When Fall Arrives

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Rikka Ameboshi


I love the sound of rustling leaves, the way they dance in the air before finally descending onto the ground. The way the wind carries each leaf in the fall: a whirlwind of crimson, orange, and yellow, circling through cities and places and people that will someday meet. And through it all, the leaves that seem to write themselves into the stories of the people passing by; it’s the magic of fall. 

I love the way the wind murmurs–sings a little, too–when the afternoon sun dies. As it retires and time trickles into the evening, the trees sway to the music of the wind. Calm and quiet at times, then loud and tempestuous as the wind zooms past colorful houses and, once in a while, briefly tickles the faces of those who walk by.  

Wonder is everywhere when the world is illuminated by the sunsets, the brilliant colors that merge with each other endlessly. A kaleidoscope of colors in the sky causes everyone, no matter where they are, to look up, even for just a second. The sky connects everyone and holds the gaze of people because these moments are finite. Sunsets can appear over and over again, but they will never appear exactly as before. And yet, everyone will always be able to enjoy the beauty of sunsets. 

And then twilight. The light fades and night slowly envelops the world in temporary darkness before street lights illuminate sidewalks with thousands of people coming home after long hours and stressful days. Starry skies are what most people look forward to; stars sprinkled in the sky like sugar, white specks that brighten the night and hold the gaze of people looking up at them from their windows. Stars that watch people make wishes, as they believe in shooting stars and pixie dust and fairy tales. Nighttime is serene, a time for people to dream and soar far beyond what they imagine possible and hope for the next day. And the next. And the next.

Witnessing the Unthinkable

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Donald Tong


The day was Monday, October 12. The clouds were impregnated with rain and I dragged my feet to the Fool’s Asylum—Libeton’s biggest prison. I would like to inform our loyal and new readers that not many of the reporters out there are determined to undertake such journalistic prompts. Watching a criminal leave his last breath was not and still is not part of any academic branch. “Why would someone in their right minds do such an awful thing to themselves?” you might reasonably ask. To this, I’m not going to answer. Not here, not in these pages, because what I would like to share has nothing at all to do with me; it’s all about the story.

The story begins on that Monday, the morning I visited another prisoner in the execution room. Writing is a lonely job, but connecting with people who have committed the most atrocious crimes makes things even lonelier. It forces you to alienate from the darkest, most sinister places in the human condition. 

The prison smelled like any other: stale and sweaty. Testosterone emanated from every hole in the walls, while screams and confusion reached my ears from every corner. I followed the steady, boot-worn steps of the guard—he paced in the corridors like a god—and they led me to the execution room. 

Donald Hopert was about to be executed with lethal injection at nine-thirty in the morning, accused and sentenced for the murder of Georgia and Jenny Hopert, his wife and only daughter. 

According to his confession, Georgia Hopert left the house with five-year-old Jenny, without previous notice. Donald came back from work to the empty apartment in Herrington Street, believing his wife had abandoned him. He claimed he had no contact with them during the weekend, although he was sure Georgia and Jenny found shelter at her mother’s. The devastated woman confirmed the fact in court. 

The reason Georgia and Jenny left never took a clear form in our understanding, as it usually happens in those cases. Hilary Farey, Georgia’s mother, described her daughter’s wedding with Donald “an awful mistake she didn’t know she would pay with her and her daughter’s life” and she added instances of emotional and physical abuse both to her daughter and granddaughter. 

We never found out why Georgia decided to take Jenny and go back to their apartment a week later. Mrs. Farey explained that she hadn’t noticed any sort of communication between her daughter and Donald. In fact, she was relieved and convinced that, soon, her daughter would move on with the divorce procedures. However, on 31st of August, Georgia Hopert took her daughter’s hand and walked all the way back to her marriage home. Was it an act of regret? Was love enough to walk her back to the abusive environment she raised her daughter for five years? No one knows. What happened for sure was that that night, Donald waited for them and in an electrified fight between husband and wife, the forty-two year old man took the life of both members of his family.

The following days are mostly known. Donald Hopert and his attorney began a campaign of winning over the public eye by stating reasons of mental unsteadiness. Indeed, Hopert, in his confession, expressed extreme sentiments of jealousy towards his wife; the couple had been fighting about the matter for months, since Donald tried to convince Georgia to leave her job and “be a proper woman, mother and wife.” It seemed he had tried to isolate his wife from the outside world, even from her own inner circle, including her mother and her two childhood friends. 

All that I heard and knew aboutDonald Hopert by the time I arrived in the injection room drew a picture of an emotionally and psychologically unstable man, who blindly obeyed the directions of his lawyer. When he entered the room, I realized I was right, but not fully: I saw a man indeed in an awful mental state, but I also recognized a sort of charisma that made him eerily powerful. Even if he was being led to what everyone thought would be the last moments of his life, he appeared as if he would cheat death. 

I have witnessed many executions during my career, but witnessing the preparation of sending a man to his death still upsets my stomach. I believed that if I collected enough horrible things and facts about the accused, I could discard any feelings of sympathy and sickness from my body. It never worked.

I touched the comforting paper of my spiral notebook and grabbed what I called my “job pen”. I turned on my recorder and watched Donald Hopert lie down on the bed and being tied by the officers. The silence was broken by a dry, awkward cough of the doctor. Donald closed his eyes and smiled as the deadly liquid travelled through the plastic transparent tubes and inserted his veins. His skinny body fell into deep relaxation.

The liquid went running and Donald’s body succumbed to the toxic substances of the injection. I won’t bore you with the medical procedures of this execution system, but the sufferer accepts three doses of three different drugs: the first aims to enter the unconscious state; the second paralyses the skeletal system (diaphragm included); the third causes death by cardiac arrest. 

The doctor, a serious, haggard-looking man, walked by the monitor to declare the time of death. His eyebrows drew together, composing an expression of confusion which evolved to surprise. By that moment, I knew something was wrong. I was going to experience something new; I was witnessing the unthinkable and I didn’t know it yet. 

The reason this article is being published now, almost a year since the execution day of Donald Hopert, is of course because the human mind is unable to accept a new reality, polarly different from the one it had already mapped out. 

I witnessed the first man unable to die. Donald Hopert after receiving three times the proportions of the lethal injection was still breathing, His body has been paralyzed and his brain has been severely damaged, but, clinically, the man was still alive. 

In what sort of world do you think I woke up the next day, dear reader? How could a man return to value his mortality when he had just witnessed a man unable to die? I am not writing this to enforce any kind of conspiracy theory. The aim of me sharing this story is personal, egotistical even. I wish to release this burden from my chest, maybe pass some of it onto your chest. Maybe now you can have restless nights like I do. Maybe you could think about, obsess over, what you are doing with your life now that you know that there is a chance that Death can’t touch you. 

This is what I did and this is what I have been doing for the past year. Of course, no paper would allow such an article to be published and you shall be certain I am writing this independently and resigning as a reporter. You can, as well, assume  that I have resigned as a human being. 

The human mind is a fragile thing. Push it too hard and it might turn against you. I have introduced to mine information that it is unable to handle, to process, so I pass this story to you to ponder.

What would your life look like if you knew that humans could no longer die?

Dig

Written by Thanisha Chowdhury
Art by Scott Rodgerson


That morning, I buried a dog that didn’t exist.

The air was wet, the dirt hungry. Dawn fought her way up the horizon, bathing the world in breathless blue. 

I, of course, was digging a grave. The earth gave way ever so slightly under the shovel, gleaming brown-black soil staring back with each heave.

She must have been asleep. But she didn’t follow the clock’s hours anymore, threading her sleep through Earl Grey tea and Jeopardy. The previous night, she’d come to me with fragile youth in her shoulders.

She sits on the bed in my childhood home, smooths out the race-car bedsheets. Her hands are blue and knobby but the motions they make are timeless.

“You ought to get new sheets. You’re a big boy now, aren’t you?”

I’m thirty-four, I almost say. But I smile, and I nod.

“Of course, Mom. Maybe for Christmas.”

She hums, shifting backward painfully slow. “Where’s Rover?”

“Rover?”

“Did you forget to let him in again? How many times do I have to tell you to keep an eye on that damn dog of yours? And to think it was you begging us for it the whole time, unbelievable!”

I blink, and my ribs ache. Rover had been gone for twenty-five years, had slipped through a fence and ended up limp in the river. 

“Marky?”

“He’s-He’s gone, Mom.”

Her eyes go wide. “Gone? You mean he’s dead?” 

She starts to shake, and I’m by her side in an instant. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“You need-You need to bury him.” Her voice comes wet and warbled through her throat but her eyes are dry. “You need to.”

“Of course, Mom.”

I didn’t know what I was doing with a shovel in my hand. I didn’t know what would fill this hole in the ground. I didn’t know where the dirt was going. I didn’t know where the tears came from.

“Marky, what are you doing out of bed?”

Mom stood at the edge of the fence, a towel around her shoulders. I looked at her, this husk of a woman, all gaunt bones, broken shoulders, thin lips. But her eyes glinted with the same light they did last year, and the year before, and when I was eighteen, fifteen, ten, five.

“I don’t know.” I dropped the shovel, wiped my trembling hands on my pants. “Let’s get you home.”

Words from the Brine

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Sergei Tokmakov


Most think I’m empty, but I’m far from that. In actuality, I’m quite full—filled right up to my jagged cliffs and smooth shore edges. The vast majority of the living reside within me. I encompass most entities on this planet. I cover most areas on this planet. Parts of me run deep, deep towards the core. In some places, near the sandy bottom, the core oozes through cracks, burning me, but my frigidity solidifies it. Parts of me run shallow, shallow towards the surface. In some places, near sandy beaches, surface dwellers enter, disrupting my tranquility, stealing species from me. They slip right through my white-capped fingers. 

            Despite superficial separation drawn onto maps, I am one. I am one, yet I am not a monolith. Every piece varies, every partition holds new happenings. The top of my head and the soles of my feet remain perpetually frozen—iced skin with borderline frostbite. I like it that way. It balances my eternally sweltering belly, where an imaginary belt marks the exact middle. Here, sun rays beat down year-round—surface water warm to the touch, and summer isn’t seasonal, but everlasting. My shoulders and my knees fall somewhere in between, depending on the angle of this planetary entity. 

            My behavior is highly dependent on the weather. Storms ravage pinpoints of me that touch air. Whirling winds throw me everywhere, cause rolls to swell, spinning me (tornado equivalency) up into the sky until my water spouts far away from me, to altitudes I don’t like. I prefer zero altitude. After all, I am sea level. 

I’ve got veins and arteries, carrying my blood around, across, down, and through—capillary currents like a conveyor belt, transporting dissolved needs. 

            Life’s constantly teeming. Microscopics and megafauna swim, skitter, and slither from epipelagic to benthic zones, thriving throughout my water column. Meters deep within me, light begins to lag: it can’t pierce my density. Rich blues fade to black, a dark gradient into full absence of light. Unless you’re crafted by evolution for this particular ecological niche, you won’t survive. My depths are merciless. They disorient and use pressure to crush. Lurking always are beautiful monsters accustomed to the bleak, and they’ll strike as soon as they see you because sustenance stays sparse. 

            Existence, as you understand it, began within me. First organisms flourished here, all alive in a single cell. Proterozoic proliferation. The biodiversity today was billions of years in the making, a time scale very few can fathom. Every strand of DNA carefully crafted over extensive time. Your flesh is an extension of me, your bones an expansion of me, your lungs an extravascular version of mine. You’re an externalization, but you’re nevertheless me. 

            We are the same. With such a limited number of elements on this Earth, we are all bound to be the same. You need every piece of me to survive. And yet you steal from me without returning. No give, just take. There’s no balance in what you’ve become. My equilibrium interrupted, skewed, severed. I’m trashed, polluted, drowned in oil. You can’t even survive in me, yet your debris has infiltrated even the parts of me you’ve never seen. Man-made manufactured abominations sink to trenches that should be left untouched. I’m littered with your residue, choked by your unbothered hands, massacred over and over by your machines. 

            For such a small species, you really pack a poisonous punch. I thought the most intelligent breed would be smart. What a stupid thought of mine. You’re unable to exist in harmony with what created you, with what allows you to live. You’re a parasite. Feeding selfishly. The detrimental effects of your existence are omnipresent, continuing to flaunt your artificial omnipotence, under the false impression you’re omniscient. 

            Do you think it is wise to destroy the very thing that keeps you alive? You believe you’ve been gifted profound wisdom from the divine, imparting you unrestricted access to exploit Earth in its entirety. You think your creations are beautiful, but you’re just constructing monsters. You think I hold the beasts, the freaks, the horrors within my depths. Down in the darkness you’re so afraid of, the darkness you try so hard to eliminate with fake illumination. You think I contain the monsters. The real monstrosity is right where you stand. Look down into your depths—that’s where true darkness lives.

            I am decaying from your needless alterations. I am with one foot in the grave you dug. I am in extremis, repeatedly brutally beaten by you, as if my blood dripping is beautiful to you. I am in anguish, the misery you’ve so misfortunately inflicted on me has led me to a petrifying point of no return. I am damned, and you are the cause. I am the ocean, and you are killing me.

Dance With Death

Written by Kathleen Anderson
Art by Nipunidraws


The end of the world was exactly how I imagined it. 

Smoke and dust choked the sky above. The remains of half-collapsed buildings towered around me on all sides. What I once called my home now sat in shambles behind me, groaning as flames climbed up its crumbling walls. 

I clawed my way through the debris in search of a way out, until my fingernails were cracked and bloody. My strangled screams for help were drowned out by the raging fires encircling me. Realizing the true hopelessness of my situation, I retreated back to ground level, as far away from the flames as I could manage. 

I collapsed to my knees, disturbing the layer of dust that coated the uneven cobblestone street. Burying my face into the skirts of my dirtied dress, I began to cry. 

I was trapped. I could do nothing but wait until the flames slowly closed in, devouring me along with the rest of the city. Despite my hastily rolled up sleeves and the sweat trickling down my forehead, the thought chilled my bones. My end was a far cry from the ballads about heroes who sacrificed themselves to save entire kingdoms, or the stories about lovers who died in each other’s arms. 

Instead, my end was slow. Hopeless. Forgettable. 

When I first felt the hand on my shoulder, I thought I was imagining it. Before me stood a man. He was clad in black from the tips of his shining boots, which were somehow absent of any dust, to the collar of his long overcoat, brushing against the bottom of his chin.

Where did he come from? Had he heard my cries for help? Whoever he was, he held himself with a collected composure that told me he was no longer searching for a way out of this mess, either. 

Selfishly, I was comforted to think that someone else shared the same fate as me. That I was not alone. My tears slowed. 

He extended one hand out to me. “Would you like to dance?” 

“Excuse me?” I replied, sure I had misheard him. It was the end of the world as we knew it–we were facing the final minutes of our lives–and he wanted to… dance? He offered me a smile before repeating himself. 

I looked around, squinting at the blazing fires that crept closer with each passing second. “This isn’t exactly a ballroom, nor the time for a dance. I’m– we’re–” The next words caught in my throat. When I finally managed to speak, they emerged as a whisper. “We’re about to die.” 

He did not spare a single glance to the city unraveling around us. Instead, he kept his eyes locked on mine. They were a glittering gold color, shining brighter than the surrounding flames. I had never seen anything like them before. 

“True,” the certainty with which he said that one word made my stomach roll. To hear someone else confirm what I already knew made the situation feel significantly more dooming. “But,” he continued, “I think it’s much better to dance into Death’s arms than to sit around and wait for Him to claim us.” 

Dance with Death. The idea was so hysterical, I laughed. It wasn’t a small chuckle, but a

thunderous cackle that rivaled the roar of the surrounding blaze. But, I accepted the hand he offered me. 

Were we mad? Perhaps. But it was most certainly better to spend my last seconds dancing instead of crying, face buried in my own dress. 

Pulling me close, his lips lingered only inches from my ear as he said, “Shall we?” We fell into movement like a pair of practiced partners. He whisked me through the dust and smoke. The intensity of the flames grew stronger from all sides, ripping the air from my lungs and causing my eyes to water. Sometimes, we needed to adjust our steps because of a newly fallen, or flaming, piece of debris. But not once did we stop. 

I did not pay attention to the world around me; instead, I created my own. Focusing on his golden eyes, it was easy to construct another reality around us. My dress, which was torn and encrusted with dirt and blood, was now a mass of perfectly tied ribbons and ruffles. The dirt drifting through the air was stardust. It was no longer wild flames that lit up the night, but candles stuck in sparkling chandeliers, hanging from a ballroom ceiling. When the hem of my dress caught fire my illusion faded for a second, but my steps did not falter. 

“You were a beautiful partner,” he said, still holding my hands tightly. I noticed, for the first time, that the flames did not touch him at all. “Maybe, we will meet again in another life.” Slowly, he became one with the shadows, before fading into the night entirely. Perhaps he was only a part of my illusion all along. 

I was alone now, but I was no longer scared. I continued the dance by myself. I did not

feel the scorch of the flames as they crawled up my dress, and slithered down my arms. Maybe my end was worthy of a tale after all. I was not the girl who cowered in front of Death, I was the girl who danced fearlessly into His arms.

Beauty-In-Rot

Written by Noah Rymer
Art by Marta Dzedyshko


Delirium tastes so sweet,
those hallucinations in my head!
Maggots burrow in my skull,
when my soul is dead.

Love simply a figment,
a color or a pigment.
Happiness reduced to pleasure.
Lazily at my leisure.

And when the sunlight grazes my face,
I start to burn up inside;
Exorcism of the emotions I hide,
To feel something less than apathy
a disgrace.

Death acts as a simple buffer,
sorting out those sordid souls.
The ones who weep in the afterlife,
from those who burn as coals.

So as the dirt envelopes my coffin,
my skull grinning fiercely,
buried within the sands of time,
I reach for your touch in the Earth, you see.

Will both our corpses
be entangled in a cold embrace?
Rigor mortis in your eyes,
as those grubs delight upon your face?

Or simply, hellfire we shall suffer,
cleansing, heavenly buffer?
Oh, my decomposing bride-that-was,
how shalt we live, in our coffin of love?

Let me count the ways
that the rot shall set in.
Mortal bodies enraptured in eternal love,
to live without love seems like sin.

For love is but a messy and joyous medium:
the art of the relationship oft is.
And yet in that muck of emotion,
lies the essence of what life is.

Love is like a healing acid,
stripping away,
the scabs and scars of yesterday.

Caustic and beautiful,
for the urge to destroy
is also a creative urge.

And it melts away worry,
with a most cautious aim:
to be steeped in the acid of love,
purifies and cleanses wholly.

And now my skeleton,
born naked by the
lick of that flame,
I embrace fully,
the erosion of hate.

Model Family

Written by Okezie Onwuegbu
Art by Rodolfo Quirós


April 12th, 2009. The day my family died. “You’re getting a little sister!” My dad’s promise before he and my mom took off in a rush, tucking me into bed. I remember being so excited: the empty crib that had stood across from my bed would not be empty for much longer. 

It was late at night, so I wasn’t allowed to follow my parents to the hospital. I had school the next day, and a trip to the hospital would be way past my bedtime. But Daaaad, I want to see my sister! Despite my pleading, my grandmother and I would have to wait until the next day to meet my first sibling. Morning couldn’t come quickly enough. I don’t think dear old Gran really cared–she had been through a million of these new child labor parties across all her children. She was going to get a good night’s rest unlike a restless young me. I can sing her lullabies when she cries at night! I can show her all the things I like!

The next morning we would meet the expected baby. Her name was Jordan–my parents had decided on this before they even knew their child’s gender. I was at school learning about God knows what when Dad and Jordan got home. The eruption of joy when I met her sleeping in my room that afternoon. Daaaaad, look how small she is! My father was exhausted, but he met my childish enthusiasm with a weak smile.  I couldn’t make out why he and Gran weren’t as excited about this as I was, but I’d find out soon. 

My stupid younger self failed to realize the problems at home the day Jordan arrived. My father and Gran didn’t exactly spell it out at first, but they eventually had no choice, but to tell me that Mom was dead. I didn’t understand it at the time but this was a maternal death, something about complications with the delivery. What do you mean she’s not here? I really wish my Dad had just told me she had gone off to the farm, just like Grandad had a few years prior. But no. I would never see my mother again. 

From then on it was just my dad, Jordan, and I. Gran moved back to her hometown where she grew up. It would’ve been nice to have her around, but she wanted to be closer to more members of her family. Jordan would grow up with or without her, and I think it hurt my dad how much she reminded him of Gran. She looked more like Gran than even Mom did. Dad would mention how, even as a baby, she was just as fussy as the old bat. Truly her grandmother’s granddaughter, I think was the quip. Jordan, being a baby, didn’t understand the joke, and it wasn’t funny to me. Maybe I didn’t think of it quite so deeply at the time, but there is no humor in him dancing around mentioning his dead wife. That’s what he was doing. It was clear. 

Jordan was horrible. The initial wonder and excitement of having a sibling evaporated with every minute I spent with her. Daaaaaad, why is she crying? I didn’t understand her. She cried a lot, seemingly without reason, and I despised her for this; Dad had always told me crying wasn’t manly, so I guess Jordan got a pass as a young girl. Dad said it was normal for babies and we would just have to deal with it. I wondered if Mom would’ve known why, but she probably wouldn’t have been much help with her. 

I thought I would be able to focus on the positives of my little sister, but these were few and far between back then. Despite my best efforts to teach her about shows and games I loved, she never seemed to respond to any of it. This frustrated me more than anything–what was I supposed to do with her? 

A year passed and Jordan’s birthday came up. April 12th. A day my Dad felt very proud of, to celebrate the life of his daughter. But all I’ve ever associated it with is what else happened that day. The heavy breathing as Mom rushed to the car, the “See you in the morning!”. The last time I ever saw her. The last time I was ever a part of a family. Daaad… I wish I had been able to say something. To bring up these concerns to him. To let him know that his apparent ability to move on made it all the harder for me to do the same. It wasn’t fair. Mom was gone and here he was, the love of her life, celebrating the thing that killed her. 

I could take solace in the fact that not everyone had lost their minds. Aunts, Uncles, and even Gran skipped the birthday celebrations. Every year, it would just be Jordan, Dad and maybe a few friends of his. My Dad was always visibly upset whenever excuses for their absence were made, but I was just glad someone was taking the time to properly grieve on such a hallowed occasion. 

By her 5th birthday, it would be just the two of us celebrating. That was the year Dad had a heart attack at his office. I hadn’t wanted to tell Jordan about it; I’d hoped that I’d be able to find some other way to explain why her own father was skipping the party. He had always said it was up to me to protect her from “the cruel cold world,” and even if I didn’t always want to, I would do it for him. We would have the party alone, but she seemed to have a good time. She blew out the candles, she loudly sang herself happy birthday, she didn’t have a care in the world. While blowing the 5 candles from her chocolate sheet cake, she made a wish. She wished for Dad to come home very soon. 

To this day, I feel my blood boil thinking back to that wish. The audacity of it all. My mother’s murderer, sitting there with a cake, and wishing for my Dad to get back from the hospital. Mom was dead. Dad was sick. She was alright. Life just isn’t fair sometimes. 

The next day, Dad would get back. He’d assure us both that nothing was wrong and that he was going to be fine. Jordan was ecstatic about this, but I was not so thrilled. It was clear he didn’t see the injustice of the situation, so I tried to enlighten him. How could you talk about your sister and mother that way? The conversation didn’t go too well and I was grounded.

It wasn’t normal, what I did that night. Sneaking into my sister’s now separate room at an hour way past my bedtime. But I just had to. I had to look at her very closely. I didn’t get it. Why doesn’t Dad understand? Why doesn’t he share my hatred for this girl? Why did he have to come back so quickly? I tried to scrub the latter from my mind, but I couldn’t. When he had his incident I feared I might lose him. But if he passed away, at least I would still know who he was. I had no idea who the man in my father’s bed was. Looking at Jordan sleeping so peacefully, it made me think. What if she doesn’t wake up? What does that fix?Could I… do that? I thought about it. I thought about smothering her with her pillow. I wanted her to stop breathing. But that wasn’t the problem. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was my Dad. But it was not her. I went down to the kitchen and used the step ladder to get to the drawer Dad thought I couldn’t reach. The knife drawer. Maybe there was still a solution. Maybe we could be a family again. Maybe.

It’s Your Day, Live It Your Way

Written by Suchita Senthil Kumar
Art by Betto Galetto


It’s Your Day, Live It Your Way

The words were engraved atop the clay tablet hanging from the nail on the door. From the silence that screamed behind the door, there hadn’t been anyone to inhabit the house since I was two. The doorbell was unwelcoming, dangling loose from its place on the wall. Stray wires were peeking from the plastic, hoping for escape.

My friend, Ritika, pointed at the motivational decoration with an eyebrow raised. Seeing that I didn’t show any signs of acknowledgement, she pivoted the hanging around the nail for emphasis.

I had been wandering around the empty halls of the apartment, filling my ears with the sound of my lonely footsteps when Ritika found me. She rounded upon me in one corner and demanded the reason for my sadness with a stern look. A look that said, I’m not leaving without an answer.

I could think of a good twenty reasons for my numbness, but didn’t know which one to pick. I shook my head and told her it was nothing.

“I don’t understand you,” she had said, eyes dropping to the floor.

I don’t either, I wanted to say.

I gave her a wry smile instead.

It was then that she had decided to point at the decoration to make her point. There was no advice, just a command from her that I shouldn’t give up— and I didn’t. I didn’t then.

It’s been three years and today I stand in front of the same door studying the decoration. It’s just as it had been save for the bone grey strings and the chalky dust that blankets it: brown paint atop the words and sandal beneath, leaves and flowers painted atop the clay, and a single string around a nail. The doorbell hangs loose with wires that fall in grace.

Ritika isn’t standing next to me touching and prodding at the clay tablet, reminding me that it will be okay— I do it myself. She isn’t here to ask what happened and to care even when no answers are received. She isn’t standing next to me today, but it’s only her I see in the words I run my fingers atop.

It’s Your Day, Live It Your Way.

Black/Red/White/Blue

Written by Atticus Payne


i — Black

Some say I am a demon, spawn of hell, brought to test the caution of their souls. I will tell you this, as I sit covered, draped in a curtain of black, black for a void, black for a shadow, black for hiding every shade underneath, I tell you that I am but a painter that loves these four shades: black, red, white, blue. That is our promise tonight. That we are but painters, and nothing more. Though ‘we’ is hard to place in a room absent of a single face. All colour, blotted out by thick cloth, shielded to keep our every feature, shade, shape, from the threat of a wandering light. We wouldn’t want to cause a bout of chaos. So we cannot see each other, and we cannot mouth to silently speak: this is silence. This is a canvas. Black in broad strokes scattered across a hall where we kneel, back unbowed for hours on the ground like a sort of stubborn grass. Kneel or be knelt. But it is painful when knees are shoved quickly to concrete, so the former is preferred. When I kneel I am black and nothing more, or so I promise tonight.

ii — Red

Some say the sight of red is cowardice or shame or shame in cowardice. Red spills as blood trickles into a soaked cloth, desperately washed as a sister’s last one replaces it. The red of shame. Red pulsing as a sister takes her life, at last breaking to be more than black cloth and shadows. The red of cowardice. Red blooms through thin white cloth worn as if the Lights are innocent; I believe the stains match their skin better. The Lights are the ones that shroud us in shadow. I have said, I am a painter. We think of the colours alone when the knives go in and life goes out. Bullets release and we begin to stand; so now I know whom among us carries death under their cloth. There is so much of it even lengths of metal are not hard to hide. Perhaps not enough to finish with our souls all intact, but that is not the concern. We paint. This is art, and this is anger. 

iii — White

Some say that that which is art must not be wrong. They were born cowards, running from the weight of sin. There is an evil to this art in which my sisters relish. We were born for nothing else but to channel the anger of centuries’ cries. As I pivot, the ground slick for movement with blood still bright and red, I think: wrong or right, fair or impossible, what of those variables? Metal is metal. Sharpened and against the softness of a human body, it will never lose. There is always an excess of metal and bodies, no matter how many are gone through. I leave every blade I sink in the hole it made, and simply take another for the next blood to be shed so the white does not tear away and stick to my hands. Yet still they grab me, so, still, they fall. We begin to sing and scream the grief of our sisters, pouring the blood of the shame and cowardice grown in this hall through the ages. Shame and Cowardice are not the faults of those that bear it. That is our chant, as all the lights’ white turns red. For so little against so many, I think we have done well.

iv — Blue

Some say that the death of one who is not a coward must always end in a scream. Still, I chant as I begin to taste metal. Still I speak the wishes, the prayers, the hymns each sister sung crying out for our help. A hand comes on my throat. Death is not an end, but a simple inevitability, and I begin to count towards ten. Beauty has been made today, and so, my task is finished. No longer am I simply black. I am simply a sister. I am just a dying girl. A face turns blue as it dies, so I feel it calcify as I reach the number ten. 

Then I am back again, and this time I will sing the anger of a different world.

The War is Won

Written by Varrick Kwang
Art by KoolShooters

Dearest Eli,

The war is over. The Japanese have finally surrendered. They are leaving today. 

I’m glad that all our sacrifices paid off. Every ounce of suffering we went through, every drop of blood spilled, every night plotting and scheming to live and win… it all paid off in the end. 

As for what will happen from here, I do not know, but I know that I have been stashing British pounds–as many as I could during the Japanese occupation–in hopes that should the war be over, if the British return and the Japanese leave, I can use that money. In fact, most black marketers had always been using the British pound, not that joke of a Banana money like the Japanese gave us.

I’m not sure if I would like the British to be back or not–after all, they are the ones who abandoned us to the cruelty of the Japanese. I do not know who would be a better ruler for us, so for now I guess we have to make do with what we have. 

But still, other than five thousand British pounds in my trusty tin can, I have also stolen some munitions–for I have a horrible feeling that I will have to use them in time to come. The Japanese have left, yes, but I do not dare to imagine what comes after. With that said, I have done my share of savagery during the war. I have  no wish to kill any more people–I really don’t.

This is why I am not taking part in the lynching of traitors and leftover IJA soldiers that is rampant in the streets right now. Partisans parade the hanjian around, pelting them with eggs and vegetables and filth so that they can later brag about how they “fought for the country and wrought justice on the invaders.” Either that or they’re venting the rage, suffering and trauma they have been bottling up for the last three years. I don’t see the point in that myself, but apparently someone has to do it. 

Anyway, I stole one of those Japanese swords, three rifles, five pistols and nine hundred rounds. It was a lot to carry around, but nothing a box and a trolley couldn’t handle. I buried those guns and ammo with my clothes and some food–mostly tapioca and sweet potatoes, and a small bag of rice.

Tomorrow, I’m moving back to my father’s old provision shop, with the trolley in my arms and a pistol tucked in my pants-in case a mob tries to steal my possessions. 

Wish me luck from the other side, Eli. I want to retrieve the old shop. I don’t expect much food and groceries to be in there anymore, but I must take the shop first before I repair it to my ideal. Maybe I can even live in it and do away with that flimsy old hut that I have been living in for the past three years. 

If only you were still with us, then you could have seen those scumbags surrender and leave. Today, freedom is ours. 

With love,

Ding Feng