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?”


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.”


“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?”


“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.


“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.


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?”


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. 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 2017-2018, What's Happening?

The Silent Domestic Violence Crisis

By Ellie McFarland

Sensitive Content

It is becoming increasingly apparent that sexual assault and domestic abuse are impending crisis on American social and legal culture. As more and more celebrities are outed as habitual predators or wife beaters, the media is being driven into a sex panic. It is splendid that these issues are being given more attention and that horrible people are being driven from powerful positions. However, these issues have been in the news for ages. It’s time to address the far more hidden, far more quiet issue of domestic and sexual abuse committed against men.

Recently, only a few months ago, the first men’s shelter in the country was opened in Batesville, Arkansas permanently. Prior to that, all other attempts to open a men’s domestic abuse shelters have been shut down due to primarily, and lack of funds, but also threats to the owners. The Batesville shelter set off a trend of increasing numbers of men’s shelters in South East and West America. Currently, it’s gotten up to 5 shelters and 10 hotlines. Only 15 resources for male victims of domestic abuse, and over 1500 resources for women.

Perhaps the reason there are so few shelters is because a commonly held belief is that men don’t need domestic abuse shelters because men are never the victims of domestic abuse; that domestic abuse is a strictly female issue. These notions are deplorable and damaging to men everywhere. In fact, it can be seen in male victims of abuse. Many of them say that they didn’t know men could be abused. Others say they feared to fight back because their abuser was a woman. This dangerous sentiment isn’t helped by movies and TV depicting wives hitting their husbands as something lighthearted, funny, or even desirable. That same thing would never be acceptable if a husband was slapping his wife.

There are deeply regrettable things being said about these domestic violence shelters. An article from Katie Fenton described men’s shelters as “a misuse of nonprofit funding”, and many readers responded by saying that the victims “probably deserved it”. There are stories upon stories of wives abusing their husbands and facing zero jail time. Take for instance the case of “AlienJack” (pseudonym), where his wife physically and emotionally abused him, stole his children, and even tore open his sutures after heart surgery. His wife also got no jail time.  

The deficit of Men’s domestic abuse shelters is a gravity some people have recognized in the Feminist circle, which on its own is good. However, their reasons to be concerned with male domestic abuse victims are far from pure. Some feminists say that the reason for men’s unwillingness to come forward about domestic violence is in truth, the patriarchy, and toxic masculinity. While working to end violence against all people is a noble goal, this way of going about it paints abuse victims as people who brought this on themselves, which is simply incorrect.

Domestic abuse is not a men’s or women’s issue. It is a human issue that spans across gender, race, and economic class. Claiming that domestic abuse against men is funny, the fault of the victim, or simply nonexistent is dishonest and is a symptom of an unequal society. The shortage of domestic violence shelters for men is a public health crisis and needs to be solved. It is up to everyone to provide help and safety to all victims of abuse, and collectively agree that violence is a serious crime that is not gendered.


Posted in 2017-2018, Poetry

More Than Living

By Elizabeth Mcfarland

I want to make art even more than I want to breathe,
I want to promise everyone I am enough,
That I will turn pain into prose,
And hurt to Haikus.
That I will be good entertainment for the masses,
Like the Classics.
I will carve stories into my arms with green fluorescent ink,
if it meant I could be art.

Test me,
I beg you,
I will do anything

I would hear the gasps in the hospital room
like a symphony,
after I realized it could be done.
The notes,
all different tones,
would hit me like a freight train,
shattering glass all at once,
like a car crash,

Maybe that is inspiration enough?

Just tell me I did it well,
That I exist,
give me a slot in the list of the classics,
the Fantasticks,
I want to know what it is that they have
that I don’t.

I wonder if it is the feeling of being turned inside out.
Of dissolving and becoming
All at once.

I really don’t care how it feels.
Even if it’s like dying,
Or like bliss.
Does it really matter?
I just want to feel it more than living.
I want to be art more than living


Posted in What's Happening?

Nine Gendered Tropes In Cinema That Are Starting To Get Old

By Elizabeth McFarland

  1. The Bumbling Idiot Husband

You can see it in The Simpsons most prevalently, and you can even see it in Friends. This trope of the Bumbling Idiot Husband is characterized by a husband or boyfriend who is always messing things up. Either, for his wife or his kids. Now, here’s the important part, the idiot must have a wife or girlfriend who is nagging, and fixes all his problems for him. This trope is particularly annoying because it is both so frequent, and so easily spottable. Within the first few scenes of a movie, or first couple episodes of a television show, anyone with any knowledge of character archetypes can spot it easily. This is the studio’s trick to appeal more to women, but it’s not very impactful. Most women love their boyfriends or husbands, and furthermore, most women don’t want to want to date or marry complete idiots.

   2. The Nagging, Nitpicking Wife

Alongside the Bumbling Husband is the Nagging, Nitpicking Wife. They always seem to go hand in hand. Clara Murphy from Robocop is a very good example of the Nitpicker without the Bumbling Idiot. said it best, and described this trope as “an estrogen-soaked wet blanket.” The Nitpicker is unbearable, angry, strung out, borderline abusive, and mean. Although it doesn’t appear she has any reason to be. All these Nitpickers live very cushy lives in western American suburbia. These two are usually paired together, the Nitpicker and Idiot, in order to appeal to both sexes. Normal marital problems are exaggerated, and the real, serious, detrimental problems are entirely ignored.  Normally, these personality types would be perfectly fine, if they were not so common, and entirely because of the character’s gender. Then, they become annoying and useless archetypes.

  3. The “Badass” Woman Who Is Never Actually Badass

It’s wonderful to see strong women in film and TV, but it helps if these female characters are actually brave to any extent. This usually occurs when a male is the main character, and this fake badass is his “sidekick”. The Main Character (MC) and his other hero friends constantly say how impressed they are by her supposed “Badassery”, even though she never does anything impressive, or at least as impressive as her male cohorts. However, this is not to say that having a female character who is not strong or brave is a bad thing, it’s just poorly executed when the woman never does anything deserving of her praises. Black Widow in the Avengers movies is far from badass. She mostly stays in an airplane or government building and pines after Bruce Banner but she is described as Badass by fans of those movies, only based on those movies. This has become so detrimental, that some watchers or readers won’t even bother to read books or watch movies with reviews or descriptions that read along the lines of, “I love the female lead, she’s so strong and badass!” because those reviews are unreliable.

  4. The Automatic Feminist Icon

This isn’t really a trope, per say, but the Automatic Feminist Icon is really more of a title that fans (sometimes not even fans) give to directors and writers who create a female character who can throw a punch. This is rampant in comic book franchises. This theme surrounds Storm, Black Cat, Catwoman, and most famously; Wonder Woman. Now people might disagree on the ethics of modern day feminism, however, almost everyone can agree that hitting people is not a hallmark of feminism. Unlike the Fake Badass, this character is actually a strong female character, but somehow this comes to her detriment. You don’t have to sift for long through films that display violent women as the furthest thing from a feminist. Hard Candy is a good example of that.

  5. The Blockhead Jock

I understand most film writers are far passed their high school years, and most likely were tormented by jocks, but it is simply poor writing and a use of cliche to replicate your own triggers. It demonstrates a lack of understanding and reveals whether or not a writer is outdated. This trope is so common, and in almost every coming of age movie out there, I’m surprised that they haven’t renamed these movies, “Dumb Evil Jock vs. Smart Nice Innocent Nerd”. At this point, it’s more than a trope, it’s an embarrassing cliche that isn’t even accurate. I don’t know if movie studios have caught on, but usually, in order to be on a sports team in high school, athletes need to maintain a C in all of their classes, or at least a C average. I don’t know how it was in the 80s, perhaps it was like this, but why this trope prevails in modern America is beyond me.

   6. The Explosive

This is a trope which is most common in romance genres, most notably the Twilight franchise and many, many John Green films. These male characters are common and seen as the norm in society. These men are angry, abusive, or manipulative. Sometimes all three. And they are always the love interest or one of the love interests. Abusive men are no issue in film if they’re portrayed neutrally, or negatively, as the Villain or Bad Guy. But these men’s deplorable actions are meant to be seen as romantic. That is exactly the problem. Edward stalks and manipulates Bella, and starts fights with nearly every character in the book, and the outright creepiness of John Green’s characters goes without saying. Abuse is not romantic, and it can even be said that displaying it as romantic is harmful to society.

   7. The Damsel In Distress

You knew this one would make an appearance. The most common trope to apply to women is the Damsel in Distress. This can be seen in every single classic-era Disney movie that featured a female MC. You’ll see with this trope that a common theme is not the fact this character exists, but it’s either the frequency of the theme of the culture surrounding it. In this case, it’s the former. It’s entirely okay to have a woman that needs a man to be happy. Plenty of women in real life do. Rather it’s the fact that this archetype is so frequent, it becomes boring and overdone.  

   8. The Manly Man Who Hates Affection

We all know the type, stoic, strong, battle-hardened, and even has just a touch of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s seen in Lord Of The Rings, Pain And Gain, Merlin, That 70s Show, and even Groundhog Day. This man will not tolerate hugs or kisses from their significant other, and certainly not any brand of affection from another man. That is if they manage to actually land a significant other, and not just lead on, and manipulate some poor sap into giving “sexual favors”. Once again, this would be one hundred percent okay if this were simply the character’s personality. However, not only is this annoyingly common, but his emotional unavailability or straight up lack of emotions is portrayed as the thing that makes him manly and desirable. The fact he is haunted and easily, literally, triggered is meant to set him apart from all of his hopelessly boring other male competition.

   9. The Girl Who Was Pretty All Along

It’s seen in The Princess Diaries, Mean Girls, The Brady Bunch, Miss Congeniality, and plenty more. This realization by the class, or male lead may happen gradually, or all at once when the nerd takes off her thick-rimmed glasses. Suddenly her perceived ugliness vanishes and a genetically flawless celebrity is revealed to be hiding underneath. This one is above all just plain irritating. Is everyone in this movie blind, unable to recognise facial symmetry? What is it? In the real world no would think that, say, Emma Watson, with glasses is ugly. That’s just plain unrealistic.