Too Cold to Leave Home 

Too Cold to Leave Home
By: Jillian Buswell

It’s usually pretty easy to describe the weather, especially with all of the words we have. Hot, warm, cool, temperate, cold, but the past few years it’s been hard to describe. One day it’s a nice cool autumn day and the next it’s blazing like mid summer. Winters always feel too warm, spring and fall can never make up their minds. I felt like it would be like this forever and when winter rolled around I expected it to be different.

I picked up the heavy bag of bird food and took it outside. I could hear the sounds of  birds chirping from on top of my roof and fence, just waiting for me to fill their feeder. I looked up at them, cardinals, sparrows, finches, robins, even a few starlings hiding in nearby trees. 

“Birds shouldn’t still be around here in December,” a voice made me jump, I turned to see my grandma sitting on a chair with a book in her hands, “They all should be flyin’ down to their beach houses Florida.”

I shrugged, “It’s still warm, they probably think it’s still autumn.”

I filled up the bird feeder with the food, it was a mixed assortment of seeds that we bought at our local supermarket. The moment I hung the feeder back up and took a few steps back, a group of small brown sparrows flocked to the small wooden feeder. It was the kind that was like a plate or a box that was cut in half, the birds would stand on the sides (or in the middle but I always thought of them as being a bit snobbish) and eat the food that would lay in the center.  

I met my grandma by her chair, her book was now closed and on her lap, her eyes fixed on the birds. 

She smiled up at me “would you be a dear and make me some tea?” 

I walked back inside and into the kitchen, the christmas decorations were hung up in the living room and I could hear the tv playing the news from where I stood. 

“Good morning everyone,” said the man on the tv, “Today is a lovely Saturday morning, it will stay around 70 degrees today. It’s been a pretty warm winter so far but it might not stay this way for long.”

My head shot up, I had been waiting to hear those words for the past month.

“Next week we are predicting very low temperatures, around 40 to 20 even maybe some snowfall on Wednesday or Thursday, just in time for christmas, and now back to traffic.”

I bolted back outside, almost forgetting about the hot tea in my hand.

“Grandma!” I exclaimed, “The weatherman said it’s gonna snow next week!”

Grandma just sighed, “they say that every year and it never does.”

I groaned “Come on grandma, have a little faith this year. One year they’ve gotta be right and maybe it’s this year. 

Grandma smiled, “you’ve always been more hopeful than me, I guess we’ll see.”

It was Wednesday morning, I lay in my bed, blinking the sleep out of my eyes. I looked towards my window to see a soft white glow shining through. I jumped up to see a thick layer of snow covering the ground outside. I jumped out of my bed and ran downstairs.

“Grandma!” I exclaimed, “it snowed!”

Grandma was already sitting on the couch in front of the t.v. watching the news.

“I know,” she smiled, “now why don’t you feed the birds, they should be hungry.”

I grabbed the bag of bird food and headed outside. I looked up and saw all of the birds sitting on top of my roof and fence, anxiously waiting for me to fill up their feeder. I felt a pang of sadness for them, it must be so cold for them and they didn’t even have a house like me. 

When I hung their feeder back up they all flocked to it, hardly waiting for me to leave. I watched the snowflakes fall onto their feathers and seeds. I felt like I could stand there and watch them all day, but the cold soon became too much for me to handle and I went inside.

I found my grandma sitting on her chair, watching the birds through a window.

“My don’t they fly south now?” I asked .

“Well it’s too cold, they would probably freeze on their way there,” she explained, not even taking her eyes off of the foggy window. “We just have to make sure they are well fed until spring.”

Just after she spoke a group of starlings came and scared away the smaller birds.

“All of the birds?” I asked as I watched the starlings eat happily as the smaller birds watched from nearby trees.

“All of them,” she replied.

The day felt long, yet short. I spent it watching the feeder and making sure it didn’t fill up with too much snow and making sure the smaller birds were getting enough food. A part of me felt like I wasted my day, but the other knew I had nothing better to do. 

As the sun began setting setting, I made my final trip to the feeder before I went to sleep. As I filled up the feeder I looked around, there were no birds on my roof or fence. 

They all probably went back to their nests, I thought. But as I hung up the feeder I noticed a motionless shape lying in the snow. I bent down, using only the light that came from my house to see it.

It was a small sparrow cold and alone on the snowy ground. I covered my hand with my sleeve and gently tapped it. It was silent but I felt like something was still there. 

I ran inside to get my grandmother. If it  was too cold for them to fly south, then I would make it warmer.

FRIENDS

FRIENDS
By: Anonymous

Friends 

From the beginning

Pictures of the two month old pudge ball of me

And pink, newborn, blue clad lump of you under your “It’s A Boy!” banner

Car seats, baby carriers, double strollers, play pens

Our eyes mirrors of wonder

Crawling, stumbling, walking, running

On swings, carousels, trees, slides

Playing, laughing, eating, crying

Frozen in time together

A fuzzy five year old memory, the first of you and me

On your cousins’ backyard playset

Childishly agreeing to marriage

A memory that still brings a flush to my cheeks

And  a smile to my lips

So many memories

School days, studying together

At the park on the seesaw

Hanging out at your house watching Cartoon Network

Hide and Seek (you were always somewhere in your mom’s room or on the dryer)

Birthday parties, eating pizza and cake, laughing

Adventures by the creek in the forest

Collecting wild walnuts

Talking about life while walking around the park

Comforting you when that idiot stapled your finger

Costume shows (that clown was SCARY)

Errands, sitting in the cart and looking at toys that we wanted to buy

Feeding your chickens

Eating nachos, your favorite, on my couch

And, one of my favorites, schoolwide family picture day

Sitting on the stairs alone I bitterly wondered

At the unfairness of going to a different school than my brother

I tried to hide the hot tears rolled down my cheeks

As I watched siblings and cousins pose and laugh

Together

When you came over

Insisting to our teacher that I was family

And my heart

Soared

In the picture next to you, your sister, and your cousins, 

It’s as obvious that I’m not related to you

As it is that I was the happiest girl in the world.

Years passed

I switched schools

Seeing each other every day turned into

Every week

Every month

Our moms randomly bumping into each other and saying, “sometime soon!”

Birthday invites stopped coming

We grew, 

Outgrew each other, grew apart

I saw you the other day

You’re taller, stronger, more mature, as polite and kind as ever

But I know

 You’re still the same

And I hope that one day

We can just go back to being 

Friends 

The Pride of a Nation

The Pride of a Nation
By: Anonymous

I breath in the ocean air. The great endless plain of ocean and waves just beyond the jungle of rope and bundle of sail. There I see the Frigate, Royal Navy colors flying proudly as they made their way towards our ship. 

      The distinct black and yellow of the warship could be seen on our challenger, and the kings colors fluttering off the side of the ship. Our prow cut through the waves, storming maddly towards the enemy vessel as our sails yanked us toward the unknown fate beyond. In the brief moment of silence on the fore mast fighting top, I begin to think of when we left Boston, the land slowly slipping from view and then, out of nowhere, it’s gone. I snap back to the present when I begin to hear more commands from down below. 

      The British ship was in firing range, and opened fire. From the fighting top, I could see the cannon of the enemy blow a cloud of smoke followed by the bellowing of the shots. A swishing sound filled the air, followed by a loud CRACK!  Then two more. A ball lodged itself into the side of our ship. Another black streak flashed its way to our side, but this one was stopped dead in its tracks, and fell into the ocean below with a puny splash. My god, we’re sailing a fortress! I thought to myself. My thought was backed up as the men began to cheer for our super ship, all shouting her sides are made of iron! A commanding voice broke the celebration of triumph, and the order was given. FIRE! Followed immediately by the report of the canon, POOM! A cannon aftward blew a cloud of smoke out from the side.

     Their cannons began to pound on our sides and the air got thicker with smoke with each shot. We crept closer and closer until we were at almost point blank range. They sent a flurry of iron in our direction , and we returned with an equal amount of  intensity. With our bombardment, their Mizzen mast toppled over into the sea. Our ship maneuvered behind the enemy and gave her a raking broadside, during this, I could make out the name of the thing, HMS Guerriere. Soon as we were turning for another rake, Guerriere smashed into our rear, and tangled the two beasts.

    As we got in range for small arms fire, we shouldered our guns and began scanning for a target. Staring back at us was the marksmen of the Guerriere. The blast of smoke blocked my view, and when it cleared, there was no time to check my result. Recollecting myself, I kneel down and begin to reload. It felt like a million years, as bullets whizzed by me and men below were screaming and shouting in all sorts of manners over the roaring of the cannons. I was loading my third round and getting ready to fire, but was interrupted, the the sound of cracking wood. We started to break away from the rope entrapment and with a loud and long crack from the opposing ship, we came loose. I turn to see the bowsprit of his majesty’s warship plummet into the waves in front of it. Soon the foremast fell to the sea. With only her mainmast pulling her through the fight, they were no match for us. A single distant pak and a wispy cloud of sorrow rose from the other side of the Guerriere, she was through. Our proud ship erupted with cheers. We had won! Bracing myself with a rope, I stood at the edge of the platform and examined what was left of the Guerriere. She was in shambles, a white flag now flying shamefully aftward,  replacing the proud colors of a once seemingly unstoppable force. 

Help, I’ve Been Taken

Help, I’ve Been Taken
By: Kassadi Elliot

PART 1

We were sitting there all alone. I look up and see your ocean blue eyes gazing down at me. You had a huge blinding white smile with your cute little dimples high up on your cheeks that have freckles spotting them very lightly. My fingers slightly ran against your skin, it was always smooth, as if you wash yourself with baby oil. I loved the way the moon gleamed off your skin. I turn my head and look out onto the water with the sun finally setting

I wake up frantically. I sit up panting as if I can’t breath. I have no idea where I am or how I have gotten here. I sit completely still. My mind is racing with a million questions. I start to panic, my eyes are watering with salty tears. A noise comes from the door. I look, trying to figure out what it is. I stare at the door handle, which is copper with rusted metal. It makes a loud screeching sound as it slowly turns to open the door. “This isn’t real. This isn’t real,” I tell myself under my breath with my eyes squeezed shut trying to wake up from this horrible dream. I don’t wake up. I don’t wake up. I try so hard to wake up but I can’t. I’m suddenly unable to breathe. A rag has been shoved in my mouth. I open my eyes and see a tall white man standing over me. He has greasy long black hair pulled into a bun and brown eyes that look bloodshot from lack of sleep. I try to kick and scream but I start to feel very drowsy and sleepyyy… 

I hear a sound coming from somewhere outside of the room I’m in. It sounds as if someone is making food on the stove with a pan. I can hear the sizzilling of something cooking. Then a strong smell of bacon and pancakes waft into the room as the door swings open. I curl into the back corner of the bed. It’s the guy who put the rag in my mouth. I sit still without talking then soon realize I’m also holding my breath from nerves. “It’s time for breakfast,” the man says with a grin. I have been starving so I get up slowly and walk behind him into the kitchen that was no more than 5 feet from the room I was in. He tells me to sit at the table so I do so. He hands me a plate and says to serve myself to whatever is on the table. I get some eggs, a tiny bit of bacon, a bowl of fruit, and  2 full glasses of water. When I have finish eating I am sitting there silently and my fear feels as if it really beginning to creep up on me. I tell myself just to do what he says, that I will only make things worse if I fight. He grabs my plate and glasses and sets them down in the sink and runs the water faucet over them. He sits across from me on a little brown chair identical to mine and the 2 other ones. The table doesn’t match the chairs like most dining sets do. It’s not brown but white with crayon coloring marks all over it. I start to observe the room so I don’t have to make eye contact with the stranger across from me. I see brown wooden cabinets with a white countertop. All of the appliances are old and almost broken but seem to still be working.

I see coloring pages hug up on the wall by rainbow colored tacs. The pictures look as if they were drawn by a range of ages. Some pictures were very neat and in the lines and others were just scribbles around the page. I start to think about how I haven’t been the only person in this chair. I haven’t been the only person here. There must be more people, but where are they? I look back at the man to see if he is still looking at me. He is. “Why do you think you’re here?” he asked me. I sat with my mouth shut. I didn’t know why I was there and I sure as hell wasn’t going to say I don’t know because that always ends badly in horror films. His fists slam against the table and everything on it crashes to the ground. Suddenly a rush of adrenaline has moved through me. I get up. I run. But then…

                                                         PART 2

 You grabbed my neck. You liked it. I know you did.

 I’ve been here now 30 days exact. Ever since I tried to run, the man keeps me locked in the room he slides whatever he needs to get to me through a slot at the bottom of the well worn wooden door. I haven’t seen nor spoken to him since I ran. 

I  always have this feeling that he is watching me. As if there are cameras in the room eyeing  me. Once I put that thought in my mind I couldn’t get it out. My eyes were eyeing every crack and crevices to spot a camera, as if I was a owl searching for it’s food in the night. I finally fall asleep right when I can hear the man waking up for the day. I always know it is morning when I hear his loud torn work boots stomping down the stairs thump thump thump. I quickly get up and try to clean myself. I’m always afraid to look un-presentable in front of him. I’m afraid he will think I’m inviting him onto me but I’m not. I don’t want to be dumb and piss him off.

He swings open the door. The door handle punctures into the wall  behind it leaving a crumbled in piece of white dry wall. “What do you want for breakfast?” He asks. 

I sit silent clenching the sheets beside me for a moment then say “You can choose. I’ll eat whatever you want.” I say this to please him.  I want him to think he has gotten into my mind. I want him to think I obey him and that I will never be disloyal. So then when the right time comes, I can escape easier with him not expecting it.  When I make him think he is in my mind I am really the one slowly getting into his trying to figure out every little clue to help me escape. I need to escape.  

The next morning the same exact thing happened. He came down the stairs with his  boots thumping. Thump Thump Thump. He swung open the door caving in the drywall a little more making some white dust fall peacefully to the concrete floor. He asked the same question and I gave the same answer. It became a routine. It was something that happened every morning that seemed to be around the same time of day. But what do I know? I have been in what seems like a dungeon with no sunlight or fresh air, no waking up to the sun rays beaming in to touch my soft face that has just started to crawl into awakeness. I have lost the touch of things I didn’t even realize mattered to me. 

 It is early, really early, and I wake up to a faint shriek of fear coming from above me. I listen, trying to keep myself from making the littlest sounds. I didn’t hear anything after that. I began to think it was a dream or that I was just hearing things. I forgot about it and kept my eye on the key of escaping. I tried to find out if he has keys on him and if so were he kept them. I plan to attack him. That is my only shot at survival.

                                  PART 3

 I wake up groggy. My head hurts and my throat feels dry and tight. I open my eye slowly and look up at the same grey concrete slab ceiling that I see every morning. I slowly roll out of bed and stumble to the bathroom. I run my hand under the warm water coming from the sink and splash it on to my face. I then turn the handle on the faucet to towards “C” that has blue paint peeling from the engraving. I take a yellow cup with a cow on it and put under the water. I chug the water as it slips down my throat bringing it to life with moisture. I try to stand up straight because my head is finally getting to me. I have nothing else to do so I go and make the bed. I tuck in the ragged blanket under the thin blue mat and fold it over like it is in hotels after the maids go through. I then put the pillow at the top and sit on the bed. I sit and try to brush my hair with my fingers. I haven’t heard the man get up yet. Usually I thought he would be up by now but I don’t know the time so I assume that I’m just up early. I begin to twiddle my thumbs and sing songs I know under my breath. I try to keep  my memory alive. I sit and recite the alphabet and my times tables. I also try to do math problems in my head and recite literature I know. I do this to keep me from going insane and to also help me stay smart. I need to be smart to win this battle.

It seems like it has been forever. The man hasn’t come down the steps at all. I haven’t heard the thump thump thump. I begin to wonder where he could be or why isn’t up. Is he dead? Did he get caught but the cops just haven’t found me? What if they can’t find me? All of these thoughts ran through my mind. I wanted to believe some of them and others I just wanted to forget all together. Suddenly a big crash comes from outside the door. I hear the man’s voice yelling and screaming then a sudden silence fills the room.

The Unfinished Game

The Unfinished Game
By: Lauren Thompson

My opponent picked up the rook moving one, two, three- knock! He kicked down my last knight sending it rolling off the board. Damn! He glanced at me briefly as I shifted in my seat, visibly cringing, but said nothing.  His gaze back on the board; his face cradled by his hand, fingers obscuring the sight of his mouth. His poise, his stillness was unnerving. I shifted in my seat as I considered the board, ‘should I play my queen? My rook?’ I analyzed possible countermoves, my fingers drumming on the armrest of my chair.  

I felt his eyes move from the board to me, observing, analyzing. I tried to focus on the pieces in front of me, yet my eyes seemed to take in the details of the room instead. The claw-foot mahogany table that sat between us, carrying the ornate chessboard; the rug beneath with it’s red, tan and black swirls; and the fireplace next to us with bookshelves flanking each side. The resulting atmosphere was old, engrossing, fulfilling. I concentrated again on the chessboard…such unusual pieces. 

I’ve never seen anything quite like them in my life. Most appeared to be hand carved, with three simple ridges, one at the bottom and then two in the middle, pressing against each other, not quite fully fastened. However, not all the pieces were of the same material. It appeared as if only three-quarters of the set was actually carved, whereas the rest was made of marble. Also unusual was the fact that there were three colors rather than the traditional two.  My pieces were white whereas his were red and black; the red pieces were carved but the black ones were normal pieces you could have found anywhere. The incongruity puzzled me, there was something sinister about the board…I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

The silence continued and sweat trickled down my back, I took a nervous sip of water from the glass on my side of the table as my stomach roiled. I shifted again and steepled my fingers under my nose as I made a production of studying the board. I sat up straighter and gripped the arms of my chair.

I felt my brain go blank as I looked back down at the board. “these pieces are so intricate…. Did you make them?” I asked, trying to get my brain to calm down. 

I sat looking at the board waiting to hear his answer, but the silence dragged on. I looked up to find his gaze boring into me. His eyes were fixed on me – as though my question had caught his interest, as though his prey has just made a move that would make it an easy kill for him. There was no emotion in those eyes- they were glazed over- black as an abyss.

I felt a chill run down my spine and my hands started to shake.  I gripped the armrests more tightly.

His hand still covered his mouth as his gaze drilled into me.

I shifted back in my seat leaning against the backrest and looked back down at the board. Just make a move. Finish the game and go home. My right hand hovered over the board as my left continued to grip the chair, knuckles white.

I sensed him lean back in his chair, his first physical move since the game began. 

A springing, slicing sound, like that of a blade suddenly broke the silence. My vision went black as gut wrenching, burning pain shot through my hand to my arm. Shaking I looked down at the hand that rested on the armrest of the chair. 

Bile rose in my throat as I fought against the hysteria bubbling up inside me. I surveyed the bloody stumps that had been my fingers. A keening sound rose from me as I fought to remain calm.  I closed my eyes but the image remained burned into my retinas. Oh God! My three middle fingers- were gone!  A blade had sprung up from the arm of the chair, slicing from below, it rested, slick with viscous red fluid, against the nubs that were my fingers. 

I opened my eyes, it had to be a nightmare! I needed to wake up!!! At the back of my mind I knew that I wasn’t asleep and the pain- the burning, unending pain… shot like spindles through my core. I almost gave into the darkness threatening at the edges of my conscience. What had happened?! My fingers rolled on the floor. I looked up, choking on a hysterical sob, snot and tears mingling on my clammy skin. I dimly registered the heaving, screeching sobs. They were from me. I looked back up at my opponent. I had no words. 

His hand had dropped from his face, revealing a cruel smile playing along his lips. It dripped with venomous pleasure. “Yes,” He began. “I carved them.” 

“B-but why-y?” 

He smiled even more. “For more chess pieces of course…”  I glanced back down at the board… more pieces…. Then it hit me…. the ridges…… Finger bones. As soon the words popped into my head another slicing sound filled the air.

Simple Words

Simple Words
By: Lauren Thompson

“You’re strange.” 

“Weirdo.”

“Moron.”

“But that’s so easy! Why can’t you do it?”

I looked down at the tiled floor. The words swirling in my head. Was I truly stupid? I felt the tears collect below my chin making my skin sticky. Why was I like this?  I clutched my chest and the pain that resided there. I was choking- choking on air, on sobs. 

“Dear Student,

We regret to inform you that you did not qualify….” 

Even when I try hard, I still don’t make it. They didn’t even tell me the exact reason as to why I didn’t get in. They didn’t even bother to take the time to type my name. “Idiot.” 

I choked again. Why, why does it hurt so much? I set my hand down on the cold porcelain of the tub. I tried to focus on the way it felt against my skin. I took a deep breath as tremors racked my frame. But it was useless – I was useless… 

The pain spread agonizingly slow, causing my limbs to feel tired and worn. Why did I have to feel? I wanted to sleep – to curl up in a ball and forget the world existed. Forget I existed. I wanted oblivion.

My throat constricted. Oh, why? Just why? I looked down at the floor once more. My skin felt foreign, strange, irritating. Why did I have to be here? 

I punched the tile. 

Pain surged through my skin, my fingers, my bones. My throat loosened, the voices- slowly dispersing. I concentrated on my hand, at the bruises that formed on my knuckles. Would people notice? Would they care? 

No, I mustn’t bother them; it’s not like they care or understand. There are plenty of other kids at my school who are in harder situations. I shouldn’t complain about mine. No one can truly understand, nor do I want to rehash this moment. No, I am fine

I stood up moving to the mirror. I looked back at my reflection. I tried to smile. Some say that this helps you cheer up. I tried lifting the corners of my mouth up. It hurts. Don’t cry. “No.” I say. “You are strong.”

Why does it sound like a lie? 

Edge of a Memory

By: Katie Stevenson

Revelry looks out across the glade, her muddy red, wiry hair creating a curtain around her face, illuminating her peripheral vision, hiding where she stands and only showing where she wishes to go. She sees the sprites in the marsh and hears their giggling as they push one another from the rolling stone backs of the dozing trolls into the murky water. She can even spots the open backs of the Huldra in the forest beyond, their cow’s tails swishing from the branches.

She pays them all no heed besides a glance and rather basks in the glory of the brown peaks above them. The face of which is made of rocky creatures—but only this side, for across the peaks is the Fabric. Beyond: the human realm.

Revelry has heard that word over and over from Fae mouths as they come to the glade with their nets, traps and cages. “Human Filth.” “Meek mortal humans.” “Ugly humans—they’re much prettier on this side of the Fabric.”

Gazing at these mountains, through all of her memory, has always looked… wrong. On the edge of her memory, it whispers in a nearly inaudible tone, wrong side.

The brittle looking, brown thorns that are her, that grow out from the small of her back, attack her. Stabbing and clawing at her green skin, sharper and stronger than barbed wire. Revelry endures as it tightens around her forearms, peeling up the leaf-like skin there. She endures, begging and hoping to herself that she will cross the edge of her memory, see what this curse doesn’t want her to remember.

A hiss of pain whistles through her teeth as she scrambles to imagine a world on the other side of that Fabric. What the humans look like. What the Fae mean when they say through their sharp teeth, “prettier on this side.”

With excruciating consequences, Revelry keeps her tawny green eyes on that mountain range even as they well up with red-liquid blood—tears.

A cry that is more a roar, bubbles from her throat and she pulls her gaze away from the mountain tops as all the other creatures turn towards her, not alarmed, or worried, anymore.

The thorns pull her arms back towards her hollow tree, telling her to melt into it, to forget the Fabric, the humans, the memories, to fight, and become what she is: plant life.

As the leafy skin on her fingertips matures into bark and spreads over her body, her eyes grow heavy with exhaustion—hopelessness—and the vines grow from her to grab onto the tree, to pull her into its hollowed middle.

Revelry, with only phantom feelings of energy, surges forward, clawing towards the peaks, as if she could grip them and pull herself away. But those thorns—those awful thorns—pull her arms behind her harshly—painfully—to where they’re flush against her bare back and backside. With another hard pull, she falls against the back of that hollow into that rough bark, and where armored skin meets the tree, they mold together, form together, until she is only that damned plant.