Once you’re a YAC, you always come back.
To read the novel PORPHYROPHOBIA by the 2016-17 class of Young Authors Collective, click here. (You can download it as a PDF.)
By Emma Davis
By Abigail Horton
You do not remember how long you have lived in the suburbs. For that matter, you have difficulty remembering a life before the suburbs at all, concrete feelings replaced by an intangible knowledge that there should be a world outside.
Once, you tried to ask a neighbor how long you have lived there. You approached a woman whose age had been erased by botox and whose hair was probably bleached.
“Uh, excuse me? How long have I lived here? I’ve kind of lost count,” you admitted, embarrassed. The woman pursed her lips, raised an eyebrow, then promptly slammed the door.
Then, you blinked and realized it was your house. It had always been your house. To be fair, it was difficult to tell in a neighborhood where the only distinction were what municipally approved color scheme were present along with what municipally approved garden were there, but regardless, it was your house. Slightly puzzled, but not as confused as you should have been you entered. Soon, the woman was forgotten. She was never there.
The AC won’t turn off in your house. You tried to once. You won’t try again. That is a wise course of action.
The squirrels are a menace, causing your neighbors to arm themselves with chemical repellents, traps, BB guns. They are ready. You are not.
You tried to leave the suburbs once. You climbed into a large Japanese made vehicle with the AC on, the AC was always on, why wouldn’t the AC turn off? You drove, strictly adhering to the 35 mph speed limit, you drove that way for hours, passing the same muted houses on the same gray streets. Finally, you relented and stopped at a house to ask for directions, seeing a woman’s silhouette in the window. You walked up and knocked, then laughed at yourself. There was no need to knock. This was your house. You had never left.
The fuzzy socks that lived in the armoire persisted off of chocolate chip cookies. They would sneak down at night, one at a time, using their sticky bottoms to propel themselves by lifting up their middles. The chocolate chip cookies were held in a bag in one of the lower cabinets, which the socks opened with their top parts, putting a cookie in there to take up to their families.
The fuzziest sock always went first. For many years, that was a purple, extra-large wool one who had lost its partner years ago. When the humans noticed, they threw it out, which then lead to a civil war between the socks who wanted to install a democracy and the ones who were fine with the system of the fuzziest first and in charge.
If the humans noticed the excess fuzz and lint on the ground, they didn’t attribute it to their thinning socks. But, no matter how thin the socks got, or how fuzzy the battles that day had been, the two sides always came to a truce in order to retrieve the cookies.
In the end, after much fuzz was shed, the socks who were in support of the old system won, and the new leader because a grey women’s sock. It still lead the charge every night, from the armoire where the socks were kept, down the wall, across the bedroom carpet and kitchen room hardwood, to the lower cabinet where the cookies were held.
It went on like this for years, with no human ever noticing the socks move or the missing cookies. It went on all the way until the family split apart and moved away, taking half of the socks to a house with tile floors, where they were barely needed, and a house with painted wood, where they were worn every day.
Even then, the socks continued. The ones in the hardwood house had a hard time finding the cookies, searching every corner of the house until they eventually gave up and starved off, one by one. The ones in the tile house found them eventually, in a cabinet underneath the sink, but even there, they weren’t as steady of a supply as they used to be.
As if to add insult to injury, the socks in the tile house were further split up. They were displayed one day, while humans walked among them, picking them up, feeling them in their hands. One by one, they were picked up and taken off, and the remainder were thrown out.
When my sister wore her bathing suit and swam, I wore mine and swam with her. When she wore her Harvard sweatshirt and went around town, I wore a dress from a thrift shop and followed her. When she wore a hospital gown and laid in a bed, I wore my pajamas and laid in my bed. When she wore a long black dress and laid in a casket, I wore my evening dress and sipped a martini.
The Young Authors Collective (YAC) kicked off 2018 with a new project—a project with an ever-evolving name. The plan: one YAC member wrote and shared a story with two YAC members, who then each shared with another member and so on until each member had written a story or poem inspired by the one before it. The project structure is a bit like the “telephone game,” where each listener relies on a single person to convey the full story–and what you hear in the end is sometimes completely unrelated to the game’s origin story. This project was somewhat difficult to name, though, even for a room full of writers. We tried “Geese” because the path of the stories followed the formation of flying geese, then “Tuning Fork,” and then we eventually settled on the “Tree Project.” But never, ever “Cassidy’s Linked Stories.” (You’ll have to ask a YAC member for that story.)
Instructions for Reading
Read A City Graveyard After The Rain by Emma
Keep following the links at the end of each piece
Then come back to A City Graveyard After The Rain by Emma
Or, you can use the chart below to follow the two evolutions of our starting story.
|A City Graveyard After The Rain by Emma|
|Something Like Connections by Aiyana||Knock by Alison|
|Finger Song by Abigail||Tree/Telephone/Tuning Fork/Geese Piece by Leo|
|Tempo by Thalia||A Letter to My Inner Muse by Elaina|
|N…E… by Jonas||Daughters by Madeline|
|A Life in Numbers by Sonya||Remembering by Cassidy|
|Radio Silence by Adam||—|
By Emma Davis
You are walking through a graveyard not far from your house. It has just rained. The air smells crisp, fresh. Like dewy grass. The wet stone of the headstones smells, too. You can’t describe it, but it smells like something. Something cold and ancient and wet. You want to lean over and touch them, the tombstones shaped like crosses and monolithic rocks. You want to feel their cold, ancient, wet surfaces.
You keep walking. The air feels lighter after the rain. Like all the pollution has been washed clean from the air. Where did it go? Into the
concrete. Into the sewers. Into the earth, into the cold soil of the graveyard. Into the decomposing coffins of the men and women and children lying six feet beneath our feet. Does it hurt? The pollution, does it hurt? Does it burn their skin and eyes like it does to the living?
You keep walking, past monolithic marble statues of angels. Past the stony cold mausoleums that protect the stony cold corpses of Klansmen from the polluted rain. Past everything. Where are you? You don’t know. You have just been walking, walking. You look down at the small, triangular stones hardly protruding from the dirt. Names are carved on them, names that don’t sound like yours. You crouch down and stare at them. You stare at these names, carved into the stones in the ground. You are in some out-of-the-way little plot over here, but it feels important. There is just something about the air. As if somehow, someone forgot something in this little plot. It feels like the people here, the people with the small, triangular stones placed in the dirt for remembrance are trying to tell you something. Trying to tell you that they might have been something, might have been someone, even though no one cared for them enough to let their families give them carved crosses and mausoleums to protect their bodies from the rain. Trying to tell you that they were forgotten. You look up. You realize that this was the “non-white” part of the cemetery.
You cannot leave here. You cannot abandon these people who have been forgotten, abandoned for so many years. You cannot leave these people who were not considered people. You cannot leave them to be eaten away by the pollution. You continue staring at the segregated graves. The graves of the men, women, children. The graves of the loved ones who were not loved by society. The people who were left behind, ripped and thrown aside like dirty rags. Invisible, even in death. You scan the tombstones. Scan them for something, even though you don’t know what it is you’re looking for. Your eyes land on a single, little triangular stone. There’s nothing special about it. But there is something. You begin walking. Walking towards it. You don’t know why, but you just keep going. You get nearer and nearer, until you finally reach it.
The grave-marker itself is blank, but on the stone is a note, a piece of weather-beaten paper, crudely taped to its empty surface. It is nothing special, just a few words. An epitaph. But there is something about it. Something that sends chills rippling up your spine. Something that makes you stop and read it over and over again. This is what it says.
Here lies a child.
An unnamed youth.
Unwanted by society,
Unseen by the men
Who did not care enough
To spare his life.
By Aiyana Spear
The christmas lights in front of her were distracting- preventing any form of productivity. Her eyes glazed over as she stared at them, patterns embedding themselves on memory. The air outside still smelled of rain, the type of rain that falls on freshly cut grass and creates a world that smells clean- air that hasn’t been marred by pollution, air you can breathe without toxicity. But inside was dusty and claustrophobic, any trace of the rain that had fallen appeared to disappear. Sometimes she wasn’t sure if she imagined it falling- if all of the rain had just been her imagination.
Are christmas lights still christmas lights when it’s no longer December?
You never wanted them to be taken down, the idea that lights have always been used during winter when the darkness gets to be too much is poetic, but sometimes you need those lights in spring too. The world needs those lights.
The water droplets still falling from her hair, her clothes, her backpack, reminded her of their existence- reminded her that the water had fallen. Perhaps such reminders aren’t necessary for most people, but she has never been entirely like most people. Her hands traced the edges of her pen, long ago having stopped writing what with the christmas lights twinkling at the edges of every thought.
You clicked the pen in a disjointed pattern, ignoring the glares that people sent your way every so often. Sometimes quiet was perfection and sometimes quiet was the monster and the clicking pen was the only way to fight. It’s why you listened to stories to fall asleep to or why your foot tapped or why music during work-time was the only way to get things done.
It feels as though we’re at the top of the roller coaster, about to go hurtling down into the unknown.
It feels as though we’re in an exit only lane, driving driving
From a highway that we know and can drive without thinking
To a highway with 6 lanes
cars hurtling past
The clicking pen was a new distraction, the patterns of the lights ebbed away and now it all was that sound. It wasn’t terrible, but it was something to focus on. Perhaps she was looking for excuses. It has always felt impossible to be productive when there are so many things to do for so many different people. She stood up, realizing that the room was incredibly claustrophobic. Walking outside, she worried that all eyes were on her.
They always say that everybody is worried about everyone else looking and so nobody is looking
But based on us judging people is that really true?
You have always loved movement. And no, not the sports type but all facets of movement. It’s incredible what bodies can do. Fingers contorting into a language, feet creating rhythm, the elegance is immeasurable.
The air outside was cleaner than usual, and it was more evident that it had rained than when she was inside staring through a window. The grass was dewy, sure to soak socks if one wanted to take off shoes. Sometimes she missed the way the world had looked before the smog filled up the air- before everyone had to use oxygen masks to even step foot outside. Rain was the only time this world even seemed like that one. The pollution was at least washed away for a few seconds.
You stared out of the window, distracted from the pen clicking if only for a few seconds. The rain reminded you of the world when you were little, and watching others appreciate it as much as you felt like connection- connection that seemed so rare in this stuffy room.
Sometimes all we want is connection
Aiyana shared this with Abigail
By Alison Child
My nerves are shot. My chest is constricted. I can’t breathe. I’m trembling. I am stagnant, afraid, and unable to move. Throughout my short life I have never been so terrified, yet so helpless. I’m chilled to the bone with sweat and my teeth are chattering. My throat is sorely red from screaming with such fierceness that my ears failed to register the sound. A frantic, deep flutter pounds against my neck as my heart struggles to keep me alive. Tears numbly fall through my cheeks, indistinguishable from the sweat.
I whimper hoarsely against my will and I swiftly bite my tongue. I ball my hands into fists against the pain, the rigid texture of chewed-off nails digging into my flesh. My eyelids quiver, straining against the blinding shadows that confine them. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had just shut them, but they refused.
I take a shuddering breath through my nose, dust clinging to the walls of my throat, and exhale loudly through my mouth. The sound rattles in my ears and I purse my lips to capture another whimper.
I plaintively lift a fist from my hip, and pound against my coffin door.
Knock knock knock.
Let me out.
Alison shared this with Leo