By Jillian Wolstromer
A few years ago, our planet spiraled into war. No one was safe. No one. There was no mercy. The line of loyalty wavered as greedy people sided with whoever seemed to stand a chance. It was every person for themselves.
Recently, a government found me. The countries have become so muddled that I don't even know where they were from. That doesn't matter. What matters is that they found me and they're stripping me from myself one memory at a time.
Let me explain.
Ever since I can remember, which is iffy as is, I've had a pesky trick. The universe gifted me with the ability to see future events, so long as I lost a memory important to me. As one can imagine, this has caused a few issues in my life.
For starters, I grew up dumb. My stupid baby mind didn't know what was going on, so I'd carelessly swap out vital information for a glimpse into the future. Not that I even knew what the future was. So I took forever to grow up, as half of the necessary human functions were forgotten in an instant. Yet, I've grown to be fully functional.
There are times where I get really greedy and sneak a peek into the future. For instance, seeing if I’ll get the job I’m going into an interview for, or if a girl will say yes to my asking her out. I've made a habit to write down my life in notebooks, like a backup hard drive in case I forget anything. I document almost everything, if I'm able to. There are always things that slip through, but I have piles of videos of all the personal important things. I don’t think I’d be able to forgive myself if I forgot the birth of either of my kids, or their first steps, or their first words, or their laughs. Their smiles. Them.
This is all slipping away from me. This government- whoever they are- they found me. They somehow knew my secret, and they’re forcing me to use it for ‘the greater good’. I’ve already lost a few memories, as I’ve given in a few times. Only a few.
I watch from where I’m bound as they pace back and forth, coming up with new ways to coax me into complying. They crave victory badly; it’s practically a tangible object to them. I won’t- I can’t- give in.
These people speak indistinctly. Even though I can’t hear them, I can see as they point to certain tools laying around the room. My body aches with exhaustion. I don’t know how much more I can take before I give in again.
Eventually, I can hardly keep my eyes open. My breathing is ragged and I just want to sleep. I allow myself to slip away from reality and sleep for as long as these cruel people will allow me to.
I don’t know how long I slept, but I’m woken up by multiple prods to the shoulder.
“Your family’s here,” one of government people says.
My body goes into panic. My family can't see me like this. How did these monsters even find them? I struggle in my bed, desperate to escape. My words come out garbled and distant. I hate that my family sees me this way.
“Honey, we're here for you,” my wife says. The government people allow her to come to my bed and hold my hand.
“Please don't forget me,” she begs, squeezing my hand.
I see my two kids, the loves of my life, walk up to my bed and peer at me. They don't say a word; they simply look at me. I feel like an animal on display.
I am allowed an hour or so with my family. It's hard to stay focused, but I try my best to take in every feature about them. This could very well be the last time I see them… or remember them.
It's not long until the government people usher them away and I'm left alone again. I try to stop from crying, but a few tears betray me. The government people rush to my side and wipe them away.
“They'll be back,” they tell me, almost menacingly. I say nothing. I keep my eyes forward and my jaw clenched.
I won't let them get to me.
I try my best to ignore the pain they inflict on me. They stab me with needles and inject their evil into me. I try so hard to stay strong, but before long, I can feel my resolve slipping away. I feel my mind falling into a dazed state, and all I want to do is tell them what I can see.
I close my eyes and submerge myself in the future. I pass by millions of images, but only stop at the ones I know they want to see. Before long, I'm blabbing my mouth off. I can't stop. I can't open my eyes. I don't stop telling them what will and won't work in the war until they remove the needles from my arm. At that moment, my eyes flash open. I try to jolt up in my bed, but I am held down by my restraints. My breathing is heavy and I'm drenched in sweat. I try desperately to realize what I forgot but it's no use. Those memories are gone.
This happens multiple times over the next month or so. It begins with these evil people bringing my family to me. I see them for an hour or so and desperately try to remember them before it all goes away. They leave and I am left alone with only the memories of them, which could very well slip away from me. Then, I am stabbed with needles and all my willpower is gone. I tell them everything they need to know until they stop their cruel punishment for the time being.
It keeps happening, over and over again. I am losing everything I knew and held dear.
My neighborhood and school. Gone.
My first kiss. Poof.
My parents and childhood home. Gone.
My profession. Forgotten.
Slowly, everything up until I met my wife is gone. Then, the truly horrible happens, and even that starts to slip away as well.
Where I met my wife. Gone.
Where I had my first date with my wife. Lost.
When I realized I loved her and wanted to marry her. Absent.
Where and when I proposed to her. Forgotten.
Our wedding. Vanished.
I have to question my wife and kids every time I see them. Eventually, I hardly recognize them or know anything about them.
My children's’ first steps and first words. Gone.
Their birthdays. Poof.
It’s not long before I forget their names, along with my wife. They have to remind me who they are every time I see them. Soon enough, I don’t know them at all. There is no love, only unwanted emotions. They don’t come anymore. I’m falling apart. I can hardly remember who I am.
What I’ve done in my life. Gone.
How old I am. Gone.
My name. Gone.
Once memories are gone, my mind starts to take away necessary human functions. It begins with my limbs. Slowly, my body forgets how to move at all. My jaw hardly moves, so my purpose is useless. Yet, I am so used to the routine that my body projects me into the future without my consent. Soon enough, it takes away my ability to swallow. The government people shove a tube in me and pump the food directly into me.
I’ve become nothing more than a puppet. I am useless and they still keep me here.
The next thing my body takes away is my ability to breathe. I’m hooked up to a machine that forces me to breathe. As time goes on, one by one, my functions for living disappear. I’m hooked up to so many things that it’s hardly me anymore.
I see some crying people one last time. A beautiful woman and two children who look like her. They are ushered away.
The last time I look into the future, my body takes away the last muscle I needed. As I feel my heart pump its last few beats, I see the government people drop their heads in defeat. I close my eyes and accept the cold embrace of death.
“Call it,” a nurse says somberly.
“Time of death: 8:43,” someone else says as they look at their watch.
A few medical staff lingers around the bed, only briefly glancing at the body before leaving. A sheet is placed over the deceased.
“We lost another one to Alzheimer’s.”
By Serena Wooten
Her heart was racing faster, as if she had just finished a marathon. At least my heart’s still beating, she encouraged herself. Her eyes were useless. With the black abyss that surrounded her, she had to keep reminding herself that her eyes were actually open. Her heart beat twice as fast with the spot of light she saw ahead. 'Almost there. I’m almost there!' A smile broke out across her face for the first time in months, the feeling tightening her cheeks and almost unrecognizable. She was so close to the light, the light she hadn't seen in eleven months. For a split second she regretted leaving the rest of them behind, but the guilt passed. When freedom is denied for so long, the overwhelming desire leaves no room for guilt. She could feel dirt and rocks beginning to cut into her palm, the ground beginning to have some semblance of warmth. 'Almost there! Yes!' She touched it. For one glorious moment, she was able to touch the heavenly sunlight and rejoice, before her foot was restricted and she was yanked back by her hair. She wailed in despair, her last chance of freedom ripped away from her. 'Idiot!' her conscious scolded her, 'You took too long! They've found you again!' She screamed and kicked with all her might, but it only tightened the grip. Her cries spontaneously stopped as a cloth was stuffed down her throat. “Shut her up! Shut her up!” A voice barked. She was dragged back into the darkness. Her throat tightened as the words were spoken into a communicator, “Prisoner 667824 detained.” She felt a sharp prick, and then the world started to spin. “Good, bring her to me.” Now it was time for her punishment.
It was a strange thing to not have a concept of time. It was that point where day and night are no longer polar opposites, and minutes, hours, days - they all seem like theoretical concepts, as if they were words Aristotle just pulled out of nowhere. Luna used to take advantage of time. 'No not Luna anymore', She reminded herself. 'Your name is 667824'. No name. No identity except the one they want you to have. 667824. The metal cuffs dug into her wrist. Titanium. It assured that she wouldn't get out. 'They are afraid of me'. This thought filled her with pride. The feeling evaporated the second the heavy door creaked open in the solitary room. A broad shouldered woman stepped through. Ms. Mortia (aka the “Mortician”) was a woman who people could recognize as once being considered beautiful, but somewhere along the road life had kicked her down one too many times. Her figure was as thin and sharp as a blade, her pale oblivion eyes emulating. Her glossy acrylic nails were so long and sharp that they could give the talons of an eagle a run for their money, her hair pitch black with streaks of silver and grey coursing through was pulled back into a tight, controlling bun. “667824”, her voice sliced through the air, holding an incessant undercurrent of condescension. She mocked them for the state she put them in. 'A sadist takes pride in recognizing suffering. It's hedonism for them to decode the pain others choose to ignore'. Smack! The sharp sound that cut through the silence awoke her from her deviating thoughts. How Ms. Mortia was able to move across the room so fast eluded her. She felt the warmth of fresh blood spilling across her cheek from the point of where her nails made contact with her skin. “667824, you answer me.” “Yes, Miss?” She barely recognized her own voice. So timid. So broken. “Is it true that you tried to escape via hatch 327?” 'Yes'. “Yes.” “Is it true that prisoner 662348 tried to assist you in planning?” 'Yes.' “No.” Smack! 667824 clinched her teeth together to hold in a submissive whimper. “Yes.” She gave in with a defeated sigh. There's no point in lying anymore. They live in lies. This facility is a lie. All of our lives are lies. Ms. Mortia gripped her chin and forced her head up, making 667824 look her directly in the eyes. “It's not good to lie, is it?” The question was patronizingly sweet. Hypocrite. “No.” 667824 responded sharply. Ms. Mortia’s smile was a shark’s - vicious and hungry. “Good. Now, do you know where 662348 is?” Probably dead,she thought. 667824 looked down once more. “No, Miss.” She saw the hand move out of the corner of her eye and flinched, awaiting the pain that would come, but it only tilted her chin up once more to meet the cruel smile. “Yes you do. Would you like to see him?” No. “No thanks, Miss.” “Just as well,” Ms. Mortia waved off. “There's not much of him left.” 'She's trying to get a reaction out of me,' she thought. So all 667824 did was stare, not challenging nor submitting, but instead showing that she was refusing to shed a single tear for a boy who hadn't learned that being benevolent was the equivalent of signing your own death sentence. She could see the Mortician’s eyes tighten in frustration. “667824, do you know what the punishment is for attempting to escape?” “Death.” Simple. Easy. “No. I like you. So I'll make an exception.” No, please. “I will let you back out again.” No. It can’t be that easy. “All you have to do is follow the Order. Just one last time.” The prisoner gulped. “And if I refuse?” The Mortician’s eyes darkened. “I may not be authorized to kill you 667824, but we both know that there are things worse than death. Death would bring you peace. Oh, no. I will make sure that peace is a term you are only able to glance at in the Bible. Not only will you never see the precious light of day again, but I will make sure that you will beg me to kill you once I’m done with you.” The Mortician spat out “peace” as if it were blasphemy. The prisoner wriggled in her seat. She finally gave a sigh of resignation. “When do I start?” Ms. Mortia smiled that sabertooth smile once more as the door creaked open. The doctor walked through, a guard standing behind him to block the only exit. “Is she ready?” he asked, his voice monotone. “Of course!” Ms Mortia leaned over her prisoner. “You start now.” 667824 was released from the table, only to be bound in portable titanium cuffs. As she was herded out the door, the Mortician grabbed her arm and lifted her chin once more. “Remember 667824, you are being watched. We are watching you. Don't think for a second that if you fail this task we won’t follow through on our promises.” Not a threat. A promise.
She was released and ushered down the hall. I wonder how long it’ll take for them to kill me this time.
And that was how Raelyn woke up in the middle of the night, sweating and crying out in anguish, yet not recalling a single thing.
By Emily Guettler
Fall had begun a couple of weeks ago, and the once green leaves were now vibrant reds and yellows. In the shadows of these newly painted trees, a lone boy crouched down in the grass, waiting, a bow in hand. A dusty road lay in front of him, nothing in sight in either direction except for gentle hills. However, he was not worried. Something would come. Something always came.
Beyond a hill less than a kilometer away, a wealthy lady sat in her lavishly decorated horse-drawn carriage, gossiping with two friends. They spoke of senseless, unimportant things, like the beauty of their dresses or the new love between Lord Irving and Lady Rosalina.
The woman, named Gertrude, was well-known and popular in her town. Many men fancied her, and the majority of their hearts were broken when she dumped them unceremoniously a week later. Maybe it was her slender beauty or her emerald green eyes and elegant blonde hair that drew men’s gaze.
Her neck was adorned with fancy, jeweled necklaces, and strings of pearls were woven into her magnificent up-do. Her maroon dress was just as extravagant. Diamonds studded the collar and sparkled on her bodice. Rich, purple amethysts decorated her expensive skirt. The expense was so blatantly put into it that it was enough to make any sensible person puke and question why she was wearing it for travel.
Lady Gertrude's friends paled in comparison to her obvious wealth. They were jealous sycophants no doubt, and probably hoped to one day be like Lady Gertrude. Both would have difficulty with achieving such a goal, though neither knew it.
The younger of the two ladies, Laila, watched the trees slide by. They had been on the road for several hours, and her bottom was growing sore, despite the fancy cushions of the carriage. Luckily for her, their destination was only two kilometers away.
The journey had been smooth and uneventful so far. This was unsurprising considering the recently instituted laws in burglary and kidnapping, especially on the road. Under the new rules, someone convicted of burglary, kidnapping, or a similar offense, would be instantly sentenced to death. In an effort to make this law more effective, the king had also set up several patrols to enforce it. Thus far, it had been a worthwhile expense, but no system is perfect.
Outside the carriage, the horses began to act strangely. The driver swore at the animals and jerked them back under control. The elegant beasts continued to roll their eyes and try to see around them, but the blinkers on their face prevented them from doing so. One of them even pinned its ears back. The driver could not understand why they were acting this way, but reasoned that it was probably just a fox.
Annoyed, he stopped the carriage in a valley between two hills. With the halting of her vehicle, Lady Gertrude stuck her head out the window. She was clearly upset.
“Gordon, why are we stopped?” she asked, her voice like poisoned honey.
“It’s them horses ma’am. They be acting strange.” he hastily replied.
Lady Gertrude made a disbelieving noise and pulled her head back into the carriage. Her companions said nothing for fear of being left on the side of the road.
Outside, Gordon tried to calm the horses. Despite his best efforts, the beast remained jumpy. He would never find out why.
The boy watched the carriage stop. It was always the same, his very presence made horses skittish, probably because of his blood-stained cloak or his dangerous air. The driver went over to the animals. A woman stuck her head out the window. To him, the details were unimportant with the exception of the jewels she wore. Those were essential.
After pulling his hood down to hide his face in deep shadow, he silently placed an arrow on his bowstring. He smiled as he drew the string back and tapped his forefinger against his cheek twice before letting the arrow fly.
Gordon didn't even see it coming. The arrow pierced his throat. For a few seconds, he groped feebly at the shaft, and then he died.
Inside the carriage, the ladies didn’t know he was dead and were completely unaware of what was going on outside. They didn’t know that a burglar was approaching until the door was ripped open. All three of them screamed.
Deftly, he drew a dagger and held it up for them to see. Sunlight glinted off the deadly blade.
“Out,” he commanded, his voice dangerously low.
Desperate, Lady Gertrude shoved her two companions in front of her, as if they would give her protection. The boy pulled them down from the carriage before extending his gloved hand to help the trembling Lady Gertrude get out of her coach.
“Oh, but my lady,” he purred after she gave his hand a disgusted look, “Don’t you want to know what I’m all about?”
Lady Gertrude could not resist such a lure. Smiling slyly, she swept out of the carriage, and up to the burglar. She was immediately disappointed when she did not receive the kiss she had been expecting. Though she could not see it beneath his hood, he was smirking at her shallowness.
“Turn around.” he instructed, his voice once again dark and low. This time, the three ladies did as they were told immediately and without hesitation. The boy quickly tied each of the ladies’ hands behind their back. They had no room to move their wrists even half a centimeter.
He then proceeded to strip Lady Gertrude's dress of all the diamonds and amethysts and place them in a pouch tied to his hip. The bag grew quite heavy as her gown was stripped of gems and the pearls were ripped from her hair. The boy then went through the same process with the other two ladies, although he didn’t reap as much reward from them. He left them there as he wrecked the carriage in the search for extra bounty. Clothes fell to the floor in a tangled mess as jewelry was liberated from extravagant boxes.
Once he was sure that he had extracted everything that he could from this robbery, the boy told the ladies, “Stay still until you are absolutely positive that I am gone. If you move any earlier, I will kill you without remorse.”
Lady Laila squeaked out a shrill, “Yes,” in response to the boy's statement.
He smiled wickedly before taking off into the woods, his steps silent as a deer’s.
By Olivia King
Ba-dum. Ba-dum. The pounding of her heart was all the porcelain woman could hear. The trees stretched their long arms forward, trying to grab her. The ground seemed to rise up to try and trip her, yet her small bare feet propelled her forward. Even though it was getting harder and harder for her to breath, the raven-haired girl continued on.The drumming of her heart increased with each breath she took, and though her bruised and bloody feet were worn from the jagged ground she did not give up. She could not give up. If she did, then everything she had fought for would be pointless.
The young woman stumbled slightly as her dress got caught on a nearby thorn bush. She yanked it as hard as she could until it ripped and she was free. The pale girl continued her descent down the wooded hill. Gooseflesh rose and made itself known as the wind nipped at her exposed skin. The slamming of hooves on the cold winter ground echoed throughout the forest. She willed her legs to go faster.
A cry left her pinks lips as a root snagged her ankle. She tumbled down until she was struck in the side by a rock that peeked out from the earth. Suffocating from the fear of getting caught, the pale woman pulled herself from the ground. Holding her bleeding side, she staggered onward. She was not going to end up back in the dungeon.
A clearing in the forest caught her eye. She stumbled forward. With each ragged breath she took, her side ached, and with each step, her vision began to fade. The broken woman came to the edge of a cliff that dropped into a body of water. The sounds of the knights on their black horses kept getting closer and closer. Taking one final breath she took a step off the ledge and plunged into the freezing cold lake.
The Queen with hair as black as night snapped awake. Bursting forth from the claw-footed tub, she gasped for air. Her slender hands held fast to the edge of the tub as she was restrained by a dagger being held to her neck.
“You shouldn't have saved them” her sister whispered.
“I am their Queen and they were innocent children” the raven-haired beauty snapped. She felt a sharp pain and then everything faded to black. The angelic woman laid there, peacefully floating in a strawberry tainted lake as her sister called for the guards, and claimed the crown had been attacked by an enemy. And so began the reign of the evil queen.
By Emily Guettler
The house on the hill, otherwise known as The Brynmor House, had been there for ages. The sides that had once boasted a beautiful brickwork pattern were now decorated by a combination of moss and ivy. The bushes and trees had surrounded the structure and given the house a trapped look. Grass grew between the cracks in the driveway, and a baby oak tree had sprouted a few years ago in the middle of the sidewalk leading to the front door.
No one knew why it was called The Brynmor House, and after a time the people forgot about why it was there. It was on the outskirts of town, away from just about everything. Occasionally, when a new person moved into the village, they would ask, “What’s with that house?”
Even the oldest people in the hamlet didn't know the best way to answer that question. All they knew for sure was that someone had lived there once, which to the newcomer was pretty obvious. So some villagers made up stories, spooky stories. If a newcomer had kids, the other children in the town would dare them to go into the house.
In truth, there was nothing really special about the house. Nothing strange had ever happened there, at least not to anyone’s knowledge. The only unique thing about it, as far as the down to earth people were concerned, was that nobody lived there, and nobody had, at least not within living memory. That was why there was quite a stir amongst the townspeople when the Harmons moved in.
Little Johnny saw them first. It was a Saturday, and most people were sleeping in. However, Johnny was a morning person and he was already up and playing with his toys when he saw the moving van pull into the driveway of the Brynmor House. He was puzzled, but his seven-year-old mind quickly moved on from the strange occurrence.
Mr. Roberts, an older man, was out getting the newspaper when he saw the vehicles (for by that time, a silver truck had joined the moving van) sitting on the driveway and people buzzing about them. He was sure he was seeing things until his neighbor came out to pick up her newspaper.
“How long do you think they’ll stay?” his neighbor, Victoria, asked, bending over to pick up her paper. Mr. Roberts shrugged.
“I guess we’ll find out,” he replied. “The real question is, do they know how long that house has been empty?”
“And how long has that been?” Victoria asked. She was a younger woman and didn’t know much about the village lore. She was old enough to not have been subjected to the younger boy’s scary stories, but too young to have been involved in any real discussion.
“As long as I can remember, and as long as my father could remember.”
“Huh,” was all Victoria responded with.
Both neighbors went into their separate houses and called their friends. Soon most everyone in the town was aware of the people in The Brynmor House.
No one brought the new neighbors any casseroles or cookies that day or the next. As to whether or not the people who lived there cared, no one knew. The family hadn’t even come down to the village. The kinder members of the town said they were just getting settled in, but everyone else determined that they were people who preferred the company of themselves and the strange things that happened in The Brynmor House.
So when, three days after they moved in, the family of four came into town, everyone either ran away and hid their children or watched them from a distance. Only the bravest of them all, an older boy named Evan, dared to go up to them.
Evan had been planning to find a way to visit the family in The Brynmor House ever since he had first seen the cars in that overgrown driveway. He approached the mother in the grocery store as she was checking out some frozen pizzas.
“Hello,” he said, “My name is Evan.”
The mother turned around and saw him standing there. She smiled warmly at him. “Hello Evan,” she said, her voice neat and intelligent-sounding.
“How have your first few days here been?” Evan asked, his voice prickled with curiosity.
“Busy actually. There is so much to do in that house. It’s beautiful, but it's been neglected for so long that it’s fallen into awful condition.”
“I’m sorry to hear that Mrs.…?”
“Harmon. Well, I must go find the rest of my family. I have this feeling that they are in the candy section, despite my instructions to get cans of soup. My husband has no willpower and neither do my kids.” She sighed.
“Well g’bye then.” Evan told her as she walked away.
That was the only contact any of them had with the Harmons. They came out of their house every day at 10:00 a.m. sharp in the following months. They were always purchasing books for the daughter or buying groceries. When they were seen up close people reported that their faces were pale and their fingers fluttered nervously.
No one was surprised by this. “It’s that house,” the townsfolk told each other wisely, and although nobody was sure what it was that did this to them, there were some theories. It wasn’t until a new book came out that they really knew. It was entitled The Haunts of the Brynmor House by Thomas Harmon.
It was a frightening book that told of strange things that happened in the house on the hill at night. It mentioned moaning voices and unexplained brushes against cold skin. It spoke of faces occasionally appearing in the shadows of the night, and items disappearing only to reappear days later in a different spot.
Adults glanced fearfully up the street at the Brynmor House and parents walked their children to school every day. Some of the people living in the village moved away and their houses never sold. Despite this, the Harmons were seen every day, at 10:00 sharp, either in the bookstore or the grocery store with shaking hands and pale faces.
On November 1, the day after Halloween, the Harmons were nowhere to be seen at 10am. No one missed them, but everyone was scared. Halloween was the best time for the haunts and spirits to roam freely and if something had happened to them then, they were one of the spooks now. They had not moved away. Their truck was still in the driveway and their Halloween decorations were still up, although they had moved overnight.
As the decades passed, the Harmons dissolved into another scary story, but anyone who went to the library could still find a dusty volume entitled The Haunts of the Brynmor House by Thomas Harmon.
By Samuel Asabor
The fireflies danced around in the night illuminating the boardwalks and clear waters of the serene town. The moon watched from above silently, enchanting the town with soothing light. I walked out into this world wondering what mysteries it had to tell. This was my home. The nights I spent watching the world unfurl while sitting under the cedar trees were why I stayed.
The vines of the swamp draped the outskirts of town and the fertile swamp plants gave clean air that supported growth. Each day various fish and other wildlife were hunted for food or used for trade. The town was even known for producing mud with therapeutic properties. As I stared on watching the quiet night time traffic I gazed at fireflies which flitted about like faeries. Fireflies were abundant and it was tradition for the townspeople to use them as light sources in order to preserve the natural ecosystem. This swamp town has been prosperous for some time now, but once in my younger years it was almost deserted.
During my youthful days the town was much smaller and lonelier than the way it was now. As a child, many days in my home were ones of constant loneliness and sadness; resulting from the death of my parents. Thieves and bad weather made it more costly to stay than to leave, but thanks to hard work and determination, my home had grown prosperous. In order to help around the town, I decided to become a delivery girl at the tender age of 10 and passed different messages around town at a extremely fast rate. My job mostly entailed giving information or packages to designated people. I knew all the twist and turns as well as the dos or do not's of every tree in town so I fit this job perfectly. Like monkeys most of the townspeople's are taught the ways of the forest and the swamp. While he was still alive my father had taught me every trick and skill I needed to outsmart any animal or tree in the swamp. My grandmother, who had raised me lived with me in the center of the town. Due to my loneliness, I would often stay with my grandma at home for hours, listening to her old stories, watching the silent beauty of the swamp or secretly going out to explore the deeper parts of the swamp. This went on until one day my superior, the head courier, and an old friend of mother coerced me into sending a letter to my father’s sister who had left the town after a fight.
Dear Aunt Reina,
“This is your niece Lucinda, I’m Nita’s and Reiner’s daughter, you've probably never heard of me until now, but I am your niece. I’m sorry to say, but two years ago my mom and dad died during a storm that hit the swamp. I am ten year old now and I’m currently living with Grandma Ruth in the family home near the center of town. Things have been lonely ever since my parents died and I haven’t had anyone to talk to up until now. If it’s fine with you, I would like to send letters to you to see how you’re doing and how life is outside of town. By the way, do you have any children? If yes I would love to go and visit them sometime.”
Weeks passed with no reply, deflating the enthusiasm I originally felt until one day a courier delivered a letter to me reading:
“If what you say is true then I’m sorry for the loss and wish I could’ve been there to comfort you. I was surprised to hear this and it took some time to absorb what you wrote. For this reason I am responding to your letter late. Lucinda, listen I may not know you well enough to say this but I’m sure my brother is up there in heaven with your mother looking down on us with a smile on his face. That’s why you do not need to worry about being lonely anymore, just focus on doing your best in whatever you may do. Now, since you asked I have a 5 year old son named Jacob and 13 year old girl named Ruth, after my mother. We are currently having trouble traveling so I am not sure when or how we will be able to visit you, but I too would like to continue sending letters to you.”
As time went on I found waiting for mail from a courier to be an inefficient, loathsome process. With help from the head courier, I adapted, learning how to send messages using trained carrier pigeons. To me each pigeon became dear pets, ones which I never had before. A total of four pigeons lived in the loft at the delivery center and I gave each names. Spots, the oldest of the four was known for aggression and control. Beady was the glue that kept them together, Tiny the youngest loved to argue with the others. Junior was the most passionate of the four.
Eventually trade came to an all time low and people started leaving until the world I loved resembled an empty wasteland. Scared of what was happening I begged my grandma to leave with me from the town but with the force of an erupting volcano she told me I was on my own if I wanted to leave.
The wild eyes and loyalty my grandmother had shown that day led me to an epiphany. What I realized was relatively unremarkable but it was powerful enough to motivate me to new heights.
Simply enough I thought that if an old woman could be that loyal to a dying home why could I not.
In a week I gather all the carrier pigeons that I could from all of the residents both the ones about to leave and the ones staying. I then got as much paper as I could and placed it on the floor of my room. I had no money, no connections, no power so I did something only I could do, I took out an ink pen and wrote about the beauty of my home, as well as the mysteries and oddities of it. In order to capture those who would not be swayed easily by my words I described the properties of various trade items in the letter and addressed the message to any traders or tourists interested in visiting. I tied copies of the message to each pigeon's leg and sent them off in varying directions. Still little changed and the town’s situation eventually deteriorated into me doing whatever I could to stop people from leaving. From sabotaging carts to breaking boats I did it in order to keep the few remaining people there. Quickly all of them grew exasperated and often shouted at me, hit me or gave me to my grandmother when I was caught.
One night when I went too far the townspeople finally became fed up with me and made my grandmother lock me up in my room until I learned my lesson. Ruth had supported my intent but not my actions and locked me up with a disappointed look. I thought everything was over until finally a month after I sent the message a whole battalion of traders were spotted heading for our town. With trade people brought ideas to improve the town and it slowly became one of the most known spots in the whole kingdom. When I turned 16 I became old enough to leave town and journey out on my own if I wanted too, but I loved the town so much that this powerful urge was always shrouded by the town’s mysterious beauty. In time I soon came to the realization that I was never alone, because my friends had always been the silent wind that danced through the town, the calming aroma that blanketed area, and the carte blanche that resided in the natural charm of the town. Still the tugs of mystery, which beget the quiet relentless urges of curiosity pulled at me but it was not until he came that my life in the town morphed into something hideous.
The stories of the elders were extremely interesting, but to none more so than Adrian. Adrian was a member of town who moved away with his family earlier than everyone else and moved back as soon as the town grew. Adrian was the two year older and he loved the yarn that the elders would spin for him. He enjoyed his time with me more though and when he saw my bud of curiosity at the thought of going outside he wanted to make it blossom, yet in the end it was not for me; but for himself.
I found it easier to talk to Adrian than anyone else, my grandma being the only exception. He acted like loved the swamp as much as I did and listened whenever I went on about the beauty of our home with a bright, playful smile. But in truth I never truly payed attention to the way his lip always twitched in effort.
Adrian’s most favorite story was the story of the mind bender a tale about Yogini, a young woman who had wandered the swamp in search of a way to make a man who loved nothing fall in love. She found a grove of beautiful flowers which emitted a sweet smelling pollen and gave it to the man she loved. Eventually the man unwittingly fell in love with her and got married to her only to kill himself in order to release himself from the power of the pollen which forced him to love her against her will. That plant was supposedly somewhere in the forbidden areas of the swamp and was incredibly dangerous.
Time went on and Adrian grew more resentful of my love for the town and tired of its beauty. He said he wanted to leave with me and I tried to humor him by saying that I will travel out of the town for awhile, but he had different plans. Adrian’s goal was to never come back to the town and he wanted to take me with him. Whenever he brought the conversation up I always answered no never hesitating to reply no matter how much we bickered about it.
As I continued to gaze up at the night pondering the past Adrian came and sat down beside me. After a short exchange Adrian took me out for a stroll and handed me a beautiful flower. Then before I knew what was happening I was packing up my things and leaving without saying goodbye to anyone. I went to Adrian’s home during the night and together we left the old town. I walked past each house and as I gazed at the familiar scenery I felt my heart tug on me for an unexplained reason. I felt water streaming down my eyes and thought. Why! Why is my face so wet! My eyes then turned to Adrian who quickly grabbed my hands while leading me out. He broke into a run and I started to hear the shouts and screams of voices all too familiar. As we got to higher ground I saw a carriage that has been left outskirts of the town. In a flash I felt a sharp pain on my face and tasted blood on my lip; I had unconsciously bitten into my lip while Adrian ignorant of this fact pulled me toward the carriage. Instantly the pain of my lip broke me from my stupor and my current situation piled onto me. I pulled my hand away and pushed Adrian to the ground. He quickly stood up as he realized I was no longer drugged by the pollen. He reached for the flower and waved it in front of me shouting “sleep” as pollen drifted toward me. An incredible strong force then welled up in me, but it was not drowsiness, drowsiness was nowhere near that powerful, it was the force of love and anger. In a tumultuous wave of rage I balled my hand into a fist, shook them in the air tensed my legs and kicked Adrian in the chest knocking him face first into the ground. I looked behind myself and saw my home ablaze with people screaming and dead bodies being thrown into the water by bandits. Like a foul wave the smell of death and smoke tried to choke me out. I fell down to the ground and let out a giant uncontrollable sob as I looked at my home being turned to cinders. Adrian whose nose had broken, stumbled back up, sputtering, “don’t worry your grandma is fine they’ll hurt everyone, but her.”
In insatiable rage I punched him so hard that he slumped to the ground unconscious and bleeding. I then ran back into town ignoring the evident danger all around. Somehow I reached my house unnoticed, or un-bothered with only 1 bandit blocking the path towards my home. Realizing I could not get past him easily I climbed a tree and jumped, slamming into his body. The force of the impact dazed him and I ran away battered but un-bruised. That’s when I noticed something weird, a white parchment far too expensive for a bandit had fallen from the bandit. I grabbed it and ventured into my home worried about my grandma, who I can’t find anywhere. Giving up I decided to look at the parchment of paper instead of continuing my search. The truly weird thing about the parchment that had caught my eye was that it had the insignia of the royal family. I opened it up and read noticing that it was a letter from the king himself. which said,
Dear, Ubel, leader of the Black Scars,
“I have a momentous proposition which will benefit both of us. If you ransack that rancid swamp town that has been gaining popularity I will pay you handsomely and release your comrades from jail. You will have help from one of the old denizens of this rotting town, whose name is Adrian Stillwater. He will find a way to secretly get you and your group inside and in exchanged you will spare him, a girl named Lucy or Lucinda I believe, as well as the grandmother of said girl. Adrian will send a message if he has the girl but you must be the one to capture her grandmother.The messenger holding this message has your first payment of gold and I will pay you again to keep quiet about this later. If you don’t want to accept this humble payment. capture or kill the messenger but if you accept it allow him to come back to tell me so himself. You must promise to only destroy the town area of the swamp.Afterward I will rush in with my army and take ownership of the destroyed mess with minimal casualties. I suspect you to make the right choice in this matter since both you and I will prosper from this matter. You, will get your reward while I will be able to freely get the resources kept in that swamp”
King Reginald IV
I stared at the paper and read it in disbelief of the truth. Denial rooted itself in my mind as the thought of a nation’s ruler destroying a town for ownership of its resources seemed improbable. As the crackling sound of the inferno drew closer I understood that I might not survive the day which caused my brain work at a lightning fast speed. I rushed to Junior who shrieked inside her cage due to all the panic. I used Junior send message to my aunt so with hope that the truth would be revealed to someone I tied the message from the king to her leg. Frightened by the flames and screams Junior flew to my shoulder and let out a short coo as she nuzzled my neck for comfort. As if sensing something was wrong Junior tried to stay but I sent her off through a window and walked to a chair slumping down on it as I tried to calm myself down. A single feather fell from the pigeons wake and danced in the air until it landed on my lap. As it dropped down I stared at it my eyes, void of feeling for a few seconds thinking, you’re just like me now little feather forgotten and alone, a loner that has lost its only home, its friend.
Slowly I regained my senses and all my instincts told me to run away, to hide, to protect myself, but my heart told me with the same fervor my grandma had shown me years before to stay. As the putrid smell of death and the popping of dying trees drew closer, I ignored all that happened around me gripping the white feather on my lap as I looked out the window onto what remained of a friend I truly loved.
Lit. Mag. Staff
Ye Yee (Mary) Song
Table of Contents
~"Sonnet" by Pavan Dayal (Poetry)
~"The Five Performers" by Javier Flores (Poetry)
~"Don't Forget to Remember" by Jillian Wolstromer (Fiction)
~"Waterfall" by Tianna Perry (Poetry)
~"Bipliophile" by Ye Yee Mary Song (Artwork)
~"In the Dark?" by Maya Tisdale (Poetry)
~"Outcast" by Michaela Gathings (Poetry)
~"I am Woman" by Oluwajoba Ogun (Poetry)
~"Enigma" by Serena Wooten (Fiction)
~"Robbery on the Dusty Road" by Emily Guettler (Fiction)
~"Seasons and Relationships" by Kaylee Kalaf (Poetry)
~"Lullaby" by Caitlyn Doan (Poetry)
~"The Crown" by Olivia King (Fiction)
~"Skull" by Ye Yee Mary Song (Artwork)
~"Dying Ugly" by Maya Tisdale (Poetry)
~"The Haunts of Brynmor House" by Emily Guettler (Fiction)
~"Swamp Town" by Samuel Asabor (Fiction)