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.

Hometown Sonata

Written by Natalie Simonian – Instagram: @fundamentalsofhumanity

Don’t message me 
Like I’m another girl from Toronto I know you want a break 
From your hometown sonata 

Don’t message me 
Like I’m a girl from the city 
I’ve lived in the suburbs 
I’m used to the quiet hum of cicadas 

Don’t message me 
Like I am tethered to the nightclubs
City lights can be enticing
But they can also be blinding

Don’t message me 
Like I’m another girl from Toronto my address has a postal
My soul can transcend it.

The reason that I will never settle (I’m damned for life I guess!)

Written by Natalie Simonian – Instagram: @fundamentalsofhumanity

The healer falls in love with the man who makes foundations–
foundations for the village, town, city, country, world. 
He’s distant and calculated at times 
but that’s what it takes to create good blueprints. 

She’s warm and outspoken 
and it shocks him sometimes, 
because how can someone possibly be so 

They fit like pieces of an incongruent puzzle. 
If forced together,
the pieces would not match
But with care and time
her soft edges match his hard exterior
and they click

Because it’s love 
but it’s also a choice–
A choice to wake up every day 
and make a consistent effort
to be who you promised you’d be 

This story hails from my Motherland 
Hails from my Fatherland 
This story is mine to tell.

The healer and the man who made foundations 
Gave me reasons not to settle, 
Gave me reasons not to ever let a man take me for granted,
Gave me reasons to believe in the existence of true love.

extra! extra!

Written by Trini Rogando – Instagram: trini.writes

tw: brief mention of bodily harm

read all about it!
the extraordinary murder of
Mister Exceptional, see the
account of his execution detailed
here completely in black and white!

all things expire with time,
and i suppose this mister
was no exception. if you
ask me, folks, it was the
expressionless wife. such

excretance she is,
the scum of the earth, no?
examination revealed a knife shoved
deep within his rose-red throat, his
trust exploited with an evil, loveless

smirk. there’s no other explanation—and
you readers will gladly lap it up!
grief made exhibitive and death
made extravagant—what did you say?
no, no exaggerations here. the press

is the truth and the exactors are us.
these letters we print speak of existence
itself, the hallowed relationship between
writer and reader, word and mouth,
and our sales forever exceed 

expectations, right? with us, you can exhale 
expertise like the exhumes of candor, like 
the last vestiges of Mister Exceptional
who is dead by the way and whom you must
read all about in today’s paper, you must—

extra! extra!

Another Day

Written by Gabriella Troy – Instagram: @gabriellatroy

a little blade of grass
pokes from lonely decay.
a flood of tears
brought home dismay
but roots deep in soil
rise from yesterday.
a light blanket of dew
washes the insects away.
reaching for the cloud-blue sky
a sprout a stem a leaf, make way
there is hope once more
in greeting the sun’s ray.
the blade of grass is ready
one inch, at least for today.

Space Tether

Written by Gabriella Troy – Instagram: @gabriellatroy

I never believed in sparks flying at first touch,
a meeting of minds
singing souls
echoing the melodies of interconnected galaxies.
I’ve been alone since the beginning of time,
stranded in space,
wondering if I wanted to be found.

I feared the loss of gravity,
a theft of wavering worth
fragile hearts
spinning uncontrollably towards the blinding light.
I can see something on the horizon,
accumulated in denial,
a right and wrong decision too near.

I didn’t want to collide,
a burst of flowering regret
fiery ashes
straining the elasticity of my bones.
I can feel my certainty evaporating,
buried in ruin,
maybe I can’t hide within.

I have to trust I’ll bounce back,
a barrage of broken thoughts
orbiting forever
I will be my north star.

For My Beloved

Written by Sydney Paolercio – Instagram: @sydneypaolercio

Without you, dearest, I couldn’t see or hear, 
or feel or think
or live.

I don’t know what to do without you.
To clasp you now and feel your head close-pressed—
Then, only then, can I greedily consume your presence.

My love is selfish,
So love me today,
& yesterday,
Love me at the ungodly hour
untitled man to whom I gave my heart.

My own Darling Boy—
You’re the only one.
All my thoughts have been with you,
So come quick—come quick to me.

It takes a certain intelligence to love,
It’s like begging for mercy of a storm.
So don’t promise me fair sky above, don’t promise me kind road below;
Just walk with me, my love— 
any way the wind blows.

I Find You There

Written by Parker Gray – Portfolio

It’s the cold days that get me. They deepen the embers of the burning remains of my heart. They leave me empty and alone. Yet, somehow they fill me with hope and the unusual sense of some temporary bout of belonging. The piercing jolt of the cold, it brings me to move – motivates me to stay warm, to stay positive about the comforts of the earth and all it encompasses. I find traces of serenity as I recall the paths I’ve so aimlessly wandered during my days. I find you there. 

It’s the hot days that get me. They leave me cold and hidden from the world. I melt from the inside out, and turn graciously to a pool of blue clarity. It seeps from every part of me until there’s nothing left. These are my least favorite of days;  the warmth reminds me of how cold I have become. How explicitly sharp I feel, like the jagged edges of broken glass – like the pieces of me and the darkness of my past. Yet I find a sense of regularity in the humidity of the day and I’m overwhelmed by the unknown rise of comfort that consumes me. I find you there. 

It’s the long days that get me. They drag on as if they know my soul and see through my eyes. These are the days when I search the world for the visions I once held so dear. These are the days I dream – quietly, alone, and to myself. I’m lost in the beauty of purpose and fate, while I struggle to associate with anything that seems real. My dissociations with life stem from everything that is broken, battered, and destroyed – like the innocence I so desperately miss. I’m left with only the bitterness of truth. It is raw and it is beautiful. It reminds me of you. And I find you there.

Absence of the Unknown

Written by Parker Gray – Portfolio

I hope no one ever calls you pretty. 

You were meant to burn down the earth and graffiti the sky with particles of light – particles of yourself, particles of matter. You matter. Don’t ever let anyone simplify you to something as elementary as “pretty.”  Not even me. 

You will never be pretty. You will be the storm that rages and causes the waters of the sea to rise and propagate violently. You will be the rising sun when light is the only cure. And similarly, somehow, you will be the moon – controlling all that exists through some unparalleled paradox. Accompanied by only the greatest division of life and death, you will be remarkable and breathtaking. You are remarkable and breathtaking. 

So you see, I hope no one ever calls you pretty. For they will never know how they have sincerely disgraced you and all that you are by generalizing you with such blanketed conformities. You weren’t meant to be pretty. 

And if I promise to always see you as the stars in the sky, the ones you cannot see, will you promise to fight like hell to hear the wind when the walls that surround you have all been boarded up? 

You deserve the love that most people don’t believe in anymore. They’re all so pretty. And you weren’t meant to be pretty.