Category: Fiction

“Young, Wild, and Trapped” by Danielle Eyler

“Young, Wild, and Trapped” by Danielle Eyler

Behind closed doors, Kathleen glowed just like her mom had said she would one day. Outside of her room, Kathleen walked around with her head down and her long hair hanging in her face. Her mother would no longer speak to her. Her father glared at her as she walked near him. Her ten brothers and sisters were not allowed to speak to her either. It broke Kathleen’s heart to see her family filled with so much hatred and disgust towards her. She prayed every night that things would get better, but it didn’t happen.

“Mary, come here now!” Kathleen’s mother would scold as the little five year old tried to run up to her big sister. The family had been torn apart by Kathleen’s rebellious actions. She didn’t want it to be like that, but that’s how it had to be. Kathleen hung her head and scurried up the stairs.

She shut her wooden bedroom door and slid against the wall onto the cold hard wood floors. She glanced down at her large baby belly and smiled as if life were perfect. “I’ll take care of you sweet baby.” She didn’t know how she was going to do it, but she was determined to do it. She was going to raise this baby whether her family wanted to support her or not.

Kathleen sat there for a while and prayed just like she had every day. She prayed for peace. She prayed for a healthy baby. She prayed that her baby’s father would save her from the family that no longer loved her. Buzz. Buzz. Kathleen ran over to her nightstand. She grabbed her cellphone which she hid from her family. The screen read, Alan. “Hello. Please come get me. I can’t stand it here any longer. They won’t even look at me or talk to me. They hate me,” Kathleen cried out in a whisper.

Kathleen glanced up at the grandfather clock that sat in the corner of her room. Her father had made it for her when she was just a little girl, along with a wooden chest that stored her first handmade outfit, crocheted afghan, and hair clippings from her very first haircut. The hour hand had just struck seven o’clock, so it was no surprise that Alan was calling. She held the iPhone 6 up to her ear that Alan had bought her after finding out she was pregnant. “Keep this with you at all times. If you ever need help, call me. If you ever feel signs of labor, call me,” Alan told Kathleen as he gave her his old phone that he kept connected just for her.

Alan always called every night at seven o’clock. That was his break at work. He would call to check on her. He would ask about the baby.

“Be ready in two hours. I get off work at nine. Only bring what is necessary. We won’t have a lot of room,” Alan stated. He thought back to the night he had gotten Kathleen pregnant. What a mess he had gotten himself into, but he knew he had to take care of it just like he was raised to do. “But, damn, it would be really easy to just walk away. Change my phone number. She’d never be able to find me,” Alan thought to himself for a brief second.

“Okay, I will,” Kathleen replied.

He worked as a bartender at the bar that sat on Main Street. He had started working there when he was 21 years old. His parents discouraged him from doing it, but he had always been the rebellious one and decided to do it against their wishes. At the time, he had been in a serious relationship with Hannah. She was the waitress that had shoulder length blonde hair, long eyelashes coated in mascara, and boobs that were popping out of her low cut V-neck shirt. All of his friends had been so jealous. “How’d you get a hot one like that?” They would tease him. Alan’s family, who attended church every Sunday, didn’t care for the reviling way she dressed. They had thought that Alan could bring something a little bit classier home. But, Alan was “in love.” He had fallen head over heels for her. The only bad thing for them was that both of them had crazy exes that constantly tried to create drama between them. After all, neither Alan nor Hannah had a good track record with relationships, so it shocked their friends when they celebrated their one-year anniversary of being together.

Alan had just left work. He worked a long eight hour shift that day. He was ready to get home to his downtown apartment and open up a nice cold can of beer. He was storming down the sidewalk. He had been frustrated all day. Hannah was bitching at him all day about stupid little things. She just loved to stir shit up between them when nobody else was. His cell phone buzzed. It was a text from Hannah that read, “I’m done. Goodbye. You aren’t worth my time.” Alan rolled his eyes and just texted back, “K.” He was so over her crazy personality. He turned on his street and that is when he noticed Kathleen dressed in her floor length, floral, homemade dress. Her old, black sneakers stuck out like a sore thumb. She was the complete opposite from crazy, sexy Hannah, but something about her innocence attracted him instantly.

He walked towards her and noticed the wooden cross that hung around her neck on a piece of twine. Alan couldn’t help himself but to approach her. “Hey. I have something good back at my place, want to come?” Kathleen was confused. What could he be talking about? A new bible? A new hymnal? A new handmade dress? After all, those were the good things in her life.

“A bottle of liquor is waiting back at my place for us. I’d love to get you back to my place and pour you a fruity little mixed drink.”

Kathleen quickly hesitated. She knew she shouldn’t talk to him. She knew she should turn around and walk the opposite way. She knew he was up to no good. But, she was scared. She felt like she couldn’t say no. She took a step and began to follow Alan back to his place.

That’s when it all started. Kathleen quickly fell for Alan. He was a rebel. He wasn’t like the men in her community. He wasn’t like the boy up the dirt road that her mom always swore she would marry. He was different. He was an outsider. He wore ripped up jeans and V-neck t-shirts. He wore a black leather jacket. His black hair was styled and not just covered up with a straw hat. He had a cigarette lit at all times.

They walked back to his place. She briefly thought about what she would tell her parents when they asked why it took her so long to go to town and get the fabric. “I’ll just tell them that I couldn’t decide which ones to buy,” she thought to herself as she cautiously held his hand and made her way to his apartment with him. The door opened and she had never seen anything like it. A large flat screen television hung on the wall above a gas fireplace. The large L-shaped leather couch filled the living room. Stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops light up the kitchen. The open floor plan and red painted walls modernized the space. The wood floors looked as if they were brand new. Kathleen was in complete shock. She had never seen anything like this. It was decorative. It was colorful. It wasn’t boring.

“I’m Alan. What’s your name, you little innocent beauty?” Alan asked as Kathleen observed every detail of his apartment.

“Kathleen.”

“Okay, Kathleen, can I pour you a drink?”

Kathleen quickly felt nauseous. She never drank before. Her parents never drank before. Drinking was terrible! But she didn’t know what to say except, “um… I guess. What will it do to me?”

He giggled at her innocent little remarks, but poured her a drink anyway.

Kathleen began to feel giggly and light-headed. It didn’t take long for Kathleen to be lying on his couch, cuddled up to his cologne-scented shirt, and running her fingers through his thick black hair. “Tell me about yourself, Kathleen.”

Kathleen started, “I live in the community. The Mennonite community. As you can tell, I have to wear these long, homemade dresses. We don’t have any electronics. And I’ve never drank alcohol. We spend our Sundays at church with our community. We work in the fields way too much. And, being the oldest, I have to take care of all the little rascals while the parents have bible study every Wednesday night.”

“Shit, that sucks.”

Kathleen continued to sip at her mixed drink and they sat there and got to know each other. She felt so relaxed. Kathleen was nervous, scared, excited, and feeling crazy. She had no idea what was happening, but she didn’t want to stop. She never felt like this before, but she liked it. His hand rubbed her leg and she felt like she was falling in love. She looked up at him and smiled. Alan thought that was his sign to make the next move. So, he slowly took off his shirt. Tattoos covered his arms. He began to undress Kathleen. Kathleen quickly grabbed the blanket that sat on the back of the couch and covered her body. Her wooden cross got tangled in her hair as he slipped her dress off, but he continued anyway.

A few weeks had passed before Kathleen’s family asked her to return to town, which gave her a chance to find Alan and talk about the night they had shared. They were nervous about asking her to go because last time she didn’t make it home until the fabric store closed. But, they believed her. After all, she was their oldest baby. She had always been so sweet and innocent. And her dedication to the community and to God outweighed every slight concern.

Ding. Dong. Knock. Knock. Knock. She anxiously waited outside on the small porch. Her knees were wobbly and knots formed in her stomach. She prayed that he was home. She couldn’t stop thinking about that night they had shared. The night she lost her virginity to a man she had just met. The night she lost her virginity to an outsider. And worst of all, the night she betrayed her community by having sex before marriage.

The door swung open. His face lit up and he stuck his hand out. She grabbed it and went inside. “I thought I would never see you again. I had no idea how to find you. I thought about you every day,” Alan explained to Kathleen. He had been telling his friends about her ever since the night they hooked up. Although Hannah had texted him that night after work and said she was done, she was back begging for his forgiveness the next day. Alan couldn’t take her back, though. He could only think about that sweet, innocent girl.

“I felt the same way, but I remembered where you lived. My parents finally ordered me to return to town to buy a few things, so I knew I had to come find you,” Kathleen responded.

It was early in the morning and Alan had been getting ready to go to work, so he called in sick. He couldn’t go to work not knowing how or when he would see Kathleen again.

Kathleen ran to the bathroom and shut the door. She fell to her knees in front of the toilet and got sick just like she had almost every morning for the past few weeks. “Lord help me!” She silently cried.

“Kathleen? Are you okay?” Alan yelled through the paper thin bathroom door.

“NO! This can’t be happening. It can’t be true. What if she is pregnant?” Alan thought to himself.

Kathleen stumbled out of the bathroom and lay down on the couch. She began to explain to him how sorry she was for coming to his apartment and getting sick. She told him how this had been happening every morning and she had no idea why. She felt exhausted.

Kathleen was terrified. She had no idea why she felt so sick lately. She wanted to leave because she felt so embarrassed, but she wanted help, too. She wanted to feel better, but she wanted to run.

“Are you pregnant?” Alan shouted. “Damn. This can’t be happening. We only hooked up one time. But, really, you were so kind and beautiful. Your innocence glowed throughout the room. I couldn’t stop myself. But, honestly, I can’t have no baby with a girl like you. My friends would freak if they found out I got the Mennonite girl pregnant,” Alan continued to ramble.

Kathleen just looked at him with complete shock. She had no idea what he was talking about. She was determined that she wasn’t pregnant. She began to fill with anger. “Why is he saying all this stuff? I’ll never come back!” She thought to herself.

Alan reluctantly gave her a phone and told her to call him if she found out she was pregnant. Kathleen stormed out the door. She was in complete denial. She couldn’t be pregnant.

A few weeks had passed and during that time, Kathleen walked to the general store to pick up a cheap pregnancy test. She took it. It read positive. She couldn’t believe it. She called Alan and told him. He was shocked, but he knew he had to help her because that was his child.

Throughout the pregnancy, Kathleen would talk to Alan during his break at work. She would tell him all about her day, the doctor’s appointments that she had for the baby, and the way she had been shunned once her parents noticed her pregnant belly.

Kathleen was often haunted by the memory of her parents confronting her the day they noticed she was pregnant. They had both come into her room without asking or knocking. They stormed in. Their faces were red. Her dad was furious. Her mom was scared.

“You little….” her dad yelled. “How could you do this to our family? We know you have been trying to hide this from us, but we aren’t dumb. Tell us the truth right now,” her dad scolded as he stood right in front of her.

“How could you do this? We raised you better than this!” Kathleen’s mother cried out.

Kathleen didn’t know what to do. She had been trying to hide the pregnancy for five months now. She had begun to sew her own dresses just so that she could make them larger and more likely to hide the forming baby bump. Kathleen spent most of her time in her room, alone. She only came downstairs when her mother called her for dinner. Kathleen had totally distanced herself from her family, because she knew this was not a good situation that she had gotten herself into.

“I’m pregnant,” Kathleen cried. Tears rolled down her bright red face.

Her mother continued to cry after Kathleen confessed to her parents. Being her mom, she wanted to hug her and tell her that everything would be okay, but her husband had different ideas. Kathleen’s father grabbed his wife’s arm and said, “Let’s get out of her. We don’t need to be in the presence of someone this terrible. She betrayed us and she will pay for this.”

Kathleen buried her head in her pillow and cried. But, she was thankful that they hadn’t kicked her. She knew she had no place to go.

Kathleen’s bedroom was on the second floor of the farm house. A balcony wrapped around the first and second floor of the house. She quickly gathered her belongings in a duffle bag that her mom had made her when she was just a little girl. Pregnancy test. Bible. Hymnal. Wooden cross. Family picture. Cell phone that Alan had given her. Pink, blue, and yellow color swatches. Picture of the dream nursery. And the baby bible that she had purchased in town the day she found out she was pregnant. Kathleen slung the duffle bag full of her most important items onto her back. She slipped on her black sneakers and continued to her bedroom window. Luckily, it was warm outside, so her bedroom window remained open all week long. The small breeze blew through her room. Her hair blew back in her face. She grabbed the hair tie off her wrist and threw her hair into a tight bun.

She struggled to make it through the window. She pushed and squeezed. She had no idea how she was going to get her eight-month-pregnant self out the window.

Her big belly made it tight to get out through her bedroom window but, with a little extra strength and determination, she was out the window and standing on the balcony that she had once used to sit on as she read her bible. She stood there for a minute and caught her breath. She tiptoed around back to the staircase that went down to the ground. She made it to the ground without anybody noticing. That’s when she began her journey to escaping the community. Kathleen waddled up the dirt road; Alan was parked at the end of it. She waddled as fast as she could but, honestly, she was exhausted and worn out. She had also been experiencing a few contractions here and there. She continued down the dirt road. At the entrance of the community sat the white, jacked up Chevrolet truck that Alan drove. She slung the door open and hopped into the truck. They drove off into the sunset as if it were a scene from a movie.

They had returned to Alan’s apartment. The town was lit up. Couples were strolling around the streets. Some single girls were gathered in a cluster at the steps of Alan’s porch.

“Excuse us,” Adam exclaimed.

The girls quickly moved but their eyes remained on Kathleen. Kathleen waddled up the steps in her long, worn out, homemade, floral and plaid dress. She stepped on the back of her dress as she walked up the stairs due to a bad tear in the back of her dress. The single girls, dressed in their little dresses, continued to stare at Kathleen and whisper about her.

“Did you see those girls’ faces? They were like, why the hell is a good looking hunk with that plain girl?” Kathleen joked as she plopped her duffle bag on the couch.

Alan just laughed. He hugged her and she kissed his check. Kathleen was still terrified, but she finally felt free. They were together. Away from the community, away from the judgments. At eight months pregnant, Kathleen was exhausted and ready to lie down in bed. After all, sneaking out of her home would have been exhausting for anyone. Alan had offered to rub her back since she was experiencing extreme lower back pain.

Laying together in bed, Kathleen and Alan began to talk about the future. “So, I know this may not be important, but I couldn’t bring any of my dresses, and honestly I don’t think I will last in this town if I continue to wear my dresses. So, can we go shopping and get the baby and myself some new outfits?” Kathleen asked. Alan smiled at her and she instantly knew that meant yes.

Kathleen began to drift off to sleep. She was tired. But, she was still scared. She had so many things running through her mind, but she tried her best to just relax and close her eyes. Although she didn’t know it, Alan felt the same way. He was terrified.

“AHHHHH! AHHHH! ALAN! Come here! I think I’m having this baby,” Kathleen screamed. Alan was in his closet getting ready to go shopping for Kathleen and the baby. He hurried over to the bed, noticing that the bed was wet, grabbed his truck keys off the nightstand, and helped Kathleen make her way to his truck that was parked alongside the road.

By the time they had arrived at the hospital, the nurses had a wheelchair ready to rush Kathleen back to the delivery room. Alan remained by her side as they welcomed the small, five pound four ounce baby boy into the world. Minutes after the delivery, Kathleen explained to the doctor that she was still experiencing pain and contractions.

By ten that morning, Kathleen was holding their five pound baby girl and Alan was holding there five pound four ounce baby boy. She looked over at Alan who was glowing. “Can you believe this?”

It felt as if the whole world had just stopped right in its tracks. Both of the young adults’ lives had changed drastically. It really didn’t even feel real.

The nurse came in to check on Kathleen and the babies. “I have the paperwork here. Did you decide on names?”

Kathleen and Alan smiled at each other, “Yes!”

“Solomon is our baby boy. Delilah is our baby girl,” Kathleen told the nurse as she began to fill out the paperwork. “Both are biblical names,” she explained.

Kathleen and Alan held their babies. They survived that first night in the hospital. It wasn’t easy, but they did it.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Alan answered, “Come in.” Alan’s mom and dad had arrived at the hospital. They had never met the mother of their grandchildren before, and she was completely surprised to see two babies in the room. “Oh my gosh! Two? You didn’t tell me!” Alan’s mother exclaimed.

“We didn’t know. Kathleen wasn’t able to get a sonogram during her pregnancy. The doctor in the community who monitored Kathleen and her pregnancy checked the heartbeat but never mentioned that he heard two. We were very surprised, too!”

Alan’s parents both came over to the new parents to hold the babies. They cuddled them and lit up as they held their new grandchildren. Kathleen was filled with joy, but part of her was sad that her parents weren’t there to meet the twins. She knew they didn’t approve of her situation, but these babies were still a gift from God. “How could they not want to be a part of their lives?” Kathleen wondered.

“September Call Up” by Charles Rockwell

“September Call Up” by Charles Rockwell

It all began to sink in once I got on the bus to the ballpark. The feeling was bittersweet. I was going to be making my Major League debut against the team that drafted me three years earlier and that I had rooted for as a child with my father. A couple of years after being drafted, I became “the player to be named later.” I had to start in a whole new system. It would be unlikely that I ever would play for my favorite team. The players and coaches were carrying on during the ride, but the memories of my path to the big leagues are running through my head like a movie.

I had been raised a Baltimore fan. My father would take me to games on a regular basis. He would tell me that, one day, I would be playing on that field. “You have a gift, and it is my dream for you achieve greatness.” I always thought he was giving me the talk that all fathers give their children. When I got older, my abilities to play baseball became more apparent. I would play on all-star teams. My parents would sacrifice so much to keep me playing baseball. While he never said it, I am pretty sure my father lost a job when I was eleven because he wanted me to be a baseball player. He told my mom it was because the company was downsizing, but I heard him out in the garage one night with his buddies talking about how his boss was going to make him work when he was supposed to drive me and my traveling team four hours across the state for the little league state championship tournament.

There were times I would begin to hate baseball. It was not really the game, but the pressure that came with the tournaments. We had to win but, when you are a child, baseball is supposed to be fun, not about championships.

A few years later, I would play in high school, and baseball became fun again. When I was an athlete in high school, it gave me status with my classmates. I wore my varsity jacket around my high school like a badge of honor. It was a big deal being named to the varsity team as a freshman. I had four years to improve before I could either move on to college or enter the first year player draft in Major League baseball. After high school, I chose to enter the baseball draft. When I was selected by Baltimore, my father was so proud and happy, he had tears in his eyes. Not only had his dream of me playing baseball professionally come true, but I was drafted by the team we had cheered for since I was a kid.

For the next few years, I played in the Baltimore farm system. I loved the game, but life on the road is hard. My parents would travel to some of my games, and I was always excited to play in front of them.

One day in August, I was finally introduced to the business side of baseball. The team I had rooted for as a child had traded me to Minneapolis. This was heart-wrenching. I wanted to be the hometown hero, and play my entire career in Baltimore. I wanted my father in his retirement to sit behind the dugout every home game. My dream had been taken away.

I continued to progress through the Minneapolis farm system. When I made it to AAA ball, I knew eventually that I would make it to Major League ball, even if it was only for a short time.

A few months later, I was on a bus heading to the ballpark for my Major League debut. As the bus pulled up, the ballpark seemed larger than when I was a kid. I entered the tunnel to the locker room, and the hair on my arms began to stand up on end. Today gave me the chance I had worked so hard to obtain.

When I found my locker, I sat down and looked around at all the other players. I knew some of them from spring training. Many of them I recognized from watching baseball on TV. I was finally one of them, even if it was for a September call up when teams expanded their rosters. My uniform was clean and hanging in my locker. It looked pristine. I pulled my jersey off the hanger and looked at the back. There it was in big bold letters “REYNOLDS.” My name on a Major League jersey. It was brand new and had never been worn by anybody else. Those eight letters had been stitched on the jersey sometime this morning, because I did not know I was coming to Baltimore until 8:30 last night. My first call was to my dad. I told him it was finally going to happen and I would be in Baltimore in a few hours. His voice sounded different. He was all choked up with emotion. He told me he would be there for my debut, and so would my Mother.

After I put my uniform on, I walked out of the tunnel to the dugout. The manager had placed his lineup card up early and I was astonished to see I would be the designated hitter for today’s game. I knew then I had to warm up. Walking out on to the field the grass, I noticed it was perfectly manicured. The infield dirt was as smooth as a pool table. “This is how baseball should be played,” I thought to myself. The large ballpark that surrounded the field made me feel very small.

When I got to the cage for batting practice, it did not go as well as planned. Most of the balls I hit rolled in the infield back to where the second baseman would be. Double play balls are the kiss of death in the big leagues. It had to be nerves. I rarely ground into a double play in the minor leagues. I had to get out of this rut quick.

“Don’t make me regret the lineup card I wrote this morning,” I heard from the dugout. I looked over to see the manager Bruce Johnson checking out my swing.

“I am going to fix this before the game starts,” I replied. It was now crunch time; this problem had to go away.

The hitting coach approached, and brought me to the hitting tunnels under the stadium to fix my nerves. This was exciting and disappointing at the same time. Having my swing worked on by a guy who hit over .350 four years in a row was a dream come true. Having my Major League career depend on him fixing the problem made me even more nervous.

When we were done, I went back to the dugout to see if my parents had arrived. I had reserved them some tickets behind the dugout. My parents were here. Dad was wearing a Minneapolis Jersey. I never thought that would happen, especially in the stadium we visited so many times before. “Nice shirt,” I told him. “I will get you a dirty one with our name on it in about four hours.” They both seemed excited but it was too loud to talk anymore.

Once the game started, my team was going to bat first. I was sixth in the lineup so the likelihood of me making a plate appearance during the first inning was slim. We scored three runs in the first inning when the short stop hitting fifth drilled a three run homer while I was in the on deck circle. Standing in the batter’s box, the outfield wall seemed a hundred miles away. The pitcher, another September call up, was visibly nervous. He had given up more runs than he had made outs. This was my opportunity to make first at-bat one for the record books. I hit his third pitch down the first base line. The ball shot around the outfield walls and corners like it was in a pinball machine. I hustled past second base and slid into third to make my first at-bat a triple. I got up and looked at my uniform. It was filthy like it should be. A clean uniform meant I had not played as hard as I should. The next batter struck out swinging, and that ended the inning, sending me back to the dugout.

“Nice hit,” I heard as I was walking down into the dugout. Bruce Johnson was looking over at me. “Next time, hit it over the wall.” I sat in the dugout for what seemed like an eternity while the position players took to the field.

Finally, in the top of the fourth inning, my next opportunity to hit happened. Down 0-2, I fouled off what seemed like thirty pitches before lining one to the base of the wall in left center. It was a stand up double. I thought these Major League pitchers were going to be more challenging. On a wild pitch, I advanced to third, and then scored on a sac fly.

In the sixth inning, I hit a solo home run that just squeaked over the outfield wall. I ran around the bases and then walked to the dugout. I waved my hat to my parents walking down the dugout steps. Sitting in the dugout, it finally dawned on me “I am a single away from hitting for the cycle.” This is a huge feat that most players never achieve, let alone in a Major League debut. I couldn’t wait to get back in the batter’s box.

I was three for three for the game when I stepped up to the plate. I was locked in. I just needed to slap one past the infield and leg it out to first to put my name in the history books. I was going to get a hit, I was certain of it. The pitcher stood on the rubber and set to make his first pitch. I tightened my grip on the bat. This was the moment of truth. I watched the ball leave his left hand. It was a fast ball, but it was heading right for me. I turned and it hit me square in the back.

“Not on my watch,” yelled the pitcher.

“You’re out of here!” screamed the home plate umpire, and immediately ejected the pitcher from the game. I wanted to charge the mound more than anything else in the world. He took away my chance to make history. I slowly walked to first, glaring at him.

The team trainer came out to check on me to see if I needed to come out of the game. I told him I was fine and wanted to stay in. There was still a chance, albeit slim, that I could get one more plate appearance.

We came into the ninth inning up three runs, and I was six spots in the lineup away from hitting. Their pitcher had a 1-2-3 inning. My chance at hitting for the cycle had slipped away. Our closer had only blown one save all season, and he had a three run cushion. The game was essentially over. Suddenly, for the second time this season, he blew a save, and we were going into extra innings. My dream was returning to me.
The two batters in front of me had made it on base. I stood in the batter’s box wanting a hit more than anything else in the world. After battling to a three-two pitch count, I slapped one into right field and ran as hard as I could to first base. The two baserunners made it home and my hit put us ahead by two runs. My hit caused the opposing pitcher to be replaced with one from the bullpen. I made it to second on a wild pitch but the new pitcher struck out the next three batters, ending the inning. When the top of the tenth was over, I walked back to the dugout, proud that I had hit for the cycle and put the team up by two runs. The entire team gave me the silent treatment.

Mark Williams, our catcher, looked at me and said, “stop gloating. It doesn’t count if you take more than nine innings to get the hits.”

Was he serious? He sounded serious, and I felt a ball in my stomach. Then the entire team turned towards me, smiling. They were putting me on. I had hit for the cycle. Just wait until tomorrow I told them. I should get better against Major League pitching.

“Ed’s Car” by Tara Peck

“Ed’s Car” by Tara Peck

Ed’s car, an ancient, rust-brown Corolla, sped uneasily down the road. The cacophony of sad noises coming from the engine sounded like it was falling apart; he imagined pieces of it flying off, leaving a bread trail of metal behind him. The thought was unnerving
The inside of the car was equally as unpleasant. A trash heap of McDonald’s paper bags, sweet tea cups, receipts, and discarded candy bar wrappers overflowed from the back seat to the front, even filling the door pockets and foot wells. His wife always nagged about his sloppiness. God, I’m SO sick of picking up your socks in the family room. Put ‘em in the hamper, she would say.

Ed was sick of being surrounded by women. He had grown up with two sisters and an abusive, controlling mother. She would often come home late, angry and irritated, after spending twelve hours at the coat factory, hand-sewing on buttons. Ed would provoke his mother, and suffer through the beating, just so his sisters would avoid a similar fate. Now, he had to contend with his wife’s constant nit-picking and teenage daughter’s unruly behavior.
Ed reluctantly looked down at the illuminated fuel gauge and saw how close the line was to E. He started banging on the steering wheel and yelling “come on!” through gritted teeth. He didn’t want to stop at a gas station.
He was calculating how many miles he had left to go, when a state trooper’s resounding siren came from behind. Ed cursed whatever god or gods he believed in, and pulled over to the shoulder. The cop slowly walked to the Corolla and, upon reaching the door, shined a flashlight on Ed’s sweaty face. Ed rolled down the window and greeted the cop with a haughty grin.

“I clocked you at 77 in a 65. Why are you in such a hurry?”

“I’m sorry, officer, I wasn’t paying attention.” Ed took note of how young the cop was.

The officer panned his flashlight from the passenger seat to the back window, seeing the mess inside.

“Do you mind if I search your vehicle?”

“Yes, I do mind.”

The officer reached for the radio by his side, but stopped when he heard the pounding coming from the trunk. He met Ed’s eyes for one brief second before grabbing at the radio again, and Ed impulsively slapped the cop’s hand away. It was at this moment that Ed decided he was not going to jail tonight. He reached through the open window and grasped the cop’s collar, pulling him closer to the door.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The cop yelled in disbelief while fumbling for the gun in his belt.

Ed locked his right hand around the cop’s throat, wanting to choke the life from him. The officer had interrupted an important plan that he had been pondering for years, and Ed would make him pay. He squeezed until he heard the crunch of the officer’s windpipe, and immediately let go. The cop fell to the ground. Ed could hear him breathing harshly; he was still alive, but barely. He got out of his car, and looked around to make sure he didn’t see any other vehicles. Luckily, he was on a back road where few traveled, except for locals. Ed had arranged his scheme well.

He walked around to the back of his car, and opened the trunk. Inside was a woman with steel grey hair, face folded in wrinkles, wearing a pale blue nightgown and slippers. Her arms were covered with purple bruises and her head was slightly bleeding.

“You sumbitch – I’m gonna kill you -” She spat and tried to climb out of the trunk.

Ed gave his mother a punch to the ribs and she crumpled over on her side. He pushed her to the very back of the trunk; he had to make room. He went back to the cop, hoisted him up under the shoulders and dragged him across the ground. Ed struggled for a few seconds but managed to lift him into the trunk, and slammed it shut.

He got back in his car, started the engine, and continued down

“Novel Excerpt” by Brittni Young

“Novel Excerpt” by Brittni Young

Life is a little complicated. I live through my dreams. This sounds weird, I know but, for me, it makes perfect sense. Going through the real world has become a chore and a necessity just so that I can have a stable future. Because of this, I don’t have any enjoyment in my life. That is, not until I discovered this free and beautiful place that my mind opened me up to. Throughout my first year and a half of college, I became overwhelmed with stress and I wanted to give up. After a while, I decided I needed to find some way to calm all of my anxieties. I did a little research at the library, since that’s where I work, to try and find some ways to relax my mind and body. I ended up finding different meditation styles. That same day I went shopping for the incense and candles they recommended to help with the relaxation process. That’s how this whole journey began.

During deep meditation, there’s a lapse of time between being fully conscious, and a point of almost deep sleep. If timed correctly, one can pull their “soul” out from the body to a plane that is essentially between dimensions. I don’t know if it is really the person’s soul that gets separated or not. That’s just how I would describe it. Usually, when I float out from my physical body, I can still look like myself, but I have a bright purple and hazy glow that surrounds me. I suppose everyone’s color is different. Since not everyone knows or can travel here, there are only a small number of people I’ve come across. I never had long conversations with them, but I did notice their colors. One girl had the most beautiful teal glow, and there was a man that had a grayish blue color around him. I talked with them for only a few minutes, then went on my way. The others were in passing, so I don’t remember much about them. I’m surprised I ran into anybody here considering how infinitely big this place is. The only person I see constantly is this man who says he is my guardian. He calls himself Kassian. He told me before, when I first started coming here, that every living soul has a guardian. However, not everybody is as spiritually connected to them as others. They are our protectors. He also relayed to me some rules that go along with this realm:

 

  1. You can’t visit/spy on anyone from the living world.

 

Apparently this is possible and weird. This is also a good way to piss off other people’s guardians, which you NEVER want to do. Kassian hasn’t told me what they can do to me if I was to anger them, but I can assume that it’s not good.

 

  1. Don’t go searching for dead, passed-on souls.

 

Kassian told me that, since we are in an in-between realm, we have the ability to see the living and the dead. Both are not acceptable. Searching will drive you mad and eventually will cut your connection with your physical body, trapping you there.

 

  1. Never stay for long periods of time.

 

I usually project myself when I go to bed at night until the time I get up in the morning. Kassian tells me that this might be pushing the limits a little, but I feel I can control myself, and he respects that. He’s probably the only one who has confidence and trust in me. My family always felt I wouldn’t succeed, so they never motivated me to do anything. That’s why I thought college would be the perfect escape from all the negativity. Doing this at night helps me to keep focused during the day and get through work, class, and homework.

These were the more important rules he went over with me, but I wasn’t overly concerned about them. This realm allows me to create places I could never visit in my real life. Anything my mind comes up with, I can create around me. Spying and looking for people could never compare to the joy I can create. Kassian and I have already made so many great memories here. My favorite has been the time we ventured to a beach with sand the colors of coral. The blues, yellows, purples, and hundreds of other colors were blindingly beautiful. The water was crystal clear as we swam with whales and dolphins without a need to breathe. My imagination has no limitations. Other times we just sit and talk, like today for instance. Unlike most people, Kassian listens to me. He shares his knowledge with me, and we could discuss topics for hours. Today, we were sitting underneath a large willow tree surrounded by nothing but sunflowers, my favorite.

“How is it that your name is Lilly, and yet your favorite flower is a sunflower?” Kassian asked me with wonder in his voice.

“You can’t predict me that easily Kassian,” I chuckled, “That’s the whole point of getting to know someone.”

“I’ve been your active guardian now for a year. I should know the simple things about you.” He sounded a little defeated.

“What do you mean by ‘active guardian’?” I was confused by this.

“All guardians,” he explained, “are assigned to protect someone’s soul. Most people don’t achieve the level of spirituality that you have, where they get to mentally connect with their guardians. This means that they protect them from afar, not being able to get to that next level with them. Essentially ‘inactive’. When you crossed that bridge over to this dimension, you created a bond with me that awoke my need to guide and teach you, as well as protect you. Even when you leave to return to the real world, I can still sense how you are feeling.”

As he explained this to me, I was getting even more curious. “What happens if the person you’re looking after dies?”

“Their soul goes on to the afterlife,” he said with a sad look in his eyes. “Other than you, I have had one other active connection. He was still such a young man and, unfortunately, his life ended sooner than it should have. His death was a hard one for me to bear. It is so fulfilling for us guardians to be able to teach you throughout your years but, when that bond is broken, it leaves us torn and incomplete. When you projected through for the first time, I felt whole again.” The golden hue of his aura brightened as he said this to me. His eyes were a blue-green color like the ocean. Staring into them, I could understand all the pain this must have caused him. I reached over to touch his cheek out of sympathy, and felt a warmth go through my arm and down my whole being.

“I’m so sorry.” I told him this with all of my heart. “You know I’m here for you just as much as you are for me.”

“I’m the guardian,” he chuckled. “I shouldn’t be needing any protecting. Thank you, though.” He smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back. We talked for a while after that heavy conversation until it was time for me to go back to my boring life. In order for me to get back to my body, I needed to concentrate and visualize it in my head. Usually, that pulled me back in.

“Bye Kassian. I wish it was sooner rather than later,” I joked, and waved goodbye.

“Not too soon.” He warned. “Until next time, Lilly.” He smiled.

Within a few seconds, I was back in my bed staring at the blandness of my dorm room. I always felt so empty after returning. Here, there was no one to greet me or ask me how I felt. Picturing Kassian’s smile was the only thing that soothes this feeling in me. The college had put me in a single dorm room. I initially thought this would be peaceful for me, but now I get lonely. I mean, I talk and interact with classmates, but I wouldn’t consider them good friends. There is one girl that takes the time to talk to me, and I look to her for friendship. Her name is Beth, and she’s a sweet girl. She has one of those personalities that just attracts people, even a hermit like myself. I have at least half of my classes with her because we are going for the same degree: a Bachelors in Business. It’s not the most interesting career field, but it is the most beneficial.

Eventually, I got up out of bed to go get a shower. The hot water felt so good against my skin. This is my version of coffee. It wakes me up every morning. Stepping out of the shower, I stare at my reflection for a few minutes. Projecting every night has made me look well rested. My skin is fair and I can see every freckle. My hair, though, has been getting out of control. My tousled auburn hair is getting too long, and the waves are starting to tangle in amongst themselves. When I’m in the dream realm, I can present myself however I want. I never change anything, though. I would rather have Kassian see me the way I actually am. Realizing that I’m going to be late, I quickly got dressed and run out the door with my bag in hand. I saw Beth up ahead and rushed to try and catch up with her.

“Hey Lilly, good morning!” She was always good at being cheerful in the mornings. “Oh, did you manage to get the homework done for Mr. Hines’ class?”

“Yeah,” I coughed out my reply from being so out of breath. “I got it finished before I went to bed last night.”

“That’s good. He would probably be pissed if our class was late on homework again. In fact, we better hurry and get there before he kicks us out for being late.” She charged forward in a power walk that had me gasping to keep up. She walked with a determination that I don’t think I could ever have here. She noticed me lagging so she grabbed my wrist and pulled me along at her pace.

We made it with five minutes to spare, and Beth looked like she’d just won the race of a lifetime. We took our seats in the back, and waited for class to begin. Mr. Hines was a professor I didn’t enjoy. His monotone voice sent me on so many tangents of daydreaming that the look of boredom on my face probably offended him. He taught economics, which is the hardest class I have this semester.

I learn a lot about the subjects I have from the library, since I’m there five days a week for work. I don’t do much there. I usually take carts of books and put them back on the shelves where they belong. Any free time I have there, I just read whatever I can. Or I use some of that time to do homework so that I don’t have any to do over the weekends. The older ladies that I work with are the sweetest and just leave me be to do whatever I want, as long as I still do my job. It feels good to have a job that can help me out with school.

The hour and a half class seemed to drag on. It was pure torture. I broke out of my haze when I started to see that Beth and everyone else was packing up. We left and went on to the other classes for the day and, before I knew it, school was done for the day.

“Lilly, do you have time for a bite to eat before you go to work?” Beth asked. She had one of those irresistible smiles like Kassian has, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her no.

“Sure. Where do you want to go?” I was trying to think of all the places we could go that wasn’t too far from the library.

“How about the deli shop right down the street? I heard they have the best subs.” She looked at me expectantly.

“That sounds good to me.” I’m glad that I have Beth to get me out and do things. She really is a special person, and I guess gaining one great friend out of my college experience isn’t a total failure. We crossed the street and strolled down the block to Dillard’s Deli Delights, all the way trying to figure out what I wanted. I decided on a ham and cheese sub while Beth chose roast beef, both good choices in my opinion. We sat down, ate, and talked for about forty-five minutes until it was time for me to go. She waved goodbye and I watched as her bouncy blonde hair disappeared from view.

The library was only another five-minute walk. I pushed through the doors, said my greetings, punched my time card, and then grabbed my first cart of books. I got into my own zone as I carefully read the spines of each book and found their correct location. After a while, though, I started to get a nervous feeling. Strangely, out of nowhere. The feeling just kept getting worse as I went aisle to aisle until my body started to shake from tension.

Then, a voice came to my head in almost a whisper. Lilly…get out…way. I couldn’t quite make out what it was saying. Was that Kassian’s voice? I wasn’t staying focused. RUN! It screamed at me. By then, I could see the huge bookshelf in front of me quiver and shake so violently that it started to tip over top of me. I jumped out of the way, yet I was not quick enough. The bookshelf managed to catch my ankle and slammed down on it  hard. A man ran over to help me up and carry me to the front desk.

“What in the world happened!” Doloris screamed. She was one of the front desk receptionists that would sometimes help me look for books to read.

“The bookshelf just fell over. I don’t know why, though. Ouch! I think it twisted my ankle.” I flinched in pain, but I insisted to not go to the hospital. I didn’t have the money for all that. Doloris finally told me she would drive me back to my dorm. She helped me to her car and then we were on our way. After the short drive, she got me out of the car and into my room. She sat me on the bed and stacked pillows underneath my ankle, then she hurriedly went through to the small kitchen area.

“Doloris! It really is okay. You don’t have to fuss over me.” I pleaded with her to stop worrying.

“You listen here, missy,” she scolded as she came back with a pouch of ice and my school bag. “You’re going to accept my help and like it.” She gingerly placed the ice pack on my ankle and plopped my school bag on the floor with the exception of my phone. “Now, please just relax for the rest of the day and don’t move unless you need to use the toilet.” She handed me my phone along with the TV remote. “If you need ANYTHING please just give me a ring. I’ll be more than happy to come help.”

“Okay, thanks Doloris.” I sighed but gave her a small smile. She patted my head, then took her keys and left me in my room to think. What the hell just happened to me? Was that voice part of what Kassian was talking to me about, because of our strong mental connection? If that was him, he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do.

“Checkmate” by Tara Hahn

“Checkmate” by Tara Hahn

She was halfway between asleep and awake. She could hear the sounds but not comprehend them. The familiar breathing, in and out. Drifting slowly into slumber.

He was watching her sleep. He liked to do that sometimes. He made sure he would pretend otherwise if she woke up in the middle of the night.

She dreamt of a game that night. She was playing chess against some unknown opponent. She was the queen, and all the pieces she commanded.

He knew she was seeing others. He found evidence one night in her nightstand. He won’t tell anyone he knows that.

She had a few pawns up front. Some knights in the back and a rook on the side. Each piece moved strategically. Cautiously.

He hated himself. He knew he wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t rich or handsome. She deserved better.

She had lost a few pawns but her king was still safe. She had no doubts. She was going to win this game.

He moved slowly from the bed so as not to wake her. He tiptoed to the kitchen and brewed her favorite tea. He breathed in deeply, the steam scalding his nostrils.

She danced around the chessboard like a sugar plum fairy. The opponent was losing. How stupid her opponent was; such careless choices he made.

He trudged down the basement stairs and opened up the safe. A few important belongings stashed behind emergency cash. He made sure to leave the safe open. She didn’t know the combination.

She thought she was winning but her opponent had tricked her. The opponent schemed behind her back as she was confidently sending pawns to take down knights. She was tricked.

He pulled out a shoe box from the safe.

She made her last move.

He raised a gun to his temple.

She was cornered.

Checkmate.

“Vampire” by Krista Purdham

“Vampire” by Krista Purdham

“Mom? Dad?”

This was strange. Usually she woke to the sounds of way-too-loud talking and sizzling bacon. Today, silence rose like a thick, dark cloud from the kitchen. And on top of that, all the lights were off, and all the windows were closed.

Something was wrong.

“Mooom? Daaad?”

Olli opened the door—already not a good sign—and peered into the empty, shadowy kitchen. Some light peeked in through the window. Olli went to open it, desperate for more. More light, more outside, more normal.

The window wouldn’t budge.

Something was really wrong.

“Mom!? Dad!?”

She heard a noise in the basement. What? What would they be doing down there, this early in the morning? Mom was afraid of the basement. Maybe they were looking through old belongings and morning was the only time she felt comfortable doing it? But, it was still pretty dark out.

“You’ll never catch me in that basement when it’s dark.”

Maybe that’s why Dad was down there, too?

She turned the knob. For some reason, her hand was shaking. Her whole being screamed, “Don’t go down there!” She tried to reason with herself. It was probably just her mom’s silly old stories messing with her already-terrified brain.

The need to see her parents safe and sound won out.

She opened the door. It creaked. Warm, humid air billowed out and shoved its way past her. Weird.

Another thump. Louder. As if something had been knocked over.

“Mom! Dad!”

She started down the steps. An almost-organic groan froze her solid. “Just the steps,” she told herself. “Just the steps.”

She touched down on the linoleum floor. The room smelled of death.

“Mom? Dad?” Her voice had grown unintentionally quiet and tentative.

Another groan. As she was standing still. It wasn’t the floor. And it wasn’t human.

“O Lord,” she squeaked inwardly. She decided it would be best to stop making so much noise… Not that anything was down there. Nothing could’ve gotten into this house while they were living there. It was just to make herself more comfortable. Because there hadn’t been any broken windows or busted-down doors, like in the news reports. She tiptoed about, desperately hoping to find her parents among the endless stacks of boxes, bags, and scattered miscellaneous items, yet knowing that she wouldn’t.

The hair on her arms and neck rose like needles stabbing into her skin. Her heart crashed against her ribcage. Adrenaline torrented through her muscles.

A large pile of toys shifted. “Waaaaahhhhh…” It sounded almost like creaking wood, but more animal-like.

“O GOD…”

“You’ll never catch me in that basement when it’s dark…”

“Waaaaahhhh…?”

Some kind of… brown, fleshy dome became visible.

“O Jesus…”

“WAAAAaaaahhhh…”

“…because the last time I did that…”

It moved.

“O my Lord…”

“…I think I saw what moves everything around down there.”

Dead, grey eyes peered at her.

“WAAAAAHHHHH…”

“O my God…”

It raised a long, thin arm. Its fingers were impossibly long, like a bat’s, tipped with short, hooked claws.

“O GOD help me!”

She turned and bolted up the steps. She could hear whatever that thing was shuffling after her with slow, lurching footsteps. She turned to look. It was clearly trying to move quickly, its movements sporadic and angry. But it was slow.

Mom was right. She’d seen it herself. The random misplaced objects. The basement door being open in the morning. Felt something looking at her when she slept, then waking with strange cuts on her arm. She’d convinced herself it was the cats. It dawned on her.

Vampire.

It was a monster. Not an angsty, human-like creature with superpowers. A monster. She’d heard of nosferatus before—feral beasts that live in caves, sewers, and sometimes the basements of human homes. At night they would scratch the arms of sleeping humans with their claws and lick up the blood with their tendril-like tongues. Or, if the human was awake, visciously mutilate them and suck the blood from the carcass, provided they could catch them. The way it looked made her think of that old silent movie, Nosferatu. Except, it was more horrifying, more appalling.

She barricaded the door behind her.

Vampire. Sunlight. She worked on the windows.

They still weren’t budging. The vampire started working on the door, slamming it hard.

Suddenly, something else dawned on her. She grabbed some garlic from the fridge and stuck it under the door. She heard a defeaningly high-pitched squeal, followed by a horrifyingly loud and viscious hiss, like a ferile cat on steroids. It actually worked.

Olli went back to the window. She tried punching it, slamming a frying pan against it—it wouldn’t give!

She desperately thought back to what those medieval writings said about killing vampires. There was garlic, sunlight, stakes… Wait. Where were her parents!? How could she have forgotten them!?

Olli tore upstairs to their bedroom, trying to open the door, but finding it locked. She threw herself against the door, kicked it—finally, she thought to pick the lock. But in order to do that, she would need a bobby pin, and those were downstairs. The banging on the basement door began again, louder, more furious.

“O GOD…,” she called, flying down the steps and flinging herself into the random little side-room they kept random stuff in.

CRASH. CRASH. BOOM!

Instinctively, she shut the door behind her and hid under the great big piles of ancient sweaters and winter coats. Ugh, what was she thinking? She should have brought some garlic with her. Its shuffling, lurching footsteps were somewhat quicker, now, about the speed of a human walking.

The cats. What were the cats doing? Were they hiding? What if they weren’t even in the house? What if her parents weren’t in the house? This thought sent a shockwave of electric panic surging through Olli’s muscles.

“My daughter’s in there!” Jessica roared, with shockingly masculine force.

“Ma’am, the area has already been partitioned—“

“Don’t talk to me like that. Like this is some kind of… professional situation. This is a human life—my daughter’s—a child’s… my baby’s… life…”

The policeman continued to act indifferently, though inside, his stomach twisted. He couldn’t stand seeing women cry. It was his weakness.

“Ma’am, I’m very sorry. I know your daughter is in danger. But until they arrive, there’s nothing we can do.”

Peter charged in like a raging bull, unflinchingly shoving past armed FBI agents, aiming their military-grade weapons at him and demanding he stop. “Nothing that you can do!? You have an assault rifle! AN AUTO. MATIC. ASSAULT RIFLE!”

“Sir…”

“Don’t you ‘sir’ me! If none of you pansies want to do it, give me that gun. I’ll do it myself.”

“Sir, these guns cannot—“

“THEN OPEN A WINDOW!”

“Unfortunately, while this would be the first measure in most cases like this, it would only make matters worse. The sky’s thickly overcasted, and wouldn’t completely kill the nosferatu. It would only make it angrier, and stronger.”

Peter stomped around in circles. Jessica wept and screamed on the ground.

“I can assure you, the CEU is hurrying as quickly as it can.”

“Hello, this is Andrew Sales reporting live from Marysville, Maryland. This morning at around 5:38 am, an unfortunate family’s home was forcibly evacuated by the FBI after definitive reports that the house was being inhabited by a nosferatu vampire. It has been alleged that the beast may have been living in the house since before the family moved in. Just minutes ago, I also received information that the family’s daughter, 14-year-old Olli Wordsworth, a freshman at Brookhaven High, was accidentally left behind during the evac, and is now trapped within the house. CEU units are still on the way, but are having trouble with traffic due to a wreck on I-81 and heavy amounts of vehicles on the road due to holiday travel. Fortunately, however, the husband and wife, and their three cats, have been safely relocated. This is Andrew Sales from INA-USA. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.”

“The Battle at Hailes Castle” by Janai Heise

“The Battle at Hailes Castle” by Janai Heise

It was 1443 in Scotland. The people in Hailes Castle were busily preparing to defend their lands against an approaching army. They received word yesterday morning that an army of 1,000 foot soldiers were marching against their castle. The messenger had ridden on horseback for days on end to warn the citizens of the coming threat. The villagers were retreating into the castle and the knights were hurriedly devising a plan of defense. The previous owner of the castle had died weeks before the attack, and the owner’s son, Sir Hepburn, was not as liked by the knights. After the son had taken possession of the castle and its surrounding grounds, at least half the knights decided to join the latest crusade in the Ottoman Empire. The castle was short on knights and was going to war against 1,000 men without any foreseeable backup. The knights did not have much hope for surviving this impending attack.

Patrick, the commander of the castle knights, decided if any of them were going to stay alive, they were going to need everyone working to defend the castle. They gathered up the peasants and the ladies and the children to try to prepare the castle against attack. They had the children find long sticks and heavy rocks. The women were given training to work the murder holes, use bows, and throw spears. The male peasants were being taught to fire the cannons, use bows and swords, and shoot the limited supply of guns. Some of the women who refused to take part in the battle had agreed to nurse the wounded; they were preparing a room to use as a makeshift hospital. The village blacksmith had his hands full creating as many spears, arrowheads, and swords as he could. The knights ordered metal spears be placed at the merlons so it would look like an army was stationed at the battlements. Even with all these people helping to defend the castle, the villagers were still vastly outnumbered. They only had 500 people in the castle, and merely 300 people were helping to fend off the attack. They could only hope for a miracle.

The knights decided to give the women a chance to join the fight by passing a weapon wielding lesson. One young woman learning archery and spear-throwing was progressing much faster than the others were. Even though the knights were only training the women to get more bodies fighting, a young man noticed this girl’s exemplary skill. After the lesson, he complemented her on it. He introduced himself as the castle jester and asked her name. The young lady introduced herself as Jane. She was the lady-in-waiting to Dame Hepburn, the owner’s wife. She had not wanted to be a lady-in-waiting, but her parents sent her to the Hepburn family as a sort of treaty to get their family to a higher standing. Jester told her that his family had sent him to the castle as well, but he wanted to be an entertainer. She told him that she had longed for the day when she would be able to fight and defend her kingdom. That was why she was so good at archery and spear throwing.

Suddenly, a clap of thunder roared over everyone. The sound of 1,000 soldiers marching towards the castle filled the air with a sense of dread. The commander of the castle knights, Patrick, yelled for everyone to take their attack positions. Rain plunged violently, and lightning crashed in a breathtaking background to the tense confrontation of the opposing armies. The commander of the attacking soldiers seemed to assess his threat. He muttered something to his second in command, and uttered the two words which would end the lives of hundreds. “Men, fire!”

Within seconds, hundreds of arrows rained down, and cannons started to blaze. Patrick ordered his men to fire the cannons, shoot the arrows, and take out as many foot soldiers as possible. The few women were firing their arrows at the ever-advancing army. The attacking force was advancing through the torrent of rain and weapons, though the losses on both sides were accumulating. Patrick yelled for more cannon fire, more arrows, more guns, and more spears. He called for everyone to keep up their attack. The defense was dwindling quickly; already they were down 150 men. The attackers were suffering the losses of 100 men, though their number kept them from feeling the effects as badly. At this rate of attack, the castle would be lost.

The enemy reached the castle and heaved a battering ram into the gates. When the eight men manning the ram paused as one slipped in the mud, Jane took the opportunity to fire several arrows into them. Three of the men suddenly collapsed while another two were injured. The women and children were hurling rocks and sharpened sticks out of the murder-holes to kill the would-be attackers. It was almost nightfall. The castle had managed to kill 200 more enemy soldiers, but the weapons were running low. Archers were picking up arrows wherever they found them. The muskets were out of ammo, and the spears were limited to the ones on top of the battlements. Jane and Jester climbed up the battlements to retrieve the spears and offer some support to their comrades fighting in the level below. Patrick rallied the troops.

Thunder boomed, and lightning lit up the night sky. With a sickening crunch, the enemy breached the gate. The enemy commander yelled to all who could hear, “Know that your death comes by the hand of Sir Archibald Dunbar.” Jane readied a spear to throw at the braggart. She misplaced her foot and fell off the top of the merlon, out of the castle and towards the enemy troops below.

Jester grabbed her hand at the last second. Jester swayed precariously back and forth, but was able to bring Jane back to the relative safety of the merlon. They grabbed the rest of the spears and headed back towards the failing troops. The troops managed to kill a few more of the attacking soldiers. The troops were actually gaining ground, but soon the forces were again desperate for ammo. The battle was surely lost. Dunbar’s men were coming from all sides. He shouted at the men to kill all the men first and gather up the women and children. Jester asked the commander, Patrick, if there was anything that they could do. Patrick thought for a second and replied that the children in the castle should be rescued. There may not be any hope for the adults, but at least make sure the children are safe.

Jane ran through the castle grounds to find the stations with murder holes. She called for all the children inside to come down. Because Jane was in the open, she had to fight a few soldiers to get all the children out safely. Jester went to find a place to hide or escape the castle. He was walking in the main castle building, when he slipped and fell. The carpet he was walking on moved away revealing a trap door. He ran through it and discovered it led outside away from the fighting. They met up near the back of the kitchens. Jane had around fifty children, and Jester had an escape plan. They took the children into the trap door and left the fighting.

Jester led the children and Jane made sure there weren’t any dawdlers. They managed to make it out of the castle unharmed. They took the rescued children to the nearest town, and did their best to provide for them until they reached adulthood. After a while, Jane and Jester were wed.

The people of the castle fought bravely, but they were too outnumbered to make it through alive. Sir Archibald Dunbar had won, though not without heavy losses on his own side. The fiendish Dunbar massacred all the people who lived in the castle. His words echoed through the haunted halls. He destroyed as much of the castle as he could, and left without a second glance.

 

THE END

 

This story is based on a real castle in Scotland that was stormed in 1443. All names, except Archibald Dunbar and Sir Hepburn, are fictional. I took the liberty of turning a three sentence summary of the events into a short story. Sir Hepburn had passed the castle to his son, though I do not know if that actually played a role in the defeat of the castle. The castle and all its inhabitants did not make it through the siege.

“Accident” by Madi Baker

“Accident” by Madi Baker

She never wanted a baby. Their screams, their red faces, the tears in their squinty eyes. They want comfort, 24/7 comfort. She wasn’t capable of loving anyone but herself but she accepted that.

 

Now here he is, he’s looking at her. Cooing, giggling, and even smiling a little. Maybe it’s gas. He’s got her eyes. He’s got his no good father’s blonde hair.

 

The dogs bark, his eyes fill with tears, and here comes that god damn scream. She can’t take it. It’s not her fault, it was an accident. She hates crying babies.

“Grand Old Ladies” by Lo Cast

“Grand Old Ladies” by Lo Cast

The stillness of the night was still lingering as I stepped outside. The air was cool, not quite crisp, and held the promise of shorter, cooler days soon to come. The squirmy little one I held in my arm sniffed with anticipation. This was her time. I set her down and grabbed the leash as she began to trot with determination. We found our rhythm instantly and I breathed deeply, for this was my time also. Destinations silently beckoned and, since it had been a few days, it was time to go visit the grand old ladies.

 

We made our way down the dimly lit street. This morning, our passing goes all but unnoticed; there was little traffic and few pedestrians. We keep an ever watchful eye as we pass alleyways. Their yawning chasms of murkiness provide the perfect cover for anyone wishing to cause mischief. Onward.

We start and stop, start and stop. Curly tail held high, the little girl springs from tree to hydrant to light posts and every place in between. I wait patiently as she gathers the invisible information each sniff has to offer. She too, has her favorite places, as she smells intently only here and there.

 

Our quest takes us around the corner to where traffic is bustling and the blushing sky can be seen just above the dark, somber buildings. It will be completely light soon. Perfect. We will be able to see the ladies in their finery by daylight by the time we labor up the hill.

 

On the main drag, we run a gauntlet of trash cans and recycle bins; trash pick-up occurred only hours, or perhaps minutes, earlier. This part of town, like its residents, live life unapologetically out in the open. It is in your face and all its ugliness assaults the senses.

 

The younger men, the Grand, Bryan Place, and the Hamilton Hotel stand sentinel, as they have for the largest part of a century or more. Their finery is simple and clean with just a hint of embellishment here and there; a curlicue of decorative molding, a bit of exterior trim or an exaggerated arch lend a bit of playful fanciness to their stoic demeanor. However, these gentlemen are not whom we are seeking, although they do show me a bit more of themselves each time I pass.

 

We trudge the steepness of hill, ever closer to our destination, barely noticing our labored breath. Just one more corner and a bit more of a hill and we will be there. As predicted, the sky’s blush dims as the sun begins to steal the serenity of the morning. We pass churches, without a glance. I have never had an interest in the snooty, judgmental edifices. Their flagstone veneer, arched doorways, and stained glass windows are pretentious and snobby, much like the nouveau rich. No, I am seeking ladies of class and elegance, which is the very fiber of their existence.

 

A wrought iron fence leads me to the first one. She is on the left. The ones on the right are much younger, beautiful nonetheless, but cannot hold a candle to the ladies I seek. The trees in front demurely shield their glory like a faithful servant; a hush of reverence surrounds and pays homage to these damsels. A determined pedestrian misses none of the finery in which they are adorned. Her neighbor is the grandest of all. In each detail, a statement of her upbringing is told, despite the indignities to which recent generations have subjected her by making as many apartments of her grand space as possible.

 

I linger and drink in her grandeur, an appreciative eye noting the graceful porch pillars, the classy bunting permanently falling in delicate waves around each window. Her marble facade bespeaks her quiet wealth. I stare, noting detail after detail. Like the lady she is, her dignity is there for all to see. Her secrets are her own, yet she hides nothing. I love this grand old lady the most. Slowly, I make my way to her neighbor, loving the Grecian columns and balcony that surely must have welcomed partygoers with warmth and gaiety. Each lady I pass has her own distinction, makes her own contribution. I am in a dream world where time has no meaning.

 

The little one brings me back to the present. She has sniffed all there is to sniff and her tail is drooping her fatigue. The spring in her step is a regular little trot now. Reluctantly, I sigh. With one last lingering look, I nod to the grand old ladies, and turn the corner.

“Drowning” by Hannah Himes

“Drowning” by Hannah Himes

8 minutes. The water closes over your head. You can feel yourself slipping lower, even though your legs are still moving. Waves are crashing above you, but there’s too much water in your ears to hear them. You think maybe you read something somewhere about the average person being able to hold their breath for 3-4 minutes. You wonder if that’s how long it’s going to take. Drowning, that is.

7 minutes. Your brain is telling you to inhale but your lungs are resisting. Your ribs are starting to be consumed by an almighty burning and the water is getting darker. The level of oxygen in your blood is going down, while the level of carbon dioxide is going up. You think how strange it is that oxygen is what makes cells age, that what we need most kills us in the end.

6 minutes. Your limbs aren’t moving anymore. Your body is more concerned with trying to make your lungs fill. You think the breath-hold break point is coming soon. It must be. Your body is screaming. Every vein, every artery, every fiber, every nerve ending screaming for oxygen. Your brain keeps telling you not to breathe. You know that breathing in water is bad. That’s what your dad said when you were learning to swim, wasn’t it?

5 minutes. Your body forces you to inhale, immediately causing you to cough, which only increases the amount of water in your throat. Your larynx and vocal cords constrict to keep water out of your lungs, so it goes to your stomach. This will last about a minute, you think. Water in the stomach. Then your larynx will relax and water will flood your chest. You saw this on the news once; they call it wet drowning.

4 minutes. Things are black. You’ve passed out. Like the news said it would, your larynx relaxes in your unconscious state. Your heart is slowing down, as it tries to pump your blood. The blood is getting thicker, something with the amount of salt in the water. You read that in your 7th grade science textbook.

3 minutes. You go into cardiac arrest. Your blood stops flowing. Oxygen stops going to your brain. Your body gives up in the amount of time it takes a spaceship to lift off. 3

 

2

 

1