Issue 4 Nonfiction


Hypnopompic: Proceeding Consciousness

My 6o-year-old dad lives with his parents next door to the home he raised me in. The tiny South Texas cottage he painted pink, thinking he chose beige. The one with uneven cuts of vinyl flooring he installed himself, the one my mom sold after their divorce to help pay their shared debt, leaving only my siblings and me to bind them now. His parents moved next door when I was 7, a year after we moved in. It felt like we grew up in one large house when dad installed a gate on the shared fence. It enabled us to run seamlessly from one to the other, buttered tortillas in hand, warm from Abuelita's kitchen.

I’m visiting Texas from Pennsylvania, where I live now. I’m sitting on my grandmother's floral couch across from him. 

“How are you, dad?” 
We sit cordially in the living room, my Abuelita making lunch nearby. He doesn’t answer me right away. His face veers out the living room window, the same view from our old living room window. He doesn't answer the question simply, and in truth doing so, giving me a simple answer, is the more unlikely scenario. In another life, my dad is a philosopher, a thinker, a man celebrated for his depth. In another life, his Mexican culture doesn’t constantly define manhood in opposition to him. In another life, my father doesn’t need to drink to laugh. 

“When you were kids, I took afternoon naps on our living room couch…” 

The truth is he slept on our living room couch even at night. 

He continues, “every afternoon, like clockwork, I’d wake up to the sound of a white-winged dove. That’s when I knew it was time to pick you guys up from school.” He’s remembering a feeling from 10 years ago. A stay-at-home dad, he picked us up from school every day in a blue Dodge minivan. 

I knew that exact bird call because, when I moved to Pennsylvania, I stopped hearing the distinct coo, a sound from a dream, very similar to an owl. When I return south, they remind me I’m home. 

I don’t say anything because he only needs me to imagine with him. I stare at him while he stares out the window at our old cul-de-sac. 

He continues, “the other day I took an afternoon nap here,” he pats the hunter-green couch he’s sitting on, “I woke up the same way, I heard the white-winged dove outside…” his voice is starting to crack and tears mount in both our eyes, “For a second I forgot where I was. I hesitated thinking I might be late to pick you guys up.”

He cried when he told me he cried, the moment his brain straightened out the truth.


Aubrey Lozano-Cofield recently received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. She’s been published in NPR’s Worth Repeating, Southern Review of Books, The Motley Few, and she has a piece forthcoming in LatinX Literary Magazine. She’s currently working on a memoir that pushes structural boundaries and is always looking for an intriguing true story.

You can tip Aubrey on Venmo: @Aubrey-Cofield

Issue 4 Poetry


Yin Yang Pond

My aunt once knew all the Latin names for flowers
Rosa Rugosa, Helleborus, Alchemilla.

Built a garden out of love with a Yin Yang pond
till she overfed the fish and they floated.

First the nouns went became that thing, this thing
laughed it off as old age.

As the walls came in
the words went out.

The music stayed and played inside her head
held my hands to dance in silence.

Last word she said, as she cupped my chin in her hands
was, ‘beautiful’.


Tracey Foster started off in a long career as an Art teacher in the middle of England and wanted to refocus her creative energies into writing poetry and prose. After helping others find inspiration in the world around us, she took an MA course in Creative Writing at Leicester University and has not looked back. She finds inspiration in the past and the events that shape us. Previous work has been published by CommaPress, Ayaskala, Bus Poetry Magazine and The Arts Council and writes regularly for the Everyone’s Reviewing website.

Fiction Issue 4



Shyla picked up yet another dirty pair of underwear from the floor, taking care not to wake the sleeping child nearby. Never had she thought she would become that parent. But Rodney’s room had become so messy that an odor was starting to settle in. Ashley would be back home early the next morning and she could only imagine how upset he would be to come home to a house that actually smelled.  

“Wow, Mom, seriously?” Dawn was standing in the doorway giving her a disapproving glare while twisting her light brown, wavy hair around her finger. Shyla hated when she did that; it reminded her of the catty, popular girls she went to high school with.  

“What do you want me to do? It stinks in here.” 

“You could at least make him help you.” 

She’d actually tried that, but the eight-year-old had become more of a hindrance than a help, so she decided it was best to do it herself after he went to bed. She was about to say this when she realized she shouldn’t have to explain herself to a fifteen-year-old. 

“It’s a school night—go to bed,” she barked. Dawn rolled her eyes and walked away muttering something under her breath.  

She looked around the room. Not perfect, but good enough. She was tired herself and had to be up early to pick up Ash from the airport. She turned out the light and was about to walk out of the room when a commotion from Rodney’s bed stopped her. He was hyperventilating and thrashing around in his sheets. The first time she witnessed him having a night terror it had terrified her, even though one of the social workers had warned her that they were very common in children who went through foster care. Now she knew he would quickly quiet down and not even remember it in the morning.  

She sat on the edge of his bed and shushed him gently as she tucked him back into his sheets. Sure enough, in a moment he was dozing peacefully again. She didn’t leave him right away. She rubbed his back for a minute and then she couldn’t exactly explain why she did what she did next.  

She lifted his head from his pillow and eased herself further onto his bed. She sat cross legged, and half lifted, half dragged the child onto her lap. It was a bit more difficult than she’d thought it would be, for such a skinny boy he was heavier than he looked. She tucked his arms on top of his stomach and cradled his head in the nook of her arm. His legs were too long for his feet to be wrapped in the blanket and poked out of the swaddle.  

Shyla rocked back and forth and hummed. She looked up slightly panicked when she thought she heard a noise from the hallway. She didn’t want one of her daughters to walk by and ask what she was doing. The obvious answer seemed to be that she was trying to capture something she missed. She had never been able to rock and cradle him as a baby as she had done with her daughters. She bent her head so that it rested on top of his and took a deep breath of his scent. She loved the way he smelled, fresh as a child should. She missed the soft scents of childhood on her daughters. Nowadays there was only the pungent artificial smell of whatever Victoria’s Secret or Bath and Bodyworks perfume they were using that day. 

The soft scratchy feel of his hair against her cheek reminded her of her father. When she was a young child, long before her father had gone bald, she remembered running her hands over the short, cropped coils of his hair. A year ago, when she first showed her father a picture of Rodney, he laughed and said she finally had a child who looked like her. She laughed it off and pretended it didn’t bother her. But it did, much like the jokes her family had made about her marrying a white man in the first place. Now she intertwined her hand with Rodney’s and looked at where their skin met. It was true that they were almost the same complexion, but the similarities stopped there. Still, when she was out with Rodney, she was never mistaken for being his nanny as she often was when her daughters were young.  

Rodney hardly ever let her get close enough to sniff the top of his head. Anytime she tried to hug him he would worm his way out of her grip. She often worried that even after a year, he hadn’t bonded to her, but she only had girls before so maybe this was normal for boys. Every weekend when she picked him up from soccer practice, she couldn’t help herself from surreptitiously looking around to see how the other boys greeted their mothers. She pressed a final kiss onto the top of his soft head and gently eased herself out from under him and back onto his bed. He barely even stirred. 

Early the next morning, Shyla sat in her car watching the rain pour down the windshield. She craned her neck over her shoulder, trying to spot Ashley in the stream of people with suitcases exiting the airport. Almost everyone carried a large umbrella that obscured their faces and made it even harder to spot her husband in the crowd. She couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious surrounded by cantankerous taxi drivers on all sides. She’d tried to time herself so that she wouldn’t have to wait long but she had been waiting for fifteen minutes already. She sighed and looked at the clock again. At this rate, Olivia would have to get Rodney and Dawn out of bed and ready for school. Olivia might be able to wrangle Rodney, but she knew Dawn would push back at her older sister’s authority. She was ripped away from her thoughts by a rapping on the passenger side door. She breathed a sigh of relief and unlocked the door so that Ashley could get in.  

“Hey, hon, how was your trip?” She didn’t really need an answer. The deep, dark bags under his eyes told the whole story. They both awkwardly leaned over the center console for a quick kiss. Ash leaned back in his seat, pushed his damp hair back from his forehead, and closed his eyes. “Too long.” 

“Well, do you feel closer to your co-workers after all the team-building exercises?” 

“Not really.”  

“What kind of stuff did you do?” 

“You know, camp-like stuff.” 

“Did you have okay weather? It rained here almost the whole time you were gone.” 

“We didn’t get any rain.” 

“You know, while you were gone—”  

“I’m sorry, I’m just so tired. I’m going to try to sleep until we get home ‘cause I still have to go into work today.” 

“Yeah, sure. Let me turn up the heat.” Shyla wasn’t sure whether he actually managed to fall asleep, but they didn’t talk for the rest of the ride home.

As they walked through the front door, Shyla was pleasantly surprised to see that Dawn was fully dressed, had her bookbag packed, and was finishing her breakfast.  

“Where’s Rod—" she started but stopped when she saw him standing on a chair by the door ready to pounce on Ash. Ash saw him too but pretended to be surprised when Rodney jumped on his back. 

“Augh!” He howled in mock surprise, before flipping the screeching Rodney over his shoulder, pinning him down to the floor, and tickling him until Rodney was crying with laughter.  

“Ash, don’t get his school clothes dirty.” She knew she was, once again, being the wet blanket. But she didn’t want him to show up at school with his clothes wrinkled and streaked with whatever was on the kitchen floor today.  

“Ah, he’s fine.” Ash pulled Rodney to his feet and patted him on his back. “Go get your bookbag, bud.”  

If there had been time for her to change Rodney’s clothes, she would have, because Olivia seemed to think it was okay to send him to school in cargo camo pants and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt. She decided to just be grateful that he was ready to go on time.  

“Who’s taking us today?” Olivia grabbed her own messenger bag; she decided at the beginning of the school year she was too old for a regular bookbag now. 

“I’ll take you on my way to work.” Ash grabbed his car keys. “Hurry up, bud.” Rodney giggled as Ash gently pushed him on the back of the head to hurry him out of the door. 

By now, the rain had stopped, and the sunlight was pushing its way through the clouds. Shyla watched the four of them file out the door and grimaced at the sight of the overgrown lawn. “Ash, when are going to—" 

“I know, I know. I’ll do it tonight after work.”  

At two o’clock Shyla was waiting outside in her car once again. This time to pick up Rodney after school. Olivia and Dawn were involved in so many clubs and extracurriculars that they didn’t come home until Ash was coming home from work. Rodney didn’t have soccer today, which meant that it was just the two of them for the rest of the afternoon.  

“Hey, bud!” she said cheerily as Rodney got into the car. “How was school?” 

“Good.” Rodney looked out the window and waved to a kid walking past the car “Is that a friend of yours?” 


“What’s his name?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“How is he your friend if you don’t know his name?” 

Rodney just shrugged in response. Shyla glanced in her rearview mirror and saw Rodney’s friend hug his mom before he climbed into the backseat of his car.  

“Can we get a dog?”

“What?” She found herself caught off guard as she closed the front door and dropped her car keys into a bowl in the entryway. Rodney never initiated conversations with her.  

“Because I’m all alone after school before Dad and ‘Livia and Dawn come home. If I had a dog, I’d have someone to play with.”  

“You’re not alone. I’m here.” She regretted it as soon as she said it. She knew what Rodney said next would probably hurt her feelings, even if it was unintentional. 

“If we got a dog, he could eat the grass, so dad wouldn’t have to cut it.” 

That response caught her off guard and she laughed. “Dogs don’t eat grass, only cows and sheep do.” She walked over to the window and looked disdainfully out at the front lawn.  

“Oh,” Rodney sat down at the table and ate the yogurt she had given him. He looked very thoughtful as if he were trying to come up with another useful skill a dog could offer.  

Shyla knew Ash meant well, but by the time he got home tonight, he wouldn’t be up to mowing the lawn, especially since it was getting dark earlier and earlier. She pulled on her old sneakers that she used for garden work. 

“Rod, sit there and don’t get up until you finish your homework.” Rodney pouted. “When you’re done you can go watch cartoons.” 

Shyla went out to the garage and pushed the lawnmower out onto the front lawn. She hadn’t operated one in years. When she was young, her mother made her mow the lawn on occasion, so she wouldn’t grow up to be “prissy.” The cool weather made it easier than when she was a kid mowing in the summer heat. I’ll just do the front lawn, she thought, and she gave the motor a couple of tugs and started pushing it across the lawn. She finished in a little under an hour, but it barely felt that long. She looked around with a sense of self-satisfaction. I still have another hour or two before it gets dark. Might as well trim the edges, too.  

She hummed happily as she moved around the fence.  

“If we got a dog, and robbers broke into the house, the dog could eat them.” 

She turned around and raised an eyebrow at Rodney. She hadn’t even heard him come outside. “That’s a good point. But dogs don’t eat people either. But a dog could scare intruders off.” 

“So, we can get a dog?” 


Rodney grinned, clearly proud of his efforts of persuasion. He leaned against the fence and looked around the yard. “I thought Dad was gonna’ mow the lawn.” 

“Dad’s really busy. I thought I’d help him out.” 

“You did a good job.” 

Shyla put the trimmers down for a moment and turned around to grin at him. “You think so?” 

“Yeah.” Rodney pointed at the trimmer. “Can I try?” 

“I don’t think so.” 

“Why not? I’m big enough!”  

“I know, but it’s not as easy as it looks.” She looked down at his crestfallen face. “You could help me out if you weeded the flowers.” 

Rodney looked as if he were considering the proposition for a moment. 


“Just make sure you grab it near the bottom, so you pull out the whole root.” 

Rodney nodded, knelt in the dirt, and got to work. Shyla watched him out of the corner of her eye as she worked. He seemed to be having fun playing in the dirt as well as pulling the weeds.  

When she was finally done, she put the mower and trimmer back into the garage just as Rodney pulled up the last weed.  

“I’m done!” He proudly marched up to her. She decided not to tell him he’d pulled up some flowers and plants too. 

“You did a good job, bud!” She rubbed his head affectionately, but he scowled and ducked out of her grasp. Today it didn’t bother her as much. She didn’t even care he’d caked his good sneakers in mud

“I’m hungry. Can I go inside and get some cookies?” 

“I’ve got a better idea.” Even though it was only fifty degrees outside, Shyla’s face was damp with sweat. “Let’s get some ice cream.”  

Rodney looked at her as if she were about to play a practical joke on him. “But it’s pretty close to dinner.” 

Shyla shrugged. “One cone won’t completely ruin your appetite. Anyway, you’ve earned it.”  

Rodney tore off down the sidewalk without even checking to see if she was following. 

He was much slower on the walk back, carefully licking his cone so his ice cream didn’t fall.  

“You’re very meticulous with the way you eat your ice cream.” 

“What’s that mean?”  

“It means you’re very careful.”  

“You have to be careful. If you lick it the wrong way, the ice cream might fall off the cone.” 

“Is ice cream your favorite dessert?” 

“Yup, my mom used to let me eat it every day for dinner. My real mom,” he quickly clarified. Shyla tried not to take this to heart. He didn’t say it with any amount of malice but instead matter-of-factly.  

They reached the house at the same time that Ash was pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car with the girls. Rodney seemed to forget his careful ice cream cone eating strategy and ran towards the house to tell his sisters about his day.  

“Dawn! Livvy! I got ice cream and you didn’t!” 

Ash frowned when he saw the front yard. “You didn’t have to pay the neighbor kid to do the lawn. I told you I was going to get to it.” 

“I didn’t. I did it myself.” 

“I helped!” Rodney shouted while jumping up and down for emphasis.

“That’s right Rodney did the weeding.” 

“Great job, Rod!” Olivia held her hand over her head and Rodney laughed while trying to jump high enough to high-five her.  

“C’mon let’s get inside, it’s getting dark.” Ash poked Rodney in the back to prod him towards the front door.  

Shyla was on such a high from the afternoon that she barely even noticed how quiet Ash was throughout dinner. Later that evening, Rodney was in bed and the girls were shut up in their own rooms. After she finished cleaning the kitchen, Shyla peeked into the den to see what Ash was up to. He was laying back in the couch recliner in front of the television. She went to the kitchen to grab two beers before joining him.  

“Thought you might want one of these.” She settled down next to him as she passed him his drink. 

“Thanks.” Ash took a swig but didn’t say anything more. Shyla turned her attention to the TV to see what her husband was watching. 

“Baseball? I thought you had lost interest after the Cubs didn’t make the world series?” Ash shrugged. 

“What’s the matter?” She pressed. “Nothing else on?” 

“No, not really.” A commercial came on and Ash flipped absent-mindedly to the evening news. Shyla got caught up in a story about parents protesting the curriculum at a nearby school and didn’t hear Ash’s comment.

“What?” She tried to turn towards him while still listening to a mother complain about tone-deaf history lessons in the local middle school.  

“I said you didn’t have to mow the lawn today.” 

“I know, you already said that. But I wanted to. And anyway, it was getting embarrassing.” Right after it came out of her mouth, she realized it was probably the wrong thing to say. “I just meant I was trying to help you out.” 

“I don’t need you to help me out with the yard work.”  

“What’s the big deal, I thought I did a good job.” 

“Yeah, no it was fine.” Ash seemed to be trying to adjust his tone. “Just in the future, just let me take care of it.” 

“You always say you’ll take care of it, but it sits undone for weeks.” 

“Hm,” Ash said nothing and crossed his arms over his chest. 

“What is the big deal? I didn’t even mind. With Rodney, it was even kind of fun.” Ash still said nothing “Just tell me what your issue is, and I won’t do it again.” 

“The issue is…” Ash groaned and dragged his hand down his face before turning to her to answer. “Do you realize how it makes me look to the neighborhood to have my wife outside mowing the lawn?”  

A heavy silence hung in the air for a moment until the words sunk in. She connected the dots and couldn’t help but let out a brief guffaw. “That’s it? That’s why you’ve been sullen all evening? Because you didn’t want the neighbors to see me mowing the lawn?” 

“You don’t get it. The things you do are a reflection of me.” 

“Ashley, that’s ridiculous.” 

“Never mind. Forget I even said anything.” Ash picked up the remote and started channel surfing again.  

Disgruntled, Shyla got up from the couch and wandered into the kitchen. She absentmindedly dropped her empty bottle into the recycling bin and leaned against the counter. She stared down at the floor until her eyes got blurry and her feet faded in and out of focus. Moving without any real purpose, she hurried past the entryway to the den and went upstairs. The doors to both of her daughter’s rooms were shut and she could hear top 40 music blaring from behind Olivia’s door.  

Rodney’s door was open though. She leaned on the doorway of his room with her eyes drifting, not focusing on anything. She was pulled out of her daze when Rodney thrashed from one side of his bed to the other. His little round face was pinched up together and his lips were just barely forming words. This wasn’t a night terror. It seemed to be a run-of-the-mill bad dream. A moment later his face relaxed and his mouth dropped open as he sank deeper into his pillow. With a defeated sigh, Shyla walked into his room to throw his clothes from the day into his laundry hamper. She picked up a sock and looked around for its mate. She caught sight of it in Rodney’s bed, right next to his head.  

Disgusting, she thought to herself as she reached over Rodney’s head to grab the sock. As she drew her hand back, Rodney grabbed her wrist and held it against his chest, hugging her arm like a child might hug a teddy bear. She passed the sock into her other hand and tossed it into the laundry hamper. She looked down at him for a moment and smiled before trying to extract her arm. But as she tried to move it, Rodney grasped it even closer and flopped onto his stomach. Deciding to give up, Shyla dropped to her knees beside the bed. She could stay there until Rodney rolled over again and let go.  

But he didn’t let go. Not for fifteen minutes. Her knees started to hurt so she tucked her legs under her and sat on the floor. Five more minutes passed, and she could feel the strain in her lower back. She tried again to extract her arm, but as she did so Rodney frowned and started to whimper in his sleep. She tried to readjust herself to be in a less painful position but no matter how much she squirmed she couldn’t stop the bedframe from digging into her side. She resigned herself to the fact that she would have to take ibuprofen for her back in the morning before putting her other arm on his bed and resting her head on it. She tried to forget about the aches in her back and instead concentrated on Rodney’s hot, sticky breath warming the crown of her head. 


Janae Carter is an emerging writer based in the New York metropolitan area and a recent graduate of Adelphi University’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing program. She tends to write in a variety of fiction subgenres but most of her recent work has been realistic fiction pertaining to human relationships, particularly concerning women and girls of color.

Fiction Issue 4


The following flash fiction story is translated from its original Russian, which is below.

Out of the blue

You’ve made nightmares. Now you are awake. You get up from your bed.
You put on your pants. You put on a shirt.
You leave the room where you slept, and in which there’s just your bed.
A cat slept with you, but stays on the bed and watches you leave.
You go to the kitchen.
You take a big knife.
You go to another room where a total stranger is sleeping.
You stick a knife in his back.
You strike several times.
You wait.
Suddenly he stands up with the knife stuck in his back and starts to laugh.
He leaves the room.
He also goes to the kitchen and makes himself a cup of coffee.
He sits down at a table.
You watch him drink coffee without saying anything.
You look at his red blood, flowing from the wound to the floor and forming a red puddle there.
You leave the kitchen, you close the door behind you.
You walk through the dark apartment.
You leave the apartment.
You go down the stairs leading to the street.
Here you are, outside, it's dark.
There are two or three stars in the sky.
The buildings are almost black.
There is no one outside at this time.
You walk ahead of you on the sidewalk, without thinking about anything,
and silently you disappear into the night,
like a ghost.

Как гром среди ясного неба

Тебе снились кошмары.
Теперь ты проснулся. Ты встаёшь со своей кровати.
Ты надеваешь штаны. Ты надеваешь рубашку.
Ты выходишь из комнаты, где ты спал, и в которой у него только твои кровать.
Кот спал с вами, но остается на кровати и смотрит, как ты уходишь.
Ты идёшь на кухню.
Берешь большой нож.
Ты идёшь в другую комнату, где спит незнакомый тебе мужчина.
Ты втыкаешь нож ему в спину.
Ты стучишь несколько раз.
Ты ждешь.
Сразу он встает с ножом, воткнутым в спину, и начинает смеяться.
Он выходит из комнаты.
Он также идет на кухню и делает себе чашку кофе.
Он садится за стол.
Ты смотришь, как он пьет кофе, ничего не говоря.
Ты смотришь на его красную кровь, течет из раны на пол и образует там красную лужу.
Ты выходишь из кухни, закрываешь за собой дверь.
Ты идёшь по темной квартире.
Ты выходишь из квартиры.
Ты спускаешься по лестнице ведущая на улицу.
Вот ты на улице, темно.
У него две-три звезды на небе.
Здания почти черные.
В это время снаружи никого нет.
Идешь впереди себя по тротуару, ни о чем не думая, и бесшумно исчезаешь в ночи.
Как призрак.


Ivan de Monbrison is a poet and artist living in Paris born in 1969 and affected by various types of mental disorders. He has published some poems in the past.

You can tip Ivan on Paypal:

Issue 4 Poetry



The moon watches me undress
and I pretend she is you—
pretend the light coming softly
through my curtained window

is the path of your vision
on this muggy nearly autumn night
and if I hold my breath
and ignore God’s creatures making music in the dark

I can hear your voice.
Hear it lifting through the empty yard between
the last steps you took.

Sometimes, in my dreams, a
rose garden grows in place of you
and a golden bell rings out over and over,

“I love you—I love you.”


When a pivotal moment in B.A. O’Connell‘s youth caused them to turn to poetry with serious intent it changed their life. Today, they often pen four to eight poems a day. B.A’s poetry and their blog ( focuses on poems and art centring around trauma, recovery, and mental health. B.A also touches on themes of abusive, obsessive, and unhealthy relationships and the pain of moving on from them. Find out more on their twitter @OnceIateataco.

Issue 4 Poetry


Immigrants Are Like

View this document on Scribd

Inventing my Mother Self

When I gave
            birth, I felt like I had been
gifted a civilization
in progress. Slowly

the disquisitions came and were
eventually handed
over to the preschool.   Then,
A Series

of Firsts:         Every kindergartener needed
                       an enemy.

                       We needed
                       a tooth
                       fairy, so she had
                                  to be
                       invented too.

                       Your faith
                       in passion, coming

                       The five

                       The first
                       time you got fired.

                       The unclear
                       hallway where you had
                       either fallen
                       in love the day
                       before or Loana had broken
                       your heart.

                       When you began to “lose”
                       library books, happily
                       paying the library if it meant
                       the removal
                       of offending

the island materializing out

of the long, white

                       When you hit
                       bottom because you lacked

the island
metastasized, or perhaps merely
revealed itself, now that the clouds had
given way.

And now, shredding
my values like a molting
bird so that I can better
parent you, the island is so

real I realize
that I have been lying
on the shore this entire time.


Courtney Hilden’s recent work has been featured in Voice of Eve, More of Us, Panning for Poems, and Coffin Bell: An Anthology of Dark Literature.

You can tip Courtney on Paypal:

Issue 4 Nonfiction


Explorations in Spacetime

I. Perpetual Motion 

You wave a bent twig up and down and in a circle, imagining a fireball before hurling the faux-flames toward your friend. She takes cover behind your yard’s great oak, and the make-believe embers wisp past her ear. Though you try not to show it, you get frustrated in the way she never gets hit, the way she always eludes the winds of your conjured tornadoes, and the way she jumps as you shockwave the earth. This is your yard—your domain!—after all, while hers is a few houses down the road. The only distance between you and her is a few effectual motions.


Bhāskara II was an Indian mathematician and astronomer from a time before thermodynamic knowledge curtailed dreams of perpetual motion with its so-called “conservation of energy” and “entropy,” from a time when master physicists could still daydream rose-filtered reveries about perpetual motion. Beyond pioneering differential calculus and nearly calculating the time in an astronomical year, he drafted an idea for Bhāskara’s Wheel, the first machine of its kind: a machine that—get this!—exemplifies a state of perpetual motion.

Spokes to the center wheel are filled with mercury, and, as it spins, the mercury dips and bobs like a balloon and perpetually shifts the weight in the wheel to one side. That weight pushes the wheel down, ensuring it turns forever—or at least, it’s supposed to. Bhāskara failed to account for the weight-shifted center of mass, so the machine doesn’t work. It crawls to a halt, as all things eventually do. It defies some natural law, our reality’s conventional motions.

The Laws of Thermodynamics were discovered centuries later, establishing perpetual motion as an impossibility. Because energy decays from a system, a perpetual motion machine would need to create more energy than is input into it, breaking the first law of thermodynamics. But, having come this far, a processual motion of failure after failure, why would the dreamers stop dreaming? They simply stretched their dream into a more spectacular dream, the dream of defying this world’s laws—this impossible dream of perpetual motion.


You two first talk when you sit across the aisle from each other on the school bus, before it clicks that everyone on the bus lives in the same neighborhood. When you see each other from your respective driveways, she yells out your name like it’s the first time you’ve seen each other in twenty years. Soon you’re running over to each other’s houses every day after school. You show her your video games, she shows you her dolls, and you hop on your scooters, drift up and down the winding road, sprint in circles around trees playing tag, and pretend to be people you aren’t—doctors and sorcerers and chefs. This is your burgeoning routine, your newfound perpetual motion.


More than a century ago, a perpetual motion wheel not too dissimilar from Bhāskara’s design (with metal spheres in the spokes, shimmering in the sun, rather than mercury) was assembled over a roadway cutting through Los Angeles. It was fixed in a café’s billboard, spinning day and night as Model Ts rolled just a few feet underneath. The spheres swayed back and forth, up and down in the machine like hot air. It was a marvel, a masterpiece of perpetual motion.

A masterpiece, that is, until a blackout struck, leaving the machine motionless. While this solved the mystery of how the machine materialized the dreams of fringe pseudo-physicists and those who dream of perpetual motion, it proved to the citizens of Los Angeles that nothing can move indefinitely, that nothing can remain in the same state forever.

Still though, wouldn’t it be grand? Something unchanging, forever in motion?


When second grade goes faster than it came, your motions stay the same, and as you make your way through fourth and fifth grade, your list of friends shifts like dirt on a baseball field amidst all the tumult of elementary school—the theft of Pokémon cards, all the mishaps of turncoat kickballs slapping the side of someone-or-other’s head. But you’re always there for each other. When you have a month’s notice of your nine-hundred-mile move down south in fifth grade, you keep on playing in your yards and bouncing on your mutual friend’s trampoline, dismissing the imminent farewell until just days before it comes. The effort to pretend nothing is changing, after all, takes less effort than to acknowledge time’s eventual motions.

II. Redshift, & The Expansion of the Universe

The girl down the street is not the only friend you have. There’s the boy from the next neighborhood over, and while your interests don’t align one-to-one—he plays football in his yard, and you prefer to stay inside to read The Magic Treehouse and Where the Red Fern Grows—you’re as thick and thieves, semi-inseparable. 

One day, when your teacher gives you the daily warm-up assignment to doodle based on the word “evil,” you decide to create identical pictures of the supervillain you had invented months prior: an evil baby, donned in a pacifier and a bonnet and shooting laser beams from his eyes. When the teacher confronts you both about it, fearing plagiarism, you explain this to her. She just smiles, shrugs, and says not to do it again. 

Every time you tell a joke, he laughs, and you always laugh when he laughs. While you prefer to invite the class out to Dave and Buster’s for your birthday every March, he invites his closest friends to a sleepover every September, orders pizza, and hooks up all of his consoles to every TV in the house. At recess you two gather all of your friends and play tag together. You have fun—even though he’s faster than you, even though everyone moves faster than you.


In the year before you move, you feel it. The motion of objects. Redshift. The way that light waves spread and slow and redden as celestial bodies shift away from us, whether from wild wanderlust or from dispersing as the universe spreads like a broken yolk, runny and raw. You know redshift. Everyone you know is starting to seem more red. 

You and the boy have the same teacher in first and third grade, while you and the girl share a second and fourth grade class. This is a pattern you notice. The summer before fifth grade, you hype yourself up and count down the days until school starts again, expecting him to be in your class, but when the pattern falls through, when you’re thrown into a class with no one you’re close with—neither the boy nor the girl—you feel long-faced, double-crossed by fate. 

Lunch is the last haven where you can sit with your friends. Hard bench-tables are arranged in two long columns against each wall, and though it’s not mandated, the grade divvies up by gender. Girls stick to one side, boys to the other. This is how it’s been done since third grade, and you aren’t one for change, so you’ve always sat with the boy. While both your inner circles churned and stirred like gears, you’ve been one of his staples. 

Spring comes: You can tell by the clean smell of grass on the breeze and by the bricky A/C unit wheezing cool drafts into every classroom instead of dry-hot puffs of air that smell like toasted laundry. You’ve hunkered through two stranger-seasons, settled into a strict routine of silent work broken only by your noontime lunch-and-recess, and you’re used to it. But you notice something else, something different. 

When you plop your paper bag onto the lunch table one day, there’s new people sitting with the boy from the next neighborhood over, people you don’t know. You’re met with conversations that seem to talk around you, and you can never find a good place to jump into whatever conversation chugs on like a never-slowing rattletrap. Sometimes it’s about football or hockey, and other times it’s about some video game you haven’t played. No matter what, though, talking points orbit around you, always out of reach. 

Hubble’s Law notes that far-away galaxies move away from Earth faster than neighboring galaxies do. 

You, the centerpoint of your observable universe, seem to remain stationary as the universe expands while all the galaxies at the fringes of your observable universe careens away as spacetime whizzes towards infinity. You’re helpless to stop it. Everything moves so fast, and any light those stardust-streams emit will shift red before teetering off of the spectrum of visible light. 

Once everything moving away from you surpasses a certain point in distance, you’ll never be able to reach it again. Do you wonder what that point is? How far can something go before being impossible to reach? 

Everyone who sits at your table peels away one-by-one, splintering into other social circles. When the boy from the next neighborhood over joins another group, you eat with some of the only people who came to your last birthday party—the small high-pitched boy with a head rounder than a bowling ball, and the tall boy with a goofy smile. The boy from the next neighborhood over couldn’t go because he was at a football scrimmage, and neither could the girl down the roads because she was at cheerleading practice. You know it’s not personal—you understand that much—but you dwell on it. You sometimes remember how much it stung. 

When those last two boys leave the table, the girl from down the road and one of her friends, someone you know from your class, sit with you. The tables’ gender-locking had already eroded because of age; after all, you are nearly a middle schooler, no longer in the age of cootie-stoked paranoia. 

You three talk about the recent sci-fi movie, reference YouTubers you all watch, and whisper words your older siblings taught you. You get so caught up in all of it that you almost forget about the boy from the next neighborhood over, chatting with his own friends, so out of reach across the lunchroom. 

You two occasionally chat and play video games after school, but nothing is how it was. There’s more distance, you suppose. Everything is a tinge more red.

III. Wormholes

There’s something off in the bright-whiteness of the walls, in the sparseness of room decor. Your new math teacher—with his blocky glasses, receding hairline, and drone-speech—seems like the kind of guy to whisper “function over form” late into the night, to help him go to sleep, to help him cope with the guilt knowing his classroom also acts as a torture chamber for anyone half-drowsy. And that includes you, bedhead, having woken up only an hour ago and now near-ragdolling in your seat. 

It’s the first week of school, about a month after you move to South Carolina, and you know nobody. Everyone’s either taller than you or annoying, screaming in the back of class and borderline bouncing off the walls. You decide to keep to yourself, to doodle and, whenever it’s quiet, count seconds as you listen to clock-ticks and measure how much longer until you go home. Keep to yourself. If people want to approach you, then they’ll approach. 

Where spacetime folds over itself like a blanket, you could poke a hole through the top of it with a pushpin and come out underneath, across the universe. 

You could punch a hole in the wind, jump in, and travel across the country. Travel to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and see what San Francisco looks like from a bird’s-eye view. You could figure out first-hand what’s inside the noses on Mount Rushmore. When a hurricane comes, evacuation would be a cinch! Everyone would just jump in their holes and get the hell out of Dodge. You could go back to Illinois too. At a moment’s notice, you could be anywhere, with anyone, with all the time in the world.

Your social studies teacher doubles as your science teacher, and the two classes you have with her are back-to-back. You stay in her class after social studies and watch people wander in from the halls for science. Sometimes she gives you Jolly Ranchers for your good work, and it makes you feel golden. Bright colors of cherry or blue raspberry dazzle in your mouth with saliva and dim fluorescent lights, and they last until it’s time to go home. 

When she scolds you in passing for balancing a pencil between your face and glasses one afternoon, you manage not to cry, but you hate that tears well up in your eyes. Some days are loud. Kids scream and the teacher does nothing, too soft-voiced from throat cancer to do anything. On other days—hush-days—when the class is pooped and ready to go home, the teacher can lecture. Whether or not anyone is listening is an entirely different question. 

On one of the hush-days, you sit in the back of the room and notice that the kid next to you scrapes brass knuckles against the table’s unpainted side, out of eyeshot from the teacher. Either no one else notices it, or no one else cares, but it’s the first time you’ve seen a weapon up close, so you don’t know whether to be off-put or awestruck. Then you wonder why he would bring something like that to school; if someone else saw it, he could get suspended. Expelled, even. You mind your own business, because you’re not surprised something like this would happen at this school. You recognize it probably won’t be the last time something like this happens either, nor the worst thing you will ever see. 

In the coming months, you hear slurs called across classrooms, mockery, cafeteria fights with girls screaming as they yank each other’s hair. You aren’t surprised that something like that would happen at this school. You want to (so very badly) walk out the doors and sprint, to escape, book it to wherever you can, wherever else in the world—anywhere besides here. 

Wormholes are unstable. Theoretically powerful, yes, but briefly-lived before their collapse. 

Even if they do exist, they’re too small for humans to travel through. Nothing more than a nick in the skin of spacetime, and, like our own skin, it would seal itself in less time than it would take to find it. A great amount of matter is necessary to prop one open, to sustain it. The matter would have to be a new type of matter too: exotic matter. Matter that might not exist in our universe. 

There’s so much we don’t know, and what we do know says “This won’t work.” Wormhole travel won’t be feasible for a very long time, not until long after we die. 

The grade’s given recess at the end of the year, and everyone floods into the vast field next to the school. You keep to yourself and pace in circles around the yard’s perimeter. Summer is near, and the South Carolina heat warps the air, somersaults it over itself, and leaves a writhing crease in the distance like loose jean denim. 

If you could, you would take craft scissors from your backpack and cut it open. You would crawl inside, close your eyes, and fall through the warm spot in space and time. And when you choose to open your eyes again, you would be back in Illinois, back in first grade all over. There would be no piercing bright-whiteness on the walls, nor lunchroom fights, nor slurs hurled across the classroom like spitballs—only you, your friends, big oaks, after-school magic, and the rumble of scooter wheels rolling on asphalt. 


Andrew Sinclair is an eighteen-year-old writer and student in the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities’ Creative Writing program. His work has been previously published in Paper Crane Journal and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

You can tip Andrew on Venmo: @Andrew-Sinclair-53

Issue 4 Visual Art


Into the Mist

“Into the Mist”, came about simply on an early morning walk along the often foggy California coastline. The view in front of me seemed like something out of a movie thriller, so I felt compelled to capture it with the camera.

Linda Hawkins


Linda Hawkins is a self-taught watercolor artist and photographer, living on the central coast of California. Linda uses her art to express her appreciation for nature, both through the camera lense and the paint brush. Her visual art has appeared in various literary magazines, including: Flash Frog, The Jupiter Review, Pithead Chapel, Acropolis Journal, Wrongdoing Magazine, Moss Puppy Mag, and Harpy Hybrid Review. She can be found on Twitter: @lindamayhawkins and at

Issue 4 Visual Art



I stopped in a small town in South Carolina, and found it mostly empty (the only open business there being a family-run thrift store). Standing in the wreckage of an old tire shop, looking out onto the street, I kept thinking of that phrase “When one door closes… another opens.” I always kind-of hated that phrase, because it seems like it’s only good in hindsight, not when you’re actually grieving the loss of something, feeling like you really may have closed your only door. When the stores close one by one, when the local tire shop is torn apart, when the town barely has anyone left, what or where is that next door? “When one door’s glass has been broken and its wood is starting to rot–abandoned for so long a tree grew through it… there surely is another Entrance (however ominous) lined up just for you.”

Caycey Pound


Caycey Pound (@briefcayc on Twitter and everywhere else) is a poet from South Carolina with a B.A. in English from College of Charleston (‘20). She spends most of her time with family, her super-wonderful pug, and her plants. You can find her poetry in Magpie Literary Journal.

You can tip Caycey on Venmo: @briefcayc

Issue 4 Visual Art


The March

The March is a surrealist piece depicting the 20th century’s march against untamed nature. In its surrealist composition, it features an amalgamation of harvestmen – arachnoid figures with dead human eyes, industrial constructs, and the plumes of smoke heralding their journey west, toward distant trees. The March was created in the moments after finishing and reflecting upon China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris, and an investigation into an art style that defined the 20th century for many. 

Mitchell Lüthi


Mitchell Lüthi is the author of a number of short stories and novellas, as well as the forthcoming audio dramas: The Meridian Watch and Arizona//Cultist. His latest release, His Black Tongue: A Medieval Horror, can be found on Amazon and Audible.