By Xavier Smith
“Don’t go into the woods. If you do, don’t stray from the path.” Those words were repeated to me over and over endlessly. With each step, the words in my mind scrambled and morphed until I was drowning in thought. The snap of a twig under my foot brought me back to reality.
I stared down a long and clear path with trees waving on both sides. This was the only way I could get to their house. I had been planning to visit my cousins for sometime now. My parents refused to ever let me see my cousins as a kid. As a young adult, I am more than capable of making my own decisions. With those last thoughts trailing my mind, I carry myself down the path.
A few minutes later I heard a bloodcurdling cry coming from off the path, in the woods. Someone is calling for help. I hesitate, warnings of the dangers that lurk in the forest cross my mind. I stop in my tracks, is this really a good idea? Beads of sweat fall down my face. The screams continue and get louder. My feet move on their own to the direction of the sound emanating from the forest.
My vision blurred completely as my body slammed against the cold ground. Someone, a man, was standing before me holding their hand out. Before I could offer my hand, they yanked me up and stared at me with glassy, bloodshot eyes. Gashes and cuts ran across their body in spastic patterns. Despite their tragic appearance, I tried my best to keep my composure.
“Were you the one screaming? I will call an ambulance and you’ll be just fine. Please stay calm and we’ll get you help in no ti-” before I could finish the man shook me and said, “My name is Christian Fisher. Someone is out there with an ax, a black ax with red stripes. I couldn’t get a good look at them. You have to leave and get help. Please.”. The man’s monotone voice and shattered gaze made me uneasy and I took a step back. It’s clear that whatever happened to him has broken him, he’s still in shock. A voice called out behind me “Christian? What are you doing out here?” I turned back and saw another man gasp and run towards Christian and embracing him. A million questions poured out of the unknown man’s mouth and Christian only responded with muttered nonsense. The man holding Christian turned to me after dialing 911, “Do you know anything that happened?” I explained to him what had happened. How I found Christian like this, how I was on a harmless trip to my cousin’s house. The man introduced himself, “My name is Joshua. Joshua Jones. And you are…?” I smiled and replied, “I am Vella Mendoza.” he shook my hand. Joshua explained that I should get home soon, he even offered me a ride. I told him I would walk down to my cousin’s house, it was down the path after all. He told me if I needed anything, an ambulance would be here soon. I gave my thanks and walked off, onto the path. After this whole experience I was tired and rattled. I practically sprinted to the house.
What felt like centuries later, I arrived and I was greeted by humble and sweet faces at the door. I smiled at the man and woman who greeted me at the door, they were just a little younger than me. They stared at me confused, “Hey! It’s me Vella. Alecia’s daughter.” after I finished my sentence their faces lit up like Christmas trees. They pulled me in and sat me down at a cozy dining table. They told me how their father had gone out to do some errands, their mother had passed away. In the midst of catching up on 18 years worth of our own unique experiences, they realized they haven’t even introduced themselves. I already knew who they were though.
After hours of laughing and talking together, their father returned. He was a big and sturdy man with a solemn face. After setting a bag down full of supplies, He walked over to me with a hazy face. He smiled, mumbled “Who are you?” and flopped onto the couch, passing out immediately. My cousins told me this was was normal, “He was always tired after work. He’ll be much more enthusiastic about seeing you when he wakes up, I promise. He’s waited for this for so long!” She added. We all laughed and I went to get a glass of water. As I ran the faucet, something from their Father’s bag fell over and poked me. It was a wooden handle. I was curious as to what their father did for a living so I opened the bag, hoping that my cousins wouldn’t mind. An ax was revealed, my initial thought was that he was a woodsman until I recognized the pattern. Black with red stripes. I felt cold as reality fell all around me. Fear ate my soul and paralyzed me, bile crept up my throat. I couldn’t hold my ground, I fell back onto the ground. My body intensified and tears rolled down my cheeks at the simple question calling from behind me. “Whatcha lookin’ at?” A stern voice slipped like daggers into my very existence.
By Gabbi Ramos
In a hallway once crowded with students, I walked.
My footsteps echoing off the familiar walls
Not a single sound was heard but a foot and it’s drop
Alone, I wandered through the halls
Every door I came across was locked
There was no way out or in
To have a school all to myself, I wondered where I was to begin
The library doors were left open, so I thought I would take a look
To see if there was anyone inside or to find a good book
To my dismay there was no one present, no books, or anything to be found
But a single note which lay on the ground
“To all of those who seek knowledge, I’m afraid you’ll find none here
For everything was taken due to one man’s fear
Books were burned to kill the idea that what he says is wrong
Men are no longer people, but sheep
Our liberty is gone.”
By LaShaniece Winfrey
I saw him and I froze. It was just a picture, but my heart broke and tears swelled in my eyes. It’s been three years and I thought I’d forgiven him, but I guess time doesn’t heal all wounds. I realize now that I was never mad at him. I was mad at myself for loving him. I still am. I was mad at myself because I allowed him to hurt me and then blamed everything on him when he wasn’t even the one to blame. I knew exactly what he was doing when he did it. I knew I’d be hurt, yet I stayed. I stayed because it for him and it was for me. And I miss it. I miss it all.
It was the summer before our Senior year when everything took a turn for the worst. We had been together for two years and were planning our lives after high school. We were going to get an apartment, I was going to college, and he was going to pursue his dream of music. It was perfect and we were in love. Not the teenage puppy love you see all the time, but actually in love.
We were supposed to take a trip to Lake Mount on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, hoping the cool brisk water would cool us off if even for a moment.. But he fell sick the night prior. When I went to visit him, his random outbursts of coughs would be accompanied by blood. All I can recall saying is, “Jake, you really need to go to the doctor's.” His mother had agreed with me and we rushed him to the hospital.
“Mrs. Jones?” the doctor in his pristine white coat questioned, his eyes grazing the crowd. Jake’s mother rose and asked if I would join her. I followed them both to a small office. He told us it was stage four lung cancer. Cancer had creeped into Jake’s body and tried to rob him of his youth and adulthood.
I watched Jake wither away over the course of two months, until the only pieces of him left were the memories. I was mad at him for leaving and breaking me but it was inevitability of death that actually broke me. Time couldn’t heal me.
By LaShaniece Winfrey
I don’t like being alone because it’s dangerous.
Your thoughts begin to creep into the crevices of your mind
and all you can do is let them.
The silence that fills the room is just an open invitation
to flickering images that continue to evade your mind.
But, as time stretches and the moment gets longer,
your past decides to pay you a visit.
Remember when you did that?
You miss it don’t you?
No, yes, Kinda, I don’t know, maybe.
You want to go back,
but you know the past is a chamber just waiting for a victim.
You have to repeat to yourself over and over again
that you don’t miss it, you miss the moments.
The feeling of not being alone,
because when you’re alone your thoughts like to engulf you,
to bury you,
to kill you
slowly at thought of a guilty past.
I don’t like being alone because it’s poisonous.
I know the dreams I spend hours day and night dreaming up
are only part of a future I’m surely not destined to have.
The simple fact is I don’t like being alone because it’s all I’ve ever felt I was.
By LaShaniece Winfrey
“Listen, Jasmine. I can’t do this anymore” Christian said. I looked into his eyes. “What are you saying?” my voice broke. “Don’t make me say it. Please” he pleaded, sincerity in his tone. “Why are you doing this?” I questioned, trying to maintain my composure. “I just don’t think we’re right for each other,” he responded, looking off in the distance. He was hiding something. “Why?” I pressed. He let out a sigh, a sign of defeat. “I don’t like girls. I like boys.” He spoke every word carefully, watching me intently. My brown eyes began to water and I started toward the door. I knew if I stayed, I’d break down and he’d tell me he was sorry. I didn’t want him to be sorry. I felt his hand grip my wrist, trying to pull me back. I shoved his hand away and ran out the door. Tears rushed down my heated cheeks.
The first day I had met him, I was wandering aimlessly around the halls of Gallant Hills High School. He had been in such a rush to get to class. He ran into me by accident, making me fall onto the ground. His big beautiful blue eyes met mine at once and my heart melted. It seemed like the beginning of a movie perfect relationship. But now, I’m standing here, my whole world shattering around me. These last few months had been such a whirlwind. I shake my head trying to forget about Christian. Trying to forget the disaster he created.
It’s been two months since Christian and I had last seen each other on that horrific day. I tie my hair back and straighten my apron. I walk into a crowded coffee shop. It’s Monday morning, so it’s expected to be busy. I get straight to work with taking customer's orders. I feel a gentle hand on my shoulder and turn around to see a smiling Christian.
“Um, excuse me. When you get a chance, can you take my order?”
“Someone else would be more than happy to take your order” I snapped.
“Oh, come on. You’re still mad at me?”
It was then I noticed a man with brown hair and green eyes standing next to him. “Hello,” he spoke softly, his cheeks reddening. “Hi” I choked out. I pulled Christian outside.
“That’s him? That’s your..”
“Boyfriend.” Christian stated, finishing and answering my question all at once.
“Well, congratulations” I said, genuinely meaning it but also clearly uncomfortable.
“Thanks, you know I hope we can still be friends.”
“Of course” I replied, smiling, finally forgiving him. I really hope they will be happy together.
By LaShaniece Winfrey
I was standing in the middle of a corridor, in a hospital.
I was curious, but I stood there consumed by the silence, but soon feeling the fear overpowering my curiosity. Ashton lay at at the end of the hall in his hospital bed, his eyes too distant for him to be alive. His heart monitor making that dreadful sound. I was terror-stricken and couldn’t comprehend it all. I wanted so badly to stop looking, but I my eyes were frozen. I was helpless and stood there studying my dead brother. Fear swallowed me whole without letting me grasp that last breath of air. My heart's rhythmic beat had disappeared, my eyes stung with tears tip toeing on the rims of them, and shock seized my mind and body. I woke up screaming, not realizing it was just a dream, and I was at school. I felt everyone's eyes burning deep into me. I felt the heat flood my cheeks as I buried my face into my hoodie.
The last hour bell sounded.
As I walked into my home, relieved and thankful, I heard murmurs arising from the living room.
“Mom?” I called out anxiously.
There was no answer. The sound was just the TV.
“Mom?” I cry out as my voice cracks.
Time seemed to stay frozen and the silence engulfed me as I listened to the sound of the old Grandfather clock in the den going: tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.
I got a call two hours later. It was my mom, and she asked me to get to the hospital as soon as possible.I ran to the garage and hauled my bike out, forgetting to close it.
As the hospital door materialized before me, I let my thoughts go. I dashed into the hospital confused and scared. I found my mom in the waiting room. The depression of such a place, sunk into her face. I nearly sprinted to her and held her tight in my arms. Just as I was about to ask what happened, I felt her tears traveling down my spine.
With terror taking control, my lips asked the question I’d been holding back, “Why are we here?”
“Evan, Ashton might not make it” my mom said with a hushed, disturbed voice.
Tears swelled in my eyes, and I fought them back as the words dawned on me. My baby brother might not make it out of this hospital alive.
”Did you hear about Britney's divorce?.” My moms friend said, trying to distract my mom from the situation at hand.
As the doctor walked in the room he called, “Ms.Carter”.
My mom looked as if she was preparing herself for the worst.
“Yes?” she asked as she emerged from our hug.
They talked while walking to what I assumed to be the bleak hospital room where my brother was lying, almost dead. I saw tears longing to fall from her gorgeous grey eyes and instantly knew something had gone wrong.
“The procedure will cost $24,000. Without the money we can’t do the procedure, without the procedure, I’m afraid Ashton will die” I overheard the doctor state.
We didn’t have that kind of money.
After a while I was finally able to go home. Walking into a completely quiet home was so unnatural, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. I hurried to my room, swiftly shut the door, and walked to my bathroom to take a nice, long, steaming hot shower. I let the sizzling water rush over my body, while I surrendered to my thoughts. Weary and overwhelmed I climbed into bed and pulled the warm, cozy covers up to my chin. For the first time I let the tears I that I’d been pushing back spill out. I didn't realize how tired I was and my eyes closed without permission.
My annoying alarm clock began to sound. I awoke confused and in a daze. I instinctively slapped the OFF button. The blazing red numbers on the clock notified me that it was 5:30 in the morning. As the lightning flashed and the thunder began to beatbox, I decided to go to the hospital and wait for more news.
The doctors finally let me see Ashton, but as I was walking down the corridor they lights in the hospital went out. I stood there looking into my brothers room. His heart monitor began to make that deafening sound, and my nightmare suddenly became reality.