table of contents poetry “Step One” by Jamie Ireland.........................................................................................................................5 “One Banging Concert” by Jennifer Gulley...............................................................................................22 “The Horseshoe Fallacy” by Jesse Johnson...............................................................................................23 “Heat Advisory” by Jamie Ireland...............................................................................................................25 “Winter Coat” by Lindsey Walker................................................................................................................34
fiction “Blue” by Candace Williams...........................................................................................................................7 “Necromantic Nightmare” by Candace Williams......................................................................................11 “Hope” by Dalton Cook...............................................................................................................................17 “Failure of Attraction” by Theresa Niemczyk..............................................................................................26
art “Kowloon” by Audrey Bauman ....................................................................................................................6 “The In-between” by Tink Pendergrass .....................................................................................................10 “Concrete” by Park Lanford ........................................................................................................................16 “Self Portrait with Hat” by Christopher Bone ............................................................................................21 “Rainfall” by Park Lanford ............................................................................................................................24 “Whirlpool” by Audrey Bauman..................................................................................................................35
Check out our film selections! The Clowns by Austin McEuen ucavortex.com/media-selections
Jaime Ireland // Poetry Girl, Inhabit your body Hold your back straight Look forward in that goddamn mirror Say I am Woman Say I matter to the scars to your father to every ear that hears and to yourself.
Audrey Bauman Photography
Candace Williams // Fiction “See the bruising on my wrist?” I look down at the Jane Doe lying on my table. “Well, of course. That’s the first thing I noticed when you came in,” I say. “What’s your name?” “Julia. He tied me to a chair in the basement and left me to starve.” I pick up one of the young woman’s delicate wrists, examining the graying violet bruises, concluding that she is telling the truth. “These contusions do seem to have been caused by a rope. I see the twisting of the fibers within the discolorations. Who is ‘he’?” Julia’s curly auburn hair doesn’t move as she speaks from her still pale lips. “I don’t know. I never got a good look at him with that mask he wore over his face. When I finally died, he wasn’t there. When he came back and saw me, he was still wearing the mask.” “So you didn’t see him when he dumped your body in Central Park?” “Not once. I hope your detectives can find him.” “They’re very good at what they do, Julia. I need to begin your autopsy now.” I raise my scalpel to Julia’s collarbone, but before I can make the incision, she asks, “Is it going to hurt?” The harsh white light illuminates her glazed hazel eyes. They look at peace even as I hear a slight panic in her voice. “No, not at all. You’ve already been hurt enough. I’ve been a medical examiner for over a decade and none of the people that have ever been on this table before you have complained. Don’t worry.” I’ve said the same speech to nearly every cadaver that has come into my care for years. My
job description is to find out what happened to the dead by examining every inch of their body, starting with the outside evidence before making the Y-cut to examine the organs and tissues. Most cadavers don’t mind my observations of the outside. It’s when I pick up my scalpel that they tend to become anxious, wondering if the pain of living transfers into the post-mortem. *** It was a week ago that twenty-year-old Julia Davis helped me find her abductor and killer. Although he was wearing a mask, the detail of Julia’s bruises determined that a specific type of nylon rope was used—and only one seller in the area carries it. The detectives were able to pull surveillance footage from the supply store and allowed me to view it in my workspace (they’ve gotten quite used to my “antics”, as they call them). Julia noticed a man in the tape wearing a pair of old work boots and remembered that the man who locked her up was wearing the same ones. I informed the detectives of my “hunch” and, after finding a faint boot print on Julia’s jacket sleeve—that she said the man had thrown on the ground—they were able to get a warrant. Even as I am able to communicate with my patients I am still burdened with the task having to find real, concrete evidence. Today a young boy came into my care. He told me that his name is Jackson and that he is eight years old. I say “is” because he is still as lively as ever and I don’t believe in using the past tense until a case is solved. I find it keeps the victim’s mind at ease as well. Reading his file, I say, “It says here that you were found on Westfall Road right outside 7
Barclay Square Drive in Brighton.” “Yes ma’am! That’s where I live! Barclay Square Drive!” “You can call me Lucy if you want to. Which house do you live in? Tell me what happened; what were you doing at the end of your street?” “Oh, that’s easy, Miss Lucy! The only white house on my street! I ride my bike around all the time. That’s what I was doing! It’s always really really fun.” The enthusiasm in Jackson’s voice is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. “So how did your knees get hurt?” Usually I get right down to the harsher terms like crushed or smashed, but never with an eight-year-old like Jackson. Kids like him remind me of my little cousins over in Harlem. “Uhh…well I was riding my bike, but then I stopped.” “Why is that?” “Well, I saw a turtle in the street and Mommy never let me have a pet turtle before so I was gonna take it back home with me and beg her to let me keep ‘im.” “Did you get off of your bike to pick up the turtle?” “Yeah! I put it on the side of the road in the grass. I used my kickstand like Daddy taught me!” “Alright, that’s good, Jackson. What happened next?” I wait a few seconds until Jackson finally answers with a sadness I have not yet heard in his voice. “I was going to get Mr. Shelly—that’s what I named the turtle!—and then I looked up and a car was coming really really close. Then it hit my knees and I fell on the ground! I don’t know where Mr. Shelly went, but the car drove away really really fast.” Jackson is so young I’m almost positive he doesn’t fully understand where he is or why he is here, lying on my cold, hard table surrounded by all these bright lights and shiny tools. “Jackson, can you tell me what the car looks like? Is it big or small?
“Blue, my favorite color! Also small, I think. And fast! Super-duper fast!” Oddly enough, I’m glad to hear his excitement return. I end my inquisition and ask him if he likes baths. Unlike my cousins, he does. I clean him up after examining his knees more closely and take samples from under his fingernails. Before I begin the routine autopsy, I go ahead and tell Jackson that it won’t hurt one bit so I don’t have to hear him ask the dreaded question. *** I recognize that the detectives I work with are amazing at their job—they’re probably the best in New York, in fact—but they’re also incredibly stubborn at times. I take my findings to the lead detective, James Steele, but he dismisses me immediately. “We’ve got this handled, Lucy. We found the boy’s bike just down the street from where we found his body. I’m having my guys dust it for prints. We asked around the neighborhood and found his parents. They’d like answers and I intend to provide them, but you’ve gotta let us work on the important stuff, got it?” I imagine James Steele has never played the role of “good cop.” His condescending tones and sarcasm, however, make him the perfect cookiecutter nitty-gritty detective. The “important stuff” to him is usually chasing down the perpetrator, but what he doesn’t realize is he can’t even begin to do that without my assistance. What he’ll never know is that I, myself, can’t assist the department without the victims’ help. I ignore James’s remarks and persist. “This case is a hit and run. All evidence points to it, James.” He scoffs. “What evidence? Did little Jackson whisper it in your ear? Come on, we need real, solid evidence.” “The joints of his knees are crushed. That is consistent with car-to-pedestrian impact.” “Consistency isn’t proof. My team and I would look into it, but I’d rather you come back when you have something worth my time.” 8
Under my breath, I mutter about the blue car and James says, “What was that?” “Nothing. It’s not worth your time.” Not yet, anyway. I return to the morgue and pull Jackson out of his temporary resting place. His parents have claimed him, but a funeral cannot be held until the body is officially released to the family. “Hi, Jackson. Sorry I have to wake you up. I just need to take one more look at your knees, okay?” “Okay, Miss Lucy. My mommy and daddy came for a visit earlier! I told them not to cry but I don’t think they heard me.” “It’s alright, Jackson. Lots of other mommies and daddies that come in here cry too, but eventually they find peace. We all do.” As I inspect his knees one last time I pray there is a paint chip that wasn’t washed away yesterday. “What are you looking for, Miss Lucy?” “Your favorite color. Even just a little piece of it.” I take a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass from my tray. The light from the glass brightens Jackson’s skin and I catch a glimpse of a shimmery cobalt fleck the water miraculously missed. I carefully pull it from the surface and place it in an airtight container to be sent to the lab for testing. “Ooh! Did you find it?” “I did, and I couldn’t have done it without your help, Jackson. Thank you. Now you can go back to sleep and soon you’ll be able to ride your bike all the time, okay?” “Okay, Miss Lucy! I can’t wait!” *** Before I deliver the chip to the forensic lab on the third floor, I take it to the second to show James Steele in person that I have gathered some “real” evidence for his case. “Looks like a blue dot.” Classic James Steele vocabulary. “It’s a paint chip, and I have no doubt that it’s from a cobalt-colored sedan.” “Yeah, I guess we’ll see.” He sits back down
at his desk, where he is reviewing Jackson’s case file. I turn to leave without saying anything and he clears his throat. I turn back around to see him facing me. “Good work, Lucy. You have to know that we can’t just go out looking for random things because you say so. You’ve just gotta show us solid proof from your autopsies. The dead can’t tell you what happened, so you have to search for the truth yourself, capisce?” “I understand.” One day, maybe he will, too.
Park Lanford Photography
Necromantic Nightmare Candace Williams // Fiction
March 30 I should begin this journal by saying I’ve been here in this monstrosity of a house for three consecutive and rather long days. I only know this from counting how many times the parlor room—one of the only rooms with windows— blackens with the ominous darkness of night. How I got to this enormous house, I honestly do not remember. All I know is that three nights ago, I wandered aimlessly between flashes of lightning and through ankle-deep mud puddles until I almost literally stumbled upon the heavy wrought-iron gate outside. I barely touched it and it swung open immediately. I don’t know why, but I felt I had to approach the front door. Part of me must have hoped to escape the raving winds and rain, even if for a moment. As soon as I knocked on the ornately carved mahogany door, the master of the house opened it as if he had been waiting for my arrival all along. The first thing he said to me was that a young woman like myself should not be wandering around in the storm alone, especially in the later hours of the evening. He insisted that I come inside to get dry and warm. Although I am indeed dry now, I still struggle to find complete warmth in his massive home. Each room is frigid and drafty; the rooms without windows have a draft lurking as well. Even as I write, I feel no particular warmth. Only by the flame of this single candle do I feel anything at all. I hear the master’s footsteps ascending the staircase, so I must continue the account of my stay here tomorrow. He cannot know that I have found his paper and writing materials, for he may think I am stealing from him.
March 31 Last night, the master, who still has not told me his name, nor asked for mine, just wanted to check and make sure I was comfortable in this room he supplied the first night. He explained to me that this was his sister’s room before she suffered a horrific train accident. Even by candlelight, I could see the pain and sadness in his dark, brooding eyes. From what I can tell, he seems to be in his mid-40’s—still young, yet too old to be left without a family to fill this enormous residence. His brows are furrowed at all times, even when he softly smiles in my direction. I say in my direction because he hasn’t made eye contact once. It’s as if he chooses to look around me, near me, or completely through me rather than right at me. He is all alone here, and his absent-minded mannerisms reflect that. Not once, but twice so far, he has poured tea for only himself while I sat at the opposite end of the table until I cleared my throat. Each time he comes to pour my tea, he tells me he is not used to having company and that I am his first guest in several years. I wish to keep my discovery of these writing materials from the study a secret from him, because for some reason I feel he may become irate if he finds out. Not that he’s shown any outward hostility—it’s just a certain feeling or intuition that I have. I don’t wish to find out his reaction anytime soon, at least, for this is the only way I have to pass the time besides exploring different rooms throughout the long days. I’d rather keep this journal hidden and be able to use it rather than lose it and have nothing to fill the silent spaces between the minutes I spend here. 11
I have asked to leave twice—for surely someone on the outside is beginning to worry about my whereabouts—and both times the master has told me he’s not ready for my departure just yet. Although I am not entirely sure what he means by that, I think it must be his loneliness speaking. I pity him.
fear of disturbing the master, although part of me longs to play Mozart or Bach on the ivory keys to fill the dreadfully silent void in this mansion. I recall playing Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 for my mother every day after she fell ill when I was just an adolescent. She used to tell me it would fill the emptiness in her sick heart. The book shelves are carved from African blackwood and line the walls, from floor to ceiling, about twelve feet high. I climbed up one of the rolling library ladders without moving it and picked a book at random. It was the Munich Manual of Demonic Magic. I have no interest in dealing with necromancy or anything relating to the dark world of demons, so I quickly placed it back on the shelf. It was the only book in the area that wasn’t covered in dust. When I originally found the library, I had intended to spend the rest of today reading to pass the time, however, finding that particular book made me lose that appetite. After my grim discovery, I decided to come back here to my room for a nap and to write this entry. I’m not sure what the master has in store for me but I hope to return to my home—wherever that may be—very soon. I’m sure someone must be missing me by now.
April 1 Today I took to some exploration of the house. There are much too many rooms to get to all in a day, so I began with the downstairs wings. The right wing contains rooms such as the kitchen, dining room, and parlor, while the left houses a bathroom, library, and study. I haven’t seen the master of the house all day—not even for breakfast or lunch. I was forced to fend for myself for both meals, so my exploration started in the kitchen. Everything I’ve seen—in other rooms as well as the kitchen—is covered in layers of dust. The stove looks as if it is never used, and likely hasn’t been for several years, if not decades. What has he eaten all this time? Since I’ve arrived, I have only been served various types of stale bread and sandwiches with coffee or tea. Because the stove is virtually unusable, the master heats water for tea and coffee over the fire in the parlor. This room contains nothing else except for two deep purple-cushioned chairs in the center. One of them is free of any dust and has an impression in the seat; the other is the opposite. Even the wallpaper matches with purple tones. During the day, the sun beams through the single window onto the dusty, untouched chair, fading its color. The particles of dust in the air surrounding it look as if they are dancing in the light—or maybe the better word is swarming. Overwhelmed by the violet, I decided to move on to the library and study areas. The first thing I noticed in the library was an old grand piano. Instead of being the glossy black it should be, it is a dull grey from all the dust. I presume it hasn’t been played for as long as the untouched parlor chair has been empty. I have left it untouched in
April 6 (?) It has been a while since I have been able to write, for I am just now regaining bits and pieces of my memory. I’ve placed a question mark next to today’s date because I am not entirely sure exactly what day it is. It could be April, or maybe it’s May or even September…I don’t know. I did, however, remember some more from the first night I was here. The master offered me some hot tea, but I remember the taste being a bit off. Perhaps it was due to it being old and stale like this house; maybe no one had made any tea in a while. It could not have been poison, for wouldn’t I already be dead if it had been? A night or so ago I kindly and subtly rejected the tea, opting to pour my own water instead. I received an odd expression from the still-nameless master, but he 12
did not make a fuss. I must have regained some of these memories because I stopped drinking that strange tea. I suppose only time will tell. I am still processing the events that have transpired recently. I must start where I left off last time. Once I had explored the downstairs regions of this vast and disturbing place, I began my exploration of the second floor. The only places I had been on this floor were my room and the bathroom that is attached to it. The master of the house didn’t tell me what any of the other rooms were for and I scarcely see him roaming about the winding halls, so I took it upon myself to find out on my own. I started at the end of my hall. The first room was a stark deep blue—everything was that color. The walls, the carpet, and what little furniture it had were the same striking Prussian blue. I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t now, but every room I entered in this hall after was the same. Each room has its own monochromatic scheme; its own personality. Besides the blue, there is also a red, a yellow, a green, and a white room. Another shocking factor is that none of these rooms, compared with the rest of the mansion, contain even a speck of dust or dirt, as if they are used regularly. The white room, which was much too bright for my sensitive eyes, was spotless. I didn’t stay in it for more than a few minutes, but it was surprisingly sterile in comparison with the other rooms of the house. With the rest of this place being in such terrible shape, I can’t imagine why or how these colored rooms remain so pristine. Before I end this rather long entry, I must include my observation of and experiences in the red room. As I entered it, I felt a sudden dread at the deep crimson that surrounded me. My already frail frame shuddered at the sight that reminded me of blood. I stood in the middle of the space, unmoving, until eventually I started feeling weak and thought I tasted iron. As I lay in bed that night, I couldn’t escape the thoughts of that room. The feelings it forced upon me are
unexplainable, unfathomably dreadful. When I finally fell asleep, I also fell into the midst of some sort of dream, or rather, a nightmare. I was in the red room again, but this time I was not alone and I witnessed movement. It was not sudden, but instead a gradual motion. I stood completely still as if my feet were planted into the hardwood floor while the crimson walls seemed to melt all around me. It was when I tried to run that I realized I was no longer in control of my own body. Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 played in the background and I began to see that the melting walls resembled large quantities of flowing blood. The blood seemed to be pouring down the deep red wallpaper. The master of the house was not in sight, but a female figure with a face similar to his appeared less than six inches in front of me and told me to leave immediately, before my doom. I awoke in a cold sweat, shaken by the demand of the daunting spirit whom I presume to be the master’s late sister. Even now I fail to make sense of anything—this house, the book I found, the master, the monochromatic rooms, my horrendous dream. June 14 Just this morning at breakfast I asked the master for the date and he said it was June. I told him I had thought it was April for all this time and he only laughed at me with his half-crooked, yellowing smile. After that, the rest of our toast and butter breakfast was finished in utter silence. I still cannot stop thinking about my dream. I continually wonder what the meaning of it is and why the master’s sister would order me to leave. June 15 Today was not a good day. At lunch, I decided to begin an inquisition about the master’s sister and he shut me down immediately. I wanted to know more about her and how she died, but he slammed his hand onto the table, jarring the wax-covered candlesticks in the middle of it. He said that she died by train and that was it, but I 13
am not sure I believe it. When he hit the table and I saw the fury in his eyes, my mind jumped back to the day I found the Manual of Demonic Magic in his library. I am now convinced that he had something to do with his sister’s death through the use of that evil book. In an attempt to lighten the mood and apologize for my nosiness, I offered to play Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 before dinner. I thought it could bring some liveliness to this dying home. The master sadly stated that he could not allow me to touch the piano for any reason at all. He apologized for his earlier outburst, however, and revealed to me that his late sister was the only one in the house who played the piano years ago, when the entire family lived here. He could not get rid of it, out of the need to preserve her memory, but he could never bring himself to touch it either. I cannot forget the fury I saw in his eyes at the first mention of his sister, but seeing this element of humanity in him once again leads me to feel sorry for him. I must not jump to conclusions about this mysterious, hurting man based on my finding of an old book. I decided to start drinking the master’s tea again so I do not offend him any further.
I decided that the dream had no truth to it, being just a conjuring of my tired and warped imagination. June 18 I feel that my writing will be more scarce in the upcoming week, for the master has allowed me to be able to spend some time in his back garden. It’s not so much a garden as it is a patch of dryness and death. He saw me staring at it through the small kitchen window and asked if I would help him restore it. By help him, he meant do it all by myself, but I don’t mind at all. In addition to playing piano for my mother, I used to weed her garden for her when she grew too weak to do it herself. And now that I finally have something different to do in this house, I am willing to take a challenge … plus, I will be able to get some fresh air as well as sunlight. June 28 I was wrong about the sunlight. In all these nine days, I have worked outside in the master’s “garden” for hours and hours under a fierce shield of rolling steel clouds. However, I am grateful for being able to breathe different air. I was almost convinced that what I have been breathing in the house is not oxygen, but rather a crude mixture of dust and despair that I have simply gotten used to over time. Today, I am taking a break from working in the yard. It is nowhere near finished but I have made some minor progress. I must remember that progress, no matter how small, is always good. I have also seen progress in the master during this past week. He has begun speaking to me more and accompanying me during more meals. He now never forgets to pour my tea and even brings it to me before bed. I can only hope that my staying here has been the cause of this seemingly positive change in demeanor and behavior. If I do not write again, it means I have no need to anymore, for I will have found enough satisfaction in the constant wonders of my new home, my new life.
June 17 I had another dream last night, but this time it was more pleasant than the first. The master’s sister sat in the vanity chair across from my bed while I sat under my covers. She told me her name was Elizabeth and that her brother was John. I asked why she told me to leave in the first dream and she told me tales of her and her brother’s explorations through necromancy as teenagers. She said when they became adults, Elizabeth retreated from the dark arts and begged John to do the same, but he was too far involved. John summoned the wrong spirit one night and it suffocated Elizabeth in her sleep. Elizabeth insisted that her brother had not been sincere when he informed me that she had died in a train accident. When I awoke this morning, 14
The In-between Tink Pendergrass Digital Painting
Dalton Cook // Fiction Smoking shells raced into the now dissolved pavement all across St. Louis. The bombastic thuds vibrated the whole earth while bullets whizzed around the ears of the soldiers. *Thud* *thud* *pop* *thud* *pop* *thud pop* Viribus listened closely to his surroundings as he always did, reluctantly reveling in the cacophonies of war. He thought it sounded like a drunken man playing a jazz beat: discordant, but in a satisfying way. The bass continued to level buildings while the snare took more lives, but Viribus remained focused. He adjusted his grey helmet that now had a crack running all the way from the top to the right side of his ear, a trail of tears to his mind. He adjusted his position in his tattered brown pants and his brown shirt that had been ripped mostly to shreds, exposing his almost emaciated and pale chest. Viribus raised his gun to his face, now a battle-hardened mess scarred up like the arms of an insecure teenager. He licked his pale, cracked lips, breathed in through his now crooked nose (a feature he acquired in battle in Northern Arkansas), and focused his explosively blue eyes, an oasis in the wasteland of his face. He squinted through his sights at the soldier in the old-style camouflage uniform from the days before, the uniform of a democrat. He pulled the trigger twice, the gun recoiling back as if even it was shocked at what it was doing. The blood arced in parabolas over the broken concrete as the heap of flesh and shattered dreams crumpled to the floor. Viribus wanted to feel sad. He wanted to be horrified that he even had the capacity to take another’s life. He wanted to feel the shock and the vomit swimming upstream to
the shore of his mouth just like it was his first time. But he couldn’t. In fact, he didn’t feel anything at all in that moment. He guessed that was what most armies wanted in a soldier. But Viribus hadn’t always been the clinical, detached marksman he was now. Growing up in Northeast Texas, he was such a frail and craven boy. He always avoided fights, and he was never much for the stinging assault on his well-being called pain. When he did get into fights, he would just run or take the beating lying down like a possum who didn’t know when to stop playing dead. The only thing that got him through school, that labyrinth of depression and low selfesteem, was his friend Amissa. Whenever Viribus would lay on the ground with tears in his eyes and bruises on his face, Amissa would always lean down with her silky brown hair that ran like a waterfall to her waist, her small, pointed face always smiling, and her bright green eyes filled with compassion, as if they would take you into their home and nurse you back to health when you had the flu. “Get up Viribus,” she would coo, “it’s okay. Let me help you up. No matter how down you get, you always have to get up.” Viribus pondered this time in his life, perplexed at how far away it felt to him now. It was only a few years ago that everything was normal, no fascist dictator and no civil war. The only things Viribus had to worry about were how he was going to graduate high school, as if that even mattered to him. But whenever the fascists consolidated power and established a dictatorship, everything changed. The nation split into three. Fascists, communists, and old16
school democrats carved out “their” piece of the US like a poorly perforated subscription card from a magazine and started slaughtering each other for it. Viribus remembered enlisting with the communist army, manifesto in hand and head full of that special kind of young idealism that seemed so foolish to Viribus now. He wasn’t even sure what he was“God fucking damnit, V!” shouted a comrade he didn’t recognize. “Whenever you’re done daydreamin’ we sure would appreciate your help.” Viribus responded with shots instead of words. He didn’t know how long he had been spaced out, but he could tell the front had gotten much more complicated. To his right, bunkered down on a hill that barely qualified as a fortification right by the Mississippi, was a stronghold of democrats. They had occupied St. Louis before the communists launched their invasion. But now, to his left, Viribus saw the infamous bright red uniforms rolling over the desolate cityscape. The fascists had joined the fight. It looked like the fascists were just as interested in St. Louis as everyone else. Viribus couldn’t figure out what was so damn important about this place. His officers never told them. They said, “It doesn’t matter what you’re fighting for, just keep fighting” in their dismissive, hollow voices. But Viribus needed to know what he was fighting for. He needed something to fight for. Viribus kept up the fire on either side as if he was dancing to “Thriller,” but the democrats were too well defended and the fascists were advancing fast. The stress was too much for Viribus to handle. Since he couldn’t run away in real life, he ran away in his mind, sprinting down the nerves and leaping with the synapses. He thought of his old school and how it seemed so horrible back then. Now he desperately wished to go back. He wanted to fail tests, to get told by teachers how much of a waste of potential he was, to get beaten up, to see Amissa. He wanted to go back knowing
what he knew now, that all of his anxiety and fears were so trivial. He wanted to ask out Amissa instead of getting too nervous and assuming she didn’t like him that way. He wanted to stare into those bright green eyes with the reflection of the water glancing off and say, “I love you, Amissa. I love you more than anything and I need you to know that I will always be there for you no matter what.” Hindsight is 20/20, and now Viribus could see all of his regrets for the first time, like the fine details of the leaves on trees. “V, I swear if I see you staring at the ground again instead of killing pigs I’ll have your ass shot for treason!” berated his superior. Viribus knew he was right. There was no time for pondering regrets, women, or the space overlapping. With the fascists closing in on their left and the democrats showing no sign of losing their foothold, Viribus’ unit was about to be surrounded. They had to move positions if they didn’t want to all be slaughtered. “Alright comrades, listen up,” dictated Commander Brevis. “We are going to be surrounded if we don’t move out fast. What we’re going to d—.” His sentence—and life—was cut short by a fascist sniper. Brevis always was a little too tall for the strongholds. Panic ensued among the soldiers now that their only officer was having tea with the worms. It was astonishing to Viribus how just one man was keeping the entire unit together, like that one bulb on the string of Christmas lights that had just gone out, killing the rest in the process. They scattered in every direction and their enemies cut them down in the easiest game of Whack-a-Mole they had ever played. Viribus kept his head low while he ran and cut into a maze of rubble a few hundred yards back. He dove to the floor behind cover and didn’t move. After a few minutes and a mild anxiety attack, Virbus got up with rubble all over him, dust on his face, and tears welling up in his eyes. He saw all of his comrades lying dead, the opposing sides trying desperately to scavenge the bodies for food 17
and ammunition while shooting the other side for doing the same. Viribus kept his head low. He wasn’t going to move from his spot until nightfall, when the fighting would subside. As he always did when there was nothing else to do, he retreated to his mind just as he had done from battle. He thought of old books he had read and how he didn’t remember the themes. He thought about when he was twelve and he got pummeled so badly by a gang of boys at his school that he was in the hospital for three days. He thought about peanut butter sandwiches and deodorant, and all the other simple things that civilians like him once took for granted. But more than anything, he thought about Amissa. He thought about how he never had to eat lunch alone because she was always with him, her hair almost kipping into her food. He thought about how they would stay up at night talking about their dreams, school, and their parents; her always moving closer to him and him always moving away because he thought she just needed more room. He thought about how she had asked him to the school dance with those hopeful green eyes, and he declined because he didn’t like dances and there would be bullies there. He thought about all the times she pitched him an easy hit and he never even swung because he couldn’t imagine her actually wanting him to. Before he knew it, it was nightfall. The drummer had finished his drink and gone to sleep, so Viribus stuffed his things into his bag and started to move. He didn’t know where he would go, every direction would just take him further behind enemy lines, with the fascists in one direction and the democrats in another. However, moving was better than staying put. Eventually, a patrol would come rolling through and he would be killed or taken prisoner. Viribus began to creep through the winding paths left by the remains of decimated buildings. His feet pressed against the uneven pavement,
resting on the assumption that it would hold. Viribus moved slowly and methodically, making sure to check the corners for monsters. He rounded a sharp turn to his left and immediately moved back behind the low, crumbling wall. He peeked around the edge to confirm what he saw: a camoflauge uniform standing alone as if it were an actor giving a monologue. He was just standing there, back turned to Viribus staring at nothing in a stadium filled with the remains of skyscrapers instead of spectators. Viribus knew he was off patrol; the democrats never sent out their men alone. But what was he doing there? Viribus pondered this for a bit before deciding it didn’t matter. He was definitely alone, just standing there in the middle of a wide open circle, asking to be killed. He was probably carrying food, ammunition, and if he was lucky, sensitive information. Viribus knew he would have to kill him quietly so as not to alert anyone to his position. Viribus slowly creeped up towards the enemy. He unsheathed his rusty, dull combat knife from his right thigh, careful to make sure nothing the light didn’t reflect off of it. His footsteps were silent like when he would sneak out of his house as a teenager to go see Amissa. Even now, as his life walked the tightrope just feet away from his sworn enemy, he couldn’t help but think about Amissa. He thought about all he wished he had said and done. He couldn’t get it out of his mind. Late nights by the lake, neither of them brave enough to swim out, they would just sit with their feet dipped in like commitment. But there was no time for Amissa now. The only thing that mattered now was what was just inches in front of him. Viribus took a quiet, deep breath, and lunged. He grabbed the democrat’s collar bone and pulled their body into his own before slicing the soldier’s throat open. As the democrat choked on his own blood, Viribus looked down at his prey’s face for the first time and started to choke himself. The first thing he saw was the green eyes, 18
drained of all hope, staring back at him in shock and disbelief, as if they were crying out to him, not in pain, but in heartbreak. Next he saw the small, pointed face beaten and scarred by war gasping for air and only finding blood, trying to mouth words that Viribus was thankful he couldn’t hear. As her body slumped against him, her helmet fell off her head and he saw the silky hair cover his chest like a blanket, a symbol of beauty and hope in a place where there was none. Viribus’ flowing blue eyes swelled up with tears and he started to scream as his only friend took her last breath in his arms. “Amissa!” Viribus screamed, not knowing what else to say or do. “Amissa! Amissa! I’m so sorry Amissa,” Viribus squeezed out through his sobs. “I love you Amissa. I’ve always loved you. I hope you can forgive me.” But how could she forgive him now? She was gone, lost like all of the opportunities he had to say those words when they would have mattered. Like all the talks of dreams, late night trips to the lake, and comforting speeches of inspiration, Amissa was only in the past now. There was no reconciliation. There was no redemption. Now, there was only a heap of regret lying bloody in Virbus’ arms. Virbus could hear the democrats approaching. His screaming had alerted them to his position, but Viribus didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything anymore. He had nothing else. No more idealism, no more cause, no more Amissa. Viribus picked up his rifle that had only a few more bullets left in the chamber, on its last legs just like himself. He pressed the muzzle up against the bottom of his neck and pointed it towards his skull. He wasn’t going to let those fucking pigs take his life. He would go out on his own terms, with the one he loved most dear. The democrats arrived in the circle with their guns drawn just in time to see a tattered, pale, war-exhausted man blow his own brains out. They were puzzled, but relieved to not have to
engage. They approached the two bodies lying limp and frozen on the ground before them. “What the hell was she doing out here by herself?” asked the commanding officer, half rhetorically. His subordinates stared at him blankly. “Whatever. Scavenge the bodies, grab the girl, and let’s move out. We have a war to win.” So the grunts did as he said. They scavenged the bodies, picked up Amissa, and hauled her back to camp for burial, leaving Viribus’ corpse all alone in the middle of an urban wasteland.
Concrete Park Lanford Photography
One Banging Concert Jennifer Gulley // Poetry Band bangs killer tunes, drums drag notes, bass brings mellows. Guitar wails, then whines. Lead hums, then croaks. Voices cry out into a night filled with smoke and ash. Whiskey breath, weed, and day old vomit. Throats dry, crack, burn. Hearts deal out beats faster than the band ever could. Bodies undulate to the rhythm, pump fists in the air. Throb, temples. Sweat, armpits. Wring, eardrums. Stuff, foreheads. Glaze, eyes. Packed like sardines that move as one, sing as one, scream as one. Inflamed by fever of music too loud to hear the bullets.
The Horseshoe Fallacy Jesse Johnson // Poetry For Heather Thrown fists and bricks through Starbucks windows, are the same as Charlottesville? When that gnarled Nazi shit-sucker killed one of ours, this theory should have ended. Instead we live in this land of Opposites: where the dead get blamed, her cause named “terrorist”. Where they send APCs, but no EMTs. Where they don’t shout “clear” for a defibrillator, instead they tear away the masked medics pressing fresh air to fill shred lungs and Heather Heyer is still dead young.
Christopher Bone Graphite on Paper
Jaime Ireland // Poetry
Everyone knew something was wrong when it was hot enough outside to wear shorts in December. But by then, the world was becoming unknown to its own inhabitants. The government issued a state of emergency: H E A T A D V I S O R Y, do not leave your homes until nightfall when temperatures have passed over. But by then, Dana was bored. She grabbed her sister and that morning they went out drifting in the mall’s empty parking lot. The sun was so damn big that it fit in the outline of a circle made with Dana’s arms. Still, they circled the lot, throats hoarse from laughing. That’s when they saw the yellow milkiness of the sun dripping into the blue sky. The car sunk as its tires melted into rubber pudding they turned to each other didn’t quite know what to do with their own fingers trickling onto their kneecaps , cheeks falling down from their skulls. Their bodies pooled into the leather seats, flesh and skin soaking the floorboard. The janitor reported to work with reluctance the next morning. He prayed whatever was leaking from the car, staining the hot asphalt could be handled with a mop.
Failure of Attraction Theresa Niemczyk // Fiction
I hate making these profiles. I do not know how to answer these questions. Describe yourself in three words. Not amused. Wishing I was not on here. Questioning my life’s decisions. Not willing to cooperate. Annoyed, Tired, Tall. Two and four words are all too easy for me. Those three words were difficult to come up with, but I think they capture myself quite well. I really don’t know how to describe myself in three words. I rarely have to describe myself, so I don’t have any words ready. However, I think I found the perfect three that will have every man crawling my way. I know that those three words will make me seem irresistible. I skip down to easy information. The easy information can be found on my driver’s license. All I have to do is open my wallet. Gender? Female Height? 5’6 Eye Color? Brown Other questions are not so easy. What are you looking for in a future spouse? (Minimum of 5 words.) Yes, I want a husband. This answer meets the requirement. I tried answering with just “yes,” but that was too short. That damn minimum word requirement is getting in the way. Have you ever been in love? If you count fictional characters then yes, several times. Honestly, too many times to count. I have loved and lost, but am stronger 25
because of it. If you mean being in love with another human actually walking the earth, then no, I have not. How long was your longest serious relationship? I went to the same college for four years, so that was a pretty serious relationship. I gave everything I could and didn’t get much back in return. Do you have any special talents? I can eat a whole pizza (eight slices) in under an hour. Have you been married or engaged? Once in third grade, my friend Billy gave me a ring and said he would marry the hell out of me. Do you like alcoholic beverages? If so what are some of your favorites? I find it necessary to have at least a few glasses of wine a day, if not a bottle. Wine is like my coffee. I need it to function. Describe your ideal mate in terms of physical attraction. He should be able to eat and breathe on his own. Would not mind someone taller than 6 feet. I have a lot of tall shelves and hate using a ladder. That being said, I would not mind finding someone shorter than 6 feet. I have a lot of lower cabinets, and I am not really a fan of bending over or crouching down. Describe your ideal mate in terms of personality.
Well, he should definitely have one, but not be defined by it. I am definitely one of those girls who they describe as “having a fun personality,” which means that I’m not drop dead gorgeous, but I can make you laugh. Do you have any scars or tattoos? I have the emotional scars from when my father left when I was a child. What is your favorite holiday to celebrate? Halloween, because it is not a family or friends holiday. It is basically a holiday where you are expected to stay home and have candy or you will disappoint children. Either Halloween or free pancake day at IHOP. It’s a close tie. What is your greatest accomplishment? I’ve made it all the way through an entire tube of chapstick. Everyone on these sites has a reason to be here. Usually it’s because they are lonely and bored. That is definitely my reason. I don’t necessarily think I will find my soulmate on here, but maybe I can find someone nice to text while I watch television. Maybe even one day we could television together. My hopes are not high, but neither are my expectations.
you are not including when we have messaged previously. which would then lower the number to 86 percent.” I take another big gulp as he smiles, proud of his calculations. You know, I could just make this place my bad date restaurant. I could keep coming here for all my dates. When a date doesn’t go well, at least I know the food will be good. If the date does go well, then I will be ultra-content. How great would be my night be if had a good date plus good food? “You might not enjoy math as much as I do, Anna, since you are a…” He pauses and reaches down to his bag. He pulls out a thin stack of papers and starts shuffling through them. “A barista at the coffee shop on the corner of North and Maple.” Holy crap! He printed out my profile! I take another big gulp. “Yes,” I say nervously. “Does your profession deal with math?” “Almost exclusively. I do the research and make statistics for the magazine Lifestyle.” Of course he has a real job, while I get paid minimum wage to make fancy coffee. “Did you not read over my profile?” “Of course I did, Jack,” I stammer. If we are going to be truthful, skimming would be a better description. For the majority of the time I spent on his profile, I was looking through his pictures. I like looking at pictures. I find them more aesthetically pleasing than re-reading the questions I had to answer with someone else’s answers. Plus, I looked at several profiles, and most of them had dogs. I cannot remember whether this Jack did or not. “I just figured it would be better to get to know you in person.” “Well, I feel like I practically know you. I know that there is a 73 percent chance your next pet is a cat. That 34 percent of your time is spent watching TV. While at work, 11 percent of your time is spent writing down story ideas. 9 out of 10 times you go to the same restaurant— this restaurant. You visit your family 27 times a year. You order something with avocado off the menu
Bachelor Number 1 “I see that in your profile your preferred drink is a glass of wine. Is that why you are drinking wine now?” I regret taking him to my favorite restaurant. If this date does not go well it could ruin the whole restaurant for me. Shit, he said something to me. I should probably respond. “That, and it helps with the nerves,” I say, taking a big gulp. I’m going to miss this restaurant. I’m going to miss all the fancy little pictures of Guatemala on the wall. “So then for as much as I have known you, you have had wine 100 percent of the time. If 26
64 percent of the time.” “And you got all of this from just reading my profile?” I cut him off, overwhelmed with the information. “Yes, I have been studying it in preparation for our date.” I take a big gulp of wine and finish off my glass. As I reach for the bottle, he starts up again and I find myself filling up the glass more and more. “In my research, I have found that women are more comfortable with someone who knows them. 43 percent of women hope to fall in love with their best friend or someone of that nature. Also in my research, I have found that women are 67 percent more attracted to a man that has hobbies that interest them. Are you interested in robots, board game making, or learning to speak the language of Klingon?”
back to Brussels so he can have one last piece of pie. During the flight, the plane has trouble and they are forced down. The plane crashes into the ocean with only the old man surviving. He finds a piece of the plane floating and starts to float his way towards the pie. Along the way, he gets attacked by a shark. He tries to defend himself. He kicks and punches the shark, but eventually the shark eats off both arms and legs, leaving him just a stump of a man. He floats his way to the shore of Belgium and starts to crawl his way towards Brussels. After a while, he finally makes it to the cafe from his youth. He plops down on the counter and orders a slice of Bavarian cream pie. The waitress informs him that they have run out for the day. The old man just says, ‘Eh, I’ll just have a coffee then.’” He laughs so hard he almost falls out of his chair. I laugh along with him. “Isn’t that funny?” I ask him. He continues to laugh. His full body is shaking. But then, suddenly, he stops. “You know what? I can’t do this,” he says, rising from his seat at the table. “What do you mean?” “I just can’t continue this,” he says, taking out his wallet and throwing some bills down on the table. “Why not? What’s wrong?” I ask, still confused. One second, we were laughing and having fun. Now his face has turned into a hard line and he is attempting to leave. “I can’t keep going on this date and not be the funny one. I don’t know how to respond if I’m not the funny one. You should be laughing at me and my jokes, not the other way around.” He pushes in his chair with aggression and quickly turns on his heels to stomp his way out. I could have sworn I heard him shout, “I’m the funny one,” but I’m not positive on that. Of course I was going to come off as the funny one. I stole those jokes from Seinfeld. He was trying to compete with Seinfeld jokes, so obviously he wasn’t going to be as funny.
Bachelor Number 2 “You know what the problem with calling a dog ‘man’s best friend’ is?” I ask him. “No, I have no idea,” he replies. “They’re not really the best friend, as they are the leader. If you saw two lifeforms and one was pooping and the other was carrying the poop around, would you assume they’re best friends? No, clearly someone is in charge.” “Oh my gosh,” he nearly shouts at me. “That’s so funny!” He is laughing so hard. I join in with some of the laughter, but do not lose myself in it like he does. “Have you heard the one about the Bavarian cream pie?” “No,” he says, leaning in, eager to hear every word coming out of my mouth. “A guy in World War II has the most delicious piece of Bavarian cream pie while overseas. Years later, when back in the United States, after all of his kids are grown and their kids are getting their lives together, the man finds out he has terminal cancer and only has a short amount of time to live. He books a plane ticket to go 27
Nobody is as funny as Seinfeld.
“But I do enjoy saying ‘I’ll have the same,’ because when I was a waitress, I would always forget what they had just ordered. I would have to look back at my notepad.” “Yes, I always felt so dumb when I could not remember what the person had just ordered from four seconds ago.” “Okay, so no matter who the waiter looks at more, you order first in hopes that I can just order the same.” “Deal.” He extends his hand and we shake on it. I nod my head in agreement of our little deal. Even though I was smiling before, my grin now is wider than ever. “Don’t tell me what you’re ordering. I want to be surprised.” “Okay, but just as a warning, I’ll probably order something with avocado on it.” “You like avocado?” I ask him. “I don’t like avocado,” he says with a grimace. He takes a moment before leaning in and motions for me to lean in with him. “I more than like it. I love it.” “I do too!” I shriek. The shriek is a little too loud. A few of the other guests at the neighboring tables turn to look at me, but in response I just giggle. “I like to think of avocado as the ingredient of our generation,” he says. “Because we put it on everything?” “Yes, but that’s what makes it so great. I can have avocado with every meal.” “Would you eat avocado at every meal?” “Ideally, yes.” “How many mornings a week do you eat avocado toast?” He blushes. “Almost every morning.” His cheeks continue to blush and even start to darken. They darken to a deep crimson red, and Steve starts blinking. Not both eyes at the same time. One eye is open while the other is closed. The eyes start switching position every other second. His eyes open and close rapidly, over and over again. He tosses his head around,
Bachelor Number 3 “I find that if a film’s plot is not very good or not engaging enough, I tend to pay more attention to the formal aspects of the film.” “Like the different angles used in shots?” I ask him while reviewing the menu. I come to this restaurant all the time, so I know everything on the menu and have tried most of it. “And the movement of the camera.” “I do the same thing. In one of the Harry Potter movies, I can never focus on the plot. In all the other movies, though, I sometimes forget that they’re movies because I’m so engrossed in the story.” “Which movie loses your interest?” he asks, raising his left eyebrow. “Which do you think?” I say, mirroring by raising my left eyebrow. “The last one?” “Yes!” I shriek in excitement. “The last one is so boring for me.” “Well, so much action happens in the last bit of that movie that the plot is buried underneath it.” The waiter approaches to take our drink order. He goes back and forth, looking at us both and waiting for one of us to say something. “I’ll have a glass of Armand de Brignac,” we both say at the same time. “Sorry, I thought he was talking to me,” we say, again speaking at the same time. We both hold back our laughter at the excitement of answering the same thing twice in a row. “Okay, two glasses of Armand de Brignac,” the waiter says, looking annoyed instead of impressed. When walking away, he glances back at us. “Sorry, I should have let you order first, but he just kept looking at me so much.” “I felt like he wanted me to order first, too.” “Well, I should have let you order first. You know the rule, ladies first.” 28
like his head is too heavy for his neck. I hear a quiet moan and assume it is coming from Steve, due to recent events. I start to feel an ache in my head just from trying to figure out what is happening to him. “Almost every morning,” he repeats, or at least I assume he repeats. This time, when he says it, his mouth never moves. His voice is all mumbles. “Steve, are you alright?” I reach my hand out to touch his from across the table. As soon as I touch his hand, it starts twitching. The longer I keep my hand on his, the more it keeps spazzing. I pull my hand away, no longer able to hold his hand due to the flailing. Jack, the man I had a date with last week and who was so obsessed with numbers, rushes to the table out of nowhere. He immediately starts putting his hands on Steve, patting him down— not so much in a reassuring way, but almost like he was patting Steve down in search of something. “Oh my gosh, Steve and Anna, what are you doing here? I didn’t know you guys knew each other. Well, no times for stories.” He spoke so quickly I could barely comprehend his words. “Steve, you aren’t looking so good.” Jack turns to me while still attempting to help Steve. “Steve and I go way back. He was one of the first friends I ever had. Here, Steve, let me help you to the bathroom. You have a 14 percent chance of making it there on your own. With my help the likeliness has increased to 67 percent.” He puts one hand on Steve’s upper arm and the other on his back. Jack pulls Steve up, but snaps his arm out of place. The arm comes off as a whole at the shoulder, revealing the wires connecting the arm to the body. I know I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think arms work like that. Not even a prosthetic arm comes off in that manner. My head starts to hurt again, thinking of reasons why an arm would have wires. Tiny light flashes appear from Steve’s shoulder, along with little puffs of smoke as Jack tries to
place Steve’s arm back into his shoulder. The force of Jack trying to put Steve back together is too much and other parts of Steve fall out of place. Three little springs or coil-like objects rip through his shirt on the other shoulder poking out. One even rips through his skin from his neck. “Maybe I should just take Steve home, and then I could take his place on this date?” Jack suggests. “I think it would be best if we all just went home,” I say to Jack, who seems all too eager to join me. “To our separate homes,” I clarify. When I get home, I immediately go to my computer and delete my dating profile. I should just go back to meeting people the old-fashion way. I decide to call my mother later to see which “eligible bachelor” she has for me this time. She always has someone that she wants me to date, like her grocer, a friend’s son, or the man who drove her Uber. I have no doubt she will have someone in mind for me. I lie down in my bed and turn on the television. I scroll through my phone, but nothing is holding my attention and I have no one to text. You know, I should really get a cat. It would be nice to have the company.
Lindsey Walker // Poetry
I have waited for you hung up and alone since last March, the final time you scraped ice from your frosty windshield in the early morning light. you saw me, daily, in the summer that flitted by looking through me as you embraced freer and looser and yellow-hued threads over my hulking and fleece lined chest. I know I am heavy. I know you tire easily. I know when April came our time was done, that whatever we had was woven and snug and seasonal. it is October now and you are alone again. frost slowly crystallizes on your glass heart, fickle and fragile. you need me now, again, like I have always needed you. pride pushes me to cross my arms pull up my collar, walk away from your polar and desperate hands. but here you are. you slip into me. and we are both warm again.
Audrey Bauman Photography
staff Faculty Advisor / John Vanderslice
Editor-In-Chief ...........................................................................Audrey Bauman Assistant Editor..................................................................Ashley Nicole Hunter Layout Editor.....................................................................................Paige Yutsus Assistant Layout Editor................................................................Sasha Caldwell Copy Editor.....................................................................................Danny Baxter Assistant Copy Editor....................................................................Aaron Seward PR Consultant.................................................................................Karen Orozco
Anna Belle Morrison
Welcome to the 2017 December online edition of UCA's Vortex Magazine of Art and Literature! Featuring fiction, poetry, visual artwork, and a...
Published on Dec 8, 2017
Welcome to the 2017 December online edition of UCA's Vortex Magazine of Art and Literature! Featuring fiction, poetry, visual artwork, and a...