Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Conditions

It had been suppressed from the beginning. There was no platform on which such rage could stand, for it was larger than himself — larger than his tiny theater of the world. He could not even begin to fathom the size of the injustice, and so he left his rage to the winds of war — so that it might swirl around him, ever-present yet ever-fleeting.

            Even so, affairs were maintained much as they had been prior to that new year of broken lines and mended brotherhoods. There could be no pause here, for who, if not he, would push onward in that great forward movement of captains and corporals? In this question, he was decidedly invested.

            “How could you not be?” A renewed voice came. “That constant battle, more similar to the Somme than you know, took the solid ground right from under you. That you should spend three years grappling for some semblance of consistency is a natural thing. I have seen men go twice — nay — thrice as long simply shaking off the shock of muddy engagement. I see no reason why you should exist as an anomaly to this.”

            A sigh escaped through his throat, as though it were still pressed upon by the leaden boot of Dunkerque, and he began again. “And yet I–”

            “And yet you what? And yet you sit there sniveling into your sleeve?” Her voice took on a mismatched tone. “No, you have pushed and pushed and pushed, but now that you lack another redoubt to take in your effort moving forward, you think it useless altogether. It is understandable, yet you will think it different in due time.”

            The word “perhaps” had scarcely left his lips when the shells of Korea began landing all around him. The woman was gone — again — but her impression remained ingrained in his mind. How could she have been right when the fight continued on in spite of her? It was injustice, yet he remained impartial to it as ever.

            That good fight — nay — that great fight was moving ever closer to his home and ever further from hers. They had both been christened in conflict, yet she moved away from it as he repeatedly retreaded the old path.

            “And what path is that, my brother?” A new voice reneged its earlier resignation. “What do you plan to do when that path leads nowhere as it always has in these recent days? Can’t you see that the very world falls apart beneath our charge?”

            He stared at the speaking soldier and knew that the emissaries of death were retreating. Not from him, but from the prospect of peace. The cause was ailing, their resolve failing. Could they not see that it was only on these fields of battle that salvation would be reaped?

            The woman had foreseen this, and yet she had not warned him. For the sake of all that was sacred, why? The winds of war were dying in these final days, just as his brother had been felled in that year of broken lines, but still he had received no promulgation of this new age, this new millenia of the mute.

            It tortured him as he returned to the woman. She received him with affability of a secondhand nature, for she had grown out of the vices he now occupied. Indeed, she could not remember what it was to hate, and for that, he resented her. Could she not see his pain and know its origin?

            She had served once too, but now she relegated herself to the passive judgement of his enemies. He wondered what had befallen the world that it would move in such a sickening way, and so he departed once again, the words of wisdom from her tongue barely remaining on his own as he shouted out across a new field.


Zane Bell is a junior studying History and English Literature at Lindenwood University. He originally hails from the small town of Washington, Missouri, where his parents taught him various lessons, including how to hunt and shoot. In his spare time, he enjoys entertainment media and discussions of culture and history.

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Christmas Dinner

BANG!

I’ve been waiting for the phone to ring for the past two hours—it won’t. The last time I bored holes into the clock’s face as it evenly ticks about in my kitchen while it performs its simple life purpose, it was 5:30.

BANG!

I’ve never had a problem breaking down meat for dinner. The heavy cleaver always weighs down my hand like an expensive tennis bracelet some woman will wear every day for two months after December 25th; that is, of course, until someone spots her gleaming diamonds and mugs her on the way to her car in a dark parking lot after work to put food on their family’s table.

I, too, intend to put food on my family’s table, that’s why, each time, I swing the cleaver down faster.

BANG!

And I find it fair to mention that I’ve never had much of a like for Christmas.

BANG!

The sharp blade slices through tendons, meat, and bone as I aim it directly so. The wet meat glistens and glitters under my fluorescent kitchen lights; the blinding white light highlights the veins and vessels covering the wide expanse of the tender, delicate, moist meat. As my serrated blade bites into the flesh, teeth gnawing and tearing apart softened tissues, juice and blood ooze from worn vessels.

I’ve never prepared a meat as fine as this before—a meat as rich, as valuable, as this before. I’m so nervous to touch it, so… so hesitant to swing down and crack this ivory bone into fragments of what it once was, and what it once convinced itself to be.

In the end, we’re all mindless cattle.

BANG!

But, as I break down the meat, patiently rendering the portions of hearty sustenance ready to become gloriously marinated and cooked to perfection, I find courage and comfort in the fact that this Christmas will be different—I know this because I promised myself so.

You see, I’ve gotten myself quite the gift.

BANG!

The gift of peace.

BANG!

It’s nightfall, and the phone’s still not ringing—the acid in my stomach curdles with unexplained joy. As I shuffle about my kitchen with purpose, my dog, Neo, watches me curiously dance about in my corny, store bought Mrs. Claus outfit, and I feel at great peace.

My chihuahua, my little boy, my little Neo. How I’d move heaven on earth for him and then some. He stares on at me with his buggy, booger wet eyes and I stare back intently. The phone doesn’t ring, but that’s quite alright: I’ve got Neo.

His nails scratch across my floor as he scuttles closer to me, his tiny body rubbing against my ankle; little canine leg bones brushing against taught human muscle. His nose picks up, the wetness catching a glint of light as he scrunches it in wild undulations. He smells the meat.

He’s never been a fan of raw meat—as I’ve tried a few times to bulk him up with a protein rich diet—so I find it endearing that he’s decided to join my feast this special holiday. My little Neo knows how important this is for me, and I’m quite sure he knows of my promise.

BANG!

Neo perks up, his tiny tail slaps against my ankle in anticipation. If it weren’t for his little tan body, my dear son would look like an obscenely large sewer rat, one that’s been prowling around in the labyrinth of the sewer system that lies beneath our homes, watching you from the gutters at night to snatch your scraps from the dumpster.

Even that I find myself slightly fond of.

I dangle the meat between the tips of my fingers for a moment—just a tease—before it slips out of my hand easy enough and into my hungry boy’s mouth. Albeit small in stature, my Neo’s teeth are the biggest part of his body.

He gnaws and rips at the flesh with his sharp k9s, molars helping to squish and shape the residual meat that’s been munched into near perfect bolus texture. I brush his teeth often enough that they’re a gorgeous white, and his breath is one you’d find yourself more inclined to take a second whiff of.

Not of enjoyment, but out of confusion—does this sewer rat’s breath smell… good?

I stand there, paused, watching the heartfelt scene unfold before me: Christmas music filters in gently through the dining room, some song I recognise from my time spent forcibly entertaining my husband’s colleagues during the holidays; the fluorescent light washes out his ugly tan coat, making him look sickly pale and morbidly shadowed; and he’s absolutely devouring my precious meat.

I could cry.

BANG!

As I finish up my parting out in preparation for my husband’s annual Christmas feast tomorrow, I absentmindedly drop Neo some more scraps; just things I find myself not inclined to eat. I like meat: big cuts, thick slices, or healthy portions—whatever you like to call it. The texture of meat as the fibres give under the dedicated force of my teeth is overwhelmingly sublime, and so then the best parts of this Christmas dinner’s main course will be reserved for such.

I glance up at the clock again as the song transitions on to something new, something fresh and funky—something beyond my years and then some, but something I can’t say I don’t enjoy.

It’s 8:36 PM and I’m sliding the meat into vacuum sealed bags as I swing my hips to the beat of a song that’ll never make it to next Christmas season. I hit the on button and Neo runs away, threatened by the loud roar of the air-sucking machine I got three Christmases ago from my husband’s co-worker’s wife, Belinda.

Thank you, Belinda, I said to her. I’ll be using this for years to come.

And so I have. So thank you again, Belinda.

One-by-one and piece-by-piece I pack the meat into its bag and suck the air out. Neo is hiding somewhere in the Hallmark home that is my house, most likely burrowed under the cushions of my sofa.

My husband hated when my little Neo would run and hide under the cushions, face fire red as he cursed my little boy for “messing up the living room.” If it is a living room, then it must look lived in by the living things that reside in this house. Our way of living, and Neo’s way of living, simply look a little different: but they’re both ways of living, nonetheless.

The amount of the meat I sordidly underestimated, and as of now I find myself wondering how it is I plan to stuff it into my deep freezer. Once the machine clicks off, I place my last sealed bag precariously on top of a pile I started in my sink and give my work a once over.

Twice over.

Thrice over.

The bells from the radio jingle and chime in a way that sounds like what I’d consider to be what snowfall sounds like; and I soon-after hear my little boy’s collar clink around as he unearths himself from the couch, knocking the cushions into the floor in the process, and gallops into the kitchen.

Back and forth his tail wags and back and forth I toss bags of meat into an oversized trash bag. Neo cutely pretends to help me as I drag the bag across the floor on our journey to the basement. My arms are much too weak to carry this all at once, but that’s never stopped me before. I’m a dedicated woman, one who’s never tired enough to give up: that’s why my husband fell for me, you see.

Innovative-ly so, as a method for me to move the precious cargo with ease, I haul the black bag while it rests atop a blanket that functions to provide a cushioned barrier between the black bag, the treats inside, and the floor. In my Mrs. Claus costume I transport my sack from one floor of the house to another, and here I stand against the task that is my deep freezer.

Neo sits near the trash bag, head cocked to the side. Don’t worry, I pleasantly reassure him and mostly myself, I’ll figure it out, boy.

We don’t use the deep freezer for much, only to store meat. This last season my husband went on an annual weekend getaway with friends whom I don’t ask much about, and whom—I’m assuming—don’t ask much about me. High school buddies, ruggedly handsome men with no tolerance for nothing but work, work, work. My husband tells me he goes on these trips for peace, just as he’s told me he has Christmas dinners for peace and has an office in our house for peace. It’s admirable, this concept of doing things for yourself for the sake of personal peace.

As I open up the deep freeze, I’m met with eyes of a deer.

Originally, I found myself arguing that this manifestation of peace, his search for something greater, had tunnelled his vision and there he finds himself caught within headlights, unable to see the reality in front of him.

The deer’s eyes look dead. They are dead.

Neo sneezes behind me.

He is not dead. I am not dead. But my meat?

My meat is dead.

I roughly grab the head and toss it over the side of the freezer, and it hits the floor with a heavy clunk. I hear Neo’s nails scratch against the concrete floor of the basement as he trots to the side of the severed head to get a closer inspection.

The first hunting season I spent with my husband, he taught me to break and process down a deer. First, the hide as it dangles from the gambrel—from the top and then you work your way down, taking delicate consideration of the spine and precious musculature. Then, you butcher the shoulder, tugging the thick flesh away from the torso to reveal the coveted “pass through cut zone.”

As I throw everything out of my freezer, preparing it for my meat, preparing it for a fresh start…I remember the warm press of my husband against my back as he taught me to cut with my knife parallel to the rib cage to pass through the shoulder joint, or how it’s better to pull the front leg up and away from your view of the torso if you can’t get a clear sight of where to cut.

Butcher the back straps, the neck meat, and the excess front meat in that order, because the next part requires a clean view and a clean cut: saw off the body at the hips. Cut the sirloin, remove the rest of the hind quarters starting at the Achilles’ tendon before cutting upwards around the knee in order to free the succulent meat from the leg and pelvis bones. Then, you bone out, trim, and pack.

As the body parts of unprepared animals rain on my concrete floor, I look up to check the time, but my clock isn’t there. Is it 10:00 o’clock now? Perhaps 10:30?  My stomach churns but I catch a glimpse of Neo licking at the eye sockets of the deer and my blood rushes to my face in joy. He’s so small, yet here he triumphs even the mighty buck. Like his mother he powers on, small but mighty; determination running through his veins.

I choose not to shoo him away, as it’s my intention to rid my freezer of this grotesque meat. This meat that I’ve butchered, this meat my husband killed for peace but left me to maul in anything but a peaceful fashion. This meat that I’ve prepared for my husband’s colleagues and their brain-dead wives, all in the name of holiday peace. I served, I cooked, and I slaved away but it was for peace.

One-by-one I throw my meat into my barren freezer, free from the oppressive weight that is my husband’s baggage, full of the new weight that is my peace.

Neo licks and gnaws at the head of the deer, and the phone will not ring tonight. It’ll ring tomorrow, perhaps around 8:00 when I wake up to prepare the rest of my Christmas feast and return the plug from the landline back into the comfort of its home that is an outlet in the wall. White and off-white packs of meat cover the floor in a sea of flesh, and my dog skips about it and rolls around in it as if it were as soft and plush as snow.

Without my digging around in the freezer, the sound of Christmas trickles downstairs from the radio, and then swarms my ears a tune my husband loved more than any other Christmas tune—“(There’s No Place Like Home) for the Holidays.”

It’s as gentle as he wishes he was and as loving as he considers himself to be. The phone won’t ring, and he won’t call; and it’s not snowing in here, but Neo sure thinks it is. The “is” and “is not’s,” the uncertainty but certainty about all that unfolds before me as it supposedly exists, the scepticism, this is my peace. The reclamation of my identity, myself, my freezer, and my god damn kitchen lights is my peace.

To hell with florescent as it washes out the life in a room that’s already used to prepare death. To home death, to house it in the freezer or the fridge, to house death in the acids of our stomachs. In the headlights of our cars and the tunnels within our vision.

My stomach grumbles and Neo looks up at me. I’m not sure when the last time I had eaten was. I’ve been worried sick over my meat, over my Christmas celebration, over my peace. I make no move to clean up the mess as I manoeuvre around the mess of meat and hurry up into the kitchen to put some food on my stomach. Surrounded by all this meat, preparing all the food, and not a bite of it myself to eat—how foolish am I, how foolish indeed.

Neo sticks to my side in hopes of nibbling on some more scraps, but the fingers he’s stripped clean, and the toe’s he made quick work of already. His hunger for this meat is insatiable, but as is mine because above all things, it is this meat that is the greatest testament to my gift of peace this Christmas holiday.

Quickly, I pull open my freezer door, grab a freshly cut steak marinating in the potent mixture that once made my husband drool and quickly sear it up on the stove with expert hands. I’ve been trained to wait on my husband hand and foot, cater to his needs to matter how morbid, therefore I move quickly, and efficiently—every decision made for perfection.

I shuffle to my dining room, walking into a mirage of the North Pole and there sits my husband, eyes fixed on my seat in waiting for my arrival. My steaks on hand, nearly rare, perfectly tender and bloodied. Neo nestled close against my crossed ankles and I stare my husband down while I cut into my steak and slip a piece in my mouth, teeth shaping that bolus, eyes rolled back in pleasure.

The seasoned juices dribble down the slightly cracked corners of my mouth as I gnash through the tenderly cooked meat. The pink interior peaks out within the sliced cut of steak, and I bring my knife down again, cutting back and forth in an excited rhythm: the fork can’t reach my mouth fast enough.

From under the table Neo licks at my ankles and I peak down to see his little face, bug eyes wide, wet nose flaring in want. My sweet little Neo leans into me as a scoop him up, nestling him close to my chest. He wiggles and squirms, tongue making quick work of the left-over sauce on my face as I prepare a slice big enough for him and his teeth clank as his mouth snaps shut around the cut of meat. I press obnoxiously loud, wet, meaty kisses all over his flesh covered skull as he munches down before I submit another piece of my peace into my mouth.

“Oh, it’s divine.” I moan.

My husband says nothing in response. His head rests upon the cherry wood table I’d gotten for Christmas six years ago, eyes once tunnelled, now frozen in time, caught like a deer in headlight in search of his precious peace.

My husband’s eyes look dead. They are dead.

Neo sneezes under me.

He is not dead. I am not dead. But my meat?

My meat is dead.


Samia Williams

Categories
Fiction - 13th Edition

Blackmail

No one made the slightest sound. Each one harbored their thoughts to themselves because of the immense terror that gnawed at them inside. The knowing glances that the four college classmates shared fed the agony that gripped that cabin on the shores of the lake, hidden among the larch trees.

“No one is going to say anything?” Javier asked nervously, unable to avoid biting his lower lip.

“This cannot be happening. I thought this was in the past. Two years have passed.” Clemente grabbed his straight hair as he walked in circles.

“Can you calm down a bit?” Sergio exclaimed, with a voice much more relaxed than the rest. “We are going to solve it.” He leaned back in the green leather chair, raising his feet.

“How can you be so calm? Do you realize that someone knows what we did?” Javier asked desperately. “Or is there only room in your head for alcohol and women?”

“Look, I suggest you keep your mouth shut.”

“Stop arguing and let’s fix this, please,” added Pedro, the wise man of the group.

Pedro went over to his backpack and took out a piece of paper, which he laid on the table. Each one looked at the writing, trying to read what was inside.

I know what they did and they are going to pay for it,” Clemente read aloud.

“That’s completely impossible,” Javier exclaimed, shaking his head quickly. “No one, absolutely no one, was in the cabin that day. It was just us. It is impossible that someone saw us.”

“Unless someone has broken the pact and opened their mouth,” Sergio said, as he took a sip of his drink.

“Are we going to distrust each other now?” Clemente asked, with an ironic tone. “Because, if that’s so, everything goes to hell.”

“None of us benefit if the truth comes out, so let´s stop implying stupid theories.” Pedro picked up Sergio’s glass and threw it into the kitchen sink “Has anyone else received any of these threats?”

Silence grants the points, as the saying goes, since no one answered the question immediately, but somehow or another, they expected to see who was going to be the brave one to raise their voices and admit what fate was in store for them.

“Two days ago, I received a letter addressed to me, without a sender,” said Clemente, as if he did not want to acknowledge it to them. “When I opened it, there was a photo… of Andrés” He stopped and bit his nails. “And a note that said ‘the truth will be known very soon.’”

Tension was in the air, trapped within those wooden walls, desperately searching for a way to escape.

“Any idea who it might be?” Sergio asked angrily.

“Maybe Andrés’s ex-girlfriend?” Javier suggested.

“Martina? There´s no way. She never doubted what happened,” he answered, sure of himself.

“Anyone who had known Andrés well could have doubted,” Pedro answered Clemente with a serious face. “But we can’t rule out anything.”

Suddenly, Sergio picked up his phone and read a text message from an unknown number, “Neither power nor money will save you from jail, friend of the year.” After he pronounced the last sentence, Clemente straightened up and began to walk from one side to the other, without stopping. Meanwhile, Javier hid his face in his hands, sinking into despair. Pedro slowly approached Sergio’s cell phone to confirm if the user who had sent the anonymous message could be called, but there was no response.

The four friends began to slowly sink into the memories that their minds harbored from that night. An innocent party that promised to be fun and friendly ended up becoming the nightmare that would haunt them forever.

“We should have told the truth at first,” Javier said suddenly, his forehead covered in sweat.

“Don’t you think it’s too late for regrets? And this should have already been prescribed; it has been a long time,” argued Sergio, who stood out for being the most relaxed of the four, the one who constantly came up with ideas to do the weekend and who never lasted more than a week with the same girlfriend.

“At least five years are needed for a simple crime to prescribe and as everyone knows… ours was not a simple crime” explained Pedro, thanks to his knowledge as a second-year law student.

“Clemente, why don’t you talk to your father? Let him hire a private detective and find out who is doing this to us,” Javier asked, on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Clemente’s father was the prime minister of the current government. A powerful man with many contacts, but who also carried a public image that he had to take care of at all costs.

“No! No way I will ask him for help,” he answered. “My father would kill me if he found out that someone else knew about this. He has helped us enough.”

“And what if they are just threats? Maybe that person has no proof at all and is trying to drive us crazy to make a mistake.”

“Pedro…” Javier answered fearfully “I think he may have proof.”

Javier slid his cell phone over the table, so that everyone could see what he just blurted out, while the fingers of his left hand went directly to his mouth as a self-reflection. The device showed images of Javier together with a man in a black jacket, looking haggard, possibly due to nicotine addiction. Both were talking in the first photographs, until Javier handed him a brown package in a suspicious way.

“You are an idiot!” Clemente shouted angrily after he looked at the screen.

“It was the only time I made a transaction in a public space; I swear.” He took a couple of steps, back with his hands outstretched in defense.

“Javier … for these things, we had agreed that it had to be inside the bar, not at the exit, where the whole city can watch you!” Clemente pushed him hard, causing him to fall to the ground.

“Enough,” said Sergio, pushing Clemente aside, while Pedro picked up Javier, who was shaking in fear.

“Can you think for a moment with a cool head? There is not enough evidence to incriminate us” explained Pedro serenely, but with a certain concern.

“But they do check the drug,” said Clemente.

The atmosphere became even more tense than before. The glances did not cease; each tried to find a haven of peace in the eyes of the others, but none were successful. They knew that the situation was turning negative and that was something that no one could hide. The regrets were not long in coming, nor were the reproaches, blaming each other for the mistakes of the past.

The four inseparable friends from school, those who seemed to be brothers despite not sharing the same blood, whose families shared lunches and celebrations together, now looked at each other with distrust and fell down in the dark.

“I thought that when we entered the university, we would be able to forget about all this,” Sergio said, overwhelmed, showing a mask that had not been discovered before.

“I always knew that I would never be able to forget about that; how is it that you can?” Pedro asked with an anguished face, that denoted a deep sadness “He was our friend…”

“It wasn’t our fault,” Sergio replied quickly, getting up from his seat, gesturing authoritatively. “We were not responsible for what happened to Andrés.”

“At least we could have told the truth,” Javier responded suddenly, with a fearful tone of voice.

“Right now, you would be in jail if we had told the truth.” Sergio placed his face intimidatingly close to him “We had a life ahead of us, dreams and aspirations, while Andrés did not. Sorry for saying it like that, but we did what we had to do, even if you don’t want to accept it.”

“It is true. My father’s career would have been destroyed in a second. No university would have accepted us. We have to be realistic,” said Clemente.

“Have you even thought, for a second, about his family? They believe that their son committed suicide,” Pedro responded furiously, due to the great closeness that he had with Andrés. They were both the most responsible of the five.

Andrés came from a middle-class family. However, thanks to a soccer scholarship, which Pedro himself had helped him get when they met playing a friendly match, he was able to study at the same school as them.

“I’m sorry for his parents, but if they find out what really happened, it won’t give them much peace either,” Sergio said, after a long pause.

“At least they would know,” Pedro argued.

“Okay!” Clemente yelled. “If that is what you want, let’s go to the police station and admit everything. Let’s admit that our friend, Andrés López, never committed suicide and that we were the ones who took care of making it seem so.” His face hardened. “But forget about your current lives because the only thing you will see for the next long years will be the iron bars in your cells … or perhaps, we will end up dead.”

Clemente’s words perpetuated in a profound and dominating way, causing each one to begin to go back to the scene where it all happened; there on the same floor of logs that they were stepping on. Two years ago, Clemente’s father had granted him the lake house after much begging and many tantrums, as well as a little help from his mother, because she was the golden child in her eyes. It was supposed to be a weekend of friends there to sunbathe, swim in the pool, and drink like there was no tomorrow. However, the plans did not go as expected.

After a long day riding the jet skis and enjoying nature, the vices began to appear as soon as the moon was rising. Alcohol bottles flooded the kitchen, and glasses only lasted seconds with liquid in them, but things would soon reach another level. Suddenly, Sergio took, out of his suitcase, a bag full of pills of different colors, which he showed them to the others with great joy.

“The fun is here!” He showed them off, with a smile from ear to ear.

“You are a genius.” Javier congratulated him, excited.

“But… Sergio, why did you bring them?” Pedro rolled his eyes “They are supposed to be sold, not consumed.”

“It’s true,” Andrés said, interfering. “We made a promise and we should keep it. This is serious; we have to be cautious.”

“Andrés.” Clemente approached him and wrapped his right arm around him. “The idea of ​​selling was so that we wouldn’t have to depend on our parents, giving us our luxuries and so you could pay for college, but… you can’t sell without trying first, right?” He smiled mischievously. “There are no parents; it’s just the five of us, and it’s our last summer before going to college. So, open your mouth and enjoy it.” He took a tablet and placed it on his tongue, without Andrés being able to refuse.

All the members did the same, unconsciously making what would be one of the worst mistakes of their lives. After a long and happy revelry, in which laughter and fun abounded for long hours, the sun appeared the next day, to bring the consequences of their actions. Little by little, they woke up, accompanied by terrible headaches and extreme thirst.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a hangover like that,” Sergio complained, settling on the sofa.

“Imagine the one that Andrés is going to have,” Javier mocked. “He had never tried anything before.”

“He hasn´t woken up yet. I think he’s going to sleep all morning,” said Clemente.

“We better wake him up so he can sleep in one of the beds. He is going to break his back lying on the floor,” suggested Pedro, approaching his friend, who was face down on the red carpet in the main room, although when he tried to lift him, something caught his attention. Andrés did not react to the calls of his name, or Pedro’s movements. “Hey, Andrés. Help me a little, you’re not very light.”

“Just let him sleep on the floor. He needs to rest,” Sergio added, with his usual calm.

“He doesn’t wake up,” replied Pedro, concerned, “Andrés! Do you hear me? Please, say something!”

“Calm down, man,” Clemente exclaimed. “This is how it is when one consumes for the first time.”

Pedro patted him on the cheeks to wake him up, but Andres’s eyes remained closed. Suddenly, the most feared thought crossed Pedro’s brain, causing his heart to race from one moment to the next, and his mouth to go dry. The tips of his index and middle fingers were placed at the level of Andres’s neck, on the Adam’s apple very carefully, so that Pedro could feel his pulse, but unfortunately, he could not find it.

“He doesn’t have a pulse …” he stammered, scared. “I can´t feel it!” cried Pedro, anguished, trying to give him cardiopulmonary resuscitation with his hands.

“What are you talking about?” Clemente urged, approaching him so that he can do it himself. “I can´t feel it, either…” he whispered, his face pale.

“No, no. Stop saying stupid things. He’s just sleeping,” Javier interrupted, with a nervous laugh.

“Can you understand that he doesn’t breathe?! Call an ambulance! How much did he consume last night?” Pedro asked, distressed, while he kept trying to revive him.

“The same as us,” answered Sergio, scared, without being able to divert his gaze from Andrés’s face “Maybe a few more…”

“I told you it was a bad idea that we gave him so many!” Clemente was enraged.

The discussions increased the deep fear they felt at that moment, making a monster grow that consumed them inside and that would divert them from the right path. Pedro maintained the compressions without giving up for long minutes, until Javier stopped him, holding him in his arms to face reality.

Silence stole the leadership of the story, becoming the defense weapon of each one. Neither had the strength or courage to articulate a word. Their minds sailed through dark seas, where the light was dimming more and more; panic and despair flourished.

“You have to call the police,” said Pedro, breaking the secrecy. He got up from the floor and walked over to the counter to take his cell phone.

“Wait.” Clemente unexpectedly stood in front of him. “We cannot do that…”

“What do you mean? We have to call them for sure” Pedro brushed him off uneasily, wiping away the tear that fell on his cheekbone.

“And what are you going to tell them? ´Hey, our best friend just died of an overdose while we were sleeping? ´ Or, better yet, tell them that the drug that caused the overdose is the same drug we trafficked.” Clemente looks at him defiantly.

The last sentence exploded like a bomb in everyone’s reasoning, showing a possible scenario they hadn’t considered before.

“Clemente is right,” Sergio supported him suddenly. “If we tell the truth, we have a lot to lose.”

“Are you serious?” Pedro couldn’t believe what he was hearing “The person lying there is Andrés…our best friend.”

“And you don’t know how much it hurts me that this happened.” Sergio’s voice trembled. “But, at this moment, we have to watch over us.” He paused. “Either we end up in jail for drug trafficking, or our boss kills us before we can even get there.”

“Sergio…please. Wake up. Listen to what you are saying. Javier?” Pedro looked at him; he was sitting in a corner, with his legs and arms against his chest. “Can you help me?”

“I… I…” he stammered, scared “I think they are right. The boss would never forgive us for a scandal like this, especially if he relates it to his business.”

“My father’s political career would be over,” added Clemente. “And, well, not to mention ours… if we didn’t end up in prison or dead, no university would want four drug dealers with a dead friend.”

Pedro only observed them, without commenting, seeing how the people whom he considered his family became complete strangers.

“I really can’t believe it,” Pedro shook his head in denial. “What do you intend to do?”

The thoughts of the three were immediately synchronized, generating an almost invincible complicity.

“We will make it appear as a suicide.” Clemente threw his shoulders back, as if to give conviction to his words “And we will take this secret to the grave.”

The plan was carried out with three votes to one. Pedro under the loneliness and nostalgia, had no choice but to give in and stick to the idea, despite the fact that he would transform into the shadow that would haunt him like a conviction.

The two leaders entrusted Javier to be in charge of writing a farewell note, due to his vast experience falsifying signatures and letters to excuse himself from attending classes, or to request money from the bank without the authorization of his parents. On the other hand, Sergio transferred part of the drugs that he had brought to the cabin to Andrés’ suitcase, while the rest were buried in the backyard of the cabin. Clemente devised the alibi that they were going to hand over to the police after they were notified, making them believe that Andrés had been going through a severe depression that could be linked to the inability to pay for higher education, which eventually would have led him to take the drastic decision to ingest a sufficient quantity of amphetamines to suppress his pain.

“Let’s stop having regrets; the sooner we do that, the better it will be.” Clemente interrupted the regression suddenly, causing everyone to abandon their hidden memories. “What’s done is done. You don’t have to keep stirring up the past. Now, you have to concentrate on finding the extortionist.”

After that impromptu meeting, the threats did not stop, despite his great attempts to halt them. It got to the point that, a few months later, the four friends found themselves on the edge of the abyss, when they unexpectedly received a summons to court for the case of Andrés López. They thought that the day would never come when they would have to get to that point, where they would have to wear their best suits and ties, escorted by the best lawyers in the country, in order to hide and lie once more about the trip to the lake house.

The trial began at the assigned time, punctual as the judge himself, who appeared with a rather thick folder under his arm. Andres’s family was sitting in the back seats, with an aura of concern that could be seen from afar and broken hearts that had yet to heal.

“Please, take a seat,” ordered the magistrate, addressing the entire audience in the room. “We begin the oral trial in the case of Andrés López. The first witness, Clemente Echeverría, is called to the stand.”

Everyone’s gazes quickly fell on Clemente, causing his chest to constrict and his breath to hit. He got up and buttoned his jacket while trying to maintain his composure, staring in awe at that dais, where the power of the law would fall on his shoulders.

“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” An officer asked him.

“I swear,” he answered seriously.

“Is it true that you were present on July 11, 2018, along with Javier La Torre, Sergio Campos and Pedro Larraín, when Andrés López committed suicide?” asked the prosecutor in the case.

“Unfortunately, yes.” His pulse quickened, but it wasn’t reflected on his face.

“Do you confirm that it was a suicide?”

The question made Clemente extremely uncomfortable, as he did not expect to receive it. Nonetheless, he focused his concentration on the questions and answers he had practiced with his attorneys prior to the trial and adhered to them.

“Yes, I confirm it,” Clemente answered, convinced, without moving the slightest muscle in his body.

“So, how would you explain this video?” The prosecutor frowned.

The prosecutor took a remote control that he had on his table and turned on a screen, on which he could see the group of friends at the lake house a couple of months ago. The video showed the exact moment where Clemente admitted that, together with his three companions, he had made Andrés’ death look like a suicide.

“Mr. Echeverría? I remind you that you are under oath,” pressed the prosecutor.

Clemente was paralyzed. His skin prickled, and his body temperature soared through the roof. He felt that the air had become stagnant in his lungs, and his mind had gone unusually blank. The rest of the members could not hide their surprise when they saw the recording. Everyone–except one, Pedro, who dropped his head back, looking at the sky relieved, feeling that he could breathe for the first time after two long years.


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
Poetry - 13th Edition

The Years Do Not See Equal Growth

These days

I’m realizing that

The people I look up to and admire

Are more often younger than me

Than I used to find

There were always others

Outliers that hit stardom young

And I thought that I would be one

But I’m getting older

And older

It’s hard not to realize

That they’re two years younger

And a hundred and fifty years more successful

But who’s keeping time?

Part of me worries that

This feeling will never go away

Not even at the very end

When I am an old woman

The oldest person left on earth

And all people

And all of their achievements

Continue to make me feel small

I worry that this pain will keep going forever

But I wonder,

Will this pain remain the same

As the years go by?

Or will it get worse

And worse?


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
Poetry - 13th Edition Uncategorized

Arm Wrestling

My clock stopped a long time ago

I wasn’t there when it happened

And I didn’t notice what was wrong

Until I watched the second hand

Thrust itself forward

Only to be pushed back by another invisible hand

They must be arm wrestling

A broken clock is still correct twice a day,

but I never seem to look at it at the right time

Maybe tomorrow, my timing will be better

Maybe the next time

I could reach up and fix it

But I don’t know how

So I won’t even take it off the wall

And time slows to a crawl

The time it stands on means nothing to me

And the frozen moment keeps the hand floating,

Hovering there at the 12,

The precipice of some type of change, I’m sure,

However miniscule that change might be

Insignificant, and I wouldn’t even really mind

If it weren’t for the fact that the clock is still up there

Ticking on my wall and endlessly in the darkness

as I lie there awake, listening

Refusing to tell me the time

But reminding me that it is moving on anyway


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
Poetry - 13th Edition

The Protagonist

I don’t want to be

Just another maiden

Affixed somewhere

In a man’s story

I, too,

Want the power,

The adventures,

And the glory

Not Persephone,

Eurydice,

Medusa, Helen,

or Demeter

If my choice is between

supporting actress

And love interest,

I choose neither

I know the perils,

The hardships,

And the trials

That may come my way

I will choose the life

Filled with choice

Every single time

And every day

I want to travel far

And solve mysteries

And slay the beast

And save the world

And I’ll do it all

To be the best

Just like all the rest

Not just good for a girl


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
Poetry - 13th Edition

I Know Why You Left

A cold spot in the room

A light flickering off then on

A little piece of you left in a place

Where it doesn’t belong

It feels like you’re still here

But I know you weren’t here for long

I know that once you were able,

You insisted on pressing on

You headed off into the direction

of that endless unknown

Far from these tethers and chains

Far from this home

With that same gleeful curiosity

You stepped through the gate

With that same reckless ambition

You refused to wait

And if you’d been asked

You’d give your radiant smile

And politely refuse the request

To stay with us for awhile

This room is now empty

I can feel it deep in my bones

Even though I carry you with me

I know that I am alone

I don’t blame you for leaving

I couldn’t ask you to stay

I know why you left

So I hope you’re far away

It feels like you’re still here

But I know you weren’t here for long

You were exploring the edges of the universe

Before we knew you were gone


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
Poetry - 13th Edition

Mondays

I was still heavy from the Benadryl.

I tolerate the weight of waking up.

Coffee does nothing for me anymore.

Neither does cold water to the face or

screaming the lyrics to America.

All the f***ing creamer is going to

spoil one of these days.

I pour it out at night,

like a lot of things,

when everyone’s asleep and won’t see.

And the moon rose over an open field

I’ve tried tea and it tastes like piss.

Green tea tastes like the stale disappointment of disturbed mothers.

Earl Grey blends remind me of an old friend.

Laughing on the bus Playing games with the faces

We were seventeen, and even then I wanted to end things.


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
Poetry - 13th Edition

The Shadow

Here I come,

but with your permission.

I don’t come alone.

I come with my shadow,

one that doesn’t leave me alone,

since a long time ago.

I don’t like her,

but I can’t take her away from me.

She says that she loves me

but who loves you,

doesn’t hurt you.

I don’t want to

drag you with her.

I don’t want

your world turned dark

because of her.

Maybe,

someday,

with your joy,

I will stop being her toy.

Your light

and attitude,

makes her concern

in a way that I didn´t expect.

You are a skylight

that appeared without request,

but that illuminates

every corner as a bless.


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
Poetry - 13th Edition

The Tree

Written in memory of my late grandfather, Larry F. Dunlap

Tall, strong, independent tree

Bark covering the trunk stretched wide

Sprouting from the head green leaves

Bold branches emerge from side to side

For me, the tree has always been there

When in need, it gave me fresh air

The tree was there when I took my first steps

Its very own trunk held my hammock as I slept

When the sun shined too hot, its leaves covered

The tree prayed for me when uneasy spirits hovered

When I was numb, I could always feel his bark

The tree reminded me of light when I was afraid of the dark

When I came to the tree with rivers in my eyes,

the tree would soak my tears into its soil

When I would play and scrape my knee under the blue skies,

the tree would heal my wounds with its sweet oil

I never carried hunger because the tree would provide fruit

The tree would tell me, “You are of me, blood of my blood, we have the same roots”

Now the tree has aged, broken branches, withered leaves

But I will never forget how the tree fulfilled all my wants and needs

Now it is I who must plant new seeds

For the tree was the greatest provider

But the one above everything, has called him higher


Jasmine Tanui Who is she? Everyone within a grasp of her writings wonders who she might be. Her scripts lift the dullness of the reader, leaving the people who have read it wanting more. She writes to please herself but the words on the paper are never selfish. Reading her poetry is like knowing her. You know her greatest fears and her roots of happiness all from the letters she forms into words. You feel her sadness and celebration. Her writings make her indestructible. She is Jasmine Tanui, sometimes known as Jemutai, her native name. She is a 19-year-old, African American girl with Kenyan roots.