The Weather Tree

The Weather Tree
By: Lauren Thompson

Crispin sat against the willow tree. Book in hand he calmly sketched the various flowers and plants along the pond. The veins of the leaves, the ruffled cuts of a flower petal. His pencil danced across the page. Wind blew through the trees, caressing his skin and flowing through his brown hair. Sun rays peaked down onto the small pond giving it a sparkling glow. Cripsin took a deep breath through his nose. He leaned his head back on the tree, feeling the prickling surface of the bark press into his scalp. Who would prefer the city over this? 

Crispin thought of his two older brothers, slaving away in the banks of Swansea. The clinking of coins, the rustling of people, the many voices, it all was just too tiring to think of. He was once a banker just like his brothers, bringing in a fortune to their household. He was even set to marry a rich man’s daughter…. Crispin took another deep breath in an attempt to ease the weight on his chest. No that was all behind him. He was better off being alone. He had found his place, and was happy in it.

Crispin focused on the bark that pressed into his back, the cooling breeze that swept along the waters and through the trees. The wind rattled the limbs of the of the willow, making them sway back and forth. For a moment a sense of music seemed to fill his ears. Was he imagining it? The notes seemed to flow and chime. Yet, despite the lulling music, the pain in his chest seemed to manifest. Crispin stood up off the grass, plucking a leaf from the willow tree, he brought it over his heart and closed his eyes. He imagined the tightness in his chest flowing into the leaf like the soft wind in the forest flowed through the trees. Then after a deep breath, he cast the leaf into the waters of the pond. 

The tightness in his chest seemed to subside. “I think it’s time I go back.” Crispin spoke aloud to no one in particular and began to walk back to his cottage.   

Oriana watched as Crispin walked off. Why did he always hit a low part of his day when he was with her? She was sure if she used her branches to create light music with the wind she would help ease the pain in his heart. She looked back to the pond, at the leaf that had disappeared into the water. Suddenly Oriana’s vision blurred then refocused; she was no longer looking at the pond, but at a vast field that overlooked a small town. Clouds quickly formed in various ugly shades of gray, covering the blue of the sky. Soon sheets of rain came down upon the town, flooding the streets and causing the small buildings to disappear one by one. 

Oriana thought back to the days when she was the reason rain fell and thunder cracked. The days when she was a goddess and not a tree. Back then she could spin dark wind and clouds into a funnel, spring shards of light in the sky…. all with a wave of a certain emotion….but then it all ended. The Gods ended it and stuck her in the very tree she used to spin the tides and conquer the weather. 

She could no longer swirl the clouds and manipulate the tides when she wanted. She would have to wait until a god’s forsaken leaf fell from the willow and maybe, just maybe land into the waters of the pond. 

Oriana strained to look again at the disappearing village but just as she could make out a woman on the outskirts, rushing to get into the house before the rain swallowed her whole- Oriana’s vision blurred once more and she found herself back at the small clearing, gazing at the world shaped pond.  

Crispin looked at the small cottage that sat in the middle of the woods. Covered in luscious vines of wisteria and roses. He entered the house, taking off his boots and lighting the stove so that he could cook dinner. He quickly chopped up the vegetables and herbs and dropped them into the water-filled pot. While it cooked he reread his notes about his findings earlier that day and then proceeded to check on the plants in his small conservatory. 

He carefully watered the plants, trimmed their leaves and spoke to them softly as if they could hear him. He then grabbed the various leaves he trimmed and walked back to his study where he set them on his desk before turning off the stove and pouring himself a bit of his garden soup. Suddenly there was a knock on his door. “Who on earth could that be?” Crispin muttered. 

At the door stood a skinny man with a horse and carriage. He stood there with a vacant look and asked, “Are you Crispin Ellerwood? Son of Daniel Ellerwood?” 

“Yes I am.” Crispin responded. He scrunched his eyebrows as he saw the man produce a letter from his small satchel. 

“This is for you.”

Crispin took the letter and watched as the man got back on his carriage and rode off into the forest. Quickly he opened it. Why would father send me a letter?  He pulled out the piece of parchment and what lay written was “Dear Brother, I regret to inform you that father has died…..” 

The letter fell from Crispin’s fingers as he collapsed to the floor. Dead. His father was dead. Memories flooded Crispins mind. His father’s love, his father’s disappointment, his father’s rage. Crispin hadn’t even talked to him in years…not since he had been disowned from the family, yet the memories came rushing back. 

For the next three days, Crispin would make his way to the willow tree and stare off into the clear blue waters of the pond.

Oriana watched Crispin as he cast the leaves onto the water. The first, filled with immense sadness, brought a downpour and floods to a couple of towns on the eastern border of Elvend. On the second day Crispin cast a leaf full of anger and torment. This time thunderstorms plagued the southern continents. Oriana sat utterly still as the scenes crossed her mind. For the first time in her life she wasn’t focused on the storms but rather the people and creatures affected by it. Watching as they ran and tried to hide. Watching as the fear took hold of their souls. The pain that the storms caused on the plants, the animals. Crispin was hurting the very things he loved without realizing it. 

Oriana thought about how she had been doing the same thing before she was stuck in the tree. Now it made sense. She should be stuck here.

 On the third and final day, Crispin laid a leaf onto the pond waters and watched as it floated over the rocks that represented the very forest that he lived in. a Sudden cold swept through the lands. Covering the grass in a dew like frost. The trees shuddered and the leaves and flowers began to crumple. 

Crispin sat still along the edge of the pond, the feelings of loneliness consuming him. Oriana stared at the scene. Gods, she wanted to help him, see the smile on his face, the love in his eyes while he sketched. She wanted to be there in his arms. Give him the emotions that caused sunshine and blue skies. Oriana closed her eyes. Please. She prayed to the Gods. Let me out. Oriana pushed with all her might against her natural prison. Against the forces keeping her contained. Suddenly Oriana’s hand burst through, then her arm, and finally the rest of her body. She felt the grass beneath her feet, the air along her cheeks. Quickly she thought about Crispin and his loving smile. She plucked a few leaves from the tree, transferred her warmth and cast them out onto the water. She then walked over to Crispin and wrapped her arms around him from behind. Giving him the warmth he had given her during the moments he spent propped up against the willow tree. 

Crispin seemed to recognize this warmth and slowly he turned to look at Oriana. He looked at her beautiful blond hair and green eyes. The same green that appeared in the willow tree’s leaves. Crispin hugged her back. He didn’t need to hear an explanation just yet. 

From that day forward Crispin never stopped visiting the willow tree… and its goddess. 

The End


By: Maggie Crim

I remember it as though it was yesterday. I was young, a child, living in a small village on the edge of the continent of Saru-Fei. I would go down to the beach with my brothers and little sister from early morning to mid-day, we’d waste the day away with collecting shells and crawfish for Mother. When we came home, we’d give our ‘spoils’ to our beloved mother, who had to raise four children on her own. She taught us how to fish, make jewelry out of our shells, and many other things.

Our Uncle, would teach us mathematics and really anything else we showed interest in, including self defense. He’d come around in the afternoon, and stay for dinner. Our Uncle had no wife, nor did he have children, so he was technically a second parental figure.

But our village was very supersticious, or as Uncle would say ‘stupid-sticious’(<- my Dad says this every once and a while.). Our beloved Mother, living alone at the seaside with no husband and four children, was a recurring target of the villages’ schemes. Our home, on it’s lonesome at the seaside, was ravaged by storms just as often, so the villagers’ all thought Mother had done something to anger a god of sea or storms.

When my siblings and I heard it for the first time, I was seven. I was the youngest boy, the twins being nine already, and Persephone was only four. I remember being very angry then, and blacking out. When I came to, Mother and Persephone were by me, and my brothers, Perceus and Jason were cleaning up the yard from a sudden storm. Mother had this look on her face, frightened, but she hid it as carefully as she could. Later, I came to find out why she pulled such a face, why she looked so frightened when I asked what hadwhen happened.

I still remember those words, I hated them, but then I realized that no matter how much I came to hate them, they would never change.

“Killian. My beautiful baby boy. I still remember when I had you, it was during a storm, the sky was as dark as I had never seen it.” She looked at me, as if seeking reassurance, “Your grandmother, my mother, was there, and she told me something I would never forget.”

“Mother? What did she say? Why do you look so sad? I don’t like it when Mother is sad.” My youth-heavy voice filled the room, and something clawed at my heart. I later learned what that feeling was, pain. It has other words too, sorrow, grief, light heartbreak.

My Mother’s eyes glimmered with unshed tears. Her pale hand clutched to her chest, her light blond hair flowing in an almost halo-like shape around her shoulders.

“Persephone, go get your brothers, and go to Uncle’s home, understand?” She turned from me completely, leaving my questions unanswered to address my little sister.

“Yes Moma,” she waddled out to find the twins, and apparently visit our Uncle.

“Mother? Why don’t you answer? Why did you send Brother Percy, Brother Jason, and Sister Persephone to Uncle’s home?” My voice was clouded with confusion, and I heard a faint rumble of thunder in the distance not far from the cottage.

“My son. My gorgeous little boy, what my mother said that night, the night you were born… was strange, to say the least. She… she said you were the Stormbringer, a Harbinger of Death and Rebirth. Like your Father.” Now, until then, I had never heard of my Father, and I was too little when Persephone was conceived to remember who had visited Mother that year. The twins knew, I could see it in their eyes, but they would never tell me anything on the matter, they’d close up like a clam protecting it’s pearls.

“My Father?” My eyes seek hers, the honey-brown color of her eyes no longer veiled with tears. I heard the sky open up above us, it seemed to sob, and wailing winds hollered through the stone and wood walls of what has been my home since before I was born.

“Yes. You remind me of him sometimes. You have never looked like me, my child. That is not a bad thing, so do not cry. Your father was a very handsome man, very kind and a gentleman to all.” She admonished me, and held my face gently in her hands. Her hands are still as soft as the drizzle of rain, despite the hard work she commits herself to.

“What does this have to do with what Grandmama said?” I knew my Grandmother very briefly, the memory is still rather bitter-sweet, as she died the winter before last. I remember the looks she’d give me, before she seemed to shake herself then smile adoringly.

She doted on Persephone and I before she passed, but she loved us all till her death. She was beautiful, like an older version of Mother, who I would still testify to this day, that Mother got more beautiful as the years went on.

“Do you remember when we went to the village with your brothers, when Persephone was at the beach with Uncle Illios?” Her words shocked me, to ask about that day.

‘Of course I remember,’ I thought to myself, ‘those fools nearly hurt Mother that day.’ Mother had left us in the bookshop to get a few herbs for the coming winter. A few hours later, Mother had still not returned, and the bookshop was closing., the nice lady who ran the shop was Mrs. Freedmin. Mr. Freedmin went out to look for Mother about an hour before Mrs. Freedmin had to close the shop.

We found Mother before we found Mr. Freedmin. Her herbs were scattered across the street and she laid in a pool of her own blood. Mrs. Freedmin tried to cover our eyes, but the damage was already done, Mrs. Freedmin screamed for her husband, who came running when he heard.

They took her into the cottage behind their bookshop and called for the doctor. Mother ended up having a concussion, major blood loss, a punctured lung, and broken ribs. No one on the island was safe from the storm that night.

“Was that… because of me? That storm that night?” I felt my tears renew themselves, Mother took me in her arms and cradled me, like I was an infant. I didn’t mind, it was what I needed most.

“Yes, my little Storm.” The dam of tears behind my eyes broke.

The thunderstorm raged heavy that night.


By: Anonymous

“Look there!” This is becoming really annoying. My brother and his very accurate predictions are driving me crazy.

“What is it now Bent?” I look towards where he’s pointing and sigh in frustration. “Bennet those are just clouds.” I emphasized each word slowly, my patience turning dangerously low.

“I know there is a storm coming, I can feel it just look there-”

“THAT’S IT!, I have a lot of homework and I don’t have time for your crazy talk, I can’t wait till mom and dad get home.” I yelled at him, I am really stressed and not in the mood to babysit right now. He turns around and walks up to his room without another word. That was easy, I can finally focus on my project. 

After about an hour, I decided to take a break. I didn’t get as much work as liked done, my mind was occupied. I felt a little guilty for my outburst at Bent, I know he misses them too. My parents went on a vacation two weeks ago, and they are coming in a week. We’ve never been apart for that long, and they trusted me to take care of myself and my eight year old brother. I head up to his room to apologize, I open the door and my eyes instantly fill with tears.

He’s lying at the end of the bed with his arms wrapped around him and his face wet from the dry tears, I go over and cover him with the blanket, feeling very guilty. On my out something catches my eye, there is a paper on Bent’s desk that’s crumpled. He never scrunches up his drawing. I open it and the gathered tears spill. There is a picture of us holding hands and smiling while walking towards the unentred forest. The forest is near our house, but nobody ever goes there.  

“Come on Bent wake up.” I jump on his bed, until he finally stirs and opens his eyes.

“We are going on an adventure!” He sits up quickly and his eyes widen at the word adventure, which makes me laugh.

“Where are we going?” He asks, his green eyes sparkling in excitement. 

“It is a surprise, now go change into something good for an adventure.” He hops off the bed to change and I go downstairs to get the food ready. I pack the cookies I baked for him, sandwiches, and some drinks. Bent has always wanted to go to the forest, but we’re not allowed. I don’t believe in superstitions, it’s a forest people not another planet. My parents forbid us from going there, now that they’re on vacation…that’s a different story. Thirty minutes later and we are standing at the gate. Bent is literally quivering with excitement. He jumps on me making me stumble a little.

“You are the best sister in the world, you know that?” I laugh and hug him back. 

“Yes I know, now are ready to enter a place where no one has dared to do ever before sir?” I ask in a deep voice making him laugh. We lock eyes, our hands find each other, and we nod signaling readiness. We walk in for a while, there is nothing out of the ordinary it’s just like a trail. The path we are walking on suddenly divides in two. 

“Right or left?” I ask Bent. He doesn’t have a chance to answer because the most bizzare thing  happens. A sudden bone-chilling breeze, that doesn’t belong in September, moves all the leaves on the ground to the left side. Then the temperature goes back to normal, warm and a little humid. Bent has a dazed look on his face, like he hasn’t processed what just happened. I am pretty sure I had the same look on my face. 

“Well I guess it’s left.” Bent says breathlessly, I am never witnessed him this speechless. We start walking on the left trail, and after a while Bent stops me when something catches his eye. 

“Blaire look! There is something there, like a piece of fabric!” He exclaims. I look over to the side, there’s something, but it’s covered in mud and water. 

“Are you sure? It could be anything because no one really comes here.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right, I was just being silly.” He looks a little disheartened and I feel bad for being the reason.

I walk closer to the thing, pick up a stick and poking it with it, “Oh my god! You were right, this is a piece of stinky underpants.” We laugh and I’m happy to see that the sparkle back in his eyes.

“We have an adventure!” He jumps.

“I guess we do, lead the way kind sir.” We walk a little more, then we decide it’s time to take a break. We sit on a fallen tree branch and eat our sandwiches. 

After we finished eating we started walking, everything was going well until…

“Uh oh, what are we going to choose now? There are three paths this time.” Bent is  looking around anticipating something to happen. The three paths were covered with soil and dust. I was about to say the middle path, but I got interrupted by a scorching breeze that burned me momentarily. I looked at Bent who also seemed to get burned due to his jumping, and yelping. We look at the three paths and gasp involuntarily. The wind has cleared the right path, and there are footsteps. 

“Oh my god, now we can really discover something, or someone. What if someone is lost? We can save them and be heroes.” He’s rambling and getting really animated. 

I laugh nervously, “I don’t think anybody needs saving, how about we start heading home now?” I ask hoping he would agree, this place is really starting to freak me out.

“Are you scared? Don’t worry I’ll protect you.” He looks at me with his big, green eyes. He is so adorable, but now I’m embarrassed.

“No no, don’t worry about me.” He looks at me pleading with his eyes,”Fine, we’ll keep going, but not for much longer.” I sigh in defeat. 

After hiking for ten minutes, we come to a halt when we see the three directions the forest divided itself into. It wasn’t defined paths like before, it was sections. The right section had some natural brightness, but the left was darker. We decide to keep walking straight, it wasn’t as bright as the right section, but it wasn’t that dark either. It isn’t after a while some time that I realize how deep we are in the forest. The trees are more compressed, the ground is full of bushes and sticks, and it’s more damp and moist than it was before. That’s when I start having a mini panic attack. Where did we come from? What if we’re lost? Who is going to save us when there’s no cell service and no one knows where we are?  

“Hey, hey calm down, it’s all going to be okay.” Bent reassures me and intertwines our hands. I look down at him in wonder, and gratefulness. I have been granted the best little brother on Earth. Just when we’re about to turn around, we hear something ahead and rush towards it. As we get closer I hear the unmistakable downpour of rain. Of course that’s not possible because there’s not a speck of water coming down. All thoughts and words disappear from me when we emerge into a clearing. I gasp and stagger backwards, my heartbeat accelerates, and my eyes widen in fear and awe. The clearing is huge and treeless, but that’s not what renderd my brother speechless and pale. On the left half of the open space there was heavy rainstorm full of lightning and wind, but the right side was very sunny, like a perfect spring day. I could even hear the birds chirping. We watched in silence for what seemed like hours, and a second at the same time. I was ready to flee back home, and I wanted to watch this amazing creation of nature forever. 

“Let’s go see the sunny side.” I pull Bennet by his arm, he still seems in a daze. I step on the sunny side hesitantly, thinking any moment this would disappear. When I’m sure that it’s solid ground I start walking faster. In the middle of the grassy land there’s a cottage, outside there’s a table for two and a clothes line with clothes in it. We watch in silence as the door opens and a woman walks out , something about her figure seems oddly familiar. We are not hidden by anything, if she turns just a little she might spot us. 

“Come on honey, I am hungry.” When I hear her voice, my eyes widen, I look at Bent to make sure I am not imagining what I heard but he looks just as shocked. 

“Is that…” He starts.

“Yeah, yeah I think it is.” 

Then dad comes out holding a plate, but it crashes on the ground once he spots us. 

“Ethan! What are we eat-” Mom trails off once she follows dad’s gaze. 

We rush towards them. 

The first thing that comes out of my mouth is, “Mom, dad what are you doing here?!!” I say loudly. I am not mad, just very shocked. They exchange guilty looks with each other. My dad opens his mouth but then closes it again. Mom recovers faster.

“What are you doing here? I thought you knew this place is off-limits.” Now me and Bent exchange guilty looks. We smile sheepishly and say the stupidest thing someone can say after getting caught doing something wrong. 



By: Kaylin Herritt

I can feel it slithering up my back, ready to strike its fangs into my neck at any moment. My throat buzzes with wasps waiting to sting, and fungus itches me as it takes up every area of my esophagus, making it difficult to breathe. 

My gut is hollow, but there is a heaviness of dread. My body is holding itself up just barely;every limb is shaking. My hands are cold to the touch, and my skin is as white as that of a corpse. 

I have no control over my fingers; they malfunction, twitching as the dread from my stomach makes its way up my throat and takes over the thoughts in my head. 

It is constant. 

It attached itself to my mind, and it lurks in the corners. 

And I can’t seem to pry it out.

Broken Past but a Hopeful Future: Fiction Short Story

Broken Past but a Hopeful Future
By: Anonymous

Broken Past but a Hopeful Future

It has been four years since I’ve spoken to my mother. I was thirteen the last time I saw her face in person, and I was eleven the last time I shared a laugh with her. I’ve always had a pretty good memory. It can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. I remember the good times; the times before everything started to turn upside down. I remember one day in February when school got canceled from the snow. It was completely unexpected, and every kid in my neighborhood was beyond excited as they raced outside of their house with their six layers of jackets and gigantic snow boots that they could barely walk in. I was sick, though, and couldn’t go outside. I remember being so heartbroken, watching the kids through my window having the time of their lives. My mom wanted to make it up to me, so she took me to our favorite café, where we drank the most heavenly hot cocoa and ate the most delicious cinnamon rolls. We talked about my favorite TV show at the time, Hannah Montana, and what my life would be like if I was a character in that TV show. I remember being so invested in the conversation and so happy that my mom was interested in something that I liked. I have many more memories like that with her, where times were so simple, and I was, well, happy. Sometimes I find myself thinking of those times. It makes me feel as though I am still living it. Other times, though, it just makes me feel worse. When I think too much about the past, instead of seeing it in a positive light, it reminds me of all the things I don’t have anymore; everything special that I lost. In turn, it can make me feel despair like never before. That’s where having a good memory can be a curse.

Everything started to turn south when my dad died. I was never really close with my dad, but his death still hit me hard. It especially hit my mom. She became more and more distant from me and the rest of my family. She became a different person, almost unrecognizable. When she got a boyfriend, I would barely see her. Eventually, she decided to move across the country to San Francisco with him. I was left to live with my grandparents and their two dogs in Delaware. Times were slow from there, and every day was the same. Go to school, go to swim practice, and go home. My grandparents always tried to take me out or do something with me, but I refused.

I’m seventeen now, and one week ago I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. Usually, I don’t answer unknown numbers, but this time I did. It was my mother’s soft, breathy voice saying the words “Hi Lola”. When I heard her say my name, I froze. I couldn’t seem to get words to come out of my mouth. It felt as though every bone in my body was numb, and I was a statue with my phone in my shaking hand. I was so confused. Why would she call me now, after four years? Why did she wait this long?  I was filled with more anger than confusion, though. I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to tell her all the pain she put me through, and how selfish she was for leaving me in the dark. She started to talk again before I could get anything out.

“I talked to grandma and grandpa. They agreed to drive up here with you when you’re ready. I want to see you.” I didn’t know at all what to say or think at that point. There was a long pause before I could mumble out—

“Uhh… I… I’ll call back after I think about it.” I hung up the phone in an instant, only realizing that I had done it after the fact. I sat alone in my room for a good hour and a half, staring at my wall, before going downstairs to see my grandparents. Before I could even say anything, they knew by the look on my face that I had gotten the call. I wasn’t expecting to cry, but when they held out their arms to embrace me, the tears came without question. Grandma stroked my long, dark brown hair, and grandpa rubbed my back as they comforted me. There were so many things going through my head at once, but grandma and grandpa always knew how to make me feel better. In this case, I didn’t need ice cream, a rented movie, or game night. I just needed someone to hold me, and that’s exactly what they did. 

I ended up not calling her back. I told my grandma that I didn’t want to talk to her on the phone, but that I wanted to see her in person. It was two weeks after that when we began the road trip. I wrote a list of things I wanted to say to her and questions I wanted to ask her. Even with that, I didn’t feel ready to see her again. I came to a realization that I would probably never feel ready.

Grandma and grandpa were playing Queen songs in the car, which happens to be a band that we all love. Other than that, we all have very different tastes in music. I could listen to Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy all day, but grandma and grandpa stick to Classical and Jazz, which is why I find it funny that they enjoy listening to Queen.  As I was in the back seat, staring at the questions I had written down, I started to overthink everything, and overthinking is one of my bad habits. I seem to do it too much, which never ends well. 

“What if she changes her mind and doesn’t want to see me? You know what, this was a bad idea. Is it too late to turn back? I don’t think–”

“Lola, sweetheart,” my grandma cut me off with a reassuring voice, “Your mother, she has been going through a very tough time these past few years, and that is not an excuse because I know you have too, but I’ve been talking to her, and I know she’s ready. She’s ready to see you. It’s not going to be easy at first, but I know you, and I know her. Trust me, it will come naturally.” I took her words to heart. My grandma has always been understanding, and I know I can trust her. I crumpled up the paper with the questions and put it in my bag. 

“I hope so, I’m just scared, I guess.”

“I know, dear, I know.”

The car ride was just a blur after that. I spent the rest of it staring out my window admiring the beauty of the outdoors. When we pulled up to the driveway, my heart was beating faster than my train of thought. I tried taking deep breaths as I stepped out of the car and into the fresh air, but that was no help. I tired to draw my attention on the house. It was a beautiful pastel yellow color, with a very old- fashioned touch to it. The view of the skyscrapers behind it was astonishing. I couldn’t help but gasp at the beauty of it all. Compared to Delaware, I felt like I was in a completely different world. When we got to the front door, grandpa rang the doorbell, and in less than five seconds I heard footsteps and the knob turning. The door opened slowly, and immediately I was drawn to my mother’s big, beautiful, green eyes.  As I looked at them suddenly all the fear inside of me faded. All of the anger and confusion in me turned into ache and love. In her eyes, I noticed the same brokenness I saw when I looked in the mirror. A thousand memories, memories that I didn’t even realize I had, flashed through my mind. As we stood there, I was the same little girl I was six years ago, and she was the same mother I knew. From that moment on, I knew it would be okay.


By: Claire Weiss

We all are in


Created by technology,

Reinforced by our selfishness,

Made stronger by our weakened wills.

We are constantly looking down,

Immersed in a fake world.

We think Instagram

And Snapchat

Are more important than


Human interaction.

Maybe if we looked up

We would discover

That the world has a hidden beauty

For those who pay attention.

Shutter Button

Shutter Button
By: Anonymous

It’s five-thirty AM, and I’m sitting in a musty station waiting for a train. Nobody else is awake, save for a few irritable, busy individuals, and nobody talks. When the train rushes into the station, we file our way in and sit in weighted silence, some lulled by the movement of the train and others too preoccupied to notice. I fall asleep on the train. Nobody bothers to wake me.
Work presents nothing out of the ordinary: mothers towing screaming children, people presenting me with twenty-dollar bills for a three-dollar purchase, customers angrily demanding to speak with my manager. When I clock out, I take my time walking back to the train station, hoping that the fresh air will do something to revitalize me. I reach the smog-scented tunnels more quickly than I would’ve liked, feeling anything but revitalized.
That night, after the realization that I’ve forgotten yet again to go grocery shopping, I collapse on the couch, turn on the TV, and fall asleep with my phone clutched in my hand, ready to wake up once more and restart the cycle.

The only time I feel truly alive is when I’m on the streets with my camera in hand, wielding it like a knight would a sword, ready to capture what the world has to offer me. Not having anybody with whom to occupy my time, I instead turn to photography as my outlet, the only thing keeping me sane. On one such day, I’m wandering through a rundown neighborhood, my messenger bag slung over one shoulder and my finger lightly resting on my camera’s shutter button. A flash of color catches my eye from a flower box outside a little faded house that seems to be empty. In fact, I’d guess it was abandoned if the garden weren’t so impeccably kept.
Unable to stop myself, I meander closer to the house, fascinated by the bright red-and-pink roses in the flower box. I bend over, raising my camera to my face, and barely have time to snap a photo before I hear a voice, strong but quiet, carrying on the breeze.

I don’t even flinch, completely unused to being acknowledged, dismissing this as a greeting meant for somebody else. I’ve changed my angle for another shot when I hear the voice again, slightly more insistent.
“Hello, you there,” it calls out. “You, over there in my roses.”
I jerk upright, startled, before I lay eyes on a tiny wisp of a woman, likely weighing less than ninety pounds and looking so wizened I wonder if she’ll collapse on the spot. I glance from her to my hands, still holding my camera over her flower box, and stumble back, stammering apologies.
“I-I didn’t… I didn’t realize…” I raise my hands up, unsure whether I’m surrendering or trying to protect myself.
“Oh,” she says with a little closed-lip smile. “It’s quite alright. I just wondered… are you from the newspaper?”
I can’t help but laugh at this odd question.

“No,” I reply. “I noticed your flowers, and I think they’re beautiful.”
“Would you like to come inside?” she asks. “It’s cold out. I could make us some tea?”
I open my mouth to decline, unaccustomed to small talk and unsure whether I even trust this woman yet, but the hopeful glint in her smile-crinkled eyes crumbles my concerns like dry leaves. She must be lonely, I realize. Lonely like I am.

I follow her into her house, noting my surroundings as I go. Everything is covered in a fine layer of dust, from the doily-clad end tables to the framed pictures on the walls. The woman glides into the kitchen and fills up a tea kettle in the rusty sink, setting it on the electric stove to
“If you’re not with the newspaper,” she says, going into the cabinet and fishing out a few tea bags, “why were you taking pictures in my yard?”
“I’m really sorry,” I apologize, guilt twisting my stomach. “I didn’t mean -”
She waves her hand dismissively.
“Don’t apologize,” she shrugs. “I just wondered. I haven’t seen a nice camera like that in a long time… there was one at my wedding, did you know that?”
“I, um, didn’t know that,” I reply. “And, yeah… this camera belonged to my grandfather.
He gave it to me before he died.”

“Hm,” she murmurs.
The room is filled with the whistling of the tea kettle as she pours steaming water into two floral teacups and presses one into my hand. I don’t know what to do as she leads me into her living room and sits me down in a plush blue armchair. She crosses her ankles and leans forwards, sipping her tea, and begins to talk.
When she starts, she doesn’t stop. She tells me her whole life story, from her childhood in New Orleans to her husband’s experience in Vietnam. I expect to be bored senseless by this lengthy conversation, but I find myself clinging to every word as though what she was speaking about had happened to me. I suppose, in a way, we both needed this.
A few hours pass, and the shroud of night begins to fall around us. I pick up my teacup, its contents long past cold, and stand up, stretching out the crick in my back.
“Thank you for the tea,” I smile, handing her the cup. She gives me a small smirk.
“Thank you for your time,” she replies, taking it and setting it on the kitchen counter.

I come back the next day, and the next, and the next, always remembering to bring my camera.
One day, I catch her staring fondly at it, mindlessly running a hand absently through her hair. I glance from her smile to my camera to a picture hanging on the wall of her, years younger, her hair done up and her makeup flawless, and it all begins to click in my head.

“Would… you like it if I took your picture?”
She glances up at me.
“Would you mind?”
“Not at all.”

The sun is shining down on her face, her rich, dark skin velvety in the soft light. I’ve carefully dethorned five roses and wound them through her hair, framing her face with color and bringing out the caramel browns in her eyes. I haven’t known her for long, but the surge of joy I feel as I frame up the picture is unlike anything I’ve felt before. She looks utterly serene, perched on a bench in her garden, white chiffon fluttering around her like angels’ wings.

I press the shutter button, hearing the distinctive click of a photo being taken. She doesn’t move, instead readjusting the tilt of her head and patting a curl in her hair.
She doesn’t ask to see the photos, even when taking them becomes our common pastime.
She’s always ready for me when I arrive, her hair styled in whatever way she sees fit, not wearing much makeup but glowing nonetheless.
I never told her, but I’ve pasted all the photos we’ve taken into an album – I couldn’t stand leaving them in a drawer to collect dust. The very first page houses the radiant image of
her in the sunlight, framed with petals. The second holds a softer photo, one of her standing in
the kitchen with fragrant steam curling up from the mug she’s cradling in cupped hands. Each photo features that same look on her face, though. That look of pure elegance, of muted joy. The look that elevates her from a woman to a goddess. As I flip through the pages of the album, that divine elegance remains. In the photo where she’s perched in a wheelchair, hands folded in her lap. In the photo where she’s propped up in a hospital bed, combing what little remains of her hair. In the photo where a cannula is resting lightly on her cheekbones and her eyes are barely open, that look remains on her face. Although I think about her nearly every day, I never visit, always unsure what to say.
One day, though – the same day I stumbled upon her flower box all those years ago – I finally decide to make the trip. Kneeling beside her, I gently place the book on the grass, propping it open to the very first page – the first picture I ever took of her.
“I know it’s been a while,” I say, the autumn wind whistling through my hair. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to talk sooner, but I’ve had this album on my mantel for a few years now, and I figured you should have it.” I pat the ground fondly. “I thought you might want to see how
beautiful you are.”
As I turn to walk away, I’m almost convinced that I can hear her voice, carrying on the breeze, thanking me.
“You’re welcome,” I smile. “Thank you too.”