Podcast: Play in new window
Images by Sierra Lake
He had finally left the house, I was alone. It felt great to be alone. Trapped in my room all the time wasn’t fun.
It was always dark and cold, no heat. My floor was cement with a thin layer of carpet on top. My bed was a thin mattress.
I never knew when my uncle was going to turn into a different person. Some days, he was just angry and took it all out on me. I didn’t always live with him. I used to have a family who loved me and cared for me. When I was 6, my mom and dad got in a car crash. My mom went into a coma and never woke up, and my dad died when the truck hit the car. Continue reading STRAWBERRIES by Lynsey Gates →
Podcast: Play in new window
My hands cold on the sides of the porcelain sink. I lean in trying to get a good look. It came down to the question of whether or not I really wanted to know myself. Do I really want to wither away? Can I handle my own eyes looking back at me, sunlight extinguished within them?
I splash water on my face, abandon the mirror, and walk out into the hallway. Our house is big. It has the luxury of being spacious, which also means that it feels empty, another place to not fit into.
The only light available in the entire house is a flickering light from the television screen in the living room. All day and all night that screen is on and it’s the only welcome company for my son.
I sit with him, like I do every day.
Ever since Sammi was a baby, TV static was the only way we could ever get him to calm down. He’d go into these states, an anger that swelled and swarmed up, angry bees inside him, tensing up every muscle in his body.
Continue reading SUNLIGHTED DAYS →
My parents. Every day they fight and every night I hide. Every word they scream is because of me and every tear or lamp or vase that hits the ground is my fault. It’s a natural reflex, I just block out everything they scream. I hear the yelling but not the words. They don’t look at me or speak to me or acknowledge me in any possible way. To them I’m invisible.
Image Courtesy Dylan Smith
“Him” is what I call him, you could say it’s because I don’t know his name but to me there is no name for his force, only the single syllable of Him. The sun is setting and I know that if I want to see him, I’ll have to leave now. I pull open the window to my room I stick my head outside.
There is frost on the grass and I chill in my bones, but my teeth don’t chatter, Continue reading HIM →
October of my sophomore year, when the leaves had just begun to fall off the trees, the Quiet Girl moved into the house next door. I remember the day perfectly. I broke my leg the day before and had just begun my two week mandatory bed rest. Her room was situated so that, from my bed, I could see from my window, and into hers.
With nothing else to occupy my time, I learned a lot about my new neighbor. From the books that piled up next to her bedside table, I learned she liked to read. From the notebooks she filled, I learned she liked to write. She had a very nice, top-of-the-line PC, but she never plugged it in. Her room was sparsely decorated, odd for a girl, although at 15, how much did I really know about girls? She spent the majority of her time in her room alone, and no one came to visit. After two weeks of watching my neighbor, I learned very little about her, and what I had learned only made me ask more questions. Continue reading THE QUIET GIRL →
[media-credit name="Image courtesy Harrison Allred" align="alignleft" width="575"][/media-credit]
Sgt. Jackson, also known to those in the battalion as “Black Jack,” stared at the sky. There seemed to be something in it. He could hear a buzzing in his ears—not loud, but definitely there. It was getting louder and more irritating. Jackson closed his eyes and started to fall into the dark, until he realized the buzzing sounded like screaming. His eyes snapped open and he saw a marine leaning over him.
“Get up now, sir!” the man yelled, looking terrified,“They’re almost here!”
Black Jack rose to a sitting position, and the marine reached out his hand and helped him to his feet.
“Where are the others?” Black Jack asked.
“Already took cover in the bunker, sir,” the marine said. “We need to get there, too”.There was a screaming from the sky, and then a crater and pile of wreckage appeared right ahead them. Black Jack was knocked to the ground, losing his breath. He looked to where the marine had been standing and saw him on the ground, a shard of metal the size of a forearm going through his neck. The marine’s eyes looked out, unblinking… Continue reading b.i.r.d. →
Podcast: Play in new window
The moon is in pieces. Space station Exodus drilled towards the core of the white orb and hit something. Like a gas pocket. But the moon is dead. Something went wrong and now everything is going down the toilet.
[media-credit name="Image courtesy Joshua Pearson" align="alignright" width="400"][/media-credit]I stared long and hard at my basketball, the Nike symbol stared back. “How could something that is a fossilized satellite just fall to pieces?” The answer alluded all reason. I tried to understand the problem the whole world was now faced with. If I take a needle and stick it into my basketball and push into the center nothing should happen. What are the odds of it exploding? My basketball is dead, just like the moon, right? Then why is it in pieces?
I wonder if NASA is having the same trouble as I am. I wonder how bad this is going to affect the world. I’ve read those books about asteroids hitting the moon and stuff, knocking it out of orbit and whatnot. But that’s just out of orbit—this is in pieces—like lots of little pieces.
I looked towards the sky; I could see the moon (or now moons). It looked as if someone was breaking a white dinner plate in slow motion, and now everything was just expanding out into space. If pieces of the moon were expanding in all directions, doesn’t that mean it was expanding towards earth too? Just yesterday I was worrying about getting a girlfriend, and now the moon is in pieces. I never would have thought that when I woke up this morning the whole world was going to be in jeopardy. Things haven’t been all that great in the world lately, but at least we blew up the moon and not ourselves.
He said this was going to happen, that goofy guy on the news channel. He always said that drilling towards the center of something we know almost nothing about was probably a bad idea. “It’s like walking into a cave where you can’t see anything but you can hear a beast inside,,” he’d said. What I don’t think the media or that goofy guy realized, is that the government isn’t afraid of anything. It’s as if they were throwing pebbles at the Washington monument in hopes of bringing it to the ground.
[media-credit name="Image courtesy Joshua Trottier" align="aligncenter" width="560"][/media-credit]I rolled off the curb and forced myself to stand up. Sweat dripped down my face. I readied myself to shoot the ball. I tried to concentrate, but my thoughts made it hard to focus. I bent my knees, and took my shot—jumping as I pushed the ball skyward . Air ball. It didn’t even hit the backboard.
With the feeling of failure in my throat I walked towards the front door. I left the basketball in the neighbor’s bushes where it landed. I sort of stumbled through the front door, walked upstairs to my room, jumped and landed face first into my bed.
Story by Tyler Raskin
As always the HOWL PODCAST available free to your device via our iTUNES account.
[media-credit name="Image courtesy Kristen Ludahl" align="aligncenter" width="580"][/media-credit]
Running. Always running. I dodge tree after tree. The dark, almost oily, black feeling of being followed weighs heavily on me. I shiver as the feeling trickles down my neck, drawing closer and closer with each passing second. Then it is gone. I slow to a walk, to listen to my surroundings. All I can hear is the soft hum of the cicadas and the sound of my lungs trying to draw air. I finally stop, bending at the waist and placing my hands on my knees as I attempt to regulate my breathing.
I’ve been running for years. Or at least it feels like it. It is not easy keeping track of time when you have more important things to think about. Trying to figure out who exactly is trying to catch me is my main focus.
About a turn ago, I had just finished my trek through the woods surrounding the little home my father had shed sweat and tears over to build as a wedding gift for my mother. I had just sold the last of my father’s prized sheep at the market in the village. Each was worth over 20 gold pieces each. After selling the last one to a kind old man, I had rushed back, my purse hitting my leg with each long stride.
About five months before, my father and I were moving our sheep to the lower pasture. My father said later that I had a gift, a `sixth sense` as he called it. I was walking after a young lamb who decided to leave and run to the stream that ran across the field. As I approached the stream, I began to feel uneasy, as though someone or something was watching my every move. I stopped and looked around. I saw a large shape a little into the woods behind my father. I gasped as the sun hit it. It was a moose. And father was going straight toward it. I broke into a run, yelling at my dad to stop. The sheep, startled by my voice, darted off, following the rock wall down to the pasture.
It is still well after dusk before I see the meadow through the trees. I had just caught sight of our barn when what my father calls, `my sixth sense` kicked into high gear. I rushed behind a large cedar tree, the braid slid off my shoulder; a swinging pendulum.
I see five dark figures carrying torches ablaze with a green-tinted fire, walking out from the far side of the barn. I watch as they fan out, one to each corner of the hut, their shadows passing the carvings that border the rough texture of the walls. As they raise their torches, I can see the tuffs of straw that stick out at the corners.
These five men in their robes lay their torches down among the thatch, where it almost instantly catches fire due to the long dry spell that has befallen us.
Soon the blaze is bright enough to show even more detail. All of the figures are large men in long black cloaks and heavy leather boots. They step back and quickly converge into a small circle. I hear laughter. A scream pierces the quiet black night and I turn my head to look back at the house. My mother.
“HEY!” Someone says. I tear my eyes away from the flames that are engulfing my family hut. One of the men, the short one whose nose sticks out of the cloak when he is in profile, has his bony finger held out to me. The wind carries his voice over.
“The daughter wasn’t in there” he says, “We can’t leave any witnesses.”
Before I hear another word, I turn and run, and have been running ever since.
And now, no one will help me. An unaccompanied young woman is a bad omen and one of those hooded men will surely tell someone.
My once-beautiful dark green dress now lays in tatters around my starved body. The long, gracious sleeves are gone, and the hem is ripped and covered in mud.
I can’t stop. No matter where I run or how well I hide, that oily black feeling wraps me up and takes me away with it, leaving my stomach knotted in fear.
But for now, my surroundings and feelings are quiet. I straighten back up and begin to walk through the trees. Before long, I stumble across a hole, just big enough for a small child to fit in. Just big enough for me. Gathering an arm-load of down branches, I cover the hole with the small pieces of bark, sticks and rotting foliage, being sure to leave enough space to get in. After throwing in the bag of stolen goods, I crawl in and settle down on the hard compact ground to think of all that has happened.
Why would my family be targeted? Why would someone want us dead? Then my thought turned to my parents. Are they happy where they are? Are they trying to help me? Every once in a while, something will tell me to turn a way I wouldn’t normally go. It saves me from another encounter with the men who wear black robes. Maybe my parents are here, watching over me as I fight everyday for survival. I fall asleep as the sun comes up, with the images of my loving parents dancing in my brain.
Story by Alli Timmons
[media-credit name="Image courtesy Alyssa Walker" align="alignleft" width="358"][/media-credit]I was free. I was leaving all that I wasn’t, and even if I came back it would all seem different and fake. Walking away from all of my parents utopian ideals was easy. I left because I couldn’t live with the religion that my parents forced down my throat.
Couldn’t live with the same routine day after day, month after month, the same routine of church every Sunday, where I would be shunned, humiliated, or worse if I spoke my actual thoughts. I had no real friends at school and the few who thought they knew me only knew the perfect little angel my parents had required. I didn’t know where I wanted to go but I’ve always heard my parents’ talk of the big city as a place filled with sinful, heretical thinkers. The big city was filled with people that already thought the way I do.
The town was a small nation, complete with a minutemen-style militia waiting for the holy war that our minister prophesized each morning. The militia included pretty much all the men between the ages of 16 to 50. The number of militia was constantly growing do to the fact that all women were required to have at least five children within the first ten years of their marriage. If the women did not produce children, they were to be divorced from the husband and put into the House of Effete. In the House of Effete the woman performed all of the menial tasks within the town such as cleaning the stalls of all the animals, burial duty and anything else the minister saw fit for the lowliest. Divorced husbands would merely be married to a chosen widow. The ministers reasoning for having five children was that when the holy war came, and it would most certainly come, then the citizens of the town would outnumber the heretics by such a large proportion, that the faithful would be able to lose three men in exchange for the life of one heretic. When all of the heretics would be eradicated, then the true believers would still have large enough numbers to start a new society in the name of our deity.
The minister had never allowed anyone to read his imposingly- large bible. He kept it locked away in his briefcase. We had only seen it once per year during our mandatory fasting, and during prayer week. During this time all families had to pay their penance which supposedly went to the betterment of the town, although all the work for the town was strictly unpaid and workers had to come up with the funds.
The whole town was completely under the control of the minister. Only three men had ever questioned the minister and they were immediately thrown out of the town with no money, food, or tools to survive. The minister had all of the funds kept in a locked vault within the church that only he knew the combination. When it came to laws, the minister could make and abolish laws at any time because he made us believe he had a divine right to rule over all of us believers. When a law was supposedly broken, the minister was the one that made and gave the verdict. The punishment for any and all crimes was immediate execution followed by a public stake burning where the families of the convicted were forced to start a small fire under the convicted. Over the course of six hours, he would increase the amount of wood until the convicted was completely cremated leaving nothing but ash.
Schooling started for all children at three years of age with the word of god. After the children learned about god’s wishes and history, they were taught simple math, and reading. Once the children could read, then they had to memorize the bible word for word. Once memorized, the children were then chosen for specific jobs within the town. Jobs included cooks, construction laborers, farmers, and needle workers. Once they were trained for their specific duties, the men were taught shooting and first aid within the militia. While all of this was going on, the women were immediately married to a mature man usually picked by their parents.
My family consisted of my mother, and father, three brothers, four sisters and me. Our parents had been so enthusiastic that they had the required number of children within three years, and within two weeks of that date my mother was already pregnant with another child. Within the house I was the oldest and most outspoken. Whereas my other siblings were very willing to accept any task or belief, I had always secretly questioned some of the prime rhetoric. I had been the most distant from people in the town always doing what was accepted and moving on to the next thing I believed they would ask of me. Other parents had always told mine that they thought I was the prettiest girl in the village and also very well behaved from a very young age. I didn’t like it because it meant being more social with the people I could have cared less about.
I had never really given thought to running away until a few months back when my parents started talking with the priest and other parents about who they thought would be a good husband for me. But what really made me snap and decide to leave was when I overheard my father speaking to Terry’s father about setting up a house and marrying me to Terry. It wasn’t the thought of marrying Terry that scared me, although I didn’t like the idea, it was the fact that my father was so serious with Terry’s. I knew it wasn’t going to be a choice for me to decide but that it had already been decided. When I heard that I wanted to cry, to ask my father why I wasn’t even given the choice but I knew with my parents that what they wanted with me was what happened with me and the whole town would back decisions of this nature.
Instead of asking him about it I went home, I packed the few things I really cared about and went to the outskirts of town. I plan to get a ride from a miner to the next town or as far as they will take me. I don’t know where I’ll go or what I’ll do when I get there but it won’t be living the way my parents believe is the only proper way to live. Maybe one day I will come back and try to abolish all of this. Until then I will do my best to make people in the big city realize all of the injustices this place has committed.
by JAY BUDD