The Realization

Written by Parker Gray

There’s a moment each day that is unlike any moment you will ever experience again. It’s the moment just before you open your eyes. You begin to understand in your conscious mind that you are awake and no longer dreaming. You are still under the spell of your dreaming mind, though you begin to slowly accept waking up. In this moment, every single morning, you are reborn into whatever it is you choose.

Every morning when I travel between my subconscious and the state of consciousness, I am unaware of any bodily function. I am not in complete control of my movements – I am unaware of my breathing. I can’t even say for sure whether am in control of my feelings. I’m simply at the mercy of the universe channeling me towards whatever the day holds for me. Whatever the future holds for me.

At any given moment during this time, I make the choices that perpetuate my life. Thinking about it now, writing about it, telling you about it through these words, all feels very surreal and overwhelming, as I know this time period is only a matter of seconds…for after that, I am fully awake and on my way to existing in reality again.

Every morning when I take this journey through seconds, I see your face, I whisper your name internally, and I force myself into motion. I find myself no longer pondering the realms of possibility or deciding against even the slightest of movements. I simply travel to you, wherever it is that you are in your dreams, your reality, your heaven or hell, and I find you. I find you and then I move. And even if you cannot feel it when it happens – every morning during this time, I move closer to you. I pull you to me through behaviors and words, through actions and senses, and I continuously act.

Really, without wasting anymore of these blank pages, I thought you should know that during the moments when I lack all control, I choose you. So when I write to you, please know  the distance between us will never stop me from telling you how lovely you are to me —  how I’m so intently set upon making you the happiest person alive for the rest of your life. Loving you has become second nature and I simply cannot wait to choose you again and again,  until there are no more mornings left in my journey.

A Bedtime Story

Written by Gacie Nordgren

I shall tell you this, for it is important that you know it. 

There was a time when giants roamed the earth. They were so tall that birds nested in their hair. Why, the heads of the tallest would brush clouds from time to time. They were a peaceful people, with only love printed upon their hearts. They loved the stream that gave them drinks. They loved the forest and all of her creatures. And when humans came to be, the giants loved them too. 

Alas my child, humanity is a fickle creation, and it wasn’t long before problems arose. The humans, so small and fragile, lived in fear of the giants. Too often an accidental misstep resulted in human death; sometimes only one, sometimes an entire village. For the giants were as clumsy as the humans were small. After a while, there was talk among the humans of eliminating the giants for good. All of the great rulers of humankind gathered and conspired to fashion arrows of iron. These arrows were to be shot through the heart of every living giant. 

The owls, who were friends of the giants, informed them of this plot and begged the giants to crush the humans forever, for surely they must be wicked creatures, to concoct a plan such as this! Despite their wickedness, the giants’ love for humanity never faltered. They summoned a great lady of the wood, a woman of ancient knowledge, and asked her to put them under a spell of eternal sleep. Then together, they lay down for the last time, one by one, and slept. 

Nature embraced them, and soon enough they became the earth itself. Their skin hardened into rock. Grass, trees, and bushes sprouted from their backs. Today, they are known by another name, one that we have given to them: Mountains.

 That is why, if one is appreciating the majesty of a mountain, the gods have decreed that they press their forehead to it in thanks. Granting the mountains sweet dreams is the least we humans can do. 

Sleep well, my child, and may you be lucky enough to dream on your own terms. 

The Screams

Written by Atticus Payne – Instagram: @talesfromboredom

The cane: I hate it.

There is the scream of shock. There is the scream of fear. And then, there is the scream of agony. All three have their times and purposes. All three are stored within me, a part of me so deep I dare not touch. That no one should dare touch, but has been stained countless times by the angry pink marks. They would raise, natural inflammation doing its job, but they always faded eventually.

Thank God for that. Hiding them was a pain.

You see, there is something that scares a person so deeply, cracking all the way down to their chest’s core, when they realise they have absolutely no control over the release of those screams. Shock, fear, agony, or all three at once, tear out of your mouth on instinct.

It’s not for attention, I promise, I promise. I cannot control it.

Well, that’s never worked. It was always almost as if once the sounds left my mouth, I’d lose all control of anything that came out of there. Only the screams would come, even if I tried to speak. Shock, fear, or agony? 

Shock, because even speaking up to promise something was disrespect, and only brought more pain? 

Fear, because now there was even more shouting, the screams were echoing, and all that I could hear was to move, out, and onto the porch’s floor? Because kneeling — what they screamed for — meant submission, and submission might bring even more pain?

Agony, because the pain was too much for a small mind. Because the hurt and betrayal from the ones I’d thought I loved were impossible to think of, yet glaringly obvious with every stroke. Because all three at once, and the shouting, and the running, and the slamming of doors, the demands that it be opened again and that I kneel were just too much for me. Because they saw the marks and the bruises, and they knew. Because they yelled that I could tell everyone in school the next day why my legs had turned that way. Wearing shorts, so that it would be seen.

Yes, that seemed to fit.

This will hurt me more than it hurts you, ya know that?

I didn’t know. I don’t know, still.

Would it? Because I know the scream of agony, I know the source of it. And it hurts pretty deep.


Written by A.M. Barnett – Instagram: @a.m.barnett

tw: mention of bodily harm

Blood seeps through my shirt, pooling beneath me. Its cold embrace tugs at my soul, pulling it away from my body. Lea wails and beats at my chest, almost strong enough to bruise my ribcage. My eyes drift shut and my breath turns ragged; with every second I am closer to death. I can almost feel the pale lady standing guard with her long scythe dangling above my body, staring at me from the void of her black hood, reveling in the iron scent my blood emanates. Lea can’t see her; she’s too close to the realm of the living.

Is this how death feels? I ask myself as the curtains begin to close and the audience cheers, their roars vibrating through my diaphragm. I don’t get up until Lea taps my shoulder, making sure the dramatic death I acted remains ingrained in the minds of the public. Nothing makes the heart shudder like seeing a woman cry over her lover’s dead body and Lea is the best wailer the acting industry has ever known.

The public roars for us to emerge, and I take Lea’s hand, leading us in front of the curtains, grinning at the audience as fake blood drips on the stage, staining my bare feet. It would take hours of scrubbing to get the paint out, but it would be worth it. 

“Wait till the critics release their thoughts,” Lea whispers in my ear as we bow endlessly, showing off our colleagues and dodging flowers being thrown our way. “We’ll make the front page,” she giggles and places a kiss on my cheek, sending hundreds of spectators into a frenzy.

The woman in my life would kill me when I got home, but surely when she read the newspapers, she would forgive me and welcome me back. I was a loving husband and an expecting father; I would never abandon my wife or my child, not for a prude like Lea. That never stopped my wife from being on my ass every hour of the day, but she was just doing her job. Kayla was a smart woman and, even if I did dare to cheat on her – she’d smell me a mile away. 

People begin filing out of the room as soon as we disappear out of their sight, shuffling, groaning, and whispering about the play, no doubt complaining that my death had been too dramatic. There would always be one who grumbled, but it was up to the critics to make history and get me to the Hall of Fame. Or, at the very least, to a larger theatre.

“They loved it,” my killer slaps me on the back as I undress and points an invisible gun at my head. “Bang.” 

“Oh, Joey,” Lea hugs him, drenching him in kisses. “You were brilliant.”

Joey laughs; there really isn’t anything better than getting Lea’s undivided attention right after a show. She’d be bubbly with excitement for hours and would hug just about anyone provided they came up to her and made a half-decent joke. As a married man, sometimes I wished my wife would do that too. But as the man of the house, I was stuck consoling myself with late-night repetitions and, once in a while, a shot or two of vodka. Kayla wasn’t allowed to drink anymore, which meant she’d glare at me and be angry for no reason.

Could I really be to blame if I didn’t want to go home sometimes? 

“I gotta run, guys,” I wave and leave before anyone can look at me with fake pity in their eyes.

When I told them Kayla was pregnant, they hadn’t cheered. Not even Lea. They had stared at me with pitying eyes, sighing and slapping me on the back, making sure I knew my life would somehow go downhill from there, leaving me to wonder when having a child became such a burden.

Our house is only ten minutes away from the theatre, so I walk home without a care in the world. Or at least I would if my stomach wouldn’t drop when I think of going home. My steps lead me through a dark alleyway, lit only by the sodium bulb of a lamppost and I stop to admire a new art piece which had flourished on the brick building me and Kayla called home.

Boys rule, girls drool, it says and I have to smile, remembering the days when I used to think the same. I check my wristwatch absently, cursing when I note the time. I am late – much later than I should be. So, as much I would have liked to sit and ponder the hidden meanings of the graffiti, I go around the building and let myself in, checking the PO box. Not that we receive any letters anymore. I take my time up the winding staircase, my hands fumbling with the keys.

When I enter  the tiny apartment Kayla is waiting for me, as she often does, reading one of her pregnancy books. She was already showing, even after only three weeks.

“I was wondering when you’d show up,” she smiles as I kiss her on the forehead and urges me to pull up a chair. “How did it go?”

“The audience seemed to like it, but you know how these things go. Everyone is waiting for LeRoux to spit out his amazing critique and, as he always does, he’s waiting for the suspense to build.”

“You know that’s not what I meant,” she chides, closing her book. 

Of course, she knows when I dodge the real meaning of her questions.

“It wasn’t my best work,” I smile sadly, imagining my career crumbling around me as LeRoux points out exactly what I fear most.

“What happened?”

“Well, for one, the paint was bright red, definitely not the color of blood. And I died, despite it not being part of the script.”

Kayla stands up, pulling me into her arms. “You know sometimes life goes off-script,” she mumbles, pointing to her belly. “Like this hot-tub accident.”

“How do you know it was an accident?” I grin and press my lips against hers.

I won’t lie; it felt good to have her support me and my heart skipped a beat when I opened the door, unsure of which Kayla I would find. The woman who loved me, or the one who loathed me and my touch? Some days, I wasn’t sure which Kayla I was dealing with. She would welcome me with a smile, only to scream minutes after because I forgot to take out the trash. It had been like this before the baby too – but I still blamed it on hormones. I know she loves me. Why else would she marry me?

I grunt, feeling a sharp pain in my side. When I look down, tiny droplets of blood pool around our feet and Kayla has me in a tight grip so I can’t put any distance between us and confirm what is going on. My consciousness slips away from me; this time it’s real. My vision blurs and my head swims in dizzy circles as Kayla lets me down.

Figuratively as much as literally.

As I lie on the hardwood floor, heaving, I realize the blade went through my chest. Judging by how much it started to hurt, it had probably touched a vital organ too. I cough and Kayla draws away so the blood gushing out won’t stain her face and clothes.

She strokes my cheek. “It’s okay,” she whispers. “Just let go.”

“Why?” I manage to ask, regretting it when my throat constricts, and I choke on my blood.

I never get an answer.


Written by E.L. Bean – Instagram: @elmpii

A child’s birth name is usually predetermined from their parents during or even before pregnancy. But for little Sili that wasn’t the case. On a rainy September afternoon, Judy’s water broke and along with Sili came an unexpected misfortune. Sili was born blind. None of the doctors could give a medical explanation for her condition. As hard as it was, Sili’s parents decided that it was God’s will, so they accepted it. They gave her the name Sili, which in Chinese means sight.

As she was growing up, in a small town near London, Sili was living a rather normal life. She never let her disability affect her in any way. As most kids at her age, Sili was experiencing bullying. Not because of her disability, but because of her name. When a nine-year-old hears the name Sili, they immediately connect it with the word silly, which means stupid. Walking down the corridors in her school, Sili would hear her classmates shouting “How silly does the name Sili sound?” – “Hey Sili, make something silly…” But Sili never felt unhappy or angry. She would not turn her head – she would not answer. She would smile politely, even laugh about it and would keep walking her way to her class. She would sit on the first desk in front of the blackboard with the confidence of a graduate student, she would put on her little rose-tinted sunglasses and would transport into a different world. A world with colors – a world without bullies – a world that has only sunny days. That was her ideal world as she used to say:  “I’m Sili and I find the world behind my glasses, much more interesting than the one I live in.”

No one could understand what that meant, because Sili had a little secret. Every night before she fell asleep, she would put on her little rose-tinted glasses, she would close her eyes and then her mind would create all the colorful images that she couldn’t see during the day. But the secret was that Sili could control this world. She could do anything she wanted. She could go anywhere she liked. Strange how a mind, that has never experienced an image of the real world can suddenly create, through imagination, a whole life – and live in it.

Because of her inability to see, Sili had advanced all her other senses. The sounds, the tastes, the smells. Her perception of the world was entirely different from what we experience every day, and that was because Shili was unable to see all the grotesque and unspeakable things that were happening around her. Unable to see, but able to feel – and that was worse for her. She could feel the misery in her parents’ life. How depressed and helpless the real world has made them. The enjoyment of little things – a sweet kiss for good morning, a warm hug for I missed you – were all replaced with one word: misery. She could feel the fear and the stress of her classmates at school. She could feel the embarrassment and the guilt in people on the street. She could see nothing, but she could feel everything and that was too much – even for a 9-year-old.

Sometimes it’s difficult to change something you can only feel. How much easier her life would be, if Sili could find a solution to all her parents’ problems. Then laughing during a family dinner would be a routine and not an extraordinary occasion. How much more interesting life at her school would be, if she could erase all the insecurities and fears her classmates had. Then the only sound someone could hear at the schoolyard would be that of laughs. How much more beautiful this world could be if she could replace people’s ego with a “we.” Then she could finally make her world behind her glasses real. But deep in her heart Sili knew that the damage was already done. It was irreversible and she was too small to change anything. So, she had to think of a way that allows her to escape reality, to be happy. She could not help the others so at least she would have to think herself. Either way, isn’t that what mankind does?

Little Sili loved books. It was another way to escape the miserable reality. Her mature perception of this world was partly because of the hundreds of audio books she had listened to. She had asked her parents for a new bookcase in her bedroom, but her mother’s answer was short and definite: “We can barely buy you food and you ask for a bookcase?” Sili had to find a place to hide all the books she had. And she did. In her wardrobe. Of all her books, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas was her favorite and there was a quote that she loved. “All for one and one for all.” “Wouldn’t that be great?” She would wonder sometimes. Why is it that instead of all for one and one for all, had become one for one? Why were people so self-centered and why did they feel more satisfied when they saw a person fail than succeed? What kind of ideology was that? Because if it was happening on such a large scale, it must be an ideology, a long-term trend, a chronic disease. All these thoughts in the little mind of a nine-year-old was a lot to handle.

In order to escape this disease, Sili had to find a cure, a kind of medicine, that will help her live in her own world. However, it was impossible for her to accomplish that idea all by herself. She needed some help. Her plan was to share her idea of the new world with others. She wanted to tell everyone that this kind of world exists. She has seen it with her own eyes. Eyes unable to see the misery and the sadness but capable of seeing the beauty and the magic.” If they don’t want to follow me, then they can help me find a way to live there forever.” Sili thought.  Afterall, how hard would it be for someone to help a little girl live happily ever after?

First, Sili asked her parents’ help. On a Sunday morning, a day that families are supposed to be together, the little girl, always wearing her rose sunglasses, ran to the kitchen where her two parents were. “Mum?” asked the little girl. But there was no answer. “Mum?” She asked a second time. Again, no answer. Her mum was too busy complaining about their low income and the financial problems that they were facing, and her daddy almost covered behind a pile of unpaid bills was silently accepting all the accusations about the miserable life of the family.

Little Sili had to find someone else to help her. So, on Monday morning, the worst day of most young students, Sili, always wearing her rose sunglasses, ran to her class, where her favorite teacher was. Miss Rene was a middle-aged chubby woman with long red hair. She always used to say to her little students “I am always here if you need someone to talk to.” However, on that Monday morning she wasn’t. “Come back on Friday, Sili. Today it’s not the best day. I’m sorry.”

Third and last chance for the little girl’s happiness was her weird old neighbor with the thousand cats, living across the street. Sili used to find it really fascinating how an eighty-five-year-old man could have the time to take care of seventeen cats, while her parents seemed to be struggling with just one kid. She used to visit him two or three times per week and helped him with his cats. As a thank you, he would narrate stories about his exciting past life. 

Little Sili, always wearing her rose sunglasses, ran to Mr. Bachmann’s house. She kept ringing the bell, but he was nowhere to be found. A pile of letters and newspapers was covering his doormat. But little Sili could not see that. An awful smell was coming out of his apartment. Little Sili could smell that. She would inform her mother about it, once she had finished her own plan. 

She gave up on the idea of finding assistance for her little plan. Once again, she had to follow the ideology of her mankind. One for one. She had to find her own way to go to the other world- the ideal world behind her rose-tinted glasses. She had to discover the cure by herself. She needed to find this medicine. Sili took a last bath in the parents’ bathroom. She ran quickly to her bedroom, leaving the drawer and her father’s box of powerful sleeping tablets open. She wore her favorite red dress, she put one her rose tinted glasses and lied on her bed. She closed her eyes and waited…

A week later everyone was available to attend little Sili’s funeral. Everyone but Mr. Bachmann. He didn’t need to go to the little girl’s funeral. He was already with her.

“She wanted to live in the world behind her rose-tinted glasses” was written on her tombstone and I couldn’t help but wonder,

Do people really understand what that phrase means?

Azan’s Crown

Written by Benjamin Wesley – Instagram: benjaminwesley74

Every crown on Emperor Azan’s wall represented a nation conquered. 

It had been the crowns that had kept Azan on the throne of Ladel for so long. They were a symbol of power to the rest of the world, a symbol of the conquered. Whoever held the crowns held the world itself. 

The king of kings sat in his windowless chamber, gazing upon the wall, reminding himself of what he’d gained. He remembered the wars, the clever diplomacies, the assassins, and the crown thieves. In the end, his hard work had brought him over two hundred crowns. Not all had belonged to kings, of course. In fact, most belonged to minor dignitaries and princes that he’d cheated or bribed out of royalty. In the end, he ruled over all their lands.

Azan’s personal guards lined the edges of the room. Each man was a master soldier hailing from a different kingdom around the world and was loyal to a different crown on the wall. The soldiers were what had given Azan strength throughout the years, what had allowed him to succeed in his conquests when others failed. And they were all fiercely loyal to the crown on Azan’s head. 

But now that he was in his later years, what was he to do? Years spent conquering had left him without time for women and certainly without time to raise an heir. That was an important matter he’d been neglecting throughout his reign, and his advisors were disappointed by it. The throne would likely pass to a cousin, now. 

A knock on the door sounded, disrupting Emperor Azan’s meditation. Not bothering to hide his dissatisfaction, he waved to a guard to open the door. A small serving girl stepped in, wearing dirty brown robes and carrying a platter with coffee. 

“You’re late,” the Emperor informed her. “Coffee is to be brought as soon as I wake.”

The serving girl nodded, not speaking as she poured him a cup. Azan’s nose wrinkled, taking a sip. It wasn’t the right brew at all. Barely even warm. He looked up, preparing to tell the girl off. 

She was standing next to the wall of crowns, inspecting them. 

“What are you doing, girl?” he demanded, standing to his feet and waving for the guards. He barely noticed as the coffee spilled across his lap. “Stop her!” 

The serving girl turned, one of the crowns from the wall in her hand. It was made entirely of rare southern sea glass, different colors swirling and sparkling around each other like flames. She held the crown high above her head. “Take a step and I’ll drop this,” she said. The guards halted, looking to their Emperor for instruction as the girl whipped out a knife that was more cutlery than a weapon. 

Azan threw back his head and laughed at the insanity of the moment. A serving girl with a dinner knife was threatening him, the greatest king, in his personal chamber filled with his personal guards. He laughed for a long time, remembering all the thieves and assassins that had broken into the room in an attempt to steal his crowns. 

 He laughed until his gut hurt. “This room has faced countless crown thieves, fool. And I’ve thwarted each one of them. What is your plan? Throw all two hundred priceless crowns into a bag and carry them out?” 

The serving girl met his eye for the first time. “No, Azan. I haven’t come for the wall crowns. I’ve come for yours.” With that, the serving girl plucked the crown off the Emperor’s head and placed it on her own. “Take him away.” 

The laugh died in his throat as he realized what she’d done. “This is foolish,” he sputtered, stepping away. 

“I said arrest him,” the girl repeated. The Guards finally seemed to wake out of their confusion and they moved forward. 

“What is this? Why are you listening to her?” Azan demanded as they grabbed his wrists. “Traitors!” He aimed a kick at one of the Guards, but the younger man simply stepped out the way. 

“Don’t bother struggling,” the serving girl said with a smile as the former king was dragged from the room in disgrace. “I’ve heard they’re the best soldiers in the kingdoms.”

wishing, always

Written by Nishi Nandineni – Instagram: @nishi_1121

You wish a lot.

Years ago, even as a child, I noticed this.

I noticed that with your eyes closed, with every blink, you wished. I noticed that as we spun in circles to play, you wished. I noticed that as you gazed up at the few shooting stars that passed by, you wished. 

I noticed that the moment you blew out your candles on your birthday, you wished. And as you slept that night, you wished. 

By every shining morning, you were wishing. For something, for someone, for someplace. For anything, for everything. I never knew what you were wishing for. And sometimes, I don’t think you did either. 

Because all you’ve ever done is wish. Tell me, how could there be so much for you to wish for? 

Have you not lived the way you wanted? Have you not enjoyed the luxuries that so many others could not? 

I think that may have been the difference between you and I. 

I could accept reality as it is. I didn’t need the falsities that came with wishing for the impossible, wishing for the things that weren’t there. 

But you, you always lived in your own world. In your imagination. In books. In movies. 

But never in life. 

So I still ask you, what is there to wish for? 

You’d wish every second, every hour, every day. Did you never get tired of wishing? Of waiting? 

I wonder, even now, what is it that you wish for? 

Is it for the peace your house could never hold? For the friends that never stayed? 

I ask you, once more, what is it? 

I wondered every day, then, as I stood by your side, on the way to school. As I stood by your side throughout everything else. 

What was it? Couldn’t you tell me? The one who was always there? The one who wouldn’t go to bed, even at one in the morning, until they checked up on you? 

Is it too hard to tell me the wishes you so desperately wanted to come true? 

Is it too hard to admit to the truth? To me? 

Please, tell me again, why is it that you’re wishing, always? 

hidden opinions

Written by Nishi Nandineni – Instagram: @nishi_1121

I used to like it when they said I had a pretty name. A unique one. A name that held so much weight in their words. A name that defined me. 

They’d refer to me with it, stretching the vowels gently, so gently that you could barely hear it. 

At first, I’d answer back–quick and easy–with just enough curiosity. “Why? Isn’t it too long?”

It was always the same response. The same smile. “But that’s the beauty,” they’d say.

What could I do, other than thank them and return that wretched smile of theirs? 

And that was it. I could do nothing more than appreciate their notice, nothing more than agree with a compliment that had no meaning in the first place. 

I could do nothing more than like it. 

Then I began to hear something different. A tone An underlying emotion that weaved so well through their words that it took me days, months to find it. 

Jealousy. Disgust. Hatred, even. Why? I’d think to myself. I’d never done anything but taken the name that my ancestors, my parents, gave to me. 

Couldn’t they stand to accept my heritage in genuine? Couldn’t they stand to take the courage they had hidden so deeply in their heart, for the simple sake of normalcy?

Couldn’t they allow me to believe I was no different from the clones who walk the streets? 

A Conversation

Written by Atticus Payne – Instagram: @talesfromboredom

A white courtroom, the light coming from nowhere yet reflecting everywhere at once. The place felt bleached and drawn, as if all the life had been stolen, or as if it was all waiting for something to happen. Someone to arrive. 

That someone did arrive, suddenly appearing in the room without the slightest bit of warning. He did not make my life any easier. Granted, he seemed to know some answers: where we were (a place with the ridiculously cryptic name, The Court of Worth) but not most, like why we even needed to be here (to which he didn’t respond). So I sat back in my seat (which was on a platform, and slightly worrying), waiting to be judged, or whatever it was they were here to do. There didn’t seem to be any doors. Just pillars, and rows of seats, and an endless look up. It was all so clean. I looked to my hands and couldn’t exactly say the same: the sides of the right one were stained with graphite, while the left had a good splattering of paint.

Maybe that was a good thing, because the giant in front of me was the exact opposite of the room too. Distinctly male with a long white beard from chin to floor, and skin the colour of red dirt, he seemed to take up most of the room. He was frowning around, which probably meant he wasn’t the only person about to arrive. With the corners of his lips bunched like that, he actually looked a little like my grandfather. 

For a moment, that thought brought joy: I was remembering something other than this place, which I knew nothing about. Then I remembered my grandfather was dead.

What a cheery thought.

Morbidity aside, another two figures appeared in the room, as silently as the first had. I probably shouldn’t have questioned it by now, but I did. Everything strange was strange for a reason. So why were they here? Were they the last ones coming? What would they do? And how were they related?

Taking an inventory of details would help. Even though it slightly hurt to look, I forced my gaze onto the grayish-green one first. They were faceless, and for all I could tell, featureless, but young, with their shorter height, straighter stance and upturned chin. 

Young, but arrogant. Now I knew one side of the argument.

The other: a pale purple, and just as featureless. Why were they featureless but the first one not? Clearly, this one was also young, and a sort of fuzziness seemed to hang around their edges every time I looked closer and disappeared when my gaze shifted. Presumably the other side of the argument.

They conversed without talking, each one nodding suddenly and taking their places. Maybe I wouldn’t hear any of this at all. Now that I wouldn’t allow.

“Hey! If I’m on trial, I might as well be able to listen, don’t you think?” Speaking hurt my throat, as if I hadn’t done it in ages. Another thing to question.

The oldest looked down to me, back to the two, then me again. Moving slowly, he stooped to touch my forehead, and that was it. I didn’t even feel it. I still had no idea what was going on.

Ah, great. Just what I needed right now, a forehead boop.

But then the figure took his own seat, behind me on the platform-thing, and finally spoke. Or maybe he’d been speaking the whole time, and I just hadn’t noticed. That was entirely possible, too. Probable. Just like how my thoughts would’ve probably strayed even further into panic if they hadn’t launched straight into the argument.

Well, there was no longer a question of whether I’d have any say in it.

“Of course the work is good! So many people have said so! Plus, it’s been months since he started the craft, he’s progressed tremendously. Why, he’s practically a master at it. There aren’t any objective faults.” The grayish-green one gestured wildly, the movements of a person who had the confidence of a five year old, but also the skill of one.

The purple one scoffed with the similar arrogance of a child. “That is a product of personal and cognitive bias, and you know it. He’s terrible. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds his work and exposes it.”

“Personal and cognitive bias sounds a lot like you too, don’t you think? Only what you say comes entirely from one person, with all the negative bias in the world, while I have back up.”

“Parents and friends are not ‘back up.’”

“Unless they’re objective.”

“And they’re not.” 

“But neither are you.”

At some point, it seemed the first figure had given up, resting his head in a spectacular facepalm. I could relate. 

The green one continued a little longer this time, saying, “My train of thought is productive. At least he can fake it till he makes it. With you, he’ll give up entirely.” They flourished his hand, apparently referring to me.

To this, the purple one paused. It was almost strange to experience silence again, after that much back and forth. Even the eldest figure seemed to appreciate it, picking up his head from his hands.

The silence didn’t last. “Or he’ll see it as a reason to strive for his best.” They said it quietly, but not without force. The green didn’t seem to pick up on it, either way. They really were young.

They replied, “But which is more common?”

I nearly piped up, before realising I couldn’t speak anymore. Even as my mouth opened and shut, no sound came. Right.

And the conversation continued with the purple’s challenge, “It doesn’t matter which is more common. Only which works for him.”

Then there was silence, as all three looked to me. I froze. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might’ve been the judge.

Balance, maybe?

Did such a thing even exist? Now, when I could feel at the bottom of my throat that I could speak, I hadn’t the faintest idea what to say.

The Stolen Stories

Written by Atticus Payne – Instagram: @talesfromboredom

The storytellers, they come to me, more and more. They always come, trying to tell the stories of war. Asking to claim a feeling that was never theirs, nor their parents’, nor their parents’ parents. They come from fields that have never seen rivers of blood. Not their blood, either. Not their fight.

Welcome to my House of Time.

Built into the ancient mountains of stone and ice from which every story I give is mined. The wooden beams that raise the structure when the floods come; the edging at each corner, built as much for practicality as decoration in a time that valued both. Experiences, knowledge, traditions, and culture, through thousands of years worth of life. I am their keeper.

I wait; it is my duty. The House goes dark often, while each wave of storytellers comes and goes. Drawn first by the intricate nature-inspired motifs on the beams and roofs, then driven away when told their origin stories. Perhaps it is the history that does not appeal to them: not all of it is as rosy as most say. But there is culture, and many do not care for that, either. Not if they can’t tell the story as they see fit. Not if the story is too inconvenient.

Culture is just an embellishment through them. Reduced to pieces. 

So a hundred years ago, my doors closed. And every decade, I dare to give a new teller the chance: to learn, to grow, to appreciate the stories inside. Sometimes even more often. They could understand them, with time. With an open and eager mind.

They could. They never do.

There was that young girl that came not long ago: golden-haired and blue-eyed. But she was willing to learn. To tell a story rooted in the foundations of so many kingdoms on this earth. To tell of mines and slavery, wars and massacres. A people, rising up with their Queen, demanding for the justice of their homeland. The story that had repeated itself throughout all time. Surely…surely, it deserved to be told.

So I allowed it, spooling the narrative into her heart. Trusting her with the tale of thousands, now to be read by multitudes of others. Some who identified as such.

Most who didn’t.

It was merciless. If there had ever been a way to regret allowing the narrative of so many to be told through a person, I had found it. The other Houses mourned it. No one else seemed to care.

None who had read the story cared for its wrongs. None cared that it’d been stolen without a single thought. For the colour of each player’s skin, and the weight every death brought. The darkest mines — the massacres and slavery — all painted with a picture of a gold and white girl rising from the ashes.

She had golden hair.

Blue eyes.

Her people’s land stolen, used, and their rights clawed away.

It was all so right, and yet so wrong. The story that had been entrusted to her, she so carefully cut straight and lightened to just the right shade. All the players turned beautiful and able. And they saw nothing wrong. 

There were more like that. There were always more because I always let them in, when they begged to tell the stories. “We’ll get it right this time!” they’d cry, promising to show more, add more, make up for what they’d cut. Plunge each story into whole worlds with the right heart.

Written for everyone else.

I never asked that they be perfect. Just that they’d try to learn, a little.