Freeman Hall. Alexander Hall was one of the old buildings at Pfeiffer, which burned down in 1929 - ed.]
The horrifying ramifications of the events of the fall of 192- are still with me. With the intervening three years, they remain as clear as day, despite the fact that my mind always seems to be enveloped in a foggy dusk. My various doctors and psychiatrists have been able to do little for my condition, and we all know that I am failing. Is this a memoir? Maybe. Dr. Johnson recommended trying to write the events down, in this bizarre methodology we now call counseling, some modern version of the exorcism of demons. I want to convince myself that these things really happened–and yet, I also don’t want to remember them. John Michael and I are the only surviving witnesses to the entire story, and he remains hospitalized and unresponsive after that cold November night. I am the only one who can tell the tale, and who would want to hear one so grim? What if it leads to further evil? I do not want to be more responsible than I already am. No, I must leave such considerations behind me. My conscience has already had its chance. I entered Pfeiffer University in that fateful fall, an excited first-year student eager to learn the ancient craft of ministry. I had grown up a preacher’s kid–a PK in the church vernacular–and had always been expected to go to seminary. I had neither objected nor assented, but done what seemed the most logical thing to do. Although I had no great love for God or people, neither did I have a dislike for any of them. Ministry seemed as good a vocation as any, so I consented to those hidden parental pressures. I was to live in the old Alexander Hall, a curious building with a few strange suites consisting of 16
THE PHOENIX an outer room and an inner room. One person lived in the outer room, and one in the inner. When I arrived in late September, I found my roommate already moved in. And that is how I first knew of John Michael Rogers. When I arrived, he was not there. It was evident that he was already moved in; he had claimed the inner room, obviously the preferable choice due to its greater privacy, and had already attached various things upon the door to his room. I looked at them with interest and curiosity. They were mostly postcards from strange places, odd German and Swiss towns, although they were not names that I recognized: Gertn, Tasmania; Valaslad, Germany; Krakken, Austria; Britter, Switzerland. They were ugly names. I was no xenophobe, but still I was repelled by those harsh names. In the midst of my reverie, I was possessed by an immediate curiosity and tried the door. It was locked. Strange, I thought–why would he lock the door? What had he to fear at this small, innocent college, or from a roommate whom he had to trust by the nature of our living arrangements? I decided he must be a very private person, and dismissed the events from my mind and began to move my things into my room. Later in the evening, I met my mysterious roommate. John Michael was tall and lean, with dark hair, piercing, narrowing eyes and a haughty, gaunt face. His intensity was immediately noticeable, yet he seemed perpetually distracted, as if he was only half-paying attention to you if you were speaking. But, if he should become interested in something you said or did, his eyes were suddenly and forcibly upon you with an intense, uncomfortable gaze. I don’t know which was worse, his distracted air or his sudden, gazing stare. He was nice enough, though. He had grown up in Arkham, in New England, a town which seemed familiar to me, as if I had read the name somewhere in a story, but I knew not where I had encountered it. He helped get the rest of my things settled into the seemingly tiny room, and then we decided to venture into the city of Albemarle for dinner. He had arrived a few days before and knew of a place with pleasant enough victuals. The conversation was like most forced, introductory ones: it jerked and halted, as with a bad driver at a dangerous intersection, with neither of us saying anything too revealing. He had grown up all his life in Arkham, taking some college credit courses at Miskatonic University (again, a hauntingly familiar name that I could not place) and then spending several years traveling through Europe. I revealed my own perfunctory details about my life. 18
Fiction One thing did stand out from the conversation, though. When I asked John Michael why he chose Pfeiffer, he looked at me oddly and then said carefully, “The rock and mineral collection.” I was surprised. I didn’t know that we even had a rare geological collection. “Why yes,” he responded, “the school collection is quite rare and … old. Many valuable minerals are there, unavailable anywhere else. Miskatonic University used to have such a collection, but it was ruined in a fire at the turn of the century.” It was an odd reason, I thought, but I knew enough about people to know that there are all sorts of hobbies and collectors out there, and I figured he just had his own niche. I guess that’s one reason that he worked at the library–to be near those rocks. Later, I was to realize what sorts they were, when I saw some of his own reference materials, books and awful tomes that described the uses of some of those rocks, books such as the writings of the mad Arab Abdul ... But I stray too far ahead. John Michael (he was quite insistent on both names being used) did work in the library, and we began the fall term together. We had one of those good roommate relationships where we moved in different circles with different friends and thus never tired each other with constant company. I would see him around in classes, and we would chat, but the only times I really saw him were infrequently when we were in the room together. I enjoyed his company and presence, though, as I would like to think that he did mine. And so the first few weeks passed. John Michael had few friends at Pfeiffer. He was nice enough, and people seemed to like him, but he never bonded with them. I was probably his best friend on campus, as distant as we were. He had several friends in Gold Hill, a town with a creaky old set of supposedly haunted buildings not many miles from Pfeiffer. How he met them, I do not know, but they were seen around from time to time, a slovenly group. His strange nocturnal schedule was always a mystery to me. I never really knew when he came in until one fitful night when I saw him creeping in at 3:00 am. Now this is not unusual for an undergraduate student, but it happened repeatedly, and he began skipping the early morning classes to sleep in late, even until after lunch. One evening I knocked on the door, knowing he was inside. After a few moments, he opened the door and came out. He was in extremely good spirits, downright jittery in his excitement. It was obviously not a case of depression that was plaguing him. I asked him if things were alright, if anything was wrong. He looked at me for a moment, and then burst out laughing. “My poor fellow!” he exclaimed. 19
THE PHOENIX “You are worried about me! How kind. No, I am fine–actually, wonderful. It is better here than I even thought. Everything is great. Don’t worry, I will be in class tomorrow.” He winked at me. He then leaned over closely, lowering his voice, saying, ”I’m onto something big here, you know. Bigger than I dreamed. I can’t say much else, but the books are proving to be most helpful. It’s all ... coming together.” With that, he disappeared into his room. I was left positively unnerved. I decided to explore a little. Why not? John Michael had come to trust me, realizing my respect for his privacy and my own preference for this virtue, and he did not lock his door anymore. Was what I did a betrayal? I don’t think so. I thought it was harmless, even possibly helpful to him, for me to snoop around. So, one time, when he I knew he was gone for a while, I opened his door to investigate. At first, his room was no different from any other student’s. He had the typical collection of books, a few random posters, papers and notebooks scattered on a desk. His room was neater than most students’, organized by someone who knew what he wanted and had maximized for that goal. There were candles along the windowsill, along with old and bizarre gems and minerals--was he stealing them from the library? I looked more closely at the books. They were terrible; I can’t describe them, oddly shaped, thick leather binding that was supple as human skin, but stippled with awful designs and images. The titles were mad, things such as A New Metaphysics of the Nether Realms, The Book of Common Occultism, Dagon & His Ancient Rites and Practices, Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. A few had titles in unrecognizable languages–not Hebrew, or Greek, or Arabic, as my father’s seminary books were, but something much more sinister and dark, if a language could ever be such things. This was not the worst. The worst one–it was a thick, leather-bound book, with a timeless worn look that said that it was ageless and would always be ageless, that what was contained was beyond time, corruption, or destruction. It had, very simply, the word “Necronomicon” embossed on the front. And inside were the most awful things, things that I wish I had never seen, or that the human race had ever seen. There were descriptions ... of things and the rites to summon them, and their terrible power ... of the great Azathoth and his many minions, and the terrible Yog-Sothoth and Hastur the Unspeakable ... some descriptions even involved pictures; only the most basic of sketchings, but they were still ... awful, inhuman, tentacled and crazed. 20
Fiction Creatures, some reminiscent of human beings, but more often of reptiles, and aquatic monsters, of beings that didn’t walk, but squelched. I could hear the sounds just looking at them; without desiring or summoning it, I could hear, in my head, the echo of distant waters lapping on a forbidden shore. I felt faint and sick, washed over by an enormous feeling of unreality as my head went light. Yet, even then, I could still hear the sounds of that terrible shore line, the water always slapping the shore and the sense of something coming, splashing in the deep, dark, terrible waters …A nearby grinding noise from the road snapped me out of my fugue. I had been standing there for–twenty minutes? Impossible. I slammed the book shut. Later I would learn that it was the dreaded Necronomicon by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which I had seen, which had cursed me as surely as the outstretched, gnarled hand of some enraged gypsy. That tome was infamous in certain circles, and its very existence had been doubted since the fire at Miskatonic University had destroyed many of its irreplaceable archives. It was an instruction manual, a collection of descriptions and directions of rites for bringing things back into our world. Perhaps this village, with its Bible belt sensibilities, was not as starkly Christian as it appeared to be. John Michael’s room, which at first had seemed so innocuous, had become starkly ominous. The candles present, the odd rug on the floor, the charts and symbols on the scattered papers, the ancient trunk in the corner– the room had become hideous. I fled out of the room, slamming the door behind me. I don’t know if he ever knew that I had been in there or not. Of course, it doesn’t matter now. There are other things I could tell, but they seem unimportant now. With that accursed book, the story speeds up at a horrendous pace, and the tiny details disappear. I resolved to tell the library archivist that some of the gems had been taken out of the library. I would go and take a note there, anonymous, and slide it under the door. It was a early Friday evening, so it would have to wait until Monday morning. They were just rocks, after all. What else could I do? Nothing. The following night was dark and frigid, and I was returning to Alexander Hall only to see John Michael there by the front door. He did not see me. He casually, quickly walked around the building, opening a small, old door along its outside back wall. I had never noticed that door before and its small, stained glass window. I stared. I had heard that there had once been an old chapel in Alexander Hall, and I had often wondered where it had 21
THE PHOENIX been. The thought of it filled me with mysterious awe. What power remained there in its abandoned space? As I stood there pondering, I saw dark shapes quietly, smoothly enter that same door. And, God help me, I found myself following them–curious, fascinated, scared, and yes, even excited. I followed them, unseen. I don’t know why. Perhaps the adventure of it had taken me over, although I have never been especially adventurous before. The musty, soured basement had long been taken over by rodents, but there John Michael and his strange friends stood, arranging the room. Dressed in robes, lighting candles, they encircled a wooden table. Gems and minerals, set together in horrible shapes and figures, had been arranged in a peculiar pattern on the altar. John Michael raised that same accursed book, and began chanting. The actual ritual is somewhat hazy to me now, for which I am thankful. There was swaying, and chanting, and incense and many, many strange words. Then John Michael threw back his head, and with a powerful voice gave the final invocation to that misbegotten ritual: “Ia! Shub-Miggurath! Great Cthullu, Shaggoth! Shaggoth! Kamog, and the Goat with a Thousand Young!” A mist appeared, obscuring all but the glow surrounding the small wooden table and the Necronomicon. The mist began to swirl, and the sounds of a distant thundering began. A heavy smell covered the room, making it hard to process what was going on. An enormous lethargy weighed upon me, even as I became increasingly horrified; I was frozen, and yet forced to watch the events, like some awful movie which I could not stop. The room had filled with the mist, and an eerie blue light covered the room. Suddenly, the table snapped with the weight of something terrible, something that was coming. There were sounds, of many tentacles slapping and squelching, of some hideous thing moving towards us, like the sounds I had heard when I read from the forbidden book, but much louder and much worse. Things were emerging that did not belong here. The sounds were truly monstrous now–they had to be huge. The slapping sounds were reverberating throughout the room, as well as the small pitter-patter of small but damp feet. I could still barely see John Michael, holding the book upraised, like a Gospel reading. I heard several loud thumps, and moaning, and realized that I could no longer see his companions. What had happened to them? Something brushed against me, leaving my arm wet and slimy, as something else flew above me, flapping and careening around the small room. I was terrified, frightened, so fearfully frozen at these horrors of and 22
Fiction my seeming fate here in this cursed sanctuary that I was fairly out of my mind. I ran to John Michael and grabbed him, shaking him, screaming at him, but he just grinned, and his eyes were wide with excitement and raw power. The book was glowing, and … laughing? Why did I think it was laughing? A fire of purple flames had erupted on the remains of the destroyed table, and it was spreading. I could see the slumped bodies of John Michael’s friends around it. And then, inexplicably, I grabbed the book from John Michael’s hands–something unbelievable to him and to me, and as he shrieked in anger I screamed, dashing it upon that netherworld fire. John Michael’s rage was horrible, and he leapt on me and grabbed my throat, but already the heaviness was lifting, and the mist was evaporating. The monsters howled in a fury, and I heard them sliding towards the center of the room, scrabbling along the broken floor. With tentacles flailing, they were dragged back into the nether abyss that had once contained them. One wet tentacle slammed into John Michael, knocking him off of me and into the stone wall. He fell, unconscious. The crooning and screeching grew louder, and I heard their nails scratching along the floor ... and then it all suddenly stopped. It was over. I awoke here, in my new home at Albemarle Hospital, and here I remain. John Michael is upstairs, and although I bear him no ill will, I will not visit him. At this point, I’m not sure that I could. The village has decided that it was a bizarre suicide pact, or some other nonsensical explanation for the events. The book was not found; whether that is good news or bad, I do not know. All I do know is that I am very tired, so tired that I do not care anymore. It is over, and some awful evil has been avoided. It is this I hold onto, that I must hold onto. Sweet lethargy has overtaken me. I no longer care about John Michael, nor do I care about the book, the crystals, nothing. I mustn’t. I mustn’t care at all. I refuse to acknowledge these strange nightly visions, the dreams I nightly suffer of ancient cabals and distorted creatures. On a clear night, I simply do not see stars from other worlds in the evening sky, nor do I see sea animals that fly and have human faces; I do not imagine myself, swimming through a black sea that stretches along a foreboding shore. I mustn’t care, I refuse to hear the sounds of tiny, pattering feet in the hallway, and of distant, flapping wings, and I ignore my almost irresistible desire to get up and run after them, chanting the mysterious words I cannot possibly be saying to myself here in my head.
Lies Lies have some attraction over truth. They are delivered on silver tongues and gleaming eyes. Truth is served, cold and unfeeling, like a tray through a prisoner’s cell. Ignorance is bliss; We’d rather turn a blind eye Than feel the truth’s hard slap across the face. Lies can be shaken off, Blamed on the other person, scapegoat. Truth cannot be overlooked or silenced; We have to own up to it. We would rather be fed lies Than have to face reality. Lies keep us undercover so we never have to really Reveal the ugly truth underneath.
Let us awake early in the morning, before the dawn’s fog has settled, cruising to the likes of the ‘90s and savoring hot tea. The horizon a powder blue, swirled like a child’s art work with pink clouds, and a black, cratered road stretching for miles. Each bump covered by your voice echoing the radio as mine is silent, but lips still moving to hide the obvious fact that I can’t really sing. Let us get lost in the wilderness, hiking over fallen trees and across little creeks, pretending to be explorers in a far away land. The strong scent of pine and damp wood fill the air while birds who hide amongst the foliage chirp out of time with the crunch of our feet on gravel. I run ahead until my wheezing becomes too much; hunched over, looking up I see you jogging in place, that grin of victory matched with my breathless laugh. Let us slow dance outside as the thunder cracks, and the water pitter-patters on our shoulders, before eventually seeking shelter under the large oak tree. Droplets fall from the leaves above, dampening our clothes to even more uncomfortable levels, proving just how irrational of a place it was to hide. When the storm finally passes, we continue to trail blaze the inevitable loop leading us back to civilization.
THE PHOENIX Let us cuddle in front of the fire place, binging our favorite movie series, stealing glances as the other pretends not to notice. The entertainment becomes background noise to a silent conversation of smirks and playful glares as our legs continuously pretzel themselves together. We tease with noses touching, challenging the other to move first, but our game eventually ends unrewarded.
Poetry Alan-Michael Allis
Sorcery What magic is this that you can tame my anxious heart with such soothing words?
Let us fall asleep snuggled close to each other, filling the silence with our dozing sighs, dreaming of what the future holds. The fan creates a gentle breeze, causing me to nestle closer to you, curled in what will late be a regrettable position. You turn over so our noses touch once again, except there is no challenge this time; we connect gently before giving in to the night.
A Moment in Time I park my car on the pavement, heat radiating up towards me as I open the door and step out. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The small, ornate building haunts me as I walk towards it and think about the reason why I am here.
Bodies shuffle to get up, and I realize your family is done talking. Everybody has red eyes and tear-stained faces. I make my way towards the door. The stairs leading away from the building are less imposing this time around. I can’t help but wonder what you may be feeling now, wherever the promise of death led you.
The flowery scent overwhelms me as I ascend the stairs to the entrance, unsure if my sluggish legs will take me where I need to go. Salty tears trickle down my flushed cheeks. Looking around, I feel as though I’ve lost myself. The haunting fact is that you are lost forever. Hopefully I am not. Quickly after I enter the building I’m ushered into a separate room. I greet your parents and offer my condolences. Making my way to my seat I see the line of people waiting to do the same. Faces keep filling the room until there is no more space left to move. Shoulder to shoulder, maybe people will feel more like they now have someone to lean on. Your parents start off by saying we are here to celebrate your life, but how can I celebrate something you only pretended to love for twenty-one years? Your brother takes over and, the way he talks about you, it is almost as if you are still here, even if just for a moment in time. Sobs of grief rise from the crowd with each word, with each story that your brother shares. My gaze is focused on the slide show in the background. Sweat is on your forehead while you are frozen in time, still in a running position. With the pictures still changing I think back to the times when I brought you home from work. I remember how overjoyed I felt the first time you asked me if I wanted to go to your house and swim in your pool. How it felt when you finally kissed me. I remember the guilt when I said, “We are both leaving for college and nothing more will ever come of us.”
A Little Too Often There was a young poet And little did he know it That one day soon he’d be a man; He wandered off to it, And surely he blew it, And left with a knife in his hand. “What’s left of his eyes,” His dear mother cries, “He who I shan’t see again?” “They once were so blue, So innocent and true, And now they are bloodshot and red.” “What ho! What ho!” The young man once crowed, “There is hope that we’ll meet again!” But next thing you know He’ll stand up and go, For such loss is fated, my friend.
Broken Picture Frames
The plush white comforter engulfs my body as I lay there in my bed, looking up at the pasty-white popcorn ceiling. A fuzzy picture show of our memories replays over and over in my mind, making it unbearable to sleep. Images from those early morning hikes, the sherbet-colored sky rising above the pine trees. Frames of countless nights I spent with your family, laughing until tears rolled down our red, flushed cheeks. My chest slowly sinks closer to the mattress, realizingthese–pictures are merely broken frames now. Gathering your things, the square clock slowly ticks past midnight. T-shirts that smell like you–lingering deep chypre, those ugly plaid pajama pants you left here, your grey, worn-out Notre Dame sweatshirt with holes placed just right at the edge of the cuffs, perfectly shaped to my fingers. My favorite. My hands clinch the remaining items as I lower them into the tattered cardboard box. Items that I long to keep, but I know I have to give back. As the minutes tick by on the clock, they take along with them the decorative shield I carried with me until tonight. We both knew this day would come; it was just a matter of when. The fluorescent light from my cell phone illuminates the dark room. A short text saying, “10 minutes.” I sit on the edge of my unmade bed,
THE PHOENIX looking at the disheveled mess of clothes, shoes, and schoolwork that flood my floor. Disillusioned by the mess I have made of my life. A loud muffler and the creaking of tires fill the driveway. Part of me doesn’t want to open the door so you can’t come in. We could still have another chance to fix this. You walk in, no words are spoken, a glance that made our eyes meet and your sullen face pulls away. There aren’t harsh words that I wish to throw your way, but I want to say something. I find myself mute as my eyes fill with water and the box of broken memories trades hands. As simple as that you turn and walk out. The denouement of our once-perfect picture show.
Poetry Torrianna Foster
For You. I always say that you picked the worst time to like me. You always laugh and shake your head in that way that makes me believe you didn’t. For the times that I freaked out on you and you took it in stride. For the FaceTime calls where I wish that you’d lose at zombies. For the days that you fall asleep and I have to wake you up. For how you’ve started to feel like home and while you’ve learned to decipher my face, I’ve learned to love the pitch of your voice and the smile that only I get to see. In the middle of figuring out where I want to be, you are the main piece that I choose to keep. You may have picked the worst time to like me, but I picked the best time to fall for you.
Honestly Honestly, I am not capable of pretending to be a better person right now.
She will glide her hand across the dull grey skyline. This is how man was made. Whites, greys, and powder blues soften to nothing but deep dreams and memories. The tundra of clouds opens just enough; a stray beam of golden sunlight pushes its way through the clouds. Still gliding, the sky turns pink and orange. Breath will turn to ghosts in the chilled air; even she cannot stop the process. Her hand is moving slower, just trying to make the world stop until finally she drifts off in the distance, waiting to turn one glassy hand to the sky again. Little iron boats no longer have to wade through bergs of phosphorus white. The thin layer of frost is melting off their bows. We have won for now, yetâ€Ś we have done terrible things here.
Rain I think I’ll be alright, but some nights their calm voices call my name. I’m walking home this night from you. Their hands caress my cheeks from the puddles; Icy, they ask me to join them. Every parking lot and sidewalk wet with rain… I know my secrets though; parking lots have their yellow lights misty from rain. They save me some of the time. Mist lands gently on my face, blessing it with irresistible warm tears. Good God, tranquilize me in a cloudy grey mind.
Moonlight Mary The picture sits within a curved, elegant frame, still glossy from the darkroom decades past. A sea of cream cloth and gold earrings decorate a head of chestnut curls, but it’s the fresh face and mesmerizing maple eyes that enchant like a jewelry-covered gypsy woman in the white moonlight. Can’t you hear that jingle, that laugh that fills your head? The picture show within begins; Past her glide handsome suitors, chiffon dresses And suddenly that melodic laugh fills the room like a clock striking noon in a bell tower just above, it rings. Floating into view, with the controls grasped away from you, wafts a vision of her younger self just barely in her teen days. My nearly invisible grandmother’s laundry list of chores line the wall, covering her father who lies beneath a cask of amber juice like a patchwork quilt mirage. It’s then you hear, ringing ‘round the room, a steady stream of her choke-filled sobs; if only you could reach out, snatch those tender tears, dribble them on piano keys, and orchestrate that lost melody. My mother’s slender frame is now surrounded by a group of giggling girls and confident guys boasting the newest sickeningly toxic cologne. She fits in with that fake foreign crowd so effortlessly,
Poetry And then you wonder, on the sidelines, where that tried-and-true, that “I love you” laugh ran to?
It’s now that a sugary scent sails into your senses, And there the mother stands with apple patterned apron and rosy cheeks. Three copper-locked girls, coated in a sheen of summertime sweat, chase each other to the tune of their own whisper-filled giggles. As I see the crow’s feet blossom by her brown eyes, I know, moonlight Mary is dancing her dance once again.
I cannot believe your beauty and strength You’re the one thing I could not live without I can trust you with my life at all lengths You’re the rock I can stand on, there’s no doubt I run to you for guidance when I’m lost I know you have my answer, you are there for me You help without question, there is no cost I can’t replace your wisdom, you hold the key You are my ship when I am lost at sea You have made my life worth every breath You help me along you, have strengthened me I know you’ll be here with me until death With all this you have had only one goal To love me with all your heart and your soul
Michelle Vaughn Day
Gonna Stop Gonna stop looking at the phone Waiting for a ring that may or may not come If I happen to fleetingly cross your mind While I sit here coming undone Gonna stop sending my heart to you Poured out on a page Trying to read into your meager replies Using your lack of feeling as my self worth’s gauge Gonna stop thinking I’m not good enough Stop trying to see me through your eyes Start feeding myself huge spoonfuls of truth Instead of knocking myself down with lies Gonna stop practicing the definition of insanity Expecting to find something new Instead of being left with a crumbling heart I think it’s time to start getting over you
Time Stands Still The day you find out that the woman who was supposed to be invincible dies, you die along with her. It’s not that you expected her to live forever. Just long enough to see you get married, meet her great-grandchildren and teach them how to love like she taught you. You had a plan and her dying your first week of college wasn’t even close to being in it. But here you are; sitting in your dorm room alone, trying to remember how to take air into your lungs because right now it feels like you’re breathing through a straw with something stuck in the middle of it. You try to figure out what your life was like just two minutes before you got that phone call and come up with nothing; the life you had before no longer matters because you’ll never be the same. Thinking back to the last time you hugged her, you knew something was vastly different, but you chalked it up to your ever-present anxiety about moving 66 miles away from her and staying there for ten months out of the year. Now you know why... that was the last time you’d ever see her. You imagine her laugh, the way she looked at you as you thanked her for making sure that you grew up the right way, the sound of her voice as she told you that she was proud of you and how those words made everything worth it. Your phone ringing brings you back to the empty dorm you’re sitting in and try to get yourself together enough to answer the phone. It’s your dad; when you answer the phone and scream his name, he tells you that he’s on the way, to just hold on. He tells you that he’s called the school and told them about Nanny, that if you want to go home then you can and that they’d understand. He stays on the phone while you cry until he gets to the parking lot and you run out to him. He holds you and whispers I’m sorry and in that moment time stands still and you feel your heart break, not in the figurative sense. You literally feel your heart rip into two separate pieces away from your chest; the pain that courses through your body brings you to your knees, but your dad is still holding onto you. You realize that the nonhuman noises you keep hearing are in fact your own screams as you try to deal with the feeling of your heart being gripped tight by thousands of fists. After you scream yourself hoarse, your dad will ask yes or no questions, questions that 41
THE PHOENIX will only be answered by numb shakes of your head. He’ll call your mom, you will hear her wrecked voice, and the pain in your chest will radiate. You decide to wait to go home; your dad will make you go to dinner with him because your mom told him about your past with unstable feelings. You’ll go because you need someone to be strong for you, because one person who represented that strength is now gone and you haven’t learned how to be this strong. He’ll tell you about when his grandma died, you’ll see that it still wrecks him just to think about it, and any hope you had of making this situation positive plummets. You won’t be able to gloss over this to make it better. Nothing will make it better. You’ll eat and try to figure out how you’ll pick up the pieces and will once again come up with nothing. You note that this is the end of the life that you knew as a complete person; you will never put yourself back together because a huge piece will be missing and from then on time will be stopped.
Non-Fiction Kevin Garcia
A Living Nightmare We were exhausted. Exhausted to the point of collapse from the difficult trek from the base of the mountain to the summit. From the top of Stone Mountain, I could see the entire world. Nothing compared to the sight ahead of me: tree-covered mountain tops that spanned as far the eye could see. The fall colors beautified the environment; anywhere I looked there was something new, a new color, a new mountain, all so beautiful it brought warmth into my body, and I couldn’t pull eyes away for even a second. The view was the perfect beginning of another Boy Scout outing. Sitting in a line gazing out into the distance, fifteen boys rested and for once everything was calm. All I felt was the warmth and comfort of their presence which subconsciously drowned out the vertigo, nausea, and weak muscles that arose from my phobia of heights. Despite the exhaustion, Chris decided he wanted to explore the wonders that were around us and find a new view without the rest of the troop. This was routine. Adventure was all Chris desired, rebelling against the scoutmaster, his father, who constantly watched over him. Chris always urged Grant and me to accompany him on his journeys, and every time we joined him without question as we looked up to him. As we passed the signs warning us of the dangers that lay ahead, my fear of heights started to get the better of me. My knees felt weak to the point they were shaking with every step. My hands began to sweat, and I was regretting ever leaving the peaceful environment of the camp where I felt safe and could look out with no discomfort. And yet I continued on the journey, shrugging off the ill feelings as best as I could; we were only a short distance away from the open cliff area. Through my intense fear of heights I took solace in the situation because I was with Chris and Grant, two people I trusted more than anyone. The confidence I had in them was shown in each footstep as I proudly trotted behind my two older friends with a smirk of eagerness stuck on my face. Observing from behind, I watched them cheerfully shoving each other, laughing without any care in the world. Chris always shoved a bit harder than Grant, urging him to retaliate and subconsciously showing his superiority. Chris was fifteen, Grant was fourteen, and I was thirteen. Everything he did was genius or just simply 43
THE PHOENIX hilarious. He would randomly punch objects off of trees and make references to our favorite shows, and we laughed to no end. Any string of words coming from his mouth was hysterical, making me generally happy, putting a genuine smile on my face even when I was fighting one of my biggest fears. We marched on for a while longer before we found what we were searching for: the perfect view, a place where there wasn’t anything to obstruct our view of the scene. The view was surreal, just the smooth rocky ground we sat on and the world. It was like the world had opened up and absorbed me into the fall colors, the camp smells, and the mountain sounds. I could hear the birds chirping as if they were sitting on my lap, with their smooth voices all having a different pitch, and yet seeming to work as one. They were all in sync, sounding as if they were singing just for me; just so I would become more engulfed into this moment and believe anything was possible as I pondered life and my future endeavors. The high-pitched chirping was mixed with the gusts of wind rustling the trees behind us, creating a calm, motionless atmosphere that was lulling me to sleep, forcing me to close my eyes just for a few moments. Chris stood up after a while of lying on the stone and nonchalantly walked to the edge of the cliff to see the drop. Grant followed shortly after, but with hesitation. Even he was a bit uneasy being that close to the edge, tiptoeing down almost to the point he was scooting on his rear. Being terrified of heights, and my hands already sweating from staring out, this was as far as I would go, not willing to move another inch closer to the cliff. I watched nervously as they explored the view from just a few feet away from the cliff. It all happened so fast. I witnessed Chris’ boot land inside a small crater in the rock causing his leg to twist backward. His body helplessly dropped to the ground as his head collided with the stone cold rocks with great force. I just stared down at him. I stared at his closed eyes as his lifeless body slid toward the edge of the cliff. I was going to try to help but as soon as I rose a few inches from my seat, my whole body cringed, tensing up at the sight of my biggest fear and my worst nightmare coming together. He disappeared from sight as Grant ran over to try to save him. It was too late. I heard shrieks of terror as I closed my eyes to try to block out my mind, imagining what it would feel like to be Chris. There were so many thoughts in my head that I couldn’t form any words, not even a sound. The back of my throat seemed to close up, and it was difficult to breathe. My heart was racing and chills filled my body to the point that I began to sweat profusely. It was truly unbelievable. I was in a state of 44
Non-Fiction shock for what seemed to be hours; just being still, not knowing what to do. Grant pulled me back to reality as he was screaming at me to call for help. We started to sprint as fast as we could down the mountain to the others, feeling guilty for letting this happen and for waiting this long because he needed our help more than ever. At the campsite I found the scoutmaster as quickly as I could. I opened my mouth to explain the situation at hand, but nothing would come out. There I was in the presence of Chris’s father, about to explain that his son had fallen off the cliff. Instead of speaking, tears ran down my face and my stomach dropped as my breathing began to speed up. He sat me down and tried to control my series of incredibly short breaths as I was hyperventilating. During my panic attack, Grant broke the news the best he could manage. My scoutmaster’s face dropped with disbelief. I could see the emotion pour off his face as if it were melting. I was crying my eyes out at the sight of the most cheerful guy I knew having the most horrified look on his face. I put my head in between my legs and kept trying to breathe correctly. I heard him get up and run for help. There I sat agonizing over the potential loss of a friend, impatiently waiting and hoping with every ounce of my body that he would be alive and well? Thinking, how could something so disastrous and devastating actually happen. Chris was only fifteen. His life could be over this young due to one single misstep. He may never see him his family again. These thoughts consumed me and, when it came down to it, all I could really think about was his youth and the bright future that was potentially ended a few minutes ago. He wouldn’t have the opportunity to live a full life, he couldn’t go into a career, get married, buy a house, or even have kids. Everything a person is supposed to accomplish in life would be over. How could God let something so horrific happen to someone so young? I was breathing uncontrollably, experiencing the endless amounts of depressing effects Chris’s death would have on not just me, but everyone around me. The paramedics eventually arrived after the most agonizing wait and confirmed our worst nightmare: that Chris, a healthy fifteen year old boy, had died on impact. The scoutmaster’s son. My friend. All of ours. Could I have stopped this? Was it my fault? How could someone so young just be gone? All questions that were flooding my head, and yet no one blamed me except myself as we hiked down the mountain to head home, sorrow consuming all of our hearts. 45
THE PHOENIX Zachary Perry
Smoke curled up slowly from my mother’s cigarette for just a moment before being sucked up into the fan above the stove. The fan made a sad droning noise as it inhaled the smoke she blew into it. She was tinted yellow from the light of the stove, her green robe looking more like a lime color. My mother sat up on her stool, silently smoking before she went to bed. I would sit on the floor wearing my favorite pajamas and hope I could get a small taste of the sickly-sweet cigarette smoke. Still silent, my mother mashed the lit end of her cigarette into the already full tray. The greedy fan devoured the smoke leaving me only with the cloying aroma of tobacco. She switched off the fan, then the light, and walked to the bedroom that she shared with my father. As soon as she disappeared, I hopped up and inhaled the last tendrils of smoke that curled into the air from the smoldering cigarette. Deeply and slowly the smoke filled my tiny lungs and made them feel as though they were so big they could burst. When the cigarette finally went out, I would exhale as slowly as I could and go to bed. Walking through the woods behind my father’s house, I buried my hands deeply into my pockets to keep them warm from the wind. The fingers on my right hand delicately cradled themselves around the fragile paper tube in my pocket. I felt small crumbs in the bottom of my pocket that must have fallen from the tube. My face was red from the wind whipping it. I wasn’t nearly warm enough in my thin black hoodie and jeans. Every breath I took burned all the way down my throat. As I walked deeper into the woods the frosted grass crunched under my feet. I looked back at my father’s two story brick house over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t walking out the back porch to call my name. After a few moments of staring, I looked back at the woods that was made up of skinny grey trees with no leaves. The woods as a whole looked entirely dead. In between the naked limbs, the sky looked like it was shattered into grey pieces. Eventually, the grass stopped and I started moving into the dark, dead leaves. I walked further and further into the woods 46
until the house behind me was barely visible. It was the only speck of color in a world of whites, greys, and blacks. I found a grey boulder that was surrounded by the dead leaves and was half-covered in moss. Taking a deep breath, I felt the frosted air fill my lungs, slowly let it out and watched it turn to steam as it left my mouth. The cold was seeping in through the thin canvas of my dingy, low-top Chuck Taylor’s. To halfheartedly check how sturdy the rock was, I awkwardly kicked it. The sound was low and dull. Judging it good enough, I carefully took a seat on the rock and looked back at my father’s house for a moment. Through the branches and trunks of the trees it seemed to be pulling me and begging me to turn back. Its eye was the window of my father’s bedroom. His bedroom seemed so empty now without the antique wardrobe that belonged to my mother. My eyes burned vaguely when I blinked from being dried out; I didn’t want to be out in the frost. It was stupid anyway, but, instead of going back into the warm house, I kept sitting on the cold rock. Watching the breath in front of me, I reached slowly into my pocket, and my fingers touched the delicate paper cylinder. My numb fingers wrapped around the cylinder, careful not to break it, and pulled it out of my pocket. Finally, when it was safe, I opened my hand to look at the cigarette. I raised it closer to my face and inhaled the nostalgic aroma of tobacco. In that instant the sickly-sweet smell turned me back into a child sitting on the floor waiting for my mother to go to bed. I smiled and looked at the cigarette I had just stolen from my father’s car. I’d never seen my father smoke in my entire 14 years of life, but somehow I knew he always had. He always went outside to shut the garage door at night time before he went to bed. When I got the sudden urge to fill my lungs with smoke, I knew they would be in the door of his car. I didn’t even know he smoked Marlboro Lights, just like my mother, until I found the pack. Shifting slightly, I reached into my other pocket and touched the cold, cheap plastic of a lighter that I had stolen from my older brother’s room. I pinched the cigarette between my thumb and first two fingers and started rolling it back and forth. It wasn’t too late. My brother told me that some people smoke out of habit, and not because they want to at all. He told me that people would just drive to work and every time they passed a certain street they would light a cigarette. I’d never seen my father smoke, so if he was one of those types then he could easily notice one less cigarette in his pack. Maybe he would notice the missing cigarette and not say anything; he hid his smoking 47
THE PHOENIX anyway. Maybe he would blame it on my brother. I could still go back to the house and put the cigarette back and he would never notice, but I just sat there. I looked at the cigarette and quickly got the urge to lob it into the woods, where it would never be smoked by anyone, but instead I carefully raised it to my lips and let it hang free from them. The wind blew harder and moved the cigarette just slightly. I pinched my lips harder to keep the little paper cylinder in them. Even nature, the wind and the cold, was trying to keep me from smoking. The red Bic lighter in my left hand was cold, but I put it up to the cigarette and flicked it with my thumb to light it. The flint wheel made a ticking sound, but no flame came out of the end of the lighter. My thumb ached from the numbing cold and the raw metal of the lighter. Clearly it was just the wind. I tried again, but it only made my thumb hurt more. I must not have done that right, I thought. There was a small amount of skin on the metal wheel of the lighter. I hurried the cigarette out of my mouth. “Fuck,” I said while sucking the side of my raw thumb. I took it out and examined it for a moment. Blaming the issue on the wind and not my finesse with a lighter I put the cigarette back into my mouth. Mimicking movies, I shielded the lighter with my hand and flicked the wheel again. There was a vague warmth underneath my hand. The flame danced back and forth, still being affected by the wind. I inhaled little bits at a time, imitating every smoker I’d ever seen start a cigarette. I wasn’t sure why they did this, but apparently it worked. With each small inhale the puffs of smoke began to grow larger and larger, and I held the cigarette between my first two fingers as if I had been smoking my whole life. Smoke filled my mouth and lungs with a tie between comfort and irritation. My throat was soothed from the warm smoke, yet the harsh taste burned in a different way. I exhaled lightly and smiled at the smoke coming in front of my eyes. It was real this time; I didn’t have to pretend like steam. I kissed the brown end of the cigarette and breathed in and out. Kissing the stress of everything away for a moment was nostalgic and beautiful. The flavor was a little different than I remembered it. There was less warmth now than there was when I was sitting on the floor while my mother exhaled smoke into the stove fan. “It’s like breathing through a straw,” I recalled my brother telling me months earlier. I took a deep pull from the end of the cigarette, and my lungs felt larger than they ever have before. They filled up completely, and my chest rose. Holding as long as I could, I let the smoke out like a ghost. Smoke is 48
Non-Fiction always prettiest when it is free to take its own form. It wispily dissipated into the air until it was gone. I closed my eyes for a moment as they ached from the wind. The little paper cylinder in between my two fingers kept burning, but nothing seemed to happen other than that. I tried to imagine how I looked sitting on the cold rock. Alone. I must have looked very deep in thought. A pirate who was cast out to sea, exploring the far reaches of his mind. The black hoodie and grey smoke fit in perfectly to the world I was in now. The grey trees and sky. A red smudge in the distance, but other than that everything was perfect. In that moment I was exactly who I wanted to be. I opened my eyes and looked at my hand holding the cigarette. The bottom half of the cigarette was still burning, but the upper half was burning much slower. I was the exact same as when I first lit the cigarette. I took another pull, trying to recapture my fleeting thoughts. Taking another deep breath, I inhaled and watched the gap between the top and bottom of the cigarette grow. The end glowed bright orange and then returned to a duller color, leaving more pepper-colored ash in place of the neatly rolled white paper. The smoke moved all the way down my throat; the warmth moved until it couldn’t travel anymore. I exhaled. Nothing. Quickly I took my hand from my mouth and examined the uneven cigarette. Was I doing something wrong? Clearly I must have been. Everything was going fine. Just as I imagined it, until I opened my eyes again. What was I doing out here in the cold anyway? It’s stupid. I remembered listening to some punk bands when I was in elementary school and cringed. The rock bands with their black hair half in their face, the other half spiked in some fantastic configuration. Good Charlotte. Shaking my head, I took one last look at the cigarette and stood up. Part of me wanted to sit back down and try to finish what I had started. It wanted to reclaim everything I had felt as I was walking to the woods. My butt was numb from sitting on the hard rock. The red plastic lighter was still in my left hand, but I buried it deep into my pocket as I stood up. Carefully, I placed the cigarette on the side of the rock I was sitting on so it wouldn’t touch the moss. For a moment I watched it burn unevenly as smoke curled and waved like a stream. I brought my foot down on the end of cigarette slowly and then twisted. Instead of an immense burning or my shoe melting I felt nothing. The cigarette was simply extinguished, no fight at all. I checked to make sure it was completely out before swiping it off the rock and into the leaves carelessly. 49
THE PHOENIX Kayla Aiton is an only child
originally born in South Carolina. She moved to North Carolina with her parents when she was only six months old and has been a resident of Mt. Pleasant, NC since then. She is a junior at Pfeiffer University majoring in Religion and Practical Theology with a minor in Sports Ministry. After graduation Kayla hopes to travel the world doing mission work, return to work with a local youth group, and coach cross-country.
Alan-Michael Allis is a Pfeiffer
University Alumnus from the Class of 2014. He graduated with a B.A. in Youth Ministry and minored in Social Psychology. While living in Seattle, Washington, he honed his writing skills while riding the bus to and from work. Alan-Michael has since moved back to North Carolina and continues to write about the people he encounters and the many twists life tends to have. He is currently participating in the #WritingFromTheAshes daily poetry prompts on Instagram. Feel free to follow @alannallis for more of Alan-Michael’s work.
Corinne Auger is a junior in the
Exercise Science program at Pfeiffer 50
Biographical Information University. She is from Hooksett, NH. She never knew that she really liked writing until she took a creative writing class here at Pfeiffer with Dr. Schwalm. She is grateful for all of the help that Dr. Schwalm provided and for helping her realize that she can write to express herself.
John M. Borza lives his life at his
parents’ place. He needs to mention this because his residence affects his art and poetry. He longs to leave and see the world, so, even though his funds do not let him live these dreams yet, his imagination takes him to these places of wonder. And it is this imagination that is his muse for his works.
Micah Eli Bostian is a North
Carolina native who always felt out of place... no, wait, out of time. He can produce a snapping sound from four fingers with a single swipe of his thumb. He studies chemistry and mathematics because he is “smart,” writes poetry and prose because he is “wise,” and hopes that no one notices the -ass protruding from the end.
Lillie Brady is a junior at Pfeiffer
University and is majoring in history. She grew up in Boone, North
Carolina where she enjoyed hiking and snowboarding. She aspires to attend law school after she graduates. She is also a member of the women’s soccer team here at Pfeiffer. Her creative writing career was sparked in Dr. Schwalm’s creative writing class. This is her first time submitting pieces to a creative writing journal, but she hopes to continue writing in the future.
Joshua Cross: I was born and
Jason Emory is from Charlotte,
NC. He is an assistant professor of chemistry. One of his favorite hobbies is hiking for scenic views in the mountains.
Maranda Fisher is from Statesville, North Carolina. She is a second year student at Pfeiffer University. She enjoys writing and photography. Her goal is to become a high school English teacher.
raised in Cape Girardeau, MO. The youngest of three, it was your typical Midwestern upbringing with Mom, Dad, Sister, the occasional pet, and getting stuffed in the dryer by Brother. There wasn’t that “from an early age I knew I wanted to be an artist” moment in my life. Cartoons were a big part of life...maybe it started there? They encourage free reign and associations that don’t make sense (cartoon physics) but still somehow connect back up, and I enjoy that. Absorb, mix, play and the image will take care of itself from there.
Torrianna Foster is a senior
Michelle Vaughn Day currently
Kevin Garcia was born and raised
lives in eastern NC with her three children. She enjoys long walks on the beach, beautiful sunsets, and occasional peace and quiet.
majoring in Religion and Practical Theology. She has been writing since the age of 13, but, for that sake of her sanity, her earlier works have been salted and burned. She authored the piece Her that was previously published in The Phoenix and was ecstatic about having a leadership role on the staff. With hopes of continuing creative writing, Torri will always have countless, half-filled journals of ideas, story plots, character suggestions and words that may possibly rhyme with “llama.” in Concord, NC and is the youngest of four. He is currently a sophomore at Pfeiffer University where he studies mathematics and aspires 51
THE PHOENIX to be involved in the field of engineering. He is involved in the Honors program and played tennis competitively his freshman year for the Falcons. He enjoys playing guitar, piano, and video games in his spare time. He strives for a life of positivity filled with sports, education, family and friends.
Kimberly Goodell: There are two
sides to me. There’s Kimberly–a woman who traveled Western Europe by herself and interned with a senator in Washington, DC. She wears red lipstick and pearls every day because she wants the world to see her confidence and beauty. Kimberly strives to change the world. Then there’s Kimmy. She’s as wild as the curls eating her face as she walks to class and as bubbly as her chortle laughter, which is easily heard within a ten-mile radius. Kimberly is the toasted oat, Kimmy is the multi-colored marshmallow, and, together, I am magically delicious.
Juanita Kruse is a professor of
European and world history who enjoys traveling, hiking, and taking pictures in the summer.
Casey Peeler grew up in North Car52
Biographical Information olina and still lives there with her husband and daughter. Growing up, Casey wasn’t an avid reader or writer, but, after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston during her senior year of high school and multiple Nicholas Sparks’ novels, she found a hidden love and appreciation for reading. That love ignited the passion for writing several years later, and her writing style combines real life scenarios with morals and values teenagers need in their daily lives. Her titles can be found on Amazon and iTunes, and she can be connected with on social media.
Zachary Owen Perry was born
March 21st, 1996 in Durham, North Carolina. He studied at Voyager Academy High School where he ran cross country. Zachary is currently running cross country and track at Pfeiffer University where he is studying to receive a Bachelor of Arts in English. After college he hopes to either attend graduate school or begin teaching.
University, Bailey enjoys reading, traveling, road trips, and warm mugs of coffee.
Kevin Taylor is an assistant pro-
fessor in the Religion and Practical Theology Department at Pfeiffer University. He is from Winston-Salem, NC and received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2009. He lives in Albemarle and is married with three young sons. He is the co-editor of Christian Theology and Tragedy (Ashgate, 2011), the author of Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Question of Tragedy in the Novels of Thomas Hardy (T&T Clark, 2015), and a co-host of the podcast Theology Cast. He has been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and weird fiction for many decades.
Mackennon Watson was born
in South Carolina and raised in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He is a history and secondary education major with aspirations to teach high school social studies.
Bailey Sherrill is from the
one-stoplight gem-town of Hiddenite, North Carolina. As a History and Creative Writing double major in her sophomore year at Pfeiffer 53