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THE VORTEX

autumn online edition 2018 // 1 //


art

// table of contents //

francesco loprete

UNTITLED PORTRAIT ------------------------------------------------15 UNTITLED COLLECTION --------------------------------------------23 B-BOYS COLLECTION -----------------------------------------------38 UNTITLED COLLECTION --------------------------------------------41

fiction allison canty THE RED PETAL ----------------------------------------33 ashley nicole hunter AS THEY SHOULD BE -----------------------------------24

script ashley nicole hunter POCKET GODS -----------------------------------------6

cover art francesco loprete

UNTITLED COLLECTION --- oil on wood (20 cm diameter each) // 2 //


poetry allison canty OUR ELECTRONIC TRAIL TO LOVE ---------------------------------30 tyler hauth SUICIDAL ---------------------------------------------40 jarrett hensley BEHIND MY DOOR -------------------------------------20

caleb patton

DEN --------------------------------------------------4 ICARUS REDUX ----------------------------------------18 I DREAM OF LONDON ----------------------------------42

darby tanner

GOLDEN BOY ------------------------------------------5 THOUGHTS IN A DARK FORRESST-------------------------16

-----------------------------------------19 PURGE -----------------------------------------------22 FRAGILITY --------------------------------------------32 PERPETUAL APOSTROPHE-------------------------------39 NIGHTSHADE

// 3 //


Curtains drawn back, Revealing, Slick and smooth surfaces, caleb patton // poetry Rotund, Curvaceous, Low lights hang and hum, Dimming my mind as it dimly lights the way, Smoke lingers from lazy arms in chairs, Lifting themselves, Inhale, Breathe, Their amber, orange glow extinguished, Pounded against the grit and grey, Of ashtrays on coffee tables, Eyes never distancing themselves too far from the show, Ahead, I am drawn to what lies before me, Past clinking drinks of whiskey and wine, Past devine foie gras and I, Am entranced, Am entangled, Am now interlaced within this community of hushed tones, As you, Curvaceous, Callipygian, Waggle fingers, Wet lips, Standing in shattered stagelight of blues, The vocal hues humming and thumping against the sweat on my palms, I shouldn’t be here, We shouldn’t be here, Curtains drawn back, Revealing, Slick and sweaty hands, Trembling against a dozen reasons why, I shouldn’t stay.

DEN

// 4 //


GOLDEN BOY darby tanner // poetry

how come no one knows the way you are inside except for him and those whom you actually confide you’re the shiny definition of polished G ​ olden Boys addiction you incited — she held the side effects with joy heartache is your poison stringing her along that Holi’r than persona she thought she would belong it was grueling to accept you due to heartache suffered as forgiveness opened into her brainwash continued how come your gold is rusted? we noticed, she and me i’m waiting ‘til your paint is busted so they no longer believe

// 5 //


POCKET GODS ashley nicole hunter // script

PAGE 1 PANEL 1: Blue, a young woman characterized by being realistically illustrated but entirely filled with a blue wash of color, is filling the frame with her eyes closed and head bowed down. She has a septum piercing and pretty makeup, but she looks tired and depressed due to the fine lines of pain and irritation on her face. Caption: Ramen for dinner again. PAGE 2 PANEL 1: View pans out to give us an overhead view of Blue sitting at her desk in a brightly lit, but crowded, office. While she is still drawn over blue, everyone else around her is depicted only by a wash of color in a vaguely human shape with no detailing. These people in her office largely have either Pocket Gods on their desks, or they’re using them/exchanging them with other office workers. Objects are detailed (and have no wash of color), except for the Pocket Gods (which are gilded gold) but not the people. Most of the other people are depicted by brighter, “happy” colors. There is a coffee on the edge of her desk. Caption: I put in sixty plus hours a week, and I don’t even have anything to show for it. PANEL 2: A confident person comes in. They are in bold colors, but we only see their legs and a smudge of color suggesting high heels moving into focus. Confident Woman Heads up, people! This Pocket God has been sitting in lost and found. Who wants it? PANEL 3: Blue starts to rise from her desk, excited. Caption: I can’t even afford decent food… // 6 //


PANEL 4: A man takes the Pocket God from the confident woman. Man Aww, sweet! A Hekate! One more for my collection! PANEL 5: Blue’s face falls. She is a bit stricken. Caption: …let alone one of those. PAGE 3 PANEL 1: The frame is full of Blue slumped over at her steering wheel, facing ahead. She is stuck in traffic, and it is getting quite late. She has been in the office for a long time, and she looks tired and frazzled. Her car is old and falling apart, and there is a crack in the windshield. PANEL 2: We see an image of a red stoplight shining, taking up the entire panel. PANEL 3: We see a side view of Blue at the steering wheel, frustrated at being stuck in traffic. Caption: Whoever said money can’t buy happiness was shopping at the wrong place. PAGE 4 PANEL 1: Blue turns her head to look towards us, her eyes widening as she assesses something. PANEL 2: We see a wide shot of an off-ramp with a prominent billboard advertising “Merle’s Discount Flea Market”. Caption: I can’t afford a Pocket God, but maybe…something small? Caption: Something to cheer me up? PANEL 3: Blue starts to turn the steering wheel of her car. PANEL 4: Blue’s little car, puffing out a great deal of smoke behind it, begins to // 7 //


drive down the shoulder of the road. Angry Driver (Bubble) Hey, watch it! PANEL 5: Blue’s car begins to go down the off-ramp. PAGE 5 PANEL 1: Blue’s car pulls up to the flea market. Hers is the only car parked there, although there is a beat-up scooter. PANEL 2: Blue enters in through the shop door, hesitant. There are all manner of strange things crowded around the opening. Bell Above Door: Ting! Ting! Ting! PANEL 3: There are rows upon rows of oddities and eccentric things, most of them spilling across tables and shelves. PAGE 6 PANEL 1: This is a full page panel. We see a full-body shot of Blue, young and dressed as if she is poor but still trying to look put together (but with odd touches, such as her nose ring). She is frozen, caught in the act of touching a strange medallion dangling from a wheel holding dozens of such medallions overhead. A Yell from Off the Page All merchandise 50% off! You pay cash! PAGE 7 PANEL 1: Blue picks her way over a fallen display of boxes. This flea market is way, way too cluttered with junk. PANEL 2: A wink of something gilded in gold catches her eye on a far shelf, buried amidst crap. // 8 //


PANEL 3: Blue takes a Pocket God altar off a shelf, her eyes wide. This altar is very elaborate, more so than any others that we’ve seen. PANEL 4: Blue slowly, reverently, begins to open the altar. A golden light spills across her face. PAGE 8 PANEL 1: This is a full spread over two pages depicting the Pocket God altar, opened. In the middle panel of the altar, we see an image of a beautiful goddess clad in white, flowing clothes that wrap around her and seem to float, ethereally. Her eyes are closed, and she is smiling serenely. She looks like a goddess of peace and tranquility. The left panel of the altar says Name, Powers, and Offerings as sections, but what should be written beneath each section has been viciously gouged out. The panel on the right says Communion Level and has a bit of technology…there is a bar that is mostly empty, except for a tiny bit of glowing liquid at one end that can fill up the bar as the level raises. At one end of the bar is the word Novice, and at the other end is Miracle. PAGE 9 PANEL 1: Continuation of the full spread from Page 8. PAGE 10 PANEL 1: Blue is in her room, which is decorated much as you would expect a person in their early 20’s who is still living with their parents, in a mish-mash of childhood stuff and edgy teen posters. Crammed into all this are workplace suits and a briefcase with papers spilling out. PANEL 2: Blue turns the altar over, looking for a button. She looks frustrated, and is shaking the altar, trying to get it to work. PANEL 3: Blue tosses the altar over her shoulder, absolutely disgusted. Caption: Wonderful. I finally get one, and it’s broken. PANEL 4: Blue is laying on her bed, arms folded behind her head. She looks perturbed. // 9 //


PANEL 5: Blue’s eyes have shot open wide. Her position has not changed besides this. Caption: I do not desire trinkets, girl. I desire ACTIONS. PAGE 11 PANEL 1: Blue sits up in her bed, a panicked look on her face. PANEL 2: Blue is crawling from her bed, the blue of her coloration flickering a shocked, electric blue, and as she does so she is pulling a baseball bat from under it. PANEL 3: Blue has her bat at the ready, and she is peering suspiciously around her small room, as if an intruder could hide anywhere. While her room is messy, it is far too small to hide anyone, unless it were a tiny person under one of her piles of clothes. PANEL 4: The bat is falling out of Blue’s hands, though she stays in the same ready position. Her face is, again, shocked. Caption: ((If this is the way you greet all gods, girl, it is no wonder you are without divine patronage.)) PAGE 12 PANEL 1: This panel takes up half the page, vertically. We see a full-body shot of Blue, shocked face, rumpled clothes, wide eyes looking off to the other panel. Caption: Is that voice coming from---? PANEL 2: This panel takes up the other half of the page. We get a view of the goddess depicted on the Pocket God shrine, her face serene, surrounded by weapons. Caption: ((Yes.)) PAGE 13 PANEL 1: Blue has picked up the Pocket God in her hands and is staring down at it in wonder. Her blue is the color of a robin’s egg, fresh and new and full of possibility. // 10 //


PANEL 2: Blue is cheering, absolutely delighted. We see a full body shot of her, arms outstretched, looking genuinely happy for the first time in the comic. Her blue color is absolutely radiant. Bits of pink peer through the blue, like the pink of her real flesh. Blue: Woo! It works! PANEL 3: Blue has grabbed a satchel from her floor and is stuffing the Pocket God into it. Caption: Finally, things are starting to go my way! PANEL 4: We see the Pocket God, her shrine still open, crammed in a satchel amongst assorted junk. There is a half-eaten candy bar smearing across her clothes. A small emanate of annoyance comes from her. PAGE 14 PANEL 1: We see Blue’s raggedy car being parallel parked on a busy street, full of shops and people. The colors are a little brighter, reflecting Blue’s burgeoning sense of happiness. A few people even have natural skin tones bleeding through their respective colors. PANEL 2: Blue is walking along the sidewalk, her satchel bouncing on her hip. Little emanates of annoyance come from the satchel, as the goddess does not appreciate the way she’s being carried. Blue is oblivious to this, even smiling slightly. A few musical notes drift in from out of the panel. Her blue is radiant and has swirls, like a pool of water. PANEL 3: We see a wide shot of Blue stopping to watch a blind man play a violin on the sidewalk. He has a hat in front of him. PANEL 4: We see the inside of the hat. It has nothing in it except for a bottle cap a stick of gum. PAGE 15 PANEL 1: Blue is smiling, her face looking as serene as the goddess in her satchel, as she kneels and turns out her wallet into the man’s hat, spilling what little bit // 11 //


of money she has in it. It’s clear that Blue doesn’t have a lot of wealth, but she’s happy to share what she has. Her blue is so bright that it glows about her like a halo around a holy icon. PANEL 2: We see the devotion meter on the Pocket God’s panel begin to fill with a gleaming blue light, the same color that Blue is. It is just a small amount, but it lights up the interior of the satchel with a shimmering glow. PANEL 3: We see the face of the goddess in the satchel, and hers is the same serene expression that Blue just had. They could be mirror images of one another. There are no longer emanates coming from her of frustration. PAGE 16 PANEL 1: We have an full page shot of the front of a shop called “POCKET GODS PLUS”. On the windows are advertisements for new editions of god shrines that have come out, offerings that you can buy in the store, and signs indicating that shrines can be cleaned and reset for new users inside. This store is rather nice and new compared to others on the street, and you have to enter it by going up a staircase that’s lined on either side with statues of snarling lions, as if you are entering a temple. There is a hand bar going down the center of the steps for ease of travel and as a nod towards modernity, however. PAGE 17 PANEL 1: Blue is ascending the steps, looking eager. She is practically skipping up them. PANEL 2: Blue is frozen in place on the steps, looking unsure. Her blue coloration becomes mottled. Caption: ((Blue. Don’t go in there.)) PANEL 3: Blue ignores the voice of the Pocket God. Her blue changes to a deep, navy color. She continues ascending the steps. PAGE 18 and PAGE 19 PANEL 1: This is a two-page bleed that shows the interior of the store. It is set up to look like the inside of an ancient temple, and the workers are all dressed // 12 //


in priestly, white robes. The walls have banners going down them depicting individual gods, and in front of the banners, on displays, are numerous Pocket God shrines of that deity. All of the room is crisp and hyper real, except for the people milling about in it, who are still basically smudges of color. There are long lines of people at registers. Sound Effects: Cha-ching! Cha-ching! PAGE 20 PANEL 1: Blue comes to a desk that’s made to look like an old-fashioned market stall. Above it dangles a sign that reads “Repairs and Resets”. A large, rather bored-looking man sits behind the counter. Repair Man: Welcome to Pocket Gods Plus. How may we serve you? PANEL 2: Blue slides the closed shrine across the countertop. We see only the shrine, Blue’s hands, and the hands of the Repair Man as he reaches for it. Blue: I’d like both a repair and a reset, please. Do you take credit? PANEL 3: The Repair Man’s is lifting up the shrine and opening it. He is looking at Blue, however, not really the shrine at this point. Repair Man: Of cour--PANEL 4: The Repair Man stops speaking when the shrine is fully open. His face is bathed in a golden light, and he looks awed…and almost afraid. PAGE 21 PANEL 1: The Repair-Man snaps the shrine shut. He no longer looks bored. Instead, he now looks crafty. Repair Man: I’m sorry, this Pocket God has been recalled. I can offer you store credit for a new one, however. Just sign here. PANEL 2: The Repair Man slides a clipboard with some papers on it across the counter towards Blue, who is looking confused and hesitant. PANEL 3: There is a wide-shot with Blue looking side to side, a bit overwhelmed by all of the Pocket Gods around her. // 13 //


PANEL 4: Blue is biting on her lower lip. She has a case of the shivers, and suddenly seems like she doesn’t want to be in this place anymore. PAGE 22 PANEL 1: Blue has reached out and taken ahold of the Pocket God. She is pulling it back across the counter, shaking her head. Blue: No thank you. I’d like to keep--PANEL 2: The Repair Man has grabbed hold of Blue’s hand. His face looks decidedly nasty, now. Repair Man: I really must insist. PANEL 3: Blue looks terrified and shocked. She is frozen, caught in this man’s grip. PANEL 4: Blue reaches with her other hand for the pen on the clipboard. PAGE 23 PANEL 1: There is a wide shot of Blue stabbing the Repair Man in the hand with the pen and jerking her Pocket God away from him. The Repair Man is screaming in pain, and Blue looks like a furious warrior. The blue coloration of her swirls and flares out from her in streaks like lightening. Blue: I said, NO! PANEL 2: Blue tucks the Pocket God under her arm and has turned, running full speed. From the sides of her, security guards (dressed like old temple guards) are coming after her. PANEL 3: Blue is racing down the steps of the temple/store. The guards are close behind her. Under her arm, the Pocket God is emitting a flash of blue. PANEL 4: There is a wide-shot of the carved lions on the steps, glowing blue, suddenly roaring and reaching out to grab the legs of the guards in their mouths. The guards are screaming, but Blue is running on ahead, oblivious.

// 14 //


UNTITLED francesco loprete // art

fabri fibra oil on concrete (diameter 25 cm)

// 15 //


THOUGHTS IN A DARK FORRESST

darby tanner // poetry

Sometimes I find myself looking at all the different reflections of my psyche and deem it to be entirely too taxing. Like a Marlow I drive to insanity traversing the forest of my mind-scape. I claim to grow tired of the way I lose myself in the branches but I still wander amongst them with the only enlightenment coming from the rays trickling through the overhang. They are dense thoughts- suffocating. “Not all who wander are lost,” but as I do, I lose myself. I rely on supports of sand. They are temporary aides, but eventually shatter as glass fixtures. They think me mad when I lay at the edge of the forest screaming as if I were consumed at its heart. Crying wolf is my specialty, but only I can find my meaning. Wandering and wandering and wandering Though, I have yet to meet my Eureka! As swarms of Thomas’ come to kidnap me and reassure my hesitation. Alas, I am left to lie in the throng and let the vines wrap me warmly until I no longer feel my heartbeat- just the pulse of the forest. Here I find no more purpose than before, but rather a newfound sense of belonging.

// 16 //


“All those who wander meaninglessly are lost.” The forest doesn’t wander without aim, but to propagate. Because of this, I remain dozing, wrapped in that foliage exploring my dreams instead of reaching for the stars. I look into myself, my nature, for the Eureka! Instead of cutting myself out of the vines’ embrace an exploring the external world, away from these woods. It is sloth when I claim to be working on myself but refuse to take up the scythe, cut down ripe notions, and reap the results. Failure is a great teacher, but I never allow it to teach. Instead, I remain. Remain with my deep thoughts in a dark forest.

// 17 //


ICARUS REDUX caleb patton // poetry Icarus Redux Caleb Patton I watched my son create his death, In the heated ecstacy of escape, Kings demanded I create prisons for monsters, I watch my son become a monster, His body stripped of childish dreams, But that was so long ago.

// 18 //


NIGHTSHADE darby tanner // poetry

Here I sit on the sofa Where we sat eight seasons prior And this nostalgia stagnant in the air Pressing close to my chest — Has never felt so bitterly sweet. Here I can hear your voice again Whispering sweet sayings by my side. Shivers cinch up my shoulders as the Solace Drips from your fingers Clutching gently on my sides. On my cheeks I can Feel your breath, the words Anticipatory. And warmth blooms from subdued winter kisses Remaining alive in my memories Thriving like flames once present In the fireplace Now ashy and abandoned. Oh—howIrevelintheideaofour November nights And wallow just the same. My heart is so inflamed by Your memory, The day we come together again will be Wildfire Eliminating the perennial nightshade.

// 19 //


BEHINDjarrett MY DOOR hensley // poetry Their sporadic-screams lash out back and forth Exploding off each other Like mommy’s plates explode against the wall These wars Happening more and more Gaining fierce intensity While I listen behind my door The thudding of the judge’s gavel ends the fiercest of all their battles Somebody fell – footsteps approach I sprint to my bed twice barricading myself Once behind my door and once tucked tightly under my blankets Blacking out my little-world The door creaks open In horrific harmony with the sounds of sobbing and shuffling feet The weep that I’ve become so familiar with Can belong to none other than my mother I listen to the approaching sounds Hidden, barely under the surface of my blankets

// 20 //


Sniffling and weeping Louder Approaching Until she hovers above me I shut my eyes harder than daddy slams the doors And I pray that I fall asleep It’s too late She knows I’m awake Knows that I’ve been listening She tells me it’s all going to be ok Terror fills my soul as I inch the covers down Revealing the bloody nightmare Towering above “Daddy’s gone now” escapes her murderous mouth Before she drops the knife – And climbs into my bed.

// 21 //


PURGE derby tanner // poetry The thought to purge you is Suffocating But the memories are Intoxicating And here I am Deliberating Whether to let the distance as Separating Or have new experiences remain Intimidating. The purge of you is the purge of me, Consequently. All I want is to be rid of daily Ritualizing, Mourning of remains Of you in my thoughts — Memorializing For i can’t purge our memories Or the lingering brush of Your palm against mine. Your mark left Permanently, And i wish you permanent. I am damaged by you, Wishing me closer Even as you purge yourself from me Damning the circumstances.

// 22 //


UNTITLED COLLECTION francesco loprete // art

oil on wood (diameter 20 cm) // 23 //


AS THEY SHOULD BE ashley nicole hunter // fiction It had been a little over a month since the heater had been turned on, and a deep cold had seeped into the walls of the old Colonial. She breathed out, slow, watching her breath escape from her in a billowing cloud that rose up and disappeared in the glow of the entryway light. In the darkness of the house, barely penetrated by the little fixture’s light, Leah could just make out the hard, sharp angles of the midcentury furniture her mother had been so fond of. Here, a corner that had broken her toe when she was twelve. There, a splayed table leg that had tripped her when she was nine. All was in its place. Things were just as they should be. Nauseous, Leah reached out to her side and felt along a bare wall. She realized then that she did not remember where the light switch was located, and this bit of forgetting made it bearable. She had changed. She had forgotten, had cleared out the old memories of light switches, legs, and corners to make room for shared coffees, plush couches, the touch of her lover’s hand. She held on to these memories, to the proof of her time out of this house, as her hand slid across the beige, patterned wallpaper, feeling // 24 //

for the switch in the dark. The hesitant flicker of electricity when she found it came so slow that her eyes didn’t need time to adjust. She went inside, making a show of dumping her bags in the middle of the floor, and kicked the door close behind her with a rain-dampened boot. It shut a bit more forcefully than she had intended, and the sound echoed out into the living room and up the steep staircase. Leah froze, waiting for the shout, but of course it never came. She was alone, would be alone for the next three days, and she didn’t have any reason to feel guilty. This was her house, now. She was tired, and her feet hurt from the new boots, but she knew that Kate would be waiting. Leah unlocked her phone, and spent the next hour walking around the house, taking photographs of everything inside. She was careful to take pictures from at least two different angles, and always, always to include something for reference, which she accomplished by using the television remote. It didn’t have any batteries in it, at least it didn’t while she lived there, but she wasn’t in the mood to watch television, and besides, she had plenty of work to do


How she remembered, now, which steps on the stairs creaked, which She spent the next few hours chairs were wobbly, and where the clicking through eBay, looking for wallpaper needed attention. After similar items to the ones her mother she had eaten, she resumed her tour, had owned, and copying down the suddenly mindful of all the little bits of prices in an email she sent Kate, along with all the pictures. And then, because neglect her mother had let pile up since she had moved away. Kate was taking so long to get back to Since she didn’t have me to do the her…reviewing her work and doublework for her, Leah thought smugly. checking the numbers, she knew…she ordered a pizza, praying that the influx Always cleaning, always mending, and the house had never been good enough of money that would come from the for Mother. Well. It was hers, now. She sales meant that Kate wouldn’t notice could do as she liked with it. the charge. tonight.

It was about midnight when Kate emailed her back, advising her that she would have men out to pick up the furniture the next day, possibly the day after. As far as Kate was concerned, the sooner all of the junk was sold, and she was back in Vermont, the better. Things would have gone faster if Kate had come to help, she thought, then squashed the thought with a twinge of guilt. Kate was busy, so busy with her job, and she did a fine job of supporting them both. She should be grateful Kate trusted her to do this much. When the pizza man arrived, she had changed into slippers and a robe, and had been wandering around the house, refamiliarizing herself with it. It was startling, really, to think how quickly it was all coming back to her.

Leah went back to the entryway, to the jumble of bags she had dumped on the wood floor, and dug out her patchwork purse. It took only a moment to pull her pink pen from it, and then a moment more to go back to the kitchen. She took a breath, straightened her back, and then, with perfect deliberateness, drew a penis on the wall. Pleased, she tightened her robe and went upstairs to her room. She was still smiling when drifted off to sleep, feeling every inch the child who has just gotten away with something. The next morning, Leah knew she would have to have to get groceries if she was going to sort through the rest of the house, like the papers and the dishes. What would Mother think of her expanding waistline ((no one likes a girl with a waist like a potato))? The // 25 //


junk food would have to go. She told herself this, over and over, weaving through the little corner market with the cart she’d had to insert a quarter into to use. It was only when she caught sight of her reflection in the doors of the milk section that she knew her lips had been moving, repeating in a breathy whisper the long litany of food Mother had forbade in the house. She was being stupid, she knew ((stupid, blockhead, little idiot)). Her mother was dead, and if she wanted to eat nothing but sugar and honey, she could. She jerked the cart around, striding back to the cereal aisle, and found the most processed thing she could, something “chocolate” and sickly sweet, loaded with sprinkles and little marshmallows shaped like hearts and stars ((the devil’s symbols in the devil’s food for a devil-girl)). She tossed a box into her cart and then, laughing, added three more. She would live off the stuff if she wanted. She went and found soda, then frozen pizza, turned back for piles of chips and cheese dip, and before she was done the cart almost sagged under the weight of preservatives and impending diabetes. Leah didn’t even notice the strange look on the cashier’s face until she spoke. “Leah? Leah Durmond, is that you?” // 26 //

Leah gave a guilty start, caught in the act ((punishment, punishment, fat as thick as your head)). “Yes?” The old woman behind the till, with glasses as thick as her finger and hair maintained a respectable, dignified gray, was smiling at her. “I thought that was you. I’m Beverley Daniels…your mother’s friend?” ((caught, caught in the act and she’ll TELL)) “Oh! Yes! I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you.” Leah smiled over a bag of cheese puffs, her cheeks coloring. Mrs. Daniels laughed, pausing in her work. “It HAS been a long time. Six, seven years? My, how you’ve grown!” ((fat fat fat, you’ve grown fat)) Dazed, Leah nodded along, smiling when she thought she should, barely aware of anything the old woman said until she realized she was waiting. “Umm…pardon?” “I said I have something for you, dear. I’ll bring it by after my shift. Will you be home?” Leah’s hands tightened on the cart. “Oh. Yes, of course. That would be nice, thank you.” She put her card in the little scanner, snatched up a box of cereal off the conveyer belt, and fled the store, leaving the card and the rest of her


things behind her. She wasn’t aware of getting into her car and driving, only that she had to get home, had to hide the cereal before anyone else saw her with it. As Leah’s little Honda pulled up to the house, she frowned to see a large van parked in the driveway, two men in workman’s clothes standing outside the door. Who did they think they were, blocking her driveway like that? She parked on the curb, tucking her purchase beneath her arm, and marched up to the van. “Excuse me,” she trilled. “I said, excuse me. Is there some reason you’ve parked here?” One of the men ((dirty, just look at his clothes, likely on drugs)) approached her with a clipboard. “Yes ma’am. Let’s see…you’re scheduled for a pickup. Looks like a dresser, a couch, some tables---” She lifted her chin, glaring at the man. “There has been a mistake. I don’t mean to part with any of my things. Good day, gentlemen.” With firm steps, she moved past him, her head still held high. The moving man followed behind her, clearly hard of hearing. “Are you sure? Ma’am, we got a call that said---” She whirled about to face him, her nostrils flaring. “I don’t care who called

you. I tell you there has been a mistake. Good DAY, gentlemen.” Entering her home, she closed the door politely yet firmly behind her, and was satisfied to hear the van pull out from the driveway shortly after. Part with her things. Imagine. Just imagine. Some of these things were one of a kind, irreplaceable. No, if that little slut in Vermont wanted money, she’d earn it. She wouldn’t get a single penny from the sale of anything of the Durmonds’. Really, the whole idea was so upsetting it was almost enough to put her off her breakfast. She went into the kitchen and took down a bowl, setting about the business of making her meal. It gave her a moment to think, to try to rationalize what had happened. She was clearly under a lot of stress. It wasn’t easy, going through the belongings of your dead parent. There were a lot of memories tied up in all of them. Leah sat down at the kitchen table, her spoon toying with her cereal. Maybe she really wouldn’t get rid of anything. Wouldn’t Kate be surprised? And angry. Well. There was no reason she had to go back. There was something wonderful about being home. Something familiar. She didn’t have to leave if she didn’t want to. Maybe she’d redecorate her room… yes…some new paint… // 27 //


with you.” The knock at her door came so unexpectedly she choked on her food. Leah looked down at the container, Persistent little assholes. Hadn’t she told a simple thing without adornment, them---? heavy and cold, and knew that her mother had chosen it herself. “Leah? Leah, dear, it’s Mrs. Daniels!” The voice was muffled “Thank you,” she said, surprising through the heavy oak of the front herself with the calmness of her voice. door, but her hearing was still quite “That was very kind of you.” Then, sharp, and she heard just fine. because it was what Mother would have Smiling, she smoothed out the front of her blouse and rose to answer the door. “Beverly! So good to see you again, and so soon!”

Mrs. Daniels smiled, a bit startled herself by the warm reception, but she lifted up the bag she was carrying and took out what appeared to be a brass jar.

expected, “Would you like to stay for tea?”

“No, no,” The elderly woman waved it off with the confidence of someone who had practiced their excuse. “That’s kind of you, but I have roses to get into the ground. You’ll want to get started, too, if you mean to keep up the garden.”

They exchanged hugs, torsos kept “Just couldn’t wait, you know… didn’t seem right, and who knows how politely a foot apart, and then her mother’s friend was gone, leaving her long you’d be staying?” She held the object up, and Leah realized, with some alone with her cereal, and with Mother. shock, that it was an urn. She could no longer remember what it was she had planned to do that “The will was very clear about scattering the ashes over Wilden Pond, day. It didn’t seem important. Nothing pressing, certainly. There was plenty to and I WAS the executor, but…well. I’m be done around the house, plenty that a sentimental old fool, and I suppose I needed her immediate attention, just wasn’t ready to let go of your mother’s company. Then when I saw you…” The as soon as she finished her breakfast. Sooner, really. old woman trailed off, smiling up at Leah, who stood frozen in the doorway. “I just couldn’t, you know? Your She ate her cereal mechanically, not mother, she would want to be home.” tasting the sweetened cocoa or the little, Mrs. Daniels pressed the brass urn into stale marshmallows. Her Mother sat Leah’s hands. “She would want to be

// 28 //


to her left, silent and brass-clad, and behind her, the clock on the wall ticked away. Two minutes. Five. Thirteen. How long does it take to eat a bowl of cereal, Leah? Sixteen. It took her sixteen minutes that day. Next time she would be quicker.

trills of nesting birds, and when the ash came, she told herself it was granola. After awhile, it hardly seemed to matter.

Breakfast done, she took her bowl to the sink and dutifully began to wash it, pausing only when she glanced up and saw the pink genitalia drawn above the She sat at the table, staring down counter. Vulgar. Carefully, she lifted her into her bowl at the leftover milk, sponge and wiped it from the wall, then arms hanging limply at her sides. Get blotted the area dry with a dish towel. up, Leah thought, suddenly angry at herself. Pour the fucking milk down the Children could make such messes. drain. You don’t have to drink it. Her There was only one thing left hands clenched and unclenched, and to clean, and that was easy enough. she saw her reflection looking back at Humming to herself, she lifted the urn her, watched the dark outline of a tear again, carried it to the trash can, and force itself from her doppelganger’s eye. dropped it inside. There. The kitchen Get up. was spotless. Dishes done, table cleared, and all was in its place. Things were Her arm rose, lifted her mother’s just as they should be. urn, and tipped it over into the cereal bowl. The brass top clattered as it struck the porcelain, then was muffled by the steady, gray stream of ash and bone fragments. Rocking back and forth in the chair now, she raised the other arm and dug the spoon into the mess, stirring it hard before she lifted it to her mouth with a jerk. Her mouth stretched open, so wide her jaw began to ache, and her hand carried the pile of wet remains into her. She closed her mouth, swallowed, and when she saw the hand and spoon return to the bowl a second time, she closed her eyes. She imagined the woods, the smell of wet moss, the

// 29 //


OUR ELECTRONIC TRAIL TO LOVE allison canty // poetry It began with a whisper, heart pounding. Unbitten nails clacked on beloved keyboard through the night— ‘till dawn. Smile-worn faces on streaming camera lenses. At night, dreams were had alone, on a stagnant bed of crushed puppy love. Dreams of your hands and a single smiling purple-haired portrait, one eye permanently lost. To the fates, and fizzy television lenses. I used to say: It’d never work. You used to say: As you say. and each time we’d say the unsayable— You, with your one eye and me with my flirty smile, yielded complaints of raised voices as avid as a married couple by dawn. Thirteen years ladled doses of ill-luck For me, a dose of responsibility in form of an infant; a spoonful of honey. For you, eight years of abuse that fell from your lips like Nyquil on the rare occasion—dinner at a five-star restaurant where the food was ice-cold. She hated me, hated me as much as rats despise terriers, But you cleaved to her like moss on a rock facing north, except this rock squished you daily despite protest. Abuse and love go hand-in-hand, like siblings playing on a run-away carousel. Those long years of barely speaking made // 30 //


my heart a freezer-door. Others opened it up, and stole its contents like— Magpies picking up the shattered pieces, until you chased them away with barbed tongue. You were my sheep-dog to their thieving magpie. You: I love you. it was year one. Me: I love you too. It was year ten. Rocks rained down, battering on a hot tin roof exaggerating our mournful expressions every night. Heat rose from our hair like tea kettles. Our passion clapped together like hands and gripped us like Chinese finger traps. I’ve broken us up— twenty-six times in the last three years. I exaggerate, it’s only been twice. Two times was enough to remind me, the deafening night silence, hot tears on a damp pillow, the churning river of sorrow in my gut. I did it, you know. I approached you, hat in hand, metaphorically speaking. Tick tock, tick tock, whined the obscured clock. Heard whenever I close my eyes and consider our future. Soon enough, you’ll be state-side and we’ll mesh, yin to yang, yang to yin. jagged pieces of glass falling from a golden sky as Fortuna finally allows our threads to cross in the real world.

// 31 //


FRAGILITY derby tanner // poetry I was too used to Having you stumble upon Me in hidden fragility When you’d pick up all the pieces Help me meld the hairline fractures. Yet proportionally the crack grows larger The longer your absence pierces My determination. No matter how hard I work to Close the gaps, It’s only tacky temporaries. Adhesives are so easily removed And I have to grow a thicker Skin Past my prime of development. Now it is self-mutilation, destruction. Demolishing the shell enclosing me In order to reestablish it’s foundation As rock rather than of sand.

// 32 //


THE RED PETAL allison canty // fiction Have you ever had a moment that you completely combed over your life choices in what to you felt like time had stopped, and yet it continued onwards outside of your perception. The glass shards that seemed to fan out within the air beside you catch the sun rays of the setting sun just right, you think they are so beautiful. The roses that your ex-boyfriend had sent you as an apology were turned perpendicular of each other as they fell, seemingly in slow-motion to rest on the floor much like a funeral procession throwing flowers into a loved one’s grave. Did you ever consider that you brought this moment of total anarchy upon yourself? Did you care when your mother died, and you didn’t even shed a single tear? That’s okay, you remember that when your father was murdered when you were a child, you didn’t cry either. Your breath catches in your throat as pain exploded in your shoulder like a white-hot firework, in this case it’d be one of the fireworks that bloomed purple from the use of strontium hitting your blood stream and combining with the copper within your delicate capillaries. The hole left in your shoulder from the shotgun shell exploding looks not unlike a grave,

you think to yourself. Mother…. I am so sorry I didn’t visit more often is the thought wriggling around in your brain like maggots feasting on the rarest of necrotized flesh as you hit the ground besides the exploded vase, and flowers. Flowers, like the red and white roses you had thrown into the freshly-dug grave that became the eternal resting place of your accidentally murdered mother. You gasp for air like a fish out of water, your irises like pinpricks. You can remember the very first thing that set this deplorable show into motion. Your life had been normal back then, in college. Your mother had been alive, and happy. It should be mentioned that out of spite due to her death, you had her already totaled car crushed. This is all just a bad dream. I’ll wake up soon in my bed in the dormitory... Is what you whispered to yourself with such hope. As you dreamed, you remembered. You had met them in school, this band of boys that seemed rather dodgy to the rest of the campus but to you, and your little rebel self, they were a godsend. With your notoriously black clothes, normally black hair, and pale skin you fit right in with these people. At first you thought they were just pretending // 33 //


to be what they were with their spell books and occult tattoos. They had posters of the wiccan creed and pentagrams in their rooms. You knew from your research that pentagrams are a sign of protection whether inverted or not. When you pointed this out to one of them, he laughed at you and informed you that it was just art.

a tight grip so that everyone could see you were protected, right?

Their leader, Carl had been particularly nice to you and had asked for your number so that he could check in and text you after classes. You thought it was because he cared about you, but really, he just wanted to stalk you. You were under the spell Your ex-boyfriend was one of these of those warm brown eyes, like the warm molasses cookies your mom strange men you used to pal around had often pulled out of the oven when with. And the one who assaulted you were a child. Gods forgive you of you just then with the shotgun? Also, the sexual thoughts you had about his another of the men. Your ex, he had near platinum blonde wavy locks. Your decided that he didn’t want to be told what to do and he had left the little cult knees felt like jelly, but you had handed without issue. But you are a woman and him your cell-phone number with what felt like to you a dopey, stupid grin. thus more valuable for some reason, Weeks and weeks, he would show up they decided to keep you despite his where you were and take you places protests, so you broke up as no one himself by tucking your little hand could ever tell you who to be friends with. And they didn’t just keep you, did into his crooked arm like a gentleman. Carl was a college junior, so who were they. They made your life an absolute hell. It started out small, though. There you to deny him your attention with your sophomore self? He got you a were rumors and then news stories pentagram amulet to wear around about assaults on campus and just off your neck and took you to get your it at night and during classes, so these bellybutton pierced. He was just an allmen, who were slowly getting more around nice guy, you thought. and more people to their cause started escorting you and two other ladies to This off and on dance of yours and from their classes. They’d take you with Carl carried on for two years to your dorm, to your car, the cafeteria, while you worked on school things. and back again all with cheerful You graduated with honors, you were expressions. They’d guide you with a considering coming back for your hand on your arm and it was kept in master’s Degree in Spanish so that you // 34 //


could be a Spanish teacher. Carl already graduated and working somewhere where he made enough of a salary to support himself and his endeavors which included this cult of men and women. You could feel the cold metallic touch of something restraining your wrists, neck and your legs. The smooth hard feeling of something on your back didn’t feel quite right. What is this... what has he done now... You opened your eyes slowly to try and flick down towards your shoulder. It was with a shock that you noticed your shoulder was completely bare but patched up with gauze over the wound that had caused you so much pain that you blacked out. You could feel the subtle weight of your pentagram resting around your neck on its slightly masculine chain and you breathed a slight sigh of relief that it had been undamaged or stolen. Carl came to you suddenly, his breath hot on your bare breast as his lips wrapped around your hardened nipple, his brown eyes flicking upwards to stare into your own. He has always had the eyes of a killer, so dead of emotion...why had I never noticed? You wondered to yourself. If you lived through this experience you would chastise yourself thoroughly for this misstep. All you could think about was

that you were naked, so much so that you missed him starting to speak. “….my little red petal. You will be part of our greatest ritual yet. I chose you specifically even though we’re no longer together. The other women of the cult just can’t bear a candle to your magicwielding abilities. You see, don’t you?” You wanted to snarl to him: I am not your little red petal anymore, Carl… you decided to give that up for your job and another woman... Remember? Physically though you only stared at him like a wounded doe before you spoke physically: “I left this cult for a reason, Carl…you can’t just drag me back whenever you want. You set the protocol, remember?” You decided to use his own legal knowledge against him, after all...why not banter wits with a lawyer while you think of a solution? With this turn of events you were able to glance around, and you noticed that you were underground by the look of the dirt walls, and within a ritual circle because you could see the candles flickering behind Carl’s back. There was a grimoire that looked particularly aged on a table in the corner with two fresh black candles. You could feel your eyes widening to the point you felt like they would exit your eye sockets. This looks like a summoning circ----shit, he’s speaking again. “….You will be the doorway in // 35 //


which Chaos enters this world and sets everything back to rights as it was before Man started down the path of the defiler.” he was whispering against your ear in some sort of intimate, perverse way. You guess that he must have felt that would turn you on, as summoning circles often required sex. You had to stop this from happening somehow and it couldn’t be helped, you had to call upon what you thought would save you: your magic. The chant started slowly in your mind at first. Peace be found within the gaze of the little red petal, and all I look upon. From the Earth under my feet and the sky above my head, Goddess rain your wrath upon those undeserving of your Gift! You could feel the power dancing behind your eyelids as you chanted over and over in your brain the simple mantra, but sometimes simplicity was the best. When you opened your eyes again, the sheer ferocity within your gaze made Carl take a step back and as he fell, the flames from the candle got onto his elaborately decorated velvet robes, not that he had noticed just yet, but you had. Your face remained stern, your stare ferocious even as he started to roll on the ground, his girlish screams echoing in the small cavern. All you could do was smile and as he rolled, the other candles just kept setting him alight. The other members of the

// 36 //

coven watched in horrified awe as the moments of unexplained chaos clicked into place. There were about twenty or so souls within that cavern not counting you or Carl. They all seemed terrified as their self-proclaimed leader rolled about the ground but kept getting set back alight as you stared down upon him in righteous fury. You opened your mouth: “Peace be found within the gaze of the little red petal, and all I look upon. From the Earth under my feet, and the Sky above my head, Goddess rain your wrath upon those undeserving of your Gift!” As you shouted, you looked upon the twenty souls. To a man and a woman, they turned about and fled, their robes that had been styled in a similar manner to Carl’s not making much of a noise, but you only smiled as their panicked trampling of the earth beneath them set off a chain reaction. You merely stared on as the shoddilymade cave rumbled, stilling the people like panicked animals as they glanced above them to the painfully small wooden support beam that was cracking. A shower of earth and rock locked fifteen of the people into the room, still alive. The others were buried amidst their agonized cries for mercy to you and your Goddess. Imagine that, pound after pound of dirt first falling around their bodies and then filling their mouths with its mineral embrace.


But you didn’t have a choice, did you. You believed they were going to destroy the world using their summoning circle and maybe you were right. Still, you sat there tied to that board now trapped within the earth. You read once that all man came from dirt, and to dirt they will return in an unending cycle of life versus death. You watched Carl burn to death, his cries echoing in your ears, draining you of your seemingly endless supply of power. The fire had burned him to a blackened husk and you know what else it had taken with it besides his life? Your air supply, Little Red Petal. There was no air flow coming from the blocked entrance, and the fire had needed oxygen. You breathed shallowly at first, imperceptible really to your conscious brain, but your body knew. It knew that it needed to supply you with air for as long as possible, so it changed its breathing pattern. Ten minutes later, you started to sweat and gasp for air, determined to live both in spirit and in body. Those ten precious moments wasted in a mass grave that Carl had dug for you both, unaware that he would be digging your future resting place.

last ray of refracted light. I was there, Little Red Petal, when your head lolled to the side, your body exhausting its ability to keep you alive. I had refused to make the passage into my realm easier on those that had kidnapped and intended to torture you. I took you in my arms, and your soul, your light soul, did not weigh me down with your past wrongdoings, because you had so little. Thus, I was able to take you with me out of that cave, unlike the others. You looked up at me, and said: “Daddy...tell me the story of the Red Petal…”

That is when I found you. Called to your side as I am to every side when they are about to breathe their last breath, smell their last scent, see their // 37 //


B-BOYS COLLECTION francesco loprete // art

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urethane enamel on concrete (12 X 24 cm each)


PERPETUAL APOSTROPHE darby tanner // poetry Can someone be so selfless In direct proportion To their conceit? I think I’ve found that miserable purgatory And no one’s praying to get me out As I sit so far from heaven, and even closer to hell. In the end I place myself there But don’t ask for prayers I cannot justify deserving.

// 39 //


SUICIDAL tyler hauth// poetry There was a deer in the dark And it watched Standing alone I went to it on a windy night Leaves and branches blew like rain It looked at me with black eyes With a death wish Have you ever seen an animal that wants to die?

// 40 //


UNTITLED COLLECTION francesco loprete // art

oil on wood (diameter 20 cm) // 41 //


I DREAM OFcaleb LONDON patton // poetry

As I walked through the hedgerows of houses, The night dripped and dropped like ink and oil, A draggard blaggard, Peaked through moonlight smiling, His eyes preened and picked apart, Beak and talon, He squealed, My feet were stone and silent, My arms were chained against his charms, The sound of scumesy steps began, Creep, creep, creeping up from behind, As cold and crooked fingers closed my eyes,

Wakey, wakey, eggs and meat crying like a rooster’s roar, The sky seemed new and naughty, Orange and purple and painted like oil on a canvas, Stars shimmered when I stood, The sea shone with rich hues, Drowning the sun underneath it’s Piccasilly sighs, Heaving and weaving, The world both turvy and topsy, Nothing where I’d left it before, That charming smile slide so easily back into my mind, Oh you’ve had quite a fall, The words slipping through me like ice, Come come vcome with me, I’ll treat you nice and neat and sweet like cream, // 42 //


Alone, My tongue was heavy with leaden words, Disappearing like pills dropped in a drink, Down a drain, Down an unwittingly interested party, Dreat me, my sweet, Lend me your marbles for just one night, I promise, I won’t lose them.

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SPECIAL THANKS TO CALEB “RADICAL” PATTON

AWARD WINNING PODCAST EDITOR 2017-2018

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Profile for Vortex Magazine

Autumn Online 2018  

Check us out at ucavortex.com Listen to our podcast at anchor.fm/uca-vortex-podcast Like us on Facebook at Vortex Magazine of Literature and...

Autumn Online 2018  

Check us out at ucavortex.com Listen to our podcast at anchor.fm/uca-vortex-podcast Like us on Facebook at Vortex Magazine of Literature and...