Volume 07 Issue 1

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“This is what you made of my children?” -Pine Mother

Volume VII

“According to all known laws of aviation, this book will fly off the shelves!” -Serry Jeinfeld

The Echo Literary Magazine

Define creativity, maybe freedom of speech or young expression. Define art in its purest form- fresh and true to itself, Among censorship and strict rules, we are the outlet for the imaginative individuals. A telling compilation of different pieces published by the students for the students, straight from the hallways of Steinbrenner High School, Ponder with the poetry and frolic with the fiction, Laugh with the language and dance with the diction. One class and many submissions all came together to create this edition of The Echo Literary Magazine. You hold in your hands the truest form of student creativity.

“Makes a pretty good fan.” -Nat Knews

Spring 2018

“I love the newspaper!” -Steinbrenner AP

The Echo Literary Magazine Volume VII

E The Echo

Volume VII


A N ot e Fro m t h e Ed i t o r Dearest Reader, For seven years, The Echo has collected the best creative works of the students and faculty at Steinbrenner High School. Our mission is to give students that moment of, “Wow. This is mine,” that feeling of accomplishment that spurs them onward onto creating even bigger and better things. We want them to be able to hold that book in their hands and see in print their potential for great art. And we want to share that feeling with as many people as we can. As editors and writers ourselves, we know how hard it is to get something just right, and then to put yourself out there for others to judge you. But the rewards far out weigh the risk, because even when you fail, you learn how to strengthen your work from it. The pieces featured in this book are prose, poetry, and art of many mediums, and they are of a high caliber. We’re confident that you’ll agree. The Echo would not be what it is today without the family behind it. Every single person in this staff has more talent and heart than should be humanly possible. We would like to thank Mr. Vona for being our sponsor, our mentor, and our adoptive father. We would also like to thank the administration for never reading the magazine. Thank you to every member of the class who read through the initial round of submissions; without you the genre editors probably would have drowned in paper. Our genre editors Bella Cruz O’Grady, Thais Jacomassi, Anna

Moye, and Justen Vargas read and reviewed every single piece that was submitted to the magazine and cannot be thanked enough for their patience and honesty when evaluating each piece. Without our submissions manager Kaitlin Burkhart, nothing ever would have gotten done. Period. And lastly, without our incredible layout team headed by the beautiful Kayla Halls, this gorgeous book would not look nearly as put together as it does. It is hard to believe that this is our last magazine ever, and that next year, we’ll have to actually pay for a copy like everyone else. We’re going to miss this magazine, these artists, this class. This class has made us stronger, and for that we will be forever grateful. Please join us in congratulating Anna Moye and Kaitlin Burkhart for their promotions to next year’s Editors-in-Chief. Yo, AnnDawg and KayBear, you’re gonna do great things. We love you. Dear reader, you’re about to experience the best creative works that Steinbrenner High School has to offer in a book that we spent the whole year hand crafting for you. We hope you enjoy.

Emily Chmielewski

Lexi Velte

The Ec ho Staff Co-Editors-In-Chief Emily Chmielewski Lexi Velte Prose Editor Justen Vargas Poetry Editor Thais Jacomassi Art Editor Bella Cruz-O’Grady Screenplay Editor Anna Moye Layout Team Kaitlin Burkhart Kayla Halls Advertising Team Marcus Smith Kayla Wittyngham Website Editor Angelica Reyes

Satirecho Producer Natalie Mannino Satirecho Staff Noah Alewel Kerri Cochran Doreen Coreen Aidan Sullivan Club President Rayanne Anid Staff Writers Gianna DeMalteris Emily LaLiberte Erix Pizano Hailey Plumb Samantha Sanchez Cela Sosa Faculty Advisor John Eric Vona Comfort Animals Barry the Bee

Tabl e of Cont ent s Cover 8 10 11 13 14 15 16 20 21 22 23 24 26 28 29 30 31

Reaching the Cosmos1 Jaylee Rodriguez She Never Left Jordyn Dees Triptych Tiles Estefany Alvarez The Descent Kaitlin Burkhart Checkmate Giselle Tinsley Between Worlds Marlee Wittner Fissure Danielle Sturgill I Love You, But... Marlee Wittner Beautiful Women Mackenzie Vogt Mythos Sophia Brown First Attempt at a Happy Kayla Wittyngham Little Painting Mistress of the Sea Cela Sosa Tolerance Danielle Sturgill, Jordyn Dees, Marlee Wittner The Harbinger of Anna Moye Spring Infrastructure Alex Cindric The Wise Man Thais Jacomassi Sparrows Christina Ramazatto Hyperyell2 Erix Pizano 1 PTSA Reflections 2 Best of the Best in Computer Drawn Illustration

Tabl e of Cont ent s 32 36 42 43 47 48 55 56 66 67 71 73 76 77 84 85 90 94 100 118 119


Kerri Cochran Philosophers and Slushies1 Emily LaLiberte Sunset Lexi Velte Steinbrenner Gothic Sophia Brown Decay Bella Cruz-O’Grady When Winter Returns Thais Jacomassi Sik Tile Emily Chmielewski Rose and Ivy Kayla Halls Last Rites2 Sadie Testa-Secca Jaylee Rodriguez “It’s Kaity Not Kaitlyn” Boris Stoyanov Polyhistor Emily Cranwell Cullacino Bridge Over Peaceful Kayla Wittyngham Water Lexi Velte Fairy Circle Gretchen Strunk Untitled Jordyn Dees Body Bag with No Air Justen Vargas Answers Lost in Worship Emily Chmielewski Ground-Leveled Lore Dennis Swift The Drink3 Natale Hall Untitled Mitchell Miller Cthulhu and You 1 All Florida FSPA Short Story 2 Gold Key/Silver Medalist 3 National Silver Medal Winner



The Echo

S he N ever Le ft By Jordyn Dees “This is not America,” they say. “Not the America that I know.” I suppose it never occurred to them That hate festered between these borders Like America’s best kept secret. Much like a round of telephone. The game starts with “white supremacy.” Two words. Five syllables. But the message becomes garbled and twisted As it circles the masses, Passes between ears, Endures shakes of head, Begrudging nods, Sympathetic frowns. Silent agreements. Until it resembles something that’s simpler to slip between the lips, That can easily be swallowed, And digested without discomfort. The game ends with “free speech.” That sounds a bit more like the country you know, doesn’t it? This America has been your Bedfellow. Your Friend. It has been 8

Volume VII Your safe space. So much so that you forgot that it wasn’t everyone else’s. Maybe this isn’t the America you know. But it certainly is the one that you choose to forget.


The Echo

Tr ipt ych Til e s By Estefany Alvarez


Volume VII

Th e D escent By Kaitlin Burkhart The species built of discontent Where progress is shown no recognition. We climb to the highest mountain peak, But would rather ascend to the heights of the stars. The species built of desperation Where the bloody backs of our competitors Serve as the staircase to our insignificant successes, Leaving our feet stained with crimson. The species built of depreciation Where what we are given can never suffice So we ameliorate what is pure And lose sight of beauty unveiled. The species built of narcissism Where our personal achievements Are twinkling diamonds While others are ordinary stones. The species built of greed Where we walk over the corpses of obstacles In order to obtain what feeds our egotistical natures Rather than seek compassion for each other. 11

The Echo The species built of oblivion Where the more things we acquire To sustain our personal pleasure, The blinder we become To the ever growing darkness Hiding within avarice.


Volume VII

C h eckmate By Giselle Tinsley


The Echo

B et ween Wo rl d s By Marlee Wittner Every day we coexist between worlds. Our footstep noise echoes on ground That is spattered with gray stains On a canvas of gray grid lines. We are in the midst of a concrete jungle Where we place our belongings on slabs of dead, hollow wood And trust dead plastic supports to uplift us And brush out fidgety legs against cold metal beams, Letting our feet tap the gray grid lines. But in those gray, gravelly grid lines, Between the manufactured cracks, There are vibrant weeds reaching for sustenance And droplets that cover one over-arching green grass blade Which radiate sunlight. Beneath the blade’s majesty, Natural hues of beige and brown arise On a reaching skeleton of a motionless leaf Which is surrounded by scrambling ants Who become lost in shadows Where greenery hits cement, And realms intertwine.


Volume VII

Fissure By Danielle Sturgill


The Echo

I L ove You, B ut . . . By Marlee Wittner Here lies my box of grievances. HERE LIES MY BOX OF GRIEVANCES. I have filled it with the scrapes and bumps and bruises That bludgeon my heart. I have filled it with different variations Of the very same Capital offense To the soul. The very words I find to be the most cruel Most demeaning Best camouflaged weapons. External words of internal destruction. So let me read them aloud to you. All things that have been said to me. By those who are said to protect me. I love you, but. I love you, but you look like a mess. I love you, but you are so underdressed. I love you, but you never shut up. I love you, but I think we should break up. I love you, but I wish you were Christian. I love you, but you could lose a few pounds. 16

Volume VII I love you, but you dress like a slut. I love you, but she’s really pretty. I love you, but I wish you had bigger… I love you, but you brought this upon yourself. I love you, but you’re so stupid sometimes. I love you, but you’re too sarcastic. I love you, but you can’t do that. I love you, but that’s not a good look. I love you, but I can’t stand when you. I love you, but you make me so mad when you. I love you, but I hate it when you. I love you, but. I love you, but. I love you, but. I LOVE YOU. BUT. I love you, but nothing. I love you, but stop there. Because you, Parents, friends, romantic partners. Should really have stopped there. Please excuse me. While I try to comprehend. While I try to wrap my mind around how, somehow, You were never taught how to properly compliment. And I think, Somewhere down the line, 17

The Echo You were accidentally taught how to insult. Whoops! Because when you say, “I love you, but.” My mind gets stuck like fingers jammed in a door. I get caught up on that little, little word. But. And all the words that follow. Because I find that they do not mean I love you. At all. In fact, I think I love you is put into the insult to pollute the phrase. So you feel a little less mad When they stick pins in you. So you feel a little less mad When they attach the phrase into your brain like a postcard With a note that says You deserve love, But you’d deserve it more If you changed. You are cool, But you could be better. I value you, But here are your flaws. Here are your flaws. HERE ARE YOUR FLAWS. Don’t worry. You don’t need to shout. 18

Volume VII I noticed them long before. So all you’re really doing is You are polluting the meaning of I love you Until it means nothing. Until you reduce me to nothing. I love you, but no. I refuse to let you drag me down. I refuse to ask myself: Why am I not good enough? I refuse because Maybe I love you, but I love me. I love me more. I love me enough To hand pick people And surround myself by those Who love me No buts. None. Who love me And when they elaborate Love me even more. And I hope you too Will find someone who tells you I love you. I just Love you. 19

The Echo

B eautiful Wo m e n By Mackenzie Vogt


Volume VII

M ythos By Sophia Brown what you have done to me will not die when the two of us have left this earth what used to live underneath your bed and in your clenched hand now lives between my fingernails and over my eyelids it lives here in this book it will be here when this book is forgotten and sitting in a landfill surrounded by trash the rain will bleed the ink of these words into the rotting soil where they will be eaten by dew-white maggots the birds will pluck the words from the ground and from the tops of telephone poles and swingsets the crows will sing the songs of your putrid actions they will teach these songs to their children and what you have done to me will not die when the two of us have left this earth


The Echo

First Attemp t a t a H a p py L i ttle Pa inting By Kayla Wittyngham


Volume VII

M istress of t he S ea By Cela Sosa White foam crashes over cold, hardened stones Seaweed hides the sound of a siren song The shoreline claws at the sea like old bones Sharp bluffs beckon ships on nights that grow long Lost sailors paint the water with their blood A forgotten lighthouse shines a dim light Corpses flow from broken ships, a dead flood Scale-encrusted mermaids feed off their plight Dragging mariners’ bodies to great depths These rocks have held secrets for many years And between her teeth lies dangerous breaths That tell stories worse than your darkest fears The sea becomes calm in time for a fog Where men whisper once more of the apologue



I’ve always lived in Florida. But I’ve always felt different. On the surface, we look like the majority. And I hear my native ancestors guiding me.

Dani I was born in South Africa. I was raised Baptist. But now I don’t know what to believe. -


Jordyn I was born in America. I was raised Christian. But now I don’t know what to believe. I lived in South Africa until 7th grade. But I’ve always felt different. -

By Danielle Sturgill, Jordyn Dees and Marlee Witner

To l e ra n c e ( a th ree pers o n poem )

I’ve always lived in Florida. But I’ve always felt different. On the surface, we look like the majority. But I am a bisexual Jew. -

Marlee I was born in America. I was raised Jewish. But now I don’t know what to believe. -

The Echo

American. We are all different, but tolerance doesn’t have a Or race. Or gender or religion. We are all Americans. And that will never change.


And I’m an African American, but they don’t realize that I’m African and American. We are all different, but tolerance doesn’t have a country. Or gender or religion We are all sisters. And that will never change. American. We are all different, but tolerance doesn’t have a Or sexual orientation. Or gender or religion. We are all humans. And that will never change.


Volume VII


The Echo

Th e H arbing e r o f S p ring By Anna Moye You bring winter early. Frosted branches on tall stark trees that tremor in the wind Misted dew frozen on individual blades of the now russet grass Chilled air pinching my skin as I complete diurnal obligations You force the animals to hide. Squirrels abandon their buried nuts in search of a place to settle Fish swim down to avoid the thick layers of ice that form their sky Birds fly in fear of the piercing air and in search of water to drink and bathe in You bury the sunlight. Flowers no longer adorned by shimmering balminess Radiance on others’ faces that once made eyes iridescent now seizes the sparkle Mornings are absent of beauty, as no globe of promise enters the sky You breed monotony. Imaginations die, overcome with bitter feelings and desensitization Clouds now form an everlasting shield, hindering cognizance 26

Volume VII and inhibiting all light Forests remain eerily quiet, only housing sleeping animals and diminutive forms of life You are void of all commiseration. Only stroking monochrome wisps across the sky Concealing the daylight and veiling the stars from sight Restricting movement until animals are practically lifeless in their dwellings Imprisoning all life in constant clouds of frosted air and jarring gales But this world is not held captive by your grasp, and Spring time will soon return. She will return in a wake of restoration, And you will yield to her.


The Echo

I n frastruct ure By Alex Cindric


Volume VII

Th e Wise M a n By Thais Jacomassi A wise man Will learn at the fool’s expense. O wise one, You have cheated life And dragged its corpse behind you. O wise one, You have been watchful, Patient, and subtle in your manners. O wise one, You have observed life More than you have lived it. O wise one, You are not wise. You have simply learned From the mistakes another man has earned.


The Echo

S parrow s By Christina Ramazatto A flock of sparrows spills off the window sill. Settling below the breeze, And picking apart the rotting leaves, Beady eyes darting if one of them speaks. They sneak lightly, Fleeting flecks of white and brown, Making no impact on the ground. Tawny tufts of feathers and down, Jumping quickly at each little sound, Even when nobody else is around. Yet they still chirp and dig and play, Catching their beaks on the light of day, Even with nothing stored away, Come the shine or come the rain.


Volume VII

H y peryell By Erix Pizzano


The Echo

M ay (a) By Kerri Cochran It must be May. I have yet to feel the consistent ceremonial doom Of my torso becoming a drop tower, Instead, in moments, those satin heart strings are bungee cords when you push me off bridges. Is it just me? Or do these daisies actually shine differently Since your dirt is cleaner on the other side. If so, consider me scarecrow, Prancing through poppy fields Across the pond To your fairy wings- the wisps made to lure one into the bubbling woods. Look what you’ve done to me. In the beginnings of blooming Where has that sun gone? How can I get home when every tree shares the face of May? I’m listless with these lights out. Maybe it’s in the water. 32

Volume VII Maybe this time next year I’ll be a sailor instead, Still strings and straw But buffer and tougher Wrestling the current on a pink ship with blue sails Following silver sound waves Where the sirens sing operas And your city is emerald. If I lose a hand it’s alright You can just hold the other one. After you’ve shot that arrow through its targetThe one on my chest The one with the blue ribbonI’ll accept a purple heart. I know it belongs to the tin man, but I want one too And ask that you stuff me and hang me on a post someplace You could even light me on fire if you desire So long as you embroider me in the name of May And we can call it a day A night Whatever the hell you want Because there won’t be the five hour difference anymore. I may be brainless and crafted from leftovers I may be flimsy and far off But please At least for now 33

The Echo The present can be our present Packages we can someday send Pressed flowers account for missing hours. Open this letter addressed to you: I know it can’t last forever, But May(a) please stay.




The Echo

P h ilosoph e rs a nd S l us hi es By Emily LaLiberte White sheets scribbled with partial clauses and runon sentences that didn’t make the cut littered the carpet at a writer’s feet. Stuccoed to the wall, remnants of good ideas gone by stared down at her in a nearly accusatory way as she continued to pour her pitchers of thoughts onto a page that would be ’ another fruitless grasp at prose. The writer lost her inner instincts to guide her somewhere in the maze of storytelling and instead decided to interrogate the paper with tired eyes and chagrin until some inner force pushed her hand to the page. Her eyes grew sore and tremors from her long unattended coffee made her hand jerk and throw more piles of wasted thoughts over the edge of her desk, trying to discover a breadcrumb trail leading her to motivation. “This is writer’s purgatory,” she thought to herself solemnly. She now focused on the saccharine murmurings of Eckhart Tolle from a CD her dad purchased her for her fits of self loathing to clear her mind. She didn’t think the German man had ever been in the position of being a freelance writer, or he’d probably be out of his day job as an inspirational speaker. She then thought about her father, the man who should have been a preacher, listening to uplifting CDs in search for a calm

“This is writer s purgatory.”


Volume VII way to keep the quiet on a family road trip to relatives’ houses. And how he interjected with his own philosophies on life like he carried on an open-ended discussion with each velvet voice that spoke through the tape. Opinions had more leeway when she didn’t have any qualms to tell her father, unabashedly, that he wasted all the oxygen in their van through having a debate with Tony Robbins. The tough philosophies on life could wait until they all got slurpees from 7-11 so they just might have the high to deal with it for three more hours, she had grumbled. “You could get a Big Gulp for Tony Robbins too.” He took it on the chin and began laughing that chest-rumbling laugh that could move mountains. He hadn’t possessed the mental energy or time to care what people thought about him and, as he had always said, there’s nothing that can’t be helped with a slushie. They’d then throw punchy jokes back and forth as they filled up their cups, a Green Apple small for her and a Cherry Cola Big Gulp for him. Childhood held those pinkie promises of indifference to what people had to say about her thoughts and how they spilled over opinionated lips. Anxiety didn’t tear her stomach apart or rattle her ribcage in her self-proclaimed tomboy years. The utmost important thing at the time were the summer softball sessions and her gem collection, having been a little girl that grew up with three brothers, each a different circus act of the household. Now, writing tethered her to the earth and kept her expressions close by so she couldn’t lose part of herself in a sea of nerves. It became something of an extension of herself, her pen practically the Siamese twin of her right hand. As an 37

The Echo awkward high school sophomore and another product of the assembly line of divorced children, writing did for her what an over-compensating father couldn’t: provide her a means to float away. From that point on, she became happily wed to her writing and started to gain recognition for it, which led to her ego being bolstered and her need to please that much higher. It made her that much more afraid of disappointing everyone. Now, she pined for the hay days of slushies and long, philosophical car rides. The girl coveted the thought of calling her father, who always knew what to do to part the sea of anxiety that she swam through. He would give her some quote or make her laugh so she could be a little more anesthetized to failure somewhat, as a man who looked at a crack in the ceiling and explained how it gave them a blessing in disguise because the tile hadn’t fallen on their heads would. Silver linings presented themselves in the smallest fissures of life for him. Any mediocre situation could be compromisable and remedied in his mind, patience his virtue from years of teaching. He taught a college philosophy class and loved his job more than his own kids at times, though he’d never admit to that fact. He’d bring discussions of logic home to the dinner table and which kids in his class he admired the most: the ones who weaved together creative solutions to the Trolley Problem and dreamed out loud. If he could see her now, pulling out her hair over the lack of words that flowed from the ink in her pen, chastisement would take on a new form. He would take on the form of Camus, and tell her that there’s no point to fighting the Ab 38

Volume VII surd. Or morph into Sattre, saying her writing condemned herto ugly freedom and that the meaning of life is for her to write her heart out. Existentialism took on a new level with him. That in particular didn’t cease the waves of anxious terror from crashing over her, but at least the attempt would have been valiant. His amount of philosophical analysis of her left her defensive as a child, but now she nearly craved it. “ Negative philosophies must have metastasized in his brain from ” the divisiveness of a rough divorce, because not too long after, he received the diagnosis of stage three brain cancer. She had joked at the time that he thought about life too much and that’s why he’d get mind splitting migraines. Now she wished she could take that statement back. He lived for a painful spell with it, holding on only for his family, until it carried him away just last year. The wound left fresh and oozing, his absence had left her a more crumpled ragdoll version of herself, anxiety seeping into every part of her day. She still kept the pamphlets they passed out at his funeral, which described such a beautiful life in such a terribly minimalistic way. She tacked it to the wall for the one redeeming quote that she had added, a summation of his mind and beliefs: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, your way

Existentialism took on a new level with him.


The Echo of thinking.” Anger manifested as a fuming sore in her chest, as her mother pulled a disappearing act, ‘mistaking the date’. Trolley Problem-solvers didn’t bat an eye over the church where the girl sat illuminated by crying, crystalline Marys, who wouldn’t weep for him either. The only thing that kept her afloat among the dust of the pews was the thought that he must be having some tough debates with Karl Marx on Red Fever in some far distant plane. The thought nearly bursted from her mind in the form of stifled laughter, something her relatives wouldn’t have thought to be apropos in the quiet air of Saints and sinners alike. The girl felt a rush of shame come over her, thinking how much he had overcome and done for all those he came into contact with him. How he lived his truth in an Existential light, and she dared not to write down her own truth in the fear of what might happen if she did. Sensing her own overwhelmingly pathetic state, she walked away from her desk and flopped her dead limbs onto her mattress. She wanted to steal his resilience away that he possessed in life, something to keep her moving at least momentarily. She would box up that strength inside of her in the hopes that it might help her to move on and no longer be angry about no big send off to someone that deserved a viking burial, instead of stuffy pews and an open casket. The CD came back into earshot with the fitting quote of: “Stop looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love- you have a treasure within you that is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.” 40

Volume VII She understood why her father had picked out this track in particular. The girl, comforted by this, let herself melt away her writing stress into her duvet. She then glanced at the ceiling to see an intricate spider web of cracks patterning it, the silver paneling of the air vent peeking out behind it. Her father had finally decided to make his appearance again after making his rounds of discussions with the Philosophical Greats, so it would seem. The girl then hoisted herself from her bed, pocketing her keys from her nightstand and swinging her jacket from its resting place. As she made her way to the door, looking up at her newly damaged ceiling, she smiled. “Maybe nothing can’t be helped with a slushie,’” she thought to herself. She’d bring back two: one Cherry Cola Big Gulp and one Green Apple small.


The Echo

S unse t By Lexi Velte


Volume VII

St e inbrenne r G o t hic By Sophia Brown You merge with the line of cars and prepare to take the next right. It is some ungodly hour in the morning, the type you had heard strange stories and rumors about when you were younger, something about the witching hour that made you suddenly afraid if you ever found yourself awake in your room in the dead of night. Now you are here. You’ve been in this car line for days and there is no next right. The sky hasn’t even begun to change hues to a lighter shade of black. You ran out of gas hours ago and you are still driving to the next right, packed tightly in between lanes of traffic that have become familiar, have become family. Occasionally, you press on the horn when somebody merges in front of you. Perhaps next time, you will just let the crash happen. “Students and teachers, may we please have your attention,” the voice blares from the intercom speaker, dangling precariously by its wires. You were never able to recognize that voice any“It is under the general where around the school. It seems to consensus that the only appear during auditorium is haunted.” announcements. “We will be having a fire drill at the end of second period. Please proceed to the football field in a calm and orderly manner.” The walls and floor of the upstairs 300 building collapsed into ash two 43

The Echo hours ago. It is under the general consensus that the auditorium is haunted. Stories of noises with no apparent source and shut doors when they should be open circulate after every major performance. The theatre kids allow this. They do not tell anyone what actually lurks within the folds of the curtains or the shadowy tunnel-like entrances. It is better this way. You are sitting in homeroom when a Scantron and a list of names are placed in front of you. Your attention is redirected to the television, where a clump of students take turns explaining, usually in one sentence, why you should elect them as a part of the student council for their grade level. “Please,” one of them says, smiling, “Vote for me as this year’s senior president. Go Warriors!” She looks kind of scared, you notice. You look back down at the ballot. You don’t recognize any of the names. You try, for a moment, to remember who the class president was for your grade last year. You can’t think of a name. You can’t think of any names. You vaguely remember a face, smiling at you from behind the screen. But who were they? What happens to the student council after they’re elected anyways? Where do they go? What happens to them? “Please,” the voice on the television says. “Please.” Some English teachers store supplies behind the tiles in the ceiling. It makes you wonder how much space is up there, between the ceilings and the floors and the rooftop. And at the end of the year, when they pull down plain tiles to replace with student-decorated ones for extra credit, eons of dust and 44

Volume VII decay rain down and coat the desks and floor beneath them. Others are clean, suspiciously fresh. You decide not to think about the implications too hard. Someone asks you where the orchestra room is. You look at them. The orchestra room. Does Steinbrenner have an orchestra room? No, that’s silly, you think. All high schools have an orchestra room. You laugh. But do you know where it is? You can’t think of a room number. If you were handed a map, you would not be able to point it out. But deep down, you think, in some primal part of yourself, you know it has to exist somewhere. Your friends who used to be in orchestra give you startled looks whenever you mention it. (Do you have friends in orchestra? Would they tell you if they were?) You look at them. You remember, once, large ornate posters advertising upcoming concerts in the cafeteria. Nothing like the bold, blocky ones the Senate posts in the hallways. Who made them? Where did they go? (Were they proof of the orchestra room’s existence?) You look at them. In certain computer labs, at the right time of day, you think you can hear the faint sound of strings warming up above you. The Chief prides himself in his ability to outrun all of his students. Sometimes, the ROTC students will huddle together with the underclassmen and retell a story he had shared with them once. About a lumbering old man who chases small children and devours them when they grow weary and falter. You approach him one day and ask where in the world he heard such a story from. He just laughs. You can see all of his teeth. 45

The Echo The AC is out again today. Thighs stick to the seats of plastic chairs and desks turn upsettingly slick with condensation across the school. The air is heavier on days like these. It smells heavy, and settles in your chest and stomach. It smells rancid, and it shows in your breath every time you exhale. The heat brings something out of the students and faculty, something you might be able to avoid if you keep your breaths shallow enough and your comments inaudible. Something better left alone. Underclassmen won’t remember the sink story. You’re not sure if anyone remembers the sink story anymore. You remember 2015. You were sitting in your 8th period class, waiting for the dismissal bell, when the announcement came. Someone has removed a sink from the downstairs 200 boy’s bathroom. A monetary reward will be given to anyone with information. The bathroom will be off limits until further notice. The culprit will face vandalism charges. The room buzzed with conspiracy and rumor, and a week later a discussion pertaining to the topic has died down into old gossip. But you remember. Maybe you’re just now remembering. Did they ever catch the guy who did it? Was the sink just taken off of the wall, or was it missing? How could someone get away with this sort of thing? This is how information behaves here. It bubbles fast and hot at the surface, and then sinks slowly to the bottoms of our subconscious, left to rot. More sink stories will come and go. Minds are fickle here. What else have you forgotten? Think carefully. 46

Volume VII

D e cay By Bella Cruz-O’Grady


The Echo

When Winte r Re t urns By Thais Jacomassi Cars began to file out of the driveway and the house grew quiet once again. The cries and the mumbled ‘I’m sorry’s’ had finally filtered out the front doors, leaving behind the silent reminder of what had occurred that day. Although Nancy had only been Rose’s stepmother, she played an important role in Rose’s life, and Rose loved her for it. During the funeral, Rose had stayed with her half brother, Charlie. At only two years of age, he was too young to understand his mother would not come back. It saddened her that he would never remember the two losses of that day. Charlie had a strong grip on the silk of her black dress as he dragged her through the endless hallways. As they wandered through the house, her gaze fell upon the countless portraits lining the walls- pictures of her father’s family. Photographs from Charlie’s first birthday during the summer of ‘31 and portraits of Nancy in her wedding dress two years before that. They only made her feel as though she was intruding just by looking at them. After passing Charlie off to her uncle, who was gathered with some lingering family members in the foyer, she made her way to the garden behind the house. It had been one of Nancy’s favorite places. The garden was cut down the middle by a single walkway which wrapped around a great fountain of stone lined with white marble. Rows of tulips of 48

Volume VII every color blossomed before her eyes. It wasn’t difficult to guess what Nancy’s favorite flower had been. Looking to her right, she found her father sitting on the bench against the garden wall, having a cigarette away from his family. She stood silently at the double doors and took note of just how different he looked since she had last seen him. Rose had kept in touch with Nancy through letters and the times that Nancy brought Charlie to see her at her Aunt’s house. Although the two had stayed in contact, her father had faded out from her life. Despite the fact that it had only been three years since Rose last saw him, the changes were drastic. His once broad and proud stance had shriveled into a hunched form. His skin looked sickly pale and the bags under his eyes were as gray as the gravel below his feet. His black hair, though short, was disheveled and strands of it fell on his forehead. When she drew closer to him she could see that despite all the changes, his eyes had remained the same. The ice blue was still just as cold as she had always known them to be. “When mom died it was just Aunt Lizzie and I that went to the funeral. The rest of you were fighting in the war. It was odd. A lady and a child, nobody crying.” Rose said all of this as she took a seat beside him on the stone bench. “I thought you left with Lizzie.” He didn’t spare her a glance, only throwing the cigarette to the ground before looking out into the garden his wife had loved so dearly. “I was playing with Charlie.” She didn’t want to make the interaction longer than it 49

The Echo had to be and there was only one reason she had gone to him. “Here.” She handed him the package from her purse. “What is this?” He held the brown package but didn’t open it. “Nancy found Mom’s wedding ring and gave it to me.” “It wasn’t hers to give,” he said as he pocketed the ring into his jacket. “She thought I should have it.” “Why are you giving it back to me? So I can give it to you properly?” There was the slightest sliver of amusement laced in his voice. She scoffed and said, “I have very low expectations of you as a person, James, let alone as my father.” He seemed unmoved by the insult and the use of his first name. “I came to pay my condolences.” She kicked the stones by her feet and wrapped her jacket tightly around her as the wind picked up. “That’s what funerals are for.” “I meant to you. I lost both of my parents. Mom and Nancy. Nancy knew I loved her just as much. I’m sorry that she won’t get to see Charlie grow up.” A minute of silence came and went before James looked at her face for the first time in three years. Anyone who came across the scene wouldn’t believe that a father and his daughter were speaking. It looked more like two strangers who had stumbled onto a common ground that is only found after the death of a loved one. Rose felt a great sympathy for 50

Volume VII his suffering, but she had no love left for him. She had come to terms with how things were. She was no longer angry, nor was she hopeful. The only thing holding them together was their blood and their mutual love for those who had left them. “He looks “The only thing holding them like you together was their blood and aside from the eyes. their mutual love for those Those are who had left them.” Nancy’s.” Charlie and Rose were the exact opposites in that way. She had her mother’s golden locks and pointed nose, save for her eyes, which she had gotten from James. Aunt Lizzie once said it was the only thing he had given her. “I’ve been told.” Their eyes left each others’ and settled to the sight before them. The flowers only served as a reminder of his late wife. As an attempt to erase his pain he would have them ripped from the ground that following weekend. It would be replaced with fresh grass, but the faint smell of tulips would still linger in the air. “Make sure to spend time with Charlie. Keep the portraits up so he’ll remember what she looks like.” Rose could only hope her father did right by Charlie in the way he never had with her. Nancy had loved Charlie so much. That love 51

The Echo shouldn’t stop just because she wasn’t there to give it. “You’re going to give me parenting advice now?” “You would definitely benefit from it.” James nodded at her words before standing and saying, “I’ll get someone to drive you home.” He walked away, ended the conversation, and headed back inside. She knew that once she got home Lizzie would tell her that James tries his best but she would sound unconvinced. She stood and brushed away the dirt from her dress, taking in the beautiful garden for the last time and silently thanking Nancy. Nancy had managed to bring light to the parts of James that Rose had only seen as a kid, when the two had loved each other as a father and his child should. Nancy had managed to melt away the ice in his irises into lukewarm pools. Once she met her father at the front door, the car was waiting for her. Her uncle in the driver’s seat. Her father kept his gaze planted to the floor by his feet. “I’m leaving in two days. There’s a nursing school by where mom’s sister lives. She said I could live with her for a bit until I get my own place. I probably won’t come back.” A long minute passed through them before his response came. “Could I ask you something?” She gave a curt nod his way and straightened her back. His response was so delayed she thought she wouldn’t hear it until a whisper broke the silence. 52

Volume VII “How did your mother die? Was it the same as Nancy?” James’ voice had taken on a vulnerable tone, one Rose couldn’t remember ever hearing from him. She was shocked, to say the least, but masked it behind the cold mask she had perfected over the years. An expression she learned from her father. “No, she got sick. Pneumonia. I tried to take care of her but how much can a seven year old do for a dying woman? Nancy was lucky that when the car crashed, she died quickly. Mom went slowly; the sickness took her piece by piece.” “Forgive me.” He cleared his throat and stood straight once again, taking on the persona she knew her father for. She wasn’t sure whether he was apologizing for the lack of his presence in a time of need or for the glimpse of emotion he dared to show. “No. I can’t do that. You know, the day they announced that the war had ended; it was the happiest day of my life. I thought that I would finally get my father back but when you came out of that train, you barely glanced at me before walking away. I won’t forgive you for coming back.” “I can’t change the fact that I went to war. I lost too many people in those years and your mother just ended up being one of them. What do you want me to do about that?” “Just do what you’ve always done, nothing. I want you to remember this moment and at night you’ll pray that Charlie never feels the way I do. That he never tells you there’s no love in him when he looks at you.” “I did the best I could for you.” ` 53

The Echo “I know you did. That’s the worst part of it.” This time Rose was the one to walk away and end the conversation, most likely the last she’d have with him. Her father watched from the doorway as her uncle came around to open the car door and tell her one of his corny jokes. Her laugh was soft but he managed to hear it. Her laugh sent him back to his younger years. Before the war. Back to his first love. His first wife. The times when he felt so much love in his heart that he felt it would burst at any moment until eventually it did. The memories sent the ghost of a smile crawling up to his lips but it was concealed just as quickly as it came. Rose willed her eyes to remain forward as they left, but her mind drifted to Nancy. Only two weeks prior, Nancy had excitedly written to her, telling her of the news. She had asked how she could surprise James and even though Charlie was young he would have also loved the idea of having a sibling; Nancy had been thinking of telling them out in the garden. So that, in her words, she could ‘be surrounded by the things she loved most in the world.’ That day never came and the burden of the unborn child now lay on Rose’s shoulders. She had thought of telling James as a way to hurt him in the way he had hurt her over the years, but the thought of Charlie had stopped her. He had already lost a mother and a sibling, she wanted him to have a loving father. She hoped that his life would be filled with the happiness hers lacked.


Volume VII

S ik Tile By Emily Chmielewski


The Echo

Rose and I v y By Kayla Halls There once were two sisters by the names of Rose and Ivy. At the carefree ages of 19, they had the whole world before them, yet lacked the authority to grasp it. This dreary fact irked Ivy to no end, while Rose simply accepted their fate with a bowed head and murmured prayers. Where Ivy was dynamic and unyielding, Rose was soft-spoken and gentle. They kept each other from venturing too far into their extremes, and held each other when the gray of “They could live their lives came dangerously without each other, close to blinding them. They could live withyes. But life would out each other, yes. But life lose its color.” would lose its color. On a warm spring day, Rose and Ivy were sitting in the quaint garden in front of their cottage. The sun shone down, bathing the grass in light. Birds composed a melody in the willows, butterflies waltzed in the wind, vines snaked up the house’s stone walls. From their seats, they could catch a glimpse of the towering palace gates that loomed a few miles off over the hills. Stone lions glared at anyone who was foolish enough to approach the heart of the kingdom, the heart of the king. Most days, they could block out the fear the castle instilled as they whispered and giggled in that secret language known only to sisters. Hoof beats sounded in the distance, calling Ivy’s at56

Volume VII tention to the brick road. An ivory carriage pulled by a single gray horse thundered along. The royal dictum was scripted along the side in gold, reading, “United in Obedience and Loyalty.” It flew past the sisters’ cottage, spraying them in a fine layer of dust. Rose coughed as she tried to wipe the grime off her arms with the pale pink of her skirts. “Royal, pompous asses,” Ivy muttered, swiping angrily at the dirt on her face with the deep green of her dress’s sleeve. As the cloud cleared, they noticed the carriage slow to a stop a few doors down. A whip cracked, hitting the horse’s back. Again and again, the sound echoed in the air, clawing its way to Rose’s ears, making her cringe in disgust. The horse whined in protest as it turned around, back towards the girls’ cottage. Slowly, painfully, it rolled to a stop at their doorstep. A man wrapped in lavish purple and gold robes descended from the carriage. He was closely followed by a squat, graying man who looked undeniably perturbed with their detour. A single royal guard stood at the door of the carriage watching Rose and Ivy. This man was out of place in the drab village. He shone with the glow of comfort and security where everyone else was dulled by the blade of hunger and fear. He had a smile etched in place where everyone else had tear-stained scowls. Although the girls lived mere miles from the castle, they had never known luxury, only want. That’s all anyone knew these days. 57

The Echo Rose and Ivy stood quickly and bowed their heads, fixing their gaze on the grassy earth. The man approached the sisters, with power directing his stride and ignorance curled around his lips. “Good morning, fair ladies. Who do I have the pleasure of encountering on this fine afternoon?” Rose and Ivy held their worn skirts as they curtsied, before straightening up again. Rose’s face blushed a shade of pink to match her tattered dress. Ivy stood taller, growing in confidence to compensate for her shy sister. “I’m Ivy and this is my sister Rose,” she stated, her chin tilting slightly upwards. Ivy met the prince’s eyes, causing him to pause. Most ladies were not brave enough to make eye contact with men, much less royalty. The prince’s eyes wandered over to Rose, whose attention was still earthbound. Although she was the first giArl he had laid eyes on during this expedition, she was also the most beautiful. Flowing auburn hair swung at elbow length in gentle waves. Her skin was flawless, a captivating olive canvas. Her honey-colored eyes were filled with sweetness and warmth. Ivy dulled in comparison to her twin, but the reason was unknown. Maybe it was that her sharp personality eroded her skin, leaving imperfections in its wake, or that her hair was not as carefully done, knots visible at random intervals. Or perhaps it was simply because violence roared behind her eyes, forging the smile that was etched on her face into iron. He stepped closer to Rose, bending slightly, forcing her 58

Volume VII to meet his gaze. “Enchanted to meet you,” he whispered. She blushed deeper, responding, “The pleasure is all mine.” The prince took hold of her hand, his lips slowly skimming the surface. Rose’s gaze was locked on the prince’s head that still lingered over her hand several moments later. She shifted from foot to foot before making eye contact with Ivy. Ivy loudly cleared her throat. He reluctantly tore his gaze from Rose and pecked Ivy’s hand. Ivy held back a snort and caged her urge to stomp on his foot. “And you are?” she asked, a pleasant lilt in her voice that sharpened near the edges. “You do not know who I am?” Annoyance colored his words. A trace of panic crossed the graying man’s face, as if he did not want to deal with the tirade that would spill forth later at the thought of someone not knowing his name. “We know that you are royalty because of your attire and carriage, but we are unsure of which royal has graced our presence.” Only Rose caught the sarcasm dripping off the words. “Prince Thorn, fourth born son of King Adiran, fourth in line for the throne of Eden.” Rose raised an eyebrow at Ivy. King Adiran only had four sons. This man held little significance in the court’s games of death and marriage. He is a pawn, a ridiculous pawn. Nothing more. Besides, he listed off his credentials in vain. The twins’ late foster mother had passed on the story of their parents’ 59

The Echo death, eliminating forgiveness as an option for Ivy. She simply couldn’t do it, not after the pain they had caused. It took a horrifying amount of ignorance to sentence a new mother to death for refusing to become the king’s mistress. It took a particular amount of insecurity to murder the woman’s husband out of spite. It took a disgusting brand of cruelty to leave twin daughters orphaned and at the hands of a poverty-stricken village. Prince Thorn’s gaze wove through the garden, dumb to the sisters’ thoughts, tracing every line of its beauty. Rose was washed over with an unexpected wave of confidence that ebbed as soon as it flowed. “I seem to recall mention that you were, well, um…” “Eligible,” Ivy finished, “It took a horrifying amount of entwining ignorance to sentence a new her fingers mother to death for refusing to through Rose’s and become the king’s mistress.” giving a small squeeze. Prince Thorn’s gaze slid between Ivy and Rose. “Indeed, I am,” he smiled. “I was in route to the main village in search of a wife, but it seems that I don’t need to look much farther.” He chuckled softly to himself. The short man stalked over to the carriage to bring a golden foot stool to Prince Thorn’s side. He then climbed on and began to whisper to Thorn. The words “peace offering” and “peasants” found their 60

Volume VII way to Ivy’s reluctant ears. Her grip on Rose’s hand tightened, a sharp remark clinging to the tip of her tongue. Thorn nodded thoughtfully and began to wander around the flower beds. “Did you know,” he said. “That the kingdom’s flower of choice is a rose?” His laughter echoed harshly in the quiet garden, taking up too much space, and falling to the ground with an awkward thud. “Are you spoken for?” he asked Rose abruptly. Ivy’s nails now dug into the top of Rose’s hand, her patience waning. “No, your highness.” Rose whispered. “Would you give me the great pleasure of marrying me? I have taken a liking to you, Rose, and would be honored if you accepted. It is often said that one never needs to look far for love. Little did I know just how true that statement was. All this time, the prettiest lady in Eden lived mere miles from the castle’s gates.” A smirk grew on Thorn’s face as Rose cleared her throat. Taken a liking to what, exactly? she wondered. My blushing? Or my utter lack of conversation? He gestured to the short man who pulled his shoulders back and began to speak. “Prince Thorn, fourth born son of King Adiran, fourth in line for the throne of Eden would be honored at your acceptance. This marriage would be…” He paused, taking in the quaint cottage. “very beneficial to you and serve to calm tensions that have been growing in the villages. We eagerly await your answer.” 61

The Echo The royal advisor hopped off his stool, handing it to the guard. Both men waited expectantly, so sure of themselves, so secure in their standing as undeniable. Ivy’s nails dug deeper into her hand, the sharp pain almost unbearable now. “I am greatly honored, your highness, but I could never leave my dear sister, you see. We are all alone here, and she would do very poorly if I were not around to care for her.” The grip of her self-control strangled her voice as she searched for a lie, any lie, to get her out of this. Ivy stood up straighter. Surely this vain, ignorant, excuse of a man would respect family loyalty. Surely, he would not take her sister from her. “Rosey, dear, don’t talk nonsense. This would be a wonderful opportunity for you…” Ivy’s voice was coated in a sticky sweetness that was so ingenuine, the guard who had stood stoically for the length of the rushed courting stifled a laugh. “I couldn’t bear to leave you,” she whispered. “The pain would be too great.” “Rose-” The royal advisor pointedly cleared his throat. “Is there something you’d like to add?” Ivy asked, no longer able to conceal her agitation. “I believe I have a solution,” he announced. He waddled over to the guard who still held his step stool, repositioning it at Thorn’s side. Ivy snorted, muttering, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” “Prince Thorn could take both of you as his wives.” 62

Volume VII “Both of us?” Ivy croaked. “Well, not exactly. I would take Rose as my wife and you as my mistress.” Thorn informed her. Rose couldn’t think. A gray fog encroached on the edges of her vision, dulling all the beauty of the garden. She looked around, searching for a way out. She could not be trapped in the marriage her mother had died to avoid. She could not allow her sister who needed freedom more than air to be suffocated by the iron fist of a marriage to the nobles. “Yes, yes,” Thorn muttered to himself. “I wouldn’t dream of separating you two. This way, everyone is happy!” Ivy and Rose held each other’s gaze. They knew that once an offer of marriage was made by a royal, it would be death to deny them. Is this worth dying for? Rose wondered. Ivy dropped Rose’s hand and stepped towards the prince. Determination was written across her face, anger was scripted in her stance. The guard stood at attention, his hand dropping to the sword at his side. “Prince Thorn, highly esteemed member of royal lineage,” Ivy began. She slowly circled the men, a hint of madness in her gaze. Rose whispered to her, gesturing for her to stop the poison that was about to pour forth from her lips. Staying loyal to the dead would cost Ivy her life. “I would dare to say that you are the most forward, truly stupid man I have ever met.” For a moment, Ivy met Rose’s eyes. Ivy, no. Don’t do this, they begged. Don’t leave me for your pride, don’t abandon me for our parents. I need you here, I can’t live this life alone. 63

The Echo Ivy’s courage faltered. She would gladly lay down her life for Rose, she would gladly live for her. Ivy turned her gaze back towards Prince Thorn, steeling her bruised, beating heart for what was to come. But I will not allow myself to be caged by you. “If you think that I would ever enter a marriage with you or anyone who has your family’s blood coursing through their veins, then you really are as ignorant as I imagined. In short, I refuse your proposal in the name of my mother and my father and the lives you took from me.” The royal advisor met the prince’s gaze. A fire blazed behind Thorn’s gray eyes, indignation and resentment fueling the flames. He gave a silent nod to the advisor. The advisor lifted a hand to the guard. The guard unsheathed his sword. In one fluid motion, he slit Ivy’s throat. She collapsed to the floor, struggling for breath. “Ivy,” Rose cried, running to her sister and kneeling beside her. A physical ache took over her body as she cradled Ivy in her arms. A few minutes passed before Ivy’s body relaxed. A stream of blood ran down the front of her deep green dress and coated Rose’s hands. Sobs racked her frail frame as she grieved her sister. “There is no need for dramatics.” The royal advisor sighed. “Get up.” Rose clung harder to Ivy. What do you do if your lifeline is dead? The royal advisor motioned for the guard to come 64

Volume VII forward. He held up his sword again, still coated in her sister’s blood. “I said to get up,” the advisor whispered. Rose pressed a kiss to Ivy’s forehead before getting shakily to her feet. Prince Thorn watched all of this unfold with a sad smile. “So… what is your answer, Rose?” In the carriage on the way to her oppressor’s castle, Rose made a vow to herself, to her family. I will marry Thorn, Ivy. I will treat him with the utmost love and care. I will give him a son, the only people who count as worthy in the eyes of royalty. Rose dug her finger nails into her filthy skirts. Mother, I will win over the king. I will become his prized possession, the one he adores. The dried blood that clung to them flaked off onto the carriage floor. Father, I will become dear to his wife, a companion, irreplaceable. Rose turned her head to look out the window as the landscape blurred past her. She pressed her forehead to the cool glass as she recalled that once, the foliage of Eden was saturated with pale pinks and rich greens. Butterflies used to dance to the melodies the birds composed in the willows. But now… Well, now everything was gray. I will earn their trust, Ivy. And then I will burn their kingdom down. 65

The Echo

Last Rites By Sadie Testa-Secca


Volume VII

“ I t’s Kait y , N o t Ka it l y n” By Jaylee Rodriguez It’s Kaity, not Kaitlyn. Everywhere I go, I hear her name escape every mouth. “Did you hear about Kaitlyn? Such a shame really.” “I heard she died right here at school!” “I heard she was at tennis and just dropped to the floor.” Kaitlyn. I cringed. They didn’t know her like I did, they don’t deserve to have a say in the matter. Kaity is her name, and she’s not a headline. She’s not juicy gossip. She’s my best friend. She was my best friend. I remember when I first got the news as if it was yesterday. I was frantically studying in my room, knee deep in AP World notes trying to memorize various Chinese dynasties when my phone buzzed. I was reluctant to depart from my studies, but nonetheless, I looked at my phone. Across the lock screen was a glowing message. It read, “Did you hear about Kaity?” I replied with a simple question mark, thinking it was about something funny she might’ve said at school; she’s always cracking jokes. “Kaity died.” I paused. My eyes saw the letters on the screen but my mind couldn’t register the words. I don’t remember the sender, but it was a message that is forever branded on the inside of my eyelids, a message I would see every time I closed my 67

The Echo eyes. They’re joking, I thought. I stop at Kaity’s locker every day; I must’ve seen her, like, 6 hours ago. They’ve got the wrong Kaity. “You’re kidding,” I replied. “Not Kaity. Silverwood? No.” “I’m so sorry, Jaylee; she just collapsed at practice. I’ll let you know as soon as I know more-” My phone slipped out of my hand and hit the floor with a loud thud. How can my beautiful ginger “You could smell haired confidant be gone the solemnness in just like that? I picked up my phone from the floor the air.” and began to dial every number in a frenzy, hoping and praying that they were wrong, that someone would just say, “no she’s fine, she’s with me now.” I was hoping this was all a cruel joke, a rumor spread by some idiot with a twisted sense of humor. But it wasn’t. It was real. It was real the next day at school, when the principal spoke over the intercom announcing “Kaitlyn’s” passing. You could smell the solemnness in the air. The normally chatty hallways seemed quieter, duller. No longer with the bright colors and sharp contrast they seemed to have before. It was real when 300 of her “closest” friends gathered at the football field to remember her. How could it be so real when I felt hollow inside? Every second felt like a daze, a bad dream that I just couldn’t seem to wake up from. Something inside me just broke. I was living 68

Volume VII in my own head, desperate to find a feasible explanation in a place where there was none. That Friday, I, along with every other student in the class of 2018, gathered on the football field. The sun was beaming down on a huge circle full of at least 300 of my peers. Some people were crying, praying, hugging one another. They came to pay their respects, I told myself. But if their intentions were so good, then why was I so angry at every face in the crowd? I quietly watched as one by one, some of Kaity’s close friends and previous teachers spoke. I saw Rachel, a girl who was as close to Kaity as I was. She grabbed the microphone and her shaky voice was projected across the whole field. She shared stories about her and Kaity and how beautiful of a person Kaity was. Just like her, one after the other, more students grabbed the microphone and shared their memories of Kaity. Soon enough came my time to share. I held the microphone tightly in my hand and looked around at the crowd. What was I supposed to say? How do I describe 8 years’ worth of memories in under 3 minutes? Tears rolled down my cheeks as my face grew warm. How can I explain to them how special she was to me? They won’t understand the late night talks at sleepovers, the secret nicknames we had for boys we thought were cute, the inside jokes that were so old that even we don’t remember how they started. Kaity was my best friend since the fourth grade. After my first kiss, she was there waiting for me to give me a high five. She never judged me, her friendship was unconditional and unapologetic. Just like 69

The Echo her. It was right there, standing under that burning April sun on the Steinbrenner Football field, I realized that I didn’t have to explain. Kaity touched every single heart on this field whether she meant to or not. There were jocks, nerds, band geeks and orchadorks, theatre kids, cheerleaders, literally every walk of life all uniting in her memory. Kaitlyn might have been dead, but my Kaity was alive. She was right here in front of me. Every person she had ever spoken to could feel her radiating warmth of kindness and now carried it inside them. Her memories still evoked that same loving nature. Surely everyone might not have known about the memories her and I shared, but they knew how much of an impact she had on this school. They didn’t have to know Kaity as well as I did to truly understand her grace. That day taught me it’s okay that they didn’t know her, it’s horrible that she’s gone, but I have to live like how she taught me to. She taught me how to laugh at life’s trials, to laugh at myself. This isn’t what Kaitlyn taught me, it’s what Kaity did.


Volume VII

Polyhistor Boris Stoyanov


The Echo

Polyhistor Boris Stoyanov


Volume VII

C u laccino By Emily Cranwell Culaccino: [kulät ‘ti:no] the mark left on a table by a cold glass. She needed her home to be clean - countertops dust free, papers organized neatly, fruit bowl arranged just so on the table. She took pride in it. She still remembers double, triple - checking each room the first time he came over. He was impressed, and compared his own flat to a pig sty. They laughed about this and that until they sat down for dinner. She put her own glass of wine on a coaster, and he did not. She hardly noticed and “Surround sound can be so said nothing. very convincing.” The next day, long after he bid her goodnight, she gave the surface of the table a clean and saw the stained rim where his glass was previously. She wiped it away with ease, lost in thought from the night before. He came over more often within the next few months, and whenever they ate together - whether it be for dinner or for breakfast- he sat at the same seat and he never used a coaster. She never really minded all that much, but as time went on, the mark on the table stopped wiping away. She had mentioned it only a couple times, and although he promised to try and remember, he never did. 73

The Echo Soon the house was not hers but theirs and they decided to upgrade the TV instead of buying a bigger table. Surround sound can be very convincing. The rim on the table was there to stay now, the grains of wood warping slightly around the edges of the mark. Years went on and the ring on the table matched the rings on their fingers, the curve of the warped surface reflected in the curve of her stomach- 13 weeks, just starting to show. They saved up every penny and moved out further into the suburbs, a little house perfect for the two... eh, three of them. They kept the table. Joined by teething marks and crayon stains, the rim was no longer the only fault in the table. The rest of the house was a far cry from the spotless flat they kept before the children came to stay, but she learned to live with the continuing chaos. They still joked about the table stain, and he actually used a coaster most of the time. They made him use one at the hospital, so it was mostly out of habit, but he still insisted it was to ensure she had one less thing to worry about. He wasn’t allowed to drink- they said it would interfere with the treatmentso the wine glasses on the shelf went dusty. Now that the kids were in school, she went back to work. They needed the extra income to keep the house, as his condition made it impossible to hold a job. He made a joke once that his insurance would cover the mortgage and leave her and the kids quite comfortable, but she didn’t think that was funny. She cried for over an hour, completely inconsolable. He didn’t joke about it again. 74

Volume VII But even if they never spoke about it, it didn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen. Peacefully, in his sleep. Like he would have wanted. The kids were too young to be this somber, all in black. He was too young. Too young to be gone already. He was right, though- the insurance helped them back on their feet. She couldn’t look at the stained rim without bursting into tears. She sold the table.


The Echo

B r idge over Pea ce ful Wa ter By Kayla Wittyngham


Volume VII

Fa iry C ircle By Lexi Velte It began when I was young. A child of eight years, I was rail thin and wide-eyed, and I viewed the world as one with infinite possibilities. One cool autumn day as Mama was putting dinner into the oven, I looked out of the window in our living room and saw a pure white rabbit sitting at the edge of the woods behind our house. The need for adventure tugged on my spine, and I slipped out of the screen door in the back of my home, Mama oblivious to my escape. I ventured into the forest. The trees reached down at me with desperate, grasping fingers, gnarled through years of straining to find the sun. They devoured me, pulling me into the forest that seemed to fold in on itself, as if trying to ensure that all of its inhabitants were unable to escape. I trotted through fallen leaves, the crisp fall air rustling through them. The stirring of creatures whispered in my ear while they stayed hidden behind dying tree trunks, and shadows danced in the corners of my eyes. The forest took my hand and lured me deeper into its arms, over the ground that seemed to dip, placing me on a barely perceptible decline that compelled my feet to keep moving, keep walking towards an indefinite end. When I saw the fading sun begin to duck behind the trees, I reached a clearing. The trees parted, as if holding the door open for me. The moon and the sun hung side by side in the sky, the sun still in reign but steadily losing its grasp on the throne. The moon waited humbly, patiently, knowing that 77

The Echo it would soon have its glory. I stood in the middle of the clearing, watching this exchange of power in awe, arms stretched out, spinning in circles like the young child I was, suddenly thrust into a place of complete and utter freedom. I pranced uninhibited amongst the leaves that still littered the ground despite having no obvious owners, practically floating in my wanton elation. The sky turned a brilliant orange that reflected off of my pale skin, painting gold like it did the trees. “Then I blinked, me A sparrow swooped around and he was gone.” my head before darting off into the area before me. I ran after him, laughing. “Slow down!” I giggled, trying to keep up with the small, russet-colored bird. He chirped, which I pretended was his answer, so I continued my chase. We ran around and around the clearing, circling closer to the center each time. Then I blinked, and he was gone. My legs kept running until I tripped and landed hard, a sharp branch piercing the skin on my palm. I cried out, tears beginning to fall down my face. Suddenly, I was met with an intense pressure throughout my body. Gravity pressed down on me, and my weak limbs buckled under the weight. Everything started spinning, faster and faster, and I closed my eyes. The spinning stopped. I lay on the ground in a heap of frail bones that seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. I gazed around me in a stupor, finding myself in the same clearing, except it was nighttime now, and I wasn’t alone. A bonfire 78

Volume VII sat off to the right, surrounded by a ring of tree stumps and logs. Long picnic tables spread along the edges of the clearing, filled with miles of food and decorations. A few floating lanterns bounced under an invisible roof, and the grass seemed to sparkle. I saw no instruments, but music swam through the air in swells, and in between crescendos, voices sang gutturally in a language I couldn’t understand. Shadows that looked a bit like people danced around the fire, linking arms. The darkness blurred their silhouettes, but I could see their ecstatic frenzied movements, the points of their wings, the tininess of their feet. Fairies. I took a breath and blinked my eyes. They were real! Except, unlike in a fairy tale, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something very wrong here, something very wrong about them, something very wrong about me seeing them. I sat up, and the fairies stopped dancing, instead spinning around violently to face me. The music vanished, replaced by the ominous rustle of branches along the tree line. The fire made the fairies’ silhouettes glow menacingly, and a shudder rattled my spine. A floating lantern cast me in orange light. My hand throbbed, and I looked down to see a gash in the center of it. Scarlet drops of blood dripped from my hand and fell, slowly seeping into the ground, staining the glittering grass. I watched in a mix of awe and horror as the red began to spread outwards from the spot, turning the ground a soft pink that gradually deepened into crimson. 79

The Echo Cradling my wounded hand, I struggled to stand, but the pressure had suddenly returned, bringing dizziness with it. I watched the area around me darken and spin and felt my heart pound violently in my chest. As my vision faded to black, I heard the voices that had been singing start to chant ominously and grow closer to me. I opened my eyes, and the clearing was empty again, dusk still arriving. I sat for a moment, trying to comprehend what had happened, but soon the sense of dread returned. I scrambled up from the ground then quickly fell to my knees. A smooth white rock, a perfect circle, laid beside me, and on instinct I grabbed it, shoving it in my pocket. I quickly stumbled to my feet again, running out of the clearing as fast as I could, ears straining to hear past the leaves crunching under my feet, in fear of the sound of hundreds of twinkling voices and tiny feet that I could feel chasing me. My heart shook in my chest, and I struggled to keep running despite my screaming lungs. “Anna! Anna, where are you? Tell me you’re okay,” a frantic voice begged. As the opening in the trees came into view, I heard Mama’s anxious voice calling for me. I pumped my arms and legs as fast as they would go, but it seemed as though all of the branches that had so eagerly pulled me in were just as eager to keep me from leaving. Sticks shot out and caught on my arms; roots shoved out of the ground in front of my feet to trip me; trees towered menacingly, threatening me if I didn’t stop running. “I’m okay, Mama! I’m okay!” I called out, voice 80

Volume VII hoarse, but she didn’t hear me. I saw Mama’s silhouette suddenly race off to the right, going farther away from me as I tried to reunite us. I heard a crash in the trees and her petrified scream. I veered off into the direction she went and raced towards her, branches tugging at my clothes as if trying to pull me back. I arrived, breathless and panting, to see her lying on the ground, ankle twisted painfully beneath her. My own injury and fear forgotten, I immediately dropped beside her, brushing my hands over her face, her hair, trying to calm her hysteria. “It’s okay, Mama. I’m here. It’s okay,” I soothed. Her face was pale with a slightly greenish tint, lips trembling like train tracks, eyes welling up with tears. I peeked at her ankle out of the corner of my eye. Blood oozed out from where bone had broken through skin. I felt my throat close up. “A-Anna,” she stuttered, “get some help for Mama, please. G-get the phone from the house and bring it here.” My fingers shook, and I pressed “Holding onto Mama’s them against each hand, I felt safe.” other to quiet the tremors. There was no longer a wound on my palm, soiled with dirt and hardening blood. Instead sat a thin ripple of skin in the center of my palm. I absentmindedly stuck my hand in my pocket, running my thumb over the stone I had picked up. As I did, I felt a thin, electric current flowing from it into my hand. “Anna, please,” Mama groaned, and I was thrown back 81

The Echo into reality. There was a new power humming under my skin, and I hurried over to her ankle, gently pressing my fingers against the skin above and below it. Mama, overwhelmed by the fear of losing me and the shock at her injury, lay whimpering incoherently, oblivious to my actions. I channeled the buzzing feeling out through my fingers and into her leg, making the swelling sink down to a more normal size and the skin begin to knit itself back together around the bone as it slid back into place. The feeling rapidly spread up my arms like electricity, and I was overpowered by it. The charged tendrils extended closer and closer to my chest, gripping onto me with prickling fingers. Suddenly, my instincts screamed that I needed to stop. I took a breath and then threw myself backwards. I landed on my back in the leaves, and immediately the electricity receded back into a faint vibration in my palm. Mama sat up slowly, in a daze. I hurried to her side, trying to hide the shaking that continued to rack my body. Now, however, the shaking was from exhaustion and fear, rather than the use of powers that were new to me. “Mama, are you okay?” I asked worriedly. She turned to me in confusion, but then her face finally morphed into one of relief. “Anna! You’re okay! I thought you were missing… I couldn’t find you… I was so worried!” She pulled me into her arms tightly, and I hugged her back with the same amount of relief. “Your ankle,” I said, looking down at it. No longer 82

Volume VII broken, it was just slightly swollen and discolored. She looked at her ankle and pressed her fingers gently against it. “I think it’s just twisted,” she told me. “I was looking for you when I thought I heard something over here. I went to try and find you, but instead I saw…” She trailed off as her eyes traveled to the bushes on her left, and I could see secrets in her eyes, dancing just beyond my reach. I glanced down at my palm and then at her ankle, reminded that I had secrets of my own now, too. “Can we go home now, please?” I asked her, feeling the trees start to creep closer, their menacing claws threatening to pull me back again, deep into the forest’s mystery. The moon began its claim of the throne, and the sun’s orange glow darkened quickly. Dusk began to seize the sky, and shadows overran the forest. Mama glanced around with wary eyes, goosebumps raising on her arms, but not from the wind that was slowly picking up. “Yes, I think we’ve had enough adventure for one night.” She stood up and grabbed my hand in her calloused one, her chilled fingers a shock to my heated ones. Holding onto Mama’s hand, I felt safe. Yet as we walked back to our house where our quickly cooling dinner awaited us, the stone sitting lightly in my pocket, I knew that what had happened in the woods that night was something we would never talk about again. But the powers never left.


The Echo

U n titled By Gretchen Strunk


Volume VII

B ody B ag wit h N o Air Jordyn Dees We’ve been here for what feels like hours. It’s probably been minutes. A sour smell fills the room– someone has pissed themselves. I don’t blame them. I’m pretty close myself. Mr. Helmand was droning on about Robespierre and the French Revolution when the alarm sounded, piercing enough for us all to duck down and cover our ears. “This is not a drill,” it said. “Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown.” Helmand stood there for a second, staring up at the intercom, and the look on his pasty face was enough to raise goosebumps. I’ve always known that we are but a small part of a cosmos too wide for any sane human being to fathom, but I swear, in that moment, I felt the universe hold her breath. The galaxies ceased their spinning, molecules trembling with anticipation. There’s this kind of fear, this kind of bottomless, unreal, this-can’t-be-happening-ness that I know will sit with me for the rest of my life. However long that is. The guy next to me is crying, and when another round of shots starts firing in what sounds like the classroom next to ours– the walls doing nothing to mask the screams– his sobs escalate. “Please God please God please God pleaseplea85

The Echo sepleaplease,” he mutters, rocking back and forth. It’s Matt and my’s one-year anniversary tomorrow. I think he was secretly planning to surprise me with concert tickets. He told me he loved me when we got to school this morning, parked the car, leaned over the console, and kissed me. I didn’t say it back. Couldn’t. And now all I’m thinking is that he could be lying in a pool of his own blood next to “The galaxies ceased their my sister, who spinning, molecules trembling is an annoying, with anticipation.” self-centered bitch that I can’t imagine living one minute without. She makes the best waffles. Takes the best portraits. Paints my face with makeup like I’m a canvas. And it’s this thought, not fear for myself but for the only sister I have and the boy who I am not in love with but very much love, that yanks a sob from my throat. Leaves me panting, scratching at the collar of my sweater for air, air, sweet air. There’re whispers around me, people asking what’s wrong with her, is she having a panic attack, does anyone have a paper bag or something. Mr. Helmand hisses for everyone to shut up, because he doesn’t plan on dying today. I don’t think we have much of a choice. And all I’m thinking is I can’t lose them, I can’t lose them, I can’t – This will be on the news. We will be given thoughts and 86

Volume VII prayers and condolences that won’t bring any one of us back. They will put us in body bags, and they will tell our stories before we’re burned to ashes or buried so deep in the dirt they can forget about us. The last time something like this happened, Mom and I were in front of the TV. She turned to me, and I hadn’t seen her that sad since the weeks after Dad’s unit drove over a landmine. “My God, Abbi.” Her voice shook. “I never want to lose you or your sister that way.” Gwen walked in, texting, or scrolling through her Instagram feed, I don’t know. I didn’t ask. “Mom, please,” she sighed. Sat on the opposite end of the couch. “There’s like a one in a million chance that’ll ever happen here.” She grabbed the remote and some cooking show filled the screen. “Can we talk about something else?” I’m sorry, Mommy, I think now, I never wanted you to lose me this way. We’re on the first floor. The bullets come in from the window. Too many to count, so loud the only thing I hear above them are terror-stricken shrieks. We’re rats in a maze, trying to find somewhere to go, but bullets fly everywhere, and they just keep coming and coming and – Quiet now. People around me are bleeding, unconscious, dying. The floor is wet beneath me. I imagine the bullets swimming 87

The Echo around in my stomach, leeching the life from my body. Ears ringing. Head turned towards the window. I watch as Kyle Stevenson parts the swinging blinds and climbs through. His boots land in a crimson puddle. The sun streams in, bright as ever. He lowers the weapon, face stony, breathing paced. An artist surveying his masterpiece. I met Kyle in sixth grade. Went over to his house once for a school project. His mom made us mini pizzas. I played on his swing set. He has a little brother and a dad and a golden retriever. In this moment, I am trapped in a loop of every harsh word I’ve ever said, every test failed, every missed opportunity that will never be taken. Regret worms its way into my knowgone stomach. I wanna live. I wanna live, if only so this bastard doesn’t get what he wants. But I’m weak. And I’m dying. Last night, I got my acceptance letter to Cal Tech. Their astrophysics program is an actual dream, and I’m going to miss it. Graduation, terrible roommates, cake tastings, dress fittings. Car seats, spit-up, porch swings, barbecues. Gray hair, cataracts, wrinkly skin. I’m gonna miss everything. We all are. Does Kyle Stevenson know this? Does he care? My eyes droop but stay fixated on the gun powerful enough to bring this school to its knees, as it lifts, presses its dark muzzle to his white forehead. Now– now– his hands shake. 88

Volume VII I swear he looks at me. I don’t read regret in the set of his jaw. My eyes slide shut, heart pumping slower… and slower… I wish to see my father. A muffled bang, and the vibration of another body and a loaded weapon hitting the linoleum is the last thing I remember. The last thing I know. I don’t want to be just another body bag. Buried. Burned. Forgotten. But I probably will be. Slower… slower…


The Echo

A n swers Lo s t in Wo rs hip Justen Vargas “Let God into your heart, and you will be saved.” Though I have heard this time and time again, I never quite understood its true meaning. Church is a place I have been brought to since I was a baby, and you can imagine that the meaning of God and all his glory, giving yourself to the Lord, and the whole religion thing was lost on a child. Every child is taught to avoid strangers, and God was never someone I got the pleasure of meeting firsthand. Stranger danger aside, the “letting God into my heart” thing was yet another concept lost on a younger me, and going to church every Sunday didn’t help to clarify this issue. Most churches I’ve been to are similar; they all have a “hip, new” feel to the building (meaning you wore jeans and a decent t-shirt as opposed to your Sunday best, and the volunteers and workers are all young and are always seen with a bright smile on their face), and the decorations are all very angular and modern. Come time for worship, there is band of young adults on stage singing the hottest new Christian music, all dressed like Starbucks is their go-to place for coffee and that their preferred method of relaxation is going to the beach and posting their beach pictures online, followed by a caption about God’s beauty, or something of a similar nature. The part of church that I most enjoyed as a kid was the worship, despite my previous roasting of the band. They were passionate about their music, and you could tell that they had a deep underlying faith in each hallelujah and each chord progression that they 90

Volume VII cast out into the pews and into the heavens. And that, in turn, caused me to sing louder and more passionately than most in my row. If you’ve ever attended church, you’ll know about the few different types of worshipers. There are the excited young adults, standing and “The ‘harsh reality’ of the singing at a respectable volume, the elderly, world, the realization of whose voice may not responsibility, took hold be heard, but whose faof me and suppressed cial expression speaks volumes more than any my vocal chords.” singing could. But the one most people know of are the singers, or more appropriately, the people who think that they’re singers, but sound as bad as a sacrificial lamb in its final moments. I was one of these people. Singing boldly and confidently, completely ignoring the fact that I was indeed sharing a space with a room full of adults. Adults who often gave me looks of bafflement as to what key I was trying to sing in, or if I knew how harmony worked, but I smiled at them and sang on anyway. And I loved every second of it, because I believed in the words of the hymns and the choirs wholeheartedly. And whenever I encountered a problem, I prayed and replayed one of the songs we sang that Sunday in my head and knew it’d be fine. Now, a young 11 year old’s problems (the age I started to attend church and started to pay attention) were relatively 91

The Echo ever large in scale. However, as I started to grow older, around 15-16, I began to sing less. The lyrics that once lifted me into God’s Kingdom remained stagnate, absorbed into the soundproof paneling on the walls. The world had, as it does for every young adult, began to take the shape and form of what some call “harsh reality.” The “harsh reality” of the world, the realization of responsibility, took hold of me and suppressed my vocal chords. This was in part because of the sheer overwhelming sensation of the world but had more to do with a feeling of helplessness to the situation. If a single problem has a single clear solution, then you can attack that problem head-on. However, if you have a string of numerous issues and responsibilities suddenly dumped on your doorstep, you’ll attack each one halfheartedly, while trying to juggle the other problems all at once. This was the case for me, and I couldn’t afford to do something like sing; my mind was too preoccupied wrestling with thoughts on my future and what I should do about it all. As time went on, the time I spent at church left me more confused than overjoyed. The pastor, the band members, the singers, who all radiated an aura of religious bliss, seemed to fade into the background as the anxiety of the future consumed my thoughts. I lost focus on the present and worried endlessly about the future. This worry caused my grades to be buried, self-doubt to blossom, and a large knack for procrastination to fester. The responsibilities of the future weren’t going to just magically go away, so I began to look for solutions. A way to attack the problem head on. And in faith, I turned to worship and prayer as a solution. I had been slowly opening my heart to 92

Volume VII God, volunteering for his house of worship, and I had sung loud enough for the angels to hear and in turn cringe at how off key my screeching was. Praying for months, the answers never seemed to be opened up to me. I wondered if I was going about this wrong, if there was an incorrect form of prayer or that you needed to do some specific special task to earn God’s favor. Reading passages from the bible, talking with my pastor, volunteering more of my time, all seemed to be fruitless endeavors. I had opened my heart up to the Father, yet he, like many Fathers after him, decided to abandon His son in the middle of the night for a “beer run.” Meanwhile, the rest of my Christian friends seemed to be doing just fine. God had a plan for them, and they were confident in their future, and the two of them chatted over coffee and were best buds. I stopped singing. The hymns now rang hollow like the insides of a church bell, and the answers I was looking for seemed to hide in shame like Adam and Eve after the first sin. I eventually stopped going to church all together, and my family carried a silent understanding of my reasoning. They were the same ones who recognized my panic and helped me get back on my feet. With their help, and the help of those who loved me, I was able to stop juggling my problems. I put them down, individually, and tackled them head-on. The irony of all this, is that in the eyes of God I have yet to be “saved.” Yet, when I stopped asking God to fix my problems, I learned to save myself.


The Echo

G ro und-Leve l e d Lo re Emily Chmielewski On the fertile ground of a distant meadow, chaos had erupted. Honeycomb rained from decimated hives, and insects of all kinds fortified their burrows with debris, in hopes that the fighting would pass. The butterflies had taken the East, and with powerful strokes of sturdy wings they dumped leaves filled to the brim with rainwater over the retreating bees, until the soil turned to mud and the bees found themselves sinking prisoners of war. The beetles and the lady bugs and the frogs and the toads clung to the stems of baby’s breath tightly, manifesting the breeze to sway them away from the battlefront, just not too far, as they wouldn’t be able to monitor it. The Perennial War was one that was constantly overlooked, as most ground level lore tended to be. The ancient tale lived on through the humming of the cicada’s wings and the jittering of the brush crickets, passed on in solemn whispers in memoriam for those lives lost. It began where many wars did, with the introduction of a precious treasure. The treasure on this fertile ground of the distant meadow happened to be the Perennial Gaillardia. A longstemmed flower that swayed in the breeze and beckoned all insects of the land to gather and worship. They said that the nectar of this Perennial Gaillardia was far sweeter than all of Mother Nature’s ambrosia. But the inhabitants of this meadow had never tasted such nectar. 94

Volume VII You see there was only one Gaillardia in this meadow. After the speckled wood butterflies claimed the bud for themselves, the inferior bees were prohibited from drinking from the Gaillardia. Consequently, no other treasures could be pollinated. The butterflies made sure of that. The butterflies were quite content with this power they held over the meadow. With thorn set snares to spear intruders and sickly, sticky webs to bind their wings, there was no questioning their superiority. The reign of the butterflies was long before the honeybee got their stingers, you see, and thus- with smaller wings and tiny tongues they never got the nectar. This unspoken rule was accepted for fact amongst the bee community. Every day the sweet little bees left their hives, wistfully passing the golden petals of the Gaillardia. The petals would wave to them as they danced their bewitching smell through the heavy morning dew. One day, this enticement had become too much. One worker bee, with his smaller wings and tiny tongue, was sick of never being able to share the delicious nectar. I work every day, he thought. I fly back and forth and carry pollen and honey from bitter blossoms. I strain my wings and pull my spindle hair for unsweet scrap honey. Today, I will feast on the nectar of that aromatic Gaillardia that taunts me so. As he flew, the determined bee assured himself that the snares and the traps were all for show. That no butterfly had actually hurt a bee in this meadow and he would be feasting among the gods. He had gotten all the way to the top before the butterflies had noticed, and he fell all the way to the bot 95

The Echo tom when they had. That stubborn worker bee struggled and pulled against the sticky webs that constricted his tiny wings. The more he struggled the more the silken chains drew tighter. Their constraints only proved steadfast and excruciating. The spiders adverted all 8 of their eyes by order of the speckled wood butterflies. “Late that night, under the They would leave ambient light of restless him to suffer. The bees, in outrage fireflies, the butterflies of their fallen worker, were up in arms; furiattacked.” ous that those tyrants could murder one of their own in such a cruel way, but terrified to stand to the wings of the superior species. The worker bees, with heavy hearts and downturned wings, offered a species-wide surrender. They denounced the behavior of their fallen brother and publically vilified him to their chattering audience. In grand fashion, the butterflies denied this surrender and, under the cover of night, waged a war on the futile creatures. Late that night, under the ambient light of restless fireflies, the butterflies attacked. With strong wings and superior resources, the butterflies drew West, carrying long nets of sticky bonds to scoop away any defenseless bees that thought they could be so lucky as to escape. The bees, having no other choice but to fight for the right to overthrow the butterflies, flew hard and launched honeycomb shrapnel at the incoming attackers. 96

Volume VII All of the commotion forced the creatures of the meadow to scurry in fear. The ants opened what was left of their homes and offered refuge to the unfortunate survivors that had little to do with the conflict. In the midst of the desolation of that distant meadow, one bee flew alone. Quietly, Arlo, a young bee whom held no real power in the bee or butterfly community, approached the Gaillardia. The blossom stood still, at the end of the meadow, and untouched by the poisonous anger that festered beyond. Not without precaution, Arlo approached the treasure slowly, sliding his smaller wings through the gaps in the deadly blanket of woven thread. He knew that this would be the one chance he would have to taste its nectar. Everyone had become so distracted with petty disagreements that they left their most precious possession defenseless. He wouldn’t taste it. He wouldn’t feed on the blood of his brothers. He wouldn’t justify the senseless violence. As he rested his feet on the silky petals, he paused to admire the beauty of the Gaillardia. He plucked a single petal from the edge of the blossom so he could maintain the ethereal prestige that had existed for so long. The gold fragment spun in the breeze of the morning. As it floated down, Arlo positioned himself just so and embraced the relic that caused so much grief. The snare was quick, but the thorns were even quicker. Arlo made sure he took the flower with him when he fell. Silence erupted among those that quarreled just feet away; feet that seemed like miles from the tall grass of that 97

The Echo distant meadow; silence that started in the East and spread rapidly to the West. The fall of the Perennial Gaillardia scattered its seeds all across the fertile meadow. Though the meadow mourned the loss of their sacred totem, their grief was absolved when the first tiny sprout fought its way through the soil; from the sacrifice of one, erupted a garden of many. Mother Nature was moved by the little bee’s sacrifice. She vowed never to let any being take control of that fertile meadow. She gave those worker bees a stinger. Something that would let them defend themselves and keep the peace. But, having not lost the gravity of Arlo’s death, she was sure to balance this power. The stinger’s use would sacrifice the life of the wielder, and both lives would be scorned by the venom. This was how the bee got its stinger.


S Sc




The Echo

Th e D rink By Dennis Swift

(Jack Danger Nickles finds himself in a small town wanting to get a drink from the bar.)

JACK Give me a glass of your finest whiskey. BARTENDER I’m sorry, I can’t serve you without a visitor card. JACK A what now? BARTENDER A visitor card, everyone who enters the town needs to be logged in. You can get one at the town hall from Betty. JACK Alright, this is the only town in miles after all. (JACK leaves the bar and heads to the town hall.) JACK Are you Betty? BETTY Why yes, sir, I am. What can I do for you? 100

Volume VII JACK I’d like to get a visitor pass so I can get a drink. BETTY I can fetch the papers for you, all you need is a #3 pencil. JACK A #3… pencil? BETTY Why yes, sir, it’s 150% better than a #2 pencil after all. JACK Can you just let me borrow one? BETTY Why no, sir, I’m not authorized to do so. JACK Are you serious… BETTY Of course I am. JACK Well, where can I get one? BETTY The office supply store right down the street. 101

The Echo JACK I’ll be back then. (JACK leaves for the office store.) JACK I’m here to buy a #3 pencil. SHOPKEEPER Your visitor card, please. JACK (JACK takes a long sigh.) You have got to be kidding me. SHOPKEEPER I’m sorry, sir. I require it by law JACK But I need a #3 pencil to register for a visitor card… SHOPKEEPER Well, it’s town law not to sell anything to anyone not registered in the database. (JACK heads back to the town hall.) JACK I need a visitor card to purchase a #3 pencil. 102

Volume VII BETTY I know that, it is town rules after all. JACK Then how am I supposed to buy a #3 pencil to register as a visitor, if I need a visitor card already to do so? BETTY Well, you sign up for a temporary visitor card. (JACK lets out a sigh.) JACK Why didn’t you tell me that earlier? BETTY Well, you asked for a visitor card not a temporary visitor card. (a moment of silence as JACK stares at BETTY.) JACK Well, where do I begin? BETTY I’m going to need you to state your full name.


The Echo JACK Jack Danger Nickles. BETTY Okay, stand still for your photo. (BETTY takes the photo of Jack and creates the pass.) BETTY That will expire in 3 minutes. Enjoy your stay.

(JACK rushes to the office store.)

JACK I have a temporary visitor pass, can I get a #3 pencil now? SHOPKEEPER We just need to go through protocol first. Let me see the card and state your name please. (JACK hands him the card) JACK Jack Danger Nickles. (SHOPKEEPER examines the card thoroughly.) 104

Volume VII SHOPKEEPER Well, it looks like everything is in order, what would you like now? JACK Can I just get a #3(SHOPKEEPER cuts him off.) SHOPKEEPER Oh I’m sorry your temporary visitor pass has just expired. JACK Can I still get the pencil? SHOPKEEPER I’m sorry, but you’re not a registered visitor. JACK But I just was… SHOPKEEPER It’s against protocol, come back with a visitor card or temporary visitor card. (JACK to the town hall.)


The Echo JACK The card expired before I could get the #3 pencil. BETTY You should have signed up for the extended temporary visitor card. (JACK sighs.) JACK Let’s just get this over with. BETTY I’m just going to need you to state your full name. JACK We’ve been through(BETTY cuts him off.) BETTY Okay stand still for your photo. (The photo is taken and pass created.) BETTY There you go, Mr. Through, this will expire in 15 minutes. 106

Volume VII

(JACK looks at the pass and sees the name is “We’ve Been Through”.) JACK

That’s not my name…

(JACK heads to the office store.) JACK

I’d like to get a #3 pencil. SHOPKEEPER We just need to go through protocol first. Let me see your visitor card and state your name. (JACK hands him the card.) JACK Jack Danger Nickles. (SHOPKEEPER examines the card.) SHOPKEEPER That’s not the name stated on the temporary visitor card. JACK I’m sorry… I meant to say We’ve Been Through. 107

The Echo SHOPKEEPER Yep. That seems about right. What can I get for you now? JACK Can I just get a #3 pencil? SHOPKEEPER Sure can do. That will be three ninety six.

(JACK hands him the money and heads to the town hall.)

JACK I have the pencil, now can I please sign up for the visitor card? BETTY Why, of course, Mr. Through, you’ll just need to fill out some paperwork. JACK Okay. BETTY Just sign here. (JACK signs.) BETTY And here. 108

Volume VII (JACK signs.) BETTY And here. (JACK signs.) BETTY And here. (JACK signs.) JACK So am I good now? BETTY There was a slight problem with the system. JACK Which is? BETTY Well, you signed, for Jack Danger Nickles when your extended temporary visitor pass clearly states that you are We’ve Been Through. These papers are clearly no good. JACK But my name is Jack Danger Nickles. 109

The Echo BETTY That’s not what your extended temporary visitor pass states. JACK Can I just redo it with my right name that is written on the visitor pass? BETTY Why, sure you can, Mr. Through. JACK What’s the catch? BETTY Oh no catch, sir. I’m not trying to inconvenience you. Just doing my job after all. JACK So can I fill it out now? BETTY Well, no, sir. Article 8.20-A states that to register again for a visitor card after a misspelling you have to go through the apology form. JACK An apology form? 110

Volume VII BETTY Yes. JACK What is that exactly? BETTY Well, it’s a 12 page essay to describe exactly the purpose of the misspelling.

(JACK spends a good time working on the essay.)

JACK Here’s your wonderful paper you asked for. Can we get working on the visitor card? BETTY Why, of course, sir. Just sign here. (JACK signs.) BETTY And here. (JACK signs.) BETTY And here. (JACK signs.) 111

The Echo BETTY And here. (JACK signs.) BETTY Thank you, Mr. Through. Right this way, and we can get that picture of yours taken. JACK Of course.

(BETTY leads JACK to a green screen and takes the picture then processes the card. JACK then leaves for the bar.)

JACK I’m here to get my drink. I have my visitor card. BARTENDER I’d love to help you out, sir, but you need to be a registered drinker. A new law has been passed. JACK Since when? BARTENDER Oh, around 2 hours ago. I thought the whole town got the news. Betty at the town hall can assist you. 112

Volume VII (JACK heads back to the town hall.) BETTY Welcome back. JACK I need to become a registered drinker. BETTY Why, of course, just fill out this paper work.

(JACK fills out the paperwork.)

BETTY Here, let me staple these for you; it’s quite a windy day, I don’t want them blowing away on you. (BETTY staples the papers.) JACK This is going by way too smoothly for this town. (JACK heads to the bar.) JACK Here’s the papers you needed. BARTENDER I can’t accept these. 113

The Echo JACK Of course you can’t. What’s the reason this time? BARTENDER Look here. (He points at the staple.) BARTENDER Do you see this? JACK A staple? BARTENDER No, no, no not the staple, it’s the position of the staple. It’s covering up a letter. I cannot read this. JACK Can’t you just assume what the letter is? BARTENDER I can not do such a thing, it’s against regulations. You need to get this unstapled immediately. (JACK heads back to the town hall.) 114

Volume VII JACK He didn’t accept it because of the staple’s positioning. BETTY Oops, I’m so sorry about that. I should of been more careful with that. JACK So can you unstaple it for me? BETTY I can not. JACK Why not? BETTY I am not the authorized unstapler. The owner of the office store is authorized for all our unstapling needs. JACK This town has an authorized unstapler? BETTY Yes, sir, it does. 115

(JACK leaves for the office store.)

The Echo JACK I need this unstapled. SHOPKEEPER I am the authorized unstapler after all. Let me see the problem. (JACK hands him the papers.) SHOPKEEPER Yes, I see what happened here; you stapled over this word. I can fix this in a jiffy. (SHOPKEEPER unstaples the papers.) JACK Thanks for all the hard work… SHOPKEEPER Anything I can do to help a citizen in need. (JACK heads back to the bar.) JACK Take these papers away from me. BARTENDER These seem to be in order. If you don’t mind me asking, why are you in such a hurry? 116

Volume VII JACK Just get me a drink.

(BARTENDER hands JACK a drink.) END


The Echo

U n titled By Natale Hall


Volume VII

Ct h ulhu an d Yo u By Mitchell Miller Characters: TAYLOR: Scientologist, not gay JASON: Cthulu worshiper, likes octopi...a little too much PHIL: Fringe Satanist, very laid back MARCY: Ex-Mason family marketing guru, current CA group leader, cheerful Scene: MARCY Hi, everyone. Welcome back to this week’s Cultist Anonymous meeting. First off, let’s welcome our new member, Taylor; hopefully she’ll like this little meeting we have and will join us for future sessions, so let’s make her feel welcome. TAYLOR Hi, everyone. ALL BUT TAYLOR Hey. MARCY Wonderful, now, since Taylor doesn’t know everyone, why don’t we go around and introduce ourselves, what cult we were a part of, and how we joined. I’ll start. I’m Marcy, I’m ex-mason family, and I was kidnapped at gunpoint! 119

The Echo JASON Um, I guess I’ll go. I’m Jason, I’m part of a radical Cthulu worshiping cell called “The Great Tentacle,” and I was recruited after I got drunk at Sea World. PHIL Oh, I got this. I’m Phil, I’m a classically trained Satanist, and I was recruited after I signed up for what I thought was a real bloody and hardcore version of a Pilates class. Shoulda known the goats’ heads were a bit of a red flag, eh? TAYLOR Well, I guess that leaves me. I’m Taylor, I’m a Scientologist, and– (ALL but TAYLOR jump back in shock.) JASON Holy Lord Cthulu! TAYLOR What, did I say something? PHIL Did you just say you were a Scientologist?


Volume VII TAYLOR Yeah, why? JASON Well, I think the medical term for your kind is ‘knuckle dragging idiot.’ TAYLOR Hey! What the heck? What’s wrong with being a Scientologist? JASON Well, for starters, you gotta be some kind of the most stupid cult members out there, like for real man, who buys religion? TAYLOR I was born into the cult. Do you think I had a choice? They corralled us in there. JASON Please, dogs aren’t as stupid as that explanation. MARCY Okay, that’s enough, Jason. C’mon, guys. Is that really the way to greet our newest member? I mean, we forgave Phil after he stole our blood for the summoning ritual that failed.


The Echo PHIL That is true, I did take a lot of your guys’ blood. MARCY And Jason, what about that time you first showed up here and had the octopus latched onto your– JASON Yeah yeah, I get the idea, and I guess you’re right, I shouldn’t be mean to gay people. TAYLOR Sorry? JASON Well, it’s pretty obvious you’re gay. I mean, you’re a Scientologist. TAYLOR How does being a Scientologist make me gay? JASON Well, the same way liking the same sex makes you gay. It’s part of the definition. TAYLOR I’m not gay. 122

Volume VII JASON Oh, Cthulu! You’re right, my sincerest apologies. You’re not gay, you’re a woman, so that means you’re a lesbian. TAYLOR Are you freaking kidding me? JASON What? Did I confuse them again? I can never remember if gay is the right term to use for women liking women. Eh, you look like a dude anyway, so I’ll just stick with gay. TAYLOR Are you serious, man? Not only are you using sexual preference as an insult, you’re flat out using it against me like it’s no big deal. JASON Wow, I never thought of it like that. Okay, well, then, just one question. TAYLOR What? JASON Are you by any chance from Oklahoma?


The Echo TAYLOR Yes, actually I am. JASON Huh. TAYLOR What? JASON Well, it’s just that would make you an Oklahomo. MARCY (sternly) Alright, Jason, you’ve said your piece. Now you’re starting to cross the line. PHIL Yeah man, chill out. Besides, she can’t choose her partners unless she pays. TAYLOR Excuse me? PHIL What? It’s a Scientologist’s nature to pay for things that are supposed to bring them joy in life.


Volume VII TAYLOR I still don’t follow. PHIL I’m saying that you hire prostitutes. TAYLOR (angrily) This is unbelievable. For the last time, I’m not gay, and I don’t hire prostitutes. Stop with these inaccurate observations that hold no merit whatsoever based solely on my cult membership. JASON Sure thing, Dr. Phil. MARCY Okay, that’s enough everyone. Taylor already has lots to deal with, and we don’t need to add to it, okay? PHIL AND JASON Yeah, okay. MARCY Back to what this meeting was supposed to be about. I was thinking that we could discuss our positions in the cults. For example, I was the executive marketing guru for the Mason family. 125

The Echo PHIL The Mason family needed a marketing guru? MARCY Well, marketing was our little special language for saying in charge of selling all the kidneys we “borrowed” from the homeless. What about you, Phil? What did you contribute to your cult? PHIL Well, I was a level 198 scorer of clarification and deliverance. To clarify, I made the pamphlets we handed out to people at the Vatican. JASON Oh, I did something similar. I was in charge of attaching octopi to newcomers’– MARCY Okay! Thanks for that image, Jason. Taylor, what about you? JASON We already know what she did, she ran the gift shop. TAYLOR (sharply) Actually, I was in charge of selling the reading materials and books for people to advance.


Volume VII JASON So, in layman’s terms, the gift shop. TAYLOR (fed up) You know what? That is it, I’m done! Screw you Jason, you suck and your face looks like a talking STD. After this, I think I’ll go to one of those Asian restaurants and have some live octopus just to watch it suffer. JASON Hey! First of all, that’s what happens when you have an octopus surgically attached to your face for six years, and I hope you choke on that octopus. After all it’ll be the closest you’ve gotten to any action in years! You book-worshipping-brain-dead-idiot! TAYLOR Well, screw you too, you octopus-loving-freak-of-nature! MARCY (yelling) That’s it! (normally) Taylor, congratulations, you’ve passed your initiation. TAYLOR What? 127

The Echo PHIL It was a test to see if you were worthy of joining; it was all staged! TAYLOR Really? MARCY That’s right, and you passed. Congrats again, not many make it past the gay-calling, but you did it. Anyway, we’ll see you next week. TAYLOR (a little nervous) What if I don’t come? MARCY (cheerfully) Don’t worry. We put tracking chips in the coffee so we’ll find you if you try to run, so see you all tomorrow! (ALL BUT TAYLOR perform a culty hand signal of their choosing and walk away as TAYLOR is too shocked to move)


The Steinbrenner Echo Literary Magazine The Echo, Volume VII was student produced by The Echo staff at Steinbrenner High School. The waiting and artwork pieces that are featured in this issue were submitted by Steinbrenner students and were anonymously reviewed by The Echo staff members. The layout was designed in Adobe InDesign CS6 by The Echo layout team. The Echo is a member of the Florida Scholastic Press Association. PTSA provided a portion of the funds used to create the magazine. The magazines were sold for $5.00 each. Visit us online at steinbrennerecho.com to see an extended version of the magazine. Steinbrenner High School 5575 W Lutz Lake Fern Rd, Lutz FL 33558




“This is what you made of my children?” -Pine Mother

Volume VII

“According to all known laws of aviation, this book will fly off the shelves!” -Serry Jeinfeld

The Echo Literary Magazine

Define creativity, maybe freedom of speech or young expression. Define art in its purest form- fresh and true to itself, Among censorship and strict rules, we are the outlet for the imaginative individuals. A telling compilation of different pieces published by the students for the students, straight from the hallways of Steinbrenner High School, Ponder with the poetry and frolic with the fiction, Laugh with the language and dance with the diction. One class and many submissions all came together to create this edition of The Echo Literary Magazine. You hold in your hands the truest form of student creativity.

“Makes a pretty good fan.” -Nat Knews

Spring 2018

“I love the newspaper!” -Steinbrenner AP

The Echo Literary Magazine Volume VII