By: Maria Queen ’12, Comic Artist
Tag: Seniors 2012
By: Stephanie Brown ’12
Aggie was gently bouncing Tom on her knee as the stew broiled over the hearth. Tom cooed happily and waved his tiny hands, grabbing a loose strand of her hair.
“Careful, careful,” Aggie said, smiling.
She tickled his stomach, and Tom kicked his legs, giving a joyful squeal.
“Who am I?” she asked.
“Ma!” Tom gurgled, clapping his hand and grinning his toothless smile.
The door opened at that point. Aggie looked up to see Giles, but her smile faded instantly. His brows were creased, his mouth in a thin line.
“Da!” Tom laughed and made more nonsense sounds.
“Giles, what is it? Is Duncan bickering again? I told you to just ignore—”
“Where did you find it?” Giles snapped, his finger jabbing towards the baby giggling in her lap.
“He’s not an ‘it.’ Besides, I told you, I found him on the doorstep.”
“You’re lying. You’ve been lying from the start.” Giles paced along the room, running a bulky hand through his hair. “No one ever came by in the night, did they?”
Aggie straightened her back. “Of course they did, how else would I have—”
Something in his tone made Aggie’s stomach freeze. She stood, shifting Tom so that he clung to her shoulder. Giles eyed the baby for a few seconds.
“I’ll ask you one last time. Where did you get it?” He turned his gaze on his wife.
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Aggie snapped. Tom began to tug on her hair.
Giles let out a bitter laugh. “God in Heaven, you did it. I can’t believe you. Was there not enough sense in your head to keep you from going to the ring on the heath?”
Anger colored her cheeks as she said, “You should learn to count your blessings.”
“Blessings?!” He exploded, the sudden shout startling Tom until he wailed. “You brought a changeling into our home! Did you want a babe that badly?”
“Yes!” Aggie clutched the baby closer and stroked his tufts of hair. “I don’t regret what I did! Who cares what everyone else thinks? He’ll grow, he’s just slow, that’s all.”
“Listen to yourself, woman. You’re in denial. What more evidence do you need that the thing is cursed? We should do as everyone says and leave it back in the ring.”
Aggie gripped Tom tighter. He began to cry. “No! How dare you say that about our son!”
“He is not our son! We never had a son!”
The silence that followed hung heavy in the air, seemingly pressing down on them. Giles stood firm, chest heaving, face flushed with anger, while Aggie remained wide-eyed and pale.
“I’m giving you a choice,” Giles said heavily. “Return…him to the ring, or leave here with him. If you do, you are no longer my wife.”
Aggie was still, the only motion coming from the baby squirming in her arms. At long last, she slowly, nervously opened her mouth.
“I…I’ll need to pack my things.”
The look in Giles’ eyes nearly crushed her. But she held on, for Tom.
“Aggie…please…it’s not human.”
“I love him. He needs me.”
Giles blinked his eyes a few times, and then turned towards the door. “You’ve made your choice. But you forget, Aggie, that I love you, too. It seems your want of a child means more to you than I ever could. Enjoy the life you’ve chosen.”
He was gone, and the door’s closing held finality in its loud thud. Aggie winced, trembled, and looked down at her son, trying hard not to cry. “It’s just you and me now, Tommy. Come on, Mama needs to get some stuff together.”
It was dark by the time she left the house, her bag of clothes and small possessions stuffed in the cradle that she pushed down the dirt road. Tom was wrapped up and tied snug to her chest, where he pressed against her for warmth. It was hard work, but she managed to cross the bridge to where the old abandoned mill cottage stood. The original mill had long since fallen into disrepair, causing another to be built, but the cottage still remained. It was in need of a new roof and shutters, but Aggie would make do. She was determined to, for her child.
Aggie fixed everything up by herself. No one ever stopped by, not even Giles, though she sometimes thought that she caught sight of him lingering near the bridge, never crossing. After a few months he stopped coming. Aggie, too, never crossed the bridge, except for Sunday service, the only time she ever left Tom napping at the cottage. People avoided sitting beside her, oftentimes staring pointedly in the opposite direction.
Five years later, Aggie went to church and saw Giles. He was with a woman, a pretty woman with one hand on a rosary and the other holding his own. Her belly was just beginning to fill with child. A bitter taste filled her mouth, but she focused her gaze on the altar. After that day, she only stopped by in the evenings to light a candle and pray.
The years crept by. One by one, Aggie watched as everyone she knew died. Her hair grew grey, her skin weathered and wrinkled, and her back became bent from sitting beside the cradle for so long. Still, her baby remained the same.
The younger generations avoided her. Some looked upon her with pity, others with scorn. They whispered behind her back, perhaps thinking that her hearing had deteriorated with her old age. No one came by her house anymore, save for a few curious children hoping to catch sight of the changeling child.
Aggie was scared. She was going to die, but her baby would remain behind. She had heard the whispers; she knew what would happen when that day came. The fear gnawed at her heart, and she prayed and seethed and sobbed for a solution. In time, she realized that there was no other option.
Aggie trembled, the veins in her withered hands bulging. Her limbs ached with arthritis as she lifted the baby from his cradle and wrapped him in her best shawl. She donned her cloak, picked up her walking stick, and carried the child outside.
The wind gusted against her face. Tom began to cry and pressed his face to her breast. Aggie bounced him in her arm as she slowly followed the road out of town, up to where it curved past that all too familiar heath. Her cane sunk slightly into the damp earth as she stepped off the path. Every now and then she pause to catch her breath and wait for her knees to cease their shaking. Tom’s cries grew louder, his little hands clutching at her blouse. The wind caught his cry and carried it through the hills, a high-pitched trill of fear.
Finally, they reached Aggie’s destination. The circle of stones was dark and empty. Aggie moved forward, only to have her cane catch in a rut. She stumbled, both cane and babe tumbling from her arms as she landed on her knees with a pained grunt. A low moan crawled from her throat as she reached for the baby. The hair tangled in her face as she lifted her gaze to the faerie ring.
“Take him back! Please!”
No one answered. No light, aside from the crescent moon appeared on the heath. Aggie dragged Tom closer and hugged him to her chest.
“I’m dying! I don’t have much time! There’ll be no one to care for him! The town will not care for a changeling child!”
Only the wind howled in response.
Aggie shivered. “You must help! If not for your sake, then for his! He’s of your kind! Let him grow in your land if not in mine! Save our child!”
She remained still for some time, waiting as the chill air froze her, made her joints ache with pain. Yet, no one came. Aggie bowed her head over her crying child, letting her fresh tears mingle with his. There would be no answer, no help from the Fair Folk or anyone else for that matter. She would die and be buried alone, while her Tom remained in his cradle. He would wait for someone to feed and coddle him, to kiss his face and soothe his cries. He would wait as the townsfolk boarded up the windows and doors of her small cottage, too afraid to take any other action. Her baby would cry, as hunger tore at his stomach. But his wails would be ignored, or passed off as the howl of the wind by the nervous townsfolk.
Aggie could already picture it. He would scream and wail; his face soaked in a permanent sheen of tears. But there would be nothing except the dark solitude of empty rooms forcing itself upon him, forcing itself down his throat as it smothered him, smothered him until his cries ceased and his cold, still, fragile body was buried in the darkness.
It would suffocate him, suffocate her child.
Suffocate her child.
The weeping mother’s movements were slow as she kissed her Tom and laid him on the wild grass. Her hands stroked his little tufts of hair, trailed down his face and delicately, hesitantly, wrapped gnarled fingers around his soft throat. Then she squeezed.
Aggie kept her eyes closed, too afraid to look. She heard his cries shift to small guttural gurgles, and felt his feet kick and his hands wave frantically against her arms, those tiny fingers clutching onto her sleeve for a brief moment. Aggie felt his body buck and flail futilely against her hands, her breath shaky as she sobbed between clenched teeth. She tightened her grip, wanting it to just end, wanting everything to just stop.
She almost missed the crack that cut through the air. Her eyes flew open and she gazed down at her still, silent baby, his neck now lying at an unnatural angle. Tearfully, Aggie lifted the baby into her arms, clutching to her breast as she swayed to and fro in the wind and the grass. She didn’t know how long she stayed like that before she noticed something strange. Her baby felt… odd. Not as soft as he should have been.
Aggie drew him away to get a better look, and her eyes grew wide. Tom’s skin was darkening, growing stiff and rough. The fat of his arms withered and shrank, seemingly retracting into his body. He appeared to shrivel before her eyes, and all the familiar contours she had memorized melted away. The arms became impossibly thin and dropped onto the grass. But they were not arms anymore. They were twigs woven with straw. Aggie looked back at the body to find that it was a lump of wood she held in her arms, woven in a layer of straw, with two pebbles where the eyes used to be.
Only then did Aggie realize the full meaning behind the woman’s words.
“A baby, of any kind, just as you requested. Nothing more.”
By: Taylor Morton ’13
Candle dripped its spots of wax on the dusty floor
Candle dropped its blobs of wax on the dusty floor
Nobody’s around to burn the candles here no more
Saddle shoes and mary janes echoed in the hall
Saddle shoes and oxford shoes echoed in the hall
And a faded Blessed Virgin fallen off the wall
Candid vows and valentines passed from hand to hand
Sacred vows and valentines passed from hand to hand
Dried out bunch of daisies in an old tin can
Candle left its spots of wax on the dusty floor
Candle left its blobs of wax on the dusty floor
Nobody’s around to burn the candles here no more
A senior Biology major with an Education concentration, Hannah is thrilled to share some of her favorite photos as her undergraduate work comes to an end. Photography is one of her favorite hobbies and her love for it has stemmed from watching her Dad capture […]
By: John Marshall ’12
Henry thought that a lot of the music had been lost from typing, and that made him sad. There’s not enough bounce to it anymore, he thought as he sat at his desk. The dance is gone these days. He rubbed his fingers together and let them hover over the keys of his 1922 Underwood desktop for a moment before letting them fall, and listened to the music of the keys as he began to type – delighting in the dancing of his fingers. His composition would be an anonymous letter, its recipient the Chicago Sun Times – and the content began thus:
What makes my work extraordinary is not the ruthlessness of my killings, or even the calculated mastery with which I go about my craft – neither am I notable as being a particularly insane serial killer. What makes my work extraordinary is actually quite the contrary, for my greatness lies in my utter sanity, my understanding of Good from Evil, and the nature of guilt and innocence and my complete disregard for it. I am no madman, but a man swept up from a fall on wretched wing, and have made my mind the way Satan once did and say – Farewell Remorse: all good to me is lost; Evil be thou my Good.
Henry had always had a bit of passion for taking credit for the work of others, and felt that there was nothing wrong with it, so long as he didn’t think about it for very long. When the smart-but-shy kids in his grade school murmured the correct answer to the teacher’s questions – Henry would be there to repeat them louder. He had made it through college as an English major entirely on his ability to regurgitate the ideas of his professors and fellow students in a slightly different way – and he had made it a distinct habit throughout his life to reiterate the jokes he would hear on television or in the company of others basking in the laughter alone.
Employed now as a high school English teacher, these jokes were often the only thing deserving any credit worth stealing. Then he walked into the faculty lounge one morning only to have an issue of Esquire magazine thrust in his chest by an unremarkable math teacher whose name he had neglected to remember.
“Thanks, but I’m not too interested in, uh – ” he looked at the cover with blank, caffeine starved eyes.
“Christian Bale,” she said, “But that’s not the point. Look on…what page is it again, Terry?”
“Eighty-eight,” said Terry from the counter where he was sipping coffee and trying not to stare at the two of them.
“Right,” she said. “Eighty-eight. There!” She held the open magazine in Henry’s face and pointed to the top of a surprisingly text-laden page. “Recognize the name?”
“T. R. Smith?” Henry had still not gotten his coffee, “Nope, don’t know it, sorry. I’m just trying to grab a cup of coffee before class.”
“Henry!” The woman squealed, “You do know him, it’s Terry!”
“Robert’s my middle name,” Terry said, strutting over from the counter as if hearing his cue. “Smith’s just a pen-name.”
“Fantastic,” Henry finally broke free from behind the magazine and the woman and made it to the coffee pot. “Original, too.”
“Thanks,” Terry said.
“Principle Vickers is going to mention it at assembly,” The woman said.
“Mention what?” Henry sipped his coffee.
“My story,” Terry pointed at the open magazine now on the table.
“Wait, that’s your story in there? Holy cow.”
“Weren’t you listening just now?” The woman giggled.
“Principle Vickers is going to mention it at assembly,” Terry said.
“That’s amazing.” The jealousy that dawned then in Henry’s mind was of such potency that he was simultaneously surprised and nauseous. He picked up the magazine and imagined erasing Terry’s uninspired pen name and replacing it with his own. The thought was pleasing, but impossible nonetheless – Terry had forever claimed those two pages as his own, and there was nothing Henry could do about it.
Later on that day, shortly after the school assembly that Henry skipped, it came out on the news that the recent murders of three women in three different hotels around the city had been linked, and it seemed there was a serial killer in Chicago.
It’s work with no name – a composition with no author, Henry thought to himself, remembering the old Underwood he hadn’t used since college.
And two more shall die, Henry typed after bodies four and five had been discovered, if you neglect to publish this, my third letter, along with the first two. I do not wish to share the blood of my victims with newspaper editors – I would prefer that it stay on my hands alone – I am a greedy killer. I told the last one that I was sending her to the undiscovered country when she asked me not to continue stabbing, but I pressed on. The joy I derived from the killing was made less by your failure to publish my first letter, which was heartbreaking for me. The reason, you see, that it wasn’t as fulfilling is that you made me do it – forced the blade through the flesh, and that’s my job and mine alone. Killing for a cause is kind of passé, don’t you think? I appreciate the spontaneous. I kill without reason, cause or modus operandi – I am but a guide, giving my fellow citizens a chance to discover what dreams may come in death.
Henry’s entire body tingled with nervous excitement as he bounded down the street towards the blue mailbox on the corner.
“Oh, thank goodness I caught you,” Henry said to the mailman as he jogged up to the mailbox. “I need this one to get out today.” Henry held the envelope out and said a prayer to God that the letter would be published by Monday morning.
The mailman took the envelope without a word, and Henry saw underneath the brim of the cap the mailman wore a mangled landscape of skin that seemed to betray either a horrible burn, or horrible genetic luck.
“What’s going on here?” Henry asked his three colleagues huddled around a table in the teacher’s lounge on Monday morning.
“It’s the killer,” the math teacher said. “He wrote a letter.”
“What? In the paper?” Henry snatched up the paper eagerly and was delighted to note that it had been spread on top of Terry’s story in Esquire.
“You betcha,” Terry said as Henry pored over the paper. There they were, staring right back at him with a shy, imperceptible wink – his words – all his words, splashed over the page in nice, justified columns.
“What is that,” Terry pointed to the quote from Satan in the first letter, “Milton?”
“Couldn’t tell ya,” Henry said. “Sounds like a nut though, doesn’t he?”
“But that’s the thing!” The math teacher squealed, “He says he’s not crazy – like, he’s just doing it to do it. He’s just killing women for the hell of it! Don’t laugh,” she addressed the giggles from Henry and Terry, “you guys are fine – he’s not looking for men to kill.” She leaned back in a chair with her hands behind her head, “You know, Principle Vickers is going to mention this at assembly. He wants to,” she made quotes in the air with her fingers, “put it into context for the kids.”
“How long till Hollywood does some special about this guy?” Terry judged Henry, ignoring the math teacher.
“You really think he’s that interesting?” Henry had to turn away towards the coffee pot to hide his smile.
“Heck, the guy seems smart enough – he’s probably some jilted professor whose wife cheated on him or something.”
“Or a high school teacher,” Henry said with a serious face as his mind erupted in jubilation – so impressed with itself and its acting ability as it was.
“No,” The math teacher gasped. “You think so?”
My fourth and final letter, as the levers and gears of my typewriter grow so impaired by the blood dripping off my hands every time I write it is all but rendered useless. Yes, the writing may be done, but my masterpiece is forever in composition, leaving bodies around the city like dots for the police to connect and reconnect, yielding an opaque image never to be understood. I will cease to write, but never cease to evade capture. I am just like you, I can walk right up to police and say hello and they forget me two minutes later, and I’m never late to work. Onward my work and I will flourish and be free, liberated on wretched wing from the chains of remorse and guilt, forever above the lives I will extinguish and never return to Earth. A final word for the women of Chicago: See you soon.
Henry ripped the page from the typewriter and gave it one final, admiring once-over before folding it into thirds.
Henry didn’t realize that the man standing next to the blue mailbox in a black hooded sweatshirt was actually the mailman himself, and Henry didn’t have much time to think of anything when that man clubbed him over the head and threw him in the backseat of a tan car.
Henry came to, tied up in that backseat as it barreled down the highway. The man driving had his hood down, revealing a deeply scared scalp with a few disjointed patches of hair. The man held the steering wheel with his left hand and Henry’s most recent letter in his right.
“It’s not me!” Henry screamed, “I’m not actually the killer!”
“I know that,” the man said in a soft, lispy voice.
“Then why are you doing this to me?”
The man threw the letter in a crumpled ball into the back seat, “Because I am sorry.”