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Short Stories

Short Stories2019-09-18T17:11:00-04:00

A Spoken Word

A Spoken Word

by Muhammad Zaid Bin Amer

Hey
My name is Muhammad Zaid Bin Amer. You may have heard of me
And to be quite frank I’m not always 100% sure I’m spelling Muhammad right.
Is it M u, M o, I don’t know- it’s confusing.
I was born on June 21st 1999, in some ghetto army base within Peshawar, a small city in Pakistan.
This is widely been regarded as a terrible idea
Now see the reason I wasn’t born in a regular hospital
is that we were on the way to the airport, leaving Pakistan as refugees because of some bad business my parents have never went into
because they just love keeping secrets
This just goes to show, people wanted me dead even before I was born
I’m often terrible at staying quiet, being loud and shattering the solid silence, I mean what can I say
I was born sleeping and have been messed up ever since
I like coca-cola
Alot
I go to The University of Waterloo
I’m in first year and I still don’t have my drivers license
And for as long as I can remember I’ve loved cheap food… and bad jokes
I’m not exactly religious;
My faith in god died when my preacher preached peace and love
but he raised fists and seethed with a deadly glare in his eyes,
Speaking a story that needed no words
But,
after taking care of my ill mother and seeing her smile with pure love
I realised that we don’t need to die to get to heaven.
I’m around 6 feet tall.
On a really good day.
I believe there are two types of people in the world. People who don’t bend the corners of their pages in books
and monsters.
I was a kid, back in 2006, age 7
When I discovered this thing called reading, you may have heard of it
And how it could make the world come alive
How I could be sitting in my bedroom, my legs crossed, face furrowed, and my lips spread in a thin crease with a small sliver of my tongue sticking out
But also how I could be a thousand miles away sailing the stormy sea, waves taller than towers
Rising and crashing sweeping me under without so much as a shout
How I could be sitting on the dinner table, eating with one hand book in another
But be alongside harry as he returns for the summer
All it took was a couple of words skillfully strung together into a couple of short sentences, neatly wrapped and tied into a paragraph.
I was a kid, back in 2006, age 7
When I discovered that apparently these false realities were not okay
And it was the first time I was called gay.
See I didn’t understand, a word that when googled means “lighthearted and carefree”
But when that word and others were spit out like something nasty caught in their mouths
it took those feelings out of me
I was a kid in 2009, age 10
When I made my first friend
He looked at me and rather seeing the weirdo who’d rather stay in than go out
The kid who’d rather have his nose between a book than in the fresh air on the swings and the slide
He saw a friend
I was a kid in 2009, age 10
When I learnt of compassion and kindness
I’ve fallen in love
And when in love wars being waged over women doesn’t sound so stupid anymore
And suddenly the radio made sense
It is as if every love song had been recorded in an effort to explain how I felt about you
I’ve had my heart broken
And yeah, sticks and stones may break my bones
But i’d rather have broken bones than a broken heart
Because bones generally have a nice clean sharp break
Whereas your heart doesn’t just snap
it tears, ripping along your fault lines, leaving you in bits and pieces
I’ve been raised by my parents “good guy”
But I have a pair knuckles swollen with the thought of red hot anger and brick
But I realized the only thing that smashing holes in cheap drywall breaks
Is my mother’s heart

I have a heart that’s swollen similar to my fist
It got that way from beating myself up over all the things I can’t fix
You see
I’m clumsy
Just yesterday I tripped in front of my mirror
And shattered my self esteem
And now I’m unable to look at my own reflection
And I have this, this thing that’s called depression that’s been eating me alive
Leaving me like a Russian nesting doll,
the memories of who I once was inside my hollowed out chest
And I struggle to convince my shadow that there’s value in standing behind me

Despite all this I know
I know I have the power to crush mountains and split the sea
because I have all the words
The words that want to spill out of me like a waterfall
wearing away at the mountains of prejudice and hate
Spilling truth into a sea of misconceptions
I know that music is the language of the soul and I’ve got big booming bass inside of me beating akin to my heart telling everyone I am still here, I am still alive
I’ve got a smile that can bridge canyons and a laugh that can translated into any language
I’ve got charisma equated to a simple formula
but have less confidence than an ignorant idiot
and I’m still struggling to fill the hole in my heart called happiness

Hey
my name is Muhammad Zaid Amer
Sometimes I’m still that grade 9 kid.
The kid whose stomach folds like intricate origami as the girl he loves walks by
And I don’t read as much as I’d like to
But I’ll always be a Potterhead at heart
And if you ask me after all this time?
I will say always

Hey
My name is Muhammad Zaid
My hobbies include laughing at absolutely everything and nothing at all, talking to myself and pretending everything’s okay
Hey, my name is Zaid

My Hands

My Hands

by Emerald Naylor

He could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the wall. There must have been hundreds- no thousands- of people waiting for him. He rolled his shoulders back and tried not to think of the crowd.

Priscilla was still standing in the doorway behind him. She glared at his back.

“I can’t believe you- doing this again.” Her voice was steady, but he could tell she was trying hard not to shout.

He turned around to face her.

“I’ve told you, I have to do this. This is who I am; I’m their hero.” He started to turn back towards the arena when something in the shadows caught his eye.

“For gods sake! Stop being the damn hero!” She was yelling now. She sounded exasperated.

He took a step towards the shadows.

“You don’t have to be their hero. Come home with me; be mine. Be my hero,” She whimpered.

“Priscilla, shush.” He narrowed his eyes. There was something there, right in front of him.

“Lionel,”

He stepped closer. He could make out the outline of the figure through the darkness. There was something in its hands.

The shadowy figure lurched forward. He couldn’t move out of the way fast enough.

There was a sharp searing pain in his chest. He wasn’t sure what had happened but he started feeling hot.

And wet.

There was something dripping- no, pouring- down the front of his chest.

He saw drops of blood trailing towards the mysterious figure. Lionel’s hands went flying up to his chest. They were covered in blood- red, hot, sticky blood. He reached for the dagger and tried to stop the blood from spilling out of the wound.

“Lionel!” Priscilla’s voice echoed from behind him as he collapsed to his knees.

The dark figure was running away. The murmur of voices became quieter. Priscilla’s sobs bounced off the stone walls.

She was gripping his face; shouting, hoping, for him to respond.

“But… I’m the hero,” he whispered before his eyes rolled back and he entered a world full of darkness and silence.

*****

That was the first time I killed a man.

I sat back on my knees and looked at my hands. They were long and slender. They didn’t look like they could accomplish much, but they had started to prove me wrong.

My hand clenched in a fist- the dull blue veins struggled to pop out against my skin. My hands were calloused from the days I had held my weapon in anticipation for Lionel’s death.

Those days, if I closed my eyes, I could picture holding the hilt of the dagger between my hands. I knew I had to thrust it into Lionel’s heart, but I wasn’t ready to, and wouldn’t be for a long time.

I rubbed my hands together. They were rough, and felt grimy. I had no idea they were capable of such a horrific thing. I didn’t want to kill Lionel, but there had been no other way.

I couldn’t let his life go on. I couldn’t let him continue to love Priscilla if he was just going to repeatedly hurt her. He was going to keep running away; keep trying to be the hero. But every hero dies eventually.

My hands felt different.

For years, I had hid my hands under long sleeves. I would wear out the stitches as I constantly tugged at the sleeves, wishing they were just a little bit longer. My hands had never been anything to be proud of. They were dry and chapped; the nails were bitten down and broken; the muscles were clenched and stiff; and they always felt like ice.

But now- now my hands were different. They felt stronger- bigger even. I didn’t want to buy expensive gloves to hide them, or big rings to distract from the rough skin and broken nails. I wasn’t ashamed of my hands anymore, because I knew what they could do. These hands, these hands were my hands, and they were capable of anything. I was capable of anything.

I had a sense of pride, and an overwhelming feeling of being in control. I had control over my life- I had the power to do whatever I wanted. I had the power to change other lives too, so I made Priscilla’s life better. Even though it meant destroying Lionel.

Lionel was important to me. Lionel was my oldest…my oldest friend. I had never given that much attention to anyone. I knew him. I knew his hopes and dreams. I knew why he wanted to be the hero. And I took that away from him.

The day of Lionel’s death was difficult for me and all those around me. I drifted around my house, not really cluing in to what anyone said. I knew I wasn’t focusing. People would talk to me and I would just stare ahead, never being able to concentrate.

There was a distance that day. I was disconnected from everything. Even my body. I felt lost; like I was staggering through a forest in my dreams. Everything was hazy. I didn’t know why I was there. I felt isolated.

I thought about how easy it would be to just fix Lionel’s death.

I didn’t tell anybody right away. No one had known how much it tore me apart inside. Lionel. He wasn’t supposed to die- not yet. But the idea had entered my mind months prior, and it was impossible to push away. I saw the benefit from his death for everyone. Well, everyone except me.

My hands felt incredibly dirty at first. I kept wandering into my bathroom, hoping that time I would feel better. I remember leaning over the bathroom sink and turning on the tap. There was no blood, but I continued to

scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

The water burned against my hands.

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

They were bright red. They shouldn’t be red- there was no blood! I stopped scrubbing and started clawing. Clawing and scratching at my hands, desperate to get out of my skin.

They burned like hell.

These stupid, stupid, hands were causing me so much pain. Maybe if the water was hotter….

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

There was blood now. I reached for the soap. My hands were numb, and I missed. I barely heard the shattering of the soap dispenser over my wailing.

“Winnie,” a voice called from the other side of the bathroom door, interrupting my endless scrubbing, “Are you alright?”

I answered. Not sure what I said, but I did answer. I had to, because I couldn’t let anyone know what had happened. Not yet. I had made a promise to keep it a secret. I didn’t say anything, not until everyone was allowed to know. Not until I had finally made headlines.

I stepped out and looked my husband in the eyes. I tried to smile.

He knew.

I knew he knew. He could see right through that smile.

He took my filthy hands in his and stared at them. He was silent; I tried to hold my breath.

“What-” he started, but I just shook my head.

“Don’t ask. You don’t- I can’t tell you, yet. Please,” I whispered.

My husband looked me in the eyes. Whatever he saw there scared him because he slowly backed away.

“Winnie,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ll listen. When you’re ready, I’ll listen.”

A few hours later he was pleading for me to come out of the bathroom again. He gave me a tea, wrapped my hands in gauze, and carried me to bed. My cries filled the house that night.

Eventually my husband would begin to recognize the signs. He would notice my constant anxiety the days before, or my bloodshot eyes from the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. And those red hands; he would always understand what the red hands meant.

He would try to stop me before I spent hours in the bathroom. He would try to stop the constant scrub,

scrub,

scrubbing.

He would recognize the signs. He would coax me out of the bathroom- call me back to reality. He would kiss my hands and gently rub lotion into them. But then, he would back away from me- just like he did the first time with Lionel. He would back away and give me my space. Eventually I would talk to him, usually a few nights later. I would confess who I had killed, and then tell him all the dirty details; how I did it, who watched, and my pen of choice.

He would listen to all of my confessions. He sat there, wide-eyed. Slightly frightened, but understanding.

“Priscilla was there. He was just about to go out for his big fight. Lionel had promised Priscilla that they would be together- she wanted to run away, but he- he lied to her. He was never going to stop fighting just for her. He loved the glory too much. I had to do it- I couldn’t keep hurting her.

“It was the weekend you were away. I locked myself in our room and planned out the entire thing for hours. Lionel couldn’t know who his murderer was- it had to be a secret.

“Oh god! I’m a terrible person! It was so hard; so hard to press the pen to the paper. That pen had granted him so much, and then it just took it all away with one stab to his heart.”

“You’re sick. Absolutely disgusting!” The voice in my head would shriek.

“You had to do it,” my husband would say.

“It was thrilling,” I would admit several days later.

That thrill never really left. It latched onto me and I haven’t been able to shake it since Lionel’s death all those years ago. There was a sort of excitement that came with obsessing over the perfect way to kill someone.

It was exhilarating.

It made me feel in control.

I remember the first time I experienced the adrenaline that came when I decided I was definitely going through with Lionel’s murder. That’s when I realized that my life had changed forever. I had disrupted the lives and stability of hundreds of people. It was exciting… and terrifying.

I would spend the weeks afterwards trying to sort out the different emotions in my head. The logical part of me would say it had to be done; that there was no way around it. The emotional part wished it didn’t have to be this way, and that I could have let him be the hero that lives. He didn’t have to go so soon. But the sick, twisted part of my brain chanted, “let’s do it again.”

And I did. To keep my career going and my image consistent, I continued to kill. At least, that’s what I told myself. If I’m honest, I killed because I liked it.

I killed Julie just for fun. Everyone had loved her, and I thought it’d be fun to shake things up again; to cause even more anger.

Adam was destined to die right from the start. From his very first word, I knew he would be dead by chapter twenty-eight.

Sometimes I would kill the heroes, like Lionel, so that others could have a chance.

Some people never accepted my kills. Others loved me for it.

Time and time again, I thought back on the first time I killed a man. Lionel. His death was tragic. I thought I had lost my mind. I didn’t think I could go through with it. I sent my editor an apology letter and a fruit basket.

Lionel was so important to me, for many reasons. He was the first person I felt truly connected to. He was the first one to demand that his story be told; he wanted everyone to know how powerful he was. He was great at everything, except loving, and for that he had to die.

I revisit his death every time I kill someone else. It’s a sort of mourning process. Misery loves company, and what’s more tragic than killing your best friend?

I remember what it was like to have the blade stab him in the heart. There was no resistance- his heart was empty. There was blood everywhere; it pooled at his feet and spilled over the pages. Priscilla screamed a few feet away. I wanted to calm her down, but I had to get the blood off my hands. They were stained. I had to scrub,

scrub,

and scrub until I stopped feeling deceitful.

I ran the water to drown out Lionel’s cries.

Or was it Priscilla’s?

“It’s for your own good,” I told Priscilla after I had calmed down, “Please, your life will be better now.” Then I slammed my notebook closed to shut her up too.

I sank back on my knees. I wrote that. I described his murder. I tore her heart out.

Her life did get better. I made sure of it. I introduced her to someone who would be her hero. I made everything final, and then I waited.

Sure enough, the day after its release, a newspaper was delivered to my door. The headline read:

“Winnie Williams Isn’t Afraid to Kill! Spoilers Ahead!”

Fin.

Confessions of A Creative Woman

Confessions of a Creative Woman

by Tasnia Nasar

It’s the top skill discussed in an interview, the ability most highlighted in my resume, and the characteristic I’m most known for by my friends and family. I laugh at my own Instagram captions and marvel at how witty my tweets are. I take an extra 20 minutes to make my meals look presentable only to eat it a few seconds later. The stationary section at Chapters is like my Disneyland and overpriced lattes are my chardonnay.

If I just told your life story, you my friend, are creative. We’re often misunderstood. We’re often ‘self-employed’. But we’re also a lot of other things. So it’s time I sat down and confessed why we are– the way we are.

  1. Our life is an organized chaos

I have a laptop case in my purse without a laptop in it. I have a wallet too, but my debit and credit cards are usually in the side pockets. When I’m hungry, I indulge in the smell of gum wrappers and dig through to find a few tangerines…at least that’s what they used to be.  Give me a ring while my phone is in my bag and I will need at least 3 missed calls before I can pick up. And after a long day of searching and stuffing things in my purse, I like to come home and throw the said purse on my bed, on top of the clothes that I tried on but did not approve of when I got dressed in the morning.

You may see a mess, but this space is a reflection of what goes on in my head; an explosion of thoughts and opinions waiting to be organized into smaller, more comprehendible messages. Don’t get me wrong; I put those clothes back in my closet using colour coordinated hangers spaced out to perfection. My credit and debit cards are eventually put in my wallet in each assigned slot. Although we creative people have a hard time keeping organized, we have a process that can’t be interfered with. Picking an outfit, slaying at work, or just getting through the day is all a form of art to us. At the back of our minds, we know that blue tank top is somewhere in the pile of our rejected #ootd. So try to fix our ‘mess’ and we’ll spin out of control.

  1. The snooze button was invented with us in mind.

My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. Morning people rejoice at this fact. The birds chirping, the coffee brewing, runners running– it’s a different world, really. However, it’s a world I’m not familiar with. The only reason for my 5 a.m alarm is because it takes me 3 hours to get up in the morning. Creative people can relate to this ‘flaw’ of mine. We are essentially allergic to this part of the day. Why wouldn’t we be? Whether you’re up at night writing your next bestseller, sitting on your floor creating your artistic masterpiece, or just laying in bed thinking about what your next big thing should be, bedtime is no earlier than 2 a.m. Anyone is bound to be a little tired with this type of work ethic. We don’t mind at all, though. Juices flowing, words creating, imaginations wandering– it’s also a very different world. But this time, it’s a world I’m all too familiar with.

  1. Deadlines are impossible to meet.

“Wait, when was that due?” is my catchphrase. Whether I have 3 months, 3 days, or 3 years to finish a project, my prime time to work on it is the night before. The pressure to create something wonderful becomes so significant, it is only at this time when my creative juices start flowing. Missing deadlines is a way of living on the edge. Before this deadline, we almost always ‘lack inspiration’ or have ‘writer’s block.’ As Adam Douglas so accurately said, ”I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Managers may have a hard time with this life motto of ours, and although we apologize for the inconvenience, we can’t really help it. So the best advice we can give is to embrace the fact that a deadline is really the official date for us to ‘get started.’

  1. We have impeccable fashion sense.

Style. Everyone has one. Yes, fine; sweatpants and hoodies are a form of style as well. If that’s what you feel confident in, then you work those grey palettes! Basically, you have your Britney Spears and you have your Taylor Swifts. Us Swifties (is that what they call themselves?) like red lipstick, dresses, and Pinterest-worthy hair. Our wardrobe is well thought out and requires hours and hours of hard work – and shopping. We think through every little detail, from the colours to the accessories to our shoes. You may not notice, but the neon coloured fringe of my earring matches the tip of my shoes. Unfortunately, we’re often shunned because of the effort we put in into looking good before walking out onto a dirty, smelly sidewalk.

Personally, the effort I put into my appearance isn’t because I look forward to strangers asking me where I got my pants from. I don’t want to tell you where I got my pants from. Because that would put me at risk of being unoriginal. Although it is flattering that people are interested in my fashion sense, the clothes I wear, to me, isn’t fashion. It’s a statement. Whether its putting on a maxi dress to showcase my free spirit or toughening up in a leather jacket to show my edgier side, my attire is my personality. I want you to see it. I need you to see it. Creative people don’t have to tell you they’re creative, you know. You’ll figure it out as soon we step out in front of you.

  1. Our friends have deemed us the quirky one.

Sometimes I’m the life of the party. Other times, I’m the girl in the corner, observing what’s going on around me. “She’s in one of her moods.” I often hear my friends say. I find it rather difficult to identify as an extrovert or introvert. But fear not fellow Lost Souls, this is a mere sign that you’re a woman of a creative nature. You see, we don’t have a work-life balance. Our work is our life. Our life is our work.

The conversations I have with my mom, that strange encounter I had at the coffee shop, thoughts I have while showering; it all factors in to the work I produce. So the next time we’re hanging out and I seem to be in a daze, it’s because I’m thinking of how to incorporate what just happened into my next story. Or I’m redecorating your living room in my head. Or I’m hungry and wondering why I haven’t been offered food yet. The possibilities are endless.

Creativity. It’s a beautiful thing.

New Beginnings

 New Beginnings

by Edward Liu

It was a troubling time. Seventeen years into life; too many left until the end of my days.

“Too many indeed.”

What was that voice?

“It’s me! You’ve known me for awhile now.”

What were those thoughts I didn’t want circulating through my head?

“I have feelings too, you know?”

What were those disheartening memories?

“She only broke up with you a few months ago! You couldn’t have already forgotten.”

I hadn’t forgotten, but I had tried to.

“I miss her.”

I missed her too, but I could not afford to miss her. I could not afford to think about her any longer.

“That’s impossible. We will practically see her everyday. With him.”

It didn’t matter. I had to work my way around it. I willed myself to,

“Yeah, okay. Good luck with that.”

I had to somehow make it through my final year of high school with two unwanted parties tagging along with me, holding me back. It was a difficult task, and I attempted to accomplish it through willpower alone for a small while.

“You tried your best for two months. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Two months was approximately how long into the school year I had held out before I began to lose control. All it took was one unlucky morning after a night of poor sleep. The first thought to circulate through my mind when I woke proved to have dire consequences.

“I’m so lonely.”

It had been several months, almost half a year even! It wasn’t like I had gone my entire life with a partner; I used to be on my own! Why couldn’t I handle being on my own then?

“It’s because I’m here. And she’s not.”

Indeed. It was all his fault. It was all my fault. Every morning became a dreadful reminder of my lonely situation. What did I have to look forward to?

“Nothing, nothing at all. It’s just you and me, partner.”

I had to shut him up, but how? I tried entering different worlds and living as another person unlike myself in several role-playing games, but it proved to be too time-consuming. I had my priorities out of order. In organizing and allocating time, there were three general categories to consider: work, sleep, and leisure. It was never a good idea to prioritize leisure over work and then work over sleep. The hour at which I went to bed progressively became later into the darkest hours of the night. The average number of hours I spent asleep each night was dropping again. I had experience with it before. Poor sleep equated to disorder within mental processes, nonexistent attention spans, uncontrollable thoughts, and many vivid reminders of the oh too recent devastation.

“She’s gone.”

Miraculously, my performance in school continued down its relatively stable course in comparison to the chaos ensuing within my mind. Alas, it too would soon be threatened by the drop.

“We can’t keep going like this.”

“Just a bit longer,” I told him. “We’ll tough it out until the two-week winter break.”

“Your willpower is wavering which is why we can’t keep up with the others in that class anymore. We are different from them.”

I knew he was right. There was a certain level of maintained pressure which came with being in that class, and I was growing weak.

“We can’t stay in there. We have to get out. Math is no longer our strength; it is our weakness. We’ll also get away from her.”

“We’ll push onward,” I thought. “Just a few more weeks.”

Those “few” weeks proved to stretch longer than I had expected them to, but finally, I crashed into the winter break.

“Well, we made it. What will you do now?”

My main priority was to get back on track by sleeping properly again. It proved to be easier said than done. I had two weeks, but I continued to sleep at late hours. I had had enough of dealing with the depressing trains of thought, the memories, the renewed loneliness. Near my wit’s end was when I stumbled across a possible solution.

“Why do I feel so…numb?”

Emotionally numb is what I started to feel when I woke in the morning, at least for the first few seconds. It took longer for the memories, for the loneliness, to set in, and it was all his doing.

Who was he? He was Wilbur and his title was “the Dealer.” Faceless is what Wilbur was, concealed under his hood. He always wore a dark gray hooded sweater, black pants, and dark coloured running shoes.

He was a mysterious figure and was thought to only exist in a separate plane. I met him on a still and quiet night at around one in the morning. School had started back up by then and I had piles of schoolwork to complete, but late at night is when the depressing thoughts were at their strongest. As I was wrestling with them in my head, moments before retreating to bed, he shined a light through my laptop’s screen and appeared; while it was powered off. True to his name, he dealt with drugs and he left one of his newest concoctions in my drawer; a gray pill which, unbeknownst to me, activated a mental process which he deemed, New Beginnings.

“Once taken, the pill’s effect will activate every time you deprive yourself of sleep, building strength with each successive night. When you wake up, the events of the day prior might become blurry.”

It sounded harmless enough with a beneficial effect which is why I ingested the pill before he could finish. In the beginning, the effects were barely noticeable. Then the early morning emotional numbness started.

“If you sleep poorly for two or more nights in a row, well, your memory may slowly become unstable, rendering it incapable of creating and retaining memories.”

This became increasingly evident as the school days continued. It became increasingly difficult to retain information. After a month, I couldn’t remember a word of what I was being taught, but there were more memory issues yet to occur.

“Worst case scenario, your past will become nonexistent in your mind…”

Throughout the months after the breakup, I had tried my best to forge onward and not look back. I could feel my past closing in on me the entire time. The larger the gap between it and myself, the less I remembered which meant the less I’d think about it. On the other hand, whenever it got close enough to be nipping at my heels, I remembered vividly. Then one day, I couldn’t feel its presence; the memories which haunted me, tormented me for months. I started to occasionally look back, and the gap between myself and the past grew increasingly larger until I could only see a small number of scattered memories, and few of them recent.

“…and each minute you live in the present will be erased as they go by.”

New Beginnings proved to be a memory manipulation process. It became difficult to recall anything at all as the records of my past either vanished or became deeply repressed into the darkest reaches of my mind. It felt as though my brain was automatically deleting or archiving everything it processed. The mental torment lightened until it ceased completely. I regularly woke in the mornings feeling numb and remembering nothing; I became a boy without a past.

My mornings from then on truly became new beginnings.

Understand Me

Understand Me

By Eunice Adubea Owusu Amoah

Was he dead?

Or was he alive?

His skin felt warm and flushed all over.

Was he dying?

Or was he still in love?

Something warm and sticky was in his hand.

Blood.

His? Hers?

A face appeared before him.

Someone screaming his name.

Or maybe just screaming.

Screeches of fear. Or pain. Or surprise.

Was it her?

Was she beside him?

Screaming for him to stay alive?

Or screaming at him to just die?

He didn’t deserve to die, he thought.

She was the one who broke him.

He thought of the day they met.

“Boo,” she whispered.

He quickly spun around to face her.

His chin brushed against her short, wet, spiky hair.

He looked down at her and she looked up at him.

Two complete strangers who had fatefully met in a cemetery on a rainy night.

 

There was an ambulance.

His thoughts begged for the siren to be shut.

He was trying to remember.

What had she been wearing?

Had she smiled?

No.

She’d laughed though. Yes she’d-

The siren. The stupid siren. Too fucking loud.

She’d laughed. He’d stared at her in that beautiful moment, unable to pull himself from her allure….

 

 

 

“I can make you smile.” “Hi.” “Do you have an umbrella?” “Smile.” “Could you hear me crying?” “it was nice to meet y”-

THAT FUCKING SIREN!

HE WAS DYING!

Did they not understand?

He simply wanted to live one last time in this moment of death.

The ambulance got closer. He closed his eyes.

When he opened his eyes again, they were lifting him up in a gurney. He could faintly hear her talking with the paramedic.

“Are you his guardian?” the paramedic hastily asked.

“No,” she stuttered out. “I don’t know him. I think it was a hit and run.”

“I don’t know him.”

He closed his eyes.

“I don’t know him.”

Behind his eyelids, he saw her smiling face through the car headlights.

“I don’t know him.”

He released his last breath.

At least he’d made her smile one last time.

My Hands

My Hands

by Emerald Naylor

He could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the wall. There must have been hundreds- no thousands- of people waiting for him. He rolled his shoulders back and tried not to think of the crowd.

Priscilla was still standing in the doorway behind him. She glared at his back.

“I can’t believe you- doing this again.” Her voice was steady, but he could tell she was trying hard not to shout.

He turned around to face her.

“I’ve told you, I have to do this. This is who I am; I’m their hero.” He started to turn back towards the arena when something in the shadows caught his eye.

“For gods sake! Stop being the damn hero!” She was yelling now. She sounded exasperated.

He took a step towards the shadows.

“You don’t have to be their hero. Come home with me; be mine. Be my hero,” She whimpered.

“Priscilla, shush.” He narrowed his eyes. There was something there, right in front of him.

“Lionel,”

He stepped closer. He could make out the outline of the figure through the darkness. There was something in its hands.

The shadowy figure lurched forward. He couldn’t move out of the way fast enough.

There was a sharp searing pain in his chest. He wasn’t sure what had happened but he started feeling hot.

And wet.

There was something dripping- no, pouring- down the front of his chest.

He saw drops of blood trailing towards the mysterious figure. Lionel’s hands went flying up to his chest. They were covered in blood- red, hot, sticky blood. He reached for the dagger and tried to stop the blood from spilling out of the wound.

“Lionel!” Priscilla’s voice echoed from behind him as he collapsed to his knees.

The dark figure was running away. The murmur of voices became quieter. Priscilla’s sobs bounced off the stone walls.

She was gripping his face; shouting, hoping, for him to respond.

“But… I’m the hero,” he whispered before his eyes rolled back and he entered a world full of darkness and silence.

*****

That was the first time I killed a man.

I sat back on my knees and looked at my hands. They were long and slender. They didn’t look like they could accomplish much, but they had started to prove me wrong.

My hand clenched in a fist- the dull blue veins struggled to pop out against my skin. My hands were calloused from the days I had held my weapon in anticipation for Lionel’s death.

Those days, if I closed my eyes, I could picture holding the hilt of the dagger between my hands. I knew I had to thrust it into Lionel’s heart, but I wasn’t ready to, and wouldn’t be for a long time.

I rubbed my hands together. They were rough, and felt grimy. I had no idea they were capable of such a horrific thing. I didn’t want to kill Lionel, but there had been no other way.

I couldn’t let his life go on. I couldn’t let him continue to love Priscilla if he was just going to repeatedly hurt her. He was going to keep running away; keep trying to be the hero. But every hero dies eventually.

My hands felt different.

For years, I had hid my hands under long sleeves. I would wear out the stitches as I constantly tugged at the sleeves, wishing they were just a little bit longer. My hands had never been anything to be proud of. They were dry and chapped; the nails were bitten down and broken; the muscles were clenched and stiff; and they always felt like ice.

But now- now my hands were different. They felt stronger- bigger even. I didn’t want to buy expensive gloves to hide them, or big rings to distract from the rough skin and broken nails. I wasn’t ashamed of my hands anymore, because I knew what they could do. These hands, these hands were my hands, and they were capable of anything. I was capable of anything.

I had a sense of pride, and an overwhelming feeling of being in control. I had control over my life- I had the power to do whatever I wanted. I had the power to change other lives too, so I made Priscilla’s life better. Even though it meant destroying Lionel.

Lionel was important to me. Lionel was my oldest…my oldest friend. I had never given that much attention to anyone. I knew him. I knew his hopes and dreams. I knew why he wanted to be the hero. And I took that away from him.

The day of Lionel’s death was difficult for me and all those around me. I drifted around my house, not really cluing in to what anyone said. I knew I wasn’t focusing. People would talk to me and I would just stare ahead, never being able to concentrate.

There was a distance that day. I was disconnected from everything. Even my body. I felt lost; like I was staggering through a forest in my dreams. Everything was hazy. I didn’t know why I was there. I felt isolated.

I thought about how easy it would be to just fix Lionel’s death.

I didn’t tell anybody right away. No one had known how much it tore me apart inside. Lionel. He wasn’t supposed to die- not yet. But the idea had entered my mind months prior, and it was impossible to push away. I saw the benefit from his death for everyone. Well, everyone except me.

My hands felt incredibly dirty at first. I kept wandering into my bathroom, hoping that time I would feel better. I remember leaning over the bathroom sink and turning on the tap. There was no blood, but I continued to

scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

The water burned against my hands.

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

They were bright red. They shouldn’t be red- there was no blood! I stopped scrubbing and started clawing. Clawing and scratching at my hands, desperate to get out of my skin.

They burned like hell.

These stupid, stupid, hands were causing me so much pain. Maybe if the water was hotter….

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

There was blood now. I reached for the soap. My hands were numb, and I missed. I barely heard the shattering of the soap dispenser over my wailing.

“Winnie,” a voice called from the other side of the bathroom door, interrupting my endless scrubbing, “Are you alright?”

I answered. Not sure what I said, but I did answer. I had to, because I couldn’t let anyone know what had happened. Not yet. I had made a promise to keep it a secret. I didn’t say anything, not until everyone was allowed to know. Not until I had finally made headlines.

I stepped out and looked my husband in the eyes. I tried to smile.

He knew.

I knew he knew. He could see right through that smile.

He took my filthy hands in his and stared at them. He was silent; I tried to hold my breath.

“What-” he started, but I just shook my head.

“Don’t ask. You don’t- I can’t tell you, yet. Please,” I whispered.

My husband looked me in the eyes. Whatever he saw there scared him because he slowly backed away.

“Winnie,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ll listen. When you’re ready, I’ll listen.”

A few hours later he was pleading for me to come out of the bathroom again. He gave me a tea, wrapped my hands in gauze, and carried me to bed. My cries filled the house that night.

Eventually my husband would begin to recognize the signs. He would notice my constant anxiety the days before, or my bloodshot eyes from the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. And those red hands; he would always understand what the red hands meant.

He would try to stop me before I spent hours in the bathroom. He would try to stop the constant scrub,

scrub,

scrubbing.

He would recognize the signs. He would coax me out of the bathroom- call me back to reality. He would kiss my hands and gently rub lotion into them. But then, he would back away from me- just like he did the first time with Lionel. He would back away and give me my space. Eventually I would talk to him, usually a few nights later. I would confess who I had killed, and then tell him all the dirty details; how I did it, who watched, and my pen of choice.

He would listen to all of my confessions. He sat there, wide-eyed. Slightly frightened, but understanding.

“Priscilla was there. He was just about to go out for his big fight. Lionel had promised Priscilla that they would be together- she wanted to run away, but he- he lied to her. He was never going to stop fighting just for her. He loved the glory too much. I had to do it- I couldn’t keep hurting her.

“It was the weekend you were away. I locked myself in our room and planned out the entire thing for hours. Lionel couldn’t know who his murderer was- it had to be a secret.

“Oh god! I’m a terrible person! It was so hard; so hard to press the pen to the paper. That pen had granted him so much, and then it just took it all away with one stab to his heart.”

“You’re sick. Absolutely disgusting!” The voice in my head would shriek.

“You had to do it,” my husband would say.

“It was thrilling,” I would admit several days later.

That thrill never really left. It latched onto me and I haven’t been able to shake it since Lionel’s death all those years ago. There was a sort of excitement that came with obsessing over the perfect way to kill someone.

It was exhilarating.

It made me feel in control.

I remember the first time I experienced the adrenaline that came when I decided I was definitely going through with Lionel’s murder. That’s when I realized that my life had changed forever. I had disrupted the lives and stability of hundreds of people. It was exciting… and terrifying.

I would spend the weeks afterwards trying to sort out the different emotions in my head. The logical part of me would say it had to be done; that there was no way around it. The emotional part wished it didn’t have to be this way, and that I could have let him be the hero that lives. He didn’t have to go so soon. But the sick, twisted part of my brain chanted, “let’s do it again.”

And I did. To keep my career going and my image consistent, I continued to kill. At least, that’s what I told myself. If I’m honest, I killed because I liked it.

I killed Julie just for fun. Everyone had loved her, and I thought it’d be fun to shake things up again; to cause even more anger.

Adam was destined to die right from the start. From his very first word, I knew he would be dead by chapter twenty-eight.

Sometimes I would kill the heroes, like Lionel, so that others could have a chance.

Some people never accepted my kills. Others loved me for it.

Time and time again, I thought back on the first time I killed a man. Lionel. His death was tragic. I thought I had lost my mind. I didn’t think I could go through with it. I sent my editor an apology letter and a fruit basket.

Lionel was so important to me, for many reasons. He was the first person I felt truly connected to. He was the first one to demand that his story be told; he wanted everyone to know how powerful he was. He was great at everything, except loving, and for that he had to die.

I revisit his death every time I kill someone else. It’s a sort of mourning process. Misery loves company, and what’s more tragic than killing your best friend?

I remember what it was like to have the blade stab him in the heart. There was no resistance- his heart was empty. There was blood everywhere; it pooled at his feet and spilled over the pages. Priscilla screamed a few feet away. I wanted to calm her down, but I had to get the blood off my hands. They were stained. I had to scrub,

scrub,

and scrub until I stopped feeling deceitful.

I ran the water to drown out Lionel’s cries.

Or was it Priscilla’s?

“It’s for your own good,” I told Priscilla after I had calmed down, “Please, your life will be better now.” Then I slammed my notebook closed to shut her up too.

I sank back on my knees. I wrote that. I described his murder. I tore her heart out.

Her life did get better. I made sure of it. I introduced her to someone who would be her hero. I made everything final, and then I waited.

Sure enough, the day after its release, a newspaper was delivered to my door. The headline read:

“Winnie Williams Isn’t Afraid to Kill! Spoilers Ahead!”

Fin.

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