FICTION

A Pendant's Glow

Emma Delie

¨No, stop! Please don't hurt him! Please!¨ I plead. I look at him and make contact with his caramel eyes seeing no fear, but only love. Time feels like slow motion as the sinister woman aims her hands and sends a purple glow to his body.

All his limbs seize but he stays in place. With his perfect mouth open, no sound comes out and his eyes are rolled back showing only the whites.

My body is frozen in panic.

I stand and watch as the man I am in love with is being killed. My heart sinks as he...

---

 

I wake up to my alarm screaming into my ear, since it's next to my face. It's six-fifty am and I am drenched in sweat again. Feeling heartbroken. Again. Ugh.

Remembering micro-moments from my dream, it's the same one I've had for weeks now, except this dream was more intense. I hate how this always takes a toll on my physical and mental state. I hate waking up every morning feeling the heartache of a man that died in my dreams, and might I add, a man I've never met. It's exhausting.

After my usual pondering of the repetitive situation, I finally get out of bed to take a shower. It's already seven.  I close the bathroom door and look in the mirror only to see the bags under my grey eyes and a grim expression. Great. I look heartbroken.

I take my damp clothes off and take out my ponytail, letting my thick sand-blonde hair fall over my shoulder blades. The hot water feels euphoric hitting my skin. I feel my muscles relax and my body breathe as I soak in the steam, wishing I could live in this state forever.

Once I get out, I dry off quickly and wrap my hair up in a towel. Luckily, my shower wasn't too long, so the mirror didn't fog up, making it easier to put makeup on.

I rub under my eyes out of habit still finding my bags.  Yep, makeup sounds like a great idea.

I pull out my mascara and lightly brush it on to my lashes. Oddly enough, it brings back some life to my face. The mascara makes my almond eyes fuller and enhances my grey irises. I use a small amount of concealer to hide small imperfections and to help make my face look softer and less dull. I brush through my hair, gently pushing through small knots, and then blow dry it. I've always hated leaving my house with wet hair, especially in cold weather.

It's 7:45 and I run into my room and get dressed, deciding on black jeans, a black long-sleeve, a black jean jacket, and black Converse. I grab a silver necklace with a small emerald green rock, a few rings, and then I leave.

---

Driving to college takes about fifteen minutes, which I dedicate to music and inner thoughts. Stopping at an intersection, my music halts because my phone fell to the floor, unplugging the aux chord. I look around, and no cars are anywhere to be seen, so I decide to pick it up. Pressing the home screen, a notification that my phone has died blinks.

My car shuts off.

 

I look at the meters of my car and then back up.

 

What the hell?

Four people in black capes stand in front of my car. Two men and two women. The women are both stunning, almost angelic. One with red curly hair, ice blue eyes, and porcelain skin, and the other with long, brown hair, green eyes, and dark skin. Looking at one of the men, he has blonde hair, brown eyes, and vanilla skin, and the other...

Oh my god.

My heart drops and chills are sent up my spine. The other man is the man from my dream.

His eyes catch mine and my body stills. In my dream, he was such a beautiful blur. But now seeing him in real life, he is unfathomably gorgeous. His eyes resemble honey and his hair is as black as night, contrasting to his tan skin.

 

I am taken out of my trance when I hear, ¨Eleanor Phryte!¨

 

What? My heart races.

¨Eleanor Phryte!¨ the blonde man shouts again. ¨We are here to talk, but if you don't respond, we will have to take this hard way.¨

I am at a loss of words and I am at a point where I am too scared to do anything. How come no cars have come by? Who are these people? Too many questions are running through my brain and I start to panic because my options are minimal.

¨Five seconds,¨ says the curly haired woman.

I give in.  

 

I breathe and reach for the door handle. I slowly open the door, stepping out one leg at a time. The air is cold as it hits my cheeks, and I stare at the ground as I saunter to them. I look up and automatically make eye contact with him. He looks at me, lips parted almost as if he wants to say something. He doesn't.

 

Instead, the woman with brown hair speaks. ¨Eleanor Phryte, you need to come with us. If you resist, there will be consequences with you and to this world.¨

What does she mean with the world? And why the hell would she think I'd go with them? I'm starting to fear the worst.

 

¨No. I don't know any of you, and I am not going to go with any of you. I don't even know any of you, and this is unnerving. I will call the police if you don't leave.¨  I say, trying to be intimidating.  I start to back away and notice the blonde man exchanging a blank expression with the brown-haired woman, and with one swift move, the blonde has my wrist and his index finger touches my forehead.

Everything goes dark.

---

My eyes pry open and memories flood back. In a panic, I stand up scanning the area in alert for the four. Thankfully, no one's around.

I'm in a large room.  No, a cabin.

 

Shockingly, it's beautiful and strangely calm- a fire lights the fireplace and candles lit with an indescribable scent and plants that linger in the corners of the space. This is so strange yet so calming. The couch is red velvet with circular gold accents gripping the edges. Looking across the room, a flicker catches my eye.

I walk over to see that there is a table with three objects on it: a bow, arrows, and a small bag. The bow shines like black steel with small letters carved onto its side. I don't recognize the letters, though. The arrows have a gold triangle tip, and the rod of the arrow is like the bow´s steel. The weapon is beautiful. Too beautiful. Too unrealistic.

I look over to the right of the weapon for the small bag. I pick up the bag and it's heavy for its size. The wool pouch has a leather string keeping it closed. I look around in caution before I even think of opening it. Seeing no one, I lightly pull the leather string off, like untying a bow.

 

Inside lies a grey-stone pendant, a gold ring, and a gold pin. Huh.

 

¨See anything you like?¨ says a deep voice behind me.

 

My heart is pounding and I start to sweat, but I slowly turn around. It's him. He is standing in front of the fireplace. I stare at him for a moment but look down before I reply, with my voice barely a whisper,¨Yeah... They´re beautiful.¨

The glow of the fire makes his skin gleam. He is truly breathtaking with his tall and built structure. Like a god or something. He wears a black long sleeve that grips his muscles and plain black jeans. He also wears a pendant and pin. His pendant is red and his pin is silver matching the pendant´s chain. Opposite but the same as mine.

 

¨ Good. They're for you.¨ he says flatly.

Oh. ¨Why? Why did you bring me here? What's your name anyway?¨  I am strangely comfortable around him, but I am growing impatient with the lack of answers.

He observes me before speaking. ¨ You have dreams of me, don´t you?¨

 

My body is frozen and the air leaves my lungs. I know my face has gone pale and that the shocking question parts my lips.

 

¨ H..how did you know that..?” my voice exposes me and I feel my anxiety rising. The beautiful room suddenly feels smaller.

He looks at the fire first, then back on me with a worried look on his face.

 

¨What do you see in your dreams?¨ He has desperation in his voice and steps forward towards me.

 

This is too much and I'm exhausted - the room, the questions, the four. I feel myself losing patience and a growing panic. I would have never seen this happening to me this morning. I guess nobody does...

 

¨Is there a reason you can't answer my questions? You do understand what this all looks like, right?¨ I´m surprised by anger in my voice, and I can tell by his expression that he is a bit taken back by my frustration.

Keeping his eyes on me, in a calm tone he says, ¨I'm Evander. The reason we took you is that you're our last chance at surviving this war. And the reason we need you is that you are a… a witch. A specific witch. One that sees through time in dreams. Daydreaming or night dreaming.

I start laughing hysterically. He can't be serious. I mean a witch? A war? Really?  My laughing slows and he looks at me crossing his arms.

Oh. He's serious.

¨A witch? You're saying that I am a witch and that my dreams lured you and your clan to me?¨ When he looks at me with no comment, I know the answer is yes.

 

I let my hands rub my nose and cheeks - a habit I have in times of stress. He looks at me with worry and empathy like he knows this is going to be a curse for the rest of my life.

¨You see the future and past. Those are your two main strengths. But over time you will gain more with practice.¨ he explains.

Gain more practice? There is no way I could be a witch. There's no such thing. Sure, I've wondered about the repetition in my dreams but a lot of people have repetitive dreams. All the time. It's normal. Right?

 

¨This is all too impossible. I am sorry, but you have the wrong person. The person you are looking for is not me.¨

 

I feel my frustration rising from all this new information. Everything I've ever known is wrong; my beliefs and logic. It's all wrong and I am emotionally exhausted. I can't handle any more of this. I start to feel the room closing in on me and I need to get out.

 

Looking to my left, there is a hall that leads to an exit and I don't hesitate to make a run for it. I run and open the door but it is slammed shut. The door was shut by itself and when I turn around, Evander has a red glow coming from his hands.

 

This can't be real.

 

With my adrenaline still running, I look to my left, where a bathroom is. I bolt in there, close the door, and lock it. Thankfully, there is a window. I hear Evander shout my name in anger, but my determination drowns him out. I know I don't have much time left, seeing how he closed a door with his mind and glowy hands. Rushing to get this window open, it finally flips forward, letting me escape this cabin.

It's dark but I run as fast as I can. I look behind me and I don't see Evander chasing me, but when I face forward, I come to a sudden halt.

All four of them stand in front of me, including Evander.

 

I feel the tears running down my cheeks and I am emotionally wiped. I'm starting to realize I may never escape this and it's heartbreaking.

 

I look at them with weak eyes, but they look as saddened as I do. I just don't understand.

 

They all raise their hands at waist height and their hands begin to glow, each set a different color. The curly-haired woman has lavender purple, the brown-haired woman has fiery orange, the blonde-haired man has electric blue, and Evander has blood red. They each have pendants like mine, but ones that match their color.

Evander holds my pendant and it glows white - a heavenly white and it is captivating.

 

When I look at my pendant, my worry disappears, and I don't feel scared anymore. I feel light.

 

Why does this feel right? It shouldn't.

 

I grew up believing that anything supernatural wasn't real, and for some reason, it's so hard to let go of. But deep down, I know that this moment is right and that I need to be here.

 

Before my mind decides on what to do, my feet take charge and I am walking towards Evander to retrieve my pendant. I take it from his hands and bow my head to put it around my neck. When the pendant hits my chest, a strange sensation occurs.

 

My ears ring first and my eyes shut. Insights flood my mind, and it hits like a tidal wave knocking me to the ground.

 

I see myself in a war with the other four by my side. Together, we are aiming our glows, but it doesn't show who we are aiming at. The energy feels malevolent. The surroundings are dark, like we're underground or in a tunnel, and it's unnerving.  I feel like I am in a nightmare and I soon feel myself losing focus on this insight.

I come back to reality and I open my eyes finding myself on my back with Evander on his Knees beside me. The other three stand far, watching me. They are talking, but I can't quite make it out.

 

Looking at Evander, I see the worry in his golden irises.

 

I feel a pull towards him. I felt one from the start and I know I am denying this deep and indirect connection, but now knowing my dreams tell the future, I can't let myself fall for him.

 

I feel this is a new beginning.

Don't Go In Alone

Hannah Edie

I walked through the woods, testing each step carefully, unsure if whatever lay beneath my feet could make any inkling of a sound. I jumped at every shadow that ran across the jagged trees. My breath came so slowly that my lungs burned for oxygen. My sheer terror turned every once-familiar sound sinister. The hum of crickets lulling me to sleep in years past became a never-ending scream, calling out for help that would never come.

The wind pierced my jacket like it was nothing but wet paper, and I had to fight my jaw with everything I had to keep my teeth from chattering. The moon was nothing but a pale sliver, giving off only enough light to cast an eerie glow. I knew I should have been moving faster, but panic had overtaken my body, giving me no control.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was talking and laughing, having fun with my friends around a dying bonfire. But now that was all gone. We had been playing truth or dare, and as legend had it, the woods back here had been haunted for decades. You can imagine how that went down. The best way to stay out of these situations is to always pick truth, but unfortunately I didn’t take my own advice on that.

All I was supposed to do was take twenty steps in, and stand there for two minutes, and I did, but when I turned around to go back, there was no bonfire, there were no friends. They had disappeared into more trees.

I felt a breath on my neck, chills ran down my spine. I suddenly was unaware of how long I had been here. My breathing calmed. This is where I was meant to be all along. I could feel my flesh disappearing, becoming a part of the here.  There were no trees, no broken sticks on the ground. There was only here, and here was a part of me now.

I was becoming nothing, but that didn’t bother me like it would have before. I served my new master now. Subconsciously, I knew I had become what I feared most before, but if he wanted it, that is what I wished as well. And now I’m here to tell you, the next time you’re in the woods behind your house, or you go on a hike on your next vacation, look out, because every forest is a haunted forest, you just have to enter at the right time.

Storm Over Cincinnati

Emily Moore

I quickly slip out the screen door and immediately shut it behind me before anyone can notice my leaving.  I couldn’t stand to stay there another second. I wrap my arms around myself to block the cool autumn breeze and try to gain control of my quickening breath and pounding heart.  The more I try to maintain my calm, the worse my nerves get. Finally I give in and lean forward, letting tears fall. I am at the mercy of my emotions. This always happens. Every time they come, my emotions hit the repeat button.  Every kiss and smile we shared hits me like a brick. I hate him. We hadn’t seen them in awhile, so I thought this time would be fine, but he walked in and pushed his relationship right in my face. I want to just forget about it, forget about him.  But I can’t, because of course he’s still in my life and of course my brother never thought to ask me if I was ok with him dating my ex.  I gasp and choke for air in a pitiful attempt to calm myself down.

I can hear them laughing inside; everything’s fine inside. I take a deep breath, let the air fill my lungs, and step off the back porch.  I’m not needed there right now. I don’t want to ruin their night.

I walk under the streetlights and take comfort in the sun sinking into my suburban sky.  I walk two blocks, then six, then eight, until I reach Aviator Park. The place Elijah and I met.

I settle on a bench and stare out at the lake ahead of me.  The only light I’m allowed is the lone light beside my bench and the little illumination given by the fast fading sun.  My mind finally settles, and at last I allow myself to just enjoy the night. It’s nice here at night. It’s just me, the park, and the dark figure slowly approaching me.  Wait. A dark figure is slowly approaching me. A dark figure who likely has a gun. I should be running- my feet aren’t moving… crap. Maybe he’s nice? Who the hell sees a person coming for them in an empty park at night and thinks ‘well, maybe he’s one of those friendly dark figures, because dark figures are known to be friendly’?  He’s so close, I can make out his face now. He’s kinda cute. He might also be a murderer. I should be running.

“Mind if I sit?” He asks.  I can only bring myself to nod as the dark figure sits down.  “It’s a nice night for loneliness, but I hope you don’t mind a little company.”  The man smiles brightly at me. There’s something about him that seems lost, and yet it’s like he’s exactly where he wants to be.

 

”So, I take it you’re not here to murder me then?” I ask. I feel slightly pleased when he smiles.  I like the way his entire face wrinkles when he smiles. He has hidden dimples.

 

“No, I can assure you I’m not a murderer.” He tilts his head to look at me, “I’m Chase, by the way.”

“Jason.” I return, not letting my eyes leave the lake.  He may not be a murderer, but I would do well not to give him any personal information.  I can’t let myself forget that I’m here to be alone.

“What are you doing sitting by yourself in an empty park, Jason?”  He speaks at a normal volume but it echoes around my head like a shout in a cavern.  I sigh internally, screw it, maybe if I tell him everything he’ll get uncomfortable and leave.

“My brother and his boyfriend are visiting for a weekend.”

“What’s so bad about that?”  Chase looks at me quizzically.

 

“His boyfriend used to be my boyfriend,”  I sigh and let myself lean forward. I make myself as small as possible, trying to disappear.

 

 “Every time I see them together it’s like he’s cheating on me all over again.” I feel a lump rising in my throat, so I grip my sweatshirt close to me for protection against my emotions.  “I don’t even want him back, I just... want him to leave.” My voice cracks down and I close in on myself. Every part of my body is working towards not breaking down in front of this relative stranger beside me.  He probably thinks I’m pathetic. He probably regrets sitting down next to me. That’s what I wanted right? I wanted him to leave, but in some weird way I just want him to keep sitting next to me, maybe just to have a body to be near.  I’m acutely aware of his actions until he’s directly in front of me with his hand on my shoulder. His hand is warm and thin.

 

“Hey,”  Chase begins.  I turn my head to look at him.  His sunken olive green eyes are direct and intense, but the rest of his face seems weary.  His skin is pulled tight on his face, revealing prominent cheekbones, and his golden blond hair is pulled into a messy bun.  He smells like peppermint and cigarettes. “How about we go somewhere a little nicer?” I only stare at him in bewilderment.

Chase’s bony hand waves in front of my face and I break out of my trance.  

 

“What?” My voice cracks, god I’m pathetic. Chase chuckles, and I laugh nervously along with him.  

 

“There’s no use crying with strangers in a park.”  Before I can question him he’s jumping off the bench and offering his hand.  “Come with me. I promise I’ll make it worth your while.”

 

His smile is sunshine and his charm is endless; I’ve never seen anyone like him before.  Before I even register what he said I’m taking his hand and giving him a dopey smile. I don’t realize what’s going on until we’re in the parking lot.  In the dark lot I make out a giant Harley Davidson, polished and in perfect condition. Chase pulls me in its direction, passes the motorcycle, and leads me to a crappy Honda.  He opens the passenger door for me, like a gentleman should when kidnapping strangers. I get in quietly and against my better judgement. Chase is silent for a few seconds. I start to wonder what miraculous things must be happening in his head.

 

“You were expecting the motorcycle, weren’t you?”

 

“Well… yeah,” I reply sheepishly. Chase cracks up laughing.

 

“Dude, I’m a broke college student, I can barely afford this car!”  I smile and laugh along with him, and I can’t help but notice his laugh.  It’s clear and childish. How can such a cheerful sound sound so...tired? I’m so wrapped up in his presence that I almost don’t care when he starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot.  Almost.

 

“Hey, where are we going exactly?”  I frantically look at the door, which is locked.  Of course it’s locked, I’ve been kidnapped.

 

“You’re not a kid, and you did agree to come with me, therefore it’s not kidnapping.  It’s an adventure.”

 

“Your sarcasm is like a breath of polluted air.”  He laughs as I pull my hoodie around me and pout.

 

“Just trust me, ok?  If I wanted you dead I’d have drowned you in the lake.”  

 

“Wow--my Prince Charming, everyone! Thank you for not ending my life at the first sight of me.”  I watch him crack a smile as he stares out at the highway. “And they say chivalry is dead.”

 

“Just wait a bit, you’ll see.”

 

With that the ride settles into an awkward silence as we go along. I take that time to let the night sink in.  Should I be doing this? He could still be thug--a very charming thug--but a thug nonetheless. I shouldn’t be doing this.  Mom and dad will be worried sick, Isaac will be upset that I’m still avoiding him and Elijah- and Elijah will be...smug, probably.  I’m sure he’d love to know he still has power over me. I can still see his stupid perfect face smirking as I come back with dried tears and a pitiful look of defeat on my face as I join the next round of Jenga. Part of me really wants to go with Chase, but it could be dangerous.  The worst that will happen at home is an awkward family meeting that ends in me feeling just a little worse about my already sad life. I could die if I go with Chase.  As in death.  A pathetic life is still better than no life at all.

 

“Can we stop?”  I ask, looking over at Chase.  “I have to pee.”

 

Chase nods and pulls into the nearest gas station after a few minutes.  I tell him I’ll be right back and run into the men’s room. Standing awkwardly in front of the mirror, I ponder my situation.  I look at my reflection, and am greeted by a freckle faced, brown eyed skinny kid. As usual, my dark red hair is a giant mess on top of my head and my grey sweatshirt has a few stains from dinner.  I’m average. Chase is above. This is crazy. Insane. Off-my-rocker-get-this-man-a-straight-jacket crazy. I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t be doing this. This. Is. A. Bad. Idea.  I should just call my mom, tell her I got sidetracked and heading home, and pretend that this didn’t happen.  I should just go back to my life. Back to my life as a single man still hung up on his ex who is currently dating his brother.  Back to my life as a college student working on his degree for a job that won’t lead to anything but aggressive normality. Back to my life where being gay is the most interesting thing about me.  Chase could very easily be using me. This could end very bad.  I could lose everything, but I don’t really have much to lose.

 

I exit the bathroom and see Chase leaning against his car.

 

“Ready to go?”

 

“Yeah, I’m ready.”  I get into the car, and Chase begins to drive. The drive is quiet, but it’s a nice quiet.  The only noise is the low hum of the radio as lights flicker past the window. It isn’t until we reach our destination that I begin to worry again.  It’s a big building, so it’s entirely possible that Elijah and Chase just happen to share the same apartment complex.

 

“Remind me what we’re doing again?”  I ask as Chase parks on the street.

 

“You clearly need to work through something, and I have something I need to do tonight. This place has all the answers.”  He answers plainly. We get out of the car, head through the lobby doors, and suddenly we’re in the stairwell outside the door to floor 5.   I try not to acknowledge that Elijah lived on the fifth floor.

 

“Seriously, what’s going on here?"

 

Chase sighs in defeat. “My ex has been messing with me for a while now, telling people I cheated, flaunting his new boyfriend to me every chance he gets. I’m here to make sure that ends tonight.”  Chase stops in front of the door to floor five and pushes it open. I step through and wait for Chase to quietly close the door before speaking again.

 

“So, how are you getting revenge? I’m not going to jail tonight.”  I narrow my eyes at him. Maybe he wants to frame me for whatever stupid crime he’s gonna commit.

 

“It’s not revenge.”  He walks over to apartment 502 and takes out a paper clip.  It only takes me a moment to realize who’s apartment it is. Who exactly is Chase?  What on earth is going on? “I just want to get some things back.” He fidgets for a while with the door, without much progress.  I smirk to myself, trying to ignore the lump growing in my throat. So Mister Adventure can’t even pick a lock.

 

“Give me the paperclip,” I say.

 

“What? No, no way.”  Chase gives up on the lock and gives me a look halfway between confusion and hope.

 

“Yes.  Just give me the paper clip.” I hold out my hand and he gives me the small metal object.   I twist and push into the lock with the clip. The door finally clicks, and I push the door open.

 

“I’m not even going to ask where you learned to do that.  I’ll just say I’m glad I ran into you.” Chase smiles and saunters into the apartment.  I follow close behind. I begin to wonder exactly how much of our meeting was an accident.  

 

Elijah’s apartment hasn’t changed and gives off a familiar aura.  Chase seems to feel it too, and seems to know his way around a little too well.  I want to ask him about it, but he’s already gotten to work. He scrounges through the entertainment center, end tables, desk drawers, he searches everything until he’s satisfied.  He returns to my side with a rather large collection of photos in tow. I take a peak and realize it’s all photos of me and Elijah. Before I can question him, he’s dumping them into my arms and running into the depths of the apartment.  Once again he returns, this time with a leather jacket. Elijah’s leather jacket. The one he never let me touch.

 

“Okay, I got what I need.  We need to go.” Chase slides the leather jacket on and sprints out the door.  I follow, taking care not to drop the photos while I go over what to say to Chase when we get out of this mess.  I knew he was too good to be true, I knew I couldn’t trust him. So why did I? When we get outside, the police are there, talking to a man in the lobby.

 

“We got a call about a break-in in 502--”  is all I hear while passing, and panic rises in my throat.

“Part one is complete, now for part two.”  He smiles and rushes in. I take a deep breath, gather my resolve, and dive into the passenger seat. 

 

I just broke into an apartment.  I helped a total stranger rob my ex’s apartment. I helped a relative stranger rob my ex boyfriend’s apartment because he had a nice smile.  God, am I easy. Maybe his charm is actually mind control or something. I don’t do things like this. I’ve never done anything like this.  Why am I even here? I’m thinking I should tell Chase to take me back to the park, but then I see him resting against his crappy Honda, a mischievous look on his face.  I almost want to slap him for pretending everything’s perfect like this.

 

“Bullshit.” I spit the word.

“What?”

 

You’re full of bullshit, Chase,”  I don’t turn to look at him, I don’t put on my seat belt, and I don’t let my voice show emotion.

 

“Jason, wha-” I can feel him looking at me.  I hate that that makes me blush.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me you knew Elijah?  What is this anyway?”

 

“Jason-”  his voice is potent with panic.

 

“No, no you don’t get to talk.  It’s my turn now.” My voice is angrier than I wanted it to be.

 

 

“What the hell?  Do you think this is a game?  You can’t do stuff like this to people, it’s not fair!”  My voice chokes up. “How much of our meeting was a coincidence?  Do you really expect me to believe you just randomly chose a stranger to take around?  If you didn’t want to hurt me, then why the hell did you bring me here?”

 

“I’m sorry.”  His voice is low and he won’t meet my eye.  He takes a deep breath, and is silent for awhile before he continues.  “Elijah and I dated for about a year until he cheated on me with a certain redhead.  I saw you in the park and at first I wanted revenge but… I saw you crying and I realized that it’s not your fault.  It’s not our fault that he used us. We just need closure, I just… I just thought that this could help me.” I can’t help but feel a pang of pity as his voice cracks.

 

I sigh heavily.  My entire body feels heavy and disoriented. “Just drive.”

 

The drive is shorter than expected and dead silent, and before I know it we’re on a bridge over a creek in the middle of Cincinnati.  

 

“We need the photos.”  Chase doesn’t even wait for a response as he grabs them from my hands.  “These are our memories. It seems to me that while they are good memories, they’ve done a lot of harm to the both of us.”  Chase throws the photos over the bridge railing, watching them flutter and fall into the creek like the autumn leaves. “It’s time to let go.”

 

Chase climbs up onto the railing and sits, looking out over the creek.  It’s hard to stay angry at him. It’s more… curiosity. Who are you, Chase?  I don’t even know your last name.

 

“Hey, Jason?”  Chase’s face is still and unreadable, I stare at him as he stares at the river from his spot on the bridge railing.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Thank you for agreeing to help.”  His voice is sincere and soft, fitting our quiet surroundings.  

 

“It’s not like you gave me much of a choice.” I smirk and lean my back against the railing beside him.  We’re quiet for awhile. Around us are honking cars and blinding city lights, but here is quiet. Here is dark and isolated and...lovely.  I look at Chase. Who is this insane man, and how can one person be so important?

 

“We’re in the calm before the storm.”  The isolation breaks under the will of Chase’s voice.

 

“What?”

 

“The calm before the storm.  This is the last moment we have before something comes and turns everything upside down.”  Chase looks down at me from his perch on the bridge. His stare is intense, his eyes are an olive hurricane.  For a while I don’t speak. I just stare at his tired face and raging eyes. He can’t be more than twenty five, but he looks like he’s lived through everything.

 

“You’re wrong.”  I turn my whole body to face him.  Something flickers in his eyes. I feel a small smile grow on my face.  I’ve made the hurricane hesitate. “You’re the storm, Chase. My life was one boring calm, and you struck like lightning, sudden and beautiful.”

I feel my face grow warm, and it’s suddenly very hard to look at him.  I know I should be pissed, and I know he’s probably messed up to do something like this, I know he’s nothing more than a damaged person seeking comfort, but something about him is larger than life.  Out of the corner of my eye I see him climb down from the railing. Chase stands in front of me, silhouetted by the city lights. His stare is thunder, and the intensity is almost comforting.

 

“You shouldn’t compare people to something so big. You’re just going to be disappointed.”  His voice is low and his breath smells like spearmint gum. We stand like that for a while, neither one of us breaking the other’s gaze.  In that moment time speeds up. All of Cincinnati is going impossibly fast except for us two. Once again I find myself at the mercy of my emotions and my stomach is committing impossible gymnastic feats and right when I feel my heart might beat out of my chest, Chase backs away.  “Don’t put me on a pedestal, Jason. You’ll only regret it.”

 

“If anyone here is a disappointment, it’s me.”  For every step Chase takes back I take forward.  We keep up our little waltz until my face hits his chest.  I try to pull away in embarrassment, but his arm catches around me.

 

“Jason.”  Chase’s voice sounds far away, all I can focus on is his hand on my back.  He slides his other arm around me and holds me close. “I’m sorry I lied to you.  I don’t deserve the kindness you’re giving me. If I’m the storm then you’re the light guiding people through it.”  He whispers in my ear.

 

He turns his back on me and begins to walk back to the car.  The moment passes as soon as it came.

As I follow him back to the car, reality starts to hit. Elijah, my brother, my mom, my dad.  They don’t know where I went. For a happy minute I think maybe their game of Jenga lasted all night somehow, but in reality they’re probably up waiting for me, or out looking.  I get back in the car and Chase hands me my phone. I turn it on and notifications fill the screen. Fifteen missed called from mom, eight calls from dad, six calls from Isaac, and one call from Elijah.  Wow, Elijah. Way to put in the effort.

The car ride back to the park is silent, and I realize I really don’t know Chase at all. 

 

“Jason?  We’re here.”  Chase’s calm voice brings me back to reality.

 

“So, is this goodbye?”  I ask, unbuckling my seatbelt.  Chase chuckles.

 

“Don’t be so dramatic, I already put my number in your phone- you should really put a lock on it by the way.”  I smile and get out of the Honda. Chase gets out too and leans against the door. I begin to walk away from him, but something stops me.  I turn around.

 

“Hey Chase?”

 

“Yeah?”  He looks shocked that I turned around.

 

“I’m glad you weren’t a murderer.”

 

He smirks.  “So am I.”

 

I take a few seconds to take in Chase leaning against the door of his junky car, smiling that bright and weary smile, before turning around and walking away from Aviator Park, away from Chase.  I walk two blocks, then six, then eight until I’m home. The lights are still on in the living room. The moment I’m through the door my mom is half hugging me and half choking me in a bear hug.  I laugh a little at the familiarity of it.

 

“What happened to you?”  She asks, releasing me at last.

 

I can only smile and say:        “I got caught in a storm.”

Machine

Anonymous submission - delivered by Edgar Allan Crow

I swallowed, but my mouth was dry. The computer stared back blankly at me. I thought it best to not move, so it blinked long before I dared to. This had happened before, but not to me. In the news,  there were stories of technology gone wrong, artificial intelligence gone too far. But it was something that I never would have imagined happening to me. It always happened to the faceless victims of our desperate hunger for more.

Slowly, wires began to creep out of every opening in the room. I began to breathe faster, but I refused to show my fear in any other way. Even as shards of what had been various devices pushed into my chest, I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t feel the pain. Glass sliced down my chest, screeching noise the whole way down. My face showed no emotion, not a grimace, I was not going to pretend to feel any longer. Wires under my synthetic skin poked out, exposing what I truly was. The face on the screen changed from indifference to shock. My time had come to change the world.