Dance of the Mechanical Marionettes

By Krystael Castro

“Await no more a word or sign from me.

Your will is straightened, free, and whole — and not

To act upon its promptings would be wrong.”

I. Authenticity

She felt such hatred for herself and for this world

and has, therefore, committed suicide and a massacre;

for when one hates, one kills.

It was an attempted escape—or a conditioned excuse, perhaps—

To not love thy neighbour or even the God in the heavens

enough to follow His teachings,

As scripture would hold it,

For that Love is what keeps us sane and righteous.

But the vision was to break free from from this

Uneigentlichkeit—

Uneigentlichkeit erfülltes leben, dass von diesem kam geworfenheit.

(This might include religion, but that was not for her to decide as a truth for all, should she believe it to be).

And so she is trapped in a battle with “fate” as she tries to grasp a life of

Eigentlichkeit—

Eigentlichkeit.

Our hearts will forever yearn for it

Until it is finally achieved.

II. The Struggle

She sank slowly into a dream

It accepted her wholly as she faced to embrace it.

She arrived at an infinitely dark room;

Its walls you could not see,

But one made of frosted glass

Made visible by a warm glow that existed beyond it.

All that she ever wanted was gathered there

(though what she saw was uncertain).

Her body moved towards the glass,

Her hands clenching a hammer,

She attempted to shatter it;

Not a single crack did appear.

She gave up and she stared

Into that glass of haze,

An indiscernible, filled space and

She knew.

She saw it and she knew.

Unclear through her eyes,

But clear in what she felt,

A happiness completely her own.

III. Danse pour moi

Chains, shackles, heavy, cold metal

On their hands and feet—

And even as they may not take notice to them—

There are shackles on their heads;

the holy temple of all that is perceived,

They take a firm hold of their bodies,

securing them on this ground

Limiting the boundaries where none should be

(Except in a place where love for one another is not fostered,

Which is a hatred allowed to run loosely in this world—with insufficient penalty).

We move just as the slaves we are

Of Time, of Times, des temps, et les circonstances—

the circumstances of the world

in which we were birthed.

“Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay

To change your day of youth to sullied night.”

Bright days of adolescence have been darkened quickly with

The masses of screens and expectations built by generations past

Turning all people of flesh and bones into

cold mechanical robots with eyes transfixed

Lifelessly, submissively; they are

Everyday robots in control; mechanical puppets

in the process of being sold.

Bones and bodies

meant to be built for strength, creativity, and

The self-governed pursuit of authentic happiness and fulfilment—autonomy—

They exist here,

Only to give in quickly to the strings of society’s puppeteering.

Cold hands and sinister smiles look down on them,

“Danse pour moi, mes petites marionnettes!”

Lifelessly, submissively,

they dance.

“Danse pour moi, mes petites marionnettes!”

IV. Surfacing

She was sinking back into the dream,

But she felt awake;

She was in control.

The dark room felt cold,

But the light on the frosted glass drew her in;

She walked forward.

She touched the glass and immediately felt

Its warmth that spread—not only to her hands—

But filling her head and her chest and she felt

An enlightenment;

The glass shattered,

she danced, she danced

She walked through it,

she danced, she danced

and she smiled

she danced, she danced.

Imposter Syndrome

By Tatiana Bogdanov

There’s something strangely dehumanizing about staring at a beige locker, ass aching as you sit on a cold, waxed tile floor.

Your bag sits beside you, dirty from all the bus floors and classroom floors, heavy from the textbooks.

All you can do is sit and stare.

What’s the point of it all?

At the same time, it’s like you’re all too cold and all too hot, the sleeves of your sweater don’t reach far enough to cover your hands.

A science textbook lays strewn on the floor, a clutter of information that’ll make its way to your brain only for you to forget, and relearn it all when you need it the second time.

People mill around.

People talk, they laugh, they work and work all around you and seem to be unbothered by thoughts and feelings.

Other people sit on the floor beside you, and they’re intensely focused on their phones. They’re alone, but they’re not alone.

Mouth agape, you don’t notice;

you don’t feel exactly free, you’re bound by deadlines and friends and perhaps boyfriends or girlfriends;

obligations to talk and fill up empty space, and feel the anxiety bubble up when they don’t do the same.

Are you too taxing on other people?

Underneath your feet, the ground is ungrounding.

You wear fashionable shoes, yet they feel unnatural.

Something plays over the announcements,

but the din of the crowd lulls you into a sense of somewhat security, so you ignore it.

There’s at least one notification on your phone where somebody left you on read.

You yourself have left at least five notifications on read.

The anxiety still stirs somewhere within you, “what did I do wrong? Do you not want this relationship anymore? Is this it?”

Thoughts play on a film reel in your brain, the same pictures you’ve seen thousands of times in a variety of different places.

Nerves feel quite frayed, to be quite honest.

Who has time for all of these feelings? All these emotions that make life just that much more complicated; what if you could just detach?

Without anything to distract you, without anything to numb the pain of apprehension, it’s all maybe a little too much.

Never enough to tell a person, to seek out a helping hand, a friendly face, a hug. Oh no, that would never happen.

But it’s always just a little too much too handle.

Perhaps it’s the dissociation from what’s a paranoid idea, a good thought, and a nightmare-fueled jolt in bed.

Maybe it’s the way you forget the meetings, the events, the things you have to do, in favour of not having to think about them right then.  

Possibly, it’s the way you can sleep for twelve hours and wake up exhausted;

or maybe it’s the countless nights you can barely sleep at all.

And if you’re being really honest, you’ve stopped caring about taking care of yourself. You load your backpack with the world,

and carry it on your shoulders even though that’s a one-way ticket to back problems.

You have chips and ice cream for dinner,

not particularly caring about the calorie count or the sodium or the sugar.

You stray away from food for days,

stomach too full with something indescribable.

You were once good.

You were once a force.

The golden kid, with the bright future, the passionate voice, the eyes full of hope and dreams.

You were someone.

You loved the little things.

The excited tingle in your fingertips when you saw your ferns on your desk.

The smile of someone that wasn’t too bad themselves.

The deep seated satisfaction of doing well on that really hard project.

The shiver when that good chord hits.

Now.
Now you’re a shell.

Now you’re unrecognizable to yourself.

The drive has driven away.

What is this?

Who are you?

Who are you really?

A fraud?

An imposter?

You say you’re good at things, but are you?

Oh, you’ve lost your touch.

Where is the golden kid hiding?

Wouldn’t it be great to be an asparagus fern?

By Tatiana Bogdanov

Wouldn’t it be great to be an asparagus fern?

To sit on someone’s windowsill and grow and taste the sun and be watered as soon as your soil is dry?

You don’t have to think, you just do.

You won’t spend time with writer’s block, sitting at a computer

Mashing meaningless words into a google doc to find the order you like them in

Flipping through songs so fast you barely hear the melody, looking for the one that’ll inspire you

You won’t spin around in a chair, fiddling with a pen and then folding up a star shaped sticky note

Looking at the random shopping bag on your bed, or the unflipped calendar on your door

You won’t fiddle around with the wire of your headphones and wonder why you’re not outside

You won’t have ten tabs open on your laptop, one for each different thought you had

You won’t spend time reading the poem so far that you have out loud, hoping that you get to read it to people, in an awkward turn of events

You won’t restart ten times because you want to write a different thing, each one more and more cliche

Making you question why anyone tells you, “you write good”

You won’t run your hands through your greasy hair, mostly because you don’t have hair or hands,

Because you’re getting a headache from the staleish air inside

You won’t bounce, or try to bounce, the hockey ball that you have,

The one that you didn’t shoot up the garage roof

You won’t have to have writer’s block, causing all of this

Writer’s block when you’re feeling happy no less, which makes writing hard

Cause you can’t do teen angst

But then again, you’d be called an asparagus fern, though you don’t grow asparagus,

Which is lame,

And your most prized possession would be “pot”

And not the kind that makes you high

And all you’d do is sit, and watch the time go by,

As your owner gets their thoughts out,

No matter how much they wish they were more impactful and meaningful and deep and world-changing,

Maybe about crime? Or sex? Or love?

Or bringing light to an issue that they take close to heart?

But, nah.

They have to go with the thoughts that are positive,

That feel as positive as they do right now,

That feel like sun warming skin.

Because the assignment is due Monday, and they have diddly-squat

Maybe it’d be nice to be an asparagus fern.

With it’s feathery leaves.

Calm.

You’d get to be a graceful, delicate little plant.

Poised.

It’s a good deal.

But then again, you wouldn’t get to cry or laugh or shout or scream or tear your hair out or sing your heart out

You wouldn’t get to be so frustrated you have tears in your eyes and so anxious they spill over, you wouldn’t get to be so loved, no matter how wacko your owner is with you, the asparagus fern

You wouldn’t get to travel the world, or stay right at home, or kiss anyone, or touch anyone (even though they might touch you, which will give them dermatitis), or feel the burn of a good run

You wouldn’t get to do anything really, but taste the sun, and take in water.

So maybe we should just aspire to be like the asparagus fern, for now.

Creative Writing: Eight Ball

By Linda Cako

Jared and I always spend our weekend summer nights playing pool at the local bar. Sometimes our friends Lenny and Mo would come and play with us, but not every night. They had wives and kids so they had other priorities. Those poor, dumb bastards.

Me and Jared have this long-standing wager where the loser has to drink a shot of gin. Neither of us like it so it makes good incentive to win. The bartender, Al, was a good friend of Jared’s dad and always lets us play until late at night, so long as we lock up after.

Sometimes Jared would bring cigarettes and we’d chain smoke them and practice making smoke rings. Sometimes we’d try to pick up girls, too. That never really worked though, so we stick with the cigarettes.

Tonight Lenny and Mo couldn’t make it and it was my turn to buy drinks.

“What’s for tonight?” Al said.

“Make it a rum and coke for me, and um, your finest imported malt liquor for the Mrs.” I said. Al winked. When I pulled out my wallet, he put out his hand and shook his head.

“Not tonight. Business is good.” he said. “How long are you two staying?” He said.

“Same old. No place to go here.” I said.

“Alright,” he said, “don’t you boys stay out too late though. Thinking ’bout you boys’ mothers if anything.” He said

“Yessir,” I said.

When I brought our drinks to the table, Jared had already broken.

“C’mon man. Without me?” I said. He ignored me.

“I’m stripes,” he said. Then he chugged his beer.

The rest of the night went by playing pool and smoking. Then Al left and after a bit we did too. We decided to spend the rest of the night walking around. The roads were quiet and everyone was sleeping at home so me and Jared decided to go to the water tower at the other end of town.

Once we got there we picked up stones and threw them at the tower. The thing was pretty roughed up anyways with all the dents and graffiti.

Jared said, “You ever think about getting married?”

“Why the hell would I?” I said.

“I don’t know. ‘Cause you got to move on. Start a family. Get your shit together. Get our shit together man. I can’t stand the fact I can’t keep a girl for more than one night. I mean, doesn’t it bother you?” he said.

“I don’t know man. I like us here right now. I like Al and Lenny and Mo, but you see them. They look miserable even if they say they’re happy. You want that? You want some girl making all your decisions for you and screwing you like that?” I said, “That’s not the kind of life for me.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad,” he said.

“Then get yourself a girl already! Jesus. How hard should it even be?” I said.

He said nothing so we continued throwing rocks in silence.

The next day Jared didn’t come to the bar, so Al got to lock up this time. There’s no reason for me to stay so late by myself.  The day after, Jared ditched me again. Said he’s with some girl and that she’s one of the good ones.

“Maybe you’ll be my best man,” he said. I just nodded.

I went back to the bar the next week but there was still no sign of Jared. So I pulled out my cigarettes and ordered a rum and coke and played pool.

Creative Writing: Edge of Humanity

By Raine Love Perez

I raised my right arm, forearm facing up as the smartphone microchip implanted in my wrist projected a hologram out in front of me. One click on the hologram and I was teleported on Floor 13, Section J. My brother appeared by my side moments after and we started to walk.

“Ah, what beautiful morning today,” he said.

“I guess,” I said.

I looked up scrutinizing the solar panels all over the ceiling.  I wanted natural sunlight. Like in the stories.

Silence fell, and was quickly shattered when Darius said, “The Union’s planning our next clearing mission two days from now. Forty-eight hours and you’ll get to go outside again.”

The Union. A group of AIs who make the big decisions. The members appoint new members, and the Head chooses the heir. Simple and straightforward.

A clearing mission is when all combatants leave this city-sized skyscraper we call Florae, and clear off all the Grymers in sight. The primary reason why I became a combatant is so that I could go to the Outside. Killing off the demonic creatures that took over our world would be the secondary reason.

Soon arriving at our house, Darius placed his hand on the scanpad to make the front door disappear, allowing us entry to our humble abode. It solidified again after we were in.

While Darius headed down the hallway, I sat down at the kitchen counter where my sketchbook was and started drawing. My hand subconsciously dragged the pencil along the paper, trying to replicate the image in my head.

I drew grass to replace the marble floors I knew so well, hills to replace the modernized buildings, a river to replace the roads, a sky to replace the ceiling; clouds, the sunset, and…

A large weeping willow tree, set right atop one of the hills. Oh, how I wished to see one of those in person…

“Oh, and Nova?” Darius called. “Remember when I broke the washroom door?”

I raised an eyebrow in confusion, never recalling him ever breaking a door.

“No? Okay. Anyways, the lock is broken,” he stated, casually, as if it was a normal day-to-day thing. I eyed him as he sauntered into the kitchen I was in.

Mental note: The lock on the washroom door is broken.

Related mental note: Darius breaks things.

“Okay…”

This was my life.

My life in Florae.

And I wanted out.

Creative Writing: Wired

By Jon Ulutas

     We’re late for training today. It’s unusual for bots to be late but our part of the city gets busier every day. The President cranks out more bots as his war draws closer. My creator says they were lucky to survive the last war and yet the President wants more. He flaunts power while hiding behind us, his wall of toys.

My mind’s artificial and even I think that’s foolish, it baffles me that I was created to serve him. “I knew we should’ve left with the others”, I said to Alfred. “Fredrick, there’s a reason I let them go first”, he said. “You’re my …What do the creators say?” he asked. “I think it’s ‘you’re my friend.” I answered, “I don’t understand what it means”. “Well, you ever thought about walking through the human part of the city?” he asks as we stop walking.

I stare bewildered. “Course you have, and now you can because that’s how we get to the base in time”, he says. “We’re late for a chance at something illegal?” I ask. Alfred shrugs, “Be a criminal or be late”. Alfred runs into a small alley around the corner. Left with no choice, I follow. At the end of the alley there’s a wall labelled “Human”, we ignore it and climb over.

We end up in a small clearing leading to a bridge. I was excited, it was all a blur. I see a human standing on the bridge. I stop. She was still, staring at the water below. She stepped onto the railing and leaned over the edge, a determined gaze. “She’s jumping”, I said. I made a break for the bridge. “Fredrick! She’s a creator, leave her be!” Alfred yells. I watch her let go and fall over. Without hesitation I dive over the railing after her. I’m surrounded by water, I open my eyes and see her sinking. I grasp her waist and swim upwards.  We break surface; I pull her up and cradle her. She’s unconscious but breathing.

I’m holding her, I feel her body expand and contract on each breath. Her heart played like a drum in her chest. She’s soft and smells of vanilla.

I feel the warmth of her skin seep into me. I felt her heat like fire against metal. She is a human. I felt her heat.

Creative Writing: Scorn

By Justin Shapiro

I – HIS WRATH
For years he walked the ides of the free, turned
to ashes by the men of yield, slayed
by killers without names, the spawns of Tempter.
Riddled theirs minds of disease and plague, dawn marked a day of their nightmare.
Leave now, he said, Anne our children we will meet, sacred
lands become dirt with fields of their blood.
The children lay dead in the streets of the village,
masked men watched over with arms.
They will toss carcass from windows, he said,
Zu Shenatir would lie proud.
Fourteen children, a fortnight of death, from the depths he rose again.
The Wolf of Bedburg feasts on flesh, staining the stones below the tavern.
Peter darling, where is our son? What has happened to our son?
The night grew old, he whispered so faint.
The boy has brains, only a fool would ignore.
The man followed a voice of a soulless being,
then centuries ahead they would go.
A woman hanged from the branches, swayed
in the wind far above, past the dirt roads in the centre of Rome.
Six hundred stiff, and Tofana to blame, what a woman to come of this crime.
Throw stones at her feet, they watched as she bled, suffered much worse
than poison she passed.
It was no colder than a sword, deep in her sheath,
death was unkind but certain in time.
Killed those hated, and the error was clear, hanged in the streets
in the centre of Rome. The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his greed was beyond this realm.
II – HIS GREED
Morning sparked like the gold on his dresser, filled
with riches not shared or earned.
Undeserved, now marked with a cross, the night was a crimson sky.
Crassus would have burned in the village for rent,
with a light turned the tides of war.
Parthia brought him riches, and his greed would arrive, he was struck with a feeling of haste.
Soon came his death and the end of all wealth, seized
from Valhalla, tasted the sweetness of bliss.
Buried far below, in the fourth circle of Hell.
Inferno once protected by his screech, foul cries,
Virgil, he spoke so wisely of his pain.
His words can be heard by mortals in hades.

Papé Satàn, papé Satàn aleppe.
He sang the words from the void, a cloud, the youth of the abyss rung loud.
Arose Sixtus IV, faceless to lords.
A lie, a toxin, the vermin of men.
Taxed brothels, a fraud of an untrue paradise, hiraeth cried from the souls.
Sent to the Centre he was condemned for the ultimate,
the worst of all sins defined.
Roads of stone and marble, stacked
in rows beyond the walls of castles, sieged
by armies of deformed. Bodies blackened, skin spotted and foul,
spread from town, they feasted with pests of waste.
Farewell, they said, burning the dead, darkness leaked from the orifice.
The only hell lives on Earth, where smoke burns of skin.
Children born with marks,
Red stars of flame, born
With only sorrow, and pain would follow their words.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his memoir was beyond this realm.
III – HIS MEMOIR
A cold night was alone, a ring in the sky, burned
holes of pain and their terror, marked
with flames in cosmos where the hounds would cry, blinded
the towns of horrors to come. Came for men with blades, sent
for the woman soon after, the town was watched by the gods. A bolt struck
his chest, the ground blackened with ash, his eyes shed light through the clouds.
Dare to defy my supremacy,
Dare to mock my creation, dominated
this world as I have, I have laid eyes on aversion much worse.
My bolt will cleanse the hatred, deep within your heart,
it will melt away your flesh and bone beside the cross of gore. All sin within, all blood and ache,
you are blessed with more than mercy.
The Titans, they clashed in the skies, the wars raged on above.
Never show them mercy, until this faithful day,
where the immortal disobeyed his nature.
Seas turned to blood, and oceans to bones, Virgil
will lead the soldiers of shade.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his love was beyond this realm.

IV – HIS LOVE
Her eyes spoke with pain, her lips cried of grief.
She was fair, and spoke songs of love.
Her breath shapes the tides, her face, a spell to
all men who lay eyes. Throwing swords for a glimpse at her locks of polished gold,
men fought wars for a place at her side.
I cry to you my love, he said,
your beauty is far beyond the tales,
far beyond the songs and paintings, farther
than the heavens above. Past Olympus,
the walls of your birth, my eyes see past your unparalleled beauty.
The nine muses are not worthy of the eyes bestowed,
upon your face, your body, an immortal façade.
You mock my descendants, the immortal divinity? She spoke so true.
No mockery in my word, only admiration for your cause,
he answered, only passion in his heart.
Come to me my son, and a son you are,
nothing more or less, one must live with desire.
Your love for me, another feather on my wings,
another man to aid in flight.
I will walk through the gates of hell for you, he said,
past the Hydra, its heads eternal like my love.
Your greatness, a place at your side, a greater blessing than life itself.
You speak with kind words, yet your actions deceive.
Travel to the depths, where dusk burns through dawn.
Speak to the man with the head of flames,
his eyes, obscure, bloodshot with agony.
My son, only hatred you will find,
your belongings worth no more than the dirt you walk.
Your swords, but a spike in his foot, leave them here with a watchful eye.
I am far from a servant, he cried, yet my love will endure.
I will confront the spirit,
for I am nothing but a shell, born
with an everlasting flame.
I am no less than this evil you speak.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his trial was beyond this realm.

V – HIS TRIAL
Merriment over screams of terror,
flesh melts from their skin, blackened and grey.
Condemned for the defiance, rooted deep within their bones, temptations
ignored by none.
Ghostly lights swarm the skies of dead marked stars, red
figures of hate gloom beneath scorched earth.
The cries of innocence, insane sense of sanity, those
who accept their fate, bleed in warmth.
A ship of flames floats beyond seas of ash,
into rivers of infection and waste.
He stepped towards the gate of blood and stone.
You come so soon, whispered ever so faint.
Does pain stimulate your essence, my friend?
For I am the essence of pain, for that there is wealth, I am certain of it and all.
Open the gates for a man of courage, let me gaze upon his face.
Only a man, no sword or dagger, do you mock an immortal being?
Mockery is not a craft I partake; I am here for a message of truth, he said.
The figure sat in a throne of limbs.
A divine one spoke of your presence, she told
stories of your pain, your power and will.
My will and power?
Defined in a class so black and white, do
you mistake me for a mortal man?
The figure stepped from his throne.
There is hatred in your mind,
you must enter what is left of mine.
Your pain, but a fraction, the ice above water.
The truth is what you seek, so be it.
Kneel before me, only then, it be told.
I will not kneel, not now, not ever for a spirit of hate, he said.
Never for a spirit of suffrage, a troubled
soul of immortality, beset by its existence.
He stepped away, towards the gate.
I have seen the truth, what it is that you fear.
A soul filled with pain, freed by death,
yet you are immortal and sealed for all.
Trapped in your nightmare, an eternity of pain, cursed with the absence of death.
Eyes red with fury,
the spirit, struck with anger, it vanished into the flames.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his fate was beyond this realm.

VI – HIS FATE
Pain of no truth,
hate with no cause.
The answer was clear,
his glass once shattered.
A dagger to the heart, the blow of death,
a dark entity, with the unfortunate gift.
Death, in that he is blessed.
His hatred, immortal, body a vessel of age.
Only death cures the broken, destroyed,
what burns inside, every breath that enters,
every word that exists, regret any and all of his days.
He has met the divine, seen the night far below,
those who are cursed in their diamond skin, the immortal.
All living dead.
It is the dead who live,
barbed arrows stick from their heart, unable to bleed.
It is his wrath that acts,
greed who speaks,
love that guides.
It remains in death, and in that he was certain,
then brushed his heart with a silver blade.

Creative Writing: Original Carver Story

By Avery Beutel

Ben was already up when Pascal came down to make the coffee. “Been up long?” She
said. “Not too long,” he said. “There is some fresh coffee in the coffee maker,” He said. “Do you think you will be able to fix the gate latch today?” She said. “I already told you I have to go to town today and I’m not sure when I will be back,” He said. Ben grabbed his mug and stomped out of room. “Where are you going, I only asked you a question,” She said. “You know that I am waiting for the supervisor to call about an extra shift,” He said. “I need to pay for the roof repair,” He said. There had been a bad storm earlier in the month and the big maple tree had fallen on the roof. Ben patched it as best he could but winter was around the corner and he was worried it wouldn’t hold. Things had been quiet at the Ben’s work but things always picked up around the holiday season and Ben hoped to pick up some extra shifts especially in light of recent news. They were both hoping for this but Ben was really starting to feel the pressure of having another mouth to feed. The stress was keeping him up at night.”I’m leaving,” He said “Don’t forget your lunch!” She said “It’s a ham and cheese sandwich… do you need to get gas?”
She said. “No, I’m good, I already fed Ace but don’t forget to walk him,” He said. Ben got in his car and sped down the dusty road. He rolled down the windows and cranked up the radio, letting his mind drift away. Ben pulled into the parking lot of his work and grabbed his bag from the back seat. “Good morning Skip, have you seen the boss today?” Ben said “Yeah he’s been on the phone all morning, I think he’s in his office now,” Skip said. “Thanks buddy,” Ben said. “Yeah good luck,” Skip said. Ben walked slowly down the corridor and knocked hesitantly on Mr. Martin’s door. “Come in,” he said. “Is this a good time Mr. Martin?” Ben said. “Good as any,” He said “I was wondering if you had thought about giving me extra shifts?” Ben said “Wish I could, just got off the phone with our suppliers, shipments backed up, won’t be here for a couple more weeks,” He said “It’s just that you know me and Pascal have a baby on the way and I could really use the extra cash,” He said “Look son I really wish I could but you know with the economy the business money is tight,” Mr. Martin said “Okay, thanks anyway,” He said as he
turned and walked out of Mr. Martins office. “Everything all right?” Skip said “Yeah I’m all good,” Ben said “I gotta go, I’ll see ya later buddy,” Ben said. Ben tossed his sandwich in the trash on his way out to his car. He had lost his appetite. Ben sat in his car, staring at the dash. He wasn’t ready to go back to Pascal. Too many questions, not the right answers. Without even thinking he turned the key in the ignition and stomped on gas until he ended up in the parking lot of Mcgintys. “Hey Ben! Haven’t seen you around here in a while, how you been?” Said Andy. “Yeah, you know, lots to do at home, It’s nice to see you,” Ben said. “What can I get for ya?” Andy said. “I have a beer,” Ben said. “Heard about the layoffs at your work,” Said Andy. “Yeah, it’s pretty rough,” said Ben. “How’s Pascal doing? Haven’t seen her in a while. Used to see her all the time back in high school,” Andy said. “Yeah, she’s, she’s good,” Ben said. “She was
always the cutest one, captain of the cheerleaders and all that,” Andy said. Ben gulped the rest of his beer and ordered another. “You see any of the other old high school gang?” Ben said. “Yeah you know I see Janet every now and then and Ricky likes to come have a drink sometimes,” Andy said. “I heard Scott moved to Arizona and is raking it in … Lucky guy,” Ben said. “I always though it was going to be you to strike it rich,” Andy said. Ben finished his third drink and put his money on the table. “See you around Ben,” Andy said. “Yeah,” said Ben as he walked out the door. Ben stumbled to his car and rolled down the window for a bit of air. He thought to himself Pascal would be mad. He was gone longer than he said and it was starting to get dark. He wouldn’t be able to fix the latch. Ben drove out of the parking lot and started his journey home, trying to concentrate on the road although he was a bit drunk and more than a bit
tired. All he could think about was the roof, the baby, and disappointing Pascal. He took a deep breath, he would soon be home. “Ace! Wait! Come back!! Ace!!” He could hear something in the distance, sounded like Pascal. He heard barking in the distance. “Come back!!” She said “Ace!!! Come Back!!” She said. Before he understood what was happening, he felt a thud, as his car began to swerve off the road. “NO!” she said “ACE!” she said as she collapsed to the ground.

Creative Writing: Sweet Rosemary

By Lana Glozic

Rosemary frowned all too much.
Rosemary clenched her jaw
Awake to aching pains at night
Rosemary, whose boiling temper
Waged a war inside her brain
Octavian vying for the throne
***
“Mother,” I ask, “Why is there blood
In that bag of flesh? In the ice box
It looks so pale.” She says,
“There’s always blood when it thaws.”
It’s always been this way.”
She serves it with plum sauce.
We ignore its time at the butcher’s.
***
And so to honor King Kennedy,
They forgot that human kind
Was built on war and grapeshot;
It looks ugly on a young girl.
The doctors set her under
A pale white light softly whirring
To pay sweet Bassanio’s debt.
The scalpel descended. They asked

Her to count to ten, mowing the Capitoline
Into a lovely green pasture
Where stood a medieval neighborhood.
***
In its place they dropped a frothy white wedding cake
For all the town to watch and gasp. La dentiera.
But when they begged the doctors,
“Oh, do let us in! What’s inside!”
Gloves scrunched in their hands
They said “There is nothing, nothing, nothing,
Only a doll face.” And Rosemary laid there
With half the crumbling ancients and
Half a set of false pearly teeth.
The quadriga heels to a sky
That does not answer.
***
“O my son Absalom, my son
My son, Absalom! Would God
I had died for thee, O Absalom,
My son, my son!”
Her head was caught in
The boughs of an olive tree.

Creative Writing: Janitor

A Raymond Carver Style Short Story

By Esther Eisen

The alarm rings. I sit up and look at my messy apartment. I get up and take a
quick shower before putting on my uniform. It still smells from yesterday. I finish up
getting ready and walk to the bus stop.
The bus comes and it’s the same bus driver as usual. We nod at each other
and then I go and sit down. I overhear two teenagers.
“Oh my god, I hate school,” she says.
“It’s the worst. I’m so stressed. I just want to go home,” he says.
“I can’t wait to graduate and move on. I hate the whole high school
atmosphere. Just looking at the building gives me chills,” she says.
“Same. It’s so gross. Just yesterday I felt gum under my desk. Isn’t it
someone’s job to make sure it isn’t there?” He says.
I feel my face flush. I clench my fists. I take deep breaths and move to the
Other ends of the bus.
As I walk to the back door of the school, I see my co-worker, Andrew. We
started working here the same year.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” I say.
“How’s it going?” he says.
“It’s alright,” I say.
“Same,” he says.
I walk to the basement and into the room. As I walk through the halls, I hear
conversations among the students.
“I want the new iPhone because I’ve had mine for a year and sometimes it
freezes”, she says.
I look down at my flip phone as I hear a boy say, “Yeah, I’m getting a car for
my grad present. But it better not is some junk car or else I’m going to be mad.”
Once I’m in the room, I grab my equipment and walk up to the top floor girls’
washroom.

“Anyone in here?” I say.
“Yes,” a girl says.
I wait 3 minutes. The girl walks out. She looks me up and down and then
walks away. I walk in and mop the floors. I could do this in my sleep.
My pager buzzes. It’s the boss.
“Kid threw up in room 142. Take care of it, would ya?” He says.
“Yes Sir,” I say.
The day goes on and eventually, my day is finished. I don’t have money for the
bus ride home so I walk.
“Got any food?” a homeless man says.
“Sorry, man,” I say.
I climb the stairs past the urine to my apartment.
6:30 AM. I wake up and repeat my day. I do the same job, see the same
people, wear the same clothes. But today feels different. There’s a new kid on the
job.
“Welcome to the job,” I say.
“Thanks. I have some first-day nerves but it should be fine. How long you
been doin’ this? ” he says.
“Twenty years,” I say.
“Do you like it here?” he says.
“It pays the bills”, I say. “I’ll give you the tour and show you how things work
for the first few days,” I say.
This means I have double the work to do but my boss told me to and I can’t
say no. Today isn’t all bad though; it’s payday.
I go to the convenient store to get my lottery tickets.
“Payday, huh?” the clerk says.
“Yep,” I say.
“you’re usual?” she says.
“Yep,” I say. I pull out the $500 I cashed at the bank.
The clerk hands me my stack of tickets. “Good luck,” she says.

“See you in two weeks,” I say.
“See ya,” she says.
The next day I get up and go to work. I wash the floors, I clean the toilet
bowls, I refill the soap. After work, I go to a pub so I can watch the TV. I put aside a
few bucks for a beer and rent. I stay for a while and watch the soccer game. I talk to
a few women and almost bring one home. I stay late to hear the winning numbers.
The next day I wake up and go to work. Andrew sees me.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” I say.
“What’s new?” He says.
“Not much,” I say.

Creative Writing: Training Day

By John Ulutas

It was an early morning in Philippines. I woke up in the hot heat to the sound of the chickens, 7:00 AM like it was clock work. I get up from my bed and I walk into the kitchen, flagrant with smells like always. My mom greets me and hands me a plate of rice and stew. I sit down and slurp away, when I finished I pick up my plates and carry them to the sink to wash. As I’m washing my little brother comes to me and says that’s it’s time for training with the others. I hurry to finish washing and I jog out to the front courtyard.

The courtyard was a square big enough to fit a party, with 4 low rise walls and a rough cement floor. Surrounding the courtyard were palm trees and tall soft grass. I take a deep breath, the moist air in my nose and step into the courtyard. My two brothers are already training so I hurry to pick up my weapons. 2 sticks, each a meter long. I bow to my sensei and we start practicing, smashing our sticks together in a patterned fashion, from one movement to another until I’m drenched in sweat. Then I started training with my older brother and we go at it, but today he seemed off, he had a look in his eyes I didn’t recognize. Throughout our practice I kept pointing out to my brother how he was doing it wrong, and he simply refused it and continued. With every time I corrected him, the stronger his strikes became. For some reason the frustration in me rose and made me match the strength of my brother.

My mother was taking pictures of us with so much pride in her heart that she is too blind to see the battle between my brother and me. As the fight went on we gritted our teeth harder and harder. We moved like lightning striked our sticks so hard that they sounded like thunder, and like a movie we dropped our sticks and fought. We were broken up by our father who split us and sent us to different corners of the house. Tears streaked down my face, I was crying with anger. I went back to my room and slept, I was done for the day. Since that day my brother and I haven’t talked like brothers, in my eyes he reverted back to some stranger I didn’t know.

I wish I said sorry and made up. We didn’t talk for years, but at least now we are on our way to repairing our relationship. It’s getting better.

Creative Writing: Listed

By Sydney Shapiro

She scans the hologram for her name. Her eyes are dry and out of focus. Her dirty fingers glide by every name, hoping not to see her own. Three up from the bottom she sees her name, “Julie Pawper, age 17, legs.” Julie turns and see an older woman standing over her. The lady gently puts her arm on Julie’s shoulder, trying to be comforting. Her hand feels unnatural.“My hands were replaced when I was 19” the lady explains. “My arms end just before the wrist.” Julie feels a rush of pain in her veins. She picks up her bag and starts to head home.

Julie takes the long route home to clear her thoughts. The list fills her mind. Julie’s older brother Charlie was listed a year ago. He got bronchogenic carcinoma from a wealthy man named Richard Afflewent.  Charlie can’t breathe on his own anymore so he uses a machine. She continues to walk while dragging her toes along the pavement.

Julie lugs herself to the door and turns the handle. She opens the door, her family is sitting in the living room crying. Everyone knows she’s been listed but no one can bring up the courage to say it out loud. Julie starts to walk to her bedroom without saying a word. Her room is small and can only fit a small mattress. She sees a hologram pocket sitting on her bed. My fingers glide around the floating note avoiding the button that opens it. She presses the bottom slowly, her heart beats faster. The image displayed has my name beside a picture of a boy in a wheelchair. She couldn’t help but scream while tears rush down her face and stain her cheeks. Julie wails into her hands over and over again. Her breath becomes short and heavy. Her eyes slowly shut and everything becomes quite for a moment. “My legs.” she whimpers.

Julie’s little brother Tommy walks into her room, plops himself onto the bed and looks her in the eyes. “Mom and dad said you’re listed, what is that?” His eyes open wide with curiosity. Julie explains “At age 17 children in the unworthy side of town are eligible to be listed. If a rich person has a disease, they can exchange their limbs or organs for ours.”

Tommy and Julie sit in silence for an hour glaring at the ceiling while holding hands. “If you are going to lose your legs, we should use them until the exchange” Tommy suggests.

If it were only that easy…

 

“Love of Violets” from New York, I Love You: A Film Commentary

 By Marian Pascual

     It is hard to capture the definite meaning of this film, but what intrigues the audience most is probably the delicate mystery that unfolds, ever so slightly.  New York, I Love You is a recreation of the original film, Paris, Je T’aime, where a variety of segments are filmed in different parts of each cinematic city.  The seventh segment of New York, I Love You featured the chicer part of the city – Fifth Avenue- where a woman revisits a hotel and encounters very strange things during her stay there.  I urge you to watch this film because it raises the question of existentialism and because overall it is a very beautiful film.

     In “Love of Violets,” a woman revisits a fairly vacant hotel in Upper Manhattan, where she is assisted by a crippled Russian bellhop.  We learn that she is a retired opera singer, and about her love of violets.  She requests for some to be brought up to her room, and somehow there were already some violets waiting for her in the lobby… coincidence? Not just yet!  The bellhop reveals that his father, who is also the manager of the hotel, was a great admirer of her singing back in the day; he had watched her perform many times in Paris.  Suddenly, the bellhop has a random violent nosebleed inside her hotel room, and then leaves the scene (as if things could not have gotten weirder).

     At the end of the film, the bellhop offers to close the window for her.  As he walks towards the window, he slowly starts to fade into the light. He says his final words before he falls to his death, “How can you bear it? I don’t know how you can bear it.”  It could be that perhaps he relates to how she feels about not being physically able to do the things that make her happy, the same way he is crippled, which restricts him from enjoying life to its maximum capacity.  Or it could be that the melancholy bellhop is part of some kind of schizophrenia she has (because she was seen talking to herself in the first few minutes of the film) and symbolizes who she is on the inside, crippled and physically restricted from doing what brings her the most happiness – to sing.  This theory is backed up by the fact that whenever the bellhop made an appearance in her room, he was reflected in the mirror that the woman was also reflected in.  Therefore, it is to say that she was symbolically looking back at herself in the mirror, and the bellhop represented the struggling part of her inside that we tend to mask to the outside world in order to portray a happier image of ourselves.

     After the bellhop commits suicide, something even more strange occurs.  A second bellhop, who we can assume to be the original one, climbs back from the balcony to tell the woman that there was no one down there and suggests she could have just seen something in the street.  He then offers to close the window for her once again, and she  replies very firmly: “Yes, please close the window.”  This could mean that she accepts the sad truth of never being able to sing again, and that she wants to start new, without having that sad person conscience restricting her from living her life.  Towards the end of the film, she was seen dressed in a white gown, almost like she was getting engaged.  A wedding symbolizes a new beginning, and in this case it was the beginning of an end, and that is what I think Shekhar Kapur intended to do with this beautifully haunting film.

Student Organization Profile: Music Directorate

By Vanessa Ifepe

Music Directorate is made up of music students whose goal is to spread the sound of school spirit around the school. They are responsible for planning events such as Coffee House where students of all kind are invited to showcase their talents or come and support the performers. They also help to set up concerts such as Sounds of Spring and Chamber Night. Music Directorate hopes to encourage students who are not taking music academically to integrate into the music department. This club wants to show others that this part of the school isn’t exclusive to just music students. Just because you aren’t taking music this year, it doesn’t mean you can’t show off your musical talents or anything else you may be able to contribute! Throughout the school year, Music Directorate meets to discuss new ways to ensure that your year ends on a good note.

The Giant: A Short Story

By Tatiana Bogdanov

     There’s a giant, who lives in the mountains. He sleeps in the valleys between them at night, and sits and watches the small town below in the day.

     The mountains are invariably cold. It’s always grey; the light, or the lack of it, making everything even more hopeless. Wind always blows the snow in your face, as if you’ve insulted its mom. The few trees that grow in the valleys quiver all hours of the day. The few animals that dare to call the mountains their home never last long; all except the giant. The giant is used to the cold. He’s reckless. He’s old, jaded.

     But the giant hates the mountains, quite honestly. It’s awfully lonely. It snows in the summer. All he can do is sit outside and occasionally smoke. Sometimes the distant lights of the town keep him up at night. Sometimes, he can even hear the people’s laughter; it never fails to make him bitter. There’s beauty all over the town; here, it’s nowhere to be found. The mountains are menacing, even to those who tower over them. They will never be tamed. There’s no reason to climb a mountain, for a view of snow.

     There’s no music to fill the air; no smooth saxophone played, or folky guitar to make everything a little warmer. There was a piano key hit here, once, but it only echoed. There are no children to make everything a little more innocent. The Milky Way in the sky, in the inky black nights, isn’t beautiful; it only reminds of the vastness of the universe.  

     From a distance, the mountains look like an abyss. There’s not a flicker of light at night. Not a howl from a lone wolf. Not the smell of anything human, or alive; just the snow on the ground. The only colour is grey, or a deep, lonely blue, depending on the time of day. The only way you could find happiness here is if you lived with your head inside a dream. The rock has been abused by snow like small bullets. The pines are nearing the end of their life; the syrup inside them finally starting to give up and freeze. You can’t smell them.

     The silence hits him hard, some nights. Only the sound of the wind, and the pines brushing against each other. Sometimes he can hear the sounds of the cosmos; the ethereal noises, the remnants of the time everything exploded into existence. White noise, a whooshing that never stops. Noisy, but silent all the same. It’s the kind of silence that you whisper in because you don’t want to interrupt it. Sometimes, he stares up into the night sky and reads the stories the stars write, though at this point he’s read them all. From Orion’s belt to the story of the Water Bearer.

     Though he’s lived here for years, he can’t remember why he’s here. He can pinpoint the moment he arrived, the very first night he laid down in a valley and tried to get to sleep. The cold froze his tears and kept his feet frosty. He can recall walking into the mountains, wind covering his body in goosebumps, feeling the sobs building in his chest; mind storming with just how hopeless, helpless, hapless he felt. In that moment, walking between the rocks, he could only focus on how upset he felt. The twilight was unforgiving, to be fair, showing the lifelessness of the wasteland he walked into in its full glory. But for the life of him, he can’t think of why he’s here.

     Maybe it was because of everyone else. Maybe it was every person who had expectations so highly of him, that he couldn’t bear to live up to them. Every person who left him and never told him why. Every person he couldn’t make himself talk to, for the fear of being judged. Perhaps, it was how, no matter how friendly some were to him, how much they loved him and told him they loved him, he always felt like a misfit. He never belonged. Like between him and them, there was a canyon fifty miles deep and a hundred miles wide, and he could never ever cross it. The only person he could talk to, being himself. Unloved by even the most unloved; unwanted by even the loneliest. Left feeling like he had an unpayable debt that he owed.

   One could suggest that the fact that his father never loved him as one of the reasons, or at least never showed the love.

Another might say that he went to the mountains of his own accord. He sent himself into exile. He shoved everyone away, every smiling face that just wanted to help. He never could talk about his feelings all that good. He acted nasty and mean, to make them hate him. He felt, to his very core, that he deserved to be all alone. Never thought it, but felt it. He was so focused on the hate and sadness that was taking root in his mind, infiltrating every fold of his brain, that he couldn’t focus on anyone, or anything else. He was blinded by the way he was caving in.

     But whatever the reason he’s there, the giant is miserable. He hates the mountains every day. The cruel rock seems to taunt him, everytime he tries to sleep. The pine trees seem to be even more depressed than him. The stars are more alive than anything here. And yet; he doesn’t go back.

He doesn’t know what going back would hold for him.

Love?

Probably not.

So instead, he sits in the mountains.

     The wind displaces his hair. Snow dusts his shoulders and blankets the mountains. The cosmos live in the sky (he thinks of joining them often). The clouds of gas, vibrant greens and purples, talk about the birth of new stars. A heartbeat is out of place here. The lonesome pines’ needles become frayed with the gales that come through the valleys. The cold kills any animal that tries to visit. There’s nothing but the smell of snow in the air. The silence will never leave him; will always ring in his ears.

    No more tears from him. His eyes are dry, his heart is cold, his brain is filled with guilt, pain, hurt, shame.

He’s as stuck as the mountains.

The Number Three: A Poem & Short Story

By Vanessa Ifepe

In three days, I realized three things.

I hate the number three, I’m impulsive,

and I might have loved him.

Only two things out of those three things are relevant to us.

On the third day of school, I saw him but, of course, he never saw me. I wanted him to.

In the third period, the only seat left was the one next to me and he sat in it. He said hi to me and after three awful minutes, I replied. If I could go back to that moment, I would have kept my eyes straight ahead and thanked myself later.

At 3:00 pm, three weeks later, my mom called saying she suddenly couldn’t pick me up and luckily, he was there. He offered to drive me home.

I still, to this day, don’t know what compelled me to accept his offer.

After thirty minutes of driving in utter silence while both of us pretended to be focused on the road, he finally took a deep breath and asked for my number. For some god-awful reason I still can’t identify, I gave it to him.

At 3:00 am, after three hours of what seemed to feel like a timeless phone call, he said he needed to get to know every part of me. I told him he was the third boy to ever say that.

On our third date, we laughed, and I had this feeling that he wouldn’t have a hard time tearing down every layer of me until I was completely vulnerable.

Unfortunately, I was right.

After three months of playful flirting and signs that I didn’t quite know how to read, he asked me to be his.

I remember feeling like the happiest girl in the world and without a second thought, I nodded in acceptance. In that moment, it felt like I finally had something that would last forever, something that no one could take away from me.

This time, I was wrong.

Three months go by, and he started acting distant. The three-hour timeless conversations turned into thirty minutes of dead space where all I had to make sure he was on the other line was his breathing. But that became enough because I was lucky if he even bothered to answer the phone. In the third period, the greetings stopped, and soon he moved his seat. After school, my mom had to start picking me up again.

He chose that girl I told him to stay away from to be his lab partner because he thought I was just paranoid. We went three weeks with no contact and that included eye contact until he finally texted me the two words that would shatter my heart.

“I’m sorry.”

I knew what that meant.

On July 3rd, I saw him at a party with her, and he didn’t see me.

Just like on the third day of school. From anyone on the outside, it would have looked like things had always been that way, but the truth was, it had been so much more than I could even explain.

For three days I was a drunken mess.

I was awake for three hours at most, tossing and turning when I wrote and deleted desperate texts I wanted to send him.

When the tears had dried, I settled on one simple message. “I hate the number three.”

– Seen at 3:05 am.

 

FHCI’s Best Dressed: Halloween Edition

By Befftwo Ali

On this spooky holiday, Forest Hill was filled with spirit! Here are some of the highlights:

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The magical Ms Jephcott dressed as a Hogwarts student from the iconic Harry Potter franchise.

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Jori, Paige and Izabel dressed up as middle school slumber party girls, and we’re here for it.[restrict]

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Probably one of the most terrifying costume yet (minus Winnie) so far. Amelia, Sage, Tianna, Krystael, Rebekah and Trisha all posed up as the cast from the Purge.

 

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Ms Newman looked aesthetically pleasing today with her pop art makeup inspired by Roy Litchenstein.

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We also have the lovely Ms. Burnip dressed as one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are.

 

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Last, but certainly not least, we have Evelyn dressed up as our former principal, Peggy Aitchison.

 


To view more costumes, browse through the FHCI Photo Stream. Have a spooky Halloween falcons!

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A Trip to the Bloody Lake

Adam Niklewicz

By Anonymous

A true story.

It was mid-July, I was a fourteen-year-old boy sitting with my father in a small pancake house near the lake in Banff, giving all my attention to the daily crossword puzzle in front of me. The aroma of powdered sugar and blueberries wafted through the restaurant, it was pleasant. I was relaxed, though I was beginning to get very irritated when these two elderly men in the booth behind me were blabbering about something. I could see in the mirror in front of me that he leaned forward, put his arms on the table and said: “those people are so utterly wrong.” I did not understand what he was talking about until I noticed an old television screen mounted in the corner of the room, a news channel was on and they were discussing gun laws. The man sitting across from him said “they don’t understand why we hunt, we hunt because it is fun, not because we like to kill. If we liked to kill then we would be murderers.” He agreed and they both nodded their heads. On this day, I was given a better glimpse at the ethical nature of the individual — the true motives of these bloodthirsty, undoubtedly cowardice, men.

Later that day, my father and I decided to go on a hike through Chephren Lake, a secluded hike through the picturesque mountains and lakes of Banff. As we entered the trail there was a large metal sign that cautioned hikers of the dangers of bears and other wildlife, it read “you must hike in a group of four.” We ignored the instructions and continued on.

The route we took had sparkling wet black rocks which had been worn down to form a smooth path of stones to cross a flowing river. I could feel the cool breeze coming off the raging rapids to my right, and the sound of the running streams of fresh water was rather soothing. We were now walking through a chestnut-brown forest with parsley-green leaves — the tangled arms of the lush trees rose ever upwards, as far as my head could turn. A pair of jays were shrieking very high up in the trees, almost like a warning call.

We walked past three hikers. There were two males and one female, all wearing large neon-yellow backpacks. As all five of us went around a corner, a crashing sound could be heard from my left, and I instinctively moved to the right. I saw a young black bear with its right paw trapped in a steel-jawed bear trap. The bear gave a gasping screech and staggered up, and then dead silence. Its roar was horrifically loud, and the sound was disturbingly human. I thought it was clearly crying for help. I could see it’s paw was swollen and tightly clamped in the razor-sharp spikes of the trap. I could distinctly see the excruciating pain it was in. The bear had an open wound on its paw, and the fur was completely ripped off the skin, I didn’t want to believe that I could see exposed bones but I could. The thick blood spewed out of the bear, dripping slowly to the ground below. The leaves beneath the bear were no longer parsley-green, they were bright red. Seeing this bear made it feel like time stood still. I could feel every second pass. I couldn’t breathe. Reality had yet to set in. I looked at the oak trees between us and the bear and imagined they were the steel bars in a prison cell locking the bear in. I wondered who really should be imprisoned: us or the bear? What are we? Animals? Or humans? “What are we going to do?” I asked my father, “There is nothing we can do, so we’ll just go,” he replied. I didn’t understand how we could just leave the animal there; it was suffering, it was in pain. The other hikers didn’t seem to care about the dying animal. As they were abandoning it, one of them muttered “so sad,” and the women replied with laughter, “who cares.” This was the moment when I was unsure who really was the animal, this group of humans, or the animal itself. Then, I saw my father walking away from me, I didn’t know what to think of this. My conscience was telling me one thing, while my father was telling me another. There wasn’t anyone telling me what to do. Only me. I told myself that the bear would live, but I didn’t believe it. The bear was starting to fight less against the pain, its breathing was ragged and very uneven. I could hear the sound of jays high up in the canopy of trees, it sounded familiar. I didn’t want to get left behind, so I took a deep breath and walked away.

Afterward, at the end of the hiking trail, there was a group of four national park Rangers discussing something, they seemed upset. The three hikers from before, the ones that also saw the bear, walked passed the Rangers, and the Rangers asked them if they saw a black bear trapped. The female hiker quickly replied “no,” without skipping a beat. It was obvious that the Rangers didn’t believe them, but it didn’t really matter — did any of this matter?

A short while later, I walked to a small fountain on the side of the road to clean my hands after the hike since they were very dirty from all the climbing we had to do. The water was crystal clear, I could see my reflection looking back at me as if I was staring into a mirror. I put my hands in the water, it was much colder than I had expected. I tried to wash off the powdered dirt from my hands but it was challenging, the filth would not come off. Only then did I realize it was not water. Alas, my bloody hands.

In the end, I never found out if that bear had ever been saved. I often wondered if I did something wrong. There is no rule saying that you have to save animals if they are injured, yet I still sense that I did something that I should be ashamed of. I was never really bothered by the bear. Actually, maybe it was the bear that bothered me. Seeing that dying beast made me witness things I never wanted to witness, feel things I never wanted to feel. Maybe humans are just horrible. We seem to have an impulse to act based on self-interest and scorn moral rules. Looking back, the experience I had with that bear was very much enlightening. I don’t think those three hikers were bad people — I think they are just a representation of human nature and society at its finest. They didn’t want to get their hands bloody and, I don’t blame them — blood does stain.