Worshipping Volcanoes

Content // Original // 10/15/21 // 634 Words

Light filters in through the trees as my back rests against soft grass. The air is pleasantly warm, and the sun heats me further where it hits my legs and chest. An easel sits abandoned across from me on the grass. It practically begs me to finish, but I feel more than content to just stare up at the sky forever.

I don't quite remember how I got here. One moment I was walking through the trees, admiring the dense plant life or the occasional bird, and suddenly I was lying down in the grass. I always seem to end up here, no matter how determined I am to paint. It's a wonder how I even finish my pieces with how much time I spend relaxing instead of working.

If only mom could see me now, living the life of a starving artist instead of starting a family like she wanted. I don't blame her, most people around my age would have about five kids and a house they own by now, but I'm content with just an attic and relatively quiet housemates. I'm content with many things I've noticed. I guess that's my major flaw, always being content, not reaching towards anything more. I can't help but feel vaguely disappointed in myself.

That's dad speaking, infecting my soul with his ghost, defying god just to shame me. Before I moved out, mom had already been nagging me about 'starting my life,' but it just got worse after his death. She was probably guilt-tripping me, hoping to get some grandchildren before she keels over too. The best chance she has of that is raising another child.

Why can't she understand that this is my life? I'm fine, I'm content, the attic is roomy, and there isn't much dust as long as I keep up with it. The people I live with are friendly, not too talkative, but they're not ghosts either. They don't ask questions, and I don't ask them. Not to mention the tranquility of the forest; it's a dream come true.

I can only wonder how persistent mom would have gotten if I hadn't moved out. Just thinking about it makes a swirl of anxiety and annoyance start in my chest, and now my mood is ruined, great. The sun feels too hot, and the serene atmosphere just annoys me. Relaxing always ends up like this, I get too comfortable, and my mind wanders. I now remember why I brought the umbrella, and I can't help but scowl at the sky as I adjust it. It's now covering most of my body, getting rid of the oppressive heat. That's better.

After lounging for another moment, I sigh and sit up, resting back on my hands and glancing over at my easel. It was initially supposed to be a landscape painting of my surroundings, but the green is too bright, the sun's rays are the opposite, and half the canvas is an unfinished white. Despite it all, It looks better than if I had finished it.

With my painting done, I get up to pack my things away and head off in the direction I had come in. It's about time to leave this train of thought at the station for today. Maybe I'll become famous one day and show mom how successful I had become with a dusty attic and some easels to my name. Maybe dad, wherever he is, will stop infecting my soul with this soul-crushing feeling of disappointment in myself. Maybe I will start a family or get a house or have more than just the attic. Maybe being content is a good thing.

Continual // Original // 12/2/21 // 847 Words

The room is garishly bright. Pastels are hanging from the ceiling in ribbons, and various letters are strung up over every doorway, all the phrases they spell out ending in exclamation points. The table in the middle is completely covered with cakes, presents, paper plates, and utensils, ready for people to take. The chairs around it blur together, but you know they must number over 20. It's pretty apparent what the occasion is. It's your birthday.

You wander the halls of the house. Each doorway you go through leads to a carbon copy of the previous room, same table, same streamers, same phrases, same colors, same backyard view from the windows. The windows begin to crack once you travel through about a dozen doors, and soon there aren't any windows at all. You climb through the hole left and look into the sky. The sun takes up half of it, bloated and blood orange.

The backyard has the same bright pastel tint, and the grass under your feet is a light candy green. A piñata waits on the ground near a tree, anticipating the bat that would break it apart. An electrical cord is attached to the hook on its back, and the rest is curled up on the ground beside it. Another table similar to the one inside sits off to the side, against one of the fences. It's packed full of the same cakes, plates, and presents. There are still chairs, but they phase through the fence surrounding the space, like someone copied and pasted it there, not caring if it looked unnatural.

You wander over to the table and pick up one of the presents. As you hold it, the oversized sun beats onto your back, and the piñata glares at you from the other side of the yard. After a moment of hesitation, you open it, and there's a small light-up mirror inside. You notice a cord leading out of the box to an outdoor outlet attached to the side of the house. You walk up to it and consider unplugging the mirror. Suddenly, you get filled with the irrational fear that if you do, the sun will turn off as well. You walk away from the outlet, leaving the box as well as the mirror on the ground next to it, and climb back into the house.

The door that would usually lead to another copy is gone. The only opening is now the windowless holes leading outside. It's evening in the house now. The party is over. The cakes are eaten, the plates are crumpled and used, there is wrapping paper and empty boxes strewn about, and the pastel colors are tinted orange. You suddenly feel reassured; the sun wouldn't turn off if you unplugged the mirror. You climb back outside, do just that, and hold the plug in your hands as you look up at the sky. The sun is still there, still giant and bright and alive. You walk over to the piñata and notice its eyes staring up at the sky instead of forward. The cord attached to its back is gone.

You look up at the sky again, and the sun is still there. The piñata is looking at you now, tracking your movements across the yard. The holes leading into the house are gone, the table is gone. It's evening. The tree is gone. The only things in the yard that remain are you and the piñata. Its eyes are closed. You look up at the sky again. The sun is gone, and a planet of dirt and trees is in its place. The light is still there, the sky's still bright, but the person staring at you from over the fence is now visible. You lay down in the grass. It's soft, and the ground sags under your weight. The piñata lays down next to you.

You sit up, and the grass under you is a bed. The piñata is hanging up by an electrical cord plugged into the ceiling. The light-up mirror sits on a bedside table; the bulbs are blown out. The trash left behind at the party is piled up in the corners of the room, but their colors are muted, more natural, and calm. Evening light filters through a window behind you, coating the space in a soft blood orange glow. You walk over to the door leading out. You can hear voices coming from the other side. You open it.

The room is garishly bright. Pastels are hanging from the ceiling in ribbons, and various letters are strung up over every doorway, all the phrases they spell out ending in exclamation points. The table in the middle is completely covered with cakes, presents, paper plates, and utensils, ready for people to take. The chairs around it blur together, but you know they must number over 20. It's pretty apparent what the occasion is. It's your birthday.

Curglaff // Original // 5/31/22 // 381 Words

It's like sleep paralysis. The only thing you're aware of is the way your eyes move in their sockets. Your body is completely still yet floating like a fish through the currents of the ocean. Suddenly, all at once, it's cold. It makes your skin ache and stretch taut against muscle and bone. The downward motion of your body floating farther away from safety is sickening. Your eyes won't move anymore, stuck open and staring up at the light seeping through the ice and its unreachable warmth. Your limbs go numb, taken over by static and icy heat. It's the middle of January, you have ice skates still fastened to your feet, and you're dying.

A shadow blocks out the light shining through the hole you made in the ice. You feel the urge to swim back up and plead for help from the entity, but there's no way for you to go anywhere. You're glued to the bottom. The evidence of your fall will freeze over, the cuts from your skates will melt, but you and your bones and flesh and mind will still be here. How long has it been? Is it still January? Can you still feel the skates strapped to your feet? Can you still feel yourself? Is it January of next year? When will the ice melt and be water again? Is this heaven? Hell? Why are you still awake?

You feel ice under your hands, and you watch as what looks like a river flows out of your mouth. Someone's talking to you, but it's drowned out by the sirens in the distance. You crane your neck to see the hole behind you. The inky black water looks like it wants to drag you back in. Suddenly, the ice is pressing against your cheek, your legs and arms having given out. The voice is yelling at someone, but the sirens are louder. The ice is pressing against your back, and your eyes squint as you're met with the sun. It's the last thing you see before you pass out.

Curiosity Killed the Cat // Original // 1/7/21 // 1638 Words

Clouds completely cover the sky, full to bursting with fresh snow. Where it's already fallen, it clings to you, soaking through to your bones and making the chill of the air worse. Trees line the path you're taking, covered in white, and every once in a while, a squirrel or bird or something shakes the branches and sprinkles you in it. At first, the cold was unbearable; you're not used to the snow, warm tropical rain suits you better. But you've forced yourself to get used to it. It's either that or suffering for the whole walk there.

You spotted the light the moment you took in your surroundings, probably attached to a building, somewhere warm or dry at least. The thought that it could be a stray lantern had occurred to you a couple of times, but you kept going anyway. The possibility of finding shelter is too high to give up the trail, and you'd rather not try to chase after the train that you hopped out of, especially if they have started to look for you. You don't think you'd even find it anyways. It was going pretty fast. Your ribs still ache from the hard fall you took when you jumped.

As you slowly get closer, you spot the shadow of a large building in the distance. Finally, the light feels burned into your retinas from how long you've been staring at it. Once you get close enough, you can see that the red it's painted in is faded and chipped, and the light is attached to a rotted wooden fence surrounding it. You easily jump the fence, walk around the perimeter of the building, and, eventually, find the door. It's closed, a giant padlock and chain keeping it shut. You sit down in the snow, defeated. This can't be it. You've been through so much; you can't die with safety one wall away.

After what feels like hours wilting away in the snow, you hear a bark off to your right and look to see the silhouette of a dog a couple of yards away. It doesn't look big enough to hurt you, and even if it could, you're already going to die out here anyway, whether you bleed out or from frostbite. When it gets close enough to make out the color of its yellow fur, it stops and crouches low to the ground with its tail between its legs; It's scared. A staring contest starts up, but after a moment, you lose, looking longingly back up at the barn door.

The dog perks up at that and jumps onto its feet, barking at you again before running off. You follow; It's not like you have anything better to do. The dog stops at a hole you managed to miss, tucked into the corner of one of the walls, and just big enough to squeeze through. You stare at it for a long moment before looking back up at the dog, trying to communicate appreciation through your eyes alone; it just wags its tail. You crawl through and immediately appreciate the little warmth it holds. Anything is better than staying outside in the snow.

Plants are piled in various spots around the space, and tools are hung up on hooks along one wall. There's a worn-down truck parked in the middle, and you would have taken shelter in it if you were able or could figure out how to open it. There's a wooden platform along the wall opposite the door piled with more plants than on the ground. That would've been your second choice if its integrity didn't look shaky at best. So you settle for the third, curling up in the corner opposite the hole. As soon as you lay down, bone-deep exhaustion takes hold, and you immediately drift off to sleep.

You are woken up by frantic barking coming from outside of the barn. It takes a minute before you even register that it's barking and then another before you notice the same dog from last night peeking at you through the hole. Once you make eye contact, it barks again. It probably wants you to come outside, and after one good stretch, you squeeze out into the cold morning air; You don't miss it one bit. Before you're even fully out of the hole, the dog bolts, and you hurry to follow. Maybe it's found somewhere better for you to stay? Hopefully.

You take in your surroundings again as you run after the dog; they look completely different in the light. The dog's fur is a bright golden instead of the muddy yellow it was in the light of the moon, and the once oppressive and helpless atmosphere has turned into a more tranquil one, not better, just calmer. Especially since the chill that had settled in last night has been mostly slept away, but you don't doubt that it'll come back if you stay outside. Thankfully, it doesn't take long until you reach wherever the dog is leading you.

It's another building, painted cream with white accents almost blending into the snow and a brick tube spewing smoke attached to its brown top. Two cars are parked at what you assume is the front of the building, looking freshly washed and shining in the morning light. Whoever owns this definitely maintains it better than the last. You owe this dog a huge favor. Maybe you could catch a bird for it to eat? But before you can do that, it walks up to a glass hole in its side.

You hesitate for a moment. This building wouldn't be basically brand new if someone didn't live here, but … the dog did lead you to that hole last night, basically saving your life, and despite only knowing it for a day, you've grown to trust it. So, when the dog jumps up onto the side of the building to look inside, you walk up to do the same.

You see humans—Four of them sitting around a bright box on a plush square thing. Eye-straining baubles hang around the space, and a weird tree stands up in the corner. Although, despite all the other things pulling on it, your attention is caught by what the humans are staring at in the box. There's a jaguar jumping out of a train car, blurred like it's stuck in motion, blending into the dark snowy surroundings. You get a sense of deja vu, like you're staring at something you've done from another angle. But, that can't be right, sure you've jumped out of a train before, but that isn't you. How could it be you? One of the humans gets up then, and you feel an icicle of fear stab your heart.

You quickly duck down and glance over at the dog. It whines back at you before perking up at one of the humans yelling. It runs away, assumedly towards the voice, and you feel a mix of betrayal and dread settle in your stomach. You stall in the snow for a moment. Without the light or the dog leading you, you have no idea what to do. A loud bang shocks you into action, and suddenly, you're back home.

Running through dense jungle, jumping over stray roots peeking out of the ground. The bright blood orange spikes of heat, the fire. It's still burned into your heart. You wanted it so badly you didn't see the humans creeping out of their skin-stitched dens, stark black L-shaped things held tightly in their hands. It was a minor slip up, you looked back for one second just to get one more look, and suddenly you're sprawled out on the ground trapped.

You're led back to the present by the adrenaline of the chase wearing off. You've stowed yourself away back in the trees, hiding. You watch as the human holds the thing up into the air and a few more bangs sound. The dog is by its side, wagging its tail, as happy as can be. It probably led you there on purpose, to kill you.

You can feel that aching warmth start up in your chest, and you barely stop yourself from jumping out and mauling both of them. You know, you've learned what that sound can do to things like you—the aftermath is a black stain on your memories. So you stay crouched in the snow and watch as they walk away. A chill starts to seep into your bones like last night, and your mind drifts to the faded red building. You don't even know where it is anymore. There are no lights or dogs to lead you. But you also can't stay here, the humans may come back, and if you don't move, you'll freeze.

You aimlessly wander back into the forest, hopeless and cold. You've never felt this homesick in your life. You've never even missed your home. The jungle was all you knew. You were born and lived there. You didn't even know this kind of cold was possible until now. All because you got too curious, too mesmerized by the light. You look up at the sky. It's blue, clear of any clouds. The treetops perfectly frame the sun, but its warmth can't reach you.

Once the moon replaces the sun, and the sky turns black again, a full-body ache begins to wash over you in waves. You stop and look up at the twinkling white dots. You don't know how long you stare, but when you come back to your senses, the moon is gone. There's nothing else to do but rest. A primal fear warns you against laying down, but you curl up in the snow despite it and let yourself drift off to sleep.

Dehisce // Original // 6/2/22 // 421 Words

A bad taste lingers in my mouth as I enter the faint light of the porch. If I listen closely, I can still hear the yelling from inside and decide to walk further into the dark. Away from the dry concrete and into the damp grass of the backyard. Tall trees line the back edge of the fence, stretching out into the unknown. When I was little, I used to think those trees were scary, but now they look like an alternative.

I sit down in the grass at the farthest edge of the yard, with my back resting against the fence and the branches looming over me. It's blissful to be away from those eggshells, even for just a moment. I run my hands across the grass around me, stretching my arms around in slow semicircles, picking up the early early morning dew.

Minutes or hours later, after the yelling has died down, my hand catches on something. I bring it up to my face and watch as blood seeps from a new cut across the palm. Looking down at where it rested, I notice a nail hidden in the grass. The glint of its metal picked up by the faint light from the house is what gives it away. Something shifts in that moment, like that nail was the catalyst to something greater.

The late morning air is dry and scrapes at my face like sandpaper, leaving the skin raw for the fangs of cold to sink in. Abandoned buildings line the sidewalk to my right, and a cracked asphalt road is to my left. A raggedy backpack hangs onto my shoulders for dear life, weighed down by a week's worth of clothes and a worn hatchet. My feet hurt with the lack of support that comes with year-old sneakers. I can feel the occasional buzz from my back pocket, but I don't check.

The road curves into a cul de sac, and I walk between two houses along its side, but hesitate before jumping the rotting fence. The broken stakes make a rhythmic up-and-down pattern, like the silhouette of a mountain or a heartbeat frantic with adrenaline. I swing a leg over it and run before I can second guess myself, disappearing into the forest that threatens to swallow up this abandoned part of my suburb.

Finn // Original // 10/1/21 // 1243 Words

I must look highly suspicious, hurriedly glancing around at everything in the crowded club like I'm the one being assassinated instead of the assassinator. The stairs up to the second floor and door are empty when I glance at them one more time before refocusing on my empty cup, who's sitting on the bar in front of me. I check my watch and let out an indignant huff. It's still a while until my partner is supposed to arrive, and I'm already anxious about them being late.

I stew in my thoughts for a while, running over the details about the club and the target. I start to calm down, too focused on thinking up plans than worrying needlessly. I recheck the time; it's 10 minutes until they have to arrive. Jarringly, the anxiety comes back full force when I slowly realize I don't even know who my partner is.

Instead of panicking, I try to remember their page in the debrief file and the attached picture. I close my eyes in concentration, a bad move, I know. It's a wonder how I haven't been fired or killed with how vulnerable I make myself with that habit.

The first thing I remember is their name. It's Finn. A pseudonym, no doubt, everyone involved in this type of work has one. They have short slicked back inky black hair, and there are a few stripes of grey starting at their temples, though they couldn't have been any older than their late twenties. They have tan skin with a weird purplish tint to it, like they're constantly out of air, and Their eyes are a dark brown, concealing their pupils and making them look even more alien. They weren't smiling in the picture either. Instead, they glared dead center at the camera like they wanted to stare into the soul of whoever witnessed the picture after it was taken. It still gives me chills, even as a memory.

Despite all that, the most prominent thing I remember is their freckles. It was kind of jarring to see someone who looked like they could kill millions and sleep peacefully at night have something so commonly associated with innocence. Or at least, that's what I told myself when my mind kept drifting back to it.

"Hello," an indiscreet voice spoke up behind me, breaking me from my thoughts. I look up from my seat to greet it, and a frankly terrifying person stares back. Spit gets stuck in my throat when I nervously swallow, and I splutter a bit before responding with my own shakier greeting.

There's a pause as they glance around at our surroundings, "morning star." The code, it's Finn, "thank god, I thought I was about to get knocked out." The joke didn't land; the thin line of their mouth didn't even twitch. They move right along, thankfully not drawing attention to it.

"Do you have the earpiece?" I tune into it for a moment, checking in with the guy on the other side, before nodding. "I'll be back in a few minutes, keep tabs on the target while I'm gone," they didn't wait for me to respond before turning on their heel and disappearing into the crowd.

I manage to catch glimpses of Finn weaving in and out of the mob. Their antarctic expression artificially softened whenever they interacted with a drunk party-goer or a friend with heavy air quotes. Though it didn't make them look mean or superficial, it made them look professional or maybe even sophisticated. Like a monarch standing on the balcony of their million-dollar mansion, watching as all the peasants passed by. Ok, maybe just a little mean.

I watch as they pretend to trip and instead place a tracker on what I recognized as our target's bodyguard, and suddenly I felt inept. When I watch them work, all the years of experience I have under my belt crumble in the presence of their expertise. Like I'm some fanboy instead of supposedly being just as capable as them.

" Any updates on the position of our target?" Finn's voice was low, smooth but with an almost hidden edge to it. I jump and whirl around to look at them. I didn't even notice when they walked up; the way they moved made their footsteps near-silent.

I tune into my earpiece, taking that moment to avoid their intense gaze, "no, she's still on the second floor." their face chills impossibly further before they turn to look at the glasses behind the bar. "What's she doing up there?" they mumble to themselves, lost in thought and completely unaware of my presence.

The bartender walks up after a moment, but they just dismiss him with a flick of their hand. Obviously, they're a regular, but I don't think they come here for drinks or music. In fact, Finn looks like they don't get out much at all. The casual suit they have on looks too new to have been worn more than a couple of times, and the shallow wrinkles around their mouth indicate more frowning than smiling. I tune into my earpiece one more time, receiving the same answer before speaking.

" Do you get out a lot?" Finn snaps their head up to glare at me. "What?" Their quiet voice starts to strain against their anger. "I don't know, it just seems like we have a lot of time on our hands, and since you're my partner, I wanted to get to know you better." Their glare morphs into confusion, then an expression that's too guarded for me to figure out, "I'm here to do my job, not participate in a relationship."

The silence that follows is deafening, and I awkwardly avert my eyes to stare at the hazy reflection in the glass of my empty cup. After a moment, I glance back, and their face is completely blank, dead, their body still. However, there was a certain ... movement behind their eyes, a torrent of emotion that they couldn't seem to silence like the rest of them. Guilt caught in my throat like tar. Obviously, I had struck a nerve.

The tense silence is suddenly broken by a frantic "he moved!" from my earpiece. Finn must have noticed the surprise on my face because they break out of their trance and demand, "what? What is it?" Their voice has that smooth edge to it again, and I can't help but feel like they're hiding something by talking like that.

They stare at me, and I stare back, trying to give them the most apologetic look I can muster as I try to make sense of the frantic blubbering of whoever was on the other side. The emotion I noticed hidden behind Finn's eyes was abandoned in favor of getting a lead on our target, covered under a thick layer of snow.

" The target's moved, uh ..." I trail off as my earpiece suddenly goes silent, the guy's borderline screaming sickeningly cut off with a wet slice "... coming down the stairs, get ready." Finn nods and stands up from the bar. I catch the glint of a needle hidden in their hand before they get swallowed up by the crowd.

Frame // Original // 10/29/21 // 901 words

The bustling restaurant is alight with noise, dirty plates clink as waiters carry them away from tables, and the sizzling of cooking food can be heard through the kitchen doors as they pass in and out. The wood floors are a light brown, occasionally broken up by a carpet, and the colors painting the walls and furniture consist of muted reds and browns. It looks lived in at best and rundown at worst.

Booths are lined up against the edges of the space, partially hidden by tables and the people sitting at them. That's what Kane blames her lateness on when she sits down at one of them. Ashton is already sitting, tapping his fingers against the table impatiently. "That's bull, and you know it, it's like five steps from here to the entrance" his tone doesn't match his words, and his face is pulled up in a grin instead of down in a frown. "Stop complaining. I got here, didn't I?" Kane smiles back and looks down at the menu being pushed at her.

"We should've just gone to my place; too loud in here," Ashton grumbles.
"You don't have any food at your house."
"Incorrect, there are eggs in my fridge" Kane gives Ashton a look.
"5 months past the expiration date" Ashton's face pales.
"Did you eat one of them?"
"I didn't know! You may need to take me to a hospital" Kane just laughs.

The rest of their conversation goes along the same lines. The waiter comes to take their orders and then returns to leave them their food. It stops after that, but the silence isn't awkward; both parties are too focused on eating to talk. Kane finishes first and waits a moment for Ashton to be between bites to speak, "So ... did he do anything new I should know about?" The air turns tense after that, and Ashton frowns. "Do we have to talk about this..." he pauses to look around the restaurant, eyes calculating
"... here?"
"When else could we? You're planning on doing it, like, tomorrow."
"Not tomorrow. We should wait until the body is lukewarm, at least. It's more believable."
"Don't you think we should do something a little less ... severe? I mean, yeah, the guy's an asshole but, I don't think he deserves to go to prison." Ashton pauses for a moment, still staring out at the rest of the room.

"You know damn well what he deserves," Ashton's voice is thick with a swirl of emotions, and Kane feels guilt form a bubble in her throat.
"Yeah, but ..." She's grasping at straws.
"You already agreed to it, don't make me look for someone else. You're the only person I trust with this."
"We shouldn't," Kane blurts it out, barely waiting for Ashton to finish his sentence.
"... What?"
"We shouldn't do it ... I don't- ... I don't want to have that kinda shit on my conscience-"
"Why would it? It's not like the dude's nice or anything"
Ashton cuts her off and begins to raise his voice but thinks better of it, glancing around the restaurant again. "Ashton," her tone is firm. "Stop, you're like my dad. We're doing it."

Rage fills Kane like boiling water, burning away at the guilt clogging her throat, "y'know, this is something about you I've always hated. You can't take no for an answer," Ashton goes to respond, but Kane doesn't stop, talking over him, "and you also don't think through anything. I don't even know why I agreed to this in the first place. I could go to jail! You could go to jail! You really think potentially ruining your life is-"

Ashton slams his hands on the table, cutting off Kane's rant. "It'll be fine; I'll be fine, perfectly fine! You're seriously blowing this out of proportion! Do you know how happy I'll be after he's gone? Don't you care about that? You're way too cautious for your own good, Kane." He spits her name out like a curse, and the boiling in Kane's chest turns to molten lava. "No. I don't think I am. Nothing he did could justify this! Ashton, you're ... you're insane!" Ashton's face reddens, and he grits his teeth.

He looks like he's going to say more before a nervous waiter walks up, their polite customer service smile plastered on, "um, excuse me, could you please quiet down? You're disturbing the other patrons." Kane takes a deep breath before looking up at them. "No worries, we will. Sorry to bother," her voice is artificially polite, the previous anger hidden in plain sight. The waiter nods and walks away, leaving the two in deafening silence.

Ashton looks out at the busy restaurant, and Kane stares down at her hands, twitching restlessly against the table. "Sorry," Ashton mumbles out. Kane doesn't respond, and abruptly, Ashton stands up, "I'll do it by myself." Kane turns to look out the window, "Hey, Listen to me. I said I'd do it by myself." Kane ignores him, and Ashton deflates with a sigh, "Have fun with the rest of your life without me." He walks away, Kane lets him.

Groak // Original // 5/6/22 // 540 Words

The diner is crowded today, I noticed as soon as I walked in and asked for a table. The loud chatter and clinking of silverware were the second obvious clue. The first obvious, of course, was to just look around, at all the people filling up the usually empty tables, and the frantic wait staff not used to the abundance of patrons. The third obvious would be to come here every Friday, buy the same food, let it go cold, take a couple of bites and leave, like me. But I don't really do that anymore; look around. Not because I went blind or now prefer to keep my head down. I have a habit.

I do glance every once in a while. Usually at a table or above patrons' heads. Although, the food isn't appetizing, and the ceiling has no decoration. I know I could afford a restaurant without chefs that want to get fired and water damage on the ceilings, but I don't really mind. Guess I've grown attached to this place. The only reason I'd leave is if someone started to recognize me, and as far as I know, the people who come regularly don't know me. I also don't go out of my way to try and keep track of them either. Everyone who comes to the diner is a fresh face, or, at least, an old face with new paint.

The fear I have of being seen and acknowledged is counterintuitive, to say the least. I don't have a straight answer for it, but, I guess I watch people because I want to be a part of what they have. Even those who eat alone seem immensely happier with themselves and their solitude than I ever will. Although, there is this ... person. What they look like evades me every time I try to really think about it, but whenever I see them I immediately just know. They always sit in the same booth seat, almost directly across from mine, in the corner with their head down. From my glances, it almost seems like they have the same habit as me. The need to look and the overwhelming want for human connection. It can be easily seen on another's face, especially when you're familiar with it yourself.

The moment I noticed their presence was the moment I felt a kind of kinship with them. We're both lonely, and desperate, but too scared to try to reach out and take it. I glance up, search the restaurant for the familiar face, and catch it. They've been staring, looking, at me. We hold each other's eyes, but it doesn't feel awkward. There is understanding in it, in the fact that we both know what we do and why we do it. They break the stare and I go back to looking down at my cooling soup. The waitress comes around a couple of times asking if I want the bill. On the third pass, I request one.

Resistentialism // Original // 6/2/22 // 380 Words

A loud crash interrupts the tranquil night. A brick lays among the now broken glass littering the once pristine carpet. The leg of a human carefully stretches into the house, stepping on the glass, and pushing it further into the fibers. Someone's in the house, and they don't have good intentions. The walls watch as the masked figure crawls through the broken window, stubbing their foot on their way to the door. They think nothing of it.

The once tranquil silence is now replaced by a tension that could suffocate. The unwelcome guest creeps down the hall. The light is on once they get to the living room; No one is supposed to live here. They turn it off and creep through the room, picking up this and that as they sweep the place. Some of the objects seem to stick to their surfaces, and the antique lamp's cord is stuck in the wall socket. The house gets imperceptibly warmer as the intruder nears the kitchen.

The light is on in here as well, it buzzes, filling the silence with harsh noise. One of the cupboards is open, the light perfectly positioned above the knives organized within. They look well-kept, and the intruder, sensing a payout, tries to grab one. The drawer slams shut, almost crushing their fingers. They jump back, pulling their hand to their chest, frantically glancing around for a threat that can't be revealed to them.

The room is smoldering, and the bulb hanging from the ceiling buzzes louder, pulsing in and out like it's pushing on their eardrums. They run, suddenly aware of the anger emanating from their surroundings. The house lets them go, practically flying out of the window they broke, their bag full of knick-knacks left on the glass littered floor.

The next day, the window is fixed, and the glass twisted into the carpet is gone. The bag the burglar left behind is tucked into the closet with all the others. The stolen objects are back where they belong, and the knife drawer in the kitchen is open, waiting.

Wish You Were Gay // Original // 4/16/21 // 332 Words

Vincent was in the corner drinking; they were “breaking in someone's new house,” as Payton had put it.

The thought of Payton makes him take a huge swig of beer.

A presence walks up to stand at his side.

“Why're you in the corner all alone?”

Vincent grumbles, staring at Payton across the room, socializing with an arm around his girlfriend's waist.

Cody follows his gaze and hums.

“You do know he's in denial, right?”

Vince looks at Cody, ripping his gaze away from Payton.


Cody smiles.

“Look, she's practically your twin.”

Vincent glances back over, passing his eyes over Payton to instead look at her.

She has long black hair, with a couple of freckles scattered over her face. Square glasses rest at the tip of her nose.

Vincent instinctively pushes his tinted ones back.

Had a deer in the headlights look about her, tall and wide-eyed.

Except, she was actively participating in the conversation.

Waving her hands around in exaggerated motions.

Along with Payton.

They went so well together.

Vincent glances back over to him. Payton looks back and smiles.

Vince blushes, Cody snickers.

“You don't know that.”

Vincent frowns at the look Cody gave him.

“He may just have a type.”

“Which is…?”

Vincent didn't bother answering.

Black hair, freckles, deer in the headlights look,


Vincent brought the bottle to his lips again, huffing when he notices it's empty.

Cody starts to walk away.

“You should stop, might actually get drunk this time.”

Vince glares at the ground.

“That's the point.”

Xavier's Diary // Original // 9/17/21 // 810 Words

10/7/23 I'm starting this cause my therapist thought I should, that it would be better to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I've tried this before, and it's never worked. I always either lose the notebook or completely forget it exists. Not to mention my brain, who's only good at math. I wish I was good at something else, so I could have some variety, something like art.

Damien likes art; Damien's also not into math. He's always preferred classes like painting or pottery or photography or whatever. I took a class like that with him once, and I almost failed. I paid attention to his easel more than mine. His skill is wow. I wonder if he'd look at me the same way if he had a math class with me. That was a really weird thing to say, specially since we broke up a week ago.

10/25/23 I don't think it was either of our faults, at least, in the beginning. We've never gotten any classes together cause our last names are too different. It's really weird, we've been friends since elementary school, and we've only ever had two classes together. He's also painting a mural in one of the hallways, so after school time's gone too. I don't even see him during any of the passing periods. I hope he isn't avoiding me.

Then again, I don't think Damien would even want to talk. He's the one who broke up with me, and he holds onto grudges longer than anyone I've ever known. Though, I think this classifies as more than just a grudge.

A month before we broke up was when I first met Emmy in English. She always talks to me, and I don't know why. I'm quiet in every class but math. She was persistent, though, and Before I knew it, it had already been a week since I'd last talked to Damien.

I think it was my fault.

11/2/23 I shouldn't have talked with Emmy, I should have taken more art classes, and I should have been a better boyfriend and talked. To. Him. How could I have just not talked to him for a week when we were dating? I used to have these thoughts all the time right after we broke up, and now they're coming back cause Damien transferred into one of my classes. It's statistics. He hates math.

I know I shouldn't get my hopes up, but maybe it's to reconnect with me? I don't know. It's probably because he needs more math credits or something normal like that. Emmy's been cheerleading me ever since, and I don't want to break it to her that I have no intention of even thinking of thinking of talking with him. Adding another awkward interaction that I can stress over to my growing pile is not what I need right now. My therapist and I have been working on that, well, trying to at least.

11/3/23 Why does statistics have presentations? Can't we just have a worksheet or test or, fucking, anything else? Why do I have to suffer through a class period of awkward public speaking filled with anxiety while waiting for my turn? In statistics? Worst of all is that I'm paired up with Damien. I'm supposed to like my math classes.

Thank god we didn't have to group up on the first day, but that doesn't make me less anxious. I kept looking at him from the corner of my eye after the teacher paired us together. He didn't even glance at me.

I thought writing in this thing would help; it just made me realize this whole thing is a lot worse than I thought.

2/1/24 Wow, I haven't written in a while. It's weird reading how anxious I was about Damien, seeing as everything was a whole lot less world endy than I thought it was. Talking to him for the first time in months was way easier than I thought it would be. Apparently, he had transferred to the class because of math credits. His counselor was the one who'd suggested statistics. Maybe she put us in the same class on purpose? Who knows.

The same day at lunch, I introduced him to Emmy, and she immediately made it awkward by asking if we were dating again. We aren't, and I'm strangely ok with that. If he wanted to date again, I would say yes, of course, but deep down, I think I just wanted my friend back.

Neon Violets // HLVRAI // 11/17/21 // 2460 Words

Gordon's been staring at the gas station the entire time he's been driving up to it, occasionally glancing over to the lump in the passenger seat that is Benry. He's wrapped up in a thick blanket smuggled from the trunk where their stuff is packed. His bluish-purplish-blackish hair looks matted and tangled, not helped by the pillow smashed against his face and the seat. Gordon severely envies him right now. His eyes can barely stay open, yearning for sleep, while Benry has never looked more at peace. The gas station sign becomes visible, finally distinguishable from all the other lights. The barren desert landscape makes it look like a floating beacon of fluorescent hope in the early morning.

Gordon pulls up to a pump and immediately lays his head down on the steering wheel, then it shoots back up as he accidentally hits the horn. He vows then and there that he's forcing Benry to take driving lessons. With a heavy sigh, Gordon gets out of the car, almost immediately missing the warmth of it when he does. He stands outside in the cold, waiting for the tank to fill up.

Gordon looks up at the sun, just barely peeking over the horizon. They've been traveling for days, and it still seems like they haven't made any progress. No matter how many miles are between them and home, Gordon always feels followed. He glances down at Benry, and a bucket of ice water fear fills his body. Suddenly the dark, cold morning air feels unbearable. He decides to get some snacks.

He waits for the tank to fill completely, pays, and heads inside the little convenience store attached to the gas station. An electronic doorbell greets him as he walks through the doors, and the clerk briefly glances up from her phone. Gordon can't help but stare at her neon violet hair, overly contrasted against the bright lights above. Narrowly avoiding awkward eye contact, Gordon wanders the isles for a while, picking up various things that he knows both him and Benry like, as well as a couple of energy drinks. Coffee just won't cut it for this kind of fatigue.

As he's walking back up to the front, he notices the clerk staring out at something in the sky outside. As he dumps his haul down on the counter, she says, “I think your friend is sitting on the roof of the gas station.” Gordon snaps his head to look, and much to his horror, Benry, is in fact, sitting on the edge of the gas station roof, wide awake, swinging his legs, the blanket still wrapped around his shoulders and hair looking inexplicably groomed.

Gordon curses under his breath and bolts outside, but not before throwing a handful of cash in the vague direction of the counter. “Benry! Get down from there!” Benry lazily tilts his head to look down at Gordon. “I'm just chillin' man, looking at the sunset,” Gordon splutters for a moment before hastily composing himself. “Dude! We talked about this. You can't do that when there are people around, whether they see you or not! And it's a sunrise. Not a sunset.” Benry just goes back to staring out at the sunrise, completely ignoring Gordon's rant, “Benry, I swear to god, I'll-.”

“How'd he get up there anyway?” Gordon jumps and turns to stare at the clerk, standing a couple of feet away from the store. The snacks Gordon picked out are precariously held in her arms. “Uh, he-”
“I teleported”
Gordon lets out a flurry of shushing noises, but Benry continues anyway.
“I'm not human.”
“Really? So are you an alien non-human or like a folk tale non-human?”
“Alien, don't know where from, though. Government snatched me up as a baby”
Benry shrugs.
“Wow, where did they put you? Like in some top-secret science facility?”
She smiles.
Gordon just stares in shocked silence at the exchange, both parties way too calm and collected for his liking. “You're just … ok with that?!” Gordon abruptly shouts, pointing at the clerk.
“And you're not? You're literally his friend.”
“I never said that … and we're not friends. I'm just … helping him out.”

“We're best friends, bro. What are you talking about? We got friendship bracelets and everything” Benry's voice took on a nasally whine, and he held up his hand to show a Kandi bracelet that was absolutely not there before. Before Gordon can try to shush him again, completely uncomfortable with how much info Benry is just throwing out, he suddenly feels a slight weight around his wrist and looks down to see a similar bracelet.

Gordon lets out a distressed noise, “Can you please cool it with the eldritch powers stuff until, I don't know, like noon?!” He holds his head in his hands for a moment, taking deep breaths to calm down.
“It's too early for this, c'mon Benry, we're leaving.”
“What? But I just made a new friend uh….”
“Yo! Our names rhyme!”
Gordon is getting desperate at this point.
“Ok, fine, meanie.”
In the blink of an eye, Benry is back on the ground, pouting as he walks back to the car.

Gordon turns around to face Sunny again and tries to put on the most threatening face possible “you will tell no one about this, Got it?” Sunny just shrugs and shoves the various snacks at Gordon's chest. “Nah, I'm not a narc like that, don't think anyone would believe me anyways,” she smirks, “plus, I'm not about to land you two in area 51.” Gordon huffs out a small laugh and nods, “ok, but if we do get caught, I'm blaming it on you” Sunny shrugs again, smiles, and walks back into the store.

When Gordon gets back in the car, he notices Benry staring out the window, turned, so his whole body faces it. “Sorry for making you angry,” He mumbles out, sounding distracted. “I'm not angry. I'm just worried. You need to be more careful. Not everyone is gonna be as cool with … your whole deal as Sunny is“ Benry sits forward in his seat, weirdly tense, “Okay.” Gordon starts the car. He thinks he can see Sunny waving from the store window as he drives away, still smiling.

A couple of hours later, the sun is now a quarter of its way across the sky, and Gordon has seen about a dozen signs advertising a small town up ahead. Benry's been awake since the gas station, constantly toying with the radio, various things he's found in the car, and eating almost everything Gordon bought. Benry has also not spoken a single word despite this erratic behavior, the only sound coming from him being obnoxious crunching.

He goes to reach for another bag before Gordon stops him. “Jesus, how hungry are you? Can you at least save one for me?” Benry stares at him for a moment before settling back in his seat. Another sign for the same town passes, and finally, Benry speaks, “You think they have a McDonalds there?” Gordon can't help but laugh.
“that's the first thing you say?”
“Shut up, man, I've been thinking.”
“About what?”
before Gordon can ask another question, Benry continues.
“She- ok, humans have colors-”
“it's alien stuff- anyways, humans have colors and animals have colors, and the colors mean what they're feeling, and- and her hair … but she didn't.”
“she didn't have a color. Only dead things have no color, and she wasn't dead! I would know!”
“Do you have synesthesia or something?”
“What? What is that?”
“It's like- whatever, are you sure? Is there any way you could have just … not seen it?”
“no! I don't see it. I- I feel it.”
Gordon grips the steering wheel harder.
“Why didn't you notice immediately and tell her to get the hell out of there?!”
“I was tired!”
There's a tense pause, and Gordon takes a deep breath.

“Okay, what we're not going to do is freak out. We are going to calm down and not crash because I was too busy panicking,” Gordon starts taking repetitive deep breaths. “Benry, you said you were tired, you just woke up, and- and you were far away from her too, right? Can you sense those things from that far away? Could you sense … my colors?“ Benry slowly nods, “um, ok, maybe it's because you don't know her well enough? I mean, what're the chances of some random gas station clerk being your-” suddenly, the car makes a very loud and very concerning noise. “Oh no, no, no no no,” Gordon pleads with it even as he pulls over to the side of the road.

When he stops, the car completely shuts down, and he immediately gets out. Benry also gets out, watching as Gordon scurries around the car's exterior. When he finds nothing wrong, he stops and screams into his hands.
“It's not your fault, Benry.”
“No, I shouldn't've told you. Now you're all freaked out and sad.”
Gordon has nothing to say to that.
They stand in silence for a while. Gordon takes his head out of his hands and looks up at the quickly brightening sky. After a long moment, Benry goes to sit on the hood, Gordon sits with him.
“You think she did something to our car?”
Benry starts fiddling with his hands.
“No, why would she do that? She didn't go anywhere near the car.”
“It's ok.”
Gordon lays down against the hood, the sun rises further, and soon the sky is a clear blue. Gordon drifts in and out of sleep while Benry stays awake, keeping a lookout for any suspicious activity. He spots a car driving past, the first one in a couple of hours, and jolts when it starts to pull over, a couple of yards in front of theirs.

Gordon is startled awake by both the tires on gravel and Benry frantically shaking him. He sluggishly gets up, shrugging Benry off, to see a man running up to them. “Are you two ok? How long have you been out here?” Benry glances over at Gordon, obviously bewildered. “Um… I don't know? for a couple of hours?” Gordon rubs at his eyes, too groggy to fully grasp what's going on.
“I'm sorry?”
Benry blurts out, confusion worsening.
“Why are you apologizing?! Oh my god, hold on,” he scrambles back over to his car.

Gordon and Benry stare at each other. “Do you know what's going on?” Gordon shrugs and looks back over at the man, rummaging around in his trunk. “Do you think he knows how to fix our car?” Before Gordon can respond, the man rushes back over with a couple of water bottles “here.” Gordon and Benry both take one, and after an awkward moment, Benry opens the cap to his and takes a sip. If Benry is drinking it, it's safe, and Gordon also opens his. As soon as the water touches his lips, the full extent of his dehydration hits him and he finishes the bottle in one go. Benry takes tiny sips, he doesn't need water, and he'd much rather save this one for Gordon.

Once Gordon has chugged both his and Benry's bottles, the man speaks again.
“Alright, now I'm assuming you two are stranded. Unless I interrupted some late night to early morning stargazing, in which case I'll let you get back to it.”
“Yeah, we're stranded, my car made a … bad noise and started to shut down, I can't figure out what's wrong.”
Gordon felt kind of juvenile calling it a 'bad noise,' but that is what it was. “Hm, sounds like you might've popped your tire. But you said it shut down, right?” Gordon nodded. “I may need to check under your hood, don't worry, I'm very experienced with cars.” Gordon hesitated for a moment before remembering that this was probably their only chance at getting help, so he moved off the hood. Benry followed.

Gordon cursed himself for not doing this earlier as he stood back. Although, that train of thought immediately crashed and burned as the man popped the hood, and a plume of smoke billowed out, “yep, that'll do it.” Gordon glanced into the car and winced. The engine is completely destroyed, the metal bent outward in a way that made it look like string cheese. The rest of the machinery is black, all lumped together like coal. “You guys are getting nowhere like this, and I sure as hell can't get this bad of a wreck working again.” Gordon pleadingly looks over at Benry. Benry looked back and shook his head. He couldn't do anything to fix it. Gordon feels like he could scream.

The man closes the hood and turns to face them, clapping his hands together.
“I know we've just met, but I'm not about to let two innocent people bake out here with a broken car. How 'bout I drive you over to the nearest town, and we can go from there?”
Gordon shoots a glare over at Benry, about to argue, but Benry just looks back with a smile. Gordon immediately knows what he's trying to communicate; this guy is safe. Gordon hesitates a moment longer, then nods, and the man smiles before holding out his hand.
“Barney, nice to meet you.”
“Like the dinosaur?”
“Benry! Sorry, I'm Gordon.''
Barney just laughs and motions over to their car, “feel free to go get anything that's valuable. I'll make sure to come back with a tow truck once we've got your whole situation sorted. I'll be waiting over by my car till you're done.”

Gordon nods again as Barney walks away. He waits for him to be out of earshot before speaking again. “So, you're sure he's safe?” Benry stares over at where the man is leaning against his car, texting with someone on his phone. Benry's eyes narrow for a moment before relaxing and looking back over at Gordon.
“Yep, saw his colors and everything, lots of yellows, real happy guy. Probably would've run as soon as he pulled up if he had anything bad going on, though.”
“Good to know. Hey, since we're on the topic, are there any colors that can show someone's species? Like, are there any differences between humans and birds or … humans and you?”
“Why'd you want to know? Nosy.”
“I'm just curious! This is the first time I'm hearing about your weird color-sensing powers. I've been thinking about it since the gas station.”

Benry hums, makes an exaggerated thinking motion, exaggerates it for way too long, then looks Gordon straight in the eye. “Yeah, humans feel in warm colors, and I feel in violets.”

Trypanophobia // HLVRAI // 7/9/21 // 1280 Words

Gordon has a box under his arm as he walks in.

Benry remembers Gordon leaving for the store a couple of hours before. He was rambling about something called ahyoupunchyor and how he wanted to try it out on his stub arm.

Gordon also said a lot of other stuff about it, but that was when Benry zoned out.

He still gets a little nauseous thinking about the arm, not as nauseous as he got back then, but still. He'd prefer those emotions stay locked up in their own little box in his mind.

Benry immediately runs over from his spot on the couch and snatches the box from him, Gordon lets it happen. He's already used to Benry's grabby nature (and maybe a bit more used to Benry being suspicious of everything he does).

“You gonna go ahyoupunch? Gonna bully your arm like a-”

Benry forgets what he was going to say.

When he sees the cover of the box his mouth goes dry.

“Benry, it's not ahyou- whatever the fuck you just said, it's acupuncture and it's to relieve tension. Well, it's supposed to, I should've gotten the refundable one...”

Gordon trails off.

“You okay?”

Benry snaps out of his trance and shoves the box back into Gordon's arms.

“Yeah just uh … looking at the … the punch … stuff.”

Benry shuffles backward, wanting to put as much distance between him and the box as he can.

Gordon looks at him, an unreadable expression on his face.
Benry stares at the box like it's about to attack him.

After a moment, Gordon's expression shifts, and he puts the box back under his arm. The cover is facing his side.

“It's pronounced acupuncture, stop saying it like that”

Benry immediately starts to playfully repeat the word, (pronouncing it in his own fucked up way) grateful for the distraction.

He succeeds in thoroughly annoying Gordon and driving him into his room. Forcing him to lock the door lest Benry bust in and annoy him further.

The cover of the box settles into its place near all the other unwanted thoughts.

Gordon stays in his room the rest of the day. Benry assumes he's doing the ahyoupunchyor thing and whatever that entails.

Good, he can hog the couch and play all the games he wants, Without Gordon.

This is boring.

Benry throws the controller over the back of the couch, not bothering to pause the game. The plastic of it cracks against the floor behind him.

He lets out a long sigh of orange to off-white sweet voice.
Tommy's translation plays in his mind.

'orange to off-white like a rind means I'm bored out of my mind!'

Benry rolls over onto his back, contemplating whether or not he should ask Gordon to watch a movie. Maybe even go on a walk, who knows.

Yeah, that sounds nice.
He gets up off the couch and pauses.

Is he still doing the … the needle thing?

Benry suddenly feels very apprehensive about going anywhere near Gordon's room.

He takes a deep breath, steels himself, and starts to make his way over anyways. Some stupid needles are not going to keep them from having quality Benry Feetman time.

The farther he walks down the hallway the more intense the waves of ice-cold fear get.
He's sweating and starting to feel nauseous as he stops in front of Gordon's door.
When he reaches for the doorknob he can see that his hand is shaking.

Yeah no, he can't do this.

Before he can walk away, Gordon opens the door. He lets out a surprised gasp and almost drops what he's holding.

“Uh, hey Benry.”

Benry stares at him for a moment, willing down his rising panic.

“Wanna go on a walk? Spend quality time with best friend Benry?”

Benry's eyes drift from Gordon to what he's holding as he responds. It's a small box, just small enough for him to be able to see inside.

Benry freezes.

There are needles inside.

Dozens of them.

Benry's breath quickens, his heart beats faster in his chest, and he feels bile start to rise in his throat.

He's strapped to a table. Blindingly white lights are all around him. He's only able to squirm as sharp needles pierce his skin over and over and over again. Indifferent scientists completely ignore his cries of fear and pain. He's completely hopeless.

Benry can barely hear as Gordon worriedly calls his name. The box is hidden behind his back but the damage is already done.

He runs from Gordon and the box and the needles. Bright white sweet voice spills out of his mouth with a high-pitched 'nails on a chalkboard' wail.

He hurries into the bathroom and slams the door in Gordon's face. His eyes are squeezed shut but everything is still white.

White walls, white floors, white ceilings, white lab coats.

The white glint of light off the metal of a needle.

He dry heaves into the sink.

Focus on other things. Focus on other things. What other things?!

He splashes his face with water, trying desperately to calm down.

He can barely hear a voice talking to him from the other side of the door. Benry pulls on his hair and tries to focus on it.

It's giving him instructions.

He blindly follows them.

The overwhelming whiteness slowly dissipates and is replaced by warm oranges and maroons. Then yellows and light blues and greens.

Rainbows of color overtake his thoughts, replacing blind panic and fear.

He slowly builds up the courage to open his eyes.

Benry's at home.

The room is filled with dozens of colors of sweet voice, and the bright white that had been there before was gone. The only white remaining is the porcelain of the sink, toilet, and tub.

He looks down at his hands, arms, and any skin that isn't covered. No puncture wounds.

He finally starts to calm down.

Once he feels like he isn't about to vomit he opens the door and-

There's Gordon, he looks worried out of his mind. The box is nowhere to be seen.

“Are you okay?”

Benry nods.

“You want a hug?”

Benry nods again, a little more enthusiastically this time. Gordon's hugs are always the best.

As soon as warm arms envelop him he cries.

Benry wouldn't let go of Gordon after their hug and Gordon didn't have the heart to try and pry him off. So instead of taking a walk they cuddled together on the couch and decided to watch a movie. Then fought over the remote, it was a tie.

That was an hour and a half ago.

“You want to talk about what happened?”

Benry took a while to respond but Gordon didn't push him, he knew firsthand how hard talking about these kinds of things could be.

“No … not now, sorry.”

“You don't have to say sorry.”

A couple of minutes passed in silence.

“I threw away the needles by the way, they didn't work.”

Benry snorted.

“Didn't bully your arm good enough? Too much of a nerd to be a jock, nerdman.”

“It's not … punching your arm, and what do you even mean by bully?”

“… Stop hitting yourself.”

Gordon stared at Benry for a long moment before he erupted with laughter. Benry started cackling along after getting over his surprise.

When Gordon was reduced down to breathy giggles he leaned against Benry and Benry leaned back. The credits were rolling but neither of them moved.

“You don't have to talk to me about it but …”

Benry looked up at Gordon.

“I'm always here for you.”

Gordon looked back at Benry and smiled.

Benry felt like he could cry again.

Be Careful Not To Choke // HLVRAI // 1878 Words

Chapter 1: Lord Knows You're Only Human - 5/5/21

You lay in the dirt for a while, processing the events that lead up to your respawn. Pain makes the memories foggy.

Xen, the passports, a big flash of light that hurt like nothing you had ever felt before.

You suddenly sit up and let out a groan at the new sensation of cuts on your back being stretched. Tears well up in your eyes.
You try to focus on the usual routine for when you respawn.

Check yourself, your surroundings, and move on.

You lost your helmet. Your uniform is torn in several places, and blood is leaking from the, probably infected, wounds littered across your body. You're in the middle of a forest, a couple of yards away from a row of houses. They're just barely noticeable with what little light the rising sun is providing. It makes the trees cast long shadows across the ground and nausea builds up in your throat when you think of who they remind you of.

A light clicks on in the second story of one of the houses. Something primal in the back of your mind tells you to run.

Light means humans, and humans mean experiments and cages and death and- You know that isn't true (for most humans at least.)
You also know that the blood loss is making you lightheaded and that has never happened before.

You stand up on two unsteady legs and start to make your way toward the house.
Your only hope is for whoever is inside to help you.

Benry is running on fumes by the time he reaches the back porch. You watched him stumble all the way there.

Blood had left a trail behind him, no doubt attracting predators and other woodland creatures. You hoped they would come, only so you wouldn't have to clean the blood off your floors. Or maybe so you wouldn't have to fight.

Calling it a fight would be too generous, Benry looks like he can barely stay awake let alone throw a punch.

It's pitiful, is this the same person who tormented you? The same person who laughed as your arm got cut off? The same person who you almost died fighting?

Benry being hurt didn't make you any less scared, or angry, or ready to send him back to where he fucking came from. It's a trick anyways, the exhaustion and blood are obviously fabricated.

He wants revenge and you are not going to let him have it.

There's a loud crash downstairs.
You regret not keeping a weapon by the bed.

You had tried to call out to the person inside before barging in, you really did. But your throat felt like sandpaper, and fear had started to creep into your mind as you were faced with your own mortality.

The only thing that made it out was a weak “can I come in?” before you used the last of your strength to rip through the screen door leading into the kitchen. The cool tile felt heavenly against your sore muscles.

After a moment, someone walked into the kitchen. They stop just in front of your body.

They say nothing, you say nothing, but you also don't lift your head to look at them.

You almost fall asleep, but the sound of them dropping to their knees shakes you awake.

They roll you over onto your back.

He wraps his hands around your neck.

Chapter 2: You're Tired and You Want to go Home - 6/17/21

A deep regret courses through your veins, you can feel it in your bones.

This isn't fake.

The fear and desperation for air couldn't have been faked, especially not by Benry. He's seriously hurt and you just choked him out.

Oh god, is he dead? Can Benry permanently die?

You press your fingers to his neck. Trying frantically to remember which way to position them to feel a heartbeat.

You finally get it right and-
There it is, it's faint, but it's there.

You let out an almost involuntary sigh of relief. What the fuck were you thinking? He hadn't even tried to attack you.

He doesn't even look like he can.

You stare at him for a moment.

Now that you weren't fighting for your life in the depths of Black Mesa or blinded by fear and rage, you realize how painfully normal Benry looks. How were you ever scared of this guy?

Scratch that, you know exactly why.

You shake your head and try to clear your thoughts. What matters right now isn't how dangerous or eldritch Benry looks.
He's hurt, most likely dying, and you don't want to add killing him again to your heavy emotional baggage.

You pick him up and move him into the living room.
Then you dump him back onto the kitchen floor and go get some towels to put on the couch.

The first thing you notice when you wake up is the pain. Your whole body feels like it's burning, but the worst is coming from your throat. It aches and throbs along with your heartbeat.

You have never felt this bad in your entire life.

On the upside, you're laying on something really soft.
… and itchy.

You reach up a hand to itch your arm but stop when you notice something taped to it.
You try to itch your skin through whatever it is but let your hand flop back down with a huff when it doesn't work.

Instead, you choose to bask in the feeling of whatever you're laying on.

When was the last time you'd felt something this soft?
When was the last time you'd been in Black Mesa?

Why can't you remember the last time you died?

You shoot up from where you're laying and immediately squeeze your eyes shut, it's way too bright in here.

Did you die again? No … you passed out … but what happened before that?
You were in a forest, you were walking (more like stumbling), and then you were in a kitchen with … Gordon? It was all too fuzzy.

What you do remember, very clearly, is the need to breathe and something- no ... hands around your neck.

Ok, no more thinking.

You hesitantly open your eyes and look around the room you're in.

A TV is positioned across from the couch you're laying on, and a precariously stacked tower of games is leaning against the coffee table. You stare at it for a moment before tearing your eyes away.

An archway leads into a kitchen and another looks like it leads into a hallway in one corner of the room. There are various decorations and pictures positioned all over the place, but you're squinting too hard to make anything out.

And last but not least, there are way too many fucking windows and all of them let in way too much fucking light.

You debate whether or not you'd be able to walk the distance to close the blinds. You try to move your legs, but they won't budge.

Nothing left but to wait and hope whoever put you on this couch has good intentions.

Unlike Gordon.

You can't even bring yourself to be mad at him. A part of you knows you deserved it.

A door opens and closes somewhere in the house. You can hear footsteps slowly approaching.

You don't move, It's not like you can anyways.

Leaving Benry on the couch had been an oversight.
You were tired, your hands were starting to hurt from treating his wounds, and the sun was just about fully risen. All you wanted to do was fall asleep and hope this was all a bad dream.

So you left him on the couch, and now he's probably gone.
He couldn't have gone far, you hope he didn't go far.

The blood would attract animals.

You enter the living room and just barely catch yourself before flinching.

So he hadn't left.

For a couple of minutes both of you just stare at each other.

He looks marginally better than he did last night, minus the new bruises on his throat. A tight ball of guilt starts to build up in your chest and you look away.

“Uh … you're awake.”

What do you even say in this situation? What could you even say in this situation?

'I'm sorry?'

No, you wouldn't say it before Benry.
What you did doesn't even hold a candle to what he put you through.

You look down at the towel on the couch and cringe at how much blood had seeped into it. More guilt builds up until it's unbearable.

“I- … I'm sorry.”


“I shouldn't have choked you, and … I shouldn't have just- just kicked you while you were down and couldn't fight back ... I'm sorry, Benry” You paused, hoping for some kind of response.

He was staring down at his lap.

The guilt dissipates and quickly gets replaced by anger.

“Y'know, it would be nice if you apologized for all the shit you pulled in Black Mesa.”

Still nothing.

“It would be nice if you apologized, Benry.”


You bury your face in your hands.

Why did anything involving Benry make you so fucking angry?
Why did he have to be so difficult?

You try to calm yourself down. Giving in to your anger just led you to where you are now.
A bloody towel that will probably stick to your couch if you don't pull it off soon, and an ex-guard that tried to kill you sitting on it.

That thought had you glancing up at him.
He stared back.

“Close the windows? Please?”

It took a moment for what he said to register.


“The windows-”

“They're already closed.”

Benry frowns and rubs at his eyes “too bright, can't fucking-” he grumbles to himself.

You let out a long exasperated sigh and drag a hand down your face. The anger goes just as quickly as it had come, now, you're just tired.

“You mean the blinds?” Benry nods.

You begrudgingly walk over to the windows, close the blinds, and condescendingly say “better?
He rubs at his eyes one last time “yeah.”

You suddenly feel the overwhelming urge to go back to bed.

You've been trying to say something for the last minute. Even with the blinds closed, it was still almost impossible to formulate your thoughts.

You were always abysmal with apologies. Especially if the person you were trying to apologize to was 10 seconds away from bursting a blood vessel any time you opened your mouth.

What finally motivated you enough to 'talk' was Gordon making his way towards the hallway.

You let out a stream of sweet voice.
He whips around to look at you with barely concealed fear.

“Orange to gray like an extinguished cigarette means I'm filled with deep regret” you mumble, watching as the bubbles float up and pop against the ceiling.

Gordon watches too. Staring up at the ceiling for a couple of seconds after the bubbles have disappeared.

“Is that … really what that means?” he starts to cautiously walk back over.

“Yeah, ask Tommy.”

“I will.”

Gordon stands at the back of the couch, not wanting to stain his pants with blood.

“M'sorry, for everything” more orange to gray sweet-voice spills out before you can say more.

“Thanks, Benry”

After a moment Gordon glances at you.

You don't look back.

Saltwater // HLVRAI // 3070 Words

Chapter 1: Didn't You Say You Could be Happy Someday? - 8/19/21

Benry is born in Black Mesa.

He's some DNA taken from the corpse of an unknown eldritch abomination and injected into a human embryo. He doesn't know why and frankly does not care. Black Mesa is constantly looking for the next opportunity to make something fucked up, and that's enough explanation for him.

He's formed inside a tube for a decade and then some before deemed stable enough.

Benry is born at age 14.

He wakes up in an empty cell save for a bed and a desk, with memories he knows are not his own of a place he recognizes as home. The first person he meets is Tommy, who barges into his room an hour (on the dot) after Benry wakes up; they're immediately inseparable.

His 'handlers' soon decide he needs proper enrichment, but only after Tommy insists that Benry deserves more than just the bare essentials. At first, it's huge textbooks they find rotting away in dusty storage closets. Benry reads every single one, cover to cover. He never really absorbs anything except for the pretty pictures. His favorites are sandy blue floors and creatures that look like they're floating.

Next, after the textbooks are deemed a success, they give him a TV. It's a blocky one from the 90s, and It's heavily censored and only has one station, which inexplicably runs game shows 24/7, but Benry loves it regardless.

He learns how to speak through these shows, no longer needing to scrawl what he wants on the walls of his room or use the few signs he'd picked up from one of his textbooks.

Benry will forever cherish the look on Tommy's face the first time he'd said his name.

After a couple of weeks with the TV, late at night on one of the days that Tommy is allowed to visit, he manages to switch the channel over to National Geographic (after many near deaths by electrocution).

Benry learns about the ocean that night.

When he passes out on Tommy's shoulder with the TV still on, he dreams for the first time. He dreams of a vast expanse of shimmering blue that goes on for miles, with interesting new creatures and plant life under the surface. He dreams of floating through the water, discovering massive shipwrecks and old nick-knacks people lost at sea, eating fish that taste like nothing he's ever tasted before.

It looks like a different planet.
It fascinates him.
It reminds him of home.

He wakes up the next day with tears streaming down his face, tucked into his bed, and Tommy nowhere to be found.

After a couple of months with the TV, after Benry has read his textbooks cover to cover again, after he's able to recite every episode of the wheel of fortune by heart, he's given a beat-up second-hand ps2 and an equally beat-up copy of heavenly sword. Some poor kid of one of the scientists was grounded, no doubt.

Just like the TV and the pictures of the sea before, Benry immediately falls in love. He plays it almost every single day, one hundred percenting the game multiple times and even attempting to speedrun it (despite being miserable at it). He even lets Tommy play, content to watch him struggle through battles Benry could complete in his sleep.

The days drag on and on and on. One year turns into two to three to four, and no matter how many hours he plays or reads or watches mind-numbing TV, his brain never stops drifting back to the sea.

He needs to escape.

The first and only person Benry tells his plan to is Tommy; he is predictably very upset. However, After some time, breathing exercises, and a lot of calm down sweet-voice, he quickly gets over the wave of irrational fear and anger because, deep down, he understands why.

Benry is treated less like a human-adjacent being and more like brainless bacteria in a petri dish. He's seen as an experiment, not as a living breathing person with emotions, thoughts, and working pain receptors. No one would be able to last long in this kind of environment, whether they were born here or not. Regardless, no matter how badly Tommy wants Benry to stay, he also doesn't want Benry to suffer.

If you love me, let me go and all that.

So, Tommy agrees, not only to support Benry's decision but to help him escape. No matter how hard his heart aches.

Benry's plan is as follows; memorize as much about the ocean as he can so he can vividly envision where he's teleporting, save up all of his energy so he doesn't end up stuck in the void, and finally, attempt the biggest teleport he's never even dreamed of doing.

Tommy helps all he can by stockpiling any sea-centric books or comics or pamphlets or anything at his disposal and smuggling them into Benry's room. He sneaks in a couple of sodas as well, hoping to help Benry memorize the shoulder height stack of material faster. Tommy even does a pretty good job at hiding Benry's plan from his dad and Black Mesa superiors. He knows full well that by doing this, he risks losing his internship for Benry.

Tommy's on the brink of ruining his future for a guy he met four years ago. Why?

He comes to a realization the day before Benry's escape attempt. He's sound asleep in his bed as Tommy gathers up the obscene amount of notes scattered over the floor. When done, he stares at Benry's peaceful face, and his own heats up. It's love.

It can't be anything else.

Tommy quickly shuffles through the pile in his arms for a blank piece of paper and takes out a pen from his lab coat pocket. He would have never forgiven himself if he left without at least saying goodbye

Tommy writes Benry a note and closes it in his hand. He turns towards the door but hesitates.

A moment passes where the only sound in the room is Benry's shallow breaths. Tommy slowly turns back around, kisses his forehead, then leaves for good.

The steel door opens and closes with a click, and Benry's eyes shoot wide open.

Chapter 2: Just Need Someone to Come and Show You The Way - 9/15/21

Benry knows the ocean takes up more than 50% of the planet, but it doesn't truly click until he's face to face with endless blue. The usual fear that accompanies new surroundings doesn't set in. The weightlessness feels familiar. It's calming.

He aimlessly floats along with the current and basks in the warmth of the sun for the first time. Occasionally he sticks his head underwater to watch the few fish that dare swim up near the surface. He commits the patterns of their scales to memory.

As Benry floats, he watches the blue of the sea turn a deep orange and then an inky black. He watches as he drifts closer and closer to a collection of lights in the distance. His back brushes up against something soft, and he sits up.

It's sand.

It's a beach.

The reality of his situation hits Benry like an eight-wheeler.

It worked.

He's out, he's free, no more black mesa.

Benry lets out a victorious stream of clear blue sweet voice and watches as it disappears into the air. If Tommy were here, he'd probably say, 'clear blue like spit means I did it.'


His mood does a jarring 180.

Oh god, Tommy.

Tears well up in Benry's eyes, and he can't stop it before a sob wrenches its way out of his throat.

He knows Tommy has a whole life ahead of him. Benry knows Tommy was already risking everything for him, but it still hurts. It hurts that he didn't at least *try* to bring Tommy with him. It hurts that he never said, 'I love you.' The note hurts, the kiss hurts. Benry hugs his knees to his chest and buries his face in his arms. Everything about black mesa fucking hurts, even when he's free of it.

“Are you okay?”

Benry snaps his head up and frantically looks around. He sees someone walking down the beach towards him and immediately bolts.

What if it's someone from black mesa? Oh god, what would they do if they caught him? What would they do to Tommy?

That thought makes him run faster; he will not let himself get caught, not after everything.

He looks back to see them running after him, but they're quickly lagging. “I just want to help!” yeah right, how stupid do they think he is?

Benry looks forward again, just in time to see a rock jutting out of the beach. He, however, does not stop in time to avoid gouging his foot on it.

He tumbles onto the ground with a yelp of pain. Thankfully, it didn't go all the way through, but it did get pretty deep. Benry winces as he watches his blood pour out of the wound and seep into the sand.

He winces again as he hears whoever was chasing him slow to a stop next to him.

“Jesus … christ … you're fast” their sentence is broken up by heavy breaths, and they take a moment to collect themselves. “You okay? You fell pretty hard.”

Benry hesitantly uncurls himself and sits up. This person doesn't even remotely resemble a black mesa scientist. Well, except for Tommy, but if Benry starts thinking about him again, he'll start crying.

“Yeah, just got um … a little ouchie.” Benry lifts his foot and moves it around like he's showing off.

They stare at it for a second “Holy shit! Dude, what the fuck- a little ouchie?! You need to go to a fucking hospital!”

“Calm down, maybe? Watch” the wound on Benry's foot slowly closes and heals.


“I'm not human.”

Deafening silence follows, and Benry slowly lowers their foot. He shouldn't have said that. Oh god, they're going to send him back, and then Tommy will be thrown in a tiny cell with him, and there will be nothing to do but be experimented on and suffer-

“Oh … okay, that makes sense.”


“You're not gonna send me back?”

“No? To where?”

Benry lets out a huge sigh of relief, but just to make sure, “Pinky promise.”

They laugh and hold out their pinky.

“If it makes you feel any better, I'm not human either.”

Benry learns that the person's name is Gordon Freeman and that Gordon is a mermaid.

Benry also learns that mermaids are actually called sirens and that they, contrary to popular belief, don't have fishtails. Well, they do, but they can only form once exposed to water, and they need a special potion and- it's complicated.

They sit at the edge of the shore and let the water lap at their feet. They talk for hours, long enough for the ocean to turn blue again.

“What were you even doing out here in the middle of the night?”

Benry freezes. Should he tell him? He already let it slip that he's an escapee, and Gordon did pinkie promise.

“Teleported … from Black Mesa.”

“You can teleport?”





“What were you doing on the beach, bro?”

“Uh…” Gordon avoids eye contact for a moment.

“You stealing?”

“What? What would I even steal??”

Benry hums as he looks around.

“All the… shells,” he picks one up to demonstrate.

“Stealing their homes, gonna have to build new ones."

"That's not even remotely how that works" Gordon tries to sound serious, but his voice is laced with laughter.

The conversation lapses into silence after that. The sun rises. Benry looks behind himself to see buildings previously hidden by night.

Once people start setting up umbrellas and laying down towels, Gordon gets up.

He stretches his arms out above his head and lets out a deep sigh. “I need to go. It was fun talking with you.” It takes a moment for what Gordon said to register.

Benry has nowhere to go. He doesn't think he could buy a house without the government knowing he exists, let alone how much money that would cost. Gordon is his only chance at getting shelter and protection from Black Mesa. There may be other reasons why he wants to go with Gordon, but he can unpack those another time.

“Uh…m' gonna have to follow you. Make sure you don't try and steal … other … stuff,” real smooth.

Gordon smiles and gives him a look, then starts walking up the beach. Benry stumbles up onto his feet to follow him.

Chapter 3: I Can Fit Two People Under my Skin - 11/2/21

Gordon doesn't need to look back to notice Benry following him. He can hear the struggle of trying to walk through sand from a mile away, but he does turn around once he makes it to solid ground to watch the spectacle. Benry has his arms straight out like he's balancing on a tightrope, and every time he takes a step, he stumbles. How did he run so fast last night? Non-human stuff again, Gordon guesses.

He lets out a huff of laughter as Benry stumbles particularly hard and almost eats shit. It's amusing to see him struggling with something Gordon had trouble with as well, in a weird sadistic way. Sand being the first surface you had to stand on after just gaining legs, is not the best introduction to walking.

He does help him after a moment, though, the amusement he felt slowly turning into pity. He could still distinctly feel the overwhelming sense of helplessness after taking his first steps back then. Gordon walks over and takes both his hands, leading him in an almost dance-like shuffle.

“I'm guessing you haven't had that much experience with sand?”

Gordon means it mostly as a joke but, he doesn't truly know, does he? He's only heard second-hand about Black Mesa. His parents would tell him stories of sirens going missing, last seen near black vans, and suspicious fishing boats branded with an orange symbol.

The ones who managed to escape had Y-shaped scars, some with missing limbs and tails. He remembers one of them being a part of his old school. Their stories about what they experienced would haunt Gordon to his grave. God, what had happened to Benry in there? Why was he there in the first place? This could be Benry's first time walking, for all he knew.

They make it onto the asphalt sidewalk bordering the beach. Benry lets out a relieved sigh, crouching down on his knees, and kisses the ground.

“Dude! That's gross! You have no idea what's been down there.”

Benry lays down flat on the ground “m'not human, can lick the ground all I want.” An involuntary shudder goes up Gordon's spine “ew, you're licking it?.” Benry just stays there, now fully basking in the early morning sun. Gordon leans down and pokes him in the face “how tired are you? Were you really struggling that much?” Gordon stands over him and places his hands on his hips, staring down at the prone man.

“Uh, yeah, not as skilled as you. Gordon legman … feetman

Gordon can see the absolute glee slowly break out on Benry's face before a fucking witch cackle explodes from his mouth. Gordon laughs along, half out of confusion and half out of surprise at how funny Benry found the frankly stupid joke.

Benry shoots up from the ground and grabs onto Gordon's shoulders, “Gordon feetman!” He yells right in Gordon's face, Then thrusts his arms straight up in the air like he's just won a game of soccer, gaining a couple of agitated stares from the beachgoers. Gordon couldn't care less.

After Benry had calmed down from what he had claimed as 'his best joke ever,' they both head down the street, in the direction of Gordon's home, with the only words spoken about the arrangement being "can I live with you?" and "ok." It's not like Gordon would have turned him down; Non-humans gotta stick together. Although Gordon's never had a roommate before, he can guess from the couple of hours he's known him that living with benry would not be an average experience.

The walk from the beach to his house usually isn't very long. It should take at the very most ten minutes, eight if he's fast, but it's not like he's timing it. He just knows that it's not supposed to take this long.

Benry insists on stopping every second, looking at passing seagulls or gawking at people going about their day. It's kind of endearing how amazed he is by mundane things. It makes Gordon realize how much he's taken it for granted, like the colors of an overflowing flower bed or the smell of cooking food from the open doors of a restaurant. He was just like this when he first came to the surface, amazed by how beautiful a place that his parents described as a death trap could be.

At least now he knows Benry wasn't lying about being from Black Mesa. No one would be able to keep up the facade of childlike wonder for long. Gordon turns to look at the man in question and finds him missing. Oh shit, where is he? He hurriedly glances around, fearing for the worst, like an innocent passerby turning out to be a kidnapper or black vans rolling down the street. Fear begins to wash over him in cold waves before his eyes land on Benry, several feet back, staring at a raccoon rummaging through a trash can.

Gordon walks over and watches the display. “Not supposed to be here…” benry mumbles to himself, completely absorbed in watching the trash fiend. Gordon looks between the raccoon and Benry. He then notices a very raccoon-like shadowy mark around Benry's eyes that was definitely not there before.

“Benry, that's a wild animal. I'm pretty sure they're allowed to be anywhere.”

“Wha- no, bet it doesn't have its passport, cant go to fuckin uh … Australia.”

Gordon laughs, and the sound scares the raccoon away, its prize clutched tightly in its hands.

“Hey! It stole! HEY!” Benry looked like he was about to take off after the raccoon, but Gordon stepped in front of him before he could.

“That's trash! I'm pretty sure nobody wants it.” Benry had an absolutely affronted look on his face, and Gordon laughed harder.

“One man's trash is another man's treasure.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?!”

2047 // Original // 2/4/22 // 159 Words

Twenty Forty Seven
Five Oh Two
Sixteenth day
Early morning.

The month

Can't Remember,
The marine layer
The sun on the rise
Cracking the metal
The goal a revise,
The context, their prize.


I wanted to remember.
Frozen in time
Collecting like grime
On the tires,
On a road out of mind
Too dark,
Too grainy to find
What I found on that ride
To warrant a snapshot.


When the sun was early to rise
We decided to take a drive and
I have to


Fudgel // Original // 6/2/21 // 167 Words

At first, you may think the art of the fudgel
Couldn't ever be that much of a struggle.
But If the right method gets in a muddle
It quickly turns into the hardest puzzle.
Don't fret, the eight statutes are unsubtle,
And luckily, they aren't hard to juggle.

1. Always make sure to look when others hustle.
2. Do it with more than yourself and a couple.
3. Your boss can never have a name like Russell.
4. You can never develop any muscle.
5. Only run when you know you're in trouble.
6. Don't draw attention, you need to be subtle.

8. Most importantly,
If you ever struggle,
Or find a manager unagreeable,
The friends you keep, you can't ever decouple.
Always look for another who will fudgel.

Hindsight // Original // 2/17/22 // 144 Words

The clock ticks by
The bright white hurts my eyes
It can't go undone
I Have to

It reaches my heart
Perched on the veins
Infecting my brain
Swooping down
To snatch up my foresight
I Have to

My desk is cluttered
My bed is unmade
My eyes drift away
Avoiding the inevitable
Trying desperately to hold onto the last shred
Of myself
Of what I'm supposed to have wanted all these years
I Want to be able to Want
I don't Want to

Wanting to Having
My life incomplete
My white bright onus
Catching it
Browning at the edges
Burning it away
I Have to

I Am Not From A Place // Original // 9/29/22 // 129 Words

I am from the road.
From driving for hours down the coast,
Watching the landscape change
From my backseat window.

I am from a house full of animals.
From the clicking of claws on hardwood,
To the sounds of dirt covering their bodies.
Planting trees instead of headstones.

I am from tables full of relatives.
From waking up to the sound of music,
And the knowledge that I'd
Always have someone to fall back on.

I am not from a place,
I am from a home.
Whose foundation was built by those.
That would like to see me live in it.

Pismire // Original // 5/31/22 // 175 Words

The world is big and I am small.
When I yell, it comes out like a fife.
But I don't have the time to bawl
Over what's drawn in the lot of life.

I work with my brethren outside,
Taking your crumbs that get left behind.
When you come, we don't need to hide.
Some of you all turn out to be kind.

I work all day and won't despair,
If I do, all of us will suffer.
I can't do anything but care,
If I didn't; there'd be naught for supper.

My world is small and I am large.
Voice loud enough, listen, hear me sing.
With my kind, I need not recharge,
Together, we can do anything.

Despite our strength, someday we'll expire.
When we go, don't forget us, the Pismire.

Stardust // Original // 3/18/22 // 280 Words

To, Pluto

They know your name, know you exist.
They have gone through the time
to study your intricacies,
to categorize your imperfections.
Yet still, deem you unworthy.
You've been abandoned
by the only ones who know you exist.

Are you aware?
Do you care?
Does it get cold all the way out there?

Does it get lonely, Pluto?

Or do you prefer it to being trampled by an animal.
That thinks it owns you,
that it has the authority to dictate what you are.
Who you're supposed to be,
what it's allowed to take from you.

Or are you jealous?
Were you once?
Are you anymore?

Were you ever, Pluto?

I admire you.
Admire your resolve to stay alone.
A planet, despite what people think.
Outliving those who would outcast you.
Untouched by the sun, yet blindingly excellent.
Defying the Antarctic outreaches of the asteroid belt.
Of your home.

Defying what's expected of you,
with a beautiful swirl of colors on your surface.
Underground seas forever to be sealed.

A birthmark in the shape of a heart
revealing the fact that you are loved.
You love that you are.
Love that you were chosen to exist
as Pluto.

The Elementary's Widower // Original // 3/4/22 // 164 Words

You're so far off I can't remember you anymore
It's like I didn't even have you in the first place
The scissors of age snipping at your stitching
Weakening the blanket of defenses to hide under
When I stay up late into the morning
Collecting the cloth that remains
Contemplating whether I should continue to grow up
In a world over indulging in death until there's nothing left
But whispers and rubble at the bottom of the sea
Starting my life picking up the pieces of what my forefathers forgot
With nothing but scraps of the red-tinted past to support me
Mourning the time before I cared
Mourning the time to understand
Mourning the presence of loitering trauma
Mourning the memories of you
Slowly slipping out through the tears
Until my blanket
Is nothing
But holes

Untitled // Original // 3/1/22 // 107 Words

The marine has always intrigued me.
             Salty Sea burning my eyes, turning green.
Hopping from shore to shore like a beach flea.
             Making me cry, cutting through to the chine,
Of a place of death and money to make,
             Of what the seven Seas are becoming.
Old ship in the distance, missing a strake.
             Ears catching on to hear a faint humming.
This song … it's unearthing a memory.
             My mom warning me away from the Seas,
From the song that lures and its lechery.
             “Waves can soak into sand, drowning beach fleas.”

To us, it can never stop in motion,
Water’s will in that basin–The Ocean.

Art Kid // Original // September 2022 // 1386 Words

I'm sitting in my computer chair looking at the blank canvas on my screen. I'm half asleep, and the bright white hurts my eyes, but I can't let myself sleep yet. My eyes glance around at the rest of the room, I'm too tired to start but too anxious to get up. It's due tomorrow, I have to do it.

During the first few weeks of my senior year of high school, while the first issue of the school newspaper was still in the planning stage, the editors-in-chief came up with an idea to hold a caption contest for every issue. The goal was for students to come up with a funny caption to the image presented, and whoever won would get it featured in the next issue and some absences cleared. Months earlier, In my junior year, I decided to sign up for the journalism class. Not because I had an interest in it, but because the English teacher I had the year before was teaching it and implored anyone in her class to take it. When I signed up, it didn't occur to me that I'd have to actually be talking to people and interviewing them for my articles, or working together in groups with other people on the newspaper team, and I almost quit because of the anxiety.

The majority of my middle and high school experience was drawing in class instead of paying attention, and avoiding anyone I didn't know. The only thing most people knew about me was that I liked to draw, and that information had made it to my English/Journalism teacher long before I had even made it out of elementary school. And although it had good meaning, she leaned into the fact that I was one of the art kids hard and immediately volunteered me for the role of caption contest artist, the only artist.

Very few people have had the experience of being one of the Art Kids in school. Being an Art Kid meant your peers immediately assigned you the artist role in group projects, Teachers gave you knowing looks whenever there was an art project assigned, constantly being asked to draw something for somebody for free of course, and having art be the only thing anyone was ever interested in while talking to you and being stared at while drawing in class. Being an Art Kid, especially when you were good at it, meant being a 'useful' weird kid, at least for me. And as someone who had severe social anxiety and hated being talked to unexpectedly, this was nothing short of hell for me. I had resigned myself to my fate the moment someone saw me open up a sketchbook in class.

Despite all that, I didn't and still don't mind always being assigned the art role, I actually prefer it. I love to draw, and art is something I have been doing for my entire life, it comes much more naturally to me than writing, or music or anything else creative. In fact, everything I like to do nowadays could be traced back to art. I started writing because I wanted to make stories that could flesh out characters I had drawn, like a cat that had wings being the princess of an ice castle I had made around 10 years old. I like to make music that goes along with my art and fleshes out the stories I had written about, and I like to code because I want to be able to make games and websites that feature some artistic endeavor of mine. The moment I stopped having those “I want to become a fairy princess when I grow up!” thoughts in elementary school, I wanted to become a professional artist.

Being the artist for the caption contest really excited me. I was finally drawing something I wanted to draw for a project, instead of phoning in sketches of the founding fathers or diagrams of a mediocre experiment. I thought of it as my first glimpse into what taking commissions would be like for me when I became an actual artist. The first piece was of a witch on a Roomba instead of a broom, and the second was of Santa looming over a crowd of people to represent how overbearing Christmas is in December. They were a breeze and I had a lot of fun with them. Everyone thought they were amazing too, it was the first time I had actually appreciated someone's praise of my art. The rest went like clockwork, the editors-in-chief would brainstorm with me on a prompt, like a leprechaun quitting his job and taking the gold or a cloud sneezing rain onto flowers, and then I would go and create it, along with writing an article for the issue.

The first week after the first issue, the teacher handed out editor position applications to everyone in class, stating that since a bunch of the editors graduated last year, they needed a bunch more to fill the roles. I applied, thinking 'why not?' and got in as one of two features editors. I was shocked and kinda confused when I got it, I didn't think my articles were any good at that point, and I thought being the caption contest artist was already enough responsibility. Nevertheless, I was excited and relieved that I didn't have to go through the preliminary training that staff writers had to do anymore. This meant that my workload consisted of writing an article, editing all the other features articles, creating the layout for the features page, and creating a caption contest piece. Although that may sound like a lot, my teacher had a very streamlined and orderly way of doing things, and without that I definitely would have gotten overwhelmed.

As the school year went on, and I got more and more fatigued after school like I usually did, I started to create the pieces closer and closer to the deadline, sometimes even hooking up my drawing tablet to my laptop in the school parking lot to do it hours before the first bell rang. The writing also started to become harder, especially since I had a creative writing class that same year. I had never in my life created that much finished and polished art in that short of a timespan, so much so that all I was doing was creating art and writing for school, I stopped drawing for myself. It was way too much for me, and it all came to a head that night.

I'm sitting in my computer chair looking at the empty canvas of my drawing program. I'm half asleep, and the screen hurts my eyes, but I can't let myself sleep yet, it's due tomorrow. My stomach bottoms out as I realize what's happening, this is the first time I've ever felt like I had to draw instead of wanted to. It was the moment I realized that the aspiration of becoming a professional artist died within me.

I only just started to draw again regularly a couple of days ago, I spent half a year not even opening the program I use and at the time my motivation slowly dwindled until I just didn't draw anymore. Looking back, it all seems inconsequential and small compared to what I'm dealing with now. I still don't know what exactly I want to do in life, but the fact that becoming a professional artist isn't one of the options seems more mundane than revolutionary enough to reevaluate my life up to that point. In spite of that, I have to give my younger self some credit, up until then I had never even entertained the idea of being more than an artist.

Without that experience, I would probably be working towards an art degree right now, oblivious to the fact that having to make art instead of wanting to is something I never want to feel again. It made me realize that I was centering my identity around being the Art Kid, and that it's ok if I don't draw, and it's ok if I'm not as into art as I was, and it's ok if I'm not as good at it compared to everyone else. I'd rather be content than racing against deadlines.