Whisked Away

Written by: Yi-Wen Lin

They had promised “Till death do you part,” but he never understood how cruel of a sentence that was. No one warned him that in most cases death wasn’t sudden; in most cases death was long and ugly. He also neglected to realize that maybe he didn’t want to part, especially through death. What if he wasn’t ready to give up her wispy voice or the soft brush of her skin? What if his heart literally ached at the thought of not seeing the shimmer of her burnt-honey eyes every day? Why didn’t anyone warn him that finding love could also lead to a cold bed with too many pillows and far too much space?

It was getting to the point where he wasn’t sure which days were worse: when she was so frail and weak that he thought a speck of dust would crush her, or the days where she was laughing at the sink while doing dishes; hope restored.

They both lived for the good days. The surprising days where she welcomed guests, asked him to go for a walk with her, or played house with the grandkids. The days where she was the first one up, and he flashed back to when they were in their thirties, and she rushed around the house to kick the kids out of their beds for school. The days where the wheelchair was forgotten because her legs remembered how to carry her. The more of those days she had, the less they believed the doctors.

He couldn’t remember the last “good day,” though. It couldn’t have been that long ago, could it? A week? Maybe two? No more than a month, right? Why did she have to have good days if most were bad? Why did it look like she was winning her fight when the next week saw her the frailest she’s ever been? How could she eat a hamburger with a pile of potato salad when nothing wanted to stay down two days later? Why couldn’t he protect her from this?

That was his job, wasn’t it? It always worked before. She was in trouble, and her Knight in Shining Armor saved the day. That was the deal.

She’d give him the strength, and he’d use it to protect her. She hated her work? He’d help her find a better job. She was nervous about getting pregnant? He helped her get in shape as they ate healthier. She was running on two hours rest? He took the kids for the weekend. The house was falling around them? He’d fix it. They were running out of money? He’d take an extra job. No matter what was wrong in her life, he always managed to find a solution before. Why was he failing now, when she needed him most? A husband’s protection wasn’t supposed to have only a forty-year warranty.

She didn’t seem to care anymore. She’d shush him and cradle him like he was one of their children. She’d tell him that he needn’t worry. She’d kiss the tears from his eyes and give him the same thin smile she was wearing when he first met her. Their nights were spent with her reminding him of their years. She’d laugh about how terrified she was when their middle child had flipped his bike and broke his arm. She’d coo about their wedding night. She’d get fired up recalling the horrible neighbor they had who used to let his dog crap all over their yard. She was done making new memories, and just wanted to reflect on the ones they already had.

He wasn’t done, though. As much as he tried, he wasn’t done. Whenever she talked about their first dance, he only thought about them sleeping away from each other because her legs could no longer climb the stairs to their bedroom. Her reminiscing about their children starting high school would remind him that she wouldn’t know their grandkids as teenagers. She’d complain about how fat she had gotten after giving birth to their youngest, and he’d silently beg for her to get even half as heavy again.

He wanted his curvy wife who spent her days working in a bakery – sampling all the bits that baked off wrong – and her nights covered in mud from her garden. He wanted the woman who had a dance in her step as if she were listening to music every minute she was awake. He wanted to remember her strong and young and rosy, like she’d be able to do with him.

He would always be strong and virile in her eyes, even with the streaks of grey throughout his hair. He’d always be him to her. It wasn’t fair that he had to be left with this shell of his wife. It wasn’t fair that he had to watch her wither away when she didn’t have to watch him do the same. It wasn’t fair that he still had a good twenty years left, and she was going to leave him alone.

He had forgotten how to be alone. He had forgotten how to not have her with him each day. Who was he without her? Was there a him without her? He wasn’t supposed to find out. It was the two of them. It’s been the two of them since they were eighteen. Now she was leaving him, and he’d have to figure out who he was. He was too old to figure that out.

This wasn’t the agreement. This wasn’t what he meant when he agreed to “Till death do us part.” She was his strength, and he used it to protect her. He was her sanity, and she used it to guide him. That was the deal. Now she was weak, he failed as a guardian, he was going insane, and she wouldn’t be around to help him find his way. It was all wrong.

He never should have agreed to “Till death do us part.”



Written by: Yi-Wen Lin

Lips are sealed in suffering quiet.

Wanting, needing that long overdue kiss.

Having an internal erupting riot,

lead me into the never-ending abyss.

Needing, wanting to escape through the trees.

Leaving at sunset in late summer’s June,

with the flourishing of the smooth green peas.

Yet beneath having wrinkles of a prune.

It was for all of one month,

in the heat of the blazing summer,

the frantic kisses and hidden glances,

I think you called it a summer fling,

but no,

it was a whirlwind romance.



Written by: Alyssa Greene

It was 8:00 o’clock on a Sunday night. I relaxed on my fully reclined lazyboy dressed in sweatpants, a large tee, and a robe that made me blend into the chair as if I belonged there. I curled up even more into the chair as the wind groaned outside, causing the branches of the birch out back to tap against my window. I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep, my eyes were closed for what felt like a second when I was woken by the sound of water trickling inside my apartment.

In one smooth motion, I had rolled out of the chair, the wrinkling of the leather loud as the rain. I quickly made it down the short hall and into my bedroom. It was dark, and as my eyes adjusted, the only light source was from the window which brought in a mist of grey to glow across the room. When I finally opened the lights, I noticed the water that was dripping in from the window and onto the floor. I rolled my eyes as I headed to my closet to grab the bucket that was used for this exact reason.

Once the water problem was temporarily fixed, my mind was at ease. I fell into my bed, back first, and focused on my breathing. It was unsteady despite the calm hum in my head. With only moving my neck, I was able to peak at the alarm clock on my night table. It was 8:41. The red numbers burned my eyes.

I knew she’d be here by 9:00 o’clock. My stomach uncomfortably shifted at the thought of her driving in the rain. I forced myself to focus back on my breathing. I felt my chest rise and fall over and over again and closed my eyes for a second.

When I reopened them, she was sitting at the other end of my bed. She never touched me. She was all dolled up in a green shirt that hung off her shoulders and tucked into a jean skirt. Her hair was naturally curled, and only slightly dampened from the rain. In her soft voice she told me about her day, whatever had happened at work, and the lunch out with whoever. The play by play and I barely listened.

She mentioned a late night snack, which perked up my interest. We left my bedroom and I slowly followed her into the kitchen. She showed me ever so proudly the display of fruits she set out. I was immediately turned off, but after hours of awaiting her company, I sat at the table with her.

She forced me to eat. Small portions of healthy food. Every meal came with a lesson, what the food is doing for my body, how every meal counts, and the disgusting idea of cheat days. She could talk about nutritional facts all night. I didn’t care for it. I found myself tuning her out again and focused on her mouth pronouncing each syllable of her words. She was mesmerizing.  

I often imagined myself with her. Though it would never happen. I imagined a future where I’d lose all the weight, she would be so proud and fall in love with me. We would go for bike rides together or go for heathy picnics in the park. And if ever we happened to bump into someone we knew, we would tell them how happy we were, and the success story. I would be skinny and strong and happy, and she would love me.

That was only a dream though, and I was brought back by her ushering a plate of pineapples in my direction. I looked at it and stood up from my chair, walking towards my lazyboy without saying a word. Within a minute she followed me.

I remember her bringing me a blanket and turning on the TV, setting the volume to barely a whisper. She came close to me on the side of the chair and bent down. I looked at her. She had never been this close. I wanted to smile but I was scared she would distance herself if I did. For a moment, eye to eye, all I could think about was how repulsive my loud breathing was.

Then she spoke. Her voice broke as she said she was leaving me. She couldn’t do the night-shift anymore, and had too many patients. This time, I actually listened. She told me she was engaged and needed more time for herself and the family she was trying to make.

I realized then, I didn’t know her. I never knew her. I only idealized her and her private life. She never loved me, though I can’t say I was surprised. But she was leaving me. After 2 years, she was just leaving. We hadn’t reached any goals she had set, and she was just going to leave.

Then she hurt me more than I ever though she could. She said she was only keeping her patients that wanted to help themselves. As if I wanted to be overweight, as if I never tried. She didn’t know me. For 2 years, every night, and every morning, 9 pm till 9 am, this stranger took care of me. She told me she would stay until I found someone else. I acted angry but I was sad more than anything. I shifted away from her, and looked at the TV. She stayed bent down on my side for a beat, then walked over to the TV to raise the volume. She apologized once again and left the room. I heard the guestroom door close shut and let out a breath.

I knew for now, if I needed her, all I had to do was call.



Written by: Kelly Lamb

When I was born, I was brought straight from the hospital to a mansion that I believe is still worth more than every other home in Ohio combined. It was satirically grandiose, with three times as many bathrooms, bedrooms, and garages than any family of five could need. It was also isolated, the only other building for five miles in any direction was an abandoned nunnery. The only way to get to our house was through a series of winding yet well paved roads that lead to a long route leading to the highway. Our driveway could only be spotted thanks to a small red mailbox that stood on a post of wood with the word “Lakes” painted neatly in yellow. That wasn’t our real mailbox of course, but my mother insisted we kept it because it was “the only homey thing we owned.”

My mother was a simple woman with a mystery of a childhood. After she married my father, she never managed to adjust to her new luxurious life. I don’t blame her. When she was raising my sisters and me, she refused the help of a maid or nanny; their qualifications were not worth the creation of distant relationships.

I agreed with her mailbox statement, and we shared the same disparity with our lifestyle.

My sisters, Eva and Carlie, took after my father in that regard. They embraced our wealth with open arms and enjoyed shaming my mother and me for declining a ride on the gravy boat. My father gave us presents and let us get away with all kinds of nonsense that we shouldn’t have. Yet, my childhood was still sheltered. Television was for watching Sesame Street, and once I turned fifteen I was allowed to watch the 7 O’clock news, then then the 11 O’clock when I turned 16. My parents also had control of the people I chose to be friends with. I hated all of them by the time I was 14.

My mother had always been upset that I had inherited my father’s dull, off white complexion and his single shade dark brown hair.

“You’re so lucky you got my eyes,” she would always tell me in her low, smooth voice. My mother had eyes as stunning as Caribbean ocean water, while mine were simply blue.

I grew tits the summer after my 12th birthday, and an ass soon after that. Every morning I would stand in one of the bathrooms and my mother would spent half an hour fussing over my face, hair, and body.  My mother got me four pairs of lace underwear with matching bras, a vanity set packed with makeup, and a curling iron for my thirteenth birthday. She thought it would make me feel better.

My sisters were naturally beautiful, like my mother. They didn’t need as much help as I did. Every day of my four years of high school, my mother would haul me into the bathroom and 6:30 in the morning. She pinned up my hair, smeared my face with foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow that made me look like a different stripe of the rainbow every day.



Written by: Emily Der Arakelian

When he came to, his vision was blurry. His eyes adjusted to the darkness around him, and his heart began to race. He recognized the objects surrounding him; cardboard boxes of various sizes, crumpled snack wrappers, there was even an abandoned shoe in the corner. Although the objects were familiar, his situation was completely unexpected. He’d never seen this small room before, yet he sat in the middle of it at a metal table and chair set.

           He tried to stand, but he only slammed himself back into his seat. His feet were chained to the ground. He felt around his seat for some kind of switch, or a key, but only felt the cool, grimy metal of his chair.

           He tried to remember what led up to this moment, but his mind was almost completely blank. The last memory he had was of his wife holding his daughter in her arms as he kissed her forehead before they left the house for the day. He tugged his legs against their restraints, but he could barely feel them as it was. His breathing picked up as he attempted to assess his situation.

           The room suddenly lurched left, and had his hands been cuffed as well, he would be lying on the floor. With what little feeling he had in his legs, he felt the floor beneath him rumble and jump. His table and chair, firmly nailed to the floor, stayed put. The room lurched again, and it felt as though it had picked up the pace, wherever it was going. Everything in the room, besides him and his dining set, slid around the small room. A small box fell off the top of a pile and hit him across the face. As the box slid to the other end of the room, he noticed the corner of it was splattered with red. He felt around his face for the first time and felt the warmth of blood from his freshly split lip before he saw it drip onto his shirt.

           Why he was being held captive is a mobile, small room, he didn’t know, but he was going to get himself out. All around him, everything was just out of reach. He assumed the boxes were all empty, since the only noise came from the jangling of the chains holding his feet back. He tried yelling, but only a pathetic excuse for a whimper came out. His hands went to his throat, where he noticed for the first time were bruises. Looking down his arms, he saw more. His stomach and chest were a sunset of blues and purples under his shirt. He could only imagine what his face looked like. He closed his eyes and tried to regulate his breathing. He bent down and tugged on the chains again, but it was no use.

           The floor stopped rumbling as he slowly started to regain feeling in his legs. He heard a muffled conversation coming from outside and the sound of footsteps on gravel. The doors of the box truck to his left opened, and he recoiled at the sunlight flooding in.

“Look who’s awake,” a man spoke.

“Mike. Car,” a second man said. The doors slammed shut and he tried once again to scream but his throat only cramped in response. The doors opened again and the man, Mike, stepped into the truck and grabbed his face by his chin, turning him towards the light. He felt his fingers squeeze his chin, creating more bruises. He tasted blood fill his mouth. Mile grinned down at him. His mouth was full of pearly white teeth and his eyes gleamed. “Remember me, Pretty Eyes?”

           He squinted and attempted to focus on the man. He didn’t know if it was due to his lack of memory, but he didn’t. He shook his head, as much as he could have while still in his grip, and the man laughed.

           “Look at him. Pathetic. Come on, sit up straight.” Mike grabbed him by the shoulders and repositioned him on his seat. He tried to speak but could only groan. “Hal, hand me my gun.” He heard the clinking of the gun as it transferred from one man to the other. He felt the cold metal press against his temple, but could only make out the sunlight glinting off the slide, too scared to turn his head to get a good look at it. “This is what you get, Gideon. Can you understand that? Next time one of your buddies tries to play one on me, they’ll have you as an example of the consequences.”

           Mike turned the chair to face him and he could finally see the stretch of road behind the truck. An empty highway in the middle of nowhere was his best guess at his location. He no longer heard Mike yelling threats at him. His threats and insults sounded like they came from far away. He heard the wind whistling through the grass and the creak of the back door on rusty hinges. He thought of his daughter, who had just started walking, and would only get to remember him through photographs. He thought of his wife, who was at work and relying on him to cook dinner tonight. His eyes lazily refocused on Mike, who was pressing a gun to his head with a smile stretching his lips, and hoped that whoever this Gideon was, he was appreciating his freedom.


The Last Call

Written by: Joshua Lipson

It was half an hour past closing time. Paul Sanders was used to people staying after hours due to his years of experience. The young ones called him, “old man Sanders” as per his imply. To them it sounded a bit forced, something that people would say on a sitcom like, “Cheers”. Although, Paul didn’t want to have such a boring name. How would people remember him? He had a face full of wrinkles, ten fake teeth, a bald spot with some white hair surrounding it (which he was very proud of), and his old man glasses which made him happy, because this way he really did look his age. Then there was the boy in front of him. This boy was not a usual, so it struck Paul as to why he was there. Young people did not usually come to his place, if they did, they’d leave after ten minutes because of how boring it was. The boy had dark skin, a black jacket, jeans, while noticeably twirling a ring in his hands. “Bartender, give me another beer.” He exclaimed in a slur of words. He was at five. Paul had a rank for people and how hammered they were. By now, he knew those ranks inside and out. Five, that means this boy was drunk enough to forget what the word “no” meant, but not drunk enough to forget what the phrase, “get the hell out of my bar!” meant. However, Paul planned on being nice at first. This boy seemed to be wreck, so it was in his natural to help him out. “Last call was thirty minutes ago, so, can I ask why you’re still here?” Paul said as he scrubbed the last of his mugs. The boy looked to the old man as if he had spoken a different language. His eyes had bags under them, which meant he must’ve been tired as hell. “I thought your job was to give me a drink, not ask questions?” The boy exclaimed, sounding more hurt than anything. “Yes, but it’s been closing time for quite a while. Look around, no one else is here.” Paul explained, but not that there would be people

there. Paul’s bar was basically dead most of the time. However, Paul was right that it was more quiet then usual that night. “Oh… I see… yeah, sorry.” The boy’s words began to slur even more, but this was coming from pure exhaustion then rather being drunk. The boy tried to get up from the stool but Paul felt as if he should really reach out toward this kid.

           “You know what, I’ll give you one last beer.” Said Paul.


           “Yes, but on one condition, you tell me what’s bothering you. Believe me kid, I know a distraught heart when I see one. We bartenders have a knack for that. We’re kind of like cheap second hand therapists. Except we also give ya beer. So, all around – yeah we’re just better than therapists.” Paul smiled at his joke, which he tended to do a lot. The boy looked up to the old man with hesitation, but eventually he opened his mouth, and his words began to string together,

           “Well where do I start?” asked the young man.

           “Your name.”

            “My name?”

            “Yeah, a name, you know, the thing that you call a person.”

            “Yeah – yeah, my name’s, Virgil.”

           “Well Virgil, what’s your problem?”

           “Well, eh-”

           “Spit it out boy.”

           “Okay, okay. Well, I eh, wow. Sorry, I’ve never told anyone my whole life story before.”

           “That’s fine Take your time.” Paul said as Virgil took a large breath. The boy began to tell his story, “Okay, well when I was in high school I had this girlfriend, Jess. She was so beautiful man, like just – really beautiful! I never had the guts to go up and talk to her. It wasn’t until this one party; my friends and I got drunk, when all of the sudden I see her there-” “Ah yes, alcohol is liquid courage. Go on.” Paul interrupted with Virgil letting out a little laugh.

           “Yeah, so; I actually start to talk to her. Before I know it, we’re in a relationship and everything! We dated for year – God, what a year! And when we graduated she went to the best university in the province.”

           “And you?” asked Paul.

          “I ended up here. I couldn’t get into any of the universities back home, this was the only one closest to home that would accept me. So, we started a long-distance relationship.”

           “Oh no.”

           “Another year passes by and I missed each of those passing days! I decided, I had enough of this long-distance bullshit! I – I… bought this ring.”

            Virgil showed Paul the ring and it all started to make sense. “I went back home, and you know, proposed. She said, no.”

           “Oh, kid… I’m so sorry, but-“

            “And then she broke up with me. She had enough of this long-distance thing to. She just felt the strain in a different way though.”

           “I see.”

           “How hopeless am I?”

           “Not as hopeless as me, kid.”

           “Why do you say that?”

           “How old are you, Virgil?”


            “And you were going to marry this girl? A girl that you had only seen a few times in a year?”

           “You sound like my friends.”

           “I’m glad to hear that I sound young, but you’ve got to realize what your situation is.”

           “I guess.”

“Listen, kid… guess how old I am.”

           “Um… eighty – three?”

           “Ha! Close, eighty – six.”

            “Damn, how are you still working?”

            “I own the bar; it also helps that I am friends with some people in high places.”


            “Yup, after all this time, I better be. I like this job, it gives me… purpose.”

           “Good for you.”

           “Thanks.” Paul smiled and poured his last beer. He handed it to the young man, and began his own story.

           “Okay, kid, time for you to listen to an old man.” Paul said with a large smile on his wrinkly face.

“When I was your age, I got married. She was a girl named Mary, and we thought we’d grow old together. My naive mind thought we’d live forever. It didn’t happen all at once, but we slowly began to hate each other. I wanted kids, she didn’t. She wanted to travel, I didn’t. I wanted to work at a bar, she didn’t. And she wanted to be married forever, I didn’t. It was all the little things that led to our divorce. We weren’t a broken relationship, but we did have too many differences that the odds were stacked against us. By the time we were forty, we hated each other. We robbed one another’s lives without even knowing it. That’s why I said we should end it.” Paul explained as Virgil sipped on his beer, intensely listening to the old man’s story. “She went her way, I went mine, type of deal. I bought this bar, and have spent more than half my life working here. There were other women after her, but none as great, and they already had baggage, most of the time worse than my own. I looked around at my life, no children, a small bar to my name, and what I thought was a pretty miserable life.” Virgil made a face, thinking that the story was over, but then Paul smiled. “I was wrong. I did not have a meaningless life. I have made friends, seen adventures, and have known quite a large story, in such a little bar. My life is small. All of its potential is used up, but it’s all I could really ask for… well… now that I’m looking back at it.” Virgil stopped sipping his beer. He stared into the yellow liquid, as if looking into a mirror.

“What is it, kid?” Paul asked.

“You lived quite a life.”

           “I think so.” “I – I have to go.”

           “What are you going to do?” Paul asked as Virgil jumped off his seat. The young man turned, he looked at Paul, his face full of hope and potential. “I – I think I’m going to go live.” he said.

           “You go do that.” Paul replied with a large smile that he hadn’t had for years. Virgil opened the door into the endless night, he turned his back to the old man, “What’s your name, old man?” Paul once again smiled and said, “Just call me, old man Sanders.” Virgil smiled to. They shared a small laugh and the moonlight bathed the entire bar. “Well, I’ll come back for another last call, old man Sanders.”

           “Until then, kid.” Virgil went off into the night, and left Paul behind. But that was fine. He was tired anyway.

           Paul went to his room; it was right above the bar. All it was was a picture of his old love, a bed, and a window into the endless night. He fell onto his bed, and went into an eternal dream.



Written by: Adriana Travisano

It’d been 5 hours and he was numb.

           He sat in class, numbers on the chalkboard blurring together as Mr. Glasend droned on about calculus. The ringing in his ears hadn’t stopped since the moment he had found out. His dad had advised him to stay home but he insisted on going to school, stating he’d take the bus and that was that.

           He’d seen the hurt in his eyes, but there was no way he could stay. Instead, he advocated for distractions and liberty and peace of mind. How naive was he to think that school—of all things—would allow him peace of mind. Ha!

           After being singled out and chastised for not listening, Roderick leaned over, asking, “Hey, you okay, man?” to which he responded with a nod of his head and a brief, “Yeah.” He wasn’t sure if his heartbeat had slowed so much that he couldn’t feel its pulse, or if it was beating so quick his brain didn’t have time to register it was there. Either way, he was lightheaded.

           It’d been 5 days and he’d missed two days of school to attend the funeral. By then everyone knew and he’d received texts of condolences and sympathetic smiles in the hallway.

           He was still numb.

He hadn’t cried yet, not once. Not at the hospital when her limp body lay on the stretcher and his dad’s sobs echoed throughout the room. Not at the funeral when he couldn’t help but feel disgust at everyone else who was crying—they didn’t know her like that, not enough to mourn like his father was—like he should’ve been. Not even afterwards when he felt guilty for feeling disgust at the attendees’ despair.

He came home from school one day, calling out, “Mom, I’m—” before realizing that she wasn’t home and would never ever be home again. Even then, he didn’t shed a tear; he merely sighed and pulled at his already disheveled hair.

           It’d been 5 weeks and you’d think he would be getting his life back together—or at least starting to. What a rose-coloured-lens way to think. And what a shame people aren’t cookie-cutter characters in novels or movies. They don’t fall into boxes, or categories, and certainly not into elementary feelings.

           Her stuff was still everywhere. His dad didn’t have the heart to get rid of it—no one did. Her lipsticks still adorned the shared dresser, her clothes still hung in her closet and her work files and folders still littered her desk in the basement. Sometimes, her favorite movie would come on while he surfed through channels and he didn’t have the heart to turn it off. So, he’d sit tense for the remainder of the duration of the film, wishing she was there and he was not.

           And when he passed by the laundry room to see his father crouched over and sobbing over the last t-shirt she’d worn, he couldn’t breathe. He wanted to fix this, wanted to help somehow—tried and searched and wracked his brain for a solution, anything—but there was nothing he could do.

           His brother was having a rough time too—which was, first of all, an understatement and second of all, rather expected from an eleven-year-old. He felt worse than scum when Jeremy’s teacher confronted him about the situation one day when he went to pick him up after school.

           “I’m afraid that… Jeremy’s been… crying a lot in class. I am aware you are not his legal guardian, but do you have any clue of what might be going on?” she’d asked.

           Oh, he felt like absolute shit having to tell this concerned teacher that, yes, there was indeed something wrong with the eleven-year-old boy crying in class all the time.

           “He won’t say anything whenever anyone asks him what’s wrong. He keeps saying he’s fine.” He’d learned well from his older brother.

           And the woman’s face fell and she rambled on empty apologies and transparent life lessons he really didn’t care to hear.

           “Would you mind, um, keeping it between you and me? I don’t think he wants the sympathy. He’s a strong little guy.”

           “Oh, of course Mr…..”

           Soon after, Jeremy had come running up to him from the playground where he’d been playing Sandman with a few friends. His teacher already regarded him differently—commiserating smiles and soft coos—and almost immediately, he regretted even saying anything.

           It’d been 5 months and he was mindlessly driving, which he seemed to be doing a lot of recently.

It struck him at the absolute worst time.

He’d taken exit 8 down the 404 and in the distance, to the side of the road, he noticed it. Directly in his line of vision was the Dairy Queen.

Two years ago, the entire family had gone out for ice cream. He remembered the day perfectly. So much so, that he’d remembered everyone’s orders. Jeremy—as always—got an Oreo blizzard, he’d tried a cookie dough blizzard, his dad had opted for a vanilla cone, and his mother, a strawberry milkshake. He remembered sitting across the table from her, her eyes growing wide in surprise and jaw unhinging in slow motion as vanilla ice cream found its way to her nose.

He’d lost it, almost sending ice cream flying out his nose, while Jeremy erupted into his own fit of giggles.

“Oh, you’re going to pay for that Martin!” she’d screeched, grabbing her husband’s wrist and making him smash the cone into own his face.

He’d laughed, wondering if there was any other couple in the world more ridiculously childish (and completely in love) than his parents. He really didn’t think so.

Then the road went blurry and his car swerved a little, the only thing keeping him grounded in the moment being the honks from behind. He pulled over, gut retching sobs ripping their way from his throat.

“Mom,” he cried out to the dashboard and the steering wheel and the old suede seats.

He pulled at his hair and covered his mouth and slammed his fists against whatever the remains of rationality in his brain told him he wouldn’t do damage to.

“I miss you,” he choked out between sobs. “God, I miss you.”

And then he was whispering to the threateningly heavy air. “Nothing is okay without you.”

It’s been 5 years and sometimes things feel okay. It’s nice, once in a while, to not feel like the world is caving beneath your feet and swallowing you whole.

However, sometimes he wakes up in the early hours of the morning and breaks into a cold sweat if it’s anywhere near the time 2:36 A.M. If it’s before, he’ll race to get back to sleep, but anxiety gnaws at his conscience, letting him know that if he doesn’t fall back asleep before the clock strikes, something terrible will happen.

It’s the reason he doesn’t pull all-nighters anymore.

Other times, he wakes up at exactly 2:36 A.M and the second his brain processes the three digits on the electric clock, he’s sent into a full-blown panic attack. His mother’s laugh rings through his ears and then visions of her feel like distant dreams that cloud his mind. However, they’re overshadowed by the images of her in the hospital bed, and the time on the electric clock on the nightstand when the monitor had ceased its rhythmic beeping.

He sees black, and not just the darkness of the room. He sees colors that aren’t there and hears his heartbeat so loud it almost drowns out the high-pitched ringing. He’s crying and struggling to breathe and oh, God why did he check the time?

Nevertheless, he doesn’t have a choice. If he wakes in the middle of the night, he scrambles to check the time in a manner so his subconscious doesn’t have the means to fight it. He has to check the time.

Or else something truly bad will happen.

He takes a panic attack over a profoundly bad thing any day.

At twenty-two years old, he sometimes feels shame for having to leave clubs or parties so early in the night. Then again, he’s not much of a drinker either. He drowns himself in schoolwork and studies hard for a career he’s not even sure he’s all that interested in.

After years of counselling, his dad’s life has started to pick up speed again. He was almost forced into it as well, but he denied it multiple times, assuring everyone he was perfectly fine.

He does a good job at hiding it.

Because in the dead of night, when he sits, wishing—praying—that by some force he could swap places with the body in the casket buried deep underground, he’s the furthest thing from perfectly fine.



Written by: Danielle Renaud

On a planet the size of a cantaloupe, suspended by four strings, there are forests made of trees and animals, mountains made of rock and snow, and oceans made mostly of seaweed and a little water, among other things.

The music of the waves enchants the entirety of the planet as it moseys by in the clockwork of its day-to-day life. On the north beach of the east sea, a talented violinist gazes over the horizon. He is entirely human, apart from his head, which is that of a large white dog with long hair and big ears and intention.

If you listen closely, you might hear the dog-man, with his gloves the colour of a snowflake still afloat, breathing with the ocean and allowing his instrument to play him with the same largo tempo that moves the water.

His song reaches the ears of a concrete giraffe, who is completely submerged in the ocean during high tide, and whose head pokes just above the waters when the tide is low. His spots are made of fluorescent algae that glow a deep Himalayan-salt orange. His emergence is the illusion of a second sunrise.

Cats with twelve legs and one eye, who live among the trees in the forest, begin to wake up and stretch their legs in the artificial light. The trees, with leaves made of playing cards, reach higher than Cantolopian skyscrapers, and can be seen easily by anything fluttering in space near the planet. The cards hum ancient tunes as the warm air dances around them.

If you listen carefully, you might hear creatures telling the tales of a dictator who cut the tails off of all the Cantolopian dolphins, so that they had no choice but to adapt and learn to hop around on land.

They might tell you of the time that it snowed for five years, and they had to create a system of under-snow tunnels just so that they could get around and continue on with their lives while the trees shivered, and the giraffe remained submerged. When all the snow melted, the resulting water was absorbed into the earth. The ground became swollen and as difficult to walk on as a water-bed. It was a time when the creatures found it easier and faster to bounce rather than to attempt walking. This method gained popularity for months, until a type of velcro shoe was created that could hold their feet in place wherever they chose to step. They could walk on the streets once more. They could walk up trees and houses. They could walk on water. If they moved fast enough, they could even sprint up the raindrops that fell from the sky to go take a nap on a cloud.

The dolphins, however, were very grateful for the elasticity of the ground. They politely refused the velcro body suits that had been designed for them, and chose instead to bounce freely among the others, who obsessed over sticking themselves to things.

The planet itself became so used to absorbing water that when the land was dry, it began to drink from the oceans. Eventually, the giraffe was left naked and exposed in the empty basin of the sea – a child in an empty swimming pool.

He remains there to this day, his legs covered in a pile of salt that reaches his knees and dusts his back like snow. He stands without tiring, sunrise after sunrise, in his empty basin near the north beach of the east sea, on a planet the size of a cantaloupe, waiting for someone to stop and listen.


Written by: Taylor Ménard

“Hey.” He shook his head, trying to find the source of the disturbance. It was quiet in the woods. The only sounds were those of the local fauna fleeing his obtrusive steps.

“Hey, kid, over here.” The voice had become more demanding, almost commanding him to act but in regards to what he did not know. “What are you, deaf? Over here.” He spun on the spot, trying to comply to the demands made of him by the unseen voice, but found nothing in his search of the immediate area.

“Are you kidding me? OVER HERE!” the voice shouted, and he spun on instinct towards the origin of the noise. He drew his attention seemingly unconsciously towards a small patch of overgrowth. Brushing it aside, a small passage appeared, just large enough for him to crawl through.

What did he have to lose? And so, he found himself on his hands and knees crawling through the underbrush until he arrived in a small glade of sorts, hidden from the outside world. It seemed to exist in a reality all its own, the canopy forming a dome around the glade only letting in glimpses of sunlight. The most astonishing thing, however, was what stood in the middle; a sword embedded in stone.

It stood in the center, glinting in the meager sunlight that was allowed through the canopy. The blade was untouched, inscribed with what might have been some sort of Celtic knot work, but he couldn’t be certain.

“Finally. Well, come on, kid, pick me up. Wield me. It’s getting lonely out here all by my lonesome.”

The voice could not be coming from the sword. It was physically impossible. Swords do not talk.

“Okay, seriously, you’re starting to piss me off. Come on, get on with it.”

He was going insane. Somewhere along the line, during his trek through this godforsaken forest, he had lost his mind. It was the only reasonable explanation.

“GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!” The sword shouted at him in what he would have described as an irritated manner. “I said PICK ME UP!”

Almost without conscious thought, his hand shot out to enclose the handle of the sword. In a moment of folly, he tightened his grip and pulled. The sword shot out of its lithic sheath and seemed to reverberate for a moment within his palm. “Finally,” the sword sighed in relief, “you would not believe how constraining that is.”

He stood stock still, staring wide-eyed at the weapon in his hand, trying to process the new reality he had seemed to have plunged head first into.

“Oh, yeah, shit, I just remembered. I gotta congratulate you. Congratulations on pulling the sword, me, from the stone, blah, blah, blah, something about one true king of Albion, or some nonsense like that. You can use me as you see fit. I, personally, favour the whole slaughter-your-enemies-and-bloody-conquest method, but I mean that’s totally up to you.” The sword suggested in a nonchalant tone. If it had shoulders he was certain it would have shrugged them.

“Um.” He finally stuttered out, uncertain of his next words.

“So, it does speak. Who knew?” The sword remarked sarcastically.

“What’s your name? I mean, do you even have one?” He tentatively asked, half not even expecting an answer. This situation was too absurd to be true.

“Of course I have a name, I am a sword of legend.” The sword responded, insulted by the mere insinuation. “Technically, it’s Welsh, so you probably wouldn’t be able to pronounce the original version, so you can just call me Caliburn. It’s fine, I don’t mind.”

“O-Okay.” He stuttered. He tested the weight of the blade in his hands, discovering that the balance suited him fine. He could wield it well enough, even with the meager knowledge he possessed of sword play. He swung the blade in a tentative arc, watching it glow where the sunlight hit its polished steel.

“Nice. You’re a natural, kid.” The blade praised after rightening once more in the hands of its new master. “Do it again.”

He swung the blade once more in a larger arc this time. The sword sheared through the underbrush, severing the leaves from their stems without so much as a whisper.

“Ha ha! I forgot what that feels like. It’s nice to be back,” the weapon cried ecstatically. “So, when are we getting out of here huh?”

He froze, he had no way to transport the blade. He didn’t anticipate meeting a talking sword when he left the house this morning, “I guess I’ll just hold you?”

“That would be preferable, yes.”

He sighed, getting down on all fours to crawl his way back through the passage he had come from. Leaves stuck to his knees and branches tangled in his hair, almost as if trying to prevent him from leaving the clearing.

He stood and dusted himself off, shaking his head as if to clear it of the fog in his thoughts. What was he going to do with a talking sword? No one used swords anymore, let alone talking ones. They were antiquated and rendered useless by the invention of gunpowder.

“HEY. I am not useless thank you, if anything you’re useless. What’s your purpose huh? At least I know mine.” The sword said challengingly.


How did it know that?

Was the sword reading his mind?

“Not quite, sorta more like just, y’know, tuning in. It’s not like a constant feed but I can pick up when you’re thinking about me. Oh, and I should probably mention, these little chats we’re having? All in your head. You’ve been talking to yourself this whole time,” the sword said.

He grimaced. “So how am I supposed to talk to you then?”

“Well I don’t know man. Whisper or some shit, just don’t get caught.”

“Thank you for being so helpful. Really appreciate it.” He intoned sarcastically.

The sword was silent. “Hello?”

“I’m ignoring you.” The sword deadpanned.

He sighed, leaning the sword against the wall in his living room before collapsing three feet away on the sofa. He ran his hand through his hair, desperately trying to grasp the truth of the situation, and come up with some reasonable explanation.

Picking himself up he headed for his bedroom, just wanting to forget everything.


The Wanderer

Written by: Cris Derfel

A man stands propped up against the trunk of a rusted car as the sun sets in the distance. The pupils in his swollen, sunken eyes shrink as the fading crimson in the sky creeps onto his face. Though the silence is broken by the shrill call of a crow somewhere down the street, he does not flinch. He is at peace with the world, having forgiven it, at least until the sun comes up again.

He is slowly turning a knife over in his hands. It is rusted, the same shade of dirty metal as the car he is leaning on, and it is almost completely blunt: he is able to press his fleshy thumb into its tip without even so much as pricking himself. As he twirls the dirty knife between his fingers, attempting to scrape the underside of his fingernails with it, the striped pattern of his tattered clothing becomes more obscured under the fading light. His chest is exposed where a sewn-on patch had once been; he had cut it off the night before.

He suddenly stands very quickly, as if he had been waiting for a precise moment, and swiftly slips the knife into his back pocket. In its place, he pulls out a miniature wooden arm. The arm appears to have once belonged to a doll: it is coated in fading paint, and was ripped off clean at the socket, the round fixture at the end of the arm patiently waiting to be put back into place. The man looks at this incomplete doll for a moment, as if trying to remember what the whole thing looked like, then places it back in his pocket, slowly, more careful than he had been with the knife.

The first snow had fallen. Anna had just returned from school, rushing past her bewildered parents to drop off her school things, and then she was sprinting back outside to play in the snow.

The man brushes away the dust from the trunk of the car, as if preparing it for the next person. He begins walking, having no care for direction. Why should he, as the state of the entire city around him is in shambles for blocks on end. The buildings are ravaged, entire floors exposed, roofs blown off, lying inward, resting awkwardly against bare framework. Signs hang from these buildings, swaying side-to-side though there is no breeze flowing gently through the street.

On one particular sign there is the image of a book, just as faded as the stripes on the man’s clothes. He can only imagine what the block had once looked like: a coffee shop there, an office here, a bank past the corner, and here, just next to where he now stands, a book shop. Perhaps it had once been a popular local place where students would meet up, sipping the coffee they had bought from the nearby shop; maybe a couple had even had their first awkward date here, struggling to find conversation amid the myriad topics that lay hidden away in the shelves, begging to be found and opened. Maybe the man had once been to this very shop with his daughter, where she had picked out a book for the two of them to read. Maybe he had read it to her, but had forgotten over time, not out of carelessness but out of the sinister reality which dictates that the best memories are often replaced by the worst ones. Maybe this very book shop had supplied him with one of his very best memories.

Maybe not.

As he walks past the possibly once-magnificent bookshop, he feels he can almost smell the books. This was impossible, of course, as the books had long been destroyed and the only scent that lingered on the street was the scent of smoke and ash. But the thought of what had once been was so overwhelmingly powerful brought to life the sweet smell of a freshly-bound book, one that is about to be opened for the first time. The man had once relished those moments, though he had forgotten that now, but the scent was powerful enough to make him stop in his tracks for a moment—just a moment—and think.

He kneeled to catch her in his arms, tensing himself and yet still having the wind knocked out of his lungs.

The man pushes any thoughts of his past out of his mind and continues down the street, having no apparent physical destination in mind but walking with the kind of purpose that defines determined men and women. He pats the outline of the doll’s arm, which is sticking out of his pocket, and probably would have brought it out again had he not heard some strange voices coming from the other side of the buildings.

His body tightens immediately at that familiar guttural language, one he does not need to understand to recognize instantly. Frozen in place, he gropes at his pockets once again and fishes the doll’s arm out, tightening his grip around it so that the colour drains from his knuckles. Fear has crept onto his face as darkness begins to cover the poisoned sun, and he knows he has only minutes until he will no longer be able to see his own hands.

He crosses the street, half hopping, half sprinting. The voices become louder, and he realizes that whoever they belong to stand between him and salvation. Moving with a sense of urgency more palpable now than before, he crosses the corner, where the bank would have once been, and finds himself staring at the backs of two soldiers.

One is standing with his arm outstretched, and the man notices he is pointing a pistol at a bound-and-gagged prisoner. A gunshot rings out and the figure collapses as the other soldier claps the armed one on the back. The man swiftly slips into the building which he had been looking for, directly adjacent to the bank. In fact, it was more of a house than a building but amid all the rubble the entire city looks the same.

Looking through the doorway, he sees that the officers are dragging the body onto the side of the road where countless others are lying.

He told Anna they were going on a trip, all of them together. She didn’t doubt him for one moment.

The man turns and begins looking frantically through the rubble. He is aware that the ceiling could collapse on him at any moment, and that the two soldiers outside are most likely on their way to investigate the noise.

He is no longer certain of what exactly he is looking for, as his only plan up until this point was to escape, survive, and get home. But home has been reduced to a pile of rubble, and the man bloodies his hands and breaks his fingernails as he desperately throws rocks aside in an attempt to unearth his old house. But he is too late, and the soldiers reach the house.

He told her to pack her favourite things, and she brought the book they had bought together at the store. When they took it away from her, he said it was for safekeeping, and they would get it back soon enough. When they were separated, he said that he had a special surprise waiting for her, and that she and Mama would have fun until then. She had given him her doll, so that he could take care of her while she was gone.

One of the soldiers shouts at the man, but he does not listen. He continues his frantic search, suddenly bitterly aware that what he has been looking for has been ripped away from him. The other soldier raises his pistol, steadies it, and fires.

The last few moments of light sputter out of the sky as the sun finally sets.