Monthly Archives: December 2014

Issue Four

The Year of Sixteen by: Dani Nicole

Alone  by: John Grey

City People by: Hannah White

Oasis by: Anna Gergen

Future City Future City by: Steven Leonardo Clifford
 

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The Year of Sixteen By: Dani Nicole

     I was sixteen when I met him.
      I knew who he was as soon as he arrived, though he didn’t come dressed as the Grim Reaper. He wore a black suit and an aquamarine skinny tie. He smiled and introduced himself as an old friend, and my aunt let him in the house without demanding so much as a name.
      Way to go, Aunt Lynn.
      When he saw me sitting on the patio with a Coke in one hand and a pair of goggles in another, he came right over and sat next to me as if his being there didn’t mean a thing.
      “Happy birthday” he said. His voice was gravel – like mine got when I stayed up too late.
      I just stared at him like an idiot, but honestly, I didn’t know what to say. Of course I’d thought about him before. I always wondered what it would be like to see him, to meet him. Does he feel cold when you touch him? Does he make you want to quit life?
      But he looked normal. About eighteen. Bright, hazel eyes and dark, blond hair. A bit overdressed for a pool party, but normal nonetheless.
      I cleared my throat. “I didn’t realize you’d be here.”
      He laughed to himself. “No one can ever tell when I’m coming, Lys. Guess I have that element of surprise about me. I’m horrible at being consistent.”
      I stared at the duck-shaped chlorine dispenser floating around the pool. “My guests will be here soon.”
      “I’ll be gone by then.”
      “Good.”
      “I just came by to give you this.” He slipped his hand into the inner pocket of his suit jacket and handed me a black card with red numbers on it.
      “See you soon.” He ducked beneath an evergreen and walked out the gate on the side of the house. I took an uneven breath and turned my eyes to the card.
      January 13, the Year of Sixteen
      I tried to take another breath but I felt like someone had closed my windpipe. Only seven months away.
          #
      A lot of people say to live like you’re dying. But I never really understood that, because really, aren’t we all dying? It’s not like you just jump out of bed more alive than you were the day before. The clock is a cruel thing and it ticks without stopping.
      My clock was set, perfectly in sync with my Death Card. There was no changing it, so I didn’t think it would do me any good to start living differently. I didn’t know how I was going to die; only that January 13 would not be a good day for me.
      It’s not common for sixteen-year-olds to get their Death Cards. And it kind of completely blows that I got mine on my birthday. I mean Death obviously missed the memo that I wanted a cell phone. Talk about a bad gift giver.
But what sucked even more than that was the way Maddox looked when he pulled his backpack out of his locker. I stared at him like I wasn’t a walking time bomb.
      Surely the end of my life was the time for romance.
      “Hey there, pretty girl,” he said. He always called me pretty and never meant it the way I wanted him to.
      I leaned against his locker as calmly as possible. “Hey senior. How ya feeling?”
      “Brilliant. I’m on top of the world. Metaphorically speaking.”
      “Just glad it’s not literal with your big feet.”
      “You know what they say about men with big feet,” he said, shutting his locker.
      “What’s that?” I offered him a flirty smile. He ignored it.
      “They trip a lot.”
      I wish I could say I laughed, but it was more like a snorty outburst.
      “You’re cute,” Maddox said, then kissed me on the cheek.
      I froze.
      My heart stopped pumping.
      My feet went numb.
      I was entirely convinced that my Death Card was wrong and I was dying right there.
#
      I don’t know why I agreed to a double date.
      Maddox and Tanya were already at the restaurant when David and I got there. David was a nobody from my math class who could never seem to get a clue and bring a freaking pencil. He insisted on asking me for one every day. My friend Maggie claimed that he was just trying to talk to me.
      “He probably has three drawers full of pencils at home,” she’d told me.
      Whatever. It’s not that I wasn’t willing to give David a chance, it’s that he was inevitably going to fail the “Are you Maddox Richmond?” test. Every guy did.
      Tanya was the most talkative person I’ve ever met. She twirled her blonde hair around her finger as she rambled on about everything she could possible think of. In between her sentences I stole glances at Maddox. He stuck his tongue out at me and I scrunched up my face. He laughed.
      “Did I miss something?” Tanya asked, wiping her pretty, glossed lips with a napkin.
      You missed everything, I thought.
      The date was over quickly and I was thankful. As we walked outside Tanya was assaulted by a pack of hyenas – I mean her girlfriends. She promptly begged Maddox to let her hang out with them.
      Fine by me, Tanya. Good riddance.
      David, Maddox and I strolled down the street in an awkward triangular formation. I wanted to get rid of David. I didn’t think he was having a good time anyway. It turned out we didn’t have much in common besides pencils.
      “Maddox will take me home,” I said.
      He looked from me to Maddox, then back at me. “Alright. I guess. See you Monday.”
      He strolled off to his Toyota leaving me alone with Maddox under the moonlight.
      I started to walk but he didn’t move.
      “Are you okay?” I asked.
      No, I thought, you’re not.
      “Not really,” he said.
      “Tanya not your type?”
      He laughed. “It’s just bad timing.”
      He started to walk and I followed along beside him.
      “It’s never good timing,” I said. “Love is one of the most inconvenient things. Oh, you were trying to have a life? Well too bad, now you get to think about this person all the damn time.”
      He laughed. It was music.
      “Its just … really, really not a good time,” he said.
      “I feel the same way. Not that love is knocking at my door.”
      He stopped walking. “Why is it a bad time for you?”
      His eyes burrowed into mine, asking me a question I couldn’t answer.
      “Well… it’s… nothing.” I said. I wasn’t ready to tell him about my Death Card.
      “Me too.”
#
      By December I’d pretty much put all my affairs in order. I had been planning for my last day at school to be right before winter break. I’d say goodbye to all my friends like I was just going to miss them while I was on vacation. They wouldn’t realize I wasn’t coming back until I didn’t.
      Maddox was my last goodbye. When I started to profess my (strictly friendly) feelings to him, he put his finger on my lips.
      “Outside,” he said.
      He pulled me to the greenhouse where we stopped in a perfume of lilies and orchids. He handed me a ribbon-wrapped box. “Open it.”
      “I didn’t get you anything.”
      “I don’t care.”
      I pulled the ribbon and opened the lid.
      I couldn’t move.
      Inside was a locket, silver, with an L engraved on it. I opened it, and inside there was a picture my parents and me from Christmas, the year before they died.
      I couldn’t tame the tears. “Maddox, where did you find this picture?”
      “You’d be surprised what you can do, what you can find, when you have a really good reason to look.” He put a finger beneath my chin and tilted my head up. “I was so afraid of you. To feel the way I did. To look at you as anything but a friend.”
      My heart was wild. Racing.
      “Lys, I love–”
      “No,” I screamed. “No!” I pushed him away. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
      “Yes I do,” he said, his voice even.
      “You can’t love me.”
      “You act like I have a choice.”
      Tears blurred my vision. I didn’t want it to come to this. I never wanted to tell him, but it was the only way he’d understand. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the black card.
      He took it and read it.
      He didn’t say anything. I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked at the ground as he weighed it in his hands.
      “Lys,” he said.
      “I told you.”
      He took a step toward me. “You don’t understand.”
      I looked up into his green eyes. He wiped my tears. Then I felt him take my hand and put something in it.
      There were two cards now.
      I opened the one on top.
      January 14, the Year of Seventeen.
      Maddox’s Death Card was due one day after mine.

______

Dani Nicole has been writing since she could read, typing up three- to five-page stories about everything from bunny rabbits to boyfriends. After graduating from UT Austin, Dani realized her dreams of becoming a writer hadn’t died along with the imaginary friends from her childhood. She actively writes and participates in DFW Writing conferences and events, often sharing (or not sharing) a stack of pancakes with fellow writers and debating hot-button issues such as pacing and tone.

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Alone By: John Grey

Curtains flutter, breach the morning stillness.
Threads of sun bright-stitch the floor.

A dark red blanket swathes the bed,
somber but shielding your body
from the world.

How long’s it been since the dream
was of any worth to you:
a peach-skinned girl with gold hair
down to her shoulders,
perched atop the gate,
her lithe legs swinging through your sleep.

The dresser photographs half-smile
through dusty glass.
Your mother’s crystal talks
shine and counter-shine to a gold-leafed mirror.
Yellow letters, smudged-ink postcards,
ceramic elephants and shot glasses from Las Vegas:
the past is ever-present but inaccessible.

You slowly rub your eyes.
Despite your languor,
the hours are like a locomotive coming through.
Each of them is gone
more than it was ever here.

House silent.
Sky cloudless.
You live alone.
The world too lives alone.

____

John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in Paterson Literary Review, Southern California Review and Natural Bridge with work upcoming in the Kerf, Leading Edge and Louisiana Literature.

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City People By: Hannah White

     Dad plugs in the white noise machine to help us sleep. It’s Aunt Jenny’s idea. She says we’re used to silence and that nothing is silent here. When I ask what white noise is, she says it’s like the absence of sound.
      I don’t understand how noise can be silence, no matter what color it is.
      Aunt Jenny says I’m overthinking it.
      When the grown-ups go out, Grandma stays behind with us. We order Chinese take-out and she says we’re like real city people now. Eileen doesn’t like Chinese, so she eats a peanut butter sandwich instead. The bread is different from the kind we have at home and when the sides of her mouth pinch together I can tell she doesn’t like that either.
      To cheer her up, we have ice cream before bed. The icy part on the top of the gallon is freezer burn, Grandma says, and she scrapes it off with a knife before filling up our bowls. “Don’t tell your father,” she warns us, but she’s not serious. On the drive up, Dad and Grandma and I sang the “I scream for ice cream” song until our voices got raspy.
      On the floor of Aunt Jenny’s bedroom, I unroll my sleeping bag. Eileen is already asleep beside me, and the white noise hums in tune with her breath. But me, I’m waiting up for Dad and Aunt Jenny. I can’t sleep until I know they haven’t gotten in a car crash coming back from Uncle Dave’s. Car crashes are my second-worst fear, after spiders.
     Uncle Dave lives in a different part of the city, Dad says. He has tattoos, and once when I was younger Mom and Dad made me tell him what I’d learned in school about not smoking. Once, I saw him alone in Grandma’s kitchen, drinking vanilla extract straight from the bottle.
      But that was a long time ago now.
      The bedroom door is open, but I sneak to the window anyway and watch the intersection outside. Back home, our backyard has oak trees and poison ivy. Here, beneath the streetlights, there is only cement.
      When the front door creaks open, I slide back into bed and close my eyes. My favorite thing to do is hear my family together. The way Dad and Aunt Jenny crack up over jokes. The way Grandma’s Kentucky accent sneaks back in when they talk about the old days.
      But this time is different. I turn onto my side and listen.
      “What do you mean he didn’t take it?” Grandma says.
      “He didn’t open the door.”
      “He didn’t open the door for his own family?”
      “He doesn’t give a fuck about our family, Mom.” I flinch. Dad doesn’t talk like that with me.
      “Jesus Christ,” says Aunt Jenny, “you don’t have to put it like that.”
      “How should I put it, then? We went out into the goddamn ghetto to—”
      “The ghetto? Well, that’s a little bit culturally insensitive, don’t you—”
      “—give the screw-up some fucking baked goods from his mother and he didn’t even open the door for us—”
      “—think? He’s embarrassed, that’s all.”
      “Not too embarrassed to take the money.”
      “Because he needs it. He’s not stupid.”
      “Not stupid?”
     “Quiet. The kids.” I’m chewing my cuticles.
     “That’s our boy,” Dad says, “smart as a whip. Thirty years old, living off hand-outs from—”
      “How did he look? When he took the check.”
      “Don’t you listen? I said we had to slide that shit under the door.”
      “Mom’s just concerned—”
      “We’re all concerned. Always concerned. You know why he didn’t take the food? Because he’s feeding off our fucking concern—”
      I lie still.
      “Remember last time?” Quieter.
      “That was different.”
      “He totaled Mom’s car.”
      “He needed help.”
      “He destroyed everything.”
      “Tom.”
      “Listen. When my daughter invites him to her school play—”
     “Tom.”
     “—and he tells her no to her face—”
      “Don’t you see it, Tom?”
      “What?”
      “This is Dad’s fault, not Davy’s. It’s Dad who fucked it up. When—”
      “Wait!” Silence. Something I don’t understand and then, “I won’t hear any more of this. I won’t. And I sure as hell won’t hear your father’s name in this house.”
      I’ve never heard Grandma yell before, and I can tell she’s not used to it either. Her voice is shrill.
There is more talking but I don’t want to listen. I’m not cold anymore; my blood feels like hot chocolate inside my veins. I imagine Dad standing there, in Aunt Jenny’s dining room, snorting mucus back into his nose. And Grandma, yelling.
     I don’t want to know about Uncle Dave. I don’t want to know why he crashed Grandma’s car, or why he didn’t come see me in The Music Man, or why he drank vanilla extract straight out of the bottle. I don’t want to know what Grandpa did.
     When Dad comes in to check on Eileen and me, my eyelids are relaxed and my breath is steady. In, out. Slower. In, out. Softer. In, out. I can feel his face close up against mine, watching me, making sure I’ve been sleeping. I try to keep my expression blank.
     Once I’m sure that he’s gone, I crawl out of bed again and go to the window. Beneath the streetlights, there are cracks in the pavement.
     I listen to the white noise.

____

Hannah White graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in European history. She is currently an incoming MFA student at Temple University and the 2014-2015 Kelly Writers House Junior Fellow. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, The Sensible Nonsense Project, Cleaver Magazine, Gadfly Online, Penn Review, Rainy Day, Thickjam, Apiary Online, and The MFA Years, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahleewhite, where she posts daily Pop Culture PSAs as well as your average self-deprecating snark.

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Oasis By: Anna Gergen

THE CAVE

“Say something.”

Shadows flicker over her face like black flames. Her mouth puckers and locks shut.

“We’re safe now,” I tell her. Her spine stiffens. I don’t believe me, either. Still, I say, “The Copter flew the opposite way. We should go.”

A small emergency candle casts a reddish glow upon the cave’s stone walls. Soot cakes her face and streaks her neck. Her eyes are sunken, almost black.

“Please,” I say.

She stoops and pinches the wick, dousing us in darkness.THE GARDEN

When I had first looked out the window, all I’d seen was light.

The Copter diced the air as it shakily piloted us to the coordinates on Marco’s screen. Bile swished in my stomach. I was grateful that the high sun outside my window blinded me from seeing the desert landscape beyond. It would be a rough landing, Marco had said, and I shouldn’t watch. I was thankful for my captain’s orders.

My seatbelt dug into my skin as we collided with the rocky ground. I bit my tongue twice. The weight of the weapon strapped against my chest hurt even worse. That, and the way my gut clenched to keep my insides, well, inside me.

“Remember the mark, boy,” Marco shouted over the drone of the Copter’s rotors.

My knee bounced as I recited his earlier briefing. “The extraction of Chloe Gray, seventeen years old, for an invasive habitat violation.”

He nodded once at our practiced lie. “You’re clear.”

My chest swelled like an inflating balloon. I opened the door.

The sun had shifted since our flight, but it was still playing its tricks. Before me, a mirage of a lush garden extended all the way to the canyon. It was replete with tall grasses and beds of vibrant flowers. At its edge stood a girl. She was petite and delicately featured. Wisps of blond hair teased her face.

The din of the Copter almost drowned out her screams.

THE CAVE

A short and dark infinity has passed and Chloe is still silent. A shaft of light from the setting sun skims the top of her head.

Once that light is gone, we will really need to start running.

Marco will circle back, I want to tell her. He doesn’t give up easily.

Neither should you.

I can feel the small, round object in my pocket. Maybe it is time to show her. I slip my hand into my jeans. “Chloe—”

“Whatever you have to say, don’t.” Her voice cuts into me like saw through bone.

Twelve drops of stalactite dew splash onto my arm before she speaks again.

“You don’t get it. After your fellow troops posted the first ‘Desert Region Evacuation’ notices,” she scoffs, “the neighbors… they were whispering about soldiers taking kids away. Dad and I wanted to stay with the garden, but my little brother needed my dad to take him somewhere safe. I thought the solution was simple. Guess my dad didn’t.” Three drops of dew later she adds, “But I knew what I had to do.”

I inhale. The air tastes of metal. Though I shouldn’t give away what I already know from Marco’s briefing, I finish her story so she won’t have to. “So he left,” I say carefully, “and you stayed.”

“Yes.” Curiously, her voice lightens. “Like my mom told me to a long time ago.”

That I didn’t know. I take my hand from my pocket, leaving my small, round, last resort hidden inside.

THE GARDEN

Chloe was out in the open, as thin as the grassy stalks whipping in the wind around her, and no threat to a soldier like me.

“You all can burn!” she cried. “Burn in hell!”

She eyed the weapon strapped to my chest. I cringed inwardly. “Miss, please calm down.”

She half-laughed, half-sobbed. “Never.”

“I just need to see your permits.” The whole “permits for foreign plant species” charade was a laughable ruse, a reason to get her to leave so our troops could finally take over the region. I didn’t say that.

She spat.

Marco’s eyes bored into the back of my neck. I said, “I’ll perform a visual inspection.”

I took a few steps into the garden on pretense. I ran my hand through silky leaves and petals. The place was littered with prohibited flora— maidengrass, passion flowers, and tiny blooms of Japanese honeysuckle. Beautiful and highly illegal.

I plucked a single pea pod from its stem. She flinched. “The state classifies a number of these plants as contraband. They’ll— they’ll need to be eradicated.”

I rolled the pod between my thumb and forefinger. Delicate and fragile, it was probably one of the last of its kind in a planet suffocated by its own people.

I held onto it.

Hurry up, Marco’s voice said into my earpiece. I nodded toward him.

“Eradicate this?” She spread her arms wide. “I won’t do it.”

“No, miss,” I said, gesturing to the flamethrower I carried, “but we will.”

THE CAVE

My fingers are tapping senseless patterns on my leg when Chloe speaks again. “That backpack of yours seems awfully small.” Her shoe scrapes against the rough floor. “Probably only enough in there to last two people a couple of days. Longer for one person.”

“You want to fight for it or something?”

“You leave, you get the bag.”

“And you?”

“Everything I know is gone or dead.”

Heat rises from my chest to my face. “You planning on joining those ranks?”

“Why not?”

I rub the stubble on my jaw. Exhaustion is grinding me down. “You know you still matter.”

She sighs. “You’re not that much older than me, right? Got a family?”

I keep quiet.

“Then you know why nothing matters anymore.”

THE GARDEN

I did my best imitation of a soldier’s march on my way back to the Copter. Marco’s eyes glinted.

“She refuses to cooperate,” I said.

“Then you are authorized to act on orders, son.”

“Sir, this could be simpler. Relocate Ms. Gray and exterminate the field afterward. Less fuss.”

“I’ll get her out of there,” he said, pounding his chest.

“I don’t mind.”

“Wait here. Get ready to restrain her.”

I climbed into the Copter and did as my captain told.

The taste of copper coated my tongue. I had not imagined being asphyxiated inside a hot tin box when I had enlisted.

Chloe’s shrieks pierced the metal walls. I lurched to the window.

Her reedy limbs flailed akimbo against Marco’s corded muscles. A strong gust of wind teased her hair, shrouding his face. She jabbed his chest with her elbow then kicked his groin. As he cried out, she slipped under his arms and ran into the garden.

A second later he was readying his flamethrower.

I ran to them. “Wait!” I shouted.

They paused to face me. Chloe, heaving, looked like she might crumble to the ground at any moment. Marco had his flamethrower aimed at the garden, at her.

“If you get crisped,” I said to her, “the garden goes with you.” I wiped sweat from my brow. “And if you kill her,” I said to Marco, “we could get prosecuted.”

“So?” they said.

“So Ms. Gray comes with us. We figure out the rest of this mess later.”

“No,” they said.

I swore and kicked the sand on the perimeter of the field. “It’s the only way.”

“Actually,” Marco said, “this is.”

Fire blazed from his weapon and choked the green foliage in simmering bursts of orange.

THE CAVE

I fumble in the black shadows. My fingers close around our matchbox. I fail three times before I light the emergency candle.

Slick rivulets of tears have worn through the ash on Chloe’s skin. She looks at the tiny flame with disgust.

I pull a soft fold of cloth from the backpack. “You’ve got some, um—” My hand shakes as I touch the fabric to her skin. She flinches but doesn’t pull away. I wipe her face clean.

I can see her eyes now— they are the color of a tranquil sea, though she is a girl of a dying earth.

THE GARDEN

The roar of flame extinguished the noise of the hacking rotors and the girl’s cries. Marco snuffed the weapon.

He stalked toward me as shiny heat closed in on his dark frame.

“She’ll fry!” I shouted.

“Not my problem,” he called back. “She has to… go… either way. Now come on, we gotta split.”

Chloe spun around wildly. Fire was eating her plants and soon it would eat her, too.

I charged past Marco. He called out, “You go any further and you won’t be my problem, either.”

His words stopped me. When I had joined his squadron, I had imagined myself to be a protector of this chaotic world.

The girl screamed again.

But the world itself, I realized, wasn’t what really needed protecting. I shot forward.

“Suit yourself!” Marco shouted with a hoarse laugh.

To my left, a once-pink cherry tree lost a branch of blossoms. To my right, a bush burned like in the goddamn Bible.

And in front of me, her.

I dodged a red swell of flame and lunged for her arm. “Come on!”

Her body went rigid. Her heels dug into the dirt.

“It’s time to go!” I said.

THE CAVE

The sound of a Copter zips overhead. “It’s time to go,” I say.

THE GARDEN

“No, no! Leave me here!”

She was crying without restraint. Her chest heaved until the smoke choked her. I took advantage of this weak point and tugged her harshly.

We zigzagged through the garden, tripping over roots and our feet as we stumbled through thick smoke. A wall of flame between us and the Copter blocked our path. I yanked her to the right. We ran until I found an opening— a huge ornamental grass cluster that was stubbornly refusing to char. I shoved her through the reeds.

Fire licked my arms and back as I shouldered through the grass. I emerged blinded and burning.

My eyes opened to the sun. Marco saluted me from the Copter and tossed down a small red backpack. A tornado of dust whirled underneath the Copter’s landing skids as it lifted off the ground. He disappeared into swirling sand and smoke.

Still lying down, I clutched for the backpack with seared and throbbing fingers. Inside were two bottles of water, a handful of protein bars, a small medical kit including cloth bandages and antiseptic, and a note.

She’s gonna be the least of your problems.

So he was toying with me. I coughed and hoisted myself up.

Her golden hair reflected the hot hues of the fire. We watched as her garden— her home— burned to cinders. Even when nothing remained, the fire raged on.

I knew Marco would be back to claim the territory for his troops. “Chloe.”

She didn’t respond.

“Chloe,” I said again.

She stared at the nothingness in front of her and beyond. I didn’t so much as blink when the light left her eyes.

I led her to a cave.

And I asked her to say something.

THE CAVE

The garden has since burned out and so has her hope. “We’ll wait until we stop hearing the Copters,” I say. “Then we’ll set out.”

No response.

I search her haunted eyes before I ask, “What did your mom tell you to do?”

“What do you mean?”

“You told me she wanted you to stay with the garden. What exactly did she say?”

She bends her head low over the candle as if in prayer. “She said that she wanted to be with her garden. After the disease took her. After she was cremated.”

“What happened?”

“I chose where to scatter her ashes. Before he left, my dad got mad at me because he had to go with my brother and leave her behind.”

When I swallow my throat is bone dry. “So when your garden burned…”

“My mom burned, too,” she says. “For the second time.” She shakes her head as a lone tear skids down her cheek. “Look, your captain might take you back if you go now. But I can never leave this place. You have to understand.”

Soot cracks and falls from my face and my mouth curls into a smile. “What if we took her with us?”

“If you’re going to spew something about how she’s always in my heart…” she says, her voice full of warning.

“No, not that.” I pull out the small pea pod from my pocket, the one I had plucked when I first entered the garden.

She stares at it for a long moment.

And then for a moment longer.

“You…” she says.

“Marco won’t take me back,” I say softly. “Not when he finds out what we’re going to do with this little pea pod. Know any other good spots for a garden?”

She chokes out a sob. She cries quietly into her hand for a while. Then she sniffles and swallows and is done.

“Blow out the candle,” she tells me.

“What?” I ask.

“Night must almost be here,” she says. “If the sun is down, the moon will light our way out.”

I breathe in and do as I am told.

THE END

_____

I am a student at the University of Minnesota and an aspiring young adult novelist. Starting with my purple poetry folder in Ms. Brown’s second grade class, I have been interested in writing works that an ever-changing student of the world can relate to. Because of this, I have a passion for young adult literature. My favorite authors include Gayle Forman, Stephenie Perkins, and Michelle Hodkin. My life dream would be realized if I joined their ranks.

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Future City Future City By: Steven Clifford

A past reviving gall lifts up a long skirt: romance climbs legs of blurry connection.
We attend a funeral separately,
and meet at the after party, tears aflame with laughter, dancing

in the fallout of never more. On a bar’s deck,
drenched with exerted loneliness, we tease insanity
as sanity drizzles. Against us,
a lake of the unpredictable rushes daydream-currents.
“I’ll jump, you know,” she threatens, smiling.
“Not on my watch.”
“I’ll protect you.”
A storm ruffles my safe house, thrusting the door open: electricity tangles discomfort.

Uncertainty magnetizes the floor, ratting my roof of
solitary dreaming, caving in, and exposure soaring.

Nervousness collapses; she sits cross-legged, a wilderness of impulse expanding.
waiting for me to get the check. She grafts herself to my arm on a

breathless street,
slivering under our feet.
Over our (traffic zipping, zipping) walking embrace (Traffic zipping, zipping)
traffic lights flash (flash).
A fork: shotgun bliss or passion in dribs and drabs.
We walk on the sidewalk’s edge, traffic a breath away, and scurry across chanciness.

On the other side,
she tells me of a future city, “Will it flourish, crumble or…never be?”

“I’ll build a house there.”
We rub insecurity together, sparking a faint glow outside an abandoned church. A nun
snubs it out before an explosion

devours everything.
Wish I told her how I doubt my future city. I told of a great economy,
dazzling lights, and tall buildings.
I never told her of the boy who sits in a tub on a nameless dirt road awaiting pavement.

_____

Steven Leonardo Clifford is a Long Island native. He has schizoaffective disorder from which he draws his inspiration.

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