Pointer Press May 2024

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Pointer Press


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Murderers Are Destined to Become Serial Killers

Ella George

Even the most justified murderers have the potential to become serial killers It takes extreme disregard of society’s rules and governmental laws for someone to take the life of another person, and so murder is not a crime well-adjusted people often commit - a large percentage of murderers suffer from some kind of mental illness For example, nearly 33% of criminals have Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), while only 6% to 3 6% of other adults are affected by it If a murderer slides under the radar of the police, they aren’t likely to change the nature of their behavior The same goes for murderers that are released from prison Therefore, some murderers, when given the opportunity, become serial killers.

In cases where murderers are permitted to remain in society or rejoin it on parole, they could choose to kill again In the article “Who will kill again? The forensic value of 1st degree murder convictions,” Matt DeLisi of Iowa State University writes that “Kenneth McDuff was convicted of three counts of 1st degree capital murder in Texas in 1966 During that criminal episode, McDuff kidnapped three juveniles (two males and one female) and [killed them] Due to prison overcrowding, correctional authorities paroled McDuff in 1989 Over the next three years, McDuff would perpetrate an assortment of other serious crimes, including at least five additional homicides ” In this case, a murderer was set free and did what he enjoyed, killing Murderers have the capability of killing more people, so in some cases they continue to take the lives of others.

Another example of a murderer who was given the chance to lead a better life after imprisonment but decided to kill again is Jimmy Lee Gray. In “To Kill Again: Dangerous Repeat Offenders,” an article from The Crime Wire, author Rupert Taylor states that, “In 1968, Gray had murdered his 16-year-old girlfriend. He served seven years in an Arizona prison for that crime before he was paroled He was not long out of prison before he murdered three-year-old Deressa Jean Seales in June 1976 ” After having done something horrible he was released and allowed to start over, but instead he chose an even worse path Once someone takes the life of another, they can become a killer forever and their potential to kill again should not be overlooked .

Personality disorders and traumatic childhoods create murderers, and so killers are not your everyday, reformable citizens. They are children who watched one of their parents physically or emotionally abuse their other parent They are children who were alone and antisocial growing up. They are damaged people who didn’t or couldn’t get the help they needed and ended up becoming a permanent danger to society The previously mentioned Kenneth McDuff was a “ highly antisocial individual with floridly psychopathic features ” Around 20 years after he was arrested, he was paroled because of his age and “putative low risk,” yet he continued killing At that point, the damage was already done and the murderer could not go back to being a regular person. This is why, as DeLisi states in the same article,, “ in the first year after release from prison, male homicide offenders [are] a staggering 250 times more likely than the males in the general population to perpetrate homicide.

Crime is not the leading reason for most homicides, in fact, it’s not even close to it Lawrence R Samuel wrote that “a surprising number of homicides involved people who were entirely ordinary” in his article “The Psychology of Murder ” Organized crime is not what makes America’s serial killers, it’s mental illness In the article “Putting Methods To The Madness,” Taylor Stacy of University of Michigan wrote that “for both male and female serial killers, involvement in organized crime (including gangs, mobs, etc ) was the lowest recorded reason for serial killing, comprising 6 2% of known male serial killers and 0.5% of known female serial killers.” It’s clear that, contrary to common assumptions, crime is not what causes most murders - it's mental illness that goes untreated or is untreatable

In many cases, people who kill won’t stop killing unless they are removed from society forever It’s a crime that either originates from or changes who people are, and there is no backtracking or recovery from that. Murderers are the baby sea turtles of serial killers Some get picked off by the authorities and don’t make it there, but those that get through to the sea untouched can go on to kill more and more people.

YouTube Shorts will be the Destruction of YouTube

Shorts is an addition to the YouTube app that provides shortform videos compared to the typical long-form videos on the platform. It has its own tab on the YouTube homepage and the Shorts videos are also promoted on the homepage. The creation of Shorts came in September of 2020 and was intended to be a main competitor to the popular social media app, TikTok TikTok, known for its short, trend-creating videos, was once known as Musical ly But even before Musical ly, the platform that brought short-form content to life was Vine Vine was an app where users could record a 6-second video and upload it for the public to watch Most content creators on the platform chose to make funny or relatable videos and as a result, gained tons of followers for their content The app was booming until it shut down in early 2017, leaving Musical ly to pick up where it left off As Musical ly and later TikTok catered to the public’s growing need for shortform content, YouTube was on a decline due to the longevity of the videos So, YouTube Shorts seems like a necessary road for YouTube to take, right? Well, it doesn’t look like the new addition to the platform is working out for them

The main area of issue with Shorts is that it combines a passive watch platform with an active watch platform YouTube is an active watching platform, meaning in order to watch the content on the app or the website, the user must actively choose which video they want to watch by searching for it The homepage offers recommendations on what to watch based on the user’s typical patterns, but even then, the user must still click on the video they want to watch This is a different experience from a passive platform, like TikTok or now YouTube Shorts, where the user plays no role in choosing what content to watch. The content is automatically generated based on what the user engages with the most and with a simple swipe of a finger, the video can be replaced by another. This requires no thought or conscience from the user and dulls the value of the video. The design of Shorts is flawed in itself because it is not a separate app from YouTube, it all takes place on one platform. YouTube videos are meant to be watched in a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is landscape. However, Shorts are in the complete opposite ratio 9:16, which is portrait This continuity error creates an awkward user experience when switching between Shorts and standard YouTube videos While this problem might not be a huge deal if the device in use is a phone, if an individual is watching on a laptop, computer, or TV, watching Shorts is inconvenient and poorly designed This problem gets users asking the question, “Why should I use Shorts when I could just use TikTok instead?” This is of course the opposite reaction to what the company wanted

But it’s not just the poorly thought-out design of the platform that is causing concern. It is also the large negative impact it is having on the creators on the app A common issue with short-form content platforms like TikTok is that the creator is separated from the content TikTok users often find themselves unable to name the creators of videos they watch and engage with This is a product of using a passive platform because the user does not choose what creators they want to watch Similarly, the username of the creator is small, at the bottom of the screen where it can easily be missed On YouTube, creators have a more loyal following because their audience is actively choosing to watch their videos over and over They have their own channel pages, which they can customize and function as somewhat of their own website It shows the personality and vibe of the creator, allowing consumers to get a feel for who they are and what content they produce Take Mr Beast for example Mr Beast is a YouTuber with over 246 million subscribers His channel banner is simply text that states, “subscribe for a cookie ” While this might not seem like much, it shows users a small bit of his humor. His channel icon is colorful and the color scheme matches his branding. But the most telling part of Mr. Beast’s channel page is his description The description is an introduction of sorts to the YouTuber. Instead of an introduction, Mr. Beast chose to write a list of his extraordinary accomplishments This choice makes a lot of sense given his content involves him creating epic challenges and giving away large sums of money. Simply through the channel page the user is able to gauge a good amount of the creator’s personality This is why many people feel connected to their favorite YouTubers, but not their favorite TikTokers 63% of users on TikTok have followed someone in the last month according to Influencer Marketing Hub Whereas on YouTube, this percentage is much smaller. The smaller percentage could imply that YouTube users think more before deciding whether to subscribe to a channel or not. If the user does decide to subscribe to the YouTuber it is then because they truly enjoy their content and what they stand for. Shortform content removes the creator from the equation and the video is solely based on the content.

Shorts, like TikTok, is taking creators out of the content This is especially upsetting because YouTube has gained its popularity and status because of these creators. On a larger scale, short-form video apps are destroying the idea of being a content creator as a whole and replacing them with influencers with no loyalty There are instances where YouTubers have attempted to transition to TikTok in order to maintain their platform For example, Jason Nash, former YouTube star, has gone viral recently for his TikTok lives in which he begs his viewers to send him money through TikTok gifts Now that YouTube is on a decline, creators have had to find new, more profitable platforms to continue their content

On another note, low effort apps like TikTok or Shorts have shown to decrease productivity and increase stress on teens according to Demetrius Howard, an English professor Combine that with the fact that 77% of high school students believe TikTok is highly addictive (Statista) and you have a disaster waiting to happen

So why would YouTube go through all the trouble of making an entirely new platform that doesn’t agree with their current app? The answer is that YouTube is trying to take back its target demographic from TikTok TikTok has become so mainstream that finding someone aged 13-18 who doesn’t have the app is extremely difficult According to Quora, 85% of high-schoolers have TikTok YouTube was once the favorite place for teens, but when the platform couldn’t meet their target audience’s evolving needs, they moved on. The teenage years are the most important years to develop likes and dislikes It's the prime age to join a fandom or learn a hobby But it’s the fandom part that specifically has YouTube clinging to everything it has left The creation of fandom gave YouTube its popularity Vidcon, an event where fans have the opportunity to meet their favorite creators, was created specifically to cater to fandoms. Without this target demographic, YouTube is beginning to lose the essence it once had

Instead of pressuring content creators to make Shorts, YouTube should invest in hosting more events to get people interested in the creators once again. Another way to step in the right direction would be to bring back the highly controversial YouTube Rewind. The reason for controversy was due to the lacking concepts over the years People also felt that Rewind became too “cringey” and awkward for them to watch Although the 2018 version of Rewind holds the record for the most disliked YouTube video, bringing back the nostalgia could be the push it needs to gain back the teen demographic Hopefully, YouTube will recognize the issues with Shorts and rely on the creators who gave it its initial voice

96th Academy Awards Review

Maggie McAteer

Awards season has come and gone once again, ending with the 96th annual Academy Awards held at the Dolby theater in Los Angeles. American TV host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel returned for his fourth time hosting, and although there had been fears of the SAG-AFTRA strike postponing many movies, the lineup for this year’s awards was fearsome. As expected, Christopher Nolan’s much acclaimed Oppenheimer took home the majority of awards with seven statuettes, including Best Picture and Best Director. Yorgos Lanthimos’ film Poor Things came in second, taking home four Oscars, while summer hit Barbie, despite garnering eight nominations, only received one for Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s song “What Was I Made For?” Still, on the whole, it was a fairly well rounded year with seven out of ten Best Picture nominees receiving at least one award On the snub list was Killers of the Flower Moon, an intense historical crime drama by critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, which received no Academy Awards

The night opened up with the Academy deciding to bring back the “Fab Five” presenter system, last seen at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009 This involved inviting five previous winners of the award, and having them read tributes regarding the nominees and their roles instead of simply showing clips from their movies out of context. This change allowed for a much more personal introduction for each nominee, and left many in the audience teary Also full of emotion were the acceptance speeches delivered that night, with Emma Stone (Poor Things) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers) both leaving the podium in tears The Best Actress award, for which Stone won, was the only real tossup of the night with Killers of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone being a close contender Both won a Golden Globe, and while Gladstone won the SAG award, Stone clinched the BAFTA Both actresses were incredibly supportive of each other however, with Stone thanking her fellow nominee by name and Gladstone immediately rising to give the other actress a standing ovation Oppenheimer won both male acting awards, with Robert Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy both being recognized Murphy also received a BAFTA award and a Golden Globe for his performance as the film’s lead, J. Robert Oppenheimer. It was his first nomination and win after nearly 28 years of working in the industry He has appeared in several other Christopher Nolan films, including Inception (2010) and Dunkirk (2017), but is most known for his starring role as Tommy Shelby in the BBC series Peaky Blinders (2013-2022).

One of the absolute highlights of the night was Ryan Gosling’s show stopping performance of his song “I’m Just Ken” from the Barbie movie. Wearing a pink studded suit paired with a black cowboy hat, Gosling began in the audience amidst giggling castmates before launching into a complicated dance sequence on stage accompanied by fellow Ken actors, co-songwriter Mark Ronson, and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. Comparisons have even been drawn between Gosling’s performance and that of Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), due to similarities in costuming and choreography. Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s performance of their song from Barbie “What Was I Made For?” also was a stunning act, with beautifully simple imagery - it featured only Eilish’s vocals, O’Connell’s piano, and a small live orchestra. Other presentations included Killer’s of the Flower Moon’s “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)” performed live by Scott George and the Osage Tribal Singers, who dressed in traditional attire, and Jon Batiste’s American Symphony song “It Never Went Away.” Diane Warren was unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, given her fifteenth overall nomination and seventh in a row for yet another mediocre song Despite Warren’s many number one hits, she has never struck Oscar gold - likely because her songs pale in comparison to the other nominees. For example, her track this year, “The Fire Inside”, is a bland, repetitive song which even Becky G’s vocals can’t save It comes from Flamin’ Hot, the supposedly true story behind the invention of the flamin’ hot Cheeto, though since its release there has been controversy over the factual creator of the popular snack. A 2021 LA Times investigation found that Richard Montañez, around whom the film centers, almost certainly “didn’t invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, according to interviews with more than a dozen former Frito-Lay employees, the archival record and Frito-Lay itself.” Despite being aware of this, producer DeVon Franklin still marketed the movie as the “inspiring true story” behind the snack

Short films made bigger news than usual due to Wes Anderson’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar winning him his first Academy Award - which he ironically wasn’t able to receive in person due to him working on his next project overseas Henry Sugar comes as part of a four-part short film anthology, each based on a different Roald Dahl short story Winning for their short documentary The Last Repair Shop, Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers invited twelve year old violinist Porché Brinker onto stage alongside them The documentary features LAUSD students like Brinker whose love of music is supported by the few craftspeople who fix and maintain the nearly 80,000 instruments for free

Ludwig Göransson received a well-deserved win for his masterful Oppenheimer score, which featured his wife Serena on the violin Göransson drew inspiration from the abstract footage of particles, waves, and chain reactions which are featured in the film. Producer, writer, and director Christopher Nolan has also stated that the “Can You Hear The Music?” track (which went viral on TikTok, earning 2 1 billion impressions) was meant to resemble Igor Stravisky’s The Rite of Spring, which he called “one of the best pieces of music ever written.” The piece also included over twenty tempo changes, was recorded over three days, and sampled the static from a Geiger counter, a machine that detects and measures ionizing radiation Oppenheimer’s Jennifer Lame won the film another well-deserved award for her editing. Her work was especially impressive as Lame had to balance multiple storylines which all took place at different points on the timeline of Oppenheimer’s life

Yorgos Lanthimos’s film Poor Things also won several technical awards for production design, makeup and hairstyling, and costume design Lanthimos was inspired by Egon Schiele’s 1911 painting “Nude Girl Standing With Long Black Hair & Blue-Black Drape”, which influenced Holly Waddington’s costume design as well as the hair and makeup for lead actress Emma Stone’s character, Bella Baxter In the film, Bella is often seen with large, puffy gigot sleeves and her long dark hair hanging down simply. The set design also mirrors the absurdist themes seen throughout the film, with collaborating designers Shona Heath and James Price filling the sets with vividly clashing textures, simultaneously classical and futuristic styles of architecture, and sweeping, surrealist backdrops

Godzilla Minus One took home the award for Best Visual Effects, becoming the first ever Japanese film to do so, as well as the first film in the 70-year “Godzilla” franchise Their team was headed by writer/director Takashi Yamazaki and his longtime VFX partner Kiyoko Shibuyak who worked with only a $10-$12 million budget and only 35 artists for the entire movie, compared to a standard $200 million budget for VFX alone The film has been praised by critics and filmmakers alike, with Christopher Nolan calling it “a tremendous film” and expressing a desire to see Takashi helm a film responding to Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which would depict the Japanese side of the atomic bomb. While accepting their award, the Godzilla team brought up a photo of their recently deceased producer Shūji Abe, in order to pay tribute, as well as Godzilla figurines which had also appeared in their red carpet photo Regrettably, Takashi and his team were played off of the stage as he struggled to deliver his speech in English despite it not being his first language He was forced to quickly yell his final words honoring Shūji over the infamous orchestral music. This left many viewers enraged, with one user on X (formerly known as Twitter) saying, “So ecstatic for the Godzilla Minus One team, but furious how they were played off during their speech! They deserved all the time in the world! They put in the effort to translate their speech for you, and you play them off???” Ironically, Jimmy Kimmel ended up having to kill time later in the program by reading out tweets reviewing his hosting ability

This year proved to be impressive for international films, with two of the Best Picture nominees, Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest, being foreign language films. Even more impressively, the lead of both films is German actress Sandra Hüller, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Anatomy of a Fall. Despite working as an actress for many years and starring in numerous films, such as the 2006 drama Requiem and Toni Erdmann (2016) for which she received multiple accolades, Hüller is only just now gaining international recognition. Japanese filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki also received his second Academy Award for his animated film

The Boy and the Heron, which draws heavily from Miyazaki's childhood and explores themes of coping in a world marked by loss.

Politics was a theme present throughout the course of the night, marked by the red ceasefire in Gaza pins worn by multiple celebrities on the red carpet, most noticeably Billie Eilish, Mark Ruffalo, and Ramy Youssef Later, when accepting his award for Best International Feature film, The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer took a definitive stance against Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza as part of the Israel-Hamas war He drew a connection from his Holocaust film to the present day, explaining that his film was not saying “‘look what they did then’ - rather, ‘look what we do now.’ Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst ” The 58 year old English director continued by proclaiming, “We stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people,” essentially saying that he is not in support of Jewishness and the Holocaust being used as a justification for the ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza This declaration led to fervent criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, and subsequently over 1,000 Jewish creatives signed an open letter denouncing his speech for fueling the “growing anti-Jewish hatred around the world ” Although Glazer has yet to publicly address this backlash, more recently over 150 other Jewish creatives including Joaquin Phoenix, Joel Coen, and Hari Nef signed a second open letter in support of his speech. Their letter concluded with the words, “We honor the Holocaust by saying: Never again for anyone ”

Ukranian director Mstyslav Chernov also used his acceptance speech for his documentary 20 Days In Mariupol as a call to action, urging his fellow nominees to understand that as “some of the most talented people in the world, we can make sure the history record is set straight and that the truth will prevail and those who have given their lives will never be forgotten ” In addition, the director stated that he wished he never had to make the film, which prominently features the atrocities of Russia’s siege in the Ukrainian city, and that instead he would “exchange this to Russia never attacking Ukraine ” This award also marks the first Oscar win in Ukrainian history, an impressive achievement which is sadly overshadowed by the terrible circumstances under which the film was made The documentary literally follows Chernov and his team, the last international reporters in the city, as they struggle to continue their work documenting the horrors of the war Chernov left the audience at the Academy awards with the powerful line, “Cinema forms memories and memories form history,” touching on not only the importance of documentaries showing the truth in difficult situations, but also how dangerous propaganda can be The whole affair is reminiscent of 2023’s documentary winner, Navalny (2022), which also addressed the deep rooted problems of Putin’s Russia, following Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the events related to his poisoning Navalny was even honored later on during the 2024 Academy Awards during the “In Memoriam” segment, as he had been confirmed dead just a few weeks before.

Even with the SAG-AFTRA strike halting many productions, 2023 was a great year for movies, many of which were honored at the 96th Academy Awards Cultural phenomena like “Barbenheimer” brought many people back to theaters, while films like The Zone of Interest and Killers of the Flower Moon delivered intense portrayals of the evils of humanity Though there is still clear deep rooted racism and sexism within the Academy, small film wins like Godzilla Minus One bring hope that not everything is set in stone Whether it be going to see a well-filmed concert at the theater with friends, watching a heartbreaking documentary on a war that’s been going on far too long, or letting Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling heal your inner child, amidst an ever changing and highly charged political climate it feels like movies are the only things left that truly bring people together

Sabrina Carpenter’s Slow Rise to Fame Isabelle Zarrin

In an industry where overnight successes seem to be the admired ideal and accepted norm, singer and actress Sabrina Carpenter stands out as an individual familiar with the path of patience and perseverance In her recent acceptance speech for Variety’s Rising Artist award, Carpenter compared the slow development of her career to the popular tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare ” She explained that, growing up, she would often find herself frustrated with her mother’s frequent remarks that she “[is] a tortoise” because things seemed to happen extremely slowly for her Finding herself in an industry full of “hares,” Carpenter stated that “in moments of frustration and confusion it can feel like a letdown, but it turns out it's actually a very good thing,” for she has “really loved getting to know the mindset of a slow rise.”

Carpenter’s journey in the music industry is a perfect example of the saying “It takes ten years to become an overnight success ” Having begun her career as a child actor, Carpenter is no stranger to the spotlight Most popular for her role as Maya Hart in Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World, Carpenter has starred in countless other projects, including a leading role as Cady Heron in the Broadway production of Mean Girls Despite her prevalent presence in the acting scene, creating and performing music has always been Carpenter’s biggest passion. In 2015, the artist entered the music scene with her single “Can’t Blame a Girl for Trying” on her debut album Eyes Wide Open At the time, she was fourteen years old and had just signed a five year recording contract with Hollywood Records Now, Carpenter is twentyfour and finally making her long overdue breakthrough into mainstream music.

But why has it taken nearly a decade for Carpenter to gain her much deserved recognition? Perhaps it is because for the majority of her career, she was under Disney’s strict rules about maintaining a family-friendly image with limited access to true self expression Carpenter alluded to this being the cause in an interview with Glamour, stating that her first four albums “were [not] throwaways for [her], but they were definitely [her] really not knowing who [she] was yet” and that “they were made when [she] wasn't connected to [her]self ” However, after signing with her new label, Island Records, Carpenter was free to experiment with her public persona and the style of music she wanted to create The rising star told Who What Wear that the label “trusted her vision as an artist” and ultimately “had a lot of faith in what [she] was creating.”

This newfound, overwhelming support allowed Carpenter to dive into what she considers to be somewhat of a new beginning to her career In 2022, Carpenter released her fifth studio album titled emails i can’t send, and a deluxe edition creatively titled emails i can’t send fwd: in 2023 The project explores various themes including dysfunctional family relationships, romantic heartbreak, and even lying to her therapist The album features the hit song “Nonsense,”, which became her highest charting release to date Carpenter embarked on an 80-date tour for the album where at each show, she applied a genius marketing strategy: Singing a unique, unfiltered outro to the song Connecting the theme to the city she was performing in, Carpenter sang outros with ridiculous puns and scandalous sexual innuendos, gaining a large amount of recognition online for their absurdity Earning praise for her enchanting stage presence, Carpenter’s undeniable talent and creativity attracted thousands of new fans and boosted her ticket sales This sudden popularity caught the attention of none other than Taylor Swift, who invited Carpenter to be the opening act for her massively popular Eras Tour for the international dates Clearly, leaving her long-time label was an incredible decision for Carpenter as the freedom to express her true self brought on fantastic opportunities and much earned success

Controversy also plays a role in what may have deterred many from Carpenter’s music. One cannot discuss her career without mentioning the unfortunate scrutiny she fell under in 2021 after the release of fellow singer Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single, “drivers license ” Rodrigo’s song alludes to suspected ex-boyfriend, actor and singer Joshua Bassett, beginning a new relationship with someone who is only described as a “blonde girl” - yet many immediately assumed was referring to Carpenter As the media loves to do time and time again, the two talented women were pitted against one another, with the public largely siding with Rodrigo and heavily targeting Carpenter. The artist shortly released a song titled “Skin,, which was seen as a direct response to “drivers license” with its lyrics, “Maybe you didn't mean it/Maybe blonde was the only rhyme ” The song was not well received by many angry fans online though, with a mass amount of individuals labeling Carpenter as a “homewrecker” and other insults

Nearly a year after the love triangle drama, Carpenter was ready to share how this online hate impacted her In the song “because i liked a boy” from emails i can’t send, she sings “Now I’m a homewrecker, I’m a slut/ I got death threats filling up semi trucks” as well a very obvious reference to Rodrigo and Bassett with the line “It’s not internet illusion, just two kids going through it ” At the end of the song, Carpenter shares the jaw-dropping statement that “When everything went down/ We’d already broken up,” further proving that the amount of hate projected onto the star was completely unnecessary The complexities of fame, relationships, and the blurred lines between personal and public narratives can often be misconstrued and blown out of proportion. Although this negative experience had thousands against her at the start, Carpenter was eventually able to shed her previous image and emerge on new radars with this release

“I feel a lot freer and more excited about what I’m making now because I’ve realized that genre isn’t necessarily the most important thing,” she stated “There were a lot of genres in my last album, and I like to think I’ll continue that throughout writing music.” Changing up her process for creating music launched Carpenter to new heights in her career, so it only makes sense that she would adopt the same mentality for her next projects

Not only did Carpenter’s quality of music improve with emails i can’t send, so did her branding. In 2023, Carpenter released a perfume called Sweet Tooth - Interview reports her describing this adventure into fragrance as “an emotional extension of her music ” Many of her fellow pop stars have taken this route before, such as Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish. Venturing off into new projects outside of music allows for an artist to reach a broader audience and further engage their already existing one Carpenter’s personal style has also recently evolved, with the artist experimenting with her unique fashion sense both on and off stage. In an interview with Who What Wear, the artist described her desire to “feel as confident as humanly possible so [she] can be [on stage] and not worry about what [she’s] doing,” claiming that "it helps [her] perform better ” Fashion played a large role in the emails i can’t send era, with Carpenter saying it’s “the first album cycle where I really felt like there was a style connection to the music ” Recently, Carpenter has famously fashioned glittery corsets with heart cutouts on the chest When asked about this unique look, she explains that the "theme of hearts [is] sprinkled throughout the music and different visuals” because “[the album] was so deeply surrounded by this infatuation with love and the lack of love.”

At times, the music industry can seem like a place filled with endless setbacks and broken dreams However, Carpenter’s unique journey in the industry serves as a testament to the power of patience and perseverance. From her early days in the limelight as a child actor to her recent breakthrough in the pop music scene, Carpenter has stayed true to her passion for creating and performing music She has evolved not only as an artist, but as a young adult experiencing the world and all that it has to offer. Her introspection and artistic exploration is what led to the creation of the adored and acclaimed emails i can’t send, ultimately skyrocketing her career With controversy and scrutiny being thrown at her along the way, Carpenter has emerged stronger, using these experiences to fuel her incredibly honest and vulnerable music. As she continues to push boundaries in the industry, Carpenter shows promise for a bright and successful future, proving that sometimes the journey to the top is worth the wait

Local News

San Diego Unified Votes Unanimously in Favor of Major Layoffs

Kate Joslin

On Tuesday, March 5th the San Diego Unified School Board voted unanimously to approve major layoffs following the $93 7 million budget shortfall heading into the school year Nearly 500 jobs between classified and certified staff will be impacted by the cuts, with about 250 staff- including 120 special subject elementary school teachers- being laid off under these planned cuts

San Diego Unified employs more than 12,000 people, and employee costs make up more than 90 percent of its unrestricted budget Positions being cut include elementary teachers, special education staff, reading teachers, bus drivers, food service workers, recess and lunch duty assistants, administrative assistants, instructional coordinators, central office administrators, clerks, custodians, maintenance workers, family services assistants and more. It is estimated that some employees whose positions are being cut will be reassigned to other jobs in the district, with priority going to employees with seniority. However, the picture will become much clearer in the coming weeks as staff begin to be notified whether they will be receiving a “pink slip ”

Pink slips are the state of California printed certificates which indicate that teachers will not be hired back However, this system is inherently flawed in that many of these teachers will, in fact, need to be hired back in the fall, even though the district must lay them off in the spring as they cannot afford to pay them through the summer prep periods Therefore, when the district starts getting their numbers of enrolled students in the early fall and as late as weeks into the school year, they have to scramble to hire teachers back to meet their strict classroom cap numbers, meaning teachers come in to the year late and without time to truly prepare Not only does this provide a negative impact for the teachers, but it does even more so for students Special education students may not be able to be placed in specialized curriculum until days or weeks into the year, and often kids are shifted part way into their new school year. This process isn’t new to public education, but it does cause a lot of uproar from people like Megan Glynn, first vice president of the district’s bargaining unit for office, technical, and business services employees, who said during public comment, “Just because the positions are gone doesn’t mean the work is gone Who’s going to do the work?”

These layoffs also lead to an increase in the chaotic “bumping” process, which shuffles personnel around based on seniority Bumping protects the most veteran employees when positions are eliminated or work hours are reduced. Workers can bump a less-senior colleague out of a job, giving that person the right to bump someone else with even less experience out the door The process can send trusted and loved employees packing up their belongings, often disrupting the culture of a campus

The root of this budget cut comes from a tightening of revenue from Sacramento due to a broader statewide budget deficitespecially following the expiration of COVID- era funds. The budget shortfall was initially estimated to be closer to $130 million as of last June, during which the district turned to its reserves and implemented spending freezes, but failed to prevent classroom impacts in the long term Some also blamed the budget gap on the school board’s decision last year to grant 15 percent pay raises to employees, which county officials had at the time said would significantly increase the district’s deficit spending. According to Todd Madison, research director for Transparent California, “the layoffs we see now are the direct result of a choice the board made ” These job cuts are estimated to save the district about $50 million, according to Drew Rowlands, the district’s Deputy Superintendent of Operations Those savings will cut in half the $94 million unrestricted budget gap that officials say they need to close for next school year- which already has another substantial budget deficit around $163 million that will need to be addressed During the district’s presentation at the beginning of the month, officials stated that they will continue to scrutinize expenses headed into budget planning for the next school year, as well as “expand zero-based budgeting,” “expand strategy plans,” and analyze the existing “attrition model,” in an effort to avoid this becoming a pattern.

“We cannot become comfortable with this,” Superintendent Dr Lamont Jackson stated during the SDUSD board meeting. “We have to stay uncomfortable and recognize that this is an impact to our fundamental purpose and that is making sure that our students are in classrooms learning ”

Club Spotlight:Cheese Club

Point Loma High School is filled with extra curricular activities and clubs that are often unique and exciting. One unique club that started in September of this school year is the Cheese Club

Founded by Colby Russell, the club was a hit, with its very first meeting attended by nearly 30 people! The president usually chooses a new cheese for every month, each one being more creative and noteworthy than the last. After giving a brief description of the cheese’s roots, samples are passed out Even the staff advisor, Mr Benz, occasionally participates in a classic game of “What’s That Cheese?”

Colby’s inspiration for starting the cheese club was her dad He mentioned having a Sushi Club when he was in high school, and she wanted to carry on the tradition of creating fun foodie clubs. She decided on cheese, because who doesn’t love cheese?

Cheese Club is a delicious way to have fun and hang out with friends at the same time. All meetings are on the first Tuesdays of every month, if you’re interested in joining. Everyone is welcome to join, and the Cheese Club hopes to see you there!

creative writing

The Golden Egg

Celia Thome

My grandfather held out his flaky, pale palms, extending his thin arms into the spring sunlight that poured down just beyond the awning of our front porch In them, he held a small blue egg. It was plastic and perfectly shiny, like a polished glass window, the sun glaring off of its equator in a perfect rimmed circle of white light that stuck behind your eyelids I leaned forward on my bare feet, feeling my weight drop down onto my toes, spread on the hot stone that wrapped around the edge of my grandfather’s looming house; stairs made of the same rock jutting out on each of the four sides, put in place by his own hands The same hands that held the vibrant blue halves to an egg, split in the middle, slowly moving under my chin, so I could see better. His bony fingers grazed my chest, sweaty under my Sunday best, button up plaid shirt, and I stared down at the singular grape that wobbled slightly against the curved sides of the shell Its silky faded green allure sagged against the large seed within the almost transparent fruit that lay helpless in the dry, hot air.

“Why a grape?” I asked, looking up at his towering figure over my stout body, jutting my chin towards the sky, reaching for his answer.

He frowned, his wild gray eyebrows pushing together, casting a light shadow over his deep green eyes “Grape?” he paused, head twitching slightly, “Grape, yes. I don’t–”

He smiled and left it at that, gently closing the egg as if it were a porcelain doll, rolling it in his large hands, catching the beauty of the light reflecting at its curves He dropped his smile then brought it back after a second as if he had had a dilemma, but it had been quickly resolved. Bending down, he gently rested a hand on my skinny calf to stabilize himself, reaching out with the other to carefully nestle the egg within a small plant, its bunches of small blue flowers dissolving the egg into itself.

“Oh!” he exclaimed slowly, getting back up, with his finger in the air, “Let me show you another one that I hid for him!”

He smiled giddily and walked over to his rocking chair, almost losing his balance as he leaned against its wobbly frame, while digging behind a pillow resting against the wiry back, before pulling out another egg This one was smaller and a deep pink, almost red, that reflected onto my grandfather’s skin, giving it the same hue as if he had stained them by eating berries or painting. Although, he had given up his talent years ago when joining the military.

This one is my favorite and- oh!” He leaned over again and pulled out a second one from behind the pillow “I hid these two together, shh,” he grinned “Look ”

He opened the pink one, cracking it open over my hand which had automatically risen up when he had held it in front of me, letting its contents plop into my hands, surprised he would let me hold what he cared so much about Easter was his favorite holiday, and he spent all year preparing the hunt, and today I had asked him to show me his favorite eggs before he started I stared down at the thin bullet resting on the wide part of my fingers, stretching three long Its metal was heavy and dark, its surface cool despite the warmth. I turned it over in my hand, and he watched tentatively as if I would break it.

“Don’t you think that's a little weird for an Easter egg hunt?” I asked, drawing my hand closer to my chest

He laughed then stopped His face changed, his lips pursing and his eyebrow relaxing as he slightly scrunched his nose like a young boy eating broccoli. His stance shifted into a more youthful and bouncy position, his knees bent, so that he was the slightest bit closer to my height He took a long pause, staring out into the yard, and I waited, watching his hands, the same hands, turned awkward as if he wasn’t sure where he could put them

“Oh no!” my grandfather shouted in a childlike voice, his hands clenching around the bullet and egg, “Grandpa will be so mad that I found this before the hunt started!” He shoved everything in my hands and then began laughing His laugh wasn’t infectious like people claimed when he laughed like this That was simply something they said to mask awkwardness and confusion He laughed for a long time before taking a shaky breath, “No, no, it’s not weird to have in an Easter egg hunt Look, open the next one and it will make sense–Why are you holding those?”

He grabbed both eggs and the bullet from my hands, and stepped back into the sunlight, away from his rocking chair He opened the second egg, yellow and the same size as the very first egg he showed me. This time, he didn’t drop the contents into my hands, but into his own

My breath caught deep in my throat and I stepped back, turning my face into the shade to hide my surprise, not to upset him, stuffing my hands into my pockets A dark, thick fur tail dropped off the end of my grandfather’s thumb, stretching all the way to his wrist He held the tail out towards me, watching it with wide, wondrous eyes. It was fairly small, but it seemed it was only the end, hiding the clues to how large the rodent had been. The skin under the fur was bloodless and pink where it was cleanly chopped off, as if all life had been drunk by the ever increasing sun, creeping deeper into the sky, as our awning began to fail as our shield

“He will like it, no?” My grandfather asked, not taking his eyes off the tail, whose fur ruffled against the light wind of his breath

“Yes,” I stated, fighting the sting that crept behind my eye, the sun too bright for the dull moment that beat against my frontal cortex, drawing a dark line across my vision. My mother, hardened around the edges, where her hands were calloused and bruised and her hair frayed in her bun, had told me why my grandfather had forgotten me that day when the chill crept through thin walls, struggling against the winter rain. I had wept, not because I was sad, but because I found it alarming and unusual My grandfather had been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder not even a year after he had returned from serving in the military, a cause of his trauma. He seemed to cram the hole, shot through him with thousands of bullets, with the family he’d never had, his grandfather and father passing at young ages. In a way, I had felt angry when she told me, for my grandfather had stolen my role as a grandson, taken my spot and pushed me away. Now I was simply a boy he’d met at the park, a neighbor who brought over cookies out of kindness, a young man who noticed him and had an urge to ask about the Easter eggs in his hands

My grandfather laughed again, but only a singular loud, sharp chuckle, that cut threw the dry, afternoon air I waited once more, tapping my foot on the edge of the stone.

“I think Grandpa’s ready!” he exclaimed, eyes widening as he dropped the tail and egg The shells bounced in unison three silent times before rolling off the edge into the dirt, while the tail landed softly and became still, like a beautiful soul that had decided to say goodnight a final time “I will start the hunt!”

We sood for a moment, my grandfather almost confused as to why I was not as excited as him. I coughed, tasting the breakfast of muffins and eggs my mother had prepared before church, where they preached that the cave where Jesus was laid, was found empty this joyous morning.

“You do know I am your grandson, right?” I asked, my face numb as the emotionless words became smile lines on his wrinkled face, and he broke into laughter

“Quit playing! You’re my cousin, silly!” He giggled, playfully poking my neck with his long finger

The words stung as his response always did, but the sun seemed to calm from its tortuous state above the trees and I was relieved that he had recognized me as family I breathed slowly and gave a gentle smile, arranging my body language to how my mother had taught me, calming and welcoming

“Do you think I could help you find the eggs this year?” I whispered

His hands fluttered by his side as his face grew narrow and his lower lip pressed against his teeth

“Well, usually Grandpa wants me to find them all by myself,” he explained leaning closer to me

I looked at my grandpa, taking him all in My grandfather, the Golden egg, the only egg I wanted to find in the violent sea of rose bushes filled with thorns and weeds that shot out of the stable ground to block your view with vibrant flowers that grew no matter the rain or shine

“But perhaps he won’t mind,” he continued, “no, actually,” he reached out a took hold of my hand, cold sweat between my fingers, “actually, I think I’d like that.”


Lily Peavey

The angel never had a name. Angels of her kind never had any names, because their purpose in itself was to be nameless The angel was purposeless, a floating, glowing being with little to do or discuss There was simply no reason for her existence So she wandered, pacing the dark room she had been placed into as a baby with no exits The room, at the center, contained a blurry sheet of glass with barricades around it so that the angel could never harm it, though she never wanted to. It would be entertaining, however The room was spacious, but had so little to do She had aged in the room, growing from a young girl into an adult woman, until her aging finally stopped

Angels were infinite, so a purposeless life for a human was only a purposeless moment for the angel She knew of humans, sometimes even heard their muffled chatter through the glass However, she’d never laid eyes on a human, never seen their faces So the angel longed for more, for something to fill the endless minutes, give every moment of her eternal life something to be proud of. She found a single thing in her immortal age One single thing that gave her meaning

The single thing was named Betty Betty was a baby when she first appeared in the glass at the bottom. The angel had looked down one moment, had seen the fog clear, and then had seen Betty A newborn baby, cradled in her mother’s arms, a name whispered, giving the angel a knowledge of which she had never had before. Betty was her purpose. Only Betty. Nothing else existed to the angel except Betty

Betty was born with hazel eyes and wisps of dark hair atop her red skin She came into the world wailing, crying out for something, anything The angel watched all of this from afar Watched Betty’s mother hold her beloved child, watched Betty’s father take his daughter into his arms, watched the balloons and flowers and crooning voices all gather around the baby, adoring her, loving her

The angel found that she knew so few things. She knew nothing of humanity, of their lives, of its precious and treasured moments She had awoken one day in the dark room and had cared for herself ever since. She had just known how to do everything from there on out She had known how to walk, how to aimlessly speak to herself, and how to stand tall She had never had to learn before But now, she saw, just as her purpose had come to life, she saw that she would indeed learn about humanity

Betty grew, but the angel did not. The little baby had grown into a rambunctious toddler, taking her first steps, speaking her first words Even the angel believed that what Betty had grown into could be a menace at times, but she adored her all the same How could she not? After all, Betty had given her dull life a meaning, a purpose It filled her with hope, gave her something as distant and impossible as emotion for the first time in eternity Betty made the angel feel human

When Betty turned ten, her hair was long and dark brown, her teeth faintly yellowing, and her amber eyes sparkled brighter than ever before But she was also sadder than ever before At ten, Betty’s closest friend moved away and out of the glass’ view The angel had never seen the girl so low, and it pained her heart She wept just as Betty had She sobbed and sobbed for what must have been months for humanity, but when she looked back with dry eyes, she saw that Betty was smiling, finding a new friend

See, the angel never had any reason to feel this type of emotion Never had any purpose, never had any idea of what this hungry pain that ate up her feelings was. It crept up from behind and sunk its claws into her mind, ripping out the fleeting happiness and unfeeling that the angel had felt until now Seeing the tears stream down Betty’s face made the angel feel. She felt pain, felt anguish for the first time in her immortal life This little girl had opened her heart, made her know the suffering of mankind and their burdens, even if for a brief moment

But that moment was not brief. When Betty turned thirteen, her hair had been lightened by foils and by human concoctions The angel could scarcely recognize the girl she once thought she knew. Her eyes were caked with swipes of black and brushes of powders and the world called her beautiful The angel could not see why Betty was not beautiful before she did all these things. Being lonely, she had never known beauty, rarely knowing her own face, so she couldn’t understand these human complexities of societal standards

Betty became quiet, became sad She cried in her bathroom mirror, causing the angel to weep too The angel’s head was filled with confusion. Betty’s life was so interesting, but so complicated Why were people mean? Why were people convinced that they were worth nothing when everyone is worth something?

She hoped that it would pass, begged and pleaded to anything that was listening for it to pass So she did not have to see this pain in the girl who had become her only purpose to survive To feel, to love, to wonder The angel did not want to go back to how things had been To the cold, the pain The emptiness of this dark room and its glass She did not want to feel helpless She wanted to watch Betty, to see her life To have something

Betty’s smile never sparked again Her grins were never as carefree as the ones that had been at her birthdays or on happy occasions. Behind every smile hid a grimace, a flash of the tears from the night before. Betty became angry. She became furious at the world, furious at her parents, and furious with herself. Every day, she would curse and cry and the angel did not know why. But the angel still watched- she had to watch. She had to make sure that Betty was going to be okay.

Slowly, people disappeared around Betty. First Betty screamed at her closest friend, a friend that the angel recognized from when they were just children, running around, mud on their clothes and ice cream smeared on their faces Her friend screamed back The angel never saw them speaking to one another again

Then Betty’s mother faded away She was surrounded by tubes and beeping monitors, in the same room that Betty herself had been born in Her family had been weeping, sobbing as a single tone filled the room It kept happening Back in that same room Betty’s grandmother was next She vanished, out of view of the glass

After that, the angel never saw Betty smile She saw her try to smile But it was always awkward, even somewhat embarrassing when she did Her laughter had died underneath the weight of her own grief and misery And so the days went on like that Betty attempted to have a shred of happiness, but always ended up sobbing harder in her room by the end of the day There were no “good days” and “bad days” anymore There were just days There was not an opposite to the horrible times anymore

But the rain only made the horrible days worse. They matched Betty’s ever-flowing tears, and the dark clouds covered the bright and smiling sun. The angel was leaning on the railings the day it happened. She heard the rain in the back of her mind, eyes trained on Betty, whose eyes were set on the road. There was no music on the car’s radio, only the constant and deafening sound of rain.

Betty rounded the corner and approached the bridge over the river The angel breathed a sigh of relief, for she was almost home Five more minutes and she would be safe in her room. Devastated and heartbroken or not, Betty would be safe. And that was all that mattered to the angel What happened next was something that the angel wished she could stop But she could not Because all she could do was watch.

The car’s tires skidded on the road It veered into the river The angel heard Betty’s terrified scream Then she saw her fight. Something in Betty that told her to live, to survive She scrambled for the seatbelt, not wasting a single second of her precious few minutes And then it stopped. The angel stared, watching as the only thing that gave her life meaning gave up.

The fight in her eyes dimmed The water seemed like the perfect tomb in Betty’s eyes The Betty that the angel had seen grow up smiled and sobbed, then disappeared. All that was left was the water. It kept rising, submerging her The angel saw her final breath

In the uncounted times after the angel stared at the glass, which had returned to its original and blurry state Time slowed There were no hours or days or years All of the angel’s times had been measured in Betty. And now Betty was gone. And the angel was alone, just as she had been before She remained confined to her room Alone, to live out an eternity, with only memories of Betty

There was simply no reason for her existence.

The Pope Goes Hunting

Illia Prodzora

As the morning rays of sunshine hit the cathedral, chromatic colors illuminate the interior Silence transitions into footsteps as the Father who begets, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds, follow Pope Paul III as he drops the holy scriptures onto the altar. Mumbles turn into words Words turn into sentences. Sentences form a sermon. The empty room listens.

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters,’” he lectures as the colors envelop his shadow. There is a sigh, his shadow’s outline becomes exemplified by the light from the walls He slams the scriptures shut with a swift motion Boredom now fills the cathedral until the silence is broken, he says, “I think, today, I will go hunting.”

One hand with a musket and the other holding the cross, now the fun shall start as death is a must.

The gates swing open to a color field with flowers and spring showers A nice morning breeze blows through the grass as it sings for all to hear, though one spot out of all is not like the rest. A gray tailed bunny with a basket is sitting, but must be put down to rest

Pope Paul III sprints off the doorstep with his very short feet, as one stumbles over the other, he might taste defeat. The gray tailed hare leaps for its life, abandoning its basket left for the demise. The Pope’s shriveled structure trample all in his way, with each of his steps not even the same way. He flattens the basket with no regard, and the yolk of the eggs splatter on every yard Holding his musket just like a spear, he swings it from one side to the next with no fear.

A root in his path trips his white leather boots, and like a giant he falls, though the rabbit still moves. He does not wish to get up, so he begins to take aim, his musket shaking within his decrepit skeletal hands. As his crusted fingertips pulled the trigger, the birds flock away from the childish squill heard from a hare

“Finally another is gone,” Pope Paul III cheers, once more ready to fill his stomach Though as he marches to the treacherous figure, a basket of flowers and eggs remains left for his mind to linger. Reaching to the bottom a singular letter lies, reading, “You fool You still failed, but the fun shall go on. I'll be ready for next year with my own weapons, preparing your begone. This gift basket is enough for your last year, I hope you enjoy it as you fear.”

Spring Flowers

It was a bright spring day, the sky a pristine blue while the wind still blew with a winter chill. Alba stood to Mara’s left, looking up, watching a butterfly flit by while battling the wind. Her blond hair flew around her head like a halo. Mara watched her with fascination. They were the same age, identical twins, but strikingly different. Even Mara couldn’t believe it. While Alba had long blond hair down to her waist, Mara had short raven black hair. As Alba started walking away, Mara picked up her skirt and romped through the field of flowers, following closely behind her sister. Alba kept walking until she came upon a small clearing near a river. There sat a small stone, engraved with the simple name: “Mara.” Mara sat down near it tracing the letters listlessly with her finger while staring at Alda. Mara kept looking at Alba practically begging her to notice, say something, anything. But how could she? Mara was dead.

There was one last thing different about them. While Alba was full of life, Mara mirrored the opposite; everything was an inconvenience, a bore. That’s probably why everyone thought she died. She lost her fascination with life. But they were wrong. Mara wasn’t the one who hung that noose around her head. Alba stood there for a little while longer before it began to rain. She turned without a second thought and walked away. Mara watched as the rain washed away the shallow grave and the milky white bones underneath rose to the surface. She sat there numb and slowly felt herself disappear and melt back into the ground.

The Tortured Poets Department

Maggie McAteer

You walk through the twisting alleyways of the city, knowing something is hidden but unsure of where it is, or even what you are desperate to find. All you know is that you are wandering, searching, waiting Each building you pass, you wonder: Is this it? Is my journey finally over? But each time, you are disappointed Your legs grow heavy as the sun dips below the tops of the tall rows of apartments Still, you push on, though anticipation is slowly killing you

You feel it growing closer It’s almost as if your destination is pulling you forward by some invisible string As you turn the next corner, your pulse quickens, your heartbeat reverberating through your chest It is so close, so so close Your destination Your salvation

And there it is, at the end of a long alleyway

It is a little decrepit, with peeling beige paint and gives the sense that it had been a mental asylum Small words are carefully painted above the dark double doors in a deep maroon They read: The Tortured Poets Department.

You push through the doors, their dark tinted glass cool against your skin. The doors are heavier than you expected, much too heavy to be the cheap plastic you had initially taken them for They open onto a long hallway, the linoleum floors gleaming under the harsh fluorescent lights. If despair was a place this would be it. You begin to walk down the seemingly infinite hallway With every step it seems to stretch alongside you, and when you turn you discover the door is no longer visible. Dismayed, yet resigned to seeing the journey through, you turn back around to find that the hallway is gone Instead, you are faced with a reception desk

The woman sitting behind it types on an old, clunky square computer and wears a teal A-line dress, complete with large black buttons. Her auburn hair is cropped short towards her neck with long straight bangs and flipped curls in the back You imagine she wandered into this building once, perhaps in the 1960’s You wonder if you will become trapped too.

“Excuse me?” you ask hesitantly But the woman shows no sign of response. “Hello?” She acts as though she has not heard a thing. You scan the desk for other clues, and discover a small silver bell Ring me, reads the small, hand printed note in front of it

You pause, considering the bell A feeling comes over you, warning that this is the last step before your freedom falls You could still make it out, the walls whisper No You’ve come too far You ring the bell

The clear tone that rings from it is loud in the otherwise empty silence. The moment your fingers touch the bell, the woman looks up. Her head snaps up so quickly, in fact, that you swear you can hear her bones grinding in the back of her neck

“Are you checking in?” she asks, a smooth, practiced voice reciting words you bet she’s said a thousand times before Still startled from her sharp reaction, you hesitate to find the correct words

“You, there,” she says again, this time nodding at you, as if you were unsure that she was speaking to you

“Me?” you respond, the shock finally fading Even though you know she could only be referring to you, it is the only word that manages to escape from your mouth. The woman behind the desk nods again.

“Are you checking in?” Her eyes are more alert now, flicking back and forth slightly, taking in your body, your clothes A sharp intelligence is beginning to awaken within her, and, for a moment, you can see the woman she used to be Perhaps she had been a housewife or a kindly school librarian who yearned for children but found solace in stories instead Now, she simply waits for you to respond

You consider carefully Why did you come here? You cannot even remember making the choice to walk here All you know is that you needed to come to this place, this building Something inside you was screaming for it, and now that same impulse is begging you to stay

You tell the receptionist yes. What other choice do you have? There is no door to leave.

The woman behind the desk says that your room is at the far end of the hall, on the left You do not know what she means, but when you try to inquire further she simply smiles in the way people do when talking to children Her eyes say, Silly little thing You’ll know when you get there You hope she is right

Before you can ask her which hall she means, because it is certainly not the hallway which you came in through, she goes back to typing The dulled stupor of repetitive work glazes over her eyes once more, the bright intelligence you glimpsed for a moment now gone You turn away in search of the aforementioned hallway and discover one has appeared You cannot bring yourself to be surprised this time Many strange things have already occurred You take one step, before turning back to wave goodbye to the woman behind the desk Instead, you find only a blank wall She is gone You sigh Perhaps she was never there.

You begin to walk down the hall. To your surprise, not all of the doors are exactly the same. Some are made of darker wood, or metal, or have long cracks running through them. You suppose that each one represents whoever is inside, their souls seeping through. The numbers on the doors are seemingly random, skipping from 136 to 15 to 32. You know that you should simply move on to your room, the end of the hall nearing, but you cannot help being drawn to some doors.

Room 1618 has a startlingly different door It looks to be made of plastic in bright colors melting together Iridescent butterflies and hummingbirds in blue and green appear to be trapped within the resin, their wings mid flight as if trying to escape Hesitantly, you turn the cool, translucent door handle and peer inside A middle aged woman sits at a small plastic table, printing letters in careful cursive with a bubblegum scented marker Her blonde hair is in two pigtails tied with pink ribbons like a child’s In fact, when you look at her more closely, you see she is also dressed in children’s clothes and the chair that she sits in is far too small for her You call to her gently, but she makes no sign of recognition Resigned, you walk over to look at her paper

And when the windows to my soul are taken Dazzling blue and hazel achin’ Butterflies and lambs forsaken Dancing through my world that’s breakin’ Until everything is gone but me

Her words fill you with an odd combination of melancholy and hope, but mostly nostalgia Being in this room feels like being six years old again, and you begin to forget why you came in the first place. You feel as if you have always been here.

The moment the poet’s marker lifts from the paper, the smooth lined sheet begins to fold itself into a butterfly. It lifts into the air, flapping its delicate paper wings inked with her fears. It flies up, up, up, and you watch as it circles towards the ceiling to join a rustling horde of other folded butterflies and birds.

Vaguely, you grasp upon the notion of leaving There is something outside of this room waiting for you. Something very important In a daze, you move towards the shimmering door, but not before casting a final glance at the woman at the plastic table, old but not grown up. The handle turns easily, and you stumble out of the room, shutting the door firmly behind you You breathe a sigh of relief as your senses slowly return to you. The long, dull hallway has never seemed more welcoming

You rush past the doors, trying to ignore the secrets longing to escape But again, you are unable to resist looking inside one The door to room 28 is not what makes you stop, it is the intense feeling coming from inside. The feeling of fear and rage plague you as the realization of being tricked surfaces

The moment you push through the door you are forced to your knees by the sheer emotion coming from the poet inside

I’ve decided words have no meaning

The poet does not speak but somehow you know their words

And I am no longer beholden to their rules

The walls begin to bleed Slowly at first, and then it is gushing, pooling on the floor. You quickly turn to exit but as you do, you catch a glimpse of the poet’s eyes, burning with unholy fire as black ink fills their tear ducts before spilling out across their face. Their body is shaking, and their mouth is filled with paper shreds they choke up Unlike the other poet, this one really sees you, not just through you. A chill runs through you, and you hastily shut the door.

Finally, you arrive at the end of the hall The doorway on the left is simple, although it looks almost like the door to your home Room 13 This is it, you suppose No turning back now

You discover there is a desk inside, simple and made of plain dark wood You suspect as you write more the room will shape itself to you, mold itself to your soul. On the desk is a freshly sharpened pencil and a blank sheet of lined paper You take one last look at the hallway outside, one last glimpse of freedom, before moving over to the desk. You sit down, and begin to write

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