I AM THE NOT COLOR - Anon
A STUDY ON BLANKNESS - Anon
ARE MY PANTS BLUE? - Mason Biagini
SLIPPING - Juliet Corwin
SMALL TALK - Meghan Davis
GODLINESS - Lila Goleman
THE SOULLESS PURSUIT - Lila Goleman
NOT TALL - Claire Grunberg
SELF CONTROL - Tori Jarvis
ENDINGS - Jordan Rice
THE WILLOW TREE - Samuel Sloan Nelson
THE SKY WAS GLASS - Katie Tobits
THE DARKNESS - Ethan Tuttman
THESE DAYS - Lily Wickland Shearer
LA VIE SIGNIFIE TOI - Anon
A NORMAL DAY - Jacqueline Kennick
THE PLAN - Chanina Kosovske
SUFFOCATING - Sophia Phillips
7 PHOTOS - Will Draxler
I AM THE NOT COLOR - Anon
THE SOULLESS PURSUIT
like a tear
just the reality
like any other
where too much
takes the chaos
and I’m drowning
in this whiteness.
down off of
like any other
-Lily Wickland Shearer-
Sunshine peaks, but no one sees
as you struggle and we sleaze
through weeks such as these
which brought you to your knees,
these days steamed up
through the deep freeze,
these minutes tear you apart
until your intestines bleed,
and every day you dare not read,
scroll past the politics on your Instagram feed,
scroll past the poverty, hunger, and need,
but rankle over our riches, our Mercedes steeds,
feeling disgusted? Depraved? Disillusioned?
Get your prescription for Legalized Weed!
Vote for Bernie, a man who can be believed,
rest easy ‘cause you’re one of the woke,
ignore the rest of the country who elected this bloke,
an orange who won votes based on ability to evoke,
preying on their fear of the “mean” unseen to stoke,
flames from claims which started out as a joke,
a man who can’t understand the plight of the broke,
your struggle against our chains and our yokes,
we love him because he doesn’t mind our smoke,
mirrors our greed in the scandals he provokes,
stamping on this “Made in America” lie to satisfy the trend
hocking you products based on who you want to offend
feeding on this methanic hate you seem to need to expend—
all it takes is the ignition of one polarized end
and you’ll rend,
the beating heart of a nation sawed in two,
hope you’re satisfied with your teams for this game of f-you,
berating each other until your faces turn blue,
but guess what? You’re all collectively screwed,
and all it takes is a moment to lose,
depression sends you on a mission for something to abuse,
transform into ticks dug deep into drugs, lost, confused,
only there do you pierce our haze, our ruse,
it’s all the material we need to paint you “fools,” “freaks,”
the “cracks through which society leaks,”
hands like baby bird beaks,
groping blindly from bench bundles, weak,
and though we’ve got the green
your stomachs so desperately seek,
we’ll insist it’s not our mess to clean,
remind you that “sunshine peaks,”
maybe not these days,
maybe not these weeks,
maybe not in your lifetime.
Better get comfortable with the bleak.
“deviant” or “demure”,
Philosophy didn’t satisfy—it’s all up in the head
But I need my hands
like Dr. Faustus, there I was in Minneapolis
every January moved like a nineteenth-century leather binding
with gold tooling and edge gilding.
Oh—oh! sweet pursuit!
you’re supposed to objectify your experience;
stand back to know it perfectly;
extract and then you know philosophy.
and Cartesian sand-writing
cogito ergo sum
I am tired of my head and Descartes came up crawling
into a cold furnace like a womb and said
what can I believe of all the things in the world
Fifteen-year-old regrets bounce off the walls of my Fairytale-Blue room.
Questions of “what if” and “but” pile up in the corners like heaps of dirty clothes.
Faded memories build fires and look for their shadows.
Dim light bulbs glow in the heart, but hope is lost easily and electricians run around overworked.
So much time wasted criticizing every inch, except for the eyes changed by tears never shed.
Tongue worn down by unspoken words, trapped by the tight lid of a mason jar.
Too-loud laughs choked in an uncertain throat; a body stunted by leering eyes.
Apologies for existence, piled up like empty coffee cups tossed away without a second glance.
Clumped mascara and out-of-the-line lipstick scribbled like a kindergartener’s coloring book.
Hair cut away, and all my confidence with it, fallen like a tower of building blocks that has been kicked.
Box of Crayola crayons spilled with countless colors staining my dreams.
Sirens heard in sepia and seen in shades of mute.
Threads slowly unravel to reveal wounds I didn’t know I had.
Imagined scenarios build like unresolved problems in a math book.
Disappointment seeps as easily as lukewarm tea over a white tablecloth.
Quiet longings lie in bed wondering how it feels to scream.
It’s that minuscule detail;
It makes you wacky, perfectly, of everything that
you make is insane
My story goes it motivated me to get better and better at that
small details thing. The arts—the early seventies
I didn’t want to memorize chemistry; potentially
all the molecules interact.
the size of them
it’s not billiard balls bouncing on each other
it’s all these electronic clouds
and they just dance—they
a partial positive on one cloud with a partial negative
and then the electrons
exchange that dance
Getting small and watching it happen really helped me
I don’t know whether molecules exist
It’s a consistent story
I imagine watching the interplay and then doing to the tip of my knife the cutting
The microscopic chipping away of us, Greta
When I got bigger
that shape shifting made me tense.
A NORMAL DAY
He woke up at 6:30, as usual; he also woke up alone, as usual. At 6:30, his hand disarmed his alarm before it was able to bleat out its morning crow. He pushed himself up, slid his legs to the edge of the bed, and placed his feet into his worn slippers. He smoothed his bed sheets and continued into the kitchen. There, he started boiling water and went to retrieve the newspaper in front of his doorstep. It was a pointless endeavor, really. He was the editor in chief of the local newspaper, so he knew the news of the day every day before it arrived at his doorstep. He came to the step, but his newspaper wasn’t there. He grumbled to himself... perhaps there was a new paperboy doing his route. He felt slightly annoyed but reasoned this worry away. “I know the news for today anyway,” he thought, “so it shouldn’t bother me.” Still, his stomach felt like it had been twisted and tied in a knot. Finally, he wrote it off as mere hunger. He retreated back inside to finish the rest of his routine. He made himself a cup of tea and re-read yesterday’s newspaper. He turned to page six and chuckled at an anecdote brought to him by a local church proclaiming, “The World Ends Tomorrow.” Then he got dressed. First, he put on his pants. As he tucked his shirt in, he felt a recently growing pang as he noticed how his slightly rounded stomach pulled taut at the shirt. He continued to dress, choosing not to dwell on this. Next, he buckled his belt, put on shoes and a jacket, and combed his hair before he was ready to go. He didn’t look in the mirror anymore but instead checked that everything was sufficiently buttoned and zipped in the main entrance door which only gave him the hazy details of his appearance. With this finally over, he was ready to leave. His hand hesitated at the knob, the knot returning to his stomach. Stepping out onto the stoop, he paused when he normally would have rushed straight to his car. He cast a fearful look down; his newspaper still wasn’t there.
Then he pulled out of his driveway and onto the street. While the streets weren’t usually crowded this early in the morning, it was a narrow road, and one had to be cautious driving. But, today, there was no one else on the road. He turned onto Main Street and stopped at the red light. A few seconds later it turned green, and he pressed on the gas and zoomed straight.
Today, the crisp autumn air was radiant with sunshine, so he had rolled the windows down. Now, as he drove down Main Street, the wind whipping past his windows began to annoy him. He began to roll up his window, the lashing becoming quieter until, finally, all sound ceased as the window suctioned into place. For the first time, he noticed the complete silence surrounding him; absent was the background noise of honking cars and motors that usually fell deaf upon his ears. He looked at his speedometer to find that he was going 50 mph in a 30mph zone. Panicked, he pressed the brakes and braced himself to hit the car in front of him. Only then did he look up and realize that there was no one in front of him. In fact, there was still no one anywhere on the road. At 7:25 on a weekday, he alone roamed the streets. “They're going to be late to work,” he thought. He slowed to 30 mph. He had his morning perfectly timed so that he would get to work at 7:55. If he went too fast, it would upset his hardwired internal clock. There were two more stop lights until he arrived at work. He approached one at an intersection. He slowed and stopped as the light turned from yellow to red.
Now, he had just one more stoplight before work; that’s when he saw a sign advertising a garage sale, featuring a collector’s set of Ian Fleming’s novels. There were few things he allowed to interrupt his schedule, but spy novels were his caveat. Amid the rest of his mundane life, spy novels were a source of vibrancy. Of course, he usually reserved these for the weekends, but he now had time to kill to make up for the acceleration in his routine. Pulling into the driveway, he saw various milieu scattered on the front lawn, including the Ian Fleming novels. He approached and saw there was no price tag on them, but where were the owners? He knew it was early, but he didn’t want someone else to buy them. The front door was ajar, and he stepped into the house with a declarative “Hello!” There was no answer. He wiped his feet on the doormat and walked into the kitchen. On the counter, there was a coffee cup and a half-eaten apple. There were fruit flies shrouding the apple. He approached and felt the coffee cup. It was cold. The window was open, and the breeze fluttered the curtain, but the only other noise was his footsteps. It was as if someone had abandoned the house before finishing breakfast, leaving life frozen in its tracks. Where had everyone gone?
The man ran out of the house and hopped into his car with a sudden urgency; he headed to his last saving grace: work. A lot of time had passed in that house, and he was going to be late. The gears in his internal clock worked in a frenzy, attempting to turn back time. If he could just get there on schedule, everything would be okay. He would pull up to a full parking lot, enter the main doors, greet the doorman, and take the elevator up to the fourth floor. He would then make a cup of tea, take it into his office, and start the day's work. He replayed this comforting scene as he now ran his car down the twinkling Main Street. The fluorescent lights of storefronts buzzed neon against the dark sky. The street lamps turned on and lit the empty scene, but they soon blurred as he rushed to work, his vision becoming hazy. A lamp flickered, and simultaneously, an animal darted across the street. He turned the wheel to avoid the darting figment and plowed into a lamppost.
When he woke up, he felt the air bristle through his hair. It stung. He pried his eyelids open. He was in his car, and he saw blood on the dashboard. He heard a siren, at first faintly, gradually growing louder, until the sound overtook him. He now remembered plowing into the lamppost. He looked outside and saw dozens of cars clogging up Main Street. People in their shiny tin boxes leaned out their windows to get a good look at him. It was the usual morning traffic he was used to. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an officer approaching him. Everything was back to normal.
the venom you spit
across my face,
with open arms,
It’s getting stale
“Go get warm.”
But your touch
numbs my skin,
my insides thin.
You never say goodbye.
bereaved of concern.
A shadow at night.
“Go get sleep.”
But your voice
keeps me awake,
floods my mind
Clouds of foolish lies
Silence falls like waterfalls
“Go get food.”
But your stare
knots my core,
like a prisoner of war.
pour from your lips:
This—was a mistake.
ARE MY PANTS BLUE?
Are my pants blue?
Or perhaps dark periwinkle.
They do have a strange hue,
Some weird shades that twinkle.
Cobalt, indigo, sapphire, navy,
Azure, cerulean, turquoise, maybe.
Dyed with woad,
These trousers I own.
Are my pants blue?
Not next to my shoes.
I ponder and fiddle
But can’t solve the riddle.
These pants are making me blue.
You need a cigarette even though you don't smoke.
Once you go down that hole
you never come back.
You need to drink even though you're underage.
There’s no real punishment
for what you might do.
You need to punch but you have frail fists.
The only thing you’ll
damage is yourself.
You need to snap something but you’re not sure what.
Walk right out the front door;
nothing's stopping you.
Because in theory anything you desire can be done.
But we all know
you wouldn’t dare.
As the darkness surrounds me,
I stare towards the ceiling,
No one understands my feelings.
My fingers dance in the air.
I breathe in and out and brace myself
And close my eyes, seeing complete blackness.
The phosphenes dance,
Creating a party my friends were at,
The lights became brighter until I am blinded, and gone.
The silhouettes on my wall continue to flicker.
I grab my flashlight and try to take a stance,
Illumination tears through shadows.
My flashlight catches the monsters that lurk,
I howl at the bloodthirsty creature to go away.
A long talon points toward me.
The towering monstrosity of my dream overhung.
A smile crept upon its face.
A bloodthirsty laugh echoes around my skull.
My chin starts to tremble.
My stomach twists into a knot,
A trickle of water licks the side of my cheek.
The rain started to pitter
Until it turned into a patter.
Outside, the rain trickled down my face.
I gazed through my window, and smiled.
No one understands my feelings,
But the monsters in my room.
LA VIE SIGNIFIE TOI
I opened my eyes and looked at the ceiling fan slowly swishing around in the darkness and felt the cold air brush against my face as sat up. I looked out the window at the street, or at least what used to be a street. There was a green sludge covering almost everything and the only light is the soft glow coming from living room windows. The sweet smell of the Dream in the air slowly whisked me away into a fake bout of sudden happiness but I knew what I had to do. I opened my bedside table drawer and took out the baggie of small round white pills, that I definitely was not supposed to have, and popped one into my mouth, swallowed, and put my long blonde hair into a bun on the top of my head. I could feel the fake, syrupy feeling of the Dream seeping out of me just as fast as I had felt it come. I stood up in my small apartment, my bun only a centimeter from the ceiling as I walked to the mirror. I had to get to work. I looked at my arms in the dark; they were covered in ink-soaked memories, the happy ones, so that I could always remember why I was in Les Croyants: because life is worth living if you have people who support you.
I schlepped through the gross grime that was on the “Street” and looked at the many gravestones scattering what used to be a sidewalk. Now, we don’t bury the jumpers—they just get carted off and burned.
I technically wasn’t supposed to be out at this hour, but nobody cared; they weren’t going to come out and stop me. In my whole 7 years of tattooing, I have never seen another person out on the main roads, at least, and, if they are, they definitely aren’t a Dreamer.
I opened the door to my shop and turned on the light and saw the smiling face staring back at me.
“Why are you just sitting in the dark, Leon?” I asked my beautiful boyfriend.
“Why not?” he replied as he got up and walked over to me. “I got worried—you’re never this late.” Leon said as he wrapped his arms around me.
“So what do you want?” I asked.
“Some lettering if you think you are up for it.”
“Sure, but I am going to need to know what you want and where you want it,” I replied, as I put my black rubber gloves on, and opened my computer.
“Here,” he said, handing me a piece of paper, “I want you to write this in your own handwriting.”
I looked down at the paper. It said “ta maison est là où est ton coeur.”
“A Les Croyants tattoo?” I asked him.
“I guess you could say that, but it is also a tattoo for you; you are my only family, Louis.”
“Don’t get all mushy on me, now,” I said to him while I printed out the thin piece of transfer paper. “Where would you like it, love?” I asked.
“I was thinking on my back, right below my neck, so that, if the Dream Team finds me, they’ll have to look at it while they put me down like some kind of sick animal,” he said with a sad sort of smile on his face that didn’t seem real.
I pressed the transfer paper onto his back and wet it with a cotton ball until it became translucent. I peeled off the thin piece of paper to reveal the lightly colored lines that would soon become permanent. I got the gun ready and told him to lay down on the table, and touched the many pulsating needles to his skin.
“Fuck,” he said and gritted his teeth, “I thought that they wouldn’t hurt as much by now.”
“Well, you didn’t choose the most painless place… ”
When I finished with the tattoo, I took out a piece of the waterproof film and lay it on the reddened and swollen skin.
“I am assuming you know how to take care of this, Leon,” I said, giggling because he was pretty much covered in ink from head to toe and somehow he still managed to get every one of those tattoos infected.
“Ha ha, very funny,” he said, lifting me up onto the table and looking me straight in the eyes. I looked back. He put his lips really close to my ears, his warm breath making them tingle: “la vie signifie toi.”
“Life means you,” I replied, as I leaned into him and closed my eyes. His bare chest was warm and inviting.
“Louis, I have a surprise for you,” he said softly. “Get your coat and boots back on and get your ass outside in five.”
It had started to rain lightly outside, but it was a warm rain, so it wasn’t that bad. There was a line of fake candles leading to a ladder that seemingly led up to the top of my studio, I didn’t spend much time outside, so I guess I had never really noticed it before. I slowly climbed up the ladder, a chill running up my spine. I peered over the the roof and saw a tent made out of sheets and a blanket lying on the ground. I looked up at the sky, the stars looked like pinholes in the vast quilt of celestial colors. I saw a Black silhouette of a tall man I could only assume was my Leon, a cloud of smoke floating above his head from the joint in his hand, the pungent smell of weed wafting through the air.
“You took a while,” The silhouette said to me, turning around to reveal a white smile, reaching its hands out and wrapping them around me.
The makeshift tent was ruffling in the warm summer air and the rain was tapping on the roof around me; I put my head on his shoulder and sighed.
“Why does the world have to be like this, L?”
“Well, I wish it was not like this, but it is—and, in a sense, it’s why I have you,” he kissed the side of my head, leaving a little tingly feeling. “I remember when you came to the first meeting. You looked so scared; your brother was holding your hand and I was up on the stage.”
“Who knew that you, us, Mateo, could start such a change in the world?” I lifted my head up and looked him in his emerald green eyes. “Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t gotten up with you on that stage with so many people, but then I look into their eyes and they’re not those blank glassy eyes I see in my parents; I see my brother, full of life, they can’t keep taking our lives away from us, whether it’s with guns or with chemical tricks. He should still be here.”
“I know, baby,” he said, wiping away the tears that I didn’t even know were streaming down my face. “Fuck the Dream Team, fuck them all,” he shouted into the night air.
We lay there in a heap of blankets, just cuddling—and sometimes a little bit more than that—but nothing too out-of-hand. I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching us; I have felt that way almost all of the time since the dream team killed my brother Mateo.
“I should probably go now,” I said to him. “It’s getting really late.”
“Can I spend the night at yours?” he asked, starting to pack up all of the stuff he had brought up to the roof.
“Of course, you know you really don’t have to ask anymore; I’m just waiting for you to move in with me, at this point,” I replied, grabbing the bag of sheets.
Leon came and stood right in front of me, looking down at me.
“I love you very much, Louis,” he said, bending over to kiss my lips, which were, admittedly, a bit chapped, “and I was wondering if maybe you would like to—” I heard a quiet noise coming from behind him.
“Leon?” I said, as his whole body fell.
I knew too well what was happening: one of us had been followed. Being the most wanted men in America, you tend to get followed a lot—but most of those followers are just fans, people who admire us. I turned him over and looked at his back. Right where his fresh tattoo had been, there was a small hole spewing blood like a water fountain.
“Calm down, keep breathing, and do not close your eyes,” I said to him while ripping off my shirt and tying it around his chest to stop the blood flow. And this is where it ends: I felt his chest rise up and then fall.
He was gone.
I looked at the messed up tattoo and cried out. It wasn’t supposed to end like this; this isn’t what we had planned. He was gone and I was never getting him back, just like my brother, just like the rest of them. I knew what I had to do, I gave him a kiss—his lips were still warm—and whispered “la vie signifie toi” before jumping off of the building.
THE SKY WAS GLASS
We should all let go
And speak in cacophony
That’s supposed to be:
Come I speak you do the same thing
But we all spoke it
So it can’t be I to speak and you to repeat
No one knows you so no one can see you
No one knows you but know one can love you
The drums can beat and beat and shatter the sky
Yes, shatter the sky
Break it and bend it inside out and reassemble it with all the wrong pieces
So it can be different and beautiful
I dreamed that the sky was made of glass and I threw a stone to it
And it split into fractals, little glass pieces, and some fell and some didn’t
The pieces turned into all different colors, and some stayed blue, but others turned
Red and Orange and Yellow and Green and Purple
And the spaces where some pieces fell from
I could see the stars and the galaxies
And so much I wanted to be there
What’s up there?
Can I go with you?
The earth was a temple and the sky became the stained glass
I looked at the ground around and it was bathed in color
Not some white light of mid afternoon or glowy orange at dawn and at dusk
It was a rainbow but there was no rain
And I could look for miles and see the green grass tinted
Red and Orange and Yellow and Blue and Purple
I picked up a piece of the sky, but it was glass
So obviously glass
We’ve been living in a snowless snow globe
I squeezed my hand around it and it cut me
The blood drip drip dripped into the red patch of grass
And a galaxy floated down and kissed it
Made it better
And then floated back home
And that’s when the voices started
The people came over the hills and shouted at the sky, at the ground
Grabbing the glass and slicing their hands
Rolling in the red and blue and purple and yellow and orange
All speaking at the same time
All speaking to me
What have I done?
What did I do?
I CAN’T SPEAK
So I repeated
And the sky was beautiful
My hands clench as I clutch them.
I am not blue.
Will I never crawl on them again?
Will I never crawl on them again?
I am a blunt edge, a dull knife
Without points to watch rack up
As lone drops churn without warning;
Raised against my skin’s pale shudder,
Stay vacant of juices and memories—
They, too, are without exhilaration.
I am not heavy—notice!
Notice me from around the edges of the dim glow
Of my own gagged ghostwriter;
Notice me from underneath wooden panelling
Where we sit cross-legged, still and suctioning,
Where I yearn yowling
And fuming from a cold drizzle, where
I am pinned to rafters to drain.
We muffle voices,
I imagine myself a mutt of
Plants and objects.
And a hand reaches for a request—
So close, so close, so
Close—and bleeds and fractures and sobs and can-
Not, cannot catch those green eyes. Their slits sit, and I,
And I am quiet and needed but
Will I never crawl again?
Will I never crawl again?
THE WILLOW TREE
-Samuel Sloan Nelson-
A royal height, and braided leaves
drop on down
the willow tree
A sprig, so cold
wrapped and wrung
breaks to fly free
A small boy, so spry
clambers and climbs
high as can be
A green bike, so loved
rusted with glee
A young couple, so shy
A white laced party, so bright
the couple now
A baby’s eyes, so blue
up at me
The son, all grown
digs his ditch
and lays the young couple, now old
Beneath the willow tree
The Plan has been going on for years. I was born into it.
Years ago, the world had way too many people (we still do) and we were running out of resources. A government official came up with this great plan. The Plan was to give people a week of luxury where they would have free access to pretty much any resources. After the week, they would be killed, presumably some painless death. It was immediately shut down because killing was seen as bad, even if they did need to control the population. The official who proposed The Plan was removed from office because of pressure from citizens to resign. Eventually, things got so bad that they called him back. He re-presented his idea, saying that it would preserve resources as the government would only have to spend a week's worth of resources on each citizen and that The Plan would eventually stabilize the population and at some point it might drop. It was accepted, and at first it was optional, but, eventually, things were so terrible that the government had to randomize who took part in The Plan to prevent having too many people at once during a given week. The Plan didn’t entirely work, since we still have too many people, even though the population has stabilized.
That’s what they taught us in “school”. Now, if you get chosen, you have to go, whether you want to or not. But not many people don’t want to go. I am one of those people.
I was told I had been chosen six days ago, a week in advance, as usual. Now, a couple of agents are on their way to my location to pick me up and ready me for the “occasion”. They’ll be my private servants for the week, once it starts. Trying to hide is useless—I know that for a fact. Maybe I’ll reason with them, and their boss will understand that I just want to make the world better.
The agents tell me it’s time to go and I try to reason with them; I say, “There must be a better way to do this.”
“I… I don’t know.”
“So… are you ready to go now?”
“… Alright, but can I talk to your boss?”
I’m escorted to the car, envy in every glaring face I make eye contact with.Since the week hasn’t officially started, the car I’m being driven to the facility in is a dump. Barf stains, cans, and bottles litter the small space where you put your feet. The seats look clawed by a creature that would be able to win one-on-one in any fight to the death. Of course, it’s rare for someone to even have a car nowadays. I get to the building I am going to have to wait in for about 12 hours, and it looks pretty much just like a concrete box. But looks can be deceiving. It’s a concrete box with some
Coppers, golds, and rusted reds
blind me by fiery brilliance.
The extended arm of a burning maple
points to the setting sun.
A gold leaf pirouettes
down an invisible spiral.
The colors of vibrant fall,
tired of sustaining delicacy,
fade into the grey wallpaper of the sky.
Brittle frost obscures the open field,
forgetting the season’s past.
A restless gust of wind,
a song of my creaking bones,
surrounds me with loud darkness.
people in it. A girl starting to go off the deep end is giggling in excitement that she got chosen, a man is staring wistfully into space, and someone with red, bloodshot eyes is trembling in the corner.
I start with the girl. “Hi!”
“What’s so funny?”
The girl looks puzzled. “Nothing’s funny, it’s just kinda funny how, of all the people, I’m the one who finally gets to live in luxury like the rest of the government.”
“What do you mean?”
“Finally having food to eat!”
“You know, everyone is starving.”
“Oh. I heard some officials have food.”
“That can’t be.”
“ … Well, it… it can be!” She’s getting more riled up by the second. “I can finally be special! All the rest of you can rot in the sewers! I get to live in luxury!”
“You know, everyone here was chosen.”
She suddenly looks horrified and her smile melts away. Starting to withdraw into herself she says, “What? I’m not special? I’m not the chosen one?” She starts crying and crawls over to the guy in the corner.
They’re both lost causes, I think to myself. We all are, after the week is over.
I go to the man and ask him, “Whatcha thinking about?” Adults used to say that to me when I would zone out.
He looks over to me and says, “The end. In a week. I wish I could do something for everyone else.”
“This curse of luxury could be used as a blessing to help people if it was allowed. But it isn’t. In fact, I remember when things were better. Some might say those times were worse. Resources were being used up so quickly. The population was getting bigger and bigger. But things were better. The limited resources were being used to help people who were struggling. Then, The Plan was put into action. Any resources the government supplied were withdrawn. That’s when people became desperate. Not when the population peaked. When the government stopped helping people, and started killing people.”
I can tell he’s a guy people might call “wise,” so I ask him, “Do the people in the government have food?”
“Just enough to survive.”
“So, could everyone be getting just enough to survive?”
A long, deep silence between us.
He breaks it: “There’s more than enough food for everyone that’s doing the week of luxury.”
“Really?” “Yeah, they’ve been hoarding food since The Plan first started. And, when The Plan started and food was taken back, most people had enough food to eat. And the government must have secret farms generating
A STUDY ON BLANKNESS
When you know nothing, I mean
less nothing than you know now
all the way back to when nothing
actually meant not a thing—
zip, zilch, zippo—
what are you?
What happens in those moments
when you stare into the abyss?
For the moment are you dead?
Getting a second chance?
Perhaps a better break from birth?
If being born again then certainly,
still, not a pretty baby.
The blankness beautifies no one
with that spigot of drool
somewhat less than attractive, still,
just a spout and not a downright torrent,
more of a baby kind of fountain.
Yes, it must be our youth
we resort to in
those glares into the gorge.
Funny how there is no
there is so much to work with.
In the face of the void the world screams
“Fill it! Fill it!”
they don’t care what with
and into the blankness they cram
a blur of being,
or perhaps more preschool,
until there’s too much color
and you’re back
Dead or born,
I don’t know,
food faster than it’s used up.”
“What?!! But… but…”
“Yeah, I know, it’s a lot to take in.”
I shut myself up for a while. To think.
The agents come to take us all where we’ll each be staying for our weeks. I’ll be alone with the agents (servants, as they call themselves) for the week. I finally get to the house; it’s small, but cozy, and there’s this guy waiting at the front door. As I walk up to him, he says to me, “Hello there. I heard you wanted to talk to me.”
Not trusting him, I ask, “Who are you?”
“I’m the boss of these guys.” He motions to the agents.
“Ok then, why are you and the rest of the government hoarding food?”
“Who’s been telling you that?”
“He’s probably one of the people who might try to trick you into thinking the world would be better without The Plan.”
“Well, what if he’s right?”
“Maybe he is right. But would people really be happy if The Plan wasn’t in action?”
“What do you mean?”
“The world is in a very bad time right now. Many people have suicidal thoughts. Think about it. The Plan gives them something to live for. They think, Maybe I could go on for just one more day, maybe I’ll get chosen tomorrow, then I’ll get a taste of luxury before I move on from this world. You see? Sure, it’s a bit like tricking them, but they want to be tricked.”
It more or less made sense, but he still hadn’t answered my question. “What about the food? Answer me this time.”
“Do you really believe giving out food would fix the world? There’re so many people that it would be used up in a couple weeks. Then everything would still be as it is now, but everyone would have no Plan to look forward to; everyone would be much more miserable then they are now. And knowing what it was like to live in luxury would only make them sadder. No, things are better as they are now, even as bad as they are.”
He’s right, I realize. “Is there anything I could do to help the current situation of the world?” I ask.
“Accepting the week of luxury is a start. The world is overpopulated. If you want to change something you should start with changing yourself.”
“I suppose you’re right. But I’d still be using up our precious resources. Would it be of use if I didn’t do the week of luxury and just left this world right now?”
“Perhaps. But are you sure you want to do—”
“Yes. Kill me.”
I steel my resolve as I’m escorted to the chamber.
-Sophia Phillips -
This piece is of my suffocating outward expression of love. The arms symbolize the tendency to close in on emotions, disregarding the vulnerable thing being held. The lungs represent the vehicle for the metaphorical and literal inability to breathe, held by arms which squeeze and tighten. The entire painting, including its small size and black background, draws a connection to a claustrophobic feeling from which these issues resonate.