He had dirt in his mouth
and dirt in his lungs
and dirt in every crease and crevice of his skin,
but at least it wasn’t sand
because after sixteen years he’d had more than enough
So he tossed his blade down
and knelt before the stone-hewn thrones
and spat the blood from his mouth
so he could swear himself to a king and a queen
that were not his own,
but who were the sentinels
guarding the part of a dream
that he’d never reached
because he always woke before the end.
Mercutio: *Gasps Awake* What the- Where am I? For some reason I find this place just slightly out of the ordinary. Why is everything so . . . gray? Am I dead? Who is responsible for this! Someone get me out of here! When I find whoever put me here I’ll- What’s this? A piece of paper?
‘Welcome To Purgatory . . .’ Huh. I guess that would explain it. Also, the fact that I appear to be translucent. Oh well. This is only a minor inconvenience on my quest for glory! But seriously this is getting boring. Why aren’t I going anywhere? Oh wait, there’s some print on the back, here. ‘Please Wait For All Remaining Parties Before Continuing.’ What is that supposed to mean?
Tybalt: *Gasps Awake*
Mercutio: Wait, Tybalt? You’re dead too? Ha! Karma!
Tybalt: Mercutio? I thought I killed you! Though I wouldn’t mind doing it again.
Mercutio: Well, for once in your life, you’re not wrong. I am dead, as it turns out. Thanks a lot, by the way, Fighty McStabberson, you pigheaded plague.
Tybalt: Prepare to fall again, this place isn’t big enough for-
Mercutio: Purgatory. It’s Purgatory.
Tybalt: JUST LET ME FINISH MY-
Mercutio: Also, you don’t appear to have your sword. And how did you die so quickly after I did? Or is time just screwed up here? Why is your face all red like that? You’re hiding something, I- No . . . Romeo killed you, didn’t he! Ha! MIGHTY MANURE, you’re pathetic! I used to place bets against the boy whenever you were around, no offense to him, of course. But now- Oh, don’t even bite that thumb, man. I’m gonna start pitying you soon.
Tybalt: Just shut up, will you! I will have you know that Villain Romeo is probably dying right now with the wounds I’ve inflicted.
Mercutio: First of all, Romeo is anything but a villain. Second, has anyone ever told you that you’re a terrible liar?
Tybalt: I’m going to tear open your chest with my teeth and then cut your throat with your own spine.
Mercutio: That was an unsettlingly detailed description.
Tybalt: WHERE IS MY SWORD?
Mercutio: Probably down in Verona.
Tybalt: What are you holding? Let me see!
Mercutio: Would it really be that hard to say ‘please?’
Tybalt: I WILL FIND A WAY TO DESTROY YOU AGAIN IF YOU KEEP THIS UP. ‘ . . . Purgatory . . . All Parties . . .’ This is preposterous!
Mercutio: How about a game of Rock Paper Scissors?
Mercutio: Tic Tac Toe?
Mercutio: How about-
Tybalt: HOW ABOUT YOU BE QUIET.
Mercutio: Yes, ma’am.
Tybalt: What did you say?
Mercutio: Nothing . . . Oh no wait I said ‘yes MA’AM.’
Tybalt: WHY I OUGHTA-
Paris: *Gasps Awake*
Tybalt: Oh, thank sanity, I was about to lose my mind alone with this guy.
Mercutio: Hey, I didn’t use all of my twenty questions yet, you can’t just stop playing!
Tybalt: I WAS NEVER PLAYING IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Paris: What is this place?
Tybalt: Purgatory, apparently.
Mercutio: You died, man. It’s okay, we’ve all been there.
Paris: I’m dead? H-How did I- ROMEO.
Mercutio: What about him?
Paris: Romeo killed me! That villain Romeo! I was spreading flowers in front of my dearest love’s tomb when he began to force it open. I stepped forward, planning to turn him into the Prince, when he drew his sword and killed me.
Tybalt: See? Villain! He agrees with me!
Paris: Were you two arguing?
Mercutio: I suppose one could put it that way, yes.
Tybalt: He killed me as well; I sense some form of foul play.
Mercutio: Oh, GIVE IT A REST, will you?
Paris: . . .
Tybalt: Do YOU by any chance know how to kill someone who is already dead?
Paris: Um . . . no? Should I be concerned?
Tybalt: Not you, no.
Mercutio: He was talking to me.
Paris: And you aren’t worried?
Mercutio: Eh. Not especially.
Paris: Who are all of you, anyways?
Mercutio: Well, I’m Mercutio . . .
Paris: Hmm . . . I-
Mercutio: And the huffy barbarian over there is Tybalt.
Tybalt: I can introduce MYSELF, you know!
Paris: Wait, Tybalt? Your name sounds familiar.
Tybalt: How so?
Paris: Are you . . . Juliet’s kinsman?
Mercutio: I think so.
Tybalt: I CAN ANSWER MY OWN QUESTIONS. Ahem. How do you know of her?
Paris: She was the loved one I was speaking of. I was going to marry her the very day when I found out that she had died; I am terribly sorry for your loss
Tybalt: Juliet is dead? How unfortunate.
Paris: You don’t seem nearly as upset as I expected you to be. . .
Mercutio: He has no soul. The fact that he can continue to the afterlife at all is straining my suspension of disbelief.
Tybalt: We were never especially close. Now then, ignoring those matters, I’m glad to hear that you practically joined the family. You should consider yourself an honorary Capulet.
Paris: Well, thank you. My name is Paris, by the way.
Mercutio: Wait, Paris? Oh, and Juliet!- Are you by any chance related to the Prince?
Paris: How did you know that?
Mercutio: I believe that we may share some of the same blood. Interesting.
Tybalt: You haven’t even met him before; how close can you be!
Mercutio: What you just said is, like, the DEFINITION of irony.
Tybalt: Ignore him. Don’t forget that Mercutio was also the friend of the man that murdered you, and that he still remains on his side despite this.
Paris: Very true, thank you.
Tybalt: Yes; remember that. So, you were betrothed to Juliet? She seems a little young for marriage, if you ask me.
Paris: Ah, but she was at the peak of beauty.
Mercutio: Creepy freak says what?
Mercutio: I’m sorry, continue.
Paris: Well, I guess she moved on without us. What’s taking so long anyways
Tybalt: We have to wait for some more people to turn into corpses and join us, apparently.
Paris: Hmm. Disappointing. We could try to look for a way out of this place while we wait.
Tybalt: Better than just standing here.
Mercutio: Good idea. I’ll come with you.
Tybalt: GO AWAY.
Paris: Perhaps he should come.
Paris: I mean . . . what if we all need to be together before we can get out of here? If we get separated, we could get lost here forever! . . . Right?
Tybalt: . . . You’d better not soften up before this whole mess is over with.
Mercutio: That’s what she said.
Paris: Ha, ha! *Cough* I mean, I speak strictly behalf on our own wellbeing, of course.
Tybalt: . . . If you’re sure about that. Mercutio, you may walk with us.
Mercutio: As kind as your gesture is, I’d already invited myself.
Tybalt: Paris, this was your doing, not mine. Come on. Both of you.
She was sitting at the edge of the pier when dark clouds spread over the sky like in in water. Her blue haven with its chirping birds and bright sun was halfway gone when she had noticed, the birds fluttering to their nests, a gaping hole of black over half the sky, swallowing the world. She closed her eyes. The sharp tang of a coming storm stung the air. Her eyes settled on a school of fish darting away to places she couldn’t see, safe places.
She brought herself to her feet, laying her fishing rod on the dampened steps. Her eyes were drawn to the gravel parking lot, finding it empty. The other fishermen must have fled as she had been staring at the last wisps of forest, watching boats sail by with wings of canvas and masts as tall as mountains.
The sky crackled, a stream of light, striking a patch of nearby forest. The noise had filled her ears sent a shock of its own through her skull, making her grip on her tackle box go white-knuckled.
She felt frozen, the sky somehow so many shades of grey and black, shards of blue showing between the clouds, shards of hope being crushed underfoot by the storm. She paused, her shoulders drawn, her muscles taut with stress. She looked back at the forest where the lightning has stricken, her horror and panic plain on her face.
It was on fire.
Her eyes went wide, smoke filling her senses, clouding her head, making everything go grey as the sky. She hacked and coughed, her limbs becoming sluggish. She weakly put her sleeve to her mouth, trying to block out the smoke. The world swam, the smoky air fluid around her.
The smoke almost seemed to curl around her arms, forcing her to her knees, stealing the air from her lungs. The wood of the pier dug into her skin, but the terror of the fire was far greater, snuffing out her insignificant pain. She felt heat push against her, until her very blood mixed with sweat, until her lungs burned in the fire.
The grey sky above mixed with ash, blending, making her above her below, her left turning into her right. She was losing consciousness, the edges of her vision tinged with red.
Sheets of rain thundered down like wingbeats. Falling from the now-gone sky, lifting the river, smothering the fire.
Don’t know if you’re still there,
Don’t know if you still care.
I try to call, I try oh I try.
Please come back, it’s not too late
You’ve messed up. She’s messed up.
Are you there? Or over here?
You’re like smoke that comes and goes.
You’re like a clock that keeps on ticking,
Always making me do a lot of thinking.
You’re a thunderstorm that fades once i have my rain coat on.
Like a boat during a storm.
Trying to keep the tears from running down my face as I pace and pace and pace.
It’s not a race between you and her.
So I guess i’ll try to call, i’ll try oh i’ll try.
By Liberty Diaz
The stars are already out over the desert as Bennett and I light a campfire with a simple fire-starting charm from my pocket. I reach into my bag and pull out two apples, tossing one to him. He nods gratefully and takes a bite.
“Have I ever told you about Mull’s Bridge?” he asks, wiping some juice from his chin. I think about it and shake my head. “You’ve probably heard it, just not from me. Every paper covered it, from all the way out here to over in Adams.”
“That was you?” I’m shocked. To be fair, I should have put two and two together earlier. It’s exactly the kind of reckless and stupid thing he’d do with his power.
He laughs. “What, you didn’t think I could make off with that much money? Come on, Colin. I don’t just busy myself with commercial coaches. Sometimes, I have a bit more flair.” He waves his hands dramatically.
“I’m sure there are things the paper left out,” I say, leaning back on a rock, ready to hear another one of Bennett’s adventures. He finishes his apple and pitches the core down the hill.
“I was robbing a train— alone, mind you— down south, where they have all those mountains and mesas and rock spires. It was a Lewis Whitehall Express.” He pauses for a moment to allow me to be impressed. “It was taking all those rich folk through empty country to some cushy resort on the lake. Couldn’t have been more perfect. My contact didn’t send me a ticket—should have been a red flag from the start. Problem was, I didn’t have a hundred dollars cash for one.”
“Did you lie or threaten your way to one?”
“No interruptions, please.” He shoots me an exaggerated glare, then resumes. “Luckily, the station clerk was some gullible kid. Finally got a chance to test my ‘dying forbidden lover that I need to see immediately’ story. Poor romantic gave me one for fifteen and swore that he wouldn’t tell my fictional darling’s fictional family I’d come that way. I was finally on the train.”
“Once we were well out of town, I held up the two passenger cars, collected what I came for before the conductor could notice. Not much in the way resistance or security. That’s certainly changed since then.” He laughs mischievously. “So, I jumped off onto the plateau. The train sped away, but before I could inspect the loot, I saw something coming towards me.” He stops to toss another twig onto the fire. “Blue-coated lawmen. Whole lot of ‘em, too. My contact set me up. I panicked and started running along the tracks and found myself on Mull’s Bridge. There were even more lawmen coming over the other side. I was trapped.”
I remember this next part from the newspaper, but I’m excited to hear it from Bennett. I take a drink from my canteen. “Go on.”
“I was standing on this bridge, law closing in on me, holding one of the biggest hauls of my entire life. There was no way to go off either side of the bridge, I’d be shot, certainly, but I had a great idea.”
“A stupid idea.”
“An amazing idea.” He rolls his eyes. “I waited for the law to come right up to me, because, if I ended up dead, I wanted to do it as memorably as possible. The sheriff rode up on a big white horse and started his ‘surrender or we’ll shoot’ spiel. Everyone had rifles aimed steady. ‘Hello, sir,’ I shouted, ‘if you could just lower your weapons, then maybe we could negotiate, like the civil men we are.’ That old fool just spat his tobacco juice, squinted, and drew his revolver. ‘Last chance, scum.”
“He didn’t really say that,” I can’t help but cut in.
Bennett cocks his head. “Were you there?” I laugh and wave for him to continue.
“I took my hands off my guns, put them behind my head and started backing up towards the edge of the bridge.” Bennett closes his eyes, relishing the memory.
“Is this where you drop your little dime novel one liner?”
“It was the best I could think of at the moment. Put yourself in my situation.” He sounds mock offended.
I scoff. “Stop defending your lack of humor and keep going.”
“I was standing at the edge of the bridge, at least thirty people with guns pointed at me. I flung my hat into the air with as much flair as I could muster, and yelled, ‘Say a prayer for me, boys!’”
“And then I leaped down into Mull’s Gorge with bag of bill folds and diamond wedding rings.”
I picture the canyon, a massive gash between two mesas. Seven stories deep, and Bennett’s first instinct was to jump down into it. Most of the time, I’m not sure if he’s a reckless genius, or just a lucky fool. “How’d you survive the fall? “I prompt.
He smiles confidently at the memory. “About halfway down I shifted, you know, into smoke. Never done it so fast since. Probably because I was a few seconds away from dying at the bottom of a canyon. Either way, I turned back once I was safe at the bottom. Grabbed the bag of goodies and got as far away as possible. Guess they thought I was dead.” Bennett shrugs, but there’s a touch of playful pride in his eyes. “Lost that hat. It was a nice one, too.”
I shake my head. “Sometimes I wonder if being around you is good for my own self-preservation.”
“Probably not. But I do make good company.”
“I’d rather hear your stories than be a part of them, that’s certain.”
He sighs, staring up at the stars. “I know you aren’t interested in working with me, you know, robbing, but if you ever wanted to…” He trails off. “I could use a partner that won’t stab me in the back.”
Everywhere around my area is country. A very rural part of Maryland. I love the outdoors. I can go outside and see forest, swim in the cool creek, and bike along roads. My favorite part is being able to look at a full sky of stars each and every night. With this sort of tranquility and peace, not everything is perfect. Nothing is ever exactly how you would want it to be.
When I drive into a town close to mine. I see hatred and I feel this hatred all around me, overcoming me. People hang up flags to discriminate others. Whenever I see this my heart shatters. It crumples up like an autumn leaf. Once bright and beautiful. To dull and lifeless.
The worst part is people in my school do the same thing. They wear clothing with these symbols and words of “Look back at our history.” It doesn’t make sense. Why would someone ever believe that they are better than someone else? Or that someone else is lesser? Why do we accept this?
Everyone stays quiet. Everyone everywhere is used to this hate so they accept it. No one speaks out. No one says how this is wrong. Everyone stays silent like the night sky. The stars shining so powerful and clear. The sun never rises. The night succumbs everything.
By Naomi Horner
through the open
of the piano
by the night
a breeze blew
into the room,
magnolia petals and
riding the wind
as if returning
the still figure
there upon the
keeping a quiet
that even in rest
she couldn’t bear
and the full moon
and decided to make her
a halo of silver
entwined in her hair
as if to remind any who
the still form