Alien

“Nobody. Move.” I hissed hostilely through gritted teeth, reflexively curling and uncurling my fingers around the trigger of the gun. It was a something I always did when I was scared; one might even call it a nervous tick. Before tests, I always curled and uncurled my fingers around the edge of my pencil, and before track meets, I always curled and uncurled my fingers around the shoulder strap of my gym bag.

Only this time, I wasn’t scared. I was downright terrified.

“Arnold, sweetie,” My mom began, eyeing the pistol in my hand with fear glimmering in her misty grey eyes, the tears building in the corners threatening to spill as she held out her trembling hand. “Give me the weapon.”

I cocked the gun and pointed the barrell straight at her forehead.

“I said don’t move.”  

Suddenly, Noah stepped out in front of my mother, arms spread out wide as if that could possibly shield her from a bullet. “Woah, woah, woah! Hold on here a second. Arnold, that you’re mum.” He exclaimed, incredulity and trepidation causing the british twang in his voice to crack.

I almost lowered the gun, but the cold sting of the metal against my pale flesh snapped me back into the reality of the situation.

I now aimed the gun at him. “What do you think you’re doing, alien scum?”

“Arnold,” A quiet voice squeaked from the back of the room. It was Vanessa, doleful brown eyes brimming with tears. “Nobody here is the alien.” She spoke slowly, and I felt my erratic heartbeat being lulled into security as she tried to rationalize with me. I could trust her, of all people. I’ve liked her since the second grade; we’ve known each other years before then. I could trust her.

But the weight of the weapon in my hands reminded me that trusting people is how I got here in the first place.

I moved the gun from my mom. Then at Noah. Then at Vanessa.

Then at myself.

The gun cocked, fingers curling and uncurling, a breath leaving my lips, and a flash fills the room.

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Unforgettable

“Sweetie, who are you again?” My grandmother, Susan, asked with a blank, yet amiable expression on her wrinkled features.

I smile sadly.

“I’m no one important.”

“I’m sure that’s not true, darling!” She exclaimed, swatting me playfully on my shoulder with impressive strength for a grandmother. “Just because you’re of no relation to me doesn’t make you unimportant.”

I did not know whether to laugh or cry.

“Now, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself,” Susan requested as an nurse came over to check her vitals.

“Well, I’m a history major at Princeton University,” I tell her, mustering up as much enthusiasm as I could, knowing exactly how she would reply. We have had this conversation many times over, after all.

“A history major!” She cried out gleefully. “Now, that brings back some memories. I was a history major myself, you know.”

I knew. She had told me over and over again, day after day, year after year.

“Really?”

But it was not that hard to fake the surprise. For her sake.

Because seeing her dull, crystalline blue eyes light up when I asked was priceless to me.

“Yes, I am! My favorite thing to study is—”

 

World War Ⅱ.

“—World War Ⅱ. In fact, I may still have it. Let me check…”

Susan shifted over slightly in her bed, and I became increasingly worried that the IV in her arm would fall out.

Pulling out a small, red book form her tableside drawer, she wiped off the dust with quivering fingers so pale, they were almost translucent, and you could easily see the veins underneath, transporting blood from her fragile heart.

“This is my brother’s diary,” She explained with pride tinting he trembling voice. “He was a soldier who fought World War Ⅱ.”

She handed me the journal, and I gingerly began flipping through the pages.

Even though I’ve read through it thousands upon thousands of times, I never ceased to be amazed when I saw it. My great-uncle Sherman was an pretty incredible fighter and an even more incredible peacemaker. He was the mediator of his squadron, judging by what he had written.

It was regrettable that he had died before his time.

“He was there on the shores of Normandy during Operation Doomsday. His plane had been shot down. There were no survivors.” She stared intently at the notebook in my hands. “It was a miracle that one of the soldiers had managed to recover that diary. A miracle.”

She paused for a moment, as if contemplating something weighing heavily on her alzheimer’s-diseased mind.

“Why don’t you keep that book, sweetie.”

This was a new twist to an normarily ordinary conservation that I’ve had every day for the past couple of years.

“Are you sure about it? This sounds like it’s really important to you.”

“I’m sure. You know…” Her voice trailed off, before returning with more strength than I ever heard in her since before her diagnosis. “You remind me of my granddaughter.”

My breath hitched in my throat.

“Her name was Jessica. Though I’ve long forgotten what she looked like,” She looked at me straight with her dull, crystalline blue eyes. “You remind me a lot about her.”

That night, when I returned to my cramped apartment, I cried for the first time in a long, long time.

Susan Williams passed away the very next day, age eighty-two.

I was given the small, red book by one of the nurses.

I would carry it everywhere I went.

I would read it all the time.

I would read it during lectures; I would read it on the bus; I would read it right before I fell asleep at night, and I would read it first thing in the morning.

And then, on a certain day, Inspiration would strike me like a lightning bolt sent straight from the heavens. Straight from her.

Then, I would have an idea.

I became overwhelmed by the blinding lights flashing from the audience and the question swarming around me like wasps around their hive, desperate for someone to sting.

Today, that someone was me.

“What are your thoughts about your main character, Sherman?”

“How did you decide to write a historical fiction novel?

“What are your thoughts on how your book about World War Ⅱ was name a New York Best Seller?

Suddenly, I heard a question that piqued my interest.

“Hold on,” I cried into the microphone. The buzzing instantly died down.

I pointed to a man sitting in the front row, his receding hairline causing the lights to reflect off of his forehead in a blinding manner.

“Can you please repeat your question?”

Though he looked slightly startled that I had pick him out from the hundreds of reporters there, he continued on without hesitation.

“You said your stories were inspired by a real person. So tell us: what were they like?”

I smiled, suddenly feeling a steady yet comforting hand on my shoulder,

though I would watch the press conference back later and see absolutely no one.

“She was unforgettable.”

Grandmother

Wrinkled skin draws your eyes away from the
Twinkle gleaming in her dull eyes and the
Tinkle resonating in her trembling voice
Crinkled outside, beautiful in; which do you prefer?

For in my mind lies not a single doubt
Nor, with her, do I use my sight
Explore the prisoner trapped in time’s cage
Adore her, for she is the reason that I write


Hi.

So I normally don’t leave little side notes on my poems and short stories, but I felt like I had to for this one. This poem is dedicated to my grandmother, who passed away just a little while ago. I love her, and I hope she rests in peace.

Diamond Dust

I watch as diamond dust

falls to the ground.

Softly and silently,

beautiful to the eyes

but chilling to the touch.

It’s scintillating shimmer

is out of place

with the dead trees around it.

The wind whispers in my ears,

nipping at my toes

as it blows into the distance,

leaving as quickly as it arrived.

Only a faint reminder is there

that it even existed.

The frosty air fills my lungs.

The snow freezes my bare feet

as I trudge along

this icy path.

I may slip,

and I may fall.

But this ice ignites passion,

and I will get up.

I will always get up.

Winter seems

immortal, infinite, endless.

But I know this isn’t true,

for in the divine desert of diamonds

lies a vivid patch of emerald.

Although feeble and frail,

it will outlast this boreal winter.

For when snow melts,

it is not water that is made.

It is spring.

Not Mine

Before the events in this tale took place, creatures of differing species only united with others of the exact same species. Other than trading and other necessary interactions, the association of different breeds was considered to be a nefarious sin among all.

However, this was the only similarity in rule that they shared with one another. Their cultures diverged upon many paths, from advanced to modest, from religious to atheistic, and from communal to solitary.

And the species most known for isolation were the dragons.

They were humongous, serpentine beings with wingspans that could block out the balmy rays of light and cloak the land with shadows, sending shivers down the spines of the sacred. Slits peering from underneath lids of scales glinted ominously with some mix of vexation and loathing, and, as the ophidian beast let out a roar of inferno that scorched the surrounding terrain, it exposed its prolonged fangs that were more often than not stained with crimson. Even among their own kind they remained isolated from one another, as from the very second their mother deemed that they could survive on their own, they would be exiled from the nest with no more than a hostile glower.

Thus was the story of Aeron, who was taught from the moment his first breath was inhaled that love was something that did not exist. Fleeing from his brethren at a youthful age, the young dragon had taken refuge in the murky swamp where trees long since barren loomed from above. The few forest sprites the woodland had left were driven out with the wings on their backs slightly singed.

It was only then that Aeron had what he had always longed for: solitude and silence.

But then why was this silence so ear-splittingly loud?

That was the particular question the rung through his scaly chest on that gloomy evening. The dragon had been attempting to shake off his insomnia and drift into slumber, when he heard a sound. This faint sound would have gone undetected by others, but Aeron had long since trained his ears to pick up this distinct noise.

It was the sound footsteps.

Immediately the dragon’s eyes snapped open and his claws were instinctively unsheathed. He glowered at the rustling bushes and tried to recall which striking points were most fatal.

And that was when his life had changed completely. Forever.

For Aeron’s hostile glare, for the first time since his feet had touched the earth, faltered as a scrawny fawn stumbled into the clearing.

This young deerling was no bigger that the crooked claw on his smallest toe, yet it foolishly sauntered up to him and sniffed his hide. Although it trembled on its four legs, Aeron had a suspicion that it was not out of terror.

What was wrong with this creature? Did it not know that a dragon such as him could easily swallow her up in a single gulp?

Determining that this feeble creature needed a reminder, Aeron tilted his head to the heaven and released the conflagration building up in his lung, roasting the nearby forestry until they became the color of obsidian.

Though this would normally send grown centaurs scuttling away with their stony eyes brimming with tears, the fawn that stood before him did not even so much as flinch, but rather nuzzled closer to the drake. Letting out a somnolent yawn, her brown eyes disappeared under her furry lids.

Stunned utterly speechless, Aeron could only gaze upon the tranquil sight in awe. Not only was it inconceivable that this frail deerling did not tremble in terror before him, but their was this feeling of warmth swelling inside of his chest, but it was not because of the fire in his stomach. It was something hotter than hatred.

“Perhaps you were not mine to begin with,” Aeron thought as for the first time in years the animosity within him dispersed and warmth settled into his heart. “But now, you are my family.”

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Common Sense

Brandon could hear the sound of footsteps, silently creeping up the stairs. He could just imagine his Bethany now; a mix of alarm and trepidation clouding her eyes as his girlfriend tried to silence her heart that continued to thump in a rapid, erratic pattern. It had beaten in a similar manner when they had first met. However, instead of her regular anxiety, her heart was fueled by the butterflies fluttering gleefully in her stomach. He knows this because he had felt the same sensation: a sensation of love and adoration so strong, that even with his own mother he had never felt this way before. So on that very day, the day when his life first intertwined with hers, he decided to make a vow. A vow he swore he would never break till the day he took his final breath.

“I promise I will always treat you like the princess you are.”

And he did. At first. He always came to her rescue, saving the poor damsel in distress all while maintaining his dazzling, charismatic smile. He slayed all of her dragons, whether it be something as severe as financial issues or something as insignificant as a growling stomach. To her, he seemed perfect; like a prince in shining, steel armor.

It’s too bad she didn’t realize how quickly steel rusted.

For on one fateful day, inside of Brandon’s head, a voice appeared. It was nothing more than a sound; echoing and reverberating against the walls of his mind. When it came, it came bearing the title of ‘Common Sense’ and claimed that it would enlighten Brandon with its philosophy of rationale and logic. Brandon didn’t think much of it at the time; after all, it seemed like only good could come out of his new companion. But then, right when he had started to trust this newfound associate, the accusations began to emerge.

“Hey, I’m going out with my friends tonight to see that new movie. Is that alright?” Bethany had told him with a elated expression flaring in her eyes as she gleamed down cheerfully at the electronically lit phone in her hands.

Brandon had opened his mouth to say “Of course!” when Common Sense decided to interfere and assert its own opinion.

“She’s a liar.”

“She’s going out with another guy.”

“Don’t trust her; She’ll leave you.”

“No.”

Bethany’s gazed whipped up to meet his infuriated glare. “Huh? What do you mean ‘no’?”

“I mean, you’re not going. You’re going to stay here with me. We can go see that movie later this week together if you want. But it’ll just be me and you; no one else.”

Although she looked rather disturbed by his vindictive response, she reluctantly agreed. And as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into eternity, this became embedded into the foundations of their relationship: an unspoken rule between the two of them that she wasn’t allowed to leave the house unless she was beside him. For a while, all was good. Bethany was a very obedient girlfriend: constantly submissive to his every command. Tonight however, it seems like she gained a streak of defiance; as if she thought she could break the regulations and expect to get away with it.

If he weren’t so furious, he would think her naivëty cute.

“Where were you this evening, Bethany?”

Bethany froze as she felt a chill run up her spine from his irate, acrimonious question. She began backing up when she saw the enraged expression haunting his eyes.

“Brandon! I didn’t know you would still be up.”

When Brandon saw her trying to escape back down the stairs, he reached out and aggressively seized her wrist.

“She was out with her friends again.”

“You were out with your friends again!”

“She was trying to make you angry.”

“You were purposely trying to make me angry.”

“She’s a liar.”

“You lied to me!”

Bethany, unable to take the accusations thrown at her, raised her voice to match his volume. “What was I supposed to do? You don’t let me leave this house without you! I can’t see my family, my friends, anyone anymore! I just can’t do this anymore, Brandon! I want to leave! I want to—”

Brandon couldn’t remember what happened next. All he could recall was that a white-hot wave of rage overtook his senses until all he could see, smell, think, and do was anger. When the heat began to dissipate and the darkness began to disperse, the sight that was revealed to him made him recoil in horror. Bethany stood in front of him, her eyes wide with disbelief and betrayal. Her wrist was stained with a grotesque, yellow bruise in the exact place where his vice-like grip was mere moments ago. She was protectively caressing her cheek, which was tarnished with a flaming red mark that was dubiously in the shape of a handprint. It didn’t take long for him to piece everything together.

“Bethany I’m—”

He wasn’t even able finish his sentence before Bethany ran out of their apartment, the door slamming shut with a resonating crash.

Brandon felt his brain shut down and his emotions run rampage as, once again, anger hijacked his senses. Only this time, his fury was intertwined with another emotion: regret. He felt a burning, desperate desire in the depths of his stomach to turn back the hands of the clock; to take back his mistake. And his rage increased tenfold when he realized he couldn’t.

Swearing horrid, obscene words that made his mouth feel disgustingly vile, he unleashed his rage on a nearby mirror, shattering his reflection so severely that it became unrecognizable. Although crimson blood trickled down his clenched fist, he found himself unable to stop, because the pain from the shards of glass that lodged into his skin was a pain he was able to endure. Losing the one and only person he had ever loved; being alone; that was a mental anguish he wouldn’t ever be able to sustain.

Eventually, his anger began to ebb away, leaving him to face the bitter disappointment that plagued his heart head first. Gasping for breath (as in his heated moment of outrage, he had forgotten to breathe) he assessed his damaged fist, carefully trying to remove a reflective shard that was embedded into his knuckle. Moving his gaze from his hand to his mirror, he howled in horror. For the thing where his reflection should be was most certainly not him. Instead, a gargantuan behemoth was glowering at him, hostility gleaming in its sickly pale green eyes. The beast growled, baring wicked, razor sharp teeth that were coated in a repulsive yellowish plaque. It eyed Brandon hungrily, as if contemplating devouring him whole, all while flashing his wicked, deformed claws that gleamed under the moonlight filtering in through the open window.

Brandon could hardly believe the atrocious deformity in front of him. Trying to convince himself that this is and only will be a dream, he closed his eyes, inhaling a deep breath all while silently praying that when he reopened them, all signs that this mutant ever existed would vanish.

He opened his eyes. His voice hitched in his throat. For peering at him from behind the shiny, reflective mirror wasn’t that grotesque, green-eyed demon, but something much, much more horrifying. They way it looked into his eye caused his heart pump dread and terror into his veins and his blood to run ice-cold.

For staring back at him wasn’t some kind of hellish leviathan or freakish mammoth, but a man. A man named Brandon Smith. A man who has now harmed the one and only person who has ever mattered in his life.

And that was more horrifying than any monster could ever be.