“At least winter is over.”
Issue: May 2013
by Katie Sykes ’13
“Sir, she’s…she’s here.”
Noah stepped away from the Vermeer painting he had been restoring for weeks now and returned his goggles to their upright position on top of his head. The painting had been his biggest find and most complicated project in years. Each little pearl had been a separate challenge, and he had finally found the perfect combination of paint as to allow him to save this work. But it could wait. With his new visitor, it would have to.
“She’s in the drawing room. She wishes to speak to you.”
“I’m sure she does.” It wasn’t unlike Will – if he called her Willow, she’d kill him – to show up unexpectedly. However, she had made a surprisingly quiet entrance, which was very unlike her. There wasn’t one single explosion or airship crash.
Abandoning his work, he removed his gloves and face mask and marched passed his assistant for the drawing room. “Did she look all right, Thomas?” he asked. “What I mean is, is there anything I should be aware of?”
Thomas shrugged and followed his employer. “You’ll…You’ll see. There’s…I don’t know how else to explain it, sir.”
“That knothead is trying to give me a heart attack,” he muttered, stalking down the dimly lit hall. “I give you my Bible oath, she’s going to drive me to an early grave. If this is another one of her practical jokes, I’m gonna slice her—”
He stopped at the entrance of the room, taking in the sight of his childhood friend. A lot could change in two years; he understood that. But this just wasn’t her. Water rolled off her soaked clothes and hair and created a lake around her feet on the rug he’d bought years ago on a trip to India. Her knees knocked together and her teeth chattered so loudly that he at first mistook it for rattling dinner plates while she hugged herself.
“Someone get her a blanket!” he yelled to anyone in the area. “And some tea, dry clothes, and something to eat! Erin, draw her a hot bath!”
Finding his feet again, he rushed over and pulled her towards the sofa. Forcing her to sit, he grabbed the knitted blanket and wrapped it around her. She barely even noticed him. Her lips were bright blue, hazel eyes distant and dulling to look more like garbage, her face pale and accentuating the dark freckles. Strangest part was, it hadn’t been raining.
“…You smell like you swam in warm puke,” he said, hoping to get a rise out of her. He’d settle for any reaction, in truth.
She swallowed, and her lips cracked. Blood beaded against her bottom lip, the one she had a tendency to bite down on in deep thought. “Sewage, actually.”
So he’d likely have to burn that blanket too. Lovely. “What happened?”
“I…I…” A visible shiver ran through her.
Noah took Will’s hands and tried to rub some heat back into them. “Hey now, take your time. You’re safe here.”
She shook her head. “My…my Dad. He’s…m-m-missing.”
Which also wasn’t new. Her current condition, however, was. “Will, he’s gone missing before. He’s always fine. He’s probably just out of range—”
“No. Not like this.” She pulled her hands away and hugged the blanket tighter about her. “He…He said he’d be back a month ago—”
“And that’s happened before, too.”
Her glare cut through him. “And during any of those explorations, did someone’s private army ever break into my house, search for my Dad, and try to arrest me while also stealing all our work?”
…No. That was very new. “Oh.”
She nodded. “…I think I killed two of them. I don’t know. I ran out of ammo and my gun jammed…And my dad’s assistants…everyone in our house. They were shot. Right in the head, Noah! Their blood is on my walls! And my hands!”
She showed him her hands, which were only vaguely stained with blood. He wrapped his palms around hers to hide it. “How did you escape?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Morgan pushed me into the cellar when he saw them coming up the road. I heard the shots. I got out through the tornado hatch and saw them being shot through the window and then they saw me and chased me and…” She choked on a sob and Noah knew better than to call her out on it. “I ran. I hopped trains. I managed to hide in the sewers when they spotted me – burn it, they’re fast. Noah, I didn’t know where else to go.”
“You were right to come here.”
By this time, Thomas had returned with a stack of blankets, accompanied by another of Noah’s servants with a tray of tea and various sweets. He grabbed what looked like a chocolate chip cookie and broke off a small piece, gesturing to her mouth. “You need to eat something.”
She shook her head madly as if the cookie was poisonous. “No. My dad—”
“If there are people after you, it means Arch is alive and they want to use you as leverage. You’re safe now. No one knows I’m here. I’ve done a very good job of remaining invisible up here. Now, how long ago was this raid on your house?”
“A week ago,” she whispered.
“And you’ve been running all this time?” He lived in the middle of Tennessee in the mountains. She would have either had to have taken the rail – which he monitored very closely – or hike through bear-infested woods. And no one had…“You hiked here, didn’t you?” She nodded. “… You’re a bold one in a calm.”
“Would you have let me on the rail?”
…Probably not. The last time they spoke was right after his father died two years ago. He hadn’t seen her in the years prior and he just showed up broken on her doorstep. Despite their feuding before, their childhood friendship had returned for that time and that time only. Right after, they had returned to their usual screaming matches. Their fathers had been best friends, but Noah and Will only ever got along when their ages were still in the single digits. Worst part was, he knew he’d never forgive himself if he just turned her away.
Either way, he was still holding that bit of cookie and urging her to eat it. He whispered. “We’ll figure this out, Will. You really need to eat something.”
“No. I’m not hungry.”
“You’ve a split tongue.”
“Not true. I can’t even feel my stomach anymore. Can you feel your stomach? I haven’t been hungry in days. Thirsty, well, it’s a bit debatable—”
He shoved the cooling mug of tea against her lips to shut her up. “Drink.”
She gulped down half of the mug before he let her stop. “Great guns, what is that? It tastes like garbage!”
“Says the girl who’s been swimming in sewage.” He set the mug down and waved Thomas over with the tray. He grabbed a rag and soaked
it in hot water, then proceeded to wipe Will’s hands with it. It would clean some of the dirt, blood, and sludge off of her, enough so that she could at least take hold of the cookie herself. “Do these men know you’re in Tennessee?”
She shrugged, watching him wash her hands. “I…I don’t know. They saw me get on the train – in one of the animal carts; it was terrible – but I don’t know if they know where it was headed. The train took me to Memphis and I had to hitchhike and take smaller trains and rails and managed to steal a few horses to get here.”
“Will, that’s over four hundred miles.”
She just kept shaking her head. “I followed rivers. I used the horses. I followed roads. I fought off the black bears — and I now understand why they’re going extinct. They like attacking hikers like me, and I didn’t have a choice but to kill them!”
“I thought you didn’t have your gun!”
“I picked up a rifle back at the bottom of the mountain in one of those weird shops. Lost it on the way though…”
This girl was going to get him killed, he just knew it. He hung his head and forced a cookie in her hand. “Eat it.”
“Eat the damn cookie or so help me—”
“Fine!” Rolling her eyes, she took a bite out of the cookie. She had trouble chewing, and needed the tea to swallow it. “Happy?”
“Aye, deliriously.” He grabbed another cookie. “Now another.”
She glared down at him. “Are you trying to get me fat?”
“No. I’m trying to keep you from starving. Now, eat or I won’t help you.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but then clamped it back shut and took hold of the cookie. She broke off a small bit and stuffed it in her mouth. Noah was relieved that she was returning to her old self, even if he knew that he’d likely want to kill her within the next few minutes. And she’d want to kill him. It was how their estranged relationship worked.
“I need to find Dad.”
He leaned back, resting his hands flat on the wooden floor and rolled his eyes at Thomas, both already not liking how this was looking. “Where was he, do you know?” he asked.
As quick and as confident as her answer came, it still managed to make the hearts of everyone in the room stop for a brief moment. Noah sat back up and glanced back at Thomas. “Could you go see that Erin makes up a room for Will here? And that the bath has been drawn and… Anything else you can think of?” Thomas nodded and ran off, grateful to be allowed leave of the place.
With a heavy sigh, Noah stood and looked anywhere but Will. “Why did he go to Quarantine?” No one went there. Some kind of strange plague had broken out years ago, causing the entire country to panic and scramble to seal it off, the people still inside. They built walls scaling up hundreds of feet, a reminder of the dangers kept contained, the country kept safe. At least, that was how it was supposed to be viewed. Many thought it was part of a government conspiracy and that Quarantine was holding either unbelievable weapons or some secrets on mutated humans. Will and Arch gathered these rumors and fed them to their already wild imaginations. Often, they’d joke about making a trip to Quarantine, just to see what was really there. Noah never thought the old man would ever actually be so daft as to try.
“People began going missing in the surrounding towns…There was a private backer for the expedition who wanted answers. Dad was curious. He thought the government was hiding something.”
He shrugged. “They’re always hiding something.”
“Which is what I thought, but the way he went about this…” She looked up at him, her hazel eyes clouded with tears. “He was obsessed. And when I tried to talk him down, he went on about human rights and how corrupt the system was and how he hated them like he had never ever done before. And then, one day…He just said he was going to Quarantine. Alone.”
Noah’s heart sank. This was a plausible story for Arch. It wasn’t unlike his character, although he had never done something this dull-witted before.
“He said he’d be back in a month and I waited. And normally, he sends word a week before his time’s up to tell me that he’s fine and will be staying longer. But nothing this time. So I did the shallow-pated thing and waited two more weeks and…I did something unbelievably clod-like.”
Not unlike Will at all, though she never meant it to be brainless. Her heart was always in the right place. She just had awful bad luck, he had come to realize. But to do something this powder-brained…“You went to the governor?
She nodded. “Aye, I asked if they could get in contact with Dad. I just wanted to make sure he was alive. I didn’t know where else to go to and thought maybe they could get in contact with him. I didn’t tell them about Dad’s suspicions, but they didn’t seem pleased. I left, went home, acted as if nothing was wrong. For a while, I thought everything was all fine and dandy. A week later…”
He nodded, finishing the rest of the story for her. “Men showed up, and another week more and you’re here.”
“That’s the verity of it.”
With a sigh, he leaned back against a chair. “For the moment, relax. Take a nice warm bath…Maybe a few of them. Wash your hair, would ya? You’re really stinking up the place.”
She glared at him, though he had hoped she wouldn’t. He hoped she would find it a joke. Evidently not.
“Look now, go wash up. I’ll have some clean clothes brought up to you. We’ll have dinner. We’ll get you back to your usual sarcastic and snarky form in no time. And I’ll work on what to do with Arch, aye? No one knows we’re here. Just go bathe, will ya?” When she didn’t move, he went over and held out his hand for her. “Please?”
She shook her head. “I can’t relax when my dad’s missing.”
“Just for today,” he said.
Again, when she didn’t move, she forced his hand. He grabbed her under the arm and pulled her up to her feet. She faltered slightly, but refused any further help he offered. She pushed herself away and started for the door. “I’ll find my way.”
Shaking his head, he resigned himself to another round of blows later, but for now, there would be one more that he wasn’t expecting. Before she left, she placed her hand on the doorframe and turned back slightly with a smirk. “You’ve done good for yourself, Noah,” she said. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you.”
Noah wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he just stared after her while she walked away, no doubt all too happy that she had managed to have the last word.
by Sean Hutzell ’15
All Ye Need to Know
“To write from the heart is difficult. It means to tell the unbending truth, the utter and sometimes painful truth. To let the truth flow and bubble up from the cracks is harder. An uncompromising heart tells a love song of happiness, pain, life, and death, which must be sung loud and clear for a crystal element to take form and power the beauty in the world.
Beauty is not what something should be; beauty just is. Beauty is the justice and injustice of the ever moving cycle of the world, the orphaned child starving in the streets, and the wealthy sitting in a winged back leather chair wearing a cashmere sweater and silk tie. It is the blooming of a flower in a crack of cement, before it withers in summers first heat and the fading, breaking of leaves in a cooling autumn.
Writing or telling the truth is but one aspect of humanity. Others see the truth and bask in its brilliance. They watch light play of a stained glass window, observe a sunset, and watch blood trickle out of a cut. The world is theirs for the taking, to be mesmerized, losing themselves as they are caught up in its ever moving colors, shapes, and forms of which they are never apart.
A third category contains the poor of spirit, the ones that have not been blessed with the power to partake or watch. They can only ask ‘Where?’ or ‘What?’ not knowing about the beauty pouring itself on them day and night. They are unable to see justice in trails and tribulations. However, their time will come, and does come; and the sight will spread, enlightening the people of the world. But how can I begin with this story? Where will I begin? Marty had been one of these latter people, but he changed later in life and became the warm person I had known in childhood.”
Andrew paused clearing his throat, took a worn tissue out of his pocket, and dabbed his eyes. Andrew had not seen Marty in years and now he had been asked to relate a life he had forgotten long ago. Standing behind the altar, Andrew missed Marty more than ever. And as he stared down through blurred eyes trying to read the paper, already wet with running black ink, he thought of blackberries.
A left onto Pontiac Trail, then another left, one more, and finally a right. Just over the crest of the hill lay the most colorful house I had ever seen. Not on the outside, but inside. Each room was a different color, bright green, sun yellow, sky blue, and a blazing orange. Always with good taste, Mrs. Kaylin had painted the house herself, creating a home. My favorite room was the African room, as I affectionately called it. It was the sun yellow room that had wide glass doors to let even more golden light in. Covering the chairs and couches were a series of mismatched blankets and pillows – zebra stripes, brown native looking patterns, and faded orange tiger stripes. On the wall next to the small stone fire place was a large African mask. At least two feet long, its gaping mouth always looked surprised. Not one to question a person’s history or background, I always assumed it was just a personal preference in décor. It wasn’t until I was older that I find out that both of Marty’s parents were Dutch South Africans.
The first time I got together with Marty was during the summer. School was over and the plants and flowers were in full bloom. Mrs. Kaylin had come out to greet my mother and me.
“Hello, nice to finally meet you. My name is Sicily.”
“Catherine, nice to meet you.”
I patiently waited for them to make pickup arrangements and then went inside to find Marty. He was on the couch in the African room loading rubber band guns. “Hey, look!” He shot a pistol at the open door that led to the back lawn. The band soared through the air and landed in the grass thirty feet away.
“That’s so cool!” He handed me a rifle and pistol, giving me instructions.
“My brother, Brandon, has a friend over and we are going to have a war outside. They are hiding somewhere outside now with the same guns. We’ll have to be quiet and sneaky to find a good base of operations.” At the early age of 7, we were both avid history buffs, each having fallen in love with a different war. The Civil War was my favorite; for Marty it was World War II.
When we were equipped and ready, we darted out the backdoor and ran down a slight incline for the bushes. Once we were behind the bushes, we organized and looked around. Neither Brandon nor his friend Henry were anywhere to be seen.
“It seems we’ll need to stock up on food for a siege. Who knows
where they went?”
“I don’t know, Marty. What are we supposed to do for food?” I always took a back seat with the story line of our current adventure. Somehow it seemed appropriate, fair even. I was the popular one at school because I was smart, funny, and a likeable guy; Marty was simply the cool one, who I happened to top on almost every single test. He also seemed to truly transport himself into another world when we played.
“Alright. Over here.”
“Where? We are in the open…”
“Don’t worry about it. These are so fresh.” We had come to what I thought were vines on the backyard fence, but as it turned out, they were berry bushes. There were hundreds of blackberries along the fence and at the end of the yard stood a sagging apple tree. We began to pick and eat right off the vine. We jumped and grabbed apples, throwing the cores away into a small, garden compost container. The fruit was wonderful. It was tart on my tongue and sweet down my throat. It ran down our fingers, on to our hands, and made our palms sticky with juice.
“When Marty moved four years later, I lost contact with him; I couldn’t be the only one making the phone calls and instigating conversation. I tried, but became tired of being the active friend. Besides, I had a life of my own and he wasn’t as much a part of it anymore….or at least that was how it felt. Through the magic of the internet we reconnected almost twenty years later, when Marty moved just under two hours away from me. He had his dream job – a captain in the SEALs. He went through ROTC and worked his way up. He didn’t let anything get in the way of his life, of being alive. But we had changed. We were both very different leaders in our respective professions and it got in our way of friendship.
“I was a high school teacher at an International Academy.
Marty’s life was open ‘classified.’ On a hot summer night, in central Asia, he led his team on an extraction mission. As one of his men told me, they were ‘getting a friendly out of a really bad place.’ Although the mission was successful, things went wrong. Marty died.
“I think he died the way he lived.’
“I think he would be very satisfied.’
I think I will eat blackberries that are sweeter than when I was a child.
by Rachel Brown ’13
The leaning down of shade and green
into a solemn day, the preen
of mallards, clear, the surface calm
as iris, curving in my palm
and blurring in the afternoon,
the raining smell, the tree-smooth room
its windows bared, its neck as cool
as sleeping skin, entwined, in bloom
like light drawn from the morning sky,
from space, the stars unmooring, sighs
of color, flame, the freezing breath
within my ribs, my face, to press
my eyes into the locust dark,
to pray the signal fire heart
would burn as bright, would stay, the red
on its imagined peak, the bed
behind me full of night, as brave
as dreams. My body, new and strange
to me, to mine, consumed my self
with light. A door. A spring in swell.