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Written by Kim3569

The first time it happened

The first time it happened, I was only in seventh grade. It started with a shiver down my spine and a thought that I was being watched. I felt so distracted, so unsure and stupid. There was nobody watching me other than the group of friends I had been with. Yet my eyes traveled across the school’s courtyard; teachers roamed the halls, students piled out of the lunch room. Everything seemed to be normal but I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me with intentions not so kind. The day went on and I tried keeping a straight face throughout, until eventually the feeling of paranoia went away. I thought it had just been a weird moment in the day and it wasn’t anything to worry about.

Unfortunately enough, it wasn’t just a weird moment I had. It had happened again, constantly and as if someone had been mindlessly shoving thoughts into my brain that weren’t mine. I was only in eighth grade when I experienced my first mental-break, as I like to call it. I can’t remember what might have triggered it but my thoughts were going hay-wire. It was the summer and I had locked myself up in my room for nearly a week. I avoided my parents, avoided my friends, or any outside contact for that matter. My parents were worried; they thought I was being anti-social and crazy. Which is exactly why I couldn’t tell them what demons had been scratching at the inside of my skull. I was not crazy. There were just these thoughts, maybe voices that were telling me I shouldn’t step outside. Leaving my room meant I’d be at risk of being hunted, killed. From whom was I hiding? I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it was every stranger that looked at me on the street from their seat in their car, or maybe the many people who passed me on the sidewalk and stared at me a little too long. How could I know I was safe? Every single person that had seen me could have been plotting to murder me within the next 72 hours.

I was sat in my bed, my heartbeat going faster with every new thought that entered my mind and every beam of sweat that rolled down my forehead. My breathing was shallow as I snapped my head towards the window. It was a loud bang, followed by another; it sounded like metal being hit. I sat still, like a statue, completely stiff as I held my breath. They were outside, they were here; I had been found. But every time I peeked out from behind the curtain there was nobody there.

“I’m fucking insane, Kim, there’s no one there!” I hissed angrily at myself.

But I was sure someone was there, I could hear them, their breath right by my ear, the crunching of the rocks outside beneath the soles of their shoes. He was here, somebody was here. My fingers shook violently as I ran them through my thick, black hair; I couldn’t stop pulling at my hair. I wanted it to stop; I wanted him to leave me alone!

“Just go away! Please!” I heard the crunching of the rocks once more.

I was crying now; fast, hot tears rushed down my cheeks as I bit my bottom lip to stop from making noise. He already knew I was here but it wouldn’t hurt to stay silent just to be safe. It was a fear I had felt like no other. It had me wanting to claw at my scalp because as much as I knew it was all in my head, it seemed too real to believe right then. To make matters worse, my parents weren’t home to help. It’s not like I’d tell them anyway. I thought, maybe suffering in silence was better than looking like a complete fool. I thought, maybe it’d go away someday; this was all just a horrible phase I was experiencing in my life. It would stop soon, it had to.

By the end of that day when it was time for bed, the notion that someone was outside of my house was gone and replaced with the feeling that they’d be back again, and next time they’d find out how to get in. I went to sleep and finally had a clear head as I dreamt of better days. My disastrous week hadn’t ended yet and within the following days, my head formed even broader, more inventive beliefs than I thought possible.

This is one moment from that first mental-break that I would never forget. I was in the shower, trying to relax after feeling watched all day. I had been jumpy to every slight sound and shadow in sight. The short period of feeling relaxed ended rather quickly when I heard a buzzing sound. It was a fly. A little thing right next to my ear that a normal person wouldn’t freak out about but in my head, no, this fly had cameras in its eyes and oh, my god, I was being recorded.

“No, no, no! Not again, please!” I cried.

The tears were like an automatic response to my fear by now and hyperventilating had become an everyday occurrence within the week. This fly was probably being controlled by the man who was after me. Was he broadcasting this on TV somewhere?

Three heavy knocks on the bathroom door sounded and I slipped on the tile of the shower floor.

“Estas bien?” It was my mom speaking in her soft usual tone in Spanish.

“Yes, I’m okay!” I called back. I held my hand over my mouth so she wouldn’t hear that I was crying. A moment of silence and her soft footsteps slowly went away.

I removed my hand from my mouth and let myself cry on the shower floor. I tried to do it as quietly as I could and covered my ears so I wouldn’t hear the buzzing of the fly above me. I waited to catch my breath and then got up fast, turning the water off and hopping out of the shower to get dry and to my room where it was safe, as fast as I could.

To this day, I can remember that week vividly. It still makes me quiver, it still triggers me.  I’m just a person with a mind that needs a little helping from time to time.

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Written by Kim3569
The first time it happened
The first time it happened, I was only in seventh grade. It started with a shiver down my spine and a thought that I was being watched. I felt so distracted, so unsure and stupid. There was nobody watching me other than the group of friends I had been with. Yet my eyes traveled across the school’s courtyard; teachers roamed the halls, students piled out of the lunch room. Everything seemed to be normal but I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me with intentions not so kind. The day went on and I tried keeping a straight face throughout, until eventually the feeling of paranoia went away. I thought it had just been a weird moment in the day and it wasn’t anything to worry about.
Unfortunately enough, it wasn’t just a weird moment I had. It had happened again, constantly and as if someone had been mindlessly shoving thoughts into my brain that weren’t mine. I was only in eighth grade when I experienced my first mental-break, as I like to call it. I can’t remember what might have triggered it but my thoughts were going hay-wire. It was the summer and I had locked myself up in my room for nearly a week. I avoided my parents, avoided my friends, or any outside contact for that matter. My parents were worried; they thought I was being anti-social and crazy. Which is exactly why I couldn’t tell them what demons had been scratching at the inside of my skull. I was not crazy. There were just these thoughts, maybe voices that were telling me I shouldn’t step outside. Leaving my room meant I’d be at risk of being hunted, killed. From whom was I hiding? I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it was every stranger that looked at me on the street from their seat in their car, or maybe the many people who passed me on the sidewalk and stared at me a little too long. How could I know I was safe? Every single person that had seen me could have been plotting to murder me within the next 72 hours.
I was sat in my bed, my heartbeat going faster with every new thought that entered my mind and every beam of sweat that rolled down my forehead. My breathing was shallow as I snapped my head towards the window. It was a loud bang, followed by another; it sounded like metal being hit. I sat still, like a statue, completely stiff as I held my breath. They were outside, they were here; I had been found. But every time I peeked out from behind the curtain there was nobody there.
“I’m fucking insane, Kim, there’s no one there!” I hissed angrily at myself.
But I was sure someone was there, I could hear them, their breath right by my ear, the crunching of the rocks outside beneath the soles of their shoes. He was here, somebody was here. My fingers shook violently as I ran them through my thick, black hair; I couldn’t stop pulling at my hair. I wanted it to stop; I wanted him to leave me alone!
“Just go away! Please!” I heard the crunching of the rocks once more.
I was crying now; fast, hot tears rushed down my cheeks as I bit my bottom lip to stop from making noise. He already knew I was here but it wouldn’t hurt to stay silent just to be safe. It was a fear I had felt like no other. It had me wanting to claw at my scalp because as much as I knew it was all in my head, it seemed too real to believe right then. To make matters worse, my parents weren’t home to help. It’s not like I’d tell them anyway. I thought, maybe suffering in silence was better than looking like a complete fool. I thought, maybe it’d go away someday; this was all just a horrible phase I was experiencing in my life. It would stop soon, it had to.
By the end of that day when it was time for bed, the notion that someone was outside of my house was gone and replaced with the feeling that they’d be back again, and next time they’d find out how to get in. I went to sleep and finally had a clear head as I dreamt of better days. My disastrous week hadn’t ended yet and within the following days, my head formed even broader, more inventive beliefs than I thought possible.
This is one moment from that first mental-break that I would never forget. I was in the shower, trying to relax after feeling watched all day. I had been jumpy to every slight sound and shadow in sight. The short period of feeling relaxed ended rather quickly when I heard a buzzing sound. It was a fly. A little thing right next to my ear that a normal person wouldn’t freak out about but in my head, no, this fly had cameras in its eyes and oh, my god, I was being recorded.
“No, no, no! Not again, please!” I cried.
The tears were like an automatic response to my fear by now and hyperventilating had become an everyday occurrence within the week. This fly was probably being controlled by the man who was after me. Was he broadcasting this on TV somewhere?
Three heavy knocks on the bathroom door sounded and I slipped on the tile of the shower floor.
“Estas bien?” It was my mom speaking in her soft usual tone in Spanish.
“Yes, I’m okay!” I called back. I held my hand over my mouth so she wouldn’t hear that I was crying. A moment of silence and her soft footsteps slowly went away.
I removed my hand from my mouth and let myself cry on the shower floor. I tried to do it as quietly as I could and covered my ears so I wouldn’t hear the buzzing of the fly above me. I waited to catch my breath and then got up fast, turning the water off and hopping out of the shower to get dry and to my room where it was safe, as fast as I could.
To this day, I can remember that week vividly. It still makes me quiver, it still triggers me.  I’m just a person with a mind that needs a little helping from time to time.


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Written by Samishuman

Why start to end?

Why do we start something to finish it? I asked you out in high hopes for this to go somewhere. You said yes. Smile bright. Eyes shimmering. Hair flowing. You said yes. Why. Why did you ever fucking say yes just to end this sooner then your last relationship. I'm not him. I was never going to pressure you into something you didn't want. I was never going to say something I didn't mean. I loved you. I sure did. I can promise that I'm still dying on the inside I can feel my heart collapse whenever it tries to beat. Why did you start this. If I knew this was going to end so early I would have never fell asleep on your laugh dreamt about your smile and awoken on-top of your personality I would've NEVER EVER fell in-love with the way you watch cars drive by because now whenever I'm driving all I can think about is you. You would have your hands ten and two. Ten and two. Ten and two. It's ten past two. 2:00 A.M. 2:15, 2:20, 4, 5. I always drool on my pillow case expecting your lips to aligned with mine but always being disappointed. And to the new guy your with. I hope he treats you right, but I know he won't. I hope, with every last breathe, he brings you chocolates. Chocolates when your on your period and you can't breathe due to the cramps. I hope he remembers to compliment your dimples, because I knew how much you were insecure about it. I hope. I really really hope he remembers your allergic to bread whenever you are to go out to dinner. I hope he learns to forget about my name. How whenever you are to hear it it still shakes your skull. You were inlove. He doesn't know it yet. I can't blame him, I never knew either. You left because I fucked up. I'm still here waiting for you to come back. Now in my favor, ask him this: What's her favorite color? What makes her laugh the hardest? When she's sad what show does she want to watch? How many questions does she ask in the movie theaters? What does she hate? Who does she love? Why does she overthink? What makes her cry? Where does her mom work? What does she love doing? Would she rather be alone? What's her shoe size? Eye color? Shirt size? Pants? Ring. Does he have her ears pierced. Which parent does she love more. Why is she insecure. What's her story. How can you help her. Do you understand how much I still love her And do you remember your ex? I know I shouldn't have this much hate on someone I've never actually spoken to in my life, but my dearest friend. Treat her right, she's special.

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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 Samishuman
Why start to end?
Why do we start something to finish it? I asked you out in high hopes for this to go somewhere. You said yes. Smile bright. Eyes shimmering. Hair flowing. You said yes. Why. Why did you ever fucking say yes just to end this sooner then your last relationship. I'm not him. I was never going to pressure you into something you didn't want. I was never going to say something I didn't mean. I loved you. I sure did. I can promise that I'm still dying on the inside I can feel my heart collapse whenever it tries to beat. Why did you start this. If I knew this was going to end so early I would have never fell asleep on your laugh dreamt about your smile and awoken on-top of your personality I would've NEVER EVER fell in-love with the way you watch cars drive by because now whenever I'm driving all I can think about is you. You would have your hands ten and two. Ten and two. Ten and two. It's ten past two. 2:00 A.M. 2:15, 2:20, 4, 5. I always drool on my pillow case expecting your lips to aligned with mine but always being disappointed. And to the new guy your with. I hope he treats you right, but I know he won't. I hope, with every last breathe, he brings you chocolates. Chocolates when your on your period and you can't breathe due to the cramps. I hope he remembers to compliment your dimples, because I knew how much you were insecure about it. I hope. I really really hope he remembers your allergic to bread whenever you are to go out to dinner. I hope he learns to forget about my name. How whenever you are to hear it it still shakes your skull. You were inlove. He doesn't know it yet. I can't blame him, I never knew either. You left because I fucked up. I'm still here waiting for you to come back. Now in my favor, ask him this: What's her favorite color? What makes her laugh the hardest? When she's sad what show does she want to watch? How many questions does she ask in the movie theaters? What does she hate? Who does she love? Why does she overthink? What makes her cry? Where does her mom work? What does she love doing? Would she rather be alone? What's her shoe size? Eye color? Shirt size? Pants? Ring. Does he have her ears pierced. Which parent does she love more. Why is she insecure. What's her story. How can you help her. Do you understand how much I still love her And do you remember your ex? I know I shouldn't have this much hate on someone I've never actually spoken to in my life, but my dearest friend. Treat her right, she's special.
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Written by ChrisRathburn

No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy

     Nietzsche said that. No, some samurai or something. Doesn’t matter. The point is you found the note. They don’t notice things like balloons or signs or keys jangling on a string, so I figured I could make it obvious. It’s six days from whenever this started. My phone died and I don’t keep track. Anyway:

-123 canned vegetables and beans, unsorted

-15 gallons bottled water

-First Aid Kit

-1 bag flour

-1 box penne noodles

*Other dry stuff. About 10 pounds of carbs.

-Clothes; adult XL male, girls size 8

-Tools and spare house/shed stuff

-One revolver

-5 bullets

-Whatever’s on me

     The key is for 19991 Northdale Ct. East. The green split level between the brown ranch style and the other green split level. There’s a big orange X on the door. Everything in there is boxed up. Should keep. Safe from the elements.

     You’re going to find what’s left of me. Kitchen. One of them bit me. I know what happens. I figured I may as well give a leg up to whoever comes next.

     I hope you have a good life. Whatever they are, they aren’t better than us. Alice. Gretchen. If you found this, I love you. Survive. Sorry about the mess. If I missed and I’m up walking around, sorry about that too.

Todd Pothast

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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 ChrisRathburn
No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy
     Nietzsche said that. No, some samurai or something. Doesn’t matter. The point is you found the note. They don’t notice things like balloons or signs or keys jangling on a string, so I figured I could make it obvious. It’s six days from whenever this started. My phone died and I don’t keep track. Anyway:

-123 canned vegetables and beans, unsorted
-15 gallons bottled water
-First Aid Kit
-1 bag flour
-1 box penne noodles
*Other dry stuff. About 10 pounds of carbs.
-Clothes; adult XL male, girls size 8
-Tools and spare house/shed stuff
-One revolver
-5 bullets
-Whatever’s on me

     The key is for 19991 Northdale Ct. East. The green split level between the brown ranch style and the other green split level. There’s a big orange X on the door. Everything in there is boxed up. Should keep. Safe from the elements.
     You’re going to find what’s left of me. Kitchen. One of them bit me. I know what happens. I figured I may as well give a leg up to whoever comes next.
     I hope you have a good life. Whatever they are, they aren’t better than us. Alice. Gretchen. If you found this, I love you. Survive. Sorry about the mess. If I missed and I’m up walking around, sorry about that too.

Todd Pothast

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Written by Maosuke

Shoko Nakamura

Joji and I had just finished our weekly ritual of five alarm spice Pad Thai and Coconut Cokes and were making our Friday rounds through Shinjuku, our tongues still burning. We cut passed the usual scenes: college kids drinking beers outside a convenient store as they exchanged phone numbers, old men sitting on the bench of an oden stand smoking cigarettes, young men waving bar menus and hawking all-night karaoke deals at passing pedestrians.

“Want that giant Mickey plush?” Joji asked, as we passed a late-night game center. The clutter of Mickey plush dolls in Santa hats stacked behind the glass of the UFO catcher machine stared up at us with their festive grins. No doubt they were beckoning to Joji’s inner gambler.

“Not really,” I answered.

“I bet you that I can get it with just 500yen.”

“And what happens if you don’t?”

“All-night karaoke. Check’s on me.”

“Drinks too?”

He hesitated. I shrugged, slowly walking away.

“Ok, ok drinks too. Geez you’re scary,” he said, holding up his hands in surrender.

“And what if you get it?” I asked, putting a hand on his shoulder as he dropped the 500 yen into the coin slot, activating the plastic claw.

“Then you have to follow me tonight,” he said, maneuvering the controls: leeeeeeft – forward – then down the arm went.

“To karaoke?” I asked.

“To anywhere. No questions.”

I looked at the soft Mickey plush doll as the claw went down again, dragging the plush only halfway down through the hole.

“Only one more try!” I said in mock fear. “What will the great Joji do now that his wallet will be out 8000yen! Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time,” I sang in falsetto, mocking his usual drunken Queen rendition.

He didn’t look at me, his eyes completely entranced by the swaying claw. Left – fooooorward – and down the arm went again, pushing down on Mickey’s head.

The plush said goodbye to his brothers and tumbled down the hole to freedom.

“As usual, the gambling king wins again,” I murmured.

“Nice to meet you. I hope we can be friends,” Joji said in his best Mickey voice as he held out the plush doll’s soft hand to me.

***

I met Joji four years ago at a school festival. He was working as a teacher’s assistant in the Japanese literature department at Waseda University, despite despising anything written in Japan before 1950. We often went to Yoyogi Park with cans of plum-flavored alcohol and chips, lay beneath the trees, and he would start telling me about the main character in a new book he was reading, complete with dramatic gestures and appropriate accents. He said the only way he could remember what he read is if he told someone about it, that he was afraid his brain was rotting a little bit every day. So I would bring a notebook, and after his theatrical storytelling, we would write down everything we did for the week until all our memories were on solid paper.

***

“I’ve been thinking of something recently,” Joji started, as we cut down a small alleyway of closing boutiques and the stained glass entrance of love hotels.

“My sister is in the hospital. She’s been there for a while now, and I was thinking of visiting her soon. She’s been on my mind, but I just can’t bring myself to go visit her.”

I didn’t say anything, waiting for him to continue, but we just walked in silence.

“Have you ever tried out a host club before?” he asked me, changing the subject as we passed the neon red entrance of kabuki-cho, Shinjuku’s night paradise.

“No, and not interested,” I said.

“Well today’s your lucky day then,” he said, grinning, and I knew something terrible was going to happen.

***

Joji was impulsive, like a curious child, he would often purposely get off the train at the wrong station and then suddenly decide to walk home, despite how he was more than four miles away from home. It didn’t matter if it was raining, if he was carrying over ten pounds of books, or if he wasn’t even sure of the way back.

The winter after college, he quit his teaching job and decided to put all his savings (with a healthy loan from his parents) into opening a bakery in Kichijoji, right outside Inokashira Park with its troves of lovesick couples and chirpy families. When I asked him why he didn’t choose a smaller neighborhood where the rent would be cheaper, he scoffed and asked me why oh why I dreamed such sad, small dreams.

As we waited for a streetlight to turn green on our usual walk to Yoyogi Park, Joji handed me his new name card:

Termini

Italian Bakery

Joji Iwasaki, Owner

"Not to brag or anything, but you can tell your mom that you're dating a millionaire now," he said shrugging nonchalantly.

"I don't think most bakeries make over a million a year," I said, clearing my throat. "How'd you come up with the name?"

"I visited Rome with my family when I was a kid, like maybe 10 years old? I remember getting off the train at Roma Termini, the first bit of civilization after a nearly traumatizing 14-hour flight. It was midnight and a lot of homeless people were gathered outside the station, sleeping on newspapers or just chatting. There was graffiti all over the buildings, and I remember thinking 'yeah we're gonna die tonight.'

"But then I looked over at my brother and he had this look about him. This look. It was as if he had found something so special. As if everything in this moment was absolutely perfect. It was then that I knew there that there was something about this place, something about this feeling, something about this moment that I absolutely had to keep. I couldn't just let it get away from me or I would never have it again. I was suddenly terrified and exhilarated all at once. I tried to take it in all at once, the look of the streetlights, the smell of the Indian curry shop, the steel sheen of the chairs and tables lined outside the trattoria across from the station."

"What do you think that feeling was?" I asked.

"I think it was love. Love for my family. It was the closest I ever felt to anyone. I think it was the only trip I ever took with my whole family," Joji answered, staring out as if piecing the memories together through an invisible tapestry.

"So how do you feel about opening your own place?" I asked, turning the name card around to find the cute logo his brother had helped him design.

"Not sure to be honest. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back to editing those terrible essays about Yukio Mishima again soon," he said, pulling on his right ear lobe as he always did when he was nervous. "I just want it to be a place people bring their families."

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, preferably happy families. I definitely don't want any of those screaming kids or parents doing the whole not-talking-to-each-other-now deal," he quickly amended.

"And how do you plan on filtering those groups out?" I asked, reaching out to hold his hand.

"No discounts. Ever. It has got to be one of those places people only go to when they're in a good mood. Like a reward. Maybe I'll get a cute dog as the bait," he said, lost in his imaginings.

***

“Heaven’s Rose” was written in calligraphy the neon sign-board outside, next to blown-up portraits of tanned men in suits. A young man, freezing in his tuxedo, walked over to us with a pamphlet and asked if we were looking for a host club. I looked at Joji, and he just shook his head. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“My sister used to come here a lot,” Joji said as the automatic doors opened to Heaven’s Rose. The walls and ceiling were a perfect powder white, the floors a white-gray marble. We walked over to the round reception desk and found an empty chair with a single red intercom button and a speaker embedded in the desk.

“Heaven’s Rose is not taking additional guests tonight,” a polite woman’s voice answered after we pressed the button. It was neither high nor low, a perfectly modulated voice as if tuned by a conductor.

“This is Shoko Nakamura,” Joji said.

Who? I whispered, but he didn’t answer.

“Welcome to Heaven’s Rose, Miss Nakamura. We hope you enjoy your time with us tonight,” the woman said after a brief silence, the door next to the reception desk opening. Before entering the next room, I put my giant Mickey plush on the empty chair – it made the room seem less threatening.

The room had a cabinet of books and magazines and two sofas positioned around a low glass coffee table. We’d entered a waiting room. Joji picked up a book from the shelf, Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country, and made himself comfortable on the sofa, patting the seat next to him for me to join him. He pulled on his right earlobe as he read the opening lines aloud: “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country…”

After a few minutes, a young man in a tuxedo and feathery blond hair entered the room.

"Dear Master, we would like to welcome you to Heaven’s Rose," he smiled brightly. He couldn't have been more than 20 years old.

Joji smiled back, returning the book to the shelf.

"This is Hinako," Joji said, pointing to me. "This is her first time." Who was Hinako? Joji stared at me, so I nodded.

"N-Nice to meet you," I stuttered. I silently cursed his rooster-like fluttering hair for distracting me.

"Thank you for visiting us,” he said with a smile. “I'm so happy to meet you. I really hope we can be good friends. I’m here to listen to anything you want to talk about," he continued and reached out to take my hand. His skin was warm and smooth, and I felt my heartbeat increase suddenly.

“Don’t have too much fun,” Joji grinned, waving as the young man led me toward the open door. He was still holding my hand. I didn’t know if this Joji’s idea of a reward or punishment.

---

"My name is Shinji," the boy said, pouring two glasses of champagne. The private room was as white as the reception area. A keyboard piece from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier played lightly in the background. The leather sofa was plush against my back, the air temperature moderated perfectly for forgetting the time.

"Do you have any siblings?" I asked, as we clinked our glasses together.

"I have one older sister," he said, smiling softly. "How about you, Miss Hinako? You seem like someone who takes care of others."

"I have an older brother. Haven't seen him in years, and I'm hoping that time really does make the heart fonder because I could easily punch him in the jaw now," I said, and Shinji laughed.

"What does your little sister do?" I asked, taking another sip of my drink.

"She's a nurse," he answered. His black suit was perfectly ironed, the collar of his shirt stiff and bleached white. He kept his hands on the table, his fingernails perfectly manicured.

"Really? Your professions seem quite different," I replied, trying my best not to offend him.

"Everyone makes different decisions," he smiled.

"How did you start off here anyways?"

"A friend in high school recommended me," he answered, making eye contact with both of us as he spoke.

"Is your friend still doing this?"

"No, he got married last year," he replied. "It was a really beautiful wedding. Lilac flowers and lavender everywhere. The bride’s family and friends were crying, everyone was so happy.”

I thought of Shinji and his host friend in the same tuxedo and dyed feather hair at this lavish lilac wedding, the two exchanging knowing looks during the wedding toast.

“Are you married?" Shinji asked, noticing my stare.

"No," I answered, my face flushing red.

"I'm sure you will find someone soon. Someone as beautiful as you," he smiled.

"I have a boyfriend," I said. "He was right outside before."

"Oh, you're Joji's girlfriend. Does that mean I don’t have a chance?" He winked, filling up my glass with more champagne.

"You know Joji?" I asked. Shinji stopped filling up his glass and placed the bottle down.

"Joji's sister used to come here quite often.”

"What was she like?"

"She was beautiful. Long black hair and brown eyes that were always opened wide, as if she were trying to see everything all at once," he said enthusiastically. "She would always sit right there and tell me about all the people she had been meeting at work."

“What kind of work did his sister do?” I asked. I had never met her, and Joji never talked about her.

“I think she worked at one of the clubs around here,” he answered after some hesitation.

“Did she like her job?”

“She didn’t hate it. No one hates this job,” Shinji said. “If we did, we would just leave,” he continued, pouring himself some more champagne. “She said she felt really popular at work. It was the first time she could openly talk to complete strangers. Of course it’s scary at first, suddenly listening to a complete stranger’s most personal moments. I remember the first club I worked at, I was scared out of my mind.”

“How long do you think you’ll work here?”

"That’s a good question,” he laughed, narrowing his eyes as he thought. I watched the cold condensation drip down our glasses.

“You know, there's a point between today and tomorrow where you don't really know if time is moving forward in a linear manner," he said. "Before working here, I used to pull a lot of all-nighters so I could watch the sun rise and make sure the day was starting anew. I kept telling myself today I would pull things together today and do something I really wanted to.

"But there is something so lonely about seeing the sun rise every day. The ironic part about confirming the new day was that it started feeling more like the days never ended, each day just spilling into the next. The same thing over and over again. I started feeling alone and stuck.

“I do enjoy working here though. I’m not unlike Joji’s sister. I used to be very bad at talking to people. These types of clubs make it easy for us to meet new people, to candidly talk about ourselves and other people without the need for context or commitment. I think when I don’t need this stage anymore, I will move on.”

He took out his cell phone and showed me a picture of a woman sleeping on a bus, her mouth opened wide like a yawning manatee. I chuckled at the unglamorous shot.

“This is my sister. Every day she gets home and feels exhausted. She keeps telling me that she is going to quit her job, but never does. When I talk to her about my job and the people I’ve met, she’s always jealous.”

“Do you think Joji’s sister felt the same way?”

“I think the problem with Joji’s sister was that she started losing herself. She came in one day saying she met the most amazing guy, a gynecologist who worked near Hiroo.

“She said he’d come to her club for a few weeks, usually on Wednesdays and Fridays. He would come in at midnight and stay until the first train back to the outskirts of Tokyo where his family was. She used to come in and give me every detail. What drink he ordered, what he was wearing, which patients he had due for delivery soon, what worried him about his kids, all his bad jokes. I almost felt like I was dating the guy,” he laughed, holding his drink with a look like he was remembering something fondly.

I tried picturing myself dating a gynecologist and the kind of bad jokes he would make. I shuddered silently.

“She had the softest hands and this way of talking to you that made you feel like she was always so happy to see you, that you were so important to her. There was so much good in her,” Shinji poured me some more champagne, but he was staring at a point past my face, past this room, somewhere to the illuminated night streets of Kabuki-cho.

“What happened to her?” I asked, raising the glass to my lips but not drinking. The room was starting to feel cold and clammy.

“The doctor just stopped coming one day,” Shinji said, smiling. “That is how our work is. We meet new people. But there is no commitment for them to keep seeing us. It’s not like a girlfriend where you have to at least give her a call or message to tell her that you want to break it off.

“I thought Shoko knew that. But every day she came in saying that she knew the two of them had something special, that he understood her. She said she dreamt about him, where they had a small house together on an island, just the two of them, and every time she woke up physically hurting because he wasn’t actually there.”

“How did she get hospitalized?” I asked, remembering Joji’s words.

“The doctor came back one day,” Shinji said. “And he stabbed her. She had become so sure that they were meant to be together that she found his clinic in Hiroo and managed to get his wife’s phone number. She made up this whole story about how she had been sleeping with the doctor and that she was pregnant with his kid. Of course none of that was true, all they had ever done was talk, but the wife took it all seriously. She didn’t want to hear his side of the story. Said something about her friends always telling her he wasn’t good enough for her. She filed for divorce and went on a crusade to ruin his reputation,” Shinji explained. “So the doctor came back one day and stabbed Joji’s sister on her way home. Called her a psycho whore. The club had to close for a month afterwards because of all the nasty news coverage.”

The light in the room went suddenly dim for a few seconds, and then returned to its perfect intensity again. The air vent rumbled and seemed to restart.

“I’m sorry Miss Hinako, but it seems our time is almost up. Do you have more time to talk?” Shinji smiled.

“I think I should probably be going back now,” I said, standing.

“I really enjoyed talking to you,” Shinji said, standing as well. “You reminded me of a lot of important things I’ve tried to forget.”

“Just tell me one more thing before I go,” I said, looking at the half empty glasses.

He nodded, his lips pursed slightly.

“Did you ever tell her she could do better? You were her friend, weren’t you?” I asked. He looked at me, his expression difficult to read. “Did you ever tell her she could find someone better? That she was worth more than that?” I persisted.

He continued to look at me silently.

“Did you?”

“No.”

The door opened and another man in a tuxedo was standing there, bowing slightly.

I bowed slightly as I left the room. Shinji also bowed, never raising his eyes from the ground.

--

I recalled the first few months after Joji's bakery had opened. There was always a line out the door. He was so busy I barely saw him for weeks at a time, and he apologized each time with something else he had won at the UFO catcher machines. He was tired, but he never complained.

Fourteen months in though, Joji suddenly decided to close the shop down. He said he couldn't take the stress of running the place anymore. I’m not good at sticking with something for too long, he said.

He sold the bakery to a popular French cafe chain, and within a month, they had changed the signboard outside and reformed the inside completely. They let him keep the Termini menu board that had been hanging on the door, which he promptly threw out on a recycle day.

"Thank god I never got that dog, huh?" he laughed as we went together to cash the check. He stroked the lobe of his right ear as he handed the check to the clerk.

---

“What did you guys talk about?” Joji asked as we walked out of the waiting room. Before we left the powder white reception room of Heaven’s Rose, I briefly looked back at the Mickey plush. He was still sitting on the reception chair, silent but smiling. I truly hoped that his new brothers would be kind to him.

As we stepped onto the artificial streets of kabuki-cho, the sudden rush of cold air covered my face and ran down my spine like an electric current.

“Your sister seems like a nice person,” I said, blowing warm air into my hands. The same young host from earlier was passing out flyers to some drunken girls in platform boots.

“She is,” Joji said, looking straight ahead, his hands in his pockets.

“Want to tell me more about her? I have a hankering for some ramen,” I said, reaching out for his hand before he could touch his ear.

---

“I didn’t grow up with a sister. I had a brother. His name was Sho. At 20, he said he was going to start taking medication, that he was ready to begin his metamorphosis. That he was ready to become a woman. None of us understood what he was talking about. Where did all of it come from? What metamorphosis?”

Joji ground some sesame into his ramen bowl and crushed a whole garlic clove into the soup. I watched him methodically mix the chili oil in and then neatly place the noodles on his porcelain spoon before slurping them up.

“We used to play soccer in the small field near our house. He would always start crying because he kept falling, and the other kids would call him names. He was so bad at passing the ball so the other boys made him goalie, but then he was so scared of when the ball would come at him that he would just hide behind the metal pole. I used to think he was so weak. But in reality, he was the one who had the most guts out of all us. He did everything he had to do alone. Absolutely everything. He was always alone,” Joji said, taking a bite of the pork belly slice. “We all thought he was being selfish, but who on this planet isn’t selfish? Weren’t we the ones trying to force our preconceived notions on him?” Joji said, biting his lower lip. He put down his chopsticks.

“He took up the name Shoko Nakamura as his hostess name. You have to put aside your real self and assume a new identity when you enter this world. But when he came home in the morning, he wiped off his make-up, put on a big t-shirt and loose jeans and try his best to look like the Sho we knew. The funny big brother. The reliable son. I think even he didn’t know who he was anymore. She never told us anything about what she did at night, and we never asked.”

I thought about Shinji and wondered what kind of person he had been before he had become a host, what kind of regular high school student he had been. How he must have joked with his friends on school trips or how his heart must have beat as he spoke to a girl he liked in the cafeteria for the first time.

"I just need to know. I need to know if I was responsible. If somehow I did this to him," Joji said, his eyes tearing up. Some of the other guests in the ramen shop glanced at us, but then went back to their hot bowls. I ate some of the chewy noodles and bean sprouts as we sat in silence.

“I found out later on that she was obsessed with some guy and the notion of being together because he had asked her to be his girlfriend,” Joji continued. “You believe that guy’s bullshit? My guess is that he was getting tired of paying the club bills, so he told her that he wanted to be with her separate from the club, that he just wanted to be with her. She thought she could trust him,” Joji’s voice was ragged.

“So she told him the truth. That she used to be a man, but that she had completed her transformation. She didn’t tell the club because no one would understand, but she thought at least he should know everything about her, that she wanted to know everything about him.

“And that’s when he stopped coming to the club. He didn’t love her, he never did. What does the hell does love even mean?” Joji shook his head and looked out the door at a couple stumbling into a hotel across the street. “When I opened Termini, I was so happy. My parents were so proud of me. I thought I would be running that place until I was too old to even remember my own name.

“But when Sho told us he was going to start taking his meds, he thanked me. He said when I started my bakery and told him why I’d done it, it reminded him of a very important point in his life. He said when he got off that train in Rome, he felt like everything was different. All the doubt he had been feeling about himself, all the loneliness and frustration he had been trying to silence, seemed less important. In Tokyo, he felt like everyone was just silently tolerating their unhappiness with smiles, that as long as you were a contributing member of your group, that was enough. There was no drive to find personal happiness and no right to express your personal suffering. Yet so many people were living here on the other side of the world, struggling but still living, still able to feel real joy in addition to the sadness. They were still their own individuals even on the streets. He realized he didn’t know anything about working for his own happiness. For him, Termini Station was the beginning of everything.

“So my parents began hating that bakery and that made me start hating that bakery as well. I felt sorry for having tried so hard to keep something so terrible. I knew that my bakery hadn’t caused him to be the way he was and that he would have eventually chosen his own way, but I still came to work every day, looking at the Termini signboard outside, and felt depressed. I had completely misinterpreted what had been so special about that moment in Rome.

“So I decided to erase everything. I sold the place to some investors that were eyeing the place for months. I told everyone I didn’t have the money or willpower to keep running the place and closed that chapter of my life,” Joji took a final slurp of the soup.

“I tried to erase the last strong connection we had. I willed Termini out of existence,” he said, looking down at his hands. “I sometimes get scared that I will just forget about him, that he never wakes up and we all just forget about him.” Joji looked down at his hands. “Can you remember your brother’s face?”

I thought for a bit. I could only come up with a tall silhouette in a baseball cap but no clear face. I shook my head.

“Why did you really bring me here today?” I asked, slowly wiping my mouth with a napkin. The ramen shop owner took the order ticket from a pair of customers that had just walked in. All the customers we had entered in with had already left.

“The knife wound from the doctor wasn’t fatal,” Joji said. “She spent a few days at the hospital and came home. She wouldn’t talk to anybody, blasting the same song over and over again in her room. I think she didn’t know what to feel anymore. I think she still wanted to be with the guy, but hated him at the same time.

“Then our mom began saying this was all a sign for why Sho had been going in the wrong direction. That he was destroying our family with his selfish decisions. She would talk to her friends on the phone and make up stories about how her son had received a scholarship and had gone overseas to study law in New York, that he had found a nice American girlfriend. She had basically killed her son in her mind.

“So Sho got a bottle of sleeping pills from one of his club friends. He downed the whole bottle one night and never woke up. We were too late but too early in a way. He, or rather she’s, been in a coma ever since.”

“Did you bring me here to find out more about what happened from Shinji?”

“No,” Joji shook his head. “Honestly, I don’t know why I brought you here, but I think I needed to come here. I needed to tell you Sho’s story,” Joji said, still looking at his hands, the bones and veins like tiny intertwined slopes.

“I feel like if I tell somebody else her story, maybe she won’t have to be so lonely anymore. That I won’t forget her.”

---

We walked to the station in silence, the night sky covered in clouds. The club billboards of large-eyed girls with fake eyelashes and dyed-brown hair left me feeling vacant. A cab waited for us by the curb, but we waved it away, neither of us talking.

I remembered how our arguments always ended in silence. I would keep asking him why he did this or that, or why he said that, or why he didn’t do that, or was he even listening? and he would just sit there in complete silence, letting me yell at him until I just started crying, not sure why I was crying. Then he would take my hand and tell me he was sorry he couldn’t understand me, but that he was listening, that the silence didn’t mean he wasn’t listening. I wondered if his sister had been the same, waiting for him to tell her a story, how he had been, what scared him, and what he was going to do from now.

“Let’s go visit her tomorrow,” I said as we entered JR Shimbashi Station. Drunken salarymen were slumped on the floor, spooning their briefcases, empty cans of hangover remedies at their sides. The schedule board flashed with the first train of the day.

“Do you think she’ll want to see me?” Joji asked.

“Hard to say,” I pursed my lips. “Do you think you can win her a cute dog plush on the way? No one ever turns down cute dogs,” I smiled and Joji smiles for the first time since we left Heaven’s Rose.

As we waited for first train, the snow started to fall in tiny speckles, covering Joji’s dark black hair. The overhead lamps cast an orange glow over the few people on the early morning platform, their breath coming out in deep puffs against the cold air. We watched the light beginning to rise in the horizon, through the deep blanket of clouds like an orange ember melting the night, one day spilling into another.

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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 Maosuke
Shoko Nakamura
Joji and I had just finished our weekly ritual of five alarm spice Pad Thai and Coconut Cokes and were making our Friday rounds through Shinjuku, our tongues still burning. We cut passed the usual scenes: college kids drinking beers outside a convenient store as they exchanged phone numbers, old men sitting on the bench of an oden stand smoking cigarettes, young men waving bar menus and hawking all-night karaoke deals at passing pedestrians.

“Want that giant Mickey plush?” Joji asked, as we passed a late-night game center. The clutter of Mickey plush dolls in Santa hats stacked behind the glass of the UFO catcher machine stared up at us with their festive grins. No doubt they were beckoning to Joji’s inner gambler.

“Not really,” I answered.

“I bet you that I can get it with just 500yen.”

“And what happens if you don’t?”

“All-night karaoke. Check’s on me.”

“Drinks too?”

He hesitated. I shrugged, slowly walking away.

“Ok, ok drinks too. Geez you’re scary,” he said, holding up his hands in surrender.

“And what if you get it?” I asked, putting a hand on his shoulder as he dropped the 500 yen into the coin slot, activating the plastic claw.

“Then you have to follow me tonight,” he said, maneuvering the controls: leeeeeeft – forward – then down the arm went.

“To karaoke?” I asked.

“To anywhere. No questions.”

I looked at the soft Mickey plush doll as the claw went down again, dragging the plush only halfway down through the hole.

“Only one more try!” I said in mock fear. “What will the great Joji do now that his wallet will be out 8000yen! Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time,” I sang in falsetto, mocking his usual drunken Queen rendition.

He didn’t look at me, his eyes completely entranced by the swaying claw. Left – fooooorward – and down the arm went again, pushing down on Mickey’s head.

The plush said goodbye to his brothers and tumbled down the hole to freedom.

“As usual, the gambling king wins again,” I murmured.

“Nice to meet you. I hope we can be friends,” Joji said in his best Mickey voice as he held out the plush doll’s soft hand to me.

***

I met Joji four years ago at a school festival. He was working as a teacher’s assistant in the Japanese literature department at Waseda University, despite despising anything written in Japan before 1950. We often went to Yoyogi Park with cans of plum-flavored alcohol and chips, lay beneath the trees, and he would start telling me about the main character in a new book he was reading, complete with dramatic gestures and appropriate accents. He said the only way he could remember what he read is if he told someone about it, that he was afraid his brain was rotting a little bit every day. So I would bring a notebook, and after his theatrical storytelling, we would write down everything we did for the week until all our memories were on solid paper.

***

“I’ve been thinking of something recently,” Joji started, as we cut down a small alleyway of closing boutiques and the stained glass entrance of love hotels.

“My sister is in the hospital. She’s been there for a while now, and I was thinking of visiting her soon. She’s been on my mind, but I just can’t bring myself to go visit her.”

I didn’t say anything, waiting for him to continue, but we just walked in silence.

“Have you ever tried out a host club before?” he asked me, changing the subject as we passed the neon red entrance of kabuki-cho, Shinjuku’s night paradise.

“No, and not interested,” I said.

“Well today’s your lucky day then,” he said, grinning, and I knew something terrible was going to happen.

***

Joji was impulsive, like a curious child, he would often purposely get off the train at the wrong station and then suddenly decide to walk home, despite how he was more than four miles away from home. It didn’t matter if it was raining, if he was carrying over ten pounds of books, or if he wasn’t even sure of the way back.

The winter after college, he quit his teaching job and decided to put all his savings (with a healthy loan from his parents) into opening a bakery in Kichijoji, right outside Inokashira Park with its troves of lovesick couples and chirpy families. When I asked him why he didn’t choose a smaller neighborhood where the rent would be cheaper, he scoffed and asked me why oh why I dreamed such sad, small dreams.

As we waited for a streetlight to turn green on our usual walk to Yoyogi Park, Joji handed me his new name card:

Termini
Italian Bakery
Joji Iwasaki, Owner

"Not to brag or anything, but you can tell your mom that you're dating a millionaire now," he said shrugging nonchalantly.

"I don't think most bakeries make over a million a year," I said, clearing my throat. "How'd you come up with the name?"

"I visited Rome with my family when I was a kid, like maybe 10 years old? I remember getting off the train at Roma Termini, the first bit of civilization after a nearly traumatizing 14-hour flight. It was midnight and a lot of homeless people were gathered outside the station, sleeping on newspapers or just chatting. There was graffiti all over the buildings, and I remember thinking 'yeah we're gonna die tonight.'

"But then I looked over at my brother and he had this look about him. This look. It was as if he had found something so special. As if everything in this moment was absolutely perfect. It was then that I knew there that there was something about this place, something about this feeling, something about this moment that I absolutely had to keep. I couldn't just let it get away from me or I would never have it again. I was suddenly terrified and exhilarated all at once. I tried to take it in all at once, the look of the streetlights, the smell of the Indian curry shop, the steel sheen of the chairs and tables lined outside the trattoria across from the station."

"What do you think that feeling was?" I asked.

"I think it was love. Love for my family. It was the closest I ever felt to anyone. I think it was the only trip I ever took with my whole family," Joji answered, staring out as if piecing the memories together through an invisible tapestry.

"So how do you feel about opening your own place?" I asked, turning the name card around to find the cute logo his brother had helped him design.

"Not sure to be honest. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back to editing those terrible essays about Yukio Mishima again soon," he said, pulling on his right ear lobe as he always did when he was nervous. "I just want it to be a place people bring their families."

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, preferably happy families. I definitely don't want any of those screaming kids or parents doing the whole not-talking-to-each-other-now deal," he quickly amended.

"And how do you plan on filtering those groups out?" I asked, reaching out to hold his hand.

"No discounts. Ever. It has got to be one of those places people only go to when they're in a good mood. Like a reward. Maybe I'll get a cute dog as the bait," he said, lost in his imaginings.

***

“Heaven’s Rose” was written in calligraphy the neon sign-board outside, next to blown-up portraits of tanned men in suits. A young man, freezing in his tuxedo, walked over to us with a pamphlet and asked if we were looking for a host club. I looked at Joji, and he just shook his head. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“My sister used to come here a lot,” Joji said as the automatic doors opened to Heaven’s Rose. The walls and ceiling were a perfect powder white, the floors a white-gray marble. We walked over to the round reception desk and found an empty chair with a single red intercom button and a speaker embedded in the desk.

“Heaven’s Rose is not taking additional guests tonight,” a polite woman’s voice answered after we pressed the button. It was neither high nor low, a perfectly modulated voice as if tuned by a conductor.

“This is Shoko Nakamura,” Joji said.

Who? I whispered, but he didn’t answer.

“Welcome to Heaven’s Rose, Miss Nakamura. We hope you enjoy your time with us tonight,” the woman said after a brief silence, the door next to the reception desk opening. Before entering the next room, I put my giant Mickey plush on the empty chair – it made the room seem less threatening.

The room had a cabinet of books and magazines and two sofas positioned around a low glass coffee table. We’d entered a waiting room. Joji picked up a book from the shelf, Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country, and made himself comfortable on the sofa, patting the seat next to him for me to join him. He pulled on his right earlobe as he read the opening lines aloud: “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country…”

After a few minutes, a young man in a tuxedo and feathery blond hair entered the room.

"Dear Master, we would like to welcome you to Heaven’s Rose," he smiled brightly. He couldn't have been more than 20 years old.

Joji smiled back, returning the book to the shelf.

"This is Hinako," Joji said, pointing to me. "This is her first time." Who was Hinako? Joji stared at me, so I nodded.

"N-Nice to meet you," I stuttered. I silently cursed his rooster-like fluttering hair for distracting me.

"Thank you for visiting us,” he said with a smile. “I'm so happy to meet you. I really hope we can be good friends. I’m here to listen to anything you want to talk about," he continued and reached out to take my hand. His skin was warm and smooth, and I felt my heartbeat increase suddenly.

“Don’t have too much fun,” Joji grinned, waving as the young man led me toward the open door. He was still holding my hand. I didn’t know if this Joji’s idea of a reward or punishment.


---

"My name is Shinji," the boy said, pouring two glasses of champagne. The private room was as white as the reception area. A keyboard piece from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier played lightly in the background. The leather sofa was plush against my back, the air temperature moderated perfectly for forgetting the time.

"Do you have any siblings?" I asked, as we clinked our glasses together.

"I have one older sister," he said, smiling softly. "How about you, Miss Hinako? You seem like someone who takes care of others."

"I have an older brother. Haven't seen him in years, and I'm hoping that time really does make the heart fonder because I could easily punch him in the jaw now," I said, and Shinji laughed.

"What does your little sister do?" I asked, taking another sip of my drink.

"She's a nurse," he answered. His black suit was perfectly ironed, the collar of his shirt stiff and bleached white. He kept his hands on the table, his fingernails perfectly manicured.

"Really? Your professions seem quite different," I replied, trying my best not to offend him.

"Everyone makes different decisions," he smiled.

"How did you start off here anyways?"

"A friend in high school recommended me," he answered, making eye contact with both of us as he spoke.

"Is your friend still doing this?"

"No, he got married last year," he replied. "It was a really beautiful wedding. Lilac flowers and lavender everywhere. The bride’s family and friends were crying, everyone was so happy.”

I thought of Shinji and his host friend in the same tuxedo and dyed feather hair at this lavish lilac wedding, the two exchanging knowing looks during the wedding toast.

“Are you married?" Shinji asked, noticing my stare.

"No," I answered, my face flushing red.

"I'm sure you will find someone soon. Someone as beautiful as you," he smiled.

"I have a boyfriend," I said. "He was right outside before."

"Oh, you're Joji's girlfriend. Does that mean I don’t have a chance?" He winked, filling up my glass with more champagne.

"You know Joji?" I asked. Shinji stopped filling up his glass and placed the bottle down.

"Joji's sister used to come here quite often.”

"What was she like?"

"She was beautiful. Long black hair and brown eyes that were always opened wide, as if she were trying to see everything all at once," he said enthusiastically. "She would always sit right there and tell me about all the people she had been meeting at work."

“What kind of work did his sister do?” I asked. I had never met her, and Joji never talked about her.

“I think she worked at one of the clubs around here,” he answered after some hesitation.

“Did she like her job?”

“She didn’t hate it. No one hates this job,” Shinji said. “If we did, we would just leave,” he continued, pouring himself some more champagne. “She said she felt really popular at work. It was the first time she could openly talk to complete strangers. Of course it’s scary at first, suddenly listening to a complete stranger’s most personal moments. I remember the first club I worked at, I was scared out of my mind.”

“How long do you think you’ll work here?”

"That’s a good question,” he laughed, narrowing his eyes as he thought. I watched the cold condensation drip down our glasses.

“You know, there's a point between today and tomorrow where you don't really know if time is moving forward in a linear manner," he said. "Before working here, I used to pull a lot of all-nighters so I could watch the sun rise and make sure the day was starting anew. I kept telling myself today I would pull things together today and do something I really wanted to.

"But there is something so lonely about seeing the sun rise every day. The ironic part about confirming the new day was that it started feeling more like the days never ended, each day just spilling into the next. The same thing over and over again. I started feeling alone and stuck.

“I do enjoy working here though. I’m not unlike Joji’s sister. I used to be very bad at talking to people. These types of clubs make it easy for us to meet new people, to candidly talk about ourselves and other people without the need for context or commitment. I think when I don’t need this stage anymore, I will move on.”

He took out his cell phone and showed me a picture of a woman sleeping on a bus, her mouth opened wide like a yawning manatee. I chuckled at the unglamorous shot.

“This is my sister. Every day she gets home and feels exhausted. She keeps telling me that she is going to quit her job, but never does. When I talk to her about my job and the people I’ve met, she’s always jealous.”

“Do you think Joji’s sister felt the same way?”

“I think the problem with Joji’s sister was that she started losing herself. She came in one day saying she met the most amazing guy, a gynecologist who worked near Hiroo.

“She said he’d come to her club for a few weeks, usually on Wednesdays and Fridays. He would come in at midnight and stay until the first train back to the outskirts of Tokyo where his family was. She used to come in and give me every detail. What drink he ordered, what he was wearing, which patients he had due for delivery soon, what worried him about his kids, all his bad jokes. I almost felt like I was dating the guy,” he laughed, holding his drink with a look like he was remembering something fondly.

I tried picturing myself dating a gynecologist and the kind of bad jokes he would make. I shuddered silently.

“She had the softest hands and this way of talking to you that made you feel like she was always so happy to see you, that you were so important to her. There was so much good in her,” Shinji poured me some more champagne, but he was staring at a point past my face, past this room, somewhere to the illuminated night streets of Kabuki-cho.

“What happened to her?” I asked, raising the glass to my lips but not drinking. The room was starting to feel cold and clammy.

“The doctor just stopped coming one day,” Shinji said, smiling. “That is how our work is. We meet new people. But there is no commitment for them to keep seeing us. It’s not like a girlfriend where you have to at least give her a call or message to tell her that you want to break it off.

“I thought Shoko knew that. But every day she came in saying that she knew the two of them had something special, that he understood her. She said she dreamt about him, where they had a small house together on an island, just the two of them, and every time she woke up physically hurting because he wasn’t actually there.”

“How did she get hospitalized?” I asked, remembering Joji’s words.

“The doctor came back one day,” Shinji said. “And he stabbed her. She had become so sure that they were meant to be together that she found his clinic in Hiroo and managed to get his wife’s phone number. She made up this whole story about how she had been sleeping with the doctor and that she was pregnant with his kid. Of course none of that was true, all they had ever done was talk, but the wife took it all seriously. She didn’t want to hear his side of the story. Said something about her friends always telling her he wasn’t good enough for her. She filed for divorce and went on a crusade to ruin his reputation,” Shinji explained. “So the doctor came back one day and stabbed Joji’s sister on her way home. Called her a psycho whore. The club had to close for a month afterwards because of all the nasty news coverage.”

The light in the room went suddenly dim for a few seconds, and then returned to its perfect intensity again. The air vent rumbled and seemed to restart.

“I’m sorry Miss Hinako, but it seems our time is almost up. Do you have more time to talk?” Shinji smiled.

“I think I should probably be going back now,” I said, standing.

“I really enjoyed talking to you,” Shinji said, standing as well. “You reminded me of a lot of important things I’ve tried to forget.”

“Just tell me one more thing before I go,” I said, looking at the half empty glasses.

He nodded, his lips pursed slightly.

“Did you ever tell her she could do better? You were her friend, weren’t you?” I asked. He looked at me, his expression difficult to read. “Did you ever tell her she could find someone better? That she was worth more than that?” I persisted.

He continued to look at me silently.

“Did you?”

“No.”

The door opened and another man in a tuxedo was standing there, bowing slightly.

I bowed slightly as I left the room. Shinji also bowed, never raising his eyes from the ground.

--

I recalled the first few months after Joji's bakery had opened. There was always a line out the door. He was so busy I barely saw him for weeks at a time, and he apologized each time with something else he had won at the UFO catcher machines. He was tired, but he never complained.

Fourteen months in though, Joji suddenly decided to close the shop down. He said he couldn't take the stress of running the place anymore. I’m not good at sticking with something for too long, he said.

He sold the bakery to a popular French cafe chain, and within a month, they had changed the signboard outside and reformed the inside completely. They let him keep the Termini menu board that had been hanging on the door, which he promptly threw out on a recycle day.

"Thank god I never got that dog, huh?" he laughed as we went together to cash the check. He stroked the lobe of his right ear as he handed the check to the clerk.

---

“What did you guys talk about?” Joji asked as we walked out of the waiting room. Before we left the powder white reception room of Heaven’s Rose, I briefly looked back at the Mickey plush. He was still sitting on the reception chair, silent but smiling. I truly hoped that his new brothers would be kind to him.

As we stepped onto the artificial streets of kabuki-cho, the sudden rush of cold air covered my face and ran down my spine like an electric current.

“Your sister seems like a nice person,” I said, blowing warm air into my hands. The same young host from earlier was passing out flyers to some drunken girls in platform boots.

“She is,” Joji said, looking straight ahead, his hands in his pockets.

“Want to tell me more about her? I have a hankering for some ramen,” I said, reaching out for his hand before he could touch his ear.

---

“I didn’t grow up with a sister. I had a brother. His name was Sho. At 20, he said he was going to start taking medication, that he was ready to begin his metamorphosis. That he was ready to become a woman. None of us understood what he was talking about. Where did all of it come from? What metamorphosis?”

Joji ground some sesame into his ramen bowl and crushed a whole garlic clove into the soup. I watched him methodically mix the chili oil in and then neatly place the noodles on his porcelain spoon before slurping them up.

“We used to play soccer in the small field near our house. He would always start crying because he kept falling, and the other kids would call him names. He was so bad at passing the ball so the other boys made him goalie, but then he was so scared of when the ball would come at him that he would just hide behind the metal pole. I used to think he was so weak. But in reality, he was the one who had the most guts out of all us. He did everything he had to do alone. Absolutely everything. He was always alone,” Joji said, taking a bite of the pork belly slice. “We all thought he was being selfish, but who on this planet isn’t selfish? Weren’t we the ones trying to force our preconceived notions on him?” Joji said, biting his lower lip. He put down his chopsticks.

“He took up the name Shoko Nakamura as his hostess name. You have to put aside your real self and assume a new identity when you enter this world. But when he came home in the morning, he wiped off his make-up, put on a big t-shirt and loose jeans and try his best to look like the Sho we knew. The funny big brother. The reliable son. I think even he didn’t know who he was anymore. She never told us anything about what she did at night, and we never asked.”

I thought about Shinji and wondered what kind of person he had been before he had become a host, what kind of regular high school student he had been. How he must have joked with his friends on school trips or how his heart must have beat as he spoke to a girl he liked in the cafeteria for the first time.

"I just need to know. I need to know if I was responsible. If somehow I did this to him," Joji said, his eyes tearing up. Some of the other guests in the ramen shop glanced at us, but then went back to their hot bowls. I ate some of the chewy noodles and bean sprouts as we sat in silence.

“I found out later on that she was obsessed with some guy and the notion of being together because he had asked her to be his girlfriend,” Joji continued. “You believe that guy’s bullshit? My guess is that he was getting tired of paying the club bills, so he told her that he wanted to be with her separate from the club, that he just wanted to be with her. She thought she could trust him,” Joji’s voice was ragged.

“So she told him the truth. That she used to be a man, but that she had completed her transformation. She didn’t tell the club because no one would understand, but she thought at least he should know everything about her, that she wanted to know everything about him.

“And that’s when he stopped coming to the club. He didn’t love her, he never did. What does the hell does love even mean?” Joji shook his head and looked out the door at a couple stumbling into a hotel across the street. “When I opened Termini, I was so happy. My parents were so proud of me. I thought I would be running that place until I was too old to even remember my own name.

“But when Sho told us he was going to start taking his meds, he thanked me. He said when I started my bakery and told him why I’d done it, it reminded him of a very important point in his life. He said when he got off that train in Rome, he felt like everything was different. All the doubt he had been feeling about himself, all the loneliness and frustration he had been trying to silence, seemed less important. In Tokyo, he felt like everyone was just silently tolerating their unhappiness with smiles, that as long as you were a contributing member of your group, that was enough. There was no drive to find personal happiness and no right to express your personal suffering. Yet so many people were living here on the other side of the world, struggling but still living, still able to feel real joy in addition to the sadness. They were still their own individuals even on the streets. He realized he didn’t know anything about working for his own happiness. For him, Termini Station was the beginning of everything.

“So my parents began hating that bakery and that made me start hating that bakery as well. I felt sorry for having tried so hard to keep something so terrible. I knew that my bakery hadn’t caused him to be the way he was and that he would have eventually chosen his own way, but I still came to work every day, looking at the Termini signboard outside, and felt depressed. I had completely misinterpreted what had been so special about that moment in Rome.

“So I decided to erase everything. I sold the place to some investors that were eyeing the place for months. I told everyone I didn’t have the money or willpower to keep running the place and closed that chapter of my life,” Joji took a final slurp of the soup.

“I tried to erase the last strong connection we had. I willed Termini out of existence,” he said, looking down at his hands. “I sometimes get scared that I will just forget about him, that he never wakes up and we all just forget about him.” Joji looked down at his hands. “Can you remember your brother’s face?”

I thought for a bit. I could only come up with a tall silhouette in a baseball cap but no clear face. I shook my head.

“Why did you really bring me here today?” I asked, slowly wiping my mouth with a napkin. The ramen shop owner took the order ticket from a pair of customers that had just walked in. All the customers we had entered in with had already left.

“The knife wound from the doctor wasn’t fatal,” Joji said. “She spent a few days at the hospital and came home. She wouldn’t talk to anybody, blasting the same song over and over again in her room. I think she didn’t know what to feel anymore. I think she still wanted to be with the guy, but hated him at the same time.

“Then our mom began saying this was all a sign for why Sho had been going in the wrong direction. That he was destroying our family with his selfish decisions. She would talk to her friends on the phone and make up stories about how her son had received a scholarship and had gone overseas to study law in New York, that he had found a nice American girlfriend. She had basically killed her son in her mind.

“So Sho got a bottle of sleeping pills from one of his club friends. He downed the whole bottle one night and never woke up. We were too late but too early in a way. He, or rather she’s, been in a coma ever since.”

“Did you bring me here to find out more about what happened from Shinji?”

“No,” Joji shook his head. “Honestly, I don’t know why I brought you here, but I think I needed to come here. I needed to tell you Sho’s story,” Joji said, still looking at his hands, the bones and veins like tiny intertwined slopes.

“I feel like if I tell somebody else her story, maybe she won’t have to be so lonely anymore. That I won’t forget her.”

---

We walked to the station in silence, the night sky covered in clouds. The club billboards of large-eyed girls with fake eyelashes and dyed-brown hair left me feeling vacant. A cab waited for us by the curb, but we waved it away, neither of us talking.

I remembered how our arguments always ended in silence. I would keep asking him why he did this or that, or why he said that, or why he didn’t do that, or was he even listening? and he would just sit there in complete silence, letting me yell at him until I just started crying, not sure why I was crying. Then he would take my hand and tell me he was sorry he couldn’t understand me, but that he was listening, that the silence didn’t mean he wasn’t listening. I wondered if his sister had been the same, waiting for him to tell her a story, how he had been, what scared him, and what he was going to do from now.

“Let’s go visit her tomorrow,” I said as we entered JR Shimbashi Station. Drunken salarymen were slumped on the floor, spooning their briefcases, empty cans of hangover remedies at their sides. The schedule board flashed with the first train of the day.

“Do you think she’ll want to see me?” Joji asked.

“Hard to say,” I pursed my lips. “Do you think you can win her a cute dog plush on the way? No one ever turns down cute dogs,” I smiled and Joji smiles for the first time since we left Heaven’s Rose.

As we waited for first train, the snow started to fall in tiny speckles, covering Joji’s dark black hair. The overhead lamps cast an orange glow over the few people on the early morning platform, their breath coming out in deep puffs against the cold air. We watched the light beginning to rise in the horizon, through the deep blanket of clouds like an orange ember melting the night, one day spilling into another.
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Written by Ferryman

Taliaferro

I suppose it shouldn't be much of a surprise why the Evans pond had the biggest, best catfish in all of Taliaferro County. Hell, maybe even the South.

Old Man Evans used to say it was on account of the depth of the thing. His grampa had it dug as a public works project back in the New Deal. A work crew was cuttin' a firebreak just east of his place, along the property line between Evans and Jenkins land.

Well, Grampa Evans, he went on down to the courthouse and had some words with a few county commissioners and a judge or two. As I understand it, they was pleasant words, with mentions of reelection and campaign funds, along with a couple of plain envelopes that never saw the inside of a mailbox.

Next thing you know, that work crew took a detour off the firebreak for a coupla weeks. Even the fellah from Atlanta in charge of organizing all the labor, he seemed happy to help. 'Course, "helping" for him pretty much meant helping himself to quarts of the good stuff revenuers used to get all tied up about. He spent more than a few afternoons in a rockin' chair chasing the shade of the front porch while them fellahs went at the dirt to earn their keep.

Anyhow. That's the story as I've heard it told.

Grampa Evans, he made em go extra deep on that pond. He swears it made for cooler water and better livin' conditions for them fish he had stocked before the War.

Things was lean bout the time our boys landed in Normandy, 'cept over on the Evans place. He always had plenty of ration cards, hell, he even managed to have chocolate and gas when everybody else was ridin' bicycles or walkin'.

We never thought nothin' about it, not really.

But it did seem he always had comp'ny out of Atlanta a fair piece. Real city-slicker types. Greasy hair and easy smiles that never lit up them shady eyes.

Anyhoo. Wasn't long after the war things picked up, so much as things've ever picked up in Crawfordville. Folks was comin' from all around, payin' a fee to fish in the Evans pond. Atlanta folks, especially; a whole mess of em always came out for nightfishin.

A right good business started to boom out on that place. It got to where he had to limit the number of tickets he'd let get out, on account of he didn't want to have to restock his pond any more than necess'ry.

Come to think of it, the whole thing was genius, really.

National Geographic came out one time in '64. It was because of the catfish, see.

They was big.

Goddamn, but they was big.

I remember once, I paid my fee to fish. I just sat up on the bank with my cane pole. It was a slow day, maybe just one other couple out and about.

Before long, I hooked me somethin'. Damn thing near-bout broke my pole.

It was a monster. Had to be twelve pounds or so.

In a pond.

Goddamn anomaly, is what it was.

But I didn't mind. Made some fine eatin'.

I never spared too much thought on it, to tell th' truth; what eatin’ them fish meant, in a we-are-what-we-eat sense.

Not until that mess that came-to here a few years ago.

Worst drought we ever did have.

That Evans pond, it dried right up. Damndest thing I seen. That thing been 'round long as any of us can remember.

By then, the pay-to-fish thing had done played out. Folk had just lost interest, I reckon. So it took a while to catch notice.

The Eff-Bee-Eye, though. They sure took interest once word got out.

It was the bones, see. Down in the mud. They eventually got bleached out by the sun. All these little white specks in the gray-green muck.

That's what started it all.

It's no wonder them catfish was so damn big, and less wonder that Evans place was always filled with Cadillacs and Town Cars.

Big city folk in little old Taliaferro County.

For decades, they'd cruise in to town to feed those catfish, and that Evans bunch charged every single one of them and every single one of us for the privilege.

Goddamn, they was good catfish, though.

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Written by Ferryman
Taliaferro
I suppose it shouldn't be much of a surprise why the Evans pond had the biggest, best catfish in all of Taliaferro County. Hell, maybe even the South.

Old Man Evans used to say it was on account of the depth of the thing. His grampa had it dug as a public works project back in the New Deal. A work crew was cuttin' a firebreak just east of his place, along the property line between Evans and Jenkins land.

Well, Grampa Evans, he went on down to the courthouse and had some words with a few county commissioners and a judge or two. As I understand it, they was pleasant words, with mentions of reelection and campaign funds, along with a couple of plain envelopes that never saw the inside of a mailbox.

Next thing you know, that work crew took a detour off the firebreak for a coupla weeks. Even the fellah from Atlanta in charge of organizing all the labor, he seemed happy to help. 'Course, "helping" for him pretty much meant helping himself to quarts of the good stuff revenuers used to get all tied up about. He spent more than a few afternoons in a rockin' chair chasing the shade of the front porch while them fellahs went at the dirt to earn their keep.

Anyhow. That's the story as I've heard it told.

Grampa Evans, he made em go extra deep on that pond. He swears it made for cooler water and better livin' conditions for them fish he had stocked before the War.

Things was lean bout the time our boys landed in Normandy, 'cept over on the Evans place. He always had plenty of ration cards, hell, he even managed to have chocolate and gas when everybody else was ridin' bicycles or walkin'.

We never thought nothin' about it, not really.

But it did seem he always had comp'ny out of Atlanta a fair piece. Real city-slicker types. Greasy hair and easy smiles that never lit up them shady eyes.

Anyhoo. Wasn't long after the war things picked up, so much as things've ever picked up in Crawfordville. Folks was comin' from all around, payin' a fee to fish in the Evans pond. Atlanta folks, especially; a whole mess of em always came out for nightfishin.

A right good business started to boom out on that place. It got to where he had to limit the number of tickets he'd let get out, on account of he didn't want to have to restock his pond any more than necess'ry.

Come to think of it, the whole thing was genius, really.

National Geographic came out one time in '64. It was because of the catfish, see.

They was big.

Goddamn, but they was big.

I remember once, I paid my fee to fish. I just sat up on the bank with my cane pole. It was a slow day, maybe just one other couple out and about.

Before long, I hooked me somethin'. Damn thing near-bout broke my pole.

It was a monster. Had to be twelve pounds or so.

In a pond.

Goddamn anomaly, is what it was.

But I didn't mind. Made some fine eatin'.

I never spared too much thought on it, to tell th' truth; what eatin’ them fish meant, in a we-are-what-we-eat sense.

Not until that mess that came-to here a few years ago.

Worst drought we ever did have.

That Evans pond, it dried right up. Damndest thing I seen. That thing been 'round long as any of us can remember.

By then, the pay-to-fish thing had done played out. Folk had just lost interest, I reckon. So it took a while to catch notice.

The Eff-Bee-Eye, though. They sure took interest once word got out.

It was the bones, see. Down in the mud. They eventually got bleached out by the sun. All these little white specks in the gray-green muck.

That's what started it all.

It's no wonder them catfish was so damn big, and less wonder that Evans place was always filled with Cadillacs and Town Cars.

Big city folk in little old Taliaferro County.

For decades, they'd cruise in to town to feed those catfish, and that Evans bunch charged every single one of them and every single one of us for the privilege.

Goddamn, they was good catfish, though.



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Written by melissa-compton

Extract from Phoenix Love a novel I'm writing.

<p>Sammael was not a man that needed much sleep leading the hectic life of a lawyer.&amp;nbsp; Meant he lived on fast forward with little sleep and functioned very well that way.&amp;nbsp; It wasn't long before the sunshine was bursting through the window, lighting up the entire room and crawling over Sophia's face.&amp;nbsp; Sophia was still wrapped in Sammael arms with the blanket wrapped all around her.&amp;nbsp; Sophia slowly woke up and looked at the Sammael he was still sleeping, so she snuggled back into his arms and lay there a while.&amp;nbsp; She was living a fairy tale, a princess in her castle with her prince.&amp;nbsp; It was funny she couldn't help but wonder what comes next! Sammael was a dream come true, but he would probably have to go to work, what would she do? Sophia Didn't want to wander around this grand house by herself.&amp;nbsp; Eventually, she convinced herself just to enjoy the moment and live in the present.&amp;nbsp; Samael was slowly waking up now, he turned to Sophia brushed her hair to the side,</p><p>"Morning" Sammael announced</p><p>

</p><p>"Good Morning" Sophia said smiling</p><p>

</p><p>Sammael kissed Sophia gently on the head, she looked up at him smiling, Sophia was so content right now.</p>

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Written by melissa-compton
Extract from Phoenix Love a novel I'm writing.
<p>Sammael was not a man that needed much sleep leading the hectic life of a lawyer.&amp;nbsp; Meant he lived on fast forward with little sleep and functioned very well that way.&amp;nbsp; It wasn't long before the sunshine was bursting through the window, lighting up the entire room and crawling over Sophia's face.&amp;nbsp; Sophia was still wrapped in Sammael arms with the blanket wrapped all around her.&amp;nbsp; Sophia slowly woke up and looked at the Sammael he was still sleeping, so she snuggled back into his arms and lay there a while.&amp;nbsp; She was living a fairy tale, a princess in her castle with her prince.&amp;nbsp; It was funny she couldn't help but wonder what comes next! Sammael was a dream come true, but he would probably have to go to work, what would she do? Sophia Didn't want to wander around this grand house by herself.&amp;nbsp; Eventually, she convinced herself just to enjoy the moment and live in the present.&amp;nbsp; Samael was slowly waking up now, he turned to Sophia brushed her hair to the side,</p><p>"Morning" Sammael announced</p><p>
</p><p>"Good Morning" Sophia said smiling</p><p>
</p><p>Sammael kissed Sophia gently on the head, she looked up at him smiling, Sophia was so content right now.</p>
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Written by Young

Tranqulity

The woman wavered on her journey on the path of tranquility as she witnessed their souls behind devoured by depression. 

She had always been unhappy, as she had spent her life working for minimum wage if only to be able to afford meals for one in her small, cramped apartment. But witnessing their souls be consumed, she hugged her soul to her chest and put on a mask of cold and calculated calm. 

However, she couldn't help but watch as a woman jumped from the building's roof and the lone man slit his wrists with the sharp knife of his guilt and sorrow. And as teenager, strangled by anxiety and life's standards, swallowed a handful of sleeping pills hoping to be blessed with internal slumber. But she awoke the next day, her vain attempt resulting only dead brain cells and a still beating heart.

The woman was horrified. But she knew that if she could only pretend that the demons didn't exist, if she could only pretend to smile while her soul frowned, she could avoid the results. 

And yet she still starved for love and recognition. And when her mask ate her alive, she realized that lies weren't enough.

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Written by Young
Tranqulity
The woman wavered on her journey on the path of tranquility as she witnessed their souls behind devoured by depression. 
She had always been unhappy, as she had spent her life working for minimum wage if only to be able to afford meals for one in her small, cramped apartment. But witnessing their souls be consumed, she hugged her soul to her chest and put on a mask of cold and calculated calm. 
However, she couldn't help but watch as a woman jumped from the building's roof and the lone man slit his wrists with the sharp knife of his guilt and sorrow. And as teenager, strangled by anxiety and life's standards, swallowed a handful of sleeping pills hoping to be blessed with internal slumber. But she awoke the next day, her vain attempt resulting only dead brain cells and a still beating heart.
The woman was horrified. But she knew that if she could only pretend that the demons didn't exist, if she could only pretend to smile while her soul frowned, she could avoid the results. 
And yet she still starved for love and recognition. And when her mask ate her alive, she realized that lies weren't enough.
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Written by RRichWords

the chaser

Losing control in the run downhill. Legs past muscle control into marionette mechanical motion. It is flying . Those airborne moments between bones locking under cartilage cap to jolt the limb into revolution .

Again and ...

  wind catches the

  dandelion clock once

  me or not

again

My hopes want to make dreams of the pell-mell because my heart wants to catch you before we reach the bottom. The swell of early summer dried the perennial flowering. Prettied the ground hard but only a fingernail deep. A heaved sigh as your white shoes scratched that starting line and on the one of three you took a lead.

The me at the top wishes ..

I had worn a helmet . Hard hats at least ( soft hearts so the song I made up goes). The beat of your feet responded in my chest, filled my ears and, cheeks to colour of the poppies. Crushed in all that dust kicked up and some flowers buried, early.

The me at the bottom ...

let us hope for the best. Arms and legs entangled to capture us long enough for the fairy seeds to plant themselves

  the wind lifts

  a field of flowers

  strong or light

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Written by RRichWords
the chaser
Losing control in the run downhill. Legs past muscle control into marionette mechanical motion. It is flying . Those airborne moments between bones locking under cartilage cap to jolt the limb into revolution .

Again and ...

  wind catches the
  dandelion clock once
  me or not

again

My hopes want to make dreams of the pell-mell because my heart wants to catch you before we reach the bottom. The swell of early summer dried the perennial flowering. Prettied the ground hard but only a fingernail deep. A heaved sigh as your white shoes scratched that starting line and on the one of three you took a lead.

The me at the top wishes ..
I had worn a helmet . Hard hats at least ( soft hearts so the song I made up goes). The beat of your feet responded in my chest, filled my ears and, cheeks to colour of the poppies. Crushed in all that dust kicked up and some flowers buried, early.

The me at the bottom ...
let us hope for the best. Arms and legs entangled to capture us long enough for the fairy seeds to plant themselves

  the wind lifts
  a field of flowers
  strong or light
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Written by AdeliaKing

Reality

       I sat down on a sandy bench along the boardwalk that runs along the beach. The boardwalk is old. The wood is chipped, and it droops. This beach, from what I have seen during my time here is a very tired, gloomy beach. The sun rarely shines. Dark clouds are almost always lurking around waiting until they are above us to let out the rain that they hold inside. Thunderstorms are frequent. As it seems are all stormy or gloomy weather conditions. It is so unlike the beach near my home of California that I sometimes forget to think of it as a beach.

Picking up some of the sand from the bench I examine it closely, I looked at each grain as if I was a scientist examining a new speciesism. It was a gray color, and it was cold. Never in all my growing up did I see gray or cold sand anywhere in California. The sand there had matched the perpetual happy mood I had as a child. There had been plentiful amounts of pretty shells and seaweed didn't wash up on the shore. That beach was like a dream now far away. Now I have woken up, now I have come upon reality.

I watched as the waves broke against the shore. They came from out at sea gaining momentum only to break when they found that they could not slow down. They crashed just as I had crashed after rushing through childhood. I crashed when I reached the rocky shore of life. Alas, childhood seems so long ago yet it was only a few seemingly short years ago when after sailing through middle school with A's I hit high school where I shattered into millions of pieces. Now I am expected to put those pieces back together into a shape resembling the happy, carefree girl I had been before. They say, when life throws you lemons make lemonade, but what can you do when the lemons lay smashed on the ground and there is not even enough sugar to coat the bottom of the cup?

Rain started to fall. On an already dark and stormy day of gloom such as today rain made it, if possible even gloomier. I got up from the bench and started walking. The wind was blowing the rain in my face. I looked over seeing the fresh rainwater mix with the salty ocean. It did no good to the frothing ocean water to have the clean rainwater mixed in with it, the ocean was bigger and too much more powerful for it to do any good. It was just as after dropping out of school when I was mixed with dark people. The whiteness of my former self did no good for those people, yet they instantly blackened my soul.

Thunder brewed in the distance as the wind picked up speed. I reached my house retreating into the depths of it. The house creaked. This house, I have come to live in it through all my misdeeds. I may as well frame the evidence on the wall, for hiding it does not work. When I go out people shy away from me. They know. They all know what I did. They know, they do not understand how or why I did it, but they know. They know, the only reason they have not told the authorities is because they are afraid.

Afraid that I am not the only one. Afraid that they will be next. Afraid for different reasons but afraid all the same. There will be no next I tell myself. The last time was the last, and will be for forever. However I know that when I climb the stairs to by room, waiting on my pillow will be a white envelope containing an address. Knowing that I have no choice, I will obey my master, just as I have every time before.

Again the waves came as if fighting to break loose from the ocean. As again they were Pushed back into their captivity. The waves came again attacking the shore one last time before I went to bed. When I opened the door to my bedroom I saw that lying on my pillow there was a white envelope and beside it was my master's weapon of choice. Small, and seemingly innocent, inconspicuous, something that nobody would suspect. There, beside the envelope lay a deathly, blue, jellybean.

As the tide comes in the ocean let the waves loose before reeling them back in. Every time the waves fall for it thinking they are free, just as every time the ocean reels them back in and they recede. Just as when I convince myself that my master does not need me any more and that I will be able to leave and start a new life somewhere far away I come up to my bedroom, and lying on my bed is a white envelope and a jellybean. One day I hope to be free of this. One day my master will find a new servant. Someone else can ruin themselves for him. He will catch them off guard. Someone young and unprepared. I should feel bad for this person that will have my job someday. Part of me wants to, but I can't. My mind will not let my heart do what I know is right. There was a note when I came here from the last person he enslaved. It made it clear that he had not felt sorry for me and that I therefore need not feel sorry for the next person after me and that I should write a note simpler to his to me when and if I were freed.

However I do not have to make this decision yet. One day I will though. One day far off in the distant future I will though. One day I will be free to wish upon a star and leave this dreadful place. It will be a day not unlike those that are mentions in children's storybooks and fairy tales. It will be a majestic day such as the one where Cinderella married her Prince Charming. One day... to think, one day, on my pillow, I will find a purple jellybean.

I sleep. I almost sleep too much but I am woken on the last ring of my alarm clock. I quickly silence it. I silently get ready. I read the instructions and the address from the envelope. I knew who lived there. My master was going for the gold, and this meant that if I could manage to pull this off I was sure to be freed. Setting out for my destination at a brisk walk I pondered where I would go. For once I could go anywhere I wanted. Nothing could hold me back.

I could leave the country. I could go to Europe where a whole ocean would separate me from this place. I could go east, maybe New York or perhaps Florida. I heard that it has the same vibe as California. There was only one place I couldn't go to. It was the place I wanted to go to most but it would not be worth it. To explain this to my parents is one thing I could not ever do. I can't go home.

When I reached the house I silently snuck around to the back door of the house. Quickly picking the lock on the door I went inside. The wife was out of town. The house staff was not here yet. This should be easy. I crept up the stairs to his bedroom. The door was oiled and made no sound when I opened it. I quickly put the jellybean into his mouth. Shoving as many valuables as possible into my bag I left the house.

I was safely back in my house, in my pajamas, with my hair messed up like I had been sleeping by the time I heard the sirens. The house staff had probably just arrived to get everything ready for him when he woke. I don't know why they had gone into his room but they had and I am glad that I was back here, all ready to pretend I knew nothing if I were to be asked. I went up to my room to put the hidden valuables onto my bed so that my master could collect them. There was a note on the pillow, and under the note was a purple jellybean. I thought long, and I thought hard before I ate it, and the world melted before my eyes.

Afraid to open my eyes, I tried to guess where I would end up. Knowing that even though I had made my choice I could end up somewhere else. That was the risk with traveling this way. I was inside somewhere, lying in a bed. I closed my eyes tighter wanting it all to have been a dream, but knowing it can't have been. Then there was a call from somewhere else within the house. "Breakfasts ready." I breathed out, relieved, it was my mom I am not the person I have thought myself to have become. I am still a middle school girl that enjoys drawing pretty sunsets from the beaches in San Jose. I get up, running down the stairs towards the breakfast that awaits me.

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Written by AdeliaKing
Reality
       I sat down on a sandy bench along the boardwalk that runs along the beach. The boardwalk is old. The wood is chipped, and it droops. This beach, from what I have seen during my time here is a very tired, gloomy beach. The sun rarely shines. Dark clouds are almost always lurking around waiting until they are above us to let out the rain that they hold inside. Thunderstorms are frequent. As it seems are all stormy or gloomy weather conditions. It is so unlike the beach near my home of California that I sometimes forget to think of it as a beach.
Picking up some of the sand from the bench I examine it closely, I looked at each grain as if I was a scientist examining a new speciesism. It was a gray color, and it was cold. Never in all my growing up did I see gray or cold sand anywhere in California. The sand there had matched the perpetual happy mood I had as a child. There had been plentiful amounts of pretty shells and seaweed didn't wash up on the shore. That beach was like a dream now far away. Now I have woken up, now I have come upon reality.
I watched as the waves broke against the shore. They came from out at sea gaining momentum only to break when they found that they could not slow down. They crashed just as I had crashed after rushing through childhood. I crashed when I reached the rocky shore of life. Alas, childhood seems so long ago yet it was only a few seemingly short years ago when after sailing through middle school with A's I hit high school where I shattered into millions of pieces. Now I am expected to put those pieces back together into a shape resembling the happy, carefree girl I had been before. They say, when life throws you lemons make lemonade, but what can you do when the lemons lay smashed on the ground and there is not even enough sugar to coat the bottom of the cup?
Rain started to fall. On an already dark and stormy day of gloom such as today rain made it, if possible even gloomier. I got up from the bench and started walking. The wind was blowing the rain in my face. I looked over seeing the fresh rainwater mix with the salty ocean. It did no good to the frothing ocean water to have the clean rainwater mixed in with it, the ocean was bigger and too much more powerful for it to do any good. It was just as after dropping out of school when I was mixed with dark people. The whiteness of my former self did no good for those people, yet they instantly blackened my soul.
Thunder brewed in the distance as the wind picked up speed. I reached my house retreating into the depths of it. The house creaked. This house, I have come to live in it through all my misdeeds. I may as well frame the evidence on the wall, for hiding it does not work. When I go out people shy away from me. They know. They all know what I did. They know, they do not understand how or why I did it, but they know. They know, the only reason they have not told the authorities is because they are afraid.
Afraid that I am not the only one. Afraid that they will be next. Afraid for different reasons but afraid all the same. There will be no next I tell myself. The last time was the last, and will be for forever. However I know that when I climb the stairs to by room, waiting on my pillow will be a white envelope containing an address. Knowing that I have no choice, I will obey my master, just as I have every time before.
Again the waves came as if fighting to break loose from the ocean. As again they were Pushed back into their captivity. The waves came again attacking the shore one last time before I went to bed. When I opened the door to my bedroom I saw that lying on my pillow there was a white envelope and beside it was my master's weapon of choice. Small, and seemingly innocent, inconspicuous, something that nobody would suspect. There, beside the envelope lay a deathly, blue, jellybean.
As the tide comes in the ocean let the waves loose before reeling them back in. Every time the waves fall for it thinking they are free, just as every time the ocean reels them back in and they recede. Just as when I convince myself that my master does not need me any more and that I will be able to leave and start a new life somewhere far away I come up to my bedroom, and lying on my bed is a white envelope and a jellybean. One day I hope to be free of this. One day my master will find a new servant. Someone else can ruin themselves for him. He will catch them off guard. Someone young and unprepared. I should feel bad for this person that will have my job someday. Part of me wants to, but I can't. My mind will not let my heart do what I know is right. There was a note when I came here from the last person he enslaved. It made it clear that he had not felt sorry for me and that I therefore need not feel sorry for the next person after me and that I should write a note simpler to his to me when and if I were freed.
However I do not have to make this decision yet. One day I will though. One day far off in the distant future I will though. One day I will be free to wish upon a star and leave this dreadful place. It will be a day not unlike those that are mentions in children's storybooks and fairy tales. It will be a majestic day such as the one where Cinderella married her Prince Charming. One day... to think, one day, on my pillow, I will find a purple jellybean.
I sleep. I almost sleep too much but I am woken on the last ring of my alarm clock. I quickly silence it. I silently get ready. I read the instructions and the address from the envelope. I knew who lived there. My master was going for the gold, and this meant that if I could manage to pull this off I was sure to be freed. Setting out for my destination at a brisk walk I pondered where I would go. For once I could go anywhere I wanted. Nothing could hold me back.
I could leave the country. I could go to Europe where a whole ocean would separate me from this place. I could go east, maybe New York or perhaps Florida. I heard that it has the same vibe as California. There was only one place I couldn't go to. It was the place I wanted to go to most but it would not be worth it. To explain this to my parents is one thing I could not ever do. I can't go home.
When I reached the house I silently snuck around to the back door of the house. Quickly picking the lock on the door I went inside. The wife was out of town. The house staff was not here yet. This should be easy. I crept up the stairs to his bedroom. The door was oiled and made no sound when I opened it. I quickly put the jellybean into his mouth. Shoving as many valuables as possible into my bag I left the house.
I was safely back in my house, in my pajamas, with my hair messed up like I had been sleeping by the time I heard the sirens. The house staff had probably just arrived to get everything ready for him when he woke. I don't know why they had gone into his room but they had and I am glad that I was back here, all ready to pretend I knew nothing if I were to be asked. I went up to my room to put the hidden valuables onto my bed so that my master could collect them. There was a note on the pillow, and under the note was a purple jellybean. I thought long, and I thought hard before I ate it, and the world melted before my eyes.
Afraid to open my eyes, I tried to guess where I would end up. Knowing that even though I had made my choice I could end up somewhere else. That was the risk with traveling this way. I was inside somewhere, lying in a bed. I closed my eyes tighter wanting it all to have been a dream, but knowing it can't have been. Then there was a call from somewhere else within the house. "Breakfasts ready." I breathed out, relieved, it was my mom I am not the person I have thought myself to have become. I am still a middle school girl that enjoys drawing pretty sunsets from the beaches in San Jose. I get up, running down the stairs towards the breakfast that awaits me.



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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 nesslow

 

(Once upon a Time has been wrong since the late eighteen hundreds because Once was a dick to Time and Time got sick of his shit. So being the sociopath that he is Time killed Once’s family and made Once his slave. Hence, in a social hierarchy sense . . . a Time upon Once there was Fin.

When growing out of his milk teeth Fin dreamed dreams of dreams. Dreams of Lana Emmig putting out and others full of abracadabras. Dreams of blissful nudity and dreams where the main characters go belly up.

White dreams, soggy dreams, bad dreams and wet ones too.

At this moment, the point in which our story commences, Fin, this dumb relatively innocent boy lay in his bed, in the position of a fetus drooling pools of saliva. Lost in his head, he partook in his daily daydreams. Not to draw pleasure nor lacking it, it was just defiantly natural and despite him being unaware, essential to his spiritual health. He could spend hours like this, days if it were not for the world outside of him.

In his current vacation he was dressed like some sort of performer. Stuffed in his fancy clothes he was in the midst of what looked like a magic show and he was assisting a fat man that stood at the edge of the stage. Facing the audience the man held a gun, a .45 revolver and he pressed the end of the barrel to the skin under his jaw and began to dance.

Fin lived in a house with his parents and his brother. He wasn't fond of any of them. And like most children he didn't listen. However it wasn't for the same reasons. He spent most of his time in his room grounded because he went too far or said too much. His parents were very controlling and didn't distinguish the relationship understanding and choice have with creating a moral individual. Maybe it is for the same reasons.

After having one of his episodes, he slipped out of bed and put some pants on. It was still morning. He put some socks on. The fat, yellow sun hanged outside and poured through the window by Fin’s nightstand. He put a shirt on. Fin went and closed the curtains and went back to bed fully dressed and all. He wasn't ready to leave the comfort of his room. Not yet. Today his family was having a little reunion or something at his house to welcome Fin’s uncle Jared back into society. It was sort of like a party but for a criminal. Few of the family members convened with the innocent intention of helping and welcoming Jared, the others had another reason to celebrate. Jared was branded by Fin the uncle that always gave him a cheap magic set for his birthday because he was his uncle and he always gave him a cheap magic set on his birthday. So a swarm of relatives that Fin saw twice a year, would be infesting the already infested home. Fin didn't want to deal with it, so in his dark habitat he went to sleep.

-

The sun was slipping away, back into its hiding place under the horizon. The rest of its visible body lit up a flat field of harvested corn. And in the midst of the dry ravaged ears of corn decorating the floor a pig ran amok. It was bleeding out through the messy stub it had for a tail. It screeched and squealed into the dim, darkening air dripping a trail of black blood behind him and Fin watched.

-

On the moon little green bumps, behind Fin, decorated its pale surface in dogpiles. He tried to investigate the animals and their names. In a matter of seconds he could manage fluent conversations and dialogue with them and in return they shared their croutons.

-

Fin awoke to the clatter from the door. He gave sort of a groan and dragged himself out of bed. When Fin opened the door he saw his mother shrugging with her arms crossed. Fin just squinted and tried to focus on her.

“Good morning.” he groaned

“Fin, I told you that you had to get up early 2o3jr op4gjer ngjee hefoqwife eh ioefq we jhfo vf jnkjwenoi to help your brother clean the kfjnriv” said his mother. “Some of the guests will tg4i arriving soon I need to fno rjgno4o tkg g more makeup now so you have to take your pills and go straight into the kitchen jrf 4igjnit hkkfng jr jrngjnjgn finish up with Jimmy. Okaaaay Quickly.”

She walked away hastily, trying to feign her impatience to reach the bathroom mirror. It seemed that she had other priorities at the moment so Fin had time to lay back in his room a little while and he did. And after rolling around in his bed for some time he brought up the will to aid his brother in the kitchen and he left the room.

He went downstairs and saw that his brother was not alone. He walked into the kitchen and was welcomed by his brother, father, and a visitor. The intruder was one of his uncles, an early guest. This uncle in particular looked like a guy who had a big wardrobe. He was fat and his pregnant belly rose high and fell quickly at his belt. The fine clothing went in accordance with his shiny, bald head and made him look just a little iffy. He has a good relationship with the family and his name is Franklin but we can call him Fatfuck.

“Fin. My god you’ve gotten so big” said Fatfuck. “What do you feed these children Marvin, Beans? And this hair, God its so thick and Brown. Marvelous.” he said. “Marvelous”.

Uncle Fatfuck ran his fingers through Fin’s hair. He marveled at the gorgeous locks on his head. He longed for those locks. And beside Fatfuck’s sensitive stimulation towards any type of hair Fin actually had really nice hair. So his admiration turned into misguided desire and it started to peek out onto his face and at the sight of this odd transformation Fin pulled away and Fatfuck’s hand fell to his side. Fin’s dad was quick to interrupt the scene.

“Fin help your brother here in the kitchen” said Marvin with an awkward laugh. “I’m gonna take Uncle Franklin outback and start the barbecue.”

Fin nodded and the two aged siblings walked out leaving Fin and Jimmy alone. They’re eyes met. Fins eyes were of apathy and Jimmy’s of anger.

“Just because dad had to take you to therapy last jne ejfno2p jnjfoo4 je j4fno 4j jeijf3no enoe ekenior” said Jimmy. “I’m getting really sick and tired of your little immature helpless qworfinmirfin. Don’t think for a second that you can just ignore people and forget the things you have to do because you have problems. You can't just forget the rules. I have pempilla sin contu rim lasso. Memfa finito lan hubo huboso hubosina humberto. Umfvell tintila you’re wrong mokpii. Wendel mansdeq trinfindology mi ponch imo lala grow up. I’ve been kglg6 klgrnqqjkr gjr rkth 24l4t lenh hth6 moooy penke nipnip the rest is yours.”

Thats too much.

He left avoiding further eye contact as if looking at Fin again with nothing to say would make him any weaker. Either way he was only three years older than Fin. That's what went to his head all the time. Sometimes to relieve himself Fin would just imagine Jimmy dying of fecal contamination. Pollution from microorganisms in Jimmy’s gastrointestinal tract helped Fin tolerate him. But Fin now found himself alone in the kitchen and he could afford to breathe.

Fin started mopping the kitchen. He was a short fellow so his hands grabbed the mop in an almost horizontal position. He swayed the mops old braids across the floor and after a while Family members started arriving and ringing the doorbell. His dad and fatfuck were outback, his brother was upstairs, and his mother was in her room probably powdering her face so Fin turned into the door administrator. They’d say hello and ask him where they could find his parents and he would tell them they were out back. And gradually little groups of people spread into segregated bunches throughout the backyard. They said things like “I don’t feel very good” “Me neither” “I feel bad” or “I feel really bad”. Most of Fin’s family talked to Fin in an odd manner. He was immature, a little imp boy. They spoke in a hybrid form of patronization and fear at the same time. People talked and treated Fin from a distance because of the same reason he had to take those pills. His doctors said he was ““mentally ill””.

The pills Fin was supposed to take lay in the cabinet where the rest of the family’s medication was. But Fin’s pills were special. They were for his hallucinations. Fin didn't hear voices or anything like that. He wasn't that crazy. His hallucinations were more like movies. From time to time Fin would have these episodes of “self mutilation”. Stuff of its own nature his mind would project. He saw things he didn't want to see and it was all so real. It was like dreaming. You don't know your in a dream until you wake up.

The doctor hadn't really seen anything like Fin’s case so he was a distinctive patient. Those drugs helped him escape the deep unexplored caves of his own mind, he thought. When off them the visions were like trying to swat flies in your own head. They buzzed and stuck wherever they pleased. His visions clouded his mind and if it were not for the anesthesia he was able to feed on, his thoughts would drown him.

In this dormant state Fin tickled the floor with his mop. He danced around with it until the kitchen smelled disinfected and rid of bacteria. By the time he finished a crowd was outside waiting for their burgers. Marvin and the iffy uncle, Fatfuck had taken over the grill and were handing out dinner. This was the perfect time for Fin to go upstairs so he could jack off. He had already been thinking about it for some time. So he rushed to put the things away so nobody’d notice he was gone. He sprang out of the kitchen and made his way upstairs when he heard someone at the door. Fin thought it could've been Jared since he hadn’t arrived yet so he walked down the steps to welcome him.

When Fin opened the door he didn’t see uncle Jared. What he saw was a masked man wearing black clothes which is all Fin could digest before the stranger broke a glass bottle over Fin’s head. Fin toppled over to one side and the last thing he remembered were the dozens of crystals ricocheting of his skull onto the ground.

The man quickly picked up Fin’s dead weight and threw him over his shoulder. The silhouette closed the door and carried our now unconscious protagonist down the steps of the front porch with him. He made his way to his car parked a little ways down the road cause all of the guests had constipated the vehicle flow in and out of the house’s parking space.

The kidnapping was successful. The stranger arrived at his destination with his loot and dumped it in the trunk (He wasn't a bad guy. He put quilts and pillows in the back.). Meanwhile the laughter and noise of unrelated simultaneous voices you get when you enter a school cafeteria arose from the party currently being thrown for Jared and filled the air. And just like that Fin left his home, parents, and family for an extensive amount of Time unconscious, oblivious and unaware of the fact that he was in fact leaving in the small smelly Trunk of a Honda driven by goldfish addict.

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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 nesslow
 



(Once upon a Time has been wrong since the late eighteen hundreds because Once was a dick to Time and Time got sick of his shit. So being the sociopath that he is Time killed Once’s family and made Once his slave. Hence, in a social hierarchy sense . . . a Time upon Once there was Fin.
When growing out of his milk teeth Fin dreamed dreams of dreams. Dreams of Lana Emmig putting out and others full of abracadabras. Dreams of blissful nudity and dreams where the main characters go belly up.
White dreams, soggy dreams, bad dreams and wet ones too.
At this moment, the point in which our story commences, Fin, this dumb relatively innocent boy lay in his bed, in the position of a fetus drooling pools of saliva. Lost in his head, he partook in his daily daydreams. Not to draw pleasure nor lacking it, it was just defiantly natural and despite him being unaware, essential to his spiritual health. He could spend hours like this, days if it were not for the world outside of him.
In his current vacation he was dressed like some sort of performer. Stuffed in his fancy clothes he was in the midst of what looked like a magic show and he was assisting a fat man that stood at the edge of the stage. Facing the audience the man held a gun, a .45 revolver and he pressed the end of the barrel to the skin under his jaw and began to dance.
Fin lived in a house with his parents and his brother. He wasn't fond of any of them. And like most children he didn't listen. However it wasn't for the same reasons. He spent most of his time in his room grounded because he went too far or said too much. His parents were very controlling and didn't distinguish the relationship understanding and choice have with creating a moral individual. Maybe it is for the same reasons.
After having one of his episodes, he slipped out of bed and put some pants on. It was still morning. He put some socks on. The fat, yellow sun hanged outside and poured through the window by Fin’s nightstand. He put a shirt on. Fin went and closed the curtains and went back to bed fully dressed and all. He wasn't ready to leave the comfort of his room. Not yet. Today his family was having a little reunion or something at his house to welcome Fin’s uncle Jared back into society. It was sort of like a party but for a criminal. Few of the family members convened with the innocent intention of helping and welcoming Jared, the others had another reason to celebrate. Jared was branded by Fin the uncle that always gave him a cheap magic set for his birthday because he was his uncle and he always gave him a cheap magic set on his birthday. So a swarm of relatives that Fin saw twice a year, would be infesting the already infested home. Fin didn't want to deal with it, so in his dark habitat he went to sleep.
-
The sun was slipping away, back into its hiding place under the horizon. The rest of its visible body lit up a flat field of harvested corn. And in the midst of the dry ravaged ears of corn decorating the floor a pig ran amok. It was bleeding out through the messy stub it had for a tail. It screeched and squealed into the dim, darkening air dripping a trail of black blood behind him and Fin watched.
-
On the moon little green bumps, behind Fin, decorated its pale surface in dogpiles. He tried to investigate the animals and their names. In a matter of seconds he could manage fluent conversations and dialogue with them and in return they shared their croutons.
-
Fin awoke to the clatter from the door. He gave sort of a groan and dragged himself out of bed. When Fin opened the door he saw his mother shrugging with her arms crossed. Fin just squinted and tried to focus on her.
“Good morning.” he groaned
“Fin, I told you that you had to get up early 2o3jr op4gjer ngjee hefoqwife eh ioefq we jhfo vf jnkjwenoi to help your brother clean the kfjnriv” said his mother. “Some of the guests will tg4i arriving soon I need to fno rjgno4o tkg g more makeup now so you have to take your pills and go straight into the kitchen jrf 4igjnit hkkfng jr jrngjnjgn finish up with Jimmy. Okaaaay Quickly.”
She walked away hastily, trying to feign her impatience to reach the bathroom mirror. It seemed that she had other priorities at the moment so Fin had time to lay back in his room a little while and he did. And after rolling around in his bed for some time he brought up the will to aid his brother in the kitchen and he left the room.
He went downstairs and saw that his brother was not alone. He walked into the kitchen and was welcomed by his brother, father, and a visitor. The intruder was one of his uncles, an early guest. This uncle in particular looked like a guy who had a big wardrobe. He was fat and his pregnant belly rose high and fell quickly at his belt. The fine clothing went in accordance with his shiny, bald head and made him look just a little iffy. He has a good relationship with the family and his name is Franklin but we can call him Fatfuck.
“Fin. My god you’ve gotten so big” said Fatfuck. “What do you feed these children Marvin, Beans? And this hair, God its so thick and Brown. Marvelous.” he said. “Marvelous”.
Uncle Fatfuck ran his fingers through Fin’s hair. He marveled at the gorgeous locks on his head. He longed for those locks. And beside Fatfuck’s sensitive stimulation towards any type of hair Fin actually had really nice hair. So his admiration turned into misguided desire and it started to peek out onto his face and at the sight of this odd transformation Fin pulled away and Fatfuck’s hand fell to his side. Fin’s dad was quick to interrupt the scene.
“Fin help your brother here in the kitchen” said Marvin with an awkward laugh. “I’m gonna take Uncle Franklin outback and start the barbecue.”
Fin nodded and the two aged siblings walked out leaving Fin and Jimmy alone. They’re eyes met. Fins eyes were of apathy and Jimmy’s of anger.
“Just because dad had to take you to therapy last jne ejfno2p jnjfoo4 je j4fno 4j jeijf3no enoe ekenior” said Jimmy. “I’m getting really sick and tired of your little immature helpless qworfinmirfin. Don’t think for a second that you can just ignore people and forget the things you have to do because you have problems. You can't just forget the rules. I have pempilla sin contu rim lasso. Memfa finito lan hubo huboso hubosina humberto. Umfvell tintila you’re wrong mokpii. Wendel mansdeq trinfindology mi ponch imo lala grow up. I’ve been kglg6 klgrnqqjkr gjr rkth 24l4t lenh hth6 moooy penke nipnip the rest is yours.”
Thats too much.
He left avoiding further eye contact as if looking at Fin again with nothing to say would make him any weaker. Either way he was only three years older than Fin. That's what went to his head all the time. Sometimes to relieve himself Fin would just imagine Jimmy dying of fecal contamination. Pollution from microorganisms in Jimmy’s gastrointestinal tract helped Fin tolerate him. But Fin now found himself alone in the kitchen and he could afford to breathe.
Fin started mopping the kitchen. He was a short fellow so his hands grabbed the mop in an almost horizontal position. He swayed the mops old braids across the floor and after a while Family members started arriving and ringing the doorbell. His dad and fatfuck were outback, his brother was upstairs, and his mother was in her room probably powdering her face so Fin turned into the door administrator. They’d say hello and ask him where they could find his parents and he would tell them they were out back. And gradually little groups of people spread into segregated bunches throughout the backyard. They said things like “I don’t feel very good” “Me neither” “I feel bad” or “I feel really bad”. Most of Fin’s family talked to Fin in an odd manner. He was immature, a little imp boy. They spoke in a hybrid form of patronization and fear at the same time. People talked and treated Fin from a distance because of the same reason he had to take those pills. His doctors said he was ““mentally ill””.
The pills Fin was supposed to take lay in the cabinet where the rest of the family’s medication was. But Fin’s pills were special. They were for his hallucinations. Fin didn't hear voices or anything like that. He wasn't that crazy. His hallucinations were more like movies. From time to time Fin would have these episodes of “self mutilation”. Stuff of its own nature his mind would project. He saw things he didn't want to see and it was all so real. It was like dreaming. You don't know your in a dream until you wake up.
The doctor hadn't really seen anything like Fin’s case so he was a distinctive patient. Those drugs helped him escape the deep unexplored caves of his own mind, he thought. When off them the visions were like trying to swat flies in your own head. They buzzed and stuck wherever they pleased. His visions clouded his mind and if it were not for the anesthesia he was able to feed on, his thoughts would drown him.
In this dormant state Fin tickled the floor with his mop. He danced around with it until the kitchen smelled disinfected and rid of bacteria. By the time he finished a crowd was outside waiting for their burgers. Marvin and the iffy uncle, Fatfuck had taken over the grill and were handing out dinner. This was the perfect time for Fin to go upstairs so he could jack off. He had already been thinking about it for some time. So he rushed to put the things away so nobody’d notice he was gone. He sprang out of the kitchen and made his way upstairs when he heard someone at the door. Fin thought it could've been Jared since he hadn’t arrived yet so he walked down the steps to welcome him.
When Fin opened the door he didn’t see uncle Jared. What he saw was a masked man wearing black clothes which is all Fin could digest before the stranger broke a glass bottle over Fin’s head. Fin toppled over to one side and the last thing he remembered were the dozens of crystals ricocheting of his skull onto the ground.
The man quickly picked up Fin’s dead weight and threw him over his shoulder. The silhouette closed the door and carried our now unconscious protagonist down the steps of the front porch with him. He made his way to his car parked a little ways down the road cause all of the guests had constipated the vehicle flow in and out of the house’s parking space.
The kidnapping was successful. The stranger arrived at his destination with his loot and dumped it in the trunk (He wasn't a bad guy. He put quilts and pillows in the back.). Meanwhile the laughter and noise of unrelated simultaneous voices you get when you enter a school cafeteria arose from the party currently being thrown for Jared and filled the air. And just like that Fin left his home, parents, and family for an extensive amount of Time unconscious, oblivious and unaware of the fact that he was in fact leaving in the small smelly Trunk of a Honda driven by goldfish addict.

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Juice
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