By Mia Hahn
She didn’t notice the lump on the floor until the sting in her foot began. On the way down, she had felt her head whirling, her heart beating, her throat tingling. She heaved a deep sigh. Flashes of light and electrifying blurs of red and blue pierce her eyes. She drops down, a sweet tear runs down her face. Her stomach is cursing the fall; her insides are begging to come out. She lies on the floor until help arrives. Flashes of blue and red appear again, accompanied by screeching, wailing sounds of a siren. Something heavy touches her from both ends. She inhales. She doesn’t wake up.
A New Home?
By Brooke Kohl
She never wanted this life. Never wanted to leave the safety of her home. But she never had a choice. She was forced—forced into training, forced into learning, forced into leaving.
It isn’t so bad, she reminds herself. But she isn’t sure. Is that her stubborn brain talking, the brain that won’t admit that she hates it? Or is it her heart talking, her true feelings saying that she doesn’t mind it?
Even if it isn’t so bad, though, she can’t help feeling abandoned. Does she really believe that she was sent here because she was the “best candidate?”
She feels lonely here. Lonely in this strange new home… no, not home. This will never be home. This is just… a residence.
She’s not sure, though. This isn’t her home, but does the place she calls home deserve that title? She knows that she would never be welcomed back with open arms. Even if things seemed to go back to the way they were, she would never feel like it was the same. She knows that no one else would ever accept her the same way.
Deep down inside, she knows that it’s her fault. She isn’t the “best candidate,” but that’s because of what she did, not because of anyone else. No one acknowledged it, but she’s sure it’s what they were all thinking. They sent her here because they don’t want her there anymore. But that doesn’t make her like life away from them any more.
She never wanted this life. Now that she has it, though, she tries to make the best of it. Tries not to think of everything she is missing. Tries not to think of all that she did to deserve this. She isn’t a bad person, really; just one who made some mistakes. She isn’t sure what everyone else thinks, though. And so she tries to enjoy her new life. Tries to make it feel like her old one. But still, she can’t stop herself from thinking that no place, old or new, will ever again feel like home.
By Chava Nagel
I used to assume knowledge was power. I used to assume that I would rather know the ugly truth than be left in the dark. The thing is, there is peace in the dark. Is there any gain to knowing that there is something you can’t fix?
Stay in the dark. Don't read what I warn. This information will torment you to no end. The world swallows those who can’t keep up with its nuances. The very ground we stand on evolves, yet we are expected to stand unstirred. A meteor is about to hit your world and throw it off kilter forever. Yet maybe you can learn what I couldn't before it’s too late.
I’ve been blind, but believed I could see. To the naked eye vision can’t be contradicted, but the reality isn’t always what it seems. Blindness and sight balanced each other out, intertwined.
In harmony. Beautifully. Cruelly.
I lived in a parallel universe not knowing the other one could exist. I went about my life while this unknown universe persisted and prevailed. It thrived off my world, unphased, unharmed. Once out in the open, once I knew there was more than meets the eye, the knowledge was overpowering and destructive. Other universes exist, sight misleads us, and nothing can be the same. No force can make our enemy universe disappear. The question is what happens next? When our world collapses, what happens next?
There is no return or rewind. Beware.
We live in an unappreciated peace that exists between the past and present. People move forward with their lives and leave stragglers of moments in the past. Memories accumulate in our heads as we proceed in our routines. It’s routine to let bygone memories be bygones. Even our torturous memories, our worst of times, fall away as we continue on the path of life. Or at least they used to. No one told me that these memories I tell myself to forget, these memories I force out of my brain in order to function, were fragile. No one mentioned that, bottled up, these memories were bound to break.
The bottle broke. I am broken.
Rochel Leah Itzkowitz
Flying in My Dreams
My happy ending is near. My happy ending is always a jump away, never closer. Regardless, when will it be more than near? At what moment of my existence will I cross this partition?
You come to me in search of ‘helping others’. You will pity me, show me compassion, and comfort me in this time of need. But these ‘efforts’ of yours are for your own self-indulgence. To aggrandize your reputation, needless to say, to improve your own self-esteem. You exclaim phrases like, “Poor girl, if only a generous family would adopt.” Or, “Look at the little orphan, if only someone could help her.” My ears hear these phrases, one said after the next. Nevertheless, my heart fails to digest these hypocritical statements. If you really wished the best for me, why can’t you take action? What is holding you back? You spend endless amounts of money on materialistic objects like cars and houses, but you can’t spare a dollar to an orphan girl like me? The human race is a disgrace and unkind people.
I know I’m an orphan. A girl with no family. Just a human with no meaning and purpose. But I have wishes. I previously wished that a family would come to adopt me. Take me in with pride and call me their child, not an interloper in their home. Evidently, that was too much to ask. Being part of a loving family was not an option.
So I changed my desires. My new hope is for a friend to take care of me, to comfort me, and bring back meaning into my existence. Most importantly, to show me what kindness really looks like. And to my surprise, this is what came into being.
She cares for me, she comforts me, and she brings meaning into my life. She is an orphan as well, but differs from me in a significant way. She believes in humanity’s inborn trait of kindness. She proved to me that my past belief that all humans are self-loathing is invalid. She proved all of my assumptions wrong. Not only was she there to console me, but she also played a parent-like role in my childhood. Her being a teenager, you would think that this would be unattainable: a foolish child taking on the grave responsibilities of an adult.
Every day, she would show me ways to be kind. Her extra food portions would be graciously handed over to me. Her smile would light up the hallway. Her politeness set a precedent for all the other female orphans in the orphanage. So you would think that my greatest wish in life, as an orphan, would be two parents and a happy family. But she distracted me from this desire, fundamentally changing my whole perspective on what my life should revolve around.
But then, I felt a nudge on my shoulder. I felt a rough push against my forearm. What was happening to me? Was I being attacked? Why couldn’t I open my eyes? Another punch pierced my arm. I heard vivid murmurs and sounds in the background, but no clear image of what was occurring. A hand reached down to forcefully open my eyelids, and I knew that this thought was not reality. It was a meager dream. A dream that would be fantasized forever. And from there, it ended my chance of sisterhood and the belief that people are kind.
I’m going back to sleep. No judgement, please.
By Annabel Kermaier
The stairs go on with no end in sight, twisting away above and below. Not for the first time, I contemplate turning back, but shove the thought out of my mind. In the darkness and with the curve of the stairs, the bottom could be just ten steps away, and it’s that thought that keeps me going.
I distract myself with the usual mental attempt at humor: at least I’m going down, right? Ha, ha. I chuckle out loud, then stop. The sound doesn’t echo back to me, swallowed up by all the empty space. It’s disconcerting in a place that feels this enclosed.
My legs burn, the only indication of passing time this deep in the earth, so I stop and sling my pack to rest by my feet, sinking down onto one of the steps. Old stone chills me through my clothes. I lean back against the wall, close my eyes, and imagine myself as part of the stairs, all smooth black stone and endless strength. But when I open my eyes again, all I can see is skin and flesh and weakness that haven’t gotten me where I’m going yet.
I don’t know what’s at the bottom of the stairs, but I know it has to be better than what’s at the top. Nothing lies there but pain, and emptiness inside me where there should be hot red blood and drive. I left the pain behind, but the emptiness I carry with me, hoping that whatever’s at the bottom will fill it.
I pull out a flat cracker from a bag in my pack and split it in half, returning one piece to the bag for later. I bite off a piece and chew, trying to pretend I enjoy it, the only food I’ve eaten since that first step so long ago. I finish the cracker, and then lean my head on the pack, and try to sleep.
In an indeterminate number of hours, I’ll stand and keep descending, spiralling deeper and deeper into the ground, knowing all the while that around the next turn I might see the bottom. The thought worms, poisonous, into my brain that maybe the stairs don’t have an end at all, that maybe they go on forever. I contemplate turning back, but it’s too late for that now. I know how much food I have left, not enough for the way back to the top. My only chance right now is to keep going, and with luck get to the bottom before I die.
Yesterday I found another skeleton, and wondered: were they going up or down? Down, probably— you only go up if you know you can make it back. Down is for those without knowledge, without facts or logic or informed decisions. We must push on, until the very last moment of breath in our bodies, until the last strength in our muscles, because that is all we can do.
Those who descend have only one thing left to their name.