Run to the Thicket by Marissa LaPorte

A beautiful female fox, with shining red fur, basks in the sun. A male is nearby, drinking from a stream. There is not the slightest hint of a breeze. Yet the heat is not stifling, it is pleasurable. The birds produce a melodic symphony. The sound of the male fox’s lazy lapping can be heard, along with the gentle trickle of the stream.  The female fox is dozing off, her majestic golden eyes becoming hidden by her drooping eyelids.

The male fox raises his head from the stream and scans between the trees. The female arouses and her black tipped ears flick back and forth. The birds abruptly stop chirping and there is silence, only for a moment. The deafening crack of a gunshot rips through the air and the birds take flight. The male fox falls and blood trickles from his shoulder. The female nimbly jumps to her paws and rockets in-between the trees, kicking up soil behind her. Shots are being fired behind her and soon the howling of hounds fills the air.

She races deeper and deeper into the forest. The trees and shrubbery grow thicker the further her legs carry her. She bounds over fallen trees and ducks under low hanging branches. With her ears flat to her head and determination burning in her heart, she draws near to her destination. She jumps through a thick bush and hunkers down in a small clearing, hidden by its surrounding vegetation.  She has reached the thicket.

 

 

Winking Goodbye by Elizabeth Anders

When I was a little girl, I used to dance in the fields under the stars and pretend that the moon was smiling at me. It was like she was ready to wave a magic wand to take me away from the home where my parents argued and smoke rolled out of my brother’s bedroom. As the years passed, however, it quickly became clear that the moon was too busy chasing the sun around the world to notice a tiny girl who could not escape from her own family.

It was during the winter which had frozen both our hearts and the ground that the life of my mother was taken by means of a premeditated suicide. From then on, whispers circled around me in our small town about how it was my fault she had died. To them, I was the one who caused her to pick up the pills.

Everything was public, and the only time anything was private was when I was around my father and brother. It made me nauseous to be around them, but they still provided a brief pause from the dark cloud that seemed to circle my head every day.

As I grew older I established my own whimsical musings into poetry, even though I only published a little. Whatever I did publish was nothing that would tell of the secrets I kept locked up in my soul. Nobody knew of those, even the numerous friends I shared precious moments with.

When I left town for good, my family stayed behind. They did not understand my desire to travel or my love for writing. They could not comprehend my belief that the moon was a true part of my reality, as they felt she was not part of any reality.

Hairs grew gray and dreams dried up as the years passed. I died in a town that nobody even knew of unless you landed right upon it. Nobody missed me; my father had passed away years ago and my brother had overdosed on his many drugs.

When I passed away, light expanded past my eyes into the universe beyond, and I had never felt so alive before. My ribcage was ripped out and replaced with something more durable. Something that was better built for a star took its place. A new name was branded into my wrist, ‘Colette’, and another star by the name of Desirae offered me a bent wing to climb up into the sky.

I took it, and we travelled like I had always wanted to. We made our way to the heavens where all the other stars were dancing around the moon and clinking glasses full of wine while laughing merrily.

“I found her.” Desirae stated before pushing me into the center of their circle.

I was not used to flying however, and quickly fell before I felt someone catch me. I looked up to find the moon, the one I had dreamt of for years and lost faith in, holding me.

“You’re real,” I whispered in awe.

She laughed and pulled me back up to set me in a chair that seemed to be held by the sky itself. “Of course I’m real, honey. I was always there, you know, looking out for you. We all were.” She motioned to the other stars who were still twirling around the sky. To humans they seemed to be in place, but truthfully they had left ghosts of themselves behind as they slipped from their bodies to celebrate above the earth. If one of the stars would forget to leave their ghost, humans would then see what many referred to as a shooting star.

“Now, why don’t you tell me about those secrets of yours?” the moon said.

“You know?” My eyes widened and I glanced down at my glowing body that seemed to have taken the shape of a star.

“Oh, haven’t you heard, darling? When all of the stars lived as humans they held three different lives: public, private, and secret. Since becoming stars they have told their secrets.” The moon stopped to look around, searching for examples. “You see Daniel over there? When he lived, he was the greatest movie star of his time. However, what many people did not know was that his wife was an alcoholic. Daniels’ heart simply grew too weak to deal with it all.” She paused to search again. “And Marilyn over there? Her father was a serial rapist. That poor girl went through so much with the media and drove straight into another car to end it all. The humans called it an accident but all of us up here knew better.” She stopped once more. “And Desirae? An abusive husband who was the CEO of one of the biggest companies in their day.”

“You see, Colette, we all lie, we all cheat, and we all steal. Most of all we keep secrets.  Up here, our mysteries seep out of our skin so we can sparkle and fly across the sky.” The moon looked wistfully across the night sky to where a tiny ball of light could be found: the sun. “Even I have some secrets, but for a few hours while it is night I can forget them all and just live.”

I found this was true as the years went by, and I spent all my time in the heavens talking to other stars with heartbreaking backstories. Every night we twinkled in the sky and enjoyed the freedom that came from spilling secrets and marveling at the private lives of those below. So, think of me tonight when you look up at the sky and find a little star winking goodbye to the tragic life of secrets she once held.

 

 

 

 

THE DEAFENING EARTH by Patrick Snouffer

The Blue Planet screams into the darkness; we listen in silence. It flings its signals wide. Into the Black, so carelessly… Its people sleep beneath it and think themselves sheltered. So secure. How oblivious they are. If they knew why we were afraid, they would be quiet, too. The nameless evils of the universe lies waiting for foolish prey, and the blue planet sits crying like a baby in a forest full of wolves…

Into Ashes by Alyson Flora

Each breath bites my lungs, the smoke coursing through my battered body.  I lie in burning rubble, embers drifting above me, disappearing into the hazy night sky. I gather all my strength and stagger onto my feet, suddenly noticing the presence behind me. Whipping around, I come face to face with an elderly man. His face is smeared with ash, and his eyes are distant and grey.

“You’re a lucky one, you are.” He grunts, coughing in-between words. I nod my head, flashbacks from the scene that had just unfolded flooding back into my mind. Only a few moments earlier, the crackle of flames had jolted me awake. Opening my eyes, I was immediately overwhelmed by the fiery blaze consuming my bedroom. My mind went blank; all focus shifted to getting out. As I began bolting toward the door, not a single thought about turning back crossed my mind. It’s not until now that I think back on the others who had been in the house, sleeping through the dancing flames.

“There’s nothin’ ya could’ve done, boy,” He says, glancing up as my face twists in horror, “The riots are gettin’ worse by the day, good luck kid.” He pats my shoulder and trudges away, sending a final sad smile before turning away. If only he knew what I had done. I could’ve saved every person in that house, but no. I hadn’t even given them a second thought. What does that make me, a killer? An orphaned killer at that, alone in the ruins of an empty town.

The streets are littered by survivors. They wander the town, mourning the dead and pitying the living. I silently tread past them, forcing my gaze from their distant expressions. All I want to do is scream; scream until there’s no one left to hear. Everything I ever knew lies in ashes, innocent bodies buried for the sake of the foolish. Nothing matters now, because now I am nothing. There’s nothing left to live for.  Walking beyond the wreckage, I find myself among a street that remains untouched. The homes sit peacefully under the smoky stars, unaware how terribly close they are to tragedy. I smile to myself, somewhat calmed by the little piece of town that still remains.  In the distance, the darkness begins to slowly fade away. The sky is washed orange overhead, and I patiently wait for the morning sun to appear. It never does. Eyes widening, I run toward the source of the glowing color, instantly recognizing the scene that is laid out before me. The last home on the street is a living inferno, spitting flames in every direction. I listen for an alarm, but hear only the crackle of flame. The family has no warning that this could be the end. Soon they’ll be gone, just another thing lost. Anyone left inside that house has no chance of ever leaving; this is it. Suddenly, I bolt toward the door, holding my shirt collar to my face. This is for every soul lost to the flames, every future burnt by death. I may not have anything left to live for, but at least now I have something worth dying for.

 

 

 

 

The Golden Boy by William Pitcher

The golden boy played all day,

With his golden toy amongst the hay.

He played and laughed and had his way,

Upon him the sun casted its ray.

Then from what is the horizon came the rider,

Beneath his wreath sat a spider.

Its eight eyes shining like rubies in the sun,

Its fangs the size of barrels, it looked like no fun.

The golden boy sat still,

And gazed upon the rider ill.

To him, it seemed so very far,

And moved slowly as if engrossed in tar.

Until it came upon the time,

When the golden boy would see it close and fine.

Then for he could see,

Said it swift and loud ‘It’s coming for me’.

So he ran away,

Beyond night and day.

Now the golden boy,

Was without his golden toy.

Instead all the boy had,

Was a head that sat mad.

Then one golden day,

The rider got its way.

Upon the fang the golden boy thrust,

Into a new world would he trust.

Now there was no toy,

And now there was no golden boy.

Instead stood tall a silver man,

A grimace and no thoughts of ‘I can’.

Instead he’s dealt a silver hand,

Of which he works to bone from the world’s demand.

 

 

The Waves by Alexandra Helms

GIVE HER BACK,” the girl shouted. “Give her back to me!”

The waves continued to lap against the shoreline, oblivious to her pleas. The girl screamed against the consistent pounding noise. It made no difference. The current does not give back what it washes away. The sea does not care if you live or die. It has endured since the beginning-ancient creatures lurking in its endless depths of night. There is greater mystery in the abyss than the whole of the universe. And one pale, bloated corpse beating against a coral reef is the least of the horrors lurking under its surface.