Table of Contents
Dear Reader, The magazine you see before you is not just a magazine. The irony of it all is what you don’t see when looking at a finished product. You don’t see the hundreds of products made that didn’t work. You never see the bruised legs and weeks of heartbreak from the elegant ballerina dancing on stage. It’s hard to imagine piles of tattered notebooks and crumpled papers when reading your favorite, perfect book. This literary magazine has been an ongoing project for the past two years. Trying attempt after trying attempt, I spent the spring semester of my past two years in college disappointed that we were not able to publish a single issue of a magazine. What you see before you was just a germ of an idea thought up by Gabrielle Hughes ‘13, the former and formidable Editor of The Spirit. She deserves just as much credit as anyone else who helped create this literary magazine. The idea grew from a need for a creative outlet for the quiet student and the ambitious student with a secret talent for writing. It took months to follow up with professors and hunting down students who wanted to participate. Like with what happens to most great ideas, however, enthusiasm died down and the literary magazine just became another item on another never-ending list of things to do. Little did I know, it would have to be a collaboration. All good things ever made page 00
Expectation By Ariel Crawford
were not done alone. With the willingness and motivation of Writer’s Workshop, The Spirit found a partner that could help launch a literary magazine worth the creativity and inspiring words of SJC’s most talented writers. Behind the literary magazine are friendships, partnerships, and long nights of writing and rewriting. With this semester being my last, I am extremely proud and excited that this magazine has finally coming to fruition. It is my hope that after I graduate, more literary magazines will sprout from the students of SJC. Go create another magazine, club, website, or business. If you feel that there is something missing from this school, create it. I’m so happy this exists. Jessica Jacolbe Editor-in-Chief, The Spirit Newspaper
The American Cupcake By Jessica Seliste How I Started a Bubblegum Cartel in High School
By Tim Dillon
I Killed the Lord of the Rings
By Argenis Ovalles
The Witch and The Knight By Lindsay Hysler Monkey Vines and Mobile Food/A Lonely Thursday Night
By Ashley Maule
Let Me Be Your Mirror By Tamera Woods On Achieviing the Petaflop After a near miss/missile during Hurricane Sandy Trick or Tweet By David Seppala- Holtzman Rage Against the Dying of the Light
By Veronic Travers
Fading Violets By Amanda Gillespie Cover Art: By Adriana DiBenedetto; Flowers (pg. 6) by Stephanie Ocasio; A Fire in the English Rain (pg. 10) by Ashley Maule; Untitled (pg. 11) by Jessica Seliste Editor’s Note: We are proud to present you with this collaborative effort of The Spirit and Writer’s Workshop! This is the first year of our magazine inkwell, which contains literary and artistic submissions from both students and faculty of St. Joseph’s College and functions as an outlet for the community to express talent and passion. We hope that your reading experience is as enjoyable as making this magazine was. Special thanks to Jessica Jacolbe for co-leading this process with me, Dr. Turner for moderating Writer’s Workshop and overseeing the club throughout the process, Thomas Rushin for editorial assistance and formatting, Adriana Dibenedetto for the beautiful cover art she created, the E-Board of Writer’s Workshop for their frequent assistance and ready availability, and all who submitted to inkwell and helped shape this wonderful result of our hard work. Enjoy! -Tim Dillon, Chief Editor and President of Writer’s Workshop
The American Cupcake
by Jessica Seliste
Expectations…. Too much to hold Too much to bare Too much stress on the mind Why create so much in so little space? Why so much risk? The pressure they force within one’s soul The harsh ruin they create if not achieved The little concern they give for one’s being The little of one’s personality they save in one’s progress The entropy they induce when they increase Why does such pain exist within The mere thought of expectations? Why is there always fear and anxiety Instead of true satisfaction and relief Why do they have to create such war in one’s mind? Why do they have to destroy one’s nature for just themselves? Why insist on forming more expectations If the sense of accomplishment can be made in few? -
I could hear it from three blocks away— the beating of the drums. In mere minutes, the parade for Chinese New Year would be down my avenue. My eyes lit up as they did every year when I saw the big, colorful dragon following along the procession of people wearing bright red silk “pajamas,” as I called them. My mom and grandma stood next to me watching the parade and the excited expressions flashing across my face. The only thing that stopped me from smiling and dancing was the emergence of the two “lions.” In reality, there were people under those costumes, adorned in red, black, and gold, but I saw them as scary creatures ready to eat me after “consuming” the heads of lettuce from atop the awnings of the Chinese stores. The start of the lion dance was the sign to get out of there and go home, while I still could. In the midst of escaping, I saw a thin Asian woman with neat black hair. She was surrounded by little Asian children begging for the eye-catching red envelopes she had in her hand. My mom gestured me toward her, and I stood there with a curious smile—the kind only an innocent little kid could possess. The woman smiled back at me and happily gave me an envelope, without me even asking. “Gung hay fat choy,” she said. I inspected the inside of the envelope as we walked home, and I was surprised to find crisp dollar bills inside. My mom told me that it was a Chinese tradition for spreading good luck and fortune. Chinese New Year continued upstairs in my dining room with my family, with ordered-in Chinese food and cupcakes. The white cupcakes were wrapped in pleated red paper and decorated with fortune cookies, lotuses made of sugar, and delicately painted parasols. I’m not Chinese—not in the least—but that’s what’s so great about America. Being
American, you can experience all kinds of cultures from far and wide. Every tradition is different, and yet looked at as a whole; the traditions blend nicely for an American culture all its own—a “melting pot.” I’ve always celebrated multiple ethnic holidays with my family regardless of whether we actually trace our heritage to them or not, and we’ve celebrated all of them with the same level of festivity. I am Irish and Italian, as well as many other nationalities—a “Heinz 57,” if you will.Saint Patrick’s Day has always been celebrated at my house with my mom making corned beef and cabbage. My family and I all wear green and Irish berets that my uncle and granny (neither of whom were actually Irish) made. Sitting on the shamrock tablecloth next to the soda bread were the white cupcakes. This time, they had green-and-white pleated cups with sugar crystals and shamrocks nestled in the icing. There was a similar picture for Saint Joseph’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, even though I’m not Mexican. In harmony with the rich Italian pastries (which I never liked) were the red-iced cupcakes, and I always thought the cupcakes looked festive in the yellow paper with sugar Chile peppers on top; they matched mine and my mother’s flashing Chile pepper earrings. I am a plain white cupcake. I remain a proud American throughout the year, and that will never change, but with each holiday comes a new decoration or wrapping—a new way to experience and celebrate a culture with my family and a sense of togetherness. People always come up to me and say something like, “Why do you celebrate Chinese New Year? You’re not Chinese!” and content with American pride, I smile and reply with what my mother has told me, “Everyone’s Chinese on Chinese New Year!”
How I started a Bubblegum I Killed the Lord of the Rings Cartel in High School by Argenis Ovalles
by Tim Dillon
As a senior in high school I was broke and needed a steady income to afford pizza with my friends on Fridays. I didn’t have a job or allowance, so I decided to try my luck at selling Bazooka bubble gum to my fellow students. People in class clamored for it whenever someone pulled gum out, but could I get them to buy it? I endeavored to try. My not so popular friend X always had that gum on her, so I began paying them to supply me with several packs per week. They went to Costco, gave me several packs of the gum at that price, and I went about selling it at a much higher price (by the time X found it I had a firm grip on the market). My business started small, exchanging pieces of gum for quarters behind bookshelves in the library. It wasn’t long before the pink bubble gum started becoming popular amongst my friends. I didn’t stop there, however. I was quietly eying the popular kids and the potential market they could become. While I (as a the lower-middle class member of the high school popularity caste system) was excluded from this
group, I had a friend (and soon to be dealer) that was not. I approached Y, enticing them with the thrill of entrepreneurship and a (small) share of the profits. Soon after there were two of us sitting in the school library; myself selling to my friends and those sitting alone and Y mingling amongst the large rings of wealthy and athletic teenagers, reaching profits I had not dreamed of before (about $2 a day). And so for two months I reaped the benefits of my small enterprise, spending most of my earned money on pizza (and the rest to buy more gum). The adventure proved to be a self lesson in supply and demand economics; I had recognized a potential market, provided a much desired product to willing buyers, and enjoyed a steady profit. With hard work and the right environment, anyone $20-$40 selling bubble gum.
It has been weeks since I’ve been fed. Whenever I remind Sauron that I am a human being too, he slaps me. My pride is shattered. I thought my life was going to be different outside of Berlin. Instead these wounds won’t seem to heal. My back is broken from all of the heavy lifting the beast makes me do. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” that’s what people of the town call me. However, it wasn’t always like this. The year was 1875 when Father died. Mother was ill and I was the only hope the Von Schwartz Family had. “Petrov, get out of here. Live your life,” she said. She was always like that; there was never a selfish bone in her ivory body. She had principles too; “Thou shall never steal” was Katerina Petrova’s motto. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Every once in a while, I would steal and never get caught. Until one day. I stole two pieces of bread for Mother. That was enough to sentence me to life in prison. It’s a cruel world in there. Re-education is the stated purpose. Torture is what they I got. Five years passed, and then I saw him. A tall Aryan with blue eyes. His name was Sauron Morgothson. “I am here to get you out.” he said, “If and only if you agree to serve me for the next ten years.” I did not think twice, though I had one condition; to see my Mother. When we got to her residence, she was on the bed. I kissed her forehead. “I love you son,” she said. “I love you more, mom.” I rested my head on her bosom one last time. I felt her heart give one final beat. She was gone. I knew she had willingly tried to save me, but I blamed myself. I cried. The fire of my heart died. It’s gone forever. And my chance of living a decent life is gone forever too. I knew that where I stood was where
I was going to spend the night. This pain is just too real. I was a slave. I knew what that meant. Eventually I started to ask him about the details of serving him. “About the ten years. I lied.” And so it began. Mistreatment after mistreatment, whip cracking after whip cracking. Ten years have passed. I am a twenty-five year old still living in his house here in Berlin. I am stronger. I was making a break for it. But first I had to eat something! I knew he kept a turkey in the refrigerator all for himself. I ate it, but heard something. “You self-begotten bastard. Didn’t your parents every teach you to follow orders?” It was him. It became a wild goose chase. I went to the living room and hid underneath the couch. I saw a knife and a bottle. “Come out, come out wherever you are.” He saw me and tried to strangle me with a cable cord. There was a tunnel but first I had to fight back. He trips over the guns he always leaves around in the living room. Before he got up, I wounded him with the knife. He threw the bottle at me. I dodged it and it broke. Before I slit his throat with a piece of it, he yelled out “No! Have mercy!” That was all. “There’s just too much that time cannot erase,” I say to him. “I am no self-begotten bastard. The name is Petrov of Karl Von Schwartz and Katerina Petrova.” It is done. Freedom by any means necessary. The action justifies the means. Sorry, mother, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In that case, we don’t need principles. The world is a much better place now. His wealth can be distributed to the poor, except for his One Ring. That’s mine. As for my faith? There’s still salvation for me. I am still so far from the forever. I have miles to go before I sleep.
The Witch and The Knight by Lindsay Hysler
Daniel Lewis did not make a habit of leaving his front door unlocked. He lived in a renovated paper factory in a little suburb of Brooklyn. It lacked an elevator, sure, and he did have to walk up three floors before he could comfortably remove himself from his suit, but it was home. Well, specifically, it was the home he had been assigned. The neighborhood was a pseudo-Park Slope knockoff, a remnant of the old Irish mob still kicking and squirming beneath the veneer of yuppies and hipsters. Sure, on the outside, Daniel resembled one such yuppie, in his thousand dollar suit and cushy university professor cover. He ate quinoa and kale salads and biked to work every other day. Sure, he might be just a shade older than his graduate school students (at least those in his first year), but he was top of his field in genetics. But this is not a story about quinoa-eating yuppies or eco conscious doctors of medicine. This is a story about a witch who was not Daniel Lewis. This is a story that will not have a happy ending. Please, I implore you not to raise hopes and flags for the witch and her knight. You may not like what you find out, after all. Daniel Lewis, as I mentioned before, was a meticulous, quinoa and kale eating man, who just so happened to be in the employ of an under government. If one must know exactly what an under government is, it is simply a government that operates out of the shadows. A simple enough concept, no? Daniel’s employ was strictly based on the goodwill of his brother, Marc, and his father, Abraham T. Don’t get me wrong; from all accounts, Daniel Lewis was a perfect employee for the under government’s Agency of Unregistered Magicks. He was just… too sympathetic. The AUM couldn’t deal with those who had sympathy toward witches. They were manipulative enough on their own, but with a regular with a sympathetic streak? Hell, burn the world and everything in it as it is. So Daniel made his way up to his third floor walkup, exposed and confidential documents regarding a possible coven in Brighton Beach in one hand and dinner in the other (lamb stew from the nice Turkish place down the block). His hand fished for his keys in the pocket of his massive overcoat. His scarf was smothering in the heat of the hallway (the only place in the building where it was warm). His stomach grumbled,
begged for dinner after a long day that would get invariably longer once he got back to work. His eyes absently locked onto his slightly ajar apartment door. Then they fixated on the scratched lock. Immediately Daniel’s hand went to his waist, where he carried his concealed handgun for moments such as these. Quiet as a mouse, he left his exposed and confidential documents against the wall right beside his door and placed his dinner beside it, propping it up in case his briefcase decided to rebel and give his position away to whoever had invaded his apartment. With his toe, he gently eased the door open, and blinked snow out of his eyes. Yes, it was indeed snowing in his little apartment. It was the fine, powdery dusting that usually came in early October, or midMarch. There was the finest dusting on the hardwood floor, the couch and table in his living room. It gently trickled down, mesmerizing him. Sure, he had seen minor weather events generated by major magic, but seeing it actually made his heart jump and imagination bound. “I’m sorry.” He looked around. Noticed a lightly levitating, person sized object. Daniel said ‘lightly levitating’ because the person sized object (who he assumed was a person) was lying in a vaguely fetal position roughly six inches above his coffee table. He only wished he could say it had seen weirder. “I tend to generate microclimates when I jump,” continued the person who was definitely a woman (or at least feminine sounding). “It’ll stop.” “AUM,” said Daniel, drawing a stance that would have made his father cry with pride. Or at least crack a smile. “Don’t... move.” The feminine sounding person shaped lump let out something breathy that may have sounded sexy under better circumstances. “Don’t worry, Dan,” she said (he was comfortable referring to the person as a she, but a little less comfortable with her knowing his name). “ ‘m not going anywhere until it wears off. Eventually.” Daniel couldn’t help it. He fell to his ass, gun on the ground (safety on, he wasn’t an idiot), jaw unhinged with what could only be called surprise. True to her word, the lightly floating girl thumped to his coffee table, but it still kept snowing. He knew this girl.
Hell, he even recognized the snow. Daniel had seen it before, a long while ago. A lifetime ago. “Agatha?” he breathed out, incredulous. The ghost from his past moved briefly. His wood floor was turning dark with water and— Holy shit, was that blood? “Hi, Dan,” breathed Agatha. “I’m sorry about the mess.” “Don’t be—holy shit—don’t be.” Very slowly, Daniel crawled toward the coffee table, cringing at the uncomfortable feel of blood and water collecting in the fabric of his pants. Agatha didn’t move. She lay perfectly still, curled in just the right way so that she took up just the right amount of space on the surface of his coffee table. She didn’t hang off in any way. Daniel, caterpillar slow, got to his knees and gingerly placed a hand on Agatha’s side. She had barely aged a day since he had last seen her. Silvery white hair, freckled skin, almond shaped eyes that gazed ahead, barely looked at Daniel. “This is a bit of a surprise,” said Daniel idly. “Snow and all?” asked Agatha, droll. “Snow and all.” Daniel lightly patted Agatha’s side. Winced when she winced. “Why did you never tell me you were a witch?” Agatha laughed, a light and airy sound that had him thinking of happier times. “If I told you while I you were still living at home with Theodore the Inquisitor—” Daniel grimaced at the unsavory nickname for his father, “—would I really be here right now?” “Why are you here?” Daniel’s hand slid to Agatha’s shoulders as she pulled herself to a sitting position. “If I’m not wrong, witches tend to pass on their magic, mother to daughter? Why didn’t you just go home?” Again, Agatha laughed. Daniel could see just how pale she was, how unnaturally her skin blended in with her hairline. Even her eyes seemed devoid of color, a washed out, pearlescent grey. The microclimate still raged. The snow still fell. “First,” said Agatha pointedly, “don’t call me ‘witch’. It’s extremely offensive.” “Okay,” said Daniel. “Then what do you want me say instead?” “Druid works.” She ran a hand through her hair, curly and wet with snow. “So does theurgist. I’ve always been a fan of augurer or thaumaturge.” Agatha shrugged, smiled wanly. “I’m cosmological in nature, so I like long winded words.” Daniel shook his head, pinched the bridge of his nose as he stood. “I’m going to fetch a cloth and bandage
for—” “Don’t bother,” said Agatha. “None of this was ironborne. Well…” She pointed to a ragged tear in her shirt. “Except this one, of course. But for that, I need some supplies that you won’t have hanging around.” “Eye of newt, tongue of horse?” “Ha ha. Comedy Central called. They want their joke back.” Agatha curled over her side and gently removed her heels. If Daniel didn’t know any better, he would have thought Agatha had come from some sort of Upper West Side soirée. “I could do with a bourbon and a new shirt, if that’s not too much of an imposition.” Daniel gazed skyward, blinked snow out of his eyes. “Well, you’ve already broken into my apartment and made it snow,” he drawled. “What’s a shirt?” He pointed a finger at her. “Speaking of, you still have my sweatshirt from high school.” “If I can get back into my own home, I’ll be more than happy to return it to you,” said Agatha, sotto voce. Rolling his eyes heavenward (again), Daniel retreated briefly into his bedroom and grabbed the first shirt he laid hands on. He lobbed it at Agatha once he reentered his living room, and made himself busy with the bourbon. When he turned around, she had changed, loosely braided her hair, and decided to peruse top secret files that were only slightly wet. “Hey!” exclaimed Daniel, rushing over to the coffee table to snatch the folder up (after depositing both drinks on the table beside Agatha). “If the Archivists test that for residue, I’m screwed, you know that?” Agatha didn’t reply. She took one of the bourbons and turned a page in the folder. “The AUM’s monitoring almost all the members of the Circle Intertwining,” she mused. “That’s not good.” Daniel sat on the floor once more and took the last remaining bourbon. “What’s the Circle Intertwining?” he asked, exhausted. “Ask later.” Agatha neatly placed the file down beside her and leaned over her knees, glass held limply in hand. “Dan, I need your help.” “Snow, a shirt, and a drink.” Daniel took a sip. “I don’t know, Atha.” “Please.” Daniel sighed through his nose. Gestured to Agatha to go on. “I need you to be my knight.”
Monkey Vines and Mobile Food/ A Lonely Thursday Night Six days of Shields, Six days of a marble stone face, Six days to be disciplined, accurate, the most efficient, A calculator incased in full mourning, Reaching my answer, One day of muted colors turned to psychedelics on long waits and bus rides, One day of retreat, recharge, to be centered at my first or second love, But only one day to be useless and have dumb laughter, Only one day to oil the cogs in my jaw, One day to put in dumb equations like “9+10=21” To watch, all alone, monkeys exceed people in intelligence, Everyone else, meanwhile flocks with Molly and her Grey Gooses, With company, Concerned with luxuries I wish to experience just once, With company, When will I have a taste in those things, Just for experience and, With Company, When will I taste a Rolls Royce, Sandwich or a Lamborghini, Gelatino- no- I simply know, I must keep Climbing, The rungs of my lonely understory, My elders would say, Let one day be through thin vines, And I hope, not calculate, in 1825 days, I’ll reach the canopy, And tell my story, Though I still wish, For Company, on my way.
by Ashley Maule
Let me be your Mirror
by Tamera Woods
Lacey’s head starts throbbing a couple of seconds after she bites Jack or Jake or whatever the hell his name is. She could smell the vodka on his shallow breath when they were making out a while ago, and perhaps that’s why she chose him. That’s why Aaliyah chose the neck she was nuzzling. “Drunk human equals drunk blood equals drunk me,” she had said. “And since drinking the real deal ain’t doing anything for me, they’ll have to do.” So there she sat, draining blood from what’s-his-name and getting dizzier by the second. The bass of music thrummed against the wall. Lacey let go of her meal to put her ear against the wall to listen. Boom, boom chick unts UN uh. Boom, boom chick unts UN uh. Lacey giggles. “Li-weight!” Aaliyah says, taking a couple of gasps for air. She dumps her human against the door. “Huh?” Lacey asks. “How much did’ja drink?” “Iono,” Lacey murmurs. “What do we do now?” Aaliyah shushes her for some reason and starts messing with her human’s belt. She slides it off, unzips his fly and shimmies his pants down around his ankles. Numbly, Lacey copies her friend and waits for an explanation. Aaliyah doesn’t give one though. Instead she gets up and starts dancing to the boom, boom chick unts UN uh, her hips swaying to the beat. For a second Lacey loses herself in the thrumming sounds from the party beyond the wall- she even starts humming along when she figures she knows this songbut comes back to her senses when the song changes. “Hey, hey! Aaliyah hey!” Lacey slurs, waving her hands. Or at least she thinks she waves her hands. “Wha?” Aaliyah gasps. She looks around with the wide eyes and little posture of surprise- the expression Lacey usually sees on small children lost in a mall. And then she snaps her fingers and murmurs something that sounds like “oh right” or “aha!” “Aaliyah, why’d we take off their pants?” Lacey tries to demand. Her semi drunken stupor makes it sound like a petulant whine. “Dance with me Lacey,” Aaliyah replies. “But...” “Uh, uh,” Aaliyah giggles. “Dance first. Talk later.” So on reluctant and quivering jelly legs, Lacey stands and steps to the left and right in an offbeat fashion.
If Aaliyah notices, she doesn’t say anything. So they “dance” together. “When they wake up,” Aaliyah slurs. “They’ll think we hooked up with their drunk asses, and be none the wizard.” Lacey stops dancing. “I don think that’ll work,” she frowns. “Why not?” Lacey points to her human, “Until you gave him the Stare he wasn’t talking to me.” “And? It’s better that he doesn’t remember you.” But Lacey doesn’t hear this. Instead she’s too focused on her human. His skin is like, one or three shades darker than hers or Aaliyah’s. When they were standing his build was swimmer level lanky. And his face? It’s boyish and round and pleasant and he’s exactly what Lacey as a human found cute. “He wouldn’t believe we hooked up,” she murmurs. “I told you he won’t remember!” Aaliyah groans, but then her drunken curiosity takes over. “Why?” “M’ugly.” Lacey whispers. Her eyes travel down her hands and to the mirror hanging across the room. Even though Lacey can’t see her or Aaliyah’s face in it, she knows that she’s ugly and fat and no one wants to hook up with the fat girl and even though she’s a super confident vampire that’s one thing about herself that can never change. “Oh noes,” Aaliyah slurs. “Oh hell noes. Baby girl, we ain’t doing this because yur not ugly! You’d totes by m’type if y’weren’t so f-” “Fat?” Lacey wails and bangs her head against a wall. “Female, Lace,” Aaliyah continues. “Put down the mustard and catch up.” Lacey stops banging her head against the wall and starts rubbing the mirror. His fingers leave smudges along the surface because physics will work for this little thing apparently. “Aaliyah, do I… do I look the same as I did when we first turned?” she asks. “I thinkso,” Aaliyah says. “But I don remember wha I looked like so.” And Lacey’s drunken mind gets and idea. She tries to snap her fingers as she whirls around and trips over the air between her and Aaliyah. Drunk or not, Aaliyah’s reflexes are so bomb that she catches Lacey when she’s an inch from the ground. “I got’n idea!” Lacey squeals. “You tell me what I look like and I do the same for you!”
“Huh?” “Lemme be yur mirror,” Lacey explains. “And vats versus.” Aaliyah mulls it over for a second and then another and another. Then she starts dancing again. The music outside is completely different. There’s no discernible dub step beat or any beat at all for Aaliyah to work with, but she moves like there is. Lacey watches her friend’s face as she sways, spins, and shakes. Her eyes are squeezed shut and her nose is wrinkling a little bit to the right. Her bottom lip is jutting out just so because she’s nibbling on it. Aaliyah is a genius of motion, Lacey thinks. Whatever that means. “Okay, less do it!” Aaliyah says, plopping down on the floor. “Really?” Aaliyah nods and stares into Lacey’s eyes. For a second Lacey sees a flicker of the Stare, but it vanishes. This is when she realizes what the first thing she has to tell Aaliyah about herself is. “Your eyes’r hypnotic,” she says. “Well, duh,” Aaliyah giggles. “Vampire powers!” “No! Well, yeah, but I mean even w’thout the Stare I jus wanna look into your eyes. They’re so… expressive an’ stuff!” “I was gonna say the same thing about your eyebrows!” “Huh?” Aaliyah reaches over and traces both of Lacey’s eyebrows. Lacey shivers at her friend’s chilly touch. She isn’t sure if it’s a vampire thing or an Aaliyah thing. “They’re all bold an’ big an’ you don’t have a poker face,” Aaliyah explains. “Anytime you think somthin I can tell ‘cause your eyebrows do this thing,” Aaliyah pauses to move Lacey’s eyebrows up and down. “An’ then I just know.” Lacey smiles and Aaliyah grins and points to her own eyebrows. Lacey feels her face and guffaws like she just realized the true meaning of comedy. Aaliyah joins in. The two of them keep the laughter up for a while before they hear someone walking up to the door. Lacey covers her mouth and Aaliyah locks the door. “M’kay, back to stuff,” she says. “Yeah,” Lacey nods, trying to pick out something else to tell Aaliyah other than that she’s so skinny. “You’re soooo skinny! Like reallly skinny”
Dammit. “Uh thanks,” Aaliyah frowns, not sounding happy. “Your boobs are awesome.” “Did I say somthin’ wrong?” Lacey asks. Aaliyah shakes her head, “No. It’s jus… I hate that people’r so hung up on my skinny. ‘Eat a sammich, Aaliyah,’ ‘skinny bitches don get ta complain, Aaliyah,’ ‘whass your secret, Aaliyah? I betchu purge.’” Aaliyah looks down at her thin fingers and scowls. “M’not sayin’ it’s worse to be skinny. Jus tha people don letchu forget it either.” “Oh. Sorry.” “Nuh uh,” Aaliyah says. “Your jus telling me what I look like. But back to your boobs!” Lacey looks down at her chest. Her boobs just look like boobs, so she decides not to press and find out how much more homoerotic this drunken conversation can get. “You’ve got freckles,” she says. “All over.” “You’ve got dimples,” Aaliyah replies. “Jus under your smile.” They trade compliments for an hour before it starts getting homoerotic again. Aaliyah says that lacey has the most kissable lips in the history of ever excluding Leo Di-can-never-win-an-Oscar. Lacey tells Aaliyah that she has legs that people wolf whistle over, and then wolf whistles. “Aaliyah, meebe we should stop,” Lacey murmurs. “Why?” “’Cause if we don we’ll end up makin out or somthin,” she says. Aaliyah shrugs, “would that be a bad thing?” “M’not your type.” “You could be,” Aaliyah giggles, scooting closer. Lacey giggles back and looks into Aaliyah’s eyes. She doesn’t see any hint of the Stare or irony in them, so she leans over and just sorta…” “Lace, thass my nose,” Aaliyah laughs.
Faculty Su8bmissions w
Three contributions by David Seppala-Holtzman
On Achieving the Petaflop
(Sung to the tune of the Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s Choral Symphony)
Hectic, hectic apoplectic Life in the Computer Age Things start fast Then go yet faster
After a near miss /missile during Hurricane Sandy
Soon we’ll reach the final stage
I think that I shall never see a missile lethal as a tree
Mega-tasks in nano-seconds Glad we’ve achieved the Petaflop*
Be it birch or be it pine, Its impact seldom is benign
If we are forced to go yet faster Things will come to a Dead Stop
Trick or Tweet Pirandello is prob’ly quite sore With absurdity now in high season Six characters suffice no more Now it’s one forty in search of a reason
*) A petaflop is a quadrillion floating point operations per second.
Rage Against the Dying of the Light by Veronic Travers
The ancient seafarers of the West had a saying inscribed on the archway to their holy citadel. For those who could understand the weathered text of a language long dead, the words brought comfort, hope, and palliation to impending mortality. For those unlearned, the alien words of an alien language of an alien people only served to splinter the faith in these migrants. Fear grew, cut deep into the mindset of the regency, and became the downfall of the Seafarers. The quote still stood where they did not, chiseled in by the magic of time: “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Translated into the Common Tongue of Avarún, the words held no malice, nor any sense of fear. But many people did not understand—nor cared to learn—the language that the Seafarers brought with them from the West. The native people still referred to the race long dead as such: Seafarers. Their name had been stripped from them as easily as the regency had taken their lives. The remains of the citadel stood on a small outcropping of islands that extended far into the Sundering Sea. Acrid smoke poured from gaps in the stone, blown out windows, even the very air, it seemed. If people had to speak of the once glorious monument to higher learning, they referred to it only as ‘The Smoldering Citadel’. True, the Citadel had once gone by another name, a more fitting name for an immortal people who held mastery over time. Now, Avarún’s mecca of all higher magical learning stood crumbling and barren, incubating flames deep within the stronghold of the Peoples from Beyond the Endless Sea. Many had been warned away from the cursed islands, but none of those people were Theodora II Marthayne, the Princess Apparent of Holiest Avarún. She looked up in wonder at the smoking pillars of stone that stained the umber and coal sky. She had heard the stories of the Smoldering Citadel as a child, having been educated by her retainers and tutors. They taught the dogmatic and sanitized history of the red eyed and blind masters who could manipulate Time as a magic. Only a few of her tutors told her the truth. So when her duties took her to the south, to a small town close enough to the Smoldering Citadel where
the air reeked of ancient magic gone awry, Theodora made sure that she was prepared. Nestled deep within her steamer trunks between her gowns and formal attire were the shirt, trousers, and lordling vest. Those in turn were tucked around her elegantly forged rapier. She wore those now, her shirt and trousers and scuffed riding boots (the same pair that her mother had thrown out not six months past) as she walked the ash-layered flagstone path. The flagstones were intricately laid so that the darker chips of slate formed prayers of protection. Her educated eye spied what looked like wards sung into the stone. In places the words died, swallowed up by crevasses in the earth. When she passed over them, the chill in the air became so intense that Theodora gripped the intricately wrought hilt of her rapier in a white knuckled grip. But there was also excitement. The smell of ancient magic was sweeter and more pungent here, spanning the seamless bridges that connected island to island. Theodora had smelled it on the air when she had rowed to the Citadel’s first island. The scent was invigorating; hearing of the Smoldering Citadel was nothing like seeing it in person or smelling the rich scent of wild magic. In the back of her mind, she could hear the voices of her tutors warning her in pompous and obtuse tones that the Citadel was cursed. Of course she knew the stories; any and all who ventured to the Citadel would inevitably contract ancient curses or some other supernatural nonsense. Of course, Theodora had long since quashed any belief in the supernatural; she was to be a queen. A queen could not afford such lowborn nonsense. But her younger brother drank in the stories of ancient and skeletal death walkers, the servants of the Half Dragon who stalked the Smoldering Citadel’s barren lands in search of souls. “Ghost stories were for the weak minded,” imparted her elder brother and sister respectively as they weaned Theodora off the fear of the unknown. And thus she had been raised Even so, the tales of madness, death, and plague ensured that no one would dare follow the Princess Apparent on her quest. There was a certain amount of peace in the razed
halls and forsaken pathways of a people long gone. All around Theodora lurked billowing smoke and grey ash. Abandoned in alcoves, niches, and the eaves of buildings about to crumble lay cracked skeletons. Theodora was not squeamish, but the sight of macabre skulls with jaws hinged loose in perpetual screams and hands clawing at nothing set her teeth on edge. It almost made her want to run back to her abandoned boat, beneath the entrance arch that still stood unmolested, and pretend she had never set foot on the cursed islands. Instead she only went deeper. The inside of the Citadel proper was more than well preserved. If not for the smoking, blackened stone and shattered glass (and the occasional skeleton), Theodora would have thought she was intruding on a moment over ten thousand years past. It was the scent of forsaken magic that made her jumpy. The acrid, sour scent was stale on the air, but she knew how to recognize a curse. Theodora purposefully avoided railing-less bridges over chasms and charred books that were still miraculously preserved. She wanted to avoid the curse of whatever calamity had befallen the Seafarers. So Theodora gave the old bones she passed the last kindness she could: she murmured prayers dedicated to easing the souls of the restless departed. It was a courtesy she knew these felled people deserved. Theodora came to a stop in the remains of a library still bearing the bitter scars of a one-sided war. It resembled the glorious atriums of the capitol, but only just. Certainly in its prime, this part of the Citadel would outshine even the Great Library. But it’s luster was gone; Theodora stood in the mere skeleton of a once grand space, stepping on the bones of the dead and the knowledge of the gods. There was one bit of hope though, a silver lining to the destruction. Before her stood a single bookcase, the last living sister of hundreds—if not thousands—of others. It towered for more than a story, scorched and chipped by magical fire and whatever was not protected by the Citadel’s still standing wards. The shelves were barren, stripped of learning as easily as the Seafarers had been stripped of their lives. For some reason, it made Theodora invariably sad. Colored glass cracked beneath Theodora’s feet, making her jump and grab for her rapier once more. Looking down, she saw thousands of shards of stained glass, some as large as the bookcase be-
fore her (though shattered almost beyond recognition) and some as thin as a strand of her hair. Filled with the same sense of curiosity and excitement that made her escape her retainers, Theodora bent to her haunches and picked up a piece. The beautifully cruel edges nicked her thumb, smeared the story the glass told with her blood, but still she looked, even as she pocketed the piece. Beneath her feet, Theodora could just begin to understand the inked remains of the Seafarer’s history. One of her tutors once said that the masters of Time painted their history into glass, but he had vanished before the week was through. She wished she could find him now and tell him he was right. Theodora read what she could. The language was long dead, but the pictures told the story. She saw beautiful ships of light bearing the ethereal Seafarers across the Endless Sea. She saw the crowning of a beautiful woman dressed in trousers. A woman who was made queen. How odd; Theodora had been taught that the Blesser of Avarún chose the kings and queens to rule in His stead. She bent lower, wiped ash from the pieces. It was indeed a single queen crowned by the white haired Seafarer in red. “How…” she marveled aloud. Theodora was Princess Apparent. She had been educated about the unbroken Marthayne line. This single shard of history was enough to upset her whole perception. Slightly nauseous, Theodora unbent herself and turned toward the relatively undamaged bookcase. There had to be something still legible that explained the stained glass history, deeper in the atrium. Instead she almost walked into a girl no older than she. The girl bore a remarkable resemblance to the woman in the ruined stained glass caricature, with her tightly woven white hair and porcelain white skin. It was difficult to see where hair began and ended, she was so colorless. The girl was clothed in a vibrant maroon dress, corseted at the waist in interlocking metallic links of black and silver. The hem was odd—shorter in the front where it touched her shins and longer in the back where it brushed her ankles. Her feet were bare, unscarred by soot or glass, save for the scratch-thin scars of black that traced themselves like vines along her snowy skin. Theodora followed their path, their tracery around biceps, collarbone, breasts, neck, cheek, entranced
by the detail of such work. She looked alien, made of light with fractal cracks in her facade. Theodora had never seen someone so devoid of color; she herself was a healthy brown, eyes honey colored and hair golden. Those who were pale and wan were usually plagued with some form of sickness. She feared that if Theodora went north with this girl, she would lose her in the snow. Briefly, Theodora entertained the idea of her being a ghost, an imprint tethered by magic to this cursed place. “I’m shocked,” the girl said finally, voice husky and mellow and quiet. From a hidden pocket within the dress, she removed a roll of paper and tobacco, which she lit with a murmur and a sinuous flash of receptive light from the tattoos that ensconced her body, “that you haven’t run screaming yet.” It took Theodora a long while to find her voice, long enough for the pungent aroma of mudflower to permeate the air. “Why would I do that?” Theodora asked, staring at the cherry red tip of the cigarette that dangled from between two of the girl’s fingers. “How did you light that? I didn’t see you strike a flame.” The girl regarded the cigarette as if its presence was just made aware to her. “This?” She tapped ashes to the ground, where they became as indistinct and indescribable as those that were made of Seafarer flesh and book. “Yes,” said Theodora, patience waning and curiosity growing. The girl inhaled more mudflower and chuckled grimly. “It was going to light itself eventually,” she answered. “I merely hurried the process along.” “With fire magic?” The girl—woman really, but Theodora couldn’t place her at an age older than twenty five—narrowed her eyes and arched paper white brows at the mere incredulity of Theodora’s statement. Theodora felt her face flush bright red. “I bear resemblance to the white haired scourge upon Avarún that your forefather crusaded against quite successfully,” deadpanned the strange woman, punctuating occasionally with a smoke ring or a moulded swoop. “And you ask if I am a practicer of elemental magic.” She paused contemplatively, before Theodora could argue against her rudeness, and continued anew: “Although, one can argue that Time is the most elemental magic of all.”
Theodora felt her heart stop. “Don’t worry, little one.” The woman seemed knowledgeable to Theodora’s plight, the moral war occurring deep within that told everything in her to either flee or run the woman through with her rapier. For that, Theodora was thankful. “I’m not going to drink your soul, or age you forward a thousand years. I’m just going to talk.” “Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?” asked Theodora, with the slightest hint of trepidation in her voice. “No. I have been talking, and you’ve been spouting gibberish and unhelpful snippets.” Theodora somehow found it in herself to be offended. The woman extinguished her cigarette with a murmured prayer and cast the smoldering roll of paper to the ground. She fixed Theodora with a soulpiercing gaze; Theodora found it strange, expected the woman’s eyes to be terrifying: made of shadows or worse. Her gaze was warm, stern, irises the color of a bloody sunset. They nearly matched her dress in color. “It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to do what I am doing right now,” said the woman, holding up a hand to allay any questions. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt anymore.” Theodora nodded. “Dreams are watched by Wardens. You know that, of course. They guide the paths of dreams, ensure that dreamers are not falling to the Dark. Long ago, the ol’meda—my people—were tasked with that duty.” The gloom thickened. The ash seemed to condense into sludge that sucked at Theodora’s boots and the girl’s bare feet. The woman had in either hand two delicately curved blades that had not previously been on her person. They resembled nothing of the likes that Theodora had seen, and she was familiar with many forms of swords, from great execution blades to the elegant and slim rapiers that she loved dueling spoiled lordlings with. “Is this your doing?” Theodora asked, finally bringing her rapier to bear. The gloom was palpable, forming tendrils that made taloned feet, boned ankles, crept upward like vines to make legs ever so slowly. “Wardens,” hissed the woman, tattoos roiling with power. “Damn them to Van’ligém, they work fast.” “I don’t understand.” The beings—four in all—were built to the waist now, beginning to move forward
step by gelatinous step. “Why—no, how are they doing this?” The woman scoffed and halved one of the creatures down the middle with one wicked blade. It let out a dying hiss as it faded to ash, and began to reform, just as slow. “Did your faithful tutors fail to educate you on the fate of the ol’medai?” she challenged, extending a hand and whispering a garbled string of words that, no matter how hard Theodora tried to concentrate, refused to formulate into cohesive understanding. The same Warden that the woman had cleaved in half—which had rebuilt itself to the torso—faded to crinkling, dry paper ash. As if waiting for the woman to work her magic, more tendrils of murk began to strain to life, forming into Wardens that would certainly murder Theodora and this—dare she call her an ol’meda? They were supposed to be dead, weren’t they? The girl—the ol’medai—turned to Theodora and cast her hand outward. Before she could protest, the ol’medai spoke a single, barked word: “Wake.” And Theodora did. With a gasp and a cry, she lurched upward in bed, one hand clutching her chest and the other buried in her blankets. Her hair was damp with sweat and her nightgown clung to her uncomfortably. It took a minute to rectify her surroundings, for Theodora to realize that the canopy above her head was hers. “Milady?” cane the questioning call of her lady’s maid. There was a knock on her door. “Are you ill?” “I’m fine, Patrice,” called Theodora, once she found her voice. “Go back to sleep.” There was an affirmative knock on her door, a repeated pattern that had Theodora smiling. Sweet dreams, Dora, it meant. With a sigh too weary to belong to her, Theodora reclined back in her pillows, nose wrinkling at the coppery scent in the air. The hand that still clutched the bed sheets stung horribly. Wincing while igniting the tiny paraffin lamp on her bedside table with a mangled word of power, Theodora let out a tiny cry of pain as she excised her hand from her bed. Reflecting her palm in the candlelight and stained with her blood and foreign ash sat a single stained glass fragment.
by Amanda Gillespie
“Jonathan Colden?” “That’s me. Who’m I speaking with?” “I’m a nurse here at Hahnemann University Hospital. Your wife was rushed here and sent in for emergency surgery. We need you to come in immediately.” Time froze. The world spun. That was the first moment a crack made itself present in my fantasy-- the fantasy of the perfect life we lived. Or, at least, the one I lived in. The hospital was chaotic. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. All that mattered was getting to you; I was practically raving when I got there myself. I had slammed my fist on the front desk, demanding where you were. A nurse came around, calmed me down, and put me in the waiting room. I didn’t know whether I should have been happy that you were in the hands of a doctor, or nervous that you were still in the hands of a doctor. I sat in the white waiting room, staring blankly at the tile floor. No one came through the doors with any news. After a while I paced the floor, like I always did when I’m nervous. An hour, two, three, who knows how many, passed. Cops came at some point within the hours that passed as I waited. They wanted to speak with me about you and about what happened. I immediately told them that I was your husband and they stopped and started to stare at me oddly. “What’s wrong?” I asked. The male cop looked uncomfortable while the female cop looked like she was about to bear the most horrible news. “Mr. Colden,” she started gently, “the man who shot your wife…claimed to be her husband.” What? “No!” I could feel my anger surging. “He’s delusional then! That’s my wife!” I fumed. “Who said that?!” “Do you recognize him?” the man asked calmly, holding up a tablet with a mug shot of a rugged
man on display. I choked on my words and the breath left my lungs. I knew that face; I knew that damn face for the six years I knew you. My body began to vibrate with rage and regret. How couldn’t I have known?! “Yeah I know him!” I nearly scream. It was Michael, you know, the one you went to lunch and movie dates with, as friends! Thinking about it now, how did I not see it? It was staring me in the face but I was too love-struck to notice! I remember the way you looked at him. You looked at him like he was everything to you. It always made me jealous. I teased you, saying you were going on a date with your other man. How right was I; just too damn blind to see it. You always replied: “He’s just a friend, don’t be jealous.” I trusted you with him, tried to be friends with him myself. You were so happy about it. Now I knew why. “I’m very sorry Mr. Colden,” the woman murmured, her hand on my arm. The touch was comforting, much like yours was. It hurt to feel that from someone else. At least it was genuine. I don’t know if those times you were gentle with me were real or not. “Sir, I think you need to sit down.” The cops sat me down, I remember that. It’s blurry after that, a toxic mix of overflowing anger and sadness. I wasn’t sure which I should feel more, so I felt both. I couldn’t help it. The police left quickly after, to deal with the bastard that shot you. It was better that way; I needed to clear my head as much as I could. A nurse came out at some point. I sat up straight, expecting it to be news about you. She called out another name however. A disheveled woman stood up, her eyes full of hope. The nurse whispered softly to her; everyone in the waiting room knew. The woman burst into tears, clinging helplessly to the young man at her side. There were tears in his eyes as well, but he reined them in
and held her tightly. I didn’t know if I’d be that strong. “Colden?” a different nurse called. I picked myself up and walked over to him. He smiled at me as though everything was right in the world. Damn optimist. “The surgery was mostly successful, we managed to save her. She is, however, in a coma, and we’re unsure whether she will be waking up anytime soon.” Oh…shit. “You can see her if you’d like.” The shock of the moment finally wore off. “Yes. Yes I want to see her.” “This way sir,” he said and began to walk away. I followed him through hall after hall until we finally stopped in front of a plain, uniform door. “She’s right in there,” he said. Right in there… I tried to brace myself. The metal of the door handle was colder than my clammy skin. I made my way into your room and it was obvious that none of my mental preparation had worked. There you were, prone as ever. God, it made my anger surge and melt away all the same. You cheeks were sunken in and your skin was white as the sheets you laid upon. I took a deep breath and sat in the chair next to the bed. I was going to hold your hand, but I couldn’t. It felt wrong. If I was in your place you probably wouldn’t have been there. You would’ve probably been out on another lunch date with Michael. Not that I’d mind. I wouldn’t want a liar at my bedside.
Inkwell 2015 page 20
see you next year...
A collaboration between The Spirit and Writer's Workshop, we are proud to present our first literary magazine of SJC