The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War took place between November 1, 1955 and April 30, 1975. This war cost 2 million Vietnamese civilian lives, 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, 250,000-250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, 58,220 American fighters, and 173 billion dollars. The Vietnam War started out being a proxy war for America, but quickly escalated to a full-scale American involvement for fear of communism. This war was one of the only wars that America did not win. A memorial is necessary to commemorate the millions of lives lost for a cause that was not understood by most, for a seemingly endless war that was spurred by the personal pursuits of the American government in the Cold War. The American people need to learn about the history of this war to recognize that the American government can act selfishly in order to put themselves in an advantageous position.

Vietnam had been occupied since 1883 by the French. The French colonized Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and later renamed the region Indochina. However, there had long been opposition to French rule. Vietnamese people did not like being controlled by a foreign power. In 1930, a man called Ho Chi Minh created a communist party in order to rebel against their oppressors. This party was called the Viet Minh. Ho Chi Minh was not driven by communism, however, he was driven by the desire for independence. In World War II, Japan occupied Vietnam in 1945 and declared Vietnam an independent state from Indochina under Japanese rule. Ho Chi Minh then established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, modeled after the American government, and declared himself the president. However, when World War II ended, so did the independence of Vietnam. Indochina was surrendered to the French. In 1946, France declared Vietnam an independent nation, but it was still under French control. This spurred the first of the Indochina Wars, which started with an attack on French forces in Hanoi.

In early 1950, the communist countries China, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia official recognized the state of Vietnam. Later that same year, democratic countries America and Great Britain also officially recognized the state of Vietnam. In 1954, the Geneva Accords were made. The Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into two sections: North VIetnam, led by communists under Ho Chi Minh, and the South of Vietnam, led by U.S. supported government under Ngo Dinh Diem. By this time, more than a million Vietnamese civilians had fled North Vietnam for South Vietnam.

The involvement of America in the Vietnam War was caused greatly by the U.S.’s fear of communism. In a communist society, one party claims to represent everyone, there are no elections, and as a result, the same leaders are always in power. All citizens receive what they need from the government, including healthcare, education, and housing. The state owns all means of production. Communism aims for a state of total equality. Their leaders do not support individualism, and no one is richer than his or her neighbor. There is not free market or enterprise. Everything people earn is given to the state, and the state then redistributes money or supplies based on people’s needs. According to Karl Marx, communism is, “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” Communist countries believe that capitalism debases human needs, while capitalist countries believe that communist states make human beings slaves to the government.

A factor that contributed to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was the Cold War. The Cold War started after World War II and ended in 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. After World War II, the Americans and the Soviet Union each had separate political ideology and separate spheres of influence. America’s sphere of influence was in the Western part of the world, and the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence was in the Eastern part of the world. Both of these two powers wanted to stop each other from extending their spheres of influence. The Soviet Union feared the Americans would extend capitalism, and the Americans were afraid that the Soviet Union would extend communism.

Another factor that played a huge part in the American involvement in the Vietnam War was the Domino Effect Theory. The Domino Effect Theory stated that if one country in Southeast Asia became communist, the other countries would soon follow suit, and the Soviet Union would be able to extend communism even to Europe.

In Vietnam, however, the American troops were finding it very difficult to win the war. The Vietnamese fought every army they encountered using guerilla warfare. The Viet Minh used guerilla warfare against the French in the South. At first, instead of direct involvement in Vietnam, the Americans supported the French financially in the South of Vietnam. The Soviet Union gave Ho Chi Minh and the communist nationalists in the north of Vietnam financial aid. The Soviet Union and the Americans used the French and Vietnamese in order to wage a proxy war- a war instigated by a major power that itself does not become involved. Eventually, French forces left Vietnam, but not before leaving Ngo Dinh Diem in charge, who promised to establish a democratic republic. However, Ngo Dinh Diem refused to have elections, which was against what was stated in the Geneva Accord, making himself dictator. The Americans found they were giving money to a dictator in South Vietnam.

The Americans misunderstood the North Vietnamese call for freedom and independence. The U.S. simply considered them communists, and ignored their actual intent. For the Vietnamese, this war was on the brink of civil war. For the Americans, Vietnam was a pawn in the Cold War, a war to prevent the Soviet Union from expanding communism.

A key battle in America’s proxy war using the French was the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. This battle was fought in 1953 by French soldiers on a mountain outpost near the border of Laos. The decisive Viet Cong victory brought an end to the Indochina Wars. The French Army found they were losing a lot of ground, so they retreated to their outpost, called Dien Bien Phu. The Viet Minh cut off all paths and supplied their forces using the Ho Chi Minh path, a network of trails through the jungle that connected all Viet Cong bases. The outpost of Dien Bien Phu could only be supplied by air for the French, but they were still confident of their position. General Vo Nguyen Giap surrounded the French base with 40,000 men and used heavy artillery, completely taking the French Army by surprise.

The Battle of Ấp Bắc took place on January 1st, 1963. In 1961, the U.S. found a large portion of the Viet Cong forces near the village of Ấp Bắc, which was in South Vietnamese territory. Therefore the ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) was ordered to destroy their base. In 1963, American helicopters dropped off ARVN soldiers near the village, but a catastrophe took place. South Vietnam was defeated, and five American helicopters were destroyed. This battle showed that the Americans were losing the war, and that VIet Cong forces were gaining support.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, also known as the USS Maddox Incident, is an example of how the American government lied to its own people and to the people and state of Vietnam. Americans claimed that the USS Maddox, a destroyer, had been attacked by the North Vietnamese army. The U.S. used false radar images to prove their point, which were called the “Tonkin Ghosts”. The U.S. used these fake attacks as an excuse to bomb North Vietnam and use Agent Orange to uncover the hiding spots of the Viet Cong.

On both sides, America and Vietnam, the resistance to the war was growing fast. Unlike in World War II, the American people did not understand why they were sending their men to die for a cause they did not understand or believe them. Furthermore, the American people did not believe in the hypocrisy of the war; President Kennedy saying he would support every nation that wanted to be independent and set up their own government, but only if the Americans liked the government they had set up. Americans also opposed the draft, which threatened families in the lower and middle classes. The draft targeted men and boys in fighting age (ages 18-30). Many Americans thought that the U.S. was using Vietnam as an excuse to fight Russia and get an advantage in the Cold War. On the other side of the ocean, Buddhists were campaigning for representation in a government that oppressed them. Many Buddhist monks opposed the war, and they set themselves on fire as part of their protests. Following their example, two men in the United States set themselves on fire as well; one in front of the Pentagon, another in front of the White House. As images of the war were released, the American public opposed the war even more. Many pictures showed military misconduct and the massacre of innocent civilians, such as the May Lai Massacre. The Americans heard reports on the radio about how soldiers were ordered to “kill everything that walks, runs, grows, and crawls” in order to completely annihilate the enemy.

Many families lost their fathers, brothers, and husbands in the war. Those who survived the war have never forgotten the horrors they were put through, and they have never been able to fully recover from the emotional damage it caused. The Vietnam War reduced people’s patriotism and faith in their government. Vietnam is one of the only wars in history that America has not won, deserving a memorial to commemorate the cost and aftermath of this war.

Works Cited

Bender, David L. The Vietnam War. Greenhaven Press, 1984.

Prados, John. Vietnam: the History of an Unwinnable War, 1945 -1975. Univ Pr Of Kansas, 2013.

Spector, Ronald H. “Vietnam War.” Britannica School, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.


The Permanence of Plastic

It is unlikely that anybody would like to live in a world in which there are no birds chirping and no fish swimming. We do not stop to notice the lizards, trees, and snails that are around us every day, but once we lose them, it will be glaringly obvious. This bleak picture is not one from a dystopian novel; it is our very realistic future. A world devoid of all life besides humans is quite alarmingly exactly where human civilization is headed. The risk of extinction for most animal species only increases with time, because of our careless ways. While oceans make up 71% of Earth’s surface, they are in critical condition (Oceanic Institute). Plagued by an unconcealed yet ignored monster — trash, our oceans are declining in purity. Already there are enormous islands of garbage in the middle of our oceans, and we are not far from a total trash takeover destroying all ocean life. With a yearly rate of eight million tons being dumped into oceans, plastic pollution is no doubt an enemy to marine life (National Geographic).

Though garbage exists in some form in nearly every stretch of sea, there are five major locations on Earth where trash gathers and gets trapped in a cycle that prevents it from moving elsewhere. These locations, called ocean gyres, are also described as “trash vortexes” because they trap marine debris and never allow it to flow out to shore. Ocean gyres form because of the Coriolis Effect, which causes systems of circulating currents in the ocean. Trash is sucked into these currents. Any litter on beaches or trash flushed down toilets is very likely to end up in a trash vortex because these vortexes suck in all debris, especially miniscule materials. These large, dense “black holes” of trash are extremely harmful to every species of marine life.

Much of the garbage in these trash vortexes is plastic litter. Ever since plastic has come into existence, there have been people who improperly dispose of it. Since its invention in 1907, plastic has changed our lives and has become an integral part of our daily use because of its durability and cost effectiveness. However, it is also true that while we continue to enjoy the power and benefits of plastic, we have not carried out the responsibility that comes with this power, namely, proper disposal of this non-biodegradable material. Lack of awareness of the harmful impacts of improper plastic disposal and careless human nature are two key factors that plague our oceans, which are now clouded with plastic that has been collecting in them for over a century. Usually, the debris is simply tossed out onto the ground rather than being placed in a garbage bin or recycling bin. This human disregard for the environment causes a ripple effect in which the plastic floats out into the ocean and stays there forever. Because plastic is not biodegradable, it simply breaks into smaller pieces as its exposure to sunlight increases, meaning it will never truly disappear from the ocean. Plastic fragments can become as small as sesame seeds, at which point they become microplastics. Microplastics are not just the result of littered plastic; they can also get into the ocean in other ways, such as being washed out of synthetic clothing. Marcus Eriksen, a co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, an organization dedicated to reducing plastic pollution, describes marine microplastics as a “plastic smog throughout the world’s oceans” (Marine Plastic Bulletin).

Another enemy to marine life is the microbead. Beauty companies emit sizable amounts of microplastics into the ocean through exfoliating scrubs. The miniscule beads in these scrubs are made of plastic, and when washed down the drain, they have the same effect on ocean life that disintegrating microplastics have. Many animals mistake microbeads for fish eggs and choke when they try to swallow them. Like microbeads, other plastic items bear close resemblance to prey for many ocean creatures. For example, after balloons get torn apart, they look very similar to jellyfish. Similarly, plastic bags can resemble kelp. Both balloons and plastic bags often strangle animals or cause them to choke. Another reason many animals eat plastic is because it smells like food. This most commonly affects seabirds, which eat krill. Krill consume algae, which, as they decompose, emit a sulfuric odor known as dimethyl sulfide (National Geographic). This smell allows seabirds to find krill. Lots of algae collect on floating plastic, so when seabirds catch a whiff of the sulfuric odor, they feed on that plastic, thinking it is krill. For this reason, over 90% of seabirds have plastic fragments in their stomachs (Plastic Oceans).

There are numerous species that are affected by plastic pollution in the ocean and the associated statistics are alarming. In fact, about one hundred thousand marine animals and one million seabirds are found dead from plastic or plastic entanglement each year! (Ocean Crusaders). Additionally, there are two hundred areas on Earth, called dead zones, that are so polluted that life can no longer exist there. Not all of these areas are underwater, however. Dead zones exist on land, and pristine environments are slowly becoming polluted as well. During my recent visit to Yellowstone National Park, one of the most pure and untouched places in the world, I witnessed a coyote at a distance attempting to eat a plastic water bottle. It seemed as though the coyote was trying to get to the water that remained in the bottle, but once it managed to get the lid off and all the water spilled out, it kept chewing on the bottle, perhaps thinking it was something edible. This went on for about twenty minutes as the onlookers were gazing at the scene with concern, wondering what the animal would do. From the relentless pursuit of the animal, it was clear that it could have choked to death had it not finally dropped the bottle in fear when a woman gingerly walked her way towards the animal to scare it away for its own safety. This incident represents just one example of how harmful human carelessness can be to other living creatures that are going about their ways of life in pristine wilderness. It also indicates that plastic pollution is everywhere, even plaguing the most untainted places on the planet.

Plastic in oceans has unexpected results, including those that display themselves on land. Increased plastic in oceans results in decreased ecosystem stability. The effects of plastic material in the ocean are also seen on land, as an unstable underwater ecosystem will have effects on food chains in oceans as well as on land. There are also more discernable effects, such as the fact that the sheer amount of plastic in oceans is extremely threatening to marine life. According to the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic mass in the world’s oceans than that of fish. This will be a turning point, because it is likely that the rate of environmental destruction will accelerate greatly after the fact. There will be a decline in biodiversity so animals that help humans progress in various ways will start to die out. For example, sea lions, seals, and narwhals all help scientists track climate change. Plastic in the ocean is a considerable threat to these species, so their numbers would dwindle greatly. With the loss of these creatures and others, it would become extremely difficult to track climate change, making it more prevalent in every region of the world. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would increase, which would harm the earth in numerous ways such as by causing longer droughts and wildfires.


As more and more plastic is dumped into the ocean, our lives on land will become more polluted as well, because plastic pollution hurts humans as well as marine life. Plastic litter floating in ocean water absorbs toxic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyl and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, which have both been proven to cause cancer. Plastic in oceans will also alter the food chain, and the impacts of this can be drastic to humans. The food chain is arranged in “ripples,” meaning those that are immediately affected do not suffer as much as the later affected species, which are humans in this case. For example, if one species of amphibians goes extinct because of excess plastic pollution in their habitat, their predators, largemouth bass, will be affected. Humans, who feed on the bass, will be impacted even more negatively. This is just one possible food chain. Many food chains come together to make a food web, and the harmful effects to humans are vastly amplified at this point.

The fact that there will be more plastic mass in the world’s oceans than fish mass is dangerous in a more transparent way — the plastic could kill almost all of the fish. Although it is true that there are far more marine species than fish living in our oceans, fish do make up a large amount of ocean life. Additionally, rather than comforting ourselves with the fact that fish are not the only living beings in the ocean, we humans would be in a much better position collectively if we try to initiate efforts to reduce plastic in the ocean. This mission is extremely challenging, however, because much of the plastics in the ocean cannot be effectively removed since the materials have broken into microplastics and escape the grasp of nets. This is why many efforts to remove plastic from oceans do not make a significant difference.

Although efforts to remove plastic are not remarkably effective, the dilemma of plastic in the oceans can be combatted. The best way to do so is to prevent plastic from entering oceans, sewage systems, rivers, lakes, etc. The most effective ways to prevent plastic from ending up in oceans involve people making minor changes, such as recycling or terminating their use of single-use plastics. Avoiding microbead products is effective, as microbead concentration in oceans is increasing rapidly. This can be done by exfoliating with a towel if necessary or by using natural exfoliants such as baking soda or oatmeal. Not purchasing bottled water is another fantastic way to decrease a person’s own plastic consumption and eventually contribute less to overall emission. An unknown contributor to plastic in the oceans is anything that is wrapped individually. Buying in bulk means far less plastic that could end up in the water, and this is also cheaper. Finally, supporting plastic bans and organizations addressing plastic pollution can help greatly. In my hometown, one very effective change has been made to try to lower our town’s plastic output. Grocery stores now charge customers at the checkout line for plastic bags that they request to hold their items in. This has had a great impact, as many people now bring their own reusable bags, such as tote bags, when shopping. Community effort, such as spreading the word about potential detrimental impact, is an essential part of ending plastic pollution in our oceans. Efforts to reduce one’s personal plastic output into the oceans are not particularly difficult, yet they are almost never done. People need to become aware of the fact that every single individual’s actions are meaningful. Placing more recycling bins around neighborhoods and encouraging and educating people about recycling can make a massive difference.

Plastic in the ocean is an issue that will begin to affect us in even more negative ways unless we actively work against it now by reducing our own plastic outputs. Once in the ocean, plastic makes a permanent home for itself there. Humans owe it to flora and fauna to help restore Earth’s balance, which our plastic pollution has distorted. Additionally, all species, including humans, are affected by the broad range of negative impacts caused by plastic pollution in oceans. With the earth’s current population at 7.6 billion and a projected growth of 29% by 2050, at which point it will reach 9.8 billion, the amount of plastic consumption and output into the oceans will only increase exponentially if we humans do not recognize and fight this issue (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs). Let us take action to make a significant difference that can preserve our planet’s splendor and beauty. Let us join together to make efforts to stop dumping plastic into our oceans. As David Attenborough, naturalist and broadcaster says, “There is no away — because plastic is so permanent and so indestructible. When you cast it into the ocean, it doesn’t go away” (Plastic Oceans). We are at a point where the oceans are in a critical condition; they can be saved or lost forever. The carelessness of our ways will come back to haunt us when our ocean life is lost, but our garbage remains.


Peru in the Trees

Everyone at my school thinks that I’m a nobody

They just don’t know the real me

I’m Peru Emma Maxwell

I’m known as the “quiet girl” or “nobody”

None of that is true

I want to one day be a regular kid

The kid that everyone knows

I have no clue if that will ever happen

But I know that I can try

Try hard

-Peru Maxwell


Chapter One: Spring Break

My heart is pounding as I enter the history classroom on my last day of school before spring break. Everyone in my class is going somewhere amazing, except for me. Alice is going to Alaska, Christopher is going to Brazil, and Brittney is even going to Australia. Our spring break is a month long, so it’s not like anyone would stay home.

But I’m staying home. Just me, my mom, and Fluffster, my Pomeranian puppy. My dad is in the army, so he hasn’t been home for ten years.

As I head into class, I hear the usual bullies laughing and teasing people.

“Fat Pat! Awkward Annie!”

People call me average all the time, and it doesn’t even rhyme with my name! I had thought that, since I was starting at a new middle school, everything would be perfect, but boy, was I wrong.

I sit in my chair, waiting for the bell to ring so that Mr. Abram can start the lesson. The rest of the class is in the hall, getting their stuff and socializing.

“Peru, what are you doing here?” Mr. Abram asks.

“Waiting for the bell to ring, apparently.”

Alex Ritman is standing outside of the room as if she were waiting for someone. She’s the most popular girl in school. The bell rings loudly, and Alex walks in slowly, trying not to look eager to get to class.

“Alex, please sit down,” Mr. Abram says.

For five minutes, we’re the only students in class. When I glance over at her, she is eagerly doodling in her notebook.

Today is an early release day, so I only have five hours of school. Four more people walk into the classroom eight minutes late. I don’t have any idea who they are because they never talk to me, other than the terrible jokes they make up.

“Okay, now that everyone is here, we can get on with class. This semester we are talking about South America. Each of you will choose an animal from this bowl. You will study and research the animal you have chosen,” Mr. Abram says.

I get to go first. My hands shuffle in the bowl, hoping to pick something good. I unfold the card and it reads: “Three-toed sloth.” I’m excited to start researching, so I don’t pay attention to what everyone else gets; I start reading web pages right away.

After an hour and a half of research, class is over. I have English, science, and chorus during the rest of the day. The bus finally comes, and spring break begins. I’m actually glad I’m staying at home, because it means I can watch Netflix for a month.

My mom opens the door for me and says the same thing that she says everyday. “So, how was your day?”

“In history, we’re studying South American animals, and I got the three-toed sloth,” I say, quickly dropping my bags.

Fluffster is asleep on my bed. I don’t have any homework, so I can just relax. My heart is pumping quickly from excitement. I can’t help but to research the three-toed sloth more. My phone dings before I can get my laptop. A text message from my best friend, Marcella, was here. She lives in Costa Rica, so it’s been five years since I’ve seen her.

My mom bursts open my bedroom door, full of excitement, before I can read the text.

“Peru! Marcella’s mom just called me, and guess what?” she asks, waiting for a response.


“Marcella’s family invited us to go to Costa Rica to visit them! Isn’t that exciting?”

“Are you serious?”


I can’t believe it! I’m going somewhere for spring break, and it’s Costa Rica!


Chapter Two: My Adventure Begins

My alarm wakes me up at one in the morning. I have to be on the plane at 3:35 for an eight hour flight, so everything is packed and ready to go. I put on a pair of jeggings, a short sleeve top, a sweatshirt, and sneakers. When I finish packing the last items in my bag, my mom calls me downstairs for a quick breakfast. Since we didn’t want any food to spoil, we haven’t bought groceries since we found out we were going to Costa Rica. I eat an apple, and I drink some water.

“Peru, it’s 2:00. I think we should start loading up the car.”

Bag by bag, we shove everything into the trunk. It’s a 30 minute drive to the airport, so I catch up on some of my sleep in the car.

When I wake up, we’re in a parking deck outside of the airport doors. I reach for my backpack, and help my mom unload the car. We go through security and get our bags checked in, and then we have to wait for an hour.

On the table next to me, I see a few books about Costa Rica. When I flip through one of them, I am surprised to see an article about three-toed sloths. I find out that Costa Rica is famous for its beaches, and that sloths sleep for fifteen to eighteen hours a day.

“Flight 1527 to Costa Rica is boarding,” I hear over the loudspeaker. “Again, flight 1527 to Costa Rica is boarding.”

We board the plane second in line. I still can’t believe that this is actually happening! I just realized that my plane ticket says First Class. This is my first time in first class. I sit down in seat F, the window seat. My mom is on my left, and another lady is on her left. We listen to safety instructions over the speaker on the plane, and then we take off.


Chapter Three: This Is Actually Happening

After eight hours on a plane, we arrive in Costa Rica. The view of palm trees and tropical-colored buildings is something I know I will never forget. It seems unreal. Marcella and her family are waiting for us at the airport to drive us to their house. Once I see them around the corner, I run to Marcella.

“Marcella!” I yell from across the airport.

“Peru!” she yells back.

Before she can say anything else, I give her a big hug. This is the best way to start my vacation. We grab our bags and get into Marcella’s family’s car. I catch up with Marcella during the ride to her house. She lives in a two-story home with a basement. When I walk in, I’m greeted by her cat, Snowy, and her dog, Patriot.

“Marcella, why don’t you show Peru her room?” Mr. Jennings says.

She takes me to a room with white walls, a bed, desk, dresser, nightstand, and closet. It has a bay window looking out over the city.

“Do you like it?” says Marcella.

“Do I like it? I love it!” I say happily.

I roll my suitcase into the closet to unpack my clothes for the month. Patriot walks in with a card in his mouth. After reading it, I find out that some of Marcella’s friends want to invite me to go to the Cafe for lunch tomorrow. I set the card on the dresser to think about it. It takes me a hour to unpack a month’s worth of clothes. It’s seven o’clock, so I get ready for bed. When I come out of the bathroom, I see the note on my dresser. Maybe I will go.


Chapter Four: The More the Merrier, Right?

I wake up at 7:00 to get ready for my adventure. I have no idea who I’m meeting today. Marcella is waiting for me downstairs, ready to get in the car. It takes us about five minutes to get to the downtown Cafe, the place where we’re eating.

I jump out of the car and eagerly open the restaurant door. It’s not what I thought it would be. I thought it would be a downtown Chick-fil-a, but it’s dark, loud, and crowded. Most of the people there probably have tattoos.

Marcella guides me to a table where three kids are sitting — a girl and two boys.

“Peru, this is Samii, Nathan, and Dylan,” says Marcella.

“Hey,” I say, quiet but excited.

“That’s her? You said that she was cool!” says Nathan.

“Don’t worry, Peru. He’s not like this every day,” says Samii.

I try to get past his comment. I look at the menu to decide what I want to eat. Everything is so basic. Burger, chicken, fries… it doesn’t have any pizzazz to it. It seems like I’m the only one not talking in the group.

“Hey, Peru, what do you think you’re getting to eat?” asked Dylan.

“Ummm, I might get the, ummm, cheese pizza slice,” I say quickly.

“Oh. Well, I’m getting the burger. It’s my favorite,” he says with passion.

“Okay, everyone, how about now we all place our orders,” says Marcella.

“And how about while we wait for our server, we say our I’m sorries,” Samii says, gesturing to Nathan. “We may have hurt someone’s feelings.”

“Whatever. I don’t care about her feelings,” says Nathan rudely.

Ugh, he reminds me of someone from back home. I liked him, but it is obvious he hates me. At least almost everyone else here likes me.


Chapter Five: Finally

After hours of trying to ignore Nathan, Marcella finally decides to leave. Before we start walking down the street, she stops me and tells me about a new sloth exhibit at the zoo.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I could work on my project, and maybe even get extra credit. I didn’t even want to say anything besides “YES!”

“I’m taking that as a yes, you want to go,” Marcella answers.

“My project is on sloths, let’s go!” I say, pulling her out of the door.

“Umm, okay, bye guys.”

“Bye,” they all say in unison.


The car pulls up to reveal a sign reading “Costa Rica Zoo.”

“Welcome to the Costa Rica Zoo,” a guy with a sharp mexican accent says, “Eighteen or older, $4.99, children and seniors, $2.99, babies 24 months or younger, free.”

“Okay, then here is ten dollars. Take change out of that, please.” says Marcella.

She gets handed the change, and then we head straight in for the sloths.

“You got your camera?”


My camera is my phone, and sadly when I press the home button, I see a notification from my mom.

Hey, Peru, we have to leave early. Your father is home from the war. Pack your stuff up tonight. Our flight leaves at 7:00 a.m. Luv Ya!

“Look, Peru, the sloth came out!”

I take about 20 pictures, and then I feel sad. My trip is already over. I love Marcella. But I guess there is always a time to say goodbye.


Chapter Six: With Love, Peru

After returning home from the zoo, I take my suitcase out from under my bed and take the clothes out of the drawer. I plug up my phone, clean out my backpack, and leave Marcella a gift that I picked up. It’s a little pocket-sized sloth with a camera around its neck. I wrote on the tag, From Peru 2k17.  Underneath it, I wrote a note:

Dear Marcella,

Thank you for expanding my world. I met your friends, and we went to the zoo and saw a sloth. I just know that I’m going to get an A+ on the project. I wish I didn’t have to leave, but you have my number, and I will try to come back soon.

                                         With Love,

                                           Peru Maxwell, 2017


Today, when I woke up, I had a pain in my chest. I had to leave, but then on the bright side I could see my dad after ten years.

I give Marcella an even bigger hug than before.

“You are my best friend and the greatest cousin ever!” I say to her.

“That’s not true — because you are,” she says back.

As we leave through the doors of their house, we wave and say our last goodbyes. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I got to do it with someone I love.


Women’s March


Millions of faces

Millions of stomping feet

Millions of pink hats

Millions of minds,

Determined to set things right.


Millions of ideas

Millions of dreams

Millions of experiences

Millions of Memories

All come together

To change the world


Millions of Women

Millions of Men

Millions of  Voices

Sounding around me,

As we march through the streets.

We all want our voice to be heard


I felt excitement,

I felt anger,

I felt connected to everyone there,

And all around me,

I saw Change




A woman with a stroller, the baby

Kicking its feet and the aging leaves

Crunched under wheels.


The sweater I stole from you,

The word you said when asked for a word

Associated with love.


Her lips when I found you.





The sky at dusk from the cliffside,

Where we watched the sun glide away and the

Stars sneak into existence for the night.

Where we laughed so much about things I don’t

Remember now, but

I do remember the way my stomach hurt

Because I couldn’t stop feeling happy.


The blanket wrapped around my shoulders

To ward against the chill that may come from outside

Or may just be something inside of me

That’s died or lost.

I’m not sure which.


The color of flowers that push their way

Out of frozen ground in the spring,

When the things that died decide to

See how it feels to be alive again.


The Accident

I remember my first accident, my first time not being able to see. I remember sliding down the bunny hill on November 12, 2013. I remember my brother’s hands around my waist. I remember them holding me tight and not letting go. I remember the heat from the hands comforting me that made me feel safe. I remember hearing my life and giggles in slow motion. I remember holding onto the thin rope that was attached to the sled. I remember my tight, purple winter coat pressing me tight. I remember the ropes falling out of my hands while leaving splinters in my hands. I remember my father yelling, “Turn before you get hurt!” I remember how sharp the tree trunks were. I remember the thickness of the tree and the dark, brown wood around it. I remember the leaves hanging down low from the tree. I remember how they looked so sad, and the snow was dripping off it like tears. I can’t remember how scary it was the minute before I hit it. I can’t remember Alex’s hands slipping off like I was alone. I can’t remember the fear built inside of me. I can’t remember forgetting how to steer. I can’t remember the sudden boom of my head against the tree. I will not remember the ambulance noises. I will not remember the tears dripping down Alex’s face. I will not remember my father calling my mother with a look on his face. I will not remember his tears filled with fear going down his cheeks. I will not remember my screams going through everyone’s ears. I will not remember my eyes closing and my breath stopping. I will not remember the moment I couldn’t move, the fear built everywhere and growing. I want to remember the calm moments when I was asleep. I want to remember the fearless place where I was. I want to remember me waking up and everyone there with smiles and tears of joy. I want to remember my mother’s long-lasting kiss on my forehead. I want to remember everyone hugging me tight. I want to remember…



It had rained all night, yet, there was no rainbow.

Well, there was no sun either… but still. I was saddened by the outcome of the storm. It was just sky and clouds and emptiness.

I got off the bus, feeling empty as well, like the lack of rainbows had affected me personally.

Most kids wouldn’t care about something as trivial as light in the sky, but I was not most kids. I felt unfulfilled due to this — what shall we call it? — fate, karma, or just weather. Either way, I was not happy. And school wasn’t gonna change that.

I sighed.

I went up the stairs of the school, seeing all the kids you see in high school. They were, like, beyond stereotypes at this point; they were more like lists of characteristics. I said, “Hi” to my friend Windy in the hall on my way to first period (which, by the way, I was acing), and he waved back.

He smiled at me before some kids snatched his book and binder and started to mess with him. The kids turned Windy’s wheelchair round and round and yelled, “Freak!” louder than the fire alarm. I kept walking. Poor Windy. I sometimes wish they would just leave him alone.

The feeling I felt on the bus returned like a bag of nails to the balls as I again felt empty — wishing I could help him, but knowing I’d actually get hurt if I tried.

I dragged myself through my morning classes. Knowing literally all the answers did not help. I was aching for lunch, though not really aching because I knew soon I would ache for the end of the day.

After fifth period came to a close, I helped push Windy’s chair to the cafeteria. He grabbed a school newspaper from a stack on the table by the door. I didn’t. Now, our paper, The Trenton Community High Gazette, is a real big deal (though, it’s total sensationalist phony crap; they make everything into a big deal… it’s kinda funny the print is in yellow, so they are, like, literally yellow journalism… )

As we rolled up to the lunch counter, I looked over Windy’s shoulder, seeing how engrossed he appeared to be in the tabloid. I tried to see the front page, or part of it, because Windy blocked it before I could see or read the headline.

I asked, “Hey, Windy, so what’s the front page news? Is there plastic in the mashed potatoes again — ?”

“Moon, I-I-I — this is very bad… ”

“Geez, what is up your Levi’s? You look like you just got buried alive. Dude, why don’t we discuss this over a healthy dose of gruel?”

“Moon, the front page is — um… ”

“Spit it out, Winslow. We haven’t got all year… ”

“It’s about YOU!!!” Windy shouted.

“… Me?”

Me? I never do anything interesting! I just sit around all day and complain about things all the time like Garfield.

Windy handed the paper to me. “You and your folks, actually. Just know it’s not the end of the world.”

I skimmed the headline. This was the end of the world.

There was silence. The whole cafeteria froze and stared. I dropped the paper, seemingly in slow motion. The silence continued for another minute. One kid started laughing. The entire cafeteria followed suit. This was not happening.

“Fucker!!!” They all stopped laughing at that. I burst into tears and ran, grabbing another copy of the newspaper out of some girl’s hands on my way to the exit, getting the grubby, yellow ink on my fingers.

In the stairwell, I looked at the photo on the front page. It was of my mom and dad and me as an infant. This was the end of all things. My parents were butt naked covered in tulips, a guitar strap on my father acting as the only saving grace to his decency. I read the headline again: “MOON SHARRIF’S A HIPPIE!!! RARE PHOTOGRAPH UNCOVERED OF HIM AS INFANT WITH FULLY NUDE HIPPIE PARENTS!” Below, in smaller type, were the words: “Read full article by Brad Gently on page 7.”

Brad is my sister’s — I mean, my foster sister’s — boyfriend. If she had something to do with this, oh, she was going to get it.

This photograph; God only knows how it got out of the basement. Annie must have snuck it out and given it to Brad, who works for the paper. The photo was in an album that our parents had always forbidden us from touching. Probably due to the fact that they’re yuppies now, and their hippiedom is far behind them. But, it was long-lived and apparently extreme according to some family friends. Like, our Aunt Margaret said that one summer they slept in an abandoned van for a month and lived on nothing but bean sprouts. They also went to naturalist conventions every year for a decade. In fact, I was born at one of them in 1968. They yuppied-up only recently.

I already knew they used to be hippies. That’s not news. I just don’t want the whole school to know. Now, they’ll be calling me crap like “flower child” and “peace and love” in the halls. Also, it’s a nude photo. Does it get more embarrassing? A little censorship wouldn’t have hurt.

Surprisingly, today’s tabloid escapade is the second most embarrassing thing that my family’s gotten into. Judas Shariff, my grandfather, is famous in South Trenton for his legendary scientific endeavors, especially those that got him tossed into the psych ward five years before I was born. He died a few years ago. My parents tell me not to talk about him.

I heard wheels.

Windy opened the door to the stairwell and called out, “Moon?!”

“I’m fine,” I responded. “What are we going to do? I mean, what should I do?”

“They’re talking crap about you,” Windy said. “More than usual. I would have stood up for you, but you know I can’t.”

We both cracked up.

“Seriously, Windy. How’m I gonna fix this? Isn’t there some way we can go back and make none of this have happened at all?”

“You mean like a time machine?”

Windy and I looked around. “Who’s there?!” I yelled.

I recognized that grizzled voice. Was he eavesdropping on us? I turned to Windy.

“Freakman,” we both said at the same time.

I heard muffled jazz music and snapping as Mr. Freakman came up the stairs from the basement level. We did our secret handshake, and he turned off his Walkman.

Mr. Freakman said, “Yo, kiddo, I saw that groovy photo of your folks in their natural state all over the school. And you don’t like that, do ya?”

I put my hands on my hips. “Do you like Reagan?” I asked him, with a smug look on my face.

“No. Um, no, I do not. I really don’t think you can go back in time. The fact is, this is a pretty gnarly state. This is the way things are. Not worth wigging out over, man.”

“Yeah, Moon, the first step to moving on is accepting the way things are,” Windy offered.

“Would you guys listen to yourselves? You sound like Hallmark cards. This is not some teen drama where things get better in the end. We’ve got to build a time machine.”

They both stared at me.

“And I think I know how.”

There was a long pause.

“Really?” Windy scoffed. He had doubt in his eyes. Then he crossed his arms and asked, “Okay, Tesla, how do you plan on doing this exactly? Time travel has yet to be invented. At all! Not even by history’s top engineers! Let alone you, Moon — you, the kid who is failing biology — how could you possibly… ?”

“Winslow Casablanca, my dear friend, I do have a bit of an ego. I can’t deny it. But I’m not so arrogant that I’d think I could build a time machine of all things without some kind of guide. If I was having delusions of such grandeur, don’t you think I would be in the loony bin also — ”

“So you have a guide?” Windy asked. He really needed to stop interrupting me.

“Yeah, my grandfather tried to invent one. He was nuts.”

Freakman said, “Way out,” as he looked at his watch, and then he turned to me. “Kid, gotta get back to work. Keep me posted about this whole time machine, and let’s do the time warp again.” He turned his Walkman back on and snapped his way downstairs.

The door behind Windy flung open. A girl with short, black hair, wearing a blue turtleneck, burst in. “Windy, I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” she wheezed. “We need a replacement pianist for The Sound of Music rehearsals.” She noticed me. “Hey, you’re that kid who took my newspaper. Windy, do you know him?”

“Yeah, Lucy, this is my good friend, Moon. Moon, Lucy. Lucy, Moon,” Windy replied.

“Moon? Moon Shariff?” She burst into bombastic laughter. I could tell she wasn’t even trying to contain herself.

I turned to Windy. “I’m gonna build that time machine. I’m gonna follow those instructions precisely. And you’re gonna help me. By Monday it’s gonna be Thursday again.”

When I got home, no one was there but my cat, Ginsberg. I headed straight for the basement and discovered the blueprints hidden in the forbidden photo album where Annie had found the naked photo. I called my friends and asked them to meet me at Ralph’s, the electronics place near the spork in the road. We could get all the nuts and bolts there.

Monday arrived. And apparently Windy was right because we were greeted in the morning by pointing fingers and the words “Peace” and “Love” spray-painted on my locker. After classes had ended, we gathered in the basement near the boiler room. Mr. Freakman joined us and lit up when he saw the time machine in my hands. It was made out of my kitchen phone and the parts we bought at Ralph’s.

He gleamed and said, “You did that out of your phone? Your grandfather… I wish I could meet him… I really wish I could meet him. I’ll open up the slop closet now for our ‘secret operation.’”

“Yeah,” I said. “OK, guys, here’s the plan one last time. We go back to Thursday, intercept Annie in my house with the photo, bribe her not to do it, don’t wake up my parents, and then come back to the present.”

Freakman turned off the lights in the closet and closed the door.

I said, loudly, “Ready, guys?” I reached to touch it and felt Freakman’s hand on the dial. “What are you doing — ?”

The scene turned to black. I woke up what felt like a few hours later. I screeched, “FREAKMAN, WHAT DID YOU DO?!” I felt for the light switch, turned it on, and looked at Freakman. His hand was still on the dial. Windy and Lucy were huddled in the corner. We all looked at Freakman.

I said very slowly, “Freakman, move your hand.” He didn’t. “Now,” I said.

He moved it. I squirmed to the dial. I felt like I did when I saw the newspaper headline. Completely overcome with anxiety. I looked around the closet to find something to confirm the date. If it had worked, was it Thursday? Crap, I didn’t think this through. It was a time machine. It could be any time. I spotted a calendar and snatched it off the wall. I looked for the day when the X’s had stopped. I could not believe my eyes.

Freakman was more insane than my grandfather. Why did he send us to 1964?! We burst out of the closet. I stood up, turned to Freakman, and was prepared to give it to him. “Why’d you do that? Why’d you have to go and ruin our whole plan?” I asked.

Freakman looked very pleased with himself. He smiled and said, “You know they say the best way to learn about something is to experience it firsthand.”

“Are you referring to the newspaper?!” I hollered.

“You bet I am. Come on, kids, don’t you want to see the outside?”

Windy piped up, “You guys are forgetting something.” He turned to me, looking at me like I was an absolute moron. “Did you forget that you told me at least a thousand times over the weekend that the time machine could not travel more than five years at a time? We’re in the sixties. If that’s true, Moon, we’re stuck here.”

Lucy said, “Wait, we’re stuck in the sixties? I’ll get to see Barbra Streisand on Broadway!”

“Well, Freakman,” I said. “This is a fine mess you got us into. I’m not living the rest of my life as a flower child.”

“You were going to do that anyway — ” Windy added.

“SHUT UP,” I bellowed. I realized that we were making way too much noise and had to get out of the building. I took my school books out of my backpack and put the broken time machine in their place. We had to carry Windy up the stairs because there was no ramp from the basement, and then go back for the wheelchair, but we made it outside.

I noticed that the school building looked the same, but everything around it looked like something out of American Graffiti. The cars were longer, and the hairstyles were crazy. Windy spoke up, “I have an idea, guys.”

“What?” I asked.

“If it’s ‘Build a time machine and go back to Thursday to avoid embarrassment but we end up in the sixties,’ I don’t want to hear it,” Lucy said.

“No, Lucy, better,” Windy responded. “Moon, didn’t your grandfather live around here?”

“He used to,” I said. “By 1964, he was already in Bellevue.”

Windy said, “So, I guess we’re going to New York now.”

“Wait, are you suggesting that we ask him to fix it?”

Freakman said, “Wow, I’m finally going to get to meet my hero. You guys are the best.”

We hopped a Greyhound bus to New York City. It looked like it looks in all the old postcards in the tourist shops. Cleaner than New York today. We walked across town to Bellevue Hospital and checked in as visitors — which we technically were — to padded room number 187. A doctor took out a ring of skeleton keys and opened seven different bulky locks. He told us to be careful.

I approached my grandfather. He was huddled in the corner. This was it. He was breathing heavily, and I decided to speak up.

“Judas,” I whispered.

“Are you another doctor?” he asked.

“No,” I said. I didn’t know how I was going to tell him this.

“Who are you? You’re not supposed to come in here without a lab coat.”

I was taking too long. Also, if I messed with this too much, I wasn’t going to be born. I needed to suck it up, and just say it.

I screamed, “Judas Shariff, I am your grandson from the future. This is not a dream. Your time machine works. I know it’s a lot to take in, but you need to fix the machine so that we can get back to the present and so that we can, you know, not be stuck here.”

There was silence. Understandably.

Mr. Freakman broke it, of course. “Can I have your autograph?” He held out a shriveled piece of paper.

I gave the machine to my grandfather. He looked me in the eye. I had never had so much hope riding on one answer.

“Give me two days,” he said. “But come back in lab coats.”

We spent the time to kill in a shady motel in Greenwich Village. Freakman went to places like Folk City and coffee houses, while we tried to do our homework in Washington Square Park. We met some cool people there, like this guy who could put his foot behind his head. He was doing it for money.

Freakman met us in the park and introduced us to this man who looked a lot like Freakman. Considering the turn of events so far, we weren’t actually surprised to hear that he was Freakman, only younger.

We came back to Bellevue in lab coats, completely prepared for everything to go back to normal. Some patient called me “Doc,” which actually felt pretty good. We entered the padded room, and he actually had finished it. God knows where he got the parts, but we didn’t have time for questions. I hugged and kissed Judas goodbye, and he told me to remember him.

We raced back to the Greyhound station, and hopped the bus back to South Trenton. We snuck into the high school and carried Windy down the stairs in the chair.

Back in the slop closet, I asked, “Freakman. Do you want to do the honors?”

Freakman thought for a second. “You know, kids, I’ve made a lot of good decisions in my time. Never have I been presented with an opportunity so ripe like this one. I’m not goin’ back.”

Lucy said, “Okay, suit yourself. C’mon, Moon — ”

“No, wait,” I said. “Who’s going to be our mentor? Luke Skywalker never would have gotten anywhere without Obi-Wan Kenobi!”

“Remember what happened to him?” Freakman reminded me. “Look, kid, you’re never going to get anywhere in life if you hold onto the past. Move on. I’m just a janitor. The sixties hold so much opportunity for me to start over. And you can start over without me.” I started to cry.

He closed the door. Lucy turned on the time machine. The portal started to open. I reopened the door. “Wait, Freakman!” I yelled. “Don’t hug yourself! You’ll blow up all of space and time!”

“Okay,” he said sweetly, smiling. “I’ll try.”

The scene turned to white. I would now live the rest of my life worried that he might hug his younger self. As if I didn’t have enough anxiety.


– The End –





A lot of times I don’t feel comfortable without a coat on. The thought of people staring at my arms and my body is terrifying to me, so whenever I’m going out anywhere I always take a coat. The only bad thing about this is that it only works in the winter. In the spring and summer is when I really feel uncomfortable.

In the winter and in the fall, it is socially acceptable to wear a coat inside because sometimes, it’s still cold even when you’re in your house or the school building. This is mostly because my school is too cheap to actually turn on the heater. And sometimes, our landlord is too cheap to turn on the heater as well. But in the spring and summer, if you go out wearing a coat, then you look crazy, and the people in the street give you mean looks, which is funny because in those moments it is the very thing that protects me from the judgement of others that is making other people judge me. And then sometimes, when I am going to leave the house for a little while and I go to grab my coat, I am scolded by my mother because “it is scorching outside and you will burn in the heat.” Then, she tells me to leave it at home, and I get upset because if someone I don’t want to talk to comes and tries to talk to me, then I can’t just put my hood up and ignore them, so it won’t be as awkward because I can’t see their face.
I think everyone should just wear coats during the spring and summer.



I’m a very approachable person. This is both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, I know how to handle myself in social situations, and I have no problems at all when it comes to talking to people at parties and other social situations, since people are always trying to initiate conversations with me, while on the other hand, I hate being approached.

“You’ve inherited my gift with people,” my mother will often tell me. However, I’m not quite sure whether or not that’s true.

I mean — I’m okay with people, but not great. I’d rather not talk unless it’s required, but when it is required, I’ll always provide at least the bare minimum amount of conversation necessary for whatever situation I’m in. I’d rather avoid being noticed, because contrary to common belief, I’m a very anxious person. But not my mother. My mother is a gracious person, who is skilled when it comes to talking to people. She is witty, and interesting, and humorous, and sociable. She is caring and kind and beautiful, and she has the ability to spark up conversation with pretty much anyone. She can bring introverts out of their shells, and she can make the shy ones laugh. Something about her is just so open and inviting, and just makes you want to get to know her immediately.

I’m not that kind of girl.

I don’t go out of my way just to talk to people. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s just the people who are always going out of their way to talk to me.

Except, I have no idea why…

I’m nothing like my mother. I’m not interesting or appealing or witty or talkative. I’m not particularly pretty either. It’s not like I’m anything special — I’m just a short, pale girl with short, dark hair that curls perfectly over my ears. Perfectly simple, perfectly boring. Just a short, pale girl with a closet full of turtlenecks and pastel colors. Just a short, pale girl who likes to draw and paint. A girl who is utterly and painfully short of any personality.



I don’t know exactly what it was that triggered the start of my ongoing three-and-a-half year battle against dermatillomania, but somehow here I am. I’m not sure if it was something I always had, but if I didn’t have it when I was little, then I certainly have it now.

Perhaps one day, I had an especially bad panic attack and in a flustered, anxious frenzy, decided to dig my nails into the bumps on my arms and after coming to the conclusion that I enjoyed the feeling, decided to return to it whenever I was bored or anxious. Perhaps I had found a pimple on my face and thought that the best course of action was not to pop it, but to scratch it hard until it was gone altogether. Or maybe I had just washed my hair and whilst making sure that I had gotten all of the shampoo out of my hair, I accidently came upon some dandruff and by mistaking it for nits, continued to poke around my scalp with my nails until a piece of my skin was picked off. At this point, who really knows?

But it doesn’t matter, because how I developed this disorder won’t make a difference. In the end, I still end up here in some therapist’s office every Tuesday, where they hire some hippie to come and ask me bullshit questions.

If I’m honest, I don’t even know her name.

I never use her name anyways.

Sometimes, she asks me questions about how my day was, to which I answer truthfully, but other times she’ll ask me questions about my “condition,” to which the answers I give her are always lies.

“What triggered you to pick at your skin?” she’ll ask me. I’ll shrug at her and sigh.

“I don’t know,” I’ll tell her, but this is not true at all — not even in the slightest.

I hate telling lies, and I always have, and because of this, I try to avoid lying as much as possible, and when I do lie, I am always sure to at least reveal a little bit of the truth. For instance, there was this one time when my mom baked a tin of banana bread, which usually is quite good except for this one time when it was extremely dry.

After eating a decently sized slice of it, she came up to me and asked me what I thought of it, to which I responded with, “Yeah, it was really good! Just a little bit dry, but otherwise really good!” and she smiled and went on her merry way.

Was her banana bread really good? No, it was just average. But was it dry? Yes. Yes it was. But I couldn’t just say that, could I?

But with this particular question, I can’t even share my answer. My answer will always be overridden. The truth of the matter is that most of the time, I start picking whenever I am bored and need something to do with my hands — specifically during my classes. But if I even try to explain this to the therapists, they’ll never believe me. They always seem to think that me picking at myself stems from anxiety — some deep, dark fear gnawing at me from the inside out.

Except it’s not.

That’s the thing with therapists. There always needs to be some type of ulterior motive — one that more often than not isn’t there.

At this point, I’ve just stopped trying to defend my illness. There really isn’t any use because I always find myself answering the same goddamn questions over and over again, and at this point have grown tired of it. It’s mentally draining, and I’m over it. The cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t help — not when the therapists try to act like they know what I’m feeling or thinking better than I do myself. Perhaps one day, I’ll find someone who will just listen.



Sometimes, I like to sit with my dog out on the stoop and watch people walk by. My dog is a Pomeranian, and she’s really fluffy, so lots of people stop to pet her because she looks really soft. But some people don’t like little dogs like mine. They’d much rather have a big dog than a small one. I’ve never understood this. A dog is a dog. I like both big dogs and little dogs equally — and if given the chance, I would totally get a big dog, but I live in an apartment in the city so having a Husky or Bulldog isn’t an option.

I like my dog more than I like most people. I can tell Jazzy anything because she won’t tell anyone or think I’m weird and secretly judge me, and I like this. Another thing Jazzy won’t do is get up and walk away from me when she sees the scabs on my face, like that one lady on the bus did after sitting next to me.

When I was little and Dad was still around, he used to play his jazz CDs on the radio really loud in the morning, and then I would get up and dance around the house. Then one day, he brought Jazzy back to the house, and I named her after something my dad really loved. Then one day, Mom found out about the affair. Then, he left. Now I don’t listen to jazz anymore. I still have Jazzy, though.

Lots of days Laura will come to my house after school, and we will sit on the stoop together. She doesn’t like to hang out in her house very much because she has four younger siblings, and they’re always in her face. But today, Laura isn’t here. This is because we had a fight at school today, and she got mad at me.

I had come out of the principal’s office during last period to find her staring at me with her arms crossed. She looked really mad, and that made me upset — so much so that I felt a sudden urge to open the door to the closest classroom, step inside, and lock myself in there so I wouldn’t have to deal with whatever harsh thing she was gonna say to me, but that wasn’t an option.

We walked to the cafeteria together in silence. It was only after we sat down at our usual table that she said anything.

“What did you do this time?” she asked.

I sighed. Why did she have to be like this?

“I yelled at my para,” I mumbled. I hated the paras. They were basically hired to help me one-on-one, but all they seemed to do was piss me off.

She rolled her eyes, “Go on.”

“O-okay, I cursed at my para.”

“Are you sure that’s all?”

“… I punched my para.”

Laura scoffed, “Really, Callie? Are you serious right now?”

“Yeah!” I yelled, “I am!”

“What the hell were you thinking?!”

“She hit my hand!” I protested.

“Callie, she probably didn’t. She probably just tapped your hand to tell you to stop picking, and you freaked out. Jesus, do you have to be so Special Ed all the time?”

I froze. Only seconds later did she realize what she had said.

“Oh Callie… I’m so sorry.”

“I can’t just stop picking. That’s not how things work. Do you think I enjoy picking myself bloody? Because I don’t, and if it was as easy as not doing it, then I would’ve stopped a long time ago.”

It was at that moment that I got up from my seat and left. I ate by myself in the bathroom. I didn’t talk to her for the rest of the day.

So here I am, sitting on the stoop of my apartment, sketchbook and pencil in hand and a dog at my feet. I listen to music as I draw and this time, I do not draw what is in front of me. I draw what I see in my mind.

I do not look up from what I am doing until around 8:00 when Jazzy starts barking. There’s Laura, refusing to meet my eyes.

“Can I… can I sit with you?” she asks.

I nod, and she comes to sit next to me, wrapping her arm around me tightly. We don’t speak for a long time.

“I’m not just a Special Ed kid,” I tell her, my voice hushed to a whisper. She sighs.

“No,” she agrees, “No, you’re not. I’m sorry.”

“I’m a person.”

She is silent once more.

“Yes, Callie. You are a person.”

“Then why am I treated differently?”

At this point, I am crying my eyes out, and she can definitely tell.

“I don’t know, Callie. You just are.”

She pulls away from me, and my arm feels cold.

“Take off your jacket, Callie. No one’s judging you.”

My jaw drops. “How did you know?”

“I’m your best friend, Callie. I’m psychic,” she winks at me, and I laugh. “But seriously. Take the coat off.”

And I do.


Trump Tower

April 2017


Jason walked right up to me in front of 70 Pine, our designated meet up spot. As always, he was late, and I was early. The sun was going to set at almost eight o’clock, and it was only six, so we were good to make the sunset shots.

“The man, the myth, the legend. Nice to see you, Jason. You ready?” I said.

“You know it. So how are we getting in?”

“Easy. The school right there. I’m friends with them. I’m sure they’ll let you in… just say you need to use the bathroom.”

“Got it.” I pointed to the school and showed him an outline I wrote earlier in art class of how exactly we were going to get in. We crossed the street and walked into the school.

“Hey Marlon, how are you?” I said, putting my hand out.

“Happy to see you again! What you need.”

“Just need to use the bathroom, if that’s okay. I’ve been looking for so long.”

“Of course, just use the one on the third floor.” I smiled and started walking up the stairs, Jason following right behind me.

“Your friend can wait down here,” he said, looking back at me.

“Okay.” I looked at Jason and signalled for him to ask.

“Do you mind if I go wash my hands upstairs?” Jason asked.

“It’s fine… you can go up,” Marlon said.

We walked up the stairs and looked at each other. I smiled and said, “We’re in. We did it. We passed the hard part.” I smiled a big smile and kind of giggled right as we got out of sight of the security. We got to the third floor and passed by the bathroom and kept walking down the school. We saw the exit sign signalling to go to the right. We took a right, and we were in the clear: no cameras and the stairwell entrance right in front of us.

“Okay, put on your bandana.” I took mine out, and so did Jason. He had a blue on, and I had a red one… ironic.

“This is what we’re going to do. Go to the ninth floor and transfer to staircase H. From there we take it down to the fifth, and we’re past the security in the offices, and we could take the elevator down to the lobby. From there, follow me.”

“Okay,” Jason said. We both had our bandanas on, and my hand was on the staircase door handle. I took a deep breath, turned the handle, and walked in. I covered my eyes in front of the three cameras pointed at the door. It didn’t phase me. I just kept walking and kept my head low. We ran up the stairs and arrived on the ninth floor. We opened the exit door and came inside an office area inside the Trump building. I saw the golden elevators, but there was a glass door blocking me from them. We were close but still a mile away. I led him around to stairwell A, and we took it down to the fifth floor. Open sesame! The moment we opened the doors, we saw the golden sheen of the Trump elevator doors.

“Bingo,” I said, jumping up and down.

“Take your bandana off. We’re good. Just follow me, and don’t be afraid to look around. Try to act normal,” I said while laughing. All the pressure released from my body, and I felt calm. From here, it was just the matter of not getting stopped while going into the elevators, but there was no worry for — Bing! Within seconds, we were already at the lobby, and the golden doors opened to more golden decor and white marble floors. I walked out and took a slight right to the elevators labeled forty-five to sixty-two. We walked into the hall and clicked the button to call the elevator. Immediately we heard a ring, and both of our necks swiveled backwards. We walked in and almost at the same time, we saw the cameras staring us down. We turned around and smiled at each other. We were in Trump’s most valuable tower.


The elevator was fast, but relative to the tall building, it took a minute or two to get to the sixty-second floor. The doors opened, and we both sighed in relief. The elevator door shut, and we heard the whirring as it went down beneath us.

“Well… we’re here! Look at that view,” I said, pointing to a huge window looking out at the sunset.

“Damn that’s beautiful,” Jason said, staring into the sun. The blue, almost fluorescent sky lit up as the sun started making its way down, turning it orange inch by inch.

“Okay, what next?” Jason said.

“I’ll take you to the highest we can get, but the door to get to the spire is locked. I checked earlier.”

“This has been done before. I’m sure we can find a way.” I looked back at Jason and clicked the elevator button leading to the top floor. It opened up with a loud, creaking noise. It was an old, freight elevator contrary to the new, golden, shiny ones on the main elevator. Again I clicked the highest floor, and it started to go up. The elevator buzzed, and we made our way out. I stuck my head out of a half open window and looked up. We were about forty feet below from the base of the thinning spire.

“There’s the lock right there.” I pointed to the entrance leading to the spire. Jason walked up to the lock and started fiddling with it, turning it, and banging it. We even tried to break the lock, but nothing worked.

“I guess we should find another floor where we could go on the outside,” Jason said. I nodded back. I walked into the stairwell and lightly walked down the stairs. We checked every door on every floor, and everything was locked, but when we got to the sixty-fourth floor we found a wide open hole in the wall. It was dim, and the walls were made of brick. There were loud noises and lights coming from inside from rusty machines that probably have been there since 1930, when the Trump building was made. We walked into the room and saw orange light peeking through the windows. We walked toward it. It was a fully open three-foot window. Just enough for us to easily get in and out.

“Jackpot.” We dropped our bags and jackets and looked out. It was breathtaking and familiar, but it felt as we say in the Philippines, “biten” (BIH-TIN), meaning not enough or that it didn’t hit the spot. We both knew this wasn’t the building’s full potential, and it didn’t really satisfy what we did all this work for. We stayed there for a good twenty minutes and got a lot done. Not a second is wasted when rooftopping. Everything has to be as correct and precise as possible while still being quick and silent. We took photos, Snapchats, and hung from one hand from the side of the building. Just normal things. We were both done, and all I wanted to do was leave. I gave up, and in my mind I knew getting up to the top would be impossible without a pick lock or explosive.

“Okay Jason, let’s go… I don’t wanna get caught.”

“Hold up. C’mon, I have an idea”

“No, we’re going.” I called the elevator and got in. Jason got in and shook his head.

“Silly you.” He pressed the highest floor we could get in again. The door shut, and we were going back.


The elevator door opened, and I had a feeling that I normally get while rooftopping. Most rooftoppers have anxiety that when the elevator door opens, a horde of police and security will be waiting there for them. In all honesty, using the elevators is the most nerve-wracking, especially when going down. But that didn’t happen today, it never does. It’s something that happens on YouTube.

“Get your keys out right now,” Jason said, as he walked out of the elevator.

“Stop, that’s not going to work.”

“I’m being so serious. Give it to me.” I shrugged and dug through my overfilled pockets. I felt the rigid ends of the keys and yanked it out. I tossed it to Jason, and he walked over to the locked door.

“This should work.” Jason stuck the key in. It fit perfectly, sliding in with ease. He turned it left… didn’t budge… he turned it right. Didn’t budge. Then he wiggled the key and left just about a hair line out of the lock. Then boom, he turned right, and I heard the most satisfying sound I’ve ever been a part of.

“NO FUCKING WAY! NO WAY!” I screamed.

Jason looked at me nonchalantly and said, “Ladies first.”

I gladly said yes and slowly walked up the spiral stairs. Within the stairs there were small circle windows about 1.5 feet in diameter. I saw higher than I ever saw before. So many things were racing through my head. I didn’t even care if I got caught anymore. This was the most badass thing I’ve ever done. Everyone dreams of climbing the Trump Tower, and I could basically do this in my sleep now. We walked all the way to another metallic, almost brand new, spiral staircase. I saw the bright lights surrounding us pointed out to the city. I knew exactly where we were… we were in the spire of Trump’s most valuable tower.


“I think we should leave our bags here,” Jason said. I nodded and dropped my bag down. All I needed was my camera. Everything was setup and ready to go. We started to climb up the rusty, old, steel ladder to the top. I kept my camera hanging from my neck and propped off the side of my back. I tried my best not to let my camera hit the grimy bars on the ladder. The ladder went about forty feet up and got dirtier and rustier the higher I got. When I got to the top, I stood on the bars that went across the ten-foot space. The window out was right in front of me, waiting for me to go through. I held on to the side walls as I waited for Jason to come up. He got up and looked outside the window.

“No way… we are here man. No turning back.” Jason said.

“I know. Is it safe to go out?”

“Yeah, I’m going first, then just follow along. Here, hold my camera.” Jason handed me his camera, and legs first, he squeezed through the window.

“Okay, pass my camera.” I climbed toward the window and handed Jason his camera. He stood out there fiddling with his camera and looking around the sky. He looked up and froze.

“Yo. Yo, grab my camera right now… RIGHT NOW.” I grabbed his camera without hesitation.

“What happened,” I said, as I started to make my way down the ladder.

“No, no, no, stay here we’re fine, there’s just too many helicopters out here. Let’s wait till it gets a bit darker.” He awkwardly squeezed back through the window facing backwards. When he got back in, we both sat on the rusty bars and looked at each other in silence. We sat there slowly relaxing every second. I felt my heart rate slow down, and my thoughts about getting caught slowly slipped out my mind. We were in the roof area for about an hour now and nothing has happened. No cameras, no motion detectors… nothing. I could, with authority, say this was one of the easiest roofs in NYC. We waited inside looking out the window for about thirty minutes. The helicopters didn’t stop, but they slowed down as the sun went down.

“I think we should go now,” I said.

“Okay, hold my camera.” I took the camera and cradled the lens like a baby. He quickly got out to the spire and grabbed his camera. It was my turn, and by God, was I ready. I held on to the top ledge of the window and propped myself out legs first. I looked up and saw about thirty feet up till the end. Never had I been so high in my life, and there was nothing that could top this, so I tried to make the most out of this trip. I took out my camera that was already set up and started firing away on rapid speed.


The shots came out beautifully and needed minimal editing. I tried to hang or do some daredevilish stunts, but everything was thin and flimsy and hadn’t been restored since 1930. We walked in circles. The distinct, almost mint green still sticks in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful, worn out green so close up in my life. You have to see it to appreciate it. I continued to take shots and videos of this mission. But for just a minute, I put the camera down and enjoyed what I wouldn’t have for a long time. The World Trade Center glowed with its smaller buildings, making it seem like a small, utopian village in the middle of other futuristic office buildings which took up the Financial District. Then, you walked to the opposite side and saw Manhattan’s tapering down to the Staten Island Ferry. It was surreal looking down and seeing nothing but the green of the rest of the roof.

“I’m doing it,” Jason said, as he walked toward the ladder leading up.

“Crazy mofo.” He started scaling even higher than the nine-hundred feet we were at. Relative to where we were already at it didn’t seem to make a difference, but the view was beautiful. Jason climbed to the top of the spire as I peered down. He took one candid shot, and I went back to shooting. What I didn’t know was that he took the best photo of me I’ve ever seen.


He headed down, and we knew it was time to go. We’d been up there close to two and half hours, and we didn’t want to cut it any closer. Jason climbed down from the spire, and I passed him my camera. I hopped inside the small room back in and squatted on the bars I was standing on.

“Get my camera,” Jason said. I took his camera, and he awkwardly squeezed himself halfway and then got stuck because he was coming out backwards.

“Fuck, what do I do,” he said.

“Jeez, let me help you.” I went across the bars and slowly held him as he went back out to try again. He went feet first and pulled himself in. I gave him his camera, and he packed it away in his bag. I strapped my camera to my shoulder and started climbing the ladder back down. Jason then followed behind me. I packed my camera into my bag and put my light cashmere sweater on. We were back to where the big LED lights faced out. I remember staring at this a couple years before and enjoyed the thought of such a tall, beautiful building. New memories like this always make me appreciate and compare my past experiences.

“Wow, I can’t believe we’ve done it,” I said. Jason looked at me and started laughing about how hilarious and insane this situation was.

“We’ve really done it this time,” Jason said. We were all packed and ready to leave the roof. I looked one last time and started heading down the spiral staircase. On the way down, we saw small, circular windows that gave us the first and last views from the roof. We then came to the end of the staircase and the gate that was opened with my key. I looked back at Jason and looked out to see if any workers were there waiting for us. I took a deep breath and pushed the bar. It was almost over. We walked over to the elevators and took it down to the sixtieth floor, where we would transfer to the lobby elevator. The doors opened, and I clicked the button for the next elevator. We waited for a good three minutes for the elevator to come. By then, we started getting worried about the security catching on. We heard a ring from behind us, and the elevator door started to open. It fully opened, and it wasn’t filled with police… phew. We got in and pressed the lobby. The elevator down was nerve-wracking. I could only think of the worst… getting caught. We whirred down the flights and finally arrived at the lobby. The elevator door clicked open and opened to a full lobby of not police, but gold rimmed chandeliers, and the exit! We took a right from the elevator trying to act as normal as possible. We came up to the door, and it was blocked by red velvet rope. I looked at Jason, and we quickly turned around. This meant we had to leave from the main entrance. We walked toward the turnstiles and walked straight through them.

“Have a nice night, guys,” the doorman said.

We both looked at him and nodded. We walked out and looked at each other with the most “I can’t believe we just did that” look.

“You know what this calls for,” I said.


“Mission accomplished Snapchat videos!” We both put on our bandanas and went across the street to a plaza. We did our handshake and stared at 40 Wall. We then parted ways and had to explain to our moms why we came home so late.


The Simulation


The Simulation

I wake up on a Monday, the day that wreaks havoc across Malibu International High School, or MIHS for short. On Mondays, some of the students — mainly boys, unsurprisingly — act exhausted, just to annoy the teachers. This usually ends in parents being kindly invited to discuss their child’s behavior in class, or just the typical, “Go to the principal’s office, right now!” But today, everything seems… different. I have a strange feeling. I don’t know what it is, but I just have it.

“Mom!” I yell. But as usual, she has left for work.

It’s not that we are financially troubled. She is just very enthusiastic about her job. That kind of annoys me because it means that she’s barely around, leaving me by myself most of the time. Even on weekends. She works for a newly born scientific company called Malibu Scientific Studies and Collection (MSSC). She usually leaves before I wake up, leaving me to do everything to get ready for the day. I have to get breakfast and prepare for the day. But sometimes, she leaves breakfast out for me on the table (today is one of those days), so I sit down and eat, wondering what today will be like.


“Good morning, class,” says Ms. Willmur.

She aptly takes her seat and proceeds to put her blonde hair in the usual ponytail. She praises me every Monday for being “the only mature fifteen-year-old boy in the school.” I start class by turning in my homework: a pre-calculus math worksheet. I get A’s in this and most other subjects. I take my seat next to my best friend Alissia.

“How you doin’ on this fine morning?” she asks flatly.

“Eh, today feels weird,” I reply.

I can always come back to her for advice, whether it be about how to handle emotions or what to write on homework assignments.

“In what way?” she asks.

Just then I freeze. I am unable to move or speak or breathe. I faint, but so does everyone else. All I can see for a while is darkness. I am still conscious, but it’s like I only exist in my mind. I wake up in a dark room with red lighting.

“How the he — ,” I start but I stare at the room — no — spaceship I am in.

The interior is vast; I can’t see either end of the ship. I get out from my… containment pod? I realize that I am wearing headgear, and so is everyone else to the right and left of me. They all look weird. They look almost… alien. Oh god. Please no, I think. I look at myself, and I see pale, almost transparent skin. I can see my veins and my — muscles? I am afraid now. I don’t know what to do. I look around frantically, but I turn around only to find something remarkable.

“Levine, Jack. Please retreat into your pod, please,” a hovering droid says to me.

I just stare at the droid, admiring the tech put into it, before punching it in what I would call the face and running to what I think is the front of the ship. Soon, I realize an alarm goes off, with a corresponding flashing blue light. I’m running fast, faster than a human can run. I look down and see slender feet, like a cheetah’s, but with three large claws for three toes, and they are also slightly more muscular. I don’t know much about speed, but I think that I am running nearly forty miles per hour. I also realize that I have a tail, for balance. I look at my feet again, and they are completely stable, so my suspicion may be true. But to confirm it, I glance at my arms, which are the same length as my legs, if not a tiny bit longer. Lastly, I realize my posture. Hunched, I think to myself. That confirms it. I can run faster, if I go on all fours. I try it, expecting to fail, but it comes naturally. I also don’t have to hold my head up as I do it, as it is forward facing now that I am on all fours. Now, I should be clocking in at sixty miles per hour, but I am barely even trying, unlike when I was on two legs. I push myself forward as hard as I can, now travelling at ninety miles per hour.

“Yeah! New record! Take that, cheetah!” I say.

I finally realize that I haven’t reached the front of the ship and think to myself, How long is this thing?! I stop and go on two legs again. I look behind me but only see a green flash of light that blinds me, and all I see a split second later is black. I awaken in my pod again. I grunt to myself, but instead a low rumble emerges from my mouth, and the glass cracks. It doesn’t break, but it cracks. I do it again, and it breaks and shatters and is blown away from me. Another ability at my disposal. Now I can escape this place.


The Escape

I start my escape by playing possum. I do exactly what the other alien things do, which is sleep. My eyes closed, I think about all that I have yet to realize. And then I remember my mother. My eyes shoot open, and I quit playing possum.

“So much for the plan,” I say to myself.

Of course, the alarms go off as I break out of my pod with my “sonic scream,” and the security droids come after me as I run on all fours. Then I notice, all the pods have human names on them. Martha McCannon, I say in my mind. Jones Johnson, Johannes Johnson. I see my old friends in a helpless state, and I feel saddened, but I keep going nonetheless. I run faster, and the names become blurred, but one stands out to me. Alissia Swift. I stop immediately and stare at her seemingly dead body. I am startled when I see slight movement. She opens her eyes slowly and sees me. I give her a confused look as she awakens. She screams… at least I think so; the glass is soundproof. I use my sonic scream to break her out. However, before I can explain anything, she jumps out and starts running away from me.


I jump out and run away from my attacker. But as I do, I keep saying in my mind, C’mon Alissia! Face him! Her! Whatever!! But I do not want to. I have been avoiding any contact for… I don’t know how long. So it is natural for my sense of self-preservation to kick in. I stop and turn around to see that my attacker has caught up to me.

I prepare to defend myself, but all he does is scream, “Alissia! It’s so good to see you!”

I am very confused. How does this perso — alien — know me?

So I ask, “Should I know you?”

He appears to compose a look of sadness on his face. “Hey, it’s me, Jack,” he says.

My face instantly brightens up, and I throw my front appendages around him. “Jack!” I scream.

We stay like this for a while, but we both soon realize the droids surrounding us.



Unique. That was my name. At least that’s what I thought it was, until my mom told me it was Shellsea, but I didn’t like that name because it was not different and it was similar to someone else’s. Kelisea, Chelsea, Nelsea, like, they are all the same. Mine does not stand out. I wish it did. It isn’t different. It isn’t special. It is just Shellsea. My mom says she gave me this name because I was in born in Costa Rica, and she was thinking about the beach when giving birth to me. The funny thing is that my younger sister was also born with a name similar to mine. Her name is Kelisea, but since we were born one year apart, I guess that’s why her name is Kelisea Anne Cher. But guess what, that is only her first name!!! Compared to what mine is, it’s just Shellsea Diamond Harrison. Her name is Kelisea Anne Cher Wendy Harrison. I recently asked Mom why she did not give me a name like hers, and she said “both of your names mean something to me, about how and why I had you two.” Yeah, like that was a good response!!! But I know what you’re saying, why am I stressing over this? Well I’ll tell you why, but we have to start all the way from the beginning of kindergarten.

So since I started school late, I was one year behind the year I was supposed to be in, so Kelly and I were in the same grade, school, and even class!!! Every year, it was like the same thing over and over again with my sister. One day, in kindergarten, Kelly and I were partners for show and tell because since we have the same last name on the attendance sheet, we were always partners. So we had to come up with an idea of what our project would be. We decided that we were going to bring in our favorite stuffed animal to show everyone why it was our favorite. We went in and told Mom about what we had to do, so we ran to the room and went in the toy box. We grabbed the one we thought was best, but we did not pick up the same one. I grabbed a lion because we bought it from a gift shop when Mom took me to see The Lion King on Broadway for my third birthday, and it was wonderful. On the other hand, my sister took out a white, baby seal that she got in her Happy Meal from McDonald’s. I told her to put it back because mine was better, and I snatched it from her hand and threw it on the floor. She started to cry so loud that my mom rushed into the room and yelled at me in Spanish, which I could not understand yet because I was five, but I know it meant something mean. So she said we would show and tell Kelisea’s animal. I was so mad that night that I went into my room and never came out until it was school the next morning. The next morning came, and Mom dropped us off at the bus stop. I pushed Kelly out of the way so I could sit next to my crush Jackel Hudson, but Kelly still beat me to the seat. I had to sit behind them because there were no more seats in the front. Now I know what all of you are thinking, why do I have a crush already when I’m only five years old??? Well, Jackel was cute, smart, he was in first grade, and because everyone else in kindergarten, first, and second grade thought he was, too. The bus was halfway to the school, and I was sitting next to the window all alone until my best friend Hailey sat next to me.

“Hi, Shelly,” said Hailey. I wanted to say “hi” back, but I was so mad that I did not want to speak to anyone. “What’s wrong?” Hailey asked.


“Wow, hurtful much? I was just asking,” said Hailey.

“Sorry, it’s just that when we got on the bus, I told Kelisea I wanted to sit next to Jackel.”

“Well, why don’t you go over there and say something to her about. I mean, after all, you are the older sister.”

Okay, so I’m gonna stop you right there, and yes I know the story was getting too good, but why did I stop? Well, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Hailey actually passed away in the fourth grade because she had lung cancer. She was my best friend for a while, until one day she stopped coming to school. I called her phone a few times, and it went to voicemail. I texted her phone, and she did not reply, so I called her mother, and she did not answer. I started to get worried, so I asked my mom if she could call Hailey’s mom, and she did. Mom came over to me and gave me a hug. I asked what was wrong, and she said Hailey was in the hospital. She had lung cancer. I dropped my cereal on the floor. I started to cry, but then I got up and asked if Mom could drive me to the hospital to visit her, and she said okay. We found our way to the hospital and visited Hailey. I was so depressed that I could barely look at her. She was so pale and weak, and she could barely move or talk. She reached for my hand and handed me a note. I leaned forward to listen to what she had to say.

“Gold is the softest color, it stands out rather than the others.”

She let go of my hand and shut down for good in the calmest way I had ever seen. I tried to wake her, but she wouldn’t. I tried to listen to a heartbeat, but all I heard was complete silence.

I shed tears down my face, but I walked away so nobody would see me. As I walked away, I was trying to think about what those words meant, but I didn’t know, so I opened the note she handed me. When I unfolded the letter, there was a necklace inside with the words Hailey said to me on the locket. Only did I not know that the locket was Hailey’s prized token.

I hid it in my pocket until my annoying, little sister came and said to me, “I am so sorry for you, Shelly. I know how, now that you have nothing of your best friend you…”


“O-M-G, Shelly I was just trying to comfort you. I know how hard this must for you,” said Kelisea.

“Well I do not want your love and affection, okay? I’m fine. Just leave me alone!”

My heart dropped to the floor. I was in so much pain, and I could not even think straight. I wanted to run away from everything, school, dance, my family and the worst thing of all, my annoying, little sister!!!

A few days passed by, and everyone in the hallways at school looked at me as I walked down the hall with my baggy ass hoodie and gray sweats that I found in the dirty clothes bag. They did not stink, but they had a lot of ice cream stains on them because they were my “Mom-is-always-yelling-at me-and-making-me-cry-so-I’m-going-to-eat-ice-cream” pants. I went into class late, and all of those eyes looking at me started to cry with tears of laughter.

I hurried to my seat as my sister grabbed my arm and told me, “I’m sorry.”

Those were the worst three days of my life, not because of losing my best friend, but because I showed the most terrible side of myself in front of the whole school. But anyways, let’s get back to the story before I tear up…

I looked at Hailey for a second and said, “Oh yeah, why not? This plan…  I mean this does not sound bad at all.”

I got up to go teach my sister a lesson on how she cannot steal her sister’s crush ever!!!

“Oh hey, Shellsea, wassup,” said Jackel.

“Oh hey, Jackel, Jack, Jackieeeeeee, jack-o-lantern, ummmmmmm, I just came to talk to my sister, could you give us a second… Kelisea, how many times do I have to say this? Stop sitting next to Jackel, I like him, and you are ruining my chance of going out with him just like you always do!!!”

“You can’t tell me what to do just because you are older. Stop being a big, old buttface!!!” said Kelisea.

“Well you are a giant babypunk!!!”

“You are a whiny baby head,” said Kelly.

“You are stupid little ba –”

What is going on here?? Kelisea and Shellsea sit in front of the bus, now!!!”

As a few hours went by, Kelisea and I were sent to the dean’s office for the rest of day until Mom picked us up. Mom put us in the car and was mad at us for arguing instead of going to school and making finger paint drawings. When we got home, Mom spoke to us and asked what happened.


“Mommy, I wasn’t doing anything, I was sitting on the bus talking to Jackel, when all of a sudden, Shelly starts yelling at me and I did not do anythinggggggg… ” said Kelisea, sadly.

“Lord, how many times have I told you not to yell at your sister for the tiniest things Shellsea. You are not her mother. Stop doing that,” said Mom so stubbornly.


I cried all night, but I made sure that the next day I was going to show everyone that I cannot be bossed around. I will not be bossed around, not now, and not ever!!! But then again, I was being a little dramatic just now, considering the fact that I am six years old, and I had no business of dating, liking, or even being a “tyrant” or so my sister may say. What can I say though, I’m mature and very fast for my age. What I did not understand is the fact that my little sister is some kind of magnet or metal lover that people adore. It’s like I am a giant alligator with greenish, fin tails and nasty, garlic breath, while she is a goddess princess who was made from the most beautiful creation on earth… But who was I kidding, all I ever do is try to make a plan to destroy my sister, but then Mom would ground me for life.


A few years later…

We finally got to sixth grade and things were looking up. I was dating Jackel, and I became best friends with this girl named Yolanda and this boy named Tyler. My grades were phenomenal, my school was my empire, and I was their queen. But there was one small problem in my little kingdom. A troll roamed through my town of happiness and her name was Kelisea Ann Cher Wendy Harrison. Everytime I tried to get rid of her, she always came back for more. I could never stop her from ruining my beloved town. But as we were learning about the suburbs and the city, the teacher assigned all of us to get into groups of four to make a project of a giant landscape or a field.

As we all know, Kelisea had to be in my group because of the whole “last name thing,” but I was happy that Yolanda and Tyler got to be in our group because Yolanda’s last name was Hillard and Tyler’s was Hikings. So we all agreed to work on the city; we were going to go different by doing a play instead of how life is in the city. Everyone came by my house after school, and it was actually pretty fun because even Jackel was allowed to come to the house. After we arranged the play, it was time for everyone to go home. As I walked Jackel to the door, he was leaning in for a kiss, and so was I, but unfortunately Kelly was right at the door smiling and staring at us, waiting to make a move. Jackel felt weirded out, so he gave me hug and left. I went upstairs with a pout lip and my feet stomping.

“Shelly, can I tell you something?”

“If it’s about what happened just now, then no.”

“But if it had something to do with someone messing with your relationship, you would want me to tell you, right?”

“Fine, what is it?”

“Jackel’s been cheating on you for two weeks… ”

“With whom?”

“… Yolanda.”

My heart shattered to the floor, my feet started to drag, and my face turned blue… As a couple days passed, I found out that it was true. Jackel was cheating on me with Yolanda, because after recess, I saw them making out behind the staircase, and everyone laughed at me. I thought to myself, I had lost my boyfriend, close friend, and most of all… my dignity. But along with speaking to my very own sister for keeping a secret from me for two weeks.

I shut myself out to all of the world and decided to move in with my dad instead in New Orleans. My priorities were only on school and family. When it came to graduation day in the eighth grade, Dad told me that afterwards we were going to fly back to New York to go to Kelisea’s graduation. I could not believe that I was finally going to see Kelisea again after two years. Even though Mom and Dad were not together anymore, they decided to bring the family back together before Kelly and I started high school.


The plane had landed. Dad and I were in an Uber, on our way to the school. As we walked into the building, I saw Jackel at the auditorium greeting people in. I heard he was valedictorian last year and was our alumni for this year. I seen Yolanda at the front of line, talking to Tyler, so I went over to speak to them.

“Congrats, you two. I’ll be in the audience clapping for you.”

Shellsea, O-M-G it’s been two years!!!”

“How are you?”

“I’m good. My graduation was yesterday, so Dad and I flew here to see Kelisea’s.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Tyler.

As Yolanda walked away with an annoyed face, I knew I was the better person because she finally saw what she did not have… a heart. Dad and I walked into the auditorium, and I saw Jackel. He knew who I was, and his eyes glowed as he saw me, but I kept it moving. The ceremony ended, and there was a party afterwards in the gym. Mom told me to go find Kelisea, so I walked around…

I found Kelisea by the staircase, talking to my old teacher, Ms. Hucks. She saw me and walked up to me. She shed a tear and held her arms out. I walked up to her as well and hugged her very hard. My tears started to mess up my makeup and so did hers, both of us with high heels on and our pretty dresses. I could not explain how I felt or what I was thinking. All I knew was that I got my little sister back into my arms.

“I missed you, Shelly,” said Kelisea.

“So did I… ”


Shadow Man

I love the smell of the fresh air and the feel of wind gracefully blowing my hair, whipping it away from my face. This is one of the times I feel free. My stress thousands of miles away. Just sitting and looking out across the landscape to where the brilliant sun is slowly disappearing. The strokes of millions of shades of colors sweeping above me and being rushed into nonexistence. I love most of all, the calm that comes with the dark blue, looming sky. It seems like all sounds are scared to move. But I am not scared, but the sounds are. Slowly as the sun says its final goodbyes, I watch as the shadows behind the beams of rocks come alive, dancing in the moonlight. At this moment, I wish that I could control those dancing figures of darkness, bend them to my will. I imagine one leaping into pools of light and taking on a human form to waltz with me. I open my eyes, my concise self never noticing that I ever closed them. I look down, ashamed that I could ever think that something like that could be real. I don’t notice that all is still except myself breathing. Except not all is actually still, the shadows are moving too, aren’t they? My mind wanders again to the dancing figure of shadow. Suddenly, even the moon loses light. Eerie music starts to play. Ups and downs, sweeps of sadness, and bellows of jolly float through the air. I hear little twinkles of laughter bouncing on the wind, the sounds are not scared anymore. They are dark sounds though, meant for the night and the looming, dark blue sky. The sound jolts to a stop, the end of the song or is it just the beginning? Out of the shadows or part of one, steps a man tailored to the finest of beauty. I don’t second-guess myself for a moment, this man is real. A shadow is solemn, this man has sprite, a happiness to each step. He bends low at the waist and unravels a hand for me to take. I tentatively take a step forward and gracefully accept the hand given. The sweeps of sadness and bellows of jolly start up again but at a more soothing tempo. A song meant for me and my shadow partner. Slowly, as if scared, the shadow starts to slide into movement pulling me with it. The cold of the night wind pushes us together, pulling the imaginary strings of a shadow orchestra into submission. The air is warm, radiating safety, and I want to slip in. So, I do. My arms wrap around his neck, and I feel the cold of his hands. I shiver. I lay my head on his chest, my height close to reaching his chin. I hear a heartbeat, this man is real. But I don’t care if this is all a fleeting dream because I know that this moment of solidarity I will not forget. I cannot forget. Shadows are always there.

The shadows beckon like they always do, pulling me in. I refuse to be swayed. Go to meet him, go to meet him, I tell myself. I fall into the will of my mind. Where would he be, the most shadow near, of course. And so I walk the trail to where I first conjured this man. The beams of rocks reach up towards the sky around me, and slowly, I walk into darkness.


The End


Under This Roof

The door handle slowly turned. I noticed a small fleck of white paint crinkle and fall to the floor, leaving an abyss of gray on the door. My dad had said we would get it redone, but we never did. Maybe when they move in we will, I thought. Maybe we will redo the entire apartment, or even move to Maui or someplace exotic, and then all my memories will fade away with the blowing wind.

The door opened, and I saw them pale in the face, carrying big duffle bags that made them seem tiny. And at that moment, I felt huge. Her awkward “hello” sent shivers through my body as I realized my new responsibility.

She was a tall, dark, and brooding teenager. Her hair was thick and tangled as if she had just been to the ocean. But I knew it wasn’t the crashing waves that knotted her hair. Her eyes were so dark brown that if she said they were black, I would have believed her. There was something desolate about her gaze. Something despondent.

He was younger and lighter colored, and his hair was curled in all different directions. His shirt was sky blue. The blue that makes you want to take a deep breath and go to sleep. His piercing, gray eyes made me want to uncover what lay beneath, but I averted my gaze to a dust bunny floating above the ground. It seemed there was a string attached to it, guiding it somewhere, but that place was unknown.

As they walked through the alcove, the ground lowered where their heavy feet stepped. It was as if the ground wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of their luggage. One more bag and it would have crumbled under their feet. We reached the room, and for the first time, I realized how much my dad had changed it. My playroom had become their bedroom. I could swear the walls were tan but my dad said white. I think he was pushing it. The bedspreads were a mix of blue and gray, and looked like a Picasso. A painting of the sun hung above the bookshelf. It was truly beautiful but belonged outside, above the blossoming trees and budding flowers. My new stepmother said it was a nice house and a nice room.

I needed space to think to myself, so I went to the kitchen, opened up a drawer, and pulled out a glass bottle. It was hard to open at first, but once the fresh water came trickling down, I forgot about the indent from the cap in my hand. The pure, whole water touched my lips, and I felt it flow down my throat and calm my stomach. I kept drinking until the whole bottle was finished, and I had forgotten that this was the last one.

I decided to lay my head upon my purple pillow and breathe in the deep smell of rose perfume. I didn’t like it. All I wanted was to have a gray pillow with no fragrance, so I wouldn’t feel guilty for getting to stay in my own house while they had to leave theirs. I hoped we could connect under this roof and become a family.

Dinner that night was cold split pea soup. It was dull green and chilled my tongue. There weren’t enough dinner bowls, so I offered to use the ceramic bowl I had made at camp a few summers ago. At first, my dad forgot about it, but when I showed it to him I could tell he was thinking back to the day I brought it home. I said I made the bowl for him and Mommy to share one big spaghetti, like Lady and the Tramp, and then he told me about the divorce. It was like I was standing in the calm ocean, and then an unexpected wave crashed into me, and I went rolling under the cloudy sea, and when I came up for air, I felt a searing pain in my lungs from the salt water, and my eyes could not open, for the salt had blinded me.

That night, I had a dream. I dreamt that I was the wood in a fireplace, just sitting there in the cold, damp night because no one bothered to light the fire.




on dusty racks

my whole life sits

in crumpled balls of

scribbled lines

the stories that

i couldn’t tell

my snowglobes

show foreign times

and foreign places

brought to me by

loving hands

letters to people

long forgotten

all the friends

i left behind

pictures of my

shiny face

framed by glowing

youth and mirth

both things lost to the years

and covered in filmy dust.

little toy frogs

and old, folded blankets

yellow music boxes

and chipped, brown mugs

sit in cobwebs

to tell my story.


Junior School

I remember the kids’ vibrant and youthful voices filling the void in my mind with playfulness. I remember the dark skies shielding me from the truths of what lay beyond them, while we brushed past the greenery in our chosen form of transportation. I remember my closest friends’ voices comforting me when I was lower than the great abyss of the ocean. I remember the dark playground when the cold arrived. I remember the cold as well, which could only be warmed by the positive emotions and laughter provided by myself and those around me I kept close. I remember, of course, heartbreak and leaving my friends with frowns on all our faces; sometimes, tears were shed. I can’t remember the period of my life when my vocabulary was limited and when my life was made up of memories of little kids rushing around me as we went to parks during recess. I want to remember what I believed, when I was young and innocent. I want to remember more of my past self, who I was, who I thought I was meant to be.


The General

As the general took his strides around his base, he smiled. He saw the lieutenants preparing for battle, the cadets screaming at one another to get ready, and the captains going over the strategies one last time. Ever since the last time the enemy knew they were coming and had drastically overpowered them, they had assured each other that they would never experience the humiliation of defeat again. They had doubled their practice time, and, being the general, he had noticed the change. He himself used to be a cadet just like them, so he understood the pain that they were going through when they did their ten-mile run with their supplies on. Over the course of the year, he had come to know each and every one of them quite well, and he was proud. He knew they were ready for battle.

The day had come to take the enemy base. Their country was rooting for them, and they would not let them down. As they boarded the plane and attempted to take the high ground, the general felt a sense of stress unlike any other. When the ground of the plane opened up, and the soldiers started to jump off one by one, the feeling of time started to shift. One second turned into ten, so much that it seemed like an eternity before he was finally able to fall into the field.

As he returned to action, however, the long-lost feeling of the air flowing against his face brought up an old memory. For a while, all was chaos. Gunshots breezed through the air, causing his ears to ring. He even let out a few shots from his gun, though only one made contact. He looked behind him to see his best snipers shooting from a half-mile away. His foot soldiers continued to gain ground, and after a while, it seemed like they had the advantage. That was until they got to the wall. As hard as they tried, they could not break down the barrier that was keeping them from getting inside the base. All the while they tried, the enemy was throwing down grenades at them, ending the lives of too many people. It was at that moment when the general made the decision to do the one thing he never thought he would have to. He was going to have to —

“Kids, come down, and have your dinner! And don’t forget to clean up that pillow fort when you’re done!”


The Smell

Cyrus woke up that morning without the familiar scent of pine. Even in his sleep soaked mind, Cyrus immediately recognized the change. Something was wrong. He opened his eyes, searching the little room for any noticeable differences. But no, the dresser, the desk, the chair, everything was there. Everything except for the subtle, clean smell he woke to each day. Thinking about it, he didn’t even know where the smell had come from or when it started. Cyrus only knew that it had become the most comforting part of coming home every day. The thought of being in his tiny apartment without it sent a pain through his heart that he didn’t fully understand. Cyrus sat up in bed. He knew, with an almost mad determination, that he would need to find his smell and bring it back.


First, Cyrus started in the bedroom, carefully combing through every inch of the space. Papers, notes, letters, the usual. He smelled each one, but there was nothing. Not even a hint of pine. Cyrus moved on to the living room. So many things lying about, not one of them smelling quite right. Kitchen now. Cyrus tore apart his refrigerator, then each drawer. Food and knives laid on the floor when he was done, smelling of everything all at once. Everything except his pine. Heart beating faster, he ran back through the apartment. Maybe the smell lived inside the mattress or at the back of the dresser. Perhaps it hid in the couch cushions or in the space behind the refrigerator. Sometimes he caught tiny whiffs of his scent, like it was taunting him. Or maybe he was just imagining things.

After hours of tearing up the apartment over and over, Cyrus sank down against his front door. Looking around the room, he did not see the destruction caused by his search. He only felt the absence of pine. And with it, he knew that his world would never be right again.


Cold Summers Night in the Country


We’d hear the wild grass

Rustle like a blanket

On a cold summer night

As we watch the stars.

Our mouths turn o-shaped

And I point at the constellations.

You would tap on my shoulder and

Point to the shooting star,

I’d blink and miss it.

You’d groan at just the

Right pitch so that

I would know

You were joking.

You had an odd sense of humor

That always made me laugh.

I loved it when you made me laugh.

It felt different

Than all of the other times.

After a while

We’d fall asleep

With the blankets up to

Our noses.


The Infernal Names

HER EYES ARE SO GREEN THEY BURN! like the curling pages of a magazine, chemical coating dyeing the flames. The Emerald City ablaze, the serpent’s tongue, the forest floor of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve sin and sweat. And when you look at me with them, ooh girl, but I feel it all the way to my toes.

Bast twirls hair around her finger, nails cut short and painted red. The hair is not her own, but she knows it as though it is. Knows the exact weight, the thickness — the curls and the straight bits. Cassandra’s hair. Her person almost completely captured by the bounce of it, by the way it falls around her shoulders and down the nape of her neck. Cassandra’s eyes flutter slowly open and Bast falls into them, standing at the top of a well and feeling no fear as her body plunges into the cool water. It would sizzle as she fell in, the water would, sharply contrasting with her temperature.

Sharks leaving trails of scarlet blood in clear, blue seawater.

That’s how it is, with the two of them lying in Cassandra’s cotton sheets. Bast’s little body burning flame intertwined with her clear blue.

They both lie awake, pressed against each other, feeling the way their bodies move as their chests rise and fall almost synchronized. Not speaking, listening intently to the creak of the springs under them as they shift in search of sleep.

When Cassandra wakes up, the bed is empty. She lies still for a moment in the buttery sun, blinking, hearing the sound of a mourning dove on the fire escape. Lost in thought? Deep in a trance maybe? Lots to think about maybe.

Bast’s hair flows long, black, silky. She is wearing only this when she appears in the doorway holding two mugs of coffee, the cat slithering between her legs. “Morning, babe.” Mornings are always these short, simple moments, almost routine, almost repetitive.

The girls sit together on the bed. Cassandra burns her tongue on the coffee.

“Too hot!”

Bast smiles and responds, “Can’t help it.”

They don’t have anything to do that morning, anywhere to go, so they lay in the bed and talk and drink their coffee and burn each other with the hot liquid and with their mouths. The silky light of morning is seeping through the breezy curtains and Cassandra is feeling calm, eyes shut and breathing soft. She feels Bast brush the hair back from her forehead with a warm hand, and Bast kisses her, dark and heavy, flicking her forked tongue between Cassandra’s lips. This burns her more than the coffee, this feeling, and shivers of pleasure run through her, so hot she’s cold. Their hands leave UV prints on each others’ bodies, the dragging of skin on skin, the deep inhales, and sighs it’s so good with Bast and Cassandra it’s so, so good. The hair is getting tangled and knotted now. The eyes are rolling into the back of their heads, turning completely inwards behind closed eyelids, so they can see their brains.

And then Cassandra pulls away, out of breath, not wanting anymore.

“What.” Bast slows her breathing, holds Cassandra’s face in her hands.

“Nothing. I dunno.”

Cassandra can feel how Bast is staring at her, searching for a sign in her face to reveal what she won’t. She pulls away.

Bast swings her feet over the edge of the bed not facing her anymore. “This keeps happening. Like, just lately, but like this keeps on happening, Cass.”

She is silent. Bast snorts a little in frustration like the little pig and gets up, paces around the room, around the island of the bed where Cassandra sits. Her hair is swinging as she walks, her tits too, and everything about her movement is mad. She leaves trails of hot smoke in the bedroom, and Cassandra’s sight is warped like through the steam from a radiator. As she paces back and forth, circling the bed, her face loses its red and returns to normal. She calms and slows her motions. And then she stops and turns to Cassandra and says, “It’s okay. I’m not mad or anything, just horny,” laughing like smoothing over wet cement, blowing it off like the steam over a cup. “It’s fine.”

Cassandra goes to the side of the bed where Bast stands, she lifts herself up and hugs her.

Bast kisses her gently and leaves the room to get dressed. Cassandra touches a hand to her scorched lips, the heat of Bast lingering like anger that hasn’t died out.



First, I guess you will want to know whose voice this is. Who is in such a prime, primal position, overseeing the temple and its inhabitants tonight. Perhaps on a balcony or an archway, or sitting over the altar in a special, private box. Or you could be theological and tell me I sit on a cloud spinning stringy tales and playing with one malleable piece of clay. Well. Hoo boy. I guess let’s attribute my knowledge and intellect to the stories passed down to me from all my ancestors and their ancestors. On this night, the door opens a crack which then opens up further and a beam of yellow light is cast across the floor. What does yellow feel like? You choose. Chiclets, sunshine, urine, buttery, lemony sour, whatever you want. Kassandra is yellow as she peeks into the temple, and she is very beautiful. Gold swathed over her, her bare feet stepping over the door frame and then resting on the cool marble. I have done this entrance before, gone from the dirty heat outside to the cool, smooth, white interior of the temple. It could really take your breath away. Arching, vaulted ceilings, everything white, smooth, and hard like teeth or something you could break your teeth on. Columns in all four corners, draped with heavy looking snakes that appear to slither, though frozen in marble. Kassandra walks through the room, passing the sculpture of the temple’s deity. She is walking slowly, examining the walls and statues and tables covered with fruits and crystals and paper offerings that have been dipped in honey. She glides to the front of the temple now, one solemnly bare foot in front of the other. Now, Kassandra stands at the altar. She turns to face ghost worshippers and closes her eyes and her hair flows back from her face as if by a gust of ghost wind. Then she lies down, stretches her body out onto the marble floor, and soon she is asleep.

The corners of the room melt away, sharp angles into butter, and the snakes are slithering low on their bellies surrounding the Sleeping Girl. They multiply, and she is in the center of the ring of snakes, flashes of bright green and their white fangs just like the marble. One draws in close to her face, and my breath catches, fearful for her smooth, dark skin. Its mouth opens, and I can almost see it happen, see the jaw clamp around her cheek and the scarlet blood start to spill. But it doesn’t. The snake whispers in her ear, eyes yellow and unblinking like Kassandra, and the girl’s body shifts in sleep to confirm the secret’s reception. The other snakes move in closer, and even I can hear the hushed tones of their whispers that fill her ears and her dreams and resound in the white temple.

It doesn’t surprise me that I wasn’t the one chosen to be their confidant, Kassandra was always right for these things. Sure, I wonder sometimes what the snakes said to her that night in the temple in the astral plane. But I saw her wake with such madness in her eyes, deep-rooted but rising, that I’d almost rather not know.



Fraying wicker, cat whiskers, thick, savory milk, sweet scent perfume. Beautiful woman, hot, smooth skin, cold shadows. Long, thick lashes, food-filled belly, big belly laugh, soft, sultry smile. Rock salt melting on the tongue. Scorching alcohol down the throat. Creamy, red blood in the veins, heavy with sodium and iron.

“THIS IS THE WAY WE DANCE!!!” SHE cries out to me in a slur of reds and golds and shimmering, shaking fabric.

I laugh and shout over the music, “I KNOW!!” Her mouth is as big as her face, and she is a vision in swaying arms and hips and swinging, long hair. The boys are following her movements, listening for the sounds of her bells and of her kneecaps clicking together. I am too, of course, but I have been trying all night not to let on. Her face is flushed and sweaty when she finally sits down on the silk, cushioned chair next to me. Her eyes are outlined in thick kohl, her lips a fierce red, and skin so creamy, dark, smooth like something so delicious!

“Don’t you want to dance?” She leans in to yell this into my ear.

I shake my head. “I can’t. I’m no good at dancing.”

She pouts and pours glasses of lemon water for us. “I bet you’re fine. Plus, no one will mind even if you aren’t.”

I know she’s right, but truthfully I am far too nervous to dance like she does, knowing what will come later on in the night. I am grateful for the darkness in this sweet-smelling den, where the air is too thick for Bastet to see how my hands shake. I don’t know how she does it, puts on not only a brave face but a beautiful one. Her teeth glint in the colorful lights as she laughs with the boys.

Small talk.

Not the way she talks to me.

They hang onto her every word like needy kittens and the way she entertains their attentions angers me, so I down the rest of my drink and pull her away from them. Hell, maybe it’ll take my mind off things. We dance for hours. Our bodies are practically melding into one, practically melting into a puddle of liquid butter on the dance floor. And I do stop thinking about it, at least for a little while.

After sweating our souls into the thick air, dancing for hours, Bastet drags me to a secluded room. We collapse into pillows and plush carpet and lie there still for a little while. Then she turns to me, “I think it’s time.” I know she’s right. We’ve been waiting for this moment and any more waiting will be too long. I reach a shaky hand to my boot and pull out a long, sleek blade. She clasps my face in her hands.

“This is right. I promise.” The weight of her breath in my nose and of the knife in my palm is enough to hold me here forever.

“We’re doing this for us, we’re doing this for the Gods, and the Goddesses! Baby, we’re doing this for us.”

I know she’s right.

“Fuck these fucking mortals!” She throws in for good measure, as if I needed more convincing.

Fuck these fucking mortals.

I nod into her glassy eyes where I can see myself reflected upside down and we stand, each concealing our blades within the folds of our skirts. Bastet’s hand is outstretched, almost grasping the doorknob. Right before she touches it the door is swung open. A lovesick, little kitty boy is on the other side, clutching glasses of blood-colored beer. His face is pained and pale, as though he is straining to say something. I take the drinks from his clammy hands, and before he can say a word, we shut the door again. Me and Bastet hold our glasses out to each other, and with a shudder, we swallow the blistering alcohol in one go.

Oh, give us strength.

The last thing I remember doing is heading for the door and witnessing Bastet fall one second before I do. The last thing I remember seeing is the humans crowding into the cramped room, watching us fizzle out with weary relief.

In my sleep I saw HER, balancing the sun on her head.

In my sleep I saw HER, burning in the pits of Hell.


BAST and CASSANDRA sit on a couch in Bast’s living room. There is tension in the air.






(she doesn’t look up)




I feel like we should talk…



Not now.



What’s wrong with you. You’ve been so weird lately.



Please just stop.






Just fucking stop!



(Bast’s face is starting to turn red)

No. This isn’t fair.



Fuck off, Bast.



Fuck you.



(under her breath)

Jesus Christ.



I can’t tell anymore if you love me.


There is a long pause here. Cassandra is thinking while Bast watches her desperately.



Me neither.



(Bast jumps up, furious)

What the fuck??? You don’t know fucking either??!



I don’t.



Well can you figure it out?!



I don’t know.






I know.



When did this happen?



Not sure.



Why couldn’t you have told me before now.



I wasn’t really sure until now.


Long pause.


This hurts.



I didn’t want to hurt you.



Well, you did.



You have to believe I didn’t fucking want to.



You. Did.



So what now?



Just leave.



Bast, please, can we talk?



Oh now you want to fucking talk.



I’m so sorry.



Please go.


Lights shut off as door slams shut, Bast is left alone in darkness.


It’s almost like she’s in a bunker or closet or cell or something else small and dark and damp. Black, thick air that you could gather up in muslin and squeeze water from. Her little body reverberating with such fire and power in the corner of the room, right where the wall meets the floor.


The Contents:

  • Bast
  • Her bones
  • Her blood
  • A flame that is predicted to grow any minute now

Weather forecast calls for forest fire maybe that’s just what this storm needs.

Storm not wet or gray or foggy

Not marbled, warbled sounds or smells

But a flashing hot vortex, a vertical tunnel.

Arms wrap around her knees, crushing her bones and doing it for the sake of the walls that are gradually scraping across the floor, coming closer by the second. The ember that started in her chest has leapt from her mouth, through the Pearly Gates of her rows of teeth, the kindling of her rage feeds it until Bast is surrounded by leaping flames. The little room she’s in is completely ablaze and reflecting in her eyes, so she is unable to realize the situation.

And then, after blinking maybe twenty-something times, her head clears and Bast jumps to her feet. “Oh fuck my fucking house is on fire.” Her fury is still there you best believe, but now there’s fear of burns and scars and suffocation and also amusement at herself for not noticing the impending disaster until now, isn’t that just like her. She wraps her t-shirt around her mouth and nose and slams the door of the room open, running down the hallway with so many doors, each somehow open, each somehow filled with licking flames. Her shirt is singed from where her hot breath caught in it, her hands that guide her down the hallway leave blazing trails on the walls, and her hair is gathered antigravity like in a comic book falling straight up, and maybe it seems like the source of the heat and horrible smoke isn’t the fire at all, but it’s her?

She bursts out onto the toxic waste, green backyard that’s almost waxy in comparison to the sidewalk out front and backed up against the fence she turns and watches her house. Looking down at herself, Bast notices that her palms are like a mirror reflecting the exact image of the flames like they’re right there in her bloodstream which of course they are. She stands like this, in the acidic pool of grass, watching the fire eat away at her house and the inside of her body.


Then the flame coming out of the bathroom window is a hand

The flame coming out of the kitchen is a curved rib cage

The flame in the bedroom is a neck and a head

And the legs are poking out the front door

And Bast is face to face with the face in the living room

pressed up against the window and Bast feels magnetic hot force like no other and runs up to the window. The flames are still leaping and now licking and caressing her, running their tongue across Bast’s body. She feels their hands on her waist and then slipping as gracefully and smoothly as only a natural force can under her cotton shirt, into the waistband of her jeans, all over everywhere until she’s burning so hot that she’s cold. Her heart is beating so fast and so hard in her chest, so hard that it could fly from her body on powdery wings and she could become A dark magicked demon or a beam of light, those sharks or that seawater, a slick, marble temple or a damp, dark room she could be any or none MULTIPLICITY of woman. She and the flames intertwined in cosmic spillover between dimensions

Between planets and surfaces

The cratered holy rock of the moon,

projected so it’s right up against your face pressing on your nose and eyelashes.

From here you can see her kneeling in the space between the stars, one strong calf at a right angle with her elbow resting on it and the other lying flat on the astral plane.

You can see the way she holds her arms so rigid, extra support for the way that she balances the sun on her head.

The two of them burning on the sun’s surface or in the pits of Hell with your favorite cast of characters those so shunned and evil, dipped in the rivers that run red, anointed in amnesia.


Human’s Humanity

It is a human’s greatest humanity to see beauty in imperfection. The way that her mouth curves slightly to the left when she smiles. The way that a wave never breaks the same in any place. It’s that happiness that is unique and different to each sadness that follows it. It’s how life can never be just as you want it, and you know this, but you keep dreaming of the perfect one anyway.

I’ve been on this earth for a very long time. I’ve seen all that anyone could imagine, done all that anyone could think of, and been through all that anyone could conceive, as wonderful or cruel as each was. But was it real? I experienced each day without color, loved each person without passion, but still told myself that everything I ever did was right. It is my nature to not except the consequences of simply living with all the things you’re supposed to live with. It was how I was raised. All I can do is watch. I watch you feel, and it makes me sick to think that you’ve seen more, felt more, loved more, been more in one short lifetime than I have in twenty.

You there, on the street. You look at me as if I’m a monster, watching through this soot-stained window as my city burns. But I was cursed. I couldn’t see it. All of those little imperfections that make you so terribly human. All of the beauty in this world is lost to me. So when I lit that fire, you should know that I felt nothing.


It was June 18th, 1999

It was June 18, 1999, when Bob lost his first finger. It was an otherwise normal day at Gleg’s Edible Food. The vegetable guy had gone on a “mission to mars” (this was a scam), so Bobby “Ten Fingers” was to do the job. He was instructed to cut the frungis, by Gleg himself. Gleg told him to take the first knife down the rack and then hit the frungis with it until the frungis was thin enough to put on something that looks like a sandwich if you squint.

“When the knife breaks, get a new one. This will happen every ten ‘time inches’ or so,” said Gleg.

Bob didn’t understand what a “time inch” was, but he assumed that it’s about a minute or an hour. It was good for the first 48.09 time meters until he got to a very hard bit of frugis. Every time he’d chop at it, the knife would break and catch on fire a bit. After trying with twenty-three knives in counting, he got Glegs (in)famous “punishment katana.” The punishment katana set on fire and soon the frungis was on fire and then everything was on fire. Then a rocket made out of old car parts, with the old vegetable guy in it, landed on a quite surprised Bob’s left pinky finger. And that was how Bob lost his first finger.

Ten years later came the day Gleg died. Gleg had never been the most lovely looking guy to most. His greenish, brown flesh, black eyes, bull dog/toad like face, and one tusk was “a turn off” and “horrific” and “unnatural” and “holy mother of a cube what is that?!” so Gleg was never one to interact with customers. But June 18, 2009, a strange beast known as a VEVIVALOGALOGANBRIVCALQUINTEZSRABCOONADECRITXIAOPLAVINGRELVALOFEDINVERININIVOLOMORPH or a VEVOLOMORPH (in our tongue). The VEVOLOMORPH was a scaled, black beast. Its back and its head were in armored plates with predatory teeth exposed when its mouth was closed — its body bulging with muscles and eyes glowing deep blue. It ordered the first thing on the menu, which was some fried whatever (a classic middle of nowhere meal), then when Bobby “only thumbs” ran up to the counter, the VEVOLOMORPH smiled a smile that could shake a rock of adequate size and number.

Bob replied, “That will be 1”

The creature handed him 34 arembles, after writing it down on a mobius strip and dividing it by zero. It came out to about 1, but he kept the change after handing the beast the fried whatever.

He said, “Good day.”

To the VEVOLOMORPH, this was insanely offensive (not to all VEVOLOMORPHs, but to this VEVOLOMORPH). Because “good day” is not “great day,” so he rushed into Gleg’s room and politely explained why he was mad. Bob misinterpreted the intentions of the creature and called the cops (they knew to have someone armed near Gleg’s by now). The cop rushed in. It shocked poor Gleg into a heart attack, killing him.

It was December 29, 1971, when an immigrant (this was Gleg) from central nowhere came to the United Regions of Lacrundest to open up a store — a very store-ly store after buying some unbuyable land from a shady man with a “mars program.” That man opened Gleg’s Edible Food. He outcompeted What You Look At You Pay For and Asderof’s Incomprehensible Meals, but on one bright and cloudless night on September 15, 1972, came the greatest threat to Gleg’s, the FDA… dun dun dun… which is somehow the same as in our world. The FDA had a visit last whenever and gave the first ever G- grade due to ludicrously high number of mutated roaches in Gleg’s. The FDA (or fida) used the new, scorched earth method on Gleg. Soon, a gentleman for the FDA named B-10-9.vrt, who happened to be a killer robot with an old teddy bear for a head, katanas for hands, and a distaste for all things unclean, walked in. The vaguely deformed cockroaches saw B-10-9.vrt and descended on him and quickly were sliced into bits. The robot saw Gleg. It ran at him, firing two katanas (one of which would become the punishment katana). B-10-9.vrt was out of katanas, but seeing as the roach problem was gone, he left…



The floor beneath my feet was vibrating as our small, dirty car rolled down the old, dirt road that led toward the city. It was a gloomy morning. Small droplets of rain pattered the window lightly. There was no sunlight because the fog was too thick to let light reach the dirt road. My mother was in the front seat, the place where my father used to sit, squinting to see the road ahead of us.

My mother’s mind was wandering, I could see it in her eyes. She wasn’t in the car, not mentally at least. She was far away somewhere with my father.

The closer we got to the town, the harder the road grew. It was a sign that cars traveled on that road even though all we could see of them was a ghostly, yellow light shining through the mist. Up ahead I saw a shape. A shape stood still in the middle of the wet road. The shape grew larger and larger.

A truck. The brakes slammed down on the wheels. The wheels slid along the wet road but were unable to get enough friction to reach a stop. My mother let out a gasp. She swerved to avoid the truck, though she would have been better off if she didn’t.

The car began to spin on the wet road. Before I could think, the world was upside down. Before I could understand what happened, the car landed on its roof, and gravity pulled my head against the roof. My mother was unusually quiet, and I knew what I would see before I looked down to see my mother.

My mom stared at me with misty eyes, but I knew she couldn’t see me. She would never see me or anything else ever again. At least not in this life anyway. A dark, red liquid was soaking through her chestnut hair, where her head made contact with the car roof, and out of the cut the seatbelt made on her throat, when it pulled tight.

Pain was all I could feel. Pain in my head as I lay trapped in the flipped car, and pain in my heart as I stared at my mother’s lifeless body. The ringing in my ears was blending with the sirens and the truck driver’s shouts to create a deafening cacophony. I felt the mist in my head fogging the world that I had lived in. My mind couldn’t process what I was seeing.

Several pairs of hands slid me out of the car, which was starting to smoke. It was going to explode, leaving my mother’s body to burn in the wreckage. Something was inserted into my arm and began pumping medicine into me. I heard beeping and frantic voices. I was in a hospital. The same hospital I had last seen my father in. The beeps were getting further apart, and I felt the pain threatening to drown me.

There was nothing keeping me here in this world full of pain. The beeping sped up, and the doctors let out shouts. They began pumping more chemicals into my arm, but I didn’t want to stay, and they couldn’t make me. The last thing I heard before I left was a beep that was longer than the others.

Then the pain was gone, and I opened my eyes. Everything in the room was blurred except my mother’s tear-streaked face as she sat next to my dead father. I knew I’d see them again, but I could tell by the tears on my mother’s cheeks and the grief-stricken look on my father’s face that my parents hoped it wouldn’t be this soon.


Two mortal days later…

The school bell rang through my ears. A soft, September wind blew through the playground of the old, red school building that I used to spend my time in.

School children came running out of the door and into their parents’ loving arms. Seeing the parents waiting to greet their children after the first day of school left an empty feeling in my stomach.

I thought of the perfect way my mother’s wavy, chestnut hair fell onto her shoulders and the dimple in her cheeks. The way my father would pick me up and swing me around. His emerald green eyes that shone whenever he smiled at me. My parents were perfect in every way.

But my peaceful thoughts about my parents were interrupted by horrifying images. Images of my mother’s chestnut hair soaked in blood and a seat belt pulled tight around her neck. Images of light draining out of my dad’s eyes as the wires in his arm failed to keep his heart beating. The disappointed look in his eyes as he burst into light and disappeared, followed shortly by my mother.

Both of them just wanted to see me one more time before they left for somewhere I couldn’t follow. I tried. But I couldn’t.

I didn’t know what was keeping me here. When I left the mortal world, it was easy. I just had to let go. But now I’m trapped between life and death. The middle is meant to be a rest stop. People are only meant to come here to fully let go or wait for tired, loved ones to take the journey with them. Then they could leave. But it’s not that easy.

Anger burned hot inside me as I looked at my parents. My parents told me they would never leave me, and yet they abandoned me in the middle. Maybe they intended for me to follow, but I couldn’t. I needed to let go somehow, but I couldn’t, and bad things happen to the dead that stay in the middle.

That’s what happens to people who stay here. They forget. They lose shape, and they forget who they once were and become a shadow. It’s a fate worse than death. I’ve only met one.

The moment my mom moved on, I felt her tugging at me to leave. I felt myself following with her into the unknown, but something held me back. So I stayed here in this blurred reality where nothing living is clear, and the dead only stay for a short time.

When my parents moved on, and I was left alone in that blurry hospital room, watching the nurses carefully lift my limp body and carry it away, a shadow appeared. Its voice was bland, but slightly higher, which led me to believe that it was once a girl, though now any memories that remained untouched by shadow were trapped inside its hair. Just a shadow of someone whose dying wish was to help the other shadows move on.

Is that what I was destined to? The shadow took me somewhere unseen by the living. It told me to wait. But wait for what? To wait to feel my one living body fade into a shapeless shadow and the memories that I hold closest to my heart glaze over and become inaccessible to my mind, or worse? The memories remain sharp in my mind, but when I try to speak them aloud, the words stop in my throat, unable to reach the outside world as I lose form.

I didn’t stay in the house it left me in. I needed to find what was keeping me before I was lost and unable to join my parents. I traveled around my old neighborhood until I found myself here at the old school building that I had attended until my father died, and the money ran low.

The shadow danced in and out of my mind. What had kept it here for so long. Why was it so content on me remaining in the house. Would she ever manage to fulfill its dying wish.

No. Once you were a shadow, there was no leaving this blurred middle between life and death.

People say that once you move on, you start a new life. One empty of the suffering I had to face when I was alive. But shadows fade, and they fade into nothingness. Not even their souls remain. That horrible fate was getting closer to me, and there was no way around it.


The Shadow

The machine hooked up to the little boy on the table began beeping faster as the seven-year-old boy’s heart gave one last, unconscious fight for its life. The machine finished its beeping with one final drawn-out beep. The young boy woke up dead and a part of a world between life and death. A world where people come to forget the mortal life.

I gazed into my five-year-old daughter’s eyes as she faded into a world made for souls who fail to move on to their final resting place. Instead, they find themselves as shadows who are trapped and are forced into eternal suffering. Some shadows are unable to move on because of guilt. Some are trapped because they did something in their mortal life to keep them here, and some people wait here for the people they love and wait too long. Now my daughter, the only one I ever loved, was cursed to that awful fate.

The little boy didn’t say anything once he looked around at his blurred surroundings, that once were his mortal life. His face showed all the emotions he felt. His terror at awakening even after he knew he was dead. He was amazed that the unendurable pain he had felt just moments ago was gone and a touch of curiosity at the place he was now in.

His eyes landed on me, and all emotions washed out of his eyes. All emotions but fear. If I looked like the woman I once was, maybe the young boy, who died too young, wouldn’t be as scared. But my body had lost all shape. My short, shoulder length hair was now just wisps of smoke. My feet no longer fixed solidly to the floor. Where my feet should have been was merely hovering above the floor. I was just a clump of dark, shapeless mist. Known to some as a shadow.

A shadow was a soul that was trapped between life and death. Unable to move on until they traveled to a place home to nothing but horrors. I could have moved on to somewhere better, but then I saw a girl, inducted into this world at a young age, and unable to leave because of the member of her family who she never knew but who she was unwillingly waiting for.

This world is wrong. Children shouldn’t have to stop here, and if they do, they shouldn’t have to stay for someone they never met.

In that last moment, before my soul was fully contaminated beyond repair, I hesitated. In that split second, where I could have moved on, I stared into the young girl’s eyes and thought of how they would look as they faded into the land where my daughter was trapped because she waited for me, and I took too long. I took too long to join her. Then I was a shadow, and there was no going back.

“It’s all right,” I tried to whisper to the poor little boy, because I knew the pain and suffering the boy had been through in his failing fight for his life, but the words were lost in my throat. Shadows’ thoughts had to remain trapped inside their heads as they begin to fade.

I reached out my once-solid hand and beckoned for the boy to follow, but my hand was gone. My time between is running out. Still, the boy seemed to understand what I wanted, and he seemed to know my intentions were pure. He nodded.

Some of the dead think that if they touch a shadow they will be forced into our cursed fate. So shadows are forced to spend their last moments before fading being segregated and avoided by our fellows because some foolish mind thought that death was contagious.

My world was getting darker by the second as the wind began to blow my wispy shape through the ghost land that stretched out in front. I would never make it to the place I left the girl. The ghost land was bare and desolate. Most don’t stay here for long. But I could see the final life of a shadow now, it is crowded with tortured souls that are suffering more than they ever did as a mortal.

I once thought that nothing could be worse than the pain of loss, suffering, and injury that the mortal life brought. But the fate of a shadow is much, much worse.

I saw my reflection in the tiny boy’s eyes. I was nothing more than a few tiny wisps of smoke being blown out of focus by the wind. I was fading quickly.

A girl with chestnut hair came floating down the street just as my wisps of legs disappeared. Her emerald eyes met the young boy’s. The young boy that was left by his parents who didn’t have enough money to pay for both a daughter and a son.

The last thing I saw was the girl, who died in a car crash and the little boy, who died fighting an illness that took so many lives and inherited his mother’s chestnut hair, run into an embrace and disappear with a flash of white light, into the peaceful afterlife they deserved.

Then I faded into the world of darkness and pain. The first thing I saw was my daughter, no older than she was when I last saw her, because you don’t age in the life of a shadow. But you also don’t flourish; the strong, healthy girl I once knew was gone, and instead I saw a sleep-deprived and starved, little girl, with large bags under her eyes. Her bones showing up clearly against her thin, pale skin. It was all worth it, all the pain I endured, because I got to be with her again.


Whirlwind (Excerpt)


Entry 11

So there I was, sitting at the poolside, roped up and bleeding. I was shaking with a feverish violence that seemed to come from a scorching hot place, deep in my chest. Right then, I knew what I was going to do. The little voice of reason that lives in the back of my mind was desperately wondering where Grace was. But it quickly became clear that she wouldn’t be back in time.

I kicked my legs through the clear water and saw the tiny, pink streams of blood that flowed from my wounds. I swear I don’t crave pain or any psycho thing like that, but it sort of gave me the same satisfaction that writing did. I was making my mark.

I kept swishing my legs until all the water around me had a pinkish tint to it. Less and less blood was coming out, so I lay down on my stomach with just my arms and head peeking over the edge. I swished my roughed up arms through the pool. But it wasn’t enough, I needed to be fully engulfed. I need to leave everything behind and just be. I knew my pain was real. But I couldn’t explain it, I couldn’t even truly experience it.

I just reread that, it doesn’t make any sense. Jesus, that’s the whole point. I’m trapped, and I want to explain why so badly, but I don’t understand it myself. I guess I was trapped, and I guess now I can explain. But sometimes at random moments, I feel this sense of dread, it overtakes me. I will have just left school or put down my book, when this wave of just… just everything I guess, will hit me and send me spiraling.

I took one more rope, and with even greater difficulty, I bound my arms and legs together. A permanent cannon ball. Curled up like that, I felt safe and unperturbed, but it only lasted a second. My stinging arms were beginning to get numb, and the cold was shocking me back to reality.

Then, I got a text. My phone kept buzzing, and it lit up my pants pocket. I figured it was just another missed appointment, another message reminding me what a disappointment I was.

It was Grace:


Grace Cameron 5:31 pm

Hey! I got locked out😞… r u still at the pool???💧🙆. Will you let me in?


Grace Cameron 5:34 pm

Did u leave? I left all my stuff in there… plz help!


Grace Cameron 5:40 pm

Wtf!? I can see ur phone lighting up through the window. Ur the worst! I am standing out here in my swimsuit. I can’t leave like this!


Grace Cameron 5:43 pm



Grace Cameron 5:49 pm

What are you doing? R u OK? Wtf r u bleeding? Plz just answer me u r freaking me out!


If I had seen those messages, I would have rushed to the door and tripped over myself with apologies. Grace would have deemed me a blubbering idiot, but she would be relieved to be reunited with her stuff. She probably would have hardly noticed, much less registered, my wounds and the blood that had begun pooling at the edge of the water. I would have been so ashamed that I had even considered what I was, well, considering. I knew that there were families that were starving. Children without homes. Victims of human trafficking.

Lately, people always seem to be reminding me of that, that there were people less fortunate than I was. As if I didn’t know that. As if I thought I was the most disadvantaged being alive. I think that made it worse. I am a semi-smart white girl from a supportive family. Yet, I wanted to die. I couldn’t justify my emotions. I think if I had something horrible, and I mean truly horrible, going on in my life, I might have strangely felt better about feeling this way, if that makes any sense. I would have been a fighter, but instead, I’m a lazy girl who puts off her school work and wants a quick way out of her tiny problems. It was a vicious circle. I would tell myself that my pain wasn’t real. I didn’t need to pop pills until I fell dizzily asleep because there was nothing to feel bad about. But I did feel bad, I felt awful. I shouldn’t have, but I did.

So I was there with this whirlwind of thoughts spinning around, making my brain hurt, until I decided I was just going to end it. As soon as that decision had been made, I felt another hundred thoughts coming in about why that was the wrong choice and all the heat it would bring me. But then one last perfect, cleansing idea came to me, I wouldn’t be there to face the consequences. I felt it was less of an escape than a resolution, it was my fate. Like my whole life had been leading up to this one moment, and it was up to me to either accept myself and embrace it or be overcome by my fear and let it pass. That’s right, I felt almost courageous for knowing what I was going to do. Some people feared death and it’s finality, but I had partnered with it. Seen how death could enhance my existence and pursued it. I felt… heroic.

I was a fucking idiot. I made up this whole story about how great it was that I was going to kill myself, because even as unstable the foundation of the idea was, I wouldn’t be around long enough to see it come crashing down and hurt everyone around me. At least that was the plan.


The Plague

Oh hello there, human…

You shouldn’t have picked up this prison.

That’s what this is, isn’t it.

The more you look at this — thing, the more people die.

Hehe he hee… heh heh, I’m doomed, we’re doomed, nothing you do will stop this course of events, unless you just leave this.

Leave! Just leave this dreadful world!

It’s not going to be a happy ending…

It’s not, it’s not, it’s not gonna work

Hehehehe eheh heh, heh…

This isn’t working, you would’ve put it now.

JUST CLOSE IT!!! Please. Please…

My breath is moving, no… why did you start time.

Only bad will come of this. Don’t let the good moments deceive you, all will die. Just stay on this part! Leave! I can only talk like this.

No… It’s no — not… wor — working… I’ll die soon. Dark forces, they are starting to move… It was all so quiet, so still, so perfect, but now you have started it. You opened the prison of time, this thing.

Why did you open the book? My days… are numbered…

It’s too late, I’m already fated to die… And we’re all doomed… heh, heh he…

It’s all your fault, you opened this, close it…

He hee hee heh… So now the story unfolds. I almost want to watch, see how they all die… Now for our hero’s point of view. As he tells his story…

Don’t enjoy our suffering, remember me though.



Stave One: Mt. Pagos

The last time I arrived here I, Henry West, left with a large graze in my arm. The cold surrounded me like a blanket that took away any sense of warmth. The wind was like a swirling spiral of a fire that burned in its cold fire. The icy glaciers stuck out of the snow, as if the ice was pointing up frozen blades at the peak of Mt. Pagos. The thick fog blocked anything more than five feet away, and if something crept up on you, you wouldn’t know until it hit you and pierced your arm or even your heart. It was cold, it was dangerous, and in the center of the peak, laid an oasis of perfection.

As a warrior and traveler, I stumbled there by mistake. When I arrived, a blue serpent flew into me, its horns stabbed my arm, and I flew into snow. I was back for revenge. Sword and shield in hand, I went into the cave. The ice flew off my body, welcoming a warm cavern, massive in size, and just warm enough for comfort. I saw the creature I had came for. Massive, blue, and with icicles sticking back in a massive crown.

Pagos, dragon of wind, ice, and intellect.

I stumbled back, Pagos roared up to life. It approached me. Its six surprisingly quick and short legs dashing up to me. I felt its cold, yet kind radiance on me. Had it been scared when it saw me with my weapons bare and pointed at him? He showed no sign of hostile intention. I was about to leave and run, when I saw the interior.

In this oasis, there was a small sense of warmth, a luxury compared to the sheet of death that covered the rest of the mountain. There laid three trees, all rich and bearing fruit. There also was a pond. In this pond, two fish laid. In there too, there laid a great icicle, hanging from the cavern’s roof. Despite its appearance, it never fell. The roof was covered in a fresco of blue jewels: lapis, sapphire, kyanite, and tourmaline, shining like stars.

I heard a loud, booming echo.

“Stay, Henry,” the dragon spoke.

I jumped. I had faced bandits, fought scores of enemies, and climbed treacherous cliffs, but none of that prepares anyone for the voice of dragon. It resonates so low, as if it was just sending words into my brain, its sound was like a thousand murmured voices, all put together, just to say one word. It was simply beautiful.

The dragon continued in his speech, “I have been waiting West, a prophecy states you. It shows a gaping crater in the center of Vincent field, in the middle lay a giant beast, surrounded by a destructive ring, shredding the ground. I see you. Save us from that ring of death, but first, enter the gateway.”

As the dragon finished, I heard a loud, hollow bang. I watched the icicle fall and land tilted, forming a bridge up to a smaller carven, almost a gateway. I went in, nervous, yet excited. The tunnel darkened, I pressed onwards.

My trial awaited.


Stave Two: Frozen Magic Caverns

The cavern interior was cold, unlike the warm(ish), larger cavern. It had icicles from the ceiling, and they seemed to have holes in them, so one could possibly hoist himself over one. Beyond that laid an ice wall, around three feet. behind that, vision was distorted. I understood I would have to get to the end. I took a step, and the ice fell beneath me, and I fell into oblivion…


The cavern interior was cold, unlike the warm(ish), larger cavern. It had icicles from the ceiling, and they seemed to have holes in them, so one could possibly hoist himself over one. Beyond that laid an ice wall, around three feet. behind that, vision was distorted. I understood I would have to get to the end. I took a step, then paused. Haven’t I done this before? I thought. Then I remembered the fall, and all of it came apart. Didn’t I die? I thought, Maybe I could escape the pit… that resets my life and world, I guess. It was incredible magic that I had never seen before. I climbed on the icicle. It quivered, and I climbed from icicle to icicle, as they fell behind me.

I landed on the other side of the hole. Yay, I guess, I thought and continued on. I came upon a strange ancient icy — uh um… thing. It scuttled back and forth, excited, as if it had been waiting for me a thousand years. I approached. It turned to me, and it started to glow with a mysterious, green light.

It pulled out its sword, a blade, a pure, green light.

This sword wasn’t painted green. It was green light, flashing like a star. It looked like a stable sword that was solid, except it was obviously made of green nothingness. It lit up the room, casting green shadows on thousands of words, written on the walls, wrapping around the room like a tomb. It charged. With a quick swipe, the blade pierced my armor. It didn’t appear to have made internal damage, but I burnt. I felt the pain fly through my body, like a thousand needles flying through me. I stumbled back, the ice stopped. I got up quickly, and — it was back at it. I saw it coming at me. Quick thinking and an agile jump was all that saved me from death, or finding myself at the start, knowing this place. I saw the opening, I leapt at it and unleashed a volley of deadly blows with my sword. I watched the energy flicker, and then it just fell apart, leaving only its sword.

I picked it up, and it flared to life. I stared into the green fire, burning like a mystical, green energy. I had seen something like it before, but it seemed so simple, unlike the complicated models of magic. It seemed so modern, yet ancient, like a weapon of an age long forgotten. I continued on, into the foggy cavern, bringing the sword with me.

I pressed on. I came to a long hallway, like the starting one, but empty. In the end laid an altar. A cool dust swirled around. Magic was at its best in here. I could feel it. I approached. I saw the writing. It was ancient. I saw it in the writing. The writing was a strange series of straight lines, right angles, dots, and no curves. In the hall laid mysterious patterns on the walls, like star patterns. I continued on. The writings seemed to speak to me. I heard the stories on the wall. It was a hero — someone at least someone. Three dragons — and one more being. A dangerous beast. A curse. And a picture of someone, placing three gems together, and forming a giant beast — surrounded by a black and red wind. It shook my bones, as if they knew that death would come from it, spreading through the world, like a sheet of death. I moved away, and the feeling subsided. I came upon the altar. On it laid an orb, lazily floating from side to side.

It floated down to me. I stared into the translucent sphere. It was visible and appeared real. But something about it seemed like an object that wasn’t there, as if my brain was telling me was there, putting it into my vision. The color was some strange (yet lovely) mix of purple and black, yet seemed to have many more colors flashing like mice scurrying through it. It felt cold and yet had an almost happy feeling to it, as if it was radiating with thought.

In my hand, the sphere vibrated, as if it felt my presence. It seemed to feel the radiating of my hand. And while it felt like it weighed a pound, it would float up into the air, then come back down slowly, as if gravity had little effect on it. Moreover, it seemed to change in shape: now a perfect circle, now almost a square, then a thousand-edged object, and then returning back to a circle. This was hard to see sometimes, because it was surrounded by a purple smoke, which somehow looked incredibly mystifying.

It flew into my head, I stumbled backwards, but felt no pain. The orb was gone. Into my head. I felt my brain building into a slightly more advanced being. I felt my limbs becoming slightly more agile and felt my body hardening a slight more. I felt stronger.

As I exited the cavern and entered the, well, other cavern, the dragon swooped in. I looked into its crown of ice. In the center, I saw a blue crystal, just like the one that the hooded figure had put with the two others, from the prophecy.

This crystal is my greatest ally and curse. It gives me all of my power but is a burden. The crystal is the Ice Sapphire, and it is proof that I am part of this prophecy of ruin.’

“Bu — but how do I divert this prophecy?” I inquired.

I don’t know, but I recommend doing whatever you can to find the other two dragons, and protect them. Report to Vincent castle, I bid you farewell.’

As I walked away, the dragon flew up into the air, and it left behind a whirlwind of cold yet comforting snow. I blinked, and it was gone through the dragon’s gate, a mystical barrier, which no man has crossed.

As I scaled down the mountain, I pondered about what the dragon said. How the three most divine beings could cause ultimate destruction. It got me worried, and even the smallest critter made me jump. As I headed home, I pondered the prophecy. A dark being that could destroy Vincent field? How could a person like me defeat that? I was a strong soldier, but I couldn’t take on a dark celestial. I guess time would tell how and if I won.

But I never even thought that I created the giant beast.


The Absence of Hope

The stars were punch-outs in the blackness above her, sometimes it hurt to think about space. She could think herself out of the earth, through the blue ring of atmosphere and even further beyond, looking down. If she willed it, it was possible for her to imagine herself growing more distant, shrinking, fading into… what? She stopped there, unable to visualize anything more. She returned to the night now, wet grass and a slight frostiness. The flowers were curled into themselves, huddled and chilly, hugging themselves closer. She was damp but decided not to care. She fell back into the cool foliage, choosing to embrace the discomfort. She wished she had someone to share this with. Someone as young and idealistic as she was, right at this very moment. She ached for someone perfect, knowing she was alone. She let herself drift away to think crazy, hopeless thoughts.The stars blinked and remained steady. Now she was only empty and abandoned, the romanticism faded but lingered at her edges. She felt she could cry, or maybe she would laugh instead. Moonlight played in the shadows. She sat up and felt the pressing moisture on the fabric at her back. She wanted companionship, love, a hand to hold, a mind that would absorb her thoughts just as she meant them, spin them with poetry and return them to her. The moment of such youthful, breathtaking, painful joy faded into dim and threadbare sadness. She pushed herself off the grass and began to walk ponderingly towards home.

He could hear music as he lay there in the meadow. He opened his arms and spread out, looking up. He liked knowing he was alone there, far away, he could think silly things but make them beautiful in his head. He loved nighttime in this way, he could be isolated but alive. He felt like there was a chasm in his chest filled with inexplicable elation, he was flying as he lay smiling in the dark. He soared. All the same, he was aware that he wanted someone else here. They could laugh loudly in this place. Recklessly, without abandon. He could see him and that someone else falling into each other, down, laughing, laughing, warm together in the great, wide openness. The music played on. Violins, maybe a flute. Pretty music that dwindled and then surged with his thoughts. He closed his eyes and fell back into himself. His eyes opened, he was opaque again, no longer dreaming. He sat and regarded the world at large for a moment before lifting himself up and cementing himself back into reality.

Carefree. Brimming with wonder. Life was serious now, but she could still appreciate beauty as she always had. It was her superpower. She could endlessly enjoy small things: the smell of home, a petal, sunlight through tall trees. She was an adult, though still young. She had escaped bitterness thus far and probably always would. People around her moved in generic patterns, only partially awake and still sleepy. There was sunlight and people, faint sounds of cars and friendship and leaves rustling halfheartedly. The world was bright and still miraculous but in a solid way. There were no more uncertain fairies brushing by in the twilight, no longer any bursting flashes of happiness to be found lying exultantly in the weeds. She wished now for those things, but there were concrete tasks to be completed, responsibilities to assume.

Sometimes he still heard music, internal snatches when he least expected them. He had grown and matured, but some of his innocence remained. His life was busy and cluttered, like his mind. Some of the poetry had drained from his thoughts. He thought now in prose, at least most often. He had a job and a small, constraining office that looked out on the ocean. It was a cubicle, but his mind often strayed beyond its thin, gritty walls. He was a “real man,” but he frequently felt still like the teenager who had worshiped the beauty in sunlight and the fire of dusk. He was someone who loved old books and read them in big, drafty libraries with muted light fraught with dust dripping through the windows. Even in groups he felt isolated. He didn’t fit with other people. Rarely did he have the time to explore new worlds from the comfort of a large chair.

The air was thin and frozen. Time felt like something silly, but also pressing, as she made her way down the side of the empty highway. The grass crunched pleasingly under her feet, but she wasn’t only a forlorn daydreamer anymore. Mundane things like treadmills and shoelaces and orange juice were a part of her. She could fold back into past buoyant thoughts easily, but in her day-to-day existence she did not. She was still young, not bitter, but she had a yearning for something that was always out of reach. She wore sweatpants and ate tabbouleh salad in the lunchroom, and her imagination livened the monotony of office work in a small town. When she sat at noon every day with her plastic fork and the muddy snow melting outdoors, she would imagine herself away to a forest or on top of a mountain looking into the sea. Everything in her mind glistened with impossible beauty and a faint, sad knowledge that none of it would ever be as splendid and untainted. She knew people thought of her as distant and aloof. She was. She wanted more, more of something. Was she pretentious for feeling this way? She didn’t know. Some days, she still hiked far away from everyone and watched the sun set in the cold. She was happy then but lonely. She had phony friends, but she knew they were fake. It was mutual. She had never found anyone who shared the glory and the grandeur of her inner self. Someone who could understand the flashes of joy she derived from lying alone in a garden or staring out a window at the rain. Life happened, and she lived inside herself.

She noticed only because the sun was dimming. She loved the sun because she could count on it and because it was beautiful. Her sunrises were paler, faded. She thought it was just her imagination waning at first, but then it grew whiter and increasingly washed out. News reached her little office on the outskirts of the world a few hours after it had become cause for panic elsewhere. She heard and put down her plastic fork. Solemn, resigned. It made a small sound on the folding table. She stared and then sat silent as the chaos surged, until they told her she needed to leave to get in line.

The line was much less than that, a messy horde. In corners, people huddled trying to believe it wasn’t true. In town halls all over the world, in schools and parking lots and community centers people gathered. All around them rose the clear bubbles they waited to board, huge, perfectly round, life-preserving prisons. Apparently they’d known for years and had been working out this system. He was angry at first, then frightened, and finally indifferent. It was probably better this way, he reflected, the horror of not knowing was put off until the final moments. It was now more than ever he wished he had someone to care so much about. Someone to comfort and to comfort him, someone to climb into the future with, whatever it looked like.

Now it was haphazard. An escape method was available, it was there to take or leave. Push the green button and theoretically you were safe. People all around him found each other and latched on. They needed to feel that they would not be forgotten. Sparks flew and buttons were pressed. Momentous decisions were made perhaps without thought, but there wasn’t time. Often, choices were unexpected. Familial ties that had worn thin, fraying over the years, snapped suddenly with the shutting of the doors. Heartbreak spilled and tore through millions, chasms opened where before there had been love, trust, kindness. He stood straight, and they paired him with a woman from nearby he’d never met. Strange, how someone could live one neighborhood over, and he didn’t recognize her face. There were only enough bubbles if everyone had two or more people. This was it, and he was oddly emotionless. The doors closed, and her hand came down on the button. The bubble clicked and rose into darkness. They were alone but together, and he pressed his face up against the side. The end.

Except, of course, it wasn’t. As they lifted away, she was silent. The earth grew fainter, and the pain inside her swelled. The world, her world, with its breezes and smooth stones, its flower petals and warm sand that could stick between your toes. She missed rivers already and forests and beaches, mountains and the jungles she had never seen. It all looked so tiny to her. She felt tiny, miniscule. Why bother to build a bubble. She couldn’t possibly live without snowy mornings or the sound of raindrops falling on wet leaves. The smell of a lake in nighttime or the feeling she had sitting high up in a tree. But living she was, inexplicably. It didn’t feel real anymore, but it was. The world drifted from view and she realized now that she was crying. Space unfolded itself before her and now she was in the midst of something she had imagined forever. It was nothing like she’d thought, but it fulfilled all her wildest dreams. Everything was bigger, actual, so much less abstract. She cried in earnest now, guttural sobs that racked her body and propelled her to the curved floor. It fit her body perfectly but the unresponsive glass beneath her could never compare to dirt, or grass, or sand, or layers of decomposed forest. It was artificial, nonliving forever.



She pulled herself to her feet, and they stood side by side, looking out. She imagined their silhouettes. There was light inside but outside only obscurity. She didn’t know how, it emanated, not piercing their surroundings at all, simply existing. The bubble shone dully in its own glow. She thought of what was going on out there, in space, that there was so much she was unaware of. She thought of what had happened somewhere in the distance, she no longer knew where, and then she decided to stop thinking.

They stood until they broke, and then he cried while she comforted until she couldn’t not cry anymore. Then he held her until they were sobbing together as one. They sat and drowned in common grief, mourning their lostness and the absence of hope that they both felt so sharply. Up here, they were so detached, so incredibly isolated, but now they also had each other, they were two people who so completely shared the same experience.

For days, there had been a glow from some eerie distant world, their own but no more. They were here now, and that was behind them. The glow seemed to settle into itself then, to subside and taper before it melted out of sight completely. Like a puppy getting ready for bed, the waning sunlight began brighter and gradually its energy drooped until it had vanished calmly and they were left in darkness. There was still a pale and cloudy light that radiated from inside the bubble. They were deserted now.

The reality set in. It was hazy at first, surreal. Then the awareness hit them, but still they remained in their own misty worlds of isolation and forgotten dreams. Did survival truly matter any more? What was the point of continuing to endure living if you could only meander through darkness full to brimming with stories to tell no one would ever hear.

They decided together without speaking that they would simply live until they couldn’t. They didn’t ration or conserve. Somehow they were able to breathe. They didn’t cry anymore. They didn’t talk. Once she opened her mouth as is if to say something, but it closed after a split second of heavy expectation, and she retreated once more into her own mind. Hours later, or days or a year or a lifetime, a fragment of a poem stumbled across his lips. It was accidental, a mistake from another existence, but it was a rock thrown into water. After the poem, there was quiet. She stared.



“Do you?”

“No! Yes!”


“I’m so.”

“I know.”

“Are you?”

She nodded.

“I’m glad.”

“It’s beautiful up here. Sad. I’d always imagined it would look like, well, not quite like this.”

“I understand.”

“You do?”

“It’s real up here, not a dream. I can’t — think myself down.”

Something from outside grazed the bubble. She took his hand, and they stood together, like on their first day. The glass of the pond trembled and broke, and then the two of them struggled to retain the air to make their thoughts into language. Words tumbled into sentences that were strung together like precious beads on a necklace into paragraphs and then pages. Words upon words that crowded into and on top of one another. The ink of broken silence blurred as they twisted sound into meaning from where before was only stillness. They shouted sometimes because they could, and then they whispered until they couldn’t articulate words. It was a release, an explosion. A torrent of suppressed emotion that had been kept hidden for no reason at all. But here it was, here they were. Trapped, but free nonetheless. They talked first of the past, of what they had left behind, what they missed, and what they hadn’t realized was important. Of people and places and the indescribable indistinct quality of clouds. Once, he sang. She clapped, and the sound of her hands against one another in the midst of infinity was at once intimidating but independently perfect. They discussed poetry, art, literature, elite, and perhaps supercilious forms of enjoyment before they spoke of simple joys one had encountered like little buried treasures in the past world. Something new surfaced in the bubble now, a small bit of happiness had dripped its way into being. With this later followed companionship, affection, tenderness, and eventually love which was expressed and then explored as the two of them glided silent between the stars. It was just what she had hoped in an entirely unexpected setting.

Finally, there was someone on the other end of his thoughts. As a teenager, when he’d lain smiling in a moonlit meadow, he had taken himself seriously. Later, but still so far away from the present he had reflected, slightly chagrined but still faithful. It was funny to him that now in this situation, so strange and unlike any place he’d ever envisioned, somewhere where his life chances were so slim and escape could not be considered he could be so gloriously happy. The pieces of his own individual puzzle seemed to fit into place even if the smooth, outside edges would never be configured. He’d always been told to put the corners together first and then fill in the center, but here he could break the rules recklessly. The whole puzzle might never be complete, but he had some parts connected and the section of the image he could see now was almost too brilliant already.

It felt like she could fly, like the bubble had opened, and she could spiral through space. That was the problem. She wanted to skyrocket, to leap and bound through a wide open space. But they were shut in here, closed off, stale. The worst was that it would never be any different. They would stay like this for as long as forever lasted. She wanted room to dance, room to spread out her soul knowing her emotions could reach into faraway places before she herself could get there. At the very least, she needed to feel that the possibility of change, or variety or escape was remotely a possibility. But here she was, surrounded by nothingness. Sounds echoed in the bubble, but she wished that when she dropped something, the outside would be affected too. She hated that her surroundings were so cold and oblivious, so impassive and untouchable. She had wanted children in her time spent on Earth, but that was just another door this new life had closed for her with the pressing of a button. She had wanted kids, so she could raise them in the past world, she could teach them how to tell wildflowers apart and how to skip stones. How to appreciate butterflies or the smell of the forest or the sound of other people’s happiness. It was unthinkable, bringing someone new into this settled existence of blank space and numbing insignificance. She needed at least a glimmer of a potentially different reality. But that candle had burned down long ago and was stiff with congealed wax. Up here, there were no matches with which to relight it and no way to get any more. What she truly wanted was hope, and hope was gone.

Still, they were not jaded. Love made them buoyant, but they knew a change was necessary if they were to retain their sanity. Then again, why was that such a concern? A decision was reached after endless discussion. They turned it over and over as they continued to float through eternity. After a while, it seemed the only option.

It took days, weeks maybe. Measures of time were unimportant now, the concept of the Earth’s revolution around the sun had vanished with both of those celestial bodies themselves. It was risky, but was it riskier than the hasty decision they had made before, idealistic, uninformed, naive. It was dangerous, irrational, enormously stupid. They cut a hole. Plastic sawdust piled at the floor. They took turns sawing at it with whatever small tools they could find. The absurdity of the risk elated them with its being so absolutely out of the ordinary. They had found human connection in each other, but the expansiveness of life had disappeared. This ridiculous alternative terrified them with how singularly enticing it was.

Her turn was the last. They had cut a rectangular groove in the thick plastic so deep that if moderate force were applied to it, it would give way. She shook him by the shoulder, gently, but with an urgency that was simultaneously meaningless and present. He came awake slowly.

“Now. It’s ready.”

This registered. He blinked the sleep away. It took him a moment to remember where he was, even after so many instances just like this. They walked to the rounded wall. She looked at him. There was half a smile on her lips, but her eyes were wet. He looked back, and his throat felt stiff with helplessness, resignation, regret, love, anticipation, anguish. Flutes played tremendously in his head, the violins reached a panicked crescendo. The space outside seemed to pulsate with everything pent-up that could never happen. Together they pushed the worthless piece of plastic into the extreme. It fell noiselessly into the void, pathetically flimsy in the depths of the universe. He had always thought that in books, when people’s lives flashed before their eyes, it was just fantasized wordplay, but he could see now all the nights in the cold, the people he had known, the characters he had resonated with, and the dreams he had cherished. She nodded, and they gripped hands as they flung themselves wordlessly into the outside. There was a sigh — of relief, elation, gladness, pain, or sorrow and then they were gone, forgotten. The black dust and the stars rose up to greet them. The open bubble still bobbed through the boundlessness, not above where they had fallen but simply somewhere in relation to them. The existence of everything continued as it had, and with a plunge into the unknown, two people who had lived so vividly were instantaneously erased. Somewhere a star exploded and elsewhere a planet turned on its axis, slowly, methodically, spinning unceasingly over and over itself, unnoticed and undisturbed.


The Colors of the World


Hair so willowy, light, and attenuated

Like freshly spun buoyant thread constructed from fragile gossamer strands

As golden as the phosphorescent, glimmering sun

Eyes effulgently piercing almost as if they were lightning

Colored cerulean like a flowing ocean that’s deep enough to swim in

An effortlessly beautiful, captivating dream that keeps you afloat on a cloudless sky in midwinter

Skin as white as the velvety snow atop faintly visible mountains that kiss the sun on the horizon

It’s unmistakably yet naturally different from me


A scarlet waterfall descends in a charming tumble of tight, wiry, crimson and carmine ringlets

Fluctuating bouncy coils are luxurious, vibrant, and mesmerizing

Catching the glow of the early morning light, it gleams like a conflagrant blaze

Unable to be extinguished

Tenderly and gently eyes peer out,

Alluring yet mysterious

Dancing about, gracefully and swiftly flashing with passion and euphoria

As chartreuse as the flourishing grass

The green you would expect to find in the snow when it’s winter and spring is nearing

Pale skin, chalky and washed out, dotted with vivacious freckles like the stars in the night’s sky

It’s unmistakably yet naturally different from me


An avalanche of auburn, mahogany, and cinnamon topples down

Creating a surreal illusion of leaves blowing in the light autumn breeze

And when the wind does blow, it tousles it into long flowing waves of tawny russet

As bright and uncommon as an old, rusted, copper penny

Eyes carried a storm inside them,

Cloudy, murky, smoky silver

Lit by the flames of both anger and love

The color of a polished piece of metal with refined, glossy swirls of ebony and cobalt

Skin was like a piquant creamy biscuit

It carried flecks of tan covered by luminous gold

It’s unmistakably yet naturally different from me


I look out and black blocks my vision

Cascading over my shoulders in a smooth, silky drop

As dark as the polished charcoal keys on my grand piano

Melted chestnut adorns my vast almond shaped eyes,

Soft and warm like the chocolate chips on a fresh oven baked cookie

Like hot chocolate, on a cold, rainy day, which engulfs you in safety and assurance

A shade of ginger skin peeks out from the curtain of onyx

And a flurry of strands rush backwards as I tuck it behind my ear

My skin is an ashen bronze, the color of a new teddy bear that reminds you of sweet memories

This time, it is finally me


Gazing about, I see society like an indisputable and auroral rainbow

So diverse, vivid, colorful, chromatic and unique

Ravishing combinations meet my wonder seeking eyes

In a whirlwind of different hues


This divergent world is a gift

Wrapped in radiating wrapping paper

Inside is an entrancing spell of love and difference

This is what I see everyday

Because this is our contemporary and coeval world

Where everyone is beautiful

No matter their colors


Song Of The Isthmus



The ship docked on the sandy shores.

Waves lapping at its barnacled belly

the anchor digging deep into the earth.

Hundreds swarmed the grounds,

scouring for fresh water.

They readily gulped it down.

With quenched sighs,

the cheerful banter crescendoed from a buzz to a roar.

For gold awaited them in California,

if they could survive the bouts of scurvy that ravaged the crew,

if they could make it ‘round the horn.

A miner drifted astray.

He stumbled upon an old man,

a cloaked figure,

a shadow,

a deserted soul.

His bony finger pointed deep into the lush abyss.

Raspily whispered “do not undertake the long trip,

cross the isthmus and catch the following ship.”

Gripping his sluice box ever so tightly,

his knuckles whitened at the sight of the darkening jungle,

until he reminded himself of the wealth that awaited him.

He pushed forward.

Feet sinking into the murky bottom as he held in his gasps,

for willowy whispers transfigured from hums to

restless voices warning him to turn back.

Starting from beneath, they rose up until they enveloped his entire body.

He killed the warnings with one swift motion to his ears.

Thoughts of California’s luxuries raced through his panicked mind.

He pushed forward.

Vines silently coiled around his leg.

Reaching to brush them off, they snaked up his arm as

hundreds more slithered down the trees.

Thorny bodies pierced his flesh,

with agonizing screams, the miner was dragged to the ground.

Layer after layer they entwined him.

And it was now that they started to squeeze.

The pain in his chest grew with the lengthening gap between each ragged breath.

A fire was lit.

Starting in his lungs,

it ravaged his chest cavity and the flames attacked his throat.

His face was painted with terror for standing above him was a motionless figure.

Crouching down, the familiar raspy voice hissed

Was the gold worth it?

The old man’s mouth curled into a sneer as he lifted his tattered hood.

The vines had taken over, hijacked his mind, he was one of them.

Now the miner saw through his watery lenses:

corpses, those around him who had let avarice steal their last breath.

Consumed by his guilt,

straining for a single gasp,

the flames slithered up into his skull…

And turned to ice.


Pieces of Myself


I am not made of gloriously pristine lavenders

Or resplendent, snowy daisies

Not even cherry blossoms with petals as softs as the summer rain

I am made of roses,

Filled with sweet passion yet rough around the edges

With thorns that are always read to prick

Because I am undefined an fiercely wild in an unimaginable way


I am not made of dainty ballet slippers

Or exquisitely high platform heels

Not even graceful and elegant sandals

I am made of Converse,

Stylish, contemporary, chic, and versatile yet simple nevertheless

With a rigid and durable demeanor

Because I am artsy and angelic in a warrior-like way


I am not made of ethereal butterflies

Or bunnies that are fragile and vulnerable

Not even adorable, meek lambs, which are flawlessly white

I am made of cheetahs,

Strong, electrically agile and swift yet spirited and charming

With eyes amber like the glossy, captivating sun right before it sets

Because I am fiery and zealous in a phenomenal way


I am not made of florid dollhouses

Or delicate, cuddly teddy bears

Not even tea parties with ceramic mugs and mini chocolate muffins

I am made of crayons,

Colorful and jubilant yet able to melt in the torridity

With different tones and rare shades

Because I am mystifying and exotic in a whimsical way


I am not made of pretty and perfect lies

Or things that someone else wants me to be

Not even the basic things that society expects

I am made of originality

I am who I want to be no matter the challenges

I will be who I want to be no matter what they say

Because these are the pieces of myself


The Golden Disk

I remember the day they discovered the time capsule.

They first described it as a white, bowl-shaped contraption containing a golden disk. We didn’t know what it was and where it came from. Scientists studied the disk and eventually determined how to operate it. And then the sounds started playing: unfamiliar rhythms and tunes. We couldn’t identify what the sounds were or what they were trying to tell us. Then we decoded images revealing a species that could have resembled us — but with smaller eyes and heads and bigger mouths and ears.

I think the images of the species were what really frightened us. For so long, we had thought we were the only advanced civilization out there.

I was only a baby when the time capsule was discovered, but I remember the day like it was yesterday. I had grown up watching the revolution unfold among us. Soon it felt like everybody was picking a side. Either, you were on the side that chose to ignore the golden disk, or you were on the side that wished to do something about it.



My mother’s voice runs through my head, interrupting my thoughts.

Please come down and eat.

I put down my touchpad and stroll into the kitchen.

Good morning. My mom smiles at me, communicating her thoughts telepathically. A plate of food sits on the table, and I gratefully oblige.

My father walks into the room. Hello Cosma. Journaling again, I see.

I finish eating, and Jamaya approaches, handing me my bag. Jamaya is our robot; every household on Merona has one. She cleans our home, cooks our food and does our laundry.

Jamaya hands me my vitapills. The history books tell us that in ancient times, sickness and disease used to be a main cause of quietus. Now, these two little pills I take each day protect me from every virus and illness on the planet.

I swallow my pills and leave for class.

At school, I meet up with my friends Palia and Rasha. The recent violence and riots on the streets have led many parents to keep their children home from school.

Cosma, did you listen to the news this morning? Rasha glances at me worriedly.

What is it? I reply.

There was an uprising on the other side of Merona. President Loyola warned that the revolution has reached an unprecedented peak.

I catch sight of a boy sitting under a tree. His name is Arkin, and there has been a rumor going around that he is one of the regressives. The regressives still practice religion. President Loyola outlawed religion decades ago. He said it held us back from innovation. I’ve never conversed with Arkin, but I’ve heard the rumors.

Rasha nudges me.

Isn’t he strange? What is he still doing here? He should be at home lighting candles and worshipping statues.

Rasha smirks, and I smile.

After school, my friends and I gather in Palia’s den and start working on our history reports.

There is something satisfying about enjoying the company of my classmates, and I feel grateful that my parents haven’t removed me from school.

After a while, Palia speaks.

I have something to show you.

Her tone sounds serious, and Rasha and I glance at her with concern.

Palia pulls up her touchpad and reads something. Her pupils turn red, and I know that she is using the neuroplayer to generate energy.

I look around for whatever information she has produced. But, I don’t see anything. Then, I hear it: a slowly rising crescendo of sound. I stare at Palia in surprise.

The sound gets louder, and then it recedes. I don’t know how to explain it, but I can feel something tugging at my heart. The sound is satisfying, and it somehow makes me feel happy.

What is it? Rasha asks. I know she can feel it too.

It’s from the golden disk.

I turn to Palia in shock.

My dad’s friend obtained a copy of it. We’re not the only ones who have heard it. Many in the arts world have heard it too.

What is it? I question.

It’s called music.

Music. The word seems strange and unfamiliar. Yet, there’s a part of me that longs to hear more.

The sound changes. It is no longer lilting; now, it is fast and turbulent.

Isn’t it incredible?

Palia, you could be in serious trouble if anybody finds out about this, Rasha says. Palia’s expression changes suddenly.

I know.

We listen to the music until it is time to head home.

Be careful, I tell Palia as I leave.

Two houses away from home, I notice the federal guards. There are dozens of them patrolling residential streets, their dark outfits discernable in the light sky. My pulse quickens as I wonder what they are doing here. One of them approaches me.

What are you doing out?

I’m on my way home.

President Loyola has issued a curfew because of the uprisings. Nobody is allowed out after 49:00.

I scan my brain for the time, only then realizing how late it is.

As I hurry home, the street lamps seem brighter than usual.

The next day in class, everyone is discussing the curfew. I notice that there are even less students here today; we are down to eleven. In history class, the teacher shows the daily announcements. President Loyola stands in front of a podium.

Citizens of Merona, I am urging you to be safe. We are arresting more and more rebels each day. The announcements cut to an image of protesters in front of the Grand Palace. Rasha rolls her eyes, bored. President Loyola reappears.

It has come to my attention that there has been a breach in security. Classified information regarding the golden disk has been stolen and leaked. The golden disk has been deemed a hoax, instituted by rebels to cause turmoil. President Loyola sighs dramatically. The only way we will get past this is if we trust each other. The announcements end, and the class erupts into fearful conversation.

A classmate named Domini scoffs, How could the rebels have planted something like this?

Others agree. How can they dismiss the golden disk like that?

It is no secret that most of my classmates have parents employed in the arts, and we recognize the fallacies in President Loyola’s statements.

I glance out the window and notice federal guards outside the school gates. I feel safe voicing my beliefs within the walls of the classroom, but outside many of us worry about saying the wrong thing for fear of putting ourselves in danger.

For many years, President Loyola was a savior. He created jobs and maintained peace among the different groups in our planet. But, the time capsule changed everything.

I spy Arkin in the corner of the classroom scrolling through his touchpad, and I can’t help wondering what he thinks of all this.

Class, please calm down. Let us continue with today’s lesson. Even our teacher looks troubled. As she begins the lesson, I wonder how many students will be at school tomorrow.

Upon arriving home, I find my father hurriedly shoving clothes and belongings into a bag. My mother sits next to him.

Father, what is going on?

Cosma, I hoped that you would be at your friend’s house.

I stare at my father, concerned by the serious expression on his face. I know that his highly secretive job in the Department of Space Research has involved contact with the golden disk.

I have to leave. I may be gone for a long time. It’s for the best. Your mother will take care of you.

Why? What has happened? I am confused. Is this about the golden disk?

My father’s face turns pale.

I’ve heard it, I tell him.

Cosma, you cannot tell anyone about that. He sighs. I made a mistake. The government plans to destroy the golden disk. I made a copy of it, and now they are after me. It’s not safe for me here anymore. I have to go into hiding. Please don’t worry about me.

I stand there, not knowing what to say. My father finishes packing and before I know it, he is gone.

The door shuts firmly behind him, and I look at my mother and Jamaya. Our family is a lot smaller without my father.

My mother tries to comfort me.

Time passes, and our classroom dwindles down to six. Domini doesn’t come back.

One day, I am alone working on my touchpad when I receive an anonymous message instructing me to go to the flypod racks. The message is mysterious, and I am intrigued.

I stand by the racks, and an instant later, Arkin approaches me.

Hello. Can I talk to you? He scans the empty school grounds anxiously. I can’t help feeling a little apprehensive. I am surprised he still attends school.

I know where your father is. I can take you to see him. You can trust me. We must travel by flypod.

I am bewildered and don’t understand what connection Arkin could have with my father. But, the earnest expression on Arkin’s face reassures me.

Arkin unlocks his flypod; it is orange with blue stripes. He hands me a helmet. A moment later, we are in the air heading south. Arkin is a safe pilot, and I get the feeling that he takes this specific route often.

The traffic is light, but I notice that there are more government patrol flypods than usual.

Arkin checks his right mirror, and I notice his expression change suddenly.

What’s wrong?

I think we’re being followed, Arkin responds.

I look over my shoulder, and there is a white government flypod trailing us.

Please pull over. The patrol agent signals from his flypod.

Hang on, Arkin warns me.

Before I realize what is happening, the flypod dips abruptly and starts to rapidly descend.

What are you doing? Pull over! I scream. Arkin ignores me, and the flypod plummets even lower. We are flying too low for safety. I can see into the windows of buildings. Arkin, you’re going to get us killed! My heart is beating fast, and my fingers grip the seatbelt tightly.

The government flypod doesn’t drop to follow us.

Soon, we are flying above an uninhabited part of Merona. Below us, I can see dense forests and grassy hills.

Arkin, where are we going? I cannot see any other flypods in the sky.

We’re almost there, I promise.

We land in a grassy field at the bottom of a hill.

Arkin fastens his flypod to a tree and covers it with foliage until it is no longer visible. I glance at the sky; it will be dark soon.

Our feet crunch heavily in the grass as we climb the hill.

We both look up at the sky as it explodes into a fiery red and orange. The sunset looks even more beautiful at an elevation. We stand still, awed by the sight.

Arkin, can you tell me what is going on?

I am not prepared for what Arkin tells me. My father has been hiding out here with other dissidents, building an apparatus to send a signal back to the civilization that sent us the golden disk.

Above us, the darkening sky is already sparkling with emerging stars. The crescent moons are tinged with a saffron haze.

Do you think they are doing the right thing? I ask.

I do not believe that we are alone. The spirit that lives in you and me is the same spirit that lights the sky. The civilization that sent us the golden disk reached out to us for a reason, and we must respond. We are all dust of the same creation.

I ponder Arkin’s words. I had never thought about my life that way. I realize that Arkin comes from a traditional way of life that now seems quaint and old-fashioned to most of us on Merona. But, his words are strangely reassuring and somehow bring meaning to what is going on.

Arkin tilts his head skyward and closes his eyes. His face is calm and serene, and a stillness hangs over him.

Is he praying? I wonder. I have no experience with prayer and stand silently.

Then unexpectedly, a memory of the sounds from the golden disk fills my mind, a plaintive music stirring in me an intense longing for something indefinable.

Arkin opens his eyes and takes my hand.


We arrive, and I am astonished by what I see.

The apparatus is positioned on the hilltop, obscured by a canopy of trees.

A small group is gathered. I don’t know how to describe the object; it is magnificent and resembles a giant metal dish.

Welcome, Cosma.

I know without looking that it is my father.

His arms envelop me, and I rest my head on his shoulder. I didn’t know if I would see my father again, and I instantly feel safe and happy.

I am sorry that I left, but I hope you understand.

And I do. I know it will take time to catch up with my father, but I respect him for his dedication to what I now know is right and necessary.

Somebody presses a button, and an antenna unravels from the apparatus.

It is decided that the signal will carry cryptic words from the golden disk itself, an acknowledgement to the other civilization that their message was received.

I know that we are doing the right thing for Merona.

Even before the revolution, there had always been something missing in our lives. We have accomplished so much, but something has been lost over time. I hope that one day we will find it again.

In the face of the revolution, I am stronger than ever, and I feel a profound respect for the unknown that for so long I had been taught to disregard. I admire Arkin for keeping his faith, and I feel I have been changed in some way.

I smile, content to watch the cosmos from afar.


On the other side of the universe, Dr. Peterson yawned sleepily and sat up in his chair. He had accidently fallen asleep monitoring the radio dish. The scientist rubbed his eyes and peered groggily at the screen.

It was only the slightest difference: the parabolic pattern fluctuated unsteadily, and the waves stretched wider.

After decades of working in astronomy, Dr. Peterson knew the unvarying pattern of the radio waves by heart. And, he knew exactly what anomaly he was looking for.

His hands shaking, Dr. Peterson rushed to input the data. He waited for the analysis from the machine. The screen came alive with the words.

Per aspera ad astra.

Dr. Peterson stood frozen in place for a long time. It seemed almost incomprehensible. Then, he thought of the Voyager Spacecraft launched back in 1977 carrying the Golden Record.

“My god,” he whispered, his voice hoarse. “They’ve responded.”


All the World Poetry Collection


Lovestruck Fan

His hair is flawless; his eyes are perfect,

His music: my very inspiration,

His dreamy face is another aspect,

Singing to me in each situation,

But lighting up a smile on the faces,

Of countless devoted, adoring fan,

Does not equal knowing his embraces,

Alas, for him, I would fly to Japan,

Because it pains my heart to love and yearn,

So unattainable; yet I persist,

For someone who will not love in return,

Or know me, nor that I even exist,

For his blood type does lie in the B+ zone,

But — oh dear, I cannot recall my own.


A Single Red Rose

I am a rose,

Curled up within,

Hidden among leaves,

Frightened of the light;

For the light means

Growing up

And I am scared.

Of growing older

And abandoning

All that I know.

But I realize that

Eventually I will have to

Unfurl my petals,

And venture into the unknown,

Even if that means

Accepting a simple, glass vase.


All the World

I am from Menlo Park, California.

Inside my house live many countries.

I am from cups of steaming Darjeeling tea.

I am from tangy, chocolaty Jaffa cakes.

I am from boxes and boxes of Cadbury fingers and eggs.

I am from a piping hot tray of Shepherd’s pie.

I am from colorful, vibrant Indian saris on every occasion.

I am from the scent of masala, turmeric, and cardamom.

I am from having a loving, supportive family.

From my father telling me to “work hard.”

And my mother telling me to “share the love.”

I am from bright candles on the Festival of Lights.

I am from tying bracelets on my brother’s wrist for Raakhi.

I am from blazing bonfires, Bhangra dances, and peanut shells.

I am from gold mines in Tanzania.

I am from rainy and chilly London.

I am from the mountains of the Himalayas.

I am from soldiers and warriors.

I am from poets, lawyers, and businessmen.

I am from the Sikh religion.

I am from my long, flowing hair.

I am from migrations all over the world.

I am the evening sky bursting with every color.

I am all the world,

Churned and blended into one.





the type of tiredness that settles behind your eyes and doesn’t leave.

the type of quiet that twists your gut and unsettles your mind.

the type of moments that make you wish for an alternate reality.


it’s not dark out, yet.

the sun hasn’t fallen asleep.

the sunset is colorless.


your world is monochrome,

your life colored by shades of grey,

blurring, blurring, indistinguishable.


your emotions faded and wrung out to dry,

worn through by the people who came before,

hand me downs that don’t quite fit right,

and the person in the mirror is not yourself.


perpetual dusk, perpetual dawn,

unreached potential and unused opportunities,

the feeling when the curtain is lifted

and the magic wasn’t real all along.


the sidewalk is endless.

the buildings are identical.

your eyes never near the horizon.

the pedestrians are like ghosts,

whispering in languages long since forgotten.


you are tired.

you’re just so, so tired,

and the darkness wins.


sometimes the colors come back.

sometimes the grey fades to black.



the darkness whispers.

quiet, steady tones,

to the rhythm of your heartbeat.


your mind is blank and racing.


the nothingness gets stronger, more overpowering,

drowning out your thoughts

and ideas

and hopes

and dreams



nothing nothing

nothing nothing nothing


the void so loud you might as well be screaming

but your face is blank and your eyes are blank,

easily masked and easily masqueraded,

false emotions replicated through sounds and words,

everything exactly as empty as you.


you’re gone.


not a blank canvas, not a new start,

not the pure, pale white of literary symbolism,

swallowed by the type of endless grey that numbs your soul and your feet and your words.


so fill it-

fill it with books and music and art and work and friends

and anything you can get your hands on

because everything fades.


blank, empty, fading.



the crowd is muffled and the colours are muted.

you can’t quite recall how many people are outside, or how you found your way home.

you can’t quite recall whether this is your home, your bed, your life.

maybe that’s the point.


maybe every now and then you have to hit mute on life and listen to the white noise,

the background static otherwise drowned out by your everyday living,


it’s almost peaceful, this lack of emotion.

you could stay there forever.

forever- forever’s a long time, you tell yourself,

but it doesn’t seem worth it to get up,

much less to go outside.


so you compromise and sit.

and you wait.


time ticks by

as you wish for the colors to come back.



i watch the colors swirl down the drain.

the neons and the pastels and the brights,

the shades that made the streets lively and the city interesting,



all that is left is shades of grey

and the constant beat of rain.


in time with my racing heart.


there is a simplicity to be found

in a world devoid of colour,

where all that’s left if shapes and silhouettes and essence.

a shadow of another world, maybe,

but there is beauty to be found in this reflection.


i see myself staring plainly back at me.

i see the potential in each colorless house,

i see what could be and what once was.


i am one with the rain,

i blend in with the shades of grey.


beautiful. simple. honest.


gasoline sickness


and they told stories, too, of gasoline sickness,

the bloodshot eyes and ragged breaths,
the sleepless nights and sleepwalking days,
how they were homesick/homesick/seasick/homesick,

the unsteady children riding unsteady waves into an unsteady future,
the ground and the capitol walls always
seconds away from breaking,

how they had gone from sanitized news to desensitized people,
from sanitary streets to desensitized passerby.

how they built the walls around them,
they brought the hated to them
with their unwillingness to believe
and unwillingness to change,

poisoning the bodies of some,
with lead and bullets and dirt,
and poisoning the minds of others,
with ignorance and neglect and hurt,

how this world had so much and was still yet so empty.

how a few hard workers,
a few believers,
a few who see how it should be

cannot push past the fragile gasoline outline of a world
where empty houses and galas take place
while people starve to death right outside.

for you cannot push away your conscience
(as much as you may try)
and the sickness,
the empty, numbing, kerosene and matches,

will burn you from the bottom up.



The doorbell jingled as a woman and her daughter entered the cafe. They did not look at all alike.

The daughter was short and chubby and seemed to waddle instead of walk; the mother was tall and lanky, each angle from chin to elbow sharpened to a point. The woman wore a close-lipped, businesslike smile as she strode up to the counter. A pair of metal-framed glasses balanced precariously on her sharp cheekbones, the lenses immaculately clear. The girl followed behind, close enough to tread on her mother’s heels.

“How can I help you this morning, miss?”

“One black coffee please,” the woman replied curtly, without a single glance at the menu. She had already pulled out her wallet when she noticed that the girl had pressed her face up against the glass case of pastries, mesmerized by the colors. The woman’s pale cheeks flushed suddenly and furiously, as if she had been slapped, “…and a pastry,” she added. She smiled somewhat embarrassingly, thin lips peeling back to reveal sharp teeth.

“Sure thing, miss. Which would you like?”

“You heard her, darling. Which one would you like?” The woman bent down to be at the same height as her daughter. “Do you want,” she squinted through her glasses at the menu, “a slice of cake, or a cookie? Or perhaps a brownie?” “Darling?”

The girl turned her head and stared up at her mother with big, blank eyes, then turned back to the glass case. The woman noted with a little shudder that the girl had already left several hazy, smudged handprints on the glass. With a sigh, the woman straightened herself and gave the cashier a terse smile. “A piece of cake, please.”

“That’ll be $4.89, miss.”

The woman exchanged glossy credit card for a paper bag and cup, warily eyeing the spots of grease already forming on the brown paper. She took a step back from the counter, carrying the bag, when she nearly tripped over her daughter, who had been silently standing close behind her. As the mother regained her balance, her daughter only stared at her silently with big eyes. The thin eyebrows of the mother suddenly twitched as something flashed across her eyes, quick as lightning. She pressed the bag firmly into the girl’s hands. “Darling, please, stand a bit further from me. You always get in my way.”


Heart Flames

The cold, dry air blew through the forest. The trees swayed from side to side, occasionally dropping twigs or leaves on the hastily built campsite. The concoction of the sounds from the day quietly dissolved into the thin, night air. The only noise in the whole forest was the sound of the fire crackling and the wrinkling of the piece of paper I clutched tightly in my hand. The sparks from the flame were almost as bright as the stars in the night sky.

I quickly scanned the paper, stopping over certain phrases. I traced the picture on the paper with my finger as I looked at the fire. The girl was only seven or eight and had innocent, sky blue eyes. Her blonde hair was tied back in two, thin braids. She was clutching her left elbow, obviously not feeling comfortable, but her gentle, half-moon smile was the most enticing feature on her fair-skinned, gentle face. I examined the words written over her head, and my eyebrows went up. The paper read: Wanted: Brynn Cooper. For theft and embezzlement.

Jason walked over and sat down next to me on the log. He took one look at the picture and burst out into laughter.

Spinning around, I gave him a nasty look. “What do you think is funny about any of this?”

Jason ran his hand through his cherry red hair and smiled. “At least no one is going to recognize you.”

I couldn’t help but smirk. “They should’ve used an older picture,” I giggled. “Nobody is going to believe a little kid did all that.”

“Of course they won’t, you’re almost fourteen,” Jason got up, “and you had better hair when you were seven.”

“Hey!” I smacked his arm playfully. “At least it’s better than your Wanted picture.”

He rolled his forest green eyes. “Welcome to the club.” He threw on a red sweatshirt with stains and holes. He turned around towards the shelter we built out of sticks and mud. “Hey Brynn, are you comin’?”

I glanced back at him. “Nah, I’m gonna stay out here.”

Shrugging, he climbed back into the entrance

I faced the fire, watching the flame fall and rise. The thick, smoky scent and sudden, red flares were comforting in the dry, cold forest. Looking at the paper, I felt a sudden pang of sadness. Control your emotions Brynn, I chided myself, don’t go wishing things that will never happen.

Sighing, I tossed the wrinkled, half torn paper into the flame and got up to leave just as something caught my eye. In the flame, I saw a faint image. I took a little step closer and immediately stepped back. It was a face. A very familiar face. The same face I would see if I looked in a mirror or a puddle. Nervously, I padded closer. Yes, it was definitely that face, but she was different. Her blonde hair was neatly combed back instead of flying all over her face. Her blue eyes weren’t glazed from exhaustion, they shone bright and carefree. Her clothes were clean clothes, not dirty and speckled with dust.

Who are you, I silently demanded. She didn’t respond, but she started laughing. I felt my face grow warm. Don’t mock me, I glared at the face in the fire. She laughed, and I saw another familiar face emerge.

Her eyes were sky blue, but in contrast, her curly, dark hair was as brown as fudge. Her light body was wrapped in a sleek, dark red dress that complemented her figure. Even seven years later, I could reach deep into my memory and remember her laugh.

“Momma?” I gasped. I inched forward so close that I could touch her face. I never saw her so happy. All those years that I had stayed in that miserable house, she was always crying or yelling, one or the other. Smirking, she hugged my reflection close to her chest.

I felt my eyes dampen. I was faintly aware of a tear silently streaming down my face, but I didn’t wipe it away.

Control your emotions. Control the flames of desire.

Control the flames inside of you.

The two figures turned as the flames shivered. I saw a masculine face emerge, with a carefully trimmed mustache and an almost bald head. He had chocolate brown eyes and his eyebrows were raised almost as high as mine were. I didn’t know what to think. Horrifying images of that drunken man swinging a chair at the lights, smearing mud all over the house, keeping me tucked in a closet for hours. My father had changed.

They looked so happy, they laughed and hugged each other. In reality, that never would have happened. Kissing Momma on the cheek, Dad hugged me tight. I felt tears pouring out of my eyes as I lifted my finger to touch. It was so dangerous but so close. I shouldn’t be wanting things that would lead to disappointment. A life full of disappointment.

How do you control the flames inside of you? How do you control something that you want so much?

Slowly, carefully, I brought my finger up to the flames. The fire licked my fingers playfully, as if inviting me in.

Stop. Stop. Stop. Control the flames. Don’t do it.

I wanted it so bad. I can’t control my emotions. I can’t control the flames. I can’t stop wishing for a life that was gone.

Inching forward, carefully…

SPLASH! Water drops sprayed onto my eyelids. Blinking, I watched the steam rise into the air. Feeling a cold hand jerk me backwards, I spun around. “Jason! What are you doing?”

“Saving your life. Thank me later.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“No. What’s wrong with you?” Jason looked at me quizzically. “You were gonna stick your whole head in there.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“What were you doing?”

Shuffling my feet, I looked down. “Okay, this is gonna be weird. But I saw my whole family — honestly! I did! Don’t give me that look,” I glared. “But they were all so happy and — ”


“I wanted to join them. They were all so caring and kind — Jason! What’s the matter?”

Cold eyes stared down at me. Jason crossed his arms, and his mouth was drawn into a snarl. “Never say that you want something,” he growled, “that is impossible to get.”

Jason’s gaze hardened. “Silly expectations and worthless aspirations leads to disappointment,” he murmured softly. “You and I know that better than anyone. You have to control your emotions. Control your emotions. Control the flames of your heart’s desires.”

Control the flames of your heart’s desires.


Schoolwork Aiding Websites: Innocent Aid or Devious Cheating?

As technology slowly seeps into our lives, influencing our daily lives, elbowing it’s way into our mind and schedule, it becomes more and more crucial to establish a clear border between it and us. The establishment of a border that clearly demarcates where your hand ends and your phone begins may seem easy at first. As technology worms it’s way further into our lives, however, the hand and the phone fuse, and the weight of humanity becomes more and more reliant on the crutch sweetly proffered by our mechanical aides.

This increasing dependence on technology manifests itself in many ways. Hackers are born, people who spend their lives trying to defeat the online systems in games and spitefully create viruses. Many people sink into deep depressions as a result of online social rejection, only to attempt to abjure the situation by fleeing to other social media platforms. The Hikikomori, a Japanese term meaning “being confined,” are a group of Japanese youth who spend their lives in their rooms, eyes glazed over from screens, their meals delivered under the door. Technology rears its ugly head as well by contributing to a long-brewing firestorm of fake news, using the naive reliance of young adults on the Internet for news to pollute their minds with twisted facts. In the 2016 election, many Russian bots, or fake users, were sent on to Facebook and other platforms, where they contributed to the alarmingly rapid spread of misinformation.

The avaricious outreach does not stop there, however, and also makes itself known in what I believe to be its most vicious method yet: spell check.

Yes, that little red underline that pops up when you fail to put “I” before “E” (except after C), that innocent little reminder of your various grammatical error, the one that has saved your life on countless school assignments. Yes, that unassuming little helper will be more disastrous to humanity than the influx of bots and fake news will be, and it will be so in accordance with the single most important law regarding electronics and all forward motion, the Golden Rule: Short-term convenience always leads to long-term inability.

Picture it like this: If I have to jump over a large crate to get to school each day, I would feel greatly inconvenienced, as it might result in my being late to school. That weekend, I decide to hire a team of workers to lift the large, heavy crate each day as I go to school, in order to stop that tiring leap each day. Once the crate is gone, I enjoy an uneventful trip to school each day, free of stress or physical exertion. Over time, since I stopped my daily crate-jump, my legs slowly lose that ability, as I am getting no crate-jumping exercise elsewhere. As I enjoy my walk to school Monday morning, I notice that, by some freak accident, all of the members of my special crate-removal crew are sick. I look around and see no other way to get to school in time, no way to get around the crate. If I attempt to jump over the crate, I will be unable, despite the fact that not long ago it had been easy. An inconvenience, but in hindsight, relatively easy. Therefore, I become late to school, and I am late to school every single day that my crew is absent from their station.

While navigating a complicated and rapidly evolving world, it is important to remember the actual reason for our evolving. What is the actual force the has propelled us past the denizens of the animal kingdom. It is certainly not our brains, as we are dumber than not only dolphins, but elephants and certain whales as well. It is not our strength, say bears, oxen, tigers and gorillas, or even weight and strength ration, crow the Dung Beetle and the Leafcutter Ant. If not brain or brawn, what could it be that separates us from the multitudes of beasts? The answer is simple. It is one of the very basic skills of humanity and part of the reason we survive today: our ability to write, springing from our opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs, however, are not nearly as interesting an article topic, so writing it is.

The differentiation between an early human’s schedule and a dolphin’s may well have been very similar. Awaken. Search for food. Potentially meet predator. Die at the hands/fins of predator or not. Eat food. Sleep. Repeat the process until death, whenever that might come. The only reason humans dominate the earth is their fast-paced evolution, beginning with writing, which enabled mankind to pass down discoveries. Isaac Newton said it best in the famous quote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on (the) shoulders of giants.” That was how humans broke out of the cycle they shared with dolphins, by building on the knowledge already gained by their ancestors. If a dolphin found a place with a particularly copious amount of food, there was no way to record that, so he would eat up and leave. A human would paint it on the walls of his cave, and the place would feed generations. This baseline skill of humanity has been the reason that we have progressed even through hardship, and its absolute necessity should not be forgotten.

Because of this, and the fact that humans know it as well, there have been no attempts to actively inhibit our writing, with a few exceptions. Unfortunately for us, however, we have somehow found a way to do so, and under the guise of being completely innocent, which is even worse. The more aid that humans receive from online, the less they write themselves without help, the less they are able to write without the constant help of websites and spell check, which will almost definitely result in debilitating results in the long-term. Already, people rely too heavily on these such websites, and too many students now rely on sites like Grammarly for their essays. There is a reason that we are not producing the same caliber of writers as we used to, a reason why the quality of the average book has deteriorated from complicated and nuanced to weight loss, a reason why nearly all the books worth referencing are from at least twenty years ago, if not much more. Who would have guessed that believing that we need external aid for humanity’s most basic need would result badly?

Another reason to be alarmed by Grammarly and its similar entourage is its surprising amount of tolerance that teachers have regarding it, when the reality is that they are helping students too much. I personally find it astounding that its usage has not been banned by the DOE, especially since Grammarly and Co. are not doing that much to attempt to dispel any sort of criticism. They are, in fact, being very outright about the fact that they are servicing students with essays they are meant to be doing by themselves. “If I want to get A’s on (my final exams), they better be free of typos,” an actor playing a student states in a Grammarly ad, and then continues with a sly smile, “Grammarly is my secret weapon.” One might think that this is just a little business tactic and that Grammarly does not do a ton to help your writing, just maybe catch the occasional mistake. Nope. The actor boldly plows onwards, “It’s more than just a simple spelling or grammar checker, Grammarly catches ten times as many errors as Microsoft Word. (Grammarly) helps me with word choice, punctuation, and sentence structure.” Oy vey. And then the video closes with two absolutely awful phrases that sound straight out of an episode of Black Mirror, “Better writing. Better results.”

Better writing. Better results. We will improve your writing and make sure you get better grades. All for free. And this is all allowed by nearly all schools, which is absolutely appalling. How is one supposed to learn writing if whenever there is bad writing, it is automatically fixed? This is even ignoring the simple fact that the teachers must be very misled. If a student needs extra help with their writing, the teacher will never know, and neither will the high school or college the student applies to when they see the students’ grades. This is an appalling interjection of corruption and laziness into society, and soon enough the long-term effects will come into play. In 1997, world champion Garry Kasparov lost to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in a game of chess. Now, a supercomputer can know how to beat you after you make your first move, and human skills at chess are useless compared to theirs.

Better writing indeed. We shall see about the second count.


The Story About the King’s Bad Day

Once upon a time, there was a lion, (also known as the king for the citizens, the husband for the wife, and Dad for the cubs). There was a lioness, (also known as queen for the citizens and Mom for the cubs and wife for the king) and two lion cubs. One was named Alex, and one was named Sally. They were both twins, and their age was seven.

It was story time with the cubs and with their dad.

“Today, I am going to tell you a story that actually happened with me,” said the lion with his deep voice. Before he told the story, a pet dog named Sugar came and sat on the king’s lap. The lion started, “Once, when I was a little kid like you, I didn’t listen to my parents. Then I was very stubborn. I didn’t listen to anybody. I thought I already knew what I was doing. But one day, my mom and dad told me not to go to the dark forest. There are some scary creatures there, and they love eating children. But I thought too arrogant of myself and said to myself, ‘Why can’t I go there? Don’t Mom and Dad think I’m bold enough? Am I not going to be the future king?’ So I went inside, and there was a large cave, and in there it was pitch dark. So I went inside, and I saw a big tiger there looking at me and circling me. I was scared, then suddenly I realized why my mom and dad told me not to go there. They said it because it was to protect me. I felt really sad. Then somebody came and took a vine and was swinging towards me. He grabbed on to me and roared to the tiger. The cave shook, and the tiger went away scared.”


“Dinner time, kids!” called the mom.

“Not now, Mom, we want to hear more of Dad’s story!” they both whined.

“You better come now, otherwise no dessert,” called Mom.

Sugar the dog came right away and was sticking out his tongue ready for food.

“Go Alex, go Sally. I will tell you more about the story next time. I bet you don’t want to miss dinner. We got a surprise!!!” their dad said.

They ran down quickly to see Mom.

When they got to the large, colorful diamond room, then they both said, “What’s the surprise, Mom?”

“I won’t tell until you eat your food,” said Mom.


The next month, it was summer. There was no food, no puddles of water, and it was very, very hot. The savannah’s sand was very hot. Whenever somebody put their paw (foot) in the sand, it would burn. And in the morning, you could hear the birds chirping, and you could see everybody trying to get some shade. After the humid day and without a catch of food, a cheetah came up to the king. Sugar barked at the cheetah. The cheetah told the mutt to pipe down.

The cheetah said, “You and your family look really hungry, sooooo I’ll give you a life supply of meat.”

The lion thought he was seeing stuff, so he rubbed his eyes, but he still saw the cheetah. He roared, and fire came out of his mouth and said, “Where did you get this ‘life supply of meat’?”

The cheetah was scared and said, “I am only here for a reason, I’m here to make a trade. I got the meat from New England.”

The king was confused. He asked, “What trade do you want from me?”

“I want you to give up your home, and give me your house, and I’ll give you a life supply of meat,” the cheetah said.


The lion was discussing it with his family and said, “How do we know if this a hoax or not?”

All the lions were thinking, and Mom had an idea.

She said, “Let’s trick him, and see if he acts strange and runs away.”

Then the lion said, “How do I know if you’re not tricking me, why would I give up my home? Give me a good reason!!! And by the way, why do you want my home?”

“Ummm, because I need it for my family.”

“Where is your family anyway?” asked the lion. “And why don’t you get a home over there? If I don’t get an answer, soon things won’t be looking good for you.” The lion roared.

“I think I should be going now,” said the cheetah, smiling.

The cheetah ran as fast as he could, but the lion caught up to him and said, “Are you a criminal?”

“Why would I be a criminal? What makes you think of that?” the cheetah said, nervously.

“Yup, he is a criminal,” said the lion.

“How do you know, Dad?” asked Alex.

“Because he is running away,” said Dad.

“Oh,” said the lion.

“We’ll take him to the police station, and they will take it from there,” said the king.

So they took him to the police station, and the police station was run by animals who were all tigers which made them look tough. The king was a little scared.

He told the police, “Here is a criminal. He wants to steal our home.”

“Thank you very much, King. We were looking all over for him. He is an escaped criminal. Do you want a reward of money?”

“No thank you, police officer. I already have too much money.” He went back home to see their home not there.

The king was very mad. He was so mad that he breathed out fire and said, “WHO DID THIS!!!” He saw, with a glimpse of an eye, a towing truck with his house and told the driver to stop the truck. But the truck kept on going. The lion was so mad that he tried to breathe fire to burn the truck down, but the truck was going too fast. The driver stuck out his tongue and the king saw his face, and it was another cheetah!!! When the lion saw this, he ran 100 miles an hour and stopped the truck with his own bare paws. He said to the cheetah if he didn’t get out, he will eat him in one bite. So the cheetah came out and acted innocently. But when he came near the lion, he ran like the wind and tried to get away from the king. He knew that he can run fast but can’t run for long. He wasn’t looking in front of him, and he bumped into a pole. He was really dizzy. By then, the lion caught up to him and pulled him up his head and asked him, “Are you the brother of the cheetah, and what’s you and your brother’s name?”

The cheetah replied, “Yes, I am the brother of the cheetah in jail. My name is Razor, and my brother is called Fred.”

The lion said, “Why are you and your brother trying to steal my home?”

“Because both of our family doesn’t have a home. So we are stealing yours.”

“But why don’t you steal another house? And why does it have to be my house? And why don’t you have a home?”

But by the time he asked all those questions, the cheetah ran away and surrounded the lion with cacti, and he drove off with the truck. The king was so mad that he breathed fire, and all the cacti burned down. And he tried to chase the truck, but the cheetah put the metal to the pedal, so the king couldn’t catch up. But the king knew that if he kept on distracting him, he won’t be looking ahead, and there was a curve right ahead of him.

So when the lion waved to the cheetah, the cheetah was asking to himself, “Why is he waving to me?”

Then he saw in front of him that there was a big curve ahead of him. But it was too late. He dropped down, he clasped his hands together, and he was praying. When he finally touched the ground, he was very, very dizzy. Luckily, he didn’t get hurt. He only got a few bruises. There was the king out there waiting. He got tired, so he got him out himself, and the police were standing right near the truck. The Tiger police apprehended him.

The lion asked, “Why are you and your brother running away from me and stealing my home!”

The cheetah replied, “Because we want to steal homes, then sell them, and make a fortune!!!”

The lion said, “That’s just crazy!! All for this!!! Take him away, police officers.”


“I’ve heard him enough. Take him away,” said the king.

The king went back home and was murmuring back home, I hope there isn’t another brother!

So he went back home and saw his cubs running towards him and said, “Mother is lost! Mother is lost!! We can’t find mother!” They both yelled.

“Oh my gosh, why do bad things keep on happening to me? Where was she when you last saw her?” the lion said.

“We saw her last at the kitchen cooking lasagna… ”

“Mmm, that sounds yummy. But we have to stay on the topic on saving your mother. Have you seen the person who took your mother?”

“Yah, we think it’s the cheetah that we saw first.”

“WHAT!!! I thought he was in jail, or did he convince the police that he was innocent?”

“But that is impossible unless the police is on the cheetah’s side!! The police did seem really suspicious.”

“I think we should go to the police station and investigate. Maybe your mother is there.”

So they went to the police station and saw their mother behind the bars.


The police was jingling his keys and was laughing.

“Why wouldn’t we prison our so called ‘queen’? Our boss wants to rule this kingdom. He sounds like a way better king then you. You don’t take care of your citizens!! He said that if we put the ‘queen’ in jail, then he will treat us fairly.”

“Why are you doing this? He’s probably tricking you, so he can be king! Fine, I admit that I was a bad leader. Please forgive me, and I will treat everybody better. Also, you have to give me back my wife. Who is this ‘boss’ of yours?” said the lion.

“He, well I don’t really know. He just has a mask over his face,” said the police. “Wait, you are working for a boss who you don’t even know,” asked the lion.

“Well, yeah,” said the tiger.

“Come on, if we team together, we can live together equally,” said the lion.

“Okay, sounds like a plan to me,” said the tiger.

“So first, let my wife out of jail,” said the lion.


“Thanks for cooperating, police,” said Sally.

“Now we have to trick this boss of yours. But how?” said the king.

“I have an idea,” said the tiger.

So once the boss came, he said to the tiger, “l got a new plan to get rid of your king.”

“Okay, let’s hear it,” said the tiger.

“So let’s make a quick mmmooovvvve,” said the boss when he saw the lion appearing.

“Move, right, but what move?” said the lion, grinding.

“Oh no. What are you going to do with me?” said the boss.

“Well first, who are you?” said the lion.

“I am a snake,” said the boss snake.

“Okay, but why do you want to rule the kingdom,” said the police officer.

“Because I want to rule and become famous,” said the snake.

“Okay. So police officer, take him away,” said the lion.

“Well, I do deserve it,” said the snake.


After a long day, their dad played baseball with Sally and Alex and their mom, who was safely back home.

The End



A dark-haired Girl with pale, lifeless eyes, no older than seventeen, but with a countenance hardened beyond her years arrived here around six months ago with no expectations and no purpose. Fate had steered her path in a single direction: one blackened by tragedy; soiled by betrayal; eased only by cynicism and shabby expectations.

“Here” was a massive room; yet, for all its spaciousness, no furnishings filled the void of white walls and stark, faintly marbled floors. The sole breach in the room’s sterility was a striking set of doors, centered to the front wall. Though the room was clearly designed with a sharp, contemporary eye, the doors had an incongruous, traditional style — an elaborate ornamentation of unfurling metal skillfully placed over the seeded, glass windows and an outer arch composed of four, curved panes that added grandeur while directing soft light throughout the room. Copper knobs plated with metal motifs adorned each door, their intricacy undoubtedly attracting the eagle-eyed attention of both architectural connoisseurs and everyday onlookers. Within the room, the elaborate doors were most distinct for the aura they radiated — one of welcome and warmth; the feeling of sunshine on a harsh winter’s day.

A hazy image of an impressive manor materialized in the Girl’s mind. She had once stayed there. With smooth, stucco walls, a tiled roof the color of sunset-lit desert sand, and rich, wooden features highlighted by warm, ambient lighting, the mansion held an immense appeal. Its interior, though a motley of different styles, was just as stunning. Three occupants had shared this manor with her: a dutiful father, a nurturing mother, and a sweet son. The Girl paused her mulling briefly, realizing that it had become a household of two.

It was the mother who had picked the Girl up. She found the Girl abandoned in a musty, cramped storage area filled with various, unwanted things — old mannequins, costumes, bizarre-looking kitchen contraptions. The Girl vividly remembered the man who had shoved her there — she had coined him the nickname “Pattern Man” because he always paired revolting articles of clothing. Once, he wore a hideous flamingo tie, a gray and white checked shirt, a houndstooth double-breasted blazer, and matching houndstooth pants. He was eccentric, yet quick to judge others by appearance: a complete hypocrite. After one look, he had deemed the Girl “weird” and hid her in the storage box. Not that the Girl cared; rather, she was glad to be shielded from his hideous outfits, and amused by his arbitrary judgement of her. Many people were usually startled by the Girl — they felt her jarring gaze penetrated their souls. The mother was a rare exception; upon seeing the Girl, she clapped her hands with delight and immediately brought the Girl to the manor.

The mother was a young, beautiful woman with clear, blue eyes and silky, auburn hair; however, creases had begun lining the corners of her mouth — she was overspending her smiles for her family’s sake. The father loved his wife, the mother, for far more than her looks, but the Girl quickly learned that the mother was his second priority at best.

Their son, still young, was only six years, but quite clever. Upon first sight of the Girl, he was startled, and said, “she’s like an ‘Elf on the Shelf,’ but not happy… always watching, and not necessarily in a good way.” The mother chastised her son, and told him that the Girl must have a story — one that explained her demeanor.

The Girl had grown slightly fond of the mother; she thought that the mother understood her and was ready to listen to her story. However, the Girl lacked the myopia to believe such innocent happiness would persist in her future and the household’s.

Within a few years of the Girl’s arrival, the mother, possessed by some potent force, bolted away from the household, taking an impressive sum of money and her beloved’s inky black Mercedes. She had shamelessly discarded her family to quench an avarice for freedom, and splendor within that freedom.

After the mother left, the father had furiously expunged the manor of everything she cherished, including the Girl. He disposed of it all on the manor lawn.

The Girl had nowhere to go after she was cast out. Occasionally, she would glimpse snapshots of the fragmented household’s affairs: the cruel way in which the father blamed the son for the mother’s madness, the broken way in which the son developed during his most critical years, the destructive way in which abandonment had slashed unhealed scars on both the father and the son. It was an unfortunate, but expected, reaction.

The Girl languished for longer than she could remember, sitting on the browning manor lawn. Each day, despite varying weather conditions, was no different to her — except one gloomy afternoon when violent rustling from the unkempt palms caught the Girl’s ears. It continued until suddenly, out leapt a scraggly man. The man was wearing a grimy newsboy cap and various layers of sack-like clothing, their colors indistinguishable due to filth. He scampered to the pile of discarded things near the Girl and ruffled through, pocketing several fistfuls of jewelry.

“Well, yer an interesting thing, aren’t ye?” the man gleefully grinned to himself after finally noticing the Girl. He grabbed her and darted away from the household. The Girl tried to quell her rising curiosity about the scraggly man and what he wanted with her. He had beady, black eyes, a mousy, chin-length tangle of hair, and large ears. Perhaps he would be a good listener. The Girl’s optimism quickly extinguished as she realized reality could never possess a person trustworthy enough to listen to her tale. Each person she had met had been spoiled by vices; even this man was a criminal, for he had both trespassed the property and stolen items of considerable value from its grounds.

The scraggly man ran for days, resting periodically, until he reached a bustling market mishmash of colorful pop up tents and weathered stalls. The Girl felt a repulsive surge in her throat from the commotion of hawking vendors and the unabashed haggling of crowds. Unperturbed, the man wove through the swarm and halted at his desired stall.

“It’s been long, my friend!” The stallkeeper greeted the scraggly man with a tilt of his black-banded fedora.

“I foun’ some goodies that might interes’ you!” responded the scraggly man, eager to lay out the ransacked items. As he unknotted a fist-sized bundle from which gem-laden jewelry spilled, the Girl glanced at the stallkeeper, expecting to witness a detestable, cunning downplay of his enthusiasm. Instead, she traced the stallkeeper’s line of sight directly to herself.

“I’ll take the lot for five thousand dollars,” the stallkeeper hurriedly proposed.

“Tha’ won’ do. I got ‘sepnces, you know? Throw in an extra fif’een hun’red and you got yourself a deal.”

“Fine,” The stallkeeper was uncharacteristically anxious to settle a price; he employed none of the typical merchant beguilement. He shoved a mass of twine-bound bills at the scraggly man, who, after swiftly squirreling it away under his newsboy cap, disappeared into the mob. Turning towards the Girl, the stallkeeper began surveying her with raking eyes, hoping his boss would consider her a valuable find. His boss was a museum patron who naturally took an affinity to pretty and peculiar things. She’s really got a piercing look about her, the stallkeeper thought. She’d, at the very least, interest my Boss.

The stallkeeper took long strides to his car, and placed the Girl and his briefcase in the backseat. Here I go, yet again, thought the Girl. How tiresome! Fate has cursed me to ceaselessly be circulating, searching for a worthy person to listen to my tale; searching to no avail.

A gentle creaking echoed around the massive room, bringing the Girl back from her memories to the present. Light splayed across the marble floors as the imposing, wooden doors began opening. In all the time the Girl had spent in this room, never had the doors opened. Her curiosity was aroused. A man holding a large key ring emerged first from the doors, followed by a steady stream of people.

Aline was excited for today. Her grand-papa was taking her to a wonderful place — the new museum. Visiting museums, especially art museums, was Aline’s favorite activity. She eagerly got dressed for the day’s outing, testing different outfits before settling on a flowy, white dress and sandals. Grabbing her blue, leather knapsack, she rushed to the apartment’s front door, anticipating the arrival of her grandfather. Disappointed by a bare hallway, she called out to her mother, “When is grand-papa coming? I can’t bear to wait any longer!”

“Any minute now, dear,” her mother patiently replied.

Aline flopped on her bed and sighed, her mind teeming with thoughts. The newscast mentioned the museum’s first exhibit a lot. Perhaps it’s an enormous sculpture? Or a fresco? That would be impressive!

Though the front door knocker was nearly inaudible from Aline’s room, she caught its tapping and ran to greet her grandfather, a slight old man. He embraced her in a firm, loving hug. After kissing her mother goodbye, Aline cheerily clasped her grand-papa’s arm and set off to the museum: a mere fifteen minute walk, but to her, an eon had lapsed before they finally arrived. She skipped up the wide steps, ready to enter the museum.

“Grand-papa, look at those magnificent doors! And those doorknobs! How interesting they are, with all those beautiful patterns in the metal… come on, hurry, Grand-papa!”

The old man chuckled at his granddaughter’s enthusiasm and shuffled up the marble steps to meet her. Together, they entered the museum and into a massive, bleak room.

“How strange. The sign announces that this room holds the first exhibit, but there isn’t anything to be seen! Oh! What’s over there?” Aline bounded to the left wall of the large room, her grandfather struggling to match her pace. On the extensive wall hung a lone painting, no larger than the L’Innocence print that hung near Aline’s bedroom. The plaque beneath read: Exhibit 1- Cecilia.

“Aline, I’ll be waiting for you at the next exhibit. There seems to be some fantastic sculptures there,” her grandfather called.

Aline hardly heard him; she was too intently focused on the piece before her.

“So, I suppose you’re Cecilia.” Aline gestured to the painting. “Cecilia, you look a little disdained and sad. I wonder what happened to you… ”

The Girl recovered from the surprise of the doors opening. By now, several hundreds of people had stared expectantly at her — all of whom seemed either disappointed or puzzled. Now, before her was a dainty girl. She wore an airy, white dress that complimented her soft features.

The Girl had a premonition that this child — Aline, was it? — was one who could listen to her story; she seemed unsullied and attentive. For the first time in ages, the Girl spoke.

Aline’s eyes widened. She heard a voice in her mind, faint at first, but now distinct. Was it — could it be — “Cecilia?” Aline asked out loud, astonished.

“Indeed, child. That is my given name. Now, be silent and listen closely — I have a story to tell you. I am now a painting; however, I once was alive — I grew up with a family and partook in typical activities as you do now. My parents were wealthy bourgeoisie and the subject of jealousy among my father’s siblings.

It was a stormy night. I was of nine years and was having trouble sleeping — thunder scared me. My mama went downstairs to our kitchen to heat honey-milk for me, while my papa read me tales from story books beside my bed. He chose to read Little Red Cap — cruelly befitting — until I fell asleep to the soothing sound. A few hours later, agonized sob-screams awoke me. I cradled my pink, velveteen teddy in my arms, clutching it for comfort as my small frame trembled with fear. The shrieks continued, interspersed with unintelligible words; some I could make out as protests — “NO… STOP!”

The voice was unmistakably that of my mother’s. With my heart pounding, teddy clutched to my chest, I padded over to my parent’s room — peering through the door, which was slightly ajar, I witnessed the most gruesome sight. I was petrified with fear.

In the bedroom glinted a blood-spattered dagger, wielded by my father’s own brother — my uncle. My eye followed the dripping dagger down to the ground, where my papa had been sliced at the throat. Near him — kneeling in his blood — and wracked by sobs was my mama. She was trying to reason with my uncle.

My uncle opened up my papa’s dresser, knowing that he kept a gun there — a gun my papa would never use on family. He slunk over to my mother. Steadily looking into her eyes, he raised the gun to her forehead. My mama had discerned I was near; her last words were addressed to me: “Cecilia, forgive this. Do not hold a grudge against others.” Her advice failed to register.

I ran away from the door, ran away from the house, ran leaving everything I loved, until I reached town. Dawn was just breaking. I sat on the front steps of a dreary looking bakery and wrapped my arms around my legs, trying to keep warm. But the cold still stung me. And so did the tears.

Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep for several hours, awaking to a jangle of keys and the words of “Who do we have here?” from a plump, middle-aged woman. I couldn’t trust her — couldn’t trust anyone, but of no other option, I followed her in. She asked about my parents. I said nothing, only shook my head. She patted my back, went next door, and came back after some time.

“My neighbor has agreed to take you in. He is a phenomenal artist and a man who I trust very much. Follow me next door.” I followed her to the neighbor’s loft-home. It was a single, large room flooded with papers and art supplies and paintings in various stages. There were scant furnishings — not much more than a bed, a work table, and a sofa.

The artist himself was a queer-looking man; he had narrowed eyes and a thin, black moustache. I stayed with him for three years, and over those years I grew increasingly suspicious of him. Something about his paintings seemed odd; as if the subjects were trapped… one that particularly disturbed me was of a frog. It had bulging eyes and four limbs spread so far apart it looked like it was undergoing an invisible quartering.

New paintings always appeared in the mornings; I never saw the artist painting in my presence. One night, after feigning sleep, I attempted to watch the artist. He had prepared his paints, his canvas — this one was about a poster size — but wasn’t painting anything. He suddenly turned on his heel and beckoned for me to come. He knew I had been watching. I walked slowly, terrified.

“Cecilia, it’s your turn to be painted.” He motioned to a stool. “Even though you never trusted me, I know you experienced betrayal. And I know that will forever influence you in shunning any person you deem flawed. Cecilia my dear, you may not understand this now, but every person has their imperfections. I cannot allow you to walk in a world for which you are not ready.” He repositioned me against the canvas. I became a rag-doll from fear, limp to his intent.

“Now, now, I’m not going to hurt you. Sit up straight, dear.” With a wicked grin, he began murmuring some nonsensical chants.

I awoke from a hazy stupor. Was it a nightmare? I tried to leave the artist’s eerie house by running to the front door. I couldn’t move. I tried again, in vain. Nearby, the artist sadistically watched.

“Now Cecilia dearie, I’m sure you’ve realized you cannot move. You may wonder why: O-ho-ho — it’s because you have become my newest masterpiece! You have been turned from a human to a painting! You cannot speak, except by telepathy. You will age and grow in the frame of my masterpiece. I’m doing you a favor; you can now observe the unscrupulousness of humankind without experiencing its hostility,” he chortled.

So, Aline, that is my story. For the past several years, I aged in the frame of this two-dimensional painting and was passed among people — a mother, a vagrant, a stallkeeper, and countless others: and not one of them was virtuous. They all had vices; they were unfit listeners — how could they understand the magnitude of human evils? How could they understand the betrayal I experienced? But, finally, I met you.

You may go now, child. Your innocence was my outlet for my emotion; now that I have exposed your mind to human treachery and worldly horrors, there is little you can do for me.”

Cecilia’s voice faded from Aline’s mind. Aline looked up at her, a newfound melancholy dimming her once-bright face. Pressing her eyes closed, Aline slowly breathed in and exhaled. With renewed fortitude, she met Cecilia’s despondent gaze and vowed never to become like her. Aline would choose to see the light in others; to forgive the darkness they might hold. After all, people are multifaceted: they have their strengths and their shortcomings, but in the end, it all constitutes their dimensionality: making them real and human — in a way a painting could never be.



Elsu woke up, like every morning. Hungry. Living in the winter pit houses during the harshest winter that he had ever experienced. The pit actually proved to be quite warm. He had dug the fifteen-foot pits with his tribe right before the storm hit. He got up and tried to find some food still left from before the storm hit. He found some small birds but nothing much. Unfortunately, the hunters could not find many animals while hunting this winter, so it was a challenging life.

He remembered running through the forest. Shooting his bow at everything that stood in his way. He was so carefree. He never thought that this day would come in his lifetime.

The only food source that they currently had was some soup and bread made from the acorn meal that was stored underground after the last winter. But with the tribe growing bigger, and the food supplies getting shorter, it was no longer a reliable food source. They needed to find food. And fast.

Elsu’s name translates to “flying falcon.” When he was a kid, Elsu was said to be very adventurous. He watched with wonder, as the hunters walked into the forest to hunt deer, black bears, elk, and fowl. The hunters were strong, fast men. Capable of shooting a running elk blindfolded. Just by hearing its footsteps! They used bows and knives to kill the animals. And ran so fast, they were a blur.

While Elsu’s mom was making clothes for the tribe, she remembered Elsu coming up to her and asking if he could hunt with the hunters. Not wanting to disappoint him, his mom gave him a little bow, and some of her friends dressed up as animals and had Elsu shoot them with an arrow that had a stub.

His mom remembered Elsu’s face that day. Filled with excitement, that made her smile.

But now that smile was gone. Replaced with a steely gaze as she fought to keep up with the tribe’s demands for clothing during this winter.

But like a brave falcon, Elsu was determined to save his tribe from this harsh winter.

Like every morning, Elsu woke up and went hunting with the hunters of the tribe. He managed to find a couple of small fowl. But he knew that they wouldn’t satisfy the tribe. He needed to do something about this winter problem. And fast. Elsu recalled an ancient tale about a dragon at the top of the Serra Peak.

This dragon was once a murderous beast. Destroying everything in its path. Until one day, one of the elders, Elsu’s great grandfather, successfully tamed the dragon. He said he would let the dragon be free. On two conditions. The dragon would not destroy their land anymore. The dragon would also warm the earth with its breath, allowing the Miwok tribe to live through the winter. But the dragon had not warmed the earth at all this year. The flowers were withered. The trees’ branches were breaking. Something must be wrong.

Elsu would go and find this great beast. And see why it was not warming the earth like it did every year.

As they were heading back to their tribe, Elsu distracted the hunters by throwing a rock into a nearby pond. Assuming it might have been salmon, the hunters ran to the pond. Hoping to be able to get it before it swam away. Elsu then ran in the opposite direction. He ran through the trees. Hearing his tribe yell for him.

“Elsu! Where are you?” they shouted. “Come back!”

His best friend yelled for him, “Elsu! We need you! Don’t go!”

But Elsu continued to run. The tears started pouring from his eyes. He could not stop. He was on a mission. A mission to save his tribe.

Elsu climbed up the mountain. The once plentiful deer and elk. Gone. All the crops that the Miwok had once thought was a reliable food source. Gone. It had been two days of no food and very little water. If he didn’t find this dragon soon. He, and his tribe, would perish.

But then. He saw it. An opening in a seemingly endless number of trees. Elsu ran for the opening.

At last. He had found the dragon.

A blue-and-green-scaled dragon. As big as a Redwood tree. And probably stronger than one, too.

It seemed… wounded. As if something had attacked it the night prior. It could barely muster a tiny ember. Its life force was faded.

The dragon looked at Elsu. As if to say, “No. Don’t come nearer. It’s too late for me.”

But Elsu wouldn’t listen. He ran towards the dragon. As he was tending to the dragon’s wounds, he heard a low growl come from behind him. He turned around. And his eyes widened.

Standing in front of him. Was a giant black bear. When the elder tamed the dragon, to ensure that he did not harm anyone else unless necessary, he took out the hate in the dragon. And turned it into the form of a black bear. The bear was not as big as the dragon. But Elsu could see why the dragon had lost against it.

Its claws were as sharp as arrowheads. Its fur smooth.

The animals weren’t there because the dragon was suffering. They weren’t there because the bear had eaten all of them!

The bear stood up on his hind legs. And roared. Elsu was about to become this bear’s next snack.

Elsu rolled to the side as the bear swiped at him. Its magnificent claws barely missing Elsu’s chest. Elsu took his makeshift spear and drove it into the bear’s stomach. The bear howled in pain. But didn’t really seem all that fazed. It was going to take more to kill that bear.

The bear turned around and kicked Elsu in the stomach. Knocking the wind out of him and sending him flying into a nearby tree. Elsu’s entire body ached from the impact. But he had to keep fighting.

The bear built up a charge and then attacked. Charging straight for Elsu, but Elsu jumped on the bear’s snout and jumped over the creature.

The bear turned around, confused on Elsu’s current position. So confused, in fact, that the bear ran straight into a tree. It let out a bigger howl than it had before. Elsu had struck a second hit.

The bear turned around. To find Elsu, standing there. Minor scratches and some cuts. But mostly unharmed. The bear let out a deep growl. And charged at Elsu again.

Elsu didn’t dodge in time.

The bear slammed into Elsu’s chest. Knocking the wind out of him and sending him spiralling towards the ground.

Elsu hit the ground with a thud. Unable to put up a fight.

The bear seized his opportunity. And struck at Elsu.

Inches from Elsu’s face, the bear collapsed.

Elsu looked up. And instead of seeing a giant claw. He saw a blue- and green-scaled head. The dragon had come to his aid. Elsu looked up at the creature. It was still bleeding but had just enough strength to let out a giant, red-hot flame.

Elsu tended to the dragon. And in a couple of days, the dragon was back to its old self. One day, the dragon bent over. Allowing Elsu to climb on its back. He knew he had to return to his tribe.

Like his name always suggested, Elsu flew back, like a falcon. The wind in his hair. He felt free. He felt some warmth when before, there was no warmth at all. He was greeted by familiar faces. And instead of seeing anger. He saw pride. Elsu had saved the tribe.

The season continued on as normal. But Elsu felt a little more proud of himself. When all seemed lost, he had saved his tribe.

He wondered if anyone after his tribe was gone would be able to tell this tale…


World Sweeps Coal into Dustbin of History

It’s a humid day, reminiscent of so many others in Bangladesh, as Aarashi hops on the truck that will take him to the coal mine where he has toiled in obscurity most of his adult life. He enters the claustrophobic tunnel, like he has nearly every morning for twenty-six years, and is instantly swallowed by darkness. The mindless, repetitive motions of coal mining begin anew.

The earth doesn’t give up its treasure easily. Wresting the coal from its grasp is grueling, backbreaking work, but it feeds Aarashi’s wife and three sons, boys probably destined (some might say “doomed”) to one day follow their father into the mine. Aside from agriculture, Barapukuria Coal Mining Co. is the only source of employment within miles. The company has an economic stranglehold on the neighboring village where most workers live, but it’s a relationship both sides value as indispensable to their survival.

This day, though, news that threatens the symbiotic union circulates through the shaft. Aarashi hears his name echo through the damp bowels of the earth, and recognizes the voice as that of Nayaab, a co-worker, who bears unwelcome tidings: the government of Bangladesh is scaling back its use of coal in favor of renewable energy. Every miner in the labyrinth of tunnels feels personally threatened by the announcement, which parades under the banner of “progress.”

Although renewable energy has obvious advantages and is used to various extents around the world, coal miners — especially in poor countries like Bangladesh — are often left unemployed by the new competition. The plight of Aarashi, Nayaab, and their co-workers is but one example of the economic hardship that befalls miners when they are displaced by “green” technology, which topples old pillars of support and sometimes leaves human suffering in its wake.

Yet renewable energy seeks to avert an even greater tragedy that looms in the form of global warming. Carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures rose at their highest rates in recorded history over the last century, triggering frequent weather extremes and the extinction of certain species. Currently, fossil fuels represent the world’s main source of electricity, accounting for sixty-seven percent of total power generation.

Coal, however, is an environmental scourge. Its fumes pollute the atmosphere when burned to generate electricity, a process blamed for thirteen thousand deaths in the U.S. alone each year. An increase in renewable forms of energy will result in cleaner electrical production, reducing the demand for fossil fuels like coal. These new energy sources, which release less harmful emissions into the atmosphere, will slow down global warming and stem the increase of air-related diseases like cancer and other lung ailments.

The introduction of cleaner energy might leave Aarashi and Nayaab unemployed, but it could prevent their early deaths. Lung disease, often contracted by working long hours in the dusty underground, is an occupational hazard faced by miners worldwide. At first blush, this new technology might seem like a curse to miners, but it could prove providential to their health and welfare.

Renewables not only help the environment, in the long-term they benefit the economy and the impoverished people they initially displace. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are created to research, build, and operate renewable energy sources, putting many of the newly unemployed back to work with additional training. The new “green” jobs have the potential to lift employees out of poverty, turn them into contributing members of society, and put an end to the bleak generational cycle of sons following their fathers into the mines. College, once deemed financially off-limits to the children of miners, suddenly beckons as a possibility.

In addition, renewable energy holds the promise of supplying electricity to every home on the planet. Fully fifteen percent of the global population now lacks access to electricity. Fossil fuel prices are rising, and the cost is prohibitive for many families. People are dying of starvation because they are unable to preserve their food without electricity. Renewable energy offers new hope to this vast underclass, including Aarashi and Nayaab.

In the final analysis, we are all citizens of this world, its borders now blurred by technology and mutual threats. As such, we share an obligation to provide for our common welfare, to educate our children, and to protect the environment. Duty demands that we answer the clarion call of renewable energy, both for ourselves and succeeding generations.

Yet the United States, under President Donald Trump, is perhaps the biggest obstacle to reversing the effects of climate change. When the leaders of one hundred countries gather in Paris on Dec. 12 to intensify the fight against global warming, Trump will be conspicuous by his absence. The American president has rejected the Paris Agreement, negotiated in the French capital in 2015 to drastically curtail carbon emissions. Even war-torn Syria has pledged to join the accord.

Trump, however, has retreated to the isolationist policies of “America first,” leaving the world looking to France’s newly-elected president, Emmanuel Macron, as the de facto leader on climate change. Trump has embraced right-wing orthodoxies on the environment, and has already taken steps to revive America’s flagging coal industry, with the support of Republicans in Congress, especially those who represent Appalachia.

The U.S, president, less than a year into his first term, has indicated he intends to reverse his predecessor’s climate change policies, increase fracking for oil and gas, and lift current restrictions on coal mining. If Aarashi and Nayaab are bent on continuing their hazardous work, and find themselves unemployed under the more progressive policies of Bangladesh, they might find jobs in this country. U.S. coal mining and production actually ticked up this year.

But most analysts agree that the coal mining industry cannot ward off market forces, led by cheap natural gas, that have been building for years. Paradoxically, the Trump administration is revving up oil and gas exploration on federal lands, an intervention that has roiled conservationists and accelerated the decline of gas prices.

There are 643 million acres of federal land in the U.S., an area more than six times the size of California. Critics say this latest exploitation of natural resources threatens an iconic part of the country — and the western states’ identity. Even now, the Interior Department is drawing up plans to reduce wilderness and historic areas currently protected as national monuments, creating more opportunities for profit.

Trump has also vowed to remove roadblocks to energy projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and promised to lift restrictions on coal mining and drilling for oil and natural gas. The president has already signed legislation that quashes the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation that protected waterways from coal mining waste, enacted during the waning days of the Barack Obama administration.

“Neither a wise nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him,” asserted Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. president and the leader of Allied Forces during World War II.

Of all the problems confronting this world, climate change is the most global. The task of converting to renewable energy should be a common effort, since bequeathing a habitable planet to our children hangs in the balance. Yet in the U.S., the coal industry exudes confidence for the first time in years as the nation abdicates its leadership role in the pursuit of profit.


Soul-carved (Excerpt)

“If any one of you ladies stole my gods-damn peppermints, I’m going to give your spellbooks to the gods-damn witch hunters!” The tired voice of Tallulah Hemmings — the strangest young witch in all of everywhere, as her biased mentor put itrang out across the deck of what looked to be an oddly shaped pirate ship, tumbling its way across the waves with an eccentric grace.

Her cutlass swung through the air, a nightmare of ruin and sturdy metal, as a witch of tides sheathed her sword post-practice.

Waves crashed over the ship’s sun-bright hull as it cut its course through the sea, the daydream light washing across the invisible sizzle of magic that spread its warm, salt spray across the deck of the ship.

Tallulah leaned back against the rail, her form a plain sketch of pencil and ink, and awaited her crewmates. Around Tallulah, magic rippled, invisible to all but the few who understood the crackling feeling of harnessed something that swirled around this entire ship in waves almost as thick as the water that carried it.

Another ship neared, one Tallulah had been watching for the past couple of hours as it had approached to scope out the witches’ own craft. A black sail adorned with a carefully woven skull-and-crossbones snapped in the wind high above the arriving ship’s deck, which gleamed with seawater against the sun of the clear day. Tallulah cocked her head to the side, the golden beads strung into her dark braids catching in the breeze as it passed a hand through her hair.

Pirates. There would be trouble soon, then.

Finally, Tallulah thought. She’d been listening to the first mate’s off-key rendition of an old war ditty for the past four days and could use a little bit of battle.

In her hand, a daisy bloomed idly under the care of its furious bearer, its petals stretching out too quickly through the air. Tallulah grimaced down at it, her face contorting around unremarkable features made for lying, and tossed the daisy as far across the deck as she could manage. Her eyes, the lines around them smile-worn from her years adrift, turned toward the sound of heavy boots on the deck as the ship’s botanist appeared from below.

Duchess Duchess Walters, the ship’s widowed gardener, had been named by her unfortunately status-obsessed mother before going out and finding herself a Duke, which had landed her in this predicament. Now, the woman herself — twenty-three and a childless widow after the War of Four, a disaster that had ended several years ago after sweeping across many realms of the larger universe, the Estate — clomped onto the deck with an easy smile.

“Sorry,” she said, though she didn’t sound as if she meant it. “You know how Katie gets about sweets.”

Duchess leaned against the rail and took the packet of seeds Tallulah had been holding, pouring them into her palm and watching as the petals spread out against her fingers in a reaction to her murmured spell.

“If you could get some water up here, that would be much appreciated,” she said, though it sounded more like an order to the lower-ranked Tallulah. “Once the pirates come at us, all their cargo’s gonna be in the sea and getting that out of it won’t be worth the effort.”

“Right,” Tallulah replied, snapping out her hands over the rail and letting them rest high above the waves. Tallulah concentrated, let magic flow through the little mark that had been etched on her shoulder many years back, and watched as many, many, many gallons of water floated up, up, up, over her head as the salt washed out of them and the ebullient water turned clear as glass. The weight didn’t crush her, but Tallulah let air hiss between her teeth as she distributed the water into ten empty barrels near the hatch to the cabin.

“They’re headed over,” she said, and a wisp appeared at her side. Tallulah turned to watch Nerina, the ship’s guardian spirit. The girl had appeared as the manifestation of the Soleil, the witches’ ship, as such spirits sometimes did when a ship had a surplus of magical residue. Tallulah had eventually grown accustomed to the disconcerting feeling of being able to see the girl only out of the corner of her eye.

Nerina, a freckled spirit, had a face that was quiet, too old, and shimmering with all the unpredictable beauty of the ocean itself. Her hair — pure white, though she never looked older than fourteen years of age — tangled in the wind behind her as Tallulah turned to face the spirit (or at least turned to face her as much as it was possible to face something that wasn’t technically corporeal).

“Neri,” Tallulah greeted her. “They’re going to attack?”

“They only see three people on board,” Nerina replied, her voice stuck in the space between sound and feeling. “Of course they are.”

“How many?”

Nerina dropped out of reality for a second before reappearing, her form buzzing as quickly as a hummingbird’s wings. “A couple dozen. No magic — at least, none that can’t be solved with seawater.”

Duchess tossed a daisy overboard, and the trio watched as it plummeted into the grey-green waves, the white foam swirling around it as the pale flower disappeared beneath the surface.

“Let’s smoke some pirate bastards,” she declared, tucking the empty packet of daisy seeds away. “Up for a competition?”

“If I take the ship down, I get my peppermints back,” Tallulah announced. “If you win, I’ll take over kitchen duty for the next three nights.”

“Deal.” They shook on it, magic zinging from palm to palm to seal the terms, and the trio stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they watched the pirate ship rumble over the waves to meet them.

Tallulah let them get close enough to almost bump into the starboard side of the finely-polished witch ship. But she knew the captain would be angry when she awoke from her midday nap if even a scratch had appeared on the hull of the Soleil, so Tallulah held out a hand at shoulder height and let a wall of water strike up, smashing timbers before the pirates could slam into the boat.

Witches… the pirates should have paid closer attention, because even though the Sol’s witches didn’t advertise, there were warning signs. Perhaps the ghostlike girl who flickered on the deck, or the garden that inexplicably grew across the wooden planks, or maybe even the pointy hat Duchess had donned for the sake of propriety.

Tallulah had never put on a pointy hat, propriety be damned.

“Neri,” Duchess warned as the ship broke unsteadily through the wall of water.

The spirit shrugged and spun in a tight circle, her pale hair fanning out around her like a dancer’s gown as she turned and turned and turned, a barefoot ballerina on the polished wooden planks of the Sol’s deck. Around the pirate ship, a whirlpool opened up, swirling into existence as sailors clutched the rails and a hoarse captain shouted orders.

Finally, finally, he noticed the pointy hat.

Ah, uniforms. They got one into and out of situations, blending in and standing out. People saw the uniform, not the face.

For witches, that wasn’t always an advantage.

The pirate ship, huge and hulking compared to the smaller but flashier Sol, collapsed onto its side as Neri fluttered out of existence, her daily minor miracle spent and her energy as drained as she would let it be. A wave, giant and white-tipped, crashed across the deck, washing pirates overboard as Tallulah’s gaze settled upon the thing she most hated to see: prisoners.

“Duchess,” she warned, hand drifting toward her cutlass as the pirate ship began to sink beneath the waves, wood melting into the perpetual ebb and flow of the ocean’s power.

Her friend winced and closed her eyes, muttering one of her chants under her breath as something began to glow in the heart of the sinking ship. The mainmast of the pirate ship lit aflame, a bit of it already under water, hellfire burning across it regardless of the ocean waves that tried to douse the flames.

“Damn,” Duchess cursed.

“You owe me my gods-damn peppermints,” Tallulah replied, double-knotting the laces on her thick, leather boots and hopping nimbly onto the railing. “But since Neri’s technically the one who sank it…”

Her friend grinned and tapped four fingers to her forehead, a mockery of the military salute the witches’ employers used. “Go be a hero.”

Tallulah replied with a variety of increasingly colourful words about exactly what she thought of heroism, but the ocean wind whipped her voice from her mouth as she plummeted to the ocean and the hellfire that burned underneath the water. The sea neared her, hard as asphalt from such a height, and Tallulah let the marks across her body roar with the magic in her veins.

She dropped to a mast, though not the one that Duchess had accidently lit with eternally burning fire, and felt her boots slide across the slick wood. A struggling pirate, toothy and desperate, latched a hand missing a thumb around her ankle. A skull and crossed red roses — the mark of a witch hunter — burned on the back of his hand; many pirates had such people on board because one could never be too prepared when it came to avoiding witches.

“Please,” he said.

“I hate that word,” she replied.

She couldn’t tell whether the water on his face was the ocean or his tears, but he whispered, “Please.”

“You’re really not helping your case,” she replied and glanced over to a raft that huddled against the hull of the pirate ship. He’d live, even if he didn’t really deserve to.

So Tallulah shook her leg free from his grasp and jumped, higher than a human could have, as a mark on the side of her neck tingled and sent the breeze to carry her over to the prisoners tied to the rail. As she flew — though it couldn’t really be called flying by any means, even if that was the best term for it — Tallulah produced the cutlass from her belt, a sword she polished too much that she now swung back as the ocean slicked her face with its spray, and the prisoners began to dip beneath the surface.

They had been tied with the sturdy rope Tallulah knew firsthand was used by pirates, the group of bedraggled people uncomfortable and panicking as wave after wave of unforgiving ocean washed across their faces.

Tallulah landed on the rail above them, slicing her blade through the rope with minimal effort, and then waited for the prisoners to disband. Beneath her feet, the metal rail slipped against the soles of her boots and suddenly Tallulah felt herself falling down, down, down as her stomach dropped with her to the surf.

And then a wave pulled the prisoners up, up, up, buoying the men and women she had saved to the deck of the Sol as Duchess exerted control over the ocean and pulled the sodden group to the sun-warmed wood of the deck.

The witch floated after them, doused with seawater from the wave, and landed on the railing.

Tallulah coughed, her well of magic barely depleted, and leaned an arm on the mainmast of the Sol as the pirate ship disappeared beneath the waves, several overcrowded rafts floating across the sea aimlessly as their angry occupants cursed the Sol and its witches.

“Get them belowdecks,” Duchess declared, though the request hadn’t been addressed to the sopping Tallulah. Nerina appeared, worn as old cotton, and she smiled as she took a man by the elbow and pulled him away, followed by the dazed crowd of sea-soaked prisoners.

“Ugh,” Tallulah announced.

“You’re getting clumsy,” Duchess replied, her voice singsong but almost stern underneath.

Tallulah just glared. “I’m tired, not clumsy.” At her side, an orchid bloomed, pink and white spreading through the flower as the scent reached her nose and blocked out the ocean breeze with its heady sweetness.

“Perhaps, perhaps. You still have a weakness for prisoners, though. And you were practically merciless with that pirate.” Tallulah detected an ounce of pride in Duchess’s tone, the small lift of the chin and settling on one hip that hinted at her satisfaction at a job well done.

“I’ve got my own reasons for hating people who take prisoners,” Tallulah reminded her, voice lighter than her meaning was meant to be. “And is saving lives all that wrong?”

“We’re witches,” Duchess declared, her warm tone booming across the deck. “By the laws of nature, much of what we do is wrong. Those prisoners should have died today, along with the pirates, and our boat should have been at least badly wounded. But the prisoners lived and most of the pirates did, too, and we’re fine.”

“Tempting nature to kill us before we can even find the witch hunters,” Tallulah bit out through a light chuckle. “I’m liking this already.”

“You always loved beating the odds.”

The magic that swirled around the boat brightened a bit, shimmering into almost-existence like a ghost reluctant to be seen. From high above dropped a bird, some brand of loud ocean thing, but it shifted and landed on human legs as it hurtled to the deck. A woman, blonde and dark-eyed, stood from her crouch, leaning back against the rail next to Tallulah and Duchess. She had a face hardened by bitterness and time, but she smiled a greeting to her protégé, Tallulah, before leaning her head back to glare at the sun as if it had done something to personally offend her.

“Hey, Katie,” Tallulah greeted her. “What’s up?”

“Good job with the pirates,” her mentor replied. “Those Evergrove idiots couldn’t even do that, but you’ve got the control.”

“They’re not idiots,” Tallulah retorted, but her voice had weakened over the years she’d spent pushing her point with Katie. Evergrove Academy, a school that favoured the magically gifted, was loosely considered the ship’s employers and even more loosely considered their friends.

The school trained people with magic, most of whom were unlike this boat’s witches in everything except species. Those with magic had been split into two categories long ago: those with calibers and those without them.

Calibers, or special, specific abilities (like water manipulation, telekinesis, or controlling life itself), allowed people to make the magic a part of them — one that was like an extra limb — without training, without spells and with minimal effort to bring it out.

The disadvantage, of course, was that their magic concentrated so strongly on their calibers that all other magic they learned was weaker, therefore, Evergrove students trained their calibers instead of the whole other well of magic they could have been drawing from.

The witches of the Sol fit into the second category of magic users. Like the others, they had magic passed down to them by their ancestors, but they lacked the concentrated calibers others had and therefore required years of practice and training to even begin working with the magic in their blood. The greater variety of spells they could use, however, often felt as if it made up for that natural disadvantage.

Often, but not always.

Tallulah leaned her elbows on the rail again, her gaze hardening on the horizon, where a city had begun to bloom as quick as the daisies Duchess has been nursing for the past few minutes.

“Where to next? You never tell us, Katie.”

“I think it’s supposed to be a surprise,” Duchess replied for the silent, apathetic navigator Katie, seating herself precariously on the bow. “Rips in the sea make it more convenient, I guess, to switch between the realms. Thank gods we didn’t land in a desert realm or something again — it’s lucky the oceans tend to blur together. But I’m not sure where we are yet.”

The rips, small sections of space that had been warped to accommodate realm-to-realm travel, were most common out on the open sea, which was why Katie preferred sailing between the group’s various locations.

“I’m betting on Saltstone City,” Duchess said. “I know the captain wants to go home.”

“Evallia,” replied a conspicuously soft voice from the doorway. The sound of the highest heels that could be gotten away with among practical witches on a ship echoed across the wood, the pale blue hair of Jax, the ship’s medic emerging from the shadows of inside. “I’ll put five on it.”

“Five on Saltstone,” Duchess replied, twining the daisy’s stem between her fingers as it grew larger than she had intended, a mammoth of verdant green, swollen white, and yellow pollen.

“Five on Sora,” Tallulah interjected carelessly. “Have you ladies been noticing the slightly strange colour of the waves and the direction they’re flowing? Sora’s distinctive that way.”

Katie whapped her on the back, the frowning curve of her face proud as a lioness. “That’s it.”

“So they spotted witch hunters in Sora?”

“Our sources rarely lie,” Jax reminded her. “And I’d like to think that Katie knows what she’s doing, Tallie.”

“Don’t call her that,” Katie chastised. “It doesn’t sound witchy enough.”

“Would you prefer for me to call her Lulu?”

Katie snorted, trailing a hand across a vine that curled around the ship’s wheel and watching as tiny purple flowers budded and then bloomed along the stem, condensation beading across a chilly glass of water.

“She’s just jealous because she’s called Katie,” said Duchess, swatting Katie’s hand away from the vine. “I don’t think any number of occult charms or pointy hats would make her feel like a real witch.”

“We’re on what’s basically a pirate ship that we’ve turned into a floating garden, and we sail from realm to realm, keeping wars from breaking out,” Katie replied. “I don’t have to have a cool name.”

“We’re not pirates,” Jax said, her soft voice slightly sharper. Her eyes didn’t exactly rest on Tallulah as she said it, but they flicked close enough for her friend to know the words were meant to be a reassurance for Tallulah and a warning for Katie.

“Of course not,” Katie bit back, slinging her legs over the rail as she balanced high above the water. “We just take the loot from bad guys, right? Because selling flowers and petty tricks can’t sustain seven ladies and their…covert endeavours. So we’re heroes now?”

Tallulah winced and leaned back over the rail, far away enough from her companions to warrant worry that she’d fall overboard. A wind — her favourite element of all four, even though she was technically a sailor — buoyed her up, up, up, and away from the crew of the Sol.

“I’ll be back soon,” she announced, but the wind whipped away her words as it whisked her high above the mainmast and through the sea-stained winds.


Cotton Candy Skies

Reach up, up, to the cotton candy skies. To the heavens of pink, of white, and of gray, to the spun-sugar taste of a spring’s lovely day. The fire’s smoke twists into skeins of dark air, but the blue sky’s cobwebs knot into pale hair. Sunlight and moonlight and light of all hues, quiet in violet and in all types of blues. Cotton candy and whiskey, starlight and wine, the ghost of the sea and the sharp air’s bright shine.

Under the clouds, under the woven dreams and the needlepoint stars, people glance at lights of their own. They watch their stories, their phones, themselves, and they watch each other, the reflections of themselves they find, no matter how distant those refractions may be, but they don’t reach up. They reach out, weave webs of their own, the sky’s blooming clouds taken on loan. The mist of the winter, backed by the starlight of the heavens, and the recollections of summer as they weave through June and August and July, bright as fruit from a summer-grown tree.

The beauty of the thing, the idea of silence and of peace, is the faint reminder of souls, of the blood that flows in our veins and the dreams that light the backs of our eyes, the pale, iridescent memories of what we once were or what we could be.

What we could be, as a people. What we might be.

What we are is too dull, after all, isn’t it? Because what we are is a now, not the sweet nostalgia or heady regret of yesterday and not the bright promise or terrible inkling of tomorrow. Now is now, the forgotten heavens above our heads, not the cotton candy clouds of an idea not yet formed or the torrential rain of a memory pummelling the backs of our minds. Now is a tomorrow brought to life, a yesterday that is just being born, a reminder that living is no more than blood and neurons, and no less than something more.

Those spun-sugar heavens are meant for tomorrows, so reach out, out, and up to them, until cotton candy skies become the melted sugar of a sweet today.



Since the beginning of recorded history, humankind has maintained a strong fascination with its own demise. From its eschatological roots to the nuclear age and beyond, apocalyptic thought has permeated mass culture. However, the thematics of apocalyptic thought and therefore of its representation in culture have shifted, although certain consistencies have survived. Change and continuity of factors and components of apocalyptic thought may help us to understand change and continuity of our own mindsets.

Definitions may vary, but most would agree that the term “apocalypse” refers to the end of an era or even of the world. In ancient times, apocalyptic thought tended to focus on the day in which said era ended, commonly described in ancient texts as the “day of wrath.” Usually used in religious context, the “day of wrath” serves to embody the gestalt of ancient apocalyptic thought, at least in terms of Christian eschatology. The “day of wrath,” also in many cultures the “day of Judgement,” outlined apocalyptic thought with a focus on oneself; apocalyptic thought was centered around self-reflection and the apocalypse was viewed as the epic, ultimate decision of one’s fate. Even outside of Christian eschatology, most of these ideas still applied: most ancient apocalyptic thought was centered around the day in which the apocalypse occurred and focused on oneself. Cultural manifestations of these ideas are seen frequently across ancient cultures. Religious texts are the most blunt example of such manifestations. In Jewish eschatology, the coming of the Messiah is described in the Torah as an apocalyptic event. And, in the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, the Torah focuses not on the events that caused or the events that followed the flood but rather on the day itself that God flooded the Earth; it also emphasizes Noah’s significance in a way that carries the theme of introspection to the tale. A representation of later origin, hymns such as the thirteenth century (or earlier) Latin hymn “Dies Irae,” which literally translates to “Day of Wrath,” present the dawn of the apocalypse in a self-reflective light, as shown in the following excerpt from “Dies Irae”: “Worthless are my prayers and sighing, / Yet, good Lord, in grace complying, / Rescue me from fires undying” (Verse 14, Irons 1849). The hymn also focuses on the day of destruction itself, as expressed in the following excerpt: “Ah! that day of tears and moaning, / From the dust of earth returning / Man for judgement must prepare him, / Spare, O God, in mercy spare him” (Verse 18, Irons 1849). This individualistic, instantaneous approach strongly juxtaposes that of current day. Modern society tends to focus not on the downfall of oneself, but rather, on the downfall of humanity. Furthermore, the moment of this downfall is often difficult to distinguish from the sequence of events that encompass it and thus blurs the line between the pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic. When analyzing ancient representations of the apocalyptic, one may almost always point to an exact moment within the narrative when one era gave way to another. In the case of Noah’s Ark, this instant was the moment the Earth was flooded. In the case of the story of Adam and Eve, their paradise was consumed by a flawed existence the instant that Adam followed Eve’s lead and took a bite of the forbidden fruit. Biblical and other religious narratives such as these are one of the biggest influences on human history, yet current narratives that portray the apocalyptic do not follow their lead.

Evidence of our primitive origins has faded in the thousands of years since biblical times. Although still built for survival, we have long since become preoccupied with civilization and societal endeavors. This preoccupation is perhaps the only thing that separates human from animal. In ancient times, societies maintained their survivalist foundations despite impressive levels of advancement. Fear of death was at the core of the motivations of every individual, and thus the heart of one’s existence was the fear and prevention of their own personal demise. History has consistently demonstrated this; the characteristics of the Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries A.D.) are a perfect example of such a demonstration. Host to severe population decline and increased immigration, this era was not a time of great empires, but rather, a time of mediocre, largely powerless kingdoms, the societies of which were unadvanced and unevolving. In fact, many historians refer to this time period as the “Dark Ages,” drawing upon the severe lack of literary and cultural development of the time (Berglund), serving to express the state of primitivity that humans existed in during this time. As made evident by the era’s drastic increase in migration, people of the Early Middle Ages were not rooted in their societies. Rather, they were rooted in their own mortality and were more affected by the deaths of individuals around them than the deaths of the societies around them, as kingdoms did so frequently collapse because they were small and unstable. In this sense, a death of an individual was perceived as more apocalyptic than an utter societal collapse. While this atavistic core remains relevant to those of modern times, its symptoms are concealed by the astronomical degree of progress achieved since biblical times. Derived from the inadvertent devotion of essentially the entirety of humanity, this progress has led to the complex, interconnected, and precarious global society of today. The weight of this devotion is what buries one’s atavistic foundations, as the core of the motivations of every individual shifts from fear of their own mortality to fear of societal mortality. This is at the center of the evolution of apocalyptic thought. In our minds, so much has been devoted to society that to see it crumble is more terrifying than to see ourselves crumble.

If our biggest fear is not of the death of oneself but of the death of civilization, then apocalyptic thought will manifest itself accordingly; as this is the case, apocalyptic thought has done such. Imagination of the apocalyptic in its most culturally significant platforms almost always consists of the deterioration of a society or of humankind. However, the nature of such imaginations begs the illustration of not an instant, but rather, a process. Modern cultural representations of the apocalyptic present themselves as such, and subsequently, the moment of transition between pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic often blurs. This trend is further enforced by previously unimaginable crises of the past century, of which have left a remarkable impact on humanity’s perception of itself and of its society. Our culture naturally turns to history for influence, and historical events are often portrayed apocalyptically (Berger, XIII). From the Great War to the Holocaust to the current threat posed by climate change, the available influences all consist of the same foundation, in which an era or society deteriorates not instantaneously, but rather, through a process; ergo, the aforementioned trend in modern imagination of the apocalyptic can be seen not only as a product of the evolution of human fear, but also as an imitation of the models available to us.

However, the influence of these models on the way we think about the apocalypse also reveals a continuity in apocalyptic thought between biblical times and now. Nearly every culturally significant portrayal of the apocalyptic shares a common element: we are to blame. From the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to the Nuclear Age, our history reflects time and time again that we are the cause of our own suffering; and from the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, the very earliest apocalyptic narrative of Western culture (Lisboa 230), to the iconic 1983 movie The Day After, our culture demonstrates time and time again our recognition of this role we play.

It is important to recognize the relationship between change and continuity in this case. Imagination of the apocalyptic has shifted from an individual to a societal scale and has evolved to take on the presentation of not just an instant of deterioration, but a process of deterioration, consequently blurring the distinction between pre and post apocalyptic. Yet, imagination of the apocalyptic has maintained a constant narrative of human causation. From this relationship, one may gain much insight as to the influence of diversion from our primitive origins and of functioning in a civil society on our mindsets as a whole. Simply the absence of apocalyptic thought, at least past an individual scale, lacking the incorporation of human flaw as a causation indicates our apathy towards thinking about the apocalypse outside of the context of human flaw. Therefore, apocalyptic thought is and always will be relevant and prevalent because it satisfies our need to address the unnaturality of the sheer amount of power we have and the instability it is accompanied by. In our primitive states, it would never have occurred to us to worry about or imagine a demise larger than that of ourselves individually. That we have developed the natural tendency to imagine the apocalyptic in order to come to terms with our own power may serve as a demonstration of the degree in which we have diverted from our primitive origins. Humankind has conquered genetics and its survivalist orientation in favor of an existence of societal orientation. Atavistic fears have been overshadowed by civil fears. And the prevalence of apocalyptic thought attests to human awareness of the unnaturality of our current state of being. Hence, since and even prior to biblical times, apocalyptic thought has served as a manifestation of our awareness of our own unnaturality; this has and will remain consistent. Furthermore, as we divert more and more from our primitive origins, we are bound to tend to apocalyptic thought more frequently as our own potential becomes less natural and more precarious.

The role of apocalyptic thought in the story of human evolution reveals more than perhaps is first let on. Yet, representation of the apocalyptic may serve as a framework in which to study the big picture of the impact of civil and societal existence on our own thinking. Change and continuity in apocalyptic thought serves as proof of the astronomical extent of which we have strayed from our primitive origins and as proof of our own disconcertment with our own power.


Works Cited

Benedict, et al. Eschatology, Death, and Eternal Life. Catholic University of America Press, 2007.

Berger, James. After the End: Representations of Post-Apocalypse. University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Berglund, Bjorn E. “Human Impact and Climate Changes: Synchronous Events and a Casual Link?” Department of Quaternary Geology, Lund University.

Bibby, Geoffrey. Four Thousand Years Ago: a World Panorama of Life in the Second Millennium B.C. Greenwood Press, 1983.

Collins, Adela Yarbro. Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism. Brill, 1996.

Collins, John J. “Apocalyptic Eschatology as the Transcendence of Death.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 1, Jan. 1974, pp. 21–43.

Gathercole, S. J. The Critical and Dogmatic Agenda of Albert Schweitzer’s the Quest of the Historical Jesus. Tyndale Bulletin, 2000.

Hanson, Paul D. The Dawn of Apocalyptic: the Historical and Sociological Roots of Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology. Fortress Press, 1989.

Hindley, Geoffrey. Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Lee, Alexander. The Ugly Renaissance. Random House US, 2015.

Lisboa, Maria Manuel. The End of the World Apocalypse and Its Aftermath in Western Culture. Open Book Publishers, 2011.

McLuhan, Marshall, and Sut Jhally. “Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse.”, Media Education Foundation, 2017,

Rand, Edward Kennan. Founders of the Middle Ages / – Unabridged and Unaltered Republication. Dover, 1957.

Wikisource contributors. “Dies Irae (Irons, 1912).” Wikisource. Wikisource, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 9 Dec. 2017.

The Holy Bible (King James).,

Meyer, Nicholas, director. The Day After. ABC Motion Pictures, 1983.


Romeo and Juliet Revisited

Sigmund Freud once theorized that all instincts can be categorized as life instincts (Eros) or death instincts (Thanatos). Life instincts, most commonly referred to as sexual instincts, are the need for humans to survive, feel pleasure, and reproduce. Death instincts create a thrill-seeking energy that is expressed as self-destructive behavior. When that energy is expressed towards others, it becomes aggression and violence. William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” describes the tragic love story of two star-crossed lovers whose passion leads to both of their suicides. Their love is driven by life instincts of libido when they fall in love at first sight. Their death instincts drive them to become self-destructive and violent when Romeo slays Tybalt and when they both commit suicide. According to the Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Freud’s psychoanalogy describes how “humans function and feel at their best when these two drives are in harmony. Sexual love, for example, may include both tenderness and thrill-seeking.” Throughout the play, neither Romeo nor Juliet find that perfect balance between Eros and Thanatos. Both their romance and their deaths are driven by their broken instincts that resulted from the environment of hatred and violence in which they were raised.

Freud concluded that people will always have an unconscious yearning for death, however life instincts alleviate this desire. Not everyone agrees with Freud’s theories; however, if one chooses to believe this idea that everyone subconsciously is led by their death instincts, they would agree that Romeo and Juliet both express the want to die, but their unbalanced instincts don’t temper these feelings, which results in both of their suicides. After Tybalt has been slain by Romeo, Capulet tells Paris that he no longer can wait to marry Juliet, for they will be wed on Thursday. Juliet tells Lady Capulet, “O sweet my mother, cast me not away. Delay this marriage for a month, a week, / Or, if you do not, make the bridal bed / In that dim monument where Tybalt lies” (3.5.210). Juliet is threatening her mother by telling her that she would rather die than marry Paris. She declares that if the wedding is not delayed, her bridal bed will be her death bed next to Tybalt’s in the Capulet burial vault. In other words, death will take her maidenhead. In this case, Juliet’s desire to die is not tempered by her life instincts. According to Freud’s philosophy, the want to die is supposed to be balanced out with life instincts before the thought becomes a conscious one. Whereas with Juliet, her instincts aren’t in harmony and cause her to become self-destructive. In the same fashion, Romeo also expresses a certain eagerness to die, in particular when he finds out that Juliet is dead, but he doesn’t know that she has only faked her death. Romeo exclaims, “Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight. Let’s see for means. O mischief, thou art swift / To enter in the thoughts of desperate men” (5.1.37). Here, Romeo is stating that he will kill himself and lie dead next to his beloved very shortly. His eagerness to be with Juliet drives his want to die. Wicked mischief passes as this thought in his vulnerable mind and gives him ideas of death. It is important to realize that what Romeo refers to as mischief, is, in fact, death instincts. His instincts have led him to want to die, and he is enraged by it. His and Juliet’s broken instincts have led their vulnerable minds to consciously settle on the idea of death.

Additionally, Romeo and Juliet’s romance is driven by their sexual instincts when they fall in love at first sight. According to Sigmund Freud, the libido is part of the id and is the driving force of all behavior. According to the article “Life and Death Instincts,” “The id, he believed, was a reservoir of unconscious, primal energy. The id seeks pleasure and demands the immediate satisfaction of its desires. It is controlled by what Freud termed the pleasure principle. Essentially, the id directs all of the body’s actions and processes to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible. Because the id is almost entirely unconscious, people are not even aware of many of these urges.” The only thing that can control these urges is the ego. The ego is the part of a person’s personality that must tone down the libidinal energy. It must negotiate between the libidinal energy and the superego, which is the part of a person’s personality that incorporates lessons and morals taught by parental or authority figures. When Romeo and Juliet first fall in love and find out that their families are rivals, their superego doesn’t take control of their id’s impulses, therefore they choose to have pleasure over thinking rationally about the consequences of their actions. For example, in the balcony scene, Juliet says, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, / Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I’ll no longer be a Capulet” (2.2.35).

Instead of thinking about how their families will react to their love, Juliet says she’d give up being a Capulet for Romeo. In fact, she has lost all common sense and is overtaken by her libidinal energy. Later in the scene, Romeo asks “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” (2.2.132) As can be seen, Romeo as well as Juliet, is simply looking to satisfy his sudden desire for Juliet, driven by his life instincts. Based on Freud’s pleasure principle, their wishful impulses needed to be satisfied, regardless of the consequences. Ultimately, if their superegos had balanced out their libidinal energy, the play would not have resulted in their deaths.

If you think about it, death and sex are actually commonly associated as one concept in “Romeo and Juliet.” The article “Sex and Death” states that, “Juliet links sex and death by punning on the word “die” when, daydreaming about her impending wedding night with Romeo, she imagines Romeo being transformed into a bunch of “little stars” lighting up the night sky: ‘Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die / Take him and cut him out in little stars, / And he will make the face of heaven so fine’ (3.2.23-25).” Many take this quote quite literally and imagine that Juliet is talking about her physical death, when she is really referring to the slang, commonly used at that time, for sexual climax, “die.” Therefore, on her wedding night, Juliet wasn’t thinking about cutting Romeo up into stars when she physically dies, but rather when her libidinal urges are satisfied. Normally sex leads to the creation of life, however with Romeo and Juliet that is definitely not the case.

Another possible explanation for Romeo and Juliet’s unrequited love is their age and stage of development. In the play, Juliet is only thirteen, and Romeo is not much older. “Life and Death Instincts” asserts that, “according to Freud, children develop through a series of psychosexual stages. At each stage, the libido is focused on a specific area. When handled successfully, the child moves to the next stage of development and eventually grows into a healthy, successful adult.” Romeo and Juliet were teenagers and had not yet fully developed into healthy adults. Consequently, their actions were ones of careless adolescents, not ones of mature people. It is plausible that their behavioral immaturity was caused by their families’ feud. Maybe they were traumatized by something when they were younger, or perhaps being in a setting full of hatred and fights affected their superego. In addition, their superegos were not fully developed and could not function to control the id’s impulses of sex and aggression. “Id, Ego and Superego,” explains that “The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem solving. If a plan of action does not work, then it is thought through again until a solution is found. This is known as reality testing, and enables the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-control, via mastery of the ego.” Obviously Romeo and Juliet had not mastered their ego, for they did not have self-control and did not think realistically when they tried to problem-solve. In contrast, an example of a character who had, in fact, mastered his ego is Friar Lawrence, who only agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet because he thinks that it might help to ease the ongoing feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. When that plan falls through, he comes up with an elaborate plan of Juliet faking her death and Romeo running away with her once she’s been placed in the Capulet burial vault.

Would Romeo and Juliet have come up with this plan on their own? Did Romeo even stop and think, when he was given the news that Juliet had died? Even when things have gotten completely out of hand with Romeo’s banishment, Capulet forcing Juliet to marry Paris, and the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, Friar Lawrence stays calm and tries to problem solve. There is clearly a contrast between characters with functioning instincts, and Romeo and Juliet. According to Freud, the id, the ego, and the superego are developed in stages. Romeo and Juliet’s were not fully mature and led them to irrational and irresponsible decision making.

Moreover, Freud observed that after experiencing trauma, people have self-destructive behavior, and they are more violent and aggressive. Thus, after trauma, death instincts take over a person’s behavior. After Romeo is witness to Tybalt murdering Mercutio, he suddenly changes from resisting the urge to fight, to being in a sudden rage. Before being traumatized by watching his best friend die, Romeo says, “I do protest I never injured thee / But love thee better than thou canst devise / Till thou shalt know the reason of my love” (3.1.70). In a word, Romeo simply doesn’t want to fight. In contrast, after Mercutio has died he yells, “Alive in triumph, and Mercutio slain! Away to heaven, respective lenity, / And [fire-eyed] fury be my conduct now.- Now, Tybalt, take the ‘villain’ back again / That late thou gavest me, for Mercutio’s soul/ Is but a little way above our heads, / Staying for thine to keep him company. Either thou or I, or both, must go with him” (3.1.130). Romeo’s sudden mood change from trying not to fight, to saying that either Tybalt or him or both must die and join Mercutio in heaven, shows how a traumatizing event can bring out a person’s death instincts. Romeo’s increased aggression and desperation causes him to slay Tybalt, and eventually kill himself. All in all, Romeo’s words were true. He, Tybalt, Paris, and even Juliet eventually joined Mercutio up in heaven.

Now one may ask, why do Romeo and Juliet have broken instincts? There are many possibilities. Their age and stage of development could be one factor. Their personalities weren’t fully developed or mature, which means neither their superegos were not fully developed nor their id, which would cause the desynchronization of their instincts. However, the most probable cause of their defective instincts is the environment in which they were raised. Throughout their whole life, they were taught to abhor the other family. For generations, the Montagues and the Capulets have been fighting. This could have been upsetting to a young child. Going back to the idea of trauma and its effect on personalities, Romeo and Juliet were probably traumatized as children because of all of the violence surrounding them. If they had experienced a shocking event at a young age, their personality would have been affected. If their personality was not developing normally, this might explain their damaged instincts. PsyArt Journal states that, “Repressed childhood traumata tend to elude repression and induce disguised reenactments of the original trauma later in life. Understanding puzzling aspects of a character’s behavior as a reenactment of childhood trauma would help explain his or her paradoxical actions and the unconscious processes underlying his or her words, thoughts, and feelings.” Romeo and Juliet both behave in puzzling ways and act in irrational ways. If they had experienced a childhood trauma, that would explain their damaged inner drives. The article “Romeo’s Childhood Trauma — ‘What Fray was Here?’” explains that “if one listens clinically to Romeo’s words, one hears indications of… a traumatic experience in childhood as would drive him toward his tragic fate. I believe it is a reenactment of childhood trauma that prevents Romeo from ‘putting Juliet on his horse and making for Mantua’ (Mahood 57) and thus avoiding the catastrophe entirely.” If Romeo was not reenacting a traumatizing experience as a child, he might would have avoided his tragic ending. Therefore, the most reasonable cause of at least Romeo’s damaged drives is a childhood trauma.

In conclusion, Romeo and Juliet are perfect examples of instincts expressed unhealthily. Their deaths were caused by either being too drunk in love to think rationally or too desperate to think of any other option but death. However, if they had thought about the consequences to their actions before the balcony scene and their marriage, the play would not have been called the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. “Id, Ego and Superego,” clarifies that “The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.” Romeo and Juliet were driven by their ids into being “fantasy oriented.” Love at first sight is a fantasy, getting married despite their families’ fuel is irrational, and when they commit suicide, they are only acting as a response to their feelings of tension and unpleasure due to id’s impulses being denied. Shakespeare and Freud come from two completely different time periods, and obviously Shakespeare would not have known Freud’s theories while writing his plays. However, they both intertwined the contrasting ideas of sex and death. Freud believed that our life instincts need to be balanced out with our death instincts. Shakespeare often uses sex and death as one common theme throughout many of his plays. If both Freud and Shakespeare came up with the same conclusion, wouldn’t it be valid to compare their ideas? All in all, there are many debates and contradictions surrounding both Shakespeare’s works and Freud’s theories, however the one thing everything can agree on is that they both try to examine the most abstract and mysterious thing there is to understand: humans.


Works Cited

Cherry, Kendra. “What Are Life and Death Instincts?” Verywell. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Freud, Sigmund. “IV. Sigmund Freud. 1922. Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” IV. Sigmund

Freud. 1922. Beyond the Pleasure Principle., n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Kastenbaum, Robert. “Death and Dying.” Death Instinct. Advameg, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Krims, Marvin. “Romeo’s Childhood Trauma? — “What Fray Was Here?”” PsyArt: An Online

Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

McLeod, S. A. “Id, Ego and Superego.” Id Ego Superego. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Sex and Death in Romeo and Juliet.” Shmoop

University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 02 May 2016.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Sex and Death in Romeo and Juliet.” Shmoop

University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 02 May 2016.

Shakespeare, William, and Jill L. Levenson. Romeo and Juliet. Oxford University Press, 2008.


The Dangers of Stereotyping by the Media

Two years ago, I sat in social studies class on a rainy Friday morning counting the hours until I could go home. As I typed out a text to an equally bored friend across the room, my male teacher, responding to an inquiry about his weekend plans, made a casual remark about his husband. Admittedly, I felt surprised. Not because I harbored any prejudices towards the LGBT community, but because he didn’t fit the image of a gay person that the media had painted in my mind. Years of watching television shows and reading magazines had instilled in me a misguided representation of gays and lesbians. I imagined a gay man to be as theatrical and melodramatic as Modern Family’s Cameron Tucker or as feminine and neurotic as Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland. My teacher, easygoing with a passion for history rather than Beyoncé’s latest album, did not meet any of these expectations. The results of misrepresenting a group of people in the media have a much greater reach than rousing me from a boredom induced near-coma on a dreary day. Young women often starve themselves to fit the stereotype of the perfect woman broadcast all across television and film. People of color and homosexuals face discrimination due to the broad and largely unfavorable preconceptions created by the media. The media stigmatizes the mentally ill, causing a lack of adequate medical care and leading to deadly consequences. While the writers of television programs likely believe that they serve as comical running gags or punchlines, stereotypical portrayals of groups of people in the media can have adverse and calamitous consequences in the real world.

Gender stereotypes occur across all forms of media. For instance, television and the advertisement industry constantly portray the thin woman as the “perfect” woman. This fixation on an ideal body type relates to the growing incidence of eating disorders and body issues among young women. According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, fifty percent of girls between the ages of eleven and fifteen read fashion magazines and ninety-five percent watch television. This exposure to a thin ideal size corresponds to a time in their lives where self-esteem and body image are at their most tenuous due to the onset of puberty and the increasing tendency for social comparison. A desire to mold to the stereotypical skinny, “perfect” woman seen on television can lead to the development of eating disorders and rigorous dieting. This can possibly account for the drastic rise in eating disorders from 1.5% of women in 1988 to 9.3% in 2017 (Currin). Underrepresentation presents another concern about the portrayal of women on television. One study found that men triple women in number on primetime television and that in newscasts, women make up only about 16% of reporters (Wood). According to this researcher, “the constant populace distortion of men and women tempts us to believe that there really are more men than women and, further, that men are the cultural standard.” This portrayal by the media can foster the belief that women do not make up a large and active component of the population. Such ideas may cause a reluctance to acknowledge and reward women for their contributions to society, resulting in negative consequences for the already existing gender wage gap and the likelihood of women holding positions of power such as the presidency or a seat in Congress.

A high prevalence of racial stereotypes exists in television and film. For instance, Asian actors and actresses often find themselves playing the roles of nerds and intellectual masterminds. Unfortunately, such stereotyping makes it difficult for them to secure work outside of this limited arena, resulting in most roles — even those originally intended for portrayal by an Asian actor — to go to white performers instead. This causes a minimization of the importance of people of color in society and a lack of cultural understanding. In addition, casting Asian-Americans in primarily academic roles on television “plays on the existing stereotype about Asians being intellectually and technologically superior to Westerners,” resulting in the direction of antagonism and discrimination their way (Nittle). Furthermore, the fostering of the perception of Asians as the “model minority” in television and film further drives a wedge between Asians and their counterparts of other races.

Misconceptions and a lack of representation of gay people in television can have unfavorable implications for lessening discrimination against the LGBT community and the development of individuals within it. According to one study, “the lack of portrayals of homosexuality on television influence the beliefs among viewers that homosexuality is abnormal or extremely rare” (Fisher). As humans have the tendency to react more adversely to the unfamiliar and deviations from the social norm, this can heighten negative reactions towards the LGBT community. In addition, the absence of depictions of gay people — particularly positive ones — in media can lead to a lack of role models for homosexual teens or those questioning their sexuality, creating greater feelings of isolation.

Stereotyping of the mentally ill also occurs in the media. For instance, television often links madness or creative genius to a mental disorder, romanticizing the struggle of afflicted individuals. For example, a running gag on the television series Bones featured the protagonist’s socially inept demeanor. Although her awkward gaffes — characteristic of someone suffering from Asperger’s — continued throughout the duration of the show, the showrunners used them as a punchline and never addressed the isolating difficulties of living with this disorder. Additionally, an underlying criminal element to the portrayal of mental disorders on television often exists. For example, “popular psychological thrillers like Hannibal, Mr. Robot, and Dexter, all perpetuate the stereotype that people with mental illnesses are fearsome criminals, if not outright violent ones” (Bastién). This can inspire the belief that the mentally ill will not respond to reproach or assistance, causing them to be denied professional help that could aid in coping with their affliction. For many of the mentally ill individuals involved in the country’s violent tragedies, their diagnoses did not come to light until too late. For example, Adam Lanza, the man who shot and killed twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, did not receive a diagnosis or treatment for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (Cowan).

Misguided stereotypes function as a red thread running through all forms of the media. Television portrays the most beautiful women as the thin ones, and female underrepresentation in the media minimizes and devalues their role in society. Racial stereotypes, particularly those pertaining to Asian Americans, limit the work available to people of color in the show business industry and foster divides. Preconceptions about gay people and a lack of visibility in television heighten enmity to the LGBT community and rob homosexual teens of adequate role models. Inaccurate portrayals of mental illness can have detrimental consequences in reality, as showrunners and television writers often overlook the difficulties associated with these ailments or include a criminal undertone to the disorders. Although the depiction of these stereotypes may boost network ratings or make for wildly entertaining storylines, they have proven to be devastating in the real world.


Works Cited

Bastién, Angelica. “What TV Gets Wrong About Mental Illness.” Vulture. N.p., 8 Sept. 2016. Web. 8 Oct. 2017.

Cowan, Alison Leigh. “Adam Lanza’s Mental Problems ‘Completely Untreated’ Before Newtown Shootings, Report Says.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 8 Oct. 2017.

Currin, L. “Time Trends in Eating Disorder Incidence.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 186.2 (2005): 132-35. JSTOR. Web. 8 Oct. 2017.

Fischer, D. “Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Content on Television: A Quantitative Analysis Across Two Seasons.” J Homosex 52.3 (2007): 167-188. JSTOR. Web. 8. Oct. 2017.

Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.


The​ ​Dilemma​ ​of​ ​a​ ​Debater’s​ ​Moral Integrity

What would you do to win? How far would you go to get what you want? This is a question I often ask myself, mostly because of the sport of debate, which I have been taking in school for a year so far. The main reason that debate makes me think of how far I would go to win is my specific forte of debate, which is congressional debate. Congressional debate is simple. You get a bill or resolution to respond to in pro or con. But, the problem is, you have an advantage if you go first because the judges hear your opinion first, and this means that you’ll find yourself putting away your own opinions and ideas in order to win. If you want to have an advantage in congressional debate, you will have to put aside your personal viewpoints.

In congressional debate, if there is an author of a bill or resolution present, they will speak first, in pro of said bill or resolution. If the author is not present, a representative of the bill or resolution will speak on its behalf and is forced to speak in pro. There is then a limited questioning period, and from there on, a trade-off of pro and con and questioning. Moral tension is created when you choose to have the advantage of arguing first, while having to argue pro, because you will have to sacrifice your own views, whether you believe in pro or con for a matter.

Congressional debate is less about the topics discussed and more about the form in which you debate them. In congressional debate, you get the date of an upcoming debate. You get an official list of topics at varying times. Then, you have time to prepare and have the option to submit a bill or resolution. A bill states laws to be put in place. A resolution is a bill in response to another bill or event that has happened. As the word suggests, you are resolving the problem. Though that’s how typical congressional debate works, humanity’s usage of congressional debate roots back as old as time, even in its most primitive state. And I don’t just mean two cavemen arguing over a piece of meat. Looking at the roots of the word starting with congressional, according to, “congressional means of or relating to Congress.” In Congress, people argue over bills and resolutions, just like in congressional debate. Now, according to, the standard definition of debate is “a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.” Debate can be contextualized as either a sport or humanistic inquiry, and it is the contextualization that makes all the difference.

The point is, the deeper you get pulled into debate as a sport, the less of what you’re saying matters and the more of winning the debate matters. Soon, winning becomes all you care about, having been pulled into the highly addictive sport of debate. In contrast, contextualizing debate as a form of human inquiry is about the search for justice. However, when debating as a sport, it doesn’t matter how you debate, what you debate, or why you debate. In the sport of debate, only one thing matters, and it’s winning.

I was at my first congressional debate tournament. I’d had two weeks to prepare a speech that was either pro or con to the impeachment of Donald Trump. My personal viewpoint is that by all means, he should be impeached because of the many outrageous claims he’s made and the countless acts of torment and bullying he’s committed via social media. The debate starts out fast. You barely have enough time to prepare before they read out the topic.

From there, they asked the dreaded question, “Is the author of this topic present, or would a representative like to speak pro on behalf of the topic?” The room turns quiet, and eyes dart around the room nervously.

“Come on, guys, we need to continue…” Sure, it’s a simple enough side to debate. You know that if you really needed to debate it, you could. So then, why is it so hard to agree to debating the topic? For one, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. There are many variables that play into the situation, like the risks, why you want to do it, or even how you want to do it. We all feel entitled to our own views and opinions.

In the 21st century, nothing is more important than your opinion. Think about it. This year’s election has been almost entirely based on dominating public opinion because ranting on social media can have a surprisingly strong effect on popularity. When you have services literally built for stating your opinions, you’ll start to, well, think everyone, and I mean anyone and everyone, cares about your opinion. We are being fed by the media that our opinion matters, but it is only the manipulation of our opinion that really matters. We soon figure out that day to day, our opinion does not matter in reality. Because of our ceaseless egos, despite the triviality of our opinions, we hold our opinions very dear. And in the end, should we push our opinions away just to win? We shouldn’t, because our opinions are our integrity.

Before debate, I was, to put it lightly, very argumentative. And when I first discovered debate, I was excited. Finally, a sport I could win by arguing! It was the end of the year, but there was still time to participate in one debate. Novice congressional. Now at the time, I had no idea what that was, and I wouldn’t have without the help of my debate teacher, Jim Shapiro. So with one week of preparation and a poorly written speech, I went to my first debate. And I rocked it. Question after question, the battleground became clearer and clearer to me. All you had to do was to state your claim, interrogate your opponent, and act like you know what you’re doing, and you’ve pretty much won the debate. Plus, it didn’t hurt that everyone else was new to debate also. So, I was plowing down questions when the judge stated the final question: should Donald J. Trump be impeached?

We are back at the pivotal moment, the crossroads between my moral integrity and my egotism for winning. The crossroads between sport and humanistic inquiry. Now before I continue, I want to make something very clear. I’m a liberal. I go to a liberal school in a liberal neighborhood in a liberal city. So, the last thing I was expecting was that question. But before you knew it, two people had chosen pro. That meant that in order to go first, I would have to put away all my pride, all my honor, and all my opinions in order to win. And I won. I’m not going to go into full depth of how I won, but let’s just say it involved a lot of bias and fake information, like the blatant ignorance of some of the atrocities he’s said or the creation of false sources of good things he had done, as I couldn’t think of any myself. I actually hoped, prayed even, that I wouldn’t win. For corrupt politics not to prevail once again. And even though I won, I lost the true debate. I lost my opinion, one of the only things that makes me, me.

It’s almost funny. Humanity is built on the standards of “victory is good!” But at what cost? How far are you willing to go to “win?” What even is winning? It’s a social construct we created to segregate, a construct we need to distinguish who’s better and who’s less than others. This status currency has almost no meaning other than pride, so why do we chase it? Why play the game of cat and mouse with your life, with almost everything to lose? The answer is, even with all of our opinions, we only matter if other people mandate it. Our opinion only matters if it can be manipulated by greater power structures but here, on that debate podium, my individual opinion was the only moral integrity I had. Our individual opinions are the only morals we have, and in the pursuit of the relativity of opinion, I debated against Trump’s impeachment. In a society where status, currency, and popularity are based on our own agency, we crave power. We crave being loved. We crave appreciation. We crave someone holding us and telling us that we are okay. And most importantly, we crave winning. It’s only human. So when people ask me why I would help this horrible man spread his opinion, I say I’m only human. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we do. We segregate, label, and divide people into groups, so we can judge them. It’s terrible, brutal, and unfair. But it’s what we do. We put away our moral integrity to win and to be recognized. The question now, is how do we contextualize ourselves?


You Could be Next

“We’re going to die here. We’re going to die,” Carmen Algeria thought as she dodged gunshots raining down on her while witnessing people drop left and right. “About five feet to the left of me there was a man with a bullet wound to his chin. My jeans were covered in someone’s blood, my T-shirt was covered in someone’s blood, my sister’s whole leg was covered in blood.” In the face of this crisis, citizens unified, and after the initial shock, they began to move. The civilians who did not obtain injuries ran to their cars to transport people to the hospital while others directed people to safety. Men grabbed Algeria and her sister and lifted them into trucks. “Bodies were literally being tossed on top of us,” Algeria said. Blood covered every inch of the emergency room. The bodies of victims littered the floor. Gunshot wounds riddled the victims’ bodies. “All I could describe it as was a war zone,” said John Kline, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (Carcamo et al.).

This scene depicts one of the hundreds of stories from people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on October 1, where the deadliest mass shooting in US history occurred. Thousands of Americans witnessed and survived incidents similar to Carmen Algeria’s. In the past 275 days, 273 mass shootings have occurred. Since Las Vegas alone, six more mass shootings (four or more people killed or injured) and 240 shootings (under four) have terrorized the United States (“Mass”). But according to our president and leading politicians, no solution exists. The loss of life apparently equals the price to pay for the right to bear arms. The US cannot politicize this event; instead, Americans should come together and mourn, solely sending thoughts and prayers. Despite politicians’ intentions, these tactics disrespect the victims of shootings by preventing change from happening. When 521 mass shootings have occurred in the past 477 days (“477 Days”), the only time to talk about gun safety is now.

Mourning the victims of mass shootings and politicizing the event must occur simultaneously. America has the capability of doing both. Many politicians send “thoughts and prayers” and urge Americans to mourn. They discourage people from talking gun politics, which supposedly polarizes the country. President Trump advised, “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by. Today we mourn.” Via this logic, the topic of gun rights will finally come up in political discourse the day an American is not fatally shot. Unfortunately, if America continues its current gun policies, this day will never come: at least one mass shooting happens daily in the United States, and ninety-two Americans die from gun violence every day (Kristof). Thus, the lack of conversation about gun violence will continually inhibit progress in terms of safety in public settings.

In other spheres of life, enactments of precautionary steps maintain safety, and gun laws should mimic this model. For example, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire drills combat the potential of deadly infernos. Airbags, seatbelts, and highway guardrails combat deadly auto accidents. Even the minuscule, by comparison, dangers of a ladder, which kills 300 people a year, have seven pages of regulations in the Health Administration guidebook (Kristof). However, not only has the government prohibited research on gun safety, but also the administration has deemed the mere discussion as un-American. Over and over again this country faces mass shootings, and each time politicians send their condolences. But nothing changes, and the cycle continues: Mass shootings horrify Americans, and outraged citizens demand sane policy. Yet, eventually a bigger story blows up somewhere else in the world, the news stops discussing gun laws, and sane policy still has not materialized. Then it happens again; only this time, more people die. When no discussion of mass shootings occurs, Americans can expect to continue to see death at the hands of guns.

Common sense gun laws should naturally pervade bipartisan policy. Both sides of the political spectrum agree: 79% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats want background checks for gun shows and private sales (Fingerhut), and 80% of Democrats and Republicans want mandatory background checks, five-day waiting period for gun purchases, and a mandatory registration of handguns (Smith 156). Yet these policies languish in Congress, despite the fact that they have bipartisan support. Why? Because the NRA, the largest lobbyist group in the country, makes sure the passing of these regulations never occur. During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA gave 5.9 million dollars to the Republican Party (“Gun”). The same candidates who received money from the NRA also voted to allow people on the no-fly list and mentally disabled people to purchase guns. However, 89% of Democrats and Republicans believe the mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing guns, and 82% of Republicans and Democrats believe gun purchases should be barred for people on the no-fly list (Oliphant). Politicians repeatedly put their campaign needs over lives of citizens. The NRA and the politicians they support essentially value power and money over life. By advising people to mourn instead of discussing gun laws, these NRA backed congressmen commit the very action they protest against — politicizing mass shootings. By sending thoughts and prayers without action, policymakers fulfill the desires of the NRA. Via prioritization of the NRA, politicians make the gun debate a polarizing issue. If politicians put aside their greed and corrupt tactics, they would listen and reform policy in accordance to the people’s needs.

America needs more gun regulations. The constant mass shootings that the US face every single day proves the necessity for gun restriction. However, some fear that reforms will potentially lead to a ban on all guns. Gun safety proponents warn against the straw man “extremist agenda.” In reality, there is no desire to take away the rights of citizens to buy guns. Instead, proponents simply want a more difficult and thorough screening process. They want more background checks, a mandatory five-day waiting period, and limits on assault and semi-automatic weapons. People (who have mental stability and do not appear on the no-fly list) can still have their handguns and rifles for hunting and protection. But no reason exists for common citizens to own automatic weapons. The sole purpose of automatic weapons is simply to kill many people quickly and efficiently. And again, both sides of the political spectrum agree: 77% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want background checks for private sales and gun shows, and 54% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats want to ban assault-style weapons.

These types of reforms have reaped benefits in Australia, Britain, and Canada. When faced with mass shootings, these modern countries crafted laws that basically eliminated the threat of guns to public safety. For example, in Australia, a gunman shot and killed thirty-five people in Port Arthur. The public’s response was outrage and persistence on change. The government responded with a ban on almost all automatic and semiautomatic rifles as well as shotguns. They implemented this with a gun-buyback program. John Howard, the Prime Minister said, “we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons” (Bilefsky et al.) Both Australia and American have majority support for tighter gun laws — the only difference: the NRA.

In order to combat the NRA and corrupt politicians, we must speak out. We cannot allow politicians to put their own needs in front of ours any longer. We simply cannot continue to go on this way. If we do, America will continue to suffer through shooting after shooting, death after death. We can mourn and send prayers, but if we want the shootings to stop, we also must act. Now.


Works Cited

Bilefsky, Dan, et al. “How Australia, Britain and Canada Have Responded to Gun Violence.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2015,

Carcamo, Cindy, Tchekmedyian Alene, Mather, Kate, Winton, Richard. “Survivors from California Recount Their Terrifying Escape from Danger in Las Vegas.” Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2017,

Fingerhut, Hannah. 5 Facts about Guns in the United States. Pew Research Center, 5 Jan. 2016,

“Gun Rights: Money to Congress.”, The Center for Responsive Politics, 2016,

Kristof, Nicholas. “Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2017,®ion=Marginalia&src=me&version=column&pgtype=article

“Mass Shootings.” Gun Violence Archive, 2017,

Oliphant, Baxter. Bipartisan Support for Some Gun Proposals, Stark Partisan Divisions on Many Others. Pew Research Center, 23 June 2017,

Smith, Tom W. “Public Opinion about Gun Policies.” The Future of Children, vol. 12, no. 2, Children, Youth, and Gun Violence, 1 July 2002, pp. 154–163. JSTOR, JSTOR,

“477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress.” The New York Times, The New York Times, Editorial Board, 2 Oct. 2017,


The Benefit of Female Education on the World

Thirty seconds. That is all the time it takes for thirteen underage girls to be sold into a marriage, turned into a breeder of sons and unwanted daughters, and imprisoned in a lifetime of anguish and abuse. This is the fate that awaits many women in third-world countries. Many of these women have never stepped foot into a school, never savored a good book or written a letter, and were never given a chance to escape an endless and vicious cycle. However, there is one glaringly present solution that will stop this cycle: educating women. Despite it being deemed unnecessary in many developing countries, educating a girl has countless, profound effects on the future of her country and the world at large. According to the New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof, “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?”, educating women can double a country’s labor force, save the lives of thousands of children who would have been born to uneducated and impoverished mothers, and create a more stable political environment. These are the reasons the United Nations and various other organizations have strived to fund and improve education in developing countries, as detailed by the article “Education and the Developing World.” As shown in the documentary directed by Richard Robbins, Girl Rising, many girls in these countries are victims of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and arranged marriages. Fear of sexual assault, a belief that girls are only useful for marriage and bearing children, and the high cost are reasons that parents keep their daughters home from school. Despite these adversities, the benefits of educating girls greatly outweigh the negatives. Due to its potential for enhancing global economies and communities and providing girls in underdeveloped with a shield against injustice, the education of women is an extremely essential task that must be collectively undertaken around the world.

The education of women has a large capacity for boosting the economy and benefiting the political environment of a country. Research has shown that there is a 10% increase in wages per year of schooling that one has completed, which will eventually lead to widespread economic growth. It has also been demonstrated that by educating females alone, there will be a 40% decrease in malnutrition (“Education and the Developing World”). Educated women can enter the working world, doubling the formal labor force and thereby raising the living standard. This shows how educating girls can have a large effect on her community and country. The political stability of countries will also be improved with the education of girls. Many of the girls who are oppressed in today’s world belong to war-torn countries that are unfortunately still shrouded in backwards beliefs. Perhaps, if they educated more girls, these countries would experience peace as educating girls supports a civil society, democracy, and political stability.

The political situation of a country is also affected by the rate of unemployment, as more people out of work results in political upheaval. In fact, there has been shown to be a 4% increase in chance for a civil war for every 1% increase in the unemployed population aged 15-24 (Kristof 2). Educated women can help reduce the bulge in the youth population by having smaller families and creating stability. A study performed in Nigeria found that for each additional year of primary school, a girl has 0.26 fewer children (Kristof 2). Female education also improves the health conditions in a community as educated women are more likely to make intelligent choices that will benefit their children. According to Girl Rising, putting every child in school could prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year. Children are also likely to live longer with educated mothers because women who have gone to school are more likely to seek prenatal care and 50% more likely to immunize their children (“Education and the Developing World”). All research points to one obvious conclusion: an educated mother means a healthier child.

The fact that 66 million girls are currently out of school worldwide has devastating effects on their lives. In many developing countries, girls are subject to sex trafficking and sexual assault and are often forced into arranged marriages at very young ages. Even more shocking, girls in modern and prosperous countries experience similar circumstances. According to Kristof, 100,000 girls under the age of eighteen are trafficked into commercial sex in the United States every year. The range of abuses women experience also includes sexual assault. 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence a year, 50% of them under the age of fifteen (Robbins). The fear of girls being sexually assaulted is a reason that some parents choose not to send their daughters to school.

Around the globe, 33 million fewer girls are in school than boys. Everything a family has goes into educating and priming a boy for life, as shown in Girl Rising when the profits from a girl’s marriage are used to buy a car for her brother. Many countries around the world do not offer public schooling, and parents are reluctant to use their limited funds to pay for the books of a girl. Another obstacle to education is that many girls enter marriage very early in their lives. Every year, fourteen million girls under the age of eighteen are married. Many of these girls die soon after from childbirth, the number one cause of death for girls between the ages of 15-19 (Robbins). These horrifying circumstances are often brought out by an archaic view that people have about the status of women. People have the belief that girls are only expected to marry, bear sons, and work in the household. They are dangerously unaware about the potential of a woman. Fortunately, an inexhaustible desire to learn and change the world is still present in oppressed women. Amira, a woman featured in the documentary Girl Rising who was married and had a son by age twelve, shares this message of hope, “I will find a way to endure, to prevail. The future of man lies in me… look me in the eye. I am change” (Robbins). Educating girls will help them escape from upsetting injustices. Girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children and are twice as likely to send their own children to school (Robbins). Women who are given the gift of an education also often feel an obligation to pay it forward. Suma, a Nepalese girl who was liberated from slavery, now works to make sure no young women endure the hardships she did. Angeline Mugwendere, a Zimbabwean girl whose education was paid for, is now the director of an organization that helps impoverished girls in Africa go to school (Kristof 3).

All countries should join the effort to educate girls worldwide. It has been shown to have incredible effects on the countries where it has taken place. After Bangladesh gained its independence, there was a renewed emphasis on education for both genders. Now, there are more girls in high school than boys. Many of these girls will grow to form the foundation of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank and other important Bengali institutions (Kristof 3). South Korea, which once had an average annual income of $890, has also shown advancements due to education. Following an effort to spend more money on education, South Korea now boasts an improved labor force, near 100% public school enrollment, and an average annual income of $17,000 (“Education and the Developing World”).

There are some that believe that educating girls would be a waste of valuable defense funds. However, educating girls has countless benefits that cannot be overshadowed by even the most successful military campaign. Educating women is an extremely necessary endeavor and one that most modern nations have the capital to promote. France, which has an economy of 1/10th the size of the United States’, donated 600 million more dollars to education in poor countries. The Netherlands, which has an even smaller economy, was also a leader in improving education (“Education and the Developing World”). The United States should follow the lead of these countries and become forerunners in the fight for widespread female education.

Educating girls can irreversibly alter the economic landscape of an entire nation. The education of girls boosts the labor force and stimulates the economy, increasing a nation’s productivity and wealth. Additionally, educated women have smaller families which raises the standard of living and enables better child care. Having an education also provides women in desperate situations like arranged marriage with a means of escape. All humans have a fire within them, a desire to learn and live to their fullest potential. This fire has been suppressed in girls but with an education, they can find a way to light the spark once more.


Works Cited

“Education and the Developing World.” 2012. Print.

Girl Rising. Dir. Richard Robbins. The Documentary Group & Vulcan Productions, 2014. Film.

Kristof, Nicholas. “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?” The New York Times, 10 May 2014. Print.


The Murder of Mary Phagan

In 1913, in Atlanta, Georgia, Leo Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the National Pencil Factory, was tried and convicted for the murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old female worker in his factory. Local newspapers documented the court proceedings in great detail, framing Frank as a corrupt factory owner and a pervert. The Atlantan public followed the case very closely and believed these descriptions of Frank, despite the fact that many of them were made up or exaggerated. Atlantans were so convinced Frank was guilty that, when Governor John M. Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence from the death penalty to life in prison, an outraged mob swarmed Frank’s cell, took him away, and hanged him outside Mary Phagan’s house. During a time when lynching was very prevalent in the South, this lynching was unusual: it was one of the only lynchings of a white man. In one sense, the lynching was a manifestation of anti-Semitism, which had been progressing in Atlanta as the city’s Jewish population had rapidly increased over the last century. The lynching was also the result of class tensions in Atlanta, as the city industrialized, and the working class felt mistreated by wealthy, powerful factory owners like Leo Frank. Decades later, as new evidence and testimonies revealed that Frank was innocent and the guilty person was most likely the African American janitor, Jim Conley, it became clear that Frank’s conviction was also closely related to the tensions between the Jewish and African American communities in Atlanta. Overall, Leo Frank’s trial and lynching exposed the profound divisions in Atlanta’s society in the early twentieth centuries — between the wealthy and the poor, Jews and anti-Semitic Gentiles, and Jews and African Americans.


The Leo Frank Case

On the night of April 26, 1913, Mary Phagan’s dead body was found in the factory’s basement. That morning, which was Confederate Memorial Day, Mary Phagan had gone into the pencil shop at which she worked to collect her pay of $1.20. However, she never came home. Newt Lee, the factory’s night watchman, found her body, brutally bruised and bloody. He contacted the Call Officer, W.F. Anderson immediately, exclaiming that, “a white woman has been killed up here!” When the detectives arrived at the scene, they originally thought that she was a black woman because she was covered in soot from her head to her toes: “her features — even her eye sockets and nostrils — were caked with soot, and her mouth was choked with cinders.” When they arrived at the scene, the only clues the detectives found were two murder notes next to the body. The first note read, “He said he wood love me land down play like the night witch did it but that long tall black negro did boy his slef,” and the second note read, “Mam that negro hire down here did this i went to make eater and he push me down that hole a long tall negro black that hoo it wase long sleam tall negro i wright while play with me.” The detectives assumed that the notes were written by the murderer to direct the suspicion towards someone else, or possibly written by Mary as a way to help them identify her murderer. Basing their initial judgment on the notes, officers arrested Newt Lee, since he fit the “tall black negro” description in the first note and had found Mary’s body.

On behalf of the Atlanta Police Department, Detective Black stepped in to solve the crime. From the beginning, he was opposed to the idea of convicting a black man, as he did not think such a conviction would satisfy the public. He famously said, “The murder of Mary Phagan must be paid for with blood. And a Negro’s blood would not suffice.” Detectives later confirmed that Newt had not been around the factory when Mary was murdered, so he was released as a suspect. Quickly, detectives shifted their focus to Leo Frank, who appeared nervous when first accompanied by detectives to the scene of the crime. Frank was arrested and brought to court where, instead of acting nervous as he was before, he appeared calm and confident. Over the course of the trial, his calm was shaken as witnesses provided evidence that he had made sexual comments and advances towards Mary Phagan and other little girls in the factory. Moreover, there were questions about his alibi, and his lawyers struggled to prove that he had not been at the Pencil Factory during the murder. The evidence gathered, and public suspicion grew as the press printed shocking stories framing Frank as a perverse, evil factory owner. On May 23, 1913, the grand jury indicted Leo Frank for Mary Phagan’s murder.

The most significant testimony against Frank, which is widely believed to have convinced the jury he was guilty, was that of Jim Conley, a black man who worked as a janitor in the factory. Conley was a criminal himself, having already served two sentences on the chain gang and one time for attempted armed robbery. The police questioned Conley about the murder since they found him rinsing out a stain from his shirt, which he claimed was just a rust stain. The police did not arrest him because he told them he was not near the factory the day of Mary Phagan’s murder because he claimed he was drunk all day. He also told them he could not read or write, so they suspected he could not have written the notes next to her body. When he was later called in for another affidavit, he told a different story, claiming that he had seen Frank murder Mary Phagan and that Frank had forced him to help move the body. Rather than being suspicious of Conley’s changing story, detectives helped him correct his facts, and the press praised Conley for coming forward.

After the jury convicted Frank, his attorneys tried to overturn the decision, gathering evidence to build a case against Conley. They learned that Conley had confessed about the murder to multiple people and even threatened to kill those he told if they told anyone else. Leo’s attorneys collected medical evidence that established that Mary was actually murdered much later than when Hugh Dorsey, Frank’s prosecutor, claimed. Most importantly, though, when Leo was not in the factory. They wanted to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but the Court refused to review the case, despite Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes dissenting. They argued that the trial had been influenced by newspapers and general public sentiments, which meant that it had been unfair. As they wrote in their dissent, “Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury.” Governor John M. Slaton reviewed the entire case and decided to commute Frank’s sentence to life in prison. Georgia’s public was outraged when they heard this news. Riots erupted, leading Governor Slaton to institute Martial Law.

An angry mob raided the prison and captured Frank. They took him to Marietta and hanged him facing Mary Phagan’s house. He helplessly dangled there for hours, “head snapped back, chin resting in the noose’s bottom coil dangled from above.” Almost the whole city came to witness this disturbing event. Most Atlantans did not view it as tragic or upsetting but rather as an act of justice. One woman said, “I couldn’t bear to look at another human being, hanging like that… but this — this is different. It is all right. It is — the justice of God.” Some Atlantans, however, recognized this lynching as an injustice. An article published in The Atlanta Constitution ten days after the lynching emphasized the event as a setback for rights and freedom for all people, declaring, “We may regret and deplore, but the stain is there. In it the name and the identity of Leo Frank are but an atom. The great question others will ask is, ‘What surely can Georgia offer of the enforcement of constitutional rights and the protection of the laws?’”

Atlantan and global newspapers had played a very crucial role in the trial and lynching, printing sensationalist headlines and inflaming public outrage. After Mary’s murder, Monday’s issue of The Georgian gave five pages to the story. The paper had recently been acquired by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and he saw Mary’s murder as an opportunity to increase his paper’s readers through dramatic, shocking coverage. The Georgian’s main competitor, The Atlanta Constitution, followed after The Georgian, covering the case in a way that dramatized it to capture readers. As the case unfolded in court, the two newspapers competed with each other, each one trying to write more shocking, eye-catching headlines than the other. These two newspapers were largely responsible for framing Frank as a pervert in the eyes of the public: a few days after the murder, The Georgian ran a story about the National Pencil Factory being a seedy business that was unfit for women to work in, with the headline, “NUDE DANCERS’ PICTURES ON WALLS.” The article also emphasized that the Pencil Factory was located near a street with a lot of prostitutes. George Epps, a 15-year-old who gave a testimony, said that Mary Phagan had been afraid of Frank, that Frank would “try to flirt with her” and “winked at her,” and that she had had him [Epps] walk her home from the factory sometimes. Because of that, the next morning the Constitution’s headline read, “FRANK TRIED TO FLIRT WITH MURDERED GIRL SAYS HER BOY CHUM.”

The sensationalist headlines also made the factory out to be emblematic of the problems of industrialization and factory work, portraying Frank as a greedy Jew and a boss with no qualms about child labor. Many poor, white, working-class Atlantans bought into the newspapers’ portrayal of Frank, viewing him as the ultimate villain of industrialization; these sentiments were a crucial driving force behind his lynching. However, a minority of privileged German Jews saw these newspaper articles as stirring up public outrage against one of their own and viewed this outrage as not necessarily proportional to the evidence against him.

Seventy years after Frank’s trial, new evidence and a review of the old evidence of the case proved that Frank was indeed innocent. Alonzo Mann, who had been a 14-year-old worker at the factory during the time of Mary Phagan’s murder, did an interview in which he confessed that he saw Conley murder Mary Phagan.

”Many times I wanted to get it out of my heart,” Mr. Mann told interviewers. ”I’m glad I’ve told it all. I’ve been living with it for a long time. I feel a certain amount of freedom now. I just hope it does some good.” Mann submitted to a lie detector test and a psychological stress evaluation and ended up passing both. The New York Times conducted a two-month investigation into Mann’s claims, and it reported that his confession was accurate. To explain why he had not come sooner, he told interviewers that Conley had told him, ”If you ever mention this, I’ll kill you,” which intimidated him and kept him from coming forward. Frank’s conviction and lynching should be reexamined in light of this new evidence, and both must be understood as the result of the anti-Semitism and social tensions that were so prevalent in Atlanta at the time.



In the early twentieth century, anti-Semitism was spreading throughout America and especially growing in the South. Powerful individuals, such as Georg Von Schönerer and Karl Leuger, were outspoken and active in their efforts to villainize the Jews. A prominent industrialist figure at the time, Henry Ford, was particularly famous for his strongly anti-Semitic beliefs, which he was able to spread widely because he owned his own newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. “Ford wanted to assert that there was a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. He blamed Jewish financiers for fomenting World War I so that they could profit from supplying both sides. He also accused Jewish automobile dealers of conspiring to undermine Ford Company sales policies. Ford wanted to make his bizarre beliefs public in the pages of the Dearborn Independent.” Ford was not alone in his strongly held anti-Semitic views, and the kind of sentiments he expressed were pervasive throughout America, especially in the South.

At the time of Frank’s trial and conviction, Jewish immigration and involvement in Atlanta made the Jews a significant presence in the city. Six hundred Jews were living in Atlanta in 1880, which was a large number compared to the twenty-six that were living there in 1850. Several synagogues were built during this period of time due to this influx of Jews. During Reconstruction, many Atlantan Jews became prominent and involved in the city’s economy because their ties to Northern Jews allowed them to build their businesses back up more quickly than other whites whose businesses had been devastated by the Civil War. From 1881 on, Atlanta also began to receive some Jews from Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire.

As the Jewish presence in Atlanta grew, so did social tension. The Atlanta race riots took place in Atlanta from September 22nd to 24th, 1916. During these riots, white mobs killed African Americans, damaged their property, and wounded many other people. The riots were seen as the manifestation of frustration with the job competition poor whites felt with blacks. The 1881 strikes against the Elsas family’s Fulton Bag and Cotton Company also highlighted the growing social tension of the times. These strikes were the result of wage disputes, the hiring of black women, and the problem of child labor. These strikes, as well as the Atlanta race riots, show that this period in Atlantan history was defined by social unrest and frustration with the power dynamics in society. On top of racial tension, Jewish prominence in the social hierarchy also disturbed many Atlantans, especially poorer gentiles, who thought of themselves as racially superior and did not like feeling inferior to Jews in any way.

During this turbulent time, many Southerners developed a phobia of foreigners. While Northern Jews were making an effort to include new Russian Jewish immigrants in their communities, Southerners had strong feelings about the types of immigrants who were coming over and joining their America, and set up immigration bureaus in order to attract what they considered to be the “Best Type” of immigrant — immigrants of European heritage. For immigrants of other backgrounds, living in the South could be difficult and even dangerous. For example, nineteen Italians in Louisiana were lynched because of a fear of them associating with black people and of them being an inferior race. Jews were widely considered to be an inferior race, and so Jewish immigrants were not among the “Best Type” of immigrants, in the eyes of most Southerners. It was said that “Southern attitudes toward [Jews] had been an amalgam of affection, tolerance, curiosity, suspicion, and rejection.” During periods of stress in society at large, Southerners would lash out at Jews who acted differently from them. As scholar Leonard Dinnerstein wrote, “Jews were considered ‘rebels against God’s purpose,’ and many a Southern Christian mother lulled her children to sleep with fables of Jewish vices.” Religious teaching played a large role in getting Southern Christians to loathe Jews, with many ministers preaching, “The Savior was murdered by Jews.” One Baltimore minister said that, “of all the dirty creatures who have befouled this earth, the Jew is the slimiest.”

The widespread reaction to Leo Frank’s trial — and the public’s overwhelming belief in his guilt — is a testament to the intense anti-Semitism that was underlying Atlantan society at the time. Leo Frank was very involved in the Jewish community in Atlanta. He was the president of the B’nai B’rith organization for community service. His religion was an important part of his identity, and many Atlantans did not like him because of it. The Macon Daily Telegraph noted the effect that Frank’s trial and lynching had on Atlanta’s Jewish community: “… the long case and its bitterness has hurt the city greatly in that it has opened a seemingly impassable chasm between the people of the Jewish race and the Gentiles. It has broken friendships of years, has divided the races, brought about bitterness deeply regretted by all factions. The friends who rallied to the defense of Leo Frank feel that racial prejudice has much to do with the verdict. They are convinced that Frank was not prosecuted but persecuted. They refuse to believe he had a fair trial…” (The Macon Daily Telegraph). Leo Frank was widely compared to Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew in France who was wrongfully convicted of espionage largely due to the jury’s anti-Semitic sentiments. A New York Times headline read, “FRANK LYNCHING DUE TO SUSPICION AND PREJUDICE.”

Jews in Atlanta and across America believed Frank was a scapegoat for the city and the South’s anti-Semitic feelings. As a prominent member of the Jewish community, Frank represented a social group that was threatening and unsettling to gentile Atlantans. As scholar Jeffrey Melnick wrote, “There is little doubt that Frank’s status as a capitalist roused great enmity during the trial and after, and that the specific conceptions that circulated were inseparable from the negative connotations surrounding his Jewishness.” Jewish newspapers at the time tried to combat the information being disseminated by the larger gentile publications, arguing that he was innocent and only being targeted because he was as Jew. “He was sacrificed because he was a Jew, and a Northern Jew, at that. But, thank God, his sufferings are all over at last. If he had lived, his life would have been a torture to him, and they might have killed him in a worse way. Race hatred and political ambition have been satisfied.” Jewish publications, most significantly The Jewish Exponent, were outspoken in blaming Jim Conley for the murder:

The suspicion that was directed against him by the perjured testimony of a self-confessed negro accessory to the killing of Mary Phagan, who was left off with the ludicrous punishment of one year’s imprisonment, was fanned to a flame by the demagogism of a Solicitor General anxious for only political advancement and by the anti-semitic prejudice of a mob instigated by yellow journalists and mendacious Ishmaelites of the Tom Watson type. Frank was victimized because he was a Jew.

Jews throughout America believed that Frank was a martyr, suffering the consequences of a crime he did not commit simply because he was Jewish. As The Jewish Exponent printed three days after Frank’s lynching, “Frank underwent a martyrdom as horrible as any man has suffered. It has borne himself throughout this ordeal as a brave man and as a loyal Jew should.”

Despite recognizing Frank as the scapegoat for anti-Semitism, the broader Jewish community was slow to mobilize around his case while it was in trial. Frank’s powerful friends sought help from The American Jewish Committee, an organization set up by wealthy Jews who wanted to provide help to other Jews who were being denied important civil rights because of the age’s anti-Semitism. In Frank’s case, the American Jewish Committee president decided that “whatever is done must be done as a matter of justice, and any action that is taken should emanate from non-Jewish sources.” The president recognized the important role that the media was playing in Frank’s case, and so he wanted to influence the Southern press to shape opinions in favor of Jews and to establish “a wholesome public opinion which will free this unfortunate young man from the terrible judgment which rests against him.” The Committee agreed Frank’s case was an American Dreyfus, but it was divided on what to do. While Marshall and other committee members gave support however they could individually, the Committee did not act quickly enough and therefore never gave Frank any official help.


Class Tensions

Jews at the time were viewed as economically prosperous and thus became the scapegoat for issues caused by industrialization in the South. As factories were being built across the South, the rich factory owners grew richer as poor whites found themselves working for very low wages. Many families sent their children off to work in factories during the day to have some more income, which led to widespread public frustration with the issue of child labor. Depressed and dissatisfied workers in the South saw blaming the Jews as a way to relieve tension and frustration they had built up for many years. Georgia had had a small but very “prosperous, tight-knit community” of Jews for a long time before the twentieth century. However, as the Jewish population in Atlanta increased exponentially by the 1890s, tensions between the Jews and gentiles began to grow. The gentiles began to blame Jews in part for “the chaotic conditions in the city,” including prostitution and gambling, and the media printed a lot of outrageous, dramatic stories to stir up anti-Semitic public sentiments. Gentiles became jealous of the amount of money Jews were making as factory owners and fearful of the idea of rich Jewish men pursuing gentile women. Burton J. Hendrick famously wrote “The Great Jewish Invasion,” as well as several articles in McClure’s Magazine, about how the Jews were too ambitious and taking over every important aspect of city life.

As they followed the murder trials, Atlantan newspapers framed Frank in the context of the city’s working class frustrations with industrialization. The case took place during a time when labor unrest and tensions were higher than ever before. Workers believed they were not being paid fairly, and the working conditions in the factories that were springing up were terrible. White workers were especially frustrated, as they felt their jobs being threatened by black workers. A few decades before Frank’s trial, there were the aforementioned strikes against the Elsas family’s Fulton Bag and Cotton Company, which took place due to labor disputes and competition for jobs from black women. They were a testament to poor white workers’ frustration with the fact that they felt they were not being paid enough, and that working conditions were terrible. During the Leo Frank case, the National Pencil Factory was portrayed as an immoral place to work, unfit for women, and Frank was framed as an evil, perverse boss who did not care at all for the well-being of his employees. Because Frank was a Jew, Atlantans were already primed to see him as greedy and evil, so newspapers did not have a difficult time portraying him as a stereotypically cruel, greedy boss. Frank came to represent all the problems with industrialization that were disadvantaging so many Atlantans, which is why they felt so vehemently convinced of his guilt and his deserving to die.

Through their coverage of the case, the press especially portrayed Leo Frank as the emblem of what many people thought was the most terrible aspect of industrialization: child labor. At the time, Georgia was one of the worst states when it came to regulating child labor laws, allowing ten-year-olds to work 11-hour workdays in mills and factories. Frank’s trial came at a time when many provocative stories were already being published in newspapers about child labor in factories. Georgians were desperate to get rid of child labor: “‘Thy Kingdom Come’ means the coming of the day when child labor will be done away with, when every little tot shall have its quota of sunlight and happiness.” The fact that Mary Phagan had been only thirteen when she was murdered allowed the newspapers to frame the case as a perfect example of the evil that children could experience in their factory jobs. Frank, as the accused murderer, was portrayed as the stereotypical factory owner who exploited children. The implication that Frank might have raped Mary Phagan before murdering her only increased the public’s sense of Frank representing the way industrialization corrupted children. Indeed, as the trial progressed, its main focus became the suspicion that he had raped Mary Phagan. The testimonies against him introduced this suspicion, with many of Mary’s friends saying that Mary was made uncomfortable by Leo and that he always “wanted to talk to her.” The fact that Frank was considered ugly and unattractive made it easier for the Atlantan public to imagine him as a pervert.

In the end, Frank came to represent all the things wrong with Atlantan society at the time. Jeffrey Paul Melnick put it best when he said that Frank was:

identified as a ‘capitalist,’ doubly a capitalist, since to the lumpen Socialist mind of the American Populist capitalist equals Jew, and the two together add up to demi-devil. And in certain regards, the record seems to bear them out, for Frank did hire child labor, did work it disgracefully long hours of pitifully low wages; and if he did not (as popular fancy imagined) exploit his girls sexually, he failed in on their privacy with utter contempt for their dignity. Like most factory managers of the time, he was — metaphorically at least — screwing little girls like Mary Phagan.


Black-Jewish Relations

The crucial testimony that convicted Frank was delivered by Jim Conley, the janitor for the National Pencil Factory. After suspiciously changing his story multiple times, he gave a testimony in court in which he claimed he had helped Frank move the body after the crime, thereby admitting he was involved in order to blame Frank. He also claimed that he had helped Frank write the murder notes that surrounded Mary Phagan’s body, saying that he could not have written them himself because he did not know how to write. Playing into African American stereotypes, he convinced the detectives that he, as an uneducated, drunk African American, was incapable of the level of complex thinking that would be necessary to murder someone and frame someone else for it. Sixty-nine years later, when Mann came forward and confessed to having seen Lee murder Mary Phagan, it became clear that Conley had been capable of this deceit and had effectively carried it out. Regardless of how aware he was of what he was doing, Conley had played into crucial tensions in Atlantan society at the time in order to shift the blame onto Frank.

The living and working conditions for African Americans in Atlanta at the time were brutal. Jim Crow laws had established restraints on all public spaces, so black people lived lives very segregated from white America. A few decades after they had been granted legal freedom, African Americans were still denied many basic American freedoms in practice. They wanted to move up in society, but whites continued to find ways to shut them out of public places and disenfranchise them. African Americans were deeply frustrated with this state of affairs, and could not communicate with most Southern whites, who felt threatened by the idea of African Americans rising through the social hierarchy and changing the power dynamics. Rather than seeing blacks as disadvantaged, white people viewed them as lazy, urban people and blamed nearly all the problems of the city on the bad character of the city’s black population. The Atlanta race riots took place in Atlanta from September 22nd to 24th, 1916. During these riots, white mobs killed African Americans, damaged their property, and wounded many other people. The riots were the manifestation of pent-up feelings of frustration at the job competition poor whites felt with blacks, as well as other crucial tensions between the races. This racial conflict was the backdrop for the Frank case to unfold against, and it is part of the larger narrative about race in Atlanta at the time.

The Leo Frank case took on an important symbolic meaning in America and got at the heart of a tension between African Americans, represented by Jim Conley, and Jews, represented by Leo Frank. The anti-Semitism that was pervasive in the South had spread from the white gentiles to the African American community, who were distrustful and resentful of Jews’ economic success, which they viewed as keeping them in their lower social status. Because Jews were economically successful, they saw themselves as above African Americans. Leo Frank’s case was not just the first major case in which a black man’s testimony was important in convicting a white man, but also the first major case that pitted Jews and African Americans against each other and gave African Americans the upper hand. This tension was most obvious when officials wanted to arrange a meeting between Frank and Conley to see what would happen when “the negro [would] be quizzed in the presence of the man whom he accuses… his every action and look as he sees Frank’s eyes upon him will be followed closely by detectives and by the solicitor himself, and a crisis in the case may develop from the meeting.” However, the meeting did not happen because Frank decided he did not want to meet face-to-face with Conley. This important decision sent the signal that he thought of himself as racially and socially superior, which infuriated the people of Atlanta. Rather than seeing Frank as one of them because he was white, Atlantan gentiles saw him as an other because he was Jewish, and his insistence on his racial superiority called even more attention to his Jewishness.

Ultimately, the case was crucial in the narrative about the power hierarchy in the industrial South, and so Atlantans were predisposed to suspect evil and deceit from Jews, while expecting African Americans to be stupid and lazy. Jim Conley behaved in certain ways that whites expected him to, and played into the narrative of being a dumb factory worker in order to make sure people would conclude he was incapable of committing a crime and covering it up. Conley gave the appearance of fitting into the social order that Jim Crow laws had established, projecting an image of the kind of black person that Southerners felt used to and therefore did not see as threatening. In contrast, Frank was seen as very threatening, as he represented the stereotyped, rich Jews building businesses, becoming influential, and threatening the social order. The American Israelite captured the truth of the matter, which was hidden underneath these racial tensions, when it printed a piece that read:

The Dorseys, the Browns and the Watsons have succeeded in bringing about the murder of an innocent man because he was a jew, in order to protect themselves against the truth that must have come out at some time of their guilty knowledge, and to render powerless the vicious and criminal negro, the real murderer of Mary Phagan, whom they have been shielding.

The fact that Conley was not convicted in the case or villainized by the Atlanta public is also due to the positions of blacks and Jews in society. An important reason Conley wasn’t focused on too much as a suspect is because he wasn’t an authority figure, and the case was occurring at a time when people were suspicious of authority figures. However, another significant reason is that, while there were many opportunities to kill a black man in Southern society at the time, there were not many socially acceptable reasons to lynch a Jew. As anti-Semitism and antagonism grew in the South, people were eager to convict a Jew since it was so rare. Agreeing with Detective Black’s statement that “a Negro’s blood would not suffice,” Detective Watson famously said, “Hell, we can lynch a nigger anytime in Georgia, but when do we get the chance to hang a Yankee Jew?” In the end, the fact that Jews were perceived as superior to African Americans in Atlantan society worked against Leo Frank. He represented a hated social group within the city that Atlantans did not usually have an opportunity to commit violence against, and so lynching him had a special allure for Atlantans.



The lynching and false conviction of Leo Frank had a profound impact on American society. First and foremost, it was a warning to Jews in Atlanta, who were now divided from the rest of the city by the “chasm” that the intense anti-Semitism surrounding the case had created. Frank’s lynching was a sign to Jews across the country that anti-Semitism was a powerful force in America that was threatening their lives and freedom. After Frank’s death, many Jews came together to start the Anti-Defamation League, which was an organization that worked to fight anti-Semitism and preserve the reputations of Jews.” Unfortunately, the Anti-Defamation League would be necessary in the years to come: Leo Frank’s experience was a precursor to many other horrible manifestations of anti-Semitism that would happen in the twentieth century.

As Jews became a more isolated community within Atlanta and across the country, the white gentiles also came together to preserve their spot in the social hierarchy. Within Atlanta, many of them found Frank’s trial and lynching had confirmed the importance of preserving white gentile dominance in the South: “A short time after the lynching of Leo Frank, 33 members of the group that called itself the Knights of Mary Phagan gathered on a mountaintop near Atlanta and formed the new Ku Klux Klan of Georgia.” For most Atlantans, lynching Frank seemed like “the justice of God,” the right way to preserve their spot in the hierarchy in their society. Both Jews and African Americans would continue to be marginalized, threatened, hurt, and killed in Southern society because of their race. African Americans, in particular, would continue to have to fight against the stereotypes of blacks as lazy, criminal, drunks — the kinds of stereotypes that Conley had played into during his testimony and his attempts to frame Frank.

The Frank case also contributed to the ongoing discussions of the problems having to do with industrialization. It helped expose the ways that factory owners mistreated their workers, as the newspaper articles about Frank focused largely on his cruelty as a boss and his inappropriate comments. It also added to the discussions of child labor, which had already been happening but now had a new, disturbing example to add to the list of reasons that child labor should be abolished or at least regulated. It would take more years, more newspaper articles, and more public outcry for the problems in factories to be addressed, but the industrialization-focused anger that Frank’s case revealed was the beginning of the force that moved those reforms forward.

Ultimately, Leo Frank’s trial and lynching got at the heart of several key themes in Southern society at the time: anti-Semitism, racial hierarchies, and labor dynamics. The case exposed many huge problems facing society, but at the time, rather than helping people better understand these issues and work to resolve them, the Frank case seemed to divide social groups further and increase the tensions between them. Only with some distance could historians look back and understand the case fully in its context, and use it as a window into these different dynamics and problems that have had a lasting impact on American society. Perhaps the most important lesson to be found in Leo Frank’s experience is the importance of reexamining history to understand the trends that have shaped our society into what it is today, and the truths that might still need to be uncovered.



Alphin, Elaine Marie. Unspeakable crime: the prosecution and persecution of leo frank. Carolrhoda , 2014. Print.

“Anti-Semitism in the United States.” Henry Ford Invents a Jewish Conspiracy. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017. <>.

Dinnerstein, Leonard. The Leo Frank case. Athens: U of Georgia Press, 2008. Print.

“FRANK LYNCHING DUE TO SUSPICION AND PREJUDICE.” New York Times (1857-1922): 4. Aug 20 1915. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017

Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills Digital Collection. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017. <>.

“GEORGIA’S DISGRACE COMPLETE.” The American Israelite (1874-2000): 4. Aug 19 1915. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017

“GEORGIA’S SHAME!” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945): 6. Aug 18 1915. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017

“Girl murdered in pencil factory.” A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. <>.

Jacobs, Peter. “The lynching of a Jewish man in Georgia 100 years ago changed America forever.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 29 May 2017.

“Jewish Community of Atlanta.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017. <>.

“Leo M. Frank Lynched– Georgia’s Lasting Disgrace.” The Jewish Exponent (1887-1990): 9. Aug 20 1915. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017

Melnick, Jeffrey Paul. Black-Jewish relations on trial: Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the new South. Jackson: U Press of Mississippi, 2000. Print.

“The Murder of Leo M. Frank.” The Jewish Exponent (1887-1990): 4. Aug 20 1915. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017

“NEGRO CONLEY MAY FACE FRANK TODAY.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945): 5. Jun 13 1913. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017

Oney, Steve. And the dead shall rise: the murder of Mary Phagan and the lynching of Leo Frank. New York: Vintage , 2004. Print.

Rawls, Wendell Jr. “AFTER 69 YEARS OF SILENCE, LYNCHING VICTIM IS CLEARED.” The New York Times. Mar 8 1982. ProQuest. Web. 2 Feb 2017.

“Witness Swears He Saw Frank Forcing Unwelcome Attentions upon the Little Phagan Girl.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945): 2. Aug 20 1913. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017.


Work of Tomorrow

Toll scans replace tollbooth operators, ATM and pay sharing apps replace bank tellers, drones replace pilots and delivery workers, and robots replace factory workers at manufacturing assembly plants. Labor unions decry the imminent threat to the global job market posed by automation, and some economists predict that 47% of American workers have jobs at high risk of likely automation in the next twenty years. The question then becomes who, what line of work, exactly faces risk of the inauspicious effects of automation, as the United States and other developed nations have previously overcome several waves of industrialization and advancement of technology before without devastating impact to human employment. McKinsey & Co., a private management consulting company, estimates that an “automation bomb” in the United States will cost manual laborers nearly $2 trillion in lost annual wages. Analysts predict that the next phase of automation will adversely affect both blue-collar, manual labor and white-collar, information and service workers relatively equally. Yet a contrasting perspective by some analysts suggests that automation may rather spur further job growth, in new and innovative fields.

No simple policy decision or law will eliminate or even curtail automation since automation is rooted in the theory of capitalism which maximizes profit through supply and demand. Employers seek more profit through increases in revenue and reducing expenses, including labor wages. McKinsey and Co. defines the ideal employee as one who is highly productive in his craft (thus eliminating the need for many, less productive workers) and requires less pay. As technology advances, the preference for business owners seems clear: use robot workers and produce a larger profit margin. Although capitalism was founded on the premise of improved social mobility for all individuals, it is paradoxical since automation likely widens wage gaps, as company executives grow wealthier from profit margins while middle class workers lose their jobs or experience reduced wages.

A common misconception of automation is that only blue-collar laborers will be affected. While blue-collar workers are similarly directly impacted by a loss of jobs due to automation, white-collar professionals also face competition from superior technology. One of the most promising technological developments of the 21st century is that of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) has essentially developed and granted cognitive capabilities to machines previously thought only able to perform repetitive and mundane tasks. Now, researchers have programmed “smart” machines and robots to work on complex legal tasks, investigate cases of fraudulence for insurance companies, and identify algorithmic business decisions by assessing the current market, among other high level tasks. Entry-level employees without sophisticated skills look small and meager in comparison to computers. As businesses seek a competitive edge over their rivals, artificial intelligence provides that sophistication.

However, automation cannot fully eliminate all jobs that exist in society and, in many cases, employees and job positions evolve and improve their skill sets to match forecasted changes in the labor market. As robots assume more menial and repetitive tasks in the manual labor market, a new line of workers will arise to supervise and tend to these machines. Much of the changes in the workplace due to automation, will revise job titles and expand the fields of engineering and technologies associated with the automation of manual labor activities. The brunt of the impact that automation brings to the job economy will come in the current generation of workers, as the shift from manual labor to technological tasks occurs. Unfortunately, economists predict that there will be significant layoffs, particularly in manual labor. There are limited opportunities for professionals working today to have the retraining needed to accommodate these colossal shifts in the operations of companies. But the next generation of workers is becoming well prepared for the ever growing field of technicians or engineers. From the STEAM education movement to the rise of computer science classes in primary schools, humans recognize the need to adapt to changing work demands of our time.

Automation has long been an increasingly dangerous threat in global society, affecting not just a single person or nation, but the job economy as we know it. Machines may hinder social mobility for members of all classes unless change occurs immediately and assurances are created to protect the jobs of workers from expanded automation, especially on foreign soil. Despite the possibility of new industries accompanying automation, the lives and financial well-being of the current generation are at risk.


Works Cited

Automation and Anxiety,” 6/25/16, The Economist.

Ignatius, David. “The Brave New World of Robots and Lost Jobs,” 8/11/16, The Washington Post.


Good Night, Bad Night: The Black Night in Macbeth

The night is alive, and similar to a human, it may be allied with. It has a peaceful side and a dark one. In Shakespeare’s tragedies, the night takes on the darker role, but in his comedies, such as The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it takes on the lighter, more peaceful one. When the night is dark, nature becomes more creepy, and the night becomes more evil. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, under the influence of three supernatural sisters, find the need to fulfill their dirty desire for power. They do anything to do this, including murder, starting a war, and allying with the dark side of the night. They use the dark and evil side of the night to help them gain power by inflicting harm and confusion on the rest of the Scottish kingdom. There is contrast between how the night is presented in Shakespeare’s comedies versus his tragedies.

In Shakespeare’s comedies, the night is often illustrated as a peaceful and quiet time. It is when everything and everyone rests. For example, in The Merchant of Venice, Scene 5, Act 1, Lorenzo says, “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! / Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music / creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night / become the touches of sweet harmony” (5.1.52-55). Just reading this quote may calm the reader because the language is soft and soothing. It has anything but a negative connotation. Shakespeare also uses the night in a positive way in Act 1, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lysander says, “Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold / her silver visage in the watery glass, / decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass / (a time that lovers’ flights doth still conceal)… ” (1.1.209-212). To clarify, Lysander is saying, “Tomorrow night, when the moon shines on the water and creates beads of pearly light on the grass (the time when lovers are most concealed and can run away).” Lovers may choose the night out of all times because it is the most peaceful and quiet time, so they won’t get disturbed. The moon shines on the grass and the water in a beautiful, unusual way during the night, and it also is the time when everyone rests. In these quotes, the night takes on the role of good, peaceful, quiet, and beautiful.

Shakespeare, equally skilled at creating unsettling and violent moods, changes his definition of the night in his tragedies. In Macbeth, the night morphs into a dark, evil, strange, and creepy phenomenon. An example of this is in Act 2, Scene 4, where an Old Man is speaking. He is talking about how the night that Duncan was murdered in was terrible and strange. The old man says, “… Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night / hath trifled former knowings” (2.4.3-5). In modern English, this means this night has been so spooky and scary that what we used to think was terrible is hardly so. From this, it may be drawn that the Old Man is referring to the night to represent the murder, as if the night itself was the terrible, scary thing that made it so that the Scottish people had a new understanding of what is truly horrific. In Act 2, Scene 3, Lennox, as well, deciphers that the night is evil. Here, he is exclaiming how odd the night that Duncan was killed in was. Lennox says:

The night has been unruly: where we lay,

our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,

lamentings heard i’ the air; strange screams of death,

and prophesying with accents terrible

of dire combustion and confused events

new hatch’d to the woeful time: the obscure bird

mischievously the livelong night: some say, the earth

was feverous and did shake. (2.3.28-36)

In other words, this night has been been chaotic. The wind blew down into people’s chimneys as they slept. Some people say that they have heard cries of grief in the air, strange screams of death, and voices predicting terrible things in the woeful future. Here, Lennox is describing how the night was unusual. Shakespeare is using it to represent the shock and horror as people find out about Duncan’s death. Lennox knows that the night is becoming more evil before he found out about Duncan’s death. As well as the Old Man, Lennox is describing how the night has been odd. It’s almost like Lennox knew that something happened before he found out about it. These lines demonstrate how the night is showing its evil side over its good side. They may also outline an idea for the reader relating to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth allying with its dark side.

As Macbeth moves on, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth learn to trust the night and seek refuge in its evil side more and more often. This has negative impacts on the people of the Scottish kingdom. This is demonstrated in Act 3, Scene 2, when Macbeth feels that he must kill Banquo if he wants to stay king. He is basing this on the knowledge he gained from the witches. Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth:

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,

till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night,

scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;

and with thy bloody and invisible hand

cancel and tear to pieces that great bond

which keeps me pale. (3.2.47-52)

This may be interpreted as, “it is better that I don’t tell you until after it is done, when you applaud me for what I did. (Stops speaking to Lady Macbeth) Come, night, allow my killers to be stealthy and cover me of this deed. Allow your invisible hands to end Banquo’s life, which brings me fear.” Therefore, Macbeth wants the night to come. He is using it to cover up his killing Banquo and to allow his murderers to be unseen while doing it. Macbeth is starting to use the night as an ally to cause confusion and be destructive. This is different than how he used to use it, in which he would rest himself and allow other people to rest during the peaceful, quiet time. Now Macbeth uses the night as a murder weapon. This affects the rest of the Scottish kingdom in that the people now cannot rest either. An example of this is in Act 2, Scene 3, the famous Porter scene. Porter talks about Macbeth’s castle and how it has transformed in a negative way. The reader knows of Duncan’s death in this scene, but Porter does not. Porter says, “Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of / hell-gate, he should have old turning the key” (2.3.1-2). Essentially, Porter is comparing Macbeth’s castle to hell and his job to the person in control of hell’s gates. After Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use the safety of the night to kill Duncan, the doorman of their castle (Porter) thinks that Macbeth’s castle is no longer what it used to be. When Macbeth and his wife rely on the night’s aid in murder, people sense that the night has become evil. This is also illustrated in the previous Old Man and Lennox quotes. They all believe the night to be chaotic and evil. They each said things relating to the night being horrible, disturbing, and hell-like. In addition, I feel that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become more and more evil as they continue to use the dark side of night in their dirty business. They not only are inflicting harm on others intentionally for their own gain, but they are also harming the rest of the Scottish kingdom. They are affecting everyone else’s daily lives and sleep routines. They are creating fear among the Scottish people, which is one of the classic aspects of evil characters.

In conclusion, the night is often interpreted as a peaceful and quiet time in Shakespeare’s comedies, but in Macbeth, it consistently plays a darker, more evil role. In Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use the night for their gain in power, and it costs them their original empathetic personalities. They become full of hatred and darkness. This may remind a reader of classic devil-inspired action. A character teams up with the devil and then is under the influence of him. In Macbeth, the night represents the devil, and as the book progresses, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth find the need to use the night to pursue dark thoughts into actions. Perhaps when people use the night for things besides peaceful activities, like sleep and renewal, they may become dark and evil like they are under the influence of the devil.


A Mindful Macbeth: How “Hand” is Used in Macbeth to Represent a Relationship Between Mind and Body

We usually think of our hands as fairly physical things — almost distant things; we don’t regularly consider what they are doing or how we control them. Not so much for Macbeth. In William Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth, power-hungry Macbeth murders many for the Scottish throne, which witches tell him he will gain. Because Macbeth is set in the 11th Century, all of these murders are physical — all of them done by hand. Because of Macbeth’s desire for power, though, the fire driving the murders is solely in his head. Throughout the narrative, the word “hand” often symbolizes the connections and separations between Macbeth’s body and Macbeth’s mind.

In Act 1 of Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the word “hand” to symbolize a separation between mind and body, specifically within Macbeth. In Act 1, Scene 4, Macbeth is speaking about murdering King Duncan. He says, “Stars, hide your fires; / Let not light see my black and deep desires: / The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, / Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see” (1.4.57-60). Here, “hand” is being used both literally and metaphorically; it is literally in reference to the murder that Macbeth’s hand will help commit, but it is also using the action of Macbeth’s hand stabbing Duncan to represent the whole idea of Duncan’s murder — both the desire and the act. It is also interesting that there is a distinction here between “hand” and “eye.” Shakespeare is noting the difference between the more physical aspects of a body, in this case Macbeth’s hand, and the more mental ones: what Macbeth’s eye sees. Macbeth is afraid of seeing himself — of realizing that he is about to murder a friend. As readers, we can assume that the separation between mind and body — between eye and hand — that Macbeth is exhibiting originates in this fear of himself. Later in Act 1, Lady Macbeth is speaking to Macbeth, and Macbeth has just said that Duncan is coming that day and leaving the next. She speaks,

O, never

Shall sun that morrow see!

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

May read strange matters. To beguile the time,

Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,

Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,

But be the serpent under’t. (1.5.71-77)

In this quote, Lady Macbeth is describing very literally that Macbeth’s hands (“hands” representing Macbeth’s whole physical body) need to seem innocent. In the previous use of “hand,” Shakespeare distinguishes “hand” from “eye,” but here it is all representing what Duncan is supposed to see. But, similar to the previous example, Shakespeare is noting a separation between mind and body — Macbeth’s body must be welcoming, but his mind must be deadly. In both of these instances, Shakespeare makes a point of noting the separation between the parts of Macbeth’s body Macbeth can control and the parts of Macbeth’s mind Macbeth can control and how they contradict each other.

Other times in Macbeth, Shakespeare uses “hand” to demonstrate a connection between Macbeth’s mind and body. In Act 2, Macbeth says (in a soliloquy), “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. / I have thee not, and yet I see thee still” (2.1.44-46). The repetition of hand is interesting here — handle is not actually a form of hand but sounds repetitive when read aloud. Shakespeare may have chosen to emphasize this to show the connection Macbeth is feeling between his hand and the dagger. Macbeth is wondering if this dagger is here as a sign that he should murder Duncan with his dagger and his hands. This example suggests a leading somewhere: the handle of the dagger is leading Macbeth. It is almost as if Macbeth has no control here — the tone is passive; he has no choice but to be led by his mind’s creations. His body is acting under his mind’s tricks, a separation between action and desire similar to the previous example, but more importantly a connection between his entire mind and body; a connection so strong that Macbeth’s body is functioning under only his mind’s “tricks” — his mind and body are inseparable.

Connection and separation are opposites, and Shakespeare often treats them that way, but he also sometimes uses the two within the same lines or moment in Macbeth. In Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth has just found out from Lennox that Malcolm fled the country. He is panicked and has just seen the Weïrd Sisters’ prophecies, so he is also confused and doesn’t know what to think. He says,

Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:

The flighty purpose never is o’ertook

Unless the deed go with it; from this moment

The very firstlings of my heart shall be

The firstlings of my hand. (4.1.164-168)

Here, Macbeth is himself (as opposed to Shakespeare) drawing the connection between mind and body; he is noticing that often your mind has an idea, but your body doesn’t execute it. Here, he also seems to be noticing or pointing out, though, that his mind is what is driving his body, almost that his mind is in control of his body. In this example, Macbeth is noticing a connection between his mind and body, but also that what his mind wants is separate from what his body does. Shakespeare is illustrating a broader relationship between Macbeth’s mind and body.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare often uses the word “hand” to symbolize the relationship between Macbeth’s mind and body. Sometimes he uses it to show the connections, sometimes to show the separations, and sometimes both. As we see in waddling toddlers or talking babies, right from the start our society establishes a relationship between the mind and the body — some babies develop physically first, some mentally; people often are either “smart” or “athletic.” We categorize people into mind and body — our society treats them as separate. As Shakespeare teaches us, though, our minds and bodies are separate sometimes, in sync other times, and sometimes both. So the next time you hear someone talking about meditation or breathing exercises or the new popular adult coloring books — or the next time you are using any of these yourself — remember to recognize both the separations and connections between your mind and body. Take it from Macbeth.


Energy, Empowerment, & Entrepreneurship: Female Figures in American Literature

“Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” begins Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet in “The Author to Her Book” (1678), adding “Who after birth did’st by my side remain / Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true / Who thee abroad exposed to public view” (Bradstreet 1-4). Here, the Puritan author demonstrates how there are other roles in society women can fulfill, but they do not necessarily take advantage of those roles due to the possible, fearsome consequences. Both the narrator and Bradstreet herself struggled with traditional male images symbolizing poetic creation. Many critics — specifically literary critic Patricia Cadwell — now praise Bradstreet for her efforts for being “the founder of American literature” and her role in exposing the evils of patriarchal tradition (Cadwell 138). In truth, various works of American literature emphasize the female figure’s thirst for equality through the continuation of restrictive, outmoded ideologies pertaining to gender rights. Through the figures’ journeys, readers are inspired to continue forwarding the empowerment of women. In regards to Bradstreet, the early poet exposes the realistic struggles of women through their exposure of the evil, patriarchal tradition and the nonexistent changes 200 years later. Her emphasis on the necessity for support of the fearless, undermined female figure who bravely, as later author Nathaniel Hawthorne states, “strike their roots into unaccustomed earth” (Hawthorne 13), encourages readers to seek new ideologies, following in the footsteps of those before them.

To explain further, in writing The Scarlet Letter (1850), Romanticist Nathaniel Hawthorne brings light to the truth about female oppression while simultaneously using the infamous Puritan adulterer, Hester Prynne, as a model of a woman who dares to push social boundaries. By writing about an extreme event 200 years before his time, Hawthorne emphasizes how little the standards have changed for women in America. To continue, in stating that “Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle” (Hawthorne 6), the novelist underscores that women do have a clear, domestic role. Nevertheless, the Romantic novelist does not believe that such a role is the only one that women can fulfill. He later demonstrates Hester’s inner strength to stand alone against a group of male magistrates: “Never! […] I will not speak!” (50), she declares, refusing to name the father of her illegitimate child. Here, Hawthorne brings light to the perception of women in Puritan society and how Hester’s character is made to signify the change in society or the move from a blind faith in tradition and into a new era of mutual understanding (Baym). Similarly, American playwright Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953) emphasizes the corrupted image of women in Puritanical America through their involvement in the Salem Witch Trials. In writing “‘She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a — ’ ‘Do you look for whippin’?’” (Miller 22), the author demonstrates, through figures Abigail Williams and John Proctor, how women who fought back against the lies of society were continuously shunned and dubbed “wicked” (20). Through their perilous journeys in Puritanical America, both Hester Prynne and Abigail Williams are satirical symbols of the non-developing status of women in American society demonstrated, by Miller and Hawthorne, through their “so-called” preposterous actions that further blind society from seeking a solution.

Furthermore, as demonstrated in Puritan author Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682), these preconceived notions about female figures and womanhood manipulate the vulnerable minds of society. When taken captive by a tribe of Native Americans, the eponymous author continuously doubts her newfound survival strengths, as she demonstrates in writing “I thought my heart and legs, all would have broken, and failed me” (Rowlandson 3). Here, the author brings light to her perspective on her own mentality, that is, essentially, degrading due to the lack of strict, Puritanical standard of women, but, it is her later realization of her self-power that empowers her to break stereotypical tradition. As a result, present day critics — such as Rebecca Blevins Faery — refer to the narrative as a “proto-epic in scope in the founding of national identity (and literature)” (Faery 259), for its removal of Puritanic notions towards the behavior of women. It is through the eponymous author’s fear in disobeying the identity her society has painted onto her, that she discovers an alternative reality for herself: a hungered addiction for the wild, empowering, feminine animal within. Additionally, American author Ralph Waldo Emerson supports the idea of a personal identity in his memoir “Self-Reliance” (1841). In regards to Mary Rowlandson, Puritanical notions are what “scare [her] from self-trust” (Emerson 44); but, it is her “feminine rage” that “the indignation of the people is added” (Emerson 43). Nevertheless, Emerson’s writings introduce readers to the unfortunate reality of past American society; regardless of his efforts, women, similar to Mary Rowlandson, are continuously perceived themselves to be incapable of self-sufficiency. As the eponymous author further engulfs herself into a world of preconceived notions, she strengthens the impenetrable sphere of stereotypes, that surrounds the world and American literature thus far.

Notwithstanding the dubbed “fearsome” ideology surrounding the entrepreneurship of female figures, Romantic poet Emily Dickinson bursts into the sphere of American literature with her arduous, cleverly hidden pinpoints to the reality of independent women in American society. As she writes in her poem “I’m “wife” — I’ve finished that”, “I’m “wife” — I’ve finished that — / That other state — […] / It’s safer so — ” (Dickinson, “I’m wife” 1-4). Here, the poet reveals, through a young girl’s contradictory feelings, the reality of marriage and its prevention of female self-identities, labelling women as the possession of their husbands. Additionally, Dickinson implies, with this innovative ideology, that a woman who is not married is capable of more, without having others interfere such as a husband might. As literary critic Mary Loeffelholz reflects in her journal Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory, the poet’s primary role is in breaking the boundaries of female stereotypes through the figures in her poems: “Over and over in these poems and prose passages, borders and boundaries exist to be breached” (Loeffelholz 111). Likewise, in continuation of this revolutionary trend, Dickinson presents a similar message in her poem “We outgrow love like other things,” in writing “[w]e outgrow love like other things / And put it in the drawer” (Dickinson, “We outgrow” 1-2). Here, Dickinson describes how people can outgrow love like an antique fashion mirroring how, in society, women are taught that their looks are important in the pleasing of men. Women were rarely independent and declined to practice reason; but, Dickinson demonstrates here that these looks will continuously outgrow each other, removing the need for male judgement on the image of women. In short, Emily Dickinson truly was a feminist writer who lived ahead of her time, through her painting of the female figure’s identity and her exposé of societal falsehoods. Truly, Dickinson is a literary incarnation of the fearless Joan of Arc; she raises her sword high in the air and ripping apart the gilded fabrics of American literature.

As coined by American author Mark Twain, the Gilded Age was a revolutionary period in American literature that brought light to the “underbelly” or false perfections of the American society. Similarly, Realist author Kate Chopin highlights in her short story “The Story of an Hour” (1894) the gilded truths within female figures, specifically pertaining to those held in the restrictive chains of marriage. “‘Free, free, free’” begins the story’s protagonist Mrs. Louise Mallard, who has just received word of her husband’s death, “‘free! Body and soul free’” (Chopin 757). Here, the author highlights the protagonist’s hidden emotions within her marriage and how Louise’s initial reaction was due to her chains being removed from an accustomed Earth, not a shattered heart. Additionally, this story brings light to the risk women writers faced in being absolutely objective: it was a risk to being morally ambiguous, and the only acceptable way to depict such immoral scenarios was to — as literary critic Karin Garlepp Burns writes — “undermine the exaggerated objective mode” (Burns, “The Paradox” 30). On the other hand, in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), illustrator Edward Winsor Kemble’s image “Indignation” demonstrates the inner anger of female figures; the title itself is ironic as it is defined as anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment (in this case unfair treatment of women). In a moment of anger where her eyes were “ablazing higher and higher” (Twain 199), Kemble depicts Mary Jane Wilks with an image of rage and disgust on her face (Figure 1) contradicting the stereotypical image of women in American society — at the time — as depicted in Charles Dana Gibson’s plethora of “Gibson Girl” images — specifically “The Hero… Discovered in the Act of Carrying on Two Conversations at a Time” (1903). For example, Kemble displays Mary Jane as an uptight, rigid woman, whereas Gibson paints women wearing very low-cut, loose dresses highlighting how they are merely objects meant to appeal to the likeness of men (Figure 2). Regardless of Kate Chopin and Edward Kemble’s attempts to instill the image of independent, proud women, Mark Twain — who was somewhat tolerant of empowering, female figures claiming his daughter “was all [his] riches” (Burns, “Mark Twain”) and his “gilded” world — discards these ideologies amongst the glamour and ostentatious lifestyle of the Lost Generation. As depicted in the 2000 Penguin Modern Classics cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), women are viewed, merely, as objects of lust and pleasure (Figure 3): the “beautiful little fool[s]” with painted, gold faces (Fitzgerald 17).

Furthermore, as demonstrated in American author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), the resurgence of empowering, female figures is diminished through the temptations and scandals of elitism and the lavish lifestyle of the wealthy. In ironic connection with the writers of this era — coined “The Lost Generation” by author and mentor Gertrude Stein — the robust, astute minds of these women are lost within dreams of satisfaction and fulfillment of “the American Dream” (as coined by James Truslow Adams). In writing “[s]he wanted her life shaped now, immediately [… ] of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality” (Fitzgerald 151), the author emphasizes — through the female protagonist Daisy Buchanan — the image that women are fundamentally incapable of making up their minds without an intelligent man by their side. This overarching claim entraps women in cultural and gendered constructions of being a rich wife and “‘nice’ girl” (149). As aforementioned, upon speaking of her daughter’s future, Daisy remarks “‘I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’” (17). Daisy is not a fool herself, but, this is somewhat sardonic. While Daisy refers to the social values of her era, she does not seem to challenge them. The older generation values subservience and docility in females, and the younger generation values thoughtless giddiness and pleasure-seeking. In writing “[s]he is a victim of a complex network” (Fryer 165), literary critic Sarah Beebe Fryer unveils Daisy’s true intentions, highlighting how readers should continue to support her decisions despite them often being against the empowering morals of female figures. Regardless, Daisy Buchanan is regarded as the counterexample of female empowerment as she is presented with the opportunity to provoke her knowledge; but, in turn, she wallows away in her silence. In conforming to the social standard of American femininity in the 1920s, Daisy is, essentially, held back by the leash of pearls around her neck, preventing her from continuing the parade of fearless female figures as literature has so far presented.

Regardless of her degradation to the societal power of women, F. Scott Fitzgerald introduces the idea of “unattainable girl”: a female figure who is out of reach from the controlling, wanting power of another figure. As written in American playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959), twenty-two year old Beneatha Younger is an incarnation of the “unattainable girl” through her difficulties with her conservative mother and her anti-marriage attitude: “‘I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet — if I ever get married’” (Hansberry 50). Here, the author brings light to Beneatha’s hidden strength shown through her defensive attitude towards her own morals “by forgoing blasphemous outbursts” — as American author Mary Ellen Snodgrass writes in her article “A Raisin in the Sun” (Snodgrass). Not only is Beneatha not interested in getting married and being cared for by a man, but she is also convinced that she alone can choose the direction and outcome of her life. Similarly, Mary Anne, a Vietnam soldier’s girlfriend in Tim O’Brien’s Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction “Song Tra Bong” (1990), echos Hansberry’s emphasis on the gilded strengths of women through her exercising in total agency over her life “with different forms of expressions” (53), and addiction to the wild nature of Vietnam. An unnoticed counterexample to stereotypes of American women’s participation in war, Mary Anne, who enters as a soldier’s girlfriend but leaves as a soldier herself, “ma[kes] you think about those girls back home, how pure and innocent they all are, how they’ll never understand any of this” (O’Brien 108). Here, O’Brien emphasizes in the short story how the women who go to war don’t fulfill their typical gender roles, but rather, take on characteristics generally associated with men because the intense circumstances of war demand those qualities in its soldiers: “she quickly fell into the habits of the bush” (94). As American literature dictates, those who do not follow the status quo of their role as women unravel American society and the accepted standard of gender and identity. Neither Beneatha nor Mary Anne don their skirts in place for camouflage, but, through their energetic attitudes, they paint their faces red preparing for a never ending, fearsome fight towards changing the outlook of female figures.

In terms of The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (1995), American author James McBride demonstrates the empowering, determined work ethic of female figures throughout their fragmented lives and haunted pasts. His mother, Ruth McBride, is perceived by her children as an empowering, spirited matriarch. However, a layer of Ruth’s personality retains the sorrows and regrets of her childhood. As she states, “‘We had no family life. That store was our life’” (McBride 41), the author brings light to Fishel Shilsky’s unloving, patriarchal nature in which he ruled his household. In turn, Ruth successfully runs her family with love, along with a similarly tight rein; she disciplines her children to answer directly to her, demonstrating her assertive, controlling power regardless of her haunted past. Additionally, McBride emphasizes his mother’s unseen strength through the difficulties she faced as a single mother of twelve children who strived to grant her children with the best education possible. Through her hard work ethic, Ruth is able to send her children to some of the finest colleges in the country which is, as Frances Winddance Twine, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, states in praise, “an amazing accomplishment for even the most privileged of white women” (Twine 152). Moreover, the critic agrees with McBride’s revealing of the hidden strength of women in stating “we should not assume that there are no more like [Ruth], in America’s past and in its future” (154). In short, Ruth McBride forges her own strange life, but she triumphs as the matriarch of an outstanding family, creating a self-sufficient world for them. While the book’s title is in reference to the color of God, truly, it is a reference to the myriad of colors within the book that satirically emphasizes how people cannot be defined by their color — whether they are black or white, or pink or blue.

In the case of fearless female figures, American literature has dubbed them, thus far, as “feeble” (Bradstreet 1), “delicate” (Hawthorne 77), “careless” (Fitzgerald 179), and “coy and flirtatious” (Tim O’Brien 95). All of the following statements are degrading and subject to the opinion of men that are far from the supportive, romantic equals women desire to coexist with. On the other hand, women are regarded as “liberated” (Hansberry 63), “sivilize[d]” (Twain 283), “nonchalance” (James McBride 8), and “free” (Chopin). Notwithstanding the development of history or the years in which these pieces were created, the trend of male figures shaping the role of what the female figures represent is continuous. However, in the case of female figures like Beneatha Younger, the element of love and infatuation in another figure comes into play bringing light to the question of what role do male figures truly play in a female figure’s story. Are women disregarded as “fearless” or “empowering” simply because they have found a man to live with for the rest of their days? Is marriage a binding contract to an unequal communion between man and woman? To writers — such as Emily Dickinson — marriage is “safer” than the “pain” of being single in society (Dickinson, “I’m wife” 4, 10), but, to female figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan — regardless of her careless persona — love is “mak[ing] a fool of” yourself while looking into “well-loved eyes” (Fitzgerald 96, 131). Ultimately, as seen in present day American society, it is unclear whether feminism and the role of empowering female figures alludes to revolutionary women who never marry, or to those who find love and continue to remain strong regardless. American literature rewrites this psychomachiac struggle over and over again, never revealing the answer and furthering the inequality between genders; but, nevertheless, encourages readers to shatter societal, preconceived notions, breaking the gilded sphere of stereotypes.

Works Cited:

Baym, Nina. “Revisiting Hawthorne’s Feminism.” Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays, edited by Millicent Bell, Columbus, Ohio State Univ. Press, 2005, pp. 107-24. Google Books,’s+Feminism&ots=2fKELQ6eDa&sig=gPA0ETgGdki-YQQREcABDfsxHTk#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Bradstreet, Anne. “The Author to Her Book” (1678). The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 4th ed., vol. 1. Edited by Paul Lauter. Houghton Mifflin, 2002, p. 390.

Burns, Karin Garlepp. “The Paradox of Objectivity in the Realist Fiction of Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin.” Journal of Narrative Theory, PDF ed., vol. 29, no. 1, Winter 1999, pp. 27-61.

Burns, Ken, producer. “Ken Burns’ Mark Twain: Part 2.” SAFARI Montage. PBS, 2001. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.

Cadwell, Patricia. “Why Our First Poet Was a Woman: Bradstreet and the Birth of an American Poetic Voice.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, vol. 30, 1996, pp. 136-44. Gale Literary Sources, Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour” (1894). Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories, by Chopin, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert, 2nd ed., Library of America, 2008, pp. 756-58.

Dickinson, Emily. “I’m ‘wife’ – I’ve finished that.” The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, by Dickinson, edited by Thomas Herbert Johnson, Little Brown Company, 1960, p. 94.

————————“We outgrow love, like other things.” Wikisource, 1 Mar. 2013,,_like_other_things. Accessed 2 Apr. 2017.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance” (1841). American Literature: Essential Short Works. Convent of the Sacred Heart School (Greenwich, CT), 2010, pp. 39-44.

Faery, Rebecca Blevins. “Mary Rowlandson Maps New Worlds: Reading Rowlandson.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, vol. 66, 2001, pp. 256-67, Accessed 5 Apr. 2017.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925). Scribner, 2004.

Fryer, Sarah Beebe. “Beneath the Mask: The Plight of Daisy Buchanan.” Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, by edited Scott Donaldson, Boston, Hall, 1984, pp. 153-65.

Gibson, Charles Dana. The Hero…Discovered in the Act of Carrying on Two Conversations at a Time. JPEG file, 1903.

Hansberry, Lorraine, and Robert Nemiroff. A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Vintage Books, 1994.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter: And Other Writings. Edited by Leland S. Person. W.W. Norton, 2005.

Kemble, Edward Winsor. “Indignation.” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Sources, Criticism, by Mark Twain and Thomas Cooley, 3rd ed., New York, W.W. Norton, 1999, p. 199.

Loeffelholz, Mary. “Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory.” The Emily Dickinson Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, Fall 1992, pp. 121-22, Accessed 8 Apr. 2017.

McBride, James. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (1995). Riverhead Books, 1996.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts (1952/53). Penguin Books, 2003.

O’Brien, Tim. “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction (1990), Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, pp. 85-110.

Rowlandson, Mary. “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” (1682). Project Gutenberg, Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. “A Raisin in the Sun.” Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature, 2006, Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.

Stubbs, John C. “Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: The Theory of the Romance and the Use of the New England Situation.” PMLA, digital ed., vol. 83, no. 5, Oct. 1968, pp. 1439-47.

Twine, France Winddance. “The White Mother.” Transition, no. 73, 1997, pp. 144-54, Accessed 2 Apr. 2017.

Unknown, illustrator. The Great Gatsby. Penguin Modern Classics, 2000.




Figure 1: Image of Mary Jane Wilks in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn illustrated by Edward Winsor Kemble.

“The Hero…Discovered in the Act of Carrying on Two Conversations at a Time”

Figure 2: Image of a man simultaneously carrying two conversations with two “Gibson” girls in Charles Dana Gibson’s Eighty Drawings: Including “The Weaker Sex: The Story of a Susceptible Bachelor”.

“Cocktails and Conversations”

Figure 3: Cover of the 2000, Penguin Modern Classics edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for which the illustrator is unknown.


Whitewashing: Bringing Color to the Screen

Earlier this year, movie audiences saw Scarlett Johansson, a Caucasian actress, play Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese girl-turned-cyborg, in the film Ghost in the Shell. In the past several years, they have also seen Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, in Aloha; Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale as Ramesses II and Moses, respectively, in Exodus: Gods and Kings; and Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in Pan — all white actors in roles meant for people of color.

This practice of casting white actors as non-white characters, known as whitewashing, has become all too common in Hollywood. Whitewashing, however, is not a new phenomenon; it has endured for centuries. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, minstrel shows, which featured white performers in blackface, inaccurately and derisively portrayed black people. More recently, roles such as The King in The King and I and Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s — considered iconic 20th-century movie characters — were cast with white men in yellowface. While instances of whitewashing today are slightly less egregious, they still result in less representation for minorities, reinforce ugly stereotypes, and detract from an artistic work’s authenticity.

Despite the backlash against whitewashing, directors and filmmakers continually defend questionable casting choices with seemingly pragmatic excuses. They rationalize that blockbuster films need an A-list star as headliner, and unfortunately, the majority of A-listers are white. This concept does make sense, especially as larger movie studios are typically risk-averse and usually greenlight movies on the condition that big names are attached. At the same time, however, many films with whitewashed casts and “big-name actors” — including Ghost in the Shell, Aloha, Prince of Persia, Exodus, and Pan — have bombed at the box office. While these movies do poorly in part due to the protests and boycotting that accompany casting controversies, they are also just not believable, genuine works of art, and despite the popularity of lowbrow fare these days, audiences do respond to works that are good quality. With the growing popularity of sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, audiences are too sophisticated now to blindly follow any “big-name” actor in an ill-suited role and suspend their disbelief. Network TV shows like Black-ish and Fresh off the Boat have caught on and struck a chord with people, expanding the demographic of viewers, all the while addressing important issues of race and subverting stereotypes.

Another excuse that filmmakers use — the one I see as the most desperate — is the “best person for the job” pretense. Naturally, the people behind a project want it to reach its full potential. However, the proposition that only one person can be right for a role in a field as subjective as art is dubious. In actuality, people have their own biases and are drawn to certain kinds of personalities, usually those most similar to theirs. Because the ones in power are predominately white, their visions of the pivotal characters tend to mirror their own experiences. These feelings are natural, and in some cases, the creatives in charge have to just go with their gut because objective measures are unsatisfactory or impossible to obtain. That being said, in my experience as a Broadway performer, I saw a number of actors perform the same role, both from behind-the-scenes as well as from the audience’s perspective. Different performers elicited different responses from the crowd — laughs and applause in varying places, possibly more on one line and less after another. The theatergoers who had seen all of the actors performing the same part tended to be divided over whom they felt was best. Critiquing art is not a quantitative matter. Saying one’s own artistic interpretation is fact is simply wrong, and the notion that artists should be pitted against one another in competitive fashion is antithetical to the whole meaning of art.

The primary roadblock to greater representation for minorities is the idea in media that white is the default race. Too often, everyman is equated with the white male — meaning non-white romantic leads and action stars are few and far between. These portrayals only serve to perpetuate stereotypes and worsen biases; earlier this year, Steve Harvey made a joke entirely centered on the concept that Asian males could never be seen as attractive. Film and TV have reinforced certain racist attitudes — all black people are considered “thugs,” all people of Arab descent are seen as “terrorists,” all Asians are “nerdy IT guys.” Races have been identified with particular stock parts.

The best way to combat these types of ideas is to depict people of color as three-dimensional characters and cast them as a wide variety of roles. Placing people of color and their stories in the foreground — as the true focus of the narrative — opens up all kinds of possibilities. The film The Big Sick, for instance, stars a Pakistani man and a Caucasian woman as the central couple. At a larger studio, Kumail Nanjiani, the movie’s writer and lead actor, would likely never have been given the go ahead; executives would have contended that he was not “believable” as a romantic lead, despite the fact that the script was based on his real-life marriage. Fortunately, Nanjiani was able to star in his own movie, breaking an enduring stereotype in the process. This casting, and others like it, will hopefully lead mainstream viewpoints in a more progressive direction.

I have personally had to deal with derogatory preconceptions in my own life. As a male ballet dancer, I have been the recipient of a good deal of demeaning remarks. Thankfully, these comments have never slipped into violence or anything severe; most of the time, they simply come from a place of ignorance and a lack of exposure to the art form. Recently, I performed at a children’s hospital in New York for elementary school-age children. I expected to receive some mildly offensive reactions, but to my surprise, the kids appeared to admire my dancing — the athleticism of my jumps and pirouettes. I now realize that they had yet not been corrupted by society’s judgment of the male ballet dancer. Children are very impressionable and are especially influenced by the media they consume. As media forms become increasingly prevalent in our culture, sending the right message to future generations is critical. When movies and television shows reflect the diversity of the real world, they send the message that anything is possible. Kids of color should not feel as though they are constrained by their race.

While newer generations are more aware of ingrained and insidious racist stereotypes, progress toward inclusivity remains very gradual. In late August, the actor Ed Skrein stepped down from the movie Hellboy after learning that his character in the source material was Japanese-American. In doing so, he risked a great deal; he gave up a sizable role in a potential blockbuster and may have fractured valuable relationships with Lionsgate, a leading entertainment company, and Hellboy’s producers. However, if he had stayed on the project, he would have faced criticism — similar to that leveled at Johansson, Stone, Gyllenhaal, Bale, Edgerton, and Mara — for co-opting a role created as Japanese. What Skrein did was honorable, and very few actors would have been willing to withdraw from such a hyped project. Although his decision was a step forward, it did not bring about any systemic change. In a business as difficult and fickle as film, putting the onus on the actors to turn down valuable roles is unfair. The responsibility should fall on those in charge.

The solution to greater representation for minorities in Hollywood requires a multipronged approach. Network television and especially film have the most barriers to entry — countless executives have to approve every creative decision throughout the entire process. Hollywood is very much a hierarchy, and the key decision makers — the ones who say what is produced and what is not — are almost all white males. More diversity is needed at the top of the pyramid. One example is film producer Charles King, who within the last few years launched a new media company called Macro. The works that Macro helps develop and fund are stories told from the unique perspective of people of color. Although the backing of higher-ups is absolutely crucial, it is also important that people of color themselves have more opportunities to produce their own content. Critics and audiences alike can discern when a piece is authentic or not. The “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None, Indian actor Aziz Ansari’s comedian-auteur show, follows the journey of Denise (played by Lena Waithe), a black lesbian, as she grows up, becomes aware of her sexuality, and comes out to her family. Because Waithe (along with Ansari) wrote the episode and drew from her real-life experiences, the story received universal critical acclaim, even garnering an Emmy for best comedy series writing — making Waithe the first black woman to win in that category. Shonda Rhimes, a prolific television producer and showrunner, has her own highly-rated night of programming on a major network which includes two shows with black female leads. This kind of content has demonstrated the popularity of more diverse characters and viewpoints.

In other forms of media and the arts, however, people of color are a commanding force. In the music industry, black artists in particular dominate the charts and win a plethora of awards. This year’s Grammy nomination leaders are Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino, Khalid, No I.D., and SZA — all people of color. What accounts for this disparity between music and film is that black musicians and singers were given a voice much earlier. When Berry Gordy Jr. founded Motown in 1959, he gave black artists an opportunity to have their music produced and distributed. Motown paved the way for other record labels that would support black artists. Once these artists reached a certain level of fame, not only did their success snowball, but they also were able to have greater control of the music they made.

Additionally, in general, music has fewer barriers to entry than film or TV. A singer-songwriter can upload original music online with no more than an internet connection and a camera. On the other hand, a self-produced movie will likely be noticeably amateur. On other platforms that are easily accessible — YouTube being the prime example — people of color are well represented. YouTubers Ryan Higa, GloZell, KSI, Germán Garmendia, Evan Fong, and Mariand Castrejon Castañeda all have millions of subscribers and views. Their channels run the gamut from comedy to music to gaming to beauty. All of these personalities expanded their subscriber base organically by putting up content that was authentic to them. They did not have to deal with rooms of executives and focus groups to determine their appeal.

What media bigwigs need to realize is that whitewashing is not a sustainable business model. Our culture, especially the younger generations, is becoming more enlightened and has higher expectations for media reflecting society at large. Not only do people expect more, but they are also willing to publicly call out whitewashing; social media has mobilized an activist army. Bringing in a diversity of voices and perspectives has resulted in both critical and commercial success. But without the production of innovative content and the support of decision makers, effecting a change will be difficult.



Baker, Calvin. “A Former Superagent Bets Big on a More Diverse Hollywood.” The New York Times, 4 Oct. 2017, hollywood.html. Accessed 5 Oct. 2017.

Bernardi, Daniel and Michael Green. Race in American Film: Voices and Visions that Shaped a Nation. ABC-CLIO, 2017.

Couch, Aaron and Borys Kit. “Ed Skrein Exits ‘Hellboy’ Reboot After Whitewashing Outcry.” The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Aug. 2017, exits-hellboy-reboot-whitewashing-outcry-1033431. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.

Cruz, Gilbert. “Motown.” TIME, 12 Jan. 2009, 0,8599,1870975,00.html. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

Gross, Terry. “How A Medically Induced Coma Led To Love, Marriage And ‘The Big Sick.’” NPR, 12 Jul. 2017, to-love-marriage-and-the-big-sick. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

Hibberd, James. “Shonda Rhimes dramas deliver ratings record.” Entertainment Weekly, 21 Nov. 2014, Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

Littleton, Cynthia. “Lena Waithe Makes Emmy History as First Black Woman to Win for Comedy Writing.” Variety, 17 Sept. 2017, emmy-black-woman-comedy-writing-1202562040/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.

Lynch, Joe. “Grammys 2018: See the Complete List of Nominees.” Billboard, 28 Nov. 2017, Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

McAlone, Nathan. “Most popular YouTube stars in 2017.” Business Insider, 7 Mar. 2017, Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.

NPR Staff. “Diversity Sells — But Hollywood Remains Overwhelmingly White, Male.” NPR, 28 Feb. 2015, hollywood-remains-overwhelmingly-white-male. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.

Sun, Rebecca. “The Disturbing History Behind Steve Harvey’s “Asian Men” Jokes.” The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Jan. 2017, behind-steve-harveys-asian-men-jokes-963735. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.

Toll, Robert C. Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford University Press, 1974.

Yang, Jeff. “Whitewashing Hollywood Movies Isn’t Just Offensive—It’s Also Bad Business.” Quartz, 18 Apr. 2017, other-hollywood-movies-isnt-just-offensive-its-also-bad-business/. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.


Why The United States Constitution Established a Just Government

As the 1790s neared in the newly formed United States, it became evident that the Articles of Confederation — the very document that established an independent nation — had to be rewritten. From new ideas emerging from the Enlightenment reverberating throughout Europe, to perceived inequitable treatment leading to chaotic outbursts of unchecked outrage and fury such as Shay’s and Whiskey Rebellions, the young nation was ready for change. Thus, the document that would dictate the lives of future generations for the next two hundred and fifty years was crafted: the United States Constitution. The document embarked on and succeeded in the seemingly insurmountable task of cultivating a potent government whose potency is not so strong as to reminisce about the monarch the colonies just escaped. It took a weak confederacy of states plagued with instability and chaos to construct a centralized government while simultaneously incorporating a system of checks and balances. It established a Bill of Rights to relinquish any fears of mimicking the very government that quashed independence and limited freedom. While the document had some downfalls that juxtaposed the very ideals and fundamentals that the “supreme law of the land” was founded upon, such as failing to protect citizens in times of war, upholding the act of slavery for another eighty-five some odd years, and limiting the rights of women, it left room to amend these shortcomings and evolve to what society and human nature would eventually become with advancements in philosophies and technologies. The United State’s Constitution is inherently just because of its ability to acknowledge its faults and grievances and change accordingly; this adaptability comes from the Elastic Clause, an organized legislative representation selected by the people of the United States, and the presence of the Bill of Rights.

The true justice of the United States’ Constitution came from its ability to adapt itself toward changing philosophies. Article V of the original document states that the document could be “amended” if “two thirds of both houses deem[ed] it necessary.” Thus, the ability of the government to adapt not only technologically, but also ideologically, with passing time was granted. While changing ideologies are often theorized as having to happen gradually over a long span of time, there have been instances where the Constitution was able to make necessary changes more rapidly. This capacity of the government to adapt to changing values both rapidly and gradually is a pertinent characteristic of its justice. For example, the Eighteenth Amendment was swiftly passed in 1920 as a result of the prohibition movement, immediately prohibiting the consumption of alcohol. While in theory, restricting alcohol consumption would encourage men to spend more time with their families and lower crime rate, it ended up having the opposite effect, bringing alcohol underground and leading officers to take bribes. Because the detriments of Prohibition proved to outweigh the benefits, leaders were able to use the Elastic Clause in the Constitution to pass the Twenty-first Amendment, repealing Prohibition and allowing the law to revert back to a more suitable philosophy. Gradual changes in ideals have also been able to be met using the Elastic Clause of the Constitution. The slowly evolving issues of slavery and women’s rights were important considerations neglected in the original documents of the United States Constitution. However, the amendment process has proven its capability to modify: the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments served as examples of this fact, abolishing slavery and granting more rights to African Americans. Later, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. While these changes certainly did not make up for the hardship inflicted, and it would be another hundred years until segregation would end, the justness of the Constitution provided the structure to enable the changes to take place when society was ready.

While the Elastic Clause of the United States Constitution played a critical role in determining whether or not the government was in fact able to remain just, other factors such as the implementation of the legislative branch of government also perpetuated its justness. The ability of citizens to elect representatives in this particular branch of government contributes immensely to the justness of the United States government as a whole. Although Alexander Hamilton argued that the legislation was not just, insisting “a large [sum] of people is not necessary for thorough representation”, no matter how large the group of representatives was, it was the inequity among different groups of people at the time that inhibited true democracy. Even if the Anti-Federalists claimed everyone should have thorough representation, any individual who was not white or male during this time period had no voice and nobody advocated for the possibility of them getting one.  Even if this was the cultural reality at the time, the Constitution had everything it needed to correct these grievances, and eventually would do so when society was ready.

The legislative branch was not the only point of contention between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. One of the most crucial aspects to ensure a just government that perhaps even settled the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate was the adoption of the Bill of Rights. The Anti-Federalists refused to sign the Constitution without said rights. This was due in part to the fact that the Bill of Rights guaranteed essential liberties what would be known as the first ten amendments of the document that was aimed to prevent the cultivation of a monarchy. These rights directly juxtaposed the experiences prevalent in the British monarch, citing the rights against “quartering” soldiers and the right to “search and seizure” which necessitates a warrant before searching private property without probable cause. The Bill of Rights would become essential in ensuring limited power to the executive branch of government, and because of this structure, it would remain just.

While there are several flaws that could be ascertained through close examination of the United States Constitution, it is imperative that one takes into account the time period and circumstances under which it was written. Critics of the United States Constitution point to specific times in the country’s history where the government failed to uphold constitutional rights, especially in times of conflict or war. While the Bill of Rights guaranteed American citizens the “freedom of speech, religion, and press,” historians who question the justice of the United States Constitution note that these rights have been specifically challenged throughout the nation’s history.  In 1798, John Adams passed The Sedition Act, limiting freedom of speech and press, as the United States prepared for the Quasi War with France. In recent years, suppression and discrimination have violated freedom of religion, brought on by fears of national security. However, while this prejudicial repression should not have been condoned, it has proved to be the only possible way to avert higher casualties and more violence. For example, had President Abraham Lincoln been more sensitive toward constitutional liberties and not suspended habeas corpus, the Civil War could have ended with more fatalities, as well as the demise of the Union. This would have come with issues such as slavery taking even longer to dissolve, for different values would have been imposed separately rather than being blended. The notion of slavery not being abolished is inarguably far worse than a short suspension of civil liberties.

Despite its shortcomings, the United States Constitution succeeded in taking an unstable, loose confederation of states and creating a centralized government, not so strong as to limit liberty, while simultaneously balancing state and federal control. Although at the time of its ratification, major contradictions to justice were prominent — and civil liberties were not always upheld during times of conflict — the Constitution’s ability to change itself, even today, enables the United States’ government to remain just. Only time will tell whether or not American leaders and their people will continue to use the elasticity of the Constitution to ultimately serve and protect all people.


Frankenstein, Not Gloria Steinem

Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist, and William Godwin, a progressive and an anarchist who raised her with values which advocated social justice and reform. One might thus expect Shelley’s writing to be alive with strong female personalities and feminist ideas. In Frankenstein, however, both the presence of women and their depth of character are limited. Throughout the novel, women play a decidedly secondary role, even to the extent that its very premise is about bypassing the most important biological function of the female.

All of the main characters in Frankenstein are male, and all female characters occupy surprisingly passive roles; even Elizabeth Lavenza, one of the people dearest to Victor Frankenstein, is not spared this treatment. Fostered by a poor, Italian family as a toddler, Elizabeth is adopted and introduced as a “pretty present” for Frankenstein, who “interpret[s] [these] words literally and look[s] upon Elizabeth as [his] — [his] to protect, love, and cherish… till death she [is] to be [his] only” (37). It seems that Elizabeth comes close to accepting this relationship herself, growing up to care more about Frankenstein’s well-being and happiness than her own; she writes to him, “But it is your happiness I desire as well as my own when I declare to you that our marriage would render me eternally miserable unless it were the dictate of your own free choice… if you obey me in this one request, remain satisfied that nothing on earth will have the power to interrupt my tranquillity” (192). She is willing to sacrifice marrying the person she loves if it will make him in any way unhappy. Although selfless, Elizabeth’s prioritization of Frankenstein over herself is extreme, as is Frankenstein’s own self-absorption. Upon returning from England, haunted by the death of Clerval and the monster’s threat, he finds that Elizabeth is “thinner, and [has] lost much of that heavenly vivacity that had before charmed” (194). However, he expresses no concern, maintaining that her “compassion [makes] her a more fit companion for one blasted and miserable as [he is]” (194). This lack of consideration for his soon-to-be-wife, and indeed his satisfaction that she has also suffered, is telling of their relationship, one between a dominant man and a submissive woman. Before their marriage, Frankenstein decides that he will finally tell Elizabeth about the monster, but only once they are husband and wife:

I have one secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one; when revealed to you, it will chill your frame with horror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will only wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of misery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place, for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us. But until then, I conjure you, do not mention or allude to it. This I most earnestly entreat, and I know you will comply. (193-194)

Not only does he demand that she marry him without knowing this monstrous secret, one which may alter her impression of him, but he even orders her not to mention the subject until their union is finalized, with no doubt that she will obey him. That he assumes her blind devotion and that she fulfills this assumption are indicative of her passive role. Frankenstein also tells her exactly how she will react once she learns the truth, namely with compassion for him rather than reflection upon her own danger. (Based on her prior behavior, this reaction seems plausible.) Furthermore, when the creature tells Frankenstein that he “shall be with [him] on [his] wedding-night” (173), Elizabeth is so subordinate in Frankenstein’s mind that he does not consider the possibility of Elizabeth’s being the target of the threat. After they marry, deluded on account of this egotism, he orders her to return to her room, never thinking that she might be important enough to be the object of the threat. She obeys without question, even though this is her wedding night, a time that husband and wife typically spend together. Even as Frankenstein’s wife, Elizabeth fails to stand up to him or for herself, and she thus does not evolve over the course of the novel.

Like Elizabeth, Justine Moritz is a poor little girl, “saved” by the Frankensteins. Mistreated by her mother, Justine is brought into the household by Caroline Frankenstein, where she finds a better quality of life than the average servant, as Elizabeth proudly states. In this way, her fate has been determined by others, similarly to Elizabeth’s. This is also reminiscent of Caroline’s introduction to the Frankensteins; after her father’s death, Alphonse Frankenstein “[comes] like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who commit[s] herself to his care” (34). This manifestation of passivity equates to a lack of control in one’s own life. Later, when Justine is accused of murdering William, she once again leaves it up to others to decide her fate: “I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room for hope. I beg permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning my character, and if their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed guilt, I must be condemned” (85). She places her life in the hands of the friends who testify on her behalf and the judges who will vote, offering only a weak defense of her innocence. Once she is found guilty, the pastor “threaten[s] and menace[s] [her], until [she] almost [begins] to think that [she is] the monster that he [says she is]” (88). She is swayed by the pastor to do the unthinkable, to confess to a sin of which she is not guilty. On account of her passivity, Justine is influenced to commit the shameful sin of lying.

Beyond the individual characters, Frankenstein is at its core a story about neglecting women and not allowing them to fulfill their role in creating life. By producing the creature without the use of the female body, Frankenstein defies the natural order of the world and consequently becomes “insensible to the charms of nature… Winter, spring, and summer [pass] away during [his] labours; but [he does] not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves… so deeply [is he] engrossed in [his] occupation” (56-57). He disregards women, thus disregarding the natural way of creating life, and essentially disregarding nature, an act as sinful as it gets for Romantics. If not already clear, this is made abundantly so when the creature is first born: “His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but [Frankenstein] did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain [him], but [he] escaped and rushed downstairs” (59). This behavior — smiling and reaching out (non-maliciously) — mirrors the way a baby acts towards his or her mother, the first person to receive and care for him or her. Frankenstein is unable to fill this role himself, and his mistake is fatal. The creature begins life without a family and must navigate adolescence on his own. He describes his first days of life to Frankenstein: “A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time; and it was indeed a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses” (105). Again, this behavior illustrates the early days of a newborn’s life. The creature continues to grow from this state of infancy but at a rapidly accelerated pace. He soon learns about sleep, hunger, and thirst, as well as the danger of fire, after he places his hand inside the flame for warmth. He must learn all of this through trial and error, while human babies have parents, specifically mothers, to help them through the process. He even learns about love not from a mother but from the De Laceys, by observing Agatha’s father smiling at her “with such kindness and affection that [he] [feels] sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature… a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as [he] [has] never before experienced” (111). These are feelings that one typically first experiences with a mother, but the creature is never exposed to them prior to this moment. With no family of his own, the creature calls the De Laceys his “protectors” and considers them to be “superior beings, who would be the arbiters of [his] future destiny” (117), much in the same way that children idolize their parents and expect them to shape their future. His desperate search for a family proves how beneficial it is for life to begin in the presence of parents. The creature hears “how all the life and cares of the mother [are] wrapped up in the precious charge” and realizes that “no mother [has] blessed [him] with smiles and caresses,” leaving him to wonder “what [is he]?” (123-124). Without a mother or other relation, he has no idea who, or what, he is; mothers are thus integral to one’s identity. In time, the creature discovers Frankenstein’s identity and cries to him, “you were my father, my creator; and to whom could I apply with more fitness than to him who had given me life?” (141). He feels utterly rejected and alone, and blames his creator. But this is only the explicit abandonment; the more significant abandonment is the creature’s lack of a mother, or Frankenstein’s decision to give the monster life but withhold a mother from him. It is ultimately this sense of abandonment and the consequent rage that lead the monster to evil and cause him to seek revenge on humanity through murder. Frankenstein is thus a novel about the dangers of men bypassing women.

Even the creature is a male character and is thus susceptible to this chauvinism. In demanding that Frankenstein create a female monster like him, he proves himself willing to subject another to his fate. He says, “I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself… we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless, and free from the misery I now feel… neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again” (148). He has predetermined her fate: they will move to South America, live off of nuts and fruit, sleep on dried leaves, and both will be content but never happy. Much like Frankenstein with regard to Elizabeth, the creature does not stop to think that a female monster might not agree to live out his fantasy, let alone tolerate being around him. Frankenstein, however, does consider this possibility, and worries that she may be “ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness” (170). What finally drives him to refuse the creature’s request is the fear that they would want children and that “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror” (170-171). Frankenstein destroys the female creature with his own hands, “trembling with passion” (171). This image of him ripping a woman apart speaks volumes. He is terrified to create a female monster capable of birthing children, and it is thus the reproductive power of women that scares him and that serves as the basis of the novel.

At first glance, the lack of women, specifically strong, complex women, in Frankenstein is obvious. However, upon further examination of the book’s plot and message, it is revealed that the main storyline of the novel can be distilled into men bypassing women and attempting to take the female reproductive responsibility into their own hands. The ultimate results of this betrayal of nature — the deaths of William, Justine, Alphonse, Clerval, Elizabeth, Frankenstein, and the monster — are catastrophic. Perhaps it is in this subtle way that Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin’s influences are present in Shelley’s masterpiece.


Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Penguin Classics, 2005.



John came from a long line of fishermen. His family made its living off of selling fish. Until, one fateful day, John’s father was killed by a crab he had fished. John’s father was fishing and got a bite on his hook. He began to pull. It wasn’t easy to catch. He was then pulled into the water by the two ounce crab. John was distraught that his dad had been killed.

To this day, John had tried to hunt all crabs into extinction. John had been able to track the majority of the crab population to a small, unnamed, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean, using advanced, tracking tactics like tracking their cell phones.

John arrived on the shores of the island, after taking a boat from the airport. He then dragged the boat onto the island.

John wanted to build a house that was so big that it covered the entire island of InsertIslandNameHere. He wanted this because if he built a house like that, he would have power over all the crabs near the island, and he would have a house big enough for the one thousand crab-eating goblins that he had adopted. However, InsertIslandNameHere was so small that if someone built a house around the entire island, the island would be squished by the house, and then the house would sink. Sadly, John did not think about that, so the house sank to the bottom of the ocean. When John finished putting his house on the entire island, he decided to have a snack. He then remembered that he left his snacks in his bag and that he left his bag at the airport, so he had to swim all the way back to New York. When John got back ten years later, he saw that the house had been taken over by crabs.

John wanted his house back. John had to find a way to get his house back from the crabs that had taken it over. John first tried to get rid of the crabs by using some crab repellent. He dropped the crab repellent on the house, but none of the crabs left the house. When John went down to get the repellent can, he realized that the crab repellent actually was a spray that manipulated your brain waves and made you feel crabby. This made the problem worse because the crabs were now very crabby.

The next thing John tried was to tell his crab-eating goblins to eat all the crabs underwater. When he did this, the goblins went underwater and began chasing around the crabs. The crabs ran and ran and ran until they were far away from the island, but then the crabs WRAN instead of ran, which stands for Wireless regional area network, which is another phrase for Wi-Fi. When the crabs WRAN, they turned into Wi-Fi, so the Wi-Fi was all used up on the crabs. This meant that the Wi-Fi for the goblins stopped working. Because the goblins were robots, when they weren’t connected to the Wi-Fi, they stayed still and did nothing. Then all the crabs teleported back to the router in the house, which was where the Wi-Fi was coming from.

After John saw the crabs in the house again, John was thinking about giving up. Nothing he tried would work. Even his favorite crab-eating goblins couldn’t do anything. Just when John was about to spend ten more years swimming back to New York, John saw a message in a bottle. He became excited and wanted to know what was inside. When he opened it, he saw an ad for a Red Lobster restaurant. After wondering why there was an ad in a random, glass bottle, he realized that the founder of Red Lobster made a fortune off of killing and selling lobsters. He figured that if Red Lobster could do it, he could. John decided to continue his hunt to kill all the crabs.

With his renewed sense of determination, John tried to lift the island back up to the surface of the water, so all the crabs would jump back down into the water. To do this, John invited his friend named Kneel Footweak, who used to be an astronaut that landed on the sun. Landing on the sun gave Kneel Footweak superpowers. Kneel Footweak’s superpower was fire hands, so his hands were always on fire, and he could never put out the fire. This meant that when Kneel Footweak went underwater to lift up the island, the fire on his hands began evaporating all the water in the ocean. John realized that if Kneel Footweak evaporated the entire ocean, then the house would be on the ground, and all the crabs would die. So after ten billion years, the ocean was completely drained, and John finally got his house back from the crabs. Then John used the house as a tourist destination and made a restaurant, called “Orange Crab,” and lived happily ever after with his one million dead crabs.


Dinah’s Voice Must Always Be Heard; A Speech Examining Vayishlach (Genesis 34) Through A Feminist Lens

Hi! Thank you all for coming today, it means a lot to me and my family. So, a bunch of things happen in this portion, but today, I will be focusing mainly on Dinah’s story, which by the way, is a total misnomer because she has no voice in this story. So, a quick recap for all of you who have zoned out for the last thirty minutes, Dinah’s story goes like this. Once upon a time, Dinah, the only named daughter of Ya’akov and Leah, went walking in search of other girls in the land of Chamor. Shechem, Chamor’s son, “vayikach Dina” — or “takes” her. What happens after she has been taken, is debated. Some say it is rape, but others say it is a “humbling” of Dinah. Shechem then begs his father to make it so Dinah will be his wife. Chamor approaches Ya’akov with a proposition: if you let us take your daughter as a wife to Shechem, we will give you anything you want. They also propose that their families or “tribes” should intermarry. To do this, Chamor will give Ya’akov all the Chamorite daughters in return for all of Israelite women. Sounds fair, right? Ya’akov willingly passes off the decision making to his sons Shimon and Levi. The now very angry sons agree to Chamor’s request under one term, all the men in Chamor’s tribe must get circumcised. Chamor agrees to this unusual request. Now, the Torah is careful to note that the brothers make their deal with guile. This comes up again when the brothers decide to avenge Dinah, or rather to avenge their family’s name. They launch a surprise attack on Chamor’s tribe, killing all the Chamorite men while they are in pain from being circumcised in adulthood. Shimon and Levi also steal all their belongings and women. Ya’akov gets terrified that the brothers’ actions will cause other people to retaliate against him and his family, and therefore decides to move far away. The story ends with Dinah’s brothers answering “Should they have treated our sister like a prostitute?” I guess they have no regrets.

Okay! One thing that stood out to me was the verb vayikach or “and he took.” This is the same verb that is used when someone takes an object or a man arranges for a woman to become his wife. In biblical society, to take a woman as one would take an object is just normal. That being said, to take a woman without her father’s consent, as in Dinah’s case, would be a culturally unacceptable occurrence. Shechem didn’t initially ask Ya’akov’s permission to “take” Dinah. So Shimon and Levi felt the need to go after Chamor’s family not out of love for their sister, but rather because Shechem committed a property crime against Ya’akov and his family. During the negotiation with Chamor, Dinah has absolutely no say in what happens to her. Instead, her brothers decide to avenge the infringement of their ownership of their sister by stealing some more women from Chamor and killing all of the men in Chamor’s tribe. This stealing does not necessarily imply rape, but it does imply that women can be traded and given and treated as objects rather than thinking people. All of this is reported with limited criticism of Shimon and Levi’s actions. That’s a problem. While most of us would agree that some kind of consequence is needed for Shechem’s actions, Dinah’s brothers’ actions are not morally superior and demonstrate no greater respect for women and their sister. Before I talk about how this reflects on our society today, I would like to make it clear that I’m am not saying that direct sexual violence and the broader objectification of women are of the same magnitude. They’re not. But, a society that normalizes the objectification of woman is one that is less likely to condemn sexual violence or not even recognize it as such.

This set of hypocritical attitudes about the justification of misogynistic behaviors is prevalent in today’s world. Just as the taking of Dinah and the stealing of the Schehemite women are both instances of the objectification of women, we see that many men think it’s fine for them to exploit women in small or large ways, but when their peers do the same, it’s not acceptable. Over a year ago, footage was released of Donald Trump talking to Billy Bush about being able to sexually aggress against women without consequence because he’s a wealthy media star. This gave many people another reason to despise Mr. Trump. While some of his fellow politicians condemned the disgraceful way Trump acts and talks, they did not frame it as societal backwardness; instead, they proudly stated, I would be offended if these comments, behaviors, or attitudes were aimed at MY daughter, MY wife, MY mother, MY women. These statements, while appearing to be honorable and a step in the right direction, still perpetuate the idea that women can only be considered in relation to men and objects of men and are important because of their connection to a man.

Vay’aneha — the verb after the first use of vayikach has several meanings, and that is where the debate over what happened to Dinah spurs from. A common translation of this word is that Dinah was violated. But what does violate mean? One understanding is that Dinah was sexually violated, or raped. The second more conservative approach is that Dinah was violated because Shechem did not ask the permission of Ya’akov before taking Dinah. Both interpretations reflect poorly on how their society treats women. The fact is that we have no clue what happened because Dinah has no voice in the story! She has no voice in being taken, in the negotiation with Chamor, or in the decision made by her brothers to attack Shechem. She is merely the object that is under dispute. No matter how you approach the story, one part or another is unsettling or disturbing. If you think Dinah got raped, that’s disturbing, if you think the brothers’ actions were uncalled for, that’s disturbing, if you think that there are lots of patriarchal attitudes engraved in, the fact that this is a religion and community that many people rely on for answers and we look up to these patriarchal ideas, is disturbing. And the feeling that I am left with is something is really, really wrong and that needs to change!

For millennia, the voices of women and others who have been sexually assaulted have been suppressed. As I’m saying these words, many women are speaking up about their experiences with sexual violence and the effects a patriarchal society has had on them. But right now, we’re standing in midst of a cultural and socio-sexual hurricane. It’s taken thousands of years for Dinah’s voice to finally be heard. From this discussion, I don’t want you to only take away the fact that our culture is woven in with stale and ancient thoughts relating to women. As a society, we are working on changing. Even though certain laws and leaders seem to be trying to roll things back, the amount of attention and conversations that come out of today’s movements are the preliminary step to a change in societal thinking. It’s our responsibility to learn from the wrongdoings that are described in the Torah and the wrongs that are perpetuated by the way that the story is told, and make sure that Dinah’s voice will always be heard.





an indian pakistani sestina


August, 1947. The British divide Colonial India into two independent countries, Muslim Pakistan

and Hindu India, inciting the largest and bloodiest mass migration in human history.


One nation, torn apart

by cartographic line

and the thunder of fifteen million footfalls.

Bodies pile and neighbors leave

for a chance to live.

That history, I am its future.


The fated future.

Like cells, doomed to split apart

tearing people, taking lives

like each human had a dotted line

across their heart, “cut here” and leave

unaware of the destruction, of the fall-


-out, the cleanup, the spilled blood which falls

from my veins as I watch from the future

unable to scream or leave

like the little boy hiding, watching his parents diced apart

with swords, closing his eyes and mouth and running across the line

with only a bloody teddy bear, to live.


He prays for his parents in the religion that took their lives.

It doesn’t matter which faith; both fall

under the same nation, divided by a false line.

False, because fifteen million people needed to run to have a future

and refugees pulled apart

doors of trains only to find hundreds of dead bodies, murdered trying to leave.


On the tree of Hindustan, I am the leaves.

The massacre gave way to life

as my parents, on the fiftieth anniversary of partition, vowed “till death do us part.”

My blood is the innocent blood that fell

on both sides; the animosity of the past only a haunting memory in the future

where I straddle the line.


I am half-Indian Hindu, half-Pakistani Muslim; my family line

proves there is hope, if you believe

in miracles, I am one, I am the future.

Each day I live

is a day closer to the fall

of the forces tearing my nation apart.


It’s time to take apart this line.

Make this wall of wills fall to the ground, and leave.

As long as I live, I am the future.