Delilah sat up in bed, hunched over her newest gift. She was too weak to sit up straight. “I hope you like it.” Joseph said softly.
Delilah flipped the journal over in her hand. The cover was smooth and pink, with flower embroidery climbing up the sides. The girl’s nimble fingers traced these floral designs up and down. “You deserve it after... everything.” Joseph's glossy eyes fell to the IVs in her wrists.
“Thanks, I love the flowers.” she grabbed a pencil and flipped to the first blank page, starting to doodle a teacup. The pencil’s strokes were light and precise, until Delilah accidentally drew the handle crooked. She tried to erase it, but even when the surface graphite was gone, a harsh mark still tainted her page. “I pressed too hard.” she mumbled, then paused. Despite erasing it, evidence of the line remained. It wasn’t truly gone.
The girl felt herself growing weaker with time, Joseph noticed it too. It wouldn’t be long until she passed on and was forgotten… unless… unless she had pressed hard enough. “D-do you think I’ll leave a mark?” heat welled up behind her eyes.
Joseph immediately knew what she meant, “Definitely.”
The lab smelled vaguely of antiseptics and disinfectants that lingered in the air like a poorly erased mistake. Daniel had to crinkle his nose slightly, this wasn’t what he expected when he signed up for being a test subject. Daniel expected something easy, like answering a few surveys or something along those lines. He wanted easy money, sue him.
He and the participants had to sign a contract that declared that the organization could keep them for as long as the experiment went on. They were then separated and placed in different rooms with an object, while the scientists gave them free rein on what to do next.
Daniel spotted a fairly obscure button along the corner, “What happens if I press this button?” He inquired politely to the scientist.
“Nothing.” The scientist replied in a toneless voice that was reminiscent of the industrial androids that populated the laboratory.
Daniel shrugged nonchalantly and rammed down the button with a careless fist. There was a brief period of heart-pounding expectation, which soon dulled when nothing happened.
“It’s when you let go of the button is when things get messy.” said the scientist darkly as the steel-door entrance closed slowly behind her.
[I made a few changes from the previous version. Please use this instead.]
Huff, huff. Puff, puff. Where do I go? I have wandered this maze for long. The ground is jagged, the walls close around me. There are bends and crossroads every ten steps, such that it is impossible to see where you are going. Left, right. Left, right. Follow the scent and go to the right. Follow the wind and go to the left. Follow your gut and turn back around. Huff, huff. Puff, puff. My life is running, reach the next bend. Left? Right? Left? Right? I see another, narrow at the end. Huff, puff. Huff, puff. Ah. I stop. The path is blocked. I turn around and go the other end. Huff, puff. Another block. What do I do? The clear sky is above me, but there is no path upwards, is there? My path is the same, find the next bend. Ah. I’ve already been here before. Here too. Also there. ‘What do I do? What do I do? Is this the end? Is there no more?’ Up above the skies, a human looks down. ‘What is that insect crawling back and forth inside the cracks?’ Whistling idly, the human continues down the straight road.
Megan was roaming around the halls going to her regular classes. She had a tingly feeling in her heart that something special was going to happen that day. However, without any hopes, she resumed to her next class thinking that it would be another ordinary day. She was looking down at her feet while she was walking. Right before she entered the room she accidentally bumped into someone and dropped all her books. Megan was startled and looked up to stay sorry. However, when she locked eyes with the person something stirred inside of her. Instantly she fell in love when she looked into the boy’s dark, hazel eyes. She started to blush and quickly went on the ground to pick up her books. She was so embarrassed and rushed into the classroom. Through the whole period she could not forget about the boy. She was staring off into space when in the corner of her eye she saw the same guy. The thought of him made her feel something that she had never felt before.
I walked to school, bypassing worn-out apartments and million-dollar mansions. For the last five minutes of my journey, I savored the serenity under the shade of the oak trees. Away from the gangsters. I hid my dad’s gun in my pocket, and I wouldn’t hesitate if anyone tried to take my money again. I was prepared, but lucky bastards, they didn’t show up.
While I was alone in the stockroom later that day, Claire entered. She was a year older than me and smelled of tantalizing sweetness. “Hey Claire, I want to show you something cool.” I didn’t know why, but I said it with adrenaline pumping through my veins as I pulled out my secret. Her beautiful eyes rounded in confusion. I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear, enjoying her attention on me, but then I heard a voice from another guy. “Sam, what are you doing? You shouldn’t bring a gun to school!” A pang of self-consciousness hit me, and I hurried to put it back. Shit, I lost my grip, the gun slipped and BAM!
He stumbled backward, his hand clutching his side.
When he lifted his hand,
it was red.
He eats and eats and eats, grease dripping down his monstrosity of a chin. Pockets of fat clench as he chews and swallows. His shirt clings to his beer-belly as he sets upon another plate. This is no pre-ordained health issue of an individual, rather its the fate of a generation and the pride of a country. The red, white, and blue flag flies high outside the restaurant, proudly adorning the banner on the wall beside it. It reads “All-You-Can-Eat, Get it for $9.99!”
Old Mrs. Gaea has a clock in her living room.
The hands don’t move.
She never really moves either.
She just sits in her chair and looks out the window.
There are flowers everywhere, on the ceiling and the walls and all across the floor.
The living room looks like a jungle.
I asked her if I could live here forever once.
She said nothing lasts forever.
The hands on the clock started moving today.
Mrs. Gaea told me this would happen.
I tried to tell the adults, but no one believes me.
Yesterday our neighbor’s house caught on fire.
All the trees burned down.
My friend’s house flooded a week ago.
They had to leave.
How can everything be flooding and burning at the same time?
Nothing makes sense anymore.
Mrs. Gaea is looking at me.
“You’re my last hope,” she’s saying, “you’ll know what to do.”
I’m only 10 years old.
How am I supposed to know what to do?
It’s getting darker.
The smoke is getting thicker.
I can barely see the paper.
I only have 30 minutes until the clock strikes.
I just wanted to see the flowers.
Huff, puff. Huff, puff. Where do I go? I have wandered this maze for long. The ground is jagged, the walls close around me. Left, right. Left, right. Follow the scent and go to the right. Follow the wind and go to the left. Follow your gut and turn back around. Huff, huff. Puff, puff. My life is running, reach the next bend. Left? Right? Left? Right? I see another, narrow at the end. Huff, puff. Huff, puff. Ah. I stop. The path is blocked. I turn around and go the other end. Huff, puff. Another block. What do I do? The sky is above me, but there is no path upwards, is there? My path is the same, to find the next bend. Ah. I’ve already been here before. Here too. Also there. What do I do? What do I do? Is this the end? Is there no more? Up above the skies, a human looks down. ‘What is that insect crawling back and forth inside the cracks?’ Whistling idly, the human continues down the straight road.
Honeysuckle. Sweet, sweet, nectar rested on golden flowers. Nothing is quite like it. Pull out a flower, lick the sugary base for a drop of ambrosia, then leave it on the ground to decompose. Everything about it is natural, straight out of the sun and eath. You can even grow it in the yard, water it once a day and have a shot of sugar whenever you want. Incredible.
Blood. Sweet, sweet blood rested on golden flowers. It’s really not unique. Pull out a knife, slice away the edge of the skin, and leave it on the ground for another time. Everything about it is natural, straight out of someone’s body. You can even leave it in the yard, water it once a day and feed your honeysuckle vine whenever you want. Genius.
I checked my phone. 10:26. It didn’t seem particularly late and yet, the whole city seemed asleep. Tranquil, in a way that I almost didn’t think it was possible for anyone to actually be out there.
I had been standing on the bridge for nearly 20 minutes. My family still hadn't realized I’d left but I had expected as much. I looked over the guardrail. It was about 30 feet down to the water, the river littered with jagged rocks.
I pulled myself over the rail. I had gone through this moment about a million times in my head, but still I paused. The small voice had returned to tell me to stop, but it was drowned out by a familiar emptiness and the rushing sound of the water. Do it. Just go alr-
“Hey!” I turned, looking for the voice and found a girl looking up at me from the side of the river. “It doesn’t have to end this way…”
Three years have passed and I’ll never forget that night. But now I’m standing at the altar, watching the girl walk down the aisle. I smile tearfully, glancing at the bridge in the distance. I’ve made it.