“The Cure,” Marissa Davila

The Cure

“What an odd feeling…”

The skies are lighting up, and it certainly feels like a climactic moment. The winds race under my outstretched fingertips creating a gentle tickle to my skin. The skies are alight in my eyes as they perform an endlessly graceful, vivid, colorful, chaotic and yet calming dance number. Aurora beams, meteor showers, catastrophe and devastation all at once.

I have never quite seen anything like it. Even so, I am not much impressed.

My days of gazing upon sights with charming mystique and awe-stricken eyes had long since reached their dusk. But even as the far reaches of this memory grow dimmer with each passing second, I can still recall a time when I would have marveled at such a sight. I would have stared wide-eyed at such a wonder, I would have found someone to share it with, I would have let myself feel alive.

The ground beneath me shakes, increasing in intervals. If it becomes much stronger I may not be able to stand. But I have time.

Drawing upon the experience in my tens of thousands of years in life, I discern that nothing special is to come of this natural phenomenon. There is a very specific reason for all of this – one etched out in many long, complicated strings of mathematics and scientific knowledge. Given my experience with such subjects, I can easily reason this out, but I do not feel as if the situation calls for it. My awareness is enough to stabilize me.

My pulse races out of an adrenaline kick brought upon by the hectic mood. The nerves and chemicals simulate all sorts of feelings. I pay them no mind, and they eventually give up.

Standing has grown tiresome. Although I’m in a wide open field, where it is unlikely for debris to hit me, I could still be in danger; earthquakes are vicious and human bodies are not invincible. I know I shouldn’t stand, so I sit down then lay on my back. The vibrations of the ground feel almost therapeutic from here. The grass beneath me is red; if I bleed out here, for whatever reason, one will never know it.

My mind wanders to what might be considered a sorrow.

Humanity has been a dying clan for many millennia; the ever-coveted time travel turned out to be the culprit. When humans figured it out and commercialized it, what resulted was a messed up timeline and families destroyed before they were created. Everyone was out for vengeance, especially on the most highly-populated human planets, and then suddenly there were very few of us left. Because I grew up on an isolated, backworld planet, I was one of the few to survive. I witnessed as the remaining leaders of the Interplanetary Hegemony declared the ban on backwards time travel. Starships with the capability to rupture the time-space continuum and thus travel through time were quickly altered to only allow forward time leaps. This would prevent the cataclysmic consequences of splitting timelines. But there’s something haunting about only being able to move forward, in leaps and bounds, without limit. There’s something about it that I was never sure how to feel about.

After that came the immortality. Coincidentally, my home planet turned out to be the key to unlocking it. Some odd chemical compound in the air that slowed aging significantly. The compound is the cure. Our kind had always led abnormally long lives, and with the rest of us on strong dosages of the compound we halted the ailment of aging completely and were finally declared immortals.

Immortals. Such a godly term. The cure to death was humanity’s ultimate triumph over nature. Over God.

Of course, I have worked out that no such god exists. Our world is science.

I have long since reached a kind of perfection because of my godly state. It is not any form of arrogance that prompts me to declare that I know everything and can do just about anything physically possible. When one has been around this long, traits like arrogance and pride become obsolete. Knowledge gloriously triumphs over all within me. Just as I had hypothesized lifetimes ago, given all the time in the world I have been able to reach perfection.

The skies rumble violently and I am pulled out of my reverie. I can feel it approaching. A few more years may do the trick. I tear my gaze from the colorful atmosphere and trudge through the muddy red grass, back to my gray starship, its interior matte and simple. I program it to fast forward me through time. The universe is dying. I may be the last of my kind. The end is near, and the thing I seek comes with it.

I lied; I don’t know everything. There is one last thing. And I need it badly. That one thing that has always eluded me. With it, my knowledge can finally be complete.

Time plays before my eyes as I watch as the planet’s surface decays and overheats. The red grass dies a slow, parched death; the barren ground beneath it cracks and crumbles; the hairline cracks turn to fissures and chasms. Tens of thousands of years are passing in only seconds, while I hover above it all in my starship; a passive observer. The sun turns chaotic and angry. This is it, and my mind is blank.

Finally… that one thing.

I think over my life because this may be it. For once I don’t know what will happen next. It has been long, wonderfully long. Immortality sure did have its perks. Not many could have experienced so much richness as I have.

“Adonis, my child, you have such a bright future ahead of you. Stay safe and live long, okay? And I’ll always be here for you, even if you can’t see me.”

If there is one thing that I truly regret in my life, I think, it is living long enough to witness the end of love.

My family was gone, dead from a strange condition by the time I was 13. But I had a girl in my day. Those days when her name was Lucille and mine was Adonis. I was just a young man, barely an adult, but things were so simple. We knew we were of the last of humans, but we didn’t care. All we needed was each other. And our love was so passionate, comfortable, unquestionable. We could lay in a field and talk for hours on end. We knew every detail about each other. After all that time, my heart still raced when we embraced. The feeling of her lips on mine was so soft and wonderful. Despite all my ignorance, I was so happy with her by my side. Immortality looked like a treat, and we were starving for it. Anything that meant never having to leave her.

For hundreds of years we did everything together. It was remarkably perfect. To never have to leave or be left by the love of my life.

It wasn’t until 8021 years of our life that we experienced a fundamental shift. By that point, we had experienced all there was to experience. Every taste had been tasted, every sight seen again and again, things began to blur even in the present. And I realized that I no longer felt anything that could be considered emotion. The strings that had intertwined our fates irrevocably, laced with each promise, each memory, each loving moment, had disintegrated to dust.

Before I could confront her, she was voicing my thoughts out loud. The feeling was mutual, so that day we parted. We smiled for each other, for one last time. It was not a smile of love, but it was sincere. “I wish you a grand life,” I had said. Then I turned my back and walked away, never faltering or pausing to look back.

“We’ll always be together, right?” She said.

My head rested on her lap, I looked up at her. We had just confessed our love for the first time ever. Our eyes were bright, and as we locked gazes I grinned hugely. “Always,” I promised.

I had never looked back since then, the day we parted. Until now, as I realize how horrible it was that I lost her not to circumstance but to the end of my humanity.

If I still had her, what did it matter how ignorant I was?

Because that’s what it was. When we no longer have the capacity to feel, what are we? I frowned, a foreign expression on my usual blank slate face. If I am not human, what am I? What am I living for? What have I become?

I haven’t come across any question in my head for which I do not have the answer for in ages. It disturbs me. The quickening of my heart feels foreign, and very disturbing.

“Why won’t you take the cure? Aging is a disease. You can save yourself from it! You won’t have to die!” I argued desperately.

Cicero, my best friend, shook his head sadly. “It just doesn’t sound appealing. Not my plate, you know? I don’t have anything to do with that much time. I don’t really share your curiosity.”

I could not comprehend his argument. Admittedly, I wasn’t trying very hard. I knew that I was right, and that his side defied all logic and instinct. I was beside myself with frustration. “How about Hellen! Did you think of her? She’ll watch you die! It would destroy her. How could you do that to her?”

“She’s not taking the cure either. We’re in this together.” He replied calmly.

“Auugh… well then… how about me? I’ll watch you… die…” I mumbled, feeling defeated.

“I am sorry… but…”

“But what? You are making the biggest mistake of your life! I’m worried about you, Cicero,” I said.

He had the nerve to chuckle discreetly. I pretended not to notice, but I inwardly seethed. “Worried about me? Addy, I’m worried about you. I… its just I…”

It crosses my mind that perhaps I should have never volunteered so greedily for immortality.

Maybe… maybe… but, that one last thing.

Or maybe nothing was worth the agony of losing the capacity to love. It was so much worse than the agony of losing her while I was still in love. Falling out of the strongest love was a nightmare come true. Falling out of feeling.

What have I become?

Why all these questions? Why all these memories? Why now?

“You what? Stop beating around the bush! Out with it!” I yelled, impatient with him.

Cicero looked sad, disappointed somehow. “I hope you have some sense about this. The cure is not all bad but… When you’re cured, immortal, enlightened, or whatever… I hope you can quit while you’re ahead… or at least, know when to cut your losses. The problem with the cure is tha-”

“Whatever, Cicero, whatever,” I waved his statement off and walked away. I would hear no more of his nonsense, and this subject would never be discussed between us again.

Irritated, I crank the machine into full-fledged fast forward speed. The years will go by faster now. I will finally learn this one last thing, and the cure will all have been worth it. In an impulse decision, I break the intricate lever in the control panel for good measure. There will be no going back now. The planet before me is turning to dust; the skies above are darkening as the stars go out, one by one.

That last piece of the puzzle… will I find it now? Is this what you want me to do? Have I done well?

The perfection I have reached is false. A jaded perfection, I realize. And now, in this jaded nightmare, I wonder…. Where is it? That one thing?

The closest sun is flaring. I am powerless to do anything but sit and watch. I am utterly helpless and nervous.

In all honesty, I don’t want to die.

“I don’t really like embracing the unknown… it is unwise,” I stuttered as Lucille tugged on my arm.

“Come on, you silly boy. It’s just a dark cave. You’ve braved worse.” She said with a roll of her eyes.

I could deal with one unknown variable, but this entailed many. And I wasn’t ready to leave this world, not now and not ever, if something went wrong. There was too much at stake, in this foreign planet, while I was out of my element. The vibe I received from that cave was unsettling; I felt myself ill at ease and nervous. I was determined not to set foot in that cave, despite Lucille’s persistence.

I had wormed my way out of going in the dark cave that time. I smooth-talked the girl into staying on the beach with me. Now things are different.

Death will feel pleasant, I imagine, like closing my eyes for an afternoon nap. I tell myself this, but I know I don’t believe it. The dark cave has always loomed over me in the background of my life, haunting me. I had stayed away from it for so long – but now it was impatient and engulfing my world. Progressing towards me too quickly, and this time I am all alone.

I don’t want to die.

“Adonis, please understand our viewpoint,” Hellen tried to explain. “When you steal the power of death from nature, it comes at a terrible price.”

I crossed my arms and grimaced. Another lecture. Just what I needed.

She continued, “I’m sure Cicero told you this but… after you are ‘cured’, there’s only one way out. And it’s a terrible burden, to have to choose between suicide or insanity. Because nobody can live forever without losing their mind. Nature is merciful; it never intended for us to have to make that choice.”

I can feel it closing in. The darkness of the cave, seeping through the walls. I can hear my disembodied voice screaming out of fear, ecstasy, or relief. Not even the latest and greatest time vehicle models can withstand the impacts of a collapsing planet, ruined by its dying star.

Now I am sobbing because I see Lucille, and my brain hurts, but she’s reaching out and I won’t walk away from her this time. Because she is the key to who I used to be when I was a real human, and that’s what matters.

“You have always had such bright, beautiful blue eyes.”

My heart is racing, throbbing too violently. Threatening to beat out of my chest. Sights and smells and sounds blur together. I can hear the colors, I can see the sound of my ragged breathing, I can taste my racing mind.

“So eager to learn. You’ll go many places, young one.”

My beats are numbered and I cling onto them so desperately. What is this strong ache that’s tugging at my nerves? It feels like something deeper and more agonizing than my physical pain. This doesn’t make sense.

“Hey Addy, remember me when you’re an ancient artifact one day.”

The temperature is rising. The walls are denting, caving in. It hurts, everything hurts. Hopelessness. Despair.

“I lost my first tooth big brother! This is my last first tooth ever.”

There’s nothing left for me in this world.

It’s not a cure. It’s a poison.”

That one last thing,

“He has a zest for life,”

No longer matters.

“I have faith in this one”

I exhale my last breath, feeling lighter somehow. Relieved of my duties.

“You’ll never get it all. There’s always something more undiscovered, but you can always be content with what you have now. It’s why you’re happy and alive.”

“That may be true for you. But not for me. I love this world and I love being alive; I want to explore it all. That’s why I need the cure.”

After all this time, I am still afraid. I have been scared all along, but now nothing can possibly be worse than staying here for another moment.

The dark cave looks so enticing, frightening, beautiful. Surrounding me on all sides. Goodbye, world,

“What an odd feeling, this cure… will I really last forever now?”

I am leaving. I am….


Marissa Davila is an Economics student at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is minoring in Creative Writing, with an interest to becoming a short story writer.

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“Not Like L.A. ,” Josh tan

“Don’t forget to comb your hair!” Her voice bounced off the walls of Jordan’s house.

“Yes Mom!” Jordan sighed as he straightened up his black hair with the comb. He hated doing this, but his mom had a good point. First day in a new school, might as well leave a good impression. He looked down at his watch and saw there were only a few minutes before his mom said that they were going to leave. Jordan rushed down the stairs, his hair freshly combed.

“You excited for your new school? I hear it’s one of the best in the area.” Jordan’s mom beamed at him as she asked these questions. He shrugged. It’s not like he had a choice in what school he went. He definitely didn’t have a choice in the moving decision.

“I guess…I wonder what Randy and Shaun are doing?” Jordan’s mom handed him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as she scavenged around the kitchen. Must’ve lost her car keys again.

“No, honey. Don’t do that again. You know we had to move here, and thinking about how your old friends are doing won’t help the change. I’m sure they’re doing fine, and you can call them later, but I want you to focus on your first day here!”

“Okay mom…I will, don’t worry.” His mom found her keys and they both walked to the car. The drive wasn’t that long, definitely wasn’t as bad as the bus rides in the city. L.A. traffic was the worst, and being out in the relatively open countryside roads really emphasized that.

“Jordan, I think there may be some sort of spirit week? I don’t know, the principal sent us a letter earlier in the week but it wasn’t really clear. Just don’t worry about anything odd you see.” Odd? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Isn’t this just school?

“What do you mean-“ The car stopped, and there in front of them was the school, Beachwood High. There was a gate outside of the drop off area, and you could see several students entering. Some were in a rush, while others were casually strolling along.

“Have a nice day now!” Jordan essentially felt discarded as he left the car. It was just different having her be the one to drop him off instead of some random bus driver. It’s not like being left answerless by a forty year old portly bus driver would evoke such a feeling that he now felt with his mom leaving him. Dammit, forget that, what did she mean by “weird”? Ugh, what a weird way to start the Spring semester.

“Hey man, what’s up! You must be the new kid, right?” Jordan was in awe. Nothing could really describe what he had just seen…this was definitely what his mom meant by “weird”.

“What the hell is up with your hair?” The skinny red haired kid standing in front of Jordan was not what he had expected to see on his first day at his new school. No, this was not your ordinary reddish-orange hair. Nope, this was red like the Crayola color. It looked like it was a wig, which prompted Jordan to do another thing he didn’t expect to do on his first day at his new school. He reached over, and pulled the kid’s hair.”

“Owwwww! What the hell, man? I was just saying hi! Why’d you have to go and do that for?” Yep, it was real all right. The kid rubbed his scalp as Jordan let go.

“I’m sorry! I thought it was a wig!”

“So instead of asking, you just pull on it?”

“Well…I mean I did ask…”

“You didn’t give me time to answer! Jesus, is this middle school or something?” This day just started and it already wasn’t going well. “Anyway, as I was saying earlier, I’m Shinji Matsumoto.” Jordan looked Shinji up and down.

“You’re not…but…” Jordan could’ve sworn that this was the whitest kid he’s ever seen. There was no hint of any Asian heritage could be seen.

“I’m not what? Japanese? Oh no, but I identify more with the culture, so I changed my name. I’m actually Nick. Anyway, follow me.” Jordan followed Nic-well, okay fine. Jordan followed “Shinji” through the crowded halls of his new high school, Beachwood High. There were many calls to Shinji, several people saying they like his hair, and how it was looking a lot better than the turquoise color he had it beforehand.

Jordan plopped down at a desk beside Shinji, and they waited for homeroom period to begin. The bell rang, and a husky balding man entered the room. He had a monocle, and his mustache had a Teddy Roosevelt thing going.

“Ahem! Good morning class. I just wanted to welcome our new student today. His name is Jordan, and he comes from America! Would you please stand up Jordan?” A wide collective gasp was heard around the room. Jordan stood up, bewildered at the surprise. What was so surprising about being from America? This was America? What’s going on? “Please introduce yourself!”

“Oh. Uh, as you guys already know, I’m Jordan. Jordan Smith. I…just moved from L.A. to…here? Anyway, I love basketball, and video games. Another hobby of mine is watching anime.” Jordan saw Shinji’s expression brighten up at this news. Everyone clapped and cheered; yet Jordan saw a few people roll their eyes and scoff.

“Thank you Jordan, you may take a seat. I am Mr. Miwasaki. I hope you enjoy your stay at our school, now please sit down again.” Jordan sat down…but recognized something. Miwasaki? This dude looked like he was from some sort of bloated up Ned Flanders. Something didn’t add up. Jordan sat back down, and listened to all of his classmate’s introductions. Many of them were enthusiastic, while some were hardly anything you could call passionate. There was one similarity however: they all had Japanese names.

“Man, I can’t wait till the football game today! How about you Wes?” This blonde dude in the back of the classroom was awaiting the answer. This “Wes” guy sitting right next to him never responded, and instead nudged his friend. “What dude? Aren’t you…oh, that’s right. Sorry. Daisuke-san, are you excited for the American football game today? I can’t wait for the match up.” This dude’s excitement went from 100 to 0 pretty quickly, and this time around his voice was fairly monotone.

Homeroom ended, and Jordan followed Shinji. Shinji grabbed Jordan’s schedule, and scanned it. He nodded and smiled at his new friend. “Yep, we have the same schedule! We’re off to theater right now.” Shinji grabbed Jordan’s hand and ran off. The locomotive that was their friendship immediately derailed as Shinji accidently ran into a girl, Sakura, who was in their homeroom period. All three of them fell. Jordan shook his head. He brushed himself off and looked in front of him to see what he thought was the sure end of Shinji. Shinji, whether it was mistake or not, accidently grabbed onto Sakura’s boobs. He immediately jumped up, and bowed down.

“I am so so so sorry Sakura! I didn’t mean to-“ Sakura’s hand smashed into Shinji’s face. He flew away, almost comically so. In fact, there’s no way a punch like that could send him flying at all. He stood up, and yelled “Meet me up later Jordan! Sakura is also in theater!” He ran off, fearing Sakura’s rage.

Jordan slowly turned around. He was horrified at the situation Shinji had left him with. He looked, and saw that Sakura’s bright pink hair (yes, bright pink hair) was gone. It was replaced with a chestnut brown. Sakura picked up her wig and stood up, brushing off dust from the collision. What was rage before was now a peaceful calm.

“Sorry about that. We can walk together to theater if you want!” Jordan concluded that the theme of the day was going to be “What the Fuck is Going On?” day, so he just shook his head and accepted the offer.

“Sure.” Sakura placed the wig back onto her head, and continued led Jordan down the hallway.

“Are you liking it so far here?”

“I’m not sure what to make of it, really. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, Sakura.”

“Oh, my name is Sara by the way.”

“You see? Like that. I have no idea why you’re being called Sakura. Or why Nick is Shinji? Or why Mr. Walrus is called Mr. Miwasaki?” Sakura burst out in laughter.

“Oh. My. God. Mr. Walrus!” She kept on chuckling at the wise crack. Jordan, hoping that she’d reveal more about this school, was let down…by his own joke.

They made it to theater class a little bit later than expected. The teacher was very easy going, did not care what the class was doing the whole time. It was essentially another free period. Shinji had his arm around this one girl, doing what could only be called flirting.

“Shinji, you’re such a pervert. Could you get away from me?”

“Come onnnn, all I said was how pretty you were!” Jordan looked to his left and saw that Sakura was gone. He turned around and saw her pull Shinji by the ear away. She pulled him away, her face as crimson red. People back in L.A. would’ve been able to hear her yelling.

“SHINJI!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

“You always say you’re sorry, yet you don’t change. Just leave, stop bothering Senpai so much!”

Shinji left the room; his head hung low. Senpai? Jordan felt like he was plopped in the middle of an Anime, yet no one seemed to acknowledge anything weird, even the teachers. His head was aching. Nothing like this ever happened back in L.A., not even remotely close.

“Hey, you’re the new kid right? Jordan-san?” This tall, built kid stood in front of him. Maybe he was one of the football players playing in the game later today?

“Yeah, just call me Jordan. What’s your name?”

“Oh me?” The guy puffed out his chest and smiled. He put his foot on a chair, as if he was promoting spiced rum. He pointed both his thumbs towards himself, with a level of grandiosity rarely seen. “I’m Yosuke, you’re senpai!” There was this   silence in the air after this proclamation. Was he awaiting applause?

“My senpai? Bro, I don’t really understand much of what is going on right now, and I don’t think I can really-“

“Oh I totally understand man, I don’t understand any of this anime crap. They just gave us ‘roles’ to fill, and this sounded like the closest to who I was. ‘The buffoon older brother’ type. Trust me man, not a lot of us here understand what’s going on. Check it out.” Yosuke handed Jordan a pamphlet. “There’s only a few more days left in the week, so better pick a role!”

Jordan flipped through the pages, and what he saw was unbelievable. He read out a couple of the terms listed in the pamphlet. “Tsundere: person who is initially mean and angry, but eventually show that they are caring and kind.” Right next to the definition was a picture of Sakura from the anime Naruto, who would’ve definitely fit the bill of tsundere. The list went on and on, with each word picking up in complexity. Jordan thought he knew most of the words, but as the list progressed, he soon realized how many tropes and roles there were to fill in anime. The volume of words and the absurdity of it all gave Jordan a headache.

Jordan raised his hand. “Ms. Miyamoto” peeked over the book she was reading.

“Yes Jordan-san?”

“Uh, it’s just Jordan. Can I go to the restroom?” She dismissed him, and he got out of his chair leaving behind the still smiling Yosuke. He walked down the hall a bit before he realized he made a tragic flaw. Shit, where’s the bathroom? Inspired by the apparent theme of the day, Jordan got on his knees, looked at the sky, and cried in despair. He chuckled as he got up. Maybe it was fun to just go with the flow with this whole “Anime” theme going on.

“There you are! I see you’re enjoying the school so far.” Jordan looked back over his shoulder and saw Sakura leaning against the wall.

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. It’s certainly been the most entertaining first day of school I’ve had.”

“Yeah, sorry about that by the way.” Sakura played with the tips of her pink wig. She blushed as she did so, and avoided eye contact

“Sorry about what?”

“Sorry about all the hoopla. We’ve grown pretty used to it, and having someone new come in and seeing all this made it very embarrassing.”

“Oh, what’s so wrong about this? You mean all schools aren’t like this?” Jordan’s joke fell flat, as Sakura’s face grew more serious. “Wait, what’s wrong Sakura?”

“Well, I guess you should know sooner or later why we’re all like this. Why I’m, as Shinji may call it, ‘tsundere’”.

“Well…the question has definitely been on my mind.” Jordan pointed at the pamphlet he got from Yosuke as he said this.

“Ok, so-“ The fire alarm went off. The blaring horn sounds filled the hallways, and Sakura looked down at her watch. She shook her head, and smiled. What sounded like a huge explosion came from outside. The classroom doors swung open, and many people started running. Hysteria filled the school. Jordan had no idea what to do; he ducked down, praying to every deity out in the ether.

“What is happening???” Sakura clasped one of Jordan’s hands. She patted Jordan’s head, and smiled once more.

“Calm down, let’s check outside.” The two slowly walked through the mob of students, and pushed themselves through the crowded front doors of the school. What Jordan saw in front of him was astounding. There was some sort of Lovecraftian monster outside. Couldn’t have been more than six feet tall, but it didn’t stop. There were horns protruding from not only its deformed head, but also its jagged torso. What was truly horrifying though was who stood in front of the monster.

“Shinji! Run!” Everyone was screaming this, as Shinji stood quietly in front of the beast. He raised his hand, trying to calm down the crowd.

“It’s fine everyone, I got this! Shinji won’t let you down!” Shinji’s face began to glow, excitement pouring out from him. He dashed towards the beast, and tackled it. The monster flew back, but composed itself, and countered. The two exchanged blows, neither letting up. Jordan couldn’t compose himself. No one seemed to want to help Shinji.

“Sakura, wait here.”

“Wait, Jordan! You don’t-“ Jordan ran into the fray. The monster, although intimidating, was shorter than Jordan. With it distracted, he felt like he could get one punch in.

“Shinji, duck!” Shinji, surprised at this, did as he was told. Jordan leaped, his fist flying towards the monster. Expecting some sort of alien acid to burn him as he made contact, Jordan braced for the pain. The haymaker landed, yet Jordan was surprised. Nothing happened to his hand, other than the pain normally associated with punching someone. Someone.

The monster flew back, not nearly as intimidating as before. It looked back at the crowd, mumbled some weird archaic noises, and ran off. Shinji hugged Jordan and then raised his hand. “Jordan-san! He protected all of us, we have another protector!” The crowd began chanting, alternating between yelling Shinji and Jordan.

“Jordan, thank you so much for your help. These monsters have been really piling since a month ago.”

“Shinji…what’s going on? That monster…was a-“

“I must bid you adieu, I have to rest up for class. These fights can get really tiring. Sakura has the same schedule as me, you can just follow her.”

Shinji walked off. Sakura grabbed Jordan’s arm, and before he could ask what was going on, dragged him away. They soon found themselves in an empty classroom. “Jordan, what the hell was that?”

“I…I don’t know? All I wanted to do is help Shinji!”

“We all do! That’s why we’re all doing this!” She threw off the wig, her eyes locked onto his. Her eyes were welling up, and she constantly wiped the tears away, but never lost eye contact with Jordan.

“Sakura-I mean, Sara, what is happening. Please.” Sara, dropping the whole tsundere anime trope, calmed down. She dropped the wig, and sat down in one of the desk chairs. Jordan did the same, and was ready to listen.

“Nick…is sick, lung cancer. He’s always been one of my best friends, and the day the news broke out, the school was devastated. He always tried to play it off coolly, never wanting to bother anyone. But in the past year, his health has deteriorated, and it doesn’t look like he’ll make it to graduation.” Jordan, shocked to hear all this, clutched Sara’s hand, and tried to comfort her as she talked. “The Make a Wish Foundation heard from Nick’s parents how much he loved anime, and came to the school with a plan. They were willing to fund costumes, make up, and special effects. They wanted to make sure that Nick could live the life that he always wanted to. As you can tell, most of the school doesn’t really know what to do, but hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the month.”

“Okay…I think I’m going to head home for now, let the teachers know I feel sick and I’ll hope to be back tomorrow.” Jordan left the classroom, leaving Sara all by herself. Everything made sense now. All the elaborate schemes, and eccentric characters all made sense. Jordan didn’t know what to think of the whole thing. It was madness to see this many people buy in to such a thing. Back home in Cali, there were only a few people Jordan could truly call his friend, but everyone here seems so close, and so willing to help out in the smallest ways to make Nick feel better. It made no sense at all.

In the hallway, you could see several students high fiving Nick who was approaching him. One girl, couldn’t have been older than a freshman, tripped on someone’s shoes. She fell down, smacking her knees against the hard ground, and her green wig flew off. A couple of people chuckled, but not Nick. No, this was the most serious he had seen Nick. Nick feel down to his knees, and patted the girl’s shoulders as he tended to her knee. His voice was faint, but was still audible.

“Hey, Summer. Are you okay?” She had staggered breathing, and anyone could see she was about to cry. Her knee was pretty red, and she was tearing up because of the chuckling around them. Jordan hushed the surrounding students, and went straight back to attending to Summer.

“Yeah…thank you sen-“

“No. You don’t need to do that right now, you’re hurt. Please, don’t let all these people around you bother you. You’re stronger than that. I know you.” The girl looked up, her eyes growing wetter as she couldn’t contain it anymore. She hugged Nick and sobbed, with a few “thank you” ‘s thrown in there. Jordan understood now. Everything made sense. This is why.

Nick stood up, and made sure that Summer stood up and went home. He brushed off his shoulders and looked up to see Jordan.

“Hey Jordan! Oh my god, what the hell was that earlier? Jeez, I would’ve been toast if you didn’t help me out. Crazy first day, right?”

“Shinji…”

“And then you have Sakura always tripping. She’ll come around some day. I really worry about her sometimes. That temper of hers needs to chill.”

“Nick.”

“I don’t know why, these things seem to always happen around here.”

“Nick.” Jordan patted Nick on the shoulder. “I need to ask a question.”

A long paused filled the air. The hallways emptied out, and Nick was going to be late to class.

“I’m not dumb.”

“Huh?”

“I’m not dumb. I know all this is fake. I know this is just a dream before I wake up and everything is horrible again. I’m sorry I dragged you into this, it definitely shouldn’t have been the first impression you had of this school. The people are awesome. The people here are truly people I care about. We’ve been through so much, whether it is sports, theater, and just plain ol’ class. I love it here. I’ll let everyone know to stop all of this so you can get a true understanding of how Beachwood High is. It’s a really special place.” The ever so confident Nick showed his soft side for once. The façade was over. Gone was the bombastic player, the flashy warrior, the lovable pervert. The person standing in front of Jordan was Nick, Sara’s best friend, who would only have a little time left on this earth.

“What are you talking about man? I was just wondering what color I should get my hair dyed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I mean, hey man, you weren’t the only one to stop that monster earlier! I was the one that caused it to run! I need a kickass hairdo like you man, if we’re going to hunt them down and all.” Jordan pointed at Nick’s scarlet hair. Nick sniffled, and wiped his eyes before smiling at raising a thumbs up.

“Of course! And you definitely should go for blue hair. It’d be a good contrast! Come on, let’s go to math, ‘Mr. Miwasaki’ is teaching it!” The two rushed in to class. The wild commotion that was the class after ‘Shinji’ beat the monster was to be expected. Jordan sat down, and was feeling better. The random bright hair colors that filled the room didn’t confuse him anymore. The tsunderes, yanderes, and all the different types of deres didn’t perplex him. All the tropes regarding anime filled the room, but it didn’t bother him anymore. All he could do was smile at the fact that all of these people were doing this for their friend. Even the begrudging kids in the back of the room put on a strong face for Nick. This was all not because Nick was this “Shinji” character, but because Nick was Nick, a genuinely nice person. Now that’s something you can’t find much of in L.A. Oh, and seeing Mr. Miwasaki with a broken nose also made Jordan chuckle.

“The Purists,” Samuel Antezana

The subject had been visited within the last 12 minutes to confirm if he was in good condition. Nothing appeared to be wrong with him, except for the fact that he reeked of urine and shit, plus he begged. Poor bastard didn’t know that begging turned this master on even more. This master loved beggars.

Master had been the most recent of the organization selected to conduct the purification ceremony. Whenever a master reached the age of 60 they were required to step down and submit a form suggesting who in the organization should take his or her position.

Jonathan Rames, a man of great standing, a man of great character and a man of no remorse, had been the suggestion of the previous master. Jonathan had great experience in the art of purifying, which he began acquiring at a young age, as he had skewered his elder brother Stewart at the ripe age of 14.

Stewart Rames was also a man of great standing, but a man of poor character and a man who enjoyed torturing his youngest brother, Jonathan. Jonathan and Stewart had been home alone, as they most often were, because Mr. and Mrs. Rames had attended one of their weekly meetings with the company they were in charge of. They also did not bother too much with their sons, as their business was most important. These meetings stretched on to the late hours of the night, giving Stewart the chance to bond with his brother.

Stewart’s idea of bonding was tying Jonathan’s hands up to his bed-post, binding his feet together and leaving small cuts on the most unnoticeable areas of his body, such as under his armpits and his testicles.

“Now younger brother, remember what happens if you tell mommy and daddy, I won’t be as forgiving next time,” Stewart had said, waving a finger in Jonathan’s face.

Jonathan remained quite, like he always was, paralyzed with fear, drenched in sweat, a predicament he had grown very familiar with.

“How about this, since I see you think I’m being unfair. I’ll give you some type of an advantage okay? How does that suit you?”

Jonathan looked at his brother, his mouth chattering.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Stewart untied Jonathan and tossed him to the floor with a smack from his right hand.

Stewart set a kitchen knife in the middle of their bedroom and told Jonathan to place his back to the other side of the room, behind the bed, while he himself went to the other side of the room, with nothing obstructing his path. Stewart had told Jonathan that if he were to reach the knife first then the torture would carry on, but if Jonathan were to reach it then it would come to an end.

Little did Jonathan know, his brother was playing a cruel joke on him, one that would cause Jonathan to break in a way that neither of them could have been prepared for.

Stewart lifted up his left hand and signaled, “One! Two! Three! GO!”

Jonathan pushed himself off the wall with both of his hands as hard as he could, bouncing on top of the bed and propelling himself to the floor near the knife. Meanwhile, Stewart had not moved a muscle.

Jonathan lifted up the knife in both of his hands, staring at it.

Stewart slowly began clapping and walking towards his brother who remained in the center of the room.

“Lovely brother, simply lovely. I’m sure you wonder why I did not move. Can’t you see I could have never beaten your speed. You’ve always been faster than me,” Stewart explained calmly, while walking towards his brother.

Jonathan remained still, an expression of wonder beginning to fill his face as he continued to stare at the blade in his hands.

Stewart stopped in front of Jonathan, smiling.

“Hand it over idiot” he said, chuckling.

However, Jonathan was no longer there at that moment. He had been transported to a realm of power, one where he was free to do what he wanted, where he wanted and to whomever he wanted to.

“Are you deaf?”

Jonathan returned to the room. His brother’s words echoed within his mind, then as if on cue, he began thrusting the knife into his brother’s fat stomach, revealing his intestines.

Stewart screamed as he witnessed the transformation of his brother, he was no longer his pet. Something had awakened within him, something that could not be reasoned with. Stewart’s screams of pain were ecstasy to Jonathan. He felt the essence of power control every movement within his body, every cut being made.

When Mr. and Mrs. Rames returned home from their meeting, they went upstairs and found Jonathan sleeping on his bed. However, Stewart lay on the floor in a pool of blood beside Jonathan’s bed, his stomach torn open, two of his ribs sawed off and placed into his eye sockets, his heart in his mouth.

Jonathan was taken away to a police station where investigators asked him why he did it. However, no response was to be found. Jonathan was not himself.

Jonathan had not given any information to the police.

“You’re not getting out of this kid, even if we can’t lock you up here, we’ll lock you up in juvi! So, just tell us what we need to know!” said one of the frustrate investigators.

It was useless. Jonathan would not talk to anyone, not even his parents, who were horrified of him.

“Jonathan darling, please tell these good men what they need to know, you’re not making things any more easy,” his mother would say.

A couple of days past and Jonathan would still not say anything to anyone. But on one particular afternoon at the police station, Jonathan’s silence was disrupted by an officer who stepped into the holding room where he spent all day in. He looked at Jonathan, a disgusted look on his face.

“A letter for you, here,” he said, placing the enveloped on the table in front of Jonathan.

Jonathan was surprised. He did not know of anyone in the outside world who would want to make contact with him. His parents barely even kept in touch before the incident, now that he was a murdered, they would try to keep further away from him.

He examine the envelope before opening it. It was a plane white envelope, as common as any. However, in the center of the white surface was a symbol.

The symbol had a white dove in the middle, with a snake surrounding it.

Jonathan took up the envelope and ripped the letter open. Within it lay a short message.

Dear Jonathan,

It is to you that we wish our sincerest apologies. We have only recently been told of your ghastly predicament and we wish to offer our services to you. Yes, this may come off as very strange to you, but we have kept are eye on you ever since we came in contact with your parents at one of their meetings. You are very special Jonathan and we want to tell you so much more about us, about our organization. Therefore, we have dispatched one of our finest attorneys to come and aid you in answering the questions presented to you by the police and help you when your case comes to court. We’ll be meeting soon Jonathan, until then: farewell.

  Sincerely,

The Purists

Jonathan was completely confused, yet fascinated by the letter and who this organization really was, and even though he did not know the people who had written him the letter, the letter interested him.

The next day, Jonathan was visited by the attorney that was mentioned in the letter. His name was Mr. Rolfe.

“Jonathan my boy, we will get you out of here in no time. Trust me,” he calmly told Jonathan.

Jonathan looked at Mr. Rolfe and for the first time in a very long time, he smiled.

The next week was Jonathan’s court hearing. However, it was swiftly handled by Mr. Rolfe, who new how to maneuver his way about the law, like a shark beneath the water, the prosecution did not see this man coming.

As the letter had foreseen, Jonathan was freed. Mr. Rolfe bid his young client a gentle farewell, saying that The Purists “have wonderful things planned for your future.”

Jonathan was completely mesmerized by the idea of these people.

As soon as Mr. Rolfe left Jonathan outside of the courthouse, his parents came to his side, completely shocked and hesitantly asked him, “do you want to go home now Jonathan?”

Jonathan turned to them, looking into there eyes, for the first time since the incident.

“Stewart deserved what he got.”

They looked at the stranger that was their son, horrified at what they had just heard him say.

Jonathan turned away from them and walked across to the other side of the street and walked.

Later that day, he was met by a member of the organization, the individual who had written the letter.

“Jonathan, we have much to discuss my lad,” he said, with a smile on his face. “My name is Mr. Teller.”

“I want to know everything about The Purists,” said Jonathan, smiling.

“We will teach you everything.”

“I want to start now.”

“Of course!”

The man talked with Jonathan as they walked throughout the city. He told him the history of the organization known as The Purists. They were a secretive group, an underground society of sorts, who specialized in the torture of people for clients who paid the highest amounts to have them kidnapped. He also spoke of an individual within the organization known as “The Master.” The Master was the leader of The Purists, and Teller told Jonathan that he had garnered much interest within him.

“I want to meet The Master,” said Jonathan.

“That is where we are going my boy,” said Teller.

Jonathan did not realize that he had already met him. He was walking right beside him during their whole conversation.

The member who saw promise in the boy was the most recent master of the organization, James Teller.

Jonathan would not realize this until he was much older. However, Teller would pass away, which was the only way Jonathan found out that his old friend was The Master.

Teller had nominated the now older Jonathan. He remembered the blood lust in the boy’s eyes when he first saw him down at the courthouse during the afternoon of his release. Teller also realized that Jonathan would become detached from his subjects when it came time for work, because of how cruelly he had disfigured his own brother’s body. In Teller’s eyes, Jonathan was a perfect heir.

 “What did you say?” Jonathan asked his subject.

“PLEASE! DON’T DO THIS! I’LL PAY ANYTHING, PLEASE LET ME GO!” the man screamed, squirming on the table he was tied to.

Jonathan’s senses were heightened. He had been launched back to the moment his brother had begged him to stop stabbing him. The feeling was magnificent, it was an overwhelming feeling of ecstasy that filled his stomach and made his mind soar.

He picked up his favorite tool, the tool he has used on his brother on the day of his reawakening. The kitchen knife.

He began by making a slow incision across the man’s scalp, just like the customer had requested.

Take your time with this one, will you?

The man shrieked sharply, but Jonathan could not hear it. The initial begging of the man had driven him to the level of concentration and lethality that was activated when his brother lay on the floor of his bedroom when he was 14.

“This won’t be over soon.” Jonathan calmly whispered. “I was given orders to make you feel every second of this. Personally, I would be much messier, but hey, the customer is always right.”

The man gasped for air frantically, hoping that someone would know he was stuck here. He let out one final phrase, “Someone has to know I’m down here. They will come looking for me.”

“Darling,” smiled Jonathan as he lifted up his power drill from underneath the table, “you’re starting to bother me. I will have to disappoint the customer this time around. I hope they can understand once they see you. Oh well.”

The power drill echoed throughout the room as the man shrieked for what seemed like a lifetime to Jonathan. His best memories of life would lay rooted in this room and he would enjoy taking the life of every subject he received.

Thanks big brother.


Samuel Antezana is the author of this story. Samuel is a 20 year old Horror movie lover and Hip-Hop fanatic. On his spare time, he likes to write scary short stories or play video games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

           

 

 

Got stakes?

The thing that makes any story interesting and worth reading is conflict. Fortunately, it comes in various forms with the broadest categories being internal conflict and external conflict, growing from setting and characters in addition to the expected problems related to plot.

A tutorial created by Grace Sabella, a writer on DeviantArt, talks about some methods to developing conflict in a story. Something from the tutorial that has really stuck with me since I read it a while ago is the idea of creating the antagonist of a story before the protagonist so that they can complement each other well for the purposes of the story. This can also help to avoid flat villains/antagonists in longer works where many arcs have already been conceptualized and there is the danger that the hero will be much more fleshed out in contrast somewhere down the line. If possible, the hero can be tailored to have the ability to counter each of these conflicts before the writing even begins, and without possibly resorting to a deus ex machina at some point. That is just one of her points.

Writing Exercise

What do you dream about at night?  Do you remember your dreams?

For one week, when you wake up in the morning, write down what you dreamed of the night before.  Put as much detail as you can into the entry of the dream.  Later, come back to the entries and see if you can fabricate a story around the dream, or maybe connect the dreams to create an even more enticing story.

SOC-socking you in the head?

Why is love lost such a popular topic? Love lost can be talked about. It can be said many things can be said. I could say love lost is the blight of a woman. But it’s not. What is it really? If you ask a star to speak with you all you’ll get is its light asking you why it took you so long to notice it. The star might be dead already. It could have already been it could have become a black hole. A black hole that is the most critical and significant of all. The one that bring an end to the universe, sucking and sucking and sucking everything into it. Because of a love lost?

You can be surprised by the kind of things you get out of writing in stream-of consciousness. Admittedly, it may not have been appealing in several of the places where you’ve seen it, but some instances can have proper punctuation and not make you want to turn your brain off. This article by Danielle Duvick provides some uses for stream-of-consciousness writing, including, interestingly, demystifying a character you have not quite figured out. It includes a practice excercise, and the author’s examples.

Discussion: “Black Box,” Jennifer Egan

Please use the following questions as a starting point for your response to the Jennifer Egan story “Black Box”. You don’t need to answer all of the questions, or even answer any of them in full, but please keep your response focused and relevant.

  • This story was initially published via Twitter (you can read a tweet-by-tweet archive of it here).  What sort of opportunities and constraints does such a format present? How do you see the influence of this form on the story?
  • What is defamiliarized in this story, and how? What tools does Egan use to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar here?

Discussion: “Sexy,” Jhumpa Lahiri

Please use the following questions as a starting point for your response to the Jhumpa Lahiri story “Sexy”. You don’t need to answer all of the questions, or even answer any of them in full, but please keep your response focused and relevant.

  • How do the stories of these two women, Miranda and Laxmi’s cousin, complement one another? What is Lahiri accomplishing by juxtaposing them in this way?
  • This is very much a story about stuff–eye cream, the silver dress–and places–like the Mapparium, and Rohin’s obsession with world capitals. What role do you see commodities playing in this story? What about locations, and geography?
  • What do you make of Rohin’s visit? What effect does his arrival have on this story?

Famous Authors and why they Suck

Yesterday afternoon a very close friend of mine (who for her sake will remain nameless) sent me a very interesting article that she thought I would find interesting. The article, which can be found here, is a criticism of Eric Arthur Blair or, as you probably know him by, George Orwell. Orwell is widely considered to be one of the most influential writers of all time, being placed second on The Times list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945,” yet Steven Poole, author of the article, accuses Orwell’s “assault on political euphemism” to be what he describes as “righteous but limited.” He also claims that what Orwell “perceives to be bad style [is] often outright ridiculous.” While the article continues from there to further criticize and blame Orwell, the theme of the article got me thinking. Are there any authors who are generally considered to be “incredible” and “revolutionary,” that you simply cannot stand? Personally, I find myself wishing I could stomach the writing style of J. R. R. Tolkien, as I absolutely love The Lord of the Rings. Obviously it’s not his concept that doesn’t agree with me, but his unnecessarily long-winded descriptions that seem to plague every other page of his writing. The only book of his I enjoyed was The Hobbit.

What I ask of those of you, who will take the time to read this, is to take a moment to think about some authors who are extremely well regarded, that you find yourself hating. What is it about their work do you not like? Why don’t you like it? More importantly, what does this dislike say about you as a writer? Has it influenced the way you’ve grown as a writer? I think this mental exercise could be extremely beneficial to all us, or at the very least, it’ll be very interesting.