[Kara Morrow, YAC 18-19]

Kara is Killed by a Kar (sic).

Figments of city and sun light leak through the shade of the willow tree. Dark, bitter-sweet shade stretching to the horizon that one could walk forever and never find the end. Thirty people bask in the modpodge of light and dark, some crowded around the base of the willow tree while others stretched in the distance, climbing the dangling branches with the expertise that had grown from forever. The place was either grey or white and nothing else, one could stare at the leaves, the ground with no distinct material, the sky and convince themselves it was a color:

K is for KaraIndigo. That was it.

But immediately after certainty is reached it recoils from the touch.

Or is that… red?

~

“How long do you think it’s been now?” Number Ten asks curiously.

Fifteen sighs, she had been bored of this game before it began. Her fingers ran through Ten’s long dark hair, the movement mimicking a waterfall full of mud. “I really don’t know.” She murmurs and wove sections of her hair into a complex puzzle of twists and turns. Fifteen’s tongue slips from her mouth and hangs in the corner as she concentrates and Thirty’s skeptical eyes were glad she grew out of that habit. Twenty leans her heavy head against the back of the willow tree, she thought the sky looked quite yellow today, but at a second glance she was convinced it was teal, “I feel it has been long, how about the rest of you?”

Fifteen shook her head, “short. It seems Thirty came moments ago.”

“I’ve been here forever.” Thirty corrects her but Fifteen merely shrugged, there was no sense bickering over something that didn’t exist. Thirty lays on the ground, the soft, bendy ground that could not be described by anything on Earth- in life. Fifteen finishes her braid and tells Ten, “I wish my hair was long like yours.”

“No you don’t, long hair is insufferable,” Twenty chimed in and ran a hand through her frazzled and poorly curled locks, “you have such cute hair. It’s the hair length we always wanted it to be at.”

Fifteen nods but she’s not convinced, “I suppose.”

“I think fifteen is prettier than me.” Ten decides after a moment of silence that might have been a second or a hour, and runs off to go flaunt her new braid to the others before Fifteen could protest.

“We become a bit more vain.” Twenty tells her and Thirty nods “as we cared more about friends. Love. I think it was a good thing, mother certainly liked it.” Fifteen straightens her shoulders, “oh yeah? I bet she did.” She tucks what small section of hair that could actually reach behind her ear, “did we become better?” She asks softly.

“I can’t even remember fighting with her, it was so long ago.” Thirty stares into the light that used to envelope her on cold days, the shadows that cradled her to sleep, and wept. A familiar shaking of the shoulders, large tears tumbling down the sides of her face because she didn’t want to sit up. Twenty grimaces and looks off to the side at the view of their menacing void called home, watching Five and Six rest together in the center of nothing. Fifteen puts a hand over Thirty’s forehead as a simple gesture of comfort and looks away too.

They all shared the same hatred of their pain, the spite that boils their core when they look into the mirror to see deep frown wrinkles and blotchy faces. Fourteen wears an ugly purple mark over her inner elbow and everyone older has a sympathetic silver stripe in return. Fifteen has a fluffy rose colored streak over her left shoulder. Ten had blue and purple back marks that never faded on the girls, Thirty and Twenty bearing the curse of all of them, flaunting their disgusting past without a choice. Thirty cried and Twenty sang softly to herself, pretending her own breath was the wind she dearly missed, Fifteen looked at her future and thought, nothing changes.

But they had;  Fifteen thought she saw herself, but the mirror was the wrong way to look because in the window walking by was someone changed and molded by time and experiences, passing her by without a second glance.

Fifteen is a wallflower, not ready to dedicate herself to a beat yet, hesitant to take change by the hand and accept the offer of life. Her music is slow and somber, holding back time in a lengthy, dull rhythm.

Twenty was full of love, hope, new ideas and humor. Ready to dance an innocent waltz with adulthood. She tripped over her own feet and veered away from the intended steps just to see where the beat would move her. Three four time was just a suggestion and one she bent to the will of her feet.

Thirty was strong, passionate, wise and curious. Living a life she loved but ready taking on more and more steps. She learned to move her arms in rhythm, to roll her hips and shoulders like waves rising then falling against her body.

Thirty one was a scratched disk, nail marks ripping the music in the pattern of a faltering heart, before coming to a halt that burned silence into the ears of the listener. An overwhelming quiet that mutes every thought.

Thirty one was a shock to everybody. She didn’t react to a thing, like the void they lived in was inside her. Her eyes were grey and skin waxy that seemed to melt the longer she was there. She moved like every bone was gelatin and every joint frozen shut. Dried blood, a definite crimson leaking through thick, maroon that caked her body like a second skin and some splinters of glass still lingered in her skin. It was the first solid color they’d seen in ages, and eager eyes peered upon something solid. Solid blood, body, material. It was enchanting.

“What now?” Fifteen asked.

“Hopefully death.” Ten decided after a forlorned silence.

 

Don’t drink and drive.

 

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[Elaina Weakliem, YAC 18-19]

I and Me

This morning, my reflection follows me out of the mirror. It walks with me downstairs, and holds my wrist in Its cold grasp all the way to the bus stop. It watches my bus pull away into the pre-dawn dark. Only when we have long turned the corner and the bus has stopped half a dozen times can I exhale, leaning back in my seat and closing my eyes.

I am on the bus. I see me but also I don’t. I saw myself today a lot–leering from every shop window, every puddle I stomped in on the way here. And on this bus, although there are no mirrors, there is my reflection, right across from me. She won’t make eye contact. Her black boots have flowers painted on over the scuffs, just like mine. A little girl boards, hand-in-hand with her mother. They walk down the aisle, the girl holding onto her mother’s arm. The mother smiles. She is me. The little girl shuts her eyes when I look at her, but I don’t need a full picture of her face to recognise the gap in her teeth, the unruly bangs, the weight in her backpack that is probably four or five books too big for her small frame to carry. She peeks through her fingers and giggles. She is me. An old man boards. He is me.

Only much later, when the lurching of the bus signifies another stop, do I open my eyes. It is looking at me from the reflection of a stranger’s water bottle, forehead slightly more creased and eyes more tired, emptier. Even in Its warped state, Its heavy presence coalesces over the bus. It laughs at a joke. I think I might be the punchline. I shut my eyes again.

ElainaI’m more careful not to go looking for It again as I slog through an unfamiliar routine, hoping It’s not watching me from every reflective surface that I deliberately turn my back to. But soon, the afternoon descends on my shoulders and I can’t avoid the trip to the bathroom any longer, looking down into the sink to avoid the mirrors. Another pair of black boots walks to the adjacent sink, identical except the acrylic paint on the tops is different. It doesn’t introduce Itself, but as I turn to go, It stops me.

“Wait.”

I turn against my own will, looking into my own eyes, breath stalling for a moment before I can think to restart the movement of my diaphragm. I can’t feel my hands. I ask what It wants with me, why won’t It leave me alone. It looks through me, past me, at me, at me and both It and I feel our throats begin to close up.

“Don’t you think I want to?” It asks. “Do you think I have a choice? I am as tied to you as you are to me.”

I think about embracing It, leaving It, smashing Its head into the tile floor again and again. Instead, I just stare.

“You look older,” I say.

It does. It stands taller, Its cheekbones are more pronounced, It looks hungry. It reaches for me, but when I step away, It lets me go.

I am still on the bus. It is mid-afternoon, or maybe still morning. I ask the bus driver to let me off, and she looks at me with stolen eyes.

“Sure, sweetheart,” she says. “Anything for us.”

I want to ask her what she means by “us” but the little girl is crying and I am crying and I am pulling the bus over to the side of the road and pulling the brake and I am getting off the bus and I am crying and I am holding my own hand and looking at me in concern as foreign sobs break through the barrier of my stubborn brain.

It finds me next in bed, and I feel Its weight pressed against my back.

“I love you,” It says, twining a withered, skeletal arm around my waist. I say nothing and It continues.

“I love you,” It says again, “but not in the way you want me to. I am very old. The trauma of self-transformation has made me ancient, although sometimes you think you recognize me in my eyes, my birthmarks, the slope of my nose.” It stops, waiting for me to speak. It breathes cold air across the back of my neck, and traces a withered finger over my collarbone.

“I don’t care,” I whisper. “I refuse to seek you out–I don’t want your love. You are not a part of me.”

“I used to lie like that,” It exhales, breath shaking, and I think It might be laughing again. “But I can’t remember how anymore. We are damned to the truth, you and I.”

It’s still waiting for me to speak, and the silence is almost painful. I can feel It straining for my words, waiting for an admission of love, or hate, or anything except the apathy which I force into my mind as It presses Itself closer. I know that need for love, a primal ache that I want so badly to assuage, but there is no helping It now, no helping me now, this distorted me that I can’t even recognize in the mirror or breathing softly down my own neck. It is Me and I am It and that doesn’t even matter if I refuse to give It the love It needs

It sighs, all the laughter gone from Its voice. It sounds tired.

“I should have known,” It says. “I could be young and kind and beautiful if I only had the affection you selfishly refuse me. You were never able to give us that love, were you?”

i am home and grabbing a hammer and i am still on that bus and still crying and it’s night now and i am driving the bus and i am crying and i am smashing every mirror in the house and i am asking my reflection why it could never stay in the mirror where it belongs

I close my eyes and I am myself again, once more just a girl alone in her bed, hand to my chest.

 

[Cassidy Nicks, YAC 18-19]

Me Through the Ages

The first time I met myself I was 7 years old. I was hugging my mother or she was hugging me, although I can’t remember why (I had probably done something exceptionally stupid or scary, as I am wont to do). My hands grasped her shirt and I shoved my face into her chest and tried to breath deep and said, “You can’t breathe through skin.” She immediately released me and laughed like I had said she’d been hugging me too tight, but that wasn’t what I meant. It was just an experiment, a fact (not the type of experiment where I was wondering if I could, you know, survive in a skin suit, just a sort of general observation–you can’t breathe through skin).

A danger to society: Cassidy with her catI did not like meeting myself at twelve. Maybe it was my ridiculous habit of drawing penises on everything or my nearly constant arm cast, although, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve matured all that much (and I probably never will). More likely, however, it was my tendency to somehow, oxymoronically, embody detached teen angst. As in, I liked myself and my life, and yet I could write for hours about the hidden (so well hidden, in fact, that it was basically nonexistent) pain in THE DEPTHS OF MY SOUL THAT WAS POISONING MY LIFE. Despite my own intense dislike of this Me, I met myself through my writing when I was twelve, finding an identity behind the angst ridden poetry blackening the page with the my innermost subconscious (note the sarcasm) and filling my nostrils with the beloved scent of fresh ink.

I met myself today and laughed at my own physics puns because understanding is relative and the more you laugh the more you understand. I met myself as I sat transcribing physics problems into neat columns on blank paper to earn extra credit for neatness, enjoying the smell of the rain outside. Even Einstein had to organize his notes, you know (I’m not saying I’m Einstein, just that we’re, you know, two peas in a pod, cut of the same cloth, he’s my twin in the paradox, all that good stuff). It might be said that I, this Me, can not toe the line between self-deprecating and braggart humor. But (ir)regardless of my (not) hilarious ways today, I have met another part of myself, who knows what she loves even if she makes badly timed jokes about it.

The next time I meet myself I will be 22. I will bury my face in textbooks and remind myself how much I love the smell of knowledge, even as I try to choke down a sickeningly salty fork of ramen noodles (I imagine that, not long after meeting myself, I will be unable to stomach them ever again). I will have found a home somewhere far from the home of Me now, but I will love it just as much. Then I will ask myself if I am going have a job, or a family, or if I will travel, or maybe die early. I will ask where the heck am I (are We?) going, man? But I will not answer Me because I love pissing people off, always, and myself is no exception.

The final time I meet myself will be before I die. I will have a new home, in a new place, with a new smell, but I will still carry the voices and scents of the other Mes, from 7 to 22 and everything before and after and in between. We will probably all go to bottomless brunch together (the only type of brunch that’s worth it). We will argue, the urge to draw dicks on papers overruled (through popular vote) by the professionalism instilled in Me from 17 to 69 (when, in honor of middle school Me, I will revert back to immaturity for a year). I But we will all still try to breathe through skin and inhale textbooks, seeking new knowledge and carrying the awkward Me that will be slightly misunderstood even by those she loves the most (but not in the dramatic way Me at 12 insists is true); we will refuse to eat ramen noodles. I won’t be Einstein, but I will make jokes about knowing where I am, not how fast I’m going when I’m pulled over (this becomes more fun when my license has been revoked in my old age- nothing like a bad physics joke to soften the blow of illegal doings). I will have met many Mes and we will have gone to many brunches, and luncheons, and dinner shows, and when I die I will know Myself.

 

[Alma Ortiz Sawaya, YAC 18-19]

Time Jumping

Here I am, 15 years-old, sophomore in high school, trying not to lose my mind. I go to school and hang out with my friends, try to stay awake during classes, also trying not to starve to death because I had a small breakfast.  

One absurdly normal day, after I arrived home from school, I dumped my backpack on the floor and collapsed on the couch, neglecting the homework that needed to be completed. After removing my face from the couch cushion, I looked up at the TV and noticed something strange: it was illuminating a bright blue color from the screen. Confused, I stood up and went to take a closer look only to be pulled into it after I reached out my hand to touch it.

Alma's dogAfter what seemed like forever, I crash-landed in a strange room. After I stood up and brushed myself off, something unusual caught my eye: it was a 20-year-old me. A junior in college is sitting at a desk, looking at a computer screen at 11:45 pm, I walked closer to her, or myself I should say.  She had bags under her eyes; I looked at her desk and saw that it was littered with books, composition books, post-its, and hanging on the wall was a calendar, and it had a big red circle around a specific date.

Five long minutes passed, and the 20-year-old me was on the brink of collapsing. I stood behind me and tapped her shoulder, making her head turn.  

“Hey, it’s me, Alma. I’m you from five years ago.”

She shook her head, closing her eyes.

“No, I must be going insane …”

She looked up at me again, only to see that I was still standing there.

“Go to sleep; You’ve been working hard, you don’t want to sleep through your exam, do you?”

She shook her head slowly, standing up. I followed her to her room, and she flopped on the bed, immediately falling into a deep slumber.

 

I ended up traveling through time again, weird right? Anywho, I ended up in a bathroom, which I didn’t recognize. Once I opened the door, I heard the sound of laughter emitting from the lower level. I went down the stairwell and immediately spotted four figures sitting in the family room, watching a movie. There was a mom, her significant other, and two kids.

After a while of watching, the mom stood up and walked to the staircase, soon making eye contact with me. She was the 30-year-old me.

“Who are you?”

She said as she looked at me, confused.

“I’m you, from fifteen years ago, don’t ask why I’m here, I honestly don’t know why myself.”

I told her, she had a shocked look on her face. She then calmed down and patted my head.

“Life may be difficult for you right now but … don’t worry. It gets better, believe me.”

She smiled at me, referring to the people in the other room. I grinned and nodded my head.

 

After being pulled in to the void, again, I landed on a small creaky bed. I looked around the familiar room and spotted a little seven-year-old girl who seemed terrified.

“Who … W-who are you?”

“Uhh … I’m you, eight years older.”

She looked at me, stunned.

“Okay, I need to tell you something, life gets tough. Trust me, but there are moments that you will look forward to and cherish forever.”

I said with a half hearted smile, and the little me nodded slowly, still stunned about the whole thing.

 

A few days passed, and I was watching Netflix, laying the couch. I reached for my phone when my fingers brushed against something else, I looked over and saw three Polaroid pictures, I looked at them and saw that they were photos of me throughout the years. The one from college had a big smile on her face; she was holding her report that had a big A+ on it. The photo from 15 years in the future was with her family; they were all smiling. Also, the last one sent me a picture of her entire first-grade class, that bought much warmth to my soul.

I guess there should be a moral to this story, but honestly, I can’t think of anything witty to say so … I’ll try my best.

Even though life has some pretty weird and awful moments, think of the ones that make you smile, just those memories will make your day feel better, even for a little while.

 

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this story, I truly appreciate it. 🙂  –-A

 

[Alison Child, YAC 18-19]

The Cardborn Counsel

Smoke and incense dampened the air, dashing the flames of the meticulously placed candles. Serenity had settled my bones and the crystals of pain crawled over them. My skull was but a hollow bowl, devoid of raucous rampant thoughts. My body began to drift away, lost in the soft waters of tranquility; peace of the absolute variety. But my hands remembered themselves, slipping down the smooth lacquer of the cards.

Awake, I promised myself, the word ringing like a silver bell in an empty room. I summoned back my vision, the candles drawing my attention. Their flames wavered in greeting.

Guidance, I called to the void of my mind, pressing my spirit into my hands. My fingers were warm and willing, drifting across the deck of cards. The top card sent a spike of cold through my nail in response, confirming the correspondence. I continued the dance, drawing the card and snapping it to the oaken table.

Alison self-portrait in ink“Self,” I stated aloud, my voice clear and smooth despite the fact it had been dormant and sitting in my throat for hours now. A section of smoke above the card obscured its name, stationary while its brethren stirred with my breath. It coalesced, packing itself into a floating sphere before it erupted into a lighter cloud. The smoke around it shied away, revealing a figure a mirror of my own. It was colored milky white, constantly shifting as it imitated breathing. Self raised her hands in prayer, and from the grey incense smoke came her weapons; a glistening sword and a swirled wand. Delicate and luxurious rings rang on her fingers, a pentacle of pure silver hanging from her neck. And atop her head rested a crown of jagged iron, pierced with two rubies. And her feet motioned backward, the name of the card finally revealed: Chariot. Self’s ivory lips peeled back, though not a sound spilled from them.

“You need a voice,” I muttered aloud, quickly flipping up another staggered card onto Chariot. A worry stone’s amount peeled off from the cloud, once more obscuring the name before spiraling upwards and landing neatly onto the tongue of Self. She swallowed it like a pill, and before she spoke once more I glanced down at the cards to catch the name; the Two of Swords.

“We are ready to evolve,” Self explained, touching her neck. From under her fingers sprang two ribbons of red and gold, slithering across the smokey flesh. They snapped taut, strangling Self though she did not falter. They stretched back into the shadows, eternally summoning her back. “But the past is a burden. Fears of what will be restrict what could be. We have what we need in our grasp…” She hefted the wand and sword, crossing them before her. “We only need to forge ahead.” The weapons flashed forwards, slicing away the past. The ribbons glistened and hesitated for a moment before drifting away into faint smoke. Self lowered her weapons, leveling her wavering eyes to mine. She nodded, then faded away as well.

Exhaling gently, I muttered a brief thanks.

“Near future,” I called, summoning my voice to my lips once more. The two cards settled to the table, smoke once more rising above the laminate. The form that occurred was practically featureless, save for a sweeping cloak that wavered in the candlelight. The color shifted from an oily black to blood red, a pale skull peering out from the shadow of the hood. Near’s teeth rattled in her jaw as she prepared her words carefully, and I glanced down in horror at the cards that had appeared; Death and the Five of Pentacles, the latter of which was turned in reverse.

“The walls are closing in,” Near hissed as if she were exhaling sharply. “We are losing ourselves in them. To survive, we must collapse between them and not become them. We will retain our souls and weep then and now to heal the damage we have done to ourselves. Seek respite in knowing that once the tears have fallen, we will rebuild and start again. It will be the end and the beginning.” The skull of Near fell forwards, the dark cloak wavering around her. The bones rattled against the table before puffing away into nothingness.

I swallowed uneasily, my fingers trembling above the deck. As much as my heartstrings shuddered, I desired finality, and I was nearing it. I drew two more cards, calling their name.

“Future.”

The figure that collected itself noticeably contained itself with a certain genteel rather than the shifting illusions of Near and Self. A flowing dress rippled from her form, glistening with silver and a pale blue. Atop her head, like Self, was a crown of iron, but the malicious curls and points had lovingly dulled to soft waves. The two rubies had collided into a singular, pleasant red set piece. And in her delicate hands was a glistening chalice, decorated with the very same humble gems. A flutter of hope beat in my stomach as I noted the cards in her name; the Queen of Cups and the Three of Pentacles, upside down. Her eyes curled into grey, solemn illustrations as she spoke.

“We will find peace. Love surrounds us with certainty, for it is your livelihood. We recognize that our past…” The ribbons from Self flickered briefly in the shadows, silently banished as Future shook her head. “Does not define us. It controlled us because we let it, and it is time to let go. Not to forget, but to remember. Remember how it has influenced us, plucking from it what is beneficial, and discarding the rest. Remember the love that keeps us strong and will always do so.” Future’s eyes wavered against her form, closing the conversation between us. Her body hesitated, crystalline mist catching in the light of the candles. In ethereal silence, she vanished.

Wordlessly, I snapped two more cards to the table. Just as before, a figure formed of the smoke, though it was wildly disfigured. It spasmed, pulling itself closer to the earth and to the sky at wild intervals. It wailed in confusion before forming its final figure, though my temples throbbed looking at it. A gnarled finger darted out to my cheek, barely a butterfly’s kiss drawn across the flesh. Deep within its chest it hissed, snatching away its withered bone. A whimper from my own lips answered it, along with the fearful sigh of what seemed to be a child. I ran my hands over my eyes, staring harshly at the form before me. It was, in fact, two figures, one image depicting myself as a young child, the other an illusion of my elderly husk. They each wore the same dark garb, the fabric unnaturally dark and pricked with stars. Galaxies swirled across the smoke, illuminating the child’s bright and strangely wizened eyes. Drawn across the elder’s head was an equally shadowy cloth, obscuring her vision completely, while the same covered the child’s mouth. The names of the cards they represented cried and clawed at my fingers, for I already knew what they claimed; the Eight of Swords and the Seven of Cups.

“We have forged the irons at the gates of our own prison,” Far-Elder croaked, though her voice seemed to reverberate in a softer, trembling tone; Far-Child. “Isolation, the dagger of the mind, is buried in our chest, placed there with our own hand. It slices away our tongues,” she gestured a withered hand to Far-Child, who stared with glassy eyes at the cards lain before me. “And our vision.” She tapped her hollow cheek where the cloth ended. “We have retreated over our enemies’ and allies’ lines into No Man’s Land, where we shall remain for eternity. Our blood sinks to the earth, wicked away from the eyes that gaze upon us. Our voice never heard, vision never seen.”

Hot tears burst from my skull, running over my trembling lips. My heart had drifted to my toes, wringing itself into a sorry puddle of muck. I swallowed another whimper, covering it with a loud sniffle. My eyes closed, sending a fresh flush of tears cascading to the table. Massaging my temples, I sat in silence and sorrow.

“Unless.”

My head snapped upwards at the sound of an unfamiliar voice. It was angelic and pure, like a bubbling brook. It wavered with an uncertainty of itself, though glowed with an optimistic glow.

“We have the panacea in our very bones,” Far-Child explained, ripping away the cloth at her mouth. Between her fingers the cloth became rigid, forming a wand of darkened wood and crystal. From the rock came the soft glow of a galaxy swirling on her dress. “Our voice is too powerful to be lost under a twist of the knife. Our vision is too beautiful to be carved away. No Man’s Land is no place for us, nor for anyone. The dreams we hold and carry among ourselves deserve their flight.” The cloth obscuring Far-Elder’s eyes sprang forwards, folding rapidly in the smoke to form wings. The dove crooned, calling its raven sister lying in Far-Child’s hands, before spiraling into the ceiling in a puff of smoke.

“Isolation is not the answer, nor was it ever,” Far explained in two voices, Far-Elder’s silvered eyes catching mine. “Our mind is too beautiful to keep to ourselves.”

A wind caught the candles surrounding the cards, summoning a chilling darkness to the table. The smoke wavered around me, dissolving into the corners of the room. I coughed, wandering blindly to the light switch, but there I hesitated. My chest rose and fell, drawing in the serenity from before. The warm fingers of peace wormed their way into my mind, usually addled with concerns for the path set before me. Wild worries of am I going to make it? and what will I do? pockmarked the trail, obscuring the true beauty that surrounded it.

I smiled, stumbling my way to bed in determination to live and love in the present rather than the future.

 

[Al Kucera, YAC 18-19]

The Stars, the Rain, and the Forest

Black. Desolated. Frigid. The… wherever I was held a resemblance to a night with no moon, stars, or artificial streetlights. All I could see was the ghastly puffs of air leaving my mouth as if it was my own soul. There was a petite speck in the distance mimicking a star viewed on Earth, though it gave off no light. This eclipse of a room seemed to suck every bit of life out of it. Aside from the dearth of light, my movements were absent. My legs paralyzed into standing completely still, my head being forced to look at this aggravating dot on the horizon.

Al's catBreathing was the only thing keeping me sane. Until that very breath made that stupid splotch grow and grow. As it grew in size, it also gained light. Whilst invading my vision, the light made me wonder: Was this the light everyone jokingly talked about in cartoons? What was its significance?

Those questions faded to the back of my mind as my vision cleared. Where once was a mocking star now was a person. They had a figure not all that different from mine. Skinny, average height. Except, I looked into their eyes and found my own boring into me. The thing was, they couldn’t be me. Their shoulders squared with their arms relaxed at their side, a flat chest, and an unmistakable air of confidence. Not to mention the ethereal glow pulsing around them.

A star. They were a star. Stars never hid. They had nothing to hide

“Al, I am you as you are me,” Star’s voice, one matching my own, raked my back. “What you are seeing is a canvas that you wish you painted yourself.”

“What does that—” My words are cut off. Around me, the black sky was dotted with soft teal spheres of light. Then I was falling.

Smack! My face was squished against a smooth, icy surface. I cracked open my eyes, I hadn’t even realized they were closed. A glass floor, how odd. Grunting, I dragged myself off the floor. At least I could move. Well, almost. It was painfully sluggishly, but it was better than nothing.

Turning around at a snail’s pace, I found myself in a glass box. Another thing much different from this other-world was I could see. Well, somewhat. It was more like a room with no lights switched on during an ashen, bleak day. And I wasn’t alone.

Gentle eyes and a kind smile greeted me. Feelings of home tugged my chest.

“Why, hello,” a voice like a waterfall sang into my ears.

“Are you another me?” I was pleasantly surprised I got to ask a full question.

A simple nod was my confirmation. Rain. That’s what they were. Welcoming without hesitation. Comfort without words needing to be spoken.

Something warm settled on my shoulder. Since when was I cold? It’s funny how even a little warmth can bring attention to what you’ve been ignoring.

“Keep persisting, Al,” lectured Rain. “I need you to.”

This time, the world began to trickle with the song of water. Before I could even reply to Rain, the water poured boisterously. Clack, tick, tick, clack until the world waned out and out—

There was nothing but blankness, again. This time, I could see clearly. My arms and legs felt like they were moving through silk. Despite being an improvement from the previous other-worlds, this whole teleporting from one blank world to the next was starting to get old. At least add some variety. One I can enjoy that is.

Come to think of it, what exactly was the point in all this? Right when I was about to ask a significant question, the universe stops me. The only thing I could pick up from this teleporting around was that these versions of me are from different times in my life.

All I could see in the ivory plateau was a silhouette. It was clear enough to see that before me was me, yet I couldn’t see them. Much like a forest. Grand, vigorous, alluring, but uncertainty in every turn.

We stood in silence for as long as we could stand it. The thing is, we’re both me. We love the silence. Instead of being driven mad from the silence, we played a game of who would speak first. I could tell this… other me was dying to speak. As was I. Perhaps they didn’t know how exactly those words would come out. Perhaps they were afraid to say too much. Then again, they are me. Where in time they come from, I can’t tell, but all I know is that there are somethings that never change.

“You must be confused. I apologize, I let our stubbornness get in the way,” Forest hauntingly harmonized into my mind. “All the answers you already know, if not, they will be answered in time.”

My question never came. After all, it didn’t exist.

Trees recoiled from the ground, leaves ripple and whistle. Grass crawled its way to the surface, tickling my ankles. A dark sky of light hung above with grey clouds hesitantly move in. Water weeped down my neck and arms.

Then my eyes opened.

 

[Adam Dorsheimer, YAC 18-19]

Glory

We’re on a terrace on a cold day and the sky is a shade darker than blue. We glance at the rainclouds swirling ominously above us conjuring images of Sundays by firelight or that Vietnamese Buddhist temple or that one time I wrote between the forest and the lake. But now we’re drinking something hot and we have each other so the dark skies and chill in the air are just the icing on the cake. 

Adam (with fellow YAC)We’ve never liked cake much, incidentally, though somewhere down the line we became a bit more relaxed about the matter. Even still, it was never our preference, and we’ve always said if we’d eat something so unhealthy it’d damn well better be worth it. And we knew – some of us better than others – it almost never was. But it was almost never about the cake either. It was about what was happening around the cake; it was about whose birthday it was; it was about who was getting married. The cake could be replaced with nearly anything at all and the memories would still be there. And perhaps we knew – again, some of us better than others – a wedding apple pie was so much nicer. 

Some of us are much too young to be reminiscing; some of us are so young we have nothing to reminisce about. Those of us who can must do so sparingly, for we’re all prone to a pain in the heart, a nostalgic longing for days gone by even when the days left something to be desired. It took us far too long to learn that every day is one of the glory days when viewed in retrospect. And now the sky is black with nightfall and the cold cuts closer to the bone and our drinks are finished and we all stand up and leave the terrace and

 

[Abi Horton, YAC 18-19]

The Maze

I only vaguely remember the day I entered the maze. It was in a city called…Washington? Columbus? Jefferson? Some dead racist. I remember that I didn’t live there though.

It was at a local fair where I found the maze, advertised as Magicky Marvin’s Marvelous Mirror Maze, written in a font so tacky it had to have been designed that way on purpose. Underneath, in an equally hideous typeface, it said “Do you think you can escape?”IMAG3098

I went in, giving the plastic coin to the attendant, bored teenager scrolling on their phone. I don’t remember why I went in. Perhaps  it was because at the time I had the liberty and open pleasure of consequenceless actions, things that could never impact me in any true way. After that,my memory sharpens and I remember the scuffed, plastic mirrors that made it easy to navigate through without bumping into anything but then, something shifted and the air turned stale with the smell of stone and sunlight long gone.

I turned back, only to find the maze replaced with a wall of old brick.

I called out. I screamed. I tried to dislodge the bricks until my fingers ached. Nothing worked. So I walked.

The maze shifts. There were days when I was in a cornfield, the sun beating down me, yet I was not thirsty or hungry. Appetite is one of the minor things I lost to the maze.

There were days when I walked airport security, nothing but thin strips of fabric blocking my escape and the knowledge that the maze follows.

I’ve seen things in the maze, A place built of gleaming teeth with bloody gum till attached, spindly creatures with no mouths fluttering off holding grubby change. I’ve heard my voice echo down the maze, yet I had not spoken. I had not spoken in weeks. I saw bits of the maze shift to a mural that looks precisely like a door and leads you where no doors should ever go. I’ve seen the sunken remain of a ship, not time worn but devoured, with a man in a tattered uniform who insistently scrubbed the deck and I ignored him as the too sharp shells cut into my feet on the seafloor. I’ve my shadow move and my figure replicated. Or perhaps I was replicated. I don’t want to know.

I’ve seen people in the maze. I’ve walked with a woman called Franny who knows the precise number of anything, but can never find the maze’s exit. I’ve met Immanuel, a painter who collects the stories of those who wander the maze; painting them with a brush that oozes a dark liquid, no need for paint. Last I saw him, he was painting a person trapped in an old scuffed mirror.

I’ve seen myself in the maze too. It had been awhile since I had entered the maze, I wish I could recall a precise time and so many things like petrichor and sleep had faded to my life before the maze.

Then I saw myself. I was younger, by maybe five years. My hair was longer, wilder, my was round with youth, and my eyes were bright green.

“Why do you think you’re in this maze?” I asked myself, reflection to reflector. I didn’t try to ease myself into understanding the situation, I must have known at this point I had seen far stranger.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Bad taste in mazes?”

I laughed at that and I suddenly felt the urge to remember the last time I talked to someone. Franny maybe, on fractals.

“Maybe,” I conceded, my face so young. “What do remember about entering the maze?”

“Too much,” I responded without hesitation.

“Too little,” I corrected, skipping to keep up with pace before overtaking me and fading into the maze. Wait. Were my eyes green?

I had only gotten so far when I stood in front of myself, now older, by five years, hair black and eyes hazel.

“Do I get out?” I asked myself. There was no point in confusion, the maze had spun far more devious webs.

“Maybe,” I grinned at my current self, teeth predator sharp. I was struck then by the thought of how I didn’t like the idea of her as mirror. “But I won’t tell you. We can’t be risking paradoxes now, can we?” I pulled out a compact and adjusted my makeup.

“You could give me hint,” I grumbled.

“No,” I said, snapping the mirror shut. “I really couldn’t.”

“Why are you here then?”

“Some advice, I suppose. Remember the mirror maze.”

“I already said to me. Or me as a child told me now.”

“Good for her,” I replied, and though my tone was sarcastic, there was a familiar hint of approval in my tone. “Well the way out is the way in. As above, so below. And that’s all folks.” I walked away then, dissolving into the maze.

I walked then, and for the first time I tried to remember how I entered the maze. I walked through museums, parking lots, and when I met myself for the last time, I was in a stadium, rows of beer stained plastic seats stretching as far as I could see.

I was sitting down, sipping something too blue and too sugary. I was now older by ten years, a mirror, but scuffed one.

“You know why I’m here right?” I asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, half truthful. “But why now?”

“It’s time travel, not cooking. We  don’t get a precise layout of what to do.” I couldn’t reply to that.

“Well?” I asked, setting down the drink. “Come on, you have a whole world waiting.”

With that, I walked forward, remembering the mirror maze, everything so scuffed and old I didn’t bother looking out for the gleaming mirror towards the end. But before impact, I had fallen into a tunnel through it somehow.

I walked into my mirror now, an older, scuffed up reflection.

When I opened my eyes I was surrounded by mirrors. Bad, old, unsuitable for a mirror maze mirrors. In a daze, I walked out. The attendant gave me a one dollar ribbon for making it through.

And now, if my shadow is too long, my eyes don’t are brown, and I don’t have a reflection, well, you never do leave maze.

 

[Dodecaphobia, the 2017-18 YAC Zine]

Dodecaphobia_the YAC Zine 2017-18_cover

Check out the 2017-18 YAC Zine by clicking the image above. It will take you to a PDF download link. Happy summer reading from the YACs.