Rabble 2014

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COVER

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MASTHEAD

Editor-In-Chief Carla Dominguez Assistant Editor-In-Chief Tomas Daniel Peters Art Director Elly Call Head Designer Veronica Sung Cover Artist Ameorry Luo

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Senior Editors Lyndon German Maya Chesley Megan Goldfarb Daniel Parker Nick Shipman Faith Vasko Taylor Purcell Editors Jamal Stone Bryce Melton Stephanie Trujillo Elizabeth Dunford Lauren Chartuk Riley Slate Ishan Bose Jessica Kraemer Ilana Bean Elise Ketch Sarah Doyon Colin McEligot Taylor Manigoult

Writers Grant Wolfe Richard DiCicco Karthika Solai Tomas Daniel Peters Illustrators Dan Nacu Raquela Hamman Josh Williams Ilana Bean Elizabeth Dunford Maya Chesley Megan Goldfarb Elise Ketch Joshua Williams

Student Media Director Greg Weatherford Production Manager Mark Jeffries Business Manager Jacob McFadden Special thanks to Hannah Morgan and Alex Carrigan

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“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.” - James Branch Cabell to his editor, to help people learn how to pronounce his name. Cabell used the word derogatively, but we are taking it back. These pages will showcase the writing and illustration of our rabble — the ordinary students of VCU.

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C himerical [ki-mer-i-kuh l, -meer-, kahy-]

STAFF

1 unreal; imaginary; visionary 2 wildly fanciful; highly unrealistic 3 the theme of this year’s chapbook

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Josh Williams

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CASINO Grant Wolfe

ohali had dreams of becoming an astronomer. For now, though, he found himself dealing cards to a table of five. When it was time for the round to begin, he would hold up the back of each card and show the table, the magnificent designs flashing neon green and red. In awe, they watched as he flawlessly shuffled the cards into their places on the bright yellow poker table. When the man in the grey sweatshirt across from Wohali looked down at the cards in front of him, he felt the need to wait to let them settle before lifting them. The grey man had only been to this casino twice before, although this particular one was just across the state border and in his awareness for a number of years. He used to be able to abstain; but still he knew that one day the wind would carry the neon lights into his bedroom, fill his eyelids and awaken him from his sleep. He had feared that it would be in a time that he was less fiscally prepared for such an adventure. He was right in

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I call. The grey man’s son was unhappy to participate. He had not lived with his father, in the house so close to the casino, and so had never learned to resist such a thing as flashing neon. This was the very first hand he had played since his 2

Spot Illustrations by Maya Chesley

his fears. Each time he entered the casino, and songs of the slot machines filled his ears, there was a secret excitement harboring inside of him that was released. But it was a quiet excitement that only expressed itself in the way he tightened his hold on the edge of the table, and his quick sublimation of the thought that today should have been his first day at a new job had he not instead convinced his son to come with him to the casino. It seemed to him that he had done all this before, or that he was always doing this, like a recurring lucid dream. When he placed his cards on the table, the colors on the back shimmered with the moisture from his fingers.

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father had given him the rules in a speech on the drive to the casino. The upside-down cards left him uneasy and expectant of the worst. Uninterested in the game, he meant to wander off and speak to the men who owned the building, to find out more about their life on the reservation. Looking at the colors on the back of his cards on the table, his puerile questions began to fade. He lifted them reluctantly. I’m gonna call too. The only one who seemed unimpressed by the cards was the large man in the blue overcoat, who was more interested in the way the yellow felt tabletop rubbed against his fingers, and how the gin in his glass could roll in endless circles when he spun it just right. His attention eventually shifted to the ring that Wohali wore on his right hand. He had never known many people to wear jewelry, just a distant memory of his mother wearing pearls. When he tried to think of where she could have gotten them he began to think that she must have commissioned his father to dive to the depths of the sea and remove them from a treasure chest buried in the hull of a sunken pirate ship. The large blue man’s father would have spent months preparing, and it’s true that not all of the men he traveled with could have survived.

I’ll raise. In his mind, the grey man’s son made a match of the brown woman with the man in the green vest. The green man had clearly taken a lot of time in the development of his appearance, as he had always done since he was very young. Sitting at the table with other people reminded the green man of dressing up for his prom. It had been very uncomfortable, but he felt that there was nobleness in paying attention to one’s appearance, and that being a good citizen required rendering oneself approachable. On that bleak evening, when his parents drove him and his date to the school gym, it had first occurred to him that he did not want to participate in the activities of

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I fold.

The woman with the long brown hair noticed his state of grief. She determined that someone in the room must have ruined this man’s life. It was her turn to decide what to do with her cards and she found herself enveloped with guilt at the prospect of ruining yet another. She herself had not had the easiest of times of late, having just moved away from some old friends and having given up smoking. She had taken the time to move by bus, having never owned many things worth keeping, and had spent the two days of travel conversing with the others on the bus to distract her from her desire to smoke. She had decidedly disliked everyone she met and was unhappy with the rain. She avoided the gazes from across the table as she played her turn.

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heterosexual exchange. An hour into the event he left his date with her friends and walked home beneath the bright suburban street lights with an unending surge of restlessness. He came home to discover that his mother and his younger sister were expecting his return with some coffee prepared to calm his nerves. As he rested his cards on the yellow table he shifted the choking neck of his white dress shirt. I’ll call that. The ring on Wohali’s finger caught the overhead lights and sent a spotlight into the eye of the grey man’s son. When he turned, he could not help but look to the brown woman; she took his glances with a small bit of pride and quickly sent them off, trying to divert them, dilute them. And the blue man almost felt as if those diverted visions were falling into his lap—like glances from a ghost—and with the smallest hint of emotion would begin to inquire about it, look down into his hands to see what had fallen there but could not see anything at all. It was the grey man’s turn again, and the eyes of the table surrounded him. He felt at once that he was drowning; a fear he thought he had conquered. That is, not the fear of being watched, but the fear of drowning. When he was young he feared the deep water and refused to swim with his brothers. They teased him mer-

cilessly and his mother brought him to a psychologist. But the psychologist told her that his distaste for water was because of his distaste for the womb and so she sent him to live with his father. The grey man’s father was a painter and was often busiest in the early mornings when the sun was not yet unbearable. The grey man walked to school but was never earlier than five minutes late and would never leave class without a scolding from a teacher. He struggled to prove he was reliable, cutting out those who had the least amount of faith. When it was first suggested by his now ex-wife that he pick his son up from school in a more timely fashion, he felt the suggestion as an initiative to separate from them further. It was not until the grey man’s son was due for graduation that he felt comfortable around him, finally sure that he could no longer remember any sort of untimeliness. When he saw his son’s expectant stares, he felt the water rising. I’m gonna fold. The grey man’s son did not have any particular desire to come, but he did not reject his father’s invitation to take him to a casino on his eighteenth birthday. I’ll call. As he pushed more chips out in front of him, the grey man’s son became obsessed with the feeling that he was

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forgetting something. In his disarray, he let his cards slip from his hands and had to dive beneath the table to retrieve them. While searching, he lifted his eyes to find that, beneath the table, every one of them had cloven feet. Although he was surprised by this discovery, he decided not to raise alarm. He would not stop to burn the place down, or set crosses on the walls. When he resurfaced, the blue man was standing, the glass in his hand shaking. “If you’ll take your seat, please.” Wohali gestured to the blue man, and he sat back down. Wohali placed the next card on the table. The grey man’s son quickly looked to his father, who leaned back absentmindedly. His turn again, he looked to the brown woman and the green man, wondering what was in their hands. Check.

I’ll bet. When the green man looked to his cards again, the men and women between the numbers seemed to call out to him, to ask him for closure. They were tired, they seemed to say, and would rather put the game to rest. It reminded him of the way he felt on the day the apple tree shot up out of the middle of the road. He had been a child, playing with his friends in the street when it happened, and then suddenly they were gone, dispersed in fear of change. His cul-de-sac, which dared to claim itself a new Eden, seemed more like a grim prison in which he built his identity for the rest of his formative years. The green man remembered this destruction when he placed his cards on the table. I think I have to fold. It was the grey man’s son’s turn again, and only he and the brown woman remained. He shuffled his feet beneath the table, moving them so fast they began to wear away the wood beneath them. I raise.

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Sitting at the table suddenly reminded the brown woman of a place she had been when she was seventeen. She had been sitting around a table with old friends on a porch in the middle of the summer when a cloud of smoke came down the street. The smoke was billowing out of the guns of Civil War re-enactors that marched past the house, leaving the whole town covered in a fog. She had called out to them as they walked by, but they were uninterested in speaking to her, or else too preoccupied with their own issues. She wondered, then,

what it would be like to have any serious issues of her own. It took two days for the smoke to clear. When it was gone, the brown woman found herself missing the feeling of smoke in her lungs. That was the day she took up cigarettes.

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The brown woman held her cards only for moments more, and placed them down. Well, I fold. The casino rumbled for a brief moment as the air conditioning came on, and a sudden wind generated from within the building carried the sound of the clinking chips around each of their heads. “Congratulations. Beginner’s luck, yeah?” Wohali smiled as he pushed the chips towards the grey man’s son, who, like the rest of them, seemed caught in the trance of the sound of the chips and the movements of the colors on the cards. Then the large blue man stood, and pointed his finger to the grey man’s son.

Maya Chesley

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The boy cheated. He must have seen the cards when he went under the table, the little shit! The large blue man threw his glass at the grey man’s son and hit him just above the eye, knocking him out of his chair. The little gin still inside the glass leapt out onto the green man’s vest. Hastily trying to remove it before the liquid damaged his nice shirt, he pulled too quickly and sent the buttons flying off. The buttons bounced around the table and mixed with the chips as the grey man rose to his feet and took a quick punch at the large blue man’s nose. The brown woman leaned back, opened her purse and lit an emergency cigarette. Wohali briefly considered intervention, but almost simultaneously surrendered to disgust. He threw the collected cards down onto the floor and turned to walk away. The cards scattered around the grey man’s son on ley

hes

C aya

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M

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the floor, some sticking to the blood above his eyebrow. As he watched Wohali walk away from the game room, it occurred to him he never asked his name.

M aya

Back at it.

Ch

esl

ey

Outside, Wohali felt the thick layer of stars sink in upon him. The bright yellow table, burned into his retinas, seemed to project itself onto the moon, and so he looked away, trying to avoid it. Under the pressure of his desperately wandering eye, new constellations formed in front of him. The men in the sky performed their history, set to the fluctuating hum of the wind. The light from the moon seemed to permeate everything. When the wind became too much, he folded his arms across his chest, and the men in the stars did the same. The yellow table faded from his retinas; he finally relaxed.

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BONE BOXES HAVE ASHES Karthika Solai

Please, absolve me.

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When I was born, I weighed too little to be anything but hollow. For years, I was a lucky charm whose legs were too weak to hold her up.

At seven, I swallowed food whole. My brother called me Snake for months.

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Elise Ketch

Bless me, for I have sinned.

It’s been two years since my last confession.

There’s an apple tree in my backyard, struck down by lightning.

I bite my nails when anger makes me cruel, trick myself into silence. Because I’ll mean every word I say.

Ten bone boxes, each the size of my thumb, are buried near its roots.

This is my sin. When I was 18, the house with the red door burned down to cinders.

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A DREAM OF MY FATHER IN STONE Tomas Daniel Peters

uela Raq

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man

Ham

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Silence vibrates between the pews, stretching left and right into black. My eyes stare down the cold aisle, and up to the grey stage where my father,

Eyes closed, wears the same clothes

that seven years later he will wear in the photo that will sit in the back of my mother’s walk-in closet. I will stare at it when she blow-dries my hair. The body of my grey father grows, rises, descends down upon me, until his shadows are tucked in around me.

Until his body is as large and unfamiliar as God. Until I do not remember who I am. Then everything returns to what it was: His skin turns to marble—a statue, Like a nameless king from ages ago Solemn. waiting for his Second Death, waiting for memory’s last breath. My mother calls out my name from beyond the black veil— Her voice bends around the pews, I try but I cannot move; marveling wide-eyed at foreign stone.

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THE ERASER Karthika Solai Call me the bastard child of Pandora’s box, the receptacle for all that destroys you. Loose limbed and without hope under my lips, I can eat an endless amount of disaster and not be full. With my nails, I’ll dig out the pain in your nicotine high eyes, place it between my clay toes where it’ll hold me up for days as only agony can.

On nights you feel the gasping shakes and a sense of wrongness you can’t name — send for me. I’ll inhale and laugh and laugh. My hands will curl around your wrists, leeching your veins. Your lightning can go through me and sink into my muddy muscles. There is nothing my body can’t bear.

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Dan Nacu

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When tears overwhelm your spirit, I’ll lick them from your eyes like a loving cat. They’ll slip into my lungs — blooming pockets of oxygen. I love taking your feral anger neat. It burns down my throat, carves shadows of murderers on my liver, making artwork I’ll contemplate on slow seconds.

Give me secrets you’ve held so long your fingers ache every time they come to life in your dreams. My steel wool lashes will sweep your closets clean. I’ll hide your secrets under my sunken skin. Don’t worry. There will be room enough for new skeletons. n

Ilana Bea

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Josh Williams

THE AFRICA

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T THE AFRICA PROBLEM Richard DiCicco

he hour was getting late. Like the waving hand of Moses, the brass pendulum of Dr. Stoker’s pinewood longcase clock struck six with a grand and ominous gesture, and the sun, framed by the wide Palladian windows of the Stoker manor, began its descent toward the horizon. Even though Bradford Mayhew could not see much with one eye, he had trained himself to focus intensely on the world around him so intensely, that Nature itself was disquieted by his presence. Through the delicate glass of the parlor, Bradford watched the sun set the plains alight, and all the darkest corners of Africa were ablaze in his eye.

“Well,” Dr. Stoker smirked, “after the last bit of tea we had together, I thought that perhaps you would like to share a meal with us without being mauled.” His shoulders bounced in amusement before his snickering devolved into a violent cough. Mina forced a nervous giggle from her lips, lifting her eyebrows dramatically. Bradford tightened his grip on the arm of his chair,

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Josh Williams

A shadow fell across Dr. Stoker’s brow, and he awoke with a start from his pensive state. “Just look at the time! My, how the hours just slip away when two old friends share the evening together.” His wrinkled cheeks twitched just enough to flash a set of reedy teeth, as if Stoker feared admitting a bond between himself and Mayhew would somehow provoke the old soldier.

Bradford managed a smile, though it was buried under his dense silver mustache. “Again, I thank you and your wife for inviting me to your home once more.” His eye fell upon Mina Stoker, who sat oddly upright in her velvet chair like a meerkat poised for any sudden movements. She nodded and smiled, laying her fingers delicately across her jade gown. The deep, forking lines on her face showed the constant anxiety that challenged the elasticity of her features on a regular basis.

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Elly Call

and the moan of creaking wood slithered beneath the Stokers’ laughter. Forcing a toothy grin, he crowed, “Ha! Stoker, you cheeky bloke. Five years has been long enough for me to forgive you and your devilish cat. Besides,”—Bradford mimed aiming a rifle at Stoker—“having one eye has granted me the aim of Artemis. No beast escapes my bullet. Not even Sampson.” Dr. Stoker cleared his throat. “Yes, well, Sampson moves less and less these days, considering—”

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“Darling, have you told Bradford about this one?” Mina suddenly pointed to the gazelle head

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mounted above the mantle. She turned to their guest who was visibly perturbed by the interruption during his moment of masculine intimidation. “It’s new.” Bradford leaned back in his seat. “You’re no hunter, Stoker. Was it a gift?” Dr. Stoker laughed. “Not at all! This was handed down to me by my father not long ago. His father was one of the first men to venture into South Africa—to cut down the brush and beasts, converse with the natives, and return to England with a negro to boot—and this is a souvenir of his travels. Something of a trophy commemorating Britain’s fearless venture into the brutish heat of the Dark Continent.” “Marvelous,” Mina sighed. “The history!” “I would have liked to have been there,” grunted Bradford, “to watch those beady eyes fade in my hands. To show Nature that I have conquered it.” Dr. Stoker swallowed. “Well, when Great Britain discovers another continent, perhaps you will be the first to set foot upon it, dear Bradford.” The sun winked in the window as shadows swallowed up the parlor. Mina stood up and lit the gas lamp in the center of the room. As she was bent over, her hair swinging dangerously close to the flame, she asked,

“Bradford, would you like more tea?” Bradford stared at the limp, soggy black leaves at the bottom of his teacup. A lion’s mane billowing in the wind. He saw it everywhere—that hellish cat who took his eye. Hissing spun inside his head like the idle chug of a locomotive. He could taste its tawny pelt on the tip of his tongue, feel the searing heat of its claw gauging out his brain. “Please.” He smiled at Mina. Mina swiftly stepped to the kitchen door on the far side of the parlor and rapped her knuckles against the mahogany. “Martha. Fire up the kettle please.” No answer. “Martha!” Mina barked. “The kettle. Our guest wants tea.” “Really,” Bradford said, “if it’s not worth the trouble—” “She has been something of a problem lately,” Dr. Stoker butted in. “You know how these negroes are.” “MARTHA!” cried Mina as she swung open the door, and a startled scream rang out from the back room. 18

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Through the swinging portal leading to the kitchen, Bradford watched a slideshow of divine intervention. The Stokers’ ebony maidservant strained to reach an iron pot far above her head, only grasping a single silver handle. Mina scolded her, smacking her on the ear, and in that moment the pot and a number of utensils came crashing down on the both of them like a Sisyphean boulder. The sound of banging metals spilled into the parlor and Dr. Stoker sprung from his armchair. “Good Lord,” he cried, “What the devil is going on in there, Mina?” Without even glancing at Bradford, he muttered, “Excuse me, I am truly sorry,” and disappeared into the kitchen. The hair on Bradford’s arm stood on end, and his spine turned to ice beneath his Gabardine jacket. This was his golden opportunity, the moment that had stirred in his mind on the carriage ride here, that he had ground against his teeth with a burning rage. The cat was still here. It lived and breathed and fed with the talons that stole his sight, his rank, his independence.

The oppressive heat of Africa was now light and cool in the waning hours of twilight. He stepped out onto the larger Stoker estate. It stretched far beyond any grounds he had seen in Yorkshire or Brandenburg, out to the horizon, to the lonely acacia trees bent across the Highveld like weary cotton pickers. The grasses faded from a dusty green to an arid yellow, and his eye flitted across the plain in search of his prey. Bradford began to patrol the premises with the slow gait of an antelope wading in the grass. But, soon, he felt his feet begin to carry him at speeds he never knew he could achieve. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, his head pounded, beating his eye with a furious pulse, a bloodlust he had never felt for anything less than a man. His lungs burned like a furnace, and a war cry exploded from within him: “Come, you scoundrel! Come out so I can drive a bullet between your eyes!” But no beast came to see him. His calls went unanswered. His muscles grew sore within his boots as his body came to the slow and grave realization that he had

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Bradford moved to the fireplace. Two Baker rifles lay crossed in an X beneath the gazelle’s head. He gently lifted one off the wall, careful not to make any noise. Checked the barrel. Empty. But, like a good huntsman, he always carried ammunition in his breast pocket. He loaded the old gun, detached the bayonet, and glanced

back at the kitchen door. Cries of pain broke out as he heard the Stokers beat their slave liberally. He was clear. Quickly and quietly, Bradford headed for the Palladian windows and turned the brass handle.

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perhaps misheard Dr. Stoker. What if there was no cat at all; if it had died long ago? He called out for Sampson again and again, buckling from exhaustion and wailing like a drunkard lost in the street. His rage could find no outlet. In the distance, a weary, cracked voice called out: “Bradford! Bradford, are you out there?� Dammit, he thought. Left the door open. Bradford dove behind a tree that had split and doubled over in the sub-Saharan sun. With the Stoker manor to his back, he let the rifle and bayonet fall down on his lap. Ell all yC

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“Bradford!” He looked behind him, careful not to give himself away. The door slammed shut, and Dr. Stoker and Mina’s silhouettes in the Palladian windows began swinging their arms in apparent unrest. Just to the left of the shadow play, Bradford spotted a small, tan lump lying just outside the manor, circled by an iron chain. It must be the feline! How could he have missed it in his mad dash? His thirst for vengeance had blotted out his bisected vision. With his foe in his sight, he was off, sprinting yet again with renewed spirit, a sudden jolt of energy shooting straight to his brain. The tan lump looked up to see the old man rushing to him, and it struggled to push itself up on its front paws. Its matted mane barely moved. Bradford stopped mere feet from the lion. Here it was, the beast that took his eye, that held him down and blinded him with a vicious claw. Sampson’s lazy gaze washed over Bradford with a faint familiarity. “I came here to kill you, you know.” Bradford’s heavy breaths shot from his nostrils like the fires of a dragon. “I came all the way to this godforsaken hellhole to tear your heart out.”

“But,” continued Bradford as he circled the cat, “this is no execution. I am here to show you who is a warrior and who is a monster, who is a beast and who is a man.” With both hands, he gripped the stake that chained Sampson to the earth and pulled it with all his might. In a single tug, it came free, and Bradford tossed it to the side. “Now run, you bloody scoundrel!” Bradford’s booming voice was met with silence. Inertia. The moment seemed to hang in the air forever, like the sun awaiting the bells of Stoker’s clock. Sampson’s sandy eyes travelled up and down the length of Mayhew, as if it was assessing its chances. Strangely, Bradford felt as if the monster was judging him, even pitying him. Just as Bradford was arrested in thought, the lion leapt at him in a terrifying pounce, arms spread wide to encompass the sheer girth of the old soldier. Bradford dropped the rifle and grabbed Sampson by its front ankles to flip the animal as they both came tumbling to the ground. The cat’s massive jaw opened, revealing a mottled, rotten mouth with a single glistening canine, and it lurched forward to sink its lone tooth into the man’s left shoulder.

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Sampson shook its head and snorted as if in

amusement.

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Bradford cried out and bit his tongue until blood began to run down his lip. He pulled his other arm back, winding it up to plunge the bayonet into Sampson’s patchy fur, but the lion pressed its paw down on him like a two-ton weight. The air was knocked out of his lungs, and he tried again to stab the beast, this time driving the blade between the cat’s ribcage. His bayonet pierced it over and over again, spilling blood onto his chest as the old lion drove its tooth in deeper. The sword snapped and Sampson bayed, releasing Bradford when the pain became too much to bear. Mayhew rolled onto his back, heaving, eager to watch his adversary die. Just then, Mina’s shrill scream pierced the evening air. Dr. Stoker came rushing down the back stairs, blathering, “What in God’s name are you doing to my Sampson?” Bradford was blind with rage, driven to finish the animal once and for all. Rolling over, he gripped the iron stake still chained to Stoker’s pet. Carrying himself over to the lion on his knees, Bradford reared back his hands, ready to impale Sampson’s heart with the last of his energy. Its eyes were glassy and spinning. Dr. Stoker clasped his fingers around Bradford’s hand. “No! No!”

Megan

Goldfarb

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Mayhew swung his elbows wildly and cracked the doctor’s nose behind him. Blood streamed down Stoker’s face and his grip slipped, snagging the chain that swung from the iron stake. Bradford toppled onto Dr. Stoker, knocking the wind out of the old man. As Stoker choked and fought to breathe, Mina sprinted down the steps and tripped over the hem of her gown, landing facefirst in the dirt beside her flailing husband.

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Elizabeth Danford

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Bradford hobbled back to Sampson stake-inhand, but the rifle lay discarded on the ground. He lifted his arms slowly. Mina scrambled for the gun. A hot bullet grazed his ear. And in that moment, Sampson leapt at Bradford and dug a filthy, bloody claw into his other eye. Bradford howled and thrashed and sunk the stake straight into Sampson’s beating heart as the sun finally dropped behind the grass.

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pwatem@gmail.com poictesme.com

Š2014 by poictesme

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VCU Student Media Center

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