Archives for category: Prose

by Jake Garvey

Once upon a time in a little German town called Hammelburg, there lived a little Irish boy with his grandmother. He and his grandmother were the only Irish people in Hammelburg, and all of the german folk around looked down at the two of them. Even so, the little boy’s grandmother had always told him if he worked the hardest he possibly could, and never gave up, he could do anything.

The little boy took this advice religiously, and worked twice as hard as all the little German boys who just played in the streets all day. While they played and didn’t get their work done, he did all the work around his grandmother’s house, knowing that she was too old and weak. Every day this was what he would do except Sundays, because Sundays were the sabbath and although the German church would not accept the Irish catholics, the little boy and his grandmother prayed together and maintained the holy day. This was how life went on for the little boy until one ordinary day which changed everything.

The little boy had been fixing the henhouse, when down the road skipped a little German girl. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. More so than the rising and setting sun, or the stars on a clear night. Her perfect white skin, heavenly golden curly hair, and such a face that must have been that of an angel. He was immediately in love. Every day after that, he would watch her skip by his home, and admire her hair flowing like a silk scarf in the wind. Every day he watched as she skipped as if she were floating on angel’s wings. Every day he wished she would notice him.

Then one blustery autumn day in Hammelburg, as a little German girl skipped down the road to bring the colorful leaves she had found to her mother, a stray gust of cold wind reached out and stole her scarf from her neck. The little girl ran after it until it blew over a small stone wall into the yard of her town’s only Irish people. Her mother had told her to stay away from them, that she was to marry a German boy, and the Irish boy was unholy for not going to church. Nevertheless, the little girl loved that scarf, so she chased it across the yard where it landed in the branches of an apple tree. She tried everything she could to get it down, but couldn’t reach it. She finally trudged home, teary eyed and crushed.

The little boy had just finished cleaning the house for his grandmother who said he could go play for a while as she was finishing supper. The boy ran outside to his favorite spot to read, underneath the little apple tree, but he noticed something in the tree. It was the scarf that he had seen flowing from the neck of the beautiful girl who skipped by his home every day. He knew exactly how to get it down for he had climbed that tree countless times before. After he had rescued the garment from sure destruction, he ran off down the road, hoping the girl was at home so he could return it to her.

Afraid to tell her father, the little girl hid herself in her bedroom and cried. She loved that scarf, and she had lost it. There couldn’t possibly be a way to tell her father about losing that scarf. She stared out the window, wishing that there was some way her scarf could just blow back to her, the way it had blown away in the first place. She wished so hard that she felt she could almost see the scarf flowing back to her. She saw it flying in the wind, being carried by the little Irish boy at whose house she had lost the scarf. She ran outside to meet him, and he handed her the scarf, out of breath.

The little boy was trying to catch his breath while he handed the scarf off to the little girl. Her smile when he returned her rescued scarf was heavenly. He hadn’t seen anything that beautiful since the first time he saw her skipping down his street. She then took the scarf and ran back into her house without saying a word. The boy found himself inexplicably happy as he ran home. He made it back just in time for dinner, and then went to sleep dreaming about the girl he loved. He woke up the next day and lived it like he would any other day, he worked around the house, and then ran to the wall and waited for the little girl to skip by. But she didn’t, and neither did she the next day, or the next. Eventually the boy became worried and so when he finished his chores he ran down to the girl’s house and found her working on her own chores. He walked up to her and asked “May I help you?” The little girl replied “Maybe next time, I’m finished.”

From then on, every single day the boy ran down to her house after he finished his chores, and offered to help her. Every single day she gave him the same reply. She secretly enjoyed every time he asked, so she never stopped saying “Maybe next time”, and he never stopped asking. Then one day, the little girl had a lot of extra work to do, and when the boy asked if she wanted any help, she said “Yes, please” and so together they did all of her chores, and from then on did the same every day.

The little girl found one day that she was in love with the little boy, and she knew that he loved her back. Both of them knew that they couldn’t be together in Hammelburg, so they left the town and ran. They lived and loved in every country from Germany to the coastal shores of England. There they waited and worked to try to get a ship ride across the sea, and eventually, she became pregnant. They did all they could to support their child, and they saved up money to pay for passage. They earned money and then spent it just as quickly. Almost a year in England and they found themselves with no money and nowhere to sleep. The young man went to the nearest harbor and explained his situation to an Irish merchant. The merchant felt sorry for a fellow countryman in love, and let the three of them stow away on his ship.

They reached Ireland the next morning and began their adventure NorthWest. Crossing the countryside day by day, sleeping wherever they could find at night, they raised their little boy and searched for a place to live. They soon came to a little town on the Western shore of Ireland called Heavendell. Heavendell was a quaint little town in the middle of a lush, green, basin. Forests and fields surrounded it on all sides, and the people who lived there were honest and kind. The young man and his wife and child fell in love with the town, and purchased a few acres from an old man who was moving away to live with his son. They built a big house together and plowed a field for crops. They bought a couple sheep and bred a flock on part of their land. The man taught his son to sow the fields and to herd the sheep. The woman had become pregnant again so she stayed around the home and cleaned and cooked.

The family went to church together every Sunday and lived off of the land they had settled upon. The entire town fell in love with the Family and they loved all of their neighbors. As they worked they earned money, and their children grew up and married and moved away. The man and his wife grew old together and sold off most of their land, keeping only their house and a small garden which they worked together. As the days flew past, they fell further in love than ever. One blustery autumn day, a cold wind blew through their home. The man asked his wife “Would you like to go for a walk?” and they did. They walked slowly down the dirt road, hand in hand. The little Irish boy and the little German girl watched the sunset, and reminisced about their journey from Hammelburg to Heavendell.

That sunset was the most beautiful thing the little boy had seen since the first time he saw her skipping down his street.

THE END

by Joseph Hemaidan

They say that no man can have any kind of contact with god, or any kind of spiritual being. To do this, it is said that you must be totally separated from reality and life itself to really achieve such a connection

But this doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been tried before.

In 1983, a group of scientists conducted an experiment to try and establish contact with God. Their one and only test subject was an elderly man, insisting that he had “Nothing else to live for”. The first stage of the process was severing all of the senses, connected by nerves in the spine. After a delicate surgery, the subject was unable to smell, hear, taste, see, or feel. To keep him alive, though, the scientists made sure to keep all motor functions going. The subject was now completely alone with his thoughts.

The first day showed nothing of interest, only the test subject slurred sentences out of his mouth which he couldn’t hear. Then, 3 days passed, when the subject stated that he could hear the light, wavering voice of his deceased wife, speaking to him with strange tongues. The scientists believed this to be nothing but an illusion until the subject stated that he could hear and see passed relatives of some of the scientists. Again, the scientists doubted this to be real, until the subject started to ramble off information that only the deceased relatives and the scientists would know. Some of the scientists could not handle this kind of stress, and resigned from the project.  However, most of the other scientist maintained their unbreakable curiosity and continued to observe the subject.

A week passed when the subject started to complain. He stated that the voices were growing louder and louder, to the point where he would raise his palms to his unhearing ears. The day after, the subject begged for sedatives, hoping that sleep would drive the voices away. This was proven to be successful, but only for a short while, as the subject began to have night terrors.

Three days later, the subject began to yell and scream, throwing himself against the walls, hoping to feel some kind of sensation to bring him out of his unchangeable state. After hours of this, the subject began to claw at his unseeing eyes, trying to feel pain, screaming that the voices were overwhelming him with sadness and anger. At one point, the subject began to bite chunks of flesh off of his shoulders, forcing the remaining scientists to place the subject on a secured table.

The subject began to scream repeated phrases, such as “DARKNESS WILL COME, LIGHT IS GONE” for hours on end. Most of the scientists had left the experiment, with only 3 to continue to observe this horrifying experiment.

A day later, the subject became silent and still, blindly staring at the dim light of the test chamber with dulled eyes, an endless stream of tears crawling down his face. His body began to reject basic food and water intake, and the subject was marked to die in a matter of hours.

In the final minutes of his life, somehow, the subject looked directly into one of the remaining scientist’s eyes, a shaky breath escaping from his lips. In a clear voice, dark and rumbling, he stated,

“I have spoken to God, and he has abandoned us.”

The subject passed immediately after he stated the comment. The department of health decided to keep this failed test a secret, censoring all of the involved parties names, including the subject. In addition, it was made a rule to not condone this kind of horror on any human being for the gain of knowledge.

Eileen Kull

 

It was another rainy day. As Louis looked out through the shards of cracked glass standing bravely in the window, he tried to push the thought of his mom striding through the rain, struggling with the cold wind whipping her face as she staggered drunkenly over the sidewalk cracks out of his mind. Shivering, his frozen, calloused fingers tugged at the stained blanket huddling around his shoulders.

“Louie, I’m bored.” he heard his 9-year-old little brother Teddy whine.

He had to keep his little brother preoccupied, Mom would be here any minute. “Here, catch.” He picked his baseball out of his pocket and tossed it easily to Teddy.

The little boy winced as thunder rattled the remaining roof shingles and dust fell to their feet, but he barely managed to catch the ball in his squishy palms. “Mom doesn’t like us playing

ball in our new home.” he said hesitantly, eyes wide.

“This shack is NOT home, Ted, besides would you rather go outside to toss?” Louis asked sharply. This was the fourth abandoned house they’d settled in, Louis, Teddy and Mom, in the short span of twelve months. The rusty, termite-infested hut they were sitting in now tossing a ball was far from the warm, soft and stable house Louis knew had been home, until it was burned down after Mom left her vodka bottle too close to the burner. Louis still had the burn marks to remind him every day that there was no home for him.  Still, without Mom, Louis doubted he would be able to get enough money to buy the loaf of bread and water bottles from the grocery store each week, although Louis wasn’t sure the food and water were worth it to have to act as though he didn’t notice the men coming home with mom every other night.

“Naw,” Teddy said.”Every time I look out at the storm I see the trees making people shapes, flying their arms around to grab me.” He tossed the ball back.

“You sure have a crazy imagination.” Louis jumped to catch the ball above his head. The night grew longer, the small alarm clock by the door ticking emptily. Three times Louis looked out the window, searching for Mom, and three times he was met with the human trees, shadowed in darkness, playing tricks with his eyes. He looked out again and his heart leaped as he saw a figure standing by the gate, only to be disappointed as a lightning flash proved it to be the light post a couple feet away.

“Louie! Watch out!” Louis looked up just in time to see his baseball crash into the tarnished mirror right next to his head. A thousand glittery shards of glass cascaded almost in slow motion onto the dirty floor, like snowflakes onto a patch of dirt. Thunder applauded his misfortune as both Louis and Teddy stared at the floor. Mom didn’t like them playing in the house, and she would be a murderous mess when she got home.

“Louie, I’m sorry. It’s my fault.” Teddy’s eyes were filled with tears and his hands were shaking, but he managed to look his brother in the eye and say, “Don’t take the blame for this one … Maybe I can handle it.” he said the last part rather doubtfully.

As Louis bent to pick up the ball and slip it back into his pocket, his mind filled with memories of his past, where he would draw himself up under his mother’s anger, and take the fall for whatever Teddy and he had done. His face burned with the number of slaps he’d received to shelter his brother from even the littlest of abuse. He shook his head and looked out into the dark.

“No way, Ted. I-“he stopped short. There, just a few feet off, was the same figure he’d mistaken for a lamppost, only much closer now. The scant light from a streetlamp down the country road just outlined a short, sturdy build placing one thought into Louis’s mind; this was not Mom.

“Ted. Be very quiet.” Louis said, without taking his eyes off the figure. He could feel his palms getting sweaty, and he tried hard to suppress the fear that was growing steadily in his chest, absorbing his entire body.

“What is it Louie?” Ted asked, walking over to the window to look out into the night with his brother.

Snapping his eyes away from the window, Louis went into command-mode. “Teddy, listen to me. No, don’t look outside, look at me.”

Louis raised his eyes to the window again and felt as though all of his courage was melting away as a lightning flashed to show the figure nowhere in sight. He took a deep breath to steady himself and said “Teddy, there’s someone out there, not even lying. We’ve got to do something.” Teddy’s eyes turned to saucers and he asked “What do we do?” but Louis wasn’t listening. What DID you do in a situation like this? He tried to clear his head, but his mind was a muddy whirl of thoughts, hastily scrambling to the surface, shouting over each other to be heard.

His traffic-jam of thoughts was suddenly interrupted when a bolt of lightning flashed and there, looking in through the window, was the figure. He had brown hair, darker than Teddy’s and Louis’s, and hollow, sharp cheekbones. His blue eyes were gaunt and sunken in with barely a twinkle, and every feature seemed to be accentuated by the eerie light coming from inside the house. He looked down and saw the two young boys standing together, inches from the window, and his face twisted into a haunting smile, his eyes wild with a menacing, hungry light. Louis felt as though he was about to fall to the floor in a faint; he wasn’t a very strong person to begin with, but managed to gain what little strength he had and take his brother’s hand. “We gotta go.” But Teddy was limp, his mouth fallen flat open, unchecked terror behind his ice-blue eyes.

The man walked away from sight, obviously toward the door.

“Ted, listen to me.” Louis could barely stop himself from sprinting as fast as he could. “I know you’re scared. But for Chrissake we gotta move. If we don’t move now, you won’t ever move again.” Although his blood was pounding in his ears, Louis made out the creak of the porch as a large foot stepped onto the first step.

Teddy was still rooted to the spot, his breath coming short, panic sketched into every one of his features. He turned to Louis and said “Louie ….”

Another creak of the boards, all that was between them and that stranger was a worn out, unlocked door. The doorknob turned. “RUN!” Louis shouted as he took control and pulled him out of the living room and around a corner to a dusty hallway, lit by small shaded lamps, with doors on every side of the hall and the kitchen at the end.

The front door smashed open deafeningly, and Louis nearly jumped out of his skin, and felt his brother’s hand leave him as he sprinted for the nearest door. It wasn’t a split second afterward inside a musty laundry room that he realized with horror what he had just done. Little Teddy was terrified out of his mind! There was a stranger inside the house, undoubtedly with bad intentions, and he, Louis, had left his 9-year-old brother alone in the middle of the hall, with no support to handle him. Louis pictured

Teddy looking at him, trusting him to always be there, and now standing in the hallway looking wildly around, unsure of where to go now that his brother left him, and in that second Louis made his decision; they were a family and he would be there to watch over Teddy.

But by the time he peeked his head out of the door, Teddy must have gathered his wits and wasn’t anywhere in sight. As Louis saw a muddy boot turn the corner into sight, he quickly ducked his head back into the laundry room, and tried to clear his head. Obviously Teddy had hidden, but where?

A *thump* as a foot stepped into the hallway. Louis had to try and find him, they were in this together. Where would they go from there though? *thump* Who was this guy, anyway? Why had he chosen this house, and what would he do when he caught them? *thump* *thump* the footsteps grew closer, then Louis could hear them on the other side of the wall. He was in the room next to him, and this would be the next place the man would check. Louis knew he had to get out of there, now would be a good time to look for Teddy.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Louis turned to the door and took a step out. At that second, he saw the back of Teddy’s head as he sprinted down the hall and out to the kitchen. Choking back a call, Louis realized how smart that had been. There was a door in the

kitchen, and now all Teddy had to face was finding a good hiding spot until he, Louis, managed to escape the house. Louis sighed with relief. Teddy was completely fine. But Louis wasn’t.

As soon as he sighed the footsteps stopped, and he remembered that he was standing in plain sight, in the middle of the hallway with a menacing stranger in the other room looking for him. He looked at the door and could feel his head spinning, then slowly looked around. The man was turning, looking at him. The hunger returned to his eyes, and he began to quickly stride out of the bedroom.  He looked oddly familiar, and with a jolt Louis recognized him as one of his mother’s many visitors.  But he obviously wasn’t looking for Louis’s mother this time.              Without thinking, Louis felt his fight or flight instincts kick in. He chose flight. Sprinting down the hallway, he could feel the creep gaining on him. Their feet pounded loudly down the hallway, but Louis’s heart pounded harder. He was moving his feet as fast as he could, and yet he knew he wasn’t fast enough. He tried to scream out, but his words got stuck in his throat, and he just ran with his mouth open in a silent scream. As he reached the kitchen Louis veered toward the door, but he felt a hand grab for his patched up shirt, and his heart sunk down to the floor with him as he fell. Louis felt his baseball roll out of his pocket as he stuck his wrist out to break his fall, and the next thing he knew was the terrible pain like a hundred cold knives cutting into his wrist as it bent under his weight. Still in a panic, he scooted backwards, painfully aware that his wrist would be no help to him in this situation.

The man smiled, revealing stained yellow teeth, and began to walk toward Louis. Taking his time, as though he knew he had won. Louis scrabbled along the floor with his one good hand, until his back came against the cold, cracked wall. This was the end. He had nowhere to run, no place to go, no one to call out for.

Beginning to really go frantic, Louis began to kick out, he could feel his eyebrows up at the top of his head, and his mouth still open in the scream that would never come out. Just then, there was Teddy. He was standing in the kitchen doorway, sizing up the situation around him. Had he, the little brother, really come back for Louis?

Before Louis could call out for Teddy to run, the 9-year-old shuffled forward a few steps and picked up the baseball they had been tossing minutes ago. “Louie!” he shouted, and as the man turned, little Teddy aimed the ball and threw it as hard as he could. It hit the stranger square in the forehead, and he stumbled backward a few steps. His foot caught on a raised piece of wood from this abandoned house’s floor, and he crashed down to the ground, banging his head on the table in the process. As thick red blood quickly began seeping from his head wound, Teddy briskly walked over him and held out his hand to his older brother. Louis grasped it, and Teddy firmly pulled him to his feet and looked him right in the eye.

“It’s okay, Louie. I can handle it.” The two brothers looked at each other, and Louis pushed the shock of what his little brother had just done out of his head, and realized that he didn’t have to be so worried about Teddy anymore, he was a big boy. Slinging his arm over his shoulder, Louis and Teddy walked away from the body leaving nature and the closest neighbors to find it, and into the pouring rain, to wait for Mom to come walking home.

Eric Willing

 

Daniel Jansen sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, still half asleep. He looked out the window and saw night’s darkness gripping the world. Sighing, he looked at the clock knowing what he’d find. 1:00 AM, the light green, glowing display read. Insomnia had struck again. Daniel climbed out of bed and stretched, now fully awake. The problem was falling asleep again…. and getting the sleep to last. That had been harder to do lately. Daniel decided to go for a walk in the park. That usually helped somewhat. He even fell back asleep occasionally. Daniel lived alone ever since his wife had died three years earlier. Beth Jansen had been an avid painter and enjoyed repainting the house on occasion. When she became hospitalized with the throat cancer that would kill her three months later, the house was a horribly garish bumblebee swirl and quite frankly had turned the house into an eyesore. It was the only time Daniel had ever complained about one of Beth’s repainting jobs. Looking at it now, it wasn’t so bad. Daniel took a shower, dressed, grabbed his keys, and his coat. Before he left, he looked back at the house where he had spent his whole adult life. He felt a twinge of sadness and he wasn’t sure why. Subconsciously though, he knew. He knew he would never see it again.

The short drive to Stegosaurus Park was very quiet, even the birds were asleep. All businesses were silent, locked up until at least 4:00, when the owners would come in and prepare for the day. There were virtually no people out except for drunkards, homeless people with nowhere else to go but the dingy comfort of “Mickey’s Pub”. Daniel got to the park  found his usual trail blocked off. It was the only one accepted for walking and led to the clearing where, 50 years earlier, stegosaurus bones had been discovered. Now a small tourist building/ gift shop sat there, supporting the small town of Danson, Oklahoma through the surprisingly large number of tourists who came to see the little “museum” with the bones. Daniel just liked to sit in the clearing and clear his head.

Nevertheless, the museum trail was blocked off so Daniel just walked through the trees and foliage until he saw a trail. These woods were sad and dying. It was clear that the upkeep of the park had been strongly focused in the area around the bones. The foliage was noticeably less green here and many of the trees were dead. There was very little wildlife and the soil was hard and rocky, unlike the soft crumbly dirt that formed the trail to the bones. Daniel walked the trail with sadness gripping his heart. He was suddenly glad to be old. It seemed that the best years of the world were gone. Daniel sat down and closed his eyes. In his mind, the world shifted back sixty million years to the days when stegosauruses had wandered the Earth, before humans had existed, and it had just been gigantic reptiles walking the Earth, caring about nothing but surviving. Nothing to do but walk the Earth, then pristine, not afflicted by human pollution or violence. Daniel opened his eyes and looked around. Yes he was glad to be old. His adventures were over.

Daniel kept walking and decided to go about another mile down the rocky path before he turned around and went back to the car. About fifteen minutes later, Daniel felt extremely tired. It was the most exhausted he had felt in twenty years. He laid down softly on a bed of old leaves, yawning. They crackled as he lay down and broke apart Daniel fell asleep and woke up a minute later when he fell down the rabbit hole, literally. Plummeting at what seemed to be a hundred miles an hour, Daniel screamed. It was like a water slide, terrifying yet thrilling with hundreds of twists and turns, and a swirling pattern on the tunnel walls, faintly similar to his wife’s final repainting job. The tunnel went for an everlasting period of time, seemingly endless in length. Little movies were clearly playing on the walls but Daniel was flying so fast down the slide that he couldn’t see what was going on. Reality bended and Daniel wondered if he was dreaming. He did not feel as if he was any longer on Earth, not even the same dimension. This tunnel seemed to belong to no dimension, an irregularity in the interconnected universe of time and space.

Suddenly the tunnel began to slope, and slowly decline. He could see the end now. The tunnel became brightly lit and showed the end; a solid block of rock. Panicking, sweat pouring down his face, Daniel began to scramble madly at the tunnel walls, trying to slow his speed for at the speed he was going, the impact of hitting that stone would break his legs and possibly kill him. The walls were glass, but they were as slippery as melted butter, and Daniel couldn’t get a grip. Quickly, he stuck out his legs, covered his head with his hands, and prepared for the worst. It seemed like forever to reach the stone and he let out a cry of fear as he did so, sensing the pain before it hit him. Surprisingly, there was no pain. The stone was soft, very crumbly, and Daniel immediately broke through into a five foot drop… and fell into a thorny rose bush. “Ahh!”, he yelped, jumping up. As he jumped, he saw a pile of leaves under the rose bush that looked suspiciously familiar. He bent down and examined them. Although they were soft and a vibrant shade of green, unlike the hard, dark brown crackling leaves he had laid down on, they were the same. Daniel stood up and looked around in amazement at the world he now stood in.

The dead, withered, brown trees of Stegosaurus Park had grown in stature and color, the leaves a cheerful mix of colors just as a rainbow shines after a session of heavy rain. The trees stood proud and tall, towering over Daniel, and the world. It was hard to believe these were the same trees Daniel had gazed upon just five (was it five?) minutes ago; and yet, he knew they were the same. Daniel had a strong sense of geography, and he knew the trees were in exactly the same spot as they had been when he “left”. They also still had the same general shape; they just looked like bodybuilders instead of an orphanage. The trees and landscape were not the only thing that had changed though. Wildlife flooded the small clearing where Daniel had fallen. Birds of various shapes and sizes flew through the jungle, exotic birds with fiery red beaks and feathers as yellow as bananas. Daniel had been an avid birdwatcher since he was nine, but these were unlike anything he had ever seen. On the ground, small rodents and reptiles sped around the ground, scurrying and yelping as they fled from the birds pursuing them. Daniel watched in amazement for an unknown period of time. Where was he? This exotic jungle was clearly part of Stegosaurus Park, and at the same time it was definitely not. He had never seen anything like the vibrant, colorful, plants that surrounded him, nor the animals. Was it possible he had been transported back in time? Being the avid science fiction fan he was, this was the explanation he wanted to believe, however impossible. Still, it was impossible. Science (nonfiction) had proved that. What was going o-. His train of thought was immediately interrupted by a stupendously loud growl.

The trees shook, sending their leaves cascading to the ground. Every single little creature fled in terror, into the woods and the safety of their hiding places. Thumping footsteps made the ground tremble. Heavy grunts and phlegmy snorts came from the nose of whatever creature was approaching. Daniel stood transfixed in fear, unable to move. This had gone from jungle vacation to Hell’s amusement park in under 20 seconds! Suddenly, the monster appeared. Daniel recognized it immediately. He had seen it in diagrams and museums hundreds of times over the years. Before now, he had never seen a real one. No doubt remained about where he was now. He was in the Cretaceous period, roughly 65 million years ago. In front of him stood, the most infamous of all dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Daniel’s eyes flew out of his head, like a perverse pair of goggles. The T-Rex was at least 30 feet tall with green scaly skin, the color of bile. It’s razor sharp teeth began to bite ferociously at the air, hungry for something besides brontosaurus. Tiny arms waved hysterically at the gigantic reptile’s sides, itching to grab and pull apart something other than the occasional sleeping monkey. In any other circumstance, the sight would’ve been hilarious. Daniel might have been eaten right then and there if the beast had not growled at him and covered his face with a barrage of green mucus and saliva. As he wiped his face, he saw the T-Rex slowly turning towards him and getting ready to run. Thinking fast, Daniel sprinted to the one place the T-Rex couldn’t get him; under its legs. The arms could not possibly reach far enough to get him, and it was already committed to running at him. The gargantuan sprinted at the same time, and Daniel did a barrel roll under its legs, barely avoiding a collision with the dinosaurs tail. Those morning jogs had paid off. The tail…. That gave him an idea. Daniel grabbed a large tree branch and jumped up, running at the T-Rex, specifically its tail. He stabbed the tail as hard as he could with the tree branch, driving and twisting the branch in as far as he could. The T-Rex howled in pain at the wound that was now bleeding large amounts of black blood. Using the branch to pull himself, he began his ascent. The dinosaur was immobilized for about 20 seconds, but it was enough. Daniel was on its head, preparing to drive the branch into its brain. He lifted the stick and drove it in. Pus and blood squirted out, and chunks of dark, grainy brain came flying out. The dinosaur let out a death screech and began to fall to the ground. Daniel swung on to its right side so as to not be crushed by the humongous weight of the T-Rex’s scaly, green body. The gargantuan carnivore, crashed into the Earth, shaking the trees and soil. It let out one last piercing scream, coughed up more blood, and died. Daniel slid off the neck, panting, realizing how tired he was. Adrenaline had flowed through his body when the T-Rex had spit on on him, giving his body an amount of energy he hadn’t seen in twenty years or more. Now he was tired. He wanted nothing more than to just find a safe place to sleep, with no prehistoric reptiles interrupting him. As if on cue, he heard footsteps, heavy thundering footsteps just like the T-Rex. This time though, it wasn’t one dinosaur. This sounded like a stampede. Daniel suddenly realized that the T-Rex’s last scream was a desperate cry for help. Grunts and roars filled the air, as the stampede drew closer. This time there was no paralysis; some of the adrenaline had returned. Daniel ran.

He ran for at least an hour, gasping for breath, desperate to escape the gargantuan beasts. The jungle went on forever, but Daniel was no longer full of fascination for the exotic plants and animals. He wanted a cave to sleep and (hopefully) go home. Eventually, he could no longer hear the dinosaurs and he slowed to a walk. He had been working for ten minutes when a dart hit him in the neck, and he dropped, finally getting his sleep.

His eyes fluttered awake to a man’s face staring over him. The man grunted at him. He was bald, with cold blue eyes and a dirty rugged face. His nose hung from his face, sharp and crooked and his mouth was curled in a sneer. Daniel looked around. He was in a small, candlelit room, with dirt floors and walls. The room smelled dirty and he realized he was underground. He tried to sit up and couldn’t; scaly straps fastened his body to the table. Looking at them, he realized they were made out of T-Rex skin. Slowly, Daniel looked up. There were about 15 men and women standing around him, smiling greedily. Daniel felt his stomach drop. This didn’t look good. The people (if they were people; Daniel didn’t feel as if he knew anything anymore) were all mostly naked, with patches of dinosaur skin covering their nether regions.  Cryptic designs covered their face, painted red, blue, and green, reminding Daniel of the circus. This was bad. He almost felt like… a sacrifice. His suspicions were confirmed when the circus freaks began to chant, on their knees. They kept repeating the same word, “Zarf!”, and he guessed that was the name of their god. Daniel began to sweat and squirm. He needed to get out of here. The straps were tight but there had to be a way yet. Jerking his body to one side, he managed to tip over the wooden table he was bonded to. The action did nothing but give him a thump on the head. He listened to the chanting, trying not to panic and failing. Eventually, the cult was done praying, and the apparent leader came over to set the table back up. He growled something at Daniel, in a mystical, foreign language. It sounded threatening. The man picked up a knife and grinned. The cult gathered around, still praying. The knife was held high above his heart, the man slowly descending the tip. There was no point struggling. He just began to scream. His goal was to attract a T-Rex to come and break up this party. Daniel would still get killed, by knife or teeth, but at least these freaks would go down with him. The knife was about a foot above his heart, drawing ever nearer. How had he gone back in time in the first place? He would never know. The knife descended faster, the result of impatience. The knife drove into his chest and he screamed with pain. Blood spurted out of his wound, the last thing Daniel saw before he faded away.

He almost immediately woke up again, right where he had fallen asleep in the forest. It had all been a dream! Just a horrible, lucid dream! Also, even though he just woken up, he was tired! The insomnia was gone! Daniel stood up, laughing. The sun was out now, it was a beautiful day, and Daniel felt better than he had in ten years. He began to walk back to his car trying his best to find a way; the trial he had walked out here on looked different. It was a lot harder to see. Stegosaurus Park looked better than ever, the dead, withered trees he had seen on his way in seemed more alive, friendlier. The air felt different, cleaner, easier to breathe. Suddenly, a small animal jumped out of a bush and scattered across the path and up a tree. Daniel observed it with great curiosity. It was unfamiliar to him. The animal was about the size of a bunny rabbit with a rodent’s face, chocolate brown stripes, and eight legs. He had found it strange, but as he looked at it closely, it did look familiar. Where had he seen that thing? He kept walking, the question of what that animal was torturing his brain. After a half mile of walking, he reached the parking lot. At least, he would’ve reached the parking lot if there had been any parking lot there. The parking lot had been replaced by overgrown grass and trees. Suddenly, as if he had been struck by a lightning bolt, he remembered where he had seen the rodent before. Right after he had fallen out of the chute into the prehistoric era, there had been all sorts of exotic creatures running around. The rodent had been one of them. As realization flooded Daniel Jansen’s brain, a Tyrannosaurus Rex roared in the distance.

Anonymous

      “You can’t come up!”
      My words echoed across the park, bouncing through the crowd of children like bees among flowers.  Several kids turned away, but others, unperturbed, persisted in attempting to climb the ladder up to my house in the tallest of trees.  One boy tauntingly set a foot on the bottom rung, his smile as sneaky as a mosquito darting away after stealing several drops of warm blood and leaving only an itchy welt in its wake.
      “No, Paul,” I repeated, staring down the end of my short plastic rapier into the boy’s face.  “I told you, you can’t come up!”
      “Who’s gonna stop me?” Paul jeered, and the swarm of children giggled like a chorus of sycophantic wasps, sworn to uphold proper playground order.
      “He said you can’t come up!”  The clear voice rang in my ears.  The crowd parted for a girl no older than nine, thin to the extreme, red hair brighter than Mars falling in waves down her back.  She walked right up to the base of the ladder and Paul moved aside without complaint.
      “Clear off!” shouted the newcomer, and her word was taken as law: the other children scattered.  Then, turning back to me, she said, “Jimmy Dale, you let me up that tree right now.”  She ended the sentence there but the threat of consequence was clear as day.  I withdrew my weapon and tugged my felt pirate hat down to cover my eyes.
      The girl emerged at the top of the ladder.  She was Juniper, my best friend.  She stretched her pale legs out in front of her, and each freckle looked like an individual star in the sky.
      “What’s got you so upset?” she asked, in the way that was typical of Juniper, practicality out-measured only by tenderness.
      “Nothing,” I told her, focusing my attention instead on an ant that was trying to climb out of a spider’s web.
      “Have it your way, then,” she replied.  We sat in silence.
      The ant struggled in the confines of the sticky goop, causing the entire web to tremble.  Finally, the pause became too stressful, so I said the words that I’d been trying to forget for the last several hours.
      “Mom called today.  She says I have to move back with her.”
      The ant, with one last heroic effort, freed itself from the deadly silk, so astonished that it promptly fell through a crack in the house’s wooden floor.  Juniper’s sharp intake of breath told me what her words did not: she was surprised.
      Her voice, though, was steady.  “You’ll always belong here, Jimmy, with us.”
      “Don’t pretend,” I told her angrily.  “In just a few months you’ll forget all about me.”
      “Don’t say that,” she said, tears shining in her eyes like stars.
      “It’s true,” I plowed on ruthlessly.  “Paul, Jacob, no one will remember me once I’m gone.  I’ll be less than a memory.”
      “I’ll remember you,” Juniper promised, tears finally spilling from those startling blue eyes; blue like the sky showing through the tree’s leaves.  “Besides,” she continued, smiling for the first time, “it’s not like this will change anything, really.”
      “What do you mean?”
      “Well,” she said, speaking with wisdom beyond her meager years, “the same sun will touch your skin, and the same moon will wax and wane at night.  No matter what changes down here, you can trust whatever’s up there to remain the same, true.”
      I looked up at the blinding sun, ignoring the burn in my eyes.  It was no small comfort, finding solace in that profound thought.
      “You’ll write to me?” I asked.
      “Always,” she replied.  We grasped hands firmly, sealing the promise of friendship with the touch of skin, blood, and bone.
      “Now, come on,” she said, hopping down from the tree and joining the other children.  They darted around like insects on the green grass, but Juniper was always easy to pick out, a cardinal among bugs.  For a moment I pictured what the park would look like during winter, snow covering its rolling fields, a speck of red just visible at the top of the tallest tree.  I dropped my sword and pulled off my pirate hat and jumped down from the tree myself.  Then, following in my friend’s footsteps, I raced to the middle of the field with the sun beating down on my shoulders; the same sun, incidentally, that will light my life forever, no matter where chance takes it.

by Ryan Eykholt
Oh, the tale of the perfectionist whimpers as many woes as the one of the man with the lost sock: both men bawl and they squirm with agony that everyone forgets tomorrow. And no one really cares, contrary to my belief. The dreaded day drew closer as the hands of the clock turned on the chilly afternoon of February 13th. Love, romance, passion: not once did any of these sensations associated with the lover’s holiday cross my obsessive, relentless mind. My knees buckled under the weight of my insane burden: the obligation to pull Valentine’s Day cards out of my ass for every semi-deserving, non-appreciative member of my 8th grade class, all 270 of them. As ridiculous as my quest seemed, it meant the world to me. I might die if I failed my task.
As childhood bliss and ease faded over the years, the rigor of deciding between red or pink paper, cutting out hearts, and regurgitating cute phases increased similar to that of trying to fit into shoes 2 sizes smaller than your feet or trying to rock a Snuggie; it cannot be done. Through the elementary years, I learned to love Valentine’s Day. Candy, kind words, and caring gestures fooled me into believing that a complicated day, a normal day, one of 365, had a sacred divineness. The organization of this festival of comradeship tickled my creative, yet overachieving, bone. My heart leapt at the chance to comfort, to jubilate, to impress. Placing smiles on friends’ faces earned all of the work of card construction. However, in 5th grade, I only worried about the happiness of 20 people.
So, there I sat on the pink carpet, eyes weary from exhaustion. I barely even finished my homework, and yet here I stayed, my hands cramping from holding the scissors for the prolonged torture session. A conscientious ping pong game rattled in my head.
OK, this is insane. Why do we need to make so many?
WE NEED TO. WE JUST DO.
OK, crazy man, I’ll stay out of your way. I’m going to make a nap. Have fun.

Through mental terrorism, my perfectionist side normally took over. A madman, I splattered shavings, gutting hearts out of frail thin paper. On each symbol of love, I lathered glue on small strips, on which I printed an all-inclusive proclamation of love, or whatever, and with my sticky hands I stuck them together. Like any creator of beauty, but mass-produced, generic and contrived beauty, I dared to call the pile of misshapen hearts art. I almost reached the conclusion of my opus, my crowning achievement. My work wore me out. I needed inspiration: a sign that my motivation could meet some satisfactory resolution. As the clock ticked toward doom, one emotion dominated all thought: hopelessness. One talk with my mom always sorted everything out.
“Ryan, you should stop soon.” My mom’s supportive eyes pleaded with me, always wishing the best for me.
“I just have so much more to do.” The panic attack flew into full swing.
“But why do it if it makes you unhappy?” Her examination struck a chord in my broken down body, in my weary head. Why? Why bother going through this personal affliction if nothing about the effort gives me joy?
“I don’t know.” I really didn’t.
“Go to sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning. Just use what you have now, and it’ll all be fine.” Reassured, but still reluctant, I dragged my sleep-deprived body off to bed.
Sunrise. Only, not all is well. The worry lines on my brow left a reminder of the absolute chaos and despair carried through the night and into the day. I downed my Honey Nut Cheerios, brushed my teeth, washed my face, dressed in pink and red, built a disguise. The day, the performance, the exhibition, arrived and I no longer desired to waste any time fretting over the past, the impossible to change. I set my bearings on delivery, guarding my precious cargo in a picnic basket.
After walking a mile to school, I inched toward the doors that determined my fate. Each careful step toward the answers chilled my nervous body. With a seemingly dramatic entrance that even soap operas would envy, a smile graced my face. My eyes darted back and forth as my feet propelled me forward, through the halls, hoping for some curious glances directed my way. Alas, no kind eyes met mine. Everyone continued on with their normal, monotonous, boring schedules. Silly folk, do they not know of the glorious day the calendar proclaims? Arriving at my art classroom, my job began. I whipped out my basket and bestowed my heavenly gift to my peers. A few faces lit up in simple pleasure. I distributed my rations of kindness to only a small group of people to start, saving the rest for lunchtime. The morning sped past. I quickly passed out valentines to friends as I passed them in the hall. The bell announced the time that our grumbling stomachs waited for. I raced toward the table where my closest friends situated themselves. Sprinkling the only personalized valentine’s cards like snow in front of their lunchboxes, I evolved into the Valentine’s Santa Claus. Each “Thanks, Ryan!” and “That’s so nice!” rang in my ear, giving me satisfying triumph. Thankfully, I received a few Valentine’s Day cards myself: all of them witty, charming, kind. I tried to make my rounds before recess, but the grumpy lunch attendant rushed my plans. Forced to continue my quest outside, I was pressed for time. No one could limit true community building! Engaging in hyperdrive mode, I sprayed the moving crowd with flimsy paper hearts.
“Here! Have a Valentine! Happy Valentine’s! Hope you have a great day!” Like Elmo on crack, I whizzed around, spreading happiness and joy to all. Compassion and virtue was my strength; repetition, my downfall.
“Wait, are these all the same thing?”
“It says ‘I’ve cherished all of the classes together.’ We didn’t have any classes together this year.”
“Oh, uh…. uh… wow… uh…. thanks.”
Those little shits. How dare they not marvel at my art, my hard work, my gift for them? My face turning as red as half of my valentines, I raised the white flag. My embarrassment forced me into surrender. Stopped in my tracks, I struggled to continue. I used to know happiness. Now, only sorrow clouded my previously endless horizon. I could have had it all. Friends? Comrades? Mild acquaintances? No. My new critics abolished any hope for new acquaintanceship or connections. I tried. I failed. I lost hope in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Defeated, I bummed through the afternoon pouted all the way home. The door slammed behind me, shutting away the disaster. Luckily, the recycling bin feasted on the remaining half of the cards, saving me from the responsibility for caring for those wretched reminders of my social suicide.
Thoughts twirled around in my head, just like every other time in my life that I embarrassed myself. Letting a minor setback engross me and enlarge into a colossal catastrophe, I questioned my stupidity. Why did I work so hard if no one even cared about it? I made a vow: I would never again slave away over something ridiculously futile. Drowning in self-induced misery, obsessing over minute details, I refused to stop.
Dawn broke my cold regret in the new day. I realized how pointless it was to worry so much about yesterday. The pink hearts slowly drained out of my brain. I emptied myself of lamentation as I started the school day. I learned to forget. Everyone else surely did as well.
Every now and again I fall into the same routine. I dig myself in too deep. Arts and crafts weaken me, preying on my flawed perfectionist work ethic. I sometimes use scissors more than common sense, glue sticks more than proper care of my mental health, colored paper more than efficient time management. Why? Why do I touch the car window when I drive over railroad tracks? I choose not to abandon familiarity, tradition just because it no longer makes sense. The ridiculousness of it all gets invested in every piece, every muscle, every particle that makes up my being. Learning to control the addiction and eliminating the compulsion, I still crave to perfect miniscule details. No matter how silly the project at hand appears, I treat every paper cut-out like a piece of art. Anything containing the power to paint a smile on a few people’s faces or lift someone’s spirit demands my attention. Now, reminiscing February 14th, 2009, instead of visualizing the cynical critics, the ones who enjoyed my out-of-the-way generous gesture pop in my head. Along with the question: “270? Are you crazy?” Now I have an answer: hmmm… probably.