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The Audacity of Humans

By Alan Shaw

Mother earth smiled with a jagged-toothed grin the size of the Grand Canyon at the nerve of humans claiming to be alive. For surely if this were true, then Mother Earth must be God herself! “After all, what is one hundred years, compared to my 4.5 billion year run? Or a pair of fragile lungs, compared to my Amazon rainforest? Or a digestive system compared to my biodegrading landfills? Or your veins and arteries, compared to my subterranean tunnels? Or your precious blood, compared to my all-powerful oil? Or your beating heart, compared to my rotating core? Or your body that is 70% water, compared to my body that is 70% ocean? Or your dry, flakey skin, compared to my sun-scorched Sahara Desert? Or your cute little dimples, compared to my majestic craters? “And what is this nonsense I hear about man’s admirable achievements? Don’t make me laugh,” the great Mother Earth said. “You humans run marathons, while I circumnavigate the Milky Way Galaxy! You humans cry and wipe away your tears, whereas I monsoon and wipe away your villages! You puny mortals have emotions, but I have a weather forecast! You eat 3 meals a day, (Hah!) I metabolize civilizations on a whim! You foolish humans cause world wars, but I cause extinctions! You catch colds, but I catch ice-ages! You walk, but I levitate! You have a Royal family? Hah! I have a teenage moon, eight independent granddaughters, and a sun who's already a rockstar! You pathetic humans built a few pyramids, but I built Mt. Everest! You need sunscreen for your skin, but I have an atmosphere! You hire security to feel safe, but I have an electromagnetic forcefield to keep intruders out! You have lights, but I create lightning! You catch seizures, while I catch earthquakes! You catch fevers, but I catch greenhouse effects! You blow kisses, but I blow tornados! You burp, while I fart natural gasses! You bathe, I flood! You humans pop pimples, while I compress volcanos! You foolish humans have yet to vanquish cancer or even A.I.D.S., but I voluntarily spar with humanity, and remain undefeated! “Then you die a meaningless and otherwise miserable death, whereas I supernova and depart with a loud, earth-shattering blast! “So please,” the Great Mother Earth appealed. “Stop saying you’re alive.”


Nature Outlives

By Zoey Beaver

Not until you find the way out will you be able to rest. You’re running, and can’t stop, lungs about to collapse from the air dissolving from your body. It’s been a while since you were young, lost in a cluster of trees swallowing you just like this one, but your heart still beats just as fast. Your coffee-bean-stained hair ripples the same way your foreign, silky, lilac dress does while you look for an exit. You’re shuddering to the point where your fingers are numb. Searching for shelter, you cannot see a thing in sight besides the trees dispersed across the land. Where am I? Where am I supposed to go? Struggling to make sense as to why you’re placed here, you just know you have to make it out before it’s too late. You’ve lost all your reasons to live, until now. You’re used to reliving the moment Mom shut you out because you couldn’t meet her every need, now that her favorite child was gone. The love of your life would rather sleep in another woman’s bed than have a conversation about your feelings. It seems as though once you created a life and lost it in the same crisp, autumn season, you lost your own along with her. You can hear the whispers of the men, women, and children who are still trapped in between the trees, the poor souls that gained more importance the second they left, yet they are now all unremembered. There is no doubt in your mind that you must get out of here. Your bare feet connect with the grass for a split second while you sprint through the unforgiving forest. The trees spread out and exits open, but nowhere leads to the end of the suffering. You must not become another forgotten name, forgotten face; you have to continue to breathe the not-so-fresh air. You soon come to the realization that the forest consumes all who dare to take the risk of getting lost. You overhear the leaves on the trees that start to wrestle with the wind while you hope to stumble upon the key to the hidden door, but you’re sapped. You drop to your knees, trying not to let your eyes get damp. You feel as though you’ve failed, never able to see the meaning behind it all. You put your face in your hands, wishing for it to be over. It won’t. The wind picks up, winning the struggle against all of the leaves in the entire area, blowing your fluid hair and dress. You nearly get taken away by this dastardly wind. It lifts you up, back on your feet. Your heart pounds out of your chest, hands getting sweaty. Trying to get back on the ground, you see now what you’ve been looking for. Once your eyes gaze upon it, you are set back down and your eyes are locked onto it. A door-shaped marking carved in this tree. It doesn’t seem real. It is real. The same white oak that it was made out of. The same three rectangular shapes on the top, three on the bottom. The same scratch marks at the lowest part from when your kitten wanted to enter. The same lines in red crayon splattered across the lower half, only when you ran out of paper. It was your door, and only yours. You approach it slowly, so you don’t wake up the beast that you’re trapped in. You gradually lift your right hand up and stroke the wood. It’s not just a marking. It’s not just a coincidence. It’s a way out; the way out. The door spawned in from the unknown, leading to the known. Searching for the handle, there isn’t one in sight, meanwhile there’s no key. In your exhaustion and frustration, you thrust into it and it opens, awakening the beast. The entire door falls back into the tree, nowhere in your view. You lean into the dark tree and look down to see it falling, falling into the abyss. You turn back and gaze into the forest you just advanced from, a single tear descends down your face. You raise your left hand to wipe it. You slowly turn back around and ever so suddenly leap, plunging into the unforgiving exit. You sink into nothingness. All you see is darkness, despair, and grief. There’s no end. As you cascade deeper into the black hole, your hair and your dress are not far behind, yet they are trying to reach for the surface, regretting your decision. You must face your fears before you’re allowed your second chance. ~ You open your eyes to the sound of your exasperating alarm and furiously pound it until it plummets off your nightstand as the muffled alarm keeps screaming. You groan as you rub your eyes. Flopping back onto your bed, you stare at the ceiling. You look to your left, your unfaithful husband missing again; just like every normal morning. You lie there in your comfortable bed, trying to listen to the sounds of the city like you do every morning; a peaceful routine. It’s quiet. Too quiet. The only noise that you can hear is your toned-down alarm. You glance over and see the window is open way more than just a crack. How odd. You ascend from your mattress, grab your alarm and turn it off before heading to the open window. You’ve always loved to watch the cars go by and the people strolling down the street, keeping you at peace. They aren’t there, though. There is not a car nor person in sight. You look behind you to discover the horror beyond your wildest dreams. It is you, the real you. Your coffee-bean-stained hair and familiar, silky and lilac dress spilling off the bed, rippling in the soft wind. You are lying there, helpless. Empty pill bottle in hand, reaching off the bed, hovering over the cap and a few that didn’t make it down your throat scattered across the floor. Everything that once was, everything that was normal, everything that was you, is gone. This is the wrong kind of peace. There is nothing but the scream you let out when you realize that you might not be dreaming. ~ You’re shuddering to the point where your fingers are numb. Searching for shelter, you cannot see a thing besides the trees dispersed across the land. Where am I? Where am I supposed to go? Struggling to make sense as to why you’re placed here, you just know you have to make it out before it’s too late.

Wheat Field with Cypresses

For Vincent

Inspired by Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

By Emily Shufelt

I had seen the painting many times before. The first time was in my elementary school art class. It was my favorite, and it’s one of his most famous. However, I had never experienced it like this. It’s all around me, projected on the screens. I watch from my place on the floor. A swirling sky of blues and white over the navy mountains and sleepy little town below. The tiny church steeple thrusts into the sky like a lance, taller than all the buildings around it. A mighty cypress tree, black as a shadow, haunts the foreground of the painting, a reminder of the artist’s dark mental state. Yellows in the stars and moon are a stark contrast, with rings swirling around them as if they are glowing. I can’t help but lose myself in it. The brushstrokes seem to have movement to them. It’s mesmerizing. I’m no longer sitting in the room with the screens. I found myself in the city of Arles, France, in the late 1880’s. In front of me is the cafe he painted, just like where Amy and the Doctor landed in that episode of Doctor Who. I would recognize it anywhere. However, I can’t take in too much of it because I hear a commotion and yelling from up the street. It’s too far away for me to hear it clearly, so I walk towards it. By the time I reach it, all I see is a man in a straw hat walking away, with an easel strapped to his back. Could it be? I follow him, out of the city and into the fields of wheat, a sea of yellow, sparkling in the bright sunlight. The warm smell of it hits my nose. It's beautiful out here in the countryside. The man walks up to a house and goes inside. I continue to follow. The house is small, but enough for one. There’s paintings everywhere. I recognize the sunflowers and self portraits, taking a moment to look at them up close, taking in every brushstroke on the canvas. You can’t get this close in a museum after all. He really loved the sunflowers. They had fascinated him. Bright yellow surrounding a black center. Perhaps there was a metaphor there. He did a whole series of them after all. I walk into the next room. This must be his studio. A drop cloth was spread over the floor, snow white, with splatters of paint scattered across it like a Jackson Pollock painting from a time in the future. Paint was everywhere just in general, tubes scattered across the floor. The wooden easel on its spindly crane-like legs was set up on top of the drop cloth. Just over the top of it, I could see his hair, red and orange as leaves in the autumn. His hat had been tossed aside. I walked closer. Now I could see him better. He looked just like he did in his self portraits. That fiery red hair that burned down his sideburns into his mustache and beard, the cool blue eyes in stark contrast. Those eyes were focused on the painting in front of him, his brow furrowed in concentration. Every once in a while he would sit back from it. A flash of doubt behind the eyes? Then he would go back to work, applying paint furiously to the canvas so that the brush danced across it. He was never appreciated at this time. It was fascinating to watch him work. I always like watching someone doing something that they are good at. Was he a genius or a madman? One could never tell with artists. Not too long from now he could commit himself to a mental institution. And then later on… No. I couldn’t think about that. He didn’t seem to notice me as I looked around the canvas at what he’s working on. It’s a similar color palette to my favorite painting, blues, yellows and black. A similar sky of shades of blue and glowing yellow stars. The water has these colors as well, however, instead of the stars, the yellow glows across the water as a reflection from the lights of the town along the bank. I can almost see it rippling with the water. He creates so much motion with mere brushstrokes. I couldn’t help but be amazed. Here I was watching Vincent Van Gogh create a beautiful work of art right before my eyes! I find myself back in the room, sitting on the floor as I was before. There’s the painting that Vincent was working on right in front of me, projected on those same walls. Being with him for that brief moment helped me understand him more. He was a tormented soul, an outcast, a misunderstood and underappreciated artist, and an absolute genius.

Empty Classroom

The Happy Professor


By Josh Mayer

The chains clunk and rattle throughout the faded halls of the college as the happy professor, Neff, we shall call him, enters his classroom. Scrawlings on the blackboard are of blood as the ghostly reversing language of his dead students materialize at their desks. Hands from the windowsill appear and drag themselves below its glass panes as a girl in a white dress, hair completely covering her face, passes his doorway. The happy professor smiles and adjusts his purple polka dot bow tie to the ghoulish blue tinted room as the green-eyed gremlins descend from the ceiling to begin janitorial duties for the evening. It’s only Thursday, after all, so the weekend will be near for Neff to go back to his study of aged books, and dust-bound volumes of dense lore where intensity is a forgotten subject. “Horror.” He flashes his smile as the whispers rise. “A wonderful topic, is it not?” The dead students groan and flail and yell. In the hall someone is running toward the class, but no one enters. “Ah, the early evening,” he says, opening the window allowing the tree branches to thrust themselves in as a raven audaciously swarms the class, awakening his more lively students into laughter. “How is everyone today?” Neff looks from side to side, seeing if any of his students are in any need of a venting. The happy professor always wants to help his ‘Lost Ones’ and have them find a comfortable environment. His tank has run low as of recent with the closing of the semester, and talking of horror class has his more demonic students hissing, a drawback for any discussion. They have gone over all the big names–Poe, Jackson, and Lovecraft–and he manages to pick and see which students to him carry interest into which file cabinet of the old horror topos’. The gremlin janitors scurry and gnaw through every other classroom while the happy professor turns to the blackboard to write. “May I?” he asks politely to the board. It writes in blood, “BUT OF COURSE.” He delves into his satchel, withdraws a stick of chalk, and begins to write the final project's due date when he hears sobbing come from behind. To the happy professor this will not do. It is an affront to his teachings that the world is better off happy in a bitter place. Children cry for a reason and so do adults, he thinks, but what their emotions don’t realize is how meaningless the complexities could be if analyzed. Looking around, he sees the long-haired phantom, head bowed and crying softly in the back. “Suzuki.” He calls to them, “May I see you in the hall?” The phantom nods and presses outward into the dark corridor. Gremlins pay no mind, jumping from class to class and destroying them. “Is everything alright?” “No! My life is a trap! Constantly pleading to be pleased.” “And this is affecting you and your school?” “Yes. This woman, this demon, it has a hold of me. It wants me, Professor!” “And do you expect this to be your finality, servituding a demon’s wishes? I too know this demon and they are no doubt an unreasonable and incomprehensible being. But what you need to do is look after yourself. There is nothing more important than one's own mental well-being. Even in horror, it sheds light on what is meaningless can have meaning. Remember that our own horrors are what we invite.” The phantom nods again and disappears from the hall, and Neff returns to his class and begins his lecture. The Cthulhu-esque monster in the back is having problems appreciating Jackson’s writing as he dubs her ‘Too flowery’ and states that Lovecraft was of brief and sound mind. Neff chuckles, knowing this boy will destroy us all someday, but he entertains it with a great big laugh, “Yes and in this case, my boy, he may have nurtured you by pen-drifting, and here you warble about his greatness and forget the horrors the man imposed on others. This is a conflicted hindsight of what is right from wrong from society, people and writings are being banned in other colleges and this is not to say that they’re justifiable arguments. But does this not take away from the speciality of the pieces themselves?” The Cthulhu student is intrigued by these comments and nudges in. “It should not be encouraged to destroy a piece when it has already had a ripple effect on others. You can’t stop what made us but we can take those influences and churn it into something more.” Mona, a witch from the mountains, agrees with this statement and proceeds with, “A witch has been condemned recently in her writings, but those who are fond of what she has made take it and form it into a completely new idea.” “But wouldn’t that take away the content of what was made by imposing political views? Look at The Horror At Red Hook; it was so unjustifiable that it was just a horrible story as a whole.” “Isn’t Lovecraft your idol though?” the happy professor asks. “He may have created me, but no doubt I can acknowledge as well as you can that not everything must be concrete in thought.” “As all cognitive minds are, we expect artists to be perfect,” Neff begins. “It may have its negative impacts on us briefly, but what can be created–” he brushes the desk and opens his book– “can be beautiful leaves of paper from a dying tree.” They all look at one another, baffled by his analogy. “A writer should not be ostracized by their piece or by their personality. You cannot have a perfect world. This is why horror is a necessity. A necessary evil to jog the primal adrenaline in us from our albeit pointless and uneventful lives: that is why we have it around. It is to protect us from what we can become.” “And what is that, Professor?” asks Mona. “Dull. Dullness is what humans fear more than death. Why do you think I am always happy? Because we need personalities, individual differences in the world, not the same one-track mind of movements and ideas. We just want stories! Nothing of this biasedness that distracts progression. Progression must move forward as indifferent as the Great Old Ones. Cosmism and Existentialism both have their places in the world.” The class is again amazed by his speeches. He could convince gods to end their destructive wars, but he stays from interfering. The gods must come to him first before exercising their thoughts into words into sentences and into paragraphs and into pages. That though, cannot be attained, so the gods are afraid of what the happy professor may do to their theology. He is all too joyful to this world. He perks up again as his students begin to dematerialize and the clock strikes five. The sun goeth down for another generation of souls bordering the horrific madness of the world. He hopes that they can smile as he can and stand out from the crowd as an entire menacing feat of their own. The happy professor begins to leave when he hears Suzuki screaming at the demon that taunts and controlls her. They walk together in front of the building, passing Neff as she screams that she will no longer be a slave to faith and love and she will embrace herself. “Atta girl, Suzuki. Atta girl.” The demon forms into a blob of pulsating eyes and melts into the floor as a part of another hoard of strung-out monsters that cannot be frightening to any form of eye any longer. Neff looks at his watch and cries out that he’s late for his office hours, and so he exits, pursued by a bear, into his rabbit hole.

Vintage Blue Coupe

Fast Eddie’s Goodbye


By Josh Mayer

We’re out of the starting gate with Cool Breeze, in the heat of the night Fast Eddie makes his way across town in Rollaville with ease. Cool Breeze is an old blue Coupe De Ville that’s rolling in New 1952 style as Eddie goes to pick up his girl Lacey Grace. She knows he’s leavin’ but decides not to press on the Rebel reiver whose about to make his ‘on the road’ coup de grace in his Coup De Ville look like the messiah’s last temptation. Eddie has also missed Sunday Church many-a-time so it looks to him that he won’t be a part of God’s courtly angels but maybe some slick freak when he’s slated for crashville. Grace doesn’t want Eddie to leave, she’s held onto him long enough ‘till the last picture show got them both a-rumblin’ for freedom. He's a baddie and a James Dean with one cause but makes mayhem going around with a kick and a beat and a honkin’ laugh. The scroll he intends to write is to ensure that Kerouac wouldn’t see him comin’. Fast Eddie has always had a way about pulling a fast one. He’s already being hounded down by the boys in blue who’ll give him the good old time Blues in Saint Moriarty’s Church Of The Delinquent. Fast Eddie knows he isn’t going to be taken in alive by the coppers, so at least by making it to the border of Mississippi, “Hopefully before she misses me.” he says, flooring the pedal as the howlers are rammin’ up behind the new old beatnik, who’s ready to take a stab at the afterlife for a change. That’s when the sky demons came and sat in his passenger side seat. “Whatchu doin here boys?” Eddie says as he swerves off into a ditch and breaks through barbed wire across a cattle field. “We comin’ to escort you out in the coolest way we know how,” says the multi-eyed wingers. “Keep it a-talkin, the little boy blues are about to blow their top off when they get a hold of easy riders like us!” “Well, run for the Green Hills county. You can’t miss the exit!” “Aren’t we goin’ to pick up Grace, tho?” “That we are, Big Sur.” “Say, that should be my Heavenly name.” “So you think you’re goin to Heaven?” the winged eyeball jabbers. “Not that I know of, but we’ll darn see on this wild ride to Hell.” Fast Eddie moves back on to the road as the coppers swiftly veer themselves on as well, some even makin’ a few nasty spin-outs and rollovers as the Clyde of the new century goes to pick up his Bonnie. Grace waits on her porch for her boy to show in his blue Coup De Ville with a chaos look in his eye ready to make a bat out of hell to drop her off at her bake sale, knowing full well that he ain’t comin’ back period—though here he comes now. She has her bag and everything as he crests the first hill in the distance followed by blaring wolves with red lights attached above to their speedy vehicles of bell-tolling end for the Giant himself. “Hit the road, Jack!” he cries. “Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of a tightass!” Fast Eddie laughs, crossing the hill over again and breaking through the picket line of the Ratched household. As always, Old Man Ratched read too much religion and was no fun at all. Gotta always be about faith when taking risks is a faith in itself! Giant new old beatnik, Fast Eddie, is blasting now with rock-n-roll hoppity and blarin’ the bebop with folded pulp magazines in the back. The Angel Eyes are floating still in the passenger side as Grace races from the porch and throws herself into the passenger seat. “Girl! You come back now, ya hear?” Her drawl of a father spits in the dusty air. “Sorry old man, I ain’t your girl!” The two speed off as the cops come to pile on Ratched’s yard. The green pasture fades into dirt and the road stretches to the black asphalt that melts into the Earth. The Coup De Ville rolls its rubber screeching to a speed where it barely touches the ground. The Angel Eyes flap around young Grace who is happy to know Fast Eddie’s in good hands when he makes it to the drop off. “It’s a Granny Stew-off!” “Do they still make Granny stews?” Fast Eddie asks. “Well, if they cook the granny right!” “I suppose!” “Sounds good, doll. Y’know I’m gonna miss ya!” “You’re a real greased lightning!” shouts Grace, “Hallelujah!” “You make my world go ‘round.” Cool Breeze the Coupe De Ville breaks past the diner and the Johnny’s Apple-iance Seed where bad boy bunny rabbit Jukebox Bowie looks at his watch and hails Cool Breeze like a cab. “Ay, Jukie, where ya need to go!” “Heard you were going out with a bang! Figured I’d tag along to the end of the line!” Fast Eddie waves the boy in while the Angel Eyes laughed and giggled like little girls seeing Elvis Presley walkin’ on stage. “Come on! Come on! Come on!” The Angel Eyes say as Fast Eddie sees the Blue Boys comin’ up on down both sides of the street. He steers Cool Breeze into Johnny’s Apple-iance Seed, crashin’ past and through the aisles and shelves and veerin’ near the tools section where dear old Grace nearly gets impaled by a pitch fork but is recovered by Fast Eddie’s swift hand. The cops are blastin’ in now and followin’ him quickly and hopefully they can get him finally. Little rebel is goin’ to learn how to be best friends with Bubba and go out like Cool Hand Luke. Fast Eddie crashes Cool Breeze out through the back and speeds down bebop alley where Bebop lives. Up in the apartment above she watches Fast Eddie crash and run through Rollaville listenin’ to her favorite radio station. She’s listenin’ to it as well when the announcer comes on, “This is Disk Jockey Atlas! We gotta special request for one lovely lucky! Bebop! This! Is! For! You!” “Three coins in the fountain! Through the ripples how they shine! Just one wish will be granted! One heart will wear a valentine!” She begins to cry as she knows Fast Eddie made that recommendation. Fast Eddie is nearing the Granny stew-off and Grace is about ready to hop out. “I’ll love you always!” she says. “See you when I whisper in the willows! Mr. Toad is goin back to Toad Hall to croak!” Grace smiles but wants to cry, because she knows she’ll be Ms. Lonely. Though she will buck up as a strong stew-makin’ soldier. She waves away her cabbie goin’ toward the Outskirt tavern where a row of Hells Angels waits for Fast Eddie and Jukie. They are in love with Fast Eddie, and he loves them. “Thar he comes! Ay, Eddie! You goin to Route 666?!” “You know it!” he shouts out of his window. He drops Jukie in front of the tavern as a love letter sealed in a kiss. He has to say goodbye for the Summer and return in September as the prodigal vagabond. He has crazy love for the highway and the one he cherishes the most to take with him is Cool Breeze. “Kerouac won’t know what hit him!” he screams as he pedals it again and blasts right through tables, mugs and bottles of beer and liquor to get the bums drunk and sad, but Eddie isn’t goin’ out without a drink to his name. “Ya-hoo!” He breaks through with a beer in his hand, running his way toward the Number 9 train. He is takin’ the one way ticket to the ninth circle of Hell. He has a rock n’ roll appointment with the Devil’s band. He veers onto the train tracks, cops close in pursuit. “Only youuuuu!” he screams as he goes hood-first into the train which is screamin’ even into the afterlife as he plunges into the depths of fiery hell with Cool Breeze. “Kerouac’s Holy Goof Neal Cassady was the real hero!” he says as he begins his harrowing. “We’re all holy goofs!” Stacalites try to munch on Cool Breeze but she’s too fast with Fast Eddie at the wheel. He passes pointy-horned demons as the steamin’ heat rises up with blazin’ fires from the catacombs of a mysterious island with no reach into the ultimatum for higher fourth dimensional progression in a two dimensional universe. Fast Eddie runs the corners as he comes up on the Devil’s throne. “Love me tender…” Elvis says over the radio. “I say! Music can live on even in death!” “FAST EDDIE!!!” The Devil calls from his throne. “Prepare to get smoke in your eyes!” “You ever listened to La Bamba?! I’m so much more than a sailor! I’m a captain, baby!” Cool Breeze drifts off a cliffside and speeds it to the edge where in front lies the throne of a big evil man of ancient texts who gives off a bulletproof down in Mexico grit. The Devil begins blowin’ fire and smoke down the road of Route 666 where Cool Breeze drives right through it easily. Fast Eddie throws the pedal down closer and laughs a big hearty laugh without a care. “Read the sign! Welcome To The 50s!” Cascading off the cliff, Fast Eddie blasts right through the Devil’s stomach and flies towards the lava as the Devil falls to one knee, dying. Fast Eddie laughs away. “One helluva ride, dontcha think, Cool Breeze?” The car honks back in affection and the two go rollin into the lava as Skeeter Davis sings, “Why do the birds go on singing? Why do the stars glow above? Don’t they know it’s the end of the world. It ended when I lost your love.”

Cat Walking

Me and Emmett

By Robert Frasier

The sound of a baby crying wakes me from deep sleep. The warm body of my cat Emmett is comforting during the cold nights in the camp. Emmett was a kitten when Mom gave him to me; on my ninth birthday. His fur is golden with orange tiger stripes, and he has golden eyes that change colors. Me and Emmett have been here at the camp for a few weeks now. It feels like it’s been much longer though. It’s only me and Emmett left; Mom and Grandma were killed when one of the missiles hit my building. The missile attack destroyed my entire village, and mom and grandma were never found. Russian forces have been attacking Ukrainian towns, cities and villages. The military has been putting up a good fight, well, that’s the gossip here at camp. A nurse told me the Americans and other countries are helping. I wish I could fight too, but Bob says I’m too young. I like Bob, he has been nice to me and Emmet. Bob is one of the Americans that helps everyone here at the camp. I wish I was older, then me and Emmett could fight together for Mom and Grandma. I think that if you’re ten years old you should be able to fight. Bob said that he couldn’t fight in the war either, but he will fight in other ways. Bob helps me and Emmett a lot. Just yesterday he brought me a hot breakfast. The bread was hard, and the eggs tasted like rubber, but Emmett liked it. I share everything with him; it’s just me and Emmett. There are a lot of us here at the camp. All of us are from places that were attacked by missiles. There are babies, kids my age and older people too. The baby that sleeps next to me always wakes me up from the loud crying. I wish I could go for a walk, or play with the other kids my age. My leg is broken. Bob says it’s fractured in two places. I can’t move much so it’s just me and Emmett. I wish mom and grandma were here. Mom used to teach me how to speak English, and she told me stories of when she went to school in America. My father is from America; I used to have a picture of him but it was lost when the missile hit my home and destroyed it. If I had another picture of my father I would never let it go again, I would keep it with me and Emmett forever. I don’t know my father’s name. Mom never told me. She just gave me a picture in a nice little frame. The picture I kept on my dresser so every day I could see my dad. My grandma told me I look like the picture of my father. The American guy, Bob, always asks me questions about the day of the missile attack. Maybe he can take me back to America with him. Bob can help me find my father; then it will be me, Emmett, and my dad. We can be a family again like we were with Mom and Grandma. The day of the missile attack Mom and Grandma were talking about dinner. Emmett and I played with my soccer ball. I would kick the ball and Emmett would chase after it. Grandma always told me to stop when I played soccer inside, and thought we would break something; but we never did. Mom had given a shopping list and money to go to the market. Grandma secretly gave me a little extra money for a treat to share with Emmett. I love the market. It opens early in the morning. Men and women sell fruits and vegetables from storefronts and stands. There are tables with electronics from the big cities, and there are farmers too. The smell of bread baking and spices always makes me and Emmett hungry. Emmett would hold his nose high in the air, trying to find where the delicious aroma was coming from. That always made me smile. Walking through the market streets and alleys crowded with people, Emmet was always right there with me–following. I loved when we would walk past the shop that sold live chickens. It was fun because Emmett would get excited, jumping from cage to cage, scaring chickens until the old man that owned the place would run us off with his broom. Emmett and I would run off laughing. Do cats laugh? I don’t know, but I think Emmett laughed each time the old man caught us. Stopping beneath the blankets as if reading my thoughts, his soft fur brushed against my face when his head popped out. Looking around at the sleeping people, I think the crying baby woke Emmett up too. I don’t know what I would do without you, Emmett. When I first arrived here at the camp in the hospital, I told Bob everything I could remember. It was a perfect day for shopping. I heard a strange noise hissing and screeching while walking through the crowded market. A lot of planes have been flying around lately, so I thought it was just another plane when I looked up. The hissing and screeching got louder and closer. The market became silent as the shoppers and peddlers looked into the sky. Seeing some strange objects, someone shouted, “BOMBS, BOMBS!” I scooped Emmett up and ran toward home, forgetting everything including the treat Grandma secretly gave me extra money for. Running home, I passed store owners and peddlers quickly packing away their merchandise. Many shops were left with no one attending them. Me and Emmett kept running. The ground shook from a blast that came from a distance away. Another Earth-shaking blast hit moments later; fire and smoke filled the air. The second explosion was much closer, its force caused me to stumble. Soccer games with my friends and Emmet gave me good balance. I held onto Emmett and ran faster. I was scared. I thought of the stories Grandma told me of a war when she was a little girl. Grandma said she was scared too. The hissing sound screeched before another explosion. BOOM! Fire and smoke blasted high into the air in a smothering cloud. Shockwaves knocked me down to the ground. It’s when I hurt my leg; I just wanted to get home to Mom and Grandma. So I got up and kept running. Through the smoke and dust I could not see very well. I tripped over a rock or something. Wiping the dust out of my burning eyes, I looked closer to see that it wasn’t a rock. I tripped over a body; lifeless eyes of a man I recognized from the market stared up at me. The man’s clothes were torn and covered in blood, and his face was dirty from the smoke and dust. I screamed and Emmett leaped from my arms disappearing into the smoke. I called out to him, “Emmett, Emmett!” I reached a big hole in the ground. A big deep hole was where I once lived. Our house was gone, all of the houses were gone. A fire was burning hot in the middle of the deep crater. Smoke was everywhere. The blazing fire wouldn’t let me any closer. Mom and Grandma are in there, and Emmett too! I stood in the street surrounded by smoke and hot fires, alone crying. Memories of Mom and Grandma smiling at me as I used to play soccer with my friends in the street made me cry harder. Tears burned my eyes, and the smoke made me cough and dizzy. Sirens were loud, and people were shouting names scrambling around in search for their family lost in the fire and smoke. A man appeared from the thick clouds, rushing up to me. He looked me over asking if I was okay. I tried to talk but I couldn’t. Mom, Grandma, and Emmett are in the fire. He held me gently with a worried look on his face. I looked down at myself, seeing my clothes were covered in blood. Shocked at the sight of it, everything went black. I was happy Emmett was in the hospital bed with me when I woke up. The doctor said I passed out when the policeman found me in the street crying. Bob says I fractured my leg and got some cuts, also some bruises. The doctor said I’m strong, and I will be just fine. It’s just me and Emmett. Mom and Grandma are gone. I wish that I was older, then I would go fight. I would fight to stop all the missiles and bombs that hurt me and all the people with me at the camp. I’m going to get better and when I’m eleven, I’m going to fight, as long as Emmett can come too. It will be me and Emmett.

Solar Eclipse


By Brena Lewis

Each star in the sky, a sea of glittering darkness, is captured beneath the red tint of the crimson moon. My own self-infatuation materializes before me, causing me to live nothing but a vibrant nightmare. Rusting lamp posts flicker giving off their amber light in short intervals, reflecting onto the puddle-filled streets just barely illuminating their nearest surroundings. Droplets of water from the earlier rain drip down my umbrella. My hands grow cold and numb, the umbrella now slipping from my fingers after each step I take. I walk down vacant roads with alleyways branching off between each of the dark, weathered brick buildings. These alleyways are filled with mysteries, perhaps filled with evil. I've always been curious as to what could be looming within their darkness. I imagine horrible, decrepit things. Deformed beings waiting for their prey. Cruel creatures looking to satisfy their unearthly urges. My curiosity only increases with each opening I pass. I must know if my imaginations contain a truth. I can hear soft footsteps echoing off the mahogany bricks, hushed voices carefully carrying secrets, and I can feel the emptiness of the souls within them. I continue my walk, slowing my pace while others would typically quicken. I am near the end of the road but something continues pulling me back. Curiosity? Are my own desires longing to be fulfilled? I cave, and I turn to enter the nearest alleyway. The whispers have now been stolen away by the wind, and the only footsteps left are my own. There is no light other than the tinted crimson stars. I take myself down the alley slowly, closely examining what little of it I could see. Void of activity, I sense nothing, but I continue walking. My curiosity and desire are overpowering me. I believe I'm nearing the end, as I feel the space has narrowed. The alleyway was empty, the air within it stagnant, the silence suffocating. My curiosity seems to be met with disappointment. I extend my arms out before me to not run into an unforeseen wall, I expect the sensation of brick but what I touch is surely glass. My fingertips delicately decode this object I cannot see. Feeling around all its edges, I find the perimeter of the glass resembles paint-covered wood, cool to the touch with flakes of thin plastic fluttering to the ground after each stroke of my finger. The wood is intricately carved. “A mirror?” I whisper this aloud to myself, and as I do, the tint of the stars, the moon, and the sky, all fade away. With their light now shining brightly I am granted my vision and met with nothing but my own reflection. Overcome with rage, I raise my umbrella, and I shatter the mirror. Each inch of the glass cracks, but remains within its frame. The raindrops on my umbrella, my hands, and my face, are now replaced with my blood. I observe each droplet streaming down my flesh reflecting in the fractured mirror. As each drop falls to the ground, a sector of the mirror goes with it. The process is agonizingly slow, but I have no choice other than to watch. I cannot move for I am paralyzed by anger and fear. Blood-stained glass pierces my feet. As the last piece meets the ground, it does not break, it grabs me, sucking me into its dimension of broken glass. The glass then regenerates into its whole form once again. The red tint returns to the sky. When my eyes next open, I have a narrow view of the entrance of the alley and nothing more. I cannot move my limbs, I cannot turn my head. I am trapped in the mirror. And I feel nothing. A mere marionette is what I've become. Nothing but silence remains, except footsteps. I can hear soft, slow footsteps. They approach the alleyway but continue to pass. I want to call out for help but I cannot. Nothing I do can escape this glass. This barrier between me and the world I was stolen from. But not much later the footsteps return, and this time they enter. I can see the silhouette of a woman at the entrance. Though she cannot see me. She cannot see herself. Not until it's too late. The woman continues to explore down to the very end of the alley and I can do nothing but stare, and wait. As she finally reaches the end she begins to touch me, unknowingly. I hear her whisper, and then the light returns. I hear her scream as she is met with her own reflection.


The Treehouse

By: Josh Mayer

The treehouse sat up in the tallest and only tree in the field. A watcher from beyond was traversing the landscape and disappeared into the treeline beyond. This singular place was of significance for one boy. The boy ran away from home and climbed all the way to the top of the world, according to him, to escape his losses. He lived in Nowhere and wanted nothing simpler than to have a father. He cowered and cried for hours because his father left him in cold blood. The offerings that Terra gave were not enough. Maternal Earth could not balance the fires of a boy who desired the knowledge of the donor who gave him life into the womb. No such man existed for him. No father could ever come. His mother had said he had a father to be, but who left after discovering a terrible truth that the boy was not of his loins. So to the treehouse he went, leaving the farmhouse behind and into Gatsby’s greenlight which glowed from the doors and windows of the splintered ruin that once held together fond memories built by fathers who in turn would have sons who would become those figures to carry on the torch. “Why must it be so hard…” the boy cried. No father is no guidance, he thought. No father is no whole self. A part of him who would never see a game or learn to pedal away on his bike. But he listened to his own soft sobs and the howls of wolves who had the company of others, the surrogate families that were never left behind until one gave up as food. The boy watched out the window when he noticed a speck of a figure approaching the ladder. He did not know who this was, but it became apparent that they were running too. They had an old Chevy pickup which had rusted and sputtered and never worked. The sky had fogged up and the wind picked up which shoved the treehouse forward. The boy watched the figure ascend the ladder and into the green room which illuminated golden memories and projected the electronic tonalites into a harmonious hum. He had at first been afraid of the figure but found comfort in them as they drew closer. The figure was a man. A beard grown, gentle eyes, and a humble look to him. The man looked to the fallen comic books of old robots invading cities, a record player and Davy Crockett ballads to go with it, and old soda bottles lined at the windows. He smiled and sat next to the boy with his hands wrapped around his legs. “Who are you?” the boy asked. The man did not answer. He blinked and looked at the boy. “Who are you?” “No one.” “But you are someone. You have skin and a voice.” “But I am no one to you. I am a saddened soul.” “I am a boy with no father.” “I am someone without anyone.” They were in silence briefly then the man read through his comics, “My father didn’t build this. We strive so much on having parental figures watch over us but yet they never succeed to leave an impact. The biologically formed ones are always at odds with their opposites. That being their children.” “Do you mean that parents don’t matter?” “Figures matter, boy. And you are without figures in your life so you fail to describe yourself.” He handed the boy the comic book, “This is where we went to get away from parents. They would not allow ‘rubbish’ in the house.” A train screamed in the distance as it bolted across the landscape and back into the black. “They did not want us to have role models. They were greedy and wanted their successes modeled by them, not of men and women in capes. Denouncing robots and protesting against monsters rising from meteorites.” He flipped the page. “And look what we have now, success thrives by us children running off into our treehouses to escape.” “But I have no father to rebel against.” “Then perhaps you have it easier than most.” “I want to be loved, though. A boy cannot live without a father.” “Yes he can. His wit is created by his own. Do you wish to be labeled as a bastard?” “A what?” “You want to denounce your blessing as a curse? Why would you want to turn your back on such a unique position? You are in nowhere, sure, but no one has to come around and tell you how much you look like “so and so” and how big you're getting to be. You have a name of your own in this jungle and you don’t even have to be a part of the unrelenting horror.” The man stepped up and walked over to the window to point out the watcher. “They do not perceive fathers or mothers. They are their own fate and watch the night pass by without curfew. They orchestrate themselves. Who are you to be judged if your father left? If he left, he might be your adversary. And your mother? She is the one who committed the sin of breaking another heart for him.” The boy knew who this man was, but he didn’t want to say. He couldn’t help but ask him who he was again. “Who are you?” “No one to you, except the man who helped you grow. When your mother said that you were not mine, I gave up hope on love. I gave up hope on everything. Where did people like me fall? Was I forever to live with your mother because she slept with your father, a man who was villainized in my dreams? To sleep in the same bed as he did? He was not your father… he was your sperm donor. I was as close to a figure she could have ever dreamed of having but she could not help but explain the origins of you.” “Did Mom love you?” “Of course she did in the end. I had to go my own way and she had to go hers. From what I was told in letters by her father, she was doing well until the letters stopped and I had found out that her father had passed. “The tragedy of it all was that I did not desire to leave you in dangerous hands, but I had to leave. My figure was Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac, kid. So life on the road was where I scrolled and strolled and rambled and laughed and drank nights away with women who I no longer trusted. I was not fit to be your figure. But you have every chance to look behind you, ahead of you, or what’s in your hands now to serve as your element of growth, like this tree which grew taller and stands now as the only tree in this field. Because it knew it could.” The boy gripped the comic book in his hand and heard synthetic whirls onto the field below. The truck had disappeared and the man laughed as he began to climb down the ladder. “Wait! Dad! No!” “I may not be your blood, but I love ya, kid. My ride’s here, back to Saturn. This gets me away from putting rings on things.” “Will I ever see you again?” “Read it in books, watch television, and by Yog-Sothoth you run up into this Treehouse. And maybe one day you can become a watcher instead of a judge.” He slid down the treehouse and caught the glowing ray of light, resembling the green flickering bulb within the treehouse as the man sped off to Saturn with little gray Kentucky Goblins. “Guess figures don't all come in families.” The boy said as he smiled up toward the stars, knowing he had no worries but how to avoid the world’s desire for security.


The Perfectionist 


By: Josh Mayer

Her room is lit with tiny low light bulbs and her three tall windows look out over a hazy pink tinted horizon. The artist is collecting plates and ideas for her mosaic, yet something stops her. She’s hungry and has become a part of the starving community of humble egotists looking to get ahead. With her pastels and away from the world, far up in this colonial mansion rotted from the outside but grown as a modern trinket of this age’s art form, the artist struggles still, looking at her painting, beginning with a horizon. But what horizon? Where does it go after here, she wonders. Will it be harmful to myself? Does my benefit exist? She begins to outline her piece. Scribbling ideas down as layers of poetry lie stacked on her desk. She thinks of her art as not new wave but accomplishing to her. It isn't her. But why won’t it conform to her? Each painting, each dress, each plant in this garden aviary of winter has always rebelled. She will do yoga naked and meditate to the sound of birds during the spring. The artist will venture out into the open when no one has come looking for her. She’ll go to town to pick up pastels and mattes and brushes and canvases. It never ends for a perfectionist, waiting for two years to project her thoughts onto that one painting that will out-sell them all. The pink hue under the winter night sky is the perfect setting for the perfect painting for the perfect artist. She no longer lives in the village. The gilded and lumber folk have all turned on her since her return from college. Is that what she is reduced to? A flake of a thousand in a snow pile of cold hearts and frozen dreams? All by these folk who show their simplicity off by stirring their greed into the pot. She leaves for the mountains without saying a word. A friend of hers who runs an isolated lodge agrees to have her live in the great big colonial house with the aviary garden that remains in summer through winter, fall, and spring. She sighs, beginning her canvas slowly. The artist wonders why her father was so angry. Or why those boys just wanted less. Or why this painting had time after time rebelled against her true vision. The artist imagines demons… she waits in the cold, looking up at her lamplight on the cool eve of late December. “This painting will be done,” she states, looking down at her animals, the birds and cats and dogs that sit by her as she wanders about and dances the room to no music at all. She twirls in the looming fog of the aviary. It steams up by forces not to her relation but she sees more, she sees two pairs of red globes in the fog but when her head returns to the reality of the painting, it is a mere landscape, but with those big reds staring back at her in the dark. In anger she rips the canvas and tosses it toward the dress that she began to make and decided not to since the past time would only fail her. She smokes a bit and drinks her tea while reading books of people hurt by their own mentality. How they struggled to hold onto their sanity. Maybe she thinks the author is projecting themselves onto her. The artist could never say for sure but she puts down her book and reads the paper on the upcoming Algonquin appreciation festival. Feeling hungry, she goes to the cupboard to make some food though all that is there are webs and cans of tomatoes and grapefruit juice (possibly expired). She groans in her mire and returns to her sofa as she watches the night pass on. The pink hue’s now gone as the storm begins its rage outside. A blizzard of ceaseless torment. No quick food to make. All require patience… and perfection. She did not care to live a lie to herself. But she did ask to be a perfect lie. Or a perfect form of her lies or a perfect form of herself. The artist hates that word. Perfect. She still does. She plays around with words and colors to add flavor into her life but the word perfect creeps in like the ever reaching icicles and clouding snow that begins to pour into the room, her darkness ever consumed by it. But where does the world get off from that? The vicious and mighty are the successful not the soft and repressed she thinks. The world is a better place away from her. The artist thinks that her own perfection is haunted. Haunted by an invitation to greed. A lust for her own inert hurtings. The pain he caused. The trust wore away like a spring day jumping into Father Winter’s lap and him saying, “It’s over,” and quietly suffocating the last petal of the little flower. Her plants were her only babies. Her earth is not of the pain of his ignorance or the passion of her heart. But it is the subtle creation of the snow blocking off the green in the aviary. She wanders again and dances to no music. She thinks that it’s great to be in this studio apartment of her own. The aviary, the dorm, the studio, it’s all the same to her. Is that what it is? No it can’t be. All is perfect under the weather eye of the blizzard that blows its harsh stones of tears onto the artist's window. There were talks. Of a beast beyond perfection. A wendigo they call it. A creature bent on their fullest self by losing what they have with humanity. She wants to damn herself from humanity. The world does not need imperfections. Afraid to hurt others, she wants to do her greatest work. Her finest painting. The greatest experimentation. She feels the cold breath of death on her shoulders because there is nothing left. The plants are dead and so are her animals, frozen like toys in a toybox disregarded by the innocent owner who did not recall every last detail to their toys until they left. The icy touch of a bloody claw comes from her left and when she turns, it is gone. Her animals live but they do not move. Her plants are paralyzed but they will not die. The artist paints away again, thinking that this icy hand is her key to the life she believes is her greatest work. Where can she perfect the icy touch of her own despair? The avaricious artist who seeks to create the perfect self. There’s that word again, she thinks: perfect… A screech comes from the empty mountains. No snowmobiles live on this side of the mountain. No human nor animal. It goes up by snowshoes. It goes even further by gondola. There is no way out but to draw water and feed herself. She walks over to the cupboard again and opens it up, seeing it full of nothing. So she goes to the fridge. She sees it stock full of livers, lungs, hearts, kidneys, legs, arms, brains. All of it was so raw. So delicious. The artist takes the raw steak that is now purple rather than red and slathers it up. Almost slurping it down like a spaghetti noodle. She finds intestines and rounds them up together and examines her cold reddened hands. They’re from him and she accepts it. Turning around her, animals and plants are dead again and the big reds are looking at her and the shadow of antlers can be faintly identified in the blizzard. It consumes the aviary as she paints. Each trial and failure has led her to toss every canvas over and watch her pretty little aviary safe from winter’s garden fling open its doors from the pink hue that is actually red. It floods in. The snow mutes out the cries of the birds and kittens and puppies. The world around the artist begins to fold by the snow. But she continues to paint it. It’s coming along beautifully this time, she thinks to herself. For once it’s not an error, it’s an expression of herself. An experiment. Like the rest of the world, she wants to connect the primal instinct to the evocation. And as she feels the icy touch of its hand she knows this time that the snow and the music that did not play were real and the big reds that stare back at her are lost in a haze. She looks around seeing every brush thrown, every icicle poking through into her secluded world. The shatter of glass rings and screams through her ears as they become lost in the snow. The blizzard takes every little cut into flakes so that every bit of blood will paint Father Winter red. She knows who stands over her. Not her father, no. Not the boys who she hurt or turned away from. But as the haze clears she realizes what the big reds were and why she saw her animals dead and the appetite for raw food. She’s looking at herself in a broken mirror. A crooked smile and pale big reds she calls her eyes welcomes her. She smiles and sees all is dead and she begins to understand that the music that formed her greatest artwork did not come from paper but the lick of the wet snow. The snow was in itself vain. Easily changed by any form of contact. However it builds and molds and transforms into a desert owned by those darkest at heart to take it. She never advertised herself as a dark artist. She didn’t beg the community. She wants herself. The artist sees her painting in her reflection. The hands matted with blood from the clawing at him, wanting to hate him but never can. She hears his voice and the words he wrote about her. They changed her and the blood she gave after was all she could afford. The artist is aware that their work is welcome into the arms of imperials. Bedrooms are locked away and every paint too. To weave her image is to spread it with her hands now. The bed was the very beginning of her perfection. When she saw her broken glass beau in the arms of another. The avarice lives. In her paintings rises what she’s always known to be. She laughs knowing she is not a house of four walls and empty insides with broken glass and cries. She is of full flesh, a craving for blood, breath amongst the rubbles of ice. The glass is not broken. It is attached to her. It grows on her nails to leave marks deep enough to be bee stingers that don’t kill her by leaving them behind. The artist forms her own paintings and in her pile of corpses sits the canvas. Covered in her finest piece. And finally spring comes. She sees the sun, and the corpses are decomposed, the flies have returned and she smiles and laughs out onto the open valley of Somewhere’s Nowhere Peak. She knows where to go. She feels the itch and her canvas sit leaned up against the double glass door that led out onto the balcony. She leaves her blood. She leaves the love and pain that was caused. And what better way to suffer than to be immortal? Immortal with a consequence. But with everything, it always seems that immortality is the devil’s advocate in art. It will not last, but she can, with every tooth and nail and flesh she’ll tear from her next missing canvas. Her next brush is at the tip of a wandering child’s intestines. The finest of all works is knowing your worth, she thinks as she bites into bones of narrow-minded marrows. The world is dull and weak, no bone has any flavor. They are thin and the flesh is little too. The family’s campfire dwindles as they call out to their son and in the wake of the snow walker’s newest painting, she returns to winter. Hoping to remain cold, dormant, and asleep, “That is eternity,” she says.


The Sea: The Great Adventure

By Lester Moriggia

As I dive in the sea wearing only fins, trunks, a mask and a snorkel, all I think of is how perfect and free that I am here. It’s a euphoric feeling that happens almost instantly as I enter the water. The way I splash through the breaking waves of the salt water and catch my breath that’s full of the salty sea air. Every time that I look towards the water just before I go on my dive into a colorful world, a unique ecosystem of all the colorful coral, I make a wish. I wish that one day I can be freed from this regular world of chaos on the surface. The temperature of the water is soothing my burning skin. I float alone with the current for a bit and say to myself, “The ocean is mine!” As I drift and close my eyes, this peaceful calm comes over me and today, right now at this very moment, I’m the happiest I can be. Just me, the nice air and the surrounding clear blue sea. The seagulls fly through the air and I can’t help but sometimes wish that I was either a fish or even a whale–only if I didn’t have to always come up for air because I can’t breathe like the rest of the sea creatures. This underwater life is extremely busy. It’s amazing to watch everything move so quickly, and everything has a purpose. The undersea life is so graceful and angelic. It makes me think of the beautiful Mona Lisa. Nothing seems to be able to disrupt the peace that moves my heart into bliss. While I’m lost in this escape, the sky goes dark, like night took over the day. I realize a storm is coming, and out of the darkness, the lightning, thunder, winds, and large amounts of rain begin to form. I act as fast as I can to get out of the water and safely to land. As I step foot into the shallow part of the water, a huge tidal wave swallows me up. When the sun finally breaks through the dark clouds, I jump up, spitting out salt water, and pull seaweed off my face. When I look all around, there is severe damage everywhere, and I am worried about my home. Now that I’m calm, I decide to go and check on my little shack on the beach. Miraculously, my little home and things around the area are untouched. Even though things seem to be the same here, something is a little off. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I will get this problem solved. Even as I walk through my home, everything inside seems to be as I left it this morning. Now I must check my aquarium where my underwater friends live. Something here is off as well. Nobody is around, which is unlike them. These are special friends, I like to call them, and we have an understanding with each other. So, for them to not show up when I’m around- something’s wrong. Out of nowhere, this surge of energy flashes through my body. When I come to after being out for what seemed like forever, these images flash again through my mind. This time the images are different. It was all destruction and sadness all around the ocean world. I heard a cry for help over in the corner where the aquarium should’ve been. I go to see what’s going on and to my surprise, all the fish are back, but they’re all exotic and more vibrant than before. This is when things get really interesting. I take a look and notice that things around me and in the aquarium are changing rapidly. A sharp pain out of nowhere begins moving to the front of my head. The images that once appeared, are now showing up again, but not as quickly. They flow, slowly showing scenes of damage to my favorite place to find peace. None of this is turning out good. The scene is all desolate instead of the busy, peaceful place I once knew. I start to wonder how true all this could be; maybe I’m crazy. While pacing the floor trying to make sense of all this, the answer finally hits me. I get the euphoria again and hear a voice in my head call to me as if someone or something needs my help. I think “Holy crap! I’m going crazy.” I’m looking all over the room trying to figure out where the helpless little voice is coming from. It doesn’t take long before I figure out where the voice came from. I turn towards the voice, and the salt water is in the air again. Where the aquarium used to be, now stands a vertical water-like substance–like a portal. Now I say out loud, “Here’s something you don’t see every day!” The reflection in the water does make me laugh because the look of amazement on my face is priceless. Here I am staring at this doorway to a world that I always wanted to be in. My mind is telling me, “Here is your opportunity.” Seeing this dark, gloomy space standing where my aquarium used to be has me thinking twice about putting my hand in this doorway. All of a sudden, I see what looked like a fish I had saved from an old fishing net. The difference between the fish then, and the one now, is that my old friend has a glow about it, as if the fish I saved has changed forms. The voice calls out to me once again and is a lot clearer this time, as if the being is speaking telepathically to me due to the water. From what I can see, the creature is quite beautiful, like a fairy that can move and breathe in water. She steps through the portal’s gate and stands in front of me. I’m stunned now. This can’t be real. I must be dreaming. She speaks with her real voice, “Please, savior of aquatic life, my world and I need your help!” I know I am really in deep or I hit my head really hard. I don’t know how long I’ve been mumbling to myself to try and figure out what’s going on in my house. The fairy-like creature slaps me and I come back to the task at hand. Being curious, I ask, “What’s your name? Mine is Les.” She kindly replies, “My name is Princess Lynn.” We talk about what’s going on in her world and I explain to her that I have the power to help. She explains to me that the storm was really an evil entity trying to destroy the aquatic world. I question how I can help and she says, “You have the heart of someone who cares more about others than himself.” At the moment she is going to tell me everything I wanted to know, lightning strikes my home and sends me flying through the wall. Now I’m on the floor of the bathroom with trash and toilet paper cluttered around me. I get up and out of the dirt to see what the damage was. Nothing but my toilet, shower, and the portal are still standing. As I stand there, this angry and ugly image appears in the portal. I get a pain in my forehead telling me, “If you want the world back as you knew it, bring the protector to me.” Whatever that is disappears and I notice the princess is gone. I know I have to do something, so I do what I know best. I grab my snorkeling gear and walk through the portal in hopes of finding the answers to all my questions. Stay tuned. The adventure continues.

Gerbera Flower

To Be Aware Is To Be Alive

By Charles Starks III

Making bad decisions became a key part of my adolescence. Being in my own way became the focal point of my demise. It’s been numerous times looking at myself in the mirror and recognition was non-existent. Scared by not knowing myself was the first time I became aware. Hence the beginning of my living. Growing up “A-Typical” in a conformist society became my Irony. Wanting to be different, no, needing to be different was my gift to the curse of being born. Alive but not fighting for the wrong that the Constitution writes. Three fifths of a man says the Constitution. Few know that. So much pain from being aware. My life is full of fear, hurt, and anguish. Hypervigilance has become my sixth sense. It’s like my super power, I guess that makes me a superhero. I’m aware, so I’m alive, just not living how I would if it was up to me. My Journey is one of greatness and I have yet to peak. As I’ve matured through the years, my awareness has been the light to the darkness which is the abyss. Emptiness is the lack of a life well organized. Full of resentment for past deeds.

Library Shelves

In Circulation

By: Josh Mayer

The librarian sat quietly at his desk. He leafed through the pages of Death On The Nile, looking up to scan the empty aisles of books. The librarian sighed, returning to his mystery, when he heard the clutter of footsteps emerge in the hall. A whispering breeze had told him something was coming for him. And he accepted it. A tall window pane showcased an immense shadow pass by, that of one big bad wolf. In the following of the footsteps and the shadow was a jock, very built and tall as monumental pillars. The librarian smiled as he approached. He knew what was coming. “Evening.” The jock said, as he stepped toward the desk. “How can I help you?” The librarian had said it so crisp that a passing chill ran down both their backs. He was on top of it that evening. “I’m looking for a book, if you can help?” The librarian smiled, “Of course.” “Do you have The Great Gatsby?” Suddenly the smile disappeared and in the dim light, the jock could barely make out the man’s features. “I believe we do.” The librarian said. His hand appeared in the light of the little reading lamp above his book, and took up a file. His hands swiftly dotted through the papers until he withdrew an old leaflet, adjusting his glasses that glared in the darkness. He cleared his throat: “Ah, it’s upstairs. We haven’t had this checked out in quite a while.” “I read it in high school a long time ago and hadn’t gotten around to it since. Figured giving it a re-read.” “Naturally.” The librarian responded almost condescendingly. “It’s one of my favorites as well. I have three copies.” The librarian moved around the desk and as his hands disappeared from the lamp, the jock took notice that his knuckles were severely bruised and bleeding. “Something the matter?” “N-no. I just thought–nevermind.” The librarian chuckled and took up a lantern. “This way.” The corridor clicked under their shoes and candles lined at the reading desks began to light themselves, as if the wind breathed life into their tiny flames. The jock followed cautiously behind, as the young man led him through the dark hall. He seemed like a quiet fellow and even beautiful from what the jock could see of him. The librarian wasn’t very tall; short brown hair, and wore denim. The glasses were the fixation of his features. They had a glow to them, almost supernatural. The librarian laughed quietly to himself as they ascended the stairs– there was a rustle coming from one of the shelves, and when the jock looked back he saw a pair of white eyes and big ears disappear behind one of the bookcases. “My helpers,” said the librarian, “They’re sorting the books.” “I see.” “Did you see? Or have you been blind this whole time?” The jock was startled by the librarian’s comment, and they continued up the creaking steps to another long corridor familiar to the one downstairs. “This place… has many voices imprinted in its pages. Literature is a cry from the dead. Almost a pathogen to clairvoyance.” The jock did not understand as they rounded a corner and down a section of books , well dusted and almost brand new, though the must lingered through the jock as the librarian fingered the spines of a shelf of books. “Here it is.” The librarian withdrew it and the science fiction-like cover of the gleaning eyes reminded the jock of the librarian’s ghostly glasses. “Thank you. I was wondering where it was. It’s my girl's favorite.” The librarian laughed: “I know.” “What?” “By of course, it would be her favorite!” He said avoiding any eye contact from the jock. “It is a romance after all.” The jock raised an eyebrow and held the book in his hand. Something was not right about the librarian. “The library doesn’t close till late. You may read here leisurely, if you’d like.” “That’d be nice.” “Yes it would.” The librarian led him out to a desk where a candle was lit upon their approach. “Whenever you’re ready to check it out, I’ll be downstairs. Don’t hesitate to come find me.” He giggled again and faded into one of the hallways with his swinging lantern. The jock sat in his chair and began to read the first few pages. He, however, was more preoccupied with what the librarian had said. “I know…” whispered with a prolonged drawl from a disembodied origin. The librarian did not say that. He leant over the balcony and saw the librarian at his desk reading. The jock looked back at his book and saw the letters and sentences rearranging themselves. Forming into spirals, the jock looked closer…a pair of black claws latched onto his coat and slammed his head on the desk. He cried out and fell back from his chair. The librarian stood over him and shushed the jock, “This is the quiet floor… is everything quite alright?” The jock got up himself and brushed his kneecaps. “I–A hand! It came out of the book!” “A hand? Hm…” The librarian wandered over to the desk and opened the book up, flipping through its pages, “I see…” “You see it?!” “I see only the beautiful penwork of Fitzgerald. You must be dead tired my boy…” He shut the book and handed it to the jock. “Words can be gripping.” He chuckled as he returned to his desk below, “Why don’t you come out of the quiet section and down to the study area by my desk? This place, I tell you, can be a bit jaunting to pillars of muscle such as your feeble mind.” “I’m sorry what–” “You’re tired from all that exercising, son! Come, come, down to my desk and you can engross yourself into Long Island’s gay years of helpless romance.” The jock returned downstairs to the long desks that stood before the helming throne of the librarian. He remained in darkness and could not be pinned for any feature, except those bloody knuckles… he thought, as he studied the casted shadow before him while quietly flipping through Gatsby. Between the long desk separating both the worlds of athletics and the scholarly were little alcoves of towering shelves where books high up cannot be reached without at least a twelve foot ladder. One such alcove held a ladder in its place and all was silent except for the incoming pattering of rain on the stained glass windows of stained classes of educated privilege. The librarian remained obscure from light, slowly leafing through his pages of Agatha Christie, but it did not look as though he were engrossed in his mystery but instead watching the jock almost mirroring him verbatim in his stance. The jock returned to his book when the gaslights by the alcoves began to flutter from a draft without an origin in the stuffy and almost like one were breaching the atmosphere of endless space. “Infinity lies within condensing.” said the librarian, intrigued by the cowering jock who would so much as never flinch at anyone. The jock watched the lights die out briefly and cast back–but there were those big white eyes, watching him again, he found himself on the ground and his chair tipped over as the eyes went away by the reignition of the lamps. “My friend, are you quite tired? Inebriated maybe?” “Did you not see that?” The silhouette of the librarian turned his head to face the alcove with the ladder in it. “I did. But you are reacting far too violently for this, you wouldn’t want to dissuade yourself from her.” The librarian made sure to put emphasis on the her; the jock no doubt knew he knew something about her. Tired of this nonsense he gathered up his courage and marched over to circulation whereupon the jock violently threw his fist down on the table. “What do you know of MY girl?” he seethed. The librarian giggled and brushed him away as if he were nothing. “Who said she was YOUR girl? Haven’t you wondered where she goes instead of your dormitory? She’s not YOUR girl. She’s not anyone’s girl but her own. She is a goddess beyond all measure. Indifferent and yet exact.” “So it’s you she’s been seeing! I thought I sent my boys to your room to take care of that.” There was an unsettling silence followed by the most sinister laugh and a white grin that glowed in the shadow behind the lamp. “You did…” He clenched his palms and revealed the broken and beaten hands of blood, and not just of his own either. “Baby… do you understand me now…” He began to sing, “If sometimes that you see that I’m mad.. ​​Don'tcha know that no one alive can always be an angel? When everything goes wrong you see some bad.” “Stop singing!” “Oh I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…” The librarian revealed his face from the shadow and his face had been shattered, destroyed, eyes blackened and the globes of his eyes gushing with fluid. “Oh lord… don’t let me be misunderstood.” The jock fell back as the librarian leaned back and lit a cigarette and began to speak softly, “Your boys did well in trying to fight me. But what goes around… comes around, jockey. It’s called circulation and your past due on checking out.” “What… are you…?” He heard the rustle and the clawing and gnashing of teeth from the stairs above, wings began to flutter and the jock noticed that it was books taking flight for themselves. “The books arrange themselves when needed to… my helpers don’t permit such insolence in this place of knowledge. It is forbidden to commit any act of violence here, or else… well, you become the red ink for my next report.” “Why are you doing this? What are you?!” “You know it yourself, sportsboy, you went to hit home runs when you decided to hit third base. She has always been with me and I have always known about you… and both of you are inert to the final sorting. And to answer your question… I’m the librarian. I sort books. I read them. And I protect knowledge from those weak and destructive enough to use it. Think of it as karma, my friend.” The jock was on the floor, tears flowing and the cigarette was stabbed out into a book that was then tossed at the frightened player. “You have a loan on Gatsby for three weeks. Try not to be late on it.” The jock nodded silently and picked up the book filing to the open doorway silently, “Oh and one more thing…” The jock turned frightened as if he were about to make a trip to the mortuary for himself, “You may no longer borrow humans. They are not your toys.” The jock nodded and left. The librarian returned to his desk and into his book, he lit himself another cigarette as he quietly sang to himself, “Oh I’m just a soul whose intentions are good… Oh lord… don’t let me be misunderstood.”

Empty Bar

Hard Drinking, Hard Talking

By: Josh Mayer

A trick of the trade, if you don’t know someone's name at the bar you introduce them to someone who is at least moderately important to you. You see thousands of faces that pour into the same dark bar that you may have left a lasting impact on these folks. You were probably just saying what comes and that may have saved their lives as they sulked. But it’s best to remember, to never, ever, ask what their name is if they know yours. You will always remember their drink before you remember the fly who comes buzzing onto your stools. And remembering the drink is extremely important. If they order a beer and a shot of whiskey while the bar is empty it’s best to find another activity or you’ll be locked in communicable combat with a heartbroken joe till two in the morning. It doesn’t happen much, but in bars like these, where flies and ghosts tend to find a happy go lucky home here, then a dried up corpse telling you how his wife left him, is not ideal. That’s the thing. That playful little sign that sits above you and those bottles of Jack and other assorted whiskeys is true, “Bartender: Licensed To Dispense Advice.” You are going to be their therapist, their best friend for two hours, and you have seconds to determine if they want to be your friend or they just want drinks. They’ll want to be your friend most of the time, but just be wary of them. Another trick is how to flirt. That girl who just walked in with her boyfriend, who’s trying to hang with his buddies and is completely uncultured to the catch he has, will flirt with you. Knowledge is key in this business. Knowledge comes a long way if you know the drink, the history, and actual charm. This girl…is from the Ukraine. You have a bottle of Korytsa above her, and it’s pepper vodka. Now, if you're the owner, you can get away with a lot, but you are not the owner. She will ask to do shots with you and you play the push and pull routine. But do it gently because if you know how to do it, she’ll beg for more in the flirting department, plus the uncultured swine of a boyfriend is laughing with his buddies and enjoying himself because you’re keeping her occupied. You do that, you get a big tip from her if you do a little research on her home country, or have some form of geological knowledge of the vicinity of her country. Bartending is a business made of legends or nobodies. You know what you’re doing and possess the personality, then you’re a great barkeep. Most bartenders are either one of the two. They possess a great personality, or they know what they’re doing. To be a truly fantastic bartender you must know the ropes of both. Legends have trained some of your colleagues here, but to become a legend yourself is to possess the will of the drink. Alcohol was made for a reason. We couldn’t drink water back then. It became something more than just a life saver though. It became a way of life. Alcoholics will never understand the art of making a cocktail or the brewing of a beer. But you do. You follow the manifesto, because why? Because you’re good at it. That stepfather of yours made his living off of it, didn’t he? Traveled from Chicago to Lake Tahoe to Maui to Australia. Went all over the place before he met your mother. Lived the life fantastic all his days. He was the barkeep. Would he be a legend? No. But he did get worldly experience from the art of the bar. That artistry, the craft of what goes into making a great bar and others, is how to know what they drink, why they drink it, and how to please them correctly with it. If that cocktail recipe list is outdated, make a new one, if they ask you for a drink you’ve never heard before you say, give me the ingredients and I can make it for you, and if they don’t know it they can ask for something else. This job comes at the cost of your soul. The term, “What’s your poison?” Is real. They will glug their poison down, but you’ve got to know that it can snag you too. Drinking is a dangerous game, and the atmosphere is stifling while you have couples going into your bathrooms to screw or snort some blow. You are the king of a luxury castle, the God Dionyus to them. You are juggling every profession you’re taught in mainstream schooling: mathematics, science, communication, history, and then some. You are a chemist for their inebriation, the balance of your own cash (because the cash drawer has to be at 400 every night), and the personality of the very establishment. Now you can be told all day, as if this was a training video for your career in the bartending industry, but it’s not. It’s your narrative because you are caught in the jungle’s chaos. King Kong has just come down from Skull Island to blaze your ass for not making his Rum Runner with enough Creme De Banana. He’s hitting his pecs and getting ready to tear your jaw open, but his Fay Wray is screaming for him to stop, and meanwhile the Dropkick Murphys are screaming over the jukebox and the newly married couple has just tossed down your “End of The World Drink” (which is Patron) and is asking you to take one with them. The Ukrainian beauty wants you to bust Kong’s head off his Empire State ego so she can take you into the ladies’ room to play doctor. You see the bat and you need to know patience comes with time and effort in the bar. This profession is your life. It will make you or destroy you like the rest, only here you get to tell them that their lives don’t matter at all and that the drink has them by the balls. You are the King and Queen. The Bishop and The Pawn. The Knight and The Rook. You are playing one long game of chess till you clock out. And you have to knock down these pawns of the system to get to your big winners to shout the checkmate, and Kong here has just blazed through all your pawns and knights and rooks. That bat looks nice doesn’t it? The beer flies are buzzing over their sloshing dirty glasses of backwash. You take the bat up and tell Kong that you’re his match. Cause you’re Godzilla tonight, you hold your own and the orchestral roar of the Godzilla march starts to play while the reporter Amercanizes this moment by narrating what’s happening to Kong. “And look! He just smashed him over the head! It’s horrible! Blood everywhere!” You wish this was the Japanese version of your life where it’s far more graphic and you can tell the audience of the bar what the hell is happening yourself, but you don’t. You don’t need to anyway. They know what happens when you fuck with the Bar keep. You get to finish out your night with a Bacardi superior straight because you wanted to be a poet once, and that guy who told you was going to be a filmmaker and ones you up by everything is swirling his cosmo at the end of the bar and telling you that it’s so hard to be privileged. You laugh at him knowing that you have the privilege to cut him off. You want to rule the world? You’ve already done it. Well done, Kong.

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