Story by: Wes Smith
“You still hear rumors about the river, whispers that echo the halls of St Thomas High to this day. I still get chills when I think about the first time I heard the story.”
The moon shone brightly and gave the river a silver shimmer, that night. It was a humid september evening and the trees lining the river bank lay eerily still. Crickets were the only thing that broke up the promonet silence.
Voices came first, distant and muddy. Then the sound of branches snapping in the wake of bodies emerging from the tree line. The silhouettes of four teenage boys burst forward, one stumbling backwards away from the others.
“Want to go for a swim freshman? hahah…” the largest of the boys said
“Leave me alone!!” The fallen boy said.
The largest boy leaning down to the fallen boy. His body pulling out of the shadows, catching moonlite. His face manages to scowl and smile at the same time. This broad shouldered boy wearing a letterman jacket grabs the pleading teen by his shirt, jarring the glasses off his face.
“I saw you looking at my dick in the locker room, faggot!” The large boy growls.
“No I sw-” the small boy is cut short.
His words silenced by the palm of the jocks hand slapping his face.
“Ohhh!!” the two boys say in uncen, watching the scene.
The two cronies, standing back, drinking twelve ounce bottles of cheap beer and snickering in the dark. The large jock proceeds to drag the helpless teen towards the river. All the while the poor victim kicking and pleading.
“STOP, I’m sorry for WHATEVER I did.. I just want to go home.. I just want to go h-” The small boy pleas again, are cut short.
His attacker forcing the boy’s head backwards under the icy vein of water. Overpowering the younger and much more feeble teen. Instinctively the small boy thrashes and reaches with arms far too short at the assailant .
“Hahaha, hows that bath?” The other boys jeer and taunt from behind the scene.
The insults trail off and a moment of grim realization hits them. In that instant the only sound was the crickets, panting and the disturbing laughter that slipped between each labored breath. He’s not letting up.
“Ok Dane, let him up…” One of the boys says.
“ Yeah man, you got him good… he won’t ever pull that shit again.”
The two lackeys gauge the situation trying too not accept it. They look at each other, both unwilling to make the first move. Noticing the drowning boy has gone limp the more soft spoken of the two finally takes a stand. He grabs at Dane’s shoulder pulling him up back.
“ENOUGH, he’s really fucked up.. I dont think hes breathing!” The teen states
The second sidekick finally comes to the aid of the boy as well. They kneel with the obviously deceased freshman not knowing what to do. Behind them Dane slowly walks backwards and the hideous smirk he had is now fading covered by his hand. His chuckling turns from playful to nervous and then scared. Eventually pulling his hand away to lash out enraged.
“WELL HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW! I mean who can’t hold their breath for like thirty seconds! It was a joke! You guys know that! he was just too much of a pussy! Yea, thats why he died!”
Still kneeling by the boy’s lifeless body, the two friends glance at Dane out of the corner of their eyes. They don’t say a word, just keep a silent vigil over the boy, trying to process the harsh reality.
“Y-you guys better not say anything to anyone, OR I’LL DO THE SAME TO YOU… y-yeah…” His confidence waivers, even as he threatens the boys.
The night on the river, three lives changed and one ended.
In the days that followed, school seemed so trivial. Chatter that normally dominated the halls, seemed calm and subdued. Faces that normally seemed jubilant, were now plain and introspective. On an island of guilt, standing next to an open locker were the two boys that witness what happened at the river.
“H-hey, you guys doing anything fun on saturday.” Dane says as he seems to appear behind them.
The boy closest to Dane is facing away and clinging to the the lone strap of his backpack hanging on his shoulder. At the sound of Dane’s voice, he clears his throat and looks at the tile floor. The other boy actually acknowledges Dane, but never makes eye contact, while rubbing the back of his neck he glances at Dane then off in the distance.
“Yea…man, I think it might be best if we… um didn’t hang out for a bit.” The uncomfortable boy says.
“Yeah, well just text me or something.” Dane says nonchalantly.
No more words are exchanged as the two boys hurry away from the frozen teen. The confident exterior that he was known for was cracking and fear started to rise to the surface.
Time seemed to just bleed away, each day and everyone present that night was affected in different ways.
Dane had trouble sleeping from the day of the incident. Until one night his body finally forfeited and he fell into a deep well needed slumber. Only to be woken by 3 faces covered in Ski masks looking down at him.
“Who…what..” Dane was trying to bridge the gap between dream and reality as he pulled out of a state of rem.
“Quick use the stuff.” One of the disguised figures said.
Before he could make the connection, the chloroform clasped over his mouth in a bandana took effect. He reached up and latched on to the arm of the perpetrator, only to have his grip go limp.
The next thing he would know was darkness. Jostling motion that threw him around the small prison. It took him longer than most to make the connection, the sound of gravel, the smell of motor oil. He was in a trunk.
When the lid was open he was met with multiple, now bare faces staring down at him.
There was the kid from the Drama club with thick glasses and bad acne. Next to him, the goth girl with purple hair and two lip rings. One of the kids from the culture club too, he was a heavy set indian boy. All the rejects, the kind that Dane preyed on.
“W-what’s going on?” Dane exclaimed.
They said nothing. Dane held up his hands, bound in zip tie, in a futile effort to stop the group. Drug from the trunk down the river bank, the cold mud sticking to his trembling body.
“I-i don’t know, what you heard but… I didn’t do anything wrong!” Dane explained.
The teenages, looked down at him with somber disdain and missing empathy. Marching the now terrified Dane down to the river in silence. His fate in the hands of the group.
“My parents have money you know, you’ve seen my car I’m s-sure. I can get you guys LOTS of money, thats good right?!?
He first felt the icy cold torrent lap his knees, feeling forced down by the riverside. His body weight pulling him deeper into the loose stone and sandy bank. He sat their kneeling at the edge of water with his eyes closed begging, his cries halted suddenly.
“LOOK” A voice boomed behind him.
He felt an impossible weight on his shoulders as his face plummeted towards the river’s surface. His movement stopped with his face sitting a foot over the water, his eyes wide open now staring at the river. For a moment the chaotic dance of current and rapids seemed to die. The noise of moving liquid turn to a whisper as the surface became tranquil. In that moment he saw an abstract image distorted beyond recognition become something he indeed recognize. It was his face, staring back at him and he saw how scared he was in that moment. That moment that tears ran from his face, meeting the reflection, the only link between the two worlds.
He lost track of the situation while staring at the reflection. Remembering what lead up to this, he turned to see his attackers. All he saw was a dark treeline staring back at him. He pulled himself up, not noticing his hands weren’t bound. Looking for tracks, but all he could see were his own.
That night by the river everything changed forever.
Sail, by Awolnation.
This is how I show my love
I made it in my mind because
I blame it on my A.D.D. baby
This is how an angel dies
I blame it on my own sick pride
Blame it on my A.D.D. baby
Maybe I should cry for help
Maybe I should kill myself (myself)
Blame it on my A.D.D. baby
Maybe I’m a different breed
Maybe I’m not listening
So blame it on my A.D.D. baby
La la la la la la
La la la la la la oh!
La la la la la, La la la la oh!
Sail with me into the dark
Sail with me into the dark
Sail with me into the dark
Sail with me, sail with me
“I found a song that pretty much gets me better than most people. I don’t normally post lyrics but I found this inspirational in it’s honesty”
This place smells like cheap sex and formaldehyde.
She looked me deep in the eyes telling me;
” this thing is suicide.”
New skin for a burn victim
She didn’t even glance in her rear view after hitting him.
The sad thing is this isn’t where the story ends.
It’s the beginning to a beautiful piece of ugliness.
I choke as I confess
I’m addicted to the abuse.
Trying to climb out of a trash compactor.
I’m no longer a person, but a factor.
A detour, instead of a beautiful destination.
A necessary enemy.
I wrote love in thousands of pieces of origami and placed them at your feet.
Only to watch them paved over by a new street.
Im quitting cold turkey
My love ones will pray for me.
* I wanted to write something gritty today, I hope it seems organic
I’ve been writing since 9 years old and it’s been my absolute passion ever since. When I was 13, I knew that was all I ever wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve been published since I was 16 and started collecting typewriters over the past couple of years, as well. So, it only seemed fitting that I finally got one tattooed on me.
I decided on doing an Underwood as a tribute to Jack Kerouac since he wrote On The Road with one (though not the same model) and the quote is one of my favorites from Charles Bukowski.
The final result of a 6 1/2 hour session without a single break. Done by Boss Tom at Fallen Angel Tattoo in Sacramento, California. If you ever need ink done, go see him!
From the ground its easy to look up at a summit, full of promise, and feel a sense unlimited prospect from reaching new heights. As a species humans are always looking to ascend, to have irrefutable evidence of self improvement.
We had to find a way to mark the flow of time, something that is always moving, shifting and changing. Something that slips through your fingers more easily than water, we have had to fashion ways to make it tangible. Just like a wristwatch stamps time, that new corner office adds a tactile feel to something more emotionally subjective and deeper than any pat on the back or accolade.
The journey to the apex of self improvement can consume you. The air gets thinner the higher you climb and the sun blinds you to your surroundings. Looking down is never an option, not at this elevation. If it wasn’t for the man made footholds we would loose our grip, slip and slide back down to reality. Finally standing on the peak of something so daunting is a feeling that can’t be bought over a counter or explained in the officer chatter, meek handshakes during congratulations are like a cheap postcard of vista, only capturing the shadow of something much bigger.
Its only from this moment of bittersweet finality that we see the chase is equal part of the destination, for after we cross the finish line the road becomes much less clear. Standing with unimaginable metric tons of rock beneath your feet and it hits you. The climb that occupied your life is gone and now its easy to fear to fall.
Its ironic that you can climb so high only to feel smaller then standing at the bottom looking up. like a convict released after years of familiarity, the journey that comprised our existence, no matter how painful or lonely, becomes a comfort that we long for.
Maybe its a state of mind, or something genetic, but looking out across the horizon the acclimation for some is easier then others. With miles beneath us we can feel accomplishment or dread, I didn’t know I had a fear of heights until I reached the top.
Story By: Wes Smith
Daylight cuts through the grey carbon window slats as they pivot open. The only source of light breaking up the darkness of the simple apartment. Motors buzz and hum as an automated program sets every piece of the apartment in motion. The mechanical ballet of devices is scripted and designed to assist the lone occupant of the apartment start his day.
Streaks of light reflect off a cold,expressionless chrome face belonging to an android lying in bed. His eyelids click as they open and two luminous balls peer out into the window. The mechanical man sits up on the edge of his bed, shoulders slumped forward, wearing a white undershirt and boxer shorts. He braces his hands on the bed, cervo engines whine as his hydraulic diaphragm expands, mimicking inhalation. A communication box sunken into the wall provides motivation.
Communication box: “ Sub-transit estimated time of pick up 26 minutes 38 seconds and counting.” A soft female voice projects.
He stands looking in a mirror adjusting his necktie, the plain suit that he is wearing is as neatly pressed and worn as his apartment is clean. His cold steel face stares back at him, as if carved from stone. Grabbing a briefcase off the ground he heads out the door as it hisses open, sliding out of his way.
He has made this journey for decades now, a monotonous trek. He sits motionless inside the tubular train car, packed with human commuters that ignore him. Their faces are buried in personal holo-projectors. His head pivots to look over his shoulder, humming, his view now out the small window. The world passes by at supersonic speed, buildings seem to blur together and he wonders if the other passengers even notice. He slides the cuff of his suit jacket back to glance down at his wristwatch, the archaic piece of machinery he had saved from being incinerated by taking it home and breathing new life into it. Its rhythmic ticks run parallel with his own.
Reaching his destination, he shuffles off the train. A swarm of commuters pushes past him as he stops. He looks up at the towering concrete monolith, windowless and cold. A pair of sliding doors open like steel jaws wanting to swallow the mechanical man up.
Precise clicks echo down the long hallway as shoes meet tile. Another android in similar attire passes him heading in the opposite direction. His mouth starts to open but he follows protocol and neither one acknowledges the other. Why would they? Machines have no acquaintances, just orders.
He stops abruptly at a single door, his finger folding in half, allowing a key to project out and into the lock. Stepping through the open door, what was a dark cold industrial room starts to illuminate. Fans turn on keeping a massive network of computers cool. A large multi-screen panel lights up with the words “ Ready” flashing. He sits down in a chair placed in front of the monitors and pulls a thin keyboard across his lap.
The dozens of monitors shift, multiple images flicker on each screen of people from all walks of life. Laughing, arguing, kissing, the whole spectrum of human emotion flickering faster than any human could process.
As different shades of light splash on the android’s reflective face, he reaches behind him plugging two input jacks into the back of his neck. Requirements for absorbing every last detail. He analyzes every pixelated face with skill and composure, a job that was deemed necessary centuries ago, to prevent “outbursts”, crime and mental breakdowns. Guardians of morality with no morals of their own.
He lifts a cup of coffee to his mouth pouring the warm beverage down his throat, without being able to take in its aroma or taste its quality. A container for catching excess coolant traps the coffee to be dispensed later.
The images continue to flicker with speed and intensity. He freezes one and enlarges it. A new bride getting cake smeared on her face by her groom, beaming with joy. An image off to the side starts flashing red with words scrolling around it; “ ATTENTION!!” He ignores the message for a moment, blinking, his eyes clicking loudly like a camera shutter as they are lubricated by fluid. He shoves the happy image back to the side and handles the potential hazard.
Time elapses with no indicator in the isolated room and soon it’s time to leave. He wraps his suit jacket over one arm, and seizes his briefcase with his other. Exiting the room the lights shut off and all life leaves with him.
He steps through the doorway into his apartment, already lit for his precise return. He first stops by the mirror staring into his cold illuminated eyes. He pulls a disposable razor up to his neck as if to shave. The handle snaps and is discarded. He tosses it into the waste bin to join the dozens of other broken razors.
Sitting back on the edge of the bed he stares out the window slats at the world as they slam shut dictated by curfew. He lowers his head towards the ground and weeps tears that never come for the things he will never feel.
An old rotary phone rings loudly demanding attention, but gets none. Between rings a constant mechanical clack of a typewriter can be heard. The return carriage occasionally adding an exclamation mark. The phone finally gives up, while the typing continues and an ash tray smolders with the heat of a fresh cigarette butt.
A bald thin man, in his late fifties leans back from his Remington model 5 and sighs heavily, almost as if finishing a marathon. Shifting his weight in his chair while still studying the ink stained pages in front of him.
This day was like so many countless ones before, bleeding into the next. If it wasn’t for his editor, he wouldn’t be able to separate one day from the last. Locked in his study, cut off from the world he so feverishly writes about, while life goes on without him.
Birthdays and holidays were spent dedicated to a craft that has retained his servitude for decades. Blinded so much by a personal crusade that the lives around him became nothing more than a distraction from meeting his deadline. His friends, when he still saw them, used to joke that if his ribbon ever ran dry he would merely have to prick his finger to rehydrate it.
The jokes were cute at first, until reality surpassed them. He couldn’t remember if it was christmas eve or new years when his wife barged in, suitcase in hand, to tell him she was leaving. The important thing was, he thought as he reflected, he met his deadline.
It was hard for him to think about the last time he saw his son, not because it was a painful memory, but because it was filled into the back of his mind with little care. He did not even hear the weight of the small boy flexing the floorboards under his feet as he walked into his fathers study.
“Dad, the bike I got for my birth-” The small boy sheepishly says.
“Charlie, I have a deadline, please.” He replied sternly.
The writer sighs deep after looking back at the page he was writing. The words “Charlie I have a deadline” were sandwiched into his sentence . He lifts up his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose to fend off the onset of a headache.
“Go ask your mother.” The writer adds.
“She’s gone, its your day to watch me.” Charlie replies
Without a proper response the man goes back to his work, pulling the defective page out of the faithful machine. Just as his sons arrival went with notice, so does the departure. He can’t be bothered by anything that could cause such an unacceptable mistake.
He lifts the phone’s receiver off the hook and places it next to the forty five caliber revolver on his desk and continues to type aggressively. Every finished page is added to the pile of hundreds of others.
Just like that day past, today he was so focused he didn’t hear his visitor come in. He wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t for the icy chill on the back of his neck and the thump of wood against wood.
It was death that placed a bony hand on the writers shoulder and rested a scythe at their sides. The moment frot with irony, the first touch the writer had received in years.
The writer did not have to turn his head or face his guest to know who it was. Still he did not waiver in his literary quest, fingers still pressing down buttons heavily. While focused on his work he briefly acknowledges the ghostly figure.
“I don’t have time for you now, I have to meet my deadline.” He tells Death.
The cloaked corpse becomes rigid and erect, multiple bones creaking as they shift. Then after taking in the situation he sulks and sighs heavily, steam rising from his hood. The spirit shuffled across to the large dim study and settled into a chair, in an almost defeated slouch. The deep dark void where a face should be stares out from under a hood as the writer continues his seemingly endless work.
This goes on for hours, Death became restless. He fidgeted with his large scythe, tugged on his sleeves and taped his bony fingers on his lap. Eventually turning to look at the bookshelves that lined the wall behind him, pulling a book out by the spine.
“Don’t touch that.” The writer says flatly, without even looking in Death’s direction.
After what seemed like days the sound of typing and paper changing ended. The writer sat up with his back flat up against his chair, attempting to rub the the arthritis out of his hand. He held up the final sheet of his labor and stared at it deeply.
“Ok.” The writer says to Death, his back still towards the ghoul.
“Go ahead.” The raspy voice of Death seems to echo throughout the study. Death placed both hands this time on the writers shoulders, feeling the man’s entire frame lift up with a deep inhale. He watched as the man lifts the revolver, pressing the barrel to his own temple and pulls the trigger.
The lifeless body of the man lands between the stack of his work and a newspaper dating a week ago. One of the headlines reads in bold print, “Budget cuts force layoffs of senior writers.” The gray newsprint soaks up the red warmth escaping the man’s exit wound.
Before Death leaves the room he tries to grasp mortality, reading the final page the man had written
“To whom it may concern, the pages on my desk are the final work of my life, my obituary. I could not die knowing some freelance hack or mush brained family member would attempt to do my life justice in the medium that was my life, writing. It would be the equivalent of a neanderthal trying to recreate Rembrandt. My only regret is that my work will cease to enrich the lives who appreciated my gift .”
Death simply shook his head as he left the study, comforted by the fact he would never have to understand life.
It is funny how much they run parallel with one another, time and money that is.
It never feels like you have enough.
You can share it or spend it alone.
You can lose track of it or end up misplacing it.
You can count on it always being around, but not always for you.
It can slip away if you don’t keep an eye on it.
You can spend your whole life focused on it, instead of living.
Or you can make the most of either one.