Click on the titles to link to the stories below.
Click on the titles to link to the stories below.
The Sea Breathes Salty
David Talon, Egg Harbor City, NJ
The sea breathes salty as approaching waves whisper like a woman speaking French, which I’ve never understood but still adore. The biting air makes my breath steam, yet she stands in the doorway wearing only a teeshirt: Heart, Chicago tour, which I remember seeing in person, another lifetime ago. Her breath doesn’t steam at all. “Let me in.”
The girl is pale as the moon over the ocean, her wet hair shadow black. The teeshirt clings to her slenderness. She wears nothing underneath. “They told me you’d come. They told me if I let you in, they’ll find me tomorrow, washed up on the sand.”
A moment of silence. “Yes, they will. Does that frighten you?”
Wine gives its own kind of courage. “Of course not. They’re having a joke on the old guy who bought the house older than his grandmother. I’m sure they’re out there in the darkness, right now, laughing.”
“Then you have nothing to fear. Let me in.”
Isabel claimed men are dogs. I stare at her chest; it doesn’t move unless she draws breath to speak. “I think I’ll wait you out, instead. Let’s see how long you can endure the cold.” A gust of wind, icy as a salt wave, and I pull the sweater close. “You’d have to be dead not to feel this.”
A moment of silence. “I am dead. Does that frighten you?”
Bravado, the last refuge of the uneasy. “Go back to your friends and tell them the joke’s over. Go get warm.”
She cocks her head. “You don’t remember, do you? We met in Chicago, at the concert. You bought me this shirt.”
Memories rush in like the tide. “Dear God, I… we made out in my sister’s van, then I took you down Rush street. You said the night…”
“Magical, yes.” She smiles. “You made me happy that night. You will again.” A moment of silence. “Does that frighten you?”
An undertow threatens to pull me out to sea. “This is part of the joke. There’s no way you’re the same girl; it isn’t possible.”
Her face is the sea’s stillness without a wind. “I was changed to what I am over the space of many months, and when we met the conversion was almost complete. Since then I have watched you. Isabel died, never giving you children, and wires with a plastic smile stole your profession. All your dreams have washed away. Only I remain.” A moment of silence. “Does that frighten you?”
Overhead, a seabird shrieks like a damned soul. “What do you want?”
“What do you want from a bottle of Bordeaux?”
“I can tell you no.”
“Tonight, but what of tomorrow? A hundred tomorrows? A thousand? In time, you will find me, and the cold sea. Tonight, we have the fire, and your spirit decanting into mine forever.” A moment of silence. “Does that frighten you?”
The undertow pulls me down. “Yes. Please… come inside.”
Her face is almost gentle as she enters.
It All Goes by So Fast
Karla Onstott, Jamul, CA
I love you so much! You are my favoritest unicorn ever.
Dancing with you in my room is the best part of my day.
See you after school!
What happened yesterday? I waited for you after school. You walked by me like you didn’t see me, and then got in your car and drove away. Even after you got home, you didn’t look for me.
Is everything okay?
Your friend, Rainbow
I’m so sorry.
At lunch I was talking about that time at the carnival when I was too scared to ride the Ferris wheel. That was the time you came with me, and suddenly I wasn’t scared anymore. Remember? We rode it five times! But then Bonnie Miller started laughing. She called me a baby and said that unicorns don’t exist.
I did see you. But I didn’t want Bonnie to call me a baby again, especially in front of the new boy, Robert.
I’ll see you later tonight. We’ll read our favorite book!
You’re getting to be a better reader everyday! I sure miss books with the pictures in them, though.
Want to go kite flying today?
Your friend, Rainbow
I can’t go kite flying today. Robert and I are going to get ice cream after school. I don’t think they let unicorns in the ice cream place. I really like Robert. He’s so nice.
I haven’t told him about you, yet.
Were you at school today?
Of course I was there! I wouldn’t have missed your school concert, I love to hear you sing! It makes my heart glow. I waved to you, but you looked right through me.
Let’s have an adventure in the park today. I know lots of magical places we can have fun in! Bring Robert, I can’t wait to meet him!
Your friend, Rainbow
I hope you didn’t wait for me at the park. I got so busy, I forgot to tell you I wasn’t coming. Robert and I rode our bikes after school.
Talk to you later!
Have you told Robert about me, yet? I wouldn’t mind if he came with us. We could be three best friends! Maybe he has a unicorn, too. You never know!
I miss you! When can we play again?
Your friend, Rainbow
Did you get my last letter? I left it under your pillow…
Your friend, Rainbow
Yesterday, a little girl down the street smiled at me and pet my mane and asked me for a ride. She called me “Pumpkin” and invited me to her tea party. Hope you didn’t miss me.
I think I may stay. She’s very nice.
I’ll be there to help you ride the Ferris wheel next summer, if you want. I promise never to miss a school concert.
You will always make my heart glow.
Your favoritest unicorn, Rainbow
Welcome to Death
Meghan Bechtel, Forest Hills, NY
Welcome to Death. My name is Gideon, and I’ll be your narrator for this first part of the experience. Please let me know if you need anything. Just kidding. You won’t need anything. Some people find that levity helps.
You are currently in what we call in industry terms the Stripping Phase. Don’t worry. It will be less painful that way. That was not a joke. Worry is a symptom of attachment, and that is what we will be stripping from you, so you can enter Transcendence in purity.
The good news is that you were already stripped of your breath and body in order to enter this phase. Some people find that that is the hardest part, so if you are one of those people, then the worst is over. If you are not one of those people, then the good news is that your most excruciating moments will be over soon, so hang onto your hat. Just kidding. That was just an expression. Don’t hang onto anything, that is the whole point of the Stripping Phase.
Currently we are preparing to strip your third layer. Did you know that humans exist in eight interlocking layers? Some people find that fact interesting. As I said, you have already been stripped of breath, which ties you to worldly relationships, and body, which anchors you to the material universe. Next you will be stripped of ego, which is actually what ties you to your body, so it’s already vestigial at this point anyway.
After ego, we remove affections. These are also technically vestigial, since your relationships were severed with your breath, but affections can be very problematic ghosts of self, always trying to wriggle backwards, and they’re painful as hell if not removed properly. Just kidding. There is no hell. But affections can be very painful once relationships are severed, so better to get them over with.
Next, we scrub off accumulated sins, and any shame and guilt that are hanging on. This part is gross for us, but most souls find it liberating. Especially Catholics. Are you Catholic? No? Well, it should feel cleansing just the same.
After sins, we will remove your mind. This is a very burdensome contraption, ubelievably noisy, we can’t have it jamming things up on the other side. Also, your mind can’t handle Transcendence, it was invented for material navigation only, so if any vestiges remain, they will go insane and tear your soul apart. So keep still. Your consciousness will remain.
Finally, you will lose the illusion of self. It is necessary to remove this layer last. It is the only thing keeping you from Transcendence, like the skin of a bubble. Once this is removed, you will be part of the Unity, and our time will be over. I hope that I have made your transition more comfortable. Just kidding. Hope is not one of my programs. But perhaps you have been enlightened. Pun intended. Godspeed.
A Farmer’s Guide to Growing Faceroot
Zoe Leonard, Phoenix, MD
Seed faceroot can be bought at nearly any garden store or simply cut from an existing crop. Faceroot should be planted two weeks after the last frost in an area that receives a minimum of four hours of sunlight. Place at least two seeds in a hole dug about 10 bits deep while ensuring a distance of at least half a stride between each hole, as faceroots can grow up to 35 bits in diameter.
After fifteen Vespuccan cycles, the faceroot should be ready to harvest. Bring a large shovel and many hands, as faceroots are heavy and may require assistance in digging up. The best time to harvest faceroot is the morning after a rain, as the soil will be loose and the roots will more easily become dislodged.
Pull the faceroot out of the ground gently, dust off the excess soil, and ask the root how its day is going. Many reactions can be expected, but knowing how to tell a mature faceroot from a premature faceroot makes all the difference.
If the faceroot answers politely and reflects your question, this is already a sign of its maturity. Keep in mind that almost all faceroots are aware of their own impending death once uprooted from the ground, and many will try various tactics of cajoling you to return them to the soil. It is best to ignore their advances by not engaging in conversation.
Some faceroots, when uprooted, will sass you or make snide comments about your intelligence and appearance. If these insults carry a strong air of sarcasm or feel as if they would be hurtful if they came from a neighbor instead of a tuber, it is another sign that the roots are mature.
If an uprooted faceroot does not respond to you but makes eye contact, it can be assumed that this faceroot is mature and simply has accepted its inevitable death to the point that conversation seems pathetic and futile. If it does not respond or make eye contact, this is a sign of a possible disease, and this faceroot should not be eaten.
Screaming faceroot of any kind is a sign of immaturity. A screaming root should be immediately returned to its hole and left for a few more cycles to mature fully. Although some recipes call for premature, or “baby” faceroot, it is recommended that hobbyist farmers purchase the baby variety from a store. If harvesting adolescent faceroot is absolutely necessary, using earmuffs is strongly suggested, as premature faceroot screams are said to mimic those of children.
Before you cook, remember to cut the eyes out of your faceroots for planting next season. Then, enjoy your homegrown faceroot!
Note: It is imperative that all planted faceroots are dug up within twenty-five cycles of planting. Though rare, there have been recorded cases where a faceroot has survived the winter and proceeded to grow undesirable appendages. Reports of unattended faceroot include growths such as necks, arms, fingers, and in on one extreme case, legs.
How It Works
Jacqueline Yang, NJ
(Excerpt from the AA Handbook, Chapter 5, Pg. 58)
Rarely have we seen a person (creature/other) fail after thoroughly following our path. Those who do fail are people (creatures/others) who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this program, usually those incapable of denying their animalistic drives. They are not at fault; they were born/made that way. They are incapable of grasping a manner of living which demands rigorous dishonesty. Many suffer from grave emotional disorders, grave mental disorders, grave robbing disorders. Many sought an easier, softer way through bloody murder, occult rituals, summoning demons, or begging the elder gods. But know that you cannot succeed in this way! Instead, we beg of you to be fearless, to abandon your inhuman urges from the very start.
Remember, we deal with humans—stupid, baffling, quick to jump to conclusions when they see you devouring the flesh of another! We must behave with the utmost dedication to remaining concealed from their awareness. We must act with constant vigilance, lest we slip back into our old, paranormal and supernatural ways.
Without help, these scriptures would be too much for us. But there is strength in unity. May you find that now! We stood at the turning point. We fell into the arms of Arcane Anonymous, into the arms of those who understood our plight and could help us cover our true natures.
Here is our program of recovery:
1. We admitted that we were powerless over the draw of behaving as we always did—as those who kill/maim/drain dry of blood/torture/seduce/steal the souls of/annihilate/incinerate/devour humans. We admitted that we had lost our ability to hide.
2. We realized that the strength of a group could restore our anonymity.
3. We admitted to ourselves, and to other arcane beings, our exact natures.
4. We worked humbly to conceal our natural instincts and blend in with humans.
5. We made a list of all humans we had killed/maimed/drained dry of blood/tortured/seduced/stolen the souls of/annihilated/incinerated/devoured, and became willing to make amends to them all, or at least to say “sorry.”
6. We made direct amends to such humans wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them/others, or when post-mortem contact was restricted.
7. Having had an awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to prevent others from killing/maiming /draining dry of blood/torturing/seducing/stealing the souls of/annihilating/incinerating/devouring humans.
Many of us exclaimed, "What commands! I can't go through with it." Do not be discouraged. No one among us could maintain perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. Definitely not saints. Pretty much the opposite. Most of us would spontaneously combust if we even set foot in a church. The point is: we are willing to grow. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim progress rather than perfection, and that is the true goal of Arcane Anonymous.
A Fishy Character
Brittany Kang, NJ
“Want to go swim?” Lucy asked excitedly, her eyes already shifting towards the pools a few lounge chairs away. The neighborhood children, a few wearing float devices, giggled as they splashed one another in the children’s pool, their hawk-eyed parents never too far away. Further away was the pool for the young adults, which had been abandoned by an earlier group or a game of tennis. Lucy tugged Lisa, who sighed awkwardly.
“I’m kind of scared of water. I don’t really want to go. You can swim and I’ll be tanning here,” Lisa said, tucking away strands of her brunette hair back behind her ear. Lucy pouted, tugging at her friend’s arm. Lisa was a new student in Lucy’s high school- she was shy and naive, but quite pretty and likable as a friend. She always described her former town as, “across the pond,” had extensive rain gear, and was dodgy with anything involving water.
“But why would you agree to join me at the pool if you didn’t want to swim?” Lucy whined, her eyes widening and pout deepening. “Please? At least come to the pool with me and sit at a lounge chair there! I’d be awfully lonely if you just left me.” Lisa sighed, picking up her baby blue towel and allowing Lucy to drag her towards the teenager pool. Lisa settled back down, while Lucy cheerfully jumped into the crystal clear waters, a shower of droplets splattering messily around her. Lisa watched Lucy, a sad twinkle in her eyes as Lucy glided like a fish through the water. It looked refreshing, especially on such a hot and humid day as today, but there was no way she could allow herself to even touch it. The consequences were too heavy.
The chirping songs of the birds in the trees above lulled her to sleep, and she took no notice of how she could hear Lucy’s feet slap against the hot concrete ground as she exited the pool. Lisa heard a muffled giggle, and snapped awake as she felt her chair forcefully tip towards the pool, and she plunged into the cold waters. Panic rose in her mind as she struggled to break surface and take a huge breath of hair, her hair plastered around her face as she peered up uncertainly at Lucy. The giggles had died out, drowned in the dazed amazement on Lucy’s face.
“L-Lisa?” Lucy’s jaw was slack as she gaped down at Lisa. “What is that?” Lisa blushed, and she struggled to find the right words as her mermaid’s tail flickered underwater where her land legs were, the silvery scales reflecting light blindingly.
“I can explain-” She began desperately, and Lisa knelt down to look closer, disbelief still written all over her face.
“You’re a mermaid too?” Lucy glanced around, before she ducked down. “So is my mom. Hang on, let’s find a way to get you out of here. If you’re dry you have legs, right? Let me get your towels.”