Letting Go is only as Sudden

Letting Go is only as Sudden by Noor Alzaghal

The quiet city boomed with life with the start of another school day. The entire neighbourhood was like a beehive during the honey-making season. Relishing the sound of the rolling tires of school bags scraping the pavement, the bus engines roaring up and down the neighbourhood streets, and preschoolers running around playing hide and seek, I got out of the bed and went to the kitchen for my morning dose of caffeine.

Glancing at the couch, I could see Aurora asleep with the book she was reading lying on the carpeted floor. The sight of her sleeping brought a smile to my face. Her image soon disappeared once reality sunk in. She’s gone now.

The atmosphere was faintly thicker than that of a normal day, as her mother’s departure marked the date on the calendar. That dreaded date.

Aurora was only eight years old when her mother passed away, but she was mature enough to know death. It meant the end, darkness, and an eternity of nothingness. This idea of nothingness, to a child who couldn’t imagine a void, was dreadful.

Stillness. I lay in bed and gazed at night’s silent companion. I admired its shocking purity. It is both empty and full. I can see nothing, and I can see everything. Its magical powers did not sit well with young Aurora, for she could not harness her wild imagination then. It is amazing the number of creatures one can see in the night, but it is also amazing how it could all go with the wind in the blink of an eye.

Fear did not leave me, for it never leaves. It is always replaced with another. It is understanding, though. It sometimes induces me to believe it is gone. Oh, those brief moments of relief. They are pretty but short, usually the case with beauty—brief, deceptive, and powerful. The sun soon shall rise, snatching my comfort along. You would think I can keep my comfort by shutting my eyelids, but no—light manages to seep through and crawl underneath the covers.

The sound of tires making contact with the paved street was white noise and a persistent reminder of the ongoing day. I sat up, inhaled deeply, paused, exhaled. I stood up with eyes closed, feeling the blood rush through my body. It didn’t feel as if it were going through my veins. It just felt like a waterfall going down my body. Again, I took a deep breath, held it, then released.

The bathroom glass mirror is a window into the soul. Every day, I attempted to hold a gaze with my reflection. I blinked and looked away. Horrified. I was awake, but my heart was asleep. Short slow beats. Scarce oxygen. Heavy limbs. Robotic movements. My body opened the freezer and got some ice. I put it in a mug and followed it with cold milk. Then, boiled water to soak two bags of mint green tea. I stared at the tea while it cooled down, then poured it over the iced milk. My morning drink. My humble dose of caffeine.

I returned to bed. The fan was dusty. There was no Aurora to turn it on. She couldn’t live without it. We would argue all the time. She, being warm-blooded, could not function a second without a fan or air conditioner. I, although warm-blooded too, could not stomach the continuous air hitting me. My head would throb, and I would feel my insides whirling in my abdomen. It often felt like a slow dryer or an eye of a hurricane.

It is safe to say that I only use the air conditioner now. If Aurora were ever to see the electricity bill, she would for sure be disappointed. It is expensive, but I cut back on other stuff. For one, I am almost always sitting in the dark. The light emitting from my laptop screen is enough for my nocturnal being. They say using your electronics in the dark is much better for your eyes anyway. I don’t know anyone who said that, but I am almost completely sure someone somewhere has said it once.

The clock struck eight. My morning drink finished, I headed back to the kitchen. I placed my mug on top of the island, opened the fridge, grabbed three eggs, cooking cream, some cheese, and kicked the fridge door shut with my foot. Then I put it all down on the counter and fetched the pan. I oiled it and cracked the eggs in it. I started stirring slowly, added the cream, stirred, added a slice of cheese, and stirred till it cooked through.

I grabbed my wooden chopsticks and started eating right out of the pan. Salt. I forgot to add salt and pepper. I continued eating while standing. When done, I washed up the dishes and headed to my room. The mug was still unwashed on the island. I’ll wash it later. Putting on some beige slacks and a button-up white shirt, I slipped on my only pair of brown leather shoes. I picked up my car keys and unlocked the front door. The mug. Her voice was clouded, but it was there.

I went back inside to wash the freaking mug, and then I was straight out of the stuffy apartment’s door. Climbing in my sedan, I turned on the radio to full volume.

One of the perks of having your job overlook the beach is that you’re driving with the greenish-blue water onto your left for half of your ride. Crystals scattered across the surface of the water and the sand. One can see the sunlight bouncing from one crystal to another.

Aurora and I spent a lot of our time on the beach. She would insist on having her birthday there every single year. It was neither easy nor comfortable since she was born on the tenth of August. It was a death wish to go out in the sun during August, but she never cared.

I would schedule it for four o’clock so that the sun wasn’t screeching hot anymore but would still melt a human being. I would bring multiple coolers filled with ice and cold drinks, and I kept them in the shade so that the ice lasted till the end of the party.

Aurora was very active and forced everyone to play with her. Her favourite game was volleyball. By the time the whole thing was over, she would have sand in all the crooks of her body and all the pockets of her clothes. Her curly hair was another story. Sand would keep falling from it for a full eight days.

Catching a glimpse of the playground, I awoke from my trance and took a right turn to the preschool. I parked close to the entrance and took a deep breath, paused, and let it go. Entering the preschool, the sight of children plastered a smile on my face for what would seem like an eternity. Aurora used to teach math to those kids alongside me. On her first day, my pride flooded the school.

When she left, I had to cover her hours until they found a replacement. It took them a few months to find a replacement for her, but they eventually did. They had asked me to train the new teacher for a week since I knew Aurora’s teaching plan by heart.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the school day, and chaos filled the hallway leading up to the busses’ assembly point. Other teachers yelled at the kids to be quiet and walk slowly, but I didn’t bother to. There was nothing that could tone down the kids’ glee on this fine summer day.

My smile turned down a notch as I stared at them diving into different buses that would soon drive them to their homes where summer break awaits them. I exited the preschool and entered my car. There was no trace of a smile left on my face. Turning on the ignition, the radio blared with the sound of Rolling in The Deep by Adele. Pulling out of the parking lot, I continued down the road towards the Hypermarket, still driving by the beach.

One birthday, Aurora showed up late with a cast around her right ankle and crutches supporting her tall but petite body. She had a smile that reached her eyes while her crutches were digging their own grave in the hot sand. For a millisecond, my heart dropped in the pit of my stomach. It happened occasionally. She would either twist her ankles every two weeks or so, or tear a ligament once every few months. That day she still managed to find a way to participate in all games. She even threw a tantrum when told to be the referee in the football match. I sighed audibly at the memory. Then rolled the window down to both soak the memory in and let go.

The ocean breeze whispered her name, and for a second, I let the crashing waves lull me to momentary relief. Adele’s full-throated voice got swallowed by nature, and I surprisingly found it relaxing. The breeze whispered, the waves roared, the birds chirped, and the sunbeams screamed, while the sand grains maintained a quiet conversation amongst themselves.

Amidst all this noise, I heard her joyous, smooth laugh. Taking a right, a left, and another right, I reached the market’s parking lot. I parked and walked myself to the entrance. I went up the side trolley entrance. Walking uphill, I looked at the rails she would use to help pull herself up to reach the door before me. My steps automatically slowed, and I waited to see her jumping up and down, flailing her arms everywhere with her red curls bouncing in all directions. Her happy dance. She started fading, and I walked through her dancing image with a clogged larynx. I breathed in, paused, let go. Inhaled, held it in and released. Breathed in and out. I repeated this a few more times, focusing on my heartbeat slowing down.

I walked down the painfully familiar aisles aimlessly, looking for something that I remember thinking I needed to get. I didn’t want any sweets. I didn’t want any crisps. I didn’t want any biscuits. I didn’t want any milk or cereal. I didn’t want any condiments. I didn’t want any salt or spices, but I did need eggs. I grabbed a dozen eggs and walked back to fetch some orange juice and a mint chocolate chip Baskin Robbin’s tub from the cold aisles, as she used to call them. To her, they were rural villages located in Britain.

I went to the “10 or less items” counter to avoid a queue. As Philip scanned my items, I caught a glimpse of the gum shelves next to him. She would beg me for a watermelon flavoured Extra by now. Philip handed me the white plastic bag with a smile that I tried to return.

The ride home did not include an ocean view. Buildings on each side kept on doubling in height. I couldn’t help but feel them closing in on me, and the two-lane street became one lane in an instance. A turn right to my apartment building was an escape I needed.

Going up the elevator and walking to my doorway, I unlocked the door, turned the knob, shut the door behind me, and threw away the key. I placed the bag in the fridge as it was, but then remembered I needed to put the ice cream in the freezer. I pulled myself to my room and shut the blinds.

Lying in bed for the third time today, I pondered my life choices. I didn’t seem to have any anymore. If I did, I knew I wouldn’t want to live for long because I knew if I were to, I wouldn’t do so without the pain.

I repeated her name in a loop in my head in a pitiful attempt to bring her back home. Why wouldn’t time stop? My time. Why wouldn’t it just stop? Why am I still holding on to it? Why am I still breathing? Why couldn’t it have been me instead? A river streamed from the corner of my eyes and poured into the delta of hair. My lips dry and trembling opened to let out a silent scream.

It was thirty minutes to six—time for dinner. I am not hungry, but I needed to eat because… I honestly didn’t know why. I took out the leftover pizza from two nights before. I put four slices into the microwave and waited for the beep. Then I turned off the kitchen lights and took my plate to the living room, and turned on the TV. I ate the semi-warm pizza and watched some show I didn’t know. I watched lips moving, but heard nothing. Thought nothing. Barely not forgetting to breathe.

We had driven to her graduation. She had glowed, and I was grinning proudly. I had forced her to get up early, so we can get to the venue early. She rolled her eyes at me, but deep down she was glad, and it showed. She was ready when she woke me up before the already early alarm I set.

Little did I know that a few more hours of sleep were what she needed to avoid that day’s events. We got there with time to spare, and she ran to her friends on stage. I watched as they discussed their standing arrangement.

“Tall students, please stand on the short bench at the back line please,” a teacher said over the microphone.

Aurora’s four friends immediately pushed her towards the bench and stood in front of her. I smiled proudly, seeing as she took her height from both her mother and I. Her mother would’ve been so proud of how long our daughter had gone from learning her first word to graduating highschool.

Soon, the ceremony started, and she was going up the stage stairs to her assigned spot on the back line bench. Rays of light beamed from her smile. At the end of the graduation, she and her friends talked about their plans. Then Aurora came up to me asking for permission to go along, and I couldn’t give in easily, but eventually, I did. After all, she had her mother’s charm. One couldn’t just deny her wishes without guilt eating them up.

I let Aurora enjoy the pool with her friends, with a promise to pick her up at around seven in the evening. I went back to work at the preschool, then home. My phone rang at about thirty to four. Aurora’s name flashed on my screen, so I answered it immediately, expecting to hear her plea to extend the curfew.

“Hey, umm… she’s okay, but we’re at the hospital,” her friend said. My brain froze. The night ended with her friend sleeping over and me texting her to drink water every thirty minutes or so. She often scared me like that, making it easy for her to prank me come April Fools.

I’m soon out for a walk. I walked and walked, nothing but Aurora occupied my thoughts. The sky morphed into a lion’s mane, and I stepped closer towards the sea. The thick sodden humidity could be inhaled, as my large coarse hands enveloped the bright urn. I traced the intricate designs with my fingertips. Traced the flowers, amber-like her curls, peaking through June’s green canvas. All blurry. All her. My lower lip trembled, and I caught it in between my teeth. A cry failed.

I looked ahead to witness the sun skinny-dipping into the sea. The sand itched its way between my sinking toes. My right hand reached to lift the lid, and my eyes shut. Waves of sorrow engulfed my being. Opening my eyelids, the only light came from the full moon and the few street lamps on the beach’s sidewalk.

She was everywhere he looked, but mostly the sea. Once the water leveled his heart, he stopped and closed his eyes, listening to the wind’s caress his cheek almost as if to wipe the falling tears. Taking a deep breath, he pulled the urn up higher and softly tilted it, watching her travel with the winds, and he let go.

<strong>Noor Alzaghal</strong>
Noor Alzaghal

Noor is a 20-year-old Palestinian writer, whose main focus is poetry, but is exploring fiction writing. She’s a senior English language and literature student at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine looking to pursue higher education in creative writing and literature. She runs a local creative writing and drama group called Englitopia, and she fully intends to expand it in the foreseeable future to include youth all over the world.

Noor is yet to be a published author but has been working on a few projects for a while now. However, she is aiming to build an audience on Instagram before publishing anything. She believes that creative writing is not only a passion but also a powerful tool for self-discovery, self-awareness, self-development and self-expression. 

Follow her writing on Instagram: @noorpoetica 

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here. 

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Dark Christmas

Dark Christmas by Lina Nafie

Once upon a nightmare, under a dark sky and behind gloomy trees, there was a manor in Scotland. The fog hid the murky frontage wall. You couldn’t miss it when you were entering Edinburgh. Nobody had the courage anymore to cross the threshold of this huge house different from the others and there was a reason.

The Hamilton family had adopted a girl everyone feared, her name was Olga. She was as white as the falling snow of December, her hair was bright like the lightning that illuminates the sky on a stormy day and her eyes were so clear that they pierced you. No one could look at them. She had a very low voice and a tone so cold that you could just freeze, hearing her.

Since they adopted her, she just sat there every day, at the same window staring at the falling rain that slowly turned into snow. This was the first time she would celebrate Christmas with her new family.

Even though everyone feared her, and that she didn’t smile anymore, Olga liked her new family, but she knew they had a secret. A deep and sad secret, but she could never ask them about it.

The couple that had adopted her already had two children, a young girl, older than her named Fiona, and a boy younger than her named Logan.

The days had passed. The evening of the 24th of December finally arrived. Outside the snow was falling in large flakes and the blizzard was so strong that we could hear the wind tapping on the windows and the sky was dark, nothing could be seen through the windows of the manor except the shadow of the huge trees that were hiding the mansion.

Olga and Logan were locked in a room playing with some toys and chatting about this special evening. Logan loved to imagine what kind of present he could get on Christmas evening.

“I hope to get this year the soldiers that match my castle! I’ve waited so long to get them!” cheered Logan.”

“I never liked these kinds of events,” said Olga, with her natural frosty tone.

“Why not? Christmas is great! You will love it here with us. Every year our godfather Drosselmeyer comes and bring us awesome toys he made!” said Logan.

“Don’t be too happy, Logan. The blizzard outside is so strong that uncle Drosselmeyer can’t come until morning. We will spend the night here,” said Fiona, walking in the room.

“Oh no! Wait, Fiona, why did you come in here? Does it mean that?” asked Logan.

Suddenly the lights went out. Everything became silent, except for the blizzard outside. The door opened, a big black silhouette followed, scaring the children.

“Surprise!” screamed Mrs. Hamilton, holding a candle.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton stood in front of the door. They were smiling to the top of their laps. Logan was very happy and ran to his parents’ arms. Olga didn’t show any emotions. Fiona noticed it and felt sorry for her. She came closer to her.

“Are you okay?” she asked nicely.

“Yes,” answered Olga.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton took the three children down to the living room. They gave Fiona and Logan their presents. Olga silently watched her adoptive brother and sister open their presents with her blue piercing eyes. Mrs. Hamilton watched her.

“Olga? Come here honey, we also have something for you. Godfather Drosselmeyer made it for you,” she said.

Mrs. Hamilton gave Olga a small packed box. Olga unpacked it slowly and discovered a small Nutcracker with a big mouth. The worn paint made it seem old. He was scary with his big black eyes and his big opened mouth. He had a big head and wore a red officer costume. The young girl held it in her hands, intrigued by his gloomy face, when it suddenly surprised her. She thought that the Nutcracker smiled at her. Olga got scared and put him on the table. Mrs. and now Mr. Hamilton looked carefully at her. They tried to make her smile.

“So Olga, do you like it?” asked Mrs. Hamilton, smiling hopefully.

“Yes. Thank you,” said Olga, lying.

“You know what is it?” asked Mr. Hamilton, also hopeful.

Olga shook her head no.

“It’s a Nutcracker. As the name says, it cracks nuts. When you find a nut too hard for your little teeth, like this one, you put it in his mouth, here.  Then you close it, and the nut breaks,” said Mr. Hamilton, showing her.

Olga took the Nutcracker in her hands with amusement. She smiled a little, saying nothing. The Hamilton parents were glad to have made Olga smile finally. But they looked at the big clock in the living room. It was getting late. They looked at their two children, Fiona and Logan, who were playing happily with their new toys.

“Children! It is time for bed now!” shouted Mrs. Hamilton.

Fiona and Logan sighed. They left their toys in the living room and went to their rooms. Olga didn’t move and continued playing with her new toy.

“Olga it is time for bed” said Mr. Hamilton, smiling.

Olga didn’t listen to her adoptive father. The Nutcracker captivated her. The candlelight near her toy made a big and frightening shadow on the wall. Seeing that Olga wouldn’t move, Mr. Hamilton took the candle and smiled at her. It was the only candle left in the living room.

“The Nutcracker can come in bed with you,” he said.

Olga got up with the Nutcracker in her hands and went to the room she shared with Logan. Even though Olga liked her Nutcracker, she felt glad to get in her warm bed. Outside, the blizzard was so strong that the walls couldn’t insulate the house well. A chilly atmosphere reigned in the dusky room. It was silent. Logan slept already. Olga felt a cold blast. She got scared and climbed in her bed, leaving the Nutcracker on her bedside table. The house plunged into a deafening silence. The coldness soon left leaving behind a frightening atmosphere.

Olga woke in the middle of the night from a horrible nightmare. She could have sworn she heard not only footsteps but people talking in the living room. 

“Logan? Logan.” she whispered, but no one answered. She looked in the bed next to hers. Even though it was dark, her blue piercing eyes noticed that her adoptive brother’s bed was empty. Then Olga saw a faint light appear in the hallway. She stood up from her bed and walked to the living room. There were voices coming from the living room.

Olga approached the voices until they became clear. Then she  recognized the Hamilton’s little boy, Logan. He was speaking to someone. It wasn’t Fiona’s voice, or Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton. Olga walked further into the living room. 

Logan held the only candlelight, and to her shock, he was talking to mice. “Logan?” she said. 

Surprised by his adopted sister, Logan put out his candle, plunging the room in a total black. A silence settled in the room, with the subtle sound of blizzard wind outside.

The room grew colder. Olga shivered. 

“Soldiers, charge! Attack her!” someone yelled.

Sharp pokes at her feet scared Olga, who couldn’t see anything. She didn’t understand what was happening and ran. But blinded by the absence of light, Olga run into furniture, the walls, and Fiona and Logan’s toys.

Despite her many attempts, she couldn’t escape the pointy things that pained her feet. Then she felt a hand on her nose and mouth. Someone behind Olga wanted to silence her. But Olga put up a fight, kicking the person behind her until he or she let her go.

“She’s too strong! We have to do something!” someone screamed.

Before Olga could react, she felt a cold energy around her. Then she felt someone in front of her. She tried to run away but, still blinded by the dark, hit against something hard and cold. She moved her hand to check for a wall. But she felt a lip. A hard lip.

“Could this be?” she said.

“Yes, I am the Nutcracker!” said a voice above her.

Then everything became clear to Olga. The cold energy that surrounded her was magic. Dark magic. Someone had cast a spell on Olga to make her small. The size of her Nutcracker. Olga felt an icy hand take her arm and pull her behind, then it let her go. It confused her. Then noises, like a knife cutting. Having read enough fairy tales, she understood right away it was a battle, and it terrified her. She walked along the wall trying to find a suitable place to hide, but the swords drew closer to her. 

“Olga, go! You must leave this room, leave this place, you are in danger here. They will find you everywhere!” said a voice, but something or someone interrupted it.

Olga heard a hard thing fall next to her. She walked toward the noise but hurt her foot bumping into a piece of wood. It was her Nutcracker. It lost the battle. Who had her Nutcracker battled?

Olga heard an evil laugh. The laugh sounded obscure and cruel, and it got louder. She felt the gloomy laugh approaching her when she heard someone whispering her name. “Olga, Olga” said the voice. 

Olga turned slowly, afraid to face it. A chilly breath passed through her body. She saw small red eyes, red like blood, and it petrified her. The eyes came closer to her. Olga started running as fast as she could and tried to find the door from which she came. She stopped to catch her breath and looked back. The red eyes disappeared. Relieved, she turned back when abruptly she heard again the evil laugh over her. Olga looked up, terrified. The small red eyes stared at her. She stepped back, screaming. Was this what the Hamilton family called “Christmas evening”? Was this why they liked this event so much? The eyes jumped on her. Olga screamed at the top of her lungs.

Then another scream, a louder one, sounded in the room. It wasn’t Olga’s voice. Terrified, Olga cried and begged the eyes to let her go. She couldn’t stand looking at them anymore and squeezed her eyes shut till she passed out.

Olga awoke in her bed. She looked around her. Everything was light and clear. It was morning. Next to her, Logan slept peacefully. She looked at her bedside table.  The Nutcracker stood where she left it. She closed her eyes and put her hands on her head. She remembered that her brother wasn’t in his bed. She saw a light coming from the living room, that her brother was there talking to someone. She remembered everything. 

Olga took her Nutcracker in her hands, but it looked normal. Nothing had changed about her toy.

“I’m sure it was just a nightmare,” she told herself.

Probably the worst nightmare she’s ever had. She got up from bed and went to the living room. As she thought, everything was normal.

The big clock on the wall showed it was 9 o’clock in the morning. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton sat calmly in the living room drinking tea. 

Fiona came in a few minutes later. “Good morning, everyone! Rough night, huh?” she said.

“Yes,” answered Olga, in her distant tone.

“Where is Logan? Shouldn’t he be awake already?” asked Fiona.

“Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen him all morning. Maybe he just wanted to sleep,” said Mrs. Hamilton.

“I’m not sure I’ll go check on his room,” said Fiona.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton let her go. Unfortunately, Olga couldn’t explain why, but she had a terrible feeling. Like something happened or would happen. She reasoned it was because of her nightmare. No. Something terrible would happen. 

A sharp scream resonated from the walls of the manor. They all ran toward the scream coming from Logan and Olga’s bedroom. Mr. Hamilton was the first one to reach the room.

“What’s wrong Fiona?” he asked, out of breath.

“Oh my god dad, it’s terrible, look!” she cried, turning around.

Mrs. Hamilton and Olga stood at the door, horrified. Fiona, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton cried over Logan, dead in his bed. 

It appeared to Olga someone stabbed him in the back. She walked closer to him. His eyes open and emotionless. She tried to move his arms, but they were lifeless. The Hamilton cried all the tears from their body.  They couldn’t believe something like this would happen, and on Christmas day. 

Olga felt touched. She couldn’t move anymore. She felt horrible, sad and most of all, guilty. She didn’t even know why, but she felt that Logan’s death was her fault. The tears came slowly to her blue eyes, illuminating them. 

Mr. Hamilton took Olga in his arms and hugged her. Unable to control it, Olga cried too, and Mr. Hamilton took her out of the room. While they were leaving, Olga noticed that the Nutcracker disappeared. 

Her adoptive father took her to the living room where Mrs. Hamilton and Fiona sat crying. Olga cried with them, crying all the tears she had. No one could believe what happened, no one at all. Not even godfather Drosselmeyer, who came a few hours later. The blizzard had stopped, and the roads cleared. Christmas Day turned to the darkest, most horrible day. 

The family never recovered from Logan’s death. Not even his adoptive sister, Olga.

The Hamiltons waited for Christmas to pass to have Logan’s funeral. 

Olga was the most touched by Logan’s death. She still felt guilt about it. Like she had a connection to his death, or was the reason he died. She sat by the window watching the snow fall from the sky. The big green trees turned white. She felt empty, something in her was missing.

“Olga? Olga?”

She turned back. She was sure she heard someone whispering her name. Olga searched the room, but no one was there. The voice she heard was familiar.

“Olga?”

Olga felt a cold wooden hand touch her legs. She knew the touch.  Reluctantly, she peered down. It was Nutcracker was calling her. She gave a little stifled cry.

“Shush, I will not hurt you!” said the Nutcracker.

“Then what do you want from me?” she asked.

“Nothing, it’s what you want from me!”

“I want nothing from you!” said Olga.

“You want to understand what happened to Logan, don’t you?”

“Yes, more than everything. But you’re a Nutcracker, how can you know anything?“ cried Olga.

“Well, actually…”

The Nutcracker explained to Olga everything that happened on Christmas evening to Logan’s death, and suddenly everything became clearer to the young girl. She was right about everything. During the night, someone had put a spell on her to make her tiny. Her adoptive brother spoke to someone. It was a mouse. 

The Nutcracker explained that her brother, or the person she thought was her brother, was actually a rat. An evil rat at the service of the Rat King. A long time ago, the Rat King had cursed the Nutcracker. Olga was the only one who could break it. When she came to the living room on Christmas night, they had thought she knew about everything so they tried to kill her. That’s when the Nutcracker came to rescue.

Logan tried to murder her. When the rat jumped on her, the Nutcracker stabbed him in the back and killed him. The rat uttered a horrible cry and then died. Afterwards, the Nutcracker took the sleeping Olga to her bed and Logan, then dead, to his bed. Then he placed himself back on the bedside table. 

Christmas evening wasn’t a dream but reality. After telling Olga his story, the Nutcracker left the room. Minutes later, a young, handsome gentleman entered the room and presented himself to Olga.

“Good afternoon, my sweet young lady. I am Nathaniel Drosselmeyer, Mr. Drosselmeyer’s nephew. It’s very enchanting to meet you.”  He kissed Olga’s hand and stayed to talk to her. 

He flattered and intrigued her. But Nathaniel’s voice was strangely familiar. 

<strong>Lina Nafie</strong>
Lina Nafie


My name is Lina, I was born the 30th of June 1997 in Cairo, Egypt to a French-Egyptian father and an Algerian-Syrian mother. My curiosity has always led me to the most random places on earth and it has now led me to small magical Luxembourg where I have been living for 2 years.

I am always described by my loved ones as a very creative and imaginative girl. Friendly with a bubbly personality and who is always traveling and always positive. I grew to be this person as I have always loved to read stories, especially fairy tales.

I have a great passion for writing and that I absolutely love to share my stories. Whatever I go through in life, I always make sure to end up with a good story to tell, hoping it will inspire and maybe help others. Because if you are not taking risks and being a little crazy, you are not living life to the fullest. As I always say, “Look beyond what you can see”.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here. 

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Raritan

Raritan

Raritan, written by Edwina Joe-Kamara

Raritan

I shouldn’t have stopped there. I had too much to do rather than sit at the lake for an hour or so, pondering at the possible twists and turns life would throw at me that week. But the sashaying waves and its positivity reached its arms out to embrace my negative thoughts, begging to comfort them.

I pulled my bright red 2004 Nissan Sentra onto the blue gravel that served as a makeshift parking lot. Then shifted the gear to the soft orange glowing P, wriggled my gray beanie over my head, and forced the zipper of my black long-bodied coat all the way up to my chin to protect from the cold. I wrenched my keys from the ignition and jostled them around in my dry palms to hear their song before stepping out of the car’s bubble of warmth.

My worn sneakers hit the gravel, crunching the small rocks underfoot. I thought I was completely sealed in my jacket’s warmth, save for my hands and ankles, but the wind managed to infiltrate the boundaries that were set. Its cool whistle set my body to vibrate, and my teeth became well acquainted in their incessant dancing.

The sun started its descent and sent its streaks of pink, yellow, and blood orange stretching across the sky’s blue canvas. These same drops of color spilled onto the lake’s body. I stiffly began my short march to the water’s edge where a lone metal bleacher stood unevenly on the terrain, unoccupied.

I lowered myself onto the bottom row of the stand, wincing at the sharp chill that shot through my exposed fingers gripping its edge to gain my balance. Once settled, I tucked my hands under my armpits as an attempt to reduce the numbing that began to crawl up my poor extremities.

I looked out at the landscape. There were patches of green grass attempting to thrive amongst the wilted browns that took over most of the ground.

The infrequent days of warmth really confused them into thinking spring was coming sooner. March’s indecision to be either warm or frigid was at fault. In the same confusion, the trees were half dead, lurching over the opaque water as if its gray limbs scattered with leaves of green suffered from kyphosis.

On the farther side of the lake, the murmuring of couples, so captivated by themselves rather than the view, drifted into my area. I’ve sat in that exact spot of the bleacher many times before, hoping one day to be lost in eyes of honey or emerald. But then, on days like this, I see the golden streams of light waving their last goodbyes.

The water rolls and waves back softly in return until the moon’s slow arrival excites it into a flash mob of reflecting white light. And I realize I don’t want to trade this show for another’s performance. At least not for a while.

Indigo splashed over the horizon and soon it was hard to see anything but the dark shadows of the dead trying to emulate the living.

The cold had nearly left me embalmed, so I rose with difficulty. My blood ran its race through my limbs as I took each step stiffly back to my small car.

The handle of the driver’s door and my hand were the same temperatures, so I pulled it upward with ease and slid into the seat, quickly pulling my coat tail in after so the wind could do the work of shutting my door with such chivalry.

I couldn’t tell you what else I thought of while witnessing the day’s finale. But when I sat in the car, twisted the key in the ignition, and listened to my car wheeze a few times before rumbling to life, I had come to accept nature as being a comfort from my solitary.

Maybe that’s what the wind was trying to convince me of the entire time it whispered its piercing trill in my ear.

<strong>Edwina Joe-Kamara</strong>
Edwina Joe-Kamara

Edwina Joe-Kamara is a first-generation Sierra-Leonean American. She is currently earning her B.A. for English at The College of New Jersey.

Her poetry and artwork were recently published in her university’s literary magazine, Lion’s Eye. She finds inspiration for her poetry and short stories from her faith, nature, music, and battles with mental health.

She aspires to be a full-time writer/illustrator and hopes to travel the world. She is currently working on a manuscript for an unnamed chapbook. She resides in South Brunswick, NJ with her mother, Justina.

Follow her poetry account on Instagram for regular content: @e.j.kamara

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here. 

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In Sickness and in Health

In Sickness and in Health

In Sickness and in Health by Kristi Jeansonne

I remember staring at him from across the room wondering how I could love him more than he loved me. How could any God in this universe allow that? I remember how I unzipped my chest and took out my bloody, naïve heart and handed it to him… while he lounged on the sofa and counted ceiling tiles.

My 20-year-old self needed a prince, a knight, or at least a man who just would tell me how enchanting I was. I wanted him to burn down buildings and then walk through the fire to rescue me. I wanted him to see me in slow motion… to be his muse and his motivation for breathing. He should shed his masculinity but still, be a man. I thought I needed him to take me to rooftops and compare my eyes to stare. Or tell me that all the magic in the world is contained in the small space found between his palms and mine.

Love was matching tattoos and anniversaries of trivial firsts. Love was catching me off guard, taking my picture, and remembering me this young forever. Love was walking away just to feel the crushing devastation of missing each other.

I didn’t get that love. I didn’t get that man.

I discovered that love isn’t made of expectations or time lines. Love isn’t a cheap postcard.
Love isn’t a heart….. love is a backbone.

Instead, I got a man who sat near my hospital bed counting the seconds until I woke. A man who could list all my medications like ingredients in a recipe. A man who knows I am broken but never tries to fix me; only discovers a more delicate way to hold me. A man who isn’t afraid of words like cancer or recurrence because we take each day as its own. One day at a time… sometimes one minute at a time.

What I got was a man who lets me unfold myself into his arms when I’m having a bad day and celebrates the major achievement of having a good day. And I realized that rooftops and sad songs and romantic ideals Do Not Matter.

All the magic in the world is really contained in his hands as they hold my face and he looks into my tired eyes to whisper, “It’s you and me.”

The Beginning of Ugly

Written by Kristi Jeansonne

Here I am. I sit here in the dark curtains drawn together tightly with the edges tacked with clear plastic pins shoved almost horizontally into the drywall. I run to lock my door and in a panic; I tuck a blanket into the tiny gap under the door. No light is to breakthrough.

The pain is coming. Sitting on the floor isn’t enough. I must be more hidden, more isolated. I need to crawl into the closet and shut the door behind me. My back is against the wall and my head in my hands. This is where the pain comes. This is where the pain lives…. here in my hands.

I remember the first time I thought about taking my own life. I was 8 years old and under my bed, at the bottom of the heavy bedpost, I carved ‘I want to die.’

The words were simplistic; the writing was primitive, and mostly, the statement was powerful. I had no concept of death and dying, of beating hearts or failing organs. I had no conceptual ideas of heaven and hell. I didn’t realize the extreme permanence of making my words into actions. What I did know is that dying meant disappearing. And above all, I wanted to vanish.

I can’t remember the first time I was insulted or the first time I was hit. But I do know where ugly begins. I know where ugly lives, right here in the palms of my hands.

I used to feel heartbroken until I realized that my heart was fine. It’s my mind that’s broken. In this closet, in this darkness, I begin to release the victim inside of me. victim. victim. victim. victim. ugly. ugly. ugly. The words must be said to begin letting go. Say the words with mevictim. ugly. Repeat the word, write the word, stare at the word. The more you say it, the more you see it, the more foreign it feels.

Cradling back and forth, I can think. I’m unable to hear or see. All is numb except for the intense pain in the pit of my gut. The pain crawls from the center of me, up through my aching heart and erupts out through my eyes. The pain carries my memories through this well-worn path.

The wave of emotion knocks me down and washes over me. This closet is like the ocean. I’m drowning in this salty, polluted water while the broken, sandy ground below me does little to help. My body is aching, and my soul is crying out to return to dry land. I can do this: I can save myself. I can stand up and save myself from drowning. Then, I manage to pull myself up and gasp for air.

Breathe. Focus. Walk three steps. Collapse.

Falling onto the wooden floor grasping at splinters and following the worn-in, destructive path of hard times. This is who I am. A broken person, sick with some sort of mental pain. Violently drunk with desperation, my eyelids crush together to force out tears and mildly ease my blurred vision.

I see a glass atop my desk. In a reversed-crippled fashion, I stumble upwards to tower over my cluttered belongings. In one massive sweep, I clear all from my sight, revealing an ivory desktop smeared with ink and makeup stains.

I needed to hear the crash. I took a breath of relief as I felt some anxiety waning. With the tears still streaming, I flash over to the mess below, neighboring my bare feet.

With zero hesitation, I fall to my knees and dig my palms into the millions of shards of glass. My hands and mind all ache with relief.

The sight of blood soothes my mental state as if I tricked myself into believing this was why I was flooding myself in tears in the first place. With trembling fingers, I scoop the salty puddles from between my lips. I prop my limp bag of blood and bones against the wall and begin to feel peace.

It’s as if I was at war with my imaginary self and reluctantly I won.
I curl my blood-soaked fingers together and tighten my fist. It’ll soon be time for my hands to open wide and expose this pain once again.

Kristi Jeansonne

Kristi is a mother of two, a two time cancer survivor, and no-nonsense kind of gal from Lafayette, Louisiana. She is an avid coffee drinker, counts frequent eye rolling as cardio, and loves a comfy cardigan.

She also loves to write about deeply personal experiences and uses writing as therapy. If you’d like to read more writing, you can check out her Instagram page @yellow.house.artandpoetry

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

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Rosie

Rosie

Rosie by Tanya Kochar

He came home feeling exhausted, as if someone extracted vim and vigour out of his youthful enthusiasm.

“How long would I be able to hide her?” his mind whispered.

His profound thought bubble ruptured as soon as he heard her voice! He moved silently towards the bathroom and began to peep through the door gap.

There she was, lying on the floor. Struggling all by herself to save her weary half body.

She saw him having a peek at her, and just then she shouted, “How could you do this to someone? You have no rights to treat me like this!”

Her voice expressed lividness just like her bruised half body.

“I bought you. I can use you, cut you,” he replied.

She looked at him with wrath as he blabbered.

“I can smell you, touch you.” He continued to speak as he moved towards her.

She looked away from his disgust.

“Save me, I’ll melt in you, or crush me and kill me,” she begged.

He twisted the tap knob and left the premises.

The water came gushing out, touching her body. She started to dissolve into the speeding water and she moved out swiftly through the floor drain.

Her smell was hard to diminish, just like she said.

Rosie Soap, with extra rose petal fragrance.

<strong>Tanya Kochar</strong>
Tanya Kochar

I am commonly known as the woman with a quill.
Who lives in the paradise of tales.
Inhaling imaginations.
Creativity is what I exhale.

I am a writer by passion and a brand strategist by choice. Successfully striking a balance between sipping wine and deadlines! I’m based out of Mumbai, commonly known as the “city of dreams.”  Thereby, living the dream of bringing all my ideas into words and finally converting them into realities.

Writing has always been my serious passion. Be it for brands or just a casual fictional write up for open mics across Mumbai’s storytelling and poetry communities.

Want to know more about my life?
Here’s me Instagram handle – @the_sinskaari
Happy sneak peak!

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

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Sunshine by Liza Rose

Sunshine by Liza Rose

Sunshine by Liza Rose

Her life began in a beige and green grass field. A headfirst tumble into existence. A soft thud as the earth accepted the weight of her. A soft sound from my mouth as the wait for her ended. Then silence.

Nine months of carrying life in my swollen stomach lead to this moment: her, a tangle of dark limbs in the grass; me, a tangle of every emotion beneath the summer sky. What more was there to do? What was there to say? Me, just standing. Me, a deer in headlights. Warm sun above. Big dark eyes below. A baby. Sunshine. 

I wanted to apologize. Wanted to kneel down and tell her how sorry I was. I’m sorry that you exist. I had no choice. But she didn’t speak the language that lied like thick milk on my tongue. She spoke only the language that exists between mother and child. The language of milk and mouth. A hungry cry. A clumsy attempt to nurse. Me still sorry, but trying to give her what I could.

I was one of the lucky ones, they said. Some aren’t so lucky. Some don’t even get to see the baby.They put her head in a cage, I heard. Kept her eyes straight ahead. I heard the baby was born male. Poor mother, poor baby. Up the road, they tie their necks to posts. That’s a little better, I guess. Do you think you’ll get to see your baby? 

I spent days watching the sun rise and fall. Waiting. Waiting for them to take her. But soon she was walking. Soon the leaves were changing and crunching beneath her clumsy steps. We walked together along the fence, stopping here and there to watch the horses through the slats. She tried to talk to them sometimes like I did when I was young.

In the Spring of one exceptionally wet year in my youth, I watched a boy race around on a great white horse. It had been raining that morning, and I could feel the slickness of the earth beneath my own body. So it was no surprise when the horse crashed onto its side, taking the boy with it. Both let out primal screams. A gray-haired man scooped the child up in his arms. The horse, however, stayed there on its side for two days, grunting. Then, on that second day, the man came out into the field again. I watched him watch the creature. Run his long fingers over its snout. Pull something shiny from his waist. Watched the way it fit against his skin like an extension of the human hand. Boom. A sound like a quick bolt of lightning striking a tree. A soft echo. Silence.

I told her this, my baby, so she would know of both acts of kindness and of cruelty and how sometimes they had to overlap. I loved her, despite not wanting to. I loved her, and that’s why I did what I did. The night they pierced her ear, I knew that time was running out. I knew her future was approaching, the one I had lived, the one my mother had lived, one of chronic pregnancy and pain and babies being taken from you just to live in the same purgatory. Until death. And so I fell asleep on top of her.

Her life ended in a beige and green grass field, and I was alone again. Soon, I was growing another inside of me. I felt so empty for such a swollen creature. The spring was cold and wet, and I missed the feeling of sunshine upon my skin, of the warmth of a baby next to me. But I didn’t wish to feel it again.

I wished that a wolf had found us that day in the field. Wished that he would have torn her throat out. Because a wolf knows no cruelty, just survival. Humans are worse. I hope that they tie my neck to a post when I give birth to the life growing inside of me now. It would be an act of kindness. I can’t raise another and feel what I feel now. And they can’t even see my sorrow, hear my cries. All because I have four legs and hooves. Because I was born a cow. Because my baby was, too. 

I Bare My Teeth

by Liza Rose

I am fighting 
to feel, 
fighting 
to not feel 
as much.

I long to be 
a house cat
content 
in watching birds 
through a dusty window;
content 
in finding a patch of sunlight 
whose heat I can curl up in;
content 
in sinking my claws into carpeting,
yawning, flicking my tail,
stretching my back
to the crescent moon.

I long to be 
a house cat.
I long to be 
content.

But I am not. 

I am fighting 
to feel, 
fighting 
to not feel 
as much.

I am an animal
blessed with intelligence,
cursed with intelligence.
blessed with emotion.
cursed with awareness.

My self defense
lies not in claws or jaws 
but in pretending.

And so
I bare my teeth
in the form 
of a smile
and pretend
to be 
content.

<strong>Liza Rose</strong>
Liza Rose

Liza Rose is a student at The Pennsylvania State University studying English. We can find her work in the poetry anthologies “War Crimes Against the Uterus” by Wide Eyes Publishing, and “Foraging” by Globalage Poetry. 

She enjoys tennis, coffee, horror films, poetry, and everything else that makes her feel utterly alive.
Connect with her on Instagram @Lizarosepoetry & @Liza.lies.alot!

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Vedran Tomsic

Vedran Tomsic

In True Love for a Brief Moment

Flash Fiction by Vedran Tomsic

I picked you up on a summer bluebird afternoon. We decided to leave it all behind for a day and indulge in whatever. 

You see other guys; I live other lives, neither of us minds. Both our hearts, guts and souls were once ripped apart and torn, that’s what makes us strong. We already know our dirty secrets from way before, missing open intimacy, not the score.

You put on a badass song and squeezed my right hand resting in your lap; I kissed the back of yours. A tear of joy started to flood the corner of my left eye. I welcomed it. Your smile outshined the sunset behind us.

We cherished that serene moment of true level, seeing that if there is anything we know is that moments get gone. I am a patient man unlike those boys you like to play; you get me harder than a diamond and I understand drama so I know how buildup can turn a bedroom into a sauna.

But it isn’t imperative for us to fuck as it’s fundamental that we are in each other’s lives and that we protect it at all costs. That much we know. The day was going way too good, close to kitsch. So when we stopped at that one gas station where the bathrooms were working, I just had to try to tongue kiss you in the car because I knew you wouldn’t let me, it made the day perfect.

We laughed about it. Moments are hitchhikers and I picked up one more at the end of the road, gently kissed your lips and squeezed you hard around the waist before I deployed for my personal holy war. As I pulled away, I peered at your silhouette in the rearview.

You never looked back. That’s why I respect you.

On Raphael

Poetry by Vedran Tomsic

Default set to childlike wonder
transcending age and time
globes of silent thunder
lowly and sublime.


Consuming in parallax
the madness that is world
shifted perspective syntax
from baked to raw to served.


Two things we truly own
man’s angel wings of soul
trapped in glass domes
where the wonder child can grow,


forever.

Meet Vedran

<strong>Vedran Tomsic </strong>
Vedran Tomsic

Vedran is a photographer from Slovenia. During a week off in New York in January he went around town collecting feedback on a photo book dummy and got the advice to think about including some writing instead of just photographs.

Six months later he did. It started as a project of combining photography and poetry. Since then, it went from writing poetry and short stories to becoming an integral part of his creative process with more and more serious aspirations with the medium. As a newcomer to shuffling words, he is yet to publish a book, but you can find his writing on Instagram @pencutsandpaperstains

This post contains affiliate links. An affiliate link means I may earn advertising/referral fees if you make a purchase through my link, with no extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little magazine afloat. Thanks for your support. Read full disclosure here.

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Pastel Dress

Pastel Dress

Pastel Dress by Aysha Nasrin

It was a warm Sunday morning in the mid of summer. Aiden had already overworked and worn out after a frantic week at his office. He slept through the night like a rock. The morning light glistened in his tan skin. Aiden was six feet tall with messy brunet hair and deep chocolate brown eyes. He was rational and earnest in the works he did. Aiden woke up from his bed and looked through his mail.

“God! NOT AGAIN,” he said, groaning in distress and pulled the blanket over his head as he dashed the phone back and closed his eyes again.  Aiden couldn’t sleep as his stomach growled. He stood up and raided the entire refrigerator, but couldn’t find anything to eat. He put on his shirt and track and went out to get breakfast.

It was 8 AM on Sunday morning.  The diner looked calmer than usual because no one would wake up at 8 on a weekend. He had the usual breakfast with coffee and felt alive after the dose of caffeine in his blood. 
“Thank you.” He greeted the waitress and left the place.

On his way back home, unlikely the whole street looked composed and the vacant roads seemed bizarre. Suddenly, he saw an odd building in the opposite lane of the street.  “It was never here before. Was it?”  He gaped, then crossed the road and took a closed look at the board outside of the shop, which read ‘object d’ art’. It was a bookstore in the middle of nowhere.

“Maybe I didn’t see it before,” he thought to himself.

The whole facet of the book store looked distinctive.  The interior of the store enthralled Aiden.  He saw people reading the books here and there, who had a confused expression about the existence of the bookstore as him.  It had a collection of vintage books and he loved the place as it reminded him of one of his favorite horror movies. He flipped through book after book in the entire history section. The smell of the book simplified the value of it. Every book was a limited edition. The history of the English monarchy had always fascinated him.

His cell phone rang. “Shhhh.”  Someone from the back of the book rack shushed him. 
“Sorry,” he whispered. “Hey! Call you later.”  He hung up the phone abruptly. “Do you have another copy of this?”

He heard a distant mellow voice asking him a question, and he turned around.  It was a girl.  A beautiful girl in a pastel-colored dress.  Overdressed for the morning.  Her auburn curly hair cautiously curled. Her hazel eyes twinkled in the morning light and her chiseled face gleamed in the vintage bookstore. She looked surreal and Aiden couldn’t take his eyes off her.  She held an amused reaction as her beauty stumbled him.

“Excuse me!”
She waved back at him. “Me? No, you’re mistaken.  I don’t work here.”  That the most stunning girl in the world thought of him as ‘A guy who works in a weird bookstore’ embarrassed him.  
She blushed and said. “Well I know.”
“You know?” Aiden beamed. 
She nodded and flushed again.
“Man!”  Aiden murmured.  She is blushing for you, he thought to himself.

She looked straight into his chocolate brown eyes. Their eyes met.  Aiden never felt like this with anyone. He has been with many girls before, but he wasn’t in love with anyone. His relationships flickered like rain in a tropical country. He looked at her again, her wide hazel eyes were already looking into his.

When four eyes met, love was born. 

“And you are…?” Aiden prompted the conversation, but a loud bang interrupted. 

People screamed.  He couldn’t understand what was going on. It happened before he could realize it. A bullet punched through the girl’s right temple.  A stranger shot her.  She fell down on the floor and blood streamed from her head. 

“Oh my God,” Aiden cried.  “Why? God!!! Why?” he screamed in agony. He looked at the shooter in despair but the shooter looked disturbed as he wasn’t sure why he shot the girl from the bookstore.

Aiden couldn’t save the girl or the people who were running here and there. He looked around, and they flooded the bookstore with blood. 
At last, the gunman pointed the gun at Aiden as he was the last one standing and he panicked before he even moved.

Crack.

AIDEN WAS SHOT

Aiden found his love and death at the same time and at the same place. 

It was unbearable. He howled in pain, he couldn’t breathe nor move. He felt like someone had tied his entire body with a cord.  He heard his own pulse, and it was fading slowly. His legs were ice cold, and the coldness had spread into his entire body. He couldn’t bear the pain. 

In the mayhem’s midst, he heard a distant voice from the radio, “Local gunman shot the people like it was a video game. People posted it online. And the police reported that the gunman was mentally unstable.” The news anchor reported.  Confused, Aiden rested his head down as he closed his eyes. Finally, he let go of himself.

iPhone’s ringtone screeched. 

“Oh my God,” Aiden gasped. He couldn’t breathe. He opened his eyes and searched for the phone that rang a minute ago. He held his chest. He couldn’t move. But he didn’t feel the cold anymore. “Oh my God! I’m alive,” he screamed with joy.  He looked around and realized he was in his home not in the bookstore. He found his phone and checked the time.

8 AM

He rubbed his eyes harder. He couldn’t believe it.

“Argh! It was a dream,” he sighed. “Thank God.” He stood up from his bed and sat down for a while as he recollected his dream again. “It wasn’t a dream. It was a Nightmare.”  He was glad that it wasn’t real. But it felt real to him in every sense.  His stomach growled as he was hungry. He raided through his entire refrigerator, as he couldn’t find anything. 
He put on his tees and tracks to get his breakfast.

He went to the diner where he usually eats. Unlike in the dream, he saw people having their breakfast in the diner. He sighed in relief and sat down in his seat. 

“So, what’s your order, sir?.” “The usual,” he replied. “No, wait..” He heard the same mellow voice before.  He looked up to see the face of that voice. 
It shook Aiden. “Usual? Sorry, I’m new here. Can you repeat your order, please?” she asked. 

Aiden trembled and stuttered as he stood up to leave. “No I’m not hungry.”  He hurried to the exit and left the place. He ran as fast as he could.  He couldn’t breathe as he stopped.

“The same girl with the pastel dress.  Same hazel eyes,” he murmured.  He didn’t know if the dream haunted him or the girl.  “Both,” he mumbled.  “Love is my nightmare.” He sighed in relief and ran for his life.  But how far could he go?  He would never know. 

Meet Aysha

<strong>Aysha Nasrin </strong>
Aysha Nasrin

My name is Aysha Nasrin and I go by pen name A. N. Born and brought up from a small town in the southern part of India. My physical age is 27, but my mind hasn’t aged in the last 7 years. I’m a homemaker and mother of two beautiful boys who never fail to make my day.

Periodically I wrote in the notepads of the phone, it started off as an escape from reality, then it turned into a hobby and now it became a part of me. I was part of three published anthologies and I got an Instagram account to connect with other writers.  Instagram Id @whenshewrites_an 

This post contains affiliate links. An affiliate link means I may earn advertising/referral fees if you make a purchase through my link, with no extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little magazine afloat. Thanks for your support. Read full disclosure here.

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That Summer Day

That Summer Day

That Summer Day by Perry Kornbluh

Summer days in Louisiana are not quite the picture of fun.  On that day the temperature reached above ninety but that didn’t stop our family from venturing out for our weekly barbeque.  I was probably the only sixteen-year-old in my neighborhood that stayed behind that year, while all my friends attended summer camp.

“Jane,” said my dad when I broached the subject, “When I was your age, we didn’t go to summer camp.” 

Personally, I think he was just scared to see me go. I tried arguing, cajoling, even threatening but nothing helped. So, I spent my summer roasting under the sun during the day, and at night, getting bitten by a thousand blood-sucking mosquitos while I watched the stars and asked God questions that he never answered.

“Janie dear, we’re leaving to the lake in five minutes. If you don’t get down here by then, you’ll have to pedal all the way there yourself.”

I grunted.  “Nobody needs these stupid barbecues.” 

But tradition was the tradition in our family.  I didn’t bother changing out my pajamas, or fixing my messy bun.  I just grabbed my iPod and headphones and ran outside.

Grandpa and dad were piling boxes full of food into the back of the pickup truck, as Grandma admired herself in her little pocket mirror. “Here she is, my little teenager,” she said as she reached out to fluff my hair. 

I rolled my eyes at her and pulled away, wincing slightly when I noticed her shoulder sag. I’m not cold or heartless, but sometimes I feel like I have no control over the raging hormones in me.  Dad revved up the motor of his pickup truck as we all piled inside. I plugged myself into my earphones, trying to drown out the noise of Grandma’s fake teeth chewing on bubble gum. It was a useless attempt. 

After riding in the rickety mess of a vehicle for seemingly an eternity we got to the lake. It was a small secluded reservoir surrounded by a dense forest. We’ve been having our weekly barbecues here ever since I can remember. We never stopped, except when Mom died last July.  We were all too stricken with grief to sit around, listening to music, and eating roasted marshmallows.

But then, everyone moved on it seemed. The music was back on in the house, and the laughter resumed as if it had never stopped. And me?  Still stuck in the past.  I still stayed up night after night, nose pressed against the window, waiting for her.  She never came back and deep inside I know she never will. But I was not ready to make peace with that reality yet.

“Jane, whatcha thinkin bout?” said Dad, growling.  He had come back to fetch me from the car where I sat lost in thought. 

“Um, nothing.” I lied. 

“Come on, babe. Cheer up.” Dad looked away as he said those words. I knew it was hard for him to show emotion.  He was a tough guy, but under that veneer he had a heart made of marshmallow fluff. 

I choked back a cry and forced a smile. “I’m happy, see?” I pointed to my face and saw Dad’s shoulders visibly relax. ‘Why can’t you see through that?’ I silently yelled.  And once again my pleads fell on deaf ears.

With a sigh I collected myself, not that anyone would notice anyway, and joined my family hard at work trying to set the barbecue up. 

Before long, Uncle Harry’s jeep pulled to a stop beside us, music blaring. Dad waved as all his kids piled out of the van. 

“Hey Jane, you look so beautiful.” Aunt Lee showed up beside me and smiled that condescending smile of hers at me.  I wanted to punch her in the face. I was wearing pajamas, but was owning it with pride. 

“Thank you, it’s actually pajamas, and I got it in Target.  But I appreciate you trying so hard.” I smiled back as Lee walked off looking miffed. 

I took a can of diet coke out of the cooler and perched myself on the edge of a bench where I got to watch the sun setting over the lake. My cousin Olivia, followed me and plopped down beside me. I turned to look at her, searched her entire face for a sign of pity but found none. “Hi,” I mumbled, gazing off into the distance. 

“How are you holding up?” she asked genuinely. 

I looked down at my fingers wrapped around the perspiring can of Coke; they were trembling violently. I was tired of holding it all in. Tired of lying. The worst part, I wasn’t even pretending but everyone just attributed my misery to me being a teenager. 

“Jane.” Olivia ventured gently. 

And then the dam burst. The tears flooded for the first time since Mom’s passing. Olivia put her arms around me and rocked me gently while I cried. I couldn’t stop. All the restrained pain came gushing at me forcefully. I felt like I was drowning in them.  Desperately, I gasped for air and coughed on the smoke that entered my lungs. 

“It’s okay, Jane.  Just remember to breathe,” Olivia whispered into my ears. 
It was as if I was back in Mom’s arms. As if she was holding me again after I got a bad grade or a kid said something nasty. It was as if she hugged me after I told her the first boy that loved me dumped me.  As if she was protecting me from the bad world out there. As if she was here again, right by my side. Loving me.

I looked up to the sky which had turned to pitch black. The tall trees spread out above me.  I used to think of them as menacing claws, now I saw them as fierce protectors. Olivia was still beside me now holding my hand as my crying turned into sobbing.

The stars twinkled, and I saw Dad approaching me with open arms. I ran towards him and collapsed in his arms. And from the heavens I swear I heard Mom whisper “You’ll be alright.”

<strong>Perry K</strong>ornbluh
Perry Kornbluh

Perry K. is a freelance writer who breathes poetry. Besides for writing, she also has a passion for drawing, ballet, and photography. Her greatest inspiration for her writings are life and humanity. 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

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From the Paper Crane

From the Paper Crane

A Short Story by Denelyn Catbagan

Light spilled into the darkness as a little girl opened the package, a smile breaking through her face like she had just found a treasure. She picked me up and gazed at me warmly.

“Papa! I found it!” she said.

A man appeared next to her beaming with pride–I recognized him. He was my creator. He had folded me and shaped me. Made my paper wings and beak with such care and love.

“Make her happy, my friend,” he whispered, as he hid me in a box.

I don’t know why he would talk like that to me. I was useless, a paper crane incapable of doing anything. Protect a smile? How could I do that? Yet, now, as she held me in her hands. I felt like my life suddenly had a purpose. She carried me and played with me as her father watched, delighted with her happiness. My world became colorful with her by my side. 

But as the days go by, so do the happy times. Her father had gone, and she succumbed to her loneliness.

“You didn’t keep your promise!” She cried out. She hid me in a trunk, forgotten and decrepit.

They left there me. I kept wondering and wondering if there was something, anything I had done wrong. I was as useless as I had thought, and I felt guilt weigh heavy in my fragile heart.

Did I not keep my promise? 

I waited and waited, even as my body started to mold, even when I start to lose my vivid color. I kept believing that she’ll be back.

One night, I had a dream–a memory of when he had made me. I could remember him writing something in my body, but I couldn’t read it. Black ink seeped into my paper body; the ink felt cold, yet; I felt honesty and love within these symbols. I wish I could speak and ask him about it, but I can’t speak or talk for I’m just a mere origami that he made for his daughter.

The next day, the trunk opened, and I saw her face again.  She had changed.  She became a beautiful lady now.

She scavenged the trunk for a phone, long forgotten like the rest of its contents. She continued to search until she finally noticed me, a small paper crane in the trunk’s corner. She picked me up and examined me. She, at first, thought of me like nothing and was about to throw me away again.

I panicked at first and tried to calm down. With the little strength inside me, I tried to move and shake until one of my folds became undone.

That was when she noticed the strange symbols inside me. She unfolded me revealing the writing inside. Tears began to form in her eyes as she saw the strange characters.

That when it dawned on me–I made her cry. I began to blame myself as she cried, thinking I was useless and terrible. Her hands held me tightly, and she ran out of the open doorway.

A woman saw her and hugged her, but I couldn’t care. I kept thinking I was terrible. Maybe I shouldn’t exist. Maybe I was just a mistake. I wish I could have stopped him.

Epilogue

The girl cried, held in her mother’s arms. Her mother reassured her and said, “I see that you found it. Don’t worry, your father loved you too. I know he has already forgiven you.”

They held each other for a while as she held the handmade origami crane her father made. Though the little paper crane thought of itself as useless, it accomplished something of great relevance to her life.

<strong>Denelyn </strong>C<strong>atbagan </strong>
Denelyn Catbagan

I’m Denelyn and I am residing in the City of Manila, Philippines. I live with my family and pets. A cat and a dog, respectively. I like to travel and have been to places such as Europe, Asia, and Australia.
At first, I wrote poetry to express my mental illness in a safe way. Then, I began to enjoy writing and reading poetry books. I’m fascinated by how writers could tell stories so effectively that I now wish to pursue a career in writing. I still continue to write poetry and short stories and share them on my Instagram and Blog: Thoughtful Wisps.
And I am very thankful for this chance to share this with you all!

(This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure about affiliate links here.)

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