This is Saturday

 

Today is Saturday and Anna is sick. I know it’s Saturday because she told me once. Anna gets up early on Saturdays and we do things together. Anna hasn’t come downstairs, and I’m not allowed on her bed. I tried crying, but she isn’t listening. Something is not okay—this never happens. 

The door cracked open. I could see Anna walk to the bathroom from between the sticks on the stairs. I sat proper—she likes it when I do this. 

Anna walked out of the bathroom and looked down at me. 

“Hey Pal, I’m sorry. You must be hungry.”  

Hungry? Yes! I like food a lot. I forgot about food today. We’re on a first name basis…I’ve known Anna my whole life. I circled her fuzzy legs as she walked to the food. When she bent down I jumped up and kissed her face. She smelled like the sidewalk after the snow disappears. Anna usually smells like flowers and sometimes food that I’m not allowed to eat. Never like sidewalk. 

“Enough Pal, sit.” I sat, but I wanted to clean her face. She needed my help. 

I watched as she made herself some food. Some crunchy brown treat she eats on Saturdays. 

“Eat your food Pal.” But I wasn’t hungry.

Anna threw her brown treat into the trash. She wasn’t hungry either. She sat at the table and stared out at the bright light. She tapped her fingers on the table. Tap…tap…tap. I left and grabbed my leash. She needed to go outside. 

“No Pal, we’ll go later.” She says that sometimes, but I don’t understand what later means. I figure it means no. Anna doesn’t always know whats best for her, especially when she’s sick. She got up and walked downstairs. I followed close behind, but she went into the little room that I’m not allowed in. I could hear her crying. It sounded like a bird, but I knew it was Anna. She came out with a big box—we were finally going to play. 

“Hey Pal. Go lay down.”

I wasn’t tired. I dropped my mouth onto her knee as she sat down against the couch. She was shaking. Not like when you get wet and need to shake off, but shaking as if we were in the snow. 

Anna pulled a soft sweater out of the box. It smelled like Debbie. I haven’t seen Debbie in at least ten Saturdays. Debbie was sick the last time she was here. Maybe that’s why Anna is sick. 

Maybe this is Saturday now. 

Best Friends Forever

We’d been friends for almost fourteen years and for the first time, I didn’t know what to say to her.

There rested my best friend, in a stiff bed you wouldn’t wish on your enemies. I tried to conjure the perfect words. But anything that came to mind was too weak to carry the weight of what I wished to convey. 

So I stood there in thought, lost in my memories. I remembered her latest days. She said things like, “what’s the point?” and “the world is fucked,” or “we’re all going to die anyway”. That wasn’t the Nellie I knew. 

 Photo Courtesy: Craig Whitehead, Unsplash

Photo Courtesy: Craig Whitehead, Unsplash

I don’t remember much from when I was young, but I remember when we met. It was the first day of kindergarten. I was so nervous, I almost peed in my overalls. She approached me first, of course. She was always more outgoing than I. Her long hair was pig-tailed. I liked the pink, frilly elastics that wound around each tail. Pink was my favourite colour. From this, I deducted that she was a friendly kid; and luckily, I was right. She clutched a Barbie doll in each hand, holding one out to me. “Wanna play?” she asked. The rest was history.

We were inseparable. Every day was spent together. And if that wasn’t enough, we’d clock in a minimum of two hours on the phone. Our conversations usually lasted until Nellie’s mom yelled, “Get off the phone!” which preceded Nellie’s reply, “I’m not on the phone, I’m on a chair!” But we would say our goodbyes anyway, as per routine. 

Everyone knew our friendship was the best one. Enviable, even. We were like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, but without the ditsy personalities, the fortune, the fame, the tiny dogs stuffed in purses, and all the pink, sparkly outfits. Whenever we fought, other girls would try to swoop in and steal one of us away, in hopes that they’d be granted with the same best friend magic we possessed. But it never took us long to reconcile. Probably a day, at most. Full of sorrow, potential friend candidates retreated into the shadow of our friendship. It was a force with which to be reckoned. Everyone knew it.

We stuck together through everything: first crushes, broken hearts, my broken leg, her broken arm, my brother’s illness, her parents’ divorce...we were always there for each other. Together, we figured out who we were. Together, we shaped each other’s souls. 

 Photo Courtesy: Greg Raines, Unsplash

Photo Courtesy: Greg Raines, Unsplash

Once puberty kicked in, Nellie looked good—and I mean really good. Her hair was straightened daily, after the blush, mascara, and lipstick were applied. She kept the same routine every day and she always looked just right. I admired her. Everyone did. Her aura was one of confidence. Nellie held her head high and never second-guessed her choices. If she offended anyone, she’d say something like, “That’s their problem. Why should I care?” Maybe that was a clue of what eventually came of her. She cared little, until she didn’t care at all.

She took chances. She lived on the edge—pushed limits. Nellie pushed me to do some crazy things. On a few occasions, she convinced me to sneak out late at night to get high in the park, go skinny-dipping in the lake near my house, or steal booze from her mother’s liquor cabinet. Some things we did were questionable. But they made us feel alive. We always felt safe because we were together. We always had each other’s backs.
 
We had a special connection. With a quick glance, we could tell what the other was thinking or feeling, no words needed. We laughed and cried together. If one of us was happy, we shared that joy. We shared our pain, too...until her pain became a menace, chasing me away. It was like a stalking bodyguard, never leaving her alone, making sure no one had access to her...making sure she was untouchable. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t get to her.

I couldn’t remember which minute, hour, or day of the week I knew something had changed in a terrible way. Maybe it was the way she looked. She quit her morning routine, stopped doing her hair and makeup. Her face turned pale and tired. People stopped noticing her. The ‘confident aura’ was gone. Maybe it was the way she spoke, like nothing was good anymore. Maybe it was the first time she said, “What’s the point?” Maybe it was the hundredth time. Maybe it was the way she walked around, at sloth-like speed with her shoulders hunched forward. Maybe it was her sagging eyes or the narrow scars on her legs that tipped me off. She assured me it was her cat. I wanted to believe her.

 Photo Courtesy: Xavier Sotomayor, Unsplash

Photo Courtesy: Xavier Sotomayor, Unsplash

No, I couldn’t remember the exact moment I knew she was different. But I remembered how that realization struck me, shocked me to my core. I remembered thinking, “We’re not on the same wavelength anymore,” and I didn’t know why. I always knew what she was thinking—and then I didn’t have a clue. She hid herself away, keeping everyone out...including me. My best friend may as well have been a stranger.

Lately, she related more to Eeyore than she did to me. She moped around. Once an active girl, she became dull and careless. She never wanted to go out anymore. She stopped coming over. Our two-hour phone conversations were cut to ten minutes. Whenever I asked her to hang out, I was met with: “I think I’ll just stay in tonight”. At first, she said it once in awhile. Then she said it every time. 

I wanted to save Nellie from whatever demons hid her away. I wanted my friend back. The one with the pink, frilly elastics tying her pigtails. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t understand the turmoil that happened inside her head. But I don’t think she did, either. Why didn’t she talk to me about it? Did she think it might hurt me? Because nothing could’ve hurt me more than what she did. 

When I found out, I was so angry. Selfish is what I called her, over and over again between sobs. I hit everything I got my hands on, I cursed her, I swore, I broke down. I felt betrayed. I tried, didn’t I? I answered all her wordless calls, her melancholic texts. It felt like I was reaching into a lightless abyss, thinking one day I’d pull her out. That day never came. She was unreachable. She was gone.

In a hallowed hall, I gazed down at my friend. A blank expression was pasted on her tight-skinned face, yet this was the best she’d looked in awhile. Her hair and makeup were done, though not as she would’ve liked. People said she looked like she was sleeping, but I knew better. If that were the case, she’d have her arms splayed out, mouth hanging open to allow her monstrous snoring to sound through. 

 Photo Courtesy: Freestocks Org, Unsplash

Photo Courtesy: Freestocks Org, Unsplash

All my anger was spent. Looking at her, all I could feel was sorrow and regret. I thought of all the things we did together and might’ve done together. I thought of how much pain she must’ve endured to leave everything behind. I thought of how much I love her. I took her cold hand, searching for those weighted words. How could I ever say all the things I wanted to tell her? I expected to tell her many things. In the end, all I said was, “I miss you, Nellie”.
 


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Natalie is a self-proclaimed hippie who loves Earth, animals, and sometimes, people. She hopes to inspire others to live in a more kind-hearted, environmentally-conscious way, while making their lives less materialistic and more meaningful.

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Natalie Cousineau

Natalie is a self-proclaimed hippie who loves Earth, animals, and sometimes, people. She hopes to inspire others to live in a more kind-hearted, environmentally-conscious way, while making their lives less materialistic and more meaningful.

Over Rolling Green Hills

Six hours off the ferry from England, Isobel sat in the cramped buggy jostling over the rough roads with her hands folded neatly as possible in her lap. This untamed land was nothing like the noisy streets of London she spent all her life walking. In London, you could hear church bells chime around every corner. Here you could only listen to the crashing of waves on white shores, the whisper of the wind as it bounded over endless green hills and twisted between trees in the dark woods. London had been her home all her life, and until then she had never felt the need to leave the city she loved. That was until she slipped into the night and boarded the nearest boat going north around the island. Coming to Scotland, the country where both her parents had been born and bred, was not something she looked forward too. Even though her mother had always looked back fondly on her childhood in Scotland telling Isobel stories about wild beasts, fairies, and seals who shed their hide to walk on land. Her stomach twisted in knots not only because of motion sickness but from her own nervous inclination.

Her eyes closed against the bright morning light as she curled into the worn leather seat. She listened for sounds familiar to her but heard nothing. To Isobel, the silence of the countryside was deafening.

A loud crack snapped her eyes open, and the buggy swayed. Isobel leaned out the window clutching her cloak a little closer to her body to see what had happened. Her driver, an older man, called Baird, jumped down from his seat. He spewed a steady stream of what she thought were Gaelic curses as he knelt down beside the wooden wheel.  

   “Mr. Baird?” She stared down at him blinking green eyes.

   “Aye?” He paused his rambling momentarily.

   “What seems to be the matter?” Isobel asked.

   “The wheel's busted, lass,” he said without looking at her.

Isobel chewed the inside of her cheek. She wasn't really in a great hurry, but she did want to make it there before midday. With the buggy broken and the road as untraveled as it was Isobel doubted she would make it anywhere before dark.

   “Can you fix it?”

   “The wheel? I dinna ken so out here. Dinna fash lass someone will come along shortly.”

Contrary to Mr. Baird's beliefs, another buggy did not come along. The effect was quite the opposite as the only thing to pass by them were a couple of wooly Highland sheep. The sun was beginning to drop below the horizon when Isobel, stiff-legged, gathered her skirts and stepped out of the carriage for the first time since she had piled into the tight buggy at the port.

Mr. Baird sat on a jagged boulder embedded in the side of the nearest small hill. Isobel sighed, she marched across the grass and plopped down on the ground beside him.

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   “You're awfully young to be going about all on your own.”

   Isobel scoffed. “Hardly, I'm eighteen.”

   Mr. Baird chuckled. “Oh, aye. Eighteen...”

Isobel dropped back into the long grass. The soft blades tickled her cheek. She laid her hands on her now flat stomach.

   “So what's brought ye here?”

   Isobel looked over at him startled.

   “My parents were Scottish. They thought I should see the land.”

   “Were?” He raised a brow.

   “Are.” She crossed her arms over her chest and then pushed herself upright. “They raised me in London though.”

Mr. Baird made what Isobel thought was a very Scottish noise then wrinkled his nose at her. “Aye, I ken that much from looking at ye.”

Isobel hesitated for a second unsure if that was a good or bad thing.

   “Aye- I mean yes.” She stumbled over her words.

Her ears burned as she forced herself to her feet, dusted herself off, and turned away from the older man. Her eyes raked over the green hills, speckled with trees of all ages. Behind her, Mr. Baird was quiet as Isobel walked forward.

   “Don't wander off to far, lass, there are fairies in these hills.”

   “Fairies?” She looked back over her shoulder. Baird nodded.

   “Aye, the Fairy Folk have been told to wander near here. Ye dinna want anything to do with them. If they take ye back to their realm, ye won't come back for a long time. Not until everyone ye know's been dead a century at least and you- ye'll be not a day older than you are standing right here before of me.”

   Baird shook his head; his voice softened  “Ye dinna want anything to do with those creatures lass.”

Isobel blinked once. Her mother had mentioned the fairies to her before, but they were only stories. She knew it was nothing more than a silly superstition, but she humored the old man.

   “I won't go far. Simply need to stretch my legs.”

The more she walked, the wetter the land became until her once polished boots were soaked in a layer of grime so thick and sticky she'd need a knife to pry it away. She stopped walking and peered back over her shoulder. In the distance, she could see Mr. Baird where he still sat perched on the edge of the hill. As long as she could see him there, Isobel had little reason to worry. She was about to turn and go back the way she had come when a high pitched wail stopped her in her tracks.

Someone was crying. It wasn't the crying you'd expect from an adult but the desperate cry of an infant. Isobel tensed at the thought of a child. Her hands started to shake. A small round face and light green eyes like her own blinked in the farthest corners of her mind. She pushed the memory aside then turned back to look at Mr. Baird who sat on his rock oblivious to the shrieking child and her trembling hands.

The crying was coming from somewhere in the tall mossy trees before her, but she saw nothing. She looked over her shoulder at Mr. Baird again torn if she should go to him or the child. Maybe it wasn't a child at all? Her mother said there were wild animals in these woods. If it wasn't a child but a bear cub would she not be putting herself in more danger? If it was a child would Mr. Baird know what to do with it? Isobel knew little of babies. The only time she'd ever spent with a child had been cut short. As it was nine months was so little time.

The shrieking quieted. Isobel was afraid the baby would stop crying all together before she could get back to Mr. Baird making the child impossible to find. She gathered her skirts up; her cloak fluttered behind her as she ran into the woods not caring that branches caught her skin like tiny blades. The woods quickly blurred into one as she chased the cries deeper and deeper through the trees.

The crying stopped, and Isobel froze. Her breath halted in her chest. Slowly, scanning, she turned in a circle but saw nothing but trees and branches against the dark velvet sky. Isobel’s hands shook. She heard a baby crying of that she was certain. Isobel wasn’t so fragile her mind would make up such sounds to drive her to madness no matter what her father said. She touched her cheek and felt the sting as if her father’s hand had hit her again. Tears burned at the back of her eyes blurring her vision.

Who would leave a baby in the woods? But, Isobel could hardly judge the child’s mother. She was no better having given away her own child. Even if she thought, she was giving him a better life. How was she supposed to know he’d caught cholera? Now he was buried somewhere in these hills and his cries, his cries for her, haunted her everywhere she went. The closer she came to his grave the louder his wailing would be, harsh and angrier. He was so furious with her for betraying him, even though she was barely but a child herself.

Isobel knew she’d been a fool. He told her he loved her. Why would she question him? He’d never done anything to deserve her hesitation. When he said everything would be alright, they’d figure it out; Isobel had believed him. He kept telling her they were going to get married and Isobel never doubted him. She had trusted him for days even after he had vanished from her life.

Isobel spun to go back the way she had come, but the woods all looked the same to her.

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Her knees crumbled out from under her.  She fell to the ground in a heap of dress, skirts, and cloak, too weak to lift her temple from the grass below her for a long time. A creak in the woods made her raise her head.

Deep down she knew she wasn’t alone. Someone or something was here with her. They watched her with a thousand eyes through the leaves and branches. Isobel felt their breaths as she pushed herself up onto her hands and knees.

   “Hello?” She called, but the only response she received was a silence so deafening it chilled her right to the marrow. On all fours, Isobel scanned the woods. Her teeth chattered, but she hardly noticed. Her eyes slipped over the exposed roots of a massive oak she had somehow missed in her hysteria. Between the roots was a bundle. Isobel crawled forward, pushing herself until her fingers threaded through the thick knit.

She prayed as she gently pulled the cover away.  Drawing a long shaky breath, she stared down at the small round face blued from the cold. A sob clawed its way from the pit of her stomach and spilled from her mouth. Isobel clutched the child to her chest.

    “Lass, where are you?” Mr. Baird shouted. Her head snapped up. She heard him as he tore through the woods, crashing through bushes and branches. She pushed herself up onto her shaking legs.

   “Lass!”

    “Help!” She screamed. “Please, please help me!”  

    He tumbled through the trees towards her but stopped when his eyes went to the blanket in her arms. His eyes widened. He took a step towards her and reached for the child.

    “What- what have you there?” He asked, his voice tight with unease, though she was certain he knew what she was gripping so fiercely to her body.

    “He’s so cold-”

     “Put him back lass. ”  

     Isobel reared back. “I beg your pardon-”

     “It’s not a bairn.” He shot towards her so suddenly she couldn’t fend him off when he grabbed, the child away from her. Isobel stumbled backward in disbelief. She knew a baby when she saw one.

    “What on earth do you mean? Certainly-”

    “It’s a changeling lass, ye ken? It’s a fairy.”

    “A fairy? You cannot truly think this sick child is anything but just that.” She blanched. “That’s preposterous-”

    “Don’t you know a fairy hill when you see one? Come on; we must go. The longer we’re here, the more we risk the bairn.” Baird shook his head. “If we leave now the fairies might switch the bairns still.”

    He grasped her wrist. Isobel struggled against him. “We can’t leave a baby.”

    “We have no choice.”

    “You're ridiculous!”

    “Nay, ye canna do anything for the lad. Ye have to leave it to the fairies now. His ma and da, they’ll be ‘round here somewhere, hiding. Watching. I tell ye, we’ve got to leave this place.”

   “I will not leave a baby out here starving in the cold. Who do you take me for?’”

    “I take ye for who ye are. You're a silly lass who knows nothing of the world. The bairn is not yours. Ye canna do anything for him, ye ken? If the bairn dies and his Ma and Da find us here, they’ll call ye a witch and have ye hanged. You hear me, lass? They’ll see ye lynched.”

    Isobel shook her head. “If we take him and he lives-”

    “Look at the poor wee thing. He’ll not make it another hour lass. Aye, his best chance is with the fairies.” Mr. Baird said. He clutched her arm as he held the baby scooped against his side. He leaned the baby towards her so she could see him again. His little blue lips parted as the faintest breaths escaped him.

   “I don't know what ye are holding onto lass, but you have to let ‘em go. The bairn’s not yours, and even if we took him there is nowhere to bring him. He’ll die in your arms. Lay him down and let him go in his sleep.”

   “There must be something we can do,” She insisted.

   Baird shook his head.

   “Ye think I would leave a wee babe out here if there were something I could do for him?” When she didn’t move except to let her head fall in defeat, he stepped to her and held the baby out.

   His voice softened.  “Lay him down by the oak, lass. Lay him down and say a prayer. There’s nothing ye can do. Nothing either of us can do....”

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He put the child in her arms and Isobel held him, she felt the baby's weight in her bones, as she pressed her lips to his cool head and whispered softly to him. Sluggishly, Isobel carried him back to the oak and laid him between the roots as one would between the walls of a cradle or grave. She tucked the blanket tight around him then straightened her spine.

Mr. Baird came up behind her. He laid his hand on her elbow and turned her around. He slipped from English back to Gaelic as he gently ushered her away from the oak.  “Come along, mo nighean donn.”

Isobel sobbed silently. He said nothing else as they made their way out of the woods back into the field. His fingers remained loosely on her as he helped her through the knee-high grass one step at a time.

   “What did you call me?” She asked as he helped her back into the carriage.

    Mr. Baird arched a brow then blinked. “Mo nighean donn?”

   Isobel nodded.

    “Oh aye, it means my brown-haired girl,” He smiled faintly. “Now sit down and rest lass. Someone will come along shortly. . .”


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Katelin is a writer with a passion for historical fiction and hockey. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario she can often be found riding the O-Train with a Pepsi, at least one copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and a developing character in the empty seat across from her. 

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katelin laurin

Katelin is a writer with a passion for historical fiction and hockey. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario she can often be found riding the O-Train with a Pepsi, at least one copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and a developing character in the empty seat across from her.

Emergence

 I didn’t realize he was alive until a few minutes after I thought I killed him.

His fingers twitched and a pained groan escaped him. Relief washed over me at these signs of life, quickly replaced by fear. There was no hiding now. He knew.

I thought back to five months ago. I had been walking home from the munitions factory I was working at when I felt a jolt in my right arm. I looked around to see if I had been hit with something. Germany had surrendered two days prior and pockets of chaotic celebration were still popping up across England. No partygoers were on this street, it seemed. I shook my arm and continued my walk. It was twilight and a light rain was falling, intensifying the fragrant spring air. Soft, golden light and a sense of comfort emanated from the surrounding houses. Comfort and relief.

I turned a corner when another jolt hit my arm, the intensity of the shock causing it to swing out. Immediately after, my left arm followed suit. I stopped, looking around. The street was empty. A sudden sensation—similar to pins and needles but less obtrusive—came over my entire body, starting in my toes and slowly working its way up. Then it stopped as suddenly as it came. Maybe it was the physical stress of my job? Or the flu perhaps?

A month later, I realized that I could move things with my mind. I was removing a kettle from the stove when I stumbled and the handle slipped from my grip. Panicked, a combination of instinct and desperation led to a simple hand movement, motioning toward the stove. The kettle, inches away from crashing onto the floor, rose back up and placed itself back onto the burner. Two days later, I confirmed this ability when I willed a pen into my hand from across the room. The following week, I discovered that I knew what people were thinking. I couldn’t hear their thoughts exactly. Not word for word. I just got a sense of what was on their minds.

 I kept this to myself, of course. My husband wouldn’t like it. His work at Bletchley Park was over—he was a linguist whose skills were highly sought after to help decode—and he was eager for us to settle back into our pre-war life. My working days had to be behind me. He put up with my job at the factory because it was for England but he was a traditionalist and wanted me back in my proper place—the home. Familiar with the heavy-handedness of his wrath, I was willing to resume domestic duties. We had yet to conceive but I knew he would soon be expecting children. 

I was already mourning that brief taste of independence I had experienced at the factory. I was glad the war was over, of course, but I had spent that time proving to myself that I was capable of more than making dinner and darning socks. Women were expected to stand in for the men who were off fighting and we relished the opportunity. Not only did we fill factory positions, many woman were expected to ensure their family business continued running smoothly. Shopkeeping, farming, money handling, as men left to fight for our freedom, women took their place to fight for normalcy at home.  We had all proven ourselves but how quickly our capabilites were forgotten. 

During the following weeks and months, news of women from all around the world that were experiencing strange new abilities began to spread. Some were experiencing extremely heightened senses. Others had gained telepathic and telekinetic abilities, like me. But even those abilities varied. Some were only capable of moving small items a few inches and others were able to throw large objects across a great distance. As relieved as I was to find that I was not alone, I was as mystified as everyone else. Different theories started to emerge. Some thought it was a gift from god; others thought a gift from the devil. Some believed the abilities were extraterrestrial. One group of biologists suggested that it was a hastened evolutionary effect caused by the global stress of the war. These different beliefs influenced how the women were treated. In some parts of the world, they were worshipped. That was rare. Most countries viewed them as suspicious. As a result, I decided to stay hidden.

I looked at my husband, sprawled on the ground in front of me. A trickle of blood escaped a small gash on his forehead. I thought back to the conversation we were having ten minutes ago as we ate lunch. An article in the newspaper described three new institutions being built in America. Named Care Houses, they were described as “places of safety and respite for women burdened by these terrible new capabilities”. I wasn’t fooled. They were prisons. I made the mistake of saying as much. My husband’s face reddened angrily. He didn’t like when I had an opinion.

“You don’t think these women need to be locked away? What if they hurt someone? How can we trust them to care for their families? Children must be protected, for God’s sake.” I looked down, noticing the fading, yellow bruise on my wrist. I knew I should be quiet. Voicing an opinion meant getting another bruise. I should keep playing the role of subservient wife. To honour and obey. I didn’t have to use telepathy to sense his thoughts. He was seething with anger.

“I think men are afraid.” I don’t know what propelled me to say it. It was what I believed but there were many things I believed that I had learned to keep silent. His dark eyes widened and his lip curled in disdain. His quickly stood up from the table, knocking his chair over. Startled, I got up too.

“And what exactly are we afraid of, Eleanor?” He walked toward me, hand rising up. Before he could hit me, I focused my energy on him and willed him away from me. I had never moved anything as heavy as a man before. I didn’t even know if it would work. His body rose several inches and he flew across the kitchen, forcefully hitting shelves before falling to the ground.

What have I done?

As he started to come to, I thought about what this reveal would mean for me. What would he do now that he knew I was one of the women he viewed as dangerous? I thought about all the other women going through similar things, possessing this new power but unable to own it without repercussions. Would other governments follow America’s lead and attempt to lock us away? Any affection my husband might feel for me—and I had doubts whether it existed—would not prevent him from turning me over to such an institution.

I realized that staying hidden would never have been an option either. Something had changed in me. I couldn’t go back to the placid domesticity of my pre-war life.

I walked into the living room and grabbed my purse. I heard stirring in the kitchen.

“What did you do to me?”

I didn’t answer. Instead, I passed the kitchen and continued down the hallway. I walked out the front door into the cool autumn air. 


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Michelle Savage is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College who is hoping to turn her love of writing into a career. When she’s not buried in a book, she can be found on her yoga mat, on a hiking trail, or exploring one of Ottawa’s museums.

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Michelle Savage

Michelle Savage is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College who is hoping to turn her love of writing into a career. When she’s not buried in a book, she can be found on her yoga mat, on a hiking trail, or exploring one of Ottawa’s museums.

Seasons of Winter

November

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Everything is grey. The fresh blue of the sky has melted into a bleak, colourless hue. The love of the sun has dwindled away, taking all the livelihood of nature with it. Great forests that once flamed with bright affection have abandoned my eager love and turned their sulking faces away from me. Even the evergreens, who promised their colour until they breathed their last have darkened their eyes; they too have soaked in the grey to their very roots. I cannot turn to flowers nor grass, nor the choppy waters that once embraced me –they choose to love their grey souls instead of me. Slowly, yet all at once they forgot that we were ever lovers at all.

Yet it is not them that my softened and bruised heart longs for. It is you. You have caught me in your powdery arms before; sweeping me upwards after their careless spirits let me fall. It is your lingering presence that I long for most, the way your very being marks everything I do. You love with a purposeful love, a deep attachment that you never cease to remind me of.  It is you that I miss. The way you dance with the world, leaving a piece of you upon every life you touch. I miss the unique life you encourage me towards – your own energy invigorating me to the core. I miss every breath of pure, untainted air that you carry with you. You fill every vein with riveting oxygen, a welcome change from the sleepy, damp air I have grown accustomed to.

But mostly, I long for your colour. You are not the grey that has pitifully soaked into the world. No, you are white. A pure, untainted white so radiant that you produce your own light. You also detest the grey, and decorate the world with your consuming colour. You calm the ashen waves and hold them still; you blot out the sorrowful ground; you alight softly on the unfaithful trees. Indeed, I see without distraction when I am amidst your love, your white life.

Do not leave me in this bleak grey. If you ever loved me, do not let me suffer in this overcast gloom any longer.

 

December
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You do not like to be forgotten. In a wintry rage, you poured forth all the jealousy and envy harboured inside of you as you watched me in my seasons of love. How you howled, even as I begged you to take me back. But you did not shed tears of remorse, hurt by my betrayal, no, you returned headstrong with piercing accusations. You swept in, reclaiming everything that had once been yours in one swift action.

I did not mind your wrath, your overpowering admonishment as you reappeared. I did not mind, because it meant that you were here. Though you seethed with condemnation, I was glad because you came – that was all I wanted.  In an instant, your wrath depleted. Satisfied that I had learned my lesson, you relented. And then you embraced me, calming me and the turmoil around us. Finally, finally we are one again.

This is what I worship most about your love. The muffled lullaby you sing as your soft snowflakes alight on the world. You are the essence of merriment on days such as this; your delight in decorating every object spills from your heart and into mine. You are an artist who sketches with only one shade, perfecting the blemishes of the darkened landscape, creating a picture that portrays your very passion and purpose. And you’re giving. Oh, you give. The very art you create is proof of your selfless heart, because you make it for my joy.

But your beauty is not limited to your graceful strokes across earth’s canvas. It is the air you carry. Your breath is invigorating; I can feel you smile as you brush against my flushing cheeks, simply encouraging my own energy to increase.  Your air is confident, as someone who knows who they are without the need to be told. I admire this about you, that though you can boldly stand alone, you still choose to embrace the world, and more, love me.

 

January
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I adore the way you create such opportunities for people to play with and enjoy the being you are. Children love you; you provide an endless source of entertainment for them. Others, who have found ways to explore you by vehicle or skates, or skis, love you just as much. You provide an outlet for them that is unique to you; I pity those who do not know the extent of your glorious snowy self.

But you certainly are relentless. It seems as if your character grows stronger every day as I know you more. It’s not that you were weak before, but you were far less unapproachable. I fear that your independence will be your downfall – you do not need me, and you seem intent on proving it.

Could it be that you do not enjoy being told what others want from you? You seemed to love delighting me when you first arrived, but now you overstep your boundaries. You do not need to keep spilling your little flakes of snow! Once, your cold air was revitalizing, and I relished the lasting tingle on my cheeks. Why then, must you insist on penetrating your freezing fingers deeper into my skin? Now, you bite me and whip bitter frost through my very soul.

There are days when I try to love you for who you are, but you are no longer interested in my prosperity. Present in your white eyes is an unhealthy fixation to display your dominion. The wind is yours to control, the clouds are ever-present with your brooding nature; all your attention is focused towards their submission.

But I will stick with you in these times. I remember the memories of your cheer and gratitude from but one month ago, clinging to their allure. I can survive your new frosty song. I will still love you and sing along.

 

February
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Since when have you been friends with the sun? How is it that you tolerate his cordiality now, of all times? Surely you are blind to the complete incompatibility of this friendship. I too, love the sun and all its warmth, but this friendship will only lead to disaster, of that I am certain.

You keep your icy breath, your acidic embrace, but you let the sun shine onto all the world that you once so adamantly coveted and protected. You have allowed him to make a mark on the perfect piece of art that you created – it’s tainted with a work that is not your own. Though your personality is strong, it cannot protect you from the fluid effects of the sun.

No, you cannot accuse me of jealousy for I am not envious of the sun. My indignation is sparked from your sudden change in character. I am no longer convinced of the validity of your nature. You are forgetting the Winter I loved and longed for, the one whose gentle snow offered consolation. You are forgetting that you were once proud of your independence, your preciousness, your solidarity. But now, you are letting it slip away; the sun is coercing the trees to loosen the layer of snow you so delicately placed upon them, and you allow it.

You’re frustrating me. You are stubborn, and cold, and selfish. You know how I loved you, but now, you are too preoccupied with loving yourself to remember me. I walk out the door to greet you, but you push me aside and punish any inch of skin that might be exposed. Ironically, the sun is my only salvation – he melts away the lasting effects of your cold fingers.  I’m not sure how much longer I can endure your overpowering torments.

 

March
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I saw Summer today. It was following one of our unfounded stormy arguments, where you always disappear, hiding from me. Neither of us win. Yes, you temporarily ran away, leaving me to nurse my frost-bitten heart on my own. And that’s when I saw her. I didn’t expect her to stop and talk with me like she did, but I will not lie and tell you that I did not appreciate it.

She was soft, and gentle and warm. Your polar opposite. I don’t know if she realized the shivering state I was in, but in her carefree and graceful way, she danced into my presence and thawed the icicle you left in my soul. She didn’t linger, because your wintry winds announced your return, but as she hastened away, she promised that she would not be gone long.

You were unremorseful upon your return. We sulked and brooded, hating one another. If Summer ever returns – if you have not frightened her away – then I will take her hand and flee, escaping towards the blissful sunshine. I cannot stand the monster you have become, the ignorant storm you choose to be. And the closer I come to leaving you, the less you seem to care.

 

April
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Your rage was undeniable when you discovered my new lover. In one final blizzard of fury, you made your last stand. It was a tantrum, a frenzy. As you haughtily threw your belongings around, I was only grateful that this meant you would soon be gone. You scoffed resentfully as I argued back, withdrawing my love from you, and passing it to another. I shed my coat and shook the snow from my boots – the watercolour array of Summer’s colours presented a greater pull than your dull shade.

You turned, stinging me with these words: “You watch me leave now with a smile on your face, but it won’t be long before I hear your plaintive cry again, begging for my return. You can flirt with the seasons and have your summer flings, but you will always come back. I am the lover you always return to.”

Then, you bitterly whipped around and slammed the door behind you.

 

-End-


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Caitlin Bouwma looks at the world through her own set of binoculars. You'll often find her walking around with a camera or her pen and paper. Optimistic yet opinionated, she’s got a thing or two to say about the activities of her generation and those like it.

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Caitlin Bouwma

Caitlin Bouwma looks at the world through her own set of binoculars. You'll often find her walking around with a camera or her pen and paper. Optimistic yet opinionated, she’s got a thing or two to say about the activities of her generation and those like it.

Master of Mediocrity

 PEXELS.COM

PEXELS.COM

“Toby, I’ve got a call for you on line one,” I say into the phone, clicking off the line once I hear his voice come through.

I can feel my stomach roll over the hem of my too tight skirt. My armpits feel damp and my face feels hot. It’s like I’ve been shoved into the trunk of a car in mid-July, the Nevada desert sun beating down on me, baking me into peach cobbler. I look at the computer monitor and realize it’s only ten a.m., my shift doesn’t end for another seven hours. My mornings start off by checking my emails and shredding some memos. Sometimes I get to pick up the phone only to pass it through to Toby. At lunch I eat an egg salad sandwich, I play some solitaire and I stare at my 5x5 gray cubicle wall. Weeks spent in this office melt into each other, leaving one long hazy memory. My desk is completely bare, save for a plastic solar-powered hula dancer that never moves. Fluorescent bulbs buzz, chairs creak and the coffee maker hums.

“Do you ever smile?” a voice cracks from behind me.

I snap out of my silent monologue and whip my swivel chair around. A balding man, about 5’5 and 200 pounds stands in front of me, wheezy and mouth breathing. It’s Danny from accounting.

“Do you?” I fire back.

“Jeeze Maggie, lighten up some,” he says.

“Danny, I need you to keep walking. Your musk is violating our fragrance-free office rule.”

“I’m not wearing any cologne,” Danny says.

“That’s the point,” I mumble.

Danny stalks off through the row of cubicles, looking for his next pair of nostrils to obliterate. I spin back around to resume my game of solitaire.

This job’s become more tolerable as the years drag on. I used to cry a lot, now I just sort of whimper. I remember calling my mother and begging her to let me quit.

“No sweetie,” she would say. “There are bills to pay, RRSP’s to invest in, mortgages to save for, student loans to get rid of, mouths to feed, lives to save, extinct animals to bring back from the dead, cancer to cure, backs to break and a mother to make happy.”

It’s understandable. Mothers only want the best for their daughters, even if their best is this shit hole windows and doors wholesale company. It’s not like I ever imagined my life this way, I had a university degree in public affairs and a bright future. It came to my attention early on that a working class girl from the suburbs without connections would have to spend eternity climbing the hypothetical ladder everyone seems to obsess over. When it came time to finding my dream job, months turned into years, laziness set in and I was forced to settle. Student loans were piling up and a girl’s gotta eat.

  I’m thirty-three now. A sad cliché, your grandfathers worst repetitive joke, overused and tired. Or according to myself, a highly educated woman, who simply lacks the determination to be someone she’s not.

Caught up in one of my many daydreams I completely forget what time it is. Paul, who’s in the cubicle next to mine, is putting on his jacket and heading for the door, it’s five o’clock at last. My weeks run like clockwork and every other Wednesday my best friend Erika and I meet up for happy hour drinks at Frank’s. A dingy dive-bar just down the street from the office. We often treat that place like a much cheaper form of therapy. Chugging vodka soda’s and gushing about our lives, the only way old friends can.

Today is Wednesday. Flicking off my monitor, I grab my jacket and purse and begin my walk down to Frank’s. I wonder what mood Erika will be in tonight.

Two weeks ago we had really pissed each other off. Our night had begun like any other, discussing in detail the horrible date she went on and my disastrous love life. After a few more rounds of drinks, our conversations usually turned deep and prodding. Erika would often tie her long brown hair back, sink into her seat and ask me about the meaning of life.

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“I think I’m in purgatory,” I remember saying.

 “Maggie, you’re stuck in the in between,” she said.

You know, that place we learned about as children going to church every Sunday. It’s this state between heaven and hell, apparently it’s where the souls of sinners go to be purified on their way to heaven. I think purgatory looks something like that office, gray walls, gray carpet, gray people.

“I’m just waiting my turn,” I slurred. “Trying not to step on any toes, hoping I get a chance to reach heaven.” 

 “You know we deserve better right? We don’t need to feel so stranded,” she sighed.

 “Speak for yourself, Erika. We can’t all be risk-takers. Someone has to fill the role of photocopier-telephone-answerer. It might as well be me.” I felt my bitterness seep through. If anyone had a chance at an interesting life, it was Erika.

 “Maybe if you actually applied yourself. You know, put a little emotion into what you do,” she frowned.

There was Erika’s condescension again. That familiar tone I heard as a child.  

“Right, because you have it all figured out? Everyone has it figured out but me. That’s what you think, isn’t it? Well I hate to break it to you, but you do not have a lot going on for yourself either.”

“Damn Maggie, tell me the truth why don’t you…”

“No Erika, I’m realistic. At least I can acknowledge my own inadequacy.” The booze had reached not only my cheeks but my speech and temperament too. Why was I so angry all of a sudden? I needed to change the subject, lighten the mood a little.

  “Remember that game we used to play?” I asked.

  “The one with the superhero sidekick names?”

  “Sure, that one.” We had a lot of different games. This one was my least favourite. “You go first,” I responded.

  “Maggie the paper pusher extraordinaire,” she said.

  “Master of mediocrity,” I called her.

No amount of Cipralex or self-help books could help us forget that reality. The last thing either of us needed was to be reminded of our monotonous life styles.

I remember seeing her slump against the back of chair, her eyes narrowing, shooting angry laser beams. My cheeks turned a violent shade of red and I threw my money onto the table. Snatched my belongings hanging off the chair and stomped out, knocking into tables and chairs as I went. This one hit too close to home for both of us. We couldn’t laugh it off and so I hadn’t heard from her since.

As I pull open the heavy metal door of Frank’s bar, unleashing the cigar smoke, I realize Erika isn’t there yet. Confused, I make my way over to our usual table, tucked into the corner. The floors feel sticky and my shoes make suction cup noises as I move across the room. I sit down and wait for her to arrive. The hour passes slowly, I’m already on my third drink and the linoleum seats are starting to cause my thighs to itch. I’m starting to get anxious, Erika is never late, she must really not be happy with me. I decide to stick it out and wait, maybe she got caught up at the office.

“You want another?” Jerry, the owner, shouts from across the bar.

“Yes, please!” I yell back. This might be a long night, I think.

  I really need to speak with Erika, to make up. We’ve argued before, like the time she cut my hair and gave me bangs. Or the time she stole my favourite dress and spilled red wine all over the sleeve.

 I’ve known her since the age of 5. We grew up across the street from each other. Every time there’s an argument, we’ve always forgiven each other. And every other Wednesday for the last 6 years, no matter the disagreement, she always shows up.

I see Jerry come from behind the bar. His height has always amazed me, at 6’5, he always has to duck below the rafters. The green giant is what everyone calls him. Green, because of the old shamrock coloured tee he’s never seen without. My drink in hand, I watch as he makes his way towards my table.

“I thought I’d never see you again!” Jerry exclaims.

“What, why?” I question him.

“The way you stormed outta here last time was quite a show,” Jerry smirks.

“Oh, sorry about that, Erika and I get pretty heated sometimes,” I say.

“Is that why she’s not here tonight?” He wonders.

“No, she should be coming. She’s just running a little late,” I mumble.

“Why don’t you give her a call?” Jerry asks.

“Good idea,” I smile. “Thanks for the drink.”

Jerry walks off to deal with a heated argument between two regulars.

I start to rummage through my purse, searching for my cell phone to call Erika. It takes me a minute but I finally free my phone from the depths of my oversized bag. I flip it open and dial her number, a number I know off by heart. I’m speechless, as it rings only once and cuts to that automated message you hear when people don’t pay their phone bills.

“We’re sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. Please check the number you have dialed and try again.”

My stomach feels like it has fallen through my pelvis and hit the floor. I dial again. The same message wails in my ear. Why would she disconnect her phone? This must be a mistake. I call 6 more times; I now have the automated message memorized. Frantic, I jump out of my seat, slap some money on the table and run out of the bar. Why didn’t she show? Where is she?

It’s 8 o’clock now. The sun has set and a brisk fall evening has descended on the city. I pace the sidewalk for at least 10 minutes, debating what to do. Her apartment is only a few blocks from here, instead of waiting for the bus, I decide it’s quicker to jog.

It takes me 8 minutes. By the time I get there I’m gasping for air, keeled over and distraught. Something does not feel right.

Erika lives on the 3rd floor of a triplex. The building looks like it was built in the 80’s, everything is square and plain. I walk up the steps to the main door, there are buzzers with the names of the tenants printed beside the buttons. I reach to press Erika’s buzzer out of habit when I realize her name’s removed. This is too messed up! Now I’m agitated, I begin ringing her bell repeatedly. When I receive no response over the intercom, I start banging on the glass front door of the building.

The old lady from the first floor apartment, Flora, I think, sticks her head out into the hallway. I can see her through the glass door, peering out at me. She recognizes me and makes her way over, a grimace on her face. She opens the door and lets me step inside the hallway.

“What is the reason for all the racket!?” She shouts. It looks as though I’ve woken her up. Her bottom dentures are missing and she’s wrapped in a pink fleece robe.

 Photo by Fernanda Latronico from Pexels.com

Photo by Fernanda Latronico from Pexels.com

“I’m so sorry, I’m looking for Erika, have you seen her?” I beg.

“Who? Your friend from upstairs?” she questions.

“Yes! Have you seen her?” I’m getting desperate as the time passes.

“She moved out last week,” she answers, frustrated.

“No, you must be thinking of someone else,” I exclaim.

“I’m not losing my memory yet, sweetie,” she says, drily.

I turn around and leave. I’m too tired to run home and I’m too upset to wait for a bus. Reaching for my phone, I call for a taxi.

 Once home, I walk straight for the mailboxes in the basement of my apartment building. If she’s going to leave me a message, this is how she’d do it. Over the many years of our friendship, especially while we were away at different universities, we would mail each other long hand written notes. Maybe, she’s sent me something. I take my key and open the lobby door, I head straight for the stairs that will take me to the basement.

The bulbs are flickering in the dark basement, only adding to this ominous feeling at the pit of my stomach. I reach the wall of metal mailboxes, finding mine, I jam the key into the hole and open it. I haven’t checked my mail in a few days. All I ever seem to receive are Ikea catalogues and pizza coupons. But laying on the top of the pile of fliers, is a post card. One cardboard rectangular shaped post card. I slide it out of the box and examine it. The front of the card is an image of the Sydney Opera House and the waterfront that surrounds that city thousands of kilometers away. I don’t know anyone in Sydney.  

I flip the card over and immediately recognize Erika’s hand writing. All that it says is,

           “Dear Maggie,

           I hope this finds you before Wednesday happy hour. I’m not mad at you, I just needed to leave. I knew you’d try and talk me               out of it but I’ve always wanted to travel and see the ocean, so here I am. We can do better and you know it. Sorry to leave                 you like this, maybe one day you’ll find your way here too. I love you.

             -- Erika”

I think about her on the beach, far, far away from this lonely town. I know that I’ll never have the courage to do what Erika did. Besides, gray sort of brings out the green in my eyes.


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Emily Andrechuk can almost always be found nose deep in a novel, usually historical fiction or one of her many travel guides. When she’s not counting her pennies for flights abroad, she’s at home cooking, drinking wine and writing.  She is a direct entry student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program.

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Emily Andrechuk

Emily Andrechuk can almost always be found nose deep in a novel, usually historical fiction or one of her many travel guides. When she’s not counting her pennies for flights abroad, she’s at home writing, cooking and drinking wine.  She is a direct entry student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program.

Skin Deep

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The vanity betrayed its age; white paint peeled from the wood, as if attempting to escape the structure it was bound to so long ago. Viola studied her face in the mirror, tilting her chin up and her cheeks side to side with the gentle guidance of her left index finger. She arched her back and with a controlled exhale, she began.

The procedure—Viola liked to call it a procedure as it made the whole thing sound more official—always started the same. The left side drawer of the vanity always offered resistance, but with a small tug, Viola pulled it open. There lay her scalpels, delicately placed on a white handkerchief waiting for her. She trailed her fingers over each one until she reached her No. 10 blade. If Viola was being honest, she’d admit she knew little of the intricacies of the blades she’d ordered online, but No. 10 had yet to fail her.

Wrapping her grip around the handle, Viola lifted the scalpel from the drawer and tilted her chin down, exposing her left cheek to the sunlight from the window. The slightest wince flickered across her face as she dug the blade into her cheek with the force necessary to break skin, careful only to target the apple of her cheek. It was silly, but she hadn’t made it round enough last time.

Viola first discovered her newfound abilities purely by accident. The muffled words of the talk show hosts from the flat screen in the living room lulled her mind into a comatose state, pulling her attention from the task at hand. When the thread of her thoughts led her back to him, she chopped down with fervor, pretending each of the carrots laid out on the wooden cutting board before her was an appendage he was far too fond of. With each chop, Viola found more pleasure in his perpetual castration, and lost in vicious vengeance, her grip on the knife faltered.

Her ring finger lay where she’d chopped it, separated just below the first knuckle from its stump by a growing pool of blood seeping into the wood of the cutting board.

Figures, her mother had said on the phone when Viola told her from the Emergency Room. It’s not like you needed it anyways.

That was the end of their relationship, but the beginning of something far more entrancing. As she waited with a bloody cloth cradling the space between her pinky and middle finger, Viola felt her finger itch. She soothed herself, repeating the mantra, It’s just phantom limb; the finger was gone.

Viola hated blood. To this day, she’s still unsure what could have possibly compelled her to pull back the cloth and peer at the carnage that lay beneath, but she did. The burning itch entirely forgotten, Viola concealed a shout. Where, just twenty-four minutes ago, had been a throbbing blood red stub, a new finger sat. Or would sit. It was smaller than the others, not exactly the colour of blood, but a deep magenta throughout. It had yet to grow a nail.

She’d wiggled it. An action she’d immediately regret, as the throbbing and itching and burning all flew straight back into the exposed nerves of her strange new finger. By dinnertime, Viola had been back home in her apartment, sipping a glass of cabernet and enjoying the meal she had begun to prepare only a few hours ago.

It wasn’t until three months later that she took a knife to her body. Rage clouded her vision and pulsed through her thoughts, though she’d admit now that she may not have been thinking clearly. Viola slammed the door and strode straight through the kitchen to her knife drawer. They jumped, their metallic edges blinking, from the force she’d used. No, these won’t do, she’d thought. She pulled open the drawer underneath. Clutter lay at the front, but a sheathed meat cleaver sat atop the folded tea towels.

She’s smaller than you, he’d said to her.

Viola tore it out of its casing, the knife clattering as she tossed it on the granite island. She ripped at her blouse, her focus solely only removing the horrid piece of clothing from her body. But when it was off, the only result was Viola standing half naked in the middle of her kitchen, the peach of her flesh reflected in the massive knife before her.

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She’s more beautiful than you could ever be, he’d said. I couldn’t help myself.

With a determination she was delighted to find she possessed—as would her mother, if they ever spoke again—Viola gripped the meat cleaver in one hand and the sagging pouch that hung over her abdomen in the other. Then she began her first procedure.

It was a hack job, quite literally, with her screams echoing off of her stainless steel kitchen. When Viola was finished, the bloody sack of fat landed on the tiles with a sound that reminded her of the time she dropped a raw fish on the same floor. Viola screamed again before she, too, fell to the cool, unforgiving tiles, writhing just as she’d imagined the fish had done in the moments prior to her purchasing it at the market.

The pain wasn’t like her finger. Her abdomen seared, and her entire body pulsed with agony. Truth was Viola didn’t know how long she was on the floor, or why this time it took so long to heal when her finger only took an evening. She didn’t know how long, other than that it was a long, damn, time. When she was aware of the tears on her cheeks they were already cool and the searing had subsided slightly. Now her stomach itched.

With unsteady legs Viola stood. A fear gripped her now that an understanding of her actions flooded through her mind. Viola yelped when her hand slipped to her abdomen. Partly out of pain, but mostly from the surprise at what her fingers touched. Like her newly regrown finger, her stomach was a deep pink, with a thin translucent layer of growing skin beginning to shelter her nerves. It was sticky.

The next hour was spent sitting in front of the floor length mirror in her bedroom, watching her skin turn from its deep colours to the fleshy pink she’d been accustomed to. The more she focused on how she wanted her body to look, the quicker the process became until finally, she could run her hands over the smooth baby skin of her stomach. The smooth, flat skin. Viola’s heart soared.

Fuck him, she thought. Who’s skinny now?

The mirror unequivocally replied, You are.

Her skills refined themselves the more often she used them. Whatever alteration met her whims one day didn’t always carry over to the next, and often she found herself modifying her features over and over to new specifications. Her eyes needed to be wider, her lips plumper, her fingers more slender—the last of the list testing her skill far more than the others. Until today.

Viola peeled the skin of her cheek from their bones like an orange until her blood soaked teeth appeared in a small window of her face. Once, in the early days, she’d tried breathing out of it without opening her mouth. It was unpleasant.

She moved on to the other side of her face. You had to do these things together. Too many times Viola made alterations one at a time, and too many times her face healed askew no matter how hard she’d focused. It only worked if it was all at once.

She made quick work of her second cheek. Her nose suddenly felt small and childish, prompting her incision and removal of the shape and cartilage, followed by impulsively lifting her upper lip away as it lacked the heart-shaped quality Viola desired for their first date. The searing never became more bearable, only familiar.

Her face was stripped down to the barest of bones. In the beginning, the tight, red, sinewy muscles hidden under her flesh caused Viola disgust, but the more she worked the more welcome the sight of her unmasked face became. Viola smiled--or best she could smile with only a bottom lip--and wiped her scalpel clean. This is something her beloved No. 10 blade couldn’t do.

Viola visited the salon down the road that morning in preparation for today’s procedure. The manicurist had obliged her strange request, despite the hushed whispers to her colleagues in a language Viola wasn’t familiar with. She paid no mind; she was pleased with the results.

Viola ran each thumb over the unnaturally pointed nails of the rest of her fingers. Blood in various stages of drying resided underneath them. Viola let out a shaky breath. Once again, she was in new territory.

After a moment’s hesitation she plunged her fingers into the unprotected meat of her eyes, screaming louder than she had since her first procedure as she tore out the offending colour.

His profile said he liked blue eyes.

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Emily Beckett is an enthusiastic geek and writer who spent the first semester of her second year in the Professional Writing program over at Spectres and Haunts. She loves creating worlds outside of our own that have that magical spark we're missing in our day to day lives.

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Emily Beckett

Emily is an enthusiastic geek and writer who spent her childhood summer nights poring over Canadian ghost stories with only a flashlight and nylon tent to protect herself. She is fascinated by the chilling events that lend themselves to the birth of alleged spooky encounters—despite her scaredy-cat status.

The King

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The Three-Eyed Cat strolled casually through the Forest. He was the last of his kind, and he was watching as his King dragged a dead Hunter behind him. The Three-Eyed Cat, for the nine lives of him, couldn’t remember when or why the King had become to adamant on keeping the Forest free of humans.

The King was silent. He always was. When he twisted any Hunter’s neck, or when he was bathing in the moonlight, he was always silent.

The Three-Eyed Cat glanced at the Hunter. He hadn’t stood a chance. None of them ever did. The King was ruthless. The Hunter’s eyes were closed, his golden hair dragged listlessly through the dirt.

The King stopped suddenly. They were standing at the Autumn Tree. He set to work. With ease, the King slipped the Hunter’s furs and clothes off. He piled them neatly on a boulder, as well as the chain that hung off the Hunter’s neck. The King paused, looking at the golden ring on the chain, and then continued.

The Three-Eyed Cat waited patiently. His mouth watered, and his stomach rumbled. The King dipped his fingers into the Hunter’s face, and with a wet pop, one of the Hunter’s Eyeballs came out. The King tossed it to the Three-Eyed Cat, and then popped out the second eyeball, also tossing it to the Cat.

The Three-Eyed Cat bowed and met the King’s eyes. He ate the meal that had been graced upon him, they were blue. Blue eyes were his favourite, because they tasted of innocence.

The Three-Eyed Cat watched as the King resumed his work, tearing the eyeless head off of the naked body. The Autumn Tree reached impatiently for the body, and the King complied. He lifted and draped it across the limbs of the Tree.

The Autumn Tree grasped the body, and sighed with relief as it savoured its meal.

The King picked up the Hunter’s head and clothing. The Three-Eyed Cat followed once more, his belly full. Their Next destination was the Dancing River.

Crows and Ravens called to each other and gathered in the sky. They flew, loudly, to the River, and awaited the King’s arrival.

The Wind whispered while they walked. ‘Another job well done.’ And then the Wind was silent.

The Three-Eyed Cat didn’t trust the Wind. It whispered in the King’s ear, and brought storms that kept away the Stars and the Moon.

The Crows and Ravens circled above the River, some landed on the banks. The King placed the Hunter’s head upon an orange-stained rock. At once, the birds landed and picked off the hair, and the skin, and then pulled the brains from the skull.

The Three-Eyed Cat eyed the large birds. Soon-to-be parents in the flocks carried away the hair and fought for the empty skull. The rest of them ate the brains, the ugly mass disappearing into their slimy beaks.

The King rested upon the banks. He slipped his legs into the River and gave it the Hunter’s ring and chain as a gift. The River rejoiced and accepted the gift, taking it to somewhere hidden in the murky water.

The River danced. And it licked away the blood and grime that covered the King. It polished his antlers and massaged his legs and hands. It kissed the King’s cheeks and cleaned his Moss Cloak, and the Hunter’s clothing.

Once clean, the King left the River to it’s dancing. He gave the Hunter’s clothing to the Three-Eyed Cat, and watched as he disappeared into the Forest. He walked back to the Autumn Tree.

It finished its meal. Bright, cardinal-red leaves sprouted from the Autumn Tree. On the ground, the Hunter’s naked body had been discarded once it was empty. It was covered by dull, orange leaves.

The King picked off the Hunter’s arms and gave them to two young foxes that waited in the brush. The yelped their thanks, and scampered off to their families.

Two packs of wolves came. They moved separately, but shared their meal silently. The pups took the bones with them, to work the marrow out as a final meal, and there was no trace of the body left.

The King left the Autumn Tree and quietly walked to his Castle. It was high on a hill, in the centre of the Forest, secluded. He picked up a stone on the way, it was no bigger than the King’s palm.

The Castle was a cave that opened to a large cavern. A pile of clothing and furs sat unused in the corner. The King’s stone throne stood in the middle of the rom, empty. Small statues lined and littered the inside of the Castle. Each stood hardly taller than the King’s palm.

The King sat upon his throne and began chipping away at the stone with his thumbnail. It took the shape of the Hunter. When he was finished, the Three-Eyed Cat jumped down from his ledge and took the statue.

The Three-Eyed Cat trotted around, looking for a place for the statue. He found two similar statues, their hair and outfits were almost identical. He carefully placed it, and yawned. Hopping back onto his ledge, he prepared for a nap.

The King left his Castle. The Moon and the Stars were out, accompanied by their blanket of Night. The King wandered to the top of his hill and looked up.

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The Moon ignored the King. It always did. It was a King of a separate domain, and the King wondered if he could join the Moon eventually.

The King waited in the light of the Moon. The Moon left, and the Sun rose. Time passed, and the Moon passed many times too. The Moon was just leaving the sky when the Wind woke up the King wish a small whisper. The King stretched out the passage of time, and followed the Wind to the next Hunter.

It didn’t take long to find the Hunter. It didn’t take long for the Hunter’s life to disappear. The King dragged the Hunter to the Autumn Tree and did his work. The Three-Eyed Cat approached, ate his meal, and followed the King.

The River didn’t dance, or rejoice. It was worried.

The Wind called out to the King, ‘another has appeared.’

The King left the Hunter’s clothing with the River, and followed the Wind once more.

She was dressed like a Hunter, but she was a Lady. She was confused, frail, delicate. Her breaths echoed through the Forest.

The Three-Eyed Cat approached first. The Lady froze, but the Three-Eyed Cat purred and rubbed its face on her leg. She released a breath, and reached down to pet the Three-Eyed Cat. She seemed familiar.

The King stepped out from the Shadows. The Lady gasped and fell over. She didn’t move as he approached. He circled her. Her hair was longer than any Hunter’s. Her heart beat fast, but it was weak.

He held out his hand for her, and she took it, to rise from the dirt.

He touched her hair and face. The Lady flinched and met his eyes.

She reached up, and cautiously felt his antlers. The King flinched, and moved away from her gentle touch.

The King started walking towards his Castle. She followed. The Three-Eyed Cat purred.

The Wind was quiet. It didn’t whisper in the King’s ear. He didn’t mind.

The Hunter’s body at the Autumn Tree would wait until later. The King needed to bring the Lady to a safe place. Day passed faster in the Forest than it did outside, and humans shouldn’t be in the Forest at Night.

 The King glanced behind him. The Lady was following, far behind him. They approached the entrance to His Castle. She didn’t follow him in, and he didn’t mind. The King sat upon his throne and, as the Night fell, waited.

The Three-Eyed Cat stalked into the Castle first and hopped onto the piles of furs in the corner. The Lady followed, warily taking in the scene of the Castle. She looked closely at the statues on the ground.

She glanced at the King in his throne. He gestured to the pile, where the Three-Eyed Cat was making himself comfortable. She joined the Three-Eyed Cat.

The King watched as she got comfortable, and the left his Castle. He listened to be sure the Lady didn’t follow, and then went on his walk. He went to the Autumn Tree, but found that the foxes and wolves had already had their meals. The King returned once more to the Castle, with a new stone in his hand.

Again, he sat in his throne. Again, he began chipping away at the stone in his hand. It took the shape of the Hunter from that day, and the Three-Eyed Cat woke from his slumber to take it to it’s place with the rest of the statues.

The King went back outside to listen to the Wind while the Three-Eyed Cat went back to sleep. The Moon was past the hill, so the King remained outside the Castle entrance.

Another approaches,’ the Wind whispered, beckoning the King to the next Hunter.

The King found the Hunter easily. He babbled loudly, as some humans do. When he found his babbling didn’t work, he fumbled for his weapon. Before the Hunter realized what had happened, his head was backwards and his weapon was on the ground.

The King hesitated, and then started bringing the Hunter to the Autumn Tree. It was still dark, so he was surprised to see the Lady standing behind him with a weapon of her own in her hands. She shook, her heart pounded weakly, her cheeks were wet.

She too, babbled. It was a delicate babble, and the King looked her straight in the eye. The Wind encouraged him, and He twisted her neck the same as he had the Hunter.

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His gut was heavy as he dragged the Hunter and the Lady to the Autumn Tree. The Three-Eyed Cat ate the Hunter’s brown eyes first, and then the Lady’s blue eyes. The Autumn Tree drank impatiently, as though it hadn’t been fed in years.

The Crows and the Ravens fought over the Lady’s golden hair.

The River danced and licked away the blood of the King’s work, and accepted two matching rings that had been on the Hunter’s and the Lady’s fingers.

The two foxes brought their companions to take the arms of the Lady and the Hunter. The Wolves each took a body for their packs, and didn’t eat beside each other.

The King idly wandered back to his Castle and picked out two stones, both the side of his palm.

The Three-Eyed Cat watched as the King carved the first stone. He took it into his mouth and found a place for it. When he came back for the second statue, the King had already started waiting for the next Hunter. The Lady stared up at the King from his hand.

The Moon wandered across the sky and wondered in passing where the King had gone.

The Wind called from outside the Castle. The King awoke, and stretched his slumber from his body. The Lady was still in his hand, so he walked to a ledge hidden by a large rock. He moved it, revealing a small statue of his Queen. She stood the same height as the other statues, but with more beauty and elegance than any of the Hunters could muster.

The King placed the Lady behind his Queen, trying not to look at the bundle in the Queen’s stone arms. The King replaced the rock, and left his Castle to find the Hunter.

The Three-Eyed Cat followed quietly.


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As a kid, Alyssa liked to dream of dragons taking over the world. Now that she’s grown up, she just writes about them. As well as writing fantasy and sci-fi, she’s a dedicated musician who also loves journals and colourful pens.

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Alyssa Gelata

As a kid, Alyssa liked to dream of dragons taking over the world. Now that she’s grown up, she just writes about them. As well as writing fantasy and sci-fi, she’s a dedicated musician who also loves gaming, journals, and colourful pens.