April 30th, 2019
I sit upon a grassy field in which there is nothing wrong.
The world stopped for a moment of tranquility and light.
The birds shared with me their melodic song.
But I still grew cautious of the burning night.
The cruel, grey smoke will come and set my paradise ablaze.
Soon it will approach, as it had again and again.
I see it in an inky, encompassing haze.
The blackening fire and smoke will cause my only pain.
It comes to me, attempting to hit like daggers into my mind.
I wield a shield of optimism, and I win these battles.
But, the problem remains, and I am not blind.
If I was stronger, I could be free of my murky shackles.
The bleak smoke has come and set my paradise ablaze.
Soon it will worsen, as it had again and again.
I see it in an inky, encompassing haze.
The blacken fire and smoke are causing my only pain.
The darken smoke, no longer a sword, but a tiny eerie voice.
It looms over me, holds me close, and softly mutters.
I shiver and listen without a choice.
The world morphs and my heart flutters.
The cynical smoke invades my thoughts
And my voice is growing stranger.
My intellect is fading.
And the ashen fire reeks of danger.
My stomach is enlarging.
And my ache starts to multiply.
The mutters turn to forceful barking.
The aggressive smoke cannot be satisfied.
My paradise is destroyed in the fierce night flames.
I have seen this again and again.
I perceive the smoke as a cloudy mirror; I see myself to blame.
The long-blackened fire and smoke control my brain.
The noise dissipates, and my feet float off the ground.
As the raven fire turns to a dull fog, I start to numb.
Into the sadness and nothing, I drown.
Across the vast sky of dreary mist, I realize what is to come.
I am consumed by the monstrous pitch-dark fire.
Just in an instant, it swallows me whole.
With no hope, I become a broken crier.
The flames always damage my restless soul.
I carry on after the fire is extinguished by tears.
My new paradise is slowly approaching in the distance.
Overtime, this terrible cycle has faded my fears.
Because I know that through the misery, I can rely on persistence.
I sit upon a grassy field, recovering from the firestorm.
I watch the adorable bunnies as they begin to play.
I focus now on them and not on the sparks growing warm.
I will enjoy life and be cautious of the dawning day.
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.
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.
“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.