CONTENTS | December
Fiction : 05 | Looking for Angels,
54 | Windows,
Poetry : 12 | Meadow in My Mind’s Eye, Jeremy Ellis
15 | Senses, Can the Carpet Still Dance?,
Zach Hughes 16 | Running, Justine Yatska
33 | Charming Tenure,
38 | An Evil Evening,
Jeremy Ellis 40 | Company, Zach Hughes
50 | Property Again,
56 | Winter Wonder World, Janie Brown
59 | Flame Bait,
Jeremy Ellis 60 | The Price of Perfection, Zach Hughes
70 | First Date, Justine Yatska
Nonfiction : 18 | 12:33 AM,
Scripts : 22 | HANGOVER OF THE DAMNED*, Dylan Easton
42 | Anna Wreaks Leah,
2 62 | Out of My Mind,
Art : 04 | Altar,
Taylor Lea Hicks
09 | Artic Reflections,
Taylor Lea Hicks 10 | Feeder, Taylor Lea Hicks
14 | Galactic Travel, Kayelin Roberts 17 | Battle Pose, Taylor Lea Hicks 18 | Pet the Kitty, Kayelin Roberts
20 | Winter’s Path*,
Taylor Lea Hicks 32 | Rock Star, Taylor Lea Hicks 36 | Altar Worship, Taylor Lea Hicks
39 | Icy Silhouette, Taylor Lea Hicks 41 | Wintertime Hideaway, Taylor Lea Hicks 49 | Butterfly Battle, Taylor Lea Hicks 51 | Spring Survives,
Taylor Lea Hicks 52 | Guardian Bear, Kayelin Roberts
55 | abstrakt Häuser 2,
Taylor Lea Hicks 57 | Snow Cove, Taylor Lea Hicks 71 | abstrakt Häuser, Taylor Lea Hicks
On the Cover : 58 | Noon Snow,
Taylor Lea Hicks
Media : Visit thevortexmagazine.com to view the media selection from this issue. * - These pieces were voted Best of Web for this month.
Staff | December
LITERATURE & ARTS
Prose Fiction Poetry Fiction Fiction Fiction Fiction Poetry Poetry Poetry
Editor / Emily Qualls Editor / Christopher Hall Judge / Candace Baker & Poetry Judge / Emily Walter Judge / Tabitha Galbraith Judge / Alicia Brautigan Judge / Jeremy Wade Judge / Jordan Lapio Judge / Courtney Ragland
Editor-In-Chief / Taylor Lea Hicks Asst. Editor / Kayelin Roberts Layout Editor / Ashley Thomas Asst. Layout Editor / Ernesto Pe単a Copy Editor / Savannah Moix Asst. Copy Editor / Sara Cervantes PR Consultant / Sheldon Slinkard Faculty Advisor / Garry Craig Powell
Media Media Editor
/ Michael Tatum
Art Art Editor / Shane Hawkins Art Judge / Anastassiya Khvan Art Judge / Katelyn Spencer Art Judge / Sam Denning Art Judge / Marissa Brantley
Scriptwriting Scriptwriting Editor / Tre Sandlin Scriptwriting Judge / Isabella Evans Scriptwriting Judge / Michael Tatum Scriptwriting Judge / Rachel Glenn
Nonfiction The Vortex is the student-operated literary magazine for the University of Central Arkansas located at 201 Donaghey Avenue Conway, AR 72035.
Nonfiction Editor Nonfiction Judge Nonfiction Judge
/ Chase Night / Candace Baker / Elise Williams
Taylor Lea Hicks
Looking for Angels Fiction Carli Hemperley
This is how angels die. It’s not a beautiful process like one might imagine. Far from it. The angel isn’t valiant and graceful in death. No, when they’re threatened they beg for mercy and snot and cry just like people do. The only real difference between an angel dying and a normal person is that people don’t leave behind a mess of feathers afterwards. They like to pretend they’re so high and mighty, angels, but they’re scum just like the rest of us. For such powerful creatures one would think that they would be much more secure than they are. But they doubt, they hate, they dream, they fear… Oh, do they fear. How do you scare an angel? Simple. Break its wings (they’re quite fragile when they first emerge from the angel’s back in an explosion of light and feathers; the bones will snap like brittle little toothpicks in a tight grip, but hammers work too) and put it in a dark room—basements usually work best, especially those of old houses like this one; they’re usually damp and cold, and really, really dark. It’s as easy as that. Creatures of light wilt in darkness. Keep them in the dark long enough and they’ll start to whither. Most of the time at least. It’s worked the twelve other times I’ve done it. Those angels all broke down the first day, some within only a few hours. But the one downstairs isn’t breaking so easily; it’s lasting longer than its fellows ever have. A sickly light greets me when I enter the basement. The stairs creek under my boots, deafeningly loud in the silence. The harsh glow of the dying, flickering fluorescents make the room look grim and clinical, like an abandoned morgue. The once white paint flakes off the wall in most places and the concrete under my feet is stained both from water and blood. The flicker reminds me of the strobe lights at that stupid rave a friend dragged me to last night. I didn’t want to go—parties just aren’t my thing, too many people—and besides, I had my angel to watch. But he was persistent, said he needed a wingman but that never works out. Someday he’ll realize he needs to bring along someone less attractive than he is so he’ll actually impress girls, but I digress. There were just so many stupid, drunken college kids and trashy little sluts, and the acrid smell of marijuana choked the air. But those lights, obnoxious and headache inducing, were the worst. On. Off. On. Off. On: everything garishly bright and in crisp detail. Off: there is no light to speak of, just immense, suffocating darkness. Just the way I like it. Just like how it is right now in this musty basement. The angel chained up down here masquerades as a woman, the first one to do so that I’ve seen in a while. I’ve
always wondered how they decide what form to assume. Is it preference or is it assigned to them? I should ask sometime. When the light sputters on I catch a glimpse of her in the corner. She’s gorgeous, this angel, but they all are at first. They’re far too perfect to be normal humans. Flawless. They don’t seem to grasp the concept that humans aren’t perfectly symmetrical or walking sex symbols. For things so pure, they sure are good at making themselves into things for people to lust over. They were sent here to this wretched earth to guide us away from sin, to protect us from the evil that had started to run rampant throughout the world, but here they are leading us into one of the seven deadliest. That’s how they get to people, through their beauty, but even that doesn’t last. Even physically broken the way she is though, this one is quite impressive. There’s something different about her, something more stunning about her than the others I’ve locked down here. She’s still beautiful and perfect even with her hair shorn and her once-fancy clothes saturated in her own blood. The others lost complete hold of their human form the first day; she’s holding out. Darkness descends and she becomes an even blacker spot in the gloom, save for the glow of her eyes. The light isn’t much; I definitely couldn’t read by it if I tried or even see my own hand in front of my face, but in the absence of any other source it’s almost blinding. That piercing glow focuses on me as if it’s trying to burrow holes through my chest. But the tickle in the back of my mind says otherwise. “How many times do I have to tell ya, babe,” I ask. “Your stupid mind tricks don’t work on me.” The tickle stops, the sensation fading slowly away. I can’t feel it anymore, but it’s still all too obvious that it had been there, like a memory I’ve tried hard to forget. “There we go. Good girl.” There’s a bitter scoff from the corner. I walk toward the sound. The air begins to feel charged the closer I get to her, kinda like the feeling the atmosphere gets before a storm. Her presence looms around me, an aurora of crackling power, shocking strength. She tries to press into my mind again. The cold grasping wisps lick at the corners of my brain, rubbing against it like an attention hungry cat. Standing right in front of her she almost gets through to me. One tendril of her power tries to slither through me, but it disintegrates when it fails to break in. It’s always the same routine, a sort of game we play. She nearly breaks into the confines of my mind, but she’s always thwarted at the lock there. This lock has always been here inside me as far as I know. I’m sure it’s some-
thing my mother taught me to protect me from the prying of these supposedly holy beings; I can’t really remember now. Everything that happened before the night my mother and I were caught in a celestial crossfire is all kind of a blur to me. There was a horde of angels at our door, bent on destroying my mother’s then-boyfriend (who turned out to be a demon, coincidentally). All I remember is a flash of white light colliding with the darkest black I have ever seen and my mother throwing herself on top of me to shield me from it. Human life doesn’t mean anything to angels. They hate us, envy us because we can forge a closer relationship with the God they so desperately love. One human casualty means nothing to them as long as they manage to overpower any demons nearby. They vanquished the demon, but they created another foe that night. Thanks to my mother, no angel has ever been able to break into my mind and none ever will. Many of their kind have tried, but they’ve all failed. They can’t control me; they can’t read my thoughts. To them I am a vault that they can’t break into even with all of their skill, a tantalizing secret to drive them insane. It won’t be long before this one’s own mind breaks down, shattered by her curiosity and maddened by her failure to read me. Her body will soon follow. Angels are so nosy; they’ve just gotta know what goes on in everyone’s heads. In a brief glare of light I see her crouched in front of me, shackles as silver as her eyes encompassing her wrists and holding her to the wall. Giant gray wings, crumpled and shorn of flight feathers, droop at her sides. Her wings appeared yesterday evening before I left for the rave. Her hold on this form is breaking, slowly but surely. The light blinks out and all I’m left with is the glow of her eyes again. It’s too bad. She really is pretty. I just love looking at her. But for how much longer will she stay like this? “How are ya? Hungry? Thirsty? Craving my body?” Another of her scoffs grates against my ears. “I do not crave your filthy body.” “What about food? Water?” “I need no sustenance,” she says in a disgusted voice. “Not even unleavened bread and wine?” I smile at her even though it’s wasted in the darkness. “Do not mock me.” “Fine, fine… excuse me for trying to be a decent host.” “If you were in any manner decent,” she hisses, “you would not have me here.” I laugh and I can feel her recoil at the sound. “You got me there, babe.” Crouching down in front of her, I reach out blindly in the darkness, hand grasping the space. My skin meets hers, the warmth leeching from my fingers into her smooth, icy cheek. A tingle spreads through my fingertips at the contact and the hair on my arms rises on end. It’s weird. Energy still hums off of her body, only slightly fainter than it was last night. Leaning in toward her the smell of rain tantalizes my nose, reminding me of the day I caught her. She hasn’t stepped outside for three days, but she still
smells like the storm.
(…) The rain came down in heavy sheets, dense and thick as a wall. Not unusual, here it always rains. Her umbrella whipped and wrenched in her hands struggling to take flight into the black sky. Just like the creature trapped inside her, I supposed. A gust of wind barreled down the street trapped between the towering buildings and their overhangs. Finally, the handle jerked out from her pale fingers and soared above us. It soared like she probably used to, like she would never soar again. It was my turn, my time to act. And here’s a little tip if you plan on approaching an angel: Try looking pretty yourself; they’re more likely to trust things that look as nice as them. They seem to really like the “tall, dark, and handsome types,” (even angels aren’t above clichés) especially the “men” of their kind. They don’t seem to show a gender preference. I rushed to her side and brought my umbrella out over her head. She glanced up at me quickly, obviously startled but grateful. Such vain creatures, angels, they hate anything that will ruin their carefully constructed appearance. She accepted my shielding her without any question, just a faint glimmer of apprehension in her startling silver eyes. The first three steps to noticing an angel: Step 1: They might be walking confidently, but they will look lost and usually always have a sneer on their face because they hate being around things as “pathetic” as humans. Considering some humans even look like this, see if they’re wearing something white and anything that depicts wings or feathers. A sure fire way to know it’s an angel is to check the electromagnetic field around you; they need the energy to hold their human shape. I always carry a compass, and when I get near an angel the thing starts spinning around like a shorted-out merry-go-round. Step 2: They hate looking disheveled. Perfect beings always want to look perfect even in imperfect forms. Step 3: They’re proud, thankless little shits. They hate humans but will accept our help. “It’s getting pretty bad out here,” I said, just before a roar of thunder muted all other sound. “Yes it is.” “So, where ya headed?” She glanced at me from the corner of her eyes. I simply smile in return. “I have to meet someone,” she answers, “There is something I have to take care of.” “This late?” “He prefers the secrecy of night.” Another suspicious sidelong glance. I laughed. “Don’t we all? But to make someone as pretty as you walk around so late at night, especially in this
weather… something could happen to you.” “Like what?” She asked, her voice almost as crisp as the flashes of lightning in the distance. “Someone could take advantage of you.” She stares at me levelly, a crook to the edge of her lips. “Someone like you?” A smile crept onto my face, one of my best. “I’m the least you have to worry about, dearie.” “Is that so?” She looked at me for a moment as if studying me and then nodded. “It is quite late.” Step 4: Angels are made to please. Smile and they’ll melt. Put on a nice face and say flattering things and they’ll trust you. Even the smartest will fall victim. Make a request, and they can’t refuse. “Maybe you should try to meet up another day?” I suggested. “No, it needs to be tonight.” She didn’t look as confident as she had earlier. “I’m sure he’ll understand.” Another smile for good measure. Slowly, she began to nod again. “Yes, I suppose he will.” “Good. I bet he’d hate it if something happened to you.” She looked up at me with narrowed eyes. Those silver depths were fathomless, searching. I could feel her slithering through my mind, trying to find a way in, to figure out my motive, to learn who I was. For the first time in her existence, she wasn’t receiving anything. Step 5: They are extremely curious. They love riddles. Be an enigma if you can. “What is your name?” She asked suddenly. Her voice was strained with her struggle to break through my mental barrier. “Milo. Milo Torreyson.” “Ah, a pleasure to meet you.” For the first time, her stern face seemed to relax, the twitch of her lips giving way to a full-fledged smile. “No, the pleasure is mine.” “You are charmer, Mr. Torreyson,” she said. When I suggested we stop by my house so she could use my phone to call her acquaintance and wait for the weather to clear up, she didn’t refuse. The one she was supposed to meet never heard from her. And he never will. Step 6: Angels are very stupid, naïve creatures. (…) “What are you smiling about?” She snaps as she jerks away from my touch. “Just about how lovely you are.” She huffs in disgust. “Your tiny human mind cannot comprehend how truly lovely I am.” Have I mentioned that angels are arrogant? They like to undermine the human intelligence. “Then show me.” The light flickers on long enough for me to catch a smile come to her face, the first since the night I caught her. “Would you really like that?” “That’s why you’re here,” I answer. “Yes,” her voice echoes through the empty room, calm and as unfeeling as steel, “I suppose it is.”
Excitement crawls over my skin and spreads through me like a spike of adrenaline. Finally. Finally I will see her. I will see what she truly is. And she’s right. My pitiful human mind can’t imagine how lovely she really is underneath her human shell. How can she be more beautiful? But they always are. My hands clench around the hilt of the knives sheathed at my sides, fingers twitching in anticipation. Right after they assume their real form, right after I’m able to glimpse their true beauty and feel their growing power: that is when angels are most vulnerable. That is when I act. Any human weapon can kill them in this raw state, but it’s much more effective if the intended weapon has been soaked in human blood. Our “taint” tarnishes their inner purity and kills them faster. If there is some way that you have demon blood on hand, use it instead; the angel’s death will be slow and torturous. It’s my personal favorite, but sadly the blood of demons is pretty hard to find since they’re much more difficult to detect and kill than their holy counterparts. Slowly, I draw the blades out and rest one against her throat and dig the other into her ample chest. She hisses in pain but she can’t pull away. She’s stuck in my trap. I can’t contain my smile, crazed and joyous as it stretches across my face. A sharp metallic snap echoes throughout the basement and broken chain links tinkle down onto the concrete floor. Before I can react, the angel’s hands close around mine. She wrenches them away from my weapons and squeezes them tightly in her own. I can hear the distant clatter of my knives striking the ground. Her grip is surprisingly tight, much stronger than it should be for someone in her shape. What’s happening? “I am afraid I cannot let you do that, Mr. Torreyson,” she says in a surprisingly calm voice. I try to pull away but she won’t let go. My fingers slowly start losing feeling and my arms grow numb and frigid like they’ve been packed in ice. Pain sears through my shoulders as she jerks me closer to her, so close all I can smell is the odor of rain that clings to her. The numbness spreads through my whole body; I can’t move. Excitement dies inside of me and the adrenaline dries up, leaving behind a cold, cold fear. This isn’t right… “No!” I scream. This is wrong! “Stop—” Her mouth presses against mine, cutting off my words. I can feel it before I see it. Her transformation. A pulsating power surges through her body. The darkness in the room flees and her skin starts to glow frosty silver. The flesh peels away, flaking off like the paint on the walls. A sound like thunder explodes in the space around us as her skin tears away and two more sets of wings shoot out from her back, these covered from top to bottom in glossy gray feathers and blank, white, pupil-less eyes. I can’t move. I can’t speak. I can’t scream. This is wrong… What the hell is she?
Three bulging inhuman eyes peer out at me from what was once her stunning face. She isn’t a “she” anymore, but some horrific genderless beast, much less human than even the others looked in their true forms. I can see myself reflected in this thing’s blank eyes. Nearly drained of all color, a monochromatic person, ashen white skin and messy black hair, I didn’t bother to fix myself up for her today. This was the day she was supposed to die. What went wrong? The points of teeth sink into my lips and tongue. The warm metallic taste of blood fills my mouth as the creature finally draws away. Bright red stains cover the jagged teeth and monstrous face before me. The once perfect lips have become a ravaged Cheshire cat smile that reaches from one side of the face to the other. My heart slams against my chest, trying to break free from the cage of bones and flesh inside of me. For the first time since I was a child, I feel tears trickling down my face. This isn’t right… what’s happening? What is this thing? Too radiant to be a demon, too terrifying to be an angel… Its six giant wings fold around us, trapping me close against its bare, eye covered body. My stomach twists when I feel the many eyes, both large and small opening and closing against me. This is an angel, but none like I’ve ever seen… only heard of. The highest of angels, God’s lap dogs: one of the seraphim. What have I done? Have I become such a problem that God would send one of his eternal worshipers to finish me off instead of one of his loyal little archangels? They are the warriors of Heaven, not the seraphim. But maybe I was too much for the others… “I do not care to leave my place in the skies, but my Lord has sent me to take care of you, Milo Torreyson.” A distorted voice, no, multiple voices boom around me. “Take care of me…?” Then the meaning sets in. “No!” My voice is just a child’s voice, soundless compared to the seraph’s. “Do you want to say any prayers, Mr. Torreyson?” It asks in its warped voice. A shrill multitude laughs so loudly I’m afraid my ears might burst. “It will not be of any use; not even prayers can redeem you now.” “I thought that there was never an impossibility of being redeemed,” I nearly choke on my own blood and pain sears through my body as I strain against this monster. The creature smiles and blinks at me with a cruel yet pitying look. “An exception must be made for angel killers. There is a special place in hell for ones who so willingly take the lives of beings so pure.” Needle point claws caress my face before grabbing a tuft of my hair. Pain sears through my neck as the seraph jerks my head up toward the ceiling. The blinking light winks at me. There’s so much light around me. The seraph’s fiery silver glow and the suddenly powerful glow of the fluorescent lights. My eyes burn. I can’t see a thing. Just light… I squeeze my eyes closed, and for the first time in
my life I pray. Fear drives me to do. With each pump of my heart I can feel time ticking down to its last beat. But I pray. It may not help me—I’m probably too far gone—but it does make me feel a little better. My eyes open and the seraph’s face comes into view, hazy but all too visible, demented and covered in my gore. “Please…” My voice gargles from my mouth full of blood and the tears that have started to pour down my face. It smiles at me as it sinks clawed fingers deep into my hea—
Arctic Reflections Taylor Lea Hicks
Taylor Lea Hicks
Meadow in My Mind’s Eye Poetry Jeremy Ellis
You put a meadow in my mind’s eye with bunny rabbits and butterflies, whippoorwills and tombstones, and the dead down under the dirt, cozy as can be. You did, and every day I went and walked a little further into it, into the foggy mental scene, trying to figure out just what it meant and why your beauty took me there. The fog would part and the mightiest Sun would burn down oppressively there, and the willow trees looked burnt, and the ground was practically steaming like summertime in the South. There was a bridge nearby, an old wooden bridge built across a ditch, and on it sat a farmer fishing, whom I spoke with many a time, but who did not know where he was or how he got there. There was a giant tortoise, but only on occasion would it let me get close enough to touch its shell, and a glorious hammock in which I reclined— the very definition of relaxation. I was a prisoner there, where you were not, where my thoughts of you contained me, and I’ll go on and tell you what I think happened before you lose sight of me. I dwelled off and into the depths of our meadow one day as I sat and watched you from across the whitewashed room, and I found a pair of tombstones there, yours and mine, side by side.
“What does it mean?” I asked myself for two whole weeks—that’s fourteen days— and that was why I kept so distant from you then: it was because of the sight of our names in stone and the torture of being alone when I stopped to dream about you. I recall my head splitting in two: “It’s not love!” I said, but then I would retort, “It is so, I say!” and we would argue like that so intensely that at last I had to stop looking at you. Then one day in our meadow— for I never stopped visiting— I was feeling bold, and so I plunged my hands into the ground at your grave and dug and dug and dug all day. I did, and I know what you’re thinking now: “Well did you dig me up all old and decayed, or was I sweet and young and pretty?” and those are fair expectations; they were my own as I was digging. It was just like a coin toss, and my digging at all was like my calling “heads,” and you can imagine the terror I felt when my shoveling fingers finally scraped your casket. It took a very long minute before I could resume, and meanwhile I sat there where I always sat and you stood there where you always stood, and I knew then that I could be going to our meadow for the very last time. I slid my fingers between your casket’s crease and began to pry it open ever so gently— I did not want to frighten you, and I did not want to frighten myself, and the intimacy of the moment was too much to pass over in a hurry. At long last I threw your prison door open, and there I lay—an old and stern-looking corpse in a tomb beneath your name with hair as white as snow and sagging skin a tinge of greenish-blue.
Galactic Travel Kayelin Roberts
Senses, Can the Carpet Still Dance? Poetry Zach Hughes
Feeling like hell, Smelling like I should shower, I sit in silence Still tasting the noon vodka With stale smoke. Staring into shadows, I wait On the patterns That emerge from substrate Left out of focus, Subtly mixing with memories.
Poetry Justine Yatska step stumble step. the weapon in your left hand pocket seems threatening. my nerf battle mace is locked in my car. & I feel trapped like a hamster on a wheel so I just keep running. I just keep screaming and no one can hear me. it’s humid and rainy and dark ((I trip & fall)) clouds of mist cloud my screams –it’s just a dream.
Battle Pose Taylor Lea Hicks
Nonfiction Justine Yatska
I immediately regret the amount of hot water that I put into the tub as I step in. My body slides into the scalding water slowly and my teeth grind. I grab my phone off of the back of the toilet and I turn on my music only to scramble to turn it back off because the volume is too loud. I reach for my collection of Robert Frost’s poems instead. I flip through the pages carefully to find the movie ticket that I use as a bookmark and begin reading. The water is seeping through the drain so slowly that I didn’t realize that the tub is already half empty, so I reach for the faucet and turn the hot water on again. I watch as the water rushes into the body of water that I have already created around me. Trying to relax is a joke. The water is too hot, my glasses are steamy, and I’m getting too bored to sit here any longer. I pull the drain and hop out of the tub. I step out onto my obnoxiously hot pink bath mat that I got last year before college started and look around. -I forgot my towel.
Pet the Kitty 19 Kayelin Roberts
Best of Web December 2013 Taylor Lea Hicks
HANGOVER OF THE DAMNED Script Best of Web December 2013 Dylan Easton
CAST OF CHARACTERS (in order of appearance) LEE - - A man; appears to be a slacker MARIA - A cute, perky female visitor from the afterlife. She looks and acts like a modern day young adult. JOSH - - LEE’s nervous roommate BRITT- - LEE’s lovely girlfriend SCENE SYNOPSIS LEE’S HOME - A small home, focusing on the kitchenette. Empty pizza boxes and liquor boxes litter the scene and reflect the quality of Lee and Josh’s lives. Important props for this scene include a bedroom door, a dummy to resemble Lee, a kitchen knife, a refrigerator, and a pile of pizza boxes.
SCENE ONE (AT RISE: LEE is sprawled out on the floor of a kitchen. Next to him is a large pile of pizza boxes, under which a pair of feet sticks out. Enter MARIA from either side of the stage. She is looking at a clipboard as she walks into the scene. Her clothes, while nice, suggest nothing remarkable about her.) MARIA So, this should be the right apartment. I’m cutting it a little close this week, but after this guy, it’ll only be two more souls and I’ll be all caught up. (MARIA steps on slice of pizza. She grimaces and inspects the bottom of her shoe.) Charming little place. Now, let’s see. Where is- Ah, there’s the lucky guy. C’mon. Up and at ‘em, champ. (MARIA grabs LEE by the arm and helps him up. LEE is visibly sluggish as he comes into consciousness.) I’m sure you’ve had a good sleep, but your day’s gonna have to happen eventually! You’ve got a lot ahead of you today! (LEE rubs his head and staggers as he re-
gains control of his legs. He takes a second to gather his bearings before showing a mild amount of surprise when he notices the intruder. MARIA responds with a grin and a polite wave.) LEE Uh… Sorry, but…who the hell are you? How did you get in my apartment? MARIA I guess you could say I’m an escort, of sorts. A very busy one, at that. Now, if we’re done wasting each other’s time, I would like to get out of here. I’ve got a quota to meet, and it’s very important that I do my job. You’re an escort? You mean like a… a prostitute?
MARIA Huh, what? Oh! No! I’m escorting you to the next world, you asshole! Now let’s hurry up and bounce. It’s almost noon. LEE Wait, hold up. Noon? For real? Oh, crud, I was supposed to be at work, like, hours ago. Oh, damn. This was gonna be the day! This was the day the owner was supposed to show up and(LEE continues to ramble about needing to get work as MARIA tries to talk to him.) MARIA Nah, buddy. You don’t need to worry about that. Now, let’s get goin’, man! I’ll give you the skinny on our way. LEE And I was gonna be all like “Hey!” And then she was gonna be like “Oh, Lee, you’re so cool, let’s make you a manager”MARIA Hey, man. Please. I don’t really have time for this. LEE But now I’m late, and my head feels like it’s about to split open, and I have to get this weird, spooky prostitute out of my apartment(MARIA clears her throat, finally shutting LEE up. She dramatically raises her hand towards the large pile of pizza boxes and the boxes rise into the air, revealing LEE’s body. She walks over to the body.) MARIA You. Do you know what this is?
(LEE is completely silent. He is unable to look away from the body.) MARIA (continued) This is your mortal shell. It is expired, spent, useless. Even more useless, I mean. (back to her normal, chipper demeanor) It seems that you partied too hardy last night. But don’t worry, it happens to the best of- Uh, well. It happens to some of us. But that’s all in the past now. Business is afoot! Anyway, let’s get some formalities out of the way: Lee Pitts, your earthly body is, as I like to put it, being decommissioned. (MARIA giggles too herself and reaches out to LEE for a professional handshake.) My name is Maria, and I will be your psychopomp for your journey to the Beyond. (LEE stares directly at MARIA, with wide bewildered eyes. He completely ignores her hand.) MARIA (continued) Hm, yes. Well. Might I say that you are looking a lot better, Lee? Well, I guess facing death can be awfully sobering, can’t it? You’re a psycho…Puh.. Sicca… Pampo?
MARIA You got it! I’m a psychopomp! It’s my job to escort souls to the Beyond. Like you! You’re the Grim Reaper? Bitch, doo I look grim to you?
So, uh, what you’re saying is… I’m dead?
LEE MARIA (MARIA spins around and makes a flashy pose.) LEE
MARIA Ding ding ding! We have ourselves a winner! Haha, but seriously, dude. Your corpse is freakin’ right in front of us, ya dingus. I know this might be overwhelming, dying suddenly and all. But I have to get you to the other side in time for orientation. And then I still have to collect two more souls before the end of the day, or else I’ll get in trouble from MY boss. And let me just say, you’re not gonna want to piss of that guy.
There’s orientation for Heaven?
There’s an orientation for THE BEYOND. You just think I’m just gonna cut you loose into the Beyond so you can go around and scream at kids and pee on street lamps, or whatever you did in your mortal life? No siree, bub! We have rules! And you’ll learn those at orientation, and then you’ll receive your Judgment, face your own sins and virtues. Yada yada yada. And then you’ll receive your job assignment, followed by a mixerLEE I have to hold a job in Heav- Uh, “The Beyond?” Christ, the afterlife sounds like it sucks! I’ve never been as unexcited about dying as I am right now. MARIA Of course you gotta work, bum! What, did you think you were going to a cruise ship? Shit needs to get done, son! Ahh, but it’s not so bad. I mean, you might start off with a lousy job, but if you’re lucky, you can get a position in supernatural affairs, like me. I was a bogeywoman at first. And then the powers that be were all like “Dang, this girl is really good at sneaking into people’s houses and creeping them out, and she’s totally cool as heck! Let’s make her collect souls instead!” It’ll be fun! LEE So, you were alive at one point, huh? MARIA Uh-huh. Until one day I was using a stool to clean the rat droppings off the top kitchen shelf. Something knocked by stool off-balance, and I fell onto the floor like SMACK, man! I broke my neck and died with my hands full of rat shit. (solemnly) That rat chewed up my cardigan, and then it murdered me. (The door creaks open. MARIA and LEE both turn to the door and freeze. JOSH can be heard muttering to himself from offstage.) JOSH …too much going on last night. Hopefully, I can still… LEE Oh, hey, it’s Josh! My roommate’s up. Wait, should we be hiding or something? MARIA The living can’t see or hear us. But we really should get going now, before he(MARIA stops herself abruptly.) Before he what? What could Josh do?
LEE (Enter JOSH, dressed only in his underwear. As soon as he enters the scene, his eyes set on the corpse.)
JOSH Oh, Lee. I thought you were supposed to be at work… Ay, man. Hey, are you okay. Do you need any water, or ibuprofen, or…?
(JOSH walks over to the corpse. MARIA and LEE are watching tensely. JOSH lightly taps the head with his foot.)
(JOSH crouches down and starts frantically doing everything he can. Slapping around the dummy’s face, pounding on its chest, shaking it violently, and other desperate moves. Suddenly, it occurs to him to check the pulse.)
Oh, thank God. C’mon, man. Wake up.
Well, heh, this is awkward. What. The. Hell, Maria?
(LEE turns to MARIA, who is looking incredibly guilty.) MARIA LEE
MARIA Yeah, okay. You aren’t so much “dead” as you are “dead enough.” I mean, I told you I had a quota, right? I’m just… being efficient, you know? LEE No way, sister. I am not going to any afterlife to do boring dead people jobs when I can still be here, living my life to the fullest! MARIA Oh, please. I found you lying in your own pee. You’re telling me that the job you have now is really that important? LEE Hey, I work at one of the last music shops in the state, thank you very much. MARIA What, seriously? You’re a clerk at a record store? Damn, this whole time I thought you were something a little more important, like a pizza chef, or somethin’. Besides, what could this little dude do to save your life? It’s too bad he doesn’t know what he’s doing. But the paramedics might know what to do.
MARIA Yep. Well. Good luck calling 911 with your shitty little ghost fingers, sucka.
LEE Yeah, but Josh coul- Ah, who am I kidding. Josh’s phone is dead. I keep telling him, he needs to keep it charged. But then again, he always kept telling me to keep my phone unsmashed. Well, that’s all spilt milk now.
JOSH Oh, jeez! Oh, jeez! I don’t need this right now! Man, you are seriously killing the mood! “The mood?”
LEE (JOSH keeps trying to resuscitate LEE’s body. Enter BRITT from the same doorway. She is also wearing only underpants. She walks sluggishly across the room, eating a granola bar, not completely aware of the situation around her. LEE and MARIA watch her carefully, but JOSH doesn’t slow down.)
LEE (cont’d) Oh, you have got to be shitting me right now. Hey, guys. How’s it going?
JOSH Oh, my God, Britt, you’re up! I think Lee is dying! My phone is dead! You need to call 911 right now! (BRITT just lounges against the kitchen counter as she chews her breakfast. She looks at JOSH and the body, not quite registering what is happening. Then she looks in the direction of MARIA and LEE, who are staring at her. Her chewing slows down.) Britt, do you hear me?
JOSH (continued) BRITT
(Distracted) Yeah, man. Sure, that’s… awesome… Hey, Josh, is there anyone else still here from the party last night? (MARIA slowly raises her right hand. After a beat, BRITT looks around the stage and raises her right hand, too. MARIA gives a little wave.) JOSH What? No, it’s just you and me. And Lee. Oh, God. Lee. Hello.
MARIA (BRITT’s mouth falls open and her half-
LEE What’s going on? Can she see us? How can she see us?
chewed granola falls to the floor.)
MARIA Darn it, there’s not supposed to be an intuit here! This can be a problem. Some people are more in tune with the spiritual world than others. If she is able to hear usLEE Damn straight she’s not supposed to be here! That’s my girlfriend, coming out of the wrong bedroom! Use your ghost powers to get this cheating Inuit or whatever out of my house. She’s gonna get her sleaze on my corpse. (BRITT glares) LEE (continued) Oh, uh. I mean, hey. Britt, sweetie? Do you think you can call 911 and stop me from dying? Pretty please? Pookems? (BRITT shows off a sinister grin and gives LEE the finger. She turns back to JOSH, who is now in the middle of CPR.) BRITT Hey, Josh. You should give Lee some space. That kind of stuff can actually screw stuff up when an amateur does it. I think we should just wait it out. Oh, fuck you. Fuck YOU!
LEE BRITT JOSH
Hey, fuck you! I’m doing the best I can!
(To BRITT, the only one he can see and hear)
MARIA Haha, oh, man. I think I know what’s going on. It wasn’t the alcohol that poisoned you. Am I right, Britty-Poo? (BRITT looks away suspiciously and whistles.) LEE Wait, what are you saying? MARIA Your lady here has been has found herself in a bit of a love triangle, it seems. To make things simpler for herself, she felt that her best option was to eliminate the hypotenuse. Oh, this is so much fun! Like a soap opera! Oooh! I like this girl’s style.
(MARIA holds her hand up for a high five. BRITT goes for it, only to stumble past her as the hands fail to connect. MARIA looks embarrassed that she forgot that wouldn’t work.) LEE Why are you taking her side, Maria? I thought we were friends! I am totally not a hypotenuse, here! MARIA No offense, man, but I kinda just want you to die so I can get on with my job. (BRITT laughs) What is wrong with you? Stop laughing!
(muttering to LEE)
Even in death, you’re a pain in the ass. You and your new ghost girlfriend can jump off a cliff. MARIA Wouldn’t do much good. And I’m a psychopomp, thank you. (BRITT shrugs and gives a look like “What the fuck are you going on about?”)
She’s my escort. You mean like a hooker? That’s what I said! Uh, but no.
LEE BRITT LEE (MARIA groans)
Please, stop talking about hookers and call 911! Hm? Oh, yeah. I’m on it. Let’s see if I remember how to do this… 9… 1…
JOSH BRITT (BRITT walks calmly to the door, taking her sweet time, and comes out with a phone.) (BRITT winds up and throws her phone offstage like a baseball.)
Butterfingers! Oh, for Pete’s sake.
BRITT Hey, you know what we do when this kind of thing happens at the veterinarian’s clinic? (BRITT walks over to the kitchen counter and grabs a knife) We have to cut the chest open so the organs can breathe. I… Don’t think that sounds right. Hey, buddy, your girl sounds a little psycho. You’ve gotta do something! Stab him! Stab him! Stab him! No, not that! I’m sorry, but it’s the only choice I- WE have.
JOSH MARIA LEE MARIA LEE BRITT (JOSH stands up, takes a deep breath, and faces BRITT)
JOSH Britt, I’m going to need you to calm down. I can’t let you hurt my friend. Too late for that, nerd. Let’s make this clean.
BRITT (BRITT moves in towards the body with the knife. JOSH grabs her by the wrist and they fight for the knife. MARIA and LEE cheer them on as they struggle across the room. They bump into the refrigerator, and the LIGHTS go out. LIGHTS come back on to see the refrigerator on the floor, two more dummies, and LEE, JOSH, and BRITT sitting on the floor. JOSH and BRITT are bloodied. LEE and BRITT look annoyed and JOSH looks befuddled. Enter MARIA, scribbling down on her clipboard.)
Man… What happened? You messed up. Nerds.
JOSH LEE BRITT
MARIA Are you guys all ready? Super! Not quite what I had in mind, but it looks like I should be able to meet my quota, after all! Isn’t that great? (LEE and BRITT unenthusiastically cheer. JOSH just stares blankly ahead of him.) Great! I’ll put in a nice word for you to the powers that be, yeah? Now, let’s get going guys! Up! Up! Oh, and new, bloody folks: Try not to drip on my outfit. I keep having to send my robes into the wash because of slobs like you. (LEE, BRITT, and JOSH follow MARIA off stage as LIGHTS fade to black.)
Taylor Lea Hicks
Charming Tenure Poetry Candace Baker
Life is like a box of “ckuf” you (in reverse). She hates him and he loves her musical pleasures so he can slither his fingertips down her black, wooden body to the curve of her bell where he pushes his brush inside to clean her out. Hangover demons tell of euphoria nights while semen between virgin thighs say differently. She feels it there days afterwards as a reminder since being perfect took its toll on her. It was time for her to have scars. He pressed into her still, until she dissipated into strips of nothingness and clumps of flesh. He hollered her name when she was dead. She heard him call and opened her eyes. She heard him call and opened her eyes to see their buried secrets creak out by blood and lips. He became obsessed with master-debators that argued that her soul was someone else’s. So he relieved himself of all he had left onto her silhouette of brown and bruised loathing (using a musette that was filled with love semen) between her unused thighs. Before they could say differently and persuade his fancy lusts otherwise, he did this favor to her. He manipulated her not so thin flesh that begged for less before the ledger could finish. His nails trailed the scale down her back and curved sharply so she screamed fortissimo. She found out the hard way that love stripped her superb brassiere of sexuality. Love strips the superb brassiere of sexuality so that he’s left with big nipples and mascara trailing down by soaked cheeks. His laughs were muffled beneath the pillow that I’d puked on when they’d joined with my person once he’d pressured me into agreeing. Rarely do I not see men between my fresh thighs. Some deliver altered thoughts of my freedom. The combination reeks and tortures my nostrils but goes away once he returns to punish me for not making myself fresh again. That’s when I miss the dark room, hidden under his, that I was bred in and kept and trained
like a dog to love him. It’s there I learned that love is a nubby happiness sent by nanobots. Love is a nubby happiness. Sent by nanobots, it comes in to destroy gravity surrounding the senses making her brain drift down to the soles of her feet. Melting virginities appear when he comes with a pale ripeness. She wakes up to underpants that squirt swollen honey drops of semen. And between his vacant thighs voices of different opinions become of him. Necklaces hang on her of elephants and luck charms, no good, when his body rubs over them. Nails, black and blue beaten, dig into his back while he cleans her out. He thinks he gives her pleasure. She knows she wishes him gone but begs him nearer. She loves the unbearable pain that put her to death. She loves the unbearable pain that took her to her death, a travel she couldn’t soon forget, but didn’t need to. His knuckles churn her cheekbones as they would butter, breaking her down to vibrato and then melodies to be played by him only. If only she were invisible, the notes would be forgivable. He gives her one break, his semen avoids her silent thighs so he can stalk her like a fish would juicy bait, taking nips at her flesh before eating her whole again. Whispers of her mania ran through the mouths of the beholders. She must abide in her secret place of thunder and meditate therein nightly to survive him. She sings herself up with words like, “Sometimes, I wish I were a drifting feather, sometimes.” I wish I were a drifting feather— sometimes— hanging, flying over the waterfall that connects heaven to earth. Then I could bathe in two places at once instead of being subjected and dominated by the patterned thumpings that clash at this one’s bottom. Suicide is a tranquil option I refuse to deny. I dream of sea-men diving between my chaste thighs, whispering different notions in my ear. I wake and you dig into me with a tiny shovel, bit by bit, until only a grave remains. ‘‘I am in your hands and at your will tonight,’’ I must say. So crush me to more pieces since I’m beyond repair. I spend one freed time without you daydreaming and realize that I play Concentration with people’s faces.
She plays Concentration with people’s faces but never wins because she can’t make a match. She does
this wanting to excel at something other than being his music sheet to chop and screw and slur. Mix two or more problems together and they disappear for a while until there are no more cards. She feels that time is to herself, but semen between old virgin thighs say differently when that sugary substance is mixed with yoke and creates a product she does not want to bare. Sexuality of the mind torments her with the seed but she’s late now. She’s dealt all hearts in a game of spades, impossible to hold her own. Now, she sees how Life is only a box of “ckuf” you (in reverse).
Taylor Lea Hicks
An Evil Evening Poetry Jeremy Ellis
I walked through hell with my eyes closed shut, not that I was scared. My shoes stuck to the red-hot coals, but I kept right on walking, saying silent prayers. It wasnâ€™t so bad after all, and the gargoyles had a sense of humor. Others screamed at the thought of eternity, but I kept right on walking down each flight of stairs, across each fiery level. My clothes caught fire and I whipped them to the ground, still holding my eyes closed shut. Naked, I swam across the fabled lake of fire. My skin blistered, my feet were by then bones, but I kept right on walking, right down to the throne, the unholy seat. I walked through hell with my eyes closed shut, not that I was scared. I was the worst thing there.
Icy Silhouette Taylor Lea Hicks
Company Poetry Zach Hughes
My quiet affinity for the ambiance, of ephemeral, fall winds’ nuance fade and make way for winter, replaced by pleasant, warm conversation with consanguinity. Ruminating and oblivious at our benighted, racket wrapped table; this scarlet, sweat covered salsa dancer’s visceral, elegant, sharp steps cut up my care and concerns. Stranger, she’s no more a stranger than the moon or December night’s chill. Similar, her familiar mysteries and calming appeal. Try, try and hold close the warmth that you feel. Try, thrive clutching tight the sublime and surreal, or die in the cold, alone like you fear. It’s a fool who freezes with fire so near.
Wintertime Hideaway Taylor Lea Hicks
Anna Wrecks Leah Script Carli Hemperley CAST OF CHARACTERS ANNA - LEAH -
Leah’s manifestation of her anorexia a girl battling with anorexia nervosa
SYNOPSIS OF SCENES SCENE ONE: The dinner table in Leah’s home, present day
(AT RISE: Set in a typical family dining room. The table is at center stage. LEAH, a teenage girl suffering from anorexia, is sitting at the dinner table with her family. She is very skinny but trying to hide it by wearing oversized clothing. LEAH is picking at her food.) ANNA
Lookie here, the girl’s playing pretend again. LEAH Who says I’m pretending? ANNA You aren’t really going to eat that are you? LEAH
It’s just steamed broccoli, Anna…
(ANNA, dressed identically to LEAH but is monstrous and twisted in appearance, enters from stage left and walks to LEAH’S side.)
(Looks up at ANNA. Halfhearted.)
(Begins to pick at her food again, frowning)
ANNA Yeah. With cheese. Think of how many calories that has. I haven’t eaten anything all day. I’ll be fine.
All day? I’m proud!
LEAH (Skewers a piece of broccoli on her fork) ANNA (Puts hand on LEAH’S shoulder)
Why would you want to ruin that?
LEAH Because I’m hungry. I feel like I’m going to pass out if I don’t eat anything soon. The room feels like it’s… (Starts to rotate her fork around in circles) Spinning. ANNA
(Throws hands up in the air) Then pass out, for God’s sake! Don’t ruin being beautiful because you’re going to PASS OUT! And besides, the room always spins. You would know that if you weren’t such a pig and ate all the time. Disgusting… But I don’t like feeling like this. It’s terrible.
ANNA You know what else is terrible? Being fat! You’d feel much better if you weren’t so fat, Leah. You’d really feel great if you were like me. I want you to be like me Leah. I want you to be beautiful. LEAH A boy at school today said I looked pretty…
ANNA Yeah? Well he lied. You’re not pretty. Fat people aren’t pretty. Fat people are gross. (Grabs LEAH’S face and makes LEAH look at her) Now I’m pretty. This is the face of a goddess. Don’t you want to look like me? Wasn’t that what you said when you let me in? Don’t you still want to be pretty? LEAH Of course I do!
(Jerks away) (Pauses)
But what if he wasn’t lying? ANNA He was lying. No doubt about it. Boys don’t like flabby girls. That’s a simple fact of life, dearie. But he seemed so sincere… The best liars do, Leah, the best liars do.
LEAH ANNA LEAH
But… what if he was?
(Voice is strained, like she’s fighting back tears)
ANNA But he WASN’T. Geez… your skull is as thick as your waist. What if you’re the one lying to me?
(Looks aghast) ME? Why would I lie to you? I AM you. Would you lie to yourself? I don’t think so… Exactly. God, you’re an idiot. Can you go, please?
LEAH ANNA LEAH
ANNA Why? So you can stuff your face when I’m not looking? I can’t let you do that. I can’t let you ruin all of your hard work. You’re not nearly as huge as you were when you started! LEAH One time won’t hurt me! Please, just go!
ANNA Never. I’ll never go. I can’t go… weren’t you just listening? I’m YOU! Well, then I don’t like ME!
(Laughs) You’re a riot! You not liking yourself is what brought me here in the first place. LEAH What would happen to you if I started to like myself again? That won’t happen. You and I both know that.
LEAH Well, maybe you’re just saying that because you want it to be true. ANNA
(Frustrated) I thought we just established that I wouldn’t lie to you. Stupid girl… LEAH Stop calling me stupid! I’m getting tired of it. ANNA Woah… calm down. Don’t strain yourself big girl. Get out of here. No. I said GET OUT!
ANNA LEAH (Points stage left)
Oh! You’re serious! How… cute.
You got that right… Shut up! Leave me alone.
(Back up, hands raised defensively. Sarcastic)
I’m not cute!
(Slams fork down on the table)
(Starts laughing again)
LEAH ANNA LEAH
ANNA You’re nothing without me. Just a pitiful little blob of a girl. LEAH I’m not a blob. ANNA What did you just say? LEAH I’m not a blob. Yes. You. Are.
(Pauses. Just looks at LEAH for a moment)
(A little louder)
No! I’m not. You’re a liar. ANNA I’M NOT A LIAR! LEAH It seems we’re both things we’re not. That doesn’t make any sense!
(Stands, pointing fork at ANNA)
(Cringing away from ANNA)
LEAH No, what doesn’t make any sense is that I listen to you. Look, you don’t know what to say. That’s a first.
(ANNA glares at her, silent in frustration)
ANNA No, you deciding that you want to work your fat ass up to confront me is a first. (Rubs temples, looking exasperated) Have you not tired yourself out yet? You’re not going to eat that, so stop trying to fool yourself. But what if I do?
LEAH (Picks up her fork) ANNA
(Pauses, stares at the fork then looks at
LEAH’S face, looks concerned for a moment, then she smiles)
But you won’t. You sound so sure…
ANNA Because I am. You won’t do it. You’re not strong enough to stand up to me yet. LEAH Do you really doubt me? If I was stupid enough to listen to you in the first place, then what’s saying I’m not stupid enough to eat this? You’re not THAT stupid.
Looks like I am… ANNA NOOO!
LEAH (Eats the broccoli) ANNA
Stop it! LEAH NOOOO!
(Suddenly panicking.) (Lunges towards LEAH, but LEAH holds the food toward ANNA. She freezes and glares at LEAH.)
I hate you. I hate you too.
(Lifts a piece of broccoli to her mouth)
(Screams, hand covers her mouth.)
(Takes another bite)
(Clutches stomach, grimacing) Stop please! You’re ruining everything we’ve worked for!
(LEAH eats a bit more and ANNA screams and falls to the ground and writhes in pain) (Stops)
You’re really in pain, aren’t you? ANNA You bitch!
(Screeches, twisting and shaking on floor.)
LEAH I don’t think I can eat much more right now… but that doesn’t mean you’ve won. ANNA
(Glares up at her) You’ll realize you’ve made a mistake. When you get up the guilt will hit and you’ll go running to purge yourself like you always do. LEAH Maybe so, but I refuse to play your game anymore. I’m sick of being like this, feeling like this. Your game is going to stop. Maybe not today, but I’ll make sure it does. You won’t wreck me anymore. ANNA (Trying to stand, hand over stomach.) You can never really get rid of me, you know. I don’t give up so easily. LEAH No, but I can ignore you. I’m pretty good at that. I hate you. I hate you too, anorexia.
ANNA LEAH (Takes one final bite and the lights fade to black, while ANNA screams) THE END
Butterfly Battle Taylor Lea Hicks
Property Again Poetry Jeremy Ellis
Well, you’re dynamite in the synagogue, but Jesus is going to love you, anyway, going to love you with Jewish lips and strong, carpenter hands. Such a handsome man, such a good, strong man, that Jesus. You want Him, don’t you? You want to straddle that lordly waist and go to town, don’t you? Well, you’ll get enough of Him, Miss Dynamite. As soon as you’re dead, you’re His. Then your freedom’s gone. Then your jig is up, lady. You won’t get to be alone. He’ll swallow you up with the love of a God, and you will be His, His like His name. And everybody will know, and you’ll be property again.
Spring Survives Taylor Lea Hicks
Guardian Bear 52
Fiction Rachel Murray If you looked outside your window on the morning of August 18th you would have seen me on my way to my first day of high school. You would have seen my big back pack, checkered with all the colors of the rainbow. You would have seen my favorite jeans with the hole in the knee, which my mom hated for me to wear. You would have seen my long red hair swishing back and forth like a candle flame dancing with life. On any given afternoon for the next couple of weeks you could have looked out your window and seen me walking home with my friends. You’d see the three of us taking up the entire sidewalk. You’d see us showing each other text messages and telling stories. You’d see us laughing. If you looked out your window to admire the trees as their leaves changed to shades of red, orange, and brown, you might have caught glimpses of me walking home alone. You’d see the slow, awkward gait of a girl who had been abandoned for the sake of boys, parties, and older, cooler friends. When the first of those crisp fall leaves started to drop you may have looked out your window and seen that I was being followed. You’d see my old friends a few steps behind me, joined by their new friends, laughing and yelling things at me. You’d see them mock me for crying. That day the snow seemed to come out of nowhere and caused wrecks all over town, we were released from school early. You could have looked out your window to see me walking home without a coat because it was stolen. You’d see that my long red hair was gone, cut short because someone had stuck gum in it and turned brown by the sunless winter. Maybe if you had looked out your window and seen these things you would have felt compelled to step outside and say something to me. “Chin up, kid,” you might have told me. “Your best years are ahead of you.” Maybe you could have stopped me. Maybe I would have changed my mind. Did you even notice when I stopped walking by? Did you know that I was gone? Probably not. Your blinds were shut, your curtains drawn. You weren’t looking. No one was.
abstrakt H채user 2 Taylor Lea Hicks
Winter Wonder World Poetry Janie Brown
It’s a winter wonder world Inside your soul, inside your mind. Snowflakes fall inside you – Unique and one of a kind. You’re so white it’s blinding me. There are no shadows, only love. And I love you, I love you, dear. So innocent are you – so pure. But it seems like such a lie is your persona: That such a positive constant can be maintained. And I can’t hope but wonder dear, That sometimes in this winter wonder world There is a horrifying snow that falls so heavy and is so cold It wipes out all the colors of your soul. And when I think of that I notice That when things are rough in life You still smile so purely, so white, But your eyes are frozen and glazed. You must have died to maintain such innocence.
Snow Cove Taylor Lea Hicks
Noon Snow Taylor Lea Hicks
Flame Bait Poetry Jeremy Ellis
Some days I sit and burnâ€” a photogenic monk engulfed in spiritual flame. It eats the shell off of my soul, and I forget my name. It burns a gaping hole into the rooftop of my brain, and out I go leaking, frantically seeking a sweet return. But the ghost of my mind casually climbs and reaches up to touch some sweet sublime feeling, while the lowly body twists and turns in excruciating pain and the pitch flesh starts peeling into ash, and I feel perfectly divided, while God with his cane pole, using string out of my soul, reclines upon a cloud singing negro folksongs out loud with a great big grin on his face as the fiery world rages wildly to leave no single trace of me.
The Price of Perfection Poetry Zach Hughes
What would it be to rise to every occasion, To know nothing but victory and celebration, To be content at your worst and have no best, No pinnacle, no decline, only ease and peaceful rest? I am afraid that this is what we believe we desire, Failing to realize the ironic sorrow to which we aspire. Before you stop reading in disdainful rejection, Look around and inside; ask yourself this simple question. What would success be without first failing a test? How slow would life pass, were we not racing death? Could you appreciate the good in Christ’s noble sacrifice? Without the guilt-followed glee brought about by a vice? What about your lover’s warming embrace? I’ve your attention, now listen, let me make my case. Who needs grace, having not first known lonely rebellion? What is left to pursue if you’ve already realized perfection? Would eagles ever have soared had something not compelled them? They must’ve seen more to be had than what talons would allow them. Though, for the most, we’re all strong, all teased by the sky, We so rarely ever join them, for fear of the fall that’ll come when we try. Why? There is much to be gained from grandiose failure.
A few bruises, some scars, and in there a wise tale or two. Take this new found knowledge, see your next effort is soundly attended. Sin and selfishness only multiply the grace of a helping hand extended. The simple beauty in that is invisible, to those of the first few lines. Born in sin, truly blessed, us whom trial by fire refines. But here is the linchpin, the key to the rest; It’s up to you to get up and once again try your best. So get to your feet, look past that fear of failing. We’ve all suffered falls, all had our days of reflection, repentance, and praying. It’s in our bones, it thickens and quickens our blood. That we all try and fail, holds us together and endears us to God.
Out of My Mind Script Asha Jones
CAST OF CHARACTER (In order of appearance.) ELIZABETH JOHNSON - - A psychiatric patient BRIANNA - - Elizabeth’s alter ego STEPHANIE WILLAMSON Elizabeth’s psychiatrist HARRY Patient with paranoia schizophrenia SYNOPSIS OF SCENES SCENE ONE: SCENE TWO: SCENE THREE:
Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital room. Present day. Group therapy room. Present day. Elizabeth’s room. SCENE ONE (AT RISE: Present day. Psychiatric hospital. Door on the left side of the room to suggest an exit. The only thing in the room is a steel framed twin bed with a thin white sheet. ELIZABETH’s hands and feet are securely fastened to the steel bed frame and her hair is uncombed, and she is wearing a loose hospital gown. She seems to be in a daze. She’s simply looking up at the ceiling. BRIANNA appears by the head of the bed. She’s wearing ripped skinny jeans and a fitted black t-shirt with NWA in bold white letters, and her hair is cut short.)
BRIANNA Damn, Elizabeth, don’t you just hate Thorazine shots? It just sucks the life right out of you. I wonder is this what zombies feel like. (ELIZABETH just lies there emotionless) BRIANNA (continued) Well I guess you’ll think twice before killing yourself again or at least get better at it. I mean who really screws up cutting their wrists? (ELIZABETH lies there motionless, not even blinking.)
BRIANNA (continued) God damn it! It’s like I’m talking to a brick wall! (BRIANNA disappears as the LIGHTS fade to black) SCENE TWO (AT RISE: ELIZABETH is now sitting in a circle with other patients. She is no longer in a white hospital gown but is in dark purple sweat pants and a matching dark purple sweat shirt with UCA written in white bold letters. She has her arms crossed over her chest signifying how much she doesn’t want to be there. She catches STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON’s attention) STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON Elizabeth, you’ve been here for two weeks and you still haven’t shared anything with the group. ELIZABETH I don’t have anything to share, Ms. Williamson STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON Please Elizabeth, call me Stephanie. How about you tell everyone why you’re here or you can start off on a more positive note and tell everyone what you want to overcome or achieve while you’re here. (BRIANNA appears standing behind ELIZABETH’s chair and leans down as if whispering in her ear) BRIANNA Yeah, Elizabeth, go ahead and tell everyone about your pathetic suicide attempt or better yet tell everyone that you want to overcome the voices in your head. Yup, you definitely deserve to be here with these whack jobs. ELIZABETH Ms. Williamson, I don’t need to share my story or tell everyone what I want to overcome because I don’t belong here. I’m just your average college freshman who was having a difficult time dealing with being away from home. I was just trying to cope with the stress. (HARRY is skeptically looking around with a paranoid, fearful look in his eyes) Don’t listen to her Lizzy.
HARRY (ELIZABETH uncrosses her arms and gives HARRY a stern look)
ELIZABETH (HARRY is not fazed by ELIZABETH’s interjection and keeps talking like she didn’t even say anything)
HARRY She’s working with the government. I know she is. I can feel her wanting to know our every move, our every thought. I can even hear her listening in on my phone calls. Her slow steading breathing, her pen writing down every word I say to my granny. I’m locked in here because the government knows that I know that they know the things they don’t want anybody to know. You’ve got to be shitting me.
BRIANNA (STEPHANIE looks at HARRY without saying anything then turns back toward ELIZABETH.)
STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON It’s ok to feel overwhelmed at times. And it’s also normal not be able to see the end of a stressful situation, but keeping those feeling bottled up won’t make the problem or the stress go away. (ELIZABETH is thinking to herself so no one is able to hear her. All of the lights on stages dims except the one that is shining on ELIZABETH.) ELIZABETH I can’t risk anyone thinking I’m crazy, and hearing voices in your head is the epitome of crazy. No, Harry is the epitome of crazy.
BRIANNA (ELIZABETH now talking to STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON)
ELIZABETH Like I told you before Ms. Williamson, there’s nothing to talk about because I don’t belong here. (STEPHANIE starts to put her pen and note pad away, and is in the process of standing up) STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON Well, ok everyone. I think we should end on that note. I’ll see everyone back here again Wednesday.
(Everyone walks off stage as the LIGHTS
fade to black.) SCENE THREE (AT RISE: ELIZABETH is sitting in her room with her mother.) So how are you, dear?
ELIZABETH I’m doing ok mom. I just really want to come home. Do you know how long I’m going to be stuck in this place? (ELIZABETH’S MOM takes a brief moment to answer.) No, honey, I’m sorry but I don’t know.
ELIZABETH’S MOM (ELIZABETH stands in frustration, crossing her arms.)
You don’t know anything?!
ELIZABETH’S MOM No, I don’t know anything. Liz, I really need to ask you a favor. When you get home people might ask where you were, and I would like for you to tell them that you were gone to a music banquet for your school. ELIZABETH Wait, what?! Are you ashamed of me?! Are you ashamed of your crazy, suicidal daughter?! (ELIZABETH is now pacing across the room. ELIZABETH’S MOM gets up from sitting on the bed and walks over to ELIZABETH. She tries to put her hand on ELIZABETH’s shoulders to try to console her.) ELIZABETH’S MOM Of, course I’m not ashamed of you. Don’t be ridiculous, but you know what’s our business needs to stay our business. (ELIZABETH pushes her mother’s hands off of her shoulders.) ELIZABETH No, mom, I’m tired of keeping our family secrets and apparently you are too. I’ve seen the empty gin bottles.
(ELIZABETH’S MOM turns away from ELIZABETH and sits on her bed, looking down at her hands.) I don’t know what you’re talking about.
ELIZABETH’S MOM (ELIZABETH walks over to the bed and sits down next to her mom.)
ELIZABETH Mom, I just want to come home. We can get through our problems together. I don’t have a problem.
(ELIZABETH stands up again in frustration.) ELIZABETH Yes, you do have a problem. You’re an oblivious alcoholic. You didn’t even see your own daughter pleading for your help. (ELIZABETH’S MOM gets up and walks toward the door.) I think I should be going now.
ELIZABETH You know what, imma get through this with or without you. (ELIZABETH’S MOM walks out of the room and BRIANNA appears by ELIZABETH’s bed.) BRIANNA She’s the most fucked up person I know. You’re not the crazy one; she is. She tries to paint this perfect little picture of her perfect little family. Well, it’s far from perfect. Her husband is fucking the neighbor and she knows it. Everybody knows it. ELIZABETH This isn’t about her; it’s about me. It’s about the reason why I’m in this place. I’m sick of following my mother down this path of denial. I think I’m ready to talk. I know that if I don’t talk sooner or later I’m either going to wind up an alcoholic like her or make another attempt to kill myself. (There’s a knock on the door.)
ELIZABETH (Continued) (STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON walks through the door.)
STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON I was walking down the hallway, and I saw your mother leave your room. She seemed pretty upset. I just wanted to make sure everything was ok. ELIZABETH I was just about to come see you. I think I’m ready to talk. (STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON walks into the room and shuts the door behind her.) STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON Well, the floor is all yours. Start when you’re ready. (Just as ELIZABETH opens her mouth, HARRY storms into her room.) HARRY I’m never saying a damn thing to you. Not now. Not ever. Why should I? So you can tell the CIA and use everything against me? You probably want me to tell you about my stamp collection that I have hidden in the third drawer of my dresser that is worth approximately sixty-eight dollars. (HARRY’s eyes grows big as he realizes what he has said.) Damn it! You got it out of me. You secret agents think you’re so sneaky. Well that will be the last time I open my mouth around you!
(HARRY clasps both hands over his mouth to prove his point and runs out of the room almost knocking down STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON.)
BRIANNA What a freak?! I seriously can’t deal with this place with these people. Stephanie, are you alright?!
STEPHANIE STEVENSON Yes, I’m fine dear. Just start talking whenever you’re ready. ELIZABETH I don’t really know where to start. I’m afraid that no matter what I say I’m going to sound crazy anyway. So I guess I’ll just start by answering your two questions. I’m here because I tried to kill myself to escape this voice in my head. Sometimes she’s just so overpowering. Most of the time she is stronger than my thoughts, my emotions, my feelings, and while I’m here I want to overcome her, become
stronger than her, learn how to cope with her.
(STEPHANIE looks at ELIZABETH without saying anything. Her expression is not one of judgment, but one that shows that she is sincerely listening. ELIZABETH sighs in relief.)
ELIZABETH (Continued) That is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud. I’m just tired of the denial and the lies. I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. Well who are you, Elizabeth?
STEPHANIE WILLIAMSON (ELIZABETH takes a moment to ponder on the question. She has a look of concentration.)
ELIZABETH You know I have never thought about that before. I honestly don’t know who I am. (ELIZABETH lowers her head with this realization.) STEPHANIE Well how about you think of it like this. Hypothetically, let’s say your suicidal attempt was successful. What would people giving a eulogy about you say, and what would you say about yourself? BRIANNA You know exactly who you are, Elizabeth. You’re a suicidal nutcase. Just admit it so you can make a home for yourself with these other nutcases and weirdoes. (ELIZABETH shakes her head trying to get BRIANNA’s voice out of her head.) ELIZABETH People would probably say something generic like how they didn’t see the signs. How happy and outgoing a person I was, and how my life was just starting. My mom wouldn’t even bring up my suicide at all. She would pretend like it never even happened. If someone asked her, she would probably make up this ridiculous lie about how I accidentally cut myself while making dinner or something. Anything to save her already shattered reputation. (ELIZABETH chuckles to herself at the thought of this.) But if I had to say something I would tell everyone that I was never really happy. I never really had this outgoing, strong personality. Shit, I couldn’t even stand up to the voice in my head. I never even wanted to go to college, really. It was just something I felt like I had to so. Another move to maintain this façade. I would tell them that the real me preferred to have earphones in my ear at all times just to drown out all the thoughts clashing in my head. My mom use to tell people it was because of my love for music, but honestly I never really listened to one song on my IPOD. I would just crank it up to full blast and relish in the silence. I would tell everyone in that church crying over me, a person that
they didn’t even really know and scream at the top of my lungs, “HEY I’M ELIZABETH JOHNSON, AND I’M OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND!”
Poetry Justine Yatska You kept looking at me. We were downtown at a small venue watching a folk artist play. It was a Monday night & I forgot to bring my vinyl in for the artist to sign. When we bought our tickets we held out our hands to get the complimentary black sharpie x’s from the large security guard that mildly resembled Santa Claus. -because we are underage. You got an X on your face & I laughed because it reminded me how big of a dork you are. After the first set a couple in probably their mid-thirties sat at our table. The man had a bolo-tie and a cowhide belt. The woman had red hair and an unrecognizable foreign accent. Booze dripped from each of their breaths & I gagged a little when they spoke. He really wanted to buy you a drink. -because of the Star Trek shirt you were wearing. You kept refusing with that awkward laugh of yours. “You sure?” he said You said, “I’m sure.” They finally left. It was the last set & out of the corner of my eye I could see you look at me. Every so often you would look over To stare at the smile I had so genuinely plastered across my face. -because I really liked the artist we were seeing. You kept looking at me & when you would look away I kept looking back.
abstrakt H채user Taylor Lea Hicks
Colophon Vortex was created on a pimped-out, custom-built PC using InDesign CS6 and Photoshop CS6. Theme fonts are Game of Thrones, café & brewery, and Georgia. Design by Ashley Thomas and Ernesto Peña.