Untitled by Vanessa de Loa

Jump into your reflection, feel the tentacles in the depths tease your toes. Let your skin soak in the sun, listen to the 128 trees greeting each other. Every other weekend I sit and I sleep and I think while I get lost in the comfort of strangers. I can be your patient and talk  to you about a beautiful forest, or the top of the mountain I cut with a paper. Can you feel the Eight planets surrounding you? Tell me if the moon stares at you in the middle of the stars. I can be your patient and talk to you about the universe, and how it’s not infinite. I can tell you every story the stars and planets have whispered too loud to me. Do you jump  through countries and galaxies like hopscotch? Or are you afraid on your couch like the floor is lava? Do you believe you, your 206 bones, brain and heart belong for this earth? I can be your patient, talk to you about how you have to feel the water kissing every inch of your bare body at least for seven Midnights. I can tell you if heaven, dirt, or hell makes a better home. I can talk to you about the six cats I’ve had so far in my second life. I can talk to you about the raindrops coming down of heaven feel like a breath. I am your patient.

Nightfall by Jason Anderson

To Alfretta Moody.

1876-1943

Last night was rainy so the ground outside had turned into mud. As the water dribbled off of the roof, Alfretta reminisced on her childhood. Running bare-footed in the grass, and becoming one with insects, and trees. Sunshine. But now dusk was upon her, and she couldn't even go back to that place and rest with the tree which had grown and will continue growing until the end of natural eternity. Perhaps after nightfall she could go back and say her last goodbyes. Maybe. Mildred was running in the mud like she used to. She was simply a child but she was not stupid; she was genius like. Loraine walked in the room and carried a large pail of water, our mother. She grabbed a ladle and filled it with water. She wanted to feed it to Alfretta but she knew she wanted to savour what independence she had. She slowly sipped at the water gazing out into the rain, watching the tree branches sway back and forth with the fluidity of the water.

"You can go get help. Yalyu said he'd be more than happy to help," said Loraine.

"If it is time, then it is. There is no point in delaying it. The cycle will continue. Soon I will become dust, and go to the Hunting Grounds," she said very soothingly.

"They will land. I have dreamt it. The sun was nowhere to be found. He refused to look upon us that day. The seas, tainted with red"

"Yes. I have seen. It is inevitable. We see, but cannot prevent. It is not our place. We cope, and we do it well. That's all we could do for the last hundred or so seasons"

"I also hear a noise, but cannot comprehend it. I hear screams in my dreams, but suddenly silence"

"I have seen it. Man's ambition turned to unimaginable power. I don't know when, but it will bring our mother to tears. She is strong but everyone has a limit. But she will cope. She is a master"

"I don't understand why," Loraine asked.

"Even our mother has an end. But we can't look back. Time will continue and you must flow with it. Do not become a rock in the river of time"

"I understand. I only worry about Mildred"

"She is strong. Stronger than both of us. Her power is great. She will cope and continue," she put her head back, and let the water flow through her; she felt its power,"We will continue throughout time and life, Loraine. My date is here. My love is strong for you, but don't ever look back because you will only see regret, and stagnation. Cope and move on"

Nightfall.  

Cold Air

Alfred wasn’t very old, a newborn of two weeks. His mother, Alicia, was exhausted and staying in the twelfth room on the fifth floor at Denver Memorial Hospital. As she fell asleep that night with her son, she smiled staring out the distant window. She dreamt of the future, a modern house with a husband and a good school for her kid, a happy life.

Her husband and Alfred’s father, Tobias, entered the room trying not to wake either. She needed the rest and so did Alfred. Tobias was less calm of being a new parent. He was an English teacher at a local high school, East High. His mind raced with possibilities, of worries one might have with a low paying job that shows you the worst of what can happen to once-adorable children.

Tobias had seen children grow up, he’d seen them get into wrong crowds. Children have actually used their potential and gone to college under him, as well as some of his students he’s known for six years at a four year high school. Tobias knows just how easily a teenager can set a great trajectory for life, as well as make sure there isn’t one.

“What a life, too,” Tobias thinks. The world around him is increasingly desperate. Climates warm and people bicker on whether it’s real. Salt water levels increase and yet drinkable water is wasted. With over seven billion people, the world is going to have too many in not too long.

Tobias whispers just too loudly, “Oh, God.”

Alfred is awake. He can’t see well, just some black and a source of light in the corner with a figure blocking it, his father, but he doesn’t know that. All Alfred knows is that it’s cold, that this isn’t comfortable, and that there might be something in his pants. Alfred juts his arms upward, though he didn’t mean to. If it weren’t so uncomfortable he might have questioned it. The strange figure starts to hobble over towards Alfred. The figure was small, only five feet five inches, but it was giant to Alfred, only thirteen inches head to toe.

This scared Alfred just enough to make him try something slightly new to him. He tried to shout, to cry, he was scared. Some mucous blocked it, so it started as a quieter warble until he was picked up by the figure.

His arms were like a bed, but they created their own heat and they had a rhythm that Alfred could hear. Though it smelled strange, it was more comfortable so Alfred was content, but hungry. The figure pulled out a white thing with a colored top, just visible under the lamp, and brought it to Alfred’s mouth. As Alfred began to drink, he felt better, happier, and started to turn the corners of his lips as best he could. But, as he got tired again, he stopped drinking and his eyelids drooped. The new father was sitting in the corner armchair with his sleeping son in his arms.

Tobias looked down at Alfred and put the bottle under the lamp again. He looked up at his wife, seeing her smile in her sleep. Tobias only frowned. A cynical man, he looked down and thought, “This might be the happiest you’ll ever be.”

For weeks now, this voice in Tobias’ head scared him. It told him of the futility of his son’s life, the darkness of the future for his son. While he struggled to see a bright future with Alicia and Alfred, his brain told him of other choices, trying to scare him out of a difficult step in his life.

“It’s easy,” the voice said slowly, with Tobias watching his son sleep, “He won’t have to suffer. It will be quick. Almost like flying. He would be happy.”

Tobias rose from his seat. With his son sleeping in his arm, he opened the window.

Trembling, Tobias raised and pushed his arms out. A war struggles in his mind. Tobias is too smart to think his child will be happy. He’s seen too much, but he’s also a father now, meant to protect. The voice asks, “How can you protect him from the future?”

Tobias looks at his wife’s smile. How many times have they talked about what they want for Alfred? How many times have they discussed schools to send him to and who to watch him while the other works? They’ve been so excited together, the whole time Tobias hiding this fear.

What if Tobias isn’t good enough to be a father? Tobias wants to be respected, loved, trusted. Tobias wants to set good examples for his son and make good decisions. For Alfred to be supported. He wants Alfred protected from the pain that the world can bring.

Since the couple learned they were going to be pregnant, Tobias had wished for a better example of a father to go off of. His own was working when he was young. The man would get home at seven in the evening, eat his dinner with his wife and two children, and then go to sleep to wake up at five and do it again. During dinner he would ask each child two essential questions: do they have homework, and how was school. This always disheveled Tobias in his youth, having a father so distant. There wasn’t time for stories or to get close, just the essentials.

With shallow breaths Tobias questions what to do with his son.

Tobias closes his eyes.

Alfred is falling. He’s coming towards the ground at almost nine point eight meters per second. A second later he’s heading downward at almost ninety six meters per second. With each passing moment his fate comes closer faster, but Alfred doesn’t know that’s happening.

Alfred didn’t see anything, he didn’t hear anything, he was unable to wake in time.

Tobias’ son just left his once strong grasp. He watched. The voice says in his head it was the only way but his body rejects it. He wails. The pain in his chest turns to a fire as with each beat his heart explodes. It spreads up his throat to his mouth, silencing him. He can’t breathe. It then goes to his eyes, the tears like acid against his skin.

As he watches his vision goes black. He sees Alfred on a swing with him behind to push. His eyes flash white and he sees the life Alfred could have had.

His first birthday party would have made him laugh. Alfred put his face into the cake. Alicia laughs and they take pictures.

His second birthday party would have gotten him his first musical instrument, a baby sized ukulele. Alicia’s idea because she knows the importance of music, something Tobias hadn’t ever much pursued.

On Alfred’s third birthday party he would get his first best friend, a puppy that would grow up with him. A dog was already decided by Tobias and Alicia, both having them as they grew up.

Alfred’s tenth birthday would get him a bike. Three months later would be his first big fall and the pain of a broken bone.

Tobias opens his eyes.

Tobias whimpers and his arms twitch as they hold Alfred out of the window, tears burning down his cheeks. The voice lingers a single question,

“Who will you be?”