Public Service Announcement
Do not fuck with a woman who walks alone
She’s not listening to music, she’s listening
to Jack Reacher novels. She’s listening
to the sound of cracking bones and splitting skulls,
and she’s loving it.
You have parts of your body that serve as weapons, Not your eyes,
though you should use them for misdirection.
Not your breasts, though they can be a distraction,
Not even your voice, though screaming
Use your fists, not like hammers,
but with a twist of shoulder and hip.
Use your elbows like swift kicks. Use your knee
Exactly as you were meant to,
Use your teeth if you have to.
But if they are dangerous, or there are too many...
Use your solemn breath.
you are sheltered
in your body, like a temple, but
you are not trapped there.
Just because a thief slips in,
just because he breaks things,
doesn’t mean sacred light won’t still pour down.
You will be found.
And you will speak your truth.
Let the threats fuel you, or let them go.
You can do both and still be a Goddess.
When it’s through, pull the altar back up
relight the candles, and return to prayer.
What hurts and where?
What do you need to throw away? What can you repair?
How will you reclaim this sacred place?
There is nothing that needs to be swept under, burned, or cut away.
Woman is a sculpture built up, never chipped at.
She is a creation of her own hands, and her grandmothers’.
Not cold marble, but warm clay.
You are already whole,
And your womb?
The part of you that carries your own life?
She is intact, impenetrable.
She didn’t feel a thing.
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash
#poetry #womenshistorymonth #safety #consentissexy
How Do You Politely Tell Someone You Wanna Hit Them With a Brick?
Hello. Today I was like to acquiant your facial features with a fundemental material commonly used as the building componet in large structures.
It’s been twenty-four months since the lottery. It’s been twenty-four months since the destruction of Tokyo. And it’s been twenty-four months since I last saw you.
You were left behind. I made the cut. You didn’t.
We all saw it coming. The threat of nuclear fallout had been looming over us for decades. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. We all know how that story goes. Nuclear weapons were suddenly in the public eye, and military groups scrambled to perfect them.
After creating the world’s most powerful nuclear bomb, years before we were born, a group known as the Renovators announced their intentions: to eradicate the world’s largest cities. Soon, they would rebuild the world how it was intended to be.
Filtered. Uncontaminated. Pure.
Those who just wanted to save their hides fled to designated regions of the world, where the Renovators put them to work. For people with a conscience, there was nowhere to go.
They started with Beijing. The city was dying anyway- overpopulation had taken a toll. Plague, famine, pollution. It was only a matter of time. The bomb put them out of their misery, really.
Delhi was a shame. Full of millionaires and billionaires, their legacies obliterated in the blink of an eye. Not to mention the immense casualties.
Cairo shook everyone. It was before we were born, but my grandfather told me about the day he heard the news. They say there used to be pyramids, built thousands of years ago. Some thought they were built by aliens, but I know better. There are no aliens in space. There’s nothing but a hollow emptiness that sucks your soul out in its gaping maw.
Mumbai was destroyed the year we were born. Would that be thirty years ago already? I’ve lost track of time. It seems to pass differently up here, suspended among the stars and dust and broken dreams.
I remember the destruction of São Paulo. They broadcast it live on the screens, straight into our homes. It was exhilarating in a horrifying sort of way until they showed the bodies. Strewn about, twisted, charred; they were no longer recognizable as human. I’d spent the better half of the evening losing my dinner over the bathroom toilet.
Shanghai was destroyed the following summer. Bombings were getting closer and closer together, the stakes were growing higher, but the news no longer surprised us. Another city reduced to rubble, another memorial to the millions of people murdered. They burned down the memorials anyway.
Mexico City came and went in the blink of an eye. Hardly got any news coverage. Partially because the Dictator couldn’t give less of a shit about them, but partially because of how close it was- they didn’t want to risk panic. The nukes were approaching, and it would only be a moment before they came to the United States.
Then New York City. We’d all expected it, but it didn’t make it any less terrifying. Dropped the bombs straight on Times Square. It was a beautiful place, full of lights and life and buildings that scraped against the sky itself. But it doesn’t look like that anymore. I remember hunkering down in the basement with you as we listened to the transistor radio- a relic, really. It was the first time I’d felt the panic. They were so close, and there was nothing we could do about it.
Tokyo was the last to fall. Or so we thought. Slowly, but surely, the Renovators’ presence faded into the background. We knew we didn’t have long before they returned with a stronger plan. For those of us who refused to pledge our allegiance, Earth wasn’t safe anymore.
So as the Renovators schemed, we turned our sights to the stars.
It was meant to be a secret, but word got out before long. Rumblings and mutterings of a trip to space spread, rumors of a lottery that would save us all. So, naturally, when the project was announced, I entered my name.
I didn’t expect to win. Out of the billions of people that remained, why should my name be chosen? But it was.
And yours wasn’t.
I tried to reason with them. Tried to barter to bring you along. But they said no, and you said no. Live, you said. And keep on living. For me.
Twenty-four months ago, they came to our house. I pulled you close and breathed your floral scent. Tears wet my shirt and your shirt and for but a moment, there were no boundaries between us, nothing holding us back, just two bodies intertwined for what would be the last time.
And then I left you.
Twenty-one months ago, after three months of grueling training, I boarded one of the seven ships that would carry us into space. It was to be a staggered takeoff, with one week in between each launch, and I was on the first ship to leave. There were enough provisions for five people on each ship. Five people in seven ships, one on each of seven continents. Thirty-five people to survive.
Billions to die.
They called it a lottery, but it wasn’t. They’d picked us for a reason. We were the healthy ones, the mentally sound ones, the young ones, the spry ones, the clever ones. Left behind were the weak ones, the elderly ones, the disabled ones, the ill ones, the injured ones, the children, the parents, and the rest of the world.
And we were going to create a new life. A new generation. A new world. Mars awaited us, ready to be shaped by human touch.
I was ready.
The crew was interesting, to say the least. We’d grown close over the two-year journey; as close as you could grow when you spoke different languages. But they never could have replaced you.
My first crewmate Harin was from Greenland, and they’d left their life as a pharmaceutical tech behind. They’d lived alone, with only their dog for company. They thought they were inconspicuous, but I often caught them with tears in their eyes whenever they mentioned that dog. I never worked up the courage to ask what had become of it.
Alejandra had lived in Mexico City as a child, but her parents had smuggled her into the United States before their home was destroyed. Her mother had escaped with her, but her father had stayed behind in the city. He died along with it. She’d had to say goodbye to her mother before leaving on the trip.
Yaniel was from Cuba, a country not unfamiliar with nuclear weapons. Born into poverty, he and his younger brother had lived on the streets. He often wondered aloud how his brother was doing without him.
Last but not least, Maddox was Canadian, and she’d been one of the engineers who worked on both the biosphere and the ships. The scientists had sent one up with each of us. She was a truly brilliant mind, and the only one keeping us sane.
God, it was a horrid trip. Pissing in bags and then drinking it, eating nothing but dehydrated dust that they called food, cramped in tight quarters in a giant metal bullet that split through the sky. Spending twenty-one months with four other people in a room the size of a broom closet is the definition of hell.
But we were the strong ones. We could survive anything.
Hours turned into days turned into weeks turned into months turned into nearly two years before we’d entered Mars’s atmosphere.
And now it’s been one week since we landed on Mars. It’s been one week since I stepped foot into the biodome. It’s been one week since they threw me into this room.
There are no windows. Only a solid titanium door, locked from the outside. Me. My suit. The chair. The sounds of my breath. The screen. The clock.
And the button.
It’s mounted to the wall in front of where I’m strapped into the chair. Small, blue, inconspicuous.
They’ve explained to me over and over what the button will do.
My companions’ screams tear through the insulated walls. That means they haven’t given in either. Yet.
But it’s over.
Because while the Renovators were silent, they’d been devising a plan.
A plan to go to Mars.
A plan to cultivate the best specimens from Earth, to test them, to grow and repopulate, and eventually take us back when the weaklings on Earth were gone.
And we had fallen for it.
Maddox comes into my room sometimes. She shows me your battered face upon the screen. Sometimes you say my name in your fevered sleep. It leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Or maybe that’s just the blood.
They’re killing you.
She says I have a choice. If I push the button, they’ll spare you. They’ll bring you here.
If I push the button, the bombs go off.
The bombs will go off anyway, she says. Points at the clock on the wall. It’s steadily ticking down. Now, it reads 00:34:02. Thirty-four minutes until the bombs detonate. Thirty-four minutes until the entirety of Earth is destroyed.
This is the seventh time she’s done this; the seventh time she’s given me this speech. The clock started at 168 hours. Now, we’re down to half an hour.
The second ship was supposed to arrive today. I hope they’re treated better than us- after all, they won’t have any family members to use as leverage. The world will be dead.
Maddox says you sit in a cell in their facility, not unlike the one I’m in. She says the ships are ready. She says the button is on a delay. She says there will be enough time to evacuate you from the planet before the bombs go off.
She says I’ll see you again.
The world’s blowing up anyway. There’s nothing I can do about it. If I don’t press the button, you die along with it.
If I press the button, you are saved. But I will be the one responsible for the world’s destruction.
I can guess who’s on my companions’ screens. Harin’s dog. Alejandra’s mother. Yaniel’s brother.
Only one of us can press the button. If I press it, I kill them all. If they press it, they kill you. It’s a cruel test, a test to discover the strongest among us.
Are you strong? Maddox asks me. Or are you weak?
I wish she would shut up.
Are you strong? Or are you weak?
I miss you.
Strong? Or weak?
Your face flashes in my mind. Your honeycomb skin, the sparkle in your eyes, the smile
dancing across your lips.
What are you?
That same face is now bruised. Bloodied. Missing teeth. Fingernails ripped from your
hands. Sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. A skeleton of your former self.
For you, I am weak.
You told me to live for you.
But I cannot live without you.
I press the button.
The Other Side
It was a car accident.
She had drunk too much beer.
It had tasted like cat pee.
The party had been excruciating. The beer had made it more tolerable, it had quelled her anxiety, but for a price. She was seeing comets. She could barely keep her hands on the steering wheel.
Beverly was in the passenger seat, alternating between singing an off-key rendition of 'Material Girl' and complaining about her 'old lady name'. She reeked of weed.
It was mid-January. The roads were icy. Too much pressure on the gas pedal, and they flew off the road.
It was a long fall.
She prayed, despite being a life-long athiest. She promised to be nicer. She'd visit her dad more. She'd stop smoking those strawberry flavored vapes that she really liked but that were wreaking havoc on her lungs.
But was it really possible to repent seventeen years of your life in ten seconds?
The ground had arrived.
*end of sample*
Title of Work: The Other Side
Genre: Realistic fiction, with a dash of sci fi.
Age Range: YA lit, so I'd say about 14+. But I know plenty of adults who read YA lit.
Word Count: See notes at bottom of page, but I'd guess somewhere in the range of 75,000-100,000 words.
Author Name: Anna Carr (this is not my actual name. Because this is the internet I would like to protect my privacy)
Why my project is an excellent fit: This piece exposes a whole new view on death, while also adressing issues such as anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome. It's a bit like an undercover self-help book, mashed up with dry humor and metaphor.
Hook: When Elaine dies in a car crash, she doesn't actually die. She's teleported to another dimension, 'Tier Two'. This happens to everyone who passes away.
She is sent to live in a division of Tier Two that is made up of teenagers who also had untimely deaths.
Having struggled with overwhelming anxiety and depression in what the folks of Tier Two call 'Tier One', Elaine decides to reinvent herself.
But at what cost?
Synopsis: Elaine's reinvention is slow and shaky, as her mind drifts back to Tier One and everything she's left behind. But eventually she becomes somewhat happy, and adjusts.
She immerses herself in the stories of other's past lives. She makes friends.
But then, things fall apart and she relapses.
In the end, though, she is able to pick herself back up, and finds closure and acceptance in her new 'life'.
Target Audience: Everyone. But this book will especially strike a chord with realistic fiction fans and those who have experienced similar issues to Elaine's.
Writing Style: I really like writing in third person, but the psychological closeness you get in first person really can't be beat. I like to use metaphor, symbolism and motif liberally. I'm not the most skilled with dialogue, but try to incorporate a decent amount. I have a sarcastic sense of humor, and try to add a little bit of that to all of my pieces.
Experience: I was the first place winner in the literature category of a city-wide arts contest about six months ago, for a short story I wrote. I have also had my work published in multiple magazines.
I think that is an adequate amount of information, but here are a few notes:
Because I am currently working on another project, my sample is all that I have written so far. But if needed, I'm sure I could juggle two projects at once.
The remainder of the story would be in first person. The plot is not set in stone, except for the vague outline.
Billiard balls randomly bouncing around? I think not. I think waves are not particles and I think thought - consciousness - is but waves crashing against each other on this interstellar ocean. Organs, organelles, cells, molecules, elements, atoms, quarks. But keep slicing and dicing. Eventually the circles become dots and the dots become lines.
Perhaps the tapestry of spacetime - time, really - is indeed a tapestry, woven time and time again by this very fabric. Maybe there is just Time, Time is omnipotent, therefore there is just You - and You are omnipotent. Magic is just using your instrument in the right way. Spells are sounds.
In this kosmic symphony, life is what you make it.
True strength cometh from within.
It isn't something you obtain overnight,
just like physical strength.
True strength is your ability and capacity to adapt to and with change, physical or mental.
When tough times come,
can you last,
or do you give up halfway,
"I can't do it."?
True strength is to be able to stand firm and grounded in your convictions,
no matter what other people say,
you have to stay strong and firm,
to be non-conformist.
Do you give in to peer pressure?
Will you jump of a bridge just because everyone else does it?
Or is it because you just want to?
True strength is bound together with compassion and love,
in your soul,
held in your conscience,
Compassion will give your heart the burning ardour and passion
to stay strong,
to keep your head high because you are doing the right thing,
with nothing to be ashamed of,
to help people,
to lend them your strength.
Do you step out of a queue
to help a little girl who just fell down on the street,
do you hold out your hand to her,
wipe away her tears,
and say it's alright?
True strength is humility,
to step down, steep down lower,
to someone of a lower rank,
to accept and own up to your mistakes.
True strength is admitting that you aren't perfect,
that you can be improved,
that your way isn't always the best.
Do you think you are better than everyone on the damn planet,
or do you know that you can't always be the best and grow up?
True strength is to acknowledge the strength of your opponents,
to congratulate them to their success,
to accept loss and failure with grace.
Do you cry when you lose to someone else?
Or do you know that you are fighting against yourself,
and yourself alone?
True strength is keeping with your promises,
do what you say,
say what you'll do,
follow out with a promise no matter how hard.
You had the guts to make a promise,
plain and simple,
you are a coward.
True strength is many things.
Just Be Yourself
The day before I turned eighteen, I cried. I felt that my childhood was over. When I was younger, I wanted to be older, but once I turned twelve, I wanted to stay a kid forever. Problem is, in six years, I was literally scared. I was sad. I was troubled. I don't exactly know what was wrong with me. It felt like it was the end of my world as I knew it. I prayed, I immersed myself in much childhood nostalgia, and then I went to bed.
Next day, I woke up, and I felt normal. I was still myself. I could still play around. I could still enjoy all my favorite childhood things. I felt so silly acting the way I did. Fortunately, I had a family that didn't say something like "You're eighteen now, GET OUT." Of course, I had a few more responsibilities, and graduated highschool, different things, but overall, you don't have to change much. You can still be yourself.
I still don't go to wild parties, drink, smoke, curse or anything just to BE GROWN. There's not a specific persona of an "official adult" you have to channel once you cross the threshold. Just pray about it, take on your new responsibilities, be yourself, and have fun!
(PS, I had my senior pics taken at a playground to show the connection to my childhood was not lost :))
The Reluctant Holdout
“Who thinks she’s guilty?”
Eleven hands went up. Eleven pairs of eyes turned to look at me. I willed my hand to raise, but it remained stubbornly at my side.
“You don’t think she’s guilty?” Ms. Clidna asked, crossing her spindly arms.
I squirmed under her violent gaze, but my head shook.
Mr. Ecne’s brow wrinkled. “How?”
Staring at the table, I muttered, “The, uh, evidence. Doesn’t add up.”
“She said that the evidence doesn’t add up,” said Mr. Lug. He had the dubious privelege of sitting next to me.
Maybe if I stared intensely enough at the table I would become part of it. Tables have it nice. No one expects them to talk.
I jerked my shoulders a shrug-like motion. “It’s just, I don’t know. It’s all a little circumstantial, isn’t it?”
Mr. Bres laughed. “You watch too many cop shows, kiddo.”
I also had a degree in criminal psychology, but that wasn’t the point.
Their eyes burned holes into my skull. My lunch fought its way up my esophagus. I closed my eyes and ground my teeth against the urge to apologize.
“Are you okay?” asked a distant and distorted voice.
No. But the word stuck in my throat.
I took a deep breath. Counted to ten. An eternity later, I said, “I’m fine.”
Ms. Clidna sniffed and said, “You’ve obviously got your own issues, but please keep them off my jury.”
We’re not your jury, you evil walkingstick, I thought.
“This isn’t about me,” I said.
Ms. Clidna’s exasperation singed the air. Tears of frustration and shame blurred my view of the table. The dark wood swirled hypnotically. The swirls greyed and expanded and my head spun with them. I heard a faint thunk before my consciousness drifted away.
I watched myself critically. Or rather, my annoyingly persistent alter ego watched me critically. After the fifth time it showed up in my dreams, I’d named it Ainsel.
“You again?” I said.
Ainsel crossed her arms and looked down at me, though, being identical, we were the same height. “You know why I’m here.”
“Of course, to annoy me, which seems to be your only purpose.”
Ainsel laughed. “If you stood up to anyone like that in real life, you wouldn’t need me.”
“I don’t need you,” I said, my footsteps echoing on nothing in the white emptiness. I succeeded in going nowhere.
I looked back at Ainsel’s cruel smile. “See? You can’t even control your own dream, you fucking wimp,” she taunted.
“What do you know? You don’t even exist!”
Ainsel raised a mocking eyebrow. “I know everything you know, and everything you won’t let yourself know. I am what you could be, if you didn’t let your fear control you.”
I stamped my foot. The nothingness swallowed the sound. “You’re just a figment of my imagination! You’re trapped in my head!” I screamed.
Ainsel studied her nails. “Oh, like you aren’t trapped in your head? Your just as much a prisoner as I am.”
There really wasn’t much I could say to that, so I punched her. Right in the middle of the face. She smiled through the blood dripping from her nose. “Now we’re getting somewhere!” she said. “Hit me again.”
I obliged. I hit her stomach, her bowed shoulder, anything I could reach. She fell, still smiling. I kneeled above her and rained down punches like meteorites. My knuckles grew red and wet with blood, hers and mine indistinguishable.
I sat beside Ainsel’s prone form and looked at the crumpled mess I’d made. “I hate you,” I told her.
She sat up. “No,” she said, “you hate yourself.”
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.
“Oh, now you want my advice?”
“Would I have created you otherwise?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m pretty sure you created me out of pure self-loathing.”
I shrugged. “Maybe, but you’re usually right.”
“Technically,” she said, “I’m just you, so really what you’re saying is that you’re right.”
I shook my head. “Stop, I already have a headache.”
She sighed. “You know she’s not guilty, and you know your stupid moral code is going to have you beating yourself up for the rest of your life if you let her be sentenced to death.”
“How the hell am I supposed to convince them, though?” Tears pricked my eyes. “Have you met me? I’m the least convincing person on this planet. And I can barely even get out a sentence when that mean walkingstick lady looks at me!”
Ainsel shook her head. “It’s like you said, before you fainted like the wimp you are. This isn’t about you. I know it’s too much to ask you to be strong for yourself. But if your weakness lets another person die? You’re going to get your shit together, for her.”
I watched a cloud float by. I nodded slowly. “Okay, maybe I can do that.”
Ainsel nudged my shoulder. “No maybe about this. You’re going to do this, and you’re not going to come back to visit me until you do. Now get lost!”
The emptiness shattered and I fell into the void.
The void deposited me gently on a hard chair. My vision filled with something hewn of a dark wood, perhaps mahogany. I peeled my aching forhead off the table.
I looked up into eleven pairs of eyes. Reality hit me like a bus and blood flooded my face.
“Water,” I croaked and fled. The door slammed, and the echoes chased me down the hall.
I ducked into the bathroom. My reflection cowered the mirror. I scowled and splashed icy water into my face. The dripping water made me look even more pathetic, but at least the redness was fading.
I wanted to leave the court house and never come back, but I knew I’d never handle the guilt. Also, I was fairly certain it was illegal, and I didn’t think I’d do well in jail.
The walk back to the deliberation room felt like a march to the gallows. I took a deep breath at the door. I knew better than to try for real confidence, but I pushed my shoulders back and lifted my head in some approxiamation of it.
Eleven pairs of eyes followed me to my seat. Another deep breath. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just got a little dizzy. I did not drink enough today.” The words slid bloated across my tongue. Deep breath.
“Do you need a doctor?” Mr. Lug asked.
“No,” I said.
A buzzing rose in my ears. I needed to say something. I needed to make them see. Deep breath. The buzzing faded enough for Ms. Clidna’s persistent droning to rise above it.
“Listen,” I interrupted. No one heard me. I cleared my throat. “Excuse me,” I tried again.
Ms. Clidna stopped talking and regarded me prunishly, as if I’d said something vulgar. I kept my gaze up, the muscles in my neck straining against themselves. For justice, I told myself. It was far too late for me, but someone should have it.
“She’s not guilty,” I heard myself say, though it didn’t sound like me. It sounded like Ainsel, though of course that was impossible.
“You’ve said that, but how?” Mr. Ecne asked.
I didn’t close my eyes, though I couldn’t look at any of them, either. I kept my gaze on the clock. It ticked languidly.
“The evidence is circumstancial,” my voice told the clock.
“You said that, too, but you, uh, fainted before you explained,” said Mr. Fidgen.
The clock ticked on. A distant part of me was surprised they’d been listening. I sat up a little straighter and pushed the words out before the little bit of strength I’d mustered could fade. “There’s nothing to prove she actually did it, the prosecutor is good, better than her lawyer anyway, but it’s all circumstantial.” I stopped for a breath. My heart pounded angrily at my ribcage and my shirt felt damp. Before my thoughts could catch me, I continued, “All they’ve really got is her car nearby, and a witness who saw a girl who looked like her enter the house, but witnesses get things wrong, because people don’t always see what they think they see.” A thought threatened to form, but I shoved into the dubious depths of my subconscious. Deep breath. I refocused on the clock, but the clock looked back so I turned my gaze to the beige wall beside it instead.
“Maybe she did it, she doesn’t have an alibi, but there’s reasonable doubt so we can’t say she did it beyond reasonable doubt and I don’t think she did it and if she’s convicted she’ll die while the real killer goes free and it’s not fair!” I panted, face flushed. Whatever had possessed me disappeared without a trace. My body trembled and I thought I might faint again.
“She makes a good point,” said Mr. Lug.
Ms. Clidna huffed. “Frankly, I don’t see it.”
Mr. Ecne tilted his head. “You know, I actually kind of do.” He nodded at me. “You’re smarter than you look.”
“I don’t know,” said Mr. Dagda. “How good of a look did the witness get?”
I wanted to tell him that even with a good look, witnesses could be wrong, but I’d used up all my words.
Mr. Lug shuffled through his notes. “Not a great one,” he said.
“You know, I called it from the beginning. The evidence just isn’t there,” Mr. Bres said.
The words blurred together in my ears, but it didn’t matter anymore. I’d said my lines. My part was over and now I just waited patiently for the story to end.
The clock and I watched the time pass together, though afterward I realized I hadn’t kept count. Some number of moments later Ms. Clidna knocked on the table.
“Another vote, then,” she announced. “Who thinks she’s not guilty?”
Mr. Lug’s scarred hand went up. Mr. Dagda raised his wrinkled one. My hand floated up, lighter than it had ever felt before, and eleven hands were up again but this time mine was one of them. Ms. Clidna pursed her lips and sighed. She looked off into the distance and nodded to herself. And Ms. Clidna lifted her manicured hand straight up towards the panelled ceiling.