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Written by oe

Bliss(ful ignorance)

She lived in a small world. Rounded glass, smooth, cold. It was not entirely transparent. Not to her. Routine was something that had dipped into her vocabulary like common slang. She moved with mechanical elegance, like clockwork, steadily completing the circles that were her days. There is no doubt that the people around her grew bored of her presence. She became an obvious presence, something that was, but never did or said. She traced the borders of her sad little glass world. The others peered through the windows, watching her breathe as she twisted her spine a fraction to the left, a ripple of movement.

She lived in an assumed world. What should happen would happen. What happened once will happen again. Her existence was wrapped in tissue paper and handed to her every morning. Time floated by, measured only by the daybreak meal. She nibbled pitifully, if such a thing was possible. She was only ever content, never hungry or full. She experienced only mediums.

She lived in a lonely world. She never acknowledged isolation, for how can one be lonesome without ever being in the realm of together? She seemed to glisten, the light bounced off her, echoing the idea of joyfulness. She had no time. No past, present nor future. Just seconds, minutes, hours. Memories are ourselves. If memories encompass all of our being and self then she would forget every two seconds.

She lived in a beautiful world. Bright, gleaming, rich. There were splashes of colour that sped past her, letting her taste pure perfection in every slow breath. She saw only colour. Shades. She stared at the merry yellows. Gazed at the passionate reds. Gawked at the luscious greens. Ogled the calm blues. Blind was she to the sickening yellows, the angered reds, the envious greens and the apathetic blues. Shades. They seemed to be going somewhere, out there. She had long accepted she could not follow them. It did not trouble her. For it could not trouble her.

She lived in a peaceful world. Stagnant, stale, never changing. As much as she knew she, would always know. The outside seemed to be evolving, moving, breathing. She was a constant. To meddle is to be unwise; to accept is to survive. She preferred the phrase, ‘to move is to stay still’. There came a time when she pressed her face to the edge. She was submerged in the idea of anything. Possibility. Though it was possible she did not hear the possibility at all. The glass was thick after all. There was a ripple of expectation within her. It bubbled and made her restless. She did not understand.

She lived in a world of anonymity. Faceless and nameless people looked straight through her. They whispered hopes of outside worlds. She started to collect a reservoir of thoughts. It felt dangerous. Sudden. Wrong. Right. The collection was but a droplet from a leak in a drainpipe. A sewer; dirty. She cupped them in her mind; the cloudy water slipped through the cracks, returning to the deep. You see, her own breath fogged up the glass.

She lived in a good world. War, guns, hunger. She slept through days without wondering how they tasted. She turned away from mornings without listening to their songs. She shoved away the nights, never smelling their obscure stench. Never needing to. She bathed in the fantastical concept of good. A slender finger once twirled above her head. It churned the water. Whirlpooled. What once was was not anymore. She twitched. She was cornered, drenched with fear. Heavy footsteps reverbed through the glass. They lessened. They faded. Normalities remained, as they always did for her. Calm, serene, pleasant. She had everything she needed. She knew everything she needed to know. She had seen all she needed to see. All she would see.

The fish live in a blissful world.

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Written by oe
Bliss(ful ignorance)

She lived in a small world. Rounded glass, smooth, cold. It was not entirely transparent. Not to her. Routine was something that had dipped into her vocabulary like common slang. She moved with mechanical elegance, like clockwork, steadily completing the circles that were her days. There is no doubt that the people around her grew bored of her presence. She became an obvious presence, something that was, but never did or said. She traced the borders of her sad little glass world. The others peered through the windows, watching her breathe as she twisted her spine a fraction to the left, a ripple of movement.

She lived in an assumed world. What should happen would happen. What happened once will happen again. Her existence was wrapped in tissue paper and handed to her every morning. Time floated by, measured only by the daybreak meal. She nibbled pitifully, if such a thing was possible. She was only ever content, never hungry or full. She experienced only mediums.

She lived in a lonely world. She never acknowledged isolation, for how can one be lonesome without ever being in the realm of together? She seemed to glisten, the light bounced off her, echoing the idea of joyfulness. She had no time. No past, present nor future. Just seconds, minutes, hours. Memories are ourselves. If memories encompass all of our being and self then she would forget every two seconds.

She lived in a beautiful world. Bright, gleaming, rich. There were splashes of colour that sped past her, letting her taste pure perfection in every slow breath. She saw only colour. Shades. She stared at the merry yellows. Gazed at the passionate reds. Gawked at the luscious greens. Ogled the calm blues. Blind was she to the sickening yellows, the angered reds, the envious greens and the apathetic blues. Shades. They seemed to be going somewhere, out there. She had long accepted she could not follow them. It did not trouble her. For it could not trouble her.

She lived in a peaceful world. Stagnant, stale, never changing. As much as she knew she, would always know. The outside seemed to be evolving, moving, breathing. She was a constant. To meddle is to be unwise; to accept is to survive. She preferred the phrase, ‘to move is to stay still’. There came a time when she pressed her face to the edge. She was submerged in the idea of anything. Possibility. Though it was possible she did not hear the possibility at all. The glass was thick after all. There was a ripple of expectation within her. It bubbled and made her restless. She did not understand.

She lived in a world of anonymity. Faceless and nameless people looked straight through her. They whispered hopes of outside worlds. She started to collect a reservoir of thoughts. It felt dangerous. Sudden. Wrong. Right. The collection was but a droplet from a leak in a drainpipe. A sewer; dirty. She cupped them in her mind; the cloudy water slipped through the cracks, returning to the deep. You see, her own breath fogged up the glass.

She lived in a good world. War, guns, hunger. She slept through days without wondering how they tasted. She turned away from mornings without listening to their songs. She shoved away the nights, never smelling their obscure stench. Never needing to. She bathed in the fantastical concept of good. A slender finger once twirled above her head. It churned the water. Whirlpooled. What once was was not anymore. She twitched. She was cornered, drenched with fear. Heavy footsteps reverbed through the glass. They lessened. They faded. Normalities remained, as they always did for her. Calm, serene, pleasant. She had everything she needed. She knew everything she needed to know. She had seen all she needed to see. All she would see.

The fish live in a blissful world.







































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Written by Maureenow

R.I.P. Skinny

     The new kid from under the tree at lunch was in the bowl, practicing flips on his board. He caught air and slapped down before joining the others gliding back and forth around each other like planets in separate orbits. Sometimes a board would slip out or a trick would go wrong in a jumble of elbows and skidding wheels. The tall kid with the white blonde hair never fell. He moved like water, his face perfectly serene.

     When the streetlights came on I knew my mother would be making dinner. My father would be waxing his car in the driveway with one pissed off eye down the street looking for me to come home. To delay the scene with my parents I watched the skaters for a while, drawing in my sketchbook until the crowd thinned out and I felt like entering the bowl myself. I had intended to practice kick flips but changed my mind so I wouldn’t scrub in front of the new kid. I skated through, letting my mind go blank and clean.

     Across the bowl Erik did a 180 kick flip with serious air and landed with perfect balance. In a rush of blind courage I tried the same and fell hard. I brushed my pants like it didn’t hurt. Another kid laughed but Erik slid over and kicked up his board.

     “Dude, you’re so close. Put your back foot more on the edge. You’ve got this.”

     I hadn’t meant to try again. I’d meant to slink home and face whatever was going on there rather than look like an idiot at the skate park. But Erik smiled in a way that made me want to get back on my board.

     I fell again, harder this time. Erik laughed but not in a mean way.

     “Open your shoulders. Your heart chakra, man.”

     “My heart chakra,” I repeated. “What the hell.”

     But Erik wasn’t laughing now. “The board wants what you want. One more time.”

I don’t know why I decided to trust him, this kid who moved like water on his wheels. But I did. I put my foot back close to the edge, pushed forward and then stopped thinking. I kicked, opened my upper body like he said and landed facing the other way without a wobble.

     “The board wants what I want,” I said. I couldn’t believe I’d made the trick. “That’s funny.”

     “Funny but true,” Erik said. “You proved it.”

     We skated together until the moon rose and our empty stomachs drove us home. Before I left, I ripped out the drawing I'd been making of Erik on his board and handed it over.

     “You did this,” Erik said. A statement. I couldn’t tell if he liked it or not.

     “Yeah. Whatever. You can keep it.”

     “This is so cool,” he said. “I can’t believe you’re giving it to me.”

     “No big deal,” I said. I headed across the grass towards my own neighborhood, feeling light and okay.

     By the time I got home, my dad was already beer mellowed and in a good mood.

     “You’re going to negotiate for extra credit first thing Monday,” was all he said as we sat to the table. My mom was too glad to have everyone home for dinner to be mad at me for being late or for anything else either.

     From that first night, Erik made everything better without even trying.

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Written by Maureenow
R.I.P. Skinny
     The new kid from under the tree at lunch was in the bowl, practicing flips on his board. He caught air and slapped down before joining the others gliding back and forth around each other like planets in separate orbits. Sometimes a board would slip out or a trick would go wrong in a jumble of elbows and skidding wheels. The tall kid with the white blonde hair never fell. He moved like water, his face perfectly serene.
     When the streetlights came on I knew my mother would be making dinner. My father would be waxing his car in the driveway with one pissed off eye down the street looking for me to come home. To delay the scene with my parents I watched the skaters for a while, drawing in my sketchbook until the crowd thinned out and I felt like entering the bowl myself. I had intended to practice kick flips but changed my mind so I wouldn’t scrub in front of the new kid. I skated through, letting my mind go blank and clean.
     Across the bowl Erik did a 180 kick flip with serious air and landed with perfect balance. In a rush of blind courage I tried the same and fell hard. I brushed my pants like it didn’t hurt. Another kid laughed but Erik slid over and kicked up his board.
     “Dude, you’re so close. Put your back foot more on the edge. You’ve got this.”
     I hadn’t meant to try again. I’d meant to slink home and face whatever was going on there rather than look like an idiot at the skate park. But Erik smiled in a way that made me want to get back on my board.
     I fell again, harder this time. Erik laughed but not in a mean way.
     “Open your shoulders. Your heart chakra, man.”
     “My heart chakra,” I repeated. “What the hell.”
     But Erik wasn’t laughing now. “The board wants what you want. One more time.”
I don’t know why I decided to trust him, this kid who moved like water on his wheels. But I did. I put my foot back close to the edge, pushed forward and then stopped thinking. I kicked, opened my upper body like he said and landed facing the other way without a wobble.
     “The board wants what I want,” I said. I couldn’t believe I’d made the trick. “That’s funny.”
     “Funny but true,” Erik said. “You proved it.”
     We skated together until the moon rose and our empty stomachs drove us home. Before I left, I ripped out the drawing I'd been making of Erik on his board and handed it over.
     “You did this,” Erik said. A statement. I couldn’t tell if he liked it or not.
     “Yeah. Whatever. You can keep it.”
     “This is so cool,” he said. “I can’t believe you’re giving it to me.”
     “No big deal,” I said. I headed across the grass towards my own neighborhood, feeling light and okay.
     By the time I got home, my dad was already beer mellowed and in a good mood.
     “You’re going to negotiate for extra credit first thing Monday,” was all he said as we sat to the table. My mom was too glad to have everyone home for dinner to be mad at me for being late or for anything else either.
     From that first night, Erik made everything better without even trying.
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Written by WriterInspired

I'm Not Insane

November 18, 2016

     I'm not insane. Those are the words that I've been muttering to myself for the past few weeks. But, maybe I am. Maybe it was the insanity that brought me to the roof of my house. The wind whipped in my face, making my eyes water. A light rain was falling and made my hair stick to my neck and forehead. It was in the middle of November, but all I was wearing were shorts and a t-shirt.

     I'm not insane. The voices told me I would be fine. Just jump. I won't fall, I won't die, but instead I'll fly. That's what they said to me, the voices. And maybe that's why, as I stood on the slick two story roof, I wasn't really concerned if my feet slid out from underneath me. Because, I'll fly. I've always wanted to fly, ever since I was younger, before the anxiety took away all the dreams and replaced them with fear and stress. 

     I'm not insane. There was a woman at the window calling my name. It was my mom. She didn't like the voices, I heard her talking to my grandpa about them. They scare her. They used to scare me, but now they're my friends, and they'll let me fly. I wanted to fly. I didn't listen to my mom's voice.

     I'm not insane. Those were the last words I thought, then slowly, I inched my way towards the edge of the roof. Mom was calling again, louder this time. I dangled one foot over the ledge, then the other, and gravity took control.

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Written by WriterInspired
I'm Not Insane
November 18, 2016
     I'm not insane. Those are the words that I've been muttering to myself for the past few weeks. But, maybe I am. Maybe it was the insanity that brought me to the roof of my house. The wind whipped in my face, making my eyes water. A light rain was falling and made my hair stick to my neck and forehead. It was in the middle of November, but all I was wearing were shorts and a t-shirt.
     I'm not insane. The voices told me I would be fine. Just jump. I won't fall, I won't die, but instead I'll fly. That's what they said to me, the voices. And maybe that's why, as I stood on the slick two story roof, I wasn't really concerned if my feet slid out from underneath me. Because, I'll fly. I've always wanted to fly, ever since I was younger, before the anxiety took away all the dreams and replaced them with fear and stress. 
     I'm not insane. There was a woman at the window calling my name. It was my mom. She didn't like the voices, I heard her talking to my grandpa about them. They scare her. They used to scare me, but now they're my friends, and they'll let me fly. I wanted to fly. I didn't listen to my mom's voice.
     I'm not insane. Those were the last words I thought, then slowly, I inched my way towards the edge of the roof. Mom was calling again, louder this time. I dangled one foot over the ledge, then the other, and gravity took control.
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Written by anon_armadillo

Bottled Honey

It smells like honey bees on white gloves and bike rides to Libby park.

Chantal made it for me. The nomadic french woman only lived in the house above ours for a year, but it was forever coined “Chantal’s House.” The white painted home was lined with sage bushes and filled with homemade hanging sacks of lavender. We let her cut the buds off of our lavender bushes, just like she let my dad and me swim in her pool in the summer months. I helped her press each branch into finely ground lavender by ripping each strand with my fingers. Chantal wrapped the flowers up in fabric and sewed the edges so that only a familiar scent could escape.

In my dorm room, the sack hangs on a crooked nail. It’s tied up with purple ribbon, just like it was in my old room. A room that’s now 84.1 miles north and eight months in my memory. But as I tighten my hands around the tan fabric and feel the dried lavender stems press into my palms, I am immediately reminded of clay-like dirt and pebbled walkways.

We used to go to Ingrid’s yoga class together. Chantal walked with Mom and me from our street, onto the bike path, and through the parking lot of the Ojai Valley Athletic Club. We would lie in silence after seeing the world upside down and Ingrid walked circles around our closed eyes. The room smelled like lavender and chihuahuas and I could feel the sound of the gong through the floor.

Through the wrought iron gates that have remnants of my blood and past the oak tree with the skateboard swing, our house was nestled by hillsides of freshly planted lavender. I watched the orderly placement of each plant expand over the course of a few years, until the hillsides became one mass of purple and green. Branches wove together and for a few good years you couldn’t see the rotting brown beneath.

But then it didn’t rain for two years straight and the purple faded to raw umber stumps. The bushes grew thick trunks and became more bark than stems. My barrel-shaped dog made a nest in the lavender hills so that whenever I looked at them, once a sea of purple velvet, my eyes stopped at a deep dirt pit where she sat eating the sun. My new car made it easy to ignore the obvious. I drove the route to yoga and Chantal moved to the Belgian countryside. I sped past the gnarled hills with my windows up and sunglasses on, tinting the clear view.

In fall, Dad wanted lavender honey. So he and I learned to paint white boxes and check the hives once a week. It made me linger at the lavender hills a bit longer than before. Are the bees harvesting? Are the flowers blooming? Alive again, light plum budded on lavender bark. The flowers hid the thick twisted roots and cracked earth beneath. The hills crawled with yellow stripes and the air around our house smelt like sugar.

But sugar is a short-lived joy and our family was still learning the term Colony Collapse Disorder. Try stopping a swarm of bees from seeking a better hive; it’s harder than it seems. Smells like another gift from Dad. Puppies, cars, and business trips became a common bundle. Tastes like the homemade honey he and I spent

hours collecting. It always ran out too fast.

“Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony (hive) disappear, leaving behind a queen, food, nurse bees and baby bees. Without the mature worker bees to bring nectar and pollen back to the hive, it collapses (dies).”

-- David Braun, National Geographic

Before we moved, Mom said the lavender was dying and needed to be re-planted. By this time, our family’s hive was long since dead. It happened when Dad left. I stopped wearing my bee suit and leaving sugar water beneath the hive. The honeycomb rotted to black and beetles converted the sweet haven into a festering den. It was like seeing Mom drunk for the first time, or like Dad packing up his clothes in black plastic bags. That spring, the lavender didn’t grow back. Lizards dominated the desolate hills and my dog liked trampling the desert-like shrubbery in pursuit of them.

When I visited my home town for the first time in eight months, I parked across the street so that I could peer into the kitchen. I didn’t expect there to be lights, but there were lights and there were faces that burned my eyes. I watched a father and mother with wine glasses walk over the times I made cookies in that oven and blew out candles on that counter. They had new chandeliers over the breakfast table. I didn’t stay long because when I think of 1105 Country Club Drive, I want to think of blue couches and Persian rugs. Not the faces of strangers.

I wonder if the lavender has been re-planted. Or if the Armenian family of four decided to replace our lavender with a more drought-friendly alternative. Maybe it’s safer having succulents that don’t bud, rather than the yearly worry that the lavender won’t grow back. Goodbye braided flower crowns and blue tiled fountain. Goodbye brown chicken eggs and pink shaded mountains.

I drove home with tears leaking from each eye and thinking of the phrase Mom and I carved in the concrete shower. Hale Noa Noa. Did the new owners know Hawaiian? Did it hurt them as much as it hurt me when they replaced my memories with grout, tiling over Our Home?

Last week Mom ordered me a scent diffuser from Amazon. The bottled up synthetic lavender scent isn't like the smell of my hanging burlap sack. The infuser doesn’t remind me of marshmallows at the fireplace or of the oak tree where I buried my cats. The bag of lavender on my wall has a little bit of home in it. A home I haven’t seen since summer, yet dream of every time I close my eyes. Smells like Dad opening the beehive and Mom dipping a bare finger in the comb.

When the lavender from our old house turns bland, I think I might suffocate. Without the scent of turquoise walls and 7-foot wood doors, will I start to realize that I can never go back home?

I have a plan to go back and cut so much lavender that the bushes look freshly pruned. I’ll pluck off the flowers with my hands and put them in burlap sacks. I’ll inhale the velvety smell so that my lungs fill with lavender and I can breathe again. I want to live in a purple tinted world, so that I never have to forget the sound of honey bees or the times when Dad let me walk on his feet. 

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Written by anon_armadillo
Bottled Honey
It smells like honey bees on white gloves and bike rides to Libby park.

Chantal made it for me. The nomadic french woman only lived in the house above ours for a year, but it was forever coined “Chantal’s House.” The white painted home was lined with sage bushes and filled with homemade hanging sacks of lavender. We let her cut the buds off of our lavender bushes, just like she let my dad and me swim in her pool in the summer months. I helped her press each branch into finely ground lavender by ripping each strand with my fingers. Chantal wrapped the flowers up in fabric and sewed the edges so that only a familiar scent could escape.

In my dorm room, the sack hangs on a crooked nail. It’s tied up with purple ribbon, just like it was in my old room. A room that’s now 84.1 miles north and eight months in my memory. But as I tighten my hands around the tan fabric and feel the dried lavender stems press into my palms, I am immediately reminded of clay-like dirt and pebbled walkways.

We used to go to Ingrid’s yoga class together. Chantal walked with Mom and me from our street, onto the bike path, and through the parking lot of the Ojai Valley Athletic Club. We would lie in silence after seeing the world upside down and Ingrid walked circles around our closed eyes. The room smelled like lavender and chihuahuas and I could feel the sound of the gong through the floor.

Through the wrought iron gates that have remnants of my blood and past the oak tree with the skateboard swing, our house was nestled by hillsides of freshly planted lavender. I watched the orderly placement of each plant expand over the course of a few years, until the hillsides became one mass of purple and green. Branches wove together and for a few good years you couldn’t see the rotting brown beneath.

But then it didn’t rain for two years straight and the purple faded to raw umber stumps. The bushes grew thick trunks and became more bark than stems. My barrel-shaped dog made a nest in the lavender hills so that whenever I looked at them, once a sea of purple velvet, my eyes stopped at a deep dirt pit where she sat eating the sun. My new car made it easy to ignore the obvious. I drove the route to yoga and Chantal moved to the Belgian countryside. I sped past the gnarled hills with my windows up and sunglasses on, tinting the clear view.

In fall, Dad wanted lavender honey. So he and I learned to paint white boxes and check the hives once a week. It made me linger at the lavender hills a bit longer than before. Are the bees harvesting? Are the flowers blooming? Alive again, light plum budded on lavender bark. The flowers hid the thick twisted roots and cracked earth beneath. The hills crawled with yellow stripes and the air around our house smelt like sugar.

But sugar is a short-lived joy and our family was still learning the term Colony Collapse Disorder. Try stopping a swarm of bees from seeking a better hive; it’s harder than it seems. Smells like another gift from Dad. Puppies, cars, and business trips became a common bundle. Tastes like the homemade honey he and I spent
hours collecting. It always ran out too fast.

“Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony (hive) disappear, leaving behind a queen, food, nurse bees and baby bees. Without the mature worker bees to bring nectar and pollen back to the hive, it collapses (dies).”
-- David Braun, National Geographic

Before we moved, Mom said the lavender was dying and needed to be re-planted. By this time, our family’s hive was long since dead. It happened when Dad left. I stopped wearing my bee suit and leaving sugar water beneath the hive. The honeycomb rotted to black and beetles converted the sweet haven into a festering den. It was like seeing Mom drunk for the first time, or like Dad packing up his clothes in black plastic bags. That spring, the lavender didn’t grow back. Lizards dominated the desolate hills and my dog liked trampling the desert-like shrubbery in pursuit of them.

When I visited my home town for the first time in eight months, I parked across the street so that I could peer into the kitchen. I didn’t expect there to be lights, but there were lights and there were faces that burned my eyes. I watched a father and mother with wine glasses walk over the times I made cookies in that oven and blew out candles on that counter. They had new chandeliers over the breakfast table. I didn’t stay long because when I think of 1105 Country Club Drive, I want to think of blue couches and Persian rugs. Not the faces of strangers.

I wonder if the lavender has been re-planted. Or if the Armenian family of four decided to replace our lavender with a more drought-friendly alternative. Maybe it’s safer having succulents that don’t bud, rather than the yearly worry that the lavender won’t grow back. Goodbye braided flower crowns and blue tiled fountain. Goodbye brown chicken eggs and pink shaded mountains.

I drove home with tears leaking from each eye and thinking of the phrase Mom and I carved in the concrete shower. Hale Noa Noa. Did the new owners know Hawaiian? Did it hurt them as much as it hurt me when they replaced my memories with grout, tiling over Our Home?

Last week Mom ordered me a scent diffuser from Amazon. The bottled up synthetic lavender scent isn't like the smell of my hanging burlap sack. The infuser doesn’t remind me of marshmallows at the fireplace or of the oak tree where I buried my cats. The bag of lavender on my wall has a little bit of home in it. A home I haven’t seen since summer, yet dream of every time I close my eyes. Smells like Dad opening the beehive and Mom dipping a bare finger in the comb.

When the lavender from our old house turns bland, I think I might suffocate. Without the scent of turquoise walls and 7-foot wood doors, will I start to realize that I can never go back home?

I have a plan to go back and cut so much lavender that the bushes look freshly pruned. I’ll pluck off the flowers with my hands and put them in burlap sacks. I’ll inhale the velvety smell so that my lungs fill with lavender and I can breathe again. I want to live in a purple tinted world, so that I never have to forget the sound of honey bees or the times when Dad let me walk on his feet. 
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Written by alexhillcoat in portal Publishing

Loop

I clutched Ears to my chest.

The smell of home was trapped in his pink, polyester fur and I breathed it in deeply, as if that would make everything go back to normal.

But when I peaked up again from behind his long, rabbit ears, I was still in my bedroom that was not my bedroom. I could see my bed, but the blanket was gone and the mattress was chewed and turned grey from dirt and dust. I could see my shelves, but Tail and Stripes and Dots were all gone. I pulled Ears closer as if that could make up for the absence of the others.

I shuffled cautiously towards the window that was not my window. Sure enough, I could see the forest and the lake that surrounded my home on the mountain, but the trees were bigger than I remembered and a thick fog lay across the water. I leaned forwards, frowning, but when I put my weight on my new window frame, the wood crumbled in my fingers, completely rotten.

I fell against the wall, only to shrink back when I realized that the new pink paper was faded and peeling. My hand trembled as I reached up to touch it. What was going on?

I scrambled to my feet, fighting tears. I needed to find Momma. She would know what to do. She always knew what to do.

“It’ll be okay, Ears,” I whispered, taking him by the paw and dragging him beside me “Momma will be in her room. We just need to get to Momma’s room.”

The floorboards creaked in protest as I opened my door that was not my door and crept into the hallway. I tried not to look around, terrified of what might be in the grey shadows that filled this house that was not my house, but my mind still took note of everything that was wrong: half of the stairs had collapsed in, and the mahogany banister was now a feast for termites. The chandelier was missing its crystals and covered in dust so heavy that it fell on me as I walked beneath it. I coughed and tried to pull Ears closer to me, but he wouldn’t move any more. I turned around, whimpering. A shard of wood sticking up from the cracked floors had caught on his stomach. I tugged harder, and harder, and hard, and harder until there came an awful ripping noise, and he flew up towards me.

Shaking, I looked down at the little rabbit, stuffing pouring from the hole that reached from his neck to his legs like blood. I moaned, dropping him on the floor and stumbling backwards. I really had to get Momma now. She had to save my poor, poor Ears.

I forced myself to look away from his mutilated form and scrambled towards her room. I held my hand out to open the door, but it was splintered and attached by only one hinge so, when I pushed it, it simply collapsed inwards in a cloud of dust.

Coughing, I stumbled forwards and landed on my knees next to Momma’s bed. I expected her to react, but everything stayed silent and for a moment I was gripped by the awful realization that she might not even be home. Something was so wrong, the house had fallen into disrepair overnight and now Ears was ripped up in the hallway, what was to say that Momma was here at all?

I looked up at the bed, panicked, and breathed a sigh of relief. She was sitting cross legged on the bed, paler than I remembered but definitely still there. Her head was down, staring emptily at something on her lap. I wiped the tears from my eyes and pulled myself to my feet.

“Momma?” I whispered.

She didn’t move, but that was nothing new. Momma had been acting weird since the baby died and Daddy left.

“Momma?”

Her head jerked up, eyes disoriented as if I had woken her up from a dream, and then settled on me. Her lips twitched as if they were trying to remember how to smile, and some emotion that I didn’t recognize flickered across her face. Not quite dread, but… Grief? Maybe a mix between the two?

“Ears ripped,” I said loudly, as if my voice could stop her from looking so empty.

“Come here, Sweetheart,” Momma said quietly, ignoring my declaration.

Some small part of my mind warned me to stay away, but I pushed it out of my head. This was my mother, and if she told me to come I would come, no matter what. I climbed onto the bed beside her, still slightly uncertain but determined to be a good daughter, and I saw that what she had been looking at was a bottle. She unscrewed it carefully despite her shaking hands, and when she tipped it over pills upon pills upon pills tumbled out.

She motioned for me to cup my hands and I did, and she carefully shook a third of the pile onto my palms, keeping the rest for herself and dropping the empty bottle on the floor.

“What’s going on?” I squirmed uncomfortably, looking longingly at the hallway where my bunny still lay “We have to go rescue Ears.”

“It’s okay,” her voice was slow but determined, “We’re going to see Ears, alright? We’re going to see Ears and we’re going to go to a place where there will be a better mommy who can make you happy.”

I stared up at her, confused. I didn’t want another Momma, I wanted her. She made me happy. I opened my mouth to tell her that, but she shook her head as if she already knew what I was going to say.

“Do you trust me, Dear?”

I nodded mutely, and she looked at me sadly.

“Then don’t question me, okay? This is best for both of us.”

I nodded again, and she gently kissed me on the forehead.

“On the count of three we’re going to swallow all of these candies, okay?”

I didn’t bother to tell her that I knew they were pills: it would only hurt her.

“One…”

I cuddled up beside her, and she put her arms around me.

“Two…”

I felt something wet fall off her cheek and onto mine.

“Three.”

I crammed them all into my mouth, ignoring the bitter taste as they began to dissolve on my tongue. Momma wrapped me in her arms, and I felt her body shaking as she cried and cried and cried.

The edges of the world began to go black and I clutched her arm, shutting my eyes desperately as if I just had to reboot them.

“Something’s wrong, Mommy,” my lip trembled, and I felt tears run down my cheeks, “something’s going wrong.”

“It’s okay, baby. I promise it’s going to be okay.”

I collapsed against her, and terror seized me. Frantic, I tried to push myself back up, tried to move my arm, my leg, anything, but I was suddenly so tired, so, so tired. I began to sob, because it was the only thing I could do.

“We’re going to a better place, my darling,” Momma was sobbing too as she stroked my head “I promise.”

She held me as I stopped being able to open my eyes, as I stopped being able to think, and then, some minutes later, when I finally stopped being able to breathe.

I clutched Ears to my chest.

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Written by alexhillcoat in portal Publishing
Loop
I clutched Ears to my chest.
The smell of home was trapped in his pink, polyester fur and I breathed it in deeply, as if that would make everything go back to normal.
But when I peaked up again from behind his long, rabbit ears, I was still in my bedroom that was not my bedroom. I could see my bed, but the blanket was gone and the mattress was chewed and turned grey from dirt and dust. I could see my shelves, but Tail and Stripes and Dots were all gone. I pulled Ears closer as if that could make up for the absence of the others.
I shuffled cautiously towards the window that was not my window. Sure enough, I could see the forest and the lake that surrounded my home on the mountain, but the trees were bigger than I remembered and a thick fog lay across the water. I leaned forwards, frowning, but when I put my weight on my new window frame, the wood crumbled in my fingers, completely rotten.
I fell against the wall, only to shrink back when I realized that the new pink paper was faded and peeling. My hand trembled as I reached up to touch it. What was going on?
I scrambled to my feet, fighting tears. I needed to find Momma. She would know what to do. She always knew what to do.
“It’ll be okay, Ears,” I whispered, taking him by the paw and dragging him beside me “Momma will be in her room. We just need to get to Momma’s room.”
The floorboards creaked in protest as I opened my door that was not my door and crept into the hallway. I tried not to look around, terrified of what might be in the grey shadows that filled this house that was not my house, but my mind still took note of everything that was wrong: half of the stairs had collapsed in, and the mahogany banister was now a feast for termites. The chandelier was missing its crystals and covered in dust so heavy that it fell on me as I walked beneath it. I coughed and tried to pull Ears closer to me, but he wouldn’t move any more. I turned around, whimpering. A shard of wood sticking up from the cracked floors had caught on his stomach. I tugged harder, and harder, and hard, and harder until there came an awful ripping noise, and he flew up towards me.
Shaking, I looked down at the little rabbit, stuffing pouring from the hole that reached from his neck to his legs like blood. I moaned, dropping him on the floor and stumbling backwards. I really had to get Momma now. She had to save my poor, poor Ears.
I forced myself to look away from his mutilated form and scrambled towards her room. I held my hand out to open the door, but it was splintered and attached by only one hinge so, when I pushed it, it simply collapsed inwards in a cloud of dust.
Coughing, I stumbled forwards and landed on my knees next to Momma’s bed. I expected her to react, but everything stayed silent and for a moment I was gripped by the awful realization that she might not even be home. Something was so wrong, the house had fallen into disrepair overnight and now Ears was ripped up in the hallway, what was to say that Momma was here at all?
I looked up at the bed, panicked, and breathed a sigh of relief. She was sitting cross legged on the bed, paler than I remembered but definitely still there. Her head was down, staring emptily at something on her lap. I wiped the tears from my eyes and pulled myself to my feet.
“Momma?” I whispered.
She didn’t move, but that was nothing new. Momma had been acting weird since the baby died and Daddy left.
“Momma?”
Her head jerked up, eyes disoriented as if I had woken her up from a dream, and then settled on me. Her lips twitched as if they were trying to remember how to smile, and some emotion that I didn’t recognize flickered across her face. Not quite dread, but… Grief? Maybe a mix between the two?
“Ears ripped,” I said loudly, as if my voice could stop her from looking so empty.
“Come here, Sweetheart,” Momma said quietly, ignoring my declaration.
Some small part of my mind warned me to stay away, but I pushed it out of my head. This was my mother, and if she told me to come I would come, no matter what. I climbed onto the bed beside her, still slightly uncertain but determined to be a good daughter, and I saw that what she had been looking at was a bottle. She unscrewed it carefully despite her shaking hands, and when she tipped it over pills upon pills upon pills tumbled out.
She motioned for me to cup my hands and I did, and she carefully shook a third of the pile onto my palms, keeping the rest for herself and dropping the empty bottle on the floor.
“What’s going on?” I squirmed uncomfortably, looking longingly at the hallway where my bunny still lay “We have to go rescue Ears.”
“It’s okay,” her voice was slow but determined, “We’re going to see Ears, alright? We’re going to see Ears and we’re going to go to a place where there will be a better mommy who can make you happy.”
I stared up at her, confused. I didn’t want another Momma, I wanted her. She made me happy. I opened my mouth to tell her that, but she shook her head as if she already knew what I was going to say.
“Do you trust me, Dear?”
I nodded mutely, and she looked at me sadly.
“Then don’t question me, okay? This is best for both of us.”
I nodded again, and she gently kissed me on the forehead.
“On the count of three we’re going to swallow all of these candies, okay?”
I didn’t bother to tell her that I knew they were pills: it would only hurt her.
“One…”
I cuddled up beside her, and she put her arms around me.
“Two…”
I felt something wet fall off her cheek and onto mine.
“Three.”
I crammed them all into my mouth, ignoring the bitter taste as they began to dissolve on my tongue. Momma wrapped me in her arms, and I felt her body shaking as she cried and cried and cried.
The edges of the world began to go black and I clutched her arm, shutting my eyes desperately as if I just had to reboot them.
“Something’s wrong, Mommy,” my lip trembled, and I felt tears run down my cheeks, “something’s going wrong.”
“It’s okay, baby. I promise it’s going to be okay.”
I collapsed against her, and terror seized me. Frantic, I tried to push myself back up, tried to move my arm, my leg, anything, but I was suddenly so tired, so, so tired. I began to sob, because it was the only thing I could do.
“We’re going to a better place, my darling,” Momma was sobbing too as she stroked my head “I promise.”
She held me as I stopped being able to open my eyes, as I stopped being able to think, and then, some minutes later, when I finally stopped being able to breathe.
I clutched Ears to my chest.

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Written by Antonyo

Portraits By Michelle

Silently, I had to give her credit. It had to take a great deal of self-restraint and composure for her to last as long as she did without asking the question. I was certain that she wanted to the very moment I entered her office. Rehearsed it in the mirror even, ahead of time. I sensed it instantly but it had now been a week since the act itself. I chose to keep my quiet comfort as long as possible. Down time. Besides, there was more ahead to do, then to prepare for.

Shrinks are sometimes at a disadvantage, I’ve always thought. Like the lily-white teachers I had in high school who wanted us to feel privileged for the grace of their presence without actually saying so. Like most of my past male employers, like my ex, the cops...They assume and/or believe that they are automatically smarter than others day 1 merely because of appearance or skin color. This, they fail more often than not to realize, sometimes clouds their judgment or hinders their ability to observe sharply. As I lay back in the moments before, she could not have known that I’d consider her royal blue business suit, especially over that bland grey blouse. Definitely not her to make the statement, TODAY I’M ALL BUSINESS. This woman was never all business and no style. And the missing bracelet made for her by her first grandchild that she gleamed about the day we met, a total giveaway. Even her desk, neater and lacking life now. I guess she figured I wouldn’t remember the faces of her family after two years. Yeah, she saw the local news over morning coffee and was afraid...but she had to come.

And the thought passed through me; it was nice of her to be available on her day off. She had always been considerate of my feelings, sensitive to my situations, as much as her pedigree would allow. When I was sick she sent me herbal teas, during the holidays she always mails a card, and when I can’t make the sessions I could expect a phone call even if I call in advance and leave a message saying why. As if she needs to approve.

Even now, before the inevitable meat and potatoes part of today’s session, and yes, I know it’s part fear, part psychology, small talk and such, she asks how my painting is coming along, about my daughter—if I’ve heard from her, how I am feeling overall. Sometimes we all simply need someone to pretend, y’know? The way we pretend for them. I once heard an ornery ol’ fart say, “The truth is like the proper medication: It’s effective as hell, but you can only take so much of it per day.”

* * *

There I stood at the foot of the bed yet again. Examining. This one I did not recognize so I assumed she was not an acquaintance of my daughter, Kira, but she could not have been much older. He looked so normal. Natural. Lovingly, he looked. I hadn’t seen this from him in quite some time. And spooning. A couple. Their skin matched. Ours did not. Maybe he grew tired of what that entails, or the experiment was now over, and peer pressure’s a bitch—I don’t know. Still, to someone without a sadistic daddy-does-daughter image in their head, they’d look good together. My husband, the financial advisor, was always so image-conscious, it was good to see him like this again; bare and uncensored. So I took a mental picture because...well, it’s what women do. Then I dug in where I stood and refocused. Revenge. We women are big on that, too.

Ah, the possibilities.

The ol’ pillow-covered bullet to the brain. Classic, but no, not on my new Sealy. Poisonous injection? Nah, that too screams of bloody murder. And by the way, this wasn’t my doing. Why should I concede my already-limited freedom so easily? Furthermore, this will affect Kira’s life forever. Bad enough to lose a father even if he wasn’t much of dad. More thought here is required. More creativity. I am, after all, an artist.

* * * 

“Mrs. Weisman—uh, Michelle...” 

Her slip-up slaps me back into real-time. She could never say my last name with the genuine belief that it’s mine. Weisman on darker skin, even if it’s caramel-colored. But I figure it’s the same as when I’m watching Mick Jagger sing and can’t get past the lips. 

Stones fan 'til I die. 

I glance at the clock on my phone. Lady doc’s done good; twenty whole minutes she’s lasted, small talk’n all to make me feel at ease when she’s the one that could use a tall stiff one, hold the rocks. In my thoughts I’m bettin’ her a million dollars she can’t go the usual sixty because her head’s starting to resemble pre-party balloon prep.

“The body found in Lake View Terrace...” she added this time, her tone urging me to identify it. I do and with much certainty. Hell, everyone in the city knows its name now. “Did you have anything to do with your husband’s death?”

POP! Brain matter all over her well-displayed credentials. Where’s my million, bitch?

Effortlessly, my gaze leaves hers and floats the length of the room — my last visit, surely— landing briefly on the strategically-placed voice-activated recorder. Ready to accept the consequences or not, it’s the delivery more than the answer I care about. That is where the truth lies in its proper dosage.

“I must have, don’t you think?”

She did not react but I had already noted that her body tightened for this.

“I don’t understand,” she replied, but do say more is what she meant.

“Why, I imagine I must have been killing him for years for him to do what he did to me as much as he had. Men aren’t perfect beings, I know, but would a man intentionally hurt a woman like me? A plain Jane homebody plucked from a small town who married him with the sole purpose of pleasing him and bearing his children?”

I look her in the eyes. Here, I’m supposed to. They are detail-oriented as always, inquisitive, analytical, and currently checking for sarcasm. Mine are filled with the passion of truth though I harness it carefully. Show passion but not rage, my imaginary future defense attorney has already firmly advised.

“Yes, I’m sure it must have been murder to live with such a woman. He was, after all, ‘a good man’ and ‘going places.’ ‘A great catch!’ I was ‘extremely lucky to have him.’ Just ask any of our acquaintances here or back home. Females, of course. They all tried or were trying to land him or fuck him and change his mind. I honestly can’t fully grasp why they failed. Natural blondes. Blue, hazel eyes. Porcelain skin, whatever that means. The right pedigree, the backing and demographics. I was a bank teller and all I had to offer was the perfect home-grown tan for the place he was headed. California. A new life in another world.”

A world too fast for me I suppose. I don’t fit in—couldn’t and didn’t want to. All his friends’ wives sound like screaming squirrels chasing golden nut sacks and reminded me of that game at the fair where you smack rodents with a hammer every time they’d appear. Oh, how I wish... 

I extend my anguish, real or otherwise, by whining about how the women in L.A. can be so indifferent regarding their self-worth. How I could never see myself gaining fifty-plus pounds in a depressed state. Nor could I turn cold, bitter or heartless and grow content to jump from man to man for dick or bank account without the emotional tie of souls. That closeness that says, Yes, there's a god and he's made us so much more than animals. Hell, I'm near shedding a tear when...  

"I remind you, anything we discuss in this office is guarded. Doctor-patient confidentiality—" blah, blah, blah.

She doesn't sound like the woman I thought I knew, my preliminary assessment of how this would go was correct. She sounds a lot like detectives when questioning a murder suspect, trying to get the poor schmuck to do their work for them. She sounds better than—smarter than me...again.

"Have to go now, Doctor. Treatment today, remember?" I say with a quarter of the hour remaining and watch her body language go from quiet confidence to Flaming Chihuahua mode while she searches for that perfect day-saving thing to say. 

“Tell me,” I stop to say as I take in the entire lay of my chosen outlet one last time on the way out. “How’s that son of yours? No longer a rookie on the force, right?” One of the photos missing from her desk. Yes, it’s the delivery I care about and I deliver my perfect day-saving line with a look that I hoped would announce, SMART COMES IN EVERY COLOR. Junior will have to earn his shield at someone else’s expense. 

My husband, only because divorces have to take so much damn time, is a bit of a blur to me now. The last time I saw him I mean. I had things going on in my system. Like wars being fought and all sides were bad. Poisons, drugs and alcohol.  

What kind of man files divorce papers after being told his wife of nearly twenty years has cancer? What kind of a man hits on a young nurse's assistant in the hospital where his wife is getting chemo? Fucks that little slut in the same bed at their home? Anyone? I’ll tell you. The kind that doesn’t deserve to outlive his victims. 

Did I kill him?  

If it were you would you answer? Or...would you relish in the newfound power? People, not knowing how to act around you now or what to think when they always thought they had you figured out, suddenly somewhat afraid. Hell, it's kinda like how some treat people with darker skin anyway, only with the arrogance in check. And why is it that the ones with big intrusive voices usually say the least worth listening to and the soft-spoken aren't heard until you suspect them of something? It's not the fear I need, it's the need to be taken seriously—this nice girl from a small town. How much could I possibly have to say worth listening too? How could I really expect to land and keep a man like that in California? What was I thinking? Abstract, like some of my art. He could do whatever he wants—a man like that. How much harm can someone like me really cause? Seriously?

My ex-husband. Lady Doc. The delivery guy lately...Faces of change. Hmm

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by Antonyo
Portraits By Michelle
Silently, I had to give her credit. It had to take a great deal of self-restraint and composure for her to last as long as she did without asking the question. I was certain that she wanted to the very moment I entered her office. Rehearsed it in the mirror even, ahead of time. I sensed it instantly but it had now been a week since the act itself. I chose to keep my quiet comfort as long as possible. Down time. Besides, there was more ahead to do, then to prepare for.

Shrinks are sometimes at a disadvantage, I’ve always thought. Like the lily-white teachers I had in high school who wanted us to feel privileged for the grace of their presence without actually saying so. Like most of my past male employers, like my ex, the cops...They assume and/or believe that they are automatically smarter than others day 1 merely because of appearance or skin color. This, they fail more often than not to realize, sometimes clouds their judgment or hinders their ability to observe sharply. As I lay back in the moments before, she could not have known that I’d consider her royal blue business suit, especially over that bland grey blouse. Definitely not her to make the statement, TODAY I’M ALL BUSINESS. This woman was never all business and no style. And the missing bracelet made for her by her first grandchild that she gleamed about the day we met, a total giveaway. Even her desk, neater and lacking life now. I guess she figured I wouldn’t remember the faces of her family after two years. Yeah, she saw the local news over morning coffee and was afraid...but she had to come.

And the thought passed through me; it was nice of her to be available on her day off. She had always been considerate of my feelings, sensitive to my situations, as much as her pedigree would allow. When I was sick she sent me herbal teas, during the holidays she always mails a card, and when I can’t make the sessions I could expect a phone call even if I call in advance and leave a message saying why. As if she needs to approve.

Even now, before the inevitable meat and potatoes part of today’s session, and yes, I know it’s part fear, part psychology, small talk and such, she asks how my painting is coming along, about my daughter—if I’ve heard from her, how I am feeling overall. Sometimes we all simply need someone to pretend, y’know? The way we pretend for them. I once heard an ornery ol’ fart say, “The truth is like the proper medication: It’s effective as hell, but you can only take so much of it per day.”

* * *

There I stood at the foot of the bed yet again. Examining. This one I did not recognize so I assumed she was not an acquaintance of my daughter, Kira, but she could not have been much older. He looked so normal. Natural. Lovingly, he looked. I hadn’t seen this from him in quite some time. And spooning. A couple. Their skin matched. Ours did not. Maybe he grew tired of what that entails, or the experiment was now over, and peer pressure’s a bitch—I don’t know. Still, to someone without a sadistic daddy-does-daughter image in their head, they’d look good together. My husband, the financial advisor, was always so image-conscious, it was good to see him like this again; bare and uncensored. So I took a mental picture because...well, it’s what women do. Then I dug in where I stood and refocused. Revenge. We women are big on that, too.

Ah, the possibilities.
The ol’ pillow-covered bullet to the brain. Classic, but no, not on my new Sealy. Poisonous injection? Nah, that too screams of bloody murder. And by the way, this wasn’t my doing. Why should I concede my already-limited freedom so easily? Furthermore, this will affect Kira’s life forever. Bad enough to lose a father even if he wasn’t much of dad. More thought here is required. More creativity. I am, after all, an artist.

* * * 

“Mrs. Weisman—uh, Michelle...” 

Her slip-up slaps me back into real-time. She could never say my last name with the genuine belief that it’s mine. Weisman on darker skin, even if it’s caramel-colored. But I figure it’s the same as when I’m watching Mick Jagger sing and can’t get past the lips. 
Stones fan 'til I die. 

I glance at the clock on my phone. Lady doc’s done good; twenty whole minutes she’s lasted, small talk’n all to make me feel at ease when she’s the one that could use a tall stiff one, hold the rocks. In my thoughts I’m bettin’ her a million dollars she can’t go the usual sixty because her head’s starting to resemble pre-party balloon prep.

“The body found in Lake View Terrace...” she added this time, her tone urging me to identify it. I do and with much certainty. Hell, everyone in the city knows its name now. “Did you have anything to do with your husband’s death?”

POP! Brain matter all over her well-displayed credentials. Where’s my million, bitch?

Effortlessly, my gaze leaves hers and floats the length of the room — my last visit, surely— landing briefly on the strategically-placed voice-activated recorder. Ready to accept the consequences or not, it’s the delivery more than the answer I care about. That is where the truth lies in its proper dosage.

“I must have, don’t you think?”
She did not react but I had already noted that her body tightened for this.

“I don’t understand,” she replied, but do say more is what she meant.

“Why, I imagine I must have been killing him for years for him to do what he did to me as much as he had. Men aren’t perfect beings, I know, but would a man intentionally hurt a woman like me? A plain Jane homebody plucked from a small town who married him with the sole purpose of pleasing him and bearing his children?”

I look her in the eyes. Here, I’m supposed to. They are detail-oriented as always, inquisitive, analytical, and currently checking for sarcasm. Mine are filled with the passion of truth though I harness it carefully. Show passion but not rage, my imaginary future defense attorney has already firmly advised.

“Yes, I’m sure it must have been murder to live with such a woman. He was, after all, ‘a good man’ and ‘going places.’ ‘A great catch!’ I was ‘extremely lucky to have him.’ Just ask any of our acquaintances here or back home. Females, of course. They all tried or were trying to land him or fuck him and change his mind. I honestly can’t fully grasp why they failed. Natural blondes. Blue, hazel eyes. Porcelain skin, whatever that means. The right pedigree, the backing and demographics. I was a bank teller and all I had to offer was the perfect home-grown tan for the place he was headed. California. A new life in another world.”

A world too fast for me I suppose. I don’t fit in—couldn’t and didn’t want to. All his friends’ wives sound like screaming squirrels chasing golden nut sacks and reminded me of that game at the fair where you smack rodents with a hammer every time they’d appear. Oh, how I wish... 

I extend my anguish, real or otherwise, by whining about how the women in L.A. can be so indifferent regarding their self-worth. How I could never see myself gaining fifty-plus pounds in a depressed state. Nor could I turn cold, bitter or heartless and grow content to jump from man to man for dick or bank account without the emotional tie of souls. That closeness that says, Yes, there's a god and he's made us so much more than animals. Hell, I'm near shedding a tear when...  

"I remind you, anything we discuss in this office is guarded. Doctor-patient confidentiality—" blah, blah, blah.

She doesn't sound like the woman I thought I knew, my preliminary assessment of how this would go was correct. She sounds a lot like detectives when questioning a murder suspect, trying to get the poor schmuck to do their work for them. She sounds better than—smarter than me...again.

"Have to go now, Doctor. Treatment today, remember?" I say with a quarter of the hour remaining and watch her body language go from quiet confidence to Flaming Chihuahua mode while she searches for that perfect day-saving thing to say. 

“Tell me,” I stop to say as I take in the entire lay of my chosen outlet one last time on the way out. “How’s that son of yours? No longer a rookie on the force, right?” One of the photos missing from her desk. Yes, it’s the delivery I care about and I deliver my perfect day-saving line with a look that I hoped would announce, SMART COMES IN EVERY COLOR. Junior will have to earn his shield at someone else’s expense. 

My husband, only because divorces have to take so much damn time, is a bit of a blur to me now. The last time I saw him I mean. I had things going on in my system. Like wars being fought and all sides were bad. Poisons, drugs and alcohol.  

What kind of man files divorce papers after being told his wife of nearly twenty years has cancer? What kind of a man hits on a young nurse's assistant in the hospital where his wife is getting chemo? Fucks that little slut in the same bed at their home? Anyone? I’ll tell you. The kind that doesn’t deserve to outlive his victims. 

Did I kill him?  

If it were you would you answer? Or...would you relish in the newfound power? People, not knowing how to act around you now or what to think when they always thought they had you figured out, suddenly somewhat afraid. Hell, it's kinda like how some treat people with darker skin anyway, only with the arrogance in check. And why is it that the ones with big intrusive voices usually say the least worth listening to and the soft-spoken aren't heard until you suspect them of something? It's not the fear I need, it's the need to be taken seriously—this nice girl from a small town. How much could I possibly have to say worth listening too? How could I really expect to land and keep a man like that in California? What was I thinking? Abstract, like some of my art. He could do whatever he wants—a man like that. How much harm can someone like me really cause? Seriously?

My ex-husband. Lady Doc. The delivery guy lately...Faces of change. Hmm
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Written by Collective03

Lisa

Hampton, Virginia

42

The number of days since the 9 year old girl disappeared on her walk from school.

41

The number of days since the rapist first got what he wanted from her.

38

The number of days since he bashed her head in with a hammer so she wouldn’t tell….

37

The number of days since he put her in a hole underneath an old, dilapadated bridge and threw shovels of cold dirt in her even colder face.

12

The number of days since they found her there.

3

The number of hours since they had placed the girl back in the ground,

1

The number of minutes since the woman had gotten the strength to move on.

___________________________

     Lisa Grinesford stared up from the bottom of the stairs as if she was waiting for some sign that it was okay to change her mind to come bounding down towards her. Nothing came to save her. In her mind, she had been preparing for this since the fifth night that Michelle didn’t come home; trying to mentally perform a delicate balance of having the parent’s hope that their child would come home with the real world hopelessness of preparing if she didn’t. In the end though, it was all for nothing. Her strength waned and eventually, inevitably, she tumbled headlong into the pit of what had become her reality; one delivered to her as a late night present; adorned with flashing red and blue lights, wrapped in a blue uniform, and that mechanically recited, “I’m sorry, but…” on cue just to tie it all together.

     "Lisa, you're being stupid." she scolded, still staring up at what seemed to her to be an endless staircase . "You know Michelle will never come down those stairs again." And with that thought, the bloody, oozy wound in her soul that had begun to scab over was ripped back open; exposing the nerves underneath to the cold, biting harshness of what she had to do...

     "...clean the room. Just clean the freaking room and get on with my freaking life."

     She placed one foot on the bottom step...then the other foot on the next one and slowly, methodically began to make her way up the stairs.

      Lisa felt her head start to spin. She grabbed at the bannister to steady herself and closed her eyes against the world that was suddenly whirling out of control around her. It had seemed to her like only yesterday that she was teaching a wobbly Michelle how to use the handrail to help her come down the stairs...now she herself was using it to help pull herself up them.

     She opened her eyes and forecefully made her way up the stairs; turned the knob to Michelle’s room and stepped inside. She left the door open behind her; a gaping escape route in case the spinning decided to return. As she made her way across the room, she noticed the dark space under the bed.

“Huh….I guess the REAL monsters weren’t under the bed.” she thought and cringed at the callous truth of it.

     She sat on the edge of what used to be her daughter’s bed in what used to be her daughter’s room and looked out the window and into the cold, wintry day outside. She had barely found the strength to come into the room until now, much less actually make changes, so it had sat largely untouched since Michelle disappeared. Everything was just as she had left it, for the most part, untouched.

     Lisa wasn’t sure if it was simply a trick of her weary mind, but it seemed as if she moved just right on the bed, she could catch whiffs of the overly sweet smelling scented lotions that Michelle would slather all over herself after her baths. Lisa allowed her head to hang slightly and closed her eyes; drinking the smells in; trying hard not to let her movements scare them away. Her dark curly hair draped her face in an unruly shroud of dark frills allowing only the tips of her to peek out.

     She wasn’t alone.

     The demons sat there on the bed next to her....and they began to scream in her ear again.

     They had come to visit her sporadically  in the days right after they found Michelle’s body; gently dripping their jaded opinions into her ears like warm, thick, honey that meandered its way into her mind. Their voices had become more desperate and louder each day since.           

     Now, they screamed at her almost constantly; their sweet, sticky words replaced with a venomous concoction of gall and vinegar; hate and regret; constantly buzzing in her ear like a cacophony of blow flies around a rotting corpse.

     So, there sat Lisa; the pale faced, dark headed, frail, specter of a woman that she had become over the last month, surrounded by stuffed pink bunnies, giant teddy bears, Barbies, and unicorns. There was nothing that could have looked more out of place in that room than she did. Well, ...maybe nothing except the gun that she had taken out of her pocket and that rested on the bed next to her.

     “Pick it up.” the choir in her mind sang.

     She picked it up…and placed the cold metal between her teeth…

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by Collective03
Lisa
Hampton, Virginia

42
The number of days since the 9 year old girl disappeared on her walk from school.
41
The number of days since the rapist first got what he wanted from her.
38
The number of days since he bashed her head in with a hammer so she wouldn’t tell….
37
The number of days since he put her in a hole underneath an old, dilapadated bridge and threw shovels of cold dirt in her even colder face.
12
The number of days since they found her there.
3
The number of hours since they had placed the girl back in the ground,
1
The number of minutes since the woman had gotten the strength to move on.
___________________________

     Lisa Grinesford stared up from the bottom of the stairs as if she was waiting for some sign that it was okay to change her mind to come bounding down towards her. Nothing came to save her. In her mind, she had been preparing for this since the fifth night that Michelle didn’t come home; trying to mentally perform a delicate balance of having the parent’s hope that their child would come home with the real world hopelessness of preparing if she didn’t. In the end though, it was all for nothing. Her strength waned and eventually, inevitably, she tumbled headlong into the pit of what had become her reality; one delivered to her as a late night present; adorned with flashing red and blue lights, wrapped in a blue uniform, and that mechanically recited, “I’m sorry, but…” on cue just to tie it all together.
     "Lisa, you're being stupid." she scolded, still staring up at what seemed to her to be an endless staircase . "You know Michelle will never come down those stairs again." And with that thought, the bloody, oozy wound in her soul that had begun to scab over was ripped back open; exposing the nerves underneath to the cold, biting harshness of what she had to do...
     "...clean the room. Just clean the freaking room and get on with my freaking life."
     She placed one foot on the bottom step...then the other foot on the next one and slowly, methodically began to make her way up the stairs.
      Lisa felt her head start to spin. She grabbed at the bannister to steady herself and closed her eyes against the world that was suddenly whirling out of control around her. It had seemed to her like only yesterday that she was teaching a wobbly Michelle how to use the handrail to help her come down the stairs...now she herself was using it to help pull herself up them.
     She opened her eyes and forecefully made her way up the stairs; turned the knob to Michelle’s room and stepped inside. She left the door open behind her; a gaping escape route in case the spinning decided to return. As she made her way across the room, she noticed the dark space under the bed.
“Huh….I guess the REAL monsters weren’t under the bed.” she thought and cringed at the callous truth of it.
     She sat on the edge of what used to be her daughter’s bed in what used to be her daughter’s room and looked out the window and into the cold, wintry day outside. She had barely found the strength to come into the room until now, much less actually make changes, so it had sat largely untouched since Michelle disappeared. Everything was just as she had left it, for the most part, untouched.
     Lisa wasn’t sure if it was simply a trick of her weary mind, but it seemed as if she moved just right on the bed, she could catch whiffs of the overly sweet smelling scented lotions that Michelle would slather all over herself after her baths. Lisa allowed her head to hang slightly and closed her eyes; drinking the smells in; trying hard not to let her movements scare them away. Her dark curly hair draped her face in an unruly shroud of dark frills allowing only the tips of her to peek out.

     She wasn’t alone.

     The demons sat there on the bed next to her....and they began to scream in her ear again.
     They had come to visit her sporadically  in the days right after they found Michelle’s body; gently dripping their jaded opinions into her ears like warm, thick, honey that meandered its way into her mind. Their voices had become more desperate and louder each day since.           
     Now, they screamed at her almost constantly; their sweet, sticky words replaced with a venomous concoction of gall and vinegar; hate and regret; constantly buzzing in her ear like a cacophony of blow flies around a rotting corpse.
     So, there sat Lisa; the pale faced, dark headed, frail, specter of a woman that she had become over the last month, surrounded by stuffed pink bunnies, giant teddy bears, Barbies, and unicorns. There was nothing that could have looked more out of place in that room than she did. Well, ...maybe nothing except the gun that she had taken out of her pocket and that rested on the bed next to her.

     “Pick it up.” the choir in her mind sang.

     She picked it up…and placed the cold metal between her teeth…
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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by Tides

The Long Way Round- Chapter 1

Luna Garcia was sitting in a pub somewhere in Redwood, hoping her uncle wouldn’t find her but luck was never on her side.

A couple seconds later her uncle slammed opened the double doors and spotted Luna. He motioned to some red liquid in her blueish hair, as he approached her.

“What is that?”

“Blood?” She questioned.

“Your answer shouldn't be a question.” He said, groaning.

She smiled cheekily, her big brown eyes sparkling. He sighed, taking in her dirty shoes and blood stained jacket.

“Whose blood is it?” He asked. She shook her head.

“Just a civilian, it’s not like I’d fight the prince himself. No matter how much I’d like to grind his face in the dirt.” Luna said, taking a sip of her drink.

“You’re something else.” Her uncle said, shaking his head. He ordered a drink, his dark green eyes taking in the dim lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

“They need better lighting in this place.” He said. Luna rolled her eyes.

“Typical, you’re always complaining about something.” She said. A flap of wings was heard, then the doors swung open. Everybody turned their heads, as a palace guard came in. His eyes narrowed as he searched the establishment quickly. He let out a frustrated noise and flew away. What was that about? Luna thought.

“I’ll be back.” She told her uncle before heading to the bathroom. Stepping into the small space, a hand covered her mouth. She grabbed the stranger's arm and shifted her body weight throwing the person to the floor. A young boy groaned, as his body hit the ground.

“Now, who the hell are you?” Luna asked.

The boy scrambled to his feet and made a dash out the door.

“Hey!” Luna called out. The boy didn’t make it out the pubs doors, he tripped on the carpet and went sprawling to the floor. Luna sighed and walked to where he was. She lifted him up by the arm.

“Will you just calm down.” She said, helping him sit in a chair. Her mind had already connected the dots.

“You’re on the run, aren’t you?” She whispered to him. He lowered his head.

“Why?” She asked.

He bit his lip. “I tried to kill the prince.” He whispered.

“Really? Amazing.” Luna said, laughing. The boy looked at her like she was crazy. She would never admit she may be-a little-crazy.

“Luna. It’s time we left.” Her uncle said, walking over to where they were.

“Who is this?” He asked, then all hell broke loose.

A few palace guards burst into the pub and pointed their weapons at the boy. Then a figure stepped behind them, knocking them all against the wall with a wave of his hand. “Sam, let’s go.” The guy said to the little boy.

“I can’t let you do that.” Luna’s uncle said waving a hand and shut the doors, trapping them.

“Why not?” The guy asked, eyes narrowed.

“Since your friend tried to kill my fiance.” Luna suggested.

“Who’s your fiance?” He asked slowly, afraid of the answer.

“The Prince.”

"You tried to kill the Prince? Now I really can't let you go." Her uncle said, raising a hand towards them.

"Let them go, uncle." Luna said, putting her hand on his arm. The other guys mouth dropped in surprise.

"I can't." He said, before Luna hit him in the back of the head. He fell forward unconscious.

"You can go. I won't stop you." Luna said, grabbing a fry from someone's dish. The place had been quickly abandoned as soon as the trigger happy guards arrived. They looked at her, grateful, then ran away. After slipping money onto the table, Luna put on her coat in a dramatic like fashion. Pulling her hood down to cover more of her face, Luna began her long walk back to the castle. Leaving her uncle unconscious on the pubs floor.

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by Tides
The Long Way Round- Chapter 1
Luna Garcia was sitting in a pub somewhere in Redwood, hoping her uncle wouldn’t find her but luck was never on her side.
A couple seconds later her uncle slammed opened the double doors and spotted Luna. He motioned to some red liquid in her blueish hair, as he approached her.
“What is that?”
“Blood?” She questioned.
“Your answer shouldn't be a question.” He said, groaning.
She smiled cheekily, her big brown eyes sparkling. He sighed, taking in her dirty shoes and blood stained jacket.
“Whose blood is it?” He asked. She shook her head.
“Just a civilian, it’s not like I’d fight the prince himself. No matter how much I’d like to grind his face in the dirt.” Luna said, taking a sip of her drink.
“You’re something else.” Her uncle said, shaking his head. He ordered a drink, his dark green eyes taking in the dim lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
“They need better lighting in this place.” He said. Luna rolled her eyes.
“Typical, you’re always complaining about something.” She said. A flap of wings was heard, then the doors swung open. Everybody turned their heads, as a palace guard came in. His eyes narrowed as he searched the establishment quickly. He let out a frustrated noise and flew away. What was that about? Luna thought.
“I’ll be back.” She told her uncle before heading to the bathroom. Stepping into the small space, a hand covered her mouth. She grabbed the stranger's arm and shifted her body weight throwing the person to the floor. A young boy groaned, as his body hit the ground.
“Now, who the hell are you?” Luna asked.
The boy scrambled to his feet and made a dash out the door.
“Hey!” Luna called out. The boy didn’t make it out the pubs doors, he tripped on the carpet and went sprawling to the floor. Luna sighed and walked to where he was. She lifted him up by the arm.
“Will you just calm down.” She said, helping him sit in a chair. Her mind had already connected the dots.
“You’re on the run, aren’t you?” She whispered to him. He lowered his head.
“Why?” She asked.
He bit his lip. “I tried to kill the prince.” He whispered.
“Really? Amazing.” Luna said, laughing. The boy looked at her like she was crazy. She would never admit she may be-a little-crazy.
“Luna. It’s time we left.” Her uncle said, walking over to where they were.
“Who is this?” He asked, then all hell broke loose.
A few palace guards burst into the pub and pointed their weapons at the boy. Then a figure stepped behind them, knocking them all against the wall with a wave of his hand. “Sam, let’s go.” The guy said to the little boy.
“I can’t let you do that.” Luna’s uncle said waving a hand and shut the doors, trapping them.
“Why not?” The guy asked, eyes narrowed.
“Since your friend tried to kill my fiance.” Luna suggested.
“Who’s your fiance?” He asked slowly, afraid of the answer.
“The Prince.”
"You tried to kill the Prince? Now I really can't let you go." Her uncle said, raising a hand towards them.
"Let them go, uncle." Luna said, putting her hand on his arm. The other guys mouth dropped in surprise.
"I can't." He said, before Luna hit him in the back of the head. He fell forward unconscious.
"You can go. I won't stop you." Luna said, grabbing a fry from someone's dish. The place had been quickly abandoned as soon as the trigger happy guards arrived. They looked at her, grateful, then ran away. After slipping money onto the table, Luna put on her coat in a dramatic like fashion. Pulling her hood down to cover more of her face, Luna began her long walk back to the castle. Leaving her uncle unconscious on the pubs floor.
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Written by infiniteflame in portal Publishing

When Dusk turns Dark

With no shoes on, she was small. She had quite a willowy, delicate frame that only added to her elegance despite the fact she was perceived as weak and frail. Her skin was as pale and as smooth as porcelain, making the girl almost look like a china doll, with her short, blonde hair framing her face delicately, not a strand out of place. Her eyes seemed to resemble polished sapphires, glistening in the moonlight, and her lips were ruby red. Her dress draped around her body, fitting perfectly just like a glove to a hand.The skirt was fashioned out of smooth, milky white, frothy organza that reached her knees. A satin sash pulled in her waist, making it looking smaller than it already was. The bodice of her simple yet glamorous dress was encrusted with tiny little gems and beads that caught the soft moonlight and glowed. The girl walked with the grace of a nimble gazelle and was as bewitching as a peacock showing off her beautiful feathers.

The girl, known as Pearl, had never felt more terrified and insecure. All her life, she had spoken every word strongly and surely, each command strong. Now, for the first time in her life she found herself faced with uncertainty.

The moment she’d volunteered for the elemental games, everyone had been so certain that she would return victorious, and had completely disregarded the rest of the competition. And despite all their words of encouragement, she knew that she was incapable of winning. Which was the main reason for her sneaking out in the middle of the night for a calm walk in the woods.

She let out a sigh and leaned against a tree, the scent of petrichor infiltrating her nostrils. Terrified, she thought of the upcoming morning. There would be tears and goodbyes as she departed for the games, no doubt about it, but she couldn’t help but feel that she might never see any of her family or friends ever again.

Suddenly, an arrow nicked her ear as it flew past, thudding into a nearby tree. Pearl was immediately alert. No one from her tribe went hunting this late at night, and there could only be one possible explanation. It was an invasion.

But then, Pearl thought in a moment of confusion, Why aren't there any horses? Where is the army? The soldiers adorned in shining silver armor should have been visible under the light of the moon.

She trembled as she attempted to come up with an explanation. But before she could form a single thought, a tall figure leapt over the brush in front of her, landing with a light thud, so soft she barely heard it. She automatically reached for her knife, but realized that she was unarmed, wearing only a thin nightgown. There was only one option, she realized as the figure nocked an arrow. She turned and fled into the darkness.

She heard the whizzing sound, and she rolled on the forest floor as five arrows sailed overhead. Her thoughts raced as she ran. No archer she knew could shoot that many arrows in one shot, and there was no possible explanation nor reason some other tribe would send a single man to kill her. That's when it dawned upon her that it was none other than an assassination attempt. This one thought compelled her to move faster.

The assassin wasted no time in following after her. They took to the trees, leaping from branch to branch covering ground ten times quicker than their target. In the faint moonlight that shone through the trees, it was clear to see the girl as she fled towards her village, her nightgown a white beacon in the dark night.

Breathing hard, Pearl came to a halt. She spun around, trying to catch a glimpse of her attacker, but there was no one to be seen around. Relieved, she turned towards her village gates, which was just beyond the edge of the wilderness, no more than a few feet away.

And that's when the arrow pierced her leg. She let out a guttural cry as she collapsed on the forest floor, a pool of blood already forming around her. A hooded figure stepped out of the shadows, and Pearl scrambled up, struggling to see her attacker through the tears that formed in her eyes.

“What do you want?” She cried, as the figure advanced. “Help! Help!”

She threw a desperate look to the edge of the woods. Why was no one coming? Could no guard hear her cries?

The figure laughed, advancing, and Pearl choked back a sob.

“Who are you?” She whispered, staring up into the cold merciless eyes of her killer. She would never get her answer. She gasped as something pierced her lower abdomen. Looking down she saw a knife buried deep inside her stomach. Tears pooled in her eyes, and then she felt something deep inside her give up and turn off. She became limp and motionless, dead in a pool of her own blood.

The hooded figure smirked, before withdrawing a small pendant. She placed it atop the pool of blood and the necklace went from blue to a bright shade of scarlet. She placed it around her neck and a bright flash light illuminated the woods. In the place where the assassin stood a girl that looked exactly like Pearl, blonde hair, green eyes, everything accounted for except for clothing.

She smiled down at the dead body at her feet.

“Isn’t it obvious?” She asked. “I’m Pearl Evelyn Wavecrest of the Water tribe.”

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by infiniteflame in portal Publishing
When Dusk turns Dark
With no shoes on, she was small. She had quite a willowy, delicate frame that only added to her elegance despite the fact she was perceived as weak and frail. Her skin was as pale and as smooth as porcelain, making the girl almost look like a china doll, with her short, blonde hair framing her face delicately, not a strand out of place. Her eyes seemed to resemble polished sapphires, glistening in the moonlight, and her lips were ruby red. Her dress draped around her body, fitting perfectly just like a glove to a hand.The skirt was fashioned out of smooth, milky white, frothy organza that reached her knees. A satin sash pulled in her waist, making it looking smaller than it already was. The bodice of her simple yet glamorous dress was encrusted with tiny little gems and beads that caught the soft moonlight and glowed. The girl walked with the grace of a nimble gazelle and was as bewitching as a peacock showing off her beautiful feathers.

The girl, known as Pearl, had never felt more terrified and insecure. All her life, she had spoken every word strongly and surely, each command strong. Now, for the first time in her life she found herself faced with uncertainty.

The moment she’d volunteered for the elemental games, everyone had been so certain that she would return victorious, and had completely disregarded the rest of the competition. And despite all their words of encouragement, she knew that she was incapable of winning. Which was the main reason for her sneaking out in the middle of the night for a calm walk in the woods.

She let out a sigh and leaned against a tree, the scent of petrichor infiltrating her nostrils. Terrified, she thought of the upcoming morning. There would be tears and goodbyes as she departed for the games, no doubt about it, but she couldn’t help but feel that she might never see any of her family or friends ever again.

Suddenly, an arrow nicked her ear as it flew past, thudding into a nearby tree. Pearl was immediately alert. No one from her tribe went hunting this late at night, and there could only be one possible explanation. It was an invasion.

But then, Pearl thought in a moment of confusion, Why aren't there any horses? Where is the army? The soldiers adorned in shining silver armor should have been visible under the light of the moon.

She trembled as she attempted to come up with an explanation. But before she could form a single thought, a tall figure leapt over the brush in front of her, landing with a light thud, so soft she barely heard it. She automatically reached for her knife, but realized that she was unarmed, wearing only a thin nightgown. There was only one option, she realized as the figure nocked an arrow. She turned and fled into the darkness.

She heard the whizzing sound, and she rolled on the forest floor as five arrows sailed overhead. Her thoughts raced as she ran. No archer she knew could shoot that many arrows in one shot, and there was no possible explanation nor reason some other tribe would send a single man to kill her. That's when it dawned upon her that it was none other than an assassination attempt. This one thought compelled her to move faster.

The assassin wasted no time in following after her. They took to the trees, leaping from branch to branch covering ground ten times quicker than their target. In the faint moonlight that shone through the trees, it was clear to see the girl as she fled towards her village, her nightgown a white beacon in the dark night.

Breathing hard, Pearl came to a halt. She spun around, trying to catch a glimpse of her attacker, but there was no one to be seen around. Relieved, she turned towards her village gates, which was just beyond the edge of the wilderness, no more than a few feet away.

And that's when the arrow pierced her leg. She let out a guttural cry as she collapsed on the forest floor, a pool of blood already forming around her. A hooded figure stepped out of the shadows, and Pearl scrambled up, struggling to see her attacker through the tears that formed in her eyes.

“What do you want?” She cried, as the figure advanced. “Help! Help!”

She threw a desperate look to the edge of the woods. Why was no one coming? Could no guard hear her cries?

The figure laughed, advancing, and Pearl choked back a sob.

“Who are you?” She whispered, staring up into the cold merciless eyes of her killer. She would never get her answer. She gasped as something pierced her lower abdomen. Looking down she saw a knife buried deep inside her stomach. Tears pooled in her eyes, and then she felt something deep inside her give up and turn off. She became limp and motionless, dead in a pool of her own blood.

The hooded figure smirked, before withdrawing a small pendant. She placed it atop the pool of blood and the necklace went from blue to a bright shade of scarlet. She placed it around her neck and a bright flash light illuminated the woods. In the place where the assassin stood a girl that looked exactly like Pearl, blonde hair, green eyes, everything accounted for except for clothing.

She smiled down at the dead body at her feet.

“Isn’t it obvious?” She asked. “I’m Pearl Evelyn Wavecrest of the Water tribe.”
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Written by Aaron

Storms

Having grown up in the panhandle of Texas, I have several severe storm related memories, and I’ve seen my fair share of tornadoes firsthand. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in tornado alley, where hearing sirens going off meant, “Find somewhere safe to wait out this storm, preferably underground.”, but severe storms don’t really scare me. This doesn’t mean I sit somewhere vulnerable to watch them roll through after the sirens sound, though.

Oddly enough, my earliest storm recollection wasn’t even in Texas, though. My parents took my older brother and me camping every summer from the time I was two until I was fifteen. I think I was three or four years old when we were camping in Arizona in a small KampKraft pop up camper. A horrendous storm rolled through one night, and I can speak from experience that a pop up is not where you want to be during a severe thunderstorm! That camper was rocking and rolling, and I remember my dad had to hold the door at the rear of the camper closed so the wind wouldn’t rip it open and let in the torrential rain. I could tell my mother was afraid, maybe not so much of the storm itself, but of what it may do to our family, since that tiny camper offered little in the way of protection. After a while, I said, “Maybe we should pray for it to stop.”, or something to that effect. Well, we did, and the storm actually did blow itself out shortly afterwards. Apparently, those Sunday School lessons had sunk in!

A few summers later, when I was probably seven or eight, we were in our hometown of Dumas at one of my brother’s little league playoff games when the tornado sirens started to go off. The sky had been getting fairly dark, but being Texans, I guess the crowds were used to that sort of thing, and the use of lightning detectors at sporting events was still several years away, considering this must have been in 1982 or 1983. When we were walking to the car, I can recall the surrounding skies like it was just yesterday. That evening was the only time I’ve seen three tornadoes at the same time. There was a single fully formed funnel cloud hanging from the sky in three different directions, like the storm had planned to surround the town in a kind of divide and conquer tactic. Miraculously, none of them did any significant damage.

Fast forward to the spring when I was in eighth grade. I was at after school band practice when one of the band directors interrupted to tell us the sirens were going off outside. The band hall was separated from the main school building and connected to one of the basketball gyms, so to get to the fallout shelter located in the basement of the main building, we had to go outside. While we were walking between the buildings, I looked up at the sky, which was almost completely black. The clouds were swirling around in a circle directly above us, which looked like an ominous scene from a sci-fi movie. I remember that once we got to the shelter, several kids were crying and hugging each other like they thought they were going to die down there. But I felt completely safe, and I thought it was pretty cool that we got to hang out in a bomb shelter. Of course, the shelter was a relic from the beginnings of the Cold War, which at this time was still ongoing, so I was excited to be down there. (I guess I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd!) This was still two years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As far as I can remember, this is the only time I’ve been in a fallout shelter. I remember the metal yellow and black radiation symbol “Fallout Shelter” signs attached to the brick along the outside walkways around campus. I wonder if they’re still there?

When I was sixteen, my parents bought me a 1980 Pontiac Formula Firebird. That car was a tank, and it wasn’t made from the aluminum foil sheet metal that other cars had. The spring of my Sophomore year in High School, we had a really bad hail storm hit town. I was at my girlfriend’s house that evening when we heard the familiar wail of the tornado sirens outside. Her next door neighbor, Kim, was in my class at school, and their house had a basement, so we went over there to wait out the storm. Kim’s idiot older brothers had apparently been drinking for a while before we arrived, and they stayed upstairs in the garage to watch the storm. They must have been extremely competitive, too, because they kept trying to see who could retrieve the biggest hailstone from the driveway or the yard. One of them brought a chunk of ice the size of a softball downstairs! I still can’t figure out how none of them were killed, or at least injured, from running through the deluge to play their game. After the storm had passed, I wanted to check on my car, because I just knew my glass T-Tops were going to be shattered. Amazingly, they were still intact, and there were only two barely perceptible dents on my entire car! The windshield had a small crack from where one stone had hit directly opposite the rearview mirror. Apparently, that hailstone had been pretty big, as it had completely dislodged the mirror from the glass, glue and all. My girlfriend’s car, which was parked directly in front of mine in the driveway, didn’t fair so well, though. It looked like someone had taken a ball peen hammer to it so it could do its best impersonation of a golf ball!

I also remember another severe storm rolling through the area when I was in Junior High or High school. A huge line of storms was rolling through the area, and the sirens went off. A tornado had been spotted on the ground west of town approaching the city. Miraculously, about a mile from the city limits, it dissipated and was sucked back up into the wall cloud above. After the most severe part of the storm had passed over Dumas, another tornado was spotted on the ground about a mile east of town. I’ve always thought it was the same tornado, but for whatever reason, it just jumped over the entire city. Storms can do weird things. I’ve heard stories of entire houses being carried away by tornadoes, leaving a pair of work boots sitting unmoved on the porch steps. When my aunt’s house had the roof ripped off by an F5 tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, she had a shelf of knick knacks on the wall at one end of the hallway. The roof was gone, but she said that shelf and every single knick knack were exactly where they had been before the storm hit town.

A few years after my wife, Deborah, and I got married, we drove up to Greensburg, Kansas over Memorial Day weekend for a family reunion. One afternoon, we went over to Coldwater to decorate the graves of my grandfather, my uncle, and my great grandparents. While we were at the cemetery, the wind really started to pick up, and we could see dark clouds rolling in between us and Greensburg. There were probably four or five carloads who had caravanned to the cemetery, and we all collectively agreed we should get back to town. On the way back, the rain came down in buckets, and the wind was whipping around the car like crazy. It became so severe that I couldn’t see past the end of the hood of the car. I didn’t want to just stop in the middle of the road, though, for fear of being rear ended, and the small farm to market road we were on didn’t really have any shoulder to speak of. So, I kept creeping forward at about ten miles per hour in an attempt to keep moving. However, the second time I slid off of the road, I was convinced that sitting at a dead stop in the middle of the road beat sliding off into the ditch and getting stuck in the mud. Being in Kansas, we were surrounded by wheat fields, and the wind was whipping up a fury, blowing the wheat around in circles. The way the wind kept shifting directions, I was pretty sure we could have a tornado drop right on top of us at any second. Of course, there wasn’t anywhere else we could go, so we were forced to just sit there and ride it out. After a bit, the rain let up enough to allow us to continue the short drive back to my aunt’s house. That was without a doubt the worst storm I have ever been out in! Sadly, a few years later, an F5 tornado blew the vast majority of Greensburg away, including the house we had driven back to that afternoon. Thankfully, although they lost their home, none of my family members were injured in that storm.

On June 22, 2004, I was selling tires at the Sears Auto Center in Westgate Mall in Amarillo. We had a line of storms moving through the area that evening, and we had been monitoring them on the television in the customer waiting area. The storms kept getting more and more severe, and they were calling for large hail on the local news stations, so several of us had pulled our cars into the shop to keep them from being damaged. The storms got so bad that store management, in their infinite wisdom, called all of the employees over to the same area of the store so we’d all be together. Then they told all of us to go into the paint warehouse, where shelves and shelves of full one gallon paint cans were stacked everywhere above our heads. I refused to go in there, and told the manager, “I’m not getting my brains bashed out by those cans if the roof gets ripped off! You go in there if you want to, but I’m not!” Of course, over there, we had no idea what the storm was doing, because we didn’t have a TV or radio to monitor it, so a few of us just went back over to the automotive department so we could keep an eye on what was going on.

I called Deborah at home to make sure she was doing ok. At the time we were living in a double wide mobile home south of town. She and the kids were hiding out in one of the bedroom closets, and the last thing I heard her say was, “I can feel the house moving!”, before the phone cut off. When I tried to call her back, the call wouldn’t go through. I was wondering if my house had just blown away with my entire family in it! I found out later that there had been a tornado on the ground only a mile or so from our house! Thankfully, the worst of the damage we had suffered was having several of the shingles ripped from the roof, and we ended up having to have the roof replaced.

Of course, the area around the mall was the hardest hit by the storm. There were several car dealerships right across the highway that had every single piece of glass broken out in almost every vehicle on their lots! After the storm passed, we went out and checked the parking lot, and I have never seen so much smashed glass. One of the nearby hospitals had all of the windows on the north side of the building broken out. Several people in the area ended up with hailstones in their living rooms after they had passed through their roof and ceiling! That storm is the worst I’ve been through, by far!

Since I’ve been through so many severe storms firsthand, it seems I tend to be one of the calmest people in the room when they hit. I don’t think this has to do solely with my past experiences, though. I also have a deep trust and faith that God will keep me safe, no matter what the conditions outside may be. It seems I’ve had that since I was a small child, since I told my parents, “Maybe we should pray for it to stop.” Prayer worked then, and I believe it always will!

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by Aaron
Storms
Having grown up in the panhandle of Texas, I have several severe storm related memories, and I’ve seen my fair share of tornadoes firsthand. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in tornado alley, where hearing sirens going off meant, “Find somewhere safe to wait out this storm, preferably underground.”, but severe storms don’t really scare me. This doesn’t mean I sit somewhere vulnerable to watch them roll through after the sirens sound, though.

Oddly enough, my earliest storm recollection wasn’t even in Texas, though. My parents took my older brother and me camping every summer from the time I was two until I was fifteen. I think I was three or four years old when we were camping in Arizona in a small KampKraft pop up camper. A horrendous storm rolled through one night, and I can speak from experience that a pop up is not where you want to be during a severe thunderstorm! That camper was rocking and rolling, and I remember my dad had to hold the door at the rear of the camper closed so the wind wouldn’t rip it open and let in the torrential rain. I could tell my mother was afraid, maybe not so much of the storm itself, but of what it may do to our family, since that tiny camper offered little in the way of protection. After a while, I said, “Maybe we should pray for it to stop.”, or something to that effect. Well, we did, and the storm actually did blow itself out shortly afterwards. Apparently, those Sunday School lessons had sunk in!

A few summers later, when I was probably seven or eight, we were in our hometown of Dumas at one of my brother’s little league playoff games when the tornado sirens started to go off. The sky had been getting fairly dark, but being Texans, I guess the crowds were used to that sort of thing, and the use of lightning detectors at sporting events was still several years away, considering this must have been in 1982 or 1983. When we were walking to the car, I can recall the surrounding skies like it was just yesterday. That evening was the only time I’ve seen three tornadoes at the same time. There was a single fully formed funnel cloud hanging from the sky in three different directions, like the storm had planned to surround the town in a kind of divide and conquer tactic. Miraculously, none of them did any significant damage.

Fast forward to the spring when I was in eighth grade. I was at after school band practice when one of the band directors interrupted to tell us the sirens were going off outside. The band hall was separated from the main school building and connected to one of the basketball gyms, so to get to the fallout shelter located in the basement of the main building, we had to go outside. While we were walking between the buildings, I looked up at the sky, which was almost completely black. The clouds were swirling around in a circle directly above us, which looked like an ominous scene from a sci-fi movie. I remember that once we got to the shelter, several kids were crying and hugging each other like they thought they were going to die down there. But I felt completely safe, and I thought it was pretty cool that we got to hang out in a bomb shelter. Of course, the shelter was a relic from the beginnings of the Cold War, which at this time was still ongoing, so I was excited to be down there. (I guess I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd!) This was still two years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As far as I can remember, this is the only time I’ve been in a fallout shelter. I remember the metal yellow and black radiation symbol “Fallout Shelter” signs attached to the brick along the outside walkways around campus. I wonder if they’re still there?

When I was sixteen, my parents bought me a 1980 Pontiac Formula Firebird. That car was a tank, and it wasn’t made from the aluminum foil sheet metal that other cars had. The spring of my Sophomore year in High School, we had a really bad hail storm hit town. I was at my girlfriend’s house that evening when we heard the familiar wail of the tornado sirens outside. Her next door neighbor, Kim, was in my class at school, and their house had a basement, so we went over there to wait out the storm. Kim’s idiot older brothers had apparently been drinking for a while before we arrived, and they stayed upstairs in the garage to watch the storm. They must have been extremely competitive, too, because they kept trying to see who could retrieve the biggest hailstone from the driveway or the yard. One of them brought a chunk of ice the size of a softball downstairs! I still can’t figure out how none of them were killed, or at least injured, from running through the deluge to play their game. After the storm had passed, I wanted to check on my car, because I just knew my glass T-Tops were going to be shattered. Amazingly, they were still intact, and there were only two barely perceptible dents on my entire car! The windshield had a small crack from where one stone had hit directly opposite the rearview mirror. Apparently, that hailstone had been pretty big, as it had completely dislodged the mirror from the glass, glue and all. My girlfriend’s car, which was parked directly in front of mine in the driveway, didn’t fair so well, though. It looked like someone had taken a ball peen hammer to it so it could do its best impersonation of a golf ball!

I also remember another severe storm rolling through the area when I was in Junior High or High school. A huge line of storms was rolling through the area, and the sirens went off. A tornado had been spotted on the ground west of town approaching the city. Miraculously, about a mile from the city limits, it dissipated and was sucked back up into the wall cloud above. After the most severe part of the storm had passed over Dumas, another tornado was spotted on the ground about a mile east of town. I’ve always thought it was the same tornado, but for whatever reason, it just jumped over the entire city. Storms can do weird things. I’ve heard stories of entire houses being carried away by tornadoes, leaving a pair of work boots sitting unmoved on the porch steps. When my aunt’s house had the roof ripped off by an F5 tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, she had a shelf of knick knacks on the wall at one end of the hallway. The roof was gone, but she said that shelf and every single knick knack were exactly where they had been before the storm hit town.

A few years after my wife, Deborah, and I got married, we drove up to Greensburg, Kansas over Memorial Day weekend for a family reunion. One afternoon, we went over to Coldwater to decorate the graves of my grandfather, my uncle, and my great grandparents. While we were at the cemetery, the wind really started to pick up, and we could see dark clouds rolling in between us and Greensburg. There were probably four or five carloads who had caravanned to the cemetery, and we all collectively agreed we should get back to town. On the way back, the rain came down in buckets, and the wind was whipping around the car like crazy. It became so severe that I couldn’t see past the end of the hood of the car. I didn’t want to just stop in the middle of the road, though, for fear of being rear ended, and the small farm to market road we were on didn’t really have any shoulder to speak of. So, I kept creeping forward at about ten miles per hour in an attempt to keep moving. However, the second time I slid off of the road, I was convinced that sitting at a dead stop in the middle of the road beat sliding off into the ditch and getting stuck in the mud. Being in Kansas, we were surrounded by wheat fields, and the wind was whipping up a fury, blowing the wheat around in circles. The way the wind kept shifting directions, I was pretty sure we could have a tornado drop right on top of us at any second. Of course, there wasn’t anywhere else we could go, so we were forced to just sit there and ride it out. After a bit, the rain let up enough to allow us to continue the short drive back to my aunt’s house. That was without a doubt the worst storm I have ever been out in! Sadly, a few years later, an F5 tornado blew the vast majority of Greensburg away, including the house we had driven back to that afternoon. Thankfully, although they lost their home, none of my family members were injured in that storm.

On June 22, 2004, I was selling tires at the Sears Auto Center in Westgate Mall in Amarillo. We had a line of storms moving through the area that evening, and we had been monitoring them on the television in the customer waiting area. The storms kept getting more and more severe, and they were calling for large hail on the local news stations, so several of us had pulled our cars into the shop to keep them from being damaged. The storms got so bad that store management, in their infinite wisdom, called all of the employees over to the same area of the store so we’d all be together. Then they told all of us to go into the paint warehouse, where shelves and shelves of full one gallon paint cans were stacked everywhere above our heads. I refused to go in there, and told the manager, “I’m not getting my brains bashed out by those cans if the roof gets ripped off! You go in there if you want to, but I’m not!” Of course, over there, we had no idea what the storm was doing, because we didn’t have a TV or radio to monitor it, so a few of us just went back over to the automotive department so we could keep an eye on what was going on.

I called Deborah at home to make sure she was doing ok. At the time we were living in a double wide mobile home south of town. She and the kids were hiding out in one of the bedroom closets, and the last thing I heard her say was, “I can feel the house moving!”, before the phone cut off. When I tried to call her back, the call wouldn’t go through. I was wondering if my house had just blown away with my entire family in it! I found out later that there had been a tornado on the ground only a mile or so from our house! Thankfully, the worst of the damage we had suffered was having several of the shingles ripped from the roof, and we ended up having to have the roof replaced.

Of course, the area around the mall was the hardest hit by the storm. There were several car dealerships right across the highway that had every single piece of glass broken out in almost every vehicle on their lots! After the storm passed, we went out and checked the parking lot, and I have never seen so much smashed glass. One of the nearby hospitals had all of the windows on the north side of the building broken out. Several people in the area ended up with hailstones in their living rooms after they had passed through their roof and ceiling! That storm is the worst I’ve been through, by far!

Since I’ve been through so many severe storms firsthand, it seems I tend to be one of the calmest people in the room when they hit. I don’t think this has to do solely with my past experiences, though. I also have a deep trust and faith that God will keep me safe, no matter what the conditions outside may be. It seems I’ve had that since I was a small child, since I told my parents, “Maybe we should pray for it to stop.” Prayer worked then, and I believe it always will!
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