Tag Archives: Aevin Mayman

Expired Symbiosis

By Aevin Mayman

Once, I was your
leaf, you were my
stem. I gave you everything;
love, light, time, hope,
and you held me up
to the light and through it
I let myself pour everything
down to
you.

I thought that was how it was going to be.
That we would be locked
in this symbiosis of devotion
until the brilliant end.
But now it has changed.

Always blindly moving forward,
trying not to care as much,
you decided to leave your
exquisite nature in that last
fallacy of a hotel room.

The you I used to know is gone.
It was left behind when you decided
long-term-love wasn’t as exciting
as it once seemed.

Maybe you’re too loose in
your skin to find meaning behind a
kiss.

Do you remember when you used to love me,
or the trip we took to the desert–
before you thought me too uneventful to love?

On the sand you also wore on your skin,
I traced patterns of a life we could have lived.
The life I thought we would.

Greedy waves of air curled in from
outside our window,
plucking away this love of ours
with long, selfish fingers.

The CD spun and called out
to some indifferent God with its song:
together forever.”

Do you remember,
under more of a sky than we had ever seen in our city,
how we verified each other’s existence
with star light?
How we used to be able to read the curves
of each other’s bones
like maps to salvation?

But time has passed.

This Infinity Knot of ours has broken.
We have grown.
We have changed.

I am strong.

Your life is marked with nothing but
zeroes.

Dissociation and Light of the Wishing Mind

By Aevin Mayman

Heaven in Your Side View Mirror

Raindrops shining in
your side view mirror like hydrogen
balls of fire, like those
damn-near-too-many-to-count stars.

If you could make wishes
on those tiny fireballs maybe for once
you’d feel as there as
the sky that holds them.

Roads of shadow and twisting
trees line the road on either side of you
under polluted skies of light and somber,
is it dawn or just downtown?

The celestial line has been broken,
cracked by the lightning that once formed its arches,
reality is currently less of a concept
and more of a “wish-I-may, wish-I-might.”

Streaks of fluorescent building signs–
neon life choices pass you by–
long roads and too-close clouds;
Heaven in your side view mirror.

——————————

Twilight Delights

Maybe the rain blinds you.
Maybe it blurs your vision, or
maybe it darkens the sky that is held
in the prism of your windshield.

Maybe you can’t see the stars.
Maybe you never could, or
maybe your perception of this world
has been skewed to hide them from sight.

Or maybe it doesn’t.

Maybe it illuminates the world that you’re crying to.
Maybe she is crying too, the sky, or
maybe she is trying to make reality a little more exciting,
to say:

Look, look over there, do you see that?
Over there? On the other side of the highway.
I made Christmas lights for you out of the headlights and the fog,
Do you see them?

em ▴ pa ▴ thy

By Aevin Mayman

em ▴ pa ▴ thy n. 1. The way I look at you when you smile / The way you never smile, so this is like a blue moon / the real kind 2. Us in your basement, 2am: as in we both need to stop feeling / stop giving 3. Why I know your tears apart from my own: the rain / Your bottle of not-vodka / Under these stars¹ / that neither of us can see 4. Distance / I cannot let you go, / the string that binds our / souls together, / it is not something tangible / Not something that anyone can see. / This star dust / This burning bond 5. Something only I feel burning / Not love / more than friendship 6. The way I want you to come back / how I want to pull you back / like maybe if I think hard enough the wind will bring you here / Back in this basement² / At 2am / Away from 7. The edge

Synonyms: I’m here, tired, trying, not to let go

¹hope.

²safety.

Goddess of the Moon

By Aevin Mayman

The goddess Selene was born under the sky. The morning of her birth was greeted by the shining light of the clear blue sky that was her mother’s eyes. Theia smiled down at her and Selene saw the expanse above them captured in her mother’s gaze.

As a child, Selene learned to live with a large family. Every holiday was greeted by the arrival of the remaining ten titans coming to join their siblings, her parents, for food. She grew up with booming laughs and communal songs that shook the foundations of her home. Even before learning how to speak, she laughed along with them and sang as loud as her little lungs would let her.  Most of her songs went out of tune, but no one ever cared.

Her days were filled with visits from her grandmother, Gaia. They would take long strolls through the thick forests of her home — the trees always lush and glowing from the sky’s clear light. Many days were spent entirely like this, with her grandmother showing Selene the details of the world around them. In the end, Selene ended up paying more attention to butterflies than things such as the variations in tree bark, but Gaia simply laughed off the distractions and let her play. Having the mother of the Earth as her grandmother gave Selene a deep appreciation for all things under the sky. Gaia would bring forth Selene’s chiming bell laughter with brilliant flowers that grew under her fingertips and the songs that she sang with the birds.

On a day such as this, Selene was walking a forest path with Gaia. With her grandmother’s help, the young Selene named every bird she saw. She trilled along with the chickadees, cawed with the crows. She was so preoccupied with the orchestra of bird song around her that the golden flash from above nearly startled her off the path. She turned her gaze to the sky – the clear blue sky that had once held only her mother’s eyes – and saw a streak of light far above her.

“Grandmother,” she said softly, voice hushed with awe. “What is that?”

Gaia smiled up at the sky and wrapped her arm around Selene. “That, my dear, is your brother. He now rides the Chariot of the Sun, and will journey across the sky with it everyday, and rest every night.” Around her, the broad-leaved plants and blossoming flowers all seemed to glow with this new light. They turned towards the sky where Helios now rode, their faces soaking in all the light he gave them.

Selene pulled on Gaia’s skirt and smiled up at her with a toothy grin. “One day, I want to be in the sky, too! Can I be like my brother?” She asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

Gaia smiled warmly down at the small goddess, placing a gentle hand on her hair. “Some day, my child,” she said kindly. “Someday.”

An evening fell many years later, after Helios had returned from his day-long ride and had long been asleep. Selene sat awake in her bed, staring out into the darkness of the world around her. She had been uncomfortable all night and, no matter how hard she tried, could not fall asleep. She huffed a sigh and flopped back down onto her bed. She traced lazy patterns on her ceiling in the darkness and tried once again to calm her mind.

Out of the corner of her eye, a glimmer of light caught Selene’s attention and she bolted upright in her bed. Another faint light shone through the trees for a heartbeat and she leapt out of bed, creeping out into the night. The only guide she had was the wavering ball of light that bobbed distantly before her. The goddess mumbled soft curses under her breath as she tripped over darkness-hidden tree roots, her nightgown tangling in the thick undergrowth.

The light seemed to be glowing brighter, but only slightly. It moved faster away from her as she followed it, and soon she was running through the forest, avoiding brambles and jumping over logs more out of reflexes than sight. When she finally broke out of the thick woods, her legs were scratched and tired, her nightgown torn from tearing through thickets. She burst into a clearing with heaving breaths and leaned against a tree for support. When she raised her head, her breathing caught in her throat. In the center of the clearing stood a gleaming white horse, its long mane glimmering with starlight. She took a careful step forward and the horse kneeled before her, inviting her onto its back.

Selene moved into the clearing and slowly mounted the creature. As soon as both of her feet had left the ground, the horse leapt into the air. She squeaked in surprise and curled her fingers into the horse’s mane, leaning into its neck as it galloped upwards. The stars seemed to swirl around her, getting closer and closer until they brushed through her hair, around her head. The stars began to coalesce around her, forming glittering shapes around her. One by one, the sheets of starlight formed themselves into a chariot around her. The horse beneath her was slowly replaced by the seat of the starlight chariot. The horse moved to the front of the chariot and silver reins formed in her hands. Selene let out a joyous laugh and threw her head back.  The crown of stars gathered at her forehead, casting her face in a rich glow of light.

Far below, Gaia stood by Selene’s mother Theia and the two watched Selene’s chariot form in the sky. Gaia wrapped an arm around her daughter and smiled, gazing up at the goddess of the night. She had finally, after all of these days, made it to the sky.

Normalcy

By Aevin Mayman

It wasn’t rainy. It wasn’t the slate-clouded funeral written about in overly-dramatic teen romance novels, a black understory of parasol trunks and supporting wire vines. It was sunny, a spring day. The cherry trees were just past full bloom, their pinks undertoned by suggestions of green. Each gust of wind carried with it a plume of petals. The drifting leaflets spiraled around black dress pants, embroidering the somberness with a distant reminiscence of joy.

Ashtyn stood against a nearby dogwood, absentmindedly peeling strips of bark from its trunk. The approach of footsteps drew his gaze.

Tyler waved and stopped next to Ashtyn. “Hey,” he said.

Ashtyn offered a small smile in return and went back to peeling at the trunk.

“How are you holding up?” Tyler asked, stepping closer.

Ashtyn shrugged and put his hands in his pockets, gazing out over the uniform gravestones, verdant undergrowth framing them like unkempt dragon scales. “I’m alright.” He answered with a shrug of his shoulders.

Tyler frowned at him. “Just alright?”

Ashtyn sighed, kicking at the dirt. “Barely, but, yeah.”

Tyler shook his head, turning his back to Ashtyn to face the memorial gathering. He crossed his arms, jamming them forcefully against each other and shaking his head. “It’s just not fair,” he muttered. “It’s not.”

Ashtyn stood still for a few moments before sliding down to the ground. He dropped his head in his hands. “How am I even supposed to be upset?” He asked, voice quavering. “No one I’ve ever known has died before, much less–” He broke off and swallowed thickly. “Much less done what he’s done.” He fell into silence, raising his head to his knees to stare blindly at the grass before him.

Tyler sat next to him and leaned back against the tree. “You know,” Tyler began softly. “I didn’t cry when I got the news.”

Ashtyn turned his head to face Tyler, head tilted curiously.

Tyler smiled wryly and shook his head. “I didn’t cry, and then I didn’t for almost week. I was just…angry.”

Tyler held up a placating hand at Ashtyn’s indignant expression.

“Not angry at him for dying, no, I’m not that mean. I was just angry because it wasn’t– it isn’t goddamn fair that he has to die.” Tyler’s voice cracked at the end and he heaved a humorless chuckle, hanging his head between his knees.

Ashtyn linked arms with Tyler, leaning against his shoulder. They sat that way for a while before Ashtyn broke the silence. “I don’t think I cried either,” Ashtyn murmured. “I think I was just numb.” He tightened his grip on Tyler’s arm before continuing. “I couldn’t think of anything else. I made a sort of make-shift altar, but, that was it.” Ashtyn shook his head, gazing down to the ground. “I just… I just needed to do something. Anything. I just needed a goal to get to. I didn’t have anything to move forward on. No ambition or hope, no anything.”

Tyler pulled Ashtyn to standing and wrapped him in a hug. “I know,” he said quietly. “I know.”

After a few moments the two separated and wandered over to a nearby bridge, arms still linked. They leaned against the railing, the ornately twisted metal cool against their forearms.

“How can we just…” Tyler trailed off, bending to pick up a stone from the ground and turning it over in his fingers. “How can we just go about our life? Alex is– he’s gone and we all just have to do nothing and… and sit here.” He threw the stone to the water below and went silent, staring at the quickly disappearing ripples.

The spring sounds filled the quiet between them; the cheerful trills of birds and gentle hum of June beetles paying no heed to the bleakness invading the field around them. The gurgling of the stream below twisted up around them in the wind, teasing the echoes of splashes from the water’s surface.

“You’re right,” Ashtyn said, gazing out over the water. “We can’t just… we can’t just sit here like nothing’s happened and go on with our lives.” Ashtyn explained. “He’s been through so much pain. We have to do something for him. Honor his memory — I don’t know, something cliché like that.” He straightened up and brushed off the front of his shirt.

Tyler stood and turned to face Ashtyn. Tyler shrugged and hugged his arms close to his body. “I mean, yeah, but, how? Alex is dead, Ashtyn, we can’t just go and ask him–”

“Then we figure something out,” Ashtyn interrupted. “We- we make a memorial fund, donate to charity, fund the Trevor Project, I don’t know. But we’re gonna do something. We have to do something, okay?” Ashtyn held Tyler by the arms until he nodded, dropping his arms to his sides.

“Yeah,” Tyler said. “We’re gonna do something,” he smiled. “For Alex.”
Ashtyn let out a breath, eyes wet. “For Alex.”

The Color of Kings

By Aevin Mayman

Two men stood on the heather-covered hilltop, gazing into the breaking dawn.

The battle chieftain rested with one hand on the hilt of his sword, the other hand fingering the silver band, a pendant, around his neck.

“What do you see, Tellu?” He asked, turning his head to look at the man to his right.

Tellu gazed out upon the valley below, dark hair waving lightly in the morning wind. “I see a kingdom, Ffindán. I see your kingdom.”

Ffindán scoffed lightly, crossing his arms over his chest. The spiraling crow tattooed on his arm seemed to soar as the muscles flexed, the blue inked wings a deep royal color in the dissipating darkness. “That is quite a bard-like thing to say, Tellu.” He said.

Tellu chuckled. “Well, I am a bard, so…”

Ffindán laughed along side him for a moment, then the two fell silent once again.

“I see the time between times,” Tellu began quietly. “I see the first dawn of the fair season of Moffar breaking upon the land.” He stopped and turned to Ffindán. “The land with you as its leader.”

Ffindán gave him a hard stare, but Tellu held his ground.

“As you said, Ffindán, I am a bard. It is my duty to know these things. As your closest friend it is my duty to show you the truth. And as chief bard of the clan of Gofaddain it is my duty to choose its new king.” Tellu put a hand on Ffindán’s shoulder. “And you are that king, brother.”

Ffindán shook his head slowly, the pendant glinting softly as the sun rose. “Tellu, I know you mean well, but I cannot be king.” Ffindán gestured to the settlement sprawling in the valley below. “These people have just lost their king. They need someone strong to lead them. I am afraid I am not that man. I can be a leader, but I cannot be a king.” He sighed as he finished, turning to walk down the hill. “I am going with the next hunting party, Tellu. I wish you well,” Ffindán said and made to leave.

“Ffindán, wait!” Tellu cried, running after the chieftain. He caught Ffindán by the arm and turned him around.

Ffindán grunted and tried to pull away, but Tellu held tight to him. “Honestly, Tellu,” Ffindán said. “I don’t know what you hope to accomplish with–“

“By Airmid’s hand, Ffindán,” Tellu cried, staring the stubborn battle chief straight in the eyes. “Listen to me! I am the Chief of Songs, the Teller of Stories. I am the bard of Gofaddain, your bard. I have been your friend since you entered this clan. Trust me and listen!” He tightened his grip on Ffindán’s shoulders.

Ffindán froze at the chief bard’s hold and gasped, eyes going unfocused. He stood that way for a couple heartbeats before going limp, stumbling slightly.

Tellu steadied him.

“What–” Ffindán swallowed thickly and began again. “What was that, Tellu?”

“That was the A Bheith,” Tellu answered, still holding Ffindán by the shoulders. “What is to be. I have given you a vision of what is to come,” Tellu explained. “Did you see it?”

Ffindán nodded slowly. “Yes,” he said. “I did. I saw the kingdom below this hill. I saw my kingdom.” He turned away from Tellu to face the open sky. His dusky red hair caught the rising sun and erupted in a fiery brilliance. “I saw the people smiling up at me, thanking me for leading them well.” He turned his head to the bard. “What does this mean, Tellu?” He asked quietly.

Tellu met his gaze. “You know exactly what this means, Ffindán.” Ffindán looked back to the valley. “It means you are meant to lead them.”

A flash of light caught Tellu’s attention and he looked down. “Ffindán,” he brought the chieftain’s attention to him softly. “Your pendant.”

Ffindán removed the band from his neck and held it in front of him.

The ornate metal was lit with the rising sun of dawn, transforming the silver it was fabricated from.

“It is gold.” Ffindán breathed.

Tellu smiled. “Yes, it is. A king’s color, is it not?”

Ffindán placed the pendant around his neck and gazed out upon the settlement below, the town just beginning to move as people woke. Dogs began to bark, roosters started their morning cries, children’s voices graced the morning wind.

“You certainly do fill your place as bard,” Ffindán said lightly.

Tellu snorted and turned to walk down the hill. “I certainly hope so, brother.”

Tellu disappeared into the treeline, leaving Ffindán standing on atop the hill’s crest, pendant glowing the color of kings.

Office Bakery

By Aevin Mayman

Monday mornings are the worst. It’s sad, it’s cliché, and it’s irrefutably true. Monday mornings with a throbbing hangover, however, are the worst of the worsts.

“Morning!” My coworker called, throwing up a hand in greeting before entering a staircase to his right.

I closed my eyes at his voice, making a disgruntled noise in the back of my throat. “Morning Jeff,” I groaned, waving in return. He was already gone, but it was the thought that counted. It was only a few moments later that I wondered what Jeff, from the press station, what doing at I.T. I then wondered why I even cared and continued walking.

I ducked my head, hiding from the overhead lights. The new manager was all ‘eco-friendly’, declaring all lights be replaced with some off-brand type of LEDs – the ‘tree hugger lights.’

In any case, they were bright. Brighter than the white yellow they were before the management change and definitely brighter than I was comfortable with.

I rubbed my forehead, trying to massage the persisting ache from it, and turned into my office.

Carol looked from the computer and froze for a few seconds, blinking more times than was probably normal.

I groaned and turned away. “Wrong room,” I grumbled. I counted two cubicle openings down and entered, throwing my bag down with more force than was safe with a computer inside.

I gave the laptop bag a withering look as I sat down, blaming it for the long and arduous process that would be Monday.

The fall had unsnapped most of the buttons holding the top-flap shut, so I just pulled at the offending piece of machinery until it came free.

I sat up from the wrestling match with a groan as blood rushed to my head and cursed the idiocy of myself in the evening before.

I put the laptop on my desk and stopped, staring at the object that rested there with an expression that was both confused and frustrated.

It was a cookie.

I looked around my office, pushing aside various objects in search of an explanation. I stopped and stared at the cookie again. I pushed back against my desk and I slid backwards in my rolling chair, looking outside the cubicle walls. No one. I looked at the cookie.

I slowly rolled back to my desk with a frown. I picked up the saran-wrap-covered sugar cookie and inspected it before slowly unwrapping the pastry and taking a bite. It wasn’t a bad cookie, not by any means, just a very unexpected one.

There was another cookie on my desk the next day. And the next. And the next.

That next Monday morning I entered work with a strange determination that had managed to get me out of bed at 5:00 am. I wasn’t happy about it, not in the slightest, but I was curious. Very, very curious, and that somehow pushed me into the office early enough to catch the mystery baker.

The lights in my hallway were off. At this point, it was probably only the manager’s assistant that was at the office. It wouldn’t make any sense for any other lights to be on, so I didn’t spend much time on the thought.

I.T., where I worked, was on the third floor of my building, and my cubicle was the fifth down.

Even from the stairway entrance, I could see a faint shadow cast from the constant emergency lighting. It was in front of the fifth cubicle down.

The floors on any level above the second creaked with an infuriating persistence, so I kept to the walls.

I was creeping along the wall of the third cubicle when a figure emerged from the opening of mine. I stopped. “Jeff?”

Jeff turned, spinning on his heel and stumbling. He caught himself on the wall and offered a strained grin. “Hey,” he said. “Figured you’d show up eventually.”

“W-” I began, clearing my throat and starting again. “It was you?” I asked incredulously.

He shrugged and scratched his neck. “Yeah,” he stopped and smirked painfully. “Surprise!” He looked down and took a few steps forward. “I know this is, like, really awkward, but, I don’t know. You’ve seemed pretty down recently and I thought I’d do something nice.” He broke off at my expression and held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Don’t worry, it’s not romantic or anything, I just thought it might be nice.”

I still hadn’t said anything, but I dropped my confused expression. Jeff visibly relaxed. I looked at him for a while, trying to decide whether his kindness was genuine or an attempt at bribery. I didn’t really know him all too well, after all.

At last, when his embarrassment became nearly too much for me to handle, I sighed and looked away, convinced. “Well, thanks.” I ventured, casting a wary glance up at him. “That was, that was probably the nicest thing anyone’s done for me in a long time.”

Jeff’s awkward grin turned to a heartfelt smile and he straightened, shoving his hands in his pockets. He shrugged. “Any time.”

A smile worked its way onto my face and I looked down, shaking my head. The floor creaked as he made his way to the stairwell. “Jeff, wait,” I called. He turned to face me, one hand on the stairway door. “After work, drinks?” I asked. He returned my smile.

“Drinks.” He answered, then pushed his way into the stairwell.

I let out a long breath, walking into my office and swinging down my bag with more force than was safe with a computer inside. I looked up and smiled at the object on my desk.

It was a cookie.

Open Spaces

By Aevin Mayman

“Come on, Teya!” Amy yelled up through the tunnel. “We’ve bugged the boss for months about this project. Now we’re here and you’re just staring at rocks!”

Teya let out a puff of air and focused on the water-carved tunnel ahead of her, looking away from the glittering substance in the earthen walls. “You’ve bugged the boss for months about it. I was just the scapegoat.” She accused. Amy laughed from behind her and Teya rolled her eyes. “We still have a few hours before dark,” she called behind her. “Might as well make the best of them.”

They had been at the dig for five hours already today. Seismic readings had indicated a cavern somewhere ahead in the uncharted territory. In the end, those readings were what had made the boss’s decision.

“Not that it gets any darker in this place, anyway,” Amy grumbled under her breath. Teya grinned. “Hey, by the way,” Amy continued. “The map ends about…”

Teya heard the shuffling of paper and the click of a flashlight.

“Twenty meters. After that’s uncharted territory. We good?” She asked.

“Yeah,” Teya responded. Silence fell as they continued. There wasn’t much room for conversation, as the section of tunnel they had entered had narrowed to merely two feet in height. Army crawls would have to do, and both women were out of breath.

The difference in air brought Teya’s gaze up from the earth beneath her. She paused, lifting her head. Amy collided with Teya’s boots and let out a noise of indignation.

“Teya!” She exclaimed. “What are you-”

“Stop,” Teya said. “Do you smell that?”

Amy shook her head. “No,” she said, then, “The air.”

Teya nodded. “Does it smell fresher to you?” She asked.

“Yeah, it does.” Amy agreed. “Any air shafts would be highly unlikely. We’re more than nine-hundred meters below the surface.” Teya could hear her grinning through her words.

“The Krubera-Varonya cave’s still got us by thirteen-hundred. Come on.” Teya let out a heavy sigh and continued forward. “Let’s keep going.”

She could still feel the enthusiasm of the scientist behind and felt a smile creep onto her face. The air only got clearer as they went on, the musty smell of untouched earth slowly being replaced with fresh air.

Teya pulled up sharply when her arm’s next foray hit open air instead of earth.

“What?” Amy called up. “What is it?”

Teya shuffled sideways so she could pull herself up without moving further over the edge. She reached her free hand back to pull the flashlight out of her belt and clicked it on, shining it forward. “Amy,” She whispered. “We found it.”

Amy’s breath caught in her throat in the darkness behind Teya. Teya moved the light downwards and illuminated the solid ground a yard below her. She slid herself forwards and rolled off the ledge, hitting the ground beneath on all fours.

“Teya!” Amy called.

“I’m fine!” She yelled back. “I’m fine.” She moved the light around the cavern. Amy fell with a thud and a rather obnoxious expression of pain behind her.

Amy scrambled to her feet and came to stand beside Teya. “Whoa.” She breathed.

The light of their flashlights only reached about five meters ahead of them, but the cave was lit all the same. A red-gold light filtered from far above.

“The sun.” Teya said quietly. “It’s the goddamn sun.” She felt herself break into a grin. “Amy, we found it!” She turned and grabbed Amy by the arms. Amy laughed, the sound echoing through the cave. Teya jumped away and looked around.

It was as though the surface above had creeped into the cavern. Long tendrils of vine hung down from the crater. A waterfall cascaded over the easternmost lip to gather in a deep pool at the bottom of the cave. The pool ran into what could only be described as a small river coursing through the center of the cave. The river curved into a hidden vent under the cave’s wall and disappeared. The further into the sun’s light the cave went, the more vegetation covered the cave floor. Green growth clung onto the earth around the mouth of the cave’s roof entrance for nearly ten yards before giving away to water-slick stone. Lush undergrowth hugged the rocky surface beneath their feet, occasionally giving way to pointed rocks that seemed to mold out from the cave’s floor. Tropical trees grew up from the center of the cave, spreading their thick leafy branches into canopies.

As the sun set, so did the brilliance of the cave. The jewel-green leaves and grasses dimmed with the dying light, changing their hue from red to blue. The section of river under the spot of sun slowly lost its glimmer, fading into a deep blue-black.

“Teya.” Amy’s quiet voice broke the silence of the evening. “We did it.”

Teya closed her eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the scents of stone and running water. “Yeah,” she said, opening her eyes. “We did.”

Sammy

By Aevin Mayman

“I bet you, like, ten bucks that you can’t eat three whole pickles in fifteen seconds.”

“You don’t even have ten bucks.”

“I sure do.”

“How?”

“I lifted it off of Ms. Kaberov.”

“I’m not eating theft pickles!”

James crossed his arms and sat back in the chair, the ‘Sunhill Foster Center’ sign outside casting his face into sharp-cut shadows as the sun set. “Only the money is theft money. The pickles were obtained completely legally.” He raised an eyebrow, pulling his face into a regal, knowledgeable expression.

Sam shook her head and looked down, glancing at James’ carefully blank face. Sam grinned. “Dude, you totally wanna smile.”

James raised an eyebrow at the girl in front in him.

Sam leaned forward and poked him. “You totally wanna.”

James broke out in a toothy smile and hit Sam on the shoulder. The two children laughed and started shoving at each other, bet forgotten. Their carefree pushes at each other had turned into an impromptu wrestling match and now they were both rolling around the room, not-so-carefully avoiding tables and the most likely expensive vases they held.

A woman’s voice broke them apart. “Is everything alright in here?” Ms. Kaberov, the foster center administrator, leaned into the room. “I heard some thumping.”

James shook his head enthusiastically and grinned. “There’s no trouble Ms. Kaberov. Sam here was just showing me some her wonderful dance moves–” He was cut off as Sam elbowed him in the ribs.

Ms. Kaberov pursed her lips, but nodded and stepped out of the room.

Once she was out of sight, James blew out his cheeks and collapsed backwards onto the floor from where he sat. “Eat your pickles, Sam,” he said loudly.

Sam swatted him on the side of the head with an open palm and chuckled at his exaggerated sound of pain.

James frowned and rolled over, propping his head on his palms. “Eat the pickles.”

Sam smirked. “No,” She said.

James narrowed his eyes. “Eat them!”

“No!”

Eat the pickles.”

“I’m not gonna eat the–”

A knock on the door silenced them. A young man leaned in the doorway, a mop of black hair hanging in his face. He was dressed in jeans and a button-up, his blue converse almost glowing with their intensity. He smiled awkwardly.

“Hey man!” James called. “I like your shoes!”

Sam hit him on the head again and ignored his noise of protest.

The man chuckled and unfolded the form in his hand. “I’m looking for, uh, Samantha Locker?”

Sam frowned and looked down at James before standing, crossing her arms. “It’s just Sam, now,” She said slowly. James stood up beside her, standing defensively at her side.

The young man broke into a smile. “Samantha, Sam? It’s me, Eli, remember? I’m your brother.”

Sam froze in her place and James took a step forward.

“How do we know that?” He accused. “How do we know you’re not just some creepo?”

Eli’s smile fell slightly and he handed James a piece of paper. The boy looked at it for a few moments. He uncrossed his arms and gave the paper back, looking at his friend. “Sam.”

She stared at Eli for a few moments more before turning away to face James. He put his hands on her arms, making her look up at him.

“Look, buddy-o,” he began, looking at her intently. “I’ve only known your brother by how you talk about him, but I’m, like, 87% sure this is him.” He looked over at Eli and smiled before turning back to Sam. “I’ve been your friend for certifiably forever. You can trust me. Go to your brother.”

Sam smiled at him, eyes glistening. He nodded. She turned to face the man at the door. “You’re my–” she broke off. “You’re Eli?”

Eli swallowed thickly and nodded. “Yeah, Sammy. I am.”

Sam broke out into a wide, watery grin and ran to Eli, hugging him tightly around the waist. “I missed you so much,” she mumbled into his shirt.

Eli leaned down to kiss the top of her head. “I missed you too, kiddo.”

Not Pagans

By Aevin Mayman

The Preachain Clan is made of people who value, above all things, family; it doesn’t have to be by blood.

I have been a part of the Preachain family for as long as I could walk, and even longer before that. On the question of what we do, think Civil War reenactments, but less… civil.

We aren’t supposed to keep any technology with us, but the fire is never the only glow on all of our faces at night.

If you know something about history, you might’ve heard of the Celts. They were groups of “savages” that lived in Northeastern Europe a few thousand years ago. Absolutely hated the Romans. They were known to get into more than a few unfavorable situations and really, really liked to fight. Like I said, might’ve heard of them.

We readily follow our annual traditions. Inbulk, Beltane, Gaul Wars, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Crazy names, but we like to stick to tradition. For each, we gather at some set location: some house, a recreational reserve, an out of the way park. We’ve since stopped the latter, as we got the cops called on us “Pagan devil worshippers” a few months ago.

That was fun, having half of us standing proud around the fire and the other half running around to try to change into more modern clothes to be presentable to the police.

So, just to clarify, we are not Pagans. Also, just to clarify, Pagans don’t worship the devil. But that’s besides the point.

What is the point is that this is home to me. Wearing nothing but old fashioned plaid, sleeping in tents with blankets of (only sometimes real) animal furs, and dancing around a bonfire singing the war songs of our Clan.

It’s home holding hands with my friends and family and telling stories of the fallen.

It’s home in the Preachain Clan, no matter what anyone else might think.