In the town of Hodder, Maryland the most popular local show is a cooking show staring celebrity chef Kane Hart. But he holds a dark secret, he is a cannibal. He has captured and eaten almost a dozen people but has not been caught yet. Two of the biggest fans of his show are two friends Tom and Quinn. One day Kane announces that he is doing a meet and greet at a local restaurant. Quinn goes to meet him but Tom stays home due to an overprotective mother fearing something will happen to him since there’s an unidentified serial killer on the loose. Quinn gets abducted by Kane, taken to his house and eaten. When Tom learns about her disappearance he gets his friend Maya and they conceive a plan find evidence that Kane killed Quinn. They go to is next meet and greet and they both get abducted. Once they are tied up in Kane’s house they manage to escape and grab as much unused meat they can find to prove that Kane is a murderer. Kane chases after them to prevent them from escaping and is greatly wounded by Maya sticking a meat cleaver in his shoulder. They both manage to escape and run to the police to prove the heinous acts that Kane committed are true.
The sweet scent of strawberries and oranges envelops me like a warm hug. A light ache forms in my head as my body is lifted off the hard-concrete floor. I feel whimsical and almost childlike but am frightened by the magnified sound of a door slamming shut. I jump slightly and the arms keeping me airborne tighten their grip. I tremble and whimper until I am finally released from the devil’s clutch.
My body is gently situated onto something that feels like a bed and I try to calm myself down a little. I focus my attention on the pressure of someone’s hand resting gently on my shoulder and slowly but surely, my breathing and the rate of my heart slow down to a steady, constant beat. Minutes pass and somehow, I have managed to curl myself into a small ball. The hand removes itself from my shoulder and the individual has a seat next to my still sensitive body. The door to the room opens with a creak and closes with a loud bang. Each step taken by the person entering the room is magnified tenfold. I whimper and cover my ears with my hands, and the loud, clomping footsteps turn into quiet, distant tip-toes.
The headache worsens, and it is evident that without some sort of medicine things are only going to continue to decline from here. Cold hands remove my hands from my head and hold them steady by my side. My mind flashes back to a time when someone held me in such a way. It felt like torture then, and it feels like torture now. I wriggle and lash out at the person holding me down to try and free myself but to no avail. The hands never release, and I tire quickly. Cautiously, I give in and the grip on my wrists loosen slightly. I feel as if I can finally breathe again.
A needle is stuck into the skin of my neck, and the liquid inside injected into my body. It’s discomforting but helps to relieve my headache and delirious state. Finally, my wrists are released, and my vision clears.
In front of me sit two people. One is Kathleen Turner, my best friend, and royal nurse. Her ginger hair is swept up neatly into a white cap. Only her side swiped bangs that rest beautifully along the edge of her face, framing it perfectly, escape. Green eyes the shade that of which is best represented by emeralds focus on her bag of medical tools. The light-blue, sleeveless shift dress that fits her body quite well flows around her gracefully. Her legs are bent into a mermaid pose when she sits on the bed and her petite, white, one-inch heels are gingerly taken off so as not to ruin the comforter. One of her hands checks my pulse through my wrist, while the other scribbles down her observations on a clipboard in a doctor’s messy handwriting.
Next to her is the Crown Prince of Carance, Thomas Brande. His blond hair falls lightly in his face and makes him look as elegant as he sounds. Blue eyes the color of the Caribbean Sea watch me with concern. Like most days, he wears a white, button-down dress shirt and black khaki pants. A navy-blue blazer rests on an armchair near the center of the room with a pair of black dress shoes sitting underneath. He lowers his hands warily into his lap, afraid that I will faint or start to fight again.
I am disoriented, but a quick scan of my surroundings gives me a better idea of my location. A large closet is open wide and filled to the brim with all types of clothing and shoes. The hand-carved, wooden dresser matches the state of the closet with clothes about to spill out of its drawers and sits right next to it. Next to the bed is a nightstand with only a lamp, small flashlight, and The Lost Years by T.A. Barron resting neatly on top. The center of the room has two chairs with ornate backings and red velvet cushions for seats. They surround a small coffee table that has a potted Anemone flower, two glass cups, and a pitcher of water on top.
Prince Thomas and Kathleen stay quiet and let me come to my own conclusions.
Having been in his room only once, I do not recognize it immediately. The door is always locked for reasons unbeknownst to everyone except its owner and the best friend. The only way to be allowed in is if someone with a key unlocks the door and opens it for you. Of course, you could always enter the unconventional way; through the windows.
Stories about the prince escaping his punishment of chamber confinement by climbing out the windows had spread rapidly throughout the kingdom over the past years, but it has yet to be proven true. Now, when confined to his room, the prince has guards standing outside both the windows and door to watch him constantly. No escape for the young and reckless prince.
Personally, I have never thought of breaking into his bedroom. Only the shallowest of women ever do; my own sister and mother included. They all find the prince to be extremely handsome and have unrealistic dreams of marrying him and becoming queen. However, I have never seen him as anything more than my boss and a prat. Pampered the entirety of his existence and never having to work for anything a day in his life. Everything comes free to him and he has no right to complain about how much his life sucks when he has everyone else doing all the work for him.
I feel exhausted and about to burst into tears. Nothing like this has ever happened during work hours. Only afterward when I am about to fall asleep. And even then, Kathleen is there to aid me before it gets this bad.
When I try to sit up and explain myself to the prince, he pushes me back down as gently as you would place a glass statue. I cannot even imagine what he must think of me now. This sickly girl that is weak and fragile. Unable to do anything without breaking into tears or fainting. How on Earth did she get a job as a maid in my castle?
“I-I,” I stutter. How do you explain something to someone who probably won’t even understand a single word you say?
“It’s all right, Lilah,” says Kathleen. “I already explained everything to His Royal Highness. You need not say anything. In fact, I would rather you get some sleep instead of speaking. Okay?”
I nod. “Can you help me to my room, Kathleen? My legs are too weak to walk without some sort of assistance.” I reach my arm out to have Kathleen help me up. She places it delicately on my stomach and a confused look washes over my face.
“If it is all right with you, Ms. Darling,” the prince starts. “Tonight, you will be resting in my bed. Ms. Turner has already approved of the situation and I will have Elliot cancel all my plans for this evening so that I may stay with you. Now, is there anything that I can get you?”
“Wha—? I, uh, I would prefer to sleep in my room. All my stuff is there, and… And where would you sleep, my Lord?”
“I will be sleeping on the floor. But, I can see how flustered you are about this and I assure you everything is well in order. You need not worry about a thing. Just let me know if there is anything you need, and I would be more than happy to retrieve it for you.”
“Thank you, my Lord. But I do not require anything except rest,” I say. I mutter a barely audible ‘apparently’ while glaring at Kathleen. A flush creeps up her neck and I see right through her striking façade. This is about more than getting rest after an episode. She is trying to make me see the good in the prince. One thing I will not allow is myself to be taken advantage of while in my ill state.
In the midst of the heat of a supernova is an odd place for a planet of ice to be formed. And yet, a near-perfect sphere of that exact material found itself a white dwarf to orbit: water underneath ice, sloshing around stardust to form what would, in time, make life.
The first people called themselves the Jido. People of the ice.
Their language was flowing, graceful, as it swam through the air and built as civilization. Dao, dao was heard. Night. Their planet’s sun was out of sight. Shina, shina was heard. Sky fire. Right where the ice ended and the water began, right at that line where the two met, where life met the sky, where fire met the sky.
If you could understand what the people were saying, you might hear about how once in a while, at the very peak of the cold, two figures appeared on what was called the Dona, ice and fire, where land met water.
Do, goddess of the ice, who crafted this beautiful planet, this beautiful home with her bare hands. Her body, her movements were flowing, graceful as she walked across the ice, dress blowing behind her.
But even such beauty couldn’t keep her out of the loneliness, couldn’t keep the tranquility from turning into stifling silence. She alone could see her sun, and so called upon it to bring her life.
So Na, goddess of the fire, touched down on the planet only to have it melt beneath her feet. She stayed away from the half still frozen and sent Do fire from afar, giving her and her people light and happiness.
You might hear how life expanded under Do and her kind guidance, but she still felt the solitude, still lacked the companionship she’d craved. And you might hear about how Na felt just as lonely.
Then, you might hear how over thousands of years Do and Na came to each other for that company, and over thousands of years Do and Na fell in love even on opposite sides of their world. And once in a while, at the very peak of the cold, Na is able to venture to the very edge of her sea and Do her land without risking Na’s heat, her light damaging Do and the ice; without either being hurt by the other.
They were able to touch, finally, after an eternity each time, and the contact sends something wonderful into the sky, so beautiful the Jido called it Shina.
Portfolio in hand, waiting to hand it in
She had a smile on her face, long gone by now
She’s angry but also anxious
What if they forgot about me
How could they forget
As her thoughts ponder, she begins to feel weary
Something is keeping her up though
She looks to the phone on the front desk
Curiosity being her weakness, she answers
Choking back the memories, she keeps listening
“Right, sorry for your loss”
“It’s okay, thank you”
Memories begin to flash and she tries to stop the tears
“We wanted to inform you that you’ve received the job.
However, we moved your first meeting until tomorrow”
“Oh okay, thank you so much”
Despite the exciting news, she couldn’t help the already fallen tears
Her husband wasn’t a memory that could easily be stored away
Even a mention of what use to be caused floods of not only
memories but heartbreak
“We’ll see you tomorrow”
She hung up the phone quickly
She cried for what seemed like hours but was only a few
As she settled down, she rubbed her kicking stomach
and began to think about her new life ahead
Things were going to be okay.
Raenna L. Matthews
My little siblings and I stampeded up the white-carpeted stairs to the dining room, books in hand. The morning sun shone brightly, and the warm ocean air blew in through the double doorway of the balcony. My older sister, Alyssa, reached out to tickle my little brother, Micah, as we reached the top of the stairs. He dodged behind me, and I toppled to the floor, laughing uncontrollably as the tickle monster attacked me. Alyssa stopped tickling and we raced through the kitchen door to the pantry. I started to climb the shelves to get to the Strawberry Special K (Papa kept it on the second highest shelf because otherwise it was gone in a matter of hours). Uncle Scott reached up and grabbed the box for me, and I skipped to the table to pour myself a bowl. Once I had my bowl of Strawberry Special K and a glass of orange juice, I delicately skittered to the ladder in the hallway. I balanced the plastic bowl that held my cereal on top of my orange juice and stuffed my paperback copy of “The Fellowship of the Ring” into my sweatshirt pocket. Holding my breakfast in one hand, I used the other to balance as I climbed into the watchtower. I set my breakfast and book on the bench attached to the wall, then took a few minutes to admire the three-hundred-sixty degree view the all-around window in the tower provided. I glanced down at the vacation complex the lighthouse building was in, but I gazed long on the ocean horizon, with the wet sand trailing into dry, scorching, bright sand as it progressed toward the pavement. I stared at the glory of the morning sun reflected off the ocean waters. The blue became progressively darker as the water grew deeper. The waves broke in beautiful bubbles of white and showers of salt-water on the sand and on themselves.
I turned from this alluring view to my breakfast and book. I lay on the floor with my book in front of me, my cereal next to me, and my orange juice still on the bench. Munching on the sugary flakes and tart dried strawberries, I was absorbed into the story.
After hours that felt like seconds, the room had grown markedly darker. I stood to take in the evening view and check if my siblings were outside. As I gazed down I saw long shadows cast by my sisters and brothers throwing a disc around on the beach. They laughed with glee and fun each time someone threw too far or didn’t quite jump high enough. The light hair of my sisters and older brother shimmered in the twilight, and I could imagine the twinkle in my little brother’s eyes and his serious expression as he concentrated to catch the disc again. They ran about on the still-warm, but no longer scorching sand for several minutes, before my sisters pranced down towards the soft wet sand and salty ocean waves. They splashed in the shallows as the tide rose. Then Alyssa pointed out to sea.
Following her finger, I watched as dolphins danced and played in the waves a ways from the beach. The sunset glistened peach, vermilion, and rose on the shining water as the wondrous, curious creatures chattered and flipped in the ocean.
As the evening became twilight, my siblings were called inside for the night; and as the twilight became night, the dolphins retreated to their ocean home. The stars were made visible and the crescent moon grew bright as the sunlight faded behind the earth.
Along the way, the candle in your lantern may blow out. Make sure you bring matches to relight it if you have to;
Along the way, you may run into something. If it is a bear, ignore it and hope it ignores you. If it is a spirit, offer up anything you have for good passing through their forest. You can hunt more. If it is a weary traveler, only give food you have to spare;
Along the way, you may lose your map. Follow the stars. They are here to guide you;
Along the way, your hopes may dampen. Never mind that, for you must be stronger than doubt;
Along the way, your extra clothes may become burdensome. Always keep them, though. The nights can get cold;
Along the way, follow the songbirds. Sing back to them; enjoy their kinship while you can;
Along the way, you may run out of kindling. Bark or dead leaves will do;
Along the way, you will miss home. But the adventure is your home, the sky your ceiling, and as long as you keep pushing through, homesickness will be at bay;
Along the way, you will be inclined to give up,
Siofra is too soft. She is small, like the quiet kind of mouse you find in children’s picture books. Sometimes, when the day has been long and I’m too tired to think straight, I imagine she might disappear one day. She would just grow fainter and weaker until she’s no longer anything at all.
But I say nothing. It isn’t my business. I’m just her roommate. I’ve never been one to comment on a person’s health, anyway. It’s just always seemed rather rude to me. I wouldn’t want anyone to point out that I haven’t slept, even if I feel the aching exhaustion settle into my bones. How I feel should be my business, and how Siofra is feeling should be hers.
I just make sure to give her a second helping of dinner when I can. It’s not much, but it keeps the subject quiet and it makes me feel like I did something right by helping. It’s a win-win solution, really. Except for the fact that even without my help, Siofra could probably eat a dragon if she didn’t mind the spice. And she still never seems to look any healthier.
I have grown up with jagged edges, but some part of me is gentle enough to worry for my roommate. I do not say anything, but I worry for her health. It seems she’s been handed the short stick in life, the flaming kind that your life is attached to.
But sometimes, there’s something else. Certain mannerisms of hers draw my suspicions away from an innocent sickly girl, and toward something more dangerous.
Sometimes, she speaks of things she should have no knowledge of. Her eyes look far older than the rest of her, which looks even younger than she is. Sometimes she smiles a secret smile, the kind that tells me she knows something. Something she shouldn’t.
I put out my iron-cast skillet and ask her to cook, just to put my suspicions to rest. But each time I do so, she makes an excuse and leaves me to make the meal. She won’t even eat anything made from that skillet, for some odd reason, which makes absolutely no sense because the spices in there are extraordinary.
Unless. Unless I’m right.
Finally, enough is enough. I buy a carton of eggs. And when Siofra asks me what I’m doing, I smile and tell her I’m cooking in an eggshell.
She squints down at it. “Kaida,” she says quietly, “I don’t think there’s enough room in there to cook anything. And aren’t you afraid it might break?”
Hmm. No odd poems. Maybe she isn’t a changeling after all.
Kaida is loud and brash, and she speaks like a spitfire. She seems to roar all her words, and she’s always sitting by the fire. She always insists on using this ridiculously spicy cast-iron skillet, and tries to make me cook from it as well. (I refuse. I even more of a rubbish cook than she is.) Her food is always so spicy. It’s ridiculous.
There is something very off about Kaida. I hate to admit it, but she is just a bit terrifying. She switches between hovering over me like a mother hen and squinting at me suspiciously when I so much as cough. It makes me curse my weak immune system more than ever.
I was hoping for a roommate who would leave me be. I have been hovered over for my entire life, and I am tired of it. Kaida is as bright as a searing sunrise, but she’s also as dark as the underside of a pegasus’s wings. I cannot tell whether it is that light or that blackness that scares me more.
After all, what kind of person turns on the heat during the summer? What kind of person hisses back to the snakes in the zoo? What kind of person likes food that burns off the roof of their mouth?
Why is Kaida so claustrophobic? Why does she speak of historical events as though she were alive back then? Why does she have a box of jewels in her room?
Sometimes, when she looks into the distance, if I peer closely, I can see the reflection of something else in her eyes. Something not human. Something serpentlike.
And sometimes, I can’t help but wonder…
But no. It can’t be. Dragons aren’t real, right?
I hiss at her, one day. She blinks, and then scowls.
“Well, that was an incredibly rude thing to say.”
My fork hovers above my plate. “I didn’t say anything, Kaida.”
“Yes, you did,” she insists. She takes a bite of her breakfast. “You called me an overgrown lizard.”
“That’s an oddly specific hiss,” I reply. I lean forward, propping my elbows on the table, though I know it’s incredibly rude of me. “So. You’re a dragon?”
Kaida frowns for a moment, and then laughs. “I suppose the truth is out. And, just to make sure… you’re not a changeling, right? I tried a trick with some eggshells recently, but you didn’t really react…”
I smile. “I think I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.”
You should have seen the look on her face when I complimented her pins. She had a story waiting to be told, and to finally be able to share it made her face light up.
I walk through days and see people treating compliments like currency, as if to utter one without motive would be alien. As if it would be foolish to waste your time on flattery.
I try to compliment someone every day.
We’ve all been in that situation, where we tried really hard on something only to go unnoticed. When we pulled three all-nighters in a row to get a B minus. Telling you that dress looks nice on you, that your coconut cookie recipe worked, that your eyes look lovely in this light; it doesn’t cost me anything at all, but leaves with you happier and me with this light feeling in my chest from being the cause of someone’s smile;
By: Adora Brown
In the kitchen sat four identical teacups. Each had the same swirly designs, as paint danced along every curve and crevice. Mama told me I couldn’t touch the teacups. They are not your toys, she would say. But now, Mama doesn’t seem to care about her good china anymore. Inside those cups sat cold chamomile, Papa’s favorite. But Papa and the boys never returned.
In the kitchen there is a window. In the corner is a small crack where Billy nearly shattered the smudged glass into a million pieces. There are two symmetrical lines of dust along the windowsill. Each day Mama would open that window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the troops finally returning home, hoping to see our broken family again. Correction, nearly broken. Just as Billy’s baseball nearly broke the window. There’s still hope, Mama mutters to herself sometimes.
In the kitchen there are ghosts. A small remnant of what used to be our family. Papa would sip his tea as the boys would dance around the kitchen table singing jolly tunes. Mama would scold them, but I would catch her small smiles from time to time.
In the kitchen there is a letter. It sits on the counter, taunting me, but I don’t dare move it. When Mama opened that yellow envelope she dropped her teacup, that fine piece of good china she once cared so much about, to the floor. It shattered, breaking into hundreds of little pieces. MIA, Mama whispered. Missing in Action, three words that broke apart our family. Not nearly, anymore. Completely, utterly, shattered. The remnants of what used to be now strewn across the kitchen floor. Delicate, sharp, shards of us. Now Mama sits upstairs, broken. Papa and my two older brothers, three teacups, but the tea is no longer warm. And me, an empty cup in an empty family.