The Struggles of Man

by Loren Haas

Earlier in the experiment, she was a far more graceful creature. Her movements flowed through her entire body, starting at her muscular limbs, pouring into her knobby joints, exploding into the cat-like arch of her back. Each muscle bulged and sprang in tune, a synchronous melody of the body and the mind. Every test proved her an art form. Now, however, the true nature of the beast has been revealed. Her once graceful movements have turned brutish. She leaps savagely, pouncing on her prey with perfect rage. There is blood caked on her teeth, her nails, into her precious hair. Her muscles pop individually, each action independent and almost fully reactive. Her left side, I’ve noticed, is almost always favored; she throws all her weight behind it, barreling down her prey through the sheer force of her muscles. I wonder what drove this madness into her. Is it just the soul of the animal? Does she taste completion on her fleshy tongue? Or does she desire the taste, so she tears and gnaws and gnashes until the coppery taste of her victory fills her mouth?
The Director and I glance away from the bloodbath, towards each other at the same moment. I cannot read a single inch of her face, no indication of one thought in her head. “We could grab a nightcap to celebrate our findings,” she says suddenly, “if you’d like.”
Perhaps, one day, man will forget the pleasures of victory. Perhaps we will turn our backs to the spoils of war and instead climb our way to our rightful place among the sky and the stars. Perhaps, then, we will ascend our earthly desires and our human villainy and instead become a beacon for enlightenment midst the darkness.
Until that day, I follow the Director out the door.

Lilith Rune

by Kayley Boddy

Her name was Lilith Rune and her soul dripped down her arms. They’d always told us that, years ago, our souls dripped down our arms like paint, until we learned to contain them. She was the story. We feared Lilith Rune.
But as a child who hardly believed the unseen and desired proof for everything, I believed neither of these things. Lilith Rune was and never will be a monster because our souls were never paint and they never dripped down our arms.
So on the day I set out to find Lilith Rune, my mother and father kicked me from the home reasoning that if I died, it wouldn’t be their responsibility. Thus was the day I discovered the absolute brainwork wonder of Lilith Rune and the soul that actually dripped down her arms and puddled like an oil spill at her feet.
Our conversation on her back porch in the Appalachian Mountains went as follows.
“Lilith Rune?”
“I am.”
“I’ve heard wonders of you.”
“Honorary of your folk, that is. Have you come to hide me again?”
“Hide you? Miss Lilith, why would I desire the hiding away of you?”
Her paint slipped off the first step of the porch and twisted around the cherry blossom trunks, inching ever so slightly up the trees, speckling the bark with bright shades of the color spectrum. She only ignored it.
“What are you named?”
“Nothing that matters.”
“A name matters more than a life, lasts longer than a life, speaks louder than a life,” she said, and at this she stepped to me and placed both of her painted hands in my own. “I? Myself, I am a ghostly, monstrous secret. Tell me about yourself.”
“I am Auden Caelan.”
“Knowledgeable guardians you possess, Auden Caelan. An old friend to the people of victory. How long has your friendship been withheld?”
She spoke with a misty haze, blinding my teachings, but yet I was no stranger to her words, and I responded as any I expected would. “I am of fourteen years.”
“And an old friend, an old soul, as named?”
“Old, yes, in my friendship.”
Her hands leaped out of mine and held each other. The way Lilith Rune spoke was unfamiliar now, detached, cautionary. “You have come to expose my being.”
“Only if you oblige,” I said.
At this, she paused, hesitantly weighing my offer. Paint seemed to cover every inch of her backyard the longer we spoke; it trickled farther from her home. It nearly reached the limbs of the cherry blossom trees. She hardly disrupted our peaceful meeting however, not even to acknowledge the colors of the mountains. I took the silence as a request for me to step away from the paint on her arms and to give the monster room to thrash, room to disrupt.
But Lilith Rune did not thrash. For she was not a monster.
“I suppose the people of victory will ally me.”
“As best my friends are able.”
“And my paint?”
“Your soul cannot be taken, I suppose, as the city does not have room for it to expand and flow from your arms. The paint will flood the street.”
“Will you leave your paint with mine?”
“I cannot discard it. I am a containment.”
She smiled at me ever so slightly, and looked up at the colors of the cherry blossom trees, and washed her paint into the mountain, placing her palm against the skin of my arm.
“You are not a containment,” she whispered. “Your soul has always been in your veins.”
And from this conversation I led Miss Lilith Rune into the city. I led the monster home to show what the monsters do. But Lilith Rune was not a monster. She taught us how to paint our arms.

Numbers

by Kaitlyn Marlowe

Numbers.
n-u-m-b-e-r-s
7 letters come together to form a word that is my existence – I am a number.
Since the moment I could breathe I have been a 9-digit code even worse than a barcode because I am now an object for the government’s use – I am a number.
I am nothing more than the calculator you buy to devise a set of numbers that round into an A and decide my GPA – 3 more letters that form a number that define my existence, that define if I can pay for my education – full of numbers.
Will I ever be more than a number?
My life is defined by the number on the test I took in high school that will force me to stay in the 865 – which is yet another number defining my location so those CIA can track my existence with yet another number because I will never be more than a number.
One day when I pass away I will be a number of the day, of the month, of the year, of the lifetime, my soul will add to the clock that increases every 0.3 to tell you the number of people that have died in this moment because in the end I am nothing, but a number here in the 865 or the 37919 – I am a number.
I am so tired of just being a number.
Hi. My name is Kaitlyn and on this day I am deciding to not be defined as my 9-digit birth right because I am no robot, I am not under government control I have a soul and screw that below average test score – I will not let numbers describe who I am like the polypeptide strand that I will never understand because I hate numbers.
Hi, my name is Kaitlyn – 7 letters come together to form a word that is my existence.
I will not be number.

The Lightbulb and the Battery

by Shane Embury

Copper wires connected the system.
A lightbulb on one end,
A low-voltage battery on the other.
The lightbulb glowed a pale yellow,
Given life by the battery on the other end.
Energy coursed through the wires.
The lightbulb flickered,
And began to emit a brighter yellow,
A stronger yellow,
A more powerful yellow brilliance.
The room was illuminated with vibrant light.
The battery released massive amounts of energy,
And without warning,
The exchange became violent.
Energy was sucked from the battery.
The lightbulb became greedy,
Starved for the flow of energy,
Determined to release a light strong enough
To rival the sun’s.
The battery had little more to give,
And the lightbulb took all of it.
Then,
With one last electric current running through the copper wire,
The lightbulb exploded.
Glass shattered,
Tiny shards sprinkled all over the system.
The light vanished.
Where the lightbulb once cast a yellow glow,
Nothing remained.
Nothing but a lifeless battery
With nothing left in it
But an unshakable fear of whatever lightbulb came next.

Stranger

by Amber Brown

I know you more than anyone
Although not at all
I hope for a better bond
Because that is all I want.

They say change is good,
But not for you and I.
I don’t like to be different,
It doesn’t seem right.

Sometimes we get angry at each other
Sometimes it hurts to look at you.
Even though we are always together,
I feel like lost connection.

There are days when we are sad
There are days when we have fun
But we cannot come apart
We will be there until the end
As we were from the start.

In the end it is only me and you
So I guess I should get to know you better
Can we please start over?
My name is me and I am you.
I am a stranger to myself.