By: Nadav Lemberger
Earth was getting smaller, every detail disappearing one by one. First the people, turning from upturned faces gazing in wonder to dots sprinkled around the buildings. The streets turned to boxes, enclosing the shrinking houses, each a tiny little life. The lakes turned to shining circles, each ringed by a pocket of green. Everything was submerged in milky wetness as the clouds covered the world, the air thinning and the cold setting in. As I emerged from the cloud, the sun sent fingers of warmth to caress my skin and turned the world to gold. But the clouds shrank and the cold came back, stronger than before, stealing my breath and my life on currents of ice. I rose higher, the clouds turning to streaks of godly paint thrown across the earth. Millions of lives progressed beneath me, crowding the surface of the planet with hopes and dreams unseen. Oxygen was an afterthought, the cold and the lack of air combining to drain my energy and pulling me into a hazy cloud of death. I looked across the earth, the curve of the planet filling my vision, and then I wondered.
Why didn’t I let go of the balloon?
By: Lara Jacobowitz
“What’s going on inside your universe?” he asked softly.
She closed her eyes and retreated for a second to the faraway planets inside her mind.
“An apocalypse,” she breathed.
“I don’t see any fire in your eyes, just clouds.”
“My universe is fortified. I can’t tell who comes in peace and who comes to destroy.”
Sitting opposite her in the dingy hall of the apartment, she felt so far away. The musty carpet they were sitting on felt like no man’s land, impassable. The smiling pictures above their heads looked so different from the girl opposite him. The immortalized version had a vibrant cherry-stained smile and squinty eyes. The flesh and blood version had a bowed head with drooping curls blocking much of it.
He didn’t understand. She seemed to be friends with everyone. What enemy was waging war?
“I want to help.”
He pivoted around so that he was sitting right beside her; as no man’s land was shrinking he was no longer able to see her eyes well up with tears, getting even cloudier. He wanted to get closer, to comfort her, but he was afraid that with one touch she would shatter.
Taking a deep shuddering breath, the words tumbled out of her mouth like waves on a beach, rhythmic and powerful. It was like she had been composing her words for months and he was her diary. There were no cross outs or lulls, just pure emotion.
When she was done the paper was covered with the water stains of tears that had finally been shed. He didn’t know what to say or how to act. He promised he’d help and here he was stunned to silence with chills that wouldn’t abate.
“Thank you,” she said with an off-putting smile, sniffling and wiping her eyes on the sleeves of her worn-out hoodie.
He was frozen in place by the gratitude. At that moment, he knew that this universe before him was deceiving. It was much stronger than it let on and he wanted to understand it. This apocalypse would not be her downfall.
By: Brooke Kohl
It’s been years since you last had fire. Years since the last remnant of warmth drifted away, years since you held her hand and sat by her side. You’re cold now. You’ve been cold for years. Bone-chillingly, mind-numbingly cold. No matter what you do, you can’t get warm. No matter who you talk to, what you immerse yourself in, there’s no respite from the frost that’s penetrated your mind.
Then comes the day when someone new arrives. He’s nice to you, the way no one else has been since she left. You feel yourself gradually opening up to him. You have days when you’re happy, days when you feel heat flickering around your edges. But for now, it always recedes. It’s always overcome by sadness, by the frost that you’re constantly permeated by.
Days go by. Then weeks, then a month, and then the cold is fading fast. He becomes your spark. He’s your fire, your lantern in the night, your light at the end of the tunnel. More days than not, the frost is thawed by him: by his touch, by his voice, just by the way he looks at you. Your mind is finally at peace, finally free from constantly thinking about her, about how she cared for you, loved you, lied to you, betrayed you, left you.
After a few months, you’re warm all the time. The frost is gone. You have fire again, thanks to him. You don’t know how you would have gone on if he hadn’t saved you, from both yourself and everyone around you. Then one winter morning you head to his house, intending to spend the day drinking hot chocolate and staying warm with him, but he’s not there. He’s never not been there, and your eyes widen with fear. This has happened before. You run to the dock, and he’s there, climbing aboard a ship. He sees you and turns away, and you're thrown back years, to when she left.
It was snowing. It had been months since you’d talked to her, but you wanted to apologize. That’s why you went looking for her. When you found her at the dock, she was boarding a ship. Her back was to you. You screamed, and she looked at you, with hate in her eyes. Hate, but also love, and sadness, and shame, and guilt. You rushed forwards, feelings swirling around inside of you, love, and hate, and sadness, for the girl who’d betrayed you countless times and yet loved you all the same. She looked like she was about to take a step towards you, but then the ship blasted away, taking her with it. As the snow fell around you, the frost set in, taking away all of your warmth.
You’re back in the moment, and there are tears running down your cheeks, and you’re gasping for breath, and you’re cold again, and there’s a layer of frost spreading throughout your brain and freezing any thought that doesn’t have to do with him, with your spark, your fire, your lantern, your light, and you’re rushing towards his ship, calling his name, and your brain is going to explode if he doesn’t say something, if he doesn’t look at you and say your name and tell you that he’s sorry and that he’s going to take you with him, but then somehow you’re on your hands and knees, and he still isn’t saying anything, and there’s blood on your palms, and you can’t feel anything except the throbbing in your heart and the pounding in your ears and the frost spreading spreading spreading and then something hits the back of your head and
When you wake up, you know it’s over. He’s gone, and you’re cold again. Your mind is still a mess, with pictures of him floating through every five seconds. Then one of her gets mixed in, and you can almost hear her voice, hear the way she used to say your name so gently, so lovingly.
And then she’s there. She’s sitting next to your bed, softly saying your name, and tears spring to your eyes and heat rushes back into your body. But it’s gone the next second, because she left you. She left you, and now the only thing you want is him, his arm around your shoulder, banishing all the frost from every corner of your mind. But you can’t have him, and she knows that, and so you struggle to embrace her, to ignore the feelings piling up in your head and in your heart, to remind yourself of the great times you had with her.
But as hard as you try, you can’t keep the frost away. Time goes by, and you’re still cold. It’s been years since you last had fire. Years since the last remnant of warmth drifted away, years since you held his hand and sat by his side. You’re cold now. You’ve been cold for years. Bone-chillingly, mind-numbingly cold. No matter what you do, you can’t get warm. No matter who you talk to, what you immerse yourself in, there’s no respite from the frost that’s penetrated your mind.
Gifts of a Dragon
By: Annabel Kermaier
Eyes closed, I inhale. The spark at the back of my throat flares and a thin ribbon of smoke winds its way between my teeth. The muscles in my back tense, and my wings slam down towards the hard-packed dust, launching me into the air. A clear eyelid flicks down over my eyes as wind blasts into my face, bringing with it the smells of the desert: sand and salt and dust. The sun beats down, burning the sensitive skin on my nose, but I welcome the sensation.
My wings soon grow weary, so I search the ground below for a place to rest. I haven’t come as far as I would have liked, but this will have to do. I circle in for a landing, my weak wings failing sooner than I thought they would, and I plunge the last few moments, my nose plowing into the sand. My tail flickers in the corner of my vision, blue-green scales reflecting a thousand suns. My eyes drift shut even as my mouth opens and I begin to sing. The song is beautiful, recalling budding trees to my mind and reminding me of a dragon’s wing flashing in the sun as we danced. As I sing, the sun softens, the sand sparkles, and the sky becomes a shade bluer, and I smile.
The song disappears across the desert. I take another breath, and then release my fire. Tongues of flame flicker across the dunes, and heat wavers in the air, but the fire keeps coming, washing over me in waves of red and yellow. Painful, but liberating. Eventually, the fire begins to die down. My scales are charred black and the sand around me has melted into glass, and all I have left is a solitary spark. I blow out, and the spark is gone, too.
I lie there, dying, and thoughts run through my head. This is the death of a dragon, I think. As much as I took in my life, I give now. With this realization, peace finally descends, and I feel nothing else. No more pain penetrates my existence, no brittle bones threaten me now.
Now, I have only one thing left to give, but for this, I have only to wait. Soon, I feel the moisture pooling beneath me, leaking out of me. The puddle spreads. I feel light, empty, floating on top of a lake in the middle of a desert. Finally, I have nothing left. My scales drift apart and sink to the floor of the lake. A wind ruffles the surface of the water, and I am gone.
By: Annabel Kermaier
She came with the winter. As she fell from the sky, she watched the snowflakes swirling around her limbs, her face wet with their melted memories. When she landed, her feet touched the ground softly and soundlessly. As she walked off, her bare feet left no imprints in the snow, and her thin white dress fluttered in the wind. She tilted her head back and watched the sky falling down. Her mouth opened slightly, and a snowflake landed on her tongue, cold and fresh. She smiled softly and raised her arms above her head, and the wind rushed through her fingers. She watched the blizzard until the sun went down, then lay atop the piled drifts and slept. In her dreams, she twirled and jumped beneath a snowing sky.
In the morning, she stood up and began to walk. After countless traceless footsteps she reached a town. She looked down to find that her dress had been concealed by a jacket in brilliant white. She watched the sun rise higher into the sky, and began to hear voices calling out to one another through the whitewashed municipality. She walked forward, moving between houses until she reached a wide swath of white. As she watched, the white hills that rested in front of the houses were brushed off to reveal shining vehicles, and the snow was pushed aside to make way for asphalt and cement, roads and driveways and sidewalks.
She found herself backing away from the commotion and noise of speeding cars in the street and sharp elbows on the sidewalk. Standing off to the side, the hem of her white dress splattered with dirt and slush filling the spaces between her toes, her eyes welled. She blinked, and a single tear fell from her eye, rolled down her cheek, and dropped off her chin. It splashed on the ground and absorbed quietly into the snow.
Another tear fell, staining the snow with her sadness. She reached up to touch her face and felt dampness at her fingertips. Suddenly, light stabbed through the clouds, yellow and fierce. The tears streamed off her face now, her essence pouring out of her to puddle at her feet, mixing with the melted snow. She turned her face to the sun.
“Hello old friend,” she said. “You sure took your time.”
By: Chava Nagel
As I stare out my window the big mass of mysterious blue water catches my attention again. Again I am stunned by the ocean's majestic flowing waves. The rhythmic waves serve as a constant in the world's ever changing surface. The ocean maintains seventy one percent of the earth's surface unnoticed. The ocean appears ordinary. Children play by the beach, obsessed with the sand without even glancing at the water before them. Ships trample over the water, never looking down beneath them. Who sees the ocean when the land changes, grows, adapts, evolves?
I am drawn to the enigmatic quality of the ocean. While maintaining an unchanged horizon, underneath it nestles countless species and coral. Underneath there is beauty unseen. The ocean is unrecognized for its beauty, yet never seeks approval. The whale sings on no one’s command. The coral blooms with independence. Night and day, motions don’t harm the ocean. I compare myself to the ocean. Under my surface there is a hidden spark, yet I appear ordinary.