"Gone" 

Samara Roberts ​

            The morning after,  I met him at the bus loop. The world looked sharper, clearer; my vision was sliding off of things. It slid off his dreadlocks, bounced from the bricks of the wall I was sitting on, softened around the sharp edges of the leaves above me.

            When I saw him everything went silent. The high screech of the bus, gone. The sleepy shouting of my peers, gone. The deep rumbling of morning thunder, gone. The concrete walls and floor pushed against me. I was at once cold and clammy. But when he put his hand over mine, it was smooth and soft. Something was different between us. Something was different inside me.

            I swallowed. I tasted blood. I turned my head into his shoulder, smelled his sweat. My chest tightened. I felt open, empty. We were closer than before. His breathing brought me peace, yet the humorous look in his clay brown eyes made me nervous.

            He would never know how those images had changed me. Silence - despite my radio - I had bitten my lip hard to keep from being heard, and I had been completely and utterly alone. The illusion of his presence was a stark contrast to the reality of the morning after. I was only beginning to break.

"Whatsername"

Meghan Rainey

            The smoggy city was always crowded with people at night. Crowds never really
bothered me, until it happened. I was walking home from the grocery store after work,
and I saw him. He had blonde hair and steely blue eyes. I avoided crossing his path and
took the back alley. It was a longer walk home, but I didn’t have to see him. The night
was eerie, and the only thing that lit up the dark alley was the single lamp post at the end of the curb. I just barely stepped into the light when huge, cold fingers wrapped around my arm and yanked me back into the darkness. As I was slammed against a wall, I felt the tip of a cool blade lay against my neck. My vision was blurry as I glanced at my attacker. It was him, the man with the blue eyes. He yanked my small purse off of my shoulder and tore through my pockets, taking everything. Suddenly, my instincts kicked in and my vision cleared. I glanced down at the knife that was lingering at my throat, and then at my attacker, who was stuffing my things into his bag. I balanced my options. I could disarm him and run with his weapon in my hand, or I could fight. Either way, it was a risk. I looked around at my surroundings, and to my right, there were a couple of old moving crates stacked to the side. In one of the crates was what seemed to be an old vase.

            It all happened so quickly. He was putting my purse into his bag when I grabbed the old vase and brought it down onto his head. Tiny glass pieces showered over the both of us. He went down, dropping the knife at his feet, grabbing his head in his hands. I picked up the blade, took off for the street corner at the end of the alley and into the street. I ran all the way to the police station, beaten and bloody. The glass had cut my hand as it had hit the man’s head. When I reached the station, the lady at the front counter had taken one look at me, and then called for security to take me to the hospital, where I received stitches, and filed a police report, disposing the knife into the large, glove-clad hand of an officer. They told me I was lucky to escape practically unharmed.

            I planned to stay the night in the hospital, too scared to walk home in the dark. I didn’t have a car, my uncle couldn’t afford it. I’d lived with my uncle ever since I was twelve years old. My father had skipped out on me before I was born, so I never knew him. As for my mother, she had died in a car accident while she was heavily intoxicated. She was always like that - drunk. Unfortunately, so was my uncle. He used to be in the military, he loved it there, but as he was my only family left, he had to come back home to take care of me. He resented me for that, which led him to drink. He was angry when he was drunk, which was all of the time.

            I curled my knees against my chest on one of the benches in the hospital lobby, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I was dozing off when a boy around my age, 18, stumbled into the lobby, a bloody rag wrapped around his hand. He held a half-embarrassed grin on his face, as two other boys trotted in behind him. He was handsome, with dark black hair that curled and puffed out just above his ears. His eyes were a dark emerald green, that twinkled with excitement. He was the kind of guy that held his poise like a buck held its antlers, smooth and graceful yet cocky. I noticed I was staring and quickly averted my gaze. Obviously, he had seen me, because when he walked away with the nurse, he turned his head to look back at me, and smiled a big toothy grin. I felt my face burn with embarrassment. The two boys that had walked in with him were lumbering around the lobby. One of the boys had green hair and bright blue eyes. He was short and had a voice that sounded like a chipmunk. The other had dark blue eyes, with blonde hair that feathered out over his brow. I could feel them looking at me, and I pulled my blanket up over my shoulders, attempting to hide my face.

            “Hey you!” the one with the green hair said to me, busting my cover. I peeked over the blanket. “What are you doing here? It’s like midnight. Shouldn’t you be home?” he asked noisily.

            “I could say the same to you, why are you here?” I countered. This time it was the blonde one who answered.

            “We got into a bit of trouble with the Five Finger Fillet.” he said, nodding towards the direction their friend went. “Billie’s got to get stitches!” the two boys burst into laughter.

            “What’s the Five Finger Fillet?” I asked confusedly.
            The two boys went on to tell me that the point of the game was to sit around at a wooden table, with nothing but a knife and your hands, and to attempt to stab back and forth between each finger on your hand, trying not to stab yourself. Each time one round was completed, another would be started, but this time it had to be faster. It sounded completely stupid, and apparently, Billie had gotten too carried away and sliced his hand wide open, causing a trip to the hospital.

           “It was so funny,” the green haired boy said, “man, you should’ve seen it! Oh, and my name is Levi, and this is Charlie.” He pointed to the blonde haired boy, and he smiled and waved.

            “I’m Alena,” I smiled. Even though these boys seemed a bit crazy, it felt good to smile at their friendship.

            I was still talking to Charlie and Levi when Billie came back, his hand wrapped in the same bandage as mine. He grinned at me, and sat down in the chair across from me.

            “We’re twins,” he said, motioning to my bandage. “You have anywhere to be?” he asked.

            I pondered the question. I didn’t want to go home. My uncle would kill me if he knew I had spent money at the hospital, and I had lost my groceries when I was mugged, so I didn't have any food. So these factors led me to make the most reckless decision of my life.

            “No, I don’t have anywhere to go. I . . . don’t have a home anymore,” I said sullenly, the last part a bit under my breath. Billie’s eyebrows pulled together in a frown.

            “What do you mean you don’t have a home? Everyone’s got a home, even if it’s a bit broken,” he said forlornly. I nodded awkwardly. Obviously he had history, but I wasn’t going to get into his personal life.

            The room turned a grim shade of grey, and then Levi’s eyes brightened as he broke the silence. “Hey! I have an awesome idea that’s really awesome!” he practically screamed. Charlie flinched at Levi’s exuberance, “Dude, just spit it out!”

            “Alena can come with us tonight! The night isn’t quite over yet, and we can have some fun! Let loose from the tension, you know?! She apparently ‘doesn’t have a home’ so she can chill with us!” he said so quickly you’d think his body was running on a computer.

            “Yeah, that’s a pretty sick idea,” Billie said, and then turned to me, “What do you think Ileen? Want to hang out?” I blushed, he had pronounced my name wrong.

            “It’s Alena, and I think that would be pretty fun,” I smiled. His face turned pink.                  “Whatever,” he smiled, “C’mon, let’s get out of here, this place depresses me. Always has!” he exclaimed. I pondered his statement, but quickly forgot about it as the four of us walked out of the hospital.

            Billie had a small four door Sloppy Jalopy for a car. Charlie and Levi made fun of him for it, but he insisted that it wasn’t “old” or “sloppy” but “a fine vintage hand-me-down”.

            “Where are we going first at twelve-forty-two in the morning?” Charlie said, checking his watch. “The beach!” Levi exclaimed.

            “We can go night swimming!”

            My breath hitched in my throat. I didn’t like swimming. Especially in the ocean. Something about the water, big, blue, deep, openness . . . it scared me. Billie noticed me tensing up. He rested his hand on mine and smiled at me.

            “Don’t worry, you don’t have to swim if you don’t want to, I’m not going to,” he comforted, without removing his hand. It was a little clammy. It reminded me of how people are still human, no matter what they’ve been through. It is an everlasting quality.

            As we drove up to the beach, Charlie and Levi ran for the water as Billie and I walked across the shoreline. It was after one in the morning, and the only thing that lit up the beach was the light of the moon. It seemed a little too cliche to be perfect.

            Billie’s eyes glistened as he talked, “So tell me your story!” he said, excitedly. My smile turned into a frown, and I grasped the bandage at my hand.

            “Well . . . I got mugged tonight; highlight of my day,” I said sarcastically, “but you know, I’ll get over it.” I half-mumbled through an attempted smile. Billie stopped walking, I stopped a few feet in front of him and turned to face him. He was surprised.

            “I didn’t know that happened,” he said, “I thought you’d cut your hand getting a late night snack or something, but . . . damn,” he said. I laughed and we started walking again.

            “So tell me your whole story,” he said once again. I told him everything about me, what had happened to my parents, and how I lived with my uncle, and how I was technically on the run, and that I wasn’t planning on going back anytime soon. Billie didn’t judge. Well, actually, he didn’t have any room to. Billie had left home when he was sixteen. He didn’t graduate like I did, but he went on the road with his little band. He wrote music and played the guitar. He was inspired to write music when his father died of cancer when he was only ten. It completely destroyed him. Until he met Charlie and Levi. Charlie had been kicked out of his home and was living with Billie since they were 12. They were practically brothers. They met Levi on the road, and the rest was history.

            “I was super close to my father, that’s why his passing was such a shock to me.” Billie sighed, “Music has helped me look past that. It's helped me get through the toughest of times. Sure, I’ll never get him back, but you know, you can’t change the winds, you can only set your sails.”
            I smiled at his words. It made me think of my own point of view. My life hadn’t
been the best, but I was in charge. I am in charge of my own life. I should live it the way
I want.

            Billie and I walked the shoreline from end to end, and we headed back to the car, with Charlie and Levi. We drove around the entire city, blaring the radio, stopping at every record and bookstore we could find. I was having the time of my life, but
unfortunately, it would have to come to an end.

            Four-thirty-seven came faster than I thought. We had worn ourselves out after we ate at the best fast food place in the city. Billie had bought my meal, of course, and now he was taking me back to his place, with the guys. Billie played his guitar and sang a bit more, until we all fell asleep on the couch and chairs in the small living room. Well, “all” being the three guys. I couldn’t sleep if I tried, my mind was too awake. I thought about the events of my day, getting off of work, shopping, the incident... it was such a horrible day, but tonight was amazing. Then I realized: I have to work with the winds in order to set my sails. I have to push through the hard times, to make it better. I had to take my life into my own hands. I had to leave.

            I packed up what little things I had, and the memories from tonight that Billie,
Charlie, and Levi, had treated me with, and I left.
                                                                                  ***

           When Billie woke up the next afternoon, he noticed she was gone. She had taken her things with her, and left. He had to admit, after the night they’d spent, he had
developed a bit of a crush on her. The way she spoke - gently and cautiously. Her eyes sparkled with hope, and her voice was as smooth as velvet. He remembered everything so clearly about her, except for her name. If he had an idea where she went, he would go looking for her, but without a clue of where she could be, and no recollection of her name, he was stumped. He picked up his guitar and headed to his room to play in peace. He strummed a few chords here and there, but the same thought kept creeping back into his head:
                 Whatsername. If only I could remember the girl called Whatsername.

"Arbor"

Sally Alivar

I refuse to tell my life story.

           I am what is known as an Elementist in this world. A being who possesses the power of the main elements: Fire, Water, Air, Nature, and Earth. Every Elementist has a main element, and mine was the rare combination of earth and nature. I am the only being who cares and tries to protect the ones who share the same abilities as I. All the Elementists that have ever existed, I’ve read every catastrophic tale that pops up in my personal library hidden in my current home. From the time they were first born to the day, it would be their last.

            We all, unfortunately, perish down before our evil burden — the main elements. They’re so naive. I can’t bear the sight of any of them. They react quickly to eliminate my kind out of paranoia. They fear our power. They fear our will to control it.

            Thousands of years ago when I was a small child, my father was teaching me how to control my element powers. That day I was attempting to ignite a campfire so we could roast some apple crumple below our treehouse home. During that time, our family was part of a special tribe where everyone was either an Earth or Nature Elementists. However, Father and I were the only ones who were the combination of both. Our people had lived in peace for generations according to my father. He too was puzzled on how our species was such a threat to our neighbors, the main elements.

           “Do you think there are Elementists that have one of the main element’s power, Father?” I questioned curiously. “Like a Fire Elementist?”

            He did a heartfelt smile as we both watched the apples crisp to a golden brown. The sweet spice of cinnamon and sugar made the air even sweeter. “I have no doubts that other Elementists containing the power of the main elements exist to this day,” he replied.

            Mother came climbing down the rope ladder then. She was allured to the aroma wafting from below. “How’s the elemental training progressing? Is my sweet Arbor cooking my special treat?” she asked with a warm smile.

            The sides of my face felt hot. “Mom,” I moaned with a sheepish grin.

            Both my parents laughed. My father informed that I was doing extremely well as we all ate a bite of apple crumble. A large crunch of the apple with butter and cinnamon sugar took my taste buds to treat heaven.

            “Alright, I think it’s time you have earned this,” Father spoke, breaking the silence of our eating. He brought out something from his coat pocket. A ring large enough to wear around my wrist. It was a luscious forest green that had hand-painted images of mountains and flora around the banding.

            “What is it?” I asked, confused.

            “It’s your reward for passing your elemental test,” Father replied, attaching the ring on my right wrist. “This is a special ring, Arbor. Please don’t lose it.”

            “What does it do?” I kept questioning.

            “You’ll find out when you get older,” he beamed neutral.

I knew better. When Father doesn’t give a straight answer, something was on his mind. When he stood up from the log we had used to sit on, he held his forehead with a slight growl.

            “Are you alright?” Mom asked, concerned now.

            Father shook his head to shake the pain away. “I’m fine, dear. Just a headache.”

 

Later that evening, I heard shifting behind my back while in bed. Judging from the heavy footsteps of his boots, it was Father. I waited til he left before getting up. He managed to sneak out without waking Mom. Impressive. What was he doing being up at the middle of the night though?

            I was brave enough to follow. Father stopped at the clearing he had always taken me for training. An open field with the addition of a small pond. He began his pacing trance along the water’s edge, still clawing his forehead with the same hand.

           “Father,” I called, running.

            But as I had approached, a vine erupted from the ground and captured me. It travels upward to my throat, preventing any oxygen from escaping. I shifted my eyes to see Father’s. His had changed to a lethal orange. He didn’t seem fazed that his actions were gradually suffocating me.

            My vision was solely fading. I never knew I would die so suddenly, especially by my own father.

            The vines lost their gripe. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I fell unconscious already as I hit the ground. The last thing I had truly heard was my father’s screaming.

 

The next morning, I opened my eyes into Mom’s fragile brown ones. She stroke my forehead with a sad smile of relief. I peered down at myself to find bandages hugging my neck. I rubbed them gently with a frown, disbelief of the fact that Father nearly killed me.

            “...Where is Father…?” I attempted to ask, but my voice was inaudible.

            Mom knew what I wanted, but her expression did the speaking.

            Everyone in the tribe acted normal a few days after the incident. No one had even mentioned the disappearance of my father, nor asked me. It was as if he had never existed.

            How could my own people be so ignorant?

            I took a trip back to the place where it happened. I needed to escape the oblivion. Father shouldn’t have been forgotten. He was a normal being like the rest of us.

            The smell of burning ash interrupted my bickering. It was coming from the direction of the tribe. I ran with all my speed to find our homes, including mine in flames. I couldn’t find anyone for an explanation. Even Mother was missing. I cried out repeatedly, hoping someone would answer, but nothing. It was like everyone vanished into thin air too.

            Out of panic, I put out the fire of my home using my water element powers. There was a rough piece of scroll stabbed by a knife on the side of the tree’s trunk. I tore it off to read.

            “The leaders of the four main elements have come to an agreement. Elementists have been proven to be a dangerous threat to society and therefore shall be executed.”

            On the bottom of the message, all four element symbols were branded.

            Rage boiled through my veins. I tore the message limb from limb and thrust it on the earth with hot tears.

            That was the last straw. Somebody had to prove to those senseless Main Elements that Elementists were not a threat! I don’t care if it gets me killed. It has to be done. This silent feud needs to end.