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13th Edition Art - 13th Edition

Blank

Arianna Amann is a junior at Lindenwood who is majoring in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing. When she is not writing or reading, she spends her time eating at different restaurants in the greater Saint Louis area. Someday, after Arianna graduates university, she wants to own a bookstore.

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13th Edition Art - 13th Edition

Environ

Arianna Amann is a junior at Lindenwood who is majoring in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing. When she is not writing or reading, she spends her time eating at different restaurants in the greater Saint Louis area. Someday, after Arianna graduates university, she wants to own a bookstore.

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Fiction - 13th Edition

My House the Atoll

            The sunrise on the other side of the fingerprint-smudged window broke into my view with its musty, tainted rays. Although I couldn’t see it through the glass, I knew the light was pouring onto the mountain grass like a starburst. I counted the cows we passed— they were one of the only easy things to see through the haze.

          “Kaholo,” said my brother.

          I continued staring out the window: Four, I counted.

          “You pay better attention than this when you’re at work, lōlō,” he added, shoving my head to get me to look at him. “Lōlō, you listening? You better not lose your job, they’ll have a Haole in there to take your place before you can say ‘colonize.’ Don’t mess this up.” Then he went back to scanning the horizon, and I went back to counting cows.

          I’m Kaholo, I’m seventeen, I work for Volcano National Park in my homeland of Big Island, Hawai’i, and this is an essay I have to write for school. Miss Okulani, you told me to write the truth. To write what concerns me. I think, if I’m honest, I’m most concerned about my worry, and I’m most worried about my concern, and I wonder if either will ever come to anything in real life. This essay, more than just an assignment you told me to do, is my attempt at understanding my own thoughts.

          My ohana’s not special. At least, we’re no different than any other. My brother Aka and I were raised under the guidance of both our parents and our grandparents, and also the nosy neighbors and church members. We learned the legends, the words, the phrases, the ideas. We learned to swim before we learned to walk. We like Spam, and we don’t turn up our noses at any food that finds its way to our table. Our father trained us to keep our heads down, our mouths shut, and our hands busy. And outside the odd interaction, we avoid white people. No one in my family has ever married a Haole. You don’t mind that I use that word for them, right? Everyone does. I have one cousin who owns an espresso machine, but that’s as close as any of us come to the culture of the white people.

          But now that I think of it, maybe I’m the one who comes the closest to their culture. Every afternoon for the past two years, Aka, the cousins, or anyone with an open seat or truck-bed has driven me to work at Volcano Park. I know the only reason I have my job is because I’m a native. Sometimes being the minority has its privileges, I guess. Sometimes. And yet the managers thought they couldn’t put me in control of something as valuable and complicated as a cash register. They didn’t even give me the math test; they just immediately handed me a trash picker and a safety vest and pushed me out the back door before anyone could see the mud and red dirt plastered all over me from my ride in the pickup. I’m bad for the business side of things, I guess. But I’m good at cleaning up after Haoles, so they keep me around.

          And I don’t mind it, really. The work, I mean. Volcano Park lives inside my head, in a way. My lungs are used to the altitude; if the hair of my arms does raise up at the cold, mountain air, I don’t notice it; and I’m small and quick on my feet. Kaholo: light-footed. Funny, right?

          Anyway, all things considered, I enjoy my job. I enjoy the view, I like being outside rain or shine, and I especially like bringing home extra money.

          But like I said— I have concerns, and I have worries.

          You see, I don’t personally love the white people, but I don’t hate them either— especially not as much as my family does. What I hate is the way they are, if that makes sense. I mean, I hate the way they walk, for example. It’s not even like a normal way to walk— it’s like a possessive saunter, which I didn’t even know was possible to do. It’s like when they walk, they think they’re the ones blazing the trail under their feet, a trail which has already been cut down for their convenience for years.

          And their clothes. I hate their clothes, how they either dress like they’re going to the gym or like they plan on going to a tourist-trap luau after a nice hike across sacred land. They remind me of the colorful lizards that are all over the islands— generally harmless but present enough to be a nuisance.

          But what I hate the most, what keeps me awake at night, turning over and over in my bed, making Aka grumble and cuss at me as the springs of my mattress squeak, are the footprints.

          Footprints: they’re like thumbprints, but more arrogant. I find them everywhere in Volcano Park. Everyday, I stare at the thousands of impressions made by their shoes in the volcanic soil. This print here is made up of close-knit hourglass shapes— someone with those white-people strap sandals, which they wear with socks for some reason. Those prints there are tiny— probably made by a toddler, a tiny creature with just as much power as an adult to smush the earth farther down into itself.

          So I guess I don’t really have a problem with white people— I have a problem with their feet. But I never complain about the footprints to anyone. I can’t complain, or I would lose my job. The customers’ feet are always right, too, ya?

          But it does upset me. I look at the thousands of imprints in the dirt, along the rocks, among the plants, and I remember sitting in my grandparents’ living room, listening to Pa Kupuna tell me the legend of how the islands and the whole earth were created by the moon and sun; how the ocean came into being and washed into its place; and how the anger of the gods, broiling beneath the surface like soup left on the stove for too long, caused the volcanoes to rise out of the sea. As I make my rounds, picking up garbage, I think of Pele— the goddess of the volcano— and how her anger bubbles and sloshes down the mountainsides when she’s upset. Her anger would look so beautiful if it wasn’t so deadly. Mostly though, I think of how Pa Kupuna said that one day, the islands will return to the sea from whence they came, and I think of that a lot as I follow my trash route. Picking up little kid trinkets and plastic lids that’ve popped off tourists’ sunscreen bottles, I can’t help but also look at the footprints that wear down the trails over time, and I swear— everyday the top of the island seems a little bit closer to the ocean, just as Pa Kupuna predicted.

          There was one day when I stooped to pick up the sixteenth cigarette on my trail, and my butt accidentally blocked the way of this white family trying to walk past me. I put my head down and stepped out of the way, but I didn’t apologize (I was taught to keep my mouth shut). The white family paid me no mind, except for the little girl. She was probably like three years old, cause her head was a third of the size of her body, and she had on a pair of those jelly sandals that light up when she walks. She looked up at me.

          The eyes of white people always startle me. What right do they have to have eyes the color of the sea, or the open sky? They kill the coral with their name-brand sunscreens and then they harness the blues and greens of the oceans to put in their eyes.

          Anyway, the girl looked up at me with her stolen-blue eyes and blinked— and then, instantly, she seemed to forget me, and hopped away, jumping from one rock step to the next.

          Hop. Light.

          Hop. Light.

          Hop. Light.

          And in that moment, I could imagine it: Pa Kupuna stretched out in his chair, his cancer-discolored skin bronzing in the sun as his chair floats across the ocean to another island, if another island exists at that point; I imagined Aka, cussing with every word in the book and grappling for something to float on; I imagined that cute wahini from my church— the girl who never says a word— swimming to my open arms as we both go down into the wild blackness of the ocean depths. Imagine the suction of an entire nation being swallowed by the sea— the creation story in reverse: Pele, the goddess who gave birth to these lands, finally gives in to the centuries upon centuries of footsteps, groaning in pain as she returns to the depths with every bit of her body, taking all of us with her and leaving behind nothing but a torrent of bubbles and socks that have been ripped off our feet by the undercurrents. A de-creation story.

          And the devil, in this story? A toddler in light-up, jelly sandals.

          Last night after work, I climbed into the truck, all my worries outnumbering the reassurances I could come up with for them.

          “You get your check?” Aka asked, and I nodded. He pulled away from the visitor center and asked, “You talk to anybody?”

          Usually I would’ve just shaken my head, but something about my vision of the island sinking, had untangled my tongue: “I never talk to anybody,” I replied.

          Aka started a little at the sound of my voice, but he nodded and replied, “Good. That’s good, bruddah. Keep ya mouth shut and everything stay good.”

          I wanted to look at my brother after he said that. I wanted him to let me look at him, into his eyes that he gets from Ma Kupuna. I wanted to ask him so many questions that I thought he must have the answers to, because he’s older than me: Why are white people treated as so important to the islands if so many of us hate them? Aren’t there any other ways for the islanders to make a living, other than handing over the trees and the fields and the cliffs and the coral and the whales and the lizards and the sunshine? Where will the white people be when the abyss comes to eat us? Are we all going to sink, or will help come for the Haoles?

          I wanted to ask all these things of Aka, but I didn’t. I kept my head down. I kept my mouth shut. I kept my hands busy, pulling at the fraying threads of my jeans with my fingers. Looking at them, I realize I’ve been so distracted with work and homework and the idea of our imminent plunge into the sea, I’ve forgotten to keep my nails trimmed.

          I thrum my fingers on top of that door panel thing that all cars have on the inside. As Aka drives us home, I don’t try to count cows. They’ll be in their barns by now. I wonder if they know they’re gonna drown with the rest of us. If they knew, would they care enough to worry, as I do?

          Well, cows, if you are worried: keep ya mouth shut. And everything stay good.


Gia Mesz is a Lindenwood senior, a storywriter, and a constant daydreamer, pursuing a Creative Writing degree and a certificate in Intercultural Fluency. Her writing voice is tender and playful, appealing to the imagination and speaking purposively to the childlike soul within every reader. (Don’t tell anyone, but she’s also a mermaid.)

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Trick or Treat

It was a cold night and the streets were gloomy, which made her think that there weren’t going to be many kids in costumes begging for Halloween candy. Betty had only one bag of goodies left, as she had finished the rest of the candy while watching a horror movie. She was alone, in charge of the house, because her parents had left the city as a result of a romantic trip they had organized for the weekend.

She gave each child who passed by her home one or two sweets, so that she could ration the portions and have enough for everyone who showed up. However, she ran out of sweets when it was only a few minutes to midnight. She turned off the lights to make it appear that no one was in the house and thus prevent the kids from asking.

 But, suddenly, someone knocked on the door, despite Betty’s attempts to dissuade them. She tried not to pay attention to it, and she kept watching television, but someone knocked a second time and with more force. She stood up indignantly and opened with a serious face. A boy disguised as a skeleton appeared at the entrance, with his candy bag full and without any company next to him.

 “Trick or treat?” the little one asks her; she was unable to make out his face because the mask covered it.

 “I’m sorry, buddy, but I have no sweets left,” she apologized, closing the door with regret.

When she was about to return to the couch, somebody called again, which made her immediately furious. She went to the door to yell at the person who appeared in front of her, although no one appeared. She closed the door, and after walking two steps, the doorbell of the house rang once more. The sound made her despair. The noises took over her mind and stunned her greatly, but when she tried to find someone to blame, the person just vanished into thin air.

 Betty preferred to stay outside, hidden in the bushes of her porch, to be able to capture the mischievous one that was bothering her, although with how dark it was outside the house, it was difficult to distinguish someone from the shadows. Suddenly, the bell rang again, and she jumped quickly onto the wooden boards at the entrance, but there was not a single soul in sight. Her heart began to race, and the air became thin, when, suddenly, the bell button began to rumble, without anyone pressing it.

 The horror of what she had observed led her to take her keys and drive as fast as possible, without any direction, driven by the only desire to escape. However, while she was driving, the horn began to buzz with the same intensity as that of her home, and the speed of the car began to slow down without her having anything to do. She was trying to accelerate, but the car just stopped in the middle of the road. The music from the radio began to rise increasingly, causing Betty to rest her head in distress on the steering wheel as she covered her ears with her hands.

“Stop, please!” she begged, with a shudder.

 When she looked up, suddenly, she felt paralyzed, her skin crawl and cold seized her from head to toe. In front of her car appeared the same little man disguised as a skeleton, to whom she had not been able to deliver candy.

 “Trick or treat?” he asked again in a sinister tone, while a dense black cloud emanated around him in a chilling fashion.

Betty stared at him perplexed, with a terror that was slowly drowning her. She did not know what to do until, suddenly, she remembered that she had left a bar of chocolate in the glove compartment that a school teacher had given her at the end of the class. She got out of the car and showed it to him fearfully. With her shaking hands, she held it out and placed it in his bag while she tried not to look him in the eyes because of the fear it caused her. The instant the chocolate bar fell into the basket, the boy evaporated in the wind, leaving Betty walking away in fear.


Fernanda Poblete is a junior English Literature- Creative writing student with a minor in History. Her first novel was inspired by the Covid pandemic. One of her pieces was published in 2020 in Lindenwood’s Creepy Campfire Stories. Fernanda is from Chile and came to Lindenwood thanks to a tennis scholarship.

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

The Wickie

            I came to the lighthouse for solace. Exquisite alone time. I’d welcome the loneliness the same way the beacon welcomed incoming ships. In the weeks leading up to my internment as wickie at Pachad, the port master kept going on about how lucky he’d been to have found me; how their last keeper was “indisposed.” I didn’t ask questions.

            A week later I stood on the barnacled dock, bearing my sole tethers to civilization (identification papers, toothbrush, shaving cream and razor, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) in my hands. I stared after the vessel that had delivered me as it made itself slave to the lustful tide, but abandoned that watch long before the ship disappeared around the crescent jag of the island. The port master’s parting words swam through my mind: “Always keep the light burning.”

            I walked in the bitter wind toward the lighthouse, pushing the image of the port master’s pale eyes out of my thoughts.

            The lighthouse was sparsely furnished, yet it lent more in the way of comfort than I’d expected: a flannel bedspread, a painting of a vessel as it cut the shimmering sea, a wide, cherry desk positioned in front of the window that would be my eyes on the world for the next year; checking the drawers, I found a matchbox and a canister of cigars— the remnants of the past wickie, or perhaps of the one before him.

            I lit a cigar, blinked at its bold flavor. I sat down and made my first recording in the logbook: 25th of August, 1903, 0800 hours— Arrival. I puffed again, watching the waves as they rolled toward shore, each one more eager than the last to slide up onto the sand.

            “Well, it seems you’re the perfect man for the job, Mr. Thackitt,” the post master had said. “Decorated officer, no wife, no kids.”

            I brushed some fallen ash from my pants.

            “A man could lose his mind all alone out there.”

            Realizing I was breathing anxiously, I stepped away from the desk. My footsteps reverberated as I climbed to the gallery, setting about being that “perfect man for the job.”

            And I was. I did my duty as keeper. I kept a weather eye, I cleaned the lamp and glass every morning as if it had never been done. If a new barnacle appeared on the dock, I documented it. I did my duty, just like every wickie before me.

            So why does the house despise us?

            I didn’t record it the first time it happened. Can you imagine?

            11th of October, 1903, 1600 hours— Painting changed: ship caught in storm. Previously sturdy stair rusted through, fell apart as I ascended to bed. Swollen ankle. Broke portable lantern in fall.

            My head spun as I lay in bed that night— this time not with thoughts of drink or of conversation but with thoughts of confusion, and of fright. Until an hour ago, every step in the lighthouse staircase had been polish-black, free of rust; then, suddenly, this— decay out of nowhere!

            Eventually I could puzzle no longer, and fell asleep.

            But it’s gotten worse. It’s so much worse.

            Seeing no way around it, I’ve recorded yesterday’s occurrences in the logbook:

            27th of October, 1903, 1630 hours— Several stairs rusted through, incapable of holding weight. Dropped portable lantern in attempt to jump gap between stairs, glass shattered and cut hand. Painting changed again: what’s discernible in the shreds depicts blood-red sea and corpses in water. Red substance on floor beneath painting: investigated— blood.

            But that’s not the worst of it. Tonight—… God, I can hardly see to write. The shed is so dark, and besides, my eyes! But it’s vital that I record this: tonight, I neglected the port master’s one command. I didn’t keep the light burning, and someone has died for it.

            It’s the house’s doing, I tell you! I’m not crazy. I don’t know why it’s doing this, I don’t know why any of this has happened, and I certainly don’t believe that the last wickie was simply “indisposed.” I don’t want to think about what may have happened to him…

            Nevertheless, this is what’s happened to me: only an hour ago I was on the rocks, spying the horizon through my binoculars, and I spotted a vessel with its distress lights illuminated; in the same moment, I looked up and realized that the house’s lantern had mysteriously extinguished itself.

            Charged with adrenaline and fear, I rushed into the lighthouse, and had gotten halfway up the stairs before the topmost steps caved beneath my feet— rusted away from the wall, they disintegrated right underneath my boots. If I hadn’t had the presence of mind to grab onto one of the lower steps, I probably wouldn’t be writing this…

            By wild feats of agility and grace I made it to the gallery, and found the oil well dry and barren as a desert. Pushing aside the fact that I’d filled it earlier, I poured more oil in— and groaned in horror as the bowlful of fuel immediately sank through the bottom of the well, as if the bowl had secret pores. There was nothing else to do for it except hope some oil would stay, so I poured yet more in and reached in to light it—…

            And this is where my account becomes fuzzy. I reached in to light the well, and as if all the excess oil I’d poured had reappeared, the bowl burstinto an inferno so fierce that all the glass around the bowl exploded, and some of it went into my eyes (for I was standing close).

            I stumbled away from the globe, wanting and not wanting to dig the glass out of my face, and I think I must have stumbled backward over the railing and fallen head-over-heels down the stairs. My head booms now as if it struck every step.

            The light is broken. There’s blood all over me, but I know it’s not mine. I can’t be sure, but I think it belongs to the sailors in that painting; I just have a feeling that that’s where the house keeps them. And there’s a ship full of real men, likely dying or dead, out there at sea, and no one will know it until they don’t turn up at their next port, and no one will know that the lighthouse is trying to kill me until long after that.

            If you get this letter, please come. I beg you.

            I’m not crazy.

            I’m not crazy.


Gia Mesz is a Lindenwood senior, a storywriter, and a constant daydreamer, pursuing a Creative Writing degree and a certificate in Intercultural Fluency. Her writing voice is tender and playful, appealing to the imagination and speaking purposively to the childlike soul within every reader. (Don’t tell anyone, but she’s also a mermaid.)

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Return of the Monster

As I stand in front of the grave for the late Mary Shelley, crowbar in hand, I wonder if I’m just crazy or if the guy I’m doing this for is.  See I own an independent bookstore that has really been struggling recently.  In order to keep the business afloat I put an ad in the wanted section of the newspaper asking for anybody that is interested in acquiring rare books.  Within a week of placing the ad a man contacted me and offered me $2 million to find a legendary book that was supposedly written by Mary Shelley before she died.   He told me the legend states that before she died she wrote a sequel to Frankenstein.  The legend also says that it’s buried in a tomb underneath her gravestone.  In order to get it you have to pass one daunting test. One that tests your knowledge of literature but specifically of monsters. 

            As I pry the crowbar between the slot that lifts the lid from the grave I get this incredibly cold feeling like a sense of foreshadowing.  Despite this feeling I know I can’t turn back now.  I lift the crowbar and as soon as I do the lid lifts up and a gust of air shoots out of the grave like air out of a really powerful aerosol can.  It knocks me off my feet.

            I stand up and start to lift the heavy lid off the grave. As I look down into the tomb I notice steps leading down into the darkness.  I slowly start to walk down trying to feel each step with my foot since I don’t have a flashlight or torch to lead the way.  After about two minutes of walking I feel this cool breeze upon my face and then what feels like cobwebs.  Cobwebs?  Down here?  Underground?  The more I keep walking, the thicker the cobwebs become.  As I brush the cobwebs away I come away with a handful of baby wolf spiders.  I jump with anxiety as I throw them down and then hear a sound, a clicking, crawling sound.  I accidentally walk right into the wall in front of me but I’m able to feel around and turn the corner to see what looks like the shine of the moon but I know that’s not possible.  As I get closer to what appears to be a circle courtyard illuminated by the moonlight I freeze in my tracks by what I see.  Shelob.  Shelob the giant spider from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien.  She is eating what looks like a human wrapped in her own webs.  Across from her is Sting, the sword that Samwise uses to wound her in the book.  I start to sneak very quietly toward Sting because I know that if I’m to retrieve that book I’m going to need that sword.  Just as I get a few inches from retrieving it I see Shelob’s body shift toward me.  I hold completely still hoping she won’t see me but she has a bunch of eyes so who am I kidding?  About a split second before she jumps towards me I grab Sting and swipe behind me and manage to cut off one of her legs which inhibits her ability to move.  After I do this I back away to see what kind of environment I’m working with.  There’s a rock to the right of her that I can climb if I’m fast enough. Before Shelob has a chance to get her bearings I climb the rock as fast as I can and I jump off it with Sting raised in the air and as I land on top of her I thrust the sword into Shelob’s biggest eye and I hear the loudest shriek I’ve ever heard in my life.  She bucks me off and I roll on the ground.  After I realize what just happened I’m racing through my brain to try and remember how Shelob was defeated in the book.  Samwise cuts her leg, stabs her eye and then……just as I remember I open my eyes and she’s staring me in the face and her giant jaws are within a couple of inches of my face.  Without even thinking I grab Sting which is laying next to me and I jam it into the belly of the beast.  Shelob shrieks one last time and as I pull the sword from her abdomen all of her blood and intestines spill all over my face.  The smell was ungodly.  As I try to get up from the mess I notice what feels like a book wedged in with all the intestines.  I wipe it off and notice the title, The Return of the Monster by Mary Shelley.     

            Two weeks later I arrive at the massive Gothic mansion that belongs to the man that I experienced all this for, The Collector.  That’s the name he goes by because apparently he doesn’t go out much.  He has a reputation for living inside his mansion and only associating with his butler.  After three rings and five knocks on the door the butler finally answers the door and leads me into the study where my current benefactor is waiting with a steel briefcase, which I assume has the money. 

            “Please sit” he says to me.

            “Thanks.”

            “Can I offer you something to drink sir?” the butler asks me.

            “No thanks I’m having mimosas at the club later.” I say with a chuckle.

            “So do you have something for me?” the man says back to business.

            “Yes.  It wasn’t easy and the nightmares have almost gone away but I found it.  Here you are.”  I say as I had them heavy leather bound book.

            “It’s more beautiful than I ever imagined.”  said the man. 

            “Sir, may I ask you a question?”

            “If you must.”

            “Most people have heard about this book but they don’t seem to think that there’s any merit to its existence.  Why were you so sure of its existence?” I asked curiously.

            “I met Mary Shelley when she was 10 years old.  Her family was vacationing in the northern part of England and we came across each other when she went for walk after lunch.”

            “How can that be?  You don’t look any older than my father.”

            “I guess since you retrieved this prize possession to me you deserve the truth.  What if I told you the story of Frankenstein is actually true?”

            “You’re kidding me!” I exasperated not believing my ears.

            “No I’m not kidding.  The story of Frankenstein is a story I told Mary Shelley when she was 10.  The story I told her was the story of Frankenstein.  I told her my story.”

            “Your story?  You’re a writer?  Or an unknown witness to the story with really good plastic surgery and a life-lasting pill?  You can’t possibly be….”

            “Go ahead say it.  You know the answer.  You can say it.”

            I paused for a minute thinking again if I’m crazy or this man is.  Then I said it without even realizing what I was saying… “You’re the…monster?  Frankenstein’s monster?”

            “I never really liked that term but yes I am the monster from the story.”

            “You look nothing like Boris Karloff though.”

            “Hahaha I never liked that movie or that adaptation.  No I don’t look like that anymore.  I have seen a lot of incredible scientists and some plastic surgeons over the years but the best were my father’s kids.  They all grew up and joined the family business by devoting their entire life to, well to my life.  I owe them absolutely everything.”

            “So I guess this book, The Return of the Monster, really belongs to you more than anybody else.”

            “I can’t thank you enough for what you went through to find this book.  I’ve been looking for it a long time and you have made a very very old man very happy.  Here is your money as promised.  I hope it helps with your business.” 

            “How did you know about my business?” I ask puzzled.

            “I never hire any investigator without doing heavy research on them first.  Plus I would never trust just anyone with this very important personal wish of mine.”

            “Well can I ask one more favor of you sir?”  I ask with anticipation.

            “Most definitely.”

            “I can’t believe I’m saying this after all I’ve been through but if you ever find yourself in need of another rare book would you consider hiring me again?”

            “Actually, I have a friend from the old days that has been looking for a very specific book.”

            “Oh yeah?  What’s his or her name?”  I ask as I reach for my personal notebook to write down the name.

            “Ever heard of Bram Stoker?”  


Michael Edele is a senior at Lindenwood University and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. He plans on graduating in December of 2021. He enjoys reading and writing of all genres and after graduation, he plans on becoming a writer full-time so he can achieve his dream of becoming a published best-selling novelist.

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

My Sister`s Button

“Here`s the room, Mr. Jones. They will be with you in a little bit. If you need anything, just ask,” the secretary said.

“Thank you.” She nodded and closed the door behind her after I entered the room. I pulled out the papers and started setting up the material necessary for this presentation. I even laid out my clothing products. I finished what I needed to put out and stood there as my hands reached into my pockets. I felt the button in the right pocket of my coat jacket and started to weave it through my fingers in a nervous habit. It was my sister`s button. The clothing button had white flowers painted on the brown wood. I remembered the moment that she told me about her idea and when she showed this button which was her inspiration that started this business.

“So, I have an idea, Jake. I found this button and that got me thinking,” she said. She took the button out and handed it to me and continued. “I`m great with designs and I think I have a great business idea. I already got it started but I`m having trouble and I need your help.”

“What kind of help?” I said, as I leaned against the counter in our apartment and I examined the button that didn`t have the faded flower pattern like it does today.

“I need money and I know that you already support us both but I really want to do this. If this is successful, like I think it will be, it will bring in a lot of money.” She paused and said, “I will pay you back and it can be our thing, you know.” She smiled wildly and swayed a little bit placing her hands together in front of her.

“Stella, how much?” I said, crossing my arms and sighing.

“That’s the hard part. It`s about $100,000,” she said, as she squinted her eyes. We continued the conversation as she shared her idea and her outlook for her business idea, which was called The Playful Button. The more we talked, the more she had a twinkle in her eyes. She was always dreaming of being successful with her own business. I decided to go into The Playful Button with her. I was an accountant so I knew money well and she was the creative force. I owned half of the business at that point in time. I had to quit my job later to help expand our business. It became financially tight but we managed. But I missed moments like that with her.

My reminiscing thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and three executives walked into the room. I pulled my hand out of my pocket, leaving the button, and shook each of their hands one by one. I plastered a smile onto my face and focused on the meeting. It was a clothing business but the shirts and sweaters had buttons placed in particular ways to form a design like a smiley face, which made the clothing unique. It had made a pretty good amount of money but I was negotiating to get my products in the big box stores. I pitched the business which included me pulling out the button and explaining where the business idea started where I told them as well how important this button was to me. They said the products would fit well in their stores but it needed to be beneficial for both parties. Then, we negotiated. It took longer than expected but we finally settled. They selected some of my products to be sold in one store for a trial run.

Later, I entered my apartment to start into the business paperwork and worked for hours until I reached into my coat jacket pocket out of habit. The pocket had developed a hole and the button was gone. I frantically looked all over. The button wasn`t in my clothing anywhere! It wasn`t close by and not around any furniture that I checked. Earlier that day, I had gone other places, which included the meeting, and now, I needed to retrace my steps. I looked at the clock and realized that all the places that I had gone were now officially closed. I didn`t go to sleep because I thought about the lost button and where it could be.

*

The next morning, I had to organize the supplies and coordination to get ready for the store. I had to manage my work schedule that was long with the search for my button. It had been an unsuccessful search. The stores had sweep where I had gone. But I hadn`t gotten a chance to go back to the store where I had the meeting. The Playful Button was successful to expand to other stores but we were having many issues with the manufacturer and the big order since I lost my button. The manufacturer was starting to give up.  

The fire changed everything. The phone rang and I picked up. The big box store was wondering when the next order of my product was coming in and I said it should be soon. I left and went to the factory to make sure everything was going well. Once there, I saw items were everywhere and in a mess. The products were scattered around and the people scrambled all over the place.

“What`s going on?!” I screamed. My hands were in the air.

“We can`t handle this product load! We`re extremally behind schedule!” The manager said, panicking. He was trying to stop a machine that was malfunctioning and I went to help.

“Well, can you get it back on schedule?” I said. I pulled off many tops from the assembly line and placed them onto a side table.

“Not for a while,” he said. A fire burst out in another area behind him and a smoke alarm sounded. People sprinted to the fire to help put it out and I tried too. It was one of the machines that had caught fire. I still remember the buttons dispersed on the floor as they all melted away. The buttons were all unattainable because they were close to the middle of the flames. The side of the building was burning and everything in that area was destroyed. The sprinkler started to water the facility. I felt soaked by the time it stopped. Some workers used the sweaters as a way of stamping it out and others used their feet along with the sprinkler which reduced the fire. It took a while but the fire finally stopped but the clothing and buttons were ash and the factory building was partially burnt as well. It would take many things to fix this facility and we were going to lose the big box store soon because of our late arrival already.

“I quit! I can`t take it anymore!” The manager screamed. Some others yelled out a similar sentiment and left, but a few remained. There were not enough employees to run this factory now, especially in this condition. The fire department came and everything was worked out. I had to call the factory owner but he said that they were announcing that they were going out of business and they apologized for the “inconvenience.” The last employees closed the doors with this announcement and went home.

I entered my apartment and frantically called manufactures, as many as I could, to get a deal with. Fast! I didn`t reach many but the ones I did suggested that they would call me back. I called the big box store and made an appointment in their earliest convenience which was in a few days. I took those days to call manufacturers and had a hard time to get through to anyone. A few days later, I talked to the executives. I told them that I needed more time and explained what happened. The executives gave a deadline before the contract would become invalid, based on our agreement. They said they didn`t want to lose us because of the response and requests from so many customers. They would, however, if we couldn`t produce the minimum amount. I would be racing the clock. We shook hands and they turned to leave. However, the top executive turned back to me and pulled something out of his pants pockets.

“I found this on the floor. I believe this is yours,” The top executive said. He held the button in his palm.

“Yes, thank you!” I said, relived.

“I remember you mentioning that this button was important to you. I knew that if I lost my daughter`s bracelet that she made for me, I would want someone to get it back to me,” he said, as he raised his arm that showed a colorful, thread bracelet. He lowered his arm and I pocketed the button in my pants pocket. I again thanked him and he nodded. We said goodbye and left to get back to our separate work. I was so grateful! I exited the building to go to my car when my cell phone rang and I answered. It was another, bigger manufacturer that reviewed The Playful Button`s products and business and thought that we could make a deal together. I made the appointment as soon as possible which happened to be the next day, luckily.

The next day, we conversed about the possibility of them making the clothing. I asked how fast could they make it. The first order would be the minimum amount, which would take a week, but then the next batch would take more time, but more product would result. I barely kept the contract with the big box store and fulfilled the bare minimum for now to keep The Playful Button running. The new manufacture and I shook on it. They started immediately and sent the clothing out into the stores. In weeks to come, the store received more of my product that they had ordered. The Playful Button was not only in the black but it was making a major amount of profit! I could finally breath and I kept the button with me while dealing with everything that I did.

*

A few years down the road, I took a Saturday off and went for a drive. I parked in the grave yard and grabbed the rose on the next seat in my car and I pulled the button out. The button was firmly in my hand as I walked out of my car and up to the chipped grave stone.

It read,

Rest in Peace to a Beloved Sister

Stella A. Jones

March 28, 1986-April 20, 2015

Years ago, she went to have a meeting in another state with a smaller business than the one that I had signed. Stella took a plane and I had said I needed to stay here because I needed to negotiate with the first manufacturing company. I hadn`t known what was going to happen, that Stella`s plane was going to crash, and I still wish she hadn`t gone. We didn`t even get a deal with the smaller business though they sent their condolences.

That Saturday, I placed the rose on the grave and sat onto the grass near it. I unfolded my hand that contained the button and played with it for a while, then I looked up at the stone. I wore the sweater that she first made for me with our names made out of buttons on the front.

“I miss you.” I paused, and fiddled with the single, special button. “I`m succeeding with the business. Thanks for the help, though; I couldn`t do it without you. I don`t think I would have kept going if it wasn`t for this button, and you, or at least my memories of you. I love you so much.” I sat in front of her grave for a while and rested. I thought about the fact that her dream was coming true and I had done all of this because of her. I also did it for me, to keep her close, when she was gone, because, with this business and button, she was always with me, even in death.


Jesse Basler is currently a senior in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources with a minor in Creative Writing. She will be graduating fall 2021.  Jesse`s first published children`s book was “My Slippery Escape” on Amazon in 2018. She published another children`s book, “The Adventurous Book Worms” in 2020.  

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Jericho

CONTENT WARNING: Mentions of suicide and graphic death. 

It began as a whisper. 

The file was named Jericho. It started showing up on all sorts of social media- the forums first, and then onto the more mainstream sites like Twitter at the beginning of October. 

It made its way into the news cycle early on. A sophomore at a high school a few states away supposedly listened to it and killed her dog and then herself. The file was mentioned in her suicide note. That’s when other instances began being reported more seriously. Cases where people died with earbuds or headphones covering their bloodied ears were re-opened. 

One of the worst parts was when several accounts, most of whom had substantial followings, were hacked and the audio was uploaded to them. To which, of course, multiple people died, and more were substantially injured– many lost their hearing partially or entirely (it depended on how loud the audio played when they listened to it, and if they were wearing headphones or not). It caused a moral panic, as these types of situations usually do. It only made the audio more sought after. It became a trend to make reaction videos listening to the audio. School administrations were panicking and enforced zero-tolerance policies for the audio. If a student mentioned Jericho at school, they were given out of school suspension for at least three days. One kid, who was expelled, plotted to play the audio over the school’s intercoms.

No one is able to pin down what exactly the audio is of. Those who have listened to it, before their deaths and in their suicide notes, claim it’s a never-ending sound of an emergency siren, or an echoing scream. Others, who have survived and weren’t afflicted in any way, claim it’s nothing more than white noise. Some have even claimed it’s just the sound of someone breathing. There were theories that there were multiple versions of Jericho.

Regardless, it plays in your head endlessly after you listen to it. 


Amanda May is a senior at Lindenwood University. She is majoring in English Literature with an Emphasis in Creative Writing and minoring in Journalism. When she isn’t writing, she can probably be found screaming or crying (or both) about Star Wars, anime, or Florence + The Machine. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @Amandalorian451

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Fresh Fruit

They didn’t believe him at first. Neither one had seen Sam in hours, and when he appeared to them back where he’d gone missing from the trail and told them what he’d discovered–it seemed too strange to be true. It couldn’t have been. It was actually impossible. And yet, there he was, standing in front of them, perfectly upright, never even flinching as he reached into his pocket, withdrew a folded knife, and raised it to his own neck. Before either could stop him by convincing him his delusions of invulnerability were untrue, he slashed his throat in one quick, decisive motion.

The cut was deep, so deep that they worried his head may loll too far to one side, snap off, and roll to a stop at their feet. But it remained attached, despite the amount of flesh that had been torn away. He stayed standing and smiling, giddy as he watched the horror fill their faces. They screamed, and Jeanette turned to run for help, for anyone that could possibly be out there with them whose phone actually had service in the middle of nowhere, but he grabbed her wrist and held her there with a grip that was startlingly strong for someone who must be drowning in their own blood. 

Blood came, but then it stopped, and the hole that had once been gaping near his trachea squirmed and swelled until it was only the thin line of a faded scar. And then, finally, nothing remained as evidence of what should have meant his death.

“This can’t be real,” Maggie had said. She had watched with wary features and a cynical distaste as he cleaned the blade on his now blood-drenched hoodie. “That’s not funny.”

“It’s not a joke,” he replied. “Couldn’t you tell?”

Maggie’s eyes deepened with concern, but Jeaneatte’s brightened with a morbid curiosity.

“Did you just heal yourself? How did you do that?” she asked as she ran to him, inspecting his throat and the knife. The blade drew blood as soon as it touched her finger, even sharper than she’d imagined.

“I can’t hurt myself anymore,” Sam replied with a shrug. “I don’t think I can even die. I was walking in the woods and then suddenly I was falling through the air. I fell for a long time, and when I hit the ground, it didn’t even hurt.”

“That’s incredible,” Jeanette breathed. “What do you mean? Where did you go? Why did you leave?”

“I was just walking, and I heard something out in the trees…” He trailed off as he tried to recall. Eventually, he seemed to remember something, and his smile returned. “I found an old, dead tree, but it still had some weird fruit growing on it. I was starving, and it looked… delicious. So I reached out to grab it. Then nothing. I just woke up back here. Cut my arm open on a branch and saw the wound close right in front of me.”

“You’re an idiot,” Maggie chided, some of her usual playfulness finally forcing its way through her unease. “And it did this to you? You need to go to a hospital or the police or… something.”

“I’ve never felt better than I do now,” he replied, shaking his head with a shrug. “I can show you the tree. Help me make sure it’s real and not just a hallucination from eating strange plants?”

“Shouldn’t we tell someone about it?” Jeanette asked, crossing her arms and looking down the trail. “As much as I want cool powers like you… Maybe we should leave.”

“We can’t do that,” he countered hastily. His reaction made Jeanette tense, and it seemed to disturb Maggie as well, though she didn’t voice her concerns. Sam looked embarrassed and then tried to reason with them, apologetically. “We don’t even know it’s real yet, and I can’t leave until I know for sure. Don’t you want to know?” He walked backward off the trail and tilted his head toward the dense thicket of trees in invitation. “Come on. It wasn’t far.”

It didn’t take long to convince them; the allure of the mystery would be difficult for anyone to refuse. They knew they were miles from either end of the trail, and turning back then would have meant possibly losing their chance to find this secluded phenomenon and gain this power for themselves. Yes, it drew them to it, despite the warnings of the little voices in their minds they usually heeded. The voices screamed and their nerves were alight, minds on edge, jaws set, and the hair on their arms and the backs of their necks standing on end. But none of this managed to dissuade them. They, too, heard the noise as their feet lifted from the path, and it drew closer and closer.

When the tree actually came into sight, they never stopped to inspect it or question its existence. It felt like they were floating, and maybe they were; they didn’t see their feet or the autumn-leaf-covered forest floor below them. The leaves and twigs crunching and breaking underfoot hardly made a sound. They saw the towering tree and the tree only. Its gnarled ash-gray branches held a singular red fruit, fleshy and emitting a sickly-sweet smell that lingered in the air around them like ghoulish hands pulling them forward. They could almost feel the jagged fingernails of the hands sinking into their skin, but if it was unpleasant, they didn’t seem to mind. It was like the journey of a dream where the walking is made easy, and even though you have no destination in mind, you somehow manage to arrive. They didn’t notice Sam stop walking behind them at the edge of the clearing, and all senses seemed to dull and fade away except for the pheromonic scent and melodic hum that called out to them.

They both approached the tree with greedy hands, outstretched and ready to receive the fruit. But they collided and fumbled, both falling out of their haze long enough to look down and find themselves at the edge of a precipice–a steep, narrow ravine that seemed to appear out of nowhere–hidden there behind the grass and colorful flowers and unseen while staring up at the tree’s high branches. Jeanette held out a shaky arm to stop both of them from falling in. At the bottom of the rocky pit lay a pile of decaying corpses, some old and weathered bone, and some newer with half-torn flesh, matted hair, and mouths agape in silenced terror. All were pitifully broken and so far down that hope even one among them may still be breathing was nonexistent. And then their eyes were drawn to the very top, to the freshest corpse of them all, with its eyelids frozen open, its eyes vacant and glazed over, its mouth filled with drying blood and fallen dirt, and its face telling them that the thing standing behind them was not their childhood friend, Sam; it was simply wearing his skin. 

They turn back, to run as far and as fast as they can, but the creature parading itself as Sam stood right behind them. No longer did it even attempt to appear alive, or even friendly, as it once had. It was certainly not Sam, but Sam’s face is the one that eyed them up and down and gave a grin so wide that it tore into the flesh at the edges of its mouth.

“Go on,” it growled with bared teeth and something that could almost be mistaken for a voice. “Take a bite.”


Victoria Lane is a graduating senior at Lindenwood, completing her degree with majors in Game Design, Digital and Web Design, and Art History. She plans to continue her education through Lindenwood’s Writing MFA, where she intends to write more original fiction and poetry. She loves to read comic books, collect action figures, watch films, play video games, make art, and yes, write. 

Portfolio – victoriamlane.com

Instagram – @victoriamadilynlanee 

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Connection

Wind whipped around rocky cliffs, fresh and salty from its journey over the sea. Along the craggy coast there were a few scattered stretches of pure white sand, settling in ripples around the islands of thick black rock that thrust up from the ground. They were tall and rough, pointed as if reaching for the top of the cliffs, longing to be returned to their home.

It was on one of these beaches that Asher stood, wringing out his shirt. Seawater poured in rivulets through his clenched knuckles and down his wrists, paving clear tracks of skin through a fine layer of sand. When the fabric was merely damp, he draped it over his pop-up chair, looking around for a long moment before walking closer to the water. After a time, he kicked the sand and sighed dramatically, flopping down to the ground and letting the sounds of the incoming tide wash over him. Solitude, he thought, closing his eyes and soaking up the dying dregs of heat as the sun winked its way down past the horizon.

Night came suddenly, or so it seemed. Asher had spent the earlier part of the day with his friends, but they’d long since returned to their hostel. He had been alone in his decision to camp out on the beach for their last night of freedom, although now that he’d been out here goofing off all evening, he regretted not making more of an effort to convince anyone to stay with him. With a loud groan, Asher rolled over, spitting sand away from his face. He stretched, and his joints sounded like fall, his granddad teaching him to crack walnuts in the palm of his hand.

The evening had been great.  Asher had felt the low buzz of a crowd in the tips of his fingers and made the snap decision to follow. Sand had cascaded around his feet, slipping into his sandals as he’d crested the hill, both hands fully tingling with awareness. The activities had stopped, the air arrested in stillness, as his face came into view. He could taste the energy of the crowd, and it was inquisitive. Asher left himself open with a shy grin, and the reflection of his own smiling face with the emotions and perceptions of others washed over him, jarring as always.

Asher wondered if sense of self was so uneasily defined in the pre-connected past. He remembered reading somewhere in undergrad that a well-known psychologist of the past said that who people are is the sum of three parts, and that they’re constantly at odds with each other. He wasn’t sure that he believed that, but he knew that repeatedly seeing himself tinged with others’ perceptions was sometimes frustrating, if only because it seemed like the sense of connection should keep those misinterpretations at bay. This was, he reminded himself, the very point that his Rabbi had spoken about last Friday. Deeper connection requires time. This was true of G-d, and true of humanity.

Eventually he’d been invited verbally to join the circle of smiling faces around the fire, and it turned out that many of the people involved were also in his grad program, celebrating one last night of freedom. It wasn’t long before the others felt comfortable connecting with him, and as Asher tended to follow the social cues of others, he let his own walls fall slowly as well. The muffled buzz of the crowd gave way to rapid reading, and he knew from experience that fighting to control it would make for a rough ride.

Images and sensations passed in a breath and were gone again. He was having his quinceañera, he was graduating with honors, he was holding his son after hours of grueling labor. He lived each memory, cherishing them as he felt the sum of his own self being experienced. In the span of a few seconds Asher knew and was known, and he felt himself better for it.

Afternoon faded into evening and Asher broke bread with strangers turned friends. He’d connected with them and past the initial outreach he had grown to understand them. The more that they spoke aloud, the more their connection grew, leading to more communication between their thoughts and feelings. Eventually they had reached an easy rapport born of both connection and familiarity, and time passed both quickly and not at all. 

Asher and his new friends had chased each other through the waves, playing a game called telephone from long ago that involved passing a thought from one person to another to see how clear and unchanged it could remain. The sun moved across the sky in a blazing arc, dipping deeper with each moment. Their laughter followed it through the clouds as they played. Asher stayed as long as his new friends could, but eventually everyone made their way back into town, and he took to walking along the beach alone, watching the tide come in. 

Stars were beginning to shine by the time Asher finally wrestled his tent into submission and unrolled his sleeping bag. He was shivering slightly by this point, though his skin glistened with the exertion. He would be the first to admit his lack of skill in this area. Asher unashamedly shucked his wet clothes off into a pile on the sand. His deep brown skin was pebbled from the chill and he dove gratefully into the warmth of his waiting blankets, zipping the tent closed behind him. He lay on his stomach, head pillowed on his arms, and let his own breath warm his face for a moment.

Night moved on, and still Asher was awake. He’d put his pajamas on and was pouring himself tea from his thermos when he finally felt it. There was a gentle pulse that started at his extremities, warming his whole body and then centering in his chest. He exhaled heavily, always feeling more like himself when he wasn’t alone.

“Took you long enough,” he projected into the connection, and with it went the taste of hot cider on a fall day and the smell of coconut oil.

“I’ve had a busy day,” came the response, and it was tinged with longing and affection.

Asher stepped out of his tent, careful not to spill his tea, and with a billow and a shake gently rested a towel down on the sand. He reached back for a blanket and sat down to watch the stars, projecting the image of them into himself and beyond himself.

Jacob responded in kind, and Asher let the duality of nearly identical night skies consume him for a moment before letting it fade. The two of them sat in silence for a time, Asher on the beach, and Jacob many, many miles away, back at home.

Asher’s next projection was soft and deep blue with longing. “I miss you.”

“Your program will be over in six months,” came the swift response, and it too was nearly overflowing with emotion. “We can manage being apart until then.”

Jacob was still, and they were connected just well enough that Asher could make out the view of his mother’s kitchen table. “You’re visiting my parents?” Asher asked.

“Your mother insisted I come over yesterday evening to break the fast, and I stayed today because of the snow. It kept us all locked in.” Jacob projected an image of the news forecast last night, followed quickly by a view that Asher recognized as the street from his bedroom window. He hummed in response, letting the buzzing playfully fill their connection.

“Your room still smells like you,” Jacob continued, and Asher swallowed. The wave of longing that followed was harmonious and beautiful, even in all its sadness. The two of them had forged their connection young, and it had bloomed as they grew. Asher knew that their harmony was close to being unmatched; it had to be to communicate so well over such distance. Their connection was unlike any other Asher had ever known, and it was almost physically painful to be this far apart, regardless of their ability to maintain their tether from this great a distance.

From Asher came the quiet calm of the waves and a sampling of the day’s events, his new friends and their game, the way the beaches shone when the sun was high, and the accomplishment he’d felt at putting his tent together by himself. Jacob’s joy at his happiness reverberated between them, bouncing around until it burst outward, and Asher hoped that there wasn’t anyone near to feel it and become curious. As much as he’d desired company earlier, he wanted the rest of the night just for them.

In the stillness it was easy to feel the longing between them, eclipsed as it was by joy. Even at the level they were bound together, the distance was still difficult. Before Asher had left, the two of them had discussed the opportunity at length, and Jacob had insisted he couldn’t pass it up. It helped that both of them knew it was only for six months and that they would reunite like nothing had changed. Although that knowledge was only a small comfort in the actual face of reality.

The stars provided a glimmering background for the rest of the night, and after their initial conversation, there was little in the way of active thought shared. They simply existed, experiencing each other’s perceptions in a quiet whisper that lapped at the edges of their conscious minds. Eventually they fell asleep, still connected.


Tevye Schmidt is a writer, or he would be if the words would more often be willing to leave his mind and apply themselves to the page. He’s majoring in English and minoring in Spanish, with a plan to teach Literature and Composition. He has a very mischievous 11 year old cat named Aren that he loves very much.