In case anyone is interested, There is an add in the Teen Ink paper for a writing contest for fiction, creative non-fiction, and plays sponsored by the Columbia College Chicago's Fiction Writing Department. Any and all high school students are welcome to enter. Entry forms and contest guidelines can be found at http://www.colum.edu/academics/Fiction_Writing/YA/YA11 or contact Chris Rice at 312-369-7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entries must be postmarked no later than January 14th, 2011.
In case anyone is interested, There is an add in the Teen Ink paper for a writing contest for fiction, creative non-fiction, and plays sponsored by the Columbia College Chicago's Fiction Writing Department. Any and all high school students are welcome to enter. Entry forms and contest guidelines can be found at http://www.colum.edu/academics/Fiction_Writing/YA/YA11 or contact Chris Rice at 312-369-7611 or email@example.com.
"Corrupted Love" by Daniel Rivera
When one does not know how to love
They must resort to other means
Be it by denying or forgetting, so it is they choose
But sometimes, the flame of a lover is too heated
To ever extinguish
And in such perplexities
One must move forward
Even when they cannot
And if one finds themselves perhaps caught
In the treachery of a spell unknowingly cast
Then the fault lies not in the lover
For their desperate acts of desertion
Or for their misguided means of escape
But for the heart who beat its song too loudly
And for sealing the listener’s fate.
When a woman falls in love
Her passion always consumes her
She can try and laugh and mock
Like a child in the face of a stranger
But her efforts will be for naught
When she feels the harsh sting of rejection.
So it was that Esther May fell in love with a man
On which her eyes had accidentally lay
The malady’s song was his heart’s heavy beat
The poor fawn never had a chance
But in her closed closet of a life unlived
Love was an unwelcome foe
Her soul cried that it had no more room
But the swindler’s tune was already cast
And the need for a partner arose
And poor Esther found herself at a loss
Thinking of the scoundrel’s river eyes.
When one tastes the leaf of a lovely nightshade
And they ponder the death to come
Does one think at all that it wasn’t the herb’s fault?
But perhaps the flower was cruelly cast in the role
Of nature’s dagger?
Who ever once thought that the poison was the choice
Of the flower?
The seductive hymn of a toxin unshed followed
The thought of sparkling glass on water, penetrating
The taste of ambrosia established itself on her tongue
Whilst the sound of completion taunted her ears
The ‘shade had found its mark.
Assimilation is a seductive manner that
Sways in the thick aroma of candles unlit
The prospect of becoming one with
Something most desired is a trickle
Of blood on a rogue’s tongue
Yet when one knows not how to
Truly blend with the aura of another
And refuses to be obstructed in her mission
Is it really the lover’s own fault?
Can the deluded enticement of a lone
Soul in an ocean of grievance
Can the tear of a dead man wanting
Nothing but to live be held accountable for
Esther May put a rose in her purse
On the brisk twenty-third of December
As she followed the river to its veiled source
To finally get her taste of the water
But as a parched man gulps, Esther knew
Not when to stop
And just as quickly as it had flowed
The river was still.
But the death of a prey never bothers
The predator, more so when its frenzied eyes
Are blinded by the power of ecstasy.
Though when the feeding is done
And the soulless is taunted by the deeds
It has done, alternatives are nil
And the ghost of the past and the wail
Of the present are given entrance to the
Lost promise of the future.
Esther May’s resplendent treasure
Was that of a wooden box engraved
The light of which was the dirge
Of a soul never given the chance to mourn
But when the moon manipulates the tide
To play her partisan games
Can the waters be damned
For the souls of those they
Just as the nightshade is trampled for her transgressions,
Just as the lover is slain for her existence,
The tides will be eradicated for their misfortunes.
Abandoned in a box in the company of oblivion,
With nothing but a withered rose,
A heart strikes the consonance of ardor unreturned
Its lyrics never to be heard again.
"Questions" by Calee King
In a world where it’s so hard to forget and so painful to remember,
I think of you.
I tried to close all thoughts of us, of you, off,
But the drawer in my mind where they were stashed overflowed and they poured out.
I tried so very hard to cram them back in but the drawer broke,
So here I am, stuck with all these memories with no place to go but my shattered heart.
It longs for you, you know;
It throbs and sinks lower in my chest when I hear your name whispered from within.
It’s so very fragile now,
I’m afraid that one more torturous reminder will cause it to finally fail.
What shall I do then?
I couldn’t possibly go on.
How would it make you feel if you knew that you were the death of me?
I would hope that it would make your heart die too, or at least crack just a bit.
That’s all I really want,
You to look past the flaws of me, the damage and the wounds, and show a softened side.
Won’t you sew up this gaping hole of mine,
The one you so kindly made?
Or have you already discarded me,
Crumpled me up and shot me into the nearest bin like paper, to be forever lost in apathy?
"Adolescent Nothing" by Daniel Rivera
iPod blasts a song
that you’re not even sure you like;
blue gradient of the volume bar
overflows, flickers a
Tiny White Pixel
as if to say, too high
Vocal chords strain against
the weight of your singing
run your fingers over the sinews
and the veins and the bulging
of a throat in distress
you sing louder but you cannot hear
your own voice
so you wonder
if a sound is dependent on its
receptors should it
There’s a book and it’s lauded
and oh, everyone loves it.
And oh all these people
who know who they are,
well, they bond
over this love.
So you reject it.
You do not
So you hate.
Use your wit and the spear
of your tongue
and all the pretty barbs you’ve
wrapped around it
because that’s all you can
do, is be a spectacle
of an opinion.
Be the anti,
stand. You still
Barbs sharpened, you tell
the world it’s a
The bond forms, closes, fuses, melts.
Memories and pictures
and bad taste and retrospection
gives birth to nostalgia and oh,
remember when… and you
talk about it in public and
you see how far you’ve grown.
There’s the outlier
who never liked the book
read Salinger to be an ~individual
feign individuality to compensate
for your distinct
it’s alright, this is
no one will call you out
to be jaded.
preen in your self-reverential
act like your lack
of a sense
is really just no one
If MTV followed you around
with a camera, your snide confessional
dialogue would be hilarious and engaging,
You greet the world – you’re an unfound
gold mine, a spade away
from glittering discovery.
but no one wants to dig.
your nose is too upturned for you to
they shouldn’t have to.
iPod blasting, you drag
the opacity to zero.
Nothing left but an empty layer
Your life is photoshop and you’ve
just Free Transformed it
out of proportion.
It’s all one struggle, singularly,
it’ll be grown out of.
There’s something else, but
you have plenty of time.
"Multiples" by Tyler Waide
We garble-saunter down the way, peering through the food shops and hot dog stands, arguing over what to eat. I want Mexican--I’m dying for a carnitas tostada--but my assemblage hates to eat meat. They want tofu burgers or peanut stir fry or some other disgusting display of vegetarianism. Just once, I wish I could have a grease-brimming steak smothered in ground sausage and a cup of gravy as beverage. That would be the day, though.
Another assemblage knocks into our shoulder, without apology, leering at us for a moment. Then they continue on, urgent-walking into the nearest office building.
“People are so rude these days,” Susan says within our head. “So bitter.”
Of course, we are just as bitter as most, especially to each other. I am bitter towards Tucker most of all. He is the part of us that always tries to take over the body, do all the talking, do all the deciding, everything. And then he complains when he doesn’t get his way. If he keeps it up I’m going to demand we go to the courts to get him removed. Then he can go plague some other assemblage.
“We’re getting bean stew,” Tucker argues to us.
“Sorry, Tucker,” Mary says. “It’s my turn to choose.”
“No, it’s not.” His voice bully-whines. “You had us eat that vomit-soup the other day.”
“That was last week, and it was good.”
Arne barges in with his hunter’s voice. “She’s right, Tucker. It’s not your turn until tomorrow.”
Arne is the oldest of us, probably forty by now. Some of the older people got to be put inside of young assemblages. This was to add wisdom to the group. Of course, each of us had a strong characteristic to add. I add the artistic sense.
Before we were merged, I was a painter. Even as a high-school student, I won dozens of awards. The teachers made me paint the school a mural over graffiti-walls before I graduated, and it was a giant crab with humans for feet. They called my style, “A chaotic display of surrealism.” And everybody thought I would be a famous artist one day.
But that didn’t last. After the merging, I could not paint anything. Not only were the hands I had to work with unsteady and backwards, but my assemblage couldn’t stop whining at me. Not a single one of them appreciate the creative arts.
“We’re going to the salad bar,” Mary tells us.
She was added to our assemblage because she is very left-brained. Math came as easy to her as painting came to me. Of course, Susan is good at math too, but she’s not a mathematical genius like Mary.
Susan was added for her purity and religious strength. She is the one who prays for us and gives us spiritual guidance. However, religion is not supposed to be a big thing these days. We say we are Catholic, but it is only for Susan’s sake. She was the only one who was religious prior to merging.
We are in Susan’s body, by the way. The courts selected hers because it was the healthiest. Both Tucker and I were smokers, so they didn’t choose either of us. Mary was too hefty and Arne was too old. Of all five of us, I’m glad we are in Susan’s body. She is like a piece of art; curve-slender features, brown absorbing eyes, platinum blonde hair streaming down the softness of our back.
We go into a salad bar and let Mary take control of the arms, scooping whatever vegetables she wants onto our plate.
“Don’t get blue cheese again,” Tucker says.
“I’m getting whatever I want.”
“You like ranch. Get ranch.”
Mary says nothing, scooping shredded carrots and radishes, macaroni salad, and pasta. As she gets to the end of the counter, she goes straight for the blue cheese. Tucker fluster-moans and resists, pulling our arm away from the bowl of creamy dressing, dribbling goo all over our breasts.
“You jerk,” Mary yells at him.
She seizes control of the arm and dumps the spoon of chunky dressing on her salad, creating an ooze-lake of white.
“Not too much,” Susan says to Mary, weight-warning as usual, wiping the cheese-slime from the shirt.
Mary takes us to a table in a dark corner, as she always does when we eat. I wonder if she was ashamed of her weight before she merged with us, always hiding in the back of restaurants so that nobody would see her make a pig of herself. Now she eats salads instead of pizza and cake, trying to keep healthy so that we don’t get as fat as she was.
Tucker cringes as we bite into the blue cheesy lettuce. “How can you like this stuff?”
The eatery is mostly empty. Three bodies are in there, crunching vegetables in the stiff atmosphere. Assemblages usually don’t associate with other assemblages, talking amongst themselves instead, leaving this world a dismal-hushing place.
I wish there would’ve been another way for humans to strive. After the drought of the twenties, our food supply had become so low that it could not support a population of our measure. It was either exterminate the majority of our citizenry or merge multiple beings into a single body. Because the courts chose the latter, most people became miserable. Some think we would have been better off sacrificing our greater half.
Tucker childishly jerks our hand while Mary is trying to eat.
“Don’t be so immature,” Mary says.
He just chuckles and does it again, causing Mary to yell outside of our head, “Stop!” And all of the other assemblages glare at us.
“Sorry,” Arne says to the people in his calm voice.
When we speak through Susan’s vocal chords, you can tell who is doing the speaking. We all speak at a different tone or variation. Arne’s is a deep version of Susan’s voice, mine is a mellow version, Tucker’s is a loud and obnoxious version, and so on. I can’t imagine how she feels when she hears other people speaking with her voice--her mouth is moving, her voice is sounding, but somebody else is doing the talking. I would’ve gone harebrained if they chose my body. Twisted.
As Mary brings the fork to our mouth, Tucker tips it and giggles, scattering food onto our lap. She screams with our voice again, “Cut it out, jerk!”
But he just does it again on the next bite, cackling.
“Now you two stop your arguing, or we’ll take you to the courts to get you removed,” Arne says again in his cool, mellow voice.
“Go ahead and take me to the courts,” she says. “I want out of this body.”
“Yeah,” Tucker says, “I want her out of here too.”
Fred begins gently, “Look. We need to see a counselor for you two. You know that the courts won’t alter assemblages anymore unless the problem is severe. And in that case, they usually terminate the conflicting personality.”
He falters, trying to get his thoughts in order. “We’re going to have to get used to living like this.”
We pause. Nobody knew it was going to be so terrible after we merged. Nobody knew there would be so much conflict. When I was a kid, I got sick of my brother because we shared a room, and we always got into fights. Well, sharing a body is a little more extreme.
“Why don’t we just be terminated?” Susan said.
We all stare at our plate, frozen, surprised to hear the words come from Susan.
She is too beautiful to destroy, too pure. She is our temple.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Arne asks.
She shrugs our shoulders. “Why not? What’s the point of living now? We’ve given up our individuality, our souls.” She shakes our head. “You people took over my body, took over my life. I just don’t care anymore. I can’t live like this.”
“Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?” Fred asks.
She shrugs, shakes our head again, but does not respond to his question. Instead she says, “I can’t remember the last time I was happy.”
“We weren’t meant to be happy,” I say.
They are startled to hear my voice in the back of our head. I usually don’t speak at all, silent, listening to their discussions in our mind. I wonder if they forgot I was here, just now remembering, shocked.
I continue, explaining a theory that has been gushing in my thoughts for the past month, “We sacrificed happiness for the sake of our children’s future. The courts knew we would be miserable too, but didn’t have a choice. The human race would’ve been wiped out otherwise.”
“That’s not what they said,” Mary interrupts.
“I know, they lied. They said that it would end loneliness, end anti-social behavior, but they knew it wouldn’t. The only purpose left for us is to make a child, raise it, then wait to die.”
I pause, giving us a bite of salad. And say, “That was the plan they had to decrease our population without literally killing anyone. After we’re gone, things will be back to normal. Mankind will live on because we gave up our happiness.”
They agree with my theory by not speaking, glaring away from the table. The courts said that we would be more happy together, but it was just another illusion over our eyes. I get us up, leave ten dollars for the food, and we go out to the street. It is flurry-cold out here, shivering Susan’s frail skin, and our voice stutters a sigh. Everything is stale, empty as usual, so lifeless. The courts thought they had solved the overpopulation problem, but in doing so they’ve overpopulated our minds.
We decide to take a cab, the only car in the street. We don’t speak a word to the assemblage driving, stuttering to ourselves, dazing. And then we go back to our quiet apartment, sitting numb in the dimness, alone with each other.
"The Escort" by Holland Hayford
The moon illuminated her feelings, scattering them throughout the sky. Standing on the edge of the world- that’s what being in love felt like. She didn’t even care about the consequences. Could her case be considered forbidden? The boy seemed average enough…but no, he was so far above any expectations she’d previously held. This pressure on her heart was so perfect, so effortless, that it had to be forbidden.
The wind covered her from behind, an invisible wall shielding her from her enemies. Feet pounding on the asphalt, she ran as if her life depended on it. At this moment, with the full moon’s warm, smiling face keeping a protective spotlight over her small frame, her life wasn’t forfeit just yet. However, if she didn’t make the cemetery in time…
There would be consequences.
He’s worth it, the girl thought, tears streaming down her face. This physical manifestation of her emotions frightened her; she had never cried before. The fact that the tears were the doing of another person seemed to strengthen their hold on her, making her balk in the street. Gasping for breath and for control, she hunched over in the shadow of a streetlight. How? She thought absently. How did this happen to me? Why was he even there today…?
This had all been an accident, honestly.
That morning opened on her sixteenth birthday. Having read countless stories about the magic of being sixteen, Caroline was so overwhelmingly happy that she tripped several times while running down the stairs- not that she had been so graceful to begin with. Around her a fantastical aura circulated, a golden haze of pure possibility. This day had to be spent outside in order for the full potential of the magic to take effect. At least, that’s what Caroline had theorized.
Her mother sat downstairs, sewing. Whenever Mrs. Lepson felt stressed, which was quite often, she sewed. Somehow the monotonous pattern of a needle diving in and out of fabric comforted her. When her daughter hurtled into the living room, she barely glanced up. “What’s your rush?”
“It’s my birthday!” Caroline skipped to where the woman sat on the couch. “Aren’t you excited?” However, she didn’t wait for an answer. Instead she continued on to the front door in a hurry.
The summer sky stunned her into stillness only a moment, as it always had since she was little. To Caroline, the bleached, pallid white of the heavens was beautiful. Today was no different, even if her pause was shorter.
Seraphim was a small town, housing around fifteen hundred people. Everyone knew everyone else, something that could be nice or annoying depending on what there was to know about you. Personally, Caroline found the aspect of no secrets pleasant.
Wandering the streets, she ran through stores and houses in her mind, trying to decide where would be a good place to begin her search for something amazing. She became so absorbed in her meditation that she didn’t notice the group of girls approaching her, already preying on her.
“Caroline, what are you doing out here without supervision?” One asked while the others stood in a line across the sidewalk, blocking her path. Each girl wore an identical sneer; Caroline imagined them all practicing the expression in a mirror and smiled.
“Hey, guys, if you don’t mind I’m a little busy at the minute. Can this wait?” She waved at them before ducking into the nearby clothing shop. Hiding behind a rack overflowing with dress shirts, she listened for a pursuit or retreat. After a few seconds, the definite sound of footsteps coming into the store reached her straining ears.
“That stupid girl,” the leader of the pack quipped. “She lives in an eternal fairy tale.” The others chimed in with their unanimous agreement. They’re like one body with one mind, Caroline thought drily. Anyway, I’d better get out of here. She used the clothing racks to her advantage, flitting from rack to rack until she’d arrived at the back door. As quietly as possible, she crept outside before breaking into a sprint, heading in no particular direction.
Suddenly she found herself in a place she didn’t know.
An interesting fact about Caroline was that she had never ventured outside Seraphim- nor had any other town members, for that matter. Once you moved in, you never felt the inclination to leave, and anyone who visited Seraphim simply fell in love with it and would stay as a result.
Caroline had had the entire layout of the town memorized since childhood. She even knew all the names on the crumbling tombstones in the ancient cemetery. However, the road on which she now stood did not spark any recognition with her. Have I come into some other town? She wondered, alarmed. Am I lost?
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Her blood froze as the unfamiliar voice was carried by the stiff breeze in her direction. The air felt so thick, like it was carrying a heavy load. Also, the tall grass under her feet was uncomfortably soft. Her feet threatened to sink into the emerald depths. Drowning in grass? What an odd concept.
“Um, I’m terribly sorry. I think I’m lost.” Caroline laughed nervously, turning back to where she expected her own town to reside. However, that place had dissolved to a mere pinpoint in the distance. She literally had to squint just to make out the speck representing the place in which she’d grown up.
No one responded; when she searched the wide grass sea for another human, she found herself alone. “Hello?” Her voice came out thin and restrained. Had the person addressing her run away? Had they run away from her? What if this town housed a savage people gathering a hunting party for her at this very minute?
Something soft brushed against her leg, making her jump. In panic, her eyes raced down to the attacker- a slender tabby cat. The cat blinked up at her, clearly amused by her reaction. Its eyes were a rich, vibrant peridot. The way in which it stared at her made her blush in embarrassment.
Caroline bent to let her hand trail over the animal’s spine, admiring the alternating colors of caramel and chocolate brown. This cat seemed much more intelligent than other animals she’d seen. (Of course, having always been fond of animals, Caroline didn’t necessarily consider any creature to be unintelligent.)
“You’re kind of cute,” she admitted, smiling, and the cat meowed back at her smugly. “Can you tell me where to go?”
With a swish of its tail, it disappeared into the grass. Caroline stood there in surprise for a minute before sighing in exasperation. “I don’t think I can go that way.” She couldn’t quite figure out how the cat had disappeared into the vegetation like that, and it would doubtless take her forever to understand the technique.
Suddenly a massive, jet black raven soared over her head, causing her hair to waft out from her face toward its flight path. It circled overhead in the pale sky, as if waiting for her pursuit. Does it want me to follow it, really? She stared blankly at the bird, shocked. These animals had seemingly come from nowhere, and now they were trying to lead her somewhere. This situation seemed so impossible; however, she simply had no choice. Caroline began walking-wading- through the grass, eyes fixed on the heavens as she watched for the raven’s next move. She soon found herself running to keep up with the unearthly speed of its wings.
By the time a spire the width of a hair came into view, her feet ached from the grass trying to suck them underground and her neck ached from continuously craning upward. At first she didn’t even notice the buildings as they slowly rose from the skyline, but then she saw them. She stopped running abruptly to make sure her eyes weren’t deceiving her. A city was something she’d never been in. It was beautiful.
Forgetting the raven altogether, the lost girl hurtled over the distance between her and Heaven.
In a way, the city reminded Caroline of the human body, a living person. Light created the life of this little world, just as the soul the body. Sound added to the city’s vivacious atmosphere, just as the five senses added to the delicious aspect of living. Caroline wandered the streets in a dream, one filled with the glamorous doings of an authentic city girl.
“What are you doing here?”
She gasped, whirling around in her desperate search for that unmistakable voice. The only other person on the street who was looking at her was a boy, a teenager like herself. His eyes were the same peridot green as the cat’s, and his hair was the same jet black as the raven’s feathers. His smile was the smug cat’s, and his speed as he walked toward her was the streamlined raven’s.
“He couldn’t be…” Caroline trailed off in awe, her thought speculated out loud.
“You said you were lost, right?” The boy stopped about a foot away from her, studying her cursorily before adding, “You came from Seraphim, too. Am I doing well so far?”
“Y-yes,” she stuttered. All at once she felt miniscule and pathetic, a vulnerable dot in a magnificent painting. I don’t belong here. “Can you take me home now?” She asked, struggling to be polite in her tone and leave out all traces of fear. This was an amazing adventure, yet home now seemed more inviting than ever.
The boy nodded at her and turned away, walking in an easterly direction. After a moment of instinctual hesitation, Caroline hurried after him. They traveled down the main street, which surprisingly had no vehicles of any sort inhabiting it. Evidently this road had been designed solely for foot travel.
He halted at the closed door of an apartment. “Hungry?” With a key produced from the back pocket of his jeans he unlocked the door. In answer to his question, Caroline’s stomach lurched for the apartment’s interior, grumbling loudly. She walked inside the front room without thinking. On her part, it was a stupid decision, one that she wasn’t yet aware of.
“What’s your name?” She asked politely, sitting on the couch without invitation. Once again, this was a careless action. Her weary legs made the choice for her.
“Mavet,” he told her. He walked past her into another room, the kitchen. “You?”
“Caroline.” As her eyes adjusted to the new locale, she took in the interesting décor. It was nothing like any dwelling in Seraphim. Everything had a sharp angle, a sharp color. Perhaps, she thought uneasily, the austere room furnishings related to the city in general.
“I took these out of the oven about an hour ago,” Mavet explained, reentering the living room. He placed a plate on the coffee table in front of her and then sank down into the chair opposite her, watching her expectantly. Slowly Caroline let her eyes drift down to the food she’d been offered. Cookies! Her mind squealed in excitement. However, the more prudent part of her asked, “What’s in these?”
“They’re good for you, don’t worry.” He reached over to take one for himself, as if to show her that the food was safe. After watching him bite into the cookie, Caroline reached for one herself. While she chewed, she recognized the texture of nuts and the sweetness of chocolate chips. “So what’s in these?” She asked again, a little doubtful of the healthy qualities of what she was eating.
“Never mind, just eat.” He waved at her dismissively, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. Caroline stared at him suspiciously for a few seconds but was ignored. She finally gave up and continued eating.
When the plate had been cleared, Caroline stood to her feet. “I should be getting back,” she admitted grudgingly. To be honest, the only thing calling her back home was the thought of her worried mother waiting up for her. She had to leave this wondrous place in return for her boring, nondescript, perfect town.
“Really? Well, I think that’s a good idea.” Mavet pushed himself to his feet. “Let me walk you back. You can’t get there on your own.” His words carried an odd meaning that Caroline didn’t quite understand. But when she looked back at him for answers, his face conveyed nothing. It was almost as if his eyes had closed the doors on themselves in the way they appeared strangely vacant.
I must have imagined that, she thought to herself uneasily.
They left the apartment and began the walk down the street, which was now shrouded in darkness. “So what is Seraphim like?” Mavet asked her, a question that surprised her.
“Haven’t you ever been there?”
He laughed, whether at her or at something else, she wasn’t sure. “Thankfully, no. I wouldn’t come back if I did go.” His eyes sobered suddenly as he focused on the road in front of them. “By the way, how did you get out of Seraphim?”
“Eh? Well, I don’t know.” Caroline struggled to replay her previous actions. “I just kept running away, and then all of a sudden I found myself in a field.” She felt a little uncomfortable by the underlying tone to his questions, yet she tried her best not to show her discomfort. “You know, my mother could probably just visit me here if I decided to stay,” she mused aloud. “Maybe I don’t have to go back.” Her feet, sensing her desire to stay, halted her in the street. In front of her Mavet stopped and turned back.
“Your mother misses you terribly, Caroline. It wouldn’t be fair to her if you stayed without telling her first. You need to go back.” The last sentence he spoke with a note of authority, making her instinctually take a step toward Seraphim.
She forced herself to stop walking. “I don’t want to go back.” Her sudden change in mindset surprised even her. “I’m staying. Do you have any idea how much I hate Seraphim? No, of course you don’t, because you’ve never been there!”
To be honest, she hadn’t been aware of the malice she harbored toward her town until those words were out of her mouth.
Mavet sighed, shaking his head. “I have to admire you for persistence and independence. However, your selfishness is a little over the top. Look, if you go back and tell your mother that you’ll be staying here with me, would that be all right? I could get you an apartment, since I have some connections, but you’d be on your own with rent.” He eyed her expectantly, waiting for her answer.
Caroline felt the excitement welling up inside her. He would do that for her? She could stay here?
In that moment, she fell in love with him.
It was unexpected, but suddenly his existence meant more to her than before. She saw him in a different light, a flawless light. When he looked at her a moment longer than necessary and then glanced back at the road, her face flushed and she felt embarrassed for some reason. These feelings were undeniably the products of love.
“Thank you,” she said, her happiness driving her voice up an octave, which made him smile at her in amusement.
“Let’s go, then, all right?”
She nodded in agreement and they resumed their journey back, but then Mavet stopped again. By the narrowing of his eyes and grim set of his mouth, Caroline knew that something was wrong. She watched him whirl back to where they’d come from and then followed his movement. A tall man stood in front of them, wearing a black suit. His eyes didn’t reflect any light at all but instead focused on Caroline, making her skin crawl.
“Ganav,” Mavet acknowledged simply. “This one is mine.”
Caroline froze at his words. Something about them made her want to run away, but she didn’t. She had already fallen too hopelessly in love with him. She could only watch the confrontation and try to make sense of what was being said.
“I let you have the last one,” the man- Ganav- quipped, sauntering in their direction with long, lazy strides. “The girl said she doesn’t want to go back, after all. She sounds like one of mine, not yours.” By this time he was only a few yards away from them. Mavet didn’t move back, but his eyes darted to Caroline and then away. She caught an unexpected hint of uncertainty in his demeanor.
Deciding that this was as good a time as any to say something, Caroline tugged tentatively on his sleeve. “I’m staying with you,” she told him, promised him. “And that man scares me,” she added in a whisper. Mavet looked down at her, obviously deliberating. “Can I really trust you?” He asked, slowly taking in her expression.
She nodded. “Yes.”
Ganav suddenly stood before them. “I wouldn’t, little one. This boy isn’t your friend- or anyone else’s, for that matter. He doesn’t care about you, only about his quota. Isn’t that right, Reaper?”
“Shut up.” Mavet’s eyes sparked with the beginnings of anger. “At least I’m not a lowly thief. You really can’t do anything without stealing what you want, can you? The girl said she doesn’t want to go with you, but you’re going to go for her, anyway.”
Ganav smiled widely. “That’s true, all true. However, wasting all that energy…doesn’t it exhaust you to escort people like her back home all the time? At least in my case, I gain strength from them.” He extended a hand out to Caroline. “How about it? Are you coming willingly or not?”
“Run,” Mavet told her. “If you value your life at all, run.”
Her eyes widened in confusion. What was happening, exactly? But, in any case, she couldn’t bear to leave him now that she’d found him. “I-I can’t go without you,” she said pleadingly, imploring him with her eyes to understand.
What happened next caught Caroline completely off guard. Without warning, his fingers found her chin and tilted her face up to his. He was kissing her. It lasted only a second, but when he released her, she could barely breathe. “Go,” he commanded, pushing her in the direction of Seraphim. “I’ll meet you in the cemetery at the edge of town.”
This time, she listened to him.
And now she was running, running to that beacon of safety at Heaven’s end, the cemetery. Her ears rang with panic and the spastic racing of her pulse. Then, just as her legs began to falter, she caught sight of a steeple- a church. Churches had cemeteries, right? This must be it. She quickened her pace, trying her best to ignore the horrible aching in her legs and ribs.
The churchyard stretched out behind the building, the dull grass littered with rock masses almost indiscernible in the blackness. She could only guess that this was the right place. Sinking onto her knees beside one tombstone, she let the air return to her suffocating lungs.
Her head jerked up immediately. Mavet stood in front of her, looking down at her. How had he gotten here so quickly?
“I made it,” she gasped, unable to stand because she was so exhausted. “I made it here. Mavet,” she said suddenly, as an odd thought occurred to her, “why did Ganav call you a reaper and you call him a thief? What does that mean?”
Mavet continued standing, leaving her alone on the ground. “Ganav takes the energy out of people, whereas I escort them to where they need to go.” He wasn’t looking at her but at the field behind them, the one that linked this town to Seraphim. Caroline forced herself to her feet, although her whole body protested.
“That still doesn’t explain why he called you a reaper,” she said. “Where do you really take all those people?” Caroline swallowed, falling back a step. “Are you really taking me home?” All this time it had never occurred to her that maybe he had been leading her in the wrong direction, lying to her. Now her breath faltered as she recognized the possibility.
“I take everyone to Seraphim,” he told her. “That’s my job. Whenever someone leaves, I have to take them back through the church.”
“You act like we have to stay there, like it’s a prison or something.”
“It’s where all of us go eventually.” He faced her abruptly. “Don’t you understand, Caroline? Once you enter Seraphim, you aren’t supposed to leave. It becomes a permanent residence. Yes, you age and continue on with your old life from wherever you previously lived, but you’re no longer…” His voice trailed off.
“No longer what?” Caroline whispered.
When he answered, his voice was quiet, resigned.
Her heart stopped. What did he just say? Was he implying that she was dead?
“But you just said that we still age and stuff!” She shouted at him, tears hesitating at the edge of her eyes. Perhaps it was fear that caused her to cry, but it was more likely the first wave of inexhaustible sorrow.
Mavet reached for her hand, and she tried to pull away. However, his grip was stronger than her resistance. “In Seraphim you don’t die but have your body recycled over and over again. You go through life repeatedly there, after you’ve lost your first and only life here.” He paused, and then continued, “You’re no longer human, but a spirit or ghost. I’m sorry, but you have to return to your home. You can’t live here.”
He never had any intention of helping her get an apartment here. He never had any intention of letting her return to this wonderful place.
However, even though Caroline didn’t want to believe it, she knew that it was true. Her mind denied the facts, but her heart knew better. She wasn’t alive. She didn’t belong here. The only place where she was welcome was Seraphim- perfect, nondescript Seraphim.
There was just one question she had left for Mavet, the Reaper.
“Did you ever really care about me at all?” She asked softly, at the same time trailing him to the door of the church. Once I open this door, I’ll be home.
He opened the door for her. “Goodbye, Caroline.” Before she could react to the odd, distorted picture of the interior of the church, he’d pushed her into darkness. When she awoke, she was back in her bedroom, the sounds of mindless perfection humming from outside.
Mavet stood outside the church, alone. “If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t have made you go back,” he said to the night.
"I Do" by Veronica L. Grady
Eliza heard the dreaded song begin to play. Yes, yes, here I come, all dressed in white, she thought as “Here Comes the Bride” began to play from inside the chapel. The decoratively carved mahogany double doors swung open to reveal her in a stunning dress. The dress, an ornate ball gown, was made from silk taffeta. It had a swept-up look about it with its sweetheart neckline and natural waist, a bow resting on her hip. It was made with a white so clean and sharp; the only description that could do it justice was that it was the color of winter’s first snow. What a shame, she thought, that a dress so beautiful is being worn to a wedding so unholy.
Josh saw his bride first. As she began her slow march to the alter to give herself away, his jaw dropped in awe. She was more beautiful today than he had ever seen her. Not because of the makeup turning her eyes into smoky, smoldering, embers or her hair that mimicked both the gentle waves of the ocean and the flight of a majestic eagle. No, she wore makeup all the time, not like this but still makeup. It was the way that she walked to him, alone, signifying that this was her choice to freely make and she chose him. A way that was so pure and honest that it brought a tear to his eye. Half way down her walk, John noticed something. Her smile was fake. It did not reach her eyes. Something was very wrong.
As John continued to try and puzzle out what could be troubling his bride, Eliza continued her walk. She got three quarters of the way to the alter when something impossible happened. She tripped. Eliza never tripped. She stood stalk still for a moment, just as confused as John was about what had happened. Eliza had never tripped in her life. Not even as a toddler just learning the art of weight placement from one foot to the other. How did that just happen? Is that what tripping is? Eliza thought to herself. Tripping, stumbling, taking a wrong step. All kinds of words came flooding to the front of Eliza’s mind as she tried to put two and two together. It must be nerves, she thought. After all, what was about to happen would make anyone nervous.
Eliza reached the alter and gave John a smile like the one she wore down the aisle; fake. The priest began the service.
“We are gathered here today to witness the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. Eliza and John would like to recite vows that they have written. John, why don’t you start things off?”
“Ok.” Answered John” “Eliza, when we met, I never thought you would be the one. You were tomboyish, rough, and tougher than anyone I knew. But as time went on, I learned to love you.”
As John continued, Eliza started to cry, another first. Not because of what John said, but where it was coming from. In those moments, John forgot everyone else in the world but her and spoke from somewhere so far into his heart that the room was transfixed and held in time. Not even the toddlers and babies fidgeted or moaned. As he went on, Eliza started to cry harder and harder. Why was I sent on this mission? Why am I the one that must fall in and out of love at a moment’s notice and then be able to pick up and start again just to be thrown back into the cycle? And why, why did he have to be different? Why did he have to fall in love? Why did I have to fall in love?
By the time John had finished, Eliza had pulled herself back together and refocused on what had to be done.
“Eliza, your turn.” the priest said.
“Ok, let’s see if I can top that.” Eliza said sending the room into a little wave of soft laughter. “John, when we first met, just a few months ago, I have to say I thought you were the most feminine wimp I had ever met.” Again, laughter. “But as I got to know you, I realized that sometimes feminine doesn’t mean weak or soft. Sometimes it just means sensitive and loving. And before we move on to the rest of our lives, I need to tell you that I’m sorry for everything that I have done and will do to hurt you, and I need you to know that I never mean to hurt, and that I never want to hurt you.”Elizabeth concluded. The room was silent. But not the silent like the one induced by John’s speech. This was a silence of confusion.
“Ok, that’s it.” she said.
“Uh, thank you for those, um, lovely words, John and, uh Eliza.” the priest said, also confused.
The priest quickly resumed the ceremony so as not to prolong the awkward silence. After reading from a bible he had been given from Eliza that was her first from when she was seven, he announced that it was now time for the exchanging of the rings.
“The couple has decided to exchange rings as the bride’s parents did.” the priest announced.
John and Eliza both held out their left hand and said five simple words to each other as the rings were slid onto their respective fingers.
“I will always love you.” they said in unison.
There was a strong and happy smile on John’s face but a weak and nervous one on Eliza’s accompanied by droplets of sweat and tears. They both stood waiting for the priest to continue with the service.
“Now, before they say I do, is there anyone here today that can see a reason that this man and this woman should not be made husband and wife, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
“I do.” shouted Eliza.
“It’s not time for that yet dear.” the priest said with a chuckle.
“No, I mean I object.” she said while pulling a shiny black gun from under her garter.
John stared open mouthed, the priest turned ghostly pale, the assembled guests collectively gasped. After all, the bride is the last person you would expect to object at her own wedding.
“What’s going on?” exclaimed John.
“Like I said in the vows, I’m truly sorry for what’s going to happen.” Eliza uttered and she trained the gun on John.
A shot rang out and John dropped. Screams ripped through the air as people realized what had just occurred. Before questions could be asked and identities blown, Eliza ran out of the chapel crying, turning her ember eyes into black and brown streaks running down her face. As she burst through the doors out of the church, Eliza ran into The Boss.
“Good job, assassin number 1007634.” he said in a hushed tone.
“My name is Eliza Johansen. I like this name. It’s the one my mother gave me.” she said sharply.
“Not for long. You can’t have the name back again. You will be assigned a new one once we get back to Head Quarters. It is imperative you remain anonymous.” The Boss said plainly.
“I had it when I was born, then you changed it like 500 times and then you gave it back. I’m keeping it this time.” she said defiantly.
“That is out of the question assassin number 1007634.” he said firmly.
“What a shame.” Eliza said in a completely different mood.
“I’m glad you are willing to move on.” he said coolly.
“No, not for me losing my name again, but for you losing me. I’m sick of this job. I’m sick of pretending to fall in love. And most of all, I’m sick of what this job just made me do. I fell in love this time and I just killed him. That is the shame, not meaning to discredit my name of course.” Eliza’s voice shook as she said this and the tears welled up in her eyes, tears that would never get the chance to fall.
“You can’t quit. You know that.” said The Boss, a note of threat in his voice.
“Oh, I know.” Eliza said, challenging his threat.
In that instant, Eliza pulled up the gun that was still clutched in her hand and pointed it not at The Boss, but at her own heart. The last thought that went through Eliza Johansen’s head was: What a shame that a dress so beautiful is going to get so much blood on it.
We received 56 poetry entries and 25 short story entries overall from numerous schools across Pasco in our First Annual Teen Writing Contest. Thank you to all of our participants, both entrants and judges, for your exceptional efforts. Our fabulous judges had to make some tough choices in a short amount of time.
Our winners and Honorable Mentions are listed below. You can click on any name or title to view the full work (coming soon!).
1st place: Daniel Rivera - "Adolescent Nothing"
2nd place: Calee King - "Questions"
3rd place: Daniel Rivera - "Corrupted Love"
Because of the high quality of entries and several ties between selections we had four Honorable Mentions:
(in alphabetical order)
Roberta Dillon - "Dear Vincent"
Aditya Shah - "Entranced: An Allegory"
Tien Tran - "The Net of No Return"
Sarah Wasson - "Watching Over Me"
1st Place: Tyler Waide - "Multiples"
2nd Place: Veronica L. Grady - "Do"
3rd Place: Holland Hayford - "Escort"
Three Honorable Mentions:
(in no alphabetical order)
Callie Boyet - "Golden"
Samantha Rapacioli - "Raindrops"
Nicole Stubbs - "Untitled"
Congratulations to Veronica L.Grady on her award for second place in the prose category.
And finally, I like a challenge, a slight challenge. If I have to replay the same section more than 10 times then I'm not playing it. Call me a wuss or a whiny gamer but I'm not one for going it on "Super crazy hard insane mode" on any game, I tend to start on normal and if all else fails I am NOT too proud to kick it on over to easy. Yes, I did indeed play DMC3 on Easy, but I redeemed myself by playing Bayonetta on Normal and starting it on Hard.
To add to that I will admit that I really didn't care much for the Castlevania games that preceeded SOTN except for maybe Castlevania64....Reinhardt was cool. I like the whole pretty boy exploring the spooky castle thing. Not so thrilled with the sides-scrolling death wish of the older games.
If after that, you still feel my very biased opinion might have merit...then read on...
As I said, I bought it the day it was released and actually sat there watching the little download bar...pathetic, I know...but the thought of playing a Castlevania game made me giddy. I fired it up and was given a choice: who will I be? well, what are my choices?
Shanoa- Ahh...Shanoa, what can I say about her? While I totally dug her outfit and the fact that she was a "she", she also has the misfortune to be in the game I liked the least. I know a lot of people thought the Glyph system was fresh and new but...to me it was like a hokey version of Soma's soul system...only less interesting. While the first time through I switched glyphs constantly because everything seemed to suck, by my third playthrough, I was basically using one set for everything. Then there is the biggest change...how they "mixed it up" with an overworld map. I didn't care for the world map. Basically it just took longer to get where you were going. Most of the paths were completely linear and palette swaps of earlier areas, you had to go into each area twice and the castle was pretty weak. Then there is Shanoa herself. A non-likeable character given amnesia about 5 minutes into the game. Oh yeah, that really made her not be completely bland. Her Glyph-Absorbtion however was steeped in sex-appeal...so beautiful and bland...sounds about right I guess... I preferred that manic poor-man's Balthier Albus to Shanoa, at least he had personality.
So those are my choices? hmm...How about Maria? Juste? Julius? Richter? No? Yeah, they'll be DLC so they can milk the name.
With the decided lack of fashion flair and white hair named Juste, I went with that other white haired pretty boy Soma (I really love that coat of his). Right off the bat I notice...There's a time limit! Well that sucks. When I open the menu the clock continues to run! That sucks even more. The controls are...how can I put this in G or at least PG rated terms? I zig when I try to zag and my character must be a heavy worlder (obscure Andromeda reference there) because jumping seems to be a major strain. Double jumping gets me slightly higher than standing on a step stool. This is not looking good.
Moving on I notice that I'm doing a lot of back-and-forth -ing. Not only is the game divided into timed levels but you have to backtrack incessantly. Bad controls, backtracking, can it get worse? Oh yes it can! You can only change your equipment, items and weapons at certain spots, and of course the clock continues to tick while you do so.
I couldn't decide so I asked my daughter to pick. Not being a Castlevania fan she went with who was prettier, Shanoa. She wasn't pretty for long, I'll tell you that...She jumped better than the guys, her attacks were stronger than the guys, unfortunately she seems to be made of tissues and crackers. A breeze could knock out half her life. Of course, since I dislike the character I didn't spend too much time reviving her. I moved on to my final choice, Charlotte.
Did I make it to the end of the first level at least? Truthfully, no, not even close, but I came close to actually enjoying the game while playing as Charlotte! Jonathan! (I can't help it, they just belong together).
Overall, I was disappointed. I was hoping for a new adventure, for a fun little jaunt with the characters I love. Instead it was a poor rehash of the worst elements of the last few titles. Its disjointed, uneven, limiting and frustrating. Perhaps it IS better in multiplayer, I don't know, but that still isn't an excuse for sloppy single player. This game feels..rushed and incomplete and obviously quality control was on vacation. For 400 points, I'd consider it a learning experience...for 800 points I'd consider it a waste....for 1200 points? its highway robbery, especially considering the DLC. What DLC? Do I know something you don't? No, but really, can there be any doubt that it will inevitably have DLC and that you will have to pay for it? I think I'll take my trusty DS out and play Dawn of Sorrow again, or keep the Xbox on and just switch on over to SOTN. Save your pennies and your points.
If you are 18 or over, you can win a free trip to Comic-Con 2010 courtesy of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. All you have to do is make a FMA fan video of 90 seconds or less, submit it to YouTube, and impress the judges. All the contest info and the entry form are at the link below:
Fan of the CSI shows? We got something you might like...the Land O'Lakes library is having a crime scene investigation demonstration on Tuesday, May 18th @ 6:00 PM.
Wanna learn how to draw manga & comics? We got some classes coming up at the New River Library that are gonna be for you. Stop by on the following Thursdays @ 6:30 PM:
March 18th, 2010
April 15th, 2010
May 20th, 2010
Check out the track listing below:
Vinyl Fantasy 7
by Team Teamwork
1. Kool Keith + Tom Waits - Spacious Thoughts (The Prelude) 04:07
2. Jay-Z - Lucifer (Mako Reactor) 03:17
3. M.O.P. - Ante Up (Battle!) 03:42
4. MF DOOM - Air (Barrett's Theme) 02:35
5. Outkast + Raekwon - Royal Flush (Sailing from Junon) 03:34
6. Skyzoo + Wale - Lyrically Inclined (Jenova) 03:18
7. Gucci Mane - Stoopid (Costa Del Sol) 04:10
8. Clipse - Fast Life (Sephiroth's Reunion) 03:52
9. Dorrough - Ice Cream Paintjob (Gold Saucer) 04:07
10. Murs - Me and this Jawn (Mideel) 03:02
11. Slum Village - Get Dis Money (One-Winged Angel) 03:11
12. Ghostface Killah - Save Me Dear (City of the Ancients) 02:34
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