Page 1


VOL. 38


touchstone 2018

touchstone 2018 vol. 38

CONTACT US TOUCHSTO@STETSON.EDU Touchstone Lit&Arts Journal Stetson English Department 421 N. Woodland Blvd Unit 8300 DeLand, FL 32723














Touchstone 2018, literary and creative arts journal, is a product of Hatter Network. Hatter Network is the student media collective at Stetson University. For more information, visit:




SELECTION COMMITTEE _____________________________________ KAIT FORSYTHE CLARETTA HOLSEY RACHEL BOGART HARLIE FORD COVER PIECE _____________________________________ “MR. MOTH” SEAN PRIEWE SPECIAL THANKS _____________________________________ CRYSTAL BARONI  


TABLE OF CONTENTS _________________________________________

From Eden



Crushed Berries Stitches





Looking Past*






my initial E










The Lighthouse


Grow in Spite


Rogue Babushka



Lost in Translation



Prague Waits for You NICHOLAS FULLER


Water Buffalo



Baby, why don’t you VERONICA FAISON like my hair?


La Passion de la Chanson*






TABLE OF CONTENTS _________________________________________

Her Infernal Contraption



it’s all a blur



The Nordic Prince






That’s the Last One* GABRIELLA CASSIDY




Lights A’Glow








Flowers & Goldfish



Mr. Moth




From Eden ARIANA SANTANA 10 acrylic painting

Crushed Berries ________________________ BRIANNA MORRIS

Goddess of striking things down with sharp inflection & watching them bleed from the mouth— crimson tongues heaving like deer struck down on the highway. Something like a hit-&-run. Or a curse. Nothing tastes more bitter than a rotten promise sliding down your throat. I am sun-blinded & dizzy. Here lies everything. Dandelion fluffs hurtling across wind-space, seized by the breath of angels, hopes ungranted. A bile-laden oath. A street littered with fallen stags, splayed open, red-stained like palms in summertime, only not quite as sweet.

poetry 11

Stitches ________________________ CHEYENNE CRAWFORD Her legs stuck to the diner booth. The linoleum cover was cracked, and the stitching kept catching on the back of her knees. A horn sounded from the interstate, and the coffee cradled in her palms shook as trucks roared by on the overpass looming above the restaurant. She watched as the sunbeams piercing through the blinds danced upon the tabletop, their chaotic movements clashed against the shadows. The door chimed, and she looked up as Jason slid into the seat across from her.

"Hi," he said. She looked back towards the dancing rays.

"You don't drink your coffee black."

The waitress passing by knocked on their table. "I'm sorry sweetie, can I get you some cream?" "I'm fine, thank you," she responded. The brimming cup felt heavy in her hand. She set it down, coffee sloshing over the sides. They looked toward the spill, neither reaching to clean up the mess.

"Nova..." he began.

"Listen, I know why you're here. I get it, I mean, I appreciate it, okay? But I'm not... I can't... go back," forcing the words out hurt. She felt the weight pressing down on her, pressing against her. Every syllable stabbing at her heart and slamming into her ears, her demons fighting their way further into the cavity buried in her chest. "Nova... come home. It was an accident. God, everyone's horrible, alright? What happened was horrible. But it was an accident. No one blames you. Just, please, come home." Nova reached for her knee, running her fingers up and down the jagged stitches stationed there. She counted them slowly, matching her breathing to the tempo of her hand moving back and forth, a metronome. She wondered what would happen if she pulled at the ends, if the seams 12 fiction

keeping her together unraveled with a tug from her thumb and forefinger. She clasped her hands together and set them upon the table. I should be dead. It was the first thought that floated through her mind when she woke up in the hospital after the accident, the white of the room blinding her. The thought settled into the corners of her consciousness. It trickled into her bloodstream by the needle of the IV. It crashed in waves against her through the splashes of her mother's tears. I should be dead.

Why am I not dead?

Another truck flew by, disrupting the small caffeinated puddle pooling on the table. Jason leaned forward in his seat, grabbing the ketchup bottle and examining its label. She knew he was waiting, wanting her to open up, to scream, to cry, to do something. "We need you back home Nova." He started peeling the label off the back of the bottle. Nova looked back out the window, "Don't you think I've done enough damage Jason?" "Mom's going crazy worrying about you. It's not fair for you to keep running off like this. Just because Loralie--" "Don't."

"--she was our sister Nova--"

"Jason, I mean it."

"This isn't just happening to you, Nova, we're all trying to deal with this. You're being selfish. Running off is just adding more stress--"

"She's dead Jason, our sister is dead."


"I killed our sister. Don't ask me to come back home."

fiction 13

She didn't remember much. The accident came to her in fragments. There was the feeling of flying, the brief notion of weightlessness. Then, the view of the world from upside down. She remembered the trees stretching out from the heavens, as if the branches were hands, reaching to pull her up. Glass lay around her head in fragments, stars glimmering among the asphalt, haloing her head. Smoke started building around her, in the car, through the trees, behind her eyes. She was cold. Her world was in flames, but goosebumps rose upon her arms, texturing her body. Her nightmares were sprinkled with the sounds of her sister's screams. She couldn't go back home. It was selfish, she knew. But she couldn't watch her mother float from room to room, a ghost in a shell, or sit beside her father on the couch as he aimlessly flipped through channels, never once picking a station. She had woken one night to the sound of crying, looking out into the hallway just in time to see her father shuffling their mother back toward their room. These were the fragments she had left the family in, a year's worth of pieces scattered all over the floors of her memory. "Nova, you didn't kill Loralie." Jason reached across the table and set the ketchup bottle back in its holder. "I was driving Jason, if I'd just looked over once more before trying to turn--"

"He ran a stop sign. There was no way you could've prevented that."

There was one memory she couldn’t shake, one that haunted her days, her nights, around every corner and down every street. One that would never allow her to move on. The memory that eventually forced her out the door of their home. She had been sleeping, most of her time in the hospital was passed by through dreams. She woke up, still half asleep, to the sound of her parent's voices. Her mother had been crying, she hadn't stopped since she arrived at the hospital. Dad was holding her, keeping her contained, trying to prevent as much of the explosion as possible. Her mom was whispering something, over and over again. It wasn't until a couple of minutes had passed that she was finally able to make out what her mother was saying. 14 fiction

"Not my baby, not my little girl." She knew he was right, in the back of her mind. The accident hadn't been her fault. But she was driving the car that killed her mother's baby. Her baby sister, the one person she was meant to protect.

Not my baby. Not my little girl.

It felt as if the world was crashing down all around her, while she sat in the middle, untouched. She studied him closer. "You were wearing that shirt yesterday," she said. He looked down and then back up, as if noticing for the first time. She reached out and slid her cup of coffee over to him. Watching as he picked it up and took a sip. "Sometimes, I feel as if the world is spinning all around me, and I'm just... here, you know? Stuck in the eye of the storm. And if I take one step I'll be sucked up and swept away. But if I try to just... stay here. I'll be okay. Everything will be okay. Do you know what I mean?" She looked back out to the day beyond the window, watching as a family got out of their car, heading for the diner's entrance. Jason took another sip. "I miss her," he whispered. Through the window, Nova could see the world passing by. Clouds had rolled in, and she watched as the first droplets of rain began falling, screaming as they hit the asphalt. The cars on the interstate slowed their pursuit, accommodating the weather. "Me too," she said, as a burst of lightning cracked from the sky above.

fiction 15

16 photography

Looking Past CLEO KOENIG


photography 17

papercuts ________________________ VERONICA FAISON i am not his muse for it is in her smile he sees a thousand suns in her eyes he sees blue moons rise in her he finds inspiration but it is in me he writes his hands caress me, promising me everything and nothing at all i wait for him i wait for him to fill my blank lines with the familiar stroke of his pen never pencil he cannot erase me for he makes no mistakes he lays me on his desk with a thud, and i sigh open he thumbs through my ivory pages and frowns over his past work as all men do he finds an unbroken page unwritten yet his eyes rake over me left to right his touch sends shivers through my spine i think of our first night together when he brought his pen to my paper and brought me to life i hold my breath

18 poetry

there are days when he writes like his soul is afire his hot ink scorches my pages angry, burning his careful print slurs to indecisive cursive he writes too quickly and does not revise— those are the days he writes essays addressed to important men who will never answer i do not quite understand there are days when he writes like languid honey and his sweet words glide over me slow, deliberate i think of an autumn i do not know his pensive smile makes my pages flutter— those are the days he writes songs he hums off key and his rhymes are off meter yet his lyrics press into my pages and tattoo upon my leather skins there are nights when he writes like a gypsy has captured his heart his lines wander to a place i cannot follow whimsical, impulsive his letters loop, and his eyes hold a gaze i know is not for me— those are the nights he writes poetry he counts his syllables, loops his letters and writes a name a name i wish were mine

poetry 19

those are the nights he writes of her every night when the sun disappears behind the clouds and the lover's moon rises singing her midnight song those are the nights he defiles each one of my ivory pages and writes her name left to right i cry out and bleed black blood salty ink spills across and over my lines until all his words are illegible his warmth breath stings my wounds and i now know the meaning of papercut those are the nights he writes of her for it is in her he finds inspiration but it is in me he writes left to right.

20 poetry

my initial E ________________________ HALI POLLARD

oil painting 21

Patience NICHOLAS FULLER 2222 photography

photography 2323

The Lighthouse ________________________ ANASTASSIA A. GLOUKHOVA What kind of person works at a lighthouse? Is the beacon of hope manned by a grey-bearded recluse in a mariner’s cap, a seasoned sailor who finally wed the source of his guidance and comfort? Or could it possibly be a vivacious gal whose own heart exudes light like the enigmatic lighthouse? Whoever it is, he or she must be tremendously brave. Imagine spending night after night with your own thoughts all the while each wave that races over the dark canvas, more heard than seen, fragments of the moon glistening on the undulating surface, evokes with it a memory or a lesson learned. These things do this to us. Their magnitude and natural laws of governance elicit a sense of inadequacy within us as we conceptualize our own artificial existence and anomie. The black vastness draped before the keeper’s eyes bears a semblance to an epiphany when celestial light penetrates. I remember ascending a lighthouse once. Young tourists eagerly climbed the stairs with gusto while their derelict companions loitered behind, conquered by age and the years that eroded their idealism. I looked past the tree tops at the grid of houses, alleys, and streets; they too are swayed by lunar tides. In life, the oscillating experiences that impress our malleable minds give only one guarantee- their occurrence will change a person, if only to dwell on the passage of time and say, “I have lived.” Even a simple statement such as this, of course, carries with it many implications. To look at one’s own life lived relentlessly and appreciate how valiant the human spirit is for including each tribulation in its gestalt of ethereal progression. Things have always appealed to me more when they were at a distance. That’s how I met Him, God. From the lips of my grandmother danced praises to an ambiguous figure whose essence loomed within every crevice of my existence. The icons of His exalted saints stared back at me, expressionless, determined to preserve the mystery of the forces I yearned to invoke with my nightly prayers. A golden cross clung 24 personal essay

to my breastbone, and the chain of it perpetually twisted, tightening, and constricted my neck when I slept. In my youth, God manifested in repetitious rituals. These religious practices drew their fullness from the symbolic imagery of the ultra- conservative Russian Orthodox Church. The young me graced cathedral halls with submissiveness and child-like faith equal in splendor with the jewel-clad crucifix atop the sanctuary, both the living and the inanimate reflecting ardent veneration. Encompassing people and relics was the notion of multifaceted time; a deity basks in the duration of it while things created compete against it, for this measurement imposes on them dilapidation, withering, and grief. The effect of present moments on eternal destinations imbued my devotion with urgent sincerity. As a ship depends on a lighthouse to safeguard its course to shore, I relied on my faith’s elements of worship to save me. Verily, I disclosed all my secrets to a man with a cloth which he draped over me like the darkness envelopes earth so that half of our lives can be spent in solitude and pondering. A lifetime seemingly passed as I sought courage to confess my misdeeds to the priest. “You are forgiven, my child,” he said after learning that at seven I knew where the sweet spot is. My fidelity to the Russian Orthodox doctrine was tested in numerous ways. Aside from divulging my innermost imperfections to the clergy, I went on pilgrimages with other women from my church. We visited sentimental locations deemed holy because of a saint or monk consecrating them in centuries past. Our journeys took us places where nature communicates God’s will, like the provincial tributaries bursting forth with holy water- a testament of baptismal redemption and everlasting life. I breathed heavy, then stopped, then breathed again as my grandmother instructed me to fully undress and jump into the icy cold spring at the Zadonsk monastery. We were all good girls, young and old, for we did what our Father required of us. We took off our bras and shed our panties and acted embarrassed when our nipples got hard because all we truly wanted was to be as pious as Mary’s fruitful womb. Even the stories I read, the nights I spent erected stoically amidst the golden interior and cathedral walls reverberating with baritone Psalms were all elements of my upbringing meant to foster reverence within my soul. Hallelujah! I remembered to cross myself when I entered the church.

personal essay 25

Perhaps I only climbed the lighthouse once or twice, but its structure and purpose were evident for all the island’s inhabitants. It is there by the water that I watched the sailboats glide on the bay and visualized myself as an intricate, complex speck that floated into this moment because of forces which enacted fatalism. I’ve bloated too confident in my ability to direct a relationship with God. He fit neatly within a box, my private reality, but which religious ceremony can enlighten my heart to see that a lighthouse shines indiscriminately for all? My thoughts perused the long list of people I knew and how their own compositions influenced mine. I saw their smiles, heard their laughs, felt them mourn and lament under the pressure of this reality’s troubles, and I realized we are just pieces of a grander narrative, fragments of the universe’s soul, breathed into this realm so we can journey each on his or her own path, learning things then gifting that knowledge to the collective conscience- God? Every one of us contributes to this mutual reality. Every one of us has access. He was always existent to me, but His temperament, permissiveness, and charisma varied by intensity that thrust and retracted as a wave hungrily devouring the beach only to be called back into that collective-conscience to replenish it for the next offensive. Like a lighthouse, God’s providence led my way, and whether I acknowledged him by name or feeling, the mercurial phases of my life were coordinated to fill empty spaces within my spirit; everything happens for a reason, and every trial offers capacity for growth. If strict adherence to religious formality denotes a refined believer, who is the person that pleads at night for the forgiveness only an intimate God that visits bedrooms can give? Ritualistic worship never disgruntled me; on the contrary, the “Angel’s Bedtime Prayer” was tenured to be my drowsy companion, a token of comfort from an entity whose dynamics I ascribed according to my ever-changing views. But a time eventually came when the incessant chanting of fervent parishioners was muted. My trembling kisses to oilpainted icons and wavering imaginations of adolescent faith gave way to a longing for something more. These instances had me grappling in the dark for innate, absolute truth. Near twenty is when I seriously considered my volume in this sphere. What will occur when my atoms disseminate and the energy that once propelled me searches for another host? An immersive paradigm shift occurred when I demoted religious ordinances 26 personal essay

to the status of every other skepticism-incurring human construction. Give me the meat. Give me that intangible treasure of genuine faith from which conviction, virtue, and long-suffering emanate, unbridled, and the assurance of God’s company is engrained in my heart. As adults, we desire more to know the book and not its cover; grandma’s lips swelled with praise because of the condition of her heart. Thus, I bore my innards at the court of authentic conversion where His Spirit, definitive and concrete, sealed its belonging to me. The Holy Ghost is a sensitive companion. He permeates my essence in zealous cycles and patiently waits whilst I explore other theories for human existence, but my wandering never produces the peace I attained during that liberating moment when God broke through the shackles my childish mind constricted him with. I’ve heard my echo resonate since then, yet the mountains it shook were created by God. Some days, his presence is still elusive, but others I go to the beach. I observe the hungry waves feast on the shore. I point to the visible moon that arrived a tad early, and I gaze to the west, at the lighthouse where the mariner surely isn’t alone.

personal essay 27

Untitled NORA GLOVER 28 photography

photography 29

Grow in Spite ________________________ Marissa Luz Rodriguez

Death- well and good and would please her to take. Or come at night and grab him in his sleep. She calls it rape not love he says he makes. She holds her screams to keep the sleeping sheep. Rise! -broken vessels to the skin in blue like bubbly beer foam fizzling to the top. Tongues cut from teeth with shredded pink, slice through; the source of rage unclear to joints that pop. The lambkin sees the butcher dwells in here! A clap of thunder from a lightning rod. She will not let her mother live in fear. The storm has passed and silence feels quite odd. So bind the child and mother blood by blood, like poppies blooming firmly from the mud.

30 poetry

Rogue Babushka SEAN PRIEWE

photography 31

Lost in Translation ________________________ ANIKA IRENE HAND After politely sitting on the faded-flower couch for coffee time or sitting in the dimly-lit kitchen for a meal that seemed to take hours, we slipped onto the floor and reentered the story of the “Royal Family” with our people selected by negotiation. TV shelves became nurseries, magazines became flooring and after the coffee table was cleared off, the thick plastic brown and white speckled tablecloth became grass in park. I entered this world with outward eagerness, yet with internal shame because I knew that by getting onto the carpet I was using my age as an excuse to be a child. In this world, my sister Olivia and I could speak and laugh and I could express a youth in my heart that wasn’t stilled by the fatigue of constantly looking to my father for translation. But I felt guilty because I would be speaking in a language that automatically shut Oma and Opa out. While I didn’t like not knowing what was said, being a burden was worse, so I resigned to self-exclusion, and instead tried to busy myself with the carefree thoughts of a child. Olivia was the only other child in the adult world of the apartment— my companion in our retreat to the linguistic no-mans-land on the dusty blue carpet. We played on that carpet for hours as the adults sat and talked. It provided Olivia and I respite from the pressures of uneasy conversation; it was convenient to tune out a language which you didn’t understand unless you tried very hard. The words in that language were life-giving to my father but were lost on me; I was only listening to roughly familiar sounds—sounds I had heard from my father and his family. These sounds felt like safety and family and love, but they couldn’t translate into English words for me. As we played on the carpet, these sounds that were about plans and fears and dreams and the weather played in the background like streams of vaguely familiar code, and I wanted to know what the sounds meant. I wanted to feel included. 32 creative nonfiction

Deep down, I wanted Oma and Opa—my grandparents—to be able to ask me questions that I could answer, but we had all settled into the patterns of gift-giving and smiles and hugs and polite statements for too long to venture into something new.

It was hard to receive a hug to which I couldn’t verbally respond.

Yet attempting to speak was daunting. I was afraid of being wrong; of imitating the sounds like an American. Oma intimidated me with her barrage of sounds, which spoke love that I was afraid I couldn’t quite understand. I felt trapped by my inability; I knew she was saying something about my shoes or maybe the rain but I didn’t know how to respond. After struggling to follow a stream of her statements, panicking at my own lack of comprehension, hearing a question being asked, and realizing it only needed a yes of agreement for an answer, I was initially relieved, but as I grew older I felt stifled. I wanted Oma to know I understood her. I wanted to say what I really meant—to tell her about more than my favorite color. I wanted to be able to tell her why it was my favorite color. What I was able to say wouldn’t accurately capture what was in my head, but maybe trying to say something would have been better than not speaking at all. The squirmy discomfort I felt under the undeserved affection of my grandparents was channeled into an underlying guilt of not being a reciprocating grandchild. So maybe the shy smile and “Guten nacht,” (Good night) I offered in response to Oma’s tender “Guten nacht, meine Schätzchen,” (Good night, my little treasure) was treasure enough to her. Maybe to her, my heart didn’t need to know the weight of our words as it would if we were speaking in English. Maybe to Oma, the laughs and childlike conversation she heard from her only two grandchildren as they played on the carpet of her apartment didn’t need a translation. Maybe the walls were only in my mind, and maybe love doesn’t need language to fully follow.

creative nonfiction 33

Prague Waits for You NICHOLAS FULLER 3434 photography

photography 3535

Water Buffalo THANYA GUEVARA 3636 oil painting

oil painting 3737

Baby, why don’t you like my hair? ________________________ Veronica Faison Baby, why don't you like my hair? I do it just for you, I comb, I part, I cut and I straighten— Straighten, straighten, straighten, Every kink and curl out of my hair So that it lies flat, Lifeless, So that maybe you'll love me The way you love Those red head girls in the shampoo commercials. But you tell me it's Too short, Too stiff, Too brown Brown, brown, brown— Black. Baby, why don't you like my hair? I try to keep it nice, too. Always nice and proper, That way the boys down the street won't call me Nappy-headed when I try to hold them, That way the men in suits won't call me “Unqualified” when I try to work for them I try to keep it nice. But then you sigh when I ask for my showercap. It's just a quiet exhalation, but I hear all your unvoiced questions— Why can't we kiss in the rain when it's storming? Why can't we lie at the beach by the saltwater? Why can't you run your fingers through my cornflower silk hair like Jessica’s? In those old sonnets the woman always gives Her lover a lock of her hair So that he can remember her By its color By its curl. But when I cut off all my hair and gave it to you In a shoebox wrapped in Christmas paper 38 poetry

You wept for me—for my hair, Because you couldn’t recognize me without it. I think we're meant to be sometimes, We fit together like lyrical poetry, Like the words floating off the pages of a Toni Morrison novel, Powerful. But then I remember. You call me pretty in the sunshine, But never call me beautiful in the dark— And I feel like that means something. Baby, why don't you like my hair?

poetry 39

40 photography

La Passion de la Chanson JACOB MAUSER


photography 41

42 photography

Pretty to Think JUSTIN CORRISS

photography 43

Her Infernal Contraption ________________________ BRENDAN PATRICK DUNLOP

She said goodbye. I watched as she strapped herself securely into the odd contraption, a rotating metal carriage of wires, bolts, dials, and other such gadgets. “Are you sure it’s safe?” I asked. “Not yet,” she replied with confidence. She began throwing levers. Sparks flew, and then so did she, spinning into nothingness like a dying tornado. The empty space where her machine had been returned my sad and wistful gaze. I should have been shocked, but I had too much faith in her ability to make things happen. In many of her experiments leading up to this I had seen increasing levels of success, ever since she reassembled all the clocks in the house to run backwards. Nothing before involved travel itself, but when she told me what the machine that she built could do, I believed her. For a time I stood waiting, but when nothing continued to happen I left the garage, and went upstairs to lie down on my bed. The green paint on my ceiling was cracked, and I stared deeply into those minute chasms, praying that she would return safe, until a crash broke the silence. Rushing from my bedroom back to the garage, I arrived out of breath to find her fallen half out of the device, the bars broken and wires exposed, her hair covering her face. *** As a child, she was constantly trying dangerous things. The little girl full of spunk went from seeing how much of her watch she could fit in her mouth to mixing corrosive chemicals that singed her eyebrows with their fumes. Her mother was often unable to watch her for very long, and so I did the best I could. There was little I could do to keep her from doing anything she had a mind to, but lord knows, I so often tried for safety’s sake. It wasn’t that I was against her learning, or trying new things, but too often she gave 44 fiction

reign to a recklessness that I feared would be the end of her. *** She was all right, of course. No matter what would happen in her many experiments, she always landed back on her feet. Not a day passed by before she had the machine and herself repaired, eager to leave again. I tried asking what it was she had found that she wanted to go back to see, but she just shook her head, both excited and sad, telling me that I wouldn’t understand. “I’m going to go for longer this time,” she said. “You weren’t away for very long last time,” I answered. “How long do you reckon this will be for?” “Oh, I was gone for longer than you think last time, Papa. But no matter how long I stay this time, it still won’t be more than a moment before you see me again.” Metal gleamed, shook, spun around her as levers and sparks were thrown. Then, once again I found myself staring at the garage wall, accompanied by nothing but her tools. Her watch lay on the floor where she had possibly forgotten it, and I picked it up. The band was broken, smashed by something that stole it from her wrist as she left. This time I went inside the house to fix myself a sandwich, and had taken no more than a couple of bites before I heard the familiar crash. In a second I was back at the garage, my heart racing and losing. The contraption was less damaged than before, and she was struggling to unstrap herself from it. I rushed over to help free her. “Let me help you out of there, sunshine. I’m glad you’re not hurt this time.” She looked up at me in shock. I was in turn surprised by the new lines that marked her face. “Oh, Papa! I didn’t mean to stay that long, I promise! I didn’t know if you’d still be here!” “Of- of course I’m still here,” I stuttered, surprised. “Doesn’t seem more than a second since you were gone.” “Well, I… I didn’t know if I’d make it back. Everything happened so fast, and before you know it, a year was gone!” “What happened so fast?” She didn’t tell me any more about it, but worked on fixing the machine. This time she stayed and rested for a week before she was hankering to fiction 45

disappear again. I begged her not to, and she complied, instead studying and tinkering around some more. A second week went by before I could no longer convince her to put it off. “All you’ve done is scare and hurt yourself. You do these things to yourself and me with all your contraptions and experiments, and I don’t see any good coming of it.” “Listen, Papa. This is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, one-in-a-million lifetimes. I just want to explore. This machine lets me travel through time, and to different places. I can go for as long as I want, maybe do some good somewhere else, and be back before you can say ‘peanut butter.’ I promise I’ll be back before you know it.” She climbed in, and before I could say “peanut butter,” she was gone. She left her aged father and this old world behind, so God knows what could happen to her. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. I always knew that this world was never enough for her. Always she was reading and experimenting to figure out what it would be like to be someplace else, some other time. Only now was she able to find out. *** Slightly later than usual I heard the crash, but this time I hadn’t gone far from the garage. I looked inside to find that the machine had returned damaged even more than usual, one side dented heavily from the landing. She was turned away from me, but I could tell that she was breathing. As fast as I could move I was at her side, and saw that her head had a gash to one side of her closed eyes. Her hair had started to gray, the wound dyeing one side red again. Carrying her inside, I fixed her up, mentally counting the new wrinkles as she slept afterwards. The clothes she was wearing were not the ones she left in. In fact, I don’t remember seeing her bring them or wearing them before, although they looked oddly familiar. Somehow, she had grown old. In no more than a few minutes of my time, a twenty-five-year-old girl had jumped into middle age. How is this fair, I asked myself. My little girl was supposed to live her own life, yes, but I wanted to watch her grow older, see her accomplishing great things, and be around for her as she did so. Instead, she was funneling the years away into that infernal contraption, and hurting herself. That’s why I decided to destroy the machine. There wasn’t much left to take apart, really. Already bars were bent, wires 46 fiction

loosened, dials smashed. All it took was a wrench to unbolt the parts, and a sledge hammer to prepare it for the grave. Liquids occasionally dripped from odd places, eating holes into the concrete, but I made sure everything else was safe before I drove the mess to the junkyard. When I returned, she seemed to understand. She seemed almost too calm about it, like she expected it to happen. That’s because she had been preparing for it to happen. She wouldn’t tell me where, but as time passed I suspected that there were backup pieces hidden somewhere, enough to rebuild the entire device. Whenever I wasn’t working, I searched the place for the parts to the machine, and checked up on her regularly. I even hid her tools under the house, but she found them and hid them from me in an even better spot. *** “You know you can’t go off again. I’ll find you a job, and you can start working towards a real future here, where you can continue your studies without hurting yourself. Please.” “Listen, Papa. This town… this year, is just not for me. I’m almost as old as you are now, people will wonder at how old I’ve gotten, and ‘how badly I’ve aged.’ Besides, no one I know’s ever believed in me like Mama did.” “I believed in you, sunshine. I still believe in you. But you belong here, if not in your own town then at least in your own time.” “You don’t believe in me, you destroyed my machine. You never wanted me to actually do anything if you thought it might be dangerous. And now I’m stuck here, getting gray and feeble in this tiny town of boring people.” Sigh. “And that’s not enough for you, is it?” “No, Papa, It’s not. But I- I wish I could tell you why.” *** I awoke, the night trying to tell me something. Something was happening. The screen door downstairs creaked open and shut. An unintelligible shout of some sort was expelled from my dry throat as I fell out of bed. The leg of the desk bit my shin as I rushed to the bedroom door, but my curses were drowned out by the familiar windy noise of her machine. She was leaving. When I reached the bottom of the stairs I stopped to breathe, my lungs imitating the sounds of her contraption. Tears began rolling down my worn fiction 47

face, the face of a man too old, the tears of a man abandoned in time. Sitting down, I wept unreservedly, and prayed that she would come back. Please, just one more time. Eventually, sleep took me. *** The crash came, not from the garage, but from the backyard. I scrambled up and through the backdoor, and the sunrise shown bright before my eyes. There was the new machine, completely destroyed in the landing. She was still strapped into the center, her eyes closed. I thanked God when I felt her slight breath. She had aged so much that she was almost unrecognizable, and again wearing different clothes from the ones she left in. Clothes that were familiar. Her face now looked a lot like her mother’s had, and the dress she wore I began to recognize. Then it clicked. My eyes met hers when they fluttered open. “Hi, Papa,” she croaked. “Hello, sunshine, old girl. How was your mother?” “She was good. As usual. I took her to Peru, and then Berlin, and then Rome, and a hundred other places this time. Of course, she gave me some of her clothes when mine wore out.” “You didn’t tell her what happens to her…” “No. I couldn’t take that smile from her face. And we know it was unavoidable, not unless I spent another lifetime in the future to search for the cure.” “Why couldn’t you bring her back?” “She wouldn’t come. She also asked me to keep it a secret from you. But I promised I’d visit her, and just… got caught up. Half a century flies when you’re having fun.” “Wh- why didn’t you take me with you?” “Would you really have gone, or just tried to keep me here? Time travel is not for the faint of heart.” I looked down at my wife’s dress that she now wore, tears beginning to stream down my face, realizing she was probably right. Among my tears falling on her skirt there was a red stain that I didn’t remember being there. It was increasing in size. “You’re hurt!” “I think one of the cage bars broke. It must have stuck through the back of my leg when I landed. I never did figure out how to make this thing strong enough to take the impact. I just focused on its ability to travel.” “I’ll call an ambulance.” “You can try, but I don’t think it’ll be here in time… I’ve spent quite a… quite a bit of time already. But I was selfish, I should have spent more with you.” “No, don’t say that! Just think. Breathe. Please!” “I can see her now, Papa. I’ll be with her before you can say…” Before she could finish, her time was up. 48 fiction



He Never Got to See the Boy ________________________ DANIEL CRASNOW Make sure they remember it comes from me. When they read this story, this fantasy— to my daughter, or my son and to whomever you may grow up to be, tell them that it comes from me: The book with my father’s name etched into the side. Cover up his name, and make it mine. Tell them to read that story, that fantasy— because, other than your life, which I might abandon— it’s the last, the only, gift I can bring. And remind them that it comes from me. Tell them I’m sorry I couldn’t make it home. To my child, whom I will never meet, Read a story, a fantasy of the bodies and souls (like mine) that we lose in war. If I must die in this chaotic sea At least tell them that they come from me. Tell our child. That’s all I want— read them my story. No… my fantasy.

50 creative writing

The King ________________________ ANIKA IRENE HAND

painting 51

it’s all a blur ________________________ HALI POLLARD

52 oil painting

The Nordic Prince ________________________ ANASTASSIA A. GLOUKHOVA

The bridal shower was almost perfect, but my friend and her sister got into a row. A string of dramatic comments erupted as we carried inside plastic bowls from the party. Parents began to take sides and justifications for one thing or another were imposed on my friend. She knew we arrived at a difficult time for her sister, who was struggling with a divorce, so she led me and another mutual friend outside for a breath of fresh air. The patio’s perimeter was indiscernible in the darkness of the emerging night. We huddled in chairs that we placed in a circle and relaxed our bodies after a discourse was started about all-things-life. I was in awe that we three started our friendship before the ninth grade. After facing trials, insecurities, and changes, we were still each other’s keepers. Our hearts have suffered because of lovers in the past, but we have learned or still are learning how to surf the wave of life. I internalized that moment with an augmented sense of gratitude and focused on my friends’ complexions when they spoke. During pauses, the listless night unnerved me. I couldn’t figure out if my body wished for shelter or if my limbs cried out to run. He is so close, so real. I saw his chest move rhythmically with every breath his slumber let, and underneath his flesh a beating heart that loves whom I don’t know. My friend felt terrible that we just witnessed her family fight. “I feel so bad, you guys shouldn’t have been a part of that,” she apologetically said, “I’m so sorry.” My gaze shifted from her face to the black void beyond the patio, and in my memory, bluish-green eyes with hazel speckles. “Me too,” I thought to myself, “me too.” ****************** In my freshman year of high school, I was in love with a guy whom I would later recall as my first true love. We met on a blind date after another boy stood me up, and although we attended different schools, the few hours personal essay 53

we spent together each week were the high-light of my then teenage life. Our attraction was strong and extended to every aspect of each other’s being- the physical, intellectual, and emotional constitution that captures another with its sensual intrigue. We were two fourteen-year-olds with desires we couldn’t explain, so we did what we could to keep warm in the ruthless Minnesota winter. Before the snow settled high above ground, I rode my bicycle to the edge of town where a thicket hedged in a lake at the base of my lover’s house. He met me there, in the thicket, with a blanket in hand. Auburn foliage transitioned into a grey, heavy sky which signaled to our half-naked bodies that frost soon will seize our bedroom of love. “What heritage are you?” I asked him once. “British and Norwegian.” I studied his bluish-green eyes with hazel speckles, a beauty that resembled an aerial view of underwater plants off the Caribbean coast. Orange leaves crinkled under our shoes as we raced to meet at a park. We hid our love in the secrecy of tube-slides and left every place we traversed with a shade of lingering blush, its architecture, nooks, and pathways bearing the essence of two people’s romance. When the first snow fell, we were not fazed by the atmosphere’s icy domination, for whatever sacred found ownership between us yearned to gain eternity by freezing in that time. I did not understand yet why loving hurts so much. All I knew is that every beat my heart produced for him bore with it an aching of melancholy pain. Under that purple firmament lit up with city lights, he was my Nordic Prince and I his Russian Princess. The snowbanks glistened like a million diamonds as we strolled hand-in-hand throughout the park’s sinuous paths. I pictured our love when the sun comes back to tell creation of its duty to give birth again. The earth destroys just to renew, but our love transcended laws of nature. If creatures run in cycles, we would ascend eternally, unfailingly. But springtime news brought changes. 54 personal essay

“…yes…to Florida…they said it will be soon, right after the school year…I already asked, they said they don’t care and told me to get over it…how do you know? Maybe it will work if we follow through with visiting each other regularly, I mean there’s several breaks during school then summer…” Springtime warmth brought iciness of heart. I hate him. He sucks. He treats me badly anyways. He’s ugly. His mom’s ugly. His mom’s mom is ugly. His dick is ugly. His kissing is horrible. His personality is shit. There was nothing special there in the first place. My lover became my enemy. I theorized that if I focus only on his negative qualities, many of which would be purely imagined ascriptions, the pain of our parting would be diminished. Internally, I was crumbling like a glass figurine when assaulted with impact. I wept in the privacy of my bedroom, but to the public I presented an “independent” woman whose fortitude will not be sabotaged by some lowly boy. An impromptu performance was sometimes necessary if a guy seeking my body suspected the truth about me wanting to be touched by someone else. This psychological game was a coping mechanism for him as well. The person who previously called me his dearest friend refrained to mentioning me only in passing, and the sentiments he shared reduced my value to that of a used-up rag. Although we considered maintaining a long-distance relationship, we both knew nothing would ever be the same after I move to Florida. To a young person who’s lived fifteen years, imagining the next three is like staring into a dark abyss which contours are not visibly seen, nor physically felt, nor mentally conceptualized. To a young person, a day is a novel with complex character developments, set-backs and fall-outs, a scene with a moment of epiphany, and a climax that may or may not recede by nightfall. He and I lost communication then re-attained it numerous times throughout our teenage years. The Nordic Prince became a recurring actor in my intricate plot. Each time, we were a little bit different. Each time, we reverted to the psychological conflict that long lost its suspense. Our desires grappled for the way things were, and after searching but not finding, we wondered if “back then” even constituted a real, tangible personal essay 55

experience, or if the exhilaration we felt was a subjective phenomenon. We grew to hate in each other what existed within ourselves; addictions, mental illnesses, and superficial hook-ups gave us excuses to alienate one another when in retrospect, our fates were much similar than we contended. The cruelest assailant that frittered our love wasn’t time or distance but the inability to comprehend what stirred beneath our fickle emotions. In the seven years we were on-and-off in each other’s lives, I visited him in Minnesota and he visited me. At twenty, I amplified the intensity of my game, but he was exhausted from playing. An indefinite silence fell over the field. I got married and started a family, but my fingers never tired from dialing his number, for I needed to tell him how sorry I am. My calls, texts, e-mails, and video messages have remained unanswered for the last six years. I needed to show him that I know he is a good person and his worth, in my eyes, isn’t conditional on the status of our relationship. I needed to tell him this and much more not because I desired him romantically but because I love him as a human being. I asked an older friend why someone would ignore a person if he claims to love that individual. Isn’t friendship the next best thing if intimacy cannot be attained? “Because sometimes, you love someone romantically so much that being friends is too painful, thus, you push them out of your life because it’s the only way to deal with the pain.” So I stopped reaching out to him and forgot that a magical place with snowflakes like diamonds was ever my home.

****************** This past June, my childhood friend and I took a road trip to Minnesota along with our kids. We lived across the street from each other back in that frost-bitten land when our youth was a state we still took for granted. The move separated us too, but I would see her again in my early twenties after a romantic relationship brought her to Florida. That relationship produced a beautiful son and eventually flourished into a life-long commitment. 56 personal essay

In the rush of summer traffic, we drove days amidst the changing landscapes of America. I was amazed at how nature shaped every region’s distinctive feel. The Floridian palms dared not to trespass on the territory of Georgia’s woody hills, then a caravan of majestic giants, the towering Smoky Mountains, sought modesty behind a cloud of fog. When Midwestern planes, fertile with wheat and adorned every mile with a granary or family chapel, stretched forth into the horizon, we knew we were close. This expanse was the freedom a Minnesotan craves. We were driving to my friend’s bridal shower. We were driving home. I realized how much I’ve truly forgotten the cold of the north. Even during summer’s first month, the evening air nipped at my skin. I relished the sting I so vaguely remembered, for in a week’s time the Florida heat would broil me again. In the following days, I reminisced intently, but the streets I walked at fourteen were not the same streets I saw on that trip. They were alive for a new generation. They served the feet of a succeeding prince and princess who strode the grey, cemented pavement with eyes seeing only what lives but not dies. To me, these streets were remnants of stories that hinted at a seemingly distant past where a girl I once knew lost a piece of her heart. My friend’s older sister hosted us during the trip. Most days, we hopped between restaurants and her apartment, but we also took our kids to the playground where we used to hang. The day radiated because of the sun’s outstretched arms. Its light gave permission for all to be happy, but my mind lost resistance against wistful ruminations about a boy by the lake. I was told he moved back and now lives again near the thicket. I sped by his street on my way into town. Would it be cruel to call on his name as I pose nonchalantly outside of his window? Would I cause much confusion if I tell him I care? My ghost in his halls is a mere illusion, for even my spirit was banished from there.

personal essay 57


That’s the Last One ________________________ GABRIELLA CASSIDY

It was as if someone grabbed the earth beneath us and shook it like a rug. One moment we were moving along, the train steady on its course. The next, we flew through the air like ragdolls, screaming. We barely had time to think before we met the ground once again and everything went dark. ........ Consciousness returns in stages. First comes light; too intensely bright even through my clamped eyelids. Next comes sound; groans and moans, a baby crying somewhere. My head swims, confused by these surroundings. What happened? A crash, a hazy voice responds through the fog. I look around too quickly and the world spins, threatening to go black once more. Instead, my hand scrabbles around next to me, looking for an arm, a leg, a knee, a something so I knew he was still there. So I knew he was still ok. “Mark,” I rasp. As my eyes adjust I come to my first realization; the ground beneath me is actually the ceiling. The plush, stained seats dangle above my head, and luggage and bags lay scattered and open around me mingling with shattered glass. The second realization is that I’m hurt. My sides ache, my ankle stings, and my head swims angrily even though I am lying still. I watch red drip, drip, drip down my arm and onto the plastic ceiling, a small puddle forming with each steady plop. I think about moving for a brief moment, but I also think about staring at the drops of blood until I’m pulled back to sleep. Sleep would stop the aches and pains. A loud cry somewhere close by pulls me back into full consciousness. I want to look around, figure out what’s going on, but my vision spins wildly fiction 59

when I try to move. Freeze, wait, think. Let the dizziness subside some. The small part of my brain still willing to function decides this must be what a concussion feels like and that I can’t go to sleep, have to stay away, have to find help. I have to find Mark. Slowly, painfully, I push myself to a sitting position, pausing every inch or so. I carefully duck out from under the metal luggage rack that I’d find myself half-wedged under, ignoring the glass bits digging into my palms. I have to find him. I spot him not far from me, crumped in a pile much like I imagine I looked just moments ago. I reach over, shake him slowly, saying his name again. His eyes flutter open and he groans automatically. As he lifts his head, I can see scratches and cuts along the cheek that once rested on the ground. A sizable chuck of glass sits lodged right above his eyebrow and oozes slowly, leaving his cheek covered in bloody face paint. He’s alive, he’s alive, my brain repeats over and over. “What the fuck happened?” he asks as he heaves into a sitting position. “I-I don’t know,” I respond. “We must have hit something.” As I speak, my hands gravitate to him without thinking. I’m touching, patting, rubbing, looking for more injuries in case we need to find help quickly. “I’m fine, Gina,” he murmurs into my ear, yet his hands start doing the same to me. Tears start welling in my eyes as we’re alive echoes through my mind like a gong. “We need to get up,” he mumbles in my ear. What a mundane sentence, I think, as if we are just waking up for class, not from a near death experience. I feel him shift and stand, and my brain takes a moment before I try to follow suit and eventually find I cannot. Everything hurts. My back screams in protest and my left ankle can’t hold my weight at all. He helps me, letting me lean on him even though I can see it hurts him too. I bite my cheek the whole way up to stop from screaming. Metallic taste fills my 60 fiction

mouth and I think, “What’s one more injury at this point is?” The change in elevation causes my head to swim dangerously, threatening to black out entirely. I have to lean against the train walls for a few minutes before I can even begin thinking about climbing out the window. Mark goes out first, and then helps me swing the injured leg through the holes that once held thick panes of glass. As we take a few steps back, we fully take in the carnage. The train is a twisted mess. Some cars lay on their sides, some upside down, like ours. Glass carpets the ground and chunks of metal protrude from the grass like forgotten ruins. Some trees were uprooted in the impact and toppled over a few cars, crushing them in half. The tracks are almost scarier. We were somehow almost 50 feet away, yet we could still see them clear as day. They’d been separated from the ground, now warped and gnarled like a plastic twisty-tie. Mark and I look at each other in shock. Confused, scared, and unsure of what to do, we limp over to the tree line and sit in a safe patch of grass, making sure we’re still visible to others. No first responders have arrived from what we can see, but that doesn’t surprise me. We’re in the middle of a wooded area, trees everywhere. It’ll take a while for ambulances to make their way to us. We take this time to inventory of our injuries. My concussion is glaring, but there’s little I can do but sit still and stay awake. The cut on my arm is deep but slowly drying up. We use Mark’s pocket knife to turn my sweater into a superficial bandage. My ankle is black-and-blue and puffy, and it’s either really bruised or sprained as far as our untrained eyes can tell. All I know is if I don’t move, it doesn’t hurt, and honestly that’s all I care about. There are bruises just about everywhere else I can feel throbbing dully, but I’m ok. Mark probably broke his ribs. One or two, he thinks. It hurts to breathe too deeply, and when I leaned on him they hurt a lot. The scratches on his face are mostly skin deep and I help him carefully extract the shard from his brow. The rest of my sweater goes towards his head. Luckily he doesn’t seem to have a concussion. He thinks the luggage rack is the culprit for mine. But he’s, overall, ok too. We sit there, fingers intertwined, huddled together, trying to keep me awake. Talking helps us ignore the yells and moans we can hear coming from the wreck. fiction 61

As much as we want to, we can’t help them. This was just supposed to be a simple trip. It’s a normal spring break; we wanted to go see Mark’s parents in the mountains. He was going to show me his hometown and we’d sleep in and eat crappy food and take a break. Mark was working on his senior research project and needed a break from the studying. I dropped my head on his shoulder and I felt his cheek gently press down from above. “Do you by any chance still have your phone on you?” he asked quietly. “I want to call my mom, let her know we’re ok.” I patted down my pockets, looking for the familiar lump, but came up empty. “No, it must have been in my hand when we crashed. It’s probably smashed to bits.” He nods and I feel him start to shift again. “I’m going to go back over to the wreck and see if I can find either of ours. I just don’t want to leave my parents in the dark. Or yours for that matter. You better stay away,” he says, pointing at me expectantly. “Yeah, yeah,” I wave him off and, he turns and hobbles back towards the hunk of metal that once was a train. I sigh, and gently lean my head against the rough bark behind me, staring towards the sky. We almost died. The though hits me suddenly. One or both of us could be dead right now. Tears suddenly prick the corners of my eyes. My breathing quickens, and I try to force back the tears threatening to spill over. People definitely died in this wreck, there’s no doubt about it, but we didn’t. Why did this happen? And what the fuck could have done this? The thoughts attack me from all angles and I can’t help the tears anymore, letting them flow freely, letting the sobs slip out one by one. I look at Mark’s retreating form, now climbing back through the window. We’re alive, I keep telling myself. We’re alive, it’s ok. We’re alive, it’s ok. We’re alive, it’s ok. It’s not ok. Suddenly, arms wrap around me from behind, pulling me from the ground and covering my mouth, pinning my arms, and lifting my feet from the ground. Spots swim across my eyes, obscuring my vision and my head 62 fiction

screams its protests. I writhe around screaming, trying to see my attacker before I passed out from my injuries. The spots cleared enough for me to see two men dressed in black grab and restrain Mark. He had a phone in his hand. I immediately scream louder and kick harder, trying to bite the hand now covering my mouth, but the figure is a stone statue, unmoving. Mark yells and struggles against his captors. They easily over power him, using his injuries against him. “Is he one of them?” one of the men says. “No,” a surprisingly feminine voice responds in my ear. “Get rid of him.” The woman begins pulling me away, turning me in the opposite direction. Not fast enough though. The second man, in one quick, brutal movement, snaps Mark’s neck. He drops with a sickening thud, eyes still open, staring at the sky. I scream. I scream and scream and scream and scream some more through the hand trying to muffle me. Tears streak down my face once again as violent sobs wrack through my body. The desire to curl into myself overpowers me, but I cannot move as the statue-woman drags me through the woods. I thrash and twist and flail my legs against her restraint, but she doesn’t even flinch. Her arms dig into my bruised ribs. Through the trees we eventually approach a van parked in a clearing. Sirens sound in the distance, help come too late. One of the men slides open the door, revealing two other bound figures lying there. A sharp pain burst through my neck. I see the needle after its pulled out in the second man’s palm. “That’s the last one,” he tosses the syringe into a bag on the van floor. The world spins and hazes around me. I am dropped on the ground suddenly, and something new pins my limbs together. I try and push and shout with my newly freed voice, but suddenly I am swimming through a bowl of jelly and I can’t move or fight or scream or think. I am lifted once more and I am weightless for a moment before slamming into something hard and cold. My head smacks the ground and the world goes black. fiction 63


palomita KAIT FORSYTHE 65

Lights A’Glow ________________________ SOLSTICE BACKUS-LITTLE

66 painting

Sepulchre ________________________ BRIANNA MORRIS

I try to write, but my wrist is a tired dog too old for dreams, repeating stories no one wants to hear. I was alive once & so it goes. A half-hearted yawp, brittle & cracking, like all the things I could only say in the dark. Always been a hollow voice in a sinking room, a tangled heartstring, pitifully alive. Do not tell me what it is to be a love song, To store the words so gently in your throat & fall on listening ears. Something beautiful about drowning, I think. Something meaningful in that it’s my worst fear until that hopeless time of night when it’s a crime scene premature & hurting. Say ephemeral. Say the body is a house with a locked door, all the paint chipping off the walls. Say summer was the last time I felt like myself & I’m homesick for that decrepit place again. { always falling over. always gravity’s victim. anchored down by rabid things without faces } Here is how it went. The mouth of the hurricane was the only one to want me, ageless tempests arriving still. & so I fell, open-jawed, salt-choked, some sort of thrashing, (or as I call it: dancing) & the soaked lungs— & the sepulchre beneath— Maybe God told the ocean what to do with my body, speaking the broken language of tides & pulling me under. This is the part where the dog-tired creatures speak to me with my own tongue & swallow every wistful summer whole.

poetry 67

THE TIDES OF JUPITER ________________________ HARLIE FORD

There are few critiques I can make about funerals that would not be categorized as insensitive, ignorant, or callous. Although, I suppose it doesn’t matter if I make one or not; no one has access to these thoughts anyway. The most prevailing and provoking critique I dare speak lies in the business of apologies. Exhaustive acts in their entirety. My professor is in a cold cylinder. He is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Depending on the pH levels of the water he consumed during his life, he may also be lead, silver, potassium, and chromium. For many of the people in here, he is ash. Ash in a cold cylinder; ash that will see the light of day again when I spill his remains over the causeway that killed him. I suppose that’s what makes the apologies exhaustive. I’m five years old, and I’m beginning to understand the worth of knowledge. The professor tells me that we are going to read a new book today. It’s a book about time, but I don’t think I care what time is at this point. I am five, and all that matters is whether or not I get two applesauces today. I read the book anyway, enunciating every word in a slow, careful manner. A striking dichotomy against my current reading process. Back then, every word was precious and new. But now I sprint through syllables and sentences, wondering just how fast it will take me to get to the end. Sometimes, I wish I was five again. I’m twelve, and I think I know everything. But when blood spatters the inside of my thighs, I cry throughout the night, thinking that this is the end; that when morning comes, I will be as white and stiff as the nursemaid dresses that pass by in the hallway. I fall asleep, tears burning against my cheeks, fingers clutching at my stomach, trying to claw out the invisible pain wreaking havoc deep inside of me. I wake up, and I’m alive. My sheets are plastered in red. When the nursemaid arrives, she cleans me up and tells me that I have to tell my 68 fiction

professor about the incident. She follows me as I run down to his room, tears stinging at the edge of my eyes. I tell him what’s happened and he nods, taking my hand in his, leading me outside. The sun is warm. I am warm. I am alive. Two days later, I wake up in my room again. My thighs are clean, my sheets are clean. When the nursemaid comes to get me, I ask her where my pain went. She tells me that the professor made it go away forever. I never wish to be twelve again. I’m eighteen and I know all I need to know. Researchers and the white noise of their conversation surround me, calculations and system checks passing between uniformed hands. I am about to travel ten years into the future; I’m the first to ever do so. I wonder what it will feel like; my body separating into its very basic components only to be reorganized 87600 hours from now. An alarm sounds, someone touches my arm, and the room empties, the gesture lost in the departing sea of lab coats. The door closes and my chest feels tight, discomfort crawling up my throat. Lifting my gaze, I see the professor looking in from a small window. A nervous smile is stuck to my face and my hand scratches at my collarbone, the straps of the jumper-a pack made of glass and light--digging into my skin. The professor smiles back at me, warm. His eyes tell me that it will be okay. Closing my own, I hear the jumper begin to power on and my hand edges to a button positioned above my heart. I breathe in. I breathe out. I open my eyes, he is no longer there. I press the button. I’m gone. When I jump a decade into the future, I realize I forgot to think about what it felt like to get there. I can’t remember. I look down at my hands and wonder why they are shaking. The discomfort in my chest stayed with me and I can only manage a hard swallow. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Lifting my gaze to the door, I start to call to the professor, but the words sit just behind my lips, bitter and silent. An image of dust passes through my mind. Staring at the window, my eyes burn and my body shivers. I am ten years in the future and my professor is dead.

fiction 69

It’s a sharp realization and it scrapes along my lungs, hammering against my heart, closing my throat. I slam my eyes shut, desperate to shake the thought from my head. My hand twitches toward my chest. My professor is dead. I open them again and a face appears behind the glass. One I’ve never seen before. One ten years away from me. My hand twitches closer, the alarm on my jumper goes off. It’s time to leave. Time to get back to someplace warm. He smiles at me. It’s cold. My hand hits the button. And I don’t go anywhere. I’m slipping from a plastic sheath, metal hands lifting me from amniotic fluid and placing me in solid arms. It’s the first time I’ve met the professor. It’s the first time he’s met me. My newborn lungs are desperate for air and the yearning pain forces out a wailing cry. He rocks me through it, easing the sting of oxygen away. I hit the button again and the jumper fails to respond. I’m seven and it’s my first day at the academy. Students and teachers try not to stare, but their gaze lands heavy on my shoulders, just big enough to carry a backpack laden with textbooks. Alienated, I feel a new pain; it only lasts a moment when a worn hand lands on my head and rubs my hair. The professor’s voice rings out above me, encouraging the curious eyes to welcome me. And they do. My heart races. The button isn’t working. The alarm violates all of my senses, consuming every part of my attention. The man in the window smiles wider and I feel my mind shutting down. I hit it again and again, trying to escape the face, escape the thoughts, escape death. My hand is hot, my chest heaves with each hit, I can feel the skin bruising. “Please, just let me go home,” I scream, voice broken. And then I’m gone. And I remember what time travel feels like. A cold smile. I fall out of the chamber into the arms of my professor. He holds me 70 fiction

as I cry, the first time since I was twelve. The tears burn just the same. And now I am here. I am nineteen and it is the anniversary of my first jump. I am nineteen and my professor is ash. I am nineteen, and I know nothing. The entire foundation shows up to the funeral. Old classmates from the academy, new ones whom I train. His peers and co-workers, co-intellectuals. And they all tell me that they are sorry. I’m touched and hugged and told that “it’ll be okay.” They think I am his family, that he is mine. I never did have a family, though, so I can’t say for sure that he was. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t. People touch me and they say they are sorry. For what? For the loss? As if he was a possession I had any right to say I could lose. I am not sorry. I read a book about time when I was five. I didn’t tell anyone that I read a book about death when I was six. I thought I wasn’t afraid of death. I don’t know if I still am. But the room is full of puffy eyes and used tissues, and there is no one here who can make things okay again. Maybe that’s what people are sorry about. Sorry that I held his hand when he took his last breath. Sorry that I felt him grow cold. Sorry that I lost warmth. If that is what they are apologizing for, I can accept that. I did possess warmth and now I do not. I have that cold smile in the window. I wonder when my memory decided that the face was my own. People touch me and say they are leaving. Their eyes are devoid of sorrow. They say they are sorry not for my sake, but because they have a million other places they could be and they chose to come here. To a show where the main act is ash. To a show where the actor was a professor who was cold to everyone but the girl born in an artificial womb. To the girl without a family. To the girl who doesn’t know if he was family. The room empties and fewer apologies are afforded to me. No one strikes up casual conversation. No one thinks that’s what I want or need. It’s just me and the professor and we were never people whose relationship was found in conversation. The cylinder stares at me. I stare at it. I hear the last of the attendees slip out the front door, grabbing an extra appetizer or miniature bottle of fiction 71

liquor for the trip home. Shoulders lower, fingers stop picking at the stray threads on my sweater, eyes close. I breathe in for the first time in an hour, letting my diaphragm expand to its fullest. No more apologies. In a room of empty chairs and a silent urn, the only sound is the endless rhythm of an analog clock and air passing through my nose. I am nineteen and I am alone. I am nineteen and my whole world is encased in silver and steel. I am nineteen and I want to know how to get rid of the pain in my chest. I want to know why I can’t stop seeing the face in the window. I want to know why my professor had to die and why people apologize at funerals and why time travel feels like a cold smile. I want to know.

72 fiction

Flowers & Goldfish NORA GLOVER digital art 73

Mr. moth

Mr. Moth SEAN PRIEWE 74 photography


photography 75

touchstone 2018  

Student-produced annual literary and creative arts journal. ***Display error: Pages with full photographs appear as one full spread in pri...

touchstone 2018  

Student-produced annual literary and creative arts journal. ***Display error: Pages with full photographs appear as one full spread in pri...