Friday, April 18, 2014

The Light and The Dark

By: Krystalyn

For just over a year, darkness has engulfed the house. Dark halls. Dark conversations. Dark magic.  

I didn't know whether the witch was my mother or father, but I saw the rat skulls hidden in the corners, and I smelled the blood-soaked threads in the hems of my dresses. I longed to find out, but I often couldn't remember what I had done during the day, much less piece together any theory that made sense.

I lurked behind doors and tried to follow the muted discussions between Mother and the chef. They always led to more questions.

"...the cellar is the best place..."

For what? To find rats or to store spices?

"...the expected outcome..."

The outcome of a spell or a recipe?

Father was as much of an enigma. He wandered the gardens, picking herbs and twisting the heads off of flowers. There were certainly reasonable explanations for that. Mother liked to place flower petals and scented herbs in her dresser to keep her clothes smelling fresh. But I had also read in a very old book that those same herbs could be used in spell-casting. I didn't have the stomach to read the complete spells so I didn't know what outcomes could be expected. Nothing good, I was certain.

Once, I asked my maid about it.

"Martha, have you noticed anything odd lately? Anything," I glanced to my door to make sure no one was listening, "wrong? I have too many holes in my memory. I think it's witchcraft."

Her face contorted into a frightened grimace. "Oh miss! You mustn't talk about such things. Stay on the path, you hear me? Stay on the path."

When I lifted up my skirt and showed her the thread, she skittered away like a nervous mouse. I liked her, but I wished she had the guts to stand up to Mother and Father. If anything was to change, it was up to me.

I marched down to the library, where Mother was certain to be. I decided it had to be her. She spent most of her days combing through the crinkly volumes that lined the shelves. I knew there was at least one book there with dark words, because I had seen it myself.

I swung open the door and stood tall in the doorframe, ready for the confrontation.

Mother whipped around. Her eyes opened into round, black circles. A strong wind roared through the stacks, spilling book after book onto the floor. Dust puffed into the air and swirled into miniature tornadoes. A statue flew toward my head, and as the darkness engulfed me, I decided I had taken the wrong approach. I wouldn't be so careless next time.

I awoke in my bed. Martha removed a warm cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one.

I tried to sit up, but my limbs didn't work right. They felt too heavy. Trapped. "Mother! Where is she?"

"Shh, now. Everything will be all right, miss." Martha petted my arm like she used to when I was small and had nightmares. But this nightmare was real and no amount of soothing would make it better. What had Mother done to me? Was Martha in on it too?

I twisted my head left and right. The room was dark, the drapes drawn. The only light came from the crackling flames in the fireplace. And hanging above the fire was a black cauldron. Dark puffs of smoke rose from the bubbling liquid. Martha walked toward it.

My heart jerked. My breath hitched. "It's you? But how did you make the storm in the library? I saw Mother's eyes go dark."

"Not everything is as it seems, miss. It will all be well if ya trust me." As she stirred the pot, a hideous stench rose from it. She ladled a small amount into a teacup and brought it towards me.

"No! Mother! Father! Help me!" 

She tilted the cup to my lips. I clamped them shut and turned my head away. I shook my body, trying to break free of the binding spell she had put on me. It was useless. The only part of my body that worked was my head. Was she going to kill me? Or burn me? Or turn me inside out? Witches could do that. They could trap you inside a living hell for centuries if they wished.

Martha pinched my nose.

No! Mother! Father! I fought to hold my breath for as long as I could. Too soon, my mouth popped open. It was long enough for me to gulp in air and long enough for her to pour the concoction down my throat. 

It burned. Oh, it burned like hot lava. My eyes teared until I went blind. My stomach heaved until I felt sticky sweet liquid covering my body. My body convulsed for what felt like hours. Or days. Time blended together into one dark line. No more soothing pats or cold cloths. Just an endless onslaught of pain, fear, and then hatred. After hatred, the next emotion came easily.


I must get revenge.

But for that, I had to break free of her spell. I had to wake up. 

I scoured my memories for something that would help. I couldn't find it in my childhood or my adolescence, but I found a tiny scrap that had been tucked away for just over a year. The discovery of the spell book. It no longer made me sick to think of it, because I knew it was my salvation. I remembered now. It had changed things before, and it would change things again.

I dove deeper into the memory. I flipped through page after page of spells. The words were blurry at first, but the more I concentrated, the clearer they became. A spell to cause warts. A spell to attract swarms. A spell to draw in the darkness. 

An unbinding spell!

I chanted the words, hoping it would be enough. Whether they were spoken aloud or simply in my head, I had no idea. It didn't seem to matter. 

My sight came back first. I saw Martha working on her needlepoint in the corner rocking chair. Oh, the surprise she was going to get. 

My arms came next, but I didn't dare give myself away, not if I wanted to survive. 

And then my legs. 

I had full mobility, but what to do with it? 

Slowly, I thought. Don't let her see.

I brought my hands together and wove a spell in the air. I played the words through my mind, over and over again. I knew exactly what I was doing as if I had done it a thousand times before.

Martha's body went rigid. She screamed. I had trapped her inside her own living hell, and I was proud.

My bedroom door slammed open. Mother stood in the frame with angry black eyes. A fierce wind shot through the room, strong enough to throw my flower vase into my forehead and to being the darkness once more.

I awoke with both Mother and Martha standing over me. The curtains were open. A strong beam of sunlight shone in and played across my bed. I shielded my eyes from the intrusion.

Martha removed a warm cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one. Mother went to the cauldron and filled a teacup with the liquid. 

"Witches," I whispered.

"Yes," Mother said. "But enchanting rat skulls and wearing their blood, that is not something we do. We all have a choice between the dark and the light. It's time you saw the light."

She forced the liquid down my throat, and it burned.


Story by: Krystalyn Drown
Photo by: Carros de Foc

Friday, April 11, 2014

Remote Destination

Remote Destination
“Screw it,” Kevin says, after the first couple of drops of water do nothing to wake his sister. He dumps a whole glass on Celine’s face causing her to shoot upright from the floor.
    “What the--!” she screams.
    Kevin smiles. He reaches out to touch her face, concerned about the purple mark on her cheek from when she went down in the cafeteria earlier.
She knows I care, he thinks to himself, no need to get all mushy about it.
    Celine runs her fingers through her hair and grins at him. Kevin stares at her; still unable to get used to her hair being as short as his.
Celine laughed at his reaction when she showed off her shorn head. Said his jaw practically hit the ground.
“So, you’re trying to copy me again,” he said trying to hide the fact that he missed her long red locks, a trademark of their mother.
In all ways the Middleton twins look alike. But the hair was what made Celine less rigid with her sharp chin and cheeks. Though, Kevin considered that with the new look fewer guys would be interested in her. Now that his sister was sixteen he noticed the courageous or just plain stupid boys at Holyoke glance her way. He noticed that even though every student at Holyoke Reformatory wore the same shapeless gray shirts and pants that the boys seemed to take note of how Celine filled hers out. Kevin would punch his fist against his palm to ruin any kind of thoughts these guys had. And as soon as they caught Kevin’s line of vision their faces went white.
    Celine looks around and realizes they’re not in the Pit or their rooms.
    She sighs. “Damn. The Matron?”
“I’d appreciate no profanity, Ms. Middleton,” The Matron says.
    It was realized by the unidentifiable powers-that-be that the Middleton twins weren’t afraid of the Pit nor were they the type to think things over in their rooms and come to better decisions. It was decided that after any incident Kevin and Celine would go and speak with The Matron, Holyoke’s only religious/spiritual guidance counselor of sorts. When she first met the two she stated she preferred to treat people from the inside/out. The twins found it hilarious, especially considering their experience of the reformers and AG going about discipline.
After a handful of visits they found they didn’t mind The Matron so much. They would sit, listen, and nod their heads as though her words were sinking in. As far as they were concerned it was better than practicing how to block out the unnerving sounds and darkness of the Pit.
    Celine and Kevin take their seats on the opposite side of The Matron’s desk. Each time they enter this room Kevin stares at the pictures along her walls. Images of gods from every religion known to man, old and new. The animal-like gods of Hinduism and the volcanoes of Scientology, and even some of the newer ones like Cantology with pictures of famous poets and New Wave Christianity that has an image of someone shrouded in dark purple shadow on a horse, maybe even a unicorn. The pictures flash over the posters like cartoons, showing scenes from the old books.
    Knowing protocol Celine and Kevin put their hands in their laps and await The Matron’s speech. The Matron scrunches up her face at them causing Kevin and Celine to share a glance. They’re used to her shaking her head as she mutters a few “tsk tsks” by now.  
    “Why the constant fighting? Why do I have to see you two so often?”
    “I’m not trying to be unruly or whatever. Edgar got in my face and I don’t back down,” Kevin states as though she should’ve realized this by now.
    “I was there for support,” Celine adds. She blinks her eyes to convey an innocence everyone in the room knows she doesn’t have.
    “Do you realize that with your growing record things will not be easy for you two? Do you realize that with the plans set in motion you could be ruining your chances to start over?”
    “Plans? What plans?” Celine asks.
    “It hasn’t been announced yet. But you two are smart. I see it. You are hard workers.” She stares at Kevin, “And yes I know you don’t take any…crap.” She seems to stumble on the last word causing Kevin to stifle a laugh at her attempt to curse.
    The Matron folds her hands together and leans on her desk. She lowers her voice making Kevin and Celine pull their chairs closer to hear her.
    “I’m not supposed to say much about this, but we’re going to Earth. Well, some of us are. To repopulate the planet. To start anew. And only a chosen few are going to get this chance. So I wouldn’t screw it up if I were you.”
    “Earth! No way.” Celine waves her arm as though flicking away a bug.
    “I’m not joking, Ms. Middleton. We’re running out of resources here. Have you not noticed?”
    “We’re supposed to notice?” Kevin says with a laugh. “We get crap anyways, so what would less crap be like?” He pulls at his torn shirt for emphasis. Crossing his arms Kevin continues unable to believe what the woman in front of him is saying.
    Kevin remembers hearing about the collapse of civilization. He doesn’t recall exact details since he was often drawing sketches during classes rather than paying attention. What he does recollect is that a thousand years ago something happened, an explosion or chemical or biological warfare or whatever. It spread like dominoes all over the Earth.
    Celine mentioned to him that she heard about rationing more, especially at Holyoke, before the Acting Government applied it to the outside communities. Looking at their protein mush servings get smaller and smaller she said something was up. But Celine was the type to read up on those things and observe her surroundings. His sister understood things in days that it’d take him months or years to.
    Besides the fact that Celine’s female what separates them is that she’s a closet a computer genius. Learned it all from books alone. Given a computer and enough time she could probably hack into any system, Kevin was sure.
    Kevin noticed The Matron look at Celine with sad eyes whenever she brought up the future and the “possibilities being endless.” He doesn’t recall The Matron ever looking at him that way. Of course Kevin couldn’t say what was on The Matron’s mind when she focused on him. He tended to turn away for fear of pity or sympathy.
    She continues, “We’re forging a new world and to do that we have to learn the mistakes of the old one... That being said the plan is to take one hundred Holyoke residents to Earth in the next thirty days. You’ll be paired off and then sent down to start restructuring society. Building things, figuring out how a community will work in your area and so forth.”
    “Hold on. They’re gonna set us free to rebuild Earth. Why us? Like, why me and Celine?”
    “Why not you and Celine? You don’t think highly of yourself, do you Kevin? You really should. I’d recommend you if it weren’t for these stunts you keep pulling.”
    “No stunt Matron. Edgar fuc—messed with Kev first. I saw the whole thing.”
    “And of course you’re not biased in the least are you, Ms. Middleton?”
    Celine grins. “Course not.”
    The Matron points at them both with either hand. “Listen. Get your act together and you two will be part of something amazing. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to help build the future for your society?”
    Celine and Kevin look at each other. Considering whether or not this is a prank or worse, false hope. 
Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Carros de Foc

Friday, April 4, 2014


She closed the book, placed it on the table next to the crumbling papier mache horse--an art project--she'd had with her the day she arrived in this place, and finally decided to walk through the door. That door should have been a hundred feet high and at least fifty feet wide and covered in poisonous spikes considering the way Rachel had carefully avoided it all these months. But in reality it was quite ordinary. A simple wooden door weathered and faded with age. There were even cracks between its planks, wide enough to let thin shafts of sunlight into the tiny shed. They striped the dirt floor and her bare feet.
Rachel lifted her hand and placed it flat against the wood. 
Then she put her ear to it.
The door gave a little under her weight and she jumped backwards. She almost returned to the table, picked up the book, and resumed memorizing the passages that He had marked for her to study this morning. The ones about obedience. He would know the second that she opened that door. He’d told her so every day since the night He brought her here—bound and gagged and in nothing more than the oversized shirt she’d worn to bed. He was always watching. Hadn’t He proven it often enough, telling her every minute detail of her day, down to how many times she managed to relieve herself?
The wind picked up outside and the shed creaked in response. Rachel winced. She had no choice. She had to try. The small, unconscious girl slumped awkwardly in the corner was evidence enough of just how limited her time had become. After all, there was only one book…and one chair at the table. She inched closer to the door. Her hand came up for the knob, twisted it. It moved easily, but the lock wasn’t on the knob, it was on the outside of the door itself. She pressed on the wood a little harder. It was soft and rotted. She wedged her fingers between the planks and began to pull. The wood crumbled off into her hands. It was much more fragile than she’d realized. With only a little effort, she managed to make a hole, large enough to reach the metal latch on the outside of the door and undo it. The door sagged open.
There were trees lined up just beyond the shed. Their leaves whispered to one another, passing their warnings on the wind.
His spies.
She was sure of it.
A flock of little black birds shot up into the sky and scattered like little bits of pepper against the sky. They were off to warn Him too. She was shaking hard enough to make her teeth chatter. She gripped the door frame. Her heart was trying to punch its way out of her chest. She couldn’t breathe. He must’ve found a way to turn her body against her too. All the things he’d whispered to her were true. He was the world and the world was Him and everything in it He controlled.
There was a sound from inside the shed, a groan that quickly turned into a howl. Rachel turned around just as the girl, no longer unconscious now, scrambled up off the dirt and straw in the corner and lunged through the door. Her eyes were wild and unfocused enough to never even notice Rachel standing there. The girl ran straight into the trees without looking back, her screams fading almost as quickly as the girl herself. It was as if the trees had swallowed her up. Or maybe, the birds had carried her off. There was no way to be sure.

All at once, the shed was bare—quiet again—like it had been before the girl’s ragged breathing had filled up the space, insistent as a countdown clock. Rachel’s hand dropped from the door frame. She turned her back to the door and made her way over to her table and her book. Her face was slack, her eyes unblinking. She opened the book to the proper page and stared at the tiny, even print. Behind her, the wind slowly blew the door shut. 

Photo by: Carros de Foc
Story by: Amy Christine Parker

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Photo Prompt

Happy Spring! This month's photo is courtesy of Carros de Foc and is entitled "La Crida." Cool no? Happy writing!