By Rowan Clark

Shattered Glass

 

It was strange being cold despite the fire, flickering like a dying candle. The iceman sat as his desk, looking out through the frost-coated glass window. He was writing a letter, pressing his quill firmly, as if he was engraving his sins into his flesh. The man I worked for was heartless.

If ever a colleague or a distant family member wrote to him about his or her morrow, he would simply ignore their feelings. Rarely he writes his family or colleagues back, but whenever he did, he would criticize his or her feelings. Never in his letters would one find any reference of his personal life. He was a locked chest with nay key to open. Surprisingly, he can be awfully forthright, but only when his son made trouble. When he usually talks, it is so quiet; it could pass as a whisper. He is as dark as the shadows playing on his weary face; his eyes deep and bruised with fatigue.

His woman–sorry, Milady–is colder than winter wind. Strong as granite, and is stubborn as pulling teeth. She is prim, prissy, and prude like any other woman I meet. Shockingly, she hardly has a voice of opinion. My Master is weak, but he is strong and violent.

She lies in her bed now, propped up on three feather pillows; her back was straighter than the surface of the dining table. She was knitting a quilt of red and auburn colors. Her hobby seemed to be the only thing occupying her from her day-to-day worries.

What worries? I do a majority of their house chores, I run the errands, and I raise her children!

I watched as her needle stroke hard through the fabric. I can only think that she is imagining the needle a knife and the cloth the skin of her husband.

The wind howled as if someone blew into an empty jug. The trees creaked and cracked succumbing to the force of the wind. The house squealed, fighting with all of its power to stay whole. Nay matter where we would live, east, west, south, north, I would always feel cold around them.

The room itself felt eerie haunted by the gloomy, sinful eyes in every ancestral portrait that hung on the walls. What was it about white with these people? All they ever wore was white, all of the rooms guests come in are white, the mansion is white, and their skin is ghostly white. Even the glass china on the mantle is white, with hardly any colorful patterns decorated on them. Art they trying to resemble some angelic appearance? Art they using this pure color to cover the sins I must bear to witness? They make me wear black! Black is a dark color, wherefore must I wear Lucifer’s color if I have done less wrong than they?

The youngest son of my Master whined like an annoying babe as I cleansed his wounded hand with red wine. The boy only said nay to his father, and for that his hand was lashed. The boy should have obeyed his father. It does not matter how cruel and icy his parents art; they would not hurt him if he just simply followed the good word of the Lord to honor thy mother and father. All the boy wants is attention; I can see the yearning for love in his eager eyes. He never gets it however; in fact his parents never so much has muttered the words ‘I love you’.

I let the blood and alcohol stained cloth soak in a bowl of crystal clear cold water. With a new cloth, I soaked it in another bowl of warm water, and then gently patted the tear-stained face of the boy. I then folded the cloth into a rectangle and rested it on the nape of his neck. I brushed his damp hair back and quirked my lips. The enervate of his body could not give him the willingness the make expression towards me.

“Off to bed now boy,” said the father sternly. Without hesitation, the boy gloomily went off. Just as the boy left, I began to collect the supplies I used.

“Leave Samantha,” ordered Milady.

What do you think I was doing, is what I wanted to say? Instead, I kept my mouth shut; I made a quick curtsy and departed with haste. Once in the kitchen, after climbing down the squeaking stairs, I began to scrub at the bloodstained cloth in the laundry tub I had set aside while attending to my young Master. I scrubbed slowly and gently.

How can that woman keep her back so straight? She must be wearing her corset to bed. I slouch my back when I get the chance because my back aches everyday with fatigue, but when I see my Master I have to keep my back straight or I get a licking. I must be presentable. That must be why Milady keeps her back so straight.

I abruptly stopped scrubbing. Apparently, I had been scrubbing so hard my fingers had turned red and swollen. I sighed irksome. I rolled my eyes knowing no matter how hard I would scrub these stains would never disappear.

I scoffed and muttered, “Out darn spot. Out I say.” I remember that quote from Macbeth. Blood and red wine stains never go away. Wherefore keep trying? Wherefore not leave it as it is? Wherefore must this spot be as stubborn as my Master and Milady?

CRACK! There was a cry out for God upstairs. More screaming. CRACK! I knew whose blood-curdling screams they belonged to. It may not be until morning then I would be called to mend her wounds and sweep up what is left of the shattered glass.

I clutched my besom. Pain. All I can feel is pain. A deep, knife cutting pain, that gets deeper and sharper as the crying continues. Regret. Regret so heavy, it weighs me towards the floor. It makes me weak in the knees. It makes my blood warm and stomach turn.

…I am no saint…Saints save lives. Saints never back down from doing His work. They would never allow such evil tortures to occur. I am no saint…but I can try. Knowing that I might fail, like failing to get the stains out, I can still try. The eldest sons of the Master…I allowed them to be cruel because I never taught them right from wrong. I raised those boys to be cold! Not this boy. I cannot let my young Master to be like them. As much it is my desire to leave this place, I cannot take the boy and I cannot leave him. I will teach…like the prophets, I will teach this boy the grace of God and make him a better man…he will be a better man.

I laughed joyously. I felt illuminated. Touched by light for the first time emerging from the dark. I felt absolutely weightless standing on my feet. “Praise God, I have resurrected! Amen.”

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By C.S. Henrys

The Patron Saint of Forlorn Lovers

Valentine, I knew you not—

Know you’ll not be soon forgot—

For if I deign to leave you soon,

Then myself I’ve offered for his boon.

 

Come one, come all, and see revenge—

It is my love that I avenge!

If love is true, and love is pure,

Hope that my aim is just as sure.

 

Valentine! In burning places

Your features bleeding familiar faces;

Oft must I remember you strongly,

Lest I think my vendetta’s made wrongly.

 

Come one, come all, be quenched in the fire!

It is a thousand wicked men which I desire!

I quaff of their life, and quaff of their love—

I am the Archangel—I strike from above!

 

Valentine? Do you remember this creature?

Your memories sundered, your eyes without feature.

 

By Abby Harrington

Lessons learned: women in society

Sometime last month, I was riding in the car with my 14 year-old brother and listening to him complain about his Health class. Most of the gripes I’d heard before: it was too boring, too easy, and the pictures of STD-infected hoo-hoos and hah-hahs? Totally nasty. But there was a little gem in all his bemoaning, and I discreetly tugged out my headphones in order to hear him better.

“I just don’t agree with the teacher on a lot of things,” he said.

My Mom tossed him a backwards glance from the driver’s seat. “Like what?” she asked.

“Well,” he hedged, “yesterday she said that if a woman respects her body, then other people will respect it, too. And if something bad happens to a woman, it’s because she didn’t respect herself enough.”

“Wait, what part do you disagree with?” I piped up, just to make sure.

“I think you should always respect a woman, that’s all.”

It goes pretty much without saying how proud I am of my brother. He’s a smart kid for sure, and we see eye-to-eye on almost everything. Still, I was startled by the veracity of his statements. Our society tends to embrace men and masculinity no matter what, to espouse patriarchy as being an innate and perfect system. ‘Boys will be boys,’ the old adage goes. And yet, my brother – my soccer-playing, video game-loving, tee shirt-and-sweatpants-wearing brother – disproved this entire myth with one sentence. Boys can be smart. Boys can question the systems that benefit them. They can surprise you, if given the chance. I believe the same goes for girls as well.

See, the Western world has some pretty backwards expectations of women. It’s easy for us, as Americans, to look at tragedies such as the recent public gang rape of a Delhi woman and pat ourselves on the back because “thank God that doesn’t happen here”; what we conveniently ignore is the fact that, yes, that does happen here, and that the inequalities which contributed to the rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey exist in America, too. Just recently, hacker group Anonymous brought the gang rape of an unconscious Ohio teenager to light, revealing that the alleged rapists joked about the act on social media websites afterward. “This country loves football more than its own daughters,” reads a post on the Facebook page of Michael Nodianos, who was also seen in a viral video joking about the rape.

That’s a pretty bold statement. So what prompted Michael Nodianos’s confidence in broadcasting it to the world? Well, if you’re a girl, when was the last time you were called a slut? When was the last time you called someone else a slut? Even if you personally haven’t done so, it’s extremely likely that you’ve heard the word thrown around quite a bit. Sexism is so ingrained in every facet of our society that most of it goes completely under our radar. Take the Bechdel test, for instance: the only requirement to pass is that a work of fiction must include two women talking to each other about something other than a man. Guess how many movies and TV shows actually pass. (Hardly any.) When hatred against women – when disdain of women, refusal to see them as three-dimensional people independent of their relationship to a man – is so normalized in our society that even women think we’re not worthy of respect, can we really be surprised that a teenage boy felt perfectly comfortable joking about the physical and emotional desecration of an innocent girl?

Look, I’m a social optimist. I don’t think men are programmed with this insatiable, animalistic urge that drives them to rape every woman who dares show some skin. I don’t think men are born without compassion or common sense. I do think, unfortunately, that thousands of years of patriarchal mythos and “boys will be boys” mentalities have convinced them of these lies – and, even worse, convinced them that these lies are something to be embraced. “Men should be offended when someone claims that women should prevent rape by not wearing certain things or not going certain places or not acting a certain way,” goes one anonymous quote. “That line of thinking presumes that you are incapable of control… It presumes that your natural state is rapist.”

When I look at my brother, I see what all men can be. I see someone who respects all people, who keeps his mind and ears open and just listens. I see someone who refuses to give in to stereotypes and accept things for less than they really are.

And whether you’re a boy or girl, I think we could all learn from that.

by Danielle Campbell

Illusions in Darkness

          Not only can I see the darkness, but I can feel it too.

          The air is chilly, and my hair stands on end. Snowflakes fall to the ground like confetti, and the slippery ground beneath my shoes is a smooth as glass. In the distance I can hear coyotes calling to one another. A breeze comes and penetrates my clothing like a knife. My teeth sound like rocks being pounded together. I can smell pine trees and fresh baked sugar cookies and I hear the muffled laughter from within the surrounding houses. It’s a Saturday night is December, after all. My eyesight is impaired, but I can make out the outline of many objects. I recognize the neighbor’s truck, my mailbox, and a chair in the middle of the street.

          Wait.

          There’s a chair in the middle of the street.

          I gulp, and pull the collar of my jacket up closer to my mouth and nose. I do my best to breathe and little as possible and I stand as quiet as I can. My breath is hot and beads of sweat form on my brow. I yank my dog’s leash to reel him in closer.

          I blink  a few times, but the chair seems to have vanished.

          I turn to my left and I swear that I see something move. My dog suddenly possesses a low growl from the back of his throat. This confirms my hypothesis that I must be in great danger. My head is flowing with thoughts of apocalypses, paranormal encounters, and complicated murder plots. A million horror film scenes run through my mind. I see my very own life flash before my eyes. I immediately yank the leash once more. This time, I reach down and pick him up.

          Even under the midnight sky his white fur glows like the moon. My palms are sweaty and quickly stick to the feather-like fur. Tightly gripping his small and warm chest, I notice the rate at which his tiny heart is beating. I raise my other hand, icy cold, to my chest and realize mine is beating even faster.

          Suddenly, I hear a cough.

          Before my neighbor could even turn her porch light on, I was screaming in terror and making a beeline right back to my front door.

by Tiffany Turner

Medusa Johnson’s Last Night
             
                Some people swore the house was haunted. Or, rather, they did…when they were smaller, more perceptive. The schoolhouse walls were as solid and unassailable as the reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, lesson they were built for. The windows were dusty and the floorboards were moldy. In the far corner the mouth of a black stove glowed with hell’s luminance between its teeth. Mice ruled the secret highways in the walls and bats were the kings of the inverted kingdom of the ceiling, occasionally making forays down into the human territory below. The grown-ups never knew; for all their worldly experience they were lacking in their awareness of a very vital part of it: magic.
               The good people of the town never wondered to the end of the lane to the schoolhouse on top of the mausoleum and the green, sickly tarn anymore; only the children were forced to brave these desolate lands anymore. The adults didn’t know, but the children knew: the animal in the black petticoat with the wild main of grey hair framing the cavernous, wart-plagued face was the witch! She relished the snap of the yardstick in her experienced hands or the sound of her nails raking the chalkboard to emphasize a consonant sound. The witch always wore an ugly grimace, excepting those all too frequent days when her pupils trudged home with tears on their cheeks and their heads bowed in shame.
               The resistance began small, in sideways glances between partners…Soon tiny notes passed under the desks from one set of little hands to the next. Finally, a stout boy of eight with hair only a shade darker than his milky skin, Kenton Hardy, passed the paper over his lunch pail to the next row. Silently, the message tiptoed around the room.
               Late next Wednesday the harpy crouched at her desk slashing helpless essays. Within the fire, countless unfortunate grubs and ants, having missed their chances to crawl off their wooden vessels and infest other domains, found themselves engulfed in the purring fire of the stove.
               Leaning back in her bone-wood throne, the witch smugly admired the cemetery of essays on her desk.
Thud, thud, thud.
              “Class was dismissed hours ago,” Medusa snapped at the front door.
Thud, thud, thud.
               “Oh, blame sake!” she cursed. With a lurch she stood from her desk and sauntered over to the door. “What in the name of Lucifer do you want at this hour?” But when she threw the door open, there was nothing there but the cold night air and the tumble weeds that frequented these desolate lands. She looked up, she looked down, and she looked all around. Nothing, No one. Not even a ghost. As she stood perplexed in the doorway-
Thud, thud, thud.
                 A chill ran up her spine, and she slowly turned to drop her blood-shot gaze to the moldy floor.
Thud.
                The floorboards bounced from the impact of the demons against them, pushing, trying to break free.
               “N-Now stop that!” Medusa cried. “That is quite enough!”
               “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkk!” screeched the bats. One by one, and then in a swarm, they broke loose from the ceiling to charge the open door.
                “Stop that!” cried the witch.
                 Thud! “Eeeeeeeekkk!” Thud! “Eeeeeeeekkk!”
               The nails gave way. First with some cracks, then with some clean pops, the floorboards began to peel away from the earth. A myriad of dirty, worm –eaten fingers under the floorboards were at last managing to pry open the last barrier between their mausoleum and the awaiting Halloween moon. An unholy green light burst from their eyes, like the straight beams of bullets…and they landed on Mrs. Johnson’s ugly, horrified face.
               “Meat. Meat. Meat.” they growled savagely. The thud-ing tattoo grew louder and more earnest than ever.
                The towering, stately grandfather clock struck midnight—the final hour—oh, was it truly the last for Mrs. Johnson? She felt sweat dripping into her eyes. Wait! The front door! It’s still open—she can make it! And with a wild scream, she did. The lordly bats, confused by the unnatural shriek, resolved to sally out after it…and, consequently, Medusa had such a crown of bats about her that one may say her hair was of bats, not snakes as she ran all the way down the lane back to town and away from that accursed school.
                Kenton and the others replaced the floorboards the next Sunday, keeping a few of the worms to sell to the grown-ups for fishing in the green tarn. They never told their secret.
                Mrs. Johnson, said the grown-ups, sadly had to quite town on account of her health and move to the city, there to get the special help she needed. A new teacher, they assured the puckering children, would be hired as soon as possible.
                Nothing was ever the same after that.