Categories
8th Edition

Letter From the Father

Letter From the Father

Devin Mitchell Durbin

 

“I know you feel so small

you say, but in my eyes

I see a giant. I see a man.

Don’t lock yourself away

there’s so much left to see.

 

Don’t let the serpent around your neck.

You’ll hang yourself if he gets too far.

It’s easy to see what’s here and now,

But your emotions are nothing to fear

I hear it and see it in your eyes, ‘How?’ How do I love you?

You took the step, made the jump

you leaped!

You said you ran, but you knew one thing

I’d catch you.

 

No matter what you did I am here.

No matter what you said I am here.

No matter who you think you are.

No matter cuts, the bruises, self-inflicted shame.

I see a giant in your soul!

I see a future you can’t see!

 

All you know is the here and now,

You see the reaping of the sin you sowed.

Don’t look here, I’ve made you knew.

Once and for all, the weak will be made giants.

Don’t lock yourself away –

Someone is watching.

You are more important than you ever

Thought you were.

My son.”

Categories
8th Edition Short Story

Heavenly Reason

Heavenly Reason

Nicole H.

 

“That’s not the best idea, you know.”

Thomas Whelan jumped.

Well, not literally.

If he’d literally jumped, as he’d been considering doing a moment ago, he would have found himself momentarily weightless, falling through a good hundred feet of cold, unfeeling air to the icy water below. But as it was, Thomas did not jump.

Not that way at least. Not yet.

He would.

In a moment he would. But first he wanted to know what kind of a person would sneak up behind a man who was standing outside the guard rail of a bridge at 2am on a chilly February night.

As it turns out, the sort of person who would was the sort of person who would also have a large overcoat reaching to his knees, a old maroon sweatshirt underneath (Tom knew it was old because one faded cuff was poking out from the sleeve of the coat and looking frayed at the edges, like an old dog lying on the porch with unkempt fur and a “couldn’t care less” attitude), and a pair of jeans (the cuffs of which joined that of the sleeve in tattered, “we don’t care either” glory) over a pair of bare feet.

Of course, a cursory survey of a man’s clothing says nothing about the person wearing those clothes, but it’s good, Tom thought, to have some image in mind of the person in question before making any sort of judgment on his behavior.

That said, the man was a jerk.

The jerk grinned widely, leaning his elbows on the railing that Tom’s elbows were hooked backwards over. Not the same place, mind you. If the jerk had leaned into Tom’s back, Tom would again be falling right now, weightless, flying, suit jacket fluttering in the breeze as he fell. No, the jerk leaned down next to Tom, his broad shoulders sloping back into a position that must’ve been fairly uncomfortable for a man of his height leaning down so stiffly. The reason for the stiff posture turned out to be a cat lounging like a poorly groomed scarf across the man’s neck, orange and tattered like the dog sleeve, missing one eye and looking like the cat equivalent of a hobo.

The cat blinked at him, stretched its paws out toward him briefly, allowing them to quiver with the satisfying extension of muscle before settling back in for a nap. Tom turned his attention back to the jerk’s grin. He wondered briefly if that comfortable, toothy grin would remain in place if he were to let go right now. The grin faltered. Maybe not.

“You okay, there, bud?” The man’s voice was a lion’s soft rumble. It was the kind of voice one would associate more with someone muscular and gruff, someone who’d fought with his bare hands and could intimidate you with only a few words.

Like Liam Neeson, Tom thought.

Twinkling hazel eyes met his curiously and Tom instinctively looked elsewhere, preferring to watch the cat readjust its weight, settling with a sigh against the back of the man’s neck and the fringe of disheveled brown hair. And that hair. It was ridiculous. It looked like the unholy offspring of a bed head and hat hair, wild, windblown and completely unnoticed by its owner whose insufferable grin was back in place, fringed by a brown beard. The beard was white right down the middle from the edge of his smile to the tips of his moustache which blended with the beard as if it didn’t know it was called something else.

Ridiculous. The incongruity of the man’s youthful face and the white beard and crows feet crinkling the corners of his eyes was confusing. Was he old or young? It was just unreasonable not to choose one or the other. Tom himself was old, he thought. In mind if not in body. He was old and worn out and sick of life.

That was why, at the age of thirty-three, with newly shined shoes, his best grey work suit, the garish orange tie his mother had got him, and his briefcase waiting for him at the bottom of the river, Tom Whelan was going to jump.

“Still not the best idea, if you ask me.”

“Just shut up.” Tom said.

“Why?” the man asked.

“Because I’ve made up my mind already,” Tom replied.

“Have you?” the man asked.

“Yes.” Tom said, trying to sound irritable enough to make the man leave.

“Oh.” The man nodded agreeably. “Okay.”

A moment of silence passed as the man looked out over the river and Tom watched the man. The man glanced over at him. Tom looked away quickly, fixing his feet on his shoes and the dark water swirling below. He couldn’t see it swirling… couldn’t even see his shoes too well except for where the yellow-gold of the streetlamp caught the shiny surface. He’d had them shined just that morning. The hotel did it for free and he’d left his shoes out to have it done without thinking. At least whatever hobo found his body tomorrow would get a nice pair of shoes out of the deal.

Man… that was dark. Tom looked out over the water, just able to see the silhouetted tree branches waving against a backdrop of near-black blue. It was dark. Outside and inside. He tried to picture the water, little eddies making ripples in the surface as the currents pulled this way and that. Like life, pulling helpless people into its endless dance, ripping at you from all sides until you just have nothing left to give it. The water and life were both, dark and depressing and Tom was going to jump into this water and escape that life.

The man made a sound. A sort of thinking sound that implied a long drawn out, “Maaaaybe…” and would inevitably be accompanied by a “but.”

“Aren’t we all?” The man said with a wink, moustache and beard meeting as he let out a huffing chuckle through his nose. That painted stache and beard annoyed Tom. It was like a young man, old enough to have a beard but young enough to want to keep it, had smeared cream on it, or dribbled cream down it, Tom supposed. He imagined the man with an oversize glass of water, gulping it down so eagerly that when he set it back down, the tip of his nose and all the hair beneath it was stained wet and white. Wet and white like the snow that had fallen just a few days ago when Tom’s life had gone to hell. It wasn’t snowing now. That would be magical and maybe even beautiful against the backdrop of starry skies and softly swaying treetops on either side of the river. No, all day it had been grey and lifeless like Tom wished he was. The snow the night before had become slush, not enough to make snowmen with or play in but too much for comfortable walking. A miserable day to finish off a miserable week.

“You wanna hear about a miserable week? I could tell you stor- Whoa there, Tommy!”

Tom felt the man’s hand grasp his sleeve before he realized he’d been slipping. He was so startled, so stunned, it took the dip of vertigo to draw him back to reality as his foot left the edge of the bridge only to be reunited with it as the stranger pulled him back.

“H-How’d you know what I was-“

“Because you told me, Tom.”

Oh… had he been talking out loud? The man was frowning at him in a concerned sort of way so Tom guessed he probably had.

The cat yawned as Tom caught the railing with both hands, secure but not quite giving up on his plans for the night. He was going to jump and it was going to be exhilarating, freeing. It was going to be what he wanted and he wouldn’t have to worry anymore. He let out a visible breath, watching the steam of it curl in the cold air.

“Do you worry a lot, Tom?”

“Huh?”

“I said, do you worry a lot about stuff? You know, like money, bills, work, your family, stuff like that. You look like a guy who worries.”

The man’s hand released Tom’s jacket and folded back with its twin as the man resumed his leaning position. Did Tom worry? Hell, Tom was worry. Most people (at least, most of the people he’d heard of) committed suicide because of some major event in their lives, something like the death of their soul mate or the utter ruin of their career… but Tom? He had just worried himself to the edge of reason, to the edge of this bridge. And it sounded so stupid when he thought about it. Who kills themselves over a little worry? Everyone worries! But did everyone worry like this?

Tom didn’t know why, just knew he’d worried all his life. No one knew what it was like to worry that much. He’d been told it came from both sides of his family. His grandmother on his mom’s side had been chronically plagued by anxiety but in her time they just called it “being a silly woman” and left it at that. His grandfather on his dad’s side had self-medicated through alcohol and nicotine. His parents had been less than understanding, his dad had followed in his own father’s alcoholic, stumbling footsteps and Tom had never really been that close to his mother.

So, did Tom worry?

Yes. Tom worried.

Tom worried about everything from what he was going to wear that day to when and how he was going to die. He worried that coworkers could tell he’d worn that shirt twice in a row, that they could tell he was confused by Jim’s slideshow or the financial report from Sasha’s team. He worried that he wouldn’t have enough money to pay rent, to buy clothing, to buy food, to pay insurance bills and electric bills and the money he needed to keep a roof over his mother’s head and a breathing tube down his father’s throat. Every time he took the subway he worried he’d be mugged, raped, killed. He was a thirty-three year old man who was afraid of being kidnapped, afraid of developing a terminal illness, afraid of being asked a question he didn’t know the answer to in front of people he hardly knew. Tom worried that he would never meet someone, that he would meet someone, that he’d never be a father, that he would be a father. Anything under the sun, the sun included, could potentially worry Tom and he was sick of it.

It was like a disease, a condition he couldn’t control. He was tired of people telling him to calm down, to relax, and to not worry about it. Wouldn’t he be doing that if he knew how? The sheer arrogant stupidity of the advice to “not worry about it” rankled him like nothing else. Gee, thanks William, I’ll just do that why don’t I? By the way, I’m really relaxed and calm about how the nursing home has upped mom’s rent, which, by the way, I pay more than fifty percent of.

He’d tried explaining all this to his brother. Tried to tell him that it felt like the feeling you get when your foot slips off the top step. That quick little blast of adrenaline… times a hundred. He tried telling Will that it felt like your heart was screaming, the sound and the terror echoing through every vein.

Will had laughed and told him to stop being dramatic.

But he wasn’t. It felt like that. It felt sharp and piercing. It made him hot and cold at the same time. It made him feel sick and dizzy, made his heart rate pick up and his breathing increase. It made him want to run and to hide. It gave him gas and headaches and exhausted him so very thoroughly that he fell into bed every night wishing he’d never wake up.

So…

“Yeah.” Tom said, and the man nodded.

“I get that.”

Great. The hobo jerk with the hobo cat and bare feet on the rain-pooled, slush-strewn sidewalk understood Tom on a level his family and friends never had. That figured.

“No you don’t.” Tom grumbled, turning around again to face the river. There was a moment of silence as Tom wondered if he wanted to jump just because it would be the one way he could control that feeling, that adrenaline. He edged one foot out, holding it over the black darkness below. He wondered if his shoe would fall first, although it was tied tightly with a precise knot to prevent just that. But still, he could see it, feel it almost, slipping from his heel, hanging on his toes briefly like a man at the edge of a cliff. The wind would sweep in, chill his foot and he’d curl his toes against it, dropping the shoe’s grip and leaving it to tumble, end over end, into the water below. Would he hear the splash? Would anyone hear his over the faint rumble of water and the occasional wet rush of a car passing by? It had started to rain, drizzling weakly, more misting than anything and again Tom wondered what the water looked like, if it was beautiful or terrible in the rain, soft and calm or voracious and swollen.

“Feels like tippin’ your chair back too far. ‘Cept it doesn’t stop.”

Tom turned to look at the man who looked back at him, taking a small book from his pocket and tilting it in his hands so Tom could see the cover. “Holy Bible” it said across the front in gold letters, illuminated by the street lamp’s impersonal yellowed light.

“You can sweat blood if you worry too hard, says so in here.”

“Yeah?” Tom asked, not sure what else to say.

“Yeah,” said the man, with a slight smile. Then he spoke softly, as if saying the words too loud would make them too real. “Hurts, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah…” Tom said, feeling his throat constrict with emotion. He fought off the feeling, fixing his eyes again on his shoes, both safely tucked on the ledge beneath him. He glanced over at the stranger’s bare feet and watched for a moment as a bit of drizzling rain water fell from the edge of his coat onto the bare skin. “Aren’t your feet cold?” The man glanced down like he’d only just realized his shoes had gone missing.

“Oh. No. Rocky keeps me warm.” He hooked a thumb back to indicate the cat who gave no indication of having heard its name spoken.

“Rocky?”

“Yup. ‘Cause he’s been through a lot, like a friend of mine.”

“Oh.” Tom began to worry. Was this guy some Bible-thumping loony? What would he do if he found out Tom had hardly set foot in a church since he’d moved out of his mother’s home? Would he be angry? Would he- Well, what could he do? Kill him?

The apprehension that had been sneaking up his chest to his throat faded and Tom paused a moment, relishing that feeling and thinking it figured the only thing he’d found that worked that well to relieve his suffering was jumping off a bridge.

“And what’s your name?” Tom asked, for once not stumbling over his words or having his hands shake when he tried to get to know someone. Tom didn’t have many friends. Tom didn’t have any friends except Larry, his neighbor in the fifth grade who only really counted as a friend because they were still linked up over social media. They never spoke except in the form of those chain mail type posts people shared. Tom hated those. He didn’t believe in them… but after spending a sleepless night worrying that he’d have ten years bad luck if he didn’t share a picture, he just did what they said and moved on. He hated that. So Tom asked about the guy’s name and felt good about himself for managing it and bad about himself for feeling good about such a stupid, mundane accomplishment.

The man gave him a sidelong glance, a playfully suspicious look, jaw shifting as if he were considering the question.

“How ‘bout this,” he said finally. “I tell you my name… and you come back over that rail?”

Tom hesitated. The man was a good several inches taller than him, looked like he’d win if this turned into a fight, but Tom was quick and he could always make a mad leap for the edge if the man turned out to be a cop trying to talk him down. But then… he doubted cops wore cat scarves, carried Bibles, and went around barefoot. He nodded.

The man nodded back.

“Okay. I’m Emmanuel Iams. You can call me Manny.” He held out his hand to shake Tom’s and all but dragged him back onto the sidewalk on the other side of the rail when Tom accepted the warm, rough handshake.

“I-Iams? Like the dog food?” Tom asked, rather stupidly, he thought afterwards, but something in him felt like it had shaken loose and all the shaking was going to his legs, rattling unsteady tremors into his voice. Manny laughed.

“Like the cat food,” he said, catching Tom’s arm as he stumbled, seating him on the waist-high concrete barrier separating sidewalk from road and leaning back against it himself. The water soaked into Tom’s suit pants but he didn’t care. It didn’t really matter anyway seeing as all of him would be wet in just a little while. He meant to say something more intelligent, to say something like, “I’ll talk to you for a bit but then I’m going over.” But Manny beat him to it.

“You’re not gonna jump, Tom.”

Tom frowned, the stubborn Irish streak from his mother’s side kicking in.

“Am too,” he mumbled, feeling foolish even as he said it.

“Are not.”  The man quirked a lopsided grin at him. “Do you really think I came all this way to watch you do that?” Tom managed a bitter laugh.

“Why the hell not? There’s nothing else good on TV.”

Manny’s smile faded but Tom continued before he could cut him off, feeling frustration and exhaustion fueling his words into a near shout.

“Why shouldn’t you come see me jump, huh? Why shouldn’t the whole world come by and watch? It’s not like they’re losing anything! I can’t even get through one day without embarrassing myself or disappointing somebody or just sitting there and screaming inside because it freaking hurts to worry! It freaking hurts to be afraid of everything and to know how stupid that is! Why do you even care? I’ll give you a tip, go down the river a little ways and you can have my shoes when I catch up with you, how’s that?” Tom scoffed at Manny’s grim expression. “What is my life worth to you anyway?”

A strange look passed through those hazel eyes and before Tom could snap another bitter, drained question, Manny’s work-worn fist had caught his collar and tie and jerked him so close to the man’s face that Tom could see the tiny band of scars dotting the man’s brow and hear the unspoken emotion heavy in his low voice.

“I didn’t go through hell to see you jump, Tommy. I didn’t watch good men die right next to me so you could throw your life away, ‘cause if you wanna do that, there are plenty of better causes than jus’ a clear head.” Tom tried not to fidget, the rough, work-worn fist still clutching his collar. He took in a calming breath that didn’t really ever work and tried to keep his tone level despite the knuckles brushing his throat.

“What else am I supposed to do?” he asked, startled by the utter exhaustion in his own voice. Manny stared at him in speechless shock before a soft smile spread across his whiskered face. He shifted then, exchanging the near-chokehold for a supportive hand on Tom’s shoulder.

“Live.”

“Easier said than done,” Tom scoffed.

“Yeah,” agreed Manny. “But I know a lot of good men that had the choice made for ‘em. A lot of ‘em wished it’d gone the other way.”

Silence stretched between them, Tom looking down at the rain glinting in the light of the streetlamp, Manny staring out over the river at the horizon and the distant lights of the city. The cat, Rocky, twitched in his sleep and Manny glanced back at him with a soft smile. The streetlamp flickered and failed, dropping them both into darkness. Still neither of them spoke. A car swept by, bringing with it a current of damp air that brushed Tom’s cheek and ruffled Manny’s hair. The companionable silence Tom had never experienced before was broken by the man’s gruff voice.

“Would you look at that…” His tone was reverent as he gazed up at the sky, a blissful half-smile on his face as his eyes traced the constellations the streetlamp’s tacky urban glow had hidden. Tom looked too, finding the familiar shapes of Orion, the North Star, the Dippers all standing over them with a tremulous light, like diamonds, sewn with care to the silky folds of sky. The dark rush of the water below was nothing compared to the expanse of twinkling pinpricks of light, painted across the skies with a light so pure and clear that it seemed to smile down on the earth. A soft breeze brushed through the swaying trees, leaves rustling like feathers and taking flight across the water, visible only by their darkness against the pale starlight. The moon slipped out from behind a cloud, unfurling her gown of silvery light across the earth. The moonlight caught in the puddles of water, the glint of it a pale shadow of the stars overhead.

“This is what helps me,” Manny’s voice rumbled softly beside him, somehow grounding him without detracting from the beauty around them. “No matter what I remember ‘bout those days an’ what we went through over there, no matter how many lives were lost or troubles gained… there are still more stars in the sky than there are reasons to die.”

Tom felt the man look over at him and met his gaze, watching as the moonlight rested a motherly beam on his head, catching in his silver beard and sparking in his eyes.

“An’ I might be a dirty vagrant who can’t keep his nose out’ve another man’s business but personally, I think even one star like that –“ He pointed at the sky, indicating the tiny holes in the sky’s gossamer fabric. “- little pinpricks of heaven shinin’ through, like the sun sneaking out to dance in the rain… I think just one of them is worth living for.”

The man sighed, patting Tom on the shoulder and straightening. The movement woke Rocky who voiced his displeasure with a rattling meow. Manny shushed him softly, taking him in his arms and stroking the cat’s disheveled fur.

“Jus’ promise me you’ll think about that, Tommy. Alright?”

Tom nodded and the man gave him one last fond smile before turning and making his way down the sidewalk, bare feet fracturing the starry mirrors in each puddle he crossed. Tom watched, just watched in calm silence as the man’s steps became a dance, twirling slowly and swaying in the starlight… like the sun sneaking out to dance in the rain.

Categories
8th Edition

In the Valleys

In the Valleys

Devin Mitchell Durbin

 

In the valleys, at my lowest lows

I forget sometimes

How far I’ve rose.

In the valleys. I sometimes lose my sight

Of the King and what is light.

I am heavy and burdened down,

By the past I’ve drug around.

I thought I’d get there

Someday soon,

But here I am, in the valley.

In the valleys, in my deepest darks.

In the valleys, at the bottom of my heart.

I forget sometimes

How far I’ve rose.

In the valleys, I sometimes lose my sight

Of the King, and what is light.

You never leave me,

I just lose my way.

You don’t forsake me.

You call my name,

From the mountains you came down

To walk with me.

In the valleys, I make a step

From the valleys, You pave the way.

To the mountains, You take my hand.

In the valleys

I lost my sight.

With the King I see what is light.

Categories
8th Edition

Malts

Malts

Bret Lundstrom

 

I had a malt one time

Malt liquor another

The treats we reward ourselves

The pains we cause ourselves

From ice to cream

With ice to dream

Dreams of summer

Days of warmth

Brightly stressing

Our daily displeasures

Honestly regretting

Lying to the past

Remembering days of malts

Through the glass bottles

In the hazy green glass

Of malt liquor

Categories
8th Edition

Snow

Snow

Brandon Evans

It is weird how different two days can be. I walked outside yesterday to a heavy snowfall. It hid the sun behind a quiet gray blanket. Big, cotton candy flakes hit the ground in muted puffs. It was nice, and it was peaceful. Even in the city. For a little while the snow covered up all the nastiness that filled the streets, and everything was pure again. White, clean powder radiated a soothing stillness in the otherwise busy minds of the city folk. It seemed like it was Mother Nature’s hint at us to slow down, and so we did.
Each one going home to whomever they had. Sharing hugs and kisses under blanket forts as we lined up a movie to watch or show to binge. Just like that we had stopped the hustle and bustle. We were quiet and content just like the icy smoothness of the fresh snow, and just happy to be still. Happy to be innocent.

Then, the morning came. Jobs demanded attendance and rush hour roared to life. Now, the snow, no longer a bringer of peace, is a burden and annoyance to our busy lives. We pushed our ways out into it. Clumping the powder into heaps, big trucks cleared a messy path in the once calm roads. We left those we sought comfort with. Leaving them like the dirtied snow that lined the streets. Once white and pure, but now gray and thought of as a gross. We left our snow fort comrades as we necessarily sought more green.

Today is sunny, and warmer than yesterday. The snow is melting, and I am out alone in this world. It isn’t quiet out here, nor is it peaceful. No, all that has been replaced by us and our noisy business. I find it odd though, that today is nearly twenty degrees warmer, yet it feels much colder than yesterday.

Categories
8th Edition Short Story

My Brother’s Keeper

My Brother’s Keeper

Lontreal Wiseman-Farmer

Able studied the room he was in. The walls were made of steel, and covered with screens, and knobs. He was sitting in a comfortable office chair, at a very large round table. The other chairs were occupied by the heroes he was here to talk to. The table its self-was a very large holographic image of the entire city of St. Louis. The ceiling was very high up, at least 100 feet, and the center of the ceiling was made of a shiny glass he had never seen before. While Able was wondering what makes glass shine like that, Lontreal and Jacob were deciding exactly what they were going to do about him. “How the hell did he find this place?” Jacob whispered furiously. He was pretty sure the Able didn’t have heightened senses but, in this line of work you can never be too sure. Lontreal shook his head and whispered back “I have no idea, and he refuses to tell us”

“This is a government facility, did you threaten him with jail time?” Asked Jacob.

“He said he knew who was responsible for Maddie, and that he was here to help.”

“Well! Why are we all sitting here like a bunch of assholes. If he is going to help then he should help!” Jacob directed the last part of the statement, at Able who jumped in his seat startled by the sudden outburst. “Excuse Jacob, he is just very worried, as we all are.” Said Kelsey. Kelsey was sitting to the right of Able. She was wearing a pink long-sleeved shirt, with jeans. Able liked her the moment he saw her. Her biracial background gave her a creamy complexion. She had a very friendly face, with her light brown freckles to match her even lighter brown skin. She had soft brown eyes and short brown hair. “Can you just explain to us how you found us, and how you plan to help Maddie?”

Able stood up and looked around at his audience. His black sweater and black pants seemed to absorb the light around him. “My brother was the one who put your friend in a coma. Me and my brother were born a long time ago, in a tiny village. This was long before recorded history. My brother dared me to race him past the village borders. I knew I shouldn’t but he was my older brother and I wanted nothing more than to make him happy, so I chased him very far out into the desert. As we were running the sky darkened and something hit the ground in front of us hard. The ground exploded and launched me and Caine into the air. When we hit the ground we were lying next to a glowing white stone. We seemed to be unharmed, except for our clothes that were almost completely burned off. Caine grabbed the white stone and we ran back to the village. Lucky for us the stone falling from the sky distracted everyone, and we were able to change clothes.”

“Caine buried the stone outside our hut, and every night we would go out and play catch with it. As we grew the stones glow lessened. Every year it seemed to be a little less bright. When I was about 20 I seemed to stop aging. So did Cain. I had also become the healer of my tribe, and I seemed to be able to heal any wound. One day Caine got into an argument with the tribe elders about Caine only hunting and making food for himself. Caine got lost control of his temper and grabbed the elder by his arm. The elder, whose name I can no longer remember, started to die slowly in front of the whole village. Caine seemed to have gained the ability to create diseases, and infect as many people as he wanted. Caine fled the village and I followed. We stayed together for a while but Caines violent nature was starting to get the best of him, and I was more concerned about healing. Before I left we made a rule. I would not heal anyone he has infected, and he will not infect someone I have healed.” Able finished with a weary sigh. “I have always kept track of him, but last month he disappeared and I couldn’t find any trace of him. Then my contact in the city told me of your friend Maddie and a man named Jax. I knew Caine was involved when he described the condition Maddie was in.”

Elijah cleared his throat loudly and raised an eyebrow. He was sitting on the left side, and a lot further away than Kelsey had been. “I don’t mean to rush you but how did you find out about Maddie? Who is your contact, and considering your pact with your brother how do you plan to help us?” Elijah asked these questions with the calm tone he knew was needed in order to keep this civil. He could see that Lontreal, and Jacob were getting tired of just listing. Able nodded towards Elijah. “I understand the confusion, I just thought you might want some background.” Able looked back towards the skylight. “My contact is a girl by the name of Jessica. She has somehow gained the ability to see events going on in the world, without being there. Her ability only works in real time. She cannot see the future nor the past. And she can only see a person, she has touched before, and she can see a place she has been before. During one of the many assaults on this city, she came into contact with Lontreal. Because she touched him she can now see and hear him anytime she wants.”

Lontreal flew across the room and lifted Able into the air and pulled him very close to his face. This happened so fast Able didn’t even notice until he was in the air face to face with him. “What the hell do you mean she can see, and hear me whenever she wants?”

“Lontreal calm down-” Able raises his hand, and Kelsey halts her protest. “She told me about Ashley” Able said. “She told me you did everything you could, and that it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know it wasn’t my fault, but that was a moment between me and her. No one else.”

“There is nothing I can do about it. I didn’t order her to spy on you. She did that of her own free will.” Lontreal slowly landed on the ground and released his grip on Able’s shirt. “Will you heal Maddie? Please, we would forever be in your debt.” Asked Elijah after everyone had retaken their seats. “I’m sorry but if I heal her then the agreement will be broken and Caine will be free to kill all those I have healed who are still alive, said Able. “I can heal all of you and add you to my computer, and upload you into the database we share so that he cannot kill you all.”

“Can you at least tell us where your brother is?” asked Elijah

“No. I will not help you kill, or lock him up. However, I will take a look a Maddie and see if there is anything you can do yourself to save her.” Elijah nodded and said “Kevin, Morgan would you mind taking him to see Maddie please. Morgan and Kevin stood and walked towards Able. Morgan was very pale with blond hair. She wore a white cotton shirt, with white cotton pants. Kevin was white as well, but nowhere near as pale as Morgan. He wore a blue shirt, with cargo shorts. As they were leading Able to the medical center Lontreal, facing away from them said, “You know your brother is a murderer, and instead of putting a stop to him you make a deal. You allow him to kill innocent people, while you make yourself feel better by healing a few. He is your responsibility. You should stop him.” Able stopped mid-stride, turned his head to the right and said, “Ashley was just as dangerous. How long until you stopped her? And if your hand wasn’t forced, would you have?”

Able was lead to a black door at the end of the medical hall. “We had to place her in isolation because with her telepathy she sends images directly into your brain of people who have died.” Said Kevin. Morgan opened the door and started to walk through when Able touched her shoulder. “It’s ok. I can do this alone. Trust me, I won’t hurt her. Able walked through the door and was instantly bombarded with images of people dying. Some of them quick, some of them slow. There didn’t seem to be any kind of order to it. Just random image after random image. Able raised his hand and a white light shot out and covered Maddie. Able recalled the light and left the room as quickly as he could with his head in his hands. “Are you ok?” asked Kevin. Able stumbled forward and fell to his knees. “I saw people I know. I think she got into his head when he did this to her. She pulled out all of his murders. There are more than I remember.” Kevin shook his head and walked away. Morgan helped Able to his feet. “Sorry for the boy’s behavior. They hate to lose, and this is the worst form of losing.” Morgan said something else but Able wasn’t able to hear it over the alarm that started to blare. “Damn, not another one.” Said Morgan.

“Another what?” Able asked.

“Another attack. Welcome to St. Louis, Missouri. The show me state

Categories
8th Edition

Privy

Privy

Bret Lundstrom

We join the greats

Every time we sit

To shit

We are never alone

On that porcelain throne

The Einsteins, Carnegies

The Lincolns and Gandhis

Took a part

In that most humane art

Take brief relief

As you sit and think

Wondering who you are

Unburden yourself

And know that you are

Among good friends

Good men, good women

Sit with you

With newspapers and books

Wondering with you

 

Categories
8th Edition Short Story

Period Troubles

Period Troubles

Kristine Wagner

She leaves work early because there isn’t much to do and she is cramping badly. Stupid Advil isn’t working, or if it is, she would hate to see what it would feel like without Advil. Sitting hurt. Lying down hurt. Walking to the car was absolute torture. She is supposed to go to this thing at her friend’s later, but she really doesn’t want to. Well, it is either that or going back home and having to put up with her mom’s constant questions and no private space. Her friend’s house it is.

She drives to her friend’s, trying to keep her eyes focused on the road. She wonders how much a car crash would hurt. Could the pain be magnified anymore at this point? She figures it might be, so she makes an effort not to crash. A car honks at her for not responding to a green light quickly enough. Little car, she could kill you and all the other little cars if she felt like putting the effort into it. She is a gracious driver, you be thankful, little car.

When she gets to her friend’s house, she parks behind the old shed and slips in through the back porch and into the guest bathroom. She doesn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone or answer any questions. “How do you feel?” “Like crap on toast, thanks.” It just wouldn’t be a good idea. She quick grabs a blanket from the guest closet, hands shaking. She locks the door to the bathroom and collapses onto the ground. The effort of driving had made her sweat profusely, and now chills engulf her body and the sweat stands on her arms in weird, gelatinous droplets. She drinks water from the tiny paper cups they have for guests to use while brushing their teeth, because honestly she doesn’t know what else to do beyond curling up in the blanket like a fetal burrito. What was this pain like? Being stabbed in the stomach? No, not quite that sort of sharp pain. Sharp pains are intense, quickly subsiding. Aches are duller, staying constant for long amounts of time. Period cramps are like the foul child of both, having both the intensity and staying power.

As she contemplates her pain and fantasizes about her impending death, she hears voices in the guest room. She hopes no one tries to open the door or see who’s in there. She has left all the lights off except the nightlight which is always plugged in next to the light switch, so it shouldn’t look like anyone is there. She stays very still and listens.

“Just put your coats on the bed, Kacey should be here in about half an hour.” she heard her friend say, and a couple of other familiar voices responded and faded away as the group left and the room returned again to silence.

Faye had invited Sarah and Tom over? Faye doesn’t even like Sarah, probably because she used to like Tom. “Used to,” ha, she would’ve laughed if it wasn’t such a pathetic story and if it didn’t feel like tiny dwarves were mining their way out of her uterus using tiny pickaxes. So instead she stays quiet and reads the back of the Advil container.

Warnings

Ask your doctor before use if you are pregnant, under a doctor’s care for a serious condition, age 60 or over, taking any other drug or have stomach problems.”

Well she definitely wasn’t pregnant. Allergic reactions, blah blah blah, oh look, stomach bleeding.

Stomach bleeding warning: This product contains a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) which may cause severe stomach bleeding.”

Drat. Probably shouldn’t take any more, but really, could sever stomach bleeding hurt any more than this? Would it kill a person? Would it get her to the hospital? Would the doctors knock her out? That wouldn’t be too bad. She contemplates this until voices reenter the room.

“Coats on the bed! Kacey should be here in about twenty minutes!” she hears Faye say again.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so exciting!” a voice that could only be Tiffany’s squeals.

“That is if she says yes, you know.” a nasally voice replies. Katherine. That would be Katherine. Ever since Katherine’s breakup, Katherine has avoided her. Probably because she told Katherine to grow a pair and move on. It had been 10 months at that point, in her defense, and he was already engaged to someone else. Oh well, she thinks, sniffing the disinfectant wipes from under the counter, that’s your loss, Katherine. She wonders if she can kill enough brain cells by sniffing this stuff to stop the pain. She probably is killing too many already to be considering that as a plausible solution. But hey, the pain must have lessened for her to be thinking this creatively at least!

She also begins wondering why on earth Faye was telling everyone what time she would be arriving. She probably ought to make some effort to go out and join the rest. She stands up wobbly, holding onto the edge of the countertop. She sits on the toilet and checks her tampon. Bled straight through and left a lovely stain on the back of her pants. Fudgesicle frickety-frack. Were there any tampons under the sink? Of course not. And that was the last in her purse. She stuffs her underwear full of toilet paper and gingerly takes off her jeans and rinses them under cold water to get the stain out. That’ll take a while to dry. But it is just supposed to be a movie night or something. Maybe Faye’s not letting anyone start watching until she got there. That’s so sweet, but there’s no way she’s leaving this bathroom for at least another hour. Sorry punks, y’all can just gossip and postpone starting the movie until that time anyway, because that’s what you always do. She reaches over to text Faye that she’ll be late, but her phone is dead. Oh well.

“You can just throw your coats on there, and hurry back! She should be getting here anytime.” Faye calls.

“Do you think she’ll be surprised?” Tony asks.

“Definitely! I can’t wait to see the look on her face!” Kelsey replies.

Kelsey? What on earth is Kelsey doing here? Kelsey is her older sister, not one of Faye’s friends. And Tony is her brother-in-law, Faye’s probably only seen him like, twice.

“Mr. Phillips, we’re putting the coats in here. Mrs. Phillips, I think my mom has the appetizers in the basement.” Faye calls again. She hears her parents thank Faye and leave the room. She is now thoroughly confused. Her parents are not here for a movie night. Everyone is there for her. But her birthday isn’t for another two months, and birthdays aren’t that big of a thing. She would be turning twenty-two, not sweet sixteen.

“Sorry Jeremy, it’s pretty loud out there, could you repeat that?” She hears Faye shut the door. Must be on the phone. “What do you mean she’s not at work? Does anyone know where she is?” Oh sweet tea and biscuits, she was going to be found out. “45 minutes ago? Oh my gosh. No, she didn’t tell me anything. Let me see if anyone here knows where she is.”

She sits in the bathroom, pantsless and wearing a bloody toilet paper diaper, unsure what to do. If it was just Faye, she’d be fine. But with all those other people here, she can’t just march out like she is. Her pants are still soaked, and it still feels like rodents were gnawing away at her uterine lining, although not as bad as before. Maybe small rodents now. She braces herself and makes a decision. The next time Faye or one of her family members comes through that door, she will try to get one of their attentions, and hopefully a new pair of pants.

But alas, it is not Faye that reenters; it is Sarah and Tom who come back in.

“I guess we just wait now. It sucks that she wasn’t there for Jeremy.” Sarah says.

“Well she didn’t know he would be coming.” says Tom.

“Well she should’ve come here then. Now Mr. Phillips is driving back to their house to see if she’s there. All this trouble for nothing.”

“Getting engaged isn’t exactly nothing, Sarah.”

“She might not have even said yes! They’ve only been dating 11 months.”

“Some people get engaged after less.”

“After fewer, dear. It just seems like a bad idea after such a short amount of time.”

“Guess that means I have more time, then, eh?”

She can almost hear Sarah glaring at Tom in the silence that followed.

“We’re different.” Sarah says, pointedly. “We’re more mature.”

“Yeah, Jeremy and Kacey definitely have their issues. Jeremy is still working at Macaroni Grill, you know. Not a great way to start a marriage.”

“She’s probably twisting his arm into it. If it weren’t for the fact she wasn’t even there for him to pick her up for the proposal, I would’ve thought she was the one planning it. Kacey is so overbearing. I just feel sorry for Jeremy. I can’t see what he sees in her, she’s not even that pretty.”

“Now Sarah, that’s not nice.”

“It’s true! He’s out of her league. Oh shoot, is my mascara smearing? Why don’t you ever tell me these things?”

“Uh…”

“Never mind. I’m going to clean up.”

“Alright, I’m going back out to see if there’s any news.”

Kacey hears Tom leave and Sarah approach the bathroom. Kacey has the blanket wrapped around her waist, and unlocks the door. Sarah gasps when she opens it, but Kacey puts a finger to her lips and ushers Sarah in and shut the door again.

“Oh my gosh!” Sarah exclaims.

“Shush!”

“Oh my gosh,” Sarah whispers. “Have you been here the whole time?”

“Yes. I need you to get me some pants.”

“Did, did you hear Tom and I?” Sarah looks nervous. Kacey doesn’t even bother raising a judgmental eyebrow at her. She is in pain, tired, angry, and doesn’t have time for this floozle flazzle.

“Yes. I am very disappointed, but we haven’t been close in years, so I guess it makes sense. All that doesn’t matter right now. I need a pair of pants.”

“Kacey! You need to go out there! People are worried! What on earth have you even been doing in here?”

“I’m planning to get out there, as soon as I have pants. Can you get me some pants?”

“You’ll need to ask Faye.” Sarah doesn’t seem to realize the situation. Kacey takes a deep breath.

“I’m having cramps, and have no pants. Can you go ask Faye?”

“Cramps? You’re in here just because of cramps? Couldn’t you just suck it up? That is so selfish!”

“Sarah! You do not understand. Right now my shredded uterus lining is coming out of my vagina and I just missed my proposal apparently, and you were talking smack about me just a minute ago. Do us all a favor, stop being a horrible person, and just find me a pair of pants.”

“You could just put on the wet ones.”

“Yes, and I could also just go tell Tom about Chad.”

Sarah’s eyes widen in horror. “You wouldn’t.”

“That depends on if you can find me a pair of paints.”

“I thought we were friends.”

“Well so did I, but that display I just heard out there proves otherwise,” Kacey hisses, pointing out the bathroom door. “I’m happy to put all of this behind us; just right now I need pants.”

“You won’t tell Tom about Chad?”

“Sarah, however you choose to screw up your life is up to you, unlike some people I don’t go spreading my opinions about like manure on a field. Now, pants.”

“You do too! You are one of the most headstrong, overbearing people I have ever met!”

“Sarah, PANTS.”

“First you have to promise not to tell Tom about Chad.”

“Who’s Chad?” Tom’s concerned face appears at the door. “You know this thing isn’t soundproof, right?”

“Tom!” Sarah gasps. Both of them begin bickering, and Kacey sinks back into the corner of the bathroom and starts crying quietly. Standing so long had caused a new wave of cramps, and she is angry and miserable. Jeremy rushes into the bathroom, pushing Sarah and Tom out of the way.

“Kacey! Have you been here the whole time?” Jeremy asks, quickly taking in the whole situation; pants in the sink next to a bottle of Advil, small smears of blood on the floor. Kacey nods, sniffling.  Jeremy puts his arms around her, drawing her into a little bundle. Instantly her anger fades away and her whole body relaxes into him. “Your period started?” Kacey nodded again. “You know, I’ve always wanted to get you out of your pants, but this is not what I had in mind.” Kacey half-laughs, half cries, and Jeremy smooths her hair. “Guess you heard what this whole shindig was about, huh?”

“Were you really going to propose at my job?” Kacey asks.

“Yeah,” Jeremy chuckles, embarrassed.

“Well that’s a stupid place to propose.” A grin sneaks back onto Kacey’s face. Jeremy throws back his head and laughs.

“You’re right, it’s not the most glamorous, but marriage isn’t exactly the most glamorous either, or life in general. Look at us now.”

“I’m plenty glamorous. Blood-stained jeans, it’s the trend women have been waiting for since they were allowed to wear pants.”

“You are the most glamorous.” Jeremy laughs. “Will you make my life a little more glamorous and marry me?”

“Once I get a pair of pants. Yes, duh Jeremy. Yes. Yes.”

 

Categories
8th Edition

Remember When

Remember When?

Brandon Evans

Looking at a version of life

Through the lens of a cell phone screen

She envies all the things she is missing

Without ever seeing anything

Always busy viewing and judging

She spends her youth at the price of peace

A faint blue tinged light has left her precious face

With tan lines and age marks for social media’s sake

Where has my little girl gone?

The one who cared about the simple and the sweet

She always feels so distant in conversations

Conversing solely in thumb speech

There is a loss of interaction

Even though more connected we’ve never been

I miss my little girl so much

I post a picture to say “Remember When?”

Categories
8th Edition

Fog–Kristine Wagner

fog-kristine-wagner