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Vault 
Fall 2021

Art by Coco Wu '23

Octopus 
Oliver Rabinov 

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Mama

Lil Runyan

 

First Breath

Mother named me Lillith after the Jewish tale about Adam's first wife who fought against her husband's orders. She says Lillith was daring and ambitious. The more popular and Christian meaning of the name Lillith, however, is ‘evil night demon’ or ‘Queen of Hell’. I was too young to understand then, the world despises powerful women.

Before I simply could open my eyes, the world has told me I take up too much space. Suffocating in my Mother’s uterus called for an emergency C section, I came out smothered in blood. “She’s perfect,'' the male doctor said, weighing in at around 7 pounds. That was the first and last time a man referred to me as “perfect”. 

Nonverbal

Delicate baby girl, pink and precious and ear-splitting. For the first year of my life I cried more than I ate. My skin cells were so fresh and sensitive, I could physically feel the male dominating world breathing down my neck, Him breathing down my neck. I demanded attention and acknowledgement. Mother, protect me. Mother, hold me. Mother, I know you are sleep deprived and exhausted but I trust no one else to slip my small body into pajamas or clean diapers. Do not misinterpret these tears, I am scared. 

 

Playtime 

Worried thoughts flooded my brain as I walked into the doctor's office. Mother had called and made an appointment earlier in the week after she noticed my flat chest gaining curvature. I overheard her talking to her friend earlier that morning asking if it was possible to have precancerous cells as an eight year old girl. The doctor took less than 10 seconds to look at my chest and lower back before he began to laugh. He said with a chuckle, “She’s hit puberty early. She’s developing breasts, not cancer!” 

Breasts. Boobs. Bust, jugs, bosoms, all the words I was told not to use for so long suddenly had some connection to me. 

The only question circling my brain was “why was this new body part of mine so inappropriate?” 

Later that day, I went to Kohl’s to buy my first training bra. A rush of excitement flooded through me as I realized I was getting older, growing up. Standing in the middle of the underwear aisle, my mouth began to pool with saliva as I thought of what independence away from Him might feel like. 

The next day on the playground, whispers bounced off the swing sets into my ears. During snack time, three different boys walked up behind me and snapped my new magenta bra strap so hard my shoulder became red and hot. Ham sandwich with mayo lingered in my teeth, yet all I could taste was powerlessness. I quickly reminded myself, I am just a toy for the boys to play with. I am the doll and He is the child. 

 

Speechless

A week after my twelfth birthday I was sent to an inpatient psychiatric facility for the first time. I was one of the three girls in the unit. On the second day of my stay, the thermostat read 75 degrees at 8 AM. I wore ripped denim shorts and a sheer white graphic t-shirt in hopes of avoiding overheating. After morning announcements, a nurse pulled me into a separate room.

    “Am I in trouble?” My voice cracked with uncertainty.

    “No, it's just…. Do you have any other clothes to wear?”

    I squinted my eyes hard, I didn’t understand. “I guess, but they’re mostly jeans and hoodies. Why? What’s wrong with what I have on right now?”

    “Me and a lot of the other staff have noticed your shirt is see-through and your shorts are… Well, they’re very short.” 

    Sorry. I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, sorry. “Oh, um, I-” I was incapable of forming a comprehensible sentence.

“It’s fine, whatever.” She was frustrated, but her face read anger. “I don’t know, just please keep your legs closed in the community rooms. Or at least ask for a shaving time slot, you need it.”

    A few seconds passed and she walked away swiftly leaving me, alone. Alone. Alone with my disturbingly hairy and overly exposed body. Everybody told me I was sheltered in the hospital, protected. Who opened the door for Him? How did He reach me here? I looked around the room in search of a nurse or doctor that resembled Mother. Nothing. Sweat dripped from my forehead, yet suddenly I felt cold and hollow.

    I kept my head down as I walked to a seat in the far corner of the community space. I sat down, legs intentionally crossed. I spoke only one other time that day. 

    “I can’t sleep, may I please take some Benadryl?”
 

A Kindling Flame

    I'm sixteen now and my encounters with Him occur more often than I get my period. He possesses bodies in the street. Male eyes follow me like a lost puppy… maybe a rabid dog because fathers and sons bark and snarl with my every step. My vanilla and cinnamon perfume makes His stomach flip, He’s starving and refuses to eat anything but me. Is He slipping into my drinks or following me home?

Will I live a full day without His presence? 

I asked Mother this unanswered question last night on our evening walk. 

She looked at me, eyes glossy, and said “We have yet to experience one. But darling, never underestimate the power of the word ‘yet’.” I reached for her hand and held it tightly, fingers interlocked. 

As the sun began to sink and completely disappear, Mother picked up the pace. “Now walk quickly, before it gets dark.”

Untitled
Lu Beard 

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Red Nail Polish

L Brock 

 

Love me like im the red nail polish you wear on your fingers

Chipped 

and worn 

and exposed

Cherished nonetheless,

Left until it 

Chooses to fade away, leaving a perfect 

Red stain

Beam 
Coco Wu

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Hide 
Coco Wu

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Night Fire

Lily Thomson 

   Garnet couldn’t sleep. This wasn’t unusual for him because while he was capable of sleeping, he instead chose not to. That wasn’t entirely true. He wouldn’t let himself - couldn’t let himself because of what happened last time. The last time Garnet really slept was the last time he saw his mother, and the last time he couldn’t control himself. That was months ago, and since then, instead of really sleeping, he’d been involuntarily sedated while in a sealed room in order to keep himself and the others in the sanctuary - as well as the sanctuary itself - safe. 

 

   The last time Garnet slept, he burned down a building. Not just any building, but the royal family’s church. It wasn’t purposeful, he just simply couldn’t control himself. When he slept he was unable to manage his abilities, which wasn’t always an issue, but high stress environments and nightmares caused his body to react. You know when you dream that you’re falling, and wake up kicking as if you were trying to stop yourself in your sleep? That’s what happened to Garnet, except for instead of kicking, his body caught on fire. He and his mother had been sleeping in the church at night ever since they were kicked out of their apartment because of the damages he accidently caused to the property. She took the blame for them, just like she took the blame for the church. She had always protected him, even as he grew into a young adult. The authorities had taken her just as the building collapsed, and she had told him to run, hide, and stay safe until she could get out and find him. The thing is, when you’re arrested for burning down the royal family’s church, they don't particularly have the desire to let you out in a timely fashion. 

   After his mother was arrested, Garnet wandered around seeking shelter, and eventually ended up at an old estate hidden away in the woods. He didn’t know it at the time, but the estate was a sanctuary. It was a place where people like him could live amongst each other, learn more about themselves, and stay away from the authorities. They called it The Pax. Everyone there took care of one another and worked together to keep the place running while simultaneously keeping it a secret from the authorities. While he wasn’t big on personal connections and going out of his way to make people feel welcome, he liked feeling useful - like he was needed there. The only thing that kept him going was his job. He kept others safe; he patrolled, guarded, and helped bring new people in. He wandered the halls of the old estate, monitoring the grounds, checking to make sure everyone was safe, and that the building was secure. Back and forth and back and forth he paced the estate on his rounds, tonight taking some extra time on the lofted catwalk that looked over the control room’s only windows. From this view, sometimes he thought he could see lights in the distance through the trees, as if someone was coming to find him. He wondered if his mother could have been released: How would he know if she was? How would she contact him? But she never did. And so Garnet waited. He waited and didn’t sleep. He stayed up all night every night thinking about where his mom might be, how she was doing, and how he could help her. Sometimes he felt guilty for letting her take the fall for him, but he knew she wouldn’t have let him take her place. Patrolling was the only productive thing he could think of to keep himself busy, so he’d just have to keep doing it until he found a way to help his mom - or learned to control himself in his sleep - but that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. 

...

   Angeline lay awake. She had just about had it with Garnet. Ever since she moved her room to be on the ground floor, she hadn’t been able to sleep at night. She was definitely tired enough - her days were filled with talking to nearly everyone in the building. She talked to them about how they were doing, helped with anything they needed personally, and assisted them in adjusting to their new lives there. It was her unofficial role as the sanctuary leader’s sister - their family had founded The Pax years ago to give people with special abilities a place to be themselves and learn from each other. When their parents passed away a few years prior, her brother had become the new Pax leader, and she the unofficial caretaker of the community, just as her mother had been. She had accepted it willingly, as her ability made it easy for her to talk with others and understand what they felt - particularly because she could feel it too. She wasn’t able to hear thoughts, or read minds, but rather could feel people’s emotions. If someone was happy, she would feel that they were - it wouldn’t necessarily make her feel happy, she could just understand that they were. However, if someone was upset or stressed she couldn’t filter it out. She felt it too, and if it were strong enough, it overwhelmed her own emotions. 

 

   That’s why Garnet was such a pain in her ass. He was stressed, angry, frustrated, and a little sad all at the same time all the time. Whenever he was around she felt an instant pit in her stomach. She felt fragile, like any inconvenience might break her. She had never felt like this before. It kept her awake. She tried to filter it out as she tossed and turned night after night, but every time he walked past her door (this happened a lot - he was a pacer) she felt a surge of his emotions. 

   Angeline sighed and opened her eyes, staring straight up at her bare ceiling. The ceiling in her previous room had had paintings on it. She’d done them over the years; she’d lived there with her brother and their family since she was a little kid. The paintings had accumulated as she got older, as she used them as an outlet for her - and everyone else’s - emotions. She thought of painting again. Maybe that would help her feel better, and therefore help her sleep. However she knew it wouldn’t help Garnet, so it wouldn't solve her sleeping problems at all. If she wanted to sleep again, she had to go straight to the source. 

   Angeline threw her covers back and swung her legs out of bed. She grabbed a sweater from the hook by the door and stormed out of the room. She wandered around the halls looking for him. Each bedroom door was painted a different color - whatever its owner wanted to make sure they felt at home. Her door was a pale pink. Garnet never painted his. She assumed he was in the control room, the old living room of the estate and the room with the tallest ceilings. It went up multiple floors, and was where the raised catwalk and all the surveillance tech was located. The room was dark. She could barely see a thing, much less make out a human silhouette. 

 

   Garnet was difficult to spot. He wore an all black patrol uniform, dark lace up boots, and had pitch black hair. She only noticed him due to the bright orange flicker that was coming from his fingertips, serving as a makeshift lantern as he walked around. “Garnet!” She whisper-shouted as she scampered across the room to him. The place was cavernous and freezing - the once carpeted floors ripped up to reveal cold hard stone. She was barefoot, and every step she took sent chills through her body. He turned as she reached him, a confused look on his face. 

“Ange, why are you awake?” He asked with urgency. “Is something wrong?” She could feel his concern. 

   “Why am I awake?” She laughed. “Why are you awake?” 

   “I- I’m on patrol,” He answered defensively. 

   “For the last two weeks??” She questioned. He said nothing, looking down at the ground. The cold from the floor had begun to be nearly unbearable. She rubbed one foot on the back of her other leg to warm it. “I know you haven’t been sleeping.” She said finally. 

   “Oh yeah, great point, Ange! What else is new.” Garnet scoffed, turning away. He didn’t like people poking into his business. Ange and most everyone knew he didn’t sleep, but he worried that her bringing it up would lead to another involuntary sedation just as it had in the past. Garnet shuddered at the thought.

   “Garnet, I'm serious. It’s been keeping me awake.” He started to walk away - there was no way he was having this conversation, he knew it wouldn’t help anything. She followed him around the room, her petite frame moving quickly to keep up with him. 

   “I know you haven’t been feeling well -” he whipped around, startling her into silence. 

   “- You know nothing.” His dark eyes flickered red in the light of the fire still sprouting from his palm. Angeline refused to back down. She was far too invested in her sleep and his sanity to give up. She took a deep breath.

   “I know you’ve been feeling stressed, upset, guilty, angry, and that it’s been keeping you from sleeping -”

   “- Ange please leave it alone.” He looked down at his palm. The flame distinguished itself instantly. 

   “I can’t, Garnet. It’s not only been keeping you from sleeping but it’s been keeping me from sleeping too. I know what you’re feeling - I don’t know why you’re feeling it, but I’m hoping that we can figure it out and maybe fix this issue for the both of us.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. He knew he couldn’t go on like this, that eventually he’d get so bleary eyed and exhausted that they would sedate him again. He didn’t want to talk to Angeline about his fucking feelings or analyze his rocky relationship with sleep, but he wanted to be involuntarily sedated and carry on like he had been even less. He glanced at the stone floor, where Angeline was dancing from foot to foot to avoid the cold. 

   “Let’s go somewhere warmer and talk.” He suggested. She looked up at him, her white-blonde hair framing her tired face, the shadowed corners of her mouth turning upwards. “Or if you want I can just set myself on fire to heat up the room.” She laughed and shook her head as she made her way back to her pink door. 

   They talked all night and all day. As Garnet told her about his mother and his fears around losing control while he slept, she felt his stress diminish drastically. The pit in her stomach also shrunk, and she began to breathe more easily. As Garnet spoke, he began to recline more and more until he was lying horizontally with one arm tucked under his head. When they finished talking, Angeline felt so calm she was nearly asleep in the chair by the door. Garnet’s eyes were shut, and his hand lay at rest on his stomach. As if he sensed her watching, his eyes opened ever so slightly. “I guess I should go get ready for patrol.” He said. 

   “Garnet, how are we going to find your mom if you’re too sleep deprived to help me look?” Ange yawned. 

   “I guess… I guess you’re right.” He muttered. Ange felt the worry and anxiety that surrounded him clear away as he fell asleep. She wasn’t far behind. 

 

   She slept better than she had in a long time. She felt clear, calm, and free of concern. When she awoke to the morning light streaming in through the window, Garnet was in the same spot - still asleep. He looked the most peaceful she had ever seen him, which made her debate letting him stay that way, but thought it more important to start their new mission. “Garnet.” She whispered, still a little scared to wake him in fear that he might go up in flames. His eyes fluttered open and he sat bolt upright, turning his head frantically to try and get his bearings. 

   “What’s going on?” He asked confusedly, rubbing his eyes. 

   “Garnet you slept. The whole night.” He stopped and looked up at her in disbelief. 

   “I did?” 

   “Yes. Now let’s not waste the day. Let’s go find your mom.” 

Pregnancy Test 
Lu Beard 

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thank you beads 
Anonymous  


when i’m an older woman 

i want to be one of those grandmothers 

who carries nick nacks along 

 

not candy 

but rocks, 

beads or buttons 

and give them to lovelies in thank yous 

 

⁃note to self 67 orbits later

January 
Liya Serikova 

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Blush
Anonymous 
 

   The steady candle light gives her cheeks a warm orange hue, smoothening the outlines of her face.

   She sits at one end of the dinner table, a bit hunched forward. Her head has tilted slightly to the left as she rests her calm, careless eyes placidly on the flickering candle fire. The profuse warmth of the candle, which radiates from atop the table and has filled almost every corner of the dining room, seems unable to reach the depth of her eyes, shielded behind those half-fallen eyelids.  

   Her hands are elegantly folded over her thighs. Her shoulder half-relaxed, slacking loosely, creates an oval shape on her upper body. Her long fingers, carefully trimmed and slender, warp around each other in a twisted fashion, bending to humanly-impossible angles, the joints have turned from white to purple.  

   So she sits there, waiting.  

   It’s almost time for her husband to come home from a long day of work. She has prepared a nice meal, lit the candles, put on a white dress, and made sure she herself looks presentable.  

   Another glance at the clock, another quick tap on her phone, biting her lips, she rushes once again into the restroom and turns on the lights.  

   Instantly, the white ceiling light beams at her face, along with the glares from the ceramic tiles, the white toilet seat, and the metallic sink, the handles and edges of the mirror.  

   The face in the mirror is pallid. Sickly pallid. Unacceptable.

   Refraining from letting out that horrified scream, she reaches desperately for the bag of cosmetics and pulls out a blush brush and smears it against her cheeks. The rough fiber ends sting against her soft skin, but she continues in militant admancy. Her eyes are fixated on that face in the mirror, so resolute is her gaze that her brushing motion becomes mechanical and dull.   

   As she finishes, her face has become unnaturally red; not only her cheeks, but her nose, her brows, her lips, her jaw, all covered in a thick, powdery red. She still feels the need to do some more. So she takes out a red makeup pencil and puts an elegant red dot to the left of her lips, just beneath the corner of her mouth. 

   Beautiful. Smiling at herself in the mirror, she takes a brief moment to admire her own face. Then the door begins to sound. A chain of keys clatters outside.  

   When the husband comes in, his wife is already seated.  

   He takes off his shoes, folds his coat over his left forearm, and puts down his hat near the counter. After taking a quick glance at his wife, he shifts his focus to the food orderly plated on the table.  

   “Hmmm…” He mumbles as if he was pleased, and takes a seat at the other end.  

   Her eyes have never left her husband as he eats the food in his bowl. Not even eating her own portion, she merely sits there, with her hands cupped around her cheeks, full from the satisfaction and contentment this moment of intimacy has brought her.  

   As the candle continues to burn, she sees that her husband is not going to lift up his head and look at her, so she begins to speak in a warm, soothing tone.  

   “How was work today?” 

   “It was alright,” the words come out and sink right back into the sounds of chewing and utensils clattering.  

   “What about that project? How did that go?”  

   “It went alright.” 

   She feels her eyelashes trembling slightly. An uneasy feeling gurgles in her chest as she inhales. Still, she tries to continue this conversation and inquires further,  

   “Just alright?” 

   “...”  

   This time she is met by silence. And the whole time he has not looked up. The candle continues to flicker, generously offering its warmth, but the heat begins to make her restless. She looks back at her husband, who has finished about one tenth of the food on the table... 

   “Why won’t you look at me?” She blurts out.  

   The shrillness of her voice pierces through the room, and silence follows, leaving behind a suffocating air of unease. The husband finally lifts his head, eyeing her with a clear astonishment.  

   Recognizing the abruptness of her demand, she retreats slightly back into her seat. Evidently uncomfortable, she squirms in her chair, half consciously and half subconsciously showing her husband the left side of her face. Another glance at the clock, and another quick tap on the phone. She proceeds to speak in a softer, reconciling tone,  

   “Do I look any different today?”  

   Her husband, who instantly replies with a half-hearted “huh”, begins to examine her face and lifts his eyebrows as a sign of notice.  

   Her heart lifts as she waits for his reply.  

   “How did you get blood all over your face? Go and wash it off.” 

   “I…”  

   Her heart drops along with her body. The chair, which should be hardwood and firm, feels like an infinite abyss into which she simply cannot help but sink. She does not know what to respond. So she just sits there, becoming smaller each second, watching as the husband returns to his endeavor of devouring his food.  

   That red dot has begun to scorch, an intense burning sensation as if a hole is being blazed on her face.  

   She forces a smile toward the husband, which, of course, is not received, and she rushes into the bathroom.  

   She flicks on the lights and runs before the mirror.  

   A sickly red has pervaded her face. That red dot on her left chin is visibly becoming larger. As she watches, dumbfounded, her cheeks also begin to scorch and the entirety of her face reddens, writhing in pain.  

   She quickly opens the faucet and reaches her hands for water. But as she splashes it onto her face, the water instantly evaporates with a sizzling sound. The mist fogs up her face, but she feels vividly that the searing pain remains.  

   So she bends forward, dipping her head into the sink, while cupping water and throwing it frantically onto her face. The persistent sizzling sound soon drowns the noise of running water. As the pain becomes more bearable, she stands back in front of the mirror. The mist has now swarmed the room and she has to lean closer to the mirror to see herself.  

   Through bloodshot eyes, she sees a scarlet mist revolving around her face. It has a silky texture, like a veil, which has blurred the entirety of her face. Seeming to have life on its own, it

undulates as it squirms across her face. Peculiarly, her eyes are able to see through it, but she cannot recognize in the mirror any features of her face. As it is blocked behind the mist.  

   Carefully, she draws out her left hand and tries to touch this nebulous wizardry. The moment that she touches the mist, it violently jerks away and curves backwards like a bow. Then, with immense ferocity and imperceptible speed, the mist launches itself towards her face and squeezes tightly with enough strength to crush bones.  

   She feels it forcibly entering through her pores, bringing along the dreadful scorching that burns under her skin. She attempts to let out a long desperate wailing for help, only to find the mist seeping through her clenched teeth and down into her throat.  

   Nauseous and light headed, she curls into a ball on the cold ceramic floor, trembling as she fights back the desire to open her mouth and scream. Her eyes are opened wide as she struggles to remain conscious. The pain is so immense that for multiple times she has considered letting it in and ending it all. 

   She stays in such torture for twenty minutes until the pain subsides.   

   Gasping for air, she struggles to get on her feet; sweat has covered her back. She stands once again before the mirror and stares calmly at the ghastly face inside, the face covered in cold sweat and devoid of any other color but white.  

   After briefly tidying herself, she walks outside the restroom. Another glance at the clock. She sees the husband again, sitting at one end of the table, about to finish his meal.  

   “I’ll do the dishes.” 

   She says so with a smile and walks over.

Twins 
Coco Wu

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Calling from Han 
Coco Wu

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Journey 
Anonymous 

 

The illusion of a problem or equation  

Set in stone and carved in the mind

No one is meant to find 

The solution 

For joy does not come

From completion or success it is not something

To be earned or won assessed or

solved

But an experience to be had

A journey to find what makes you

smile

return to monkey 

Anonymous 

 

Global pandemic? Climate change? 

What are you talking about? Come friend, 

Let's go eat banana.

Imaginative Expression Portraits 
Lu Beard 

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Strawberry Cheesecake
Lil Runyan 
 

This whole ‘writing thing’ is getting to be too much.

Please. Let me drown in my intrusive thoughts in pieces…

I mean peace.

 

I don’t want a piece of pie.

I want life to be a piece of cake.

I’m only 16. I’m sixteen and I don’t allow myself to eat pie, let alone cake.

 

Give me a piece of your pillow, I want to lie down.

I won’t accept it all, I’m not familiar with anything that isn't broken.

 

Pick me up, Peace by Peace, 

Sew me back together. 

I want to feel whole again.

Untitled 
Karam Ajalat 

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Walkout Speech
Qai Hinds 

 

Do you know how it feels to be

unaccepted in your own skin? To

be captured in photographs to

make a private institution look

better? To be alienated and

dehumanized within a classroom

and community? To walk into a

room and feel pitted because

your skin is a darker than your

white counterparts?

 

I experienced all of this and

more. I have walked into

countless classrooms where I

was the only woman of color, or

the only black or brown student.

I have seen images of myself up

on school websites for years,

even if I had stopped attending.

work in regards

to social justice and the

betterment of our communities

social capacity has been taken

and claimed by administration

without any recognition to what

we had started. I felt used,

unappreciated, and unwelcome in

my own community.

 

The even more disappointing fact

is that this is not the first

time this has happened,

countless BIPOC have completed

incredible work, that was also

taken and claimed by those who

are in power, AKA white people.

 

Our hard work is often viewed as

a marketing strategy to the

administrators at CSW, and it is

belittling. The countless times I

have heard a white counterpart

speak proudly about the affinity

groups at CSW, when they do not

know the amount of work it took

to make it what it is.

 

I stand here today, to share

your pain and frustrations, and

to tell our predominantly white

community about it, to show them

that we are HERE, and we have

voices too. That we are not an

opportunity to make money, that

we are not a charity case, but

we are strong, driven,

intelligent, beautiful, and so

much more.

 

Let us continue to remember and

embrace our power as we are here

today in solidarity.

 

Thank you <3

Father and Me 
Liya Serikova 

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Untitled 
Lil Runyan 

i have yet to live in a house that feels like a home. 

you’re not safe, but you smell like it. 

i've noticed recently you will never hold me again while i cry.

i've noticed recently i can’t cry without holding my breath. 

 

  • i haven't let go yet 

all i own is this body. all i know is this mind.

 

  • i'm stuck with you

Layers 
Coco Wu 

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「An uphill climb」
Paul Duan 

 

A rocky uphill,

process which I can't recall,

one turn, a great view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Great thanks to Kevin Smith and all wilderness trip participants 

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The Heard-Shaped Garnet 

Eva Young 

 

   Watching her Aunt Margaret wave to her from outside the train window, Cassidy found herself breathless with the anticipation of her holiday. She excitedly gazed outward of the train, watching the familiar, sweet countryside of Ironton, MO gradually fade into the hustle and bustle of Chicago. As she exited the train, the sound of lively swing replaced the withering banjo she so often heard in Ironton. She walked through the station, having never seen so many people before. Unfazed, she swiveled through the busy-minded crowd and onto the street to hail a taxi.

   But before that she stepped into a nearby cabaret, the surrounding air transitioning from brisk to pleasantly moderate as the honking of cars ceases into the vitality of Swing jazz, the movements rising and falling with the music. Cassidy noticed how steps and music are influenced by the sudden accents the musicians may add to the music, creating a relationship between the dancers, their steps, and the flow of the music. She approached an affable average-height man sitting alone, well-dressed and appearing standoffish while surreptitiously hoping to partake in an existential conversation. His hair was askew and his radiant face peered up at Cassidy from the crystallized glass of whiskey he just set down on the table. 

   “Afternoon, sir, care if I sit down?” Cassidy politely inquired. 

   “Please,” said the man smoking a cigarette. “First time here?” the man asked pleasantly, smoothly lighting the tip. 

   “Yes, I’ve never been to Chicago before. I came from Ironton, Missouri and this is my first time being in a city,” said Cassidy. “It’s so interesting, I’ve been here barely an hour and I’m having a marvelous time,”

   “Welcome to the Windy City, my dear! I’m from Lake Forest and I haven’t spent too much time in the country, but I am nevertheless intrigued by what goes on there,” the man responded. “I’m Albert Scotch, and what might your name be?” 

   “Cassidy Grant, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Scotch,” said Cassidy taking a puff on the cigarette he offered her. 

   He requited her fascination and curiosity. Being accustomed to the weekend soirées, the exuberance of mansions, late nights in Chicago going to jazz clubs, Albert was taken with Cassidy’s naivité to the ways of the metropolis. To meet and be in proximity of someone who is experiencing the vitality of the Jazz Age for the first time is an astronomical kaleidoscope of satisfaction. Upon learning he belonged to the Lake Forest Scotch’s, one of the most powerful Midwestern families, Cassidy’s eyebrows knit as she was intrigued how someone as opulent as he could be so down-to-earth and kind. 

    “Is it true you hail from a line of medieval Scottish kings?” Cassidy inquired. “I feel as though I heard from somewhere that you are descendants of Malcolm III,” 

   “While true, it does sound tacky,” said Albert. “What’s life like in the countryside?”

   “First let me say that you do not strike me as the dynast that you are,” said Cassidy. “I do not have much to divulge about Ironton, other than it’s mostly cornfields and it’s the seat of the county. Now I must get to my hotel, but I sure hope I’ll see you again before I go back to Missouri,” 

   “That would be most wonderful,” said Albert. “There’s a masquerade ball tomorrow night being thrown at the Felton residence. Would you care to join me?” 

   “Absolutely, old sport,” said Cassidy. “I am glad I brought a fancy party dress,”

   “Swell,” said Albert. 

   “Would you like to have lunch in the city beforehand? I’m staying at the Blackstone Hotel.” 

   “The pleasure would be mine, and yours, I hope-I.”

   “It is.”

----

   While luncheoning at Cassidy’s hotel, they discovered to their utmost delight, both realized that when they read novels, they put into context elements of their lives by envisioning the characters as people from their lives. The book that occupied the most space in their conversation was The Beautiful and Damned, as Cassidy had just finished reading it and it was Albert’s favorite. 

    At a quarter to sundown, he hailed a limousine to take them to the mansion of Millicent Felton. Albert adorned a tuxedo, while Cassidy bore a pink gown, neither too flashy nor modest, with the addition of a bedazzled neckline. Getting to Lake Forest from Chicago was no picnic, a conundrum of which he took frequent advantage. Driving through the budding moonlight, Cassidy was curious about witnessing the dynamic between the Scotch’s and the Felton’s in real life. 

    “May I ask why you felt so inclined to adventure with me in the city?”

   “I am grateful for when I have the chance to get out of the house. My family is a nightmare. My father always pesters me with the same question and it evolves depending on what life stage I am in. In high school, it was ‘are you getting the marks you need to get into Princeton?’ and at age 25 it’s ‘now you must think about settling down’,” said Albert. 

   “I’m 23, and I have a beau back home who hasn’t shown me that he deserves me,” Cassidy responded. “He’s tall, handsome, and gentle, and I suppose that is all you can really ask for. But it isn’t love, at least not for me,” 

   “Few men are worthy enough of a woman like you who possesses such an intellectual caliber,” said Albert. 

   “Thank you,” said Cassidy. 

   As the limousine edged closer to a line of mansions overlooking Lake Michigan, Cassidy thought of how fondly the patriarchs dreamed of uniting their dynasties. When news of Frederick and Millicent’s engagement came about, high society was so abuzz about the two most powerful Midwestern families that even the most isolated and impoverished farmers in North Dakota knew about the upcoming wedding. Cassidy’s first outing with the tycoon Peter Von Warner of whom is courting her back home marveled in comparison to an ordinary gettogether for the Scotch family. 

    Cassidy’s confidence allowed her to fit into the contemporary high society present at the castellated Felton Manor like a glove. Howard Scotch, Albert’s father greatly enjoyed her company. Dorothy, his wife could sense Cassidy had some degree of scorn for their ostentatiousness and thus was unimpressed since she reckoned Albert did not speak so highly of the clan outside of their quarters. Cassidy did not need to be explicit about her rural upbringing to give Dorothy more reason to be contemptuous of her. 

   “Good evening, Albert!” piped up an enthusiastic voice in front of him and Cassidy. “It’s nice to meet you I’m Charlotte, Albert and Frederick’s sister,” 

   “It’s wonderful to make your acquaintance tonight, my name is Cassidy Grant,” said Cassidy. 

   “I hope you’ve been enjoying the party,” said Charlotte. “We’re having another one tomorrow night, but at our house, will you be around?” 

   “Yes for I am here in Illinois for the next two days,” said Cassidy. 

   “Splendid!” Charlotte exclaimed. 

    Eventually, Cassidy was introduced to Millicent Felton. She lived a fabricated reality in which she was under the illusion that made her think the people around her genuinely worshipped her. Despite the embroidered gold gown, it was what she wore around her neck that stuck out to Cassidy most. A fit of scarlet passion lay delicately upon her chest as though the weight of such an intense stone did not drag her down. It seemed to carry Lake Forest within such a deep glossy surface. With tiny diamonds encrusting the edges, the gargantuan gemstone is constructed into the shape of a heart which absorbed the worship with which Millicent thought she solicited. The only graciousness Millicent surveyed to anyone outside her inner circle was the diamonds that encircled her neck. 

   “Jealous?” Millicent asked. “Do not tarry with your compliments,” 

   “It’s lovely,” Cassidy said. 

   “Frederick gifted it to me as a token of our love,” said Millicent. 

   “Would you care to know the story behind it?” Frederick asked. 

   “Sure,” said Cassidy. 

   “The Heart-Shaped Garnet goes back to our primitive ancestor, Malcolm III, who was gifted it upon his coronation. For centuries it has been passed down from generation to generation to the eldest son to give to his wife, and now it is my turn,” said Frederick. 

   “Congratulations brother,” Albert swooped in. He soon managed to muster the courage to inquire the following as the vast orchestra began to play their fine tunes. “Cassie, may I have this dance?” 

She said yes, and they began to waltz with the other pairs. The relevance of the snottiness seemed to fade with the beauty of dovetailing different instruments of distinct sections of the band. Taking in the palatial ambiance added an air of charm to Cassidy’s evaluation of the space as she and Albert spun about the room. The party began to fade and as they departed into the frigid air, having forgotten how crisp the nightly temperature was wished each other farewell, both looking forward to seeing each other one last time before Cassidy returned to Chicago. 

----

    The next evening arrived and brought with it, unknown to the guests of the engagement party upon arrival, a nasty surprise waiting inside one of the lanterns. For now, the naive attendees circulated into the atrium of the Scotch Estate as though it were any other night because to them it truly was an ordinary evening of celebration. The waltzes wore on in bliss, the party roared with the usual refined excitement. Cassidy and Albert were touring the library when suddenly a suspicious smell of smoke caught their attention. It snuck up on the harmony of the evening, as to indicate a horrid practical joke. The flames began to engulf the mansion, as the rich guests began their pursuit to flee, the fire taking those who did not escape one by one. They left the room and looked downstairs for a loophole within the fire. 

   “Where’s Mom and Dad?!” Charlotte asked, the bottom half of her dress tarnished as she was bursting into the refined hallway they were standing in hysterics. 

   “I haven’t the slightest idea,” said Cassidy. “But we need to get the hell out of here!” 

   “They ran up to the second floor, to retrieve the garnet, but I don’t know where in the corridor they went!” Charlotte exclaimed. 

   “Cassidy, Charlotte, there’s a window right here!” Albert exclaimed. “It does not seem like a high fall there’s a wide pipeline we can slide down!” 

   “Quick! Grab the burning rail and smash it into the window,” Charlotte commanded Cassidy. 

    As though she were cavalry within a phalanx, Cassidy charged forward smashing the rustic window open with all her might, dragging Albert and Charlotte along as they fled the chaotic scene, not being able to catch their breath until they reached the ground. Umber spitted out in conjunction with the grand escape. When they touched the grass, they coughed into the hollow Earth as they looked upward at the sublime roaring fire.

   Cassidy retreats into Albert’s arms as they watch the mansion engulfed by the flames, devouring the Scotch’s whole. The Scotch’s had fallen, the airheaded Millicent alongside them meeting their tragic fate because they cared more about saving the garnet than saving themselves. To them, living a simple life was dire, they feared what would happen if they did not recover the garnet, or if they did succeed, having to sell it in order to restore the manor. Dreaming of how it would provide the illusion that it was the 1800s again. It takes quite a deal of superficiality to die for one’s status. Their wealthy compatriots would go on dishonestly to say in the Chicago Tribune that the noble family did not perish in vain. The seemingly indestructible nature of the Scotch Dynasty, their mass sums of money, and their claim to fame as the descendants of medieval royalty became a pile of ashes amongst the annihilated ruins upon the daybreak. The scarlet gemstone, an emissary as the heart of the Scotch’s was suspected lost in the inferno had assumed its full form that night. 

    “I had no idea there was an eclipse tonight,” said Charlotte, watching the moon replicate the Heart-Shaped Garnet as the darkness swarms the composition of the nighttime watching the devastating estate crumble to the ground with the Scotch’s and Millicent inside. 

   “Whoa,” said Cassidy. “Now what?” 

   “We go to Missouri,” said Albert.  “I’m due for some time away from the city, and I can’t wait to meet Peter and tell him how much he’s missing out on. Because you, old sport, are amazing and it would be a real shame to marry someone who does not have your best interest at heart. I reckon it is not a far walk to the train station from here.” 

   The trio greeted the fresh air in their stroll as though it were estranged from them. They absorbed the frigid air with all their might, even being able to see their own breath. As they were awaiting the train, the starlight in its abundance shines clear on the harrowing dark night. Exhausted, they relished escaping the fire relatively unscathed. Albert, Cassidy, and Charlotte settled into their seats, watching the roaring village of Lake Forest in its urbanity fade into the sweet, familiar countryside. Edging towards the vast obscurity of the rural terrain, and further away from the disastrous scene, the blood was wiped off of the moon’s surface as a waxing crescent begins to emerge. 

   “Were you wearing that jacket before?” Charlotte asked. 

   “It feels unusually heavy, I grabbed it on my way out of the house, but I’m starting to wonder if it was mine, Frederick had a similar one,” Albert remarked, removing it and dropping it on the seat. He examined the pockets, caressing a series of smooth rough edges with a glossy texture in the groove of his thumb. His grey eyes dilating, a perplexed expression surfaced along his face as he gradually pulled out the heart-shaped garnet. 

   “What are you going to do with the garnet?” Cassidy asked. 

   “To hell with it, one day we’ll restore Lake Forest to what it was before the ridiculously wealthy hoarded the fortune,” said Albert looking out hopefully at the night sky. “But for now, I look forward to experiencing the vitality of the country.” 

   “I prefer jazz,” said Cassidy. 
 

   The End

Hectic 
Coco Wu 

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Olive Feeling 
Lu Beard 

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Untitled Prose 
Anonymous

The necklace I’m wearing around my neck is choking me. Not physically, she always knew how to make shit that fit me perfectly. She always had the right measurements, always the right tapping rhythm. Elise. Having her name ingrained in my bones is enough of a reminder, reminiscent of her rage and royalty and delicate fingers. My mother is a pretentious old crow who wears judgement like grand jewelry, and has always told me thrift stores are dirty places. In her eyes, the necklace I’m donating fit perfectly. In my mother’s undoubtedly soulless eyes, her name is dirty. Elise. In my mother’s broken window panes, our love was dirty, belonged to sin and in need of cleansing, but her idea of cleansing is pouring brandy into open cuts. These words prick my tongue in sharp jabs, leaving my mouth tasting metallic and heavy, but they are a rushing mine of honey and tar as well. They are glorious words in the way the Trojan war might’ve been glorious, brutally violent and fueled by stolen love. We were glorious, belonging to each other, belonging to the soils under our feet, and belonging to ourselves. 

A Thousand Suns 
Liya Serikova 

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5 Minutes (Pink Suite) 
L Brock 

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No Goodbyes 
Anonymous 

 

   He remembers seeing her in his dreams, always in a replay of that same moment. He remembers that her head would slowly turn against him like a stop-motion movie and her long, silky black hair which was tied to a high ponytail would be swirling across her back. Breathtaking. He remembers thinking. He also remembers that he, who was too dazzled that day, that moment, forgot to say goodbye. 

   He remembers always trying to smile to his fullest whenever she looked his way. He remembers the “unexpected encounters” that they had each day going up the stairs, or walking past the hallway during passing time. He remembers each witty exchange that they had. He remembers looking for her wherever she might be, in lunch lines, classrooms, fields, even in streets he doesn’t know the names to, but he remembers imagining, maybe she’ll appear on the next block, standing by the next turn… 

   He remembers the flowers that he picked for her. He remembers keeping them for so long that they withered in his room. He remembers the moonlight that shone her silhouette extended next to his. They seemed so close they were almost touching. He remembers the sound of rain drops for she once said that she likes it, the rain. He remembers the pine trees after a light snow on a Sunday morning, the smell of mint and her half-wet hair. He remembers walking next to her that day, being so nervous he forgot to say goodbye. He remembers the breeze into which he had whispered, “bring me to her” and the wind passed him by, as if nodding to say yes. 

   He remembers to listen. He remembers to wait. He remembers looking outside of the window during classes hoping she would pass by somehow. He remembers ducking away when she did pass by because his face felt hot. He remembers wishing to ask her out, not on a date of course, maybe just dinner, or tea is cool too. He remembers trying to write her a love letter, one that eventually became his stubborn repetition of parallelisms, trying to compare her with something beautiful. “The bright mountain mornings; the city streets at day-break; the blossoming golden fields of barley; the moonlight that scattered shadows over a small, rocky path.” He remembers not liking any of these and crushing them into balls but then carefully unfolding them and putting them away into a secret folder. Perhaps she’ll see them one day. 

 

   He remembers not being able to decide whether or not he would want her to see them. He remembers that she probably will never see it. He remembers that it’s the end of August and the end of highschool and he should be saying goodbye now, it’s his last chance to do so. He remembers thinking to himself before sitting down by his desk, and biting on his pen. What if she does know? What if she doesn’t like me? What if … we’ll never see each other again? 

    He remembers her coming to him once in a while before class, asking him for half a piece of eraser. He remembers that he would always take out his ruler and cut his own carefully into two similar halves and hand the seemingly larger one to her. He remembers doing this so often that the rations he handed to her became smaller and smaller until he had to buy a new one. He remembers thinking that he had heard her chuckle a little each time as she turned around to go back to her seat. 

    He remembers one night, when they both snuck outside of their houses and met under the moonlight, he said to her, “We should take each other on a trip, and we’ll pass by all the prettiest roads, and travel through the most breathtaking sites.” He remembers there was another line to that sentence, which he had only shouted in his heart. He remembers her smiling at him, saying, “that’ll be cool”. 

    He remembers at the end of the semester when everybody was signing yearbooks, he first went around and asked everybody for signatures, then he changed to a clean page, and carefully looked to find her. 

He remembers crumbling his youth into pieces and each piece hurts. He remembers regrets that once filled his sky and his earth. He remembers tears and smiles being mixed together that he can’t remember much more. He remembers that he was going to write her a letter, so he lowers his pen, and begins like this.

 

    “I met you in the winter, now summer is soon about to pass. May the autumn leaves cover the tracks of this timeless train, and may it be written on every station that we remembered this season. So we’re on the last train of this season, and if we are all to leave. Will you please leave before me? And don’t you wake me when you do, for I’m pretending to be asleep. Just let me sleep until the end, and pretend to not know that you have left.”

Glowing 
Coco Wu 

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Childhood in the Village 
Liya Serikova 

Editor - Lily Thomson

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