By Angela Rowan
Each leaf has a tree
That it calls home until cold
Forces it to leave
By Angela Rowan
Each leaf has a tree
That it calls home until cold
Forces it to leave
By Tea Rainey
I remember it clearly, the bone chilling cold that could steal the very life essence of mortal men. That’s not to say that I’m immortal, but rather I had a clear grasp of my own mortality. I ignored the cold and held my body firm and still as the time ticked by.
Time is a strange thing. We as humans cling to it almost as if we could grasp it like it was some kind of entity. I remembered a time when I would have done the same thing, desperately reaching for each second as it ticked by, wanting so badly to hold those single moments and never let them go, never let them fade into the memory of whatever higher power steered us towards our own inevitable bitter ends. Why do we always chase things that we can never hold or control? Why do we cling so bitterly to ideas that we can scarcely understand? The answer has always eluded me, even now.
But in that bitter cold, I held an almost ethereal understanding of it; I could almost touch what I had never before even considered, I felt as if all time had stopped for me. It hadn’t really of course, but it was important none the less. It made me realize just how far we as a people will go just to make amends for time that has long since passed. I remembered the moments clearly as if they had only transpired moments ago, rather than years.
I lay on the roof covered in snow, I had lain there for hours as a storm spewed its contents onto me. I didn’t bother to clean myself off since the snow would give me camouflage that I was much in need of. The chill was the most memorable part of that endeavor, although it didn’t register to me at the time. I couldn’t face the cold because it had become a part of me in every sense of the word.
My motives were far from good, indeed, I would most likely be counted among the demons many believed to infest earth. I would be seen as evil and abhorring something to shun in society. I had long since resigned myself to that fact especially since I would never regret nor change my course of actions.
I waited never recognizing the signs of passing minutes and hours. They meant nothing to me anymore. The only thing that I cared about in those moments was a man riding in the back of a black Mercedes. He was a powerful man full of greed and hate, never understanding the consequences of his own actions. It occurred to me that he had a similar perception of time to my own. What could ever hold a deeper meaning when you had nothing but yourself to live for?
I heard the faint whispers of tires as he rolled up slowly. He was the first to arrive at his arranged meeting. If I remembered correctly he was here to buy drugs or something else among the immoral and illegal lines. He had enough money I was sure he could buy anything his black heart desired. But there was one thing money could never afford, and that was time. This particular man was running out of that luxury.
I twisted and turned the dial on my scope pinpointing the very spot that held the most clarity for the shot. His blackened window was held perfectly in my sights. I waited patiently knowing that he would soon step out. It was in his nature to do the idiotic and mundane. Not to mention his drug lord had finally showed. Just when I thought the man was going to chicken out his door opened and he stepped into the open.
I had been waiting for that very moment for over a year, but to see his face again was torture. His ice cold eyes held nothing and could even be called soulless. His black hair was trimmed short and neat along with his beard. His face was all hard lines and angles hollowed out almost savagely from extended drug use and alcoholism. He would have been handsome, he used to be handsome. At one time I could have liked him, but he took something valuable from me and I had no choice but to return the favor.
“Take the shot Echo.” Her voice whispered to me almost sweetly. I could hear her like soft music floating on the wind, blessing my ears with her fading song. I looked to my side and saw her outline. She was tall, standing in at about 5’9”. Her shocking red hair fell about her face and shoulders in an untamed mess that could never be controlled. Her green eyes were electric and full of life and mischief. She was wearing her favorite outfit consisting of old faded blue jeans and a loose fitting blue blouse to contrast her hair.
She was different from me I was two inches taller with frosty blond hair and eyes to match. She was all warmth where I was nothing but ice. My hair was straight and hers always held a wave. If we were compared I had to wonder if we would be seen as opposites. She put her hand on her hip and tilted her head at me.
“Come on Echo you’ve waited so long… Why wait now?” I blinked slowly as she beamed a smile at me. Was she crazy? Time was nothing now, what was a few more seconds?
“Quiet, Fox,” I whispered to her as I turned back to my sights. I heard her laughter like ringing bells that were so soft you couldn’t help but yearn for their melody to return.
“Take the shot.” Again it was that whisper that was so faint, so tangible. It didn’t have a beginning and it didn’t have an end. All it did to me was make me more aware of the seconds ticking by. It made me yearn to hold still that time when she spoke to me, and hold her voice in my heart as I continued to do the unthinkable.
I aligned the cross of my scope onto the man’s head as he walked up to the drug lord. I had to wonder if he was as painfully aware of the seconds that floated by as I was. He had lived for some forty odd years, and now his time was up. If he had an hourglass that indicated his life he had only a few kernels of sand left. If I were in his shoes I would be desperately grasping those last seconds and pulling them to me in an effort to prolong my own life or even go backwards from that very moment. I had hoped that he would feel that same exquisite pain that I had. But he cared for no one, so I couldn’t give him the torment that I had gone through. The only thing I could give him was an end. I wanted so badly to call his name so that he could look into my eyes and be hyper aware of his own doom. I wanted him to see his end, to grasp it even before it struck him. I could even go as far as to say that I wanted him to suffer a little before he expired. But I couldn’t be choosey, and I couldn’t wait any longer.
I took a deep breath, losing myself to the numbness and my own experience. The gun leveled and stayed perfectly still. My finger almost of its own accord pulled the trigger. But in that moment a body guard of his lunged and blocked my path taking the bullet for his master. Laughter echoed all around me as my sly Fox taunted me. I cursed under my breath loading my rifle again. The man was running now, they were all running. But they could never run fast enough. Time was on my side because I had no concept of it. They could run, they could walk, and hell they could even crawl it made no difference. The only change was that I had to work harder to reach my goal.
I followed him with the sights and when the feeling that always accompanied a perfect shot lit up my veins and my senses I pulled the trigger again. Blood exploded as another guard went down. But this time the brutish man’s body wasn’t enough to save his master. The blue eyed villain fell. He was wounded, but not dead. This would not do. But I had to turn away from him to end the drivers who were desperately trying to escape me. While I wanted to be a better more moral person and let them live I couldn’t jeopardize my mission. I killed them all.
When I was finished I looked back to the man who had taken everything from me. While still alive I could tell he was coming close to his end. I stood and brushed myself off. I wanted to be a little more up close and personal for this last bit. I turned and began to make my way off the roof. The snow fell softly and quietly around me, and there was no trace of my elusive Fox.
I made it to the bottom and stood in front of him. His sharp eyes pierced me down to my hollow soul.
“Am I graced by the all famous Echo? What a shame you’re nothing more than a girl.” He gurgled sarcastically. I didn’t move a muscle as I kept my face cold and distant. The fact that he knew my nickname was irrelevant.
“Randy Cochevski.” I said it with the most venom I could muster. Even as he bled out he still managed to make me feel soul crushing pain.
“Tell me why you decided to kill me, and maybe I’ll let you leave this place alive.” He held his chest and began to shake as the seconds took their toll. I almost laughed.
“Even if you didn’t it would make no difference to me. Death and life hold no more meaning then day or night. If I live for ten more minutes or ten more years I could care less.” I said it softly as if the words actually meant something to me. He scowled at my words.
“Then what? Were you hired?” I didn’t understand his need to know. Maybe it was every dying man and woman’s wish to know just why it was that their lives were draining from them. It wouldn’t do me any harm to give a dying man his last wish. Perhaps then he would regret his actions for the first time in his life.
“Do you remember a year or so ago when you broke into a home and attacked the people who lived there? Two girls, barely on the cusp of womanhood. Do you remember what you did?” I asked. He smiled, his blood stained teeth making me sick to my stomach. But I stood firm none the less.
“As I recall I was looking for something, and those two girls refused to give it to me. I took this precious little red headed one and… What did I do again?” He cocked his head as I was dragged back into those terrifying moments.
He held her hair back from her face as he drug a knife down the side of her cheek. Blood followed the cold steel blade like the tail of a falling star. Tears stained her face as she shook with sobs begging me to help; she begged anyone for help. He kept asking over and over again for the location of a stash. I didn’t understand what he was asking for, we had only just bought the house. But with our lengthening silence he grew angry. I wasn’t sure if he decided that he had miscalculated or if he just wanted to leave nothing but pain and misery in his wake.
He asked one last time and if I had known the consequences of our silence I would have crafted a lie or told him to take me instead. But we both cried and denied any knowledge of his stash.
I remembered clearly what he did next, I would never forgive, I would never forget. As I cried and struggled against the arms of my captors he took that cruel blade and he sliced it across my love’s neck, cutting deep and without mercy. She let loose a strangled cry and fell to the floor clutching her wound desperately. At that point they let me go as sirens began to wail. They all disappeared like ghosts as I crawled brokenly to her side.
I picked up her weak form and clutched her head to my chest. I screamed and wailed as she slowly began to relax and cool in my grasp. I looked down for one last moment as that wonderful spark in her eyes was extinguished. I remembered so vividly wanting to snatch time into my greedy fingers and tear it apart, I wanted to hurt it, I wanted to hurt everything. I wanted to stop those seconds permanently and rewind them so that I could take her place or even save her from those monsters. But no matter how desperate I was I couldn’t stop it, the seconds stole her away from me and there was nothing I could do. From that moment on I lost myself, and I lost my sense of time and mortality. She was my beginning and my end.
I came back to the present and stared down into those crisp eyes. I felt a burning hatred rise up. No matter how long had passed, he had taken away from me everything I had ever held close to my heart. If he got to play god with our clocks of life then I would too.
“Randy your time has ended. May the gates of hell open wide for your damned soul.” I pointed the gun right at his head. His eyes widened for a millisecond and shock crossed his face as I pulled the trigger. His head rocked back violently and then he was gone. He was over. I could finally continue my work without having to worry that he would find and end me.
I turned away from the gory scene filled with red snow and silent wails. In front of me stood my Fox, all sass and beauty. Her smile was as I always remembered.
“Echo you did it!” She laughed. Her red hair waved gently in an unseen and unfelt breeze. Her eyes glinted with joy and something else I couldn’t quite name. I let all the tension out of my body, releasing a sad sigh.
“That’s right Fox we did it. We can continue on.”
“What now Echo?” She asked. I began to walk by her with grim determination. As I did so her form shimmered and was gone.
“Now my lovely Fox, we continue down the list.” Once again I became nothing more than an echo, appearing only when I wanted to, and always being nothing more than a ghost among ghosts. I was nothing and yet I was everything.
By Jared Probert
I see him walking twisted trails, always looking for a new path, a new way to get to the next place, drifting farther away. I’ve tried to follow him, find his hiding places, know him in the way that fathers and sons do, but I always drag a little farther behind, becoming a little more lost.
Now I know these trails. I follow them not in searching but in escaping, haunted by my father’s echo. I walk the same trails he did, and I am terrified.
By Jared Probert
I watch the wind blow in the tall grass, shifting in waves under the darkening sky. I see mountains, a barrier to the edge of the world, the last desperate gasps of orange and pink sky fading from behind the gathering clouds. The house whistles in the wind, dust is scattered, raindrops begin to fall through the open window, seeping over the sill and onto the hard wood floor. I sit and watch the storm rise and pray, Come and wake me with your hurricane strength, let loose your wrathful passion over me, with me. Blast air into every crevice of my warm flesh, let me feel cold and wet and hungry, shake me until I awaken from this slumber and make love to me. Awaken and be with me – I miss you on sunny days.
By Victoria Smithson
Those eyes are bright blue waters
Waves with white caps dotting the black shore
Shimmering as the sun hits the ripples
Waters so deep but not dark
They are bright with what has been and what I long to be
Ad even though I can’t swim,
His oceans make me feel safe
I watch them, willing them to show me more
Show me everything
They take me to faraway places
But I am always home
Those eyes are bright blue waters
And I’ll travel them forever
By Victoria Smithson
Once my revenge is exacted, she’ll be sorry.
She’ll regret all those times she made me go hungry for whole minutes.
Dues will be paid for every time my escape plan has been foiled.
Oh she’s going to get it good.
Not only will I make tons of noise with the empty grocery bags,
I’ll dig through them for no reason; that will surely drive her mad.
She’ll rue the day that she let the elusive red dot disappear right as I had it in my grasp.
And how dare she put my drinking liquid too close to my sustenance bowl!
Doesn’t she know that the enemy will poison it!
Pray tell me, how am I supposed to make sure I don’t die of thirst
If you keep closing the lid on my porcelain watering hole?
It’s like she’s asking for it!
Well, she’ll see.
I’ll lure her in with an adorable flop.
She’ll think I’m asking for a belly rub, then
She’ll regret it.
Right after I take a quick nap.
By Wyatt Sarrazin
Everything is dark I can’t remember how I got to this place and it is hard for me to think as my head feels like a freight train is rushing over it. The sounds of the florescent bulbs humming above me go silent. Things begin to make sense as eyes try to adjust, but a blindfold covers them. The material that composes the blindfold is course and saturated with what I hope is the remanence of someone else’s blood, but I feel that it is my own.
The back of my neck is cold as the blood has yet to dry, but I feel that it has stopped pouring out of the back of my head. I feel woozy as my sense of smell hits me first. The first smell that I recognize is that of my own blood. The next is even more recognizable: it’s the smell of oil, gasoline, and the other fragrances combined together that tell me that this is my shop.
The next thing that I feel is the cold steel barrel of a hand gun on my forehead. I get a glimpse of the cop issue 9mm Beretta out of a small hole in the blindfold, but this is all I can see. Everything else is blurred.
Another gun’s hammer is pulled back in anticipation; it is most likely a .38 revolver. Another sound that I can hear is the squeaking of the chair that I’m in as well as another about three feet away from me.
The seconds tick by, but I feel as if each one lasts an eternity. I slow my breathing as I try to rationalize what has happened. I start to assess my situation, but it looks bleaker the more I think about it.
My body hurts all over and my hands feel stretched. I assume that they are zip-tied behind the chair that I am in. My hands feel as if they could easily slip out of their bondage and I begin to do so.
My blindfold is lifted away as I gather more information about my surroundings. I was indeed in my shop, with my tools and interments hanging all around and the florescent lights began to hum again. My eyes were wide open, but the singular blinking of my elides betray my sight, light and darkness become one in the same as the humming disappears again.
The three men in front of me are all completely different from one another and yet so very similar in their goal to kill me. Each man also holds himself up differently than the others.
The man with the revolver could almost be mistaken for homeless man, with his tattered clothes and worn out shoes; he stood unsure of himself and his own actions. His revolver was new and shiny as if it had just been cleaned and oiled. His face is well groomed and the hair upon his face is clean but seems poorly kept. The sheer look of terror was plain upon his face. I assumed that this was most likely his first job, as he looked fairly young and his hand shook ever so slightly as he tried to keep from dropping his hand canon.
The man with the Beretta aimed at my head was also well groomed, but he was clean shaven and wore comfortable street clothes. It could easily be seen that he was an off duty cop. He pointed the gun with both hands with such authority that when he switched to using one hand he seemed even fiercer as his hand was as steady as a surgeon’s.
The man sitting directly in front of me was a completely different matter. He was also well groomed and clean shaven, but in a way that showed he paid a good sum of money to look the way he did. He wore a gray three piece suit that presented his wealth with addition of the silver cufflinks, tie clip, and Rolex on his left hand. In his right hand he wielded a black and gold switchblade that gave me all the information I needed.
As the blade came forth from its mechanical sheath I realized these guys were part of the Bratva, Russian mafia. I hadn’t noticed, until now, that each of the men had a tattoo the symbolized their brotherhood. Each tattoo was unique and displayed their rank.
The man with the knife was definitely in charge and had the neck tattoo to prove this. The two gun wielders both had ink on their arms. The younger had one on his hand and the cop on his forearm, as to be able to conceal it when presumably needed. However both were rather new initiates as the redness and irritation around the skin of the tattoo exhibited.
All of this occurred as the leader spoke to me, but I had not been listening to his words, or even acknowledged them until now. I ignored his constant mumblings as I had finished contemplating my plan with what I assume was half a lifetime from over. My hands had slipped free from their bondage and I could now see and I could immediately fight.
The cop sent up his gun wielding hand in order to send the butt of the gun on a collision course with my forehead. That was his final mistake. The worst was the negligence of small group to not tie my legs to the chair. This is when I stood up.
I grabbed the cop’s forearm and proceeded to break it over top of his newly minted tattoo. His pain caused him to fire the gun in the direction of his comrade who did not know what to do. Two shots were let out before I stopped him. The first glided through the air and placed itself into the wall that was now directly behind me.
The second bullet’s paths also lead it to the wall also, but made a detour through the brain cavity of the young gangster, splattering the wall red. As the second shot was let out, I took it upon myself to remove the slide from the top of the gun my hand was now on. The thick heavy piece of metal quickly found its home in the jugular of the man who once wielded it. The blood spurted out onto my hand and the side of my face. The two lifeless corpses fell to the ground, before their leader could do anything.
The man proceeded to thrust himself forward, knife first, but to no avail. The blade intended for my abdomen never made it to its destination. I rerouted it to the eye of its owner with a quick break of ulna and wrist in unison. The chair and body in it fall back to the floor, with my own on top of them. The man was barely hanging onto life as his mouth moved but no words were vocalized. I notice the clock as the second hand seemed to finally moving after stopping in place.
The humming of the florescent bulbs returned to my ears as well as the words of the man in front of me. “So you’ll have those reports by Monday,” He said in mumbled tone. The man in front of me is small, too small for the clothes he wears. He looks like a child in his father’s suit. The constant clicking of his black and gold painted pen irritates my ears as I keep imagining stabbing him through the neck with it.
A homeless man across the street is being hounded by a police officer to move along as he gathers his only possessions in life. My boss has called in another complaint to remove the vagrants from his sight. The small well-dressed man sits behind his desk as I try to listen to his words, but I zone in and out as the humming sound above increases getting louder and louder in my head.
Once again I start to imagine killing him this time by grabbing his fancy tie, tightening it around his scrawny neck, and throwing him headfirst out the window. I know the short fall from the two story building probably wouldn’t kill him. I hope that it somehow would with the smashing of his puny head on the concrete below. These thoughts bring me back into the present.
I can’t help but to continue staring at his neck and the ghastly mole there on. The long black hairs protruding out form strange shapes. The fake Rolex on his wrist blinds my eyes as the glare of the sun reflex off of it. The watch is also too large for him as it slips up and down his wrist as he makes short hand gestures.
I try to countdown the seconds until he will be done, but I get lost in thought again wishing for this all to be over. The clock seems to stop again and the hands start to move backwards. I blink trying to hold each one for as long as I can. The only sound I hear is that of the humming florescent above.
The man in front of me has finished speaking and looks to me for some sign that I have understood all that he has said. I nod to him even though I haven’t been listening. He ends his speech with the normal “get back to work” and an unsatisfying “keep up the good work.”
By Wyatt Sarrazin
The handle is cold to the touch, and I know that the air inside is cold and stiff, like the hanging meats therein. There is no sign of life, only death. The muscular flesh has been skinned of its outer furry shell; it hangs by the hooks that crudely protrude the skin. The blood has been frozen as it makes its way to the floor. The ground is cleanly paved cement, with a glossy lacquer. A few drops of blood have made it from the carcasses to the cement, but they seem stuck where they land. The metal that lines the cold box has been frosted over, but its shiny veneer is still visible. The rest of the container is empty. Empty of voice, of thought, of even memories, for this is the first of many. The secluded box has but one purpose, to store this frozen meat. Then new light comes from the opening of the large metal door. The meat is removed by the chains that hold it. I take the beef, lifting it to the tables for cutting. The meat is cut and configured into its different forms. The steaks are the funniest to cut but jerky slices are also fun to do. The meats are distributed to their new owners. The metal container has a new purpose, to feed people with the meat that it stores. It is empty now, but not for long.
By Wyatt Sarrazin
Death is equal, Death is grand
He plays no favorites
takes no command
He holds sway over all
from the water to the land.
He takes us away with a slight of hand.
We strike up the band in remembrance
of our fallen comrade’s benevolence.
They ask forgiveness and repentance
as they take their last breath of independence.
But death doth not care on the other hand
For Death is grand,
but he’s only the sequel.
By Roberta Irving
There was a bright flash, and then the world went dark. All the light simply disappeared. One moment, the sun was out in a clear afternoon; the next, there was only darkness. Even the lights of buildings had gone out. I remember that terrible day in the city of Merriweather. The streets, just a moment ago full of the usual noise and bustle, suddenly went quiet. No one moved. No one made a sound. What could you do when you could not see a thing?
The silence only lasted a few moments. I suddenly heard a panicked scream from a distance. It was that scream that made everyone else panic and try to run. Several bodies rammed into me and it was all I could do to keep from falling over and getting trampled. There were shouts all around me. People trying to locate their family through voice and words. It was useless, though. All that could be heard was the loud murmur of several people shouting at once. There was no hope for calming this crowd.
Suddenly there was a high-pitched sound that came from the sky. It drowned out everyone’s voices and turned everyone to silence. Then, a loud, booming voice filled the air.
“Humans,” it said, “We are terribly sorry for any inconvenience you may be facing right now. It seems that the Light has gone out. We are currently in the process of restoring the Light, so in the meantime, please try to refrain from making any movement. This will minimize any harm done to yourself or others.”
While everyone had finally stopped moving, there were still murmurs. What the hell was going on? How could all the light go out, just like that? Surely the sun and stars could not just short-circuit in an instant, could it? And who – or what – was that voice?
“Ah,” the Voice came back. “I understand you have several questions regarding this issue. This event has never happened to you before, nor have you heard of anything like it. Unfortunately, we do not know much of the problem ourselves, so we ask that you continue to hold out a little longer. Nor do I have the ability to tell you who we are. We will explain more once the Light comes back on. We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. Do not worry, though; the Light will come on shortly.”
There was only more confusion to this response, but people were silent. The Voice sounded like some sort of businessman or representative. Did this light he was talking about refer to all of the light in all of the universe? How could it simply just go out? Were the people – or things – the voice was representing, responsible for this? I reached in my pocket, and pulled out my iPhone. I felt around it until I found the home button, and pressed it. Nothing. Just a few minutes ago, it had been on full battery. How could every single source of light disappear so quickly, with no warning?
As I continued to ask myself what was happening, the light suddenly returned. It was blinding for a few moments, so we had to shield our eyes. Once my eyes had adjusted, I looked around. What I saw was shocking. So many bodies that had been trampled. When everyone began running around in a panic trying to find their family and friends, many had fallen and been stepped on by the masses. I could not help but to gag at the sight of the carnage. Many who were still alive felt the same way as they struggled to reunite with their family members and identify the bodies of those they knew. To put it simply, it was a great tragedy.
I could not tolerate the destruction all around me. I had to leave. I did not have anyone who was close to me, so there was no need nor purpose to try to identify bodies or join others. I began to walk through the streets, not even looking at the people around me. It was in an abandoned alley that I turned in to that I saw a mysterious figure. It was someone in a long black cloak with a hood. He had his back turned to me, and was hunched over, muttering something under his breath.
“Hey,” I said to get his attention. I do not know why I needed it at the time, but something told me it was important. The figure, startled, turned around. The first thing I noticed was the eyes. They were golden and cat-like. When he took off his hood, I was the one who was startled. His entire face was that of a cat.
“Uh, hello,” he said, awkwardly, as if he rarely ever talked to anyone. Understandable, since it would be hard not to stand out with the face of a cat. But then I realized that his voice sounded familiar.
“Wait a minute, you’re that Voice guy, aren’t you?” I asked, “Care to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Actually, I do not know what happened. When it went dark all of a sudden like that, I could feel the tension of everyone here. I could feel that tension grow into all-out panic. Then I heard the shouting and running, and I knew then that if I did not do something, many people would get hurt. So I projected my voice into the sky, to make people stop what they were doing. I had to come up with some sort of explanation, and fast. What I said was really the first thing that came to mind. I was not really thinking of how weird it would sound later. Oh, yeah! That reminds me…”
I looked at the creature’s hands. In them, he had a small spherical device. The device lit up, hovered over his cupped hands, and then zipped away into the sky. Then, the creature began to speak again. “Again, so sorry for the inconvenience, but we are too busy figuring out this whole light thing to give you any more information about ourselves. In fact, we may not have time to give you any explanation any time in the future. We are now disconnecting. Goodbye.”
“What about me?” I asked. “What makes you think I can keep your secret? How can you possibly expect me to believe anything you say, much less trust me?”
“That’s easy,” he replied, “because anyone you tell about me will think you are simply fabricating a story, your own ideal of what just happened, or that you have simply lost your mind. No one would believe you, no matter what. And if you think you can bring me in as evidence, you are sadly mistaken. It is not difficult at all to get out of a tough situation. So really it is in your best interest to keep quiet about this. In fact, it is most likely in both of our best interests that we never meet again. So long!”
And with that, the cat creature placed his hood back over his head, and disappeared. Fast guy. Too bad I never got the chance to learn his name.