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
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)