Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, Issue 02

The Death of Life

by Gabriella Ganoe

Fall has always felt like a wake to me. A preview, a screening of the death to come, a way to see what living without the Sun will feel like, before its official. The falling leaves are like our heavy tears, the shriveling plants are the words we regret not saying. The wind is the coffin. It’s come to take the life away.

Winter is the funeral. Cold, the tears turned to rain or snow, the grass letting everyone walk right over it. There is no color, only gray. There is no Sun. The Moon has taken over, and even it seems tired. Winter lasts the longest too. They say it’s supposed to last a few months, but the time bleeds into itself, and before you know it, the whole year has been winter. Coats and hats and gloves appear on every street corner, like eulogies or wishful stories. But nothing can keep the frigid chill from seeping into your bones, the ice from frosting over your chest. This is where you lose hope. This is where you’re buried.

Spring comes as the reception. Not everyone has one, and they’re not always what they should be. Sometimes the foods bad, and sometimes, no ones in the mood to talk. Words are stuffed down throats by the cold that lingers under doorways or in corners. Regardless, this is where hope is nurtured. Words are exchanged like thank you cards, hugs are given in all directions. The color begins to return, and your heart begins to thaw. Spring is a promise.

Summer is the car ride home. Company and heat and unanswered questions. You can feel better, but still ache. Whole, but not completed. Around you are the reminders of the things you still have to lose, and the silence reminds you that you will. Summer is a distraction. It causes you to be too busy with the Sun in your eyes to notice the wind beginning to settle over the Earth. It’ll take life as easily as it has all the other times winter has won.

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, Issue 02

Burn

by Gabriella Ganoe

I can feel the power coursing through my veins. It burns, and tugs at the insides of my veins, a beast clawing its way out of my body. But I’m in pain. There is something about it that feels normal, like it’s was working with me. This power is mine. And I don’t have to contain it anymore.

There’s a series of shouts that crowd the air, thick and staggering voices that hit the air behind me. Dad’s probably already called the police; he’s done everything he can to keep me locked away. But now that I know, now that my body is radiating what I was always meant to be, they can’t stop me. Nothing can. Not the years of lies, the constant physiological torture. Not the hand pressing against my chest. It all feels so far away, despite the fact I’ve only run a few meters. The binding is gone. I’m free.

I suddenly feel weightless, an untethered balloon ready to set off to space. The pounding of my feet on the pavement is replaced by the rush of wind against my ears, the ground becoming nothing but a distant memory. The electricity stuck in my veins explodes out through my hands, encircling my fingers like a moth to a flame. I’m the flame. I’m on fire. And I’m burning through the clouds.

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, Issue 02

What to Remember When Exploring Abandoned Places

by Aevin Mayman

  1. If you see figures in the distance, only wave if you see more than one darkening the horizon. They will take it as a slight against them if you do not. If you see a solitary figure, do not wave. Do not pay it any attention. It is lonely, and will think you want to spend time with it. You do not.
  2. Close every gate or door that you open. Even if you’re alone. Even if you think you’re alone. It’s the only way to know if something is following you. Or someone.
  3. And things will follow you. But you don’t have to worry about most of them.
  4. If you come across anyone else, give them a fake name. Never tell them who you really are. Never tell them. Remember, your name is all you have. Never give it out.
  5. Do not take anything. Even if the flowers are pretty, and even if you really like the quartz sparkle of that rock and even if just one wouldn’t hurt, would it? Don’t. This is not your land. It never was.
  6. If/when your pictures don’t come out the way they should, do not attempt to clean them up. Leave them blurry or delete them. You don’t want to see what’s been hidden.
  7. Don’t swim in any lakes you might find. Don’t let your friends swim in any lakes you might find. Of course, everyone will know that it’s not safe to go in unfamiliar water. It could be deep. You should beware of leeches or snakes. Nevertheless, you see people swimming. You should watch out for them, too.
  8. Bring everything you need to stay for an emergency. Water, rations, bedding, rope, iron, salt, a satellite phone. You never know how long you might be staying.
  9. If you enter a building, make sure you are always by a window, never mind out dusty or age-clouded it may be. Watch the sun and its shadows as you explore. Time isn’t always linear on the inside.
  10. Do not explore the forests, or the trees that have ways of sending you in circles. Survival guides say to break small branches in order to be certain of where you’ve been. I dare you to try it. See what comes to meet you.
  11. When your electronics stop working, when the sky is hazy, when your flashlight catches the oddly viscous eyes of something – you don’t know what, and you don’t want to know – when the sun is red and the ground is dry and you can make out the music that can’t possibly be coming from where you think it’s coming from but you’re sure, you’ve only just begun.
Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

Apple-Basil Stew

By Elizabeth Mcfarland

I don’t know if I’m dead, exactly. I don’t even know if I’m human. I think I look like a human, I guess. My hands do at least. Humans glow, in a halo around their bodies. I don’t glow, and I haven’t settled on what I think about that, yet. No human has ever done what I do to them to me. I Consume them. I think it serves a purpose. If one of them is glowing too much. I dip my hands into their shoulders and eat. Have you ever been depressed by a meal? I am, most of the time. It’s cold and still. A bit how I assume being human actually is.

It’s a part of them. I know what meat is supposed to taste like, what blood is supposed to taste like, and this is something different. Fluffier. At least I can believe I serve a purpose. I think I’m saving them. They’re too sad– too anything –and they glow too hard. I’m drawn to them like smelling cookies straight out of the oven, and I drink. I just know, I don’t know how else I would tell other than whatever feeling this is.

There was this girl, I think, in tennessee who was holding a gun to her head, shining the most appalling shade of red I ever saw. I came up from behind and reached inside of her. It was metallic and oily, like someone was cooking rusted iron. It tasted so good I felt like I couldn’t move. I’m getting used to being depressed by my food. She just dropped the gun on the floor and faded to a soft grey-blue.

Humans can’t see me. I think, if they did, they would have more objections to whatever I do to them. I once saw a man grab a woman in the chest and she slapped him. They both acted like it hurt. I’m glad none of them feel what I do.

I used to think I was the only one. I wondered what happened to everyone else, if there was anyone else. I had seen the feeling of lonely, drank it too, but I never thought I could feel it. I wondered, for the longest time, if it would be possible for me to die. I thought about trying it once or twice and it made me nauseous.

Then I met her. I was in a grocery store, and the fluorescent lights were flickering and made the halos hard to see. I followed her out of the frozen aisle into produce and she saw me. She wasn’t glowing and she looked right at me. Her posture dropped, and we stared at each other. The cold of the grocery store squirmed beneath my skin and we approached each other like feral cats.

Her eyes were big and round but the color was off. It was a watery plain gray. Not how some people say gray eyes, but grey, like a sad awful stone. Her hair was dusty blonde and long, but it was pulled back into a ponytail.

“What are we?” she said. Her voice was soft and crackly.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She nodded, “Do you call yourself anything?”

“What? Like a name?” She nodded again. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? What, do you have a name?”

“No.”

Why not?” I asked again.

“I think it’s because I see too many.” She cocked her head to a family picking out apples beside us, “Their parents choose their names for them. I don’t think, if it were left up to them, they would be able to choose either.”

“We might’ve had names,” I said. “I don’t remember anything… before this, so we could have had parents. I hate thinking about that, though.”

“I wish I had a name.” Her eyes wandered to the grocery store tile.

“Why not get one?”

“I wouldn’t have anyone to use it with.” She glanced around frantically. “Apple,” she blurted. “I want you to call me Apple.”

“Like the fruit?”

“There are people named Apple.” Apple bobbed up and down on the balls of her feet. “You should pick one too.”

“Why?”

“I want to have something other than ‘mister’ to call you.” It dawned on me right then that she was the only other thing like me I had ever seen. I looked around the produce aisle and my vision jumped from grapes, to pears, to zucchini, to spinach, to barley, to rosemary, to basil– basil. That sounded normal enough. As normal as Apple.

“Basil, I guess, is fine.” Apple smiled and gave me a deep, tight hug. I couldn’t reach into her. She got this intense smile and started shaking a little as she held onto me.

“I always wanted to do that,” her eyes got misty, “but I never could.”

“Do you think we’re ghosts?” I asked.

“Like, Beetlejuice, you mean?”

“No, do you think we’re dead and this is just what we do?”

Apple pulled away from me. “I don’t know,” she motioned around the store, “lots of people die, and… look.”

“I wonder if it matters.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She sat down in the middle of the aisle. “It’s not like anyone cares.” I sat down across from her. “It doesn’t matter what we are, it matters that we’re a we.

I nodded. “I sat in philosophy lecture at some Ivy League college— lots of very high strung people— and they all seemed to think it matters a lot.”

“How much do you hate this?” said Apple, lying down on her back “Not being able to feel things, for real?”

“No.”

“Sometimes, I go for days without doing it. I sat on some man’s bathroom floor and watched him cut both his wrists open in his tub because I couldn’t bring myself to taste that. It was torture, but watching him die was better than feeling anything close to how he felt. I could have saved him. He was glowing so hard it wasn’t even a color, wasn’t even light.” There was a long pause.

“Lighght.” I said.

“What? I said it wasn’t light.”

“It’s a poem. By Aram Saroyan.”

“That’s stupid.”

“It’s beautiful.”

After a while, Apple and I left the grocery store. It closed while we were still inside

We walked the streets for hours talking about what we think we are. Apple mentioned Cihuateteo, an Aztec goddess who drained the life out of people.

“I don’t think we’re anything like that,” she said. “For her, there was never the prospect of being hurt herself, or depressed by it.”

“Do you go to a lot of places like Mexico and all?” I asked.

“Yeah, all the time. I haven’t been to England though. China is nice, though. I like the jungles, and the deserts, and the…” Apple stopped walking. I turned around and saw her standing completely still, with her hands covering her mouth.

“What?”

“I can’t believe I haven’t told you! Oh god, you have to see it! You are going to love it.”

“Love what?”

“In China, there’s this place. It does something to you.” She giggled and started bouncing up and down on her toes again. “You have to come! We have to go now!”

I agreed before I even considered any part of it. China. I didn’t even know how far away that was. It was a whole ocean away. But what did I have to lose? I wanted to know her. Apple dragged me to a port somewhere in the city. I wanted to know her, and I wondered if this was how Adam felt when he met Eve, but on fire and resurrected.

The port was cold and bleak. A single cargo ship was being loaded with steel and iron exports that was heading to Hong Kong. Apple looked up at the monstrosity with absolute wonder.  

I followed her onto the deck of the boat. Men moved passed us in a perfect rhythm carrying boxes and crates, and even bigger crates swung above us carried by enormous looming cranes.

Apple and I fell asleep on the dec the first night, watching the city shrink away from us. It wasn’t until after the ship left the port when Apple bothered to tell me the ship’s course was a month long. It felt like a part of me cracked off and fell into the ocean. In that moment, I felt glacial and empty. But I dealt with it, like everything else.

The ship wasn’t how I’d imagined. Everything was cleaner, more modern, and cushier than the picture I had in my head. The sailors, even, were different. I didn’t picture pirates or anything, but they looked more like dads than bearded, rubber-yellow-hat-wearing, sailors. But that was fine. I preferred dads to pirates anyway. I got hungry almost every day. They glowed bright blue with boredom, loneliness, stagnation.  

Apple watched me one day, when I did it. My arms were buried up to the elbow in the back of this man, glowing the most intense blue. He was running a zippo lighter next to an oil barrel, watching the paint curl away. He tasted cottoney and intoxicating, like rotted strawberries. When he faded, and I left him, he turned and put the lighter in his pocket. He remembered he had something else to be doing.

“How did it taste?” she asked. Apple was paler than she was before the beginning of this trip. There was a bright red rash on her wrists and neck and she scratched at it.

I told her exactly how it tasted. “Are you ok?” I asked.

“How does it feel?” I had to think for a moment.

“Like when you stand on a high place and want to jump.”

“There’s no one happy, or even just content on this entire ship,” she said. A big teardrop clung to one of her bottom eyelashes. I bent down to her level. “I’m so hungry.”

I stood, and took a step back from her. “You’re hungry? Eat then.”

“I have eaten. I just can’t do that. I can’t live though feeling that anymore. The other day, that one guy was playing that video game and when he won, I ate that. It was like lukewarm lemon water. But it was better than wanting to fling myself off a cliff.”

“You’re starving.”

“But, I can feel things. Taking other people’s feelings, just isn’t the same, and sometimes it’s just too much.” Have I ever felt my own emotions? I follow wherever the hunger leads me, and eat whatever it tells me. I do what I want along the way, but it’s always… tinged, by whatever I consumed last.

“Halfway.”

I think Apple only eats the happy things. I don’t care. Everything almost tastes the same to me anyway, and it’s harder to find people happy. She and I didn’t talk for two weeks, we were so consumed by looking at the waves curl and dance against the boat. It wasn’t until we heard we dock tomorrow come out of a shipmates mouth, that we were whipped out of our trance. We both stood at the gate of the ramp and waited.

Hong Kong looked like any other big city but it’s road signs begun to morph from Cantonese to English. I looked at Apple and she grinned so wide I thought it might’ve been hurting her.

“Isn’t this place amazing?” she asked.

“I guess.” A mechanic scream erupted from a bus catapulting down the street. “It’s loud.”

There was a woman sitting on a bench outside a store front reading a book. I felt it immediately. She was glowing this bright sunny orange. I moved toward her, but Apple beat me to it. She dipped into the woman like paint, and the halo seeped into her. The rashes that had splayed further from the time I first noticed them, shrank into puckered scrapes, and her skin looked like someone was alive inside it again. The woman’s face spun from a soft smile to shaken emptiness.

There was a halo around the whole city when we left. From the people, and from the lights in the buildings. Apple and I caught a bus into a small village and spent the night there. The village was so silent. Soft light pulsed out of small houses but I stared straight up at the leafy ceiling above me. Stars peaked through and I watched the sky spin around me. I felt so empty. I felt like I could float, disappear, and never come back. Apple and I were going to take a truck full of jackfruit in some empty dirt road. She said she knew exactly where we were going. Beautiful she kept saying. Beautiful.

Suddenly I was overtaken. What if I die here? What would it feel like? If I’m not already dead. I tried to picture nothingness in my brain, the physical erasing me. Black, with inky purple swimming in it. I couldn’t do it. All the ways I could die played in my brain. I hadn’t had this little to do in my entire existence. I wanted so badly to listen to some professor, and take notes on some lecture. I wanted so badly to be distracted.  

My skin had started to burn and go pale with the same rashes Apple had. I was hungry. We walked a little longer, and I started to feel something.

“We’re getting close,” said Apple. Was this it? Some sort of energy field that made my bones ache. Apple swiped another big leaf out of her way, “Oh my god!” She shot ahead of me.

It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was a big clearing, encased on one side by a sheet of mountain rock. A small waterfall poured into a spring at the base of the rocks. The water was the clearest I had seen in my entire life. And the feeling was stronger, and I wondered if this is what being high feel like. This was better. It felt like I was buzzing.

Apple was floating on her back in the water, and I joined her.

“Oh god, this is cold,” I shuttered. It was the coldest water I had ever felt.

“Do you feel it?” she whispered. “I think this is what it’s like to be human.”

I felt each cell in my body dividing, every breath I took, every pump of my heart pushing blood through my body. I could feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs.

Apple sank under the water and bobbed back up. “I’d almost forgotten what this felt like.” She leaned back and floated at the surface of the water. “Have you ever felt pain, without being hungry?”

“No.”

Apple took me by the arm and rested at the top of my inner forearm. Her hand curled into a claw and shot down, sending a stingy salt and vinegar pain up my arm in a red firework.

“Agh, god what the hell?” I screamed, clutching my arm. She just fell back into the water laughing. “I’m serious!”

“How does it feel?” I stared at my hand. It was a small scrape next to my thumb and it was only throbbing now. I felt alive.

“Human.”

Human. I could live off that word.

Apple cracked open a pomegranate on the sharp side of a rock. When I took a bite out of it, spongy white membrane and all, it flooded my body with flavor. The rashes on my skin disappeared, and the burning disappeared. It was real food.

“Why did you ever leave?” I asked her.

“I got so lonely, and it felt like I was going completely insane.” I wondered if you could get lonely with another person. I don’t think I could get lonely with Apple. We laid down next to the spring and stared up at the sky, alight in reds and oranges. I took the last bite of the pomegranate and threw the husk into the bushes. Apple rolled over and plucked another off the tree.

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

Six Months

By Hailey Stoner

Sarah is driving home after a thirty-six-hour shift at the hospital. She’s exhausted and struggling to stay awake. Her eyes become heavier with every blink. Sarah is only two minutes away from her apartment when her eyes slip shut while she’s at the wheel. She runs a red light and t-bones a minivan with an eight-year-old boy in the back seat. A police officer calls her husband to meet them at the hospital. He finds Sarah sitting on a bed in the emergency room clutching her wrist to her chest. The boy was killed on impact, while Sarah suffers only minor injuries.

It’s been one week since the accident and Sarah is unable to sleep. When she closes her eyes, she sees the dent her car left in the side of the van. She gets up and goes to make a cup of tea in the kitchen. Sarah sips it and turns around to see the boy from the accident standing in front of her. Sarah drops the cup and it shatters. Then he’s gone. “Sarah?” Her husband calls from upstairs. He comes downstairs and into the kitchen. “Sarah? Are you alright?” He walks towards her, avoiding the chunks of glass. “Honey, what’s wrong?” She doesn’t move.

It’s been a month since the accident and Sarah has started seeing a therapist. The therapist asks about the last time she saw the boy. It was yesterday. She was sitting in her husband’s car in the driveway. Her eyes were shut, her hands were on the steering wheel, and she was taking deep breaths. But when she opened them, she saw the boy in the back seat, through the rear view mirror. The funeral was a week ago, and the therapist asks Sarah if she had gone. She did. Her husband drove her. But once they parked and were about to go inside, she burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. The therapist wants Sarah to meet with the boy’s parents, once she’s ready. She thinks it’ll help Sarah forgive herself. But Sarah doesn’t think she’ll ever be ready.

It’s been four months since the accident and Sarah is finally meeting with the boy’s parents. The three of them sit in the living room. They offer her a cup of tea and start chatting. It’s all small talk at first, learning more about one another. Then they begin talking about the accident. About what caused it. How they handled it. Neither party coped very well. But it’s understandable. They talk longer, and the boy’s parents tell Sarah to stop torturing herself. They say they’ve forgiven her. Now it is only a matter of forgiving herself.

It’s been six months since the accident and Sarah is sitting at the boy’s grave. The hallucinations ended shortly after meeting with his parents. She lays a bundle of flowers on his grave. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and stands. Sarah takes a deep breath and the wind begins to blow. She wraps her arms around herself and walks back to the road. She gets into the car.

“Are you okay?” Her husband asks from the driver’s seat.

Sarah says, “No, but I will be.”

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

A Rumble in the Cemetery

By Sara Malott

“Lilly, go play,” said Mother. “I saw some lovely little headstones on the way in. They’re just adorable. Go find me the prettiest one.”

Lilly glared at Mother, but reluctantly walked away. Her parents were combing out the details of Grandmother’s burial. Lilly wasn’t thrilled about coming along for the trip. She didn’t know Grandmother all that well and she didn’t grasp the whole “death” thing yet. Once Mother was out of sight, Lilly ran. She ran as fast as she could while doing her best to avoid flowers and tombstones. In the distance she could hear the ringing of church bells.  

She came to a tree and sat to catch her breath. Next to her there was a headstone. A blank headstone. She didn’t think anything of it until she heard knocking. It was soft at first, gradually growing louder and louder. Lilly cocked her head as she tried to locate the noise.Then she cupped her ear and put her head to the ground. It became clear that the knocking was a wood-like sound. Coffin wood perhaps. She was about to write the knocking off as one of the many earthly wonders she did not yet comprehend when she heard her name. The knocking softened but from the ground came the faintest Lilly she’d ever heard. Again Lilly ran as fast as she could back to her parents. Tears streaked the apples of her cheeks as she made her way through the field. Her parents were standing outside the church talking to the minister. She leaped and wrapped herself around her mother’s leg.

“Lilly darling, there you are. I was starting to worry about you.”

She pulled away while keeping her wide eyed stare.

“Lilly, what’s wrong, love? Frank look at her. She’s as white as a sheet.”

Lilly nodded intently while keeping hold of her mother’s pant leg. Frank bent down and put a hand on Lilly’s shoulder.

“Hey, babydoll. There’s nothing to be scared of. What was it? What did you see?”

Lilly nodded and buried her face in her mother’s pants.

“Lilly, I promise that there isn’t anything scary about this place. Nothing at all. Let me show you. We can walk through and everything will be just fine.”

Reluctantly, Lilly pulled away from her mother. She took her father’s hand and together they started walking. By the time they got back to the tree, Lilly had nearly forgotten why she’d been so scared in the first place. Then, she pointed to the tombstone.

“Hmm… that’s weird. There’s no name here.”

He bent over to look at the grave. He started wiping off the stone to reveal that it in fact had a name written on it. As he was wiping away the dirt, he heard it too. There was the knocking. Then a Frank came ever so softly from the ground. He put his head to the dirt to listen more closely. Immediately his head was swallowed whole by the dirt. Then his torso, then his legs. In a matter of seconds, Lilly watched her father disappear before her eyes.

Before Lilly could even process what happened, the name on the tomb revealed itself letter by letter as the dust blew away. Beneath it was written: “Frank Mckinney. Rest in peace.”

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

The Feeling of Waiting

By Gabriella Ganoe

Quick footed leaves darted between the currents of the wind, their bellies displaying a sunny yellow, while the edges looked to have been burned by a dark crimson. Smells of freshly picked apples and rising bread follow the leaves, carrying the fall air throughout the town. One lands at my feet, nudging my boot until I give it attention. I pick it up, and slide it in my pocket, careful not to curl the corners and tear a gash in the middle. It lay silent in the safety of my jeans.

The innocent shouts of playful youth cut through the endearing scents of the season, their delightful squeals joining the symphony of squirrels scuttering up the trees. I come upon the children playing in their yard, their mother eyeing them as she hangs an obligatory Halloween sign. She has a smile on her lips, but her eyes read tired.

I walk a bit faster, seeing as the sun is beginning to drape low in the sky, peeking through the slender fingers of branches. I know I need to hurry.

The oaky smell of wood was stirred into the cacophony, briskly followed by the accompanying pound of an ax against a tree. My face drew back into a wince, disgusted and fuming at the loss of unfulfilled life.

With my legs moving quickly, and the tired sun leaning onto the mountains far off in the distance, I make it to my haven. A hill. On top it lies a tree, just a single tree, abandoned by his buddies but refusing to leave his post. They look like they are waiting for someone, their bone arms grasping out for something it will never reach. Just like me. It also seems that whatever they’re staying so patiently for, is never coming back. Just like with me. So, I’ve decided, we wait together.

I make my way up the hill, boots digging into the chunks of frosted grass splintering under my weight. I find my way onto the thickest branch of the tree, my legs swinging from under me. My dangling limbs look like leaves clinging to its branches, and my warm yet stoic expression, looks like the bark weaving patterns into the face of the tree. We are the same in so many ways, needing warmth and light and something to stay rooted to. We both feel the sun rays brush against our cheeks, and we both peer out of what’s left of the town that we call home.