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.

Long Island Blue

by Aubrey Keller

Blue are her eyes, perpetually laughing in the Sun.  Its celestial body will outlive us all, despite the deceptive feel of infinity in my cousin, Daisys, joy.  Contrary are her words- notice taken of the stillness of late summer days and of her life of confinement.  For a fleeting moment, her own blue sparkled, given hope of adventures like in fairy tales shed been intrigued by as a child.  Now, that moment has ended.
Blue sky is still above us as the blood of her knight, her beacon of hope, mixes with the shallow, controlled ripples of water he had meant to enjoy.  Or perhaps hed meant to drown by a means that resembled his tears.  Sorrows over a life that was once attainable but now has no way to exist, though it has all components to be sustained.
Blue, orange, and pink were once colors of the lights shining upon my neighbors garden on Saturday nights when he was surrounded by a calculated mix of strangers.  And now, the uninvited, colorful guests are replaced by bleak, uninvited ill fate.  Only blue remains, and in blue we shall dwell as long as we linger among the islands thieving ways

The Birth of a World

by Ursula Williams

Long ago, there was nothing separating the Heavens from the Earth. The gods and goddesses mingled as they wished amongst the humans and other mortal creatures.
They took it upon themselves to shape the human’s destiny, as they believed this was their right. They destroyed many things, and occasionally created. There was a particularly narcissistic, young god who is at the center of the story. The young god decided that he wanted to destroy the heart of a maiden. However, not any maiden would do, for he believed that he deserved the best the Earth had to offer, even if he meant to destroy it. So he searched for the most beautiful girl around. And after a short search he found her, her skin was soft and flawless and her hair was the color of pure starlight. He disguised himself as a blacksmith’s apprentice and began to woo her. He visited her often, during the day sometimes, but often times during the night. He seduced her: body, mind, and soul.
He was cautious to keep her; he waited a long while before he deemed that she was in love with him. He waited until she had become entirely devoted to him. Once he was sure of this, he revealed his godly status. She was heart-broken, for it was a well-known fact that gods and mortals could never be together. He left her grief-stricken as he returned to the Heaven unscathed. Through the young maiden’s grief, she had a moment of clarity. Life meant nothing to her without her beloved, so she could take her own life. She could ascend to the Heavens, and then they could be together.  Immediately she threw herself from a cliff, unable to stand the distance between them any longer.
But suicide does something nasty to one’s soul. It morphs and mutilates even the most beautiful beings. It creates a twisted, disgusting, toxic creature out of them. The once gorgeous maiden was now forever foul. As she walked through the Heavens she was shunned by everyone who saw her. Still, with love in her mangled heart, she persisted on. She looked for him, sure that he’d still accept her, even in this form. At last, she found him.
   She approached him cautiously, and loudly professed what she had done, what she had sacrificed for their love. She told him of her deep love for him. He looked upon her hideous, mangled form and he laughed. He scorned her and ridiculed her for believing in such frivolous things as love. Especially for believing that he could love such a repulsive creature. She could only stare at him in mute horror as he broke her heart once more. She would not stay silent any longer, however.
She opened her mouth and she screamed. She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed! The Heavens shook and the Earth crumbled with the sheer force of her raw emotions, with the force of her uncensored pain. The god before her trembled and begged for her silence, for the very universe itself was coming apart at the seams. She refused.
It was there, between the Heavens and Earth that the rip appeared. A rip that started small and unseen that gradually tore bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until it spanned the entire space between the two worlds. With this, she finally fell silent.
She declared that this rip would be a new world. A world where a person’s true nature would always come to light. A world of shattered souls. She decreed that this world would be a barrier between the Heavens and the Earth that no longer would the immortals be able to interfere with the lives on Earth. With this, she locked herself away in gilded tower, high in her new barren land. It is said that it is there she still stays, keeping a watchful eye on the Heavens. None know if this is true, for none have seen her, and the only way to her world is death.
Thus was the birth of a world that has become the lifeblood of the universe. Thus was the birth of Evermore.