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Storytellers United—

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The Art of 26 Letters—An Article

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The Art of 26 letters —An Article

By Paige Ferrari

Words.

Have you ever realized their impact? They form faith. They move nations. They create relationships. They destroy them.

A unique mixture of 26 letters creatively combined to birth works by the greats. These words can be mashed in a beautiful jumble to reveal our deepest hopes, dreams, fears, and even the fiction to drown our minds to let us forget.

Photographers say that their photos can’t be put into words. Writers find those words and artfully craft them into a symphony of lines. Paragraphs. Stories.

A simple word can evoke emotions, cause a stir or provides us with comfort and peace. Words have power. It is too often denied and overlooked. Someone says they are a writer and is usually accompanied by a head tilt and  “uh okay…” What does it mean to be a write though? Do you have to have some sort of certification? Or do you have to have a certain level of education? My answer to that is intrigue. Intrigue to dive deeper into your mind, to learn in order to compose fluently, to understand the hearts and minds of your audience. This intrigue creates a springboard for every writer’s work.

A thesaurus or dictionary mixed with spell check is sometimes a writer’s best friend. But the intrigue is the most important thing. For me, it’s my experiences and how those translate in my mind and ultimately on paper (or in this case a computer screen). For others it might be some scenery, music, or even something some other author wrote down.

Intrigue, my friends. If nothing causes you to look deeper, think harder, or search more, then go out and explore. Our world is filled with inspiration that is cause for intrigue. That is how God designed it to be. 

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Preferring Ease—Short Story

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Preferring Ease

C.E. Leavitt

The mangled mess of metal never really tells the story.  It’s only a backdrop, a reason to slow down and choose a perspective.  It’s as if cars recognize what their own kind should look like, and when they see a peer crumbled up, they need to assess the situation.  Paradox abounds simply in the observance; the result is repulsive, and yet curiously inviting.  While astonishing to the non-participant, the end is never the answer in itself.  That’s what people are really slowing down for, after all.  They want a glimpse of the answer.  The crash can only carry the questioner so far; the people behind the wheel are what truly lend to the search.

“All dressed up and nowhere to go” is the cliché, and it might as well have been invented for him.  He wore success made of designer fabric, and head to toe was seemingly flawless in the pulsing sunlight.  While the heat of the rays makes walking beneath difficult, its illumination iterates the seamless design of the suit.  Every stitch, seam, and thread were handcrafted, with no expense for expense.  This sort of appreciation of detail is meant to be recognized, and recognized he was.  However, the shadow under which he now sat masked the success with which he dressed. This shadow—cast by a winding, leafless tree that could only grow where the soil is parched—is where the brilliance of the craftsmanship becomes neglected.  Intricate stitches fall away in favor of a general shape, eliminating the beauty found in the detail.  While the product is still present, the perfection that once accompanied it fades into the shape.  It is only in the most dire of circumstances that you find a man, dressed like this, alone at this time and in this place.  Humility takes on an entirely new and foreign meaning when seen from the curb’s perspective.  In fact, everything changes from the curb’s perspective.

Connor Clark had not sat on a parking lot curb in this sort of weather in, well, as long as he could remember.  It is not that he felt entitled; it is just that a man of his profession and fortitude rarely found himself in the presence of a lonely curb.  Yet here he was, becoming well acquainted with the cement that he has driven so carelessly by over the past 12 years.  With this sort of weather, his jacket was far from necessary, and so he took it off.  Professionalism means little when the heat is radiating off the ground.  Connor took a deep sigh, one that allowed a bit of emotion to escape into the dry air with it.  He wasn’t quite sure which emotion, though.  It seemed a bit like stress coupled maybe with a tinge of anger, yet he did not seem all too rattled by the fact that his car now sat in the street, mashed.  He was never one to be shaken too easily, and he wouldn’t let the absence of a car change his consistent, temperate temperament.  He took out his phone and began to scroll through his emails, checking to see exactly what he was missing at the office.  Despite the seemingly obvious message—stay away from me as I am working on something far more important that you—Connor still found his attention diverted to the man standing on his right, outside of the shade of the tree, who began an attempt to spark a conversation with him. 

“It’s days like these that you question yourself for choosing to live in Yuma,” the man stated, pausing slightly after his statement, presumably to invoke a response.

Connor turned and faced the man, squinting a bit because of the glaring sun.  The man appeared to be in his 60’s, donning a gray Tilly hat and tan-tinted aviator sunglasses.  His well-traveled aura was emphasized by his clothing, which consisted of a light-colored polo shirt and cargo shorts, along with the boat shoes he wore.  This man fit some profile, just not exactly one that Connor could necessarily pick out.

“Yeah,” he answered, sighing lightly as his head peered down to his phone again.  “And the weather just adds to the frustration a bit.”

The man chuckled lightly in his response, “Ah yes, astute observation there!  Any matter of heat can make a man loathe his time spent outdoors.  We just have to embrace it…”

The man once again lightly paused, seeming to expect a follow-up question from Connor.  It was almost as if he had already been through this conversation before, like he knew what statements of his would reap a response, and he paused for them at just the right times.  Almost before he even considered whether he wanted to continue this short talk, Connor asked,

“What do you mean ‘embrace it’?” he said, half regretting his inquiry.

“Well I mean, you can’t have a sun without a little heat from time to time, right?  It’s light gives life, so we don’t really got a choice but to take in the harsh with the not harsh.  Can’t appreciate the pleasant light unless it gets a bit intense from time to time.  You know what I mean?” the man responded.

“I guess that could be right,” and Connor’s voice trailed off as he partially agreed.  He wasn’t sure if he was accepting the observation or simply attempting to diffuse the conversation.  After all, he had had plenty of conversations about the heat before.  Despite this, he found himself compelled to respond, as if the man needed to hear his thoughts on the subject.  “I mean, pleasantry is always preferable, right?  I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping myself out of the heat.”

“Yet here you sit,” the man responded gently.

If he hadn’t been so right, Connor might have argued.  The stranger had made sense; it just wasn’t something Connor wanted to accept.  Both men now watched the street from the curb, taking in the scene of the accident.  They saw Connor’s silver BMW, essentially unrecognizable from the windshield forward.  ‘Good thing I considered safety ratings when I bought the damn thing,’ Connor thought to himself, ‘they certainly lived up to the price.’  That naturally brought to his mind the cost of replacing the vehicle, something that was more a hassle practically than financially.  Being an attorney does have its perks, after all.  Money had never been an issue for him.  It wasn’t that he was rich by any means; it was just that his comfortability had never really been threatened by a serious need.  That’s actually why Connor never really understood the fuss about money being “evil” or “corrupting.”  Its only paper, and he had often found things to be less evil and corrupt where he could use his money. 

For a moment, his thoughts carried him back to the accident, where he noticed for the first time the presence of an ambulance.  It seemed odd at first, since he sat there unscathed.  He looked more carefully and noticed that the driver of the navy SUV whom Connor had unfortunately struck was nowhere to be seen.  The second car was not greatly damaged, though.  ‘Must be a precautionary thing,’ Connor thought, since the second driver certainly had not been seriously injured.  Must have just been bruised or maybe even emotionally torn up a bit.  He decided he would walk over there and examine the situation soon enough, to make sure the second driver was handling things well.  The accident was becoming tougher and tougher to remember, and Connor began to wonder if he had actually hurt his head and forgotten some of the details.  He felt fine, but it may be better to simply check in, just in case. 

Just as he considered going to see the paramedics, an overwhelming thirst suddenly stopped him.  He wiped sweat from his brow and began to scan the shopping center for a place to quench himself, and that is when he was reminded of the presence of the man standing next to him

“Need a drink?” he asked as he held out a bottled iced tea.

Pausing a bit and glancing at the bottle, and then at the man, Connor responded, “Sure.  Need something to wash this day off a bit.”

He opened the bottle and began to sip.

It was quenching, and necessary at the time.

He turned back to hand the man the bottle.

“That’s alright,” he said, “By the looks of things, you need it a bit more than I do!”

He was right.  By the looks of things, Connor needed more than just a bottle to ease his mentality. 

“Thanks,” he responded simply.  He proceeded to sip the tea, which became more refreshing to him with each passing second.  The heat was tough to bear.

“So, what happened with you over there?” the man asked Conner, in a tone that suggested he already knew some of the story.

“Ya know, I can’t remember a whole bunch.  I think I may have hit my head or something.  I might take a walk over there, see what exactly happened and what I might need.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” the man responded with a pleasant, expectant smirk.  It was again almost as if this man knew Connor would come to this conclusion.  It was not a smirk rooted in entertainment; it was rooted in pleasant expectancy.  Connor smirked back, half out of habit and half out of confusion, and he stood up from his curb.

            Connor started his walk toward the ambulance, his head beginning to feel heavier with each step.  As he began to cross the parking lot he had been sitting in and got closer to his destination, he heard another comment from the man behind him. 

            “Maybe you will find something more than yourself.”

            Connor turned to try and see the man, but found that he had left the area where their conversation had taken place.  He turned and looked around the parking lot, unable to find him anywhere.  Perhaps the heat had gotten to him and he had ducked inside a store.  ‘What an odd man,’ Connor thought to himself as he continued to the ambulance.

            As he crossed from the parking lot into the street, which had been blocked off due to the accident, he took in the whole scene from a closer perspective.  The navy SUV was in worse condition than he expected.  He averted his eyes from the car, for the longer he looked the more sympathetic he felt towards the driver.  Sympathy would not help him in the inevitable court case regarding who was at fault in the whole thing.  Better for Connor to just assume he had the right of way.  Glass and car debris lay scattered around the street, like bodies to a forgotten battlefield.  Police officers convened near their cars, talking amongst themselves.  One officer spoke with a woman, who sat with her face down and arms crossed on the curb by the street.  They didn’t even turn to face Connor as he approached the ambulance.  ‘Must be discussing the details of who did what and what caused what.  Best to not invoke a need for them to question me.  No need to go on record right now,’ Connor concluded as he saw them, and he proceeded to keep his eyes forward.

            He reached the ambulance and inspected it visually.  He was viewing it from the driver’s side, unable to see the passenger side of the vehicle.  He slowly walked around the back end, noticing first that the rear doors were closed, with only the windows on the doors as a source to reveal the contents.  There were no paramedics sitting, standing, or walking around it, either.  The whole scene seemed lacking in urgency for being an emergency.  As he thought this, a paramedic rushed from the passenger side to the back, disregarding Connor—naturally so, as he seemed hurried—and looked inside.  He gave a thumbs-up to whoever may have been in the ambulance and then quickly approached the driver’s side in order to start it up.  Connor knew he had to peer quickly into the van if he wanted to know anything more.  It only occurred to him now how odd this quest seemed; he didn’t know what he hoped to find, only that he hoped to find more than the remnants of a crash. 

            As the ambulance’s engine started, Connor quickly looked through the rear windows.  He saw first the IV hanging from a pole above the bed.  It was connected to a screen.  Connor knew little about medical terms or uses, but he knew what the green line across the screen meant.  It was flat and straight.  This deeply saddened Connor.  ‘The poor driver of the SUV!’ he thought to himself.  Sympathy was unavoidable now, so Connor found his eyes shifting from the screen to the bed.  He then saw a face he recognized well.  A face he had seen daily for as long as he could remember.  Connor saw his own face above the sheets on the bed.  He stumbled back in shock, holding his now aching head.  He began to feel warm.  Feverishly warm.  His entire body was encompassed in heat.  He looked again into the ambulance and saw the paramedic charged with taking care of, well, him.  It was the man who had just been with him in the parking lot moments ago.  He did not wear what he had worn before, but was rather dressed as the paramedic.  He looked up and made eye contact with Connor, smirking the same smirk as when he had left him.  That same expectant sneer.  He then mouthed words, which Connor could somehow hear, as a whisper, in his ears. 

“Deus ex machina,” the man said.

END

Sky Interface—An Excerpt

Sky Interface
An excerpt from Sydney R.

"The sun, The moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago…had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands."
~Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Lite 1923

Having a personal connection with the sky above us and around us is dangerous and even life threatening, but having the ability to touch it is breathtaking.

=<>=

"The sky is almost like a canvas! Hey, have you noticed those clouds? The ones over there; they could be paint strokes. They could be pallets as well. There are so many colors you can see reflected off of them; I wish I could paint on it. How nice would it be to use the sky as your canvas. If only I could paint something as beautiful!"

            That is what she’d always tell me as we watched the changing sky. Over and over again, I heard those words to the point where I was convinced that’s the only thing that went on in her mind. Yet while it probably occupied her fleeting thoughts, I still held onto them as well. Why? Well, because she would never get to say them again or to actually paint the sky. See, my friend was forced from this world by means of an out of control car. On the day of the tragic accident, ironically, the sky cried and washed her crimson blood from the scene. After a week it stopped. So I was left to wonder if she’s up there now, in the sky. It seems like a rather poetic ending, but Mama told me that’s where people who died went, like Dad. Could she still be up there now, watching everything, watching the daily lives of people play out, perhaps even mine? Or maybe whoever’s up there took pity on her and let her paint her beloved sky. I don’t know.

            What I do know is having witnessed it, the incident, I was absolutely devastated. She was my only true friend. It imparted on me fear - a growing fear that this would transpire again; that someone close to me would lose their life in order for my pitiful one to continue on. It was the same with Dad after all. Maybe I’m cursed. Anyways, I withdrew myself from this world, and decided to create my own world right on top of our old sky-viewing hill. I felt closer to our memories underneath our sky there, our dearest place. Cheesy, right? But it was the only way I could cope somewhat. So I decided I wouldn’t allow myself to become attached to someone for fear of abandonment. Can you blame me? All I had to care for was myself, that hill, and that sky. I guess the heavens sympathized with me, since it granted me one last link to the memory of my lost friend. Or maybe it could have even been a gift from her. I don’t know. But one night, it simply happened.

             It’s amazing, beautiful, euphoric, surreal and just so much more! It’s something that can’t be described by mere human words; something I, myself, can’t even began to comprehend despite having experienced it. I can feel it though. At first, it’s chilling and send shivers down your spine. Then, it’s like lightening coursing through your body. Invigorating and energizing you, it overpowers every inch of your being with a thrilling, exhilarating sensation that pumps through your veins. It fills you to the brim with excitement and euphoria.

            Oh God, it’s sounds like I’m talking about taking drugs. But I swear, I’ve never taken drugs and this is not what I’m talking about. Again, I am not talking about being high. Ok?

            I’ve come to live for this inaudible, inexpressible feeling, believing it was the sole reason of my existence. It was power. Raw, untamed power. It’s an energy releasing me from my burdening guilt and transgressions, or perhaps it was merely compressing it till they couldn’t be held back, waiting to overtake me. Either way, I didn’t care. I couldn’t possibly see this gift as something negative even though it was right in front of me. In reality, beside my whole perfect admiration of the gift, it was a curse that would eventually bring suffering and pain to me and many others. I should have known, it was too good to be true. That day. 

            That day I twisted my reality.

            That day I sealed my fate.

            That day I touched the sky.

            Crazy, huh? Well trust me. It’s brought my best friend, Lea, and I nothing but trouble.

=<Lea>=

            Lea Raoul DiBenedetto stifled a yawn while finishing organizing the last of his new room. Ruffling his ginger-red hair, he let out a sigh of relief. This wasn’t how he envisioned spending the weekend before starting at a new school. But someone had to unpack, and with his step-dad off who knows where and his mom setting up her new office, the job of interior decorating and organizing befell him. Not that Lea minded too much. He’d really rather be exploring his new town, though.

            Hefting up the now empty box labeled “fragile,” the bored red-head dropped it off in the backyard where the recycle bin would eventually be. He’d have to get used to and enjoy his new ‘home’ because they certainly weren’t going to be leaving anytime soon. The reason for moving in the first place wasn’t likely to disappear in one night. Well, then again, that was up to nature. What the weather does.  His parents learned that this particular small town had irregular weather patterns that occur in eccentric time periods. A few minutes, a few hours, a few months, etc. Lea’s Mom being a somewhat highly respected meteorologist, wanted to undergo a study and observation of the odd phenomena that had arisen around three years ago.

            Lea didn’t care really. His mom’s explanation and droning of the anomaly made no sense. He imagined what the town people must have thought though. If  he were in their shoes and suddenly it was nearly day during night, the teen would be freaked. According to his mom though, most people, after about a year of panicking, figured out no harm was coming from the concurring changes and simply accepted it. Of course, what else were they to do? Some moved out of the town, however, while most of the townspeople remained.

            From what he had researched online, it was quite a stunning, beautiful sight. The sudden changes happening in the weather and sky brought tourism and scientists from around the world to the small town and helped it financially. Although, most of the tourism had died down by now. If there were too many people visiting the town, it wouldn’t happen. Which was very odd. As for the scientists, well that’s why the DiBenedettos had moved there.

            And that’s why Lea was stuck in a small town in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Even the town back in Alaska, with its frigid temperatures, was bigger than this town. While he was already starting to enjoy the weather, the red-head wished to be in the city. It was so diverse there. There were so many different people Lea wanted to meet, people who defied normal. The people back at his old school didn’t fit his eccentric standards. Unfortunately for him, he’d gone to a super prestigious school since his mom was well known and rich. Mostly everyone in that school were stuck up, prissy rich kids. Lea’s ‘best friends’ were the jocks who all had good futures ahead of them and basically ruled the school. You know, generic school status quo.  Yet, his friends always wanted more. They had it all, but they wanted more: more fame, more girls. And, it corrupted them. Lea’s old girlfriend was really shallow, and he questioned why he had even gone out with her in the first place. All she wanted was attention and compliments. Plus, she was a huge drama queen. They all complained about what they didn’t have. Everyone of them was just so darn easy to read. They were all so easy to manipulate. And they all lived basically the same lifestyles. Making friends with them had been child’s play. Sometimes, he wished he had their lives. Not all the time though.  Lea would kill himself if he became that shallow.

            Anyways, after musing about it for a few more minutes, Lea decided it may not be so bad starting anew here.

            Lingering around his new backyard, his eyes wandered to the fence running around the perimeter, eventually landing on a small gate that stood between the ends of the worn out fence. It hung open slightly as if drawing the red head to explore what lie beyond it. The old gate led to a small path that winded around through a grove of trees then climbed up a mildly steep hill. Lea, with nothing better to do in mind, quickly sent his mom a text telling her he’d be out till dinner and pushed the door open. He followed the path through the grove of oak and willow trees. Their house was stationed on the hill range since it gave a better view to observe the irregular sky with it’s higher vantage point.

            The red-head observed the surroundings. They really did live out on the outskirts of the small town. The only other house around their house was a larger, rich looking residence. It had a main house then a smaller guest house in the back. There was a nicely cut lawn and fountain in the front. Out back, near the guest house, was a swimming pool and a hot tub. Yep, they were rich. There were plenty of windows on the house, yet oddly every one of the shutters were shut.

            Other than his and his neighbor’s house, not much was around the hills; although, in the distance he could faintly see the darkened silhouette of the new factory they were still building. They decided to build it in the hills because they were empty, and easy to reach. It wouldn’t start up now since it was still being built but in two years it would since they still had to get all the machinery built and setup. His step-dad would start working there in a few days (another reason they moved here). The wages would be high apparently, and that itself, besides the weather patterns, convinced his parents to move here. 

            The red-head trailed the intriguing path faithfully while watching the sky slowly darken into the colors of nights and the sun steadily setting. Lea swore he saw clouds shifting in unnatural formations. They spread out becoming more opaque with each shifting motion like a paintbrush spreading across a smooth, crisp canvas. The moon and stars literally danced and shot around the dark, indigo sky, illuminating the cosmos, leaving trails of light streaming from where they flew from. The overall tone and hues of the celestial blended and melted together to flow through the colours of the visible spectrum. Despite the fact night had finally arrived, the world seemed so bright. Everything basked in the erratic display of lights emitting from the eccentric phenomena. Lea fell in love with it. The sight filled the entranced teen to the brim with raw thrill, pure euphoria, and undeniable ecstasy. This was nothing like the Aurora Borealis he experienced many nights. No way! This was much more vivid and entertaining. It filled him with wonder and thrill.

            How in the world is this even possible? Lea thought. The teen was so baffled yet so entrapped by its beauty. He absolutely loved it. It was something he couldn’t make sense of, something he couldn’t understand. But, maybe it needed not to be understood but simply accepted. Whatever the case, this was what Lea had been looking for. Something eccentric, something not normal.

            If this sky, this rearranging sky is actually happening, Lea thought, If got to see this every night, then it would be worth living here.  Sadly, Mom and Pete won’t ever experience this fully for different reasons each. To Mom, it’ll all be equations and theorems and to Pete well…. Lea thought, rubbing his arm unconsciously. Pete can’t experience these kinds of things. Before he knew it, he found himself to the foot of a large hill.

            Something was off about this hill, besides it being one of the larger hills. He didn’t want to put the effort into hiking it but that wasn’t the reason this hill felt weird. The red-head couldn’t place it. The air around this hill felt heavier and thicker. Chills ran down his spine and goose bumps prickled his skin. It was creepy. Lea swore he heard a soft whispering voice in his ear, and the air became colder.

            “Stay away. Don’t go there…” The small voice whispered in the breeze. Lea shivered, temporarily thinking it was his imagination, but he knew better. This wasn’t his first experience like this. The voice became a bit louder, and he felt a presence behind him. Out of the corner of his eye, he believed he saw strands of ebony hair fluttering in the wind. Whirling around quickly, Lea came face to face with absolutely nothing. No one was there.

            The teen was freaked although a bit intrigued. After all why this hill? Why only this hill and not the others? His curiosity piqued overtaking, his anxiety, and he started to hike the hill. More whispers brushed against his ear as he continued to climb.

            “Don’t do it.”

            “It will lead to suffering.”

            “Don’t hike that hill; it leads to pain and suffering.”

The voice became a bit louder and louder each step, and as far as Lea could tell, it was the same voice each time. It was a small, petite, feminine voice, barely audible. Lea wondered about the warnings. What would bring suffering? He was only hiking a hill after all. Ignoring the voice, he continued to trek up the hill.

            Upon reaching the top, Lea found a teen around his age lounging out in the grass under the sky. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Here I thought I would meet a monster or another spirit.’ Lea sighed, thinking back to what the spirit had said. Would one kid really screw up his life?

            The teen had light almond colored hair thrown carelessly across the left side of his face, streaming down past his cheeks. The brunet’s arm was laid lazily underneath his head, while the other arm was raised in the air, swishing and swaying, mimicking the changing sky. Only the motions, followed the changes happening throughout the sky almost too perfectly. Strange.

            Lea decided to approach the boy. Might as well not bring his effortful hike to waste. This guy was probably his neighbor judging by how close the rich looking house was to the hill and lack of other houses in the vicinity. He might as well make acquaintances. Briefly, he considered the possibility of this kid being somewhere in the town, but dismissed the thought. Who would go hiking hills at this time a night?  

            He wondered if this guy would be exactly like all the other rich people he has met before.

            ”Hey, do you live around here?” Lea asked in a friendly tone, flashing a wide grin across his face while approaching the brunet. The other teen shot up instantaneously, surprised by another’s voice. Based on the ‘dear-in-the-headlights” reaction, looks like he doesn’t get visitors up here often, Lea judged.

            ”Sheesh, I hardly even snuck up on you! Sorry to scare you.” Lea rolled his eyes in light humor. The brunet only stared back. No response, just a glare. Dark, dull, lifeless blue eyes. Definitely not the arrogant, prude eyes he’s been expecting. The teens eyes were those that held the potential to sparkle but instead were just soulless; eyes that belonged to the dead. Or at least that’s how Lea’s mom would have described them to him. He’d seen those kinds of eyes a lot. They made him feel a little sick. But why? He’d posed that question a lot. Why were they so dead? But Lea was already too sure he knew that answer.

            ”I moved into the house at the base of that hill. Just wanted to know if you were my neighbor or something.” Lea shrugged, diverting his eyes from the brunet’s glare. It was cold.

            The brunet remained silent although the glare softened up slightly.

            ”Lea. My name is Lea Raoul DiBenedetto. I’m 15, and I’ll be going to that school a few blocks down.” Lea introduced himself, keeping up the one-sided conversation.  What was this guy’s problem? He hasn’t said a word. Lea was intrigued. It wasn’t usual he wasn’t precise in his judging.

            ”Well nice to meet you. Gee, it feels like I know you already,” Lea said sarcastically. Still not a word out of the boy. The brunet had returned to lying on the grass and mimicking the sky again, totally ignoring the red-head. How rude. Maybe he wasn’t wrong.

            “Hey, this sky is pretty amazing, isn’t it?”

            The brunet’s attention snapped back to the red-head instantly.

            “It doesn’t seem remotely possible that the sky could change so rapidly like this. It’s very surreal…you know? It must had been really shocking for this to suddenly happen. Man, I’m freaking about it right now!” Lea exclaimed, unsure of what else to say. The teen seemed to be interested in the sky, so it felt fitting to talk about it. He continued, “ I used to live by the northern lights kind of, but that was nothing compared to this. I think I’ll really enjoy living here.”

            Silence.

            “Well…See you later, I guess.”  With that Lea began to hike down the hill back to his house.  Looks like that effort was for nothing Lea mentally whined, until another thought crossed his mind. One thought that changed his mind and sent chills down his spine. That teen was so much different than all those other people Lea met.  And the red-head didn’t know why. What set him apart?

=<>=

            The next morning, Lea set out for his new school. One that was just about as small as the town itself. Great, that meant that everyone pretty much knew each other already. The said local high school was only a few blocks down, right in the middle of town. Even living on the outskirts, the school was still easy to reach by foot in under 30 minutes. He got to scope out most of the rest of the town though, especially more of the suburbs. Beyond that hill he’d hiked up to last night was a large pond. Well, it wasn’t exactly small enough to be a pond but not big enough to be considered a lake. It looked like a neat place to camp sometime.

            Other than the cool pond and a few woods near behind it, there really wasn’t anything too exciting. Lea continued to walk mindlessly in the direction of where he’d be spending seven hours a day from now on. That thought excited him. Yay. Avoiding the thoughts of his freedom being sucked away, the red-head’s mind wandered to the encounter with the weird brunet kid last night. Lea involuntarily shivered. It wasn’t out of distaste but of the weird aura that surrounded that teen. And Lea was going to find out what it was. Hey, maybe the brunet would even be in some of Lea’s classes. Now I sound like a stalker Lea rolled his eyes.

            Upon arriving early at the school, Lea immediately picked up his schedule at the office. Then he had a meeting with his school counselor, unfortunately meaning he’d miss homeroom. Wandering down the halls, he came to the not shocking conclusion that this was a really small school. He also noticed all the stereotypes and clichés bunched up within the hallways. There were the teachers pets and straight, A students, all with their huge backpacks and many books. There were the nerds playing card games, the cool kids talking about the latest gossip and lastly the group of bullies beating up on the defenseless kids. That group just really bothered him, but Lea shrugged it off into indifference and stepped into the guidance counselors office.

=<>=

            The meeting with the guidance counselor had been pretty boring. All she talked about was the basic pieces of information of integrating into a new school. All the things Lea could basically figure out on his own. After she was done with her speech about the school, she sent him off with a map to his first class, physical education. Fun.

"Alright Lea, everything is in order. For this class, though, you’ll need to get a uniform and lock. Since you don’t have either, you’ll have to sit out for the day and watch." The gym coach directed, leading the kids out to the blacktop. Typical scenario.

            ”Alright coach, where do I sit?”

            ”The fence. For future references, if you don’t dress in the gym attire, then you sit at the fence for the day,” The coach explained, taking roll call at the same time.

            Lea nodded and headed back towards the fence surrounding the blacktop. While making his way towards the fence, he noticed the kid from last night leaning against the fence, staring aimlessly to the sky with out any acknowledgment of his surroundings. On pure impulse, Lea plopped down right beside the teen.

            ”Hey, so we do go to the same school! Neat!” Lea exclaimed with a friendly smile.

            The brunet turned his head to face Lea, this time not at all caught off guard or surprised like last night. An annoyed scowl covered his face when the brunet saw who it was. But no outburst or smirk or reply at all. Just a silent annoyed glare.

            ”Cold shoulder, eh? You’re going to give me hypothermia with that glare you know?” Lea joked, while breaking from the said glare. “So why are you sitting out of P.E anyways?”

            The brunet had gone back to staring listlessly at the sky with a dead look in his dull blue eyes.

            ”Hey, you should tell you your name. It’ll be really weird if your own best friend didn’t even know your name. Or at least you’re soon-to-be best friend,” Lea indirectly questioned with a huge grin.

            At first, a flicker of surprise lightened the brunet’s eyes but was immediately snuffed out with an emotionless, indifferent mask.

            ”Che.” The brunet scoffed of Lea’s words.

            ”Oh you don’t believe me? It’s stereotypical dude. The new guy starts school and becomes buds with the antisocial kid. Then they some how change each others’ lives and the school and some crap like that. Although this isn’t a hallmark movie, it’s bound to happen. Better accept it now and warm up to my presence.” Lea explained, with light humor. “It’s our destiny! Or something thing like that. Nah, actually that sounds awkward. How about density, anyone? Hahahahahahahaah!”

            Lea laughed at his own joke till he realized the teen was as silent as could be. How could one not laugh at the Back to the Future reference? It’s like a classic!

            The brunet shook his head with disagreement towards the red-head’s prediction. Lea could tell he was listening though. This kid was super intriguing; almost silent as the wind and lost in the sky.

            ”Just you wait and see. It’ll happen, maybe not today, maybe not a week, but it will happen.” Lea smirked, ominously. Oh yes, he would definitely prove this kid wrong. The challenge was accepted. Become the teen’s best friend and find out what made him unique.

            ”…You’re annoying…” The brunet muttered, with a slightly amused tone. His eyes never left the sky.

            ”Really? Honestly that’s the first thing you’re going to say to me? ‘You’re annoying’? The very start of this momentous moment. One that could change history and even the spacial time rift. And you choose the words ‘You’re annoying?’ That’s weak dude, I’m wounded.” Lea exasperated, feigning a hurt expression. The red-head’s surprise, he could vaguely sense a look of guilt flash across the brunet’s face. But then it was gone.

            ”…The sky is almost like a canvas. Is that any better?” The brunet muttered softly at Lea, another sharp glare accompanying it.

            ”Ah um…” Lea was somewhat baffled by his poetic choice of words, assuming the brunet was trying to weird him out in order to scare away the red-head. Ha-ha. That tactic wasn’t going to work on him. “Interesting choice of words. I’d ask you to elaborate, but what’s the percentage you would?” Lea deduced it in his head, looking back at the brunet who was once again flicking his hand through the air. Mimicking and imitating the sky’s sudden changes seemingly perfectly. It was odd.

            ”Hmmm, what’s with the hand flicking, eh?” Lea questioned out of pure curiosity of the brunet’s eccentric hand motions.

            ”…” Now he was being ignored. The brunet was lost within the swirling motion of the shifting clouds. The red-head didn’t blame him, they were awe inspiring and majestic.

            By now, the kids in the gym class were sprawled out on the grass, watching the sky as well only for different reasons. Exhausted from their brutal run, all of them just sort of dropped to the ground and remained there. Wimps. Unfortunately, that was the only the first part to their activities.

            Lea sat there restlessly the rest of the period, lost in thoughts only to look up every one in a while to see what the class was doing and quickly snag a glance at the brunet next to him. He started to wonder why the brunet would say such odd words. Maybe it was a quote from something or maybe it held some deeper meaning that may hold a clue to who this person was. Although, a good place to start for that was a name.

 

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Catharsis— a Short Story

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Catharsis
A Short Story by Kenne Stuart

I moved through the forest, the wind aiding my quiet approach. Moving down wind of my destination I increase my pace. Something felt off! There is a disturbance in the air, a taste that doesn’t belong. As I came closer I picked up on a smell that had been slowly getting stronger. It was an odd smell, not something from this part of the forest. Cinnamon, apples, and pine all swirled together. So strong the smell stopped me. I should be seeing whatever the creature is emitting the smell. But there is nothing, not an other, not a sound. Working from where the scent is strongest I began circling the area.

I don’t know how much time passed but the longer I went without locating the smell the more anxious I was becoming. Throwing caution to the wind I threw my head back and howled. In worry, in hope, in confusion. The sound rose loud and lonely. No one answered but the smell was as strong as ever. It began growing, overtaking my senses so completely that I could hear apples, see cinnamon, and feel pine. When I tried to run, to move, to do something, anything I found that I couldn’t. I was stuck and the cinnamon, apples, and pine were so loud.

Too loud. What do I do? Where can I go?

I can’t. I’m here.

And I woke.

=+_+=

“That’s insane!” Shouted Max next to me. I chuckle and nod my head but the smile is only for his benefit. The dream unsettled me so much that I haven’t been able to focus on much. Haven’t been able to do much. I’ve been useless all morning.

“That has to mean something right? That dream can’t have meant nothing?” Again Max shouted, loudly echoing my thoughts.

“We should check out my Mom’s dream interpreter book. Yanno the one about symbolism?”

I knew the one and nodded to confirm. We continued to walk towards the lecture hall, when Max falls silent. That a problem. Max is never silent. I look towards the space he was in just as the wind blows. My heart leaps in my chest, then clenches up. The scent from my dream. Frozen I stand where I am half turned towards the space that used to belong to Max. I swallow, working my throat, trying to call out for Max. I don’t want to turn completely but I can’t not find out what is causing the smell. Slowly, oh so slowly, I turn to face the space Max was in. As in not any longer. But there is nothing else their either and the smell is gone. Blinking I look around the campus. There are plenty of other students all unaffected by what was happening.

“Max?”

I called out. No answer. The other students don’t even acknowledge me.

“Max!”

I shouted this time and still no answer. I turn where I am, do a full 360 and he is just gone. Something a lot like panic and dread churns in my stomach. My breath is coming faster as I stand here looking around franticly. My feet move, dashing off into a random direction. I don’t know where they are taking me. I just know that I need to get away, to get there.

The wind changes and suddenly the smell. Gasping I make a dash for a small plot of trees. No sooner I touch the trunk of the largest that the smell recedes as well as the sense of urgency.  The wrongness. That’s still here. I hadn’t realized it but I gripped the tree too hard. My fingers began cramping. When I looked down at them they were red. Yanking my hands back, there are two bloody prints where my hands were clinging. I look at my hand and a shocked whimper slips past my lips. Its blood. Everywhere! My hands, my shirt. My pants and arms.

My eyes fill with red. I close them tight. Not wanting to see anything else. My knees, weak, buckle and I fall. The hard ground is there to catch me. My hands move up to cover my ears, my knees to meet my forehead and I sit there. Ears covered, eyes closed, nose pressed to my thighs. I don’t know how long I sat there, breathing too hard ignoring everything. When suddenly a warm weight touches my shoulder. I squeeze tighter willing it to go way.

“You’re being dumb.” Huffs a familiar voice from behind me. My head shot up and I crane my neck to see.

“Max!”

He smiled at me and shrugged his shoulder.

“Where did you go you ass?”

His smile faltered for only a moment before he was moving towards me. Pulling me up.

“Nowhere and everywhere,” is his reply and I playfully push at his shoulder. I smile weakly but it’s genuine.  I’m already feeling better with him here.

“Stupid.”

He mocks offence and moves off towards the courtyard, making sure I’m close by.

I don’t tell him about what just happened. I can’t risk the truth being that I’m relapsing. Then where would I be? I’d be back in counseling with doctors, and peers and my parents looking at me like I’m something broken and strange. I got enough of that as a child.

“Well meet back up at lunch.” Max was saying but I wasn’t listening. Meeting up later implied he was leaving and that can’t happen right now. So in alarm I reached out to grab his arm, eyes wide. He chuckles and shakes his head.

“You weren’t listening were you?”

A bit guilty I let go of his arm and looked at the ground. I watched his feet as they turn towards me and begin walking backwards. I follow.

“I said Jules was texting me. We were supposed to go over that voyages extraordinaires project I was telling you about. Since we didn’t get much done I told him we’ll meet back up at lunch. So Jules will be joining us for lunch. Okay?”

Halfway through his speech I looked back up feeling foolish. He smiles through till the end. I nod that I don’t mind Jules coming with.

“Good. Now about that dream of yours. Cinnamon, apples, and… um cedar? No pine right?”

I nod.

He taps his chin in thought while he turns and falls instep next to me. Our classes are out for the day and I’m heading home for the weekend. Max is coming with. As we draw closer to our hometown Max is starting to loose spirit.

“What’s the matter?” I ask for not the first time. Again he smiles and shakes his head. I pulled up into the driveway and head to the door where my parents are smiling. We greet each other and they pull me inside.

I turn back to wave Max in but he is already there standing apart from us but watching with a smile. He stays apart from everyone all evening and everyone stays apart from him. By dessert, when he is passed up again with the food, I’ve had enough. Slamming my cup down I glare at my parents.

“What’s the big idea?” Both my parents look at me questioning and Max, beside me, pales and urgently shakes his head no.

“I know you see him! Why are you ignoring him? Max hasn’t done anything this time!” I demand they answer but they share sad looks with each other. I hear my mother mutter something about this again and she tears up. My father presses his lips and he looks pensive. I look to Max and he is on the verge of tears. I cock my head to the side just as the smell returns full force.

“Honey, Max-” My mother’s voice is drowned out by a wave of memories. Max and I were out at the local apple orchard. We’re picking apples and eating till we were stuffed like we do every year. As we were leaving we caught the smell of cooking cinnamon in the air. From there it’s a blur. A truck hauling wood, pine, swerved. A loud screech and the next thing I’m looking at is Max crushed between several of the pine trees. There is blood. I run towards him. I feel tears fill my eyes and then spill over. He’s gone. Max is gone…

The Vision of the Archangels

The Visions of the Archangels

by  Rupert Brooke

 Slowly up silent peaks, the white edge of the world,
   Trod four archangels, clear against the unheeding sky,
  Bearing, with quiet even steps, and great wings furled,
   A little dingy coffin; where a child must lie,
  It was so tiny.  (Yet, you had fancied, God could never
   Have bidden a child turn from the spring and the sunlight,
  And shut him in that lonely shell, to drop for ever
   Into the emptiness and silence, into the night… .)

  They then from the sheer summit cast, and watched it fall,
   Through unknown glooms, that frail black coffin — and therein
   God’s little pitiful Body lying, worn and thin,
  And curled up like some crumpled, lonely flower-petal —
  Till it was no more visible; then turned again
  With sorrowful quiet faces downward to the plain.




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StrayThoughts. Cross Country.

StrayThoughts: CROSS COUNTRY

An Opinion Piece
by Luke Amargo


Most of my dreams I have wished for have come true. A handful of nightmares, but dreams nonetheless. Older I get, I wonder how much of our younger ideals disappear from timely entropy. Shooting stars caught in the sun’s (or “Son’s”) gravitas, its no surprise our wishes just dissipate and disappoint. What truly makes us less of who we are is a question pondered. I see what Paul meant in terms of running a marathon race—we can certainly feel that pilgrimage burn. There was a story about a marathon runner—some Greek guy who helped spawn the concept of the Olympics—who ran and ran to deliver a message to some Greek officials about some urgent news of some sort. He died after he relayed that message. Burn out and then when we fade, I hope we all just carry that Pauline endurance till we make it to our meaningful justified end…


Luke Amargo was a co-founder of “Friends of the Pen.” You can find him at Twitter. It would be grand if you could follow our writing and artistry society, Friends of the Pen, also we can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well!

Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemmingway

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Ernest Hemingway – ‘Cat in the Rain’
There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on  the stairs on their way to and from their room. Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced  the public garden and the war monument. There were big palms and green benches in the public garden.  In the good weather there was always an artist with his easel. Artists liked the way the palms grew and the  bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea.
Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of bronze and glistened in  the rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea  broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the
rain. The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the  café a waiter stood looking out at the empty square.  The American wife stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was crouched under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was trying to make herself so compact that she would not be dripped on.
‘I’m going down and get that kitty,’ the American wife said.
‘I’ll do it,’ her husband offered from the bed.
‘No, I’ll get it. The poor kitty out trying to keep dry under a table.’
The husband went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed.
‘Don’t get wet,’ he said.
The wife went downstairs and the hotel owner stood up and bowed to her as she passed the office. His desk  was at the far end of the office. He was an old man and very tall.
‘Il piove,”
’the wife said. She liked the hotel-keeper.
‘Si, Si, Signora, brutto tempo. It is very bad weather.’
He stood behind his desk in the far end of the dim room. The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he wanted to serve her. She liked the way he felt about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old, heavy face and big hands. Liking him she opened the door and looked out. It was raining harder. A man in a rubber cape was crossing the empty square to the café. The cat would be around to the right. Perhaps she could go along under the eaves.  As she stood in the doorway an umbrella opened behind her. It was the maid who looked after their room.

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‘You must not get wet,’ she smiled, speaking Italian. Of course, the hotel-keeper had sent her. With the maid holding the umbrella over her, she walked along the gravel path until she was under their window. The table was there, washed bright green in the rain, but the cat was gone. She was suddenly disappointed. The maid looked up at her.
‘Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signora?’
‘There was a cat,’ said the American girl.
‘A cat?’
‘Si, il gatto.’
‘A cat?’ the maid laughed. ‘A cat in the rain?’
‘Yes, –’ she said, ‘under the table.’ Then, ‘Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty.’
When she talked English the maid’s face tightened.
‘Come, Signora,’ she said. ‘We must get back inside. You will be wet.’
‘I suppose so,’ said the American girl.
‘It’s raining.’ 
‘Yes, yes Madam. Awful weather.’ 
‘Have you lost something, Madam?’ hey went back along the gravel path and passed in the door. The maid stayed outside to close the umbrella.
As the American girl passed the office, the padrone bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance. She went on up the stairs. She opened the door of the room.  George was on the bed, reading.
‘Did you get the cat?’ he asked, putting the book down.
‘It was gone.’
‘Wonder where it went to,’ he said, resting his eyes from reading.
She sat down on the bed.
‘I wanted it so much,’ she said. ‘I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty. It isn’t any
fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain.’
George was reading again.
She went over and sat in front of the mirror of the dressing table looking at herself with the hand glass. She studied her profile, first one side and then the other. Then she studied the back of her head and her neck.
‘Don’t you think it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow out?’ she asked, looking at her profile again. George looked up and saw the back of her neck, clipped close like a boy’s.
‘I like it the way it is.’
‘I get so tired of it,’ she said. ‘I get so tired of looking like a boy.’
George shifted his position in the bed. He hadn’t looked away from her since she started to speak.
‘You look pretty darn nice,’ he said.
She laid the mirror down on the dresser and went over to the window and looked out. It was getting dark.
‘I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel,’ she said. ‘I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her.’
‘Yeah?’ George said from the bed.
‘And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I want a kitty and I want some new clothes.’
‘Oh, shut up and get something to read,’ George said. He was reading again.
His wife was looking out of the window. It was quite dark now and still raining in the palm trees.
‘Anyway, I want a cat,’ she said, ‘I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat.’
George was not listening. He was reading his book. His wife looked out of the window where the light had come on in the square. Someone knocked at the door.
‘Avanti,’ George said. He looked up from his book.
In the doorway stood the maid. She held a big tortoiseshell cat pressed tight against her and swung down against her body.
‘Excuse me,’ she said, ‘the padrone asked me to bring this for the Signora.’

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