Dark Side

Night Photography in Virginia

America (Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach Oceanfront), 2012

Katherine Trame America (Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach Oceanfront), 2012

Katherine Trame
America (Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach Oceanfront), 2012
Copyright 2012 by Katherine Trame


Respond to this image with short story or poem (under 1,000 words) and post it below to enter the Dark Side Writing Contest. See Contest Information page for full details.

Though the contest is now concluded, but you can read the entries below and the Winning Entries.

15 Responses to “America (Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach Oceanfront), 2012”

  1. Sara Jane Moore says:

    “U Mad Bro??”

    I need this Virginia Slim,
    Ok, I don’t NEED it, but still…
    Fourth of July is the worst, people-wise,
    Well, maybe it’s not as a bad as Beach Week.
    At least there’s entertainment up above,
    Freeing you from the tacky boardwalk shops for a bit,
    Sometimes they seem fun and kitschy,
    Other times they feel suffocating, like the heat.
    I hope traffic isn’t bad on the way back to Richmond,
    Who am I kidding?

  2. Ellie Kim says:

    What is it
    That makes us

    Is it
    The spark of a memory
    Seen in a person’s eyes?

    Is it
    The extraordinary
    Flicker of hope
    In the most difficult
    Of times?

    Or perhaps
    It is
    The surprise
    In a single

    Like to think
    It is not only
    the mere
    Experience of an emotion
    But the flood
    Of fascination
    When looking at the world
    Through another’s eyes.

  3. Claudia Asante says:

    My soul belongs to a ring master of sorts.
    A vermin that has infested my life.
    I am wrapped around its fingers
    and force to play its game.

    Everyday its azure face tempts me,
    and I’m paralyzed in the trance that takes over.
    Salty kernels sit in my mouth;
    I’m too enchanted to chew.
    I feel it’s smooth, cold face
    glare at me.

    My fingers grow tired
    from the constant up and down movement.
    The buzzing noise around my ears
    muffles potential interventions.
    Don’t let me give in.
    Not to this addiction.

    It’s already engulfed me into its acid.
    Now a bug in my brain,
    I’m out of my mind.
    The constant messages tease me.
    And I have let them control my life.

    Take me away from the infection,
    Under your wing and save me.
    Mentor me away from the drug.
    Bring me back my life.
    Lead me to the past, before my obsession.
    Renew my quality of life.

    This evil demon now lives with me,
    and I cannot escape alone.

  4. Riley Slate says:

    One-Legged Soldier

    Hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    I washed my clothes in the river,
    Same as you.
    Hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    I lived in a small town,
    Same as you.
    Hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    I have a wife waiting for me back home,
    Same as you.
    Hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    I had no choice but to go,
    Same as you.
    I left. You left.
    Hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    My wedding band weighs a thousand pounds in my pocket,
    Same as you.
    Hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    My name is Daniel Jones,
    Same as you.
    I have only myself now.
    So hold my hand
    I’m the one-legged soldier.
    Same as you. Same as me.

  5. Sharon Mitchell says:

    That is what he told me I am today.
    Incapable of looking forward, only seeing and dealing with what happens now, the present.
    Not prepared. Not aware. Not.
    Selfish? Perhaps I am selfish in a way.
    But I don’t believe I was always that way.
    My direction, my life’s direction, has faltered, has changed.
    I’ve become too dependent on you…
    Young. Free. Untethered.
    I remember when I was pretty clear on what I wanted to do.
    Selfish? Perhaps I am selfish in a way.
    But I don’t believe I was always that way.
    What happened to me?
    What’s wrong with doing for me sometimes?
    Your hair is not done? Handle it.
    You need a pedicure? When is your appointment?
    Do I need to ask permission because I might be treading on someone else’s plans? HELL NO!
    Money! God the restrictions.
    They are always there.
    YOU DO YOU! I remember when it was all about me. But I know that life has caught up and that is no longer the case.
    Selfish? Perhaps I am selfish in a way.
    But I don’t believe I was always that way.
    I’m sorry, who are you?
    I wish could tell you. I’m no longer sure of the answer.
    Family, Bills, Responsibilities…
    It’s no longer about YOU anymore. It’s about them.
    That’s cool because you love them and you could never let them go without if it is in your power to give, give, give…
    Selfish? Perhaps I am selfish in a way.
    But I don’t believe I was always that way.
    Sometimes you give so much, you forget.
    You look in the mirror and you don’t recognize yourself.
    Clothes and shoes? Seriously?
    A night out with the girls? Right…
    LIMITED in so many ways.
    This is not where I expected to be.
    Time for a new era, the era of ME.
    Time to make changes personally, professionally.
    Time to be truly happy, emotionally, physically.
    Selfish? Perhaps I am selfish in a way.
    But I don’t believe I was always that way.

  6. Alex Feygin says:

    That’s it. Sharon had just about as much as she could take. She’d been watching some guys from her school beating up on this poor kid for what seemed like a generation. It didn’t matter that she’d barely lit her cigarette. She took one last drag, flicked it aside, and marched right over to the fracas. Three relatively younger guys, Sharon was a graduating senior, had caught a freshman boy completely unawares. She couldn’t remember his name, but she didn’t need to guess why the kid was receiving a completely unmerited beating. Earlier that morning at school, when people were still dropping things off in their lockers and making the requisite youthful platitudes, some kids had caught the boy (was his name Eric?) leaving a note in another boys locker. The parties that intercepted the very private act, being conducted with a clear air of subterfuge, behaved exactly as expected. They couldn’t know, not until it was too late, that they were publicly voicing a heartfelt love letter. Their motives, innocent or otherwise, had regardless sealed the boy’s (I’m positive his name is Eric) fate. He quickly snatched the letter away, amidst the macho and vulgar protestations of the intended recipient, and quickly made haste to class.
    Now, several hours later, outside the relatively safe confines of the schools hallways, he was experiencing the first of what would probably be many consequences resulting from his leap of amorous fate. Sharon had lit a smoke in front of the department store, her first since this morning; just as she watched the older boys descend upon Eric. He was a slim kid barely experiencing puberty, whereas the other boys, though younger then Sharon, wore the façade of manhood. However, despite what their physiques testified, their minds were still barely emerged from adolescence. Their hate and fear was clear in every swung fist and coiled kick. Sharon couldn’t even dream of overpowering them, at least not physically. She dashed into the center of the brawl, simultaneously disrupting the pattern of violence and bodily shielding young Eric.
    “What the hell do you think you’re doing,“ she exclaimed, with her hands on her hips in a pose she was unwittingly copying from her mother “That boy didn’t do a damn thing to you.” The largest of the trio, a sophomore named Josh that was known to Sharon, bared down upon her. Acting on pure instinct, he inflated himself to seem impossibly larger than her. Josh spoke plainly, almost matter-of-factly, “It’s not what he did. It’s what he is, girl.” “You know what the pastor says about his ‘kind’” continued Josh. Sharon was nonplussed by his response and even less impressed by his size. “I don’t care what the pastor says. That’s his own thing,” she replied. “Fact is, we all read from the same book. I read in that book ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ and ‘love thy neighbor’.” This succinct sermon managed to get the boys’ attention. Both his chest and ego began to deflate. “I…I know it says that too,” stammered Josh.

    Sharon, sensing she’d gained some traction with the group, turned towards the other two young men to dress them down. “Your name’s Roland, right” she asked one of them. He nodded slowly, like he didn’t want his name mentioned just then. Roland was a few inches shy of Josh and much lighter skinned, with straight black hair, and distinctive exotic features. “I know something about you, and you should be ashamed. There was a time your parents love would’ve been called wrong. Probably even by someone like the Pastor,” exclaimed Sharon. Roland nodded in silent, shamefaced agreement.
    Before Sharon could address the last boy, whose name she did not know, he spared her the trouble. “I dunno why I helped jump the kid. I don’t really care all that much. I guess I was just bored. I’m sorry,” said the lad. His name was Kyle, but the opportunity to introduce himself had passed. Instead, he put his hand on Joshes shoulder to signal him to step aside, leaned over, and helped Eric up to his feet. Josh, demonstrating simultaneously both his immaturity and his discomfort with being dressed down, kicked a pebble in front of his shoe. “I’m not gonna say I’m okay with queers, but I shouldn’t have jumped you. That wasn’t right,” said Josh. Roland and Kyle took their turns apologizing too, with Sharon keeping vigil over the entire accord.

    And just like that, as quickly as the assault had started, the three boys departed. They were appropriately dejected and ashamed but, thankfully, a bit wiser. Sharon, now finally alone with Eric, inspected his wounds. Aside from a sizeable black eye and some tussled hair and clothing, he didn’t look like a kid that just received an epic beating. “Well, you don’t look that bad, all things considered,” said Sharon. “I probably look worse then I feel,” replied Eric. “Thanks for stepping in like that,” continued Eric. “I don’t want to think how much farther that would’ve gone if you hadn’t been here.” “It was the least I could do,” replied Sharon. “Besides, things are hard enough without us inventing new things to hate about each other,” continued Sharon. “Amen to that,” replied Eric. Sharon leaned into Eric, took his hand into hers, and shook it. “My name is Sharon,” she said. “I know,” he replied. “Aaron,” he exclaimed. She released his hand. “Oh,” replied Sharon, slightly stupefied at her presumption. “I thought your name was Eric,” she continued. She looked him in the eye apologetically. He shook her hand again “It’s nice to know you Sharon,” he said. After a pause, she replied “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Aaron. Let’s get you home.”

  7. Shermie Rayne says:


    News reports that I’m trafficked,
    my heart denotes that it’s racketed.

    Street owns me,
    prostrates me,
    bends me to knees,
    for money that touches my hand, but never reaches my pocket.

    Fettered and tethered in invisible chains,
    puts me on display—but never seen.
    That’s shame.

    Mom hooked on crack and reefer,
    allowed uncle to become my creeper.
    In a haze she turned her gaze.

    Wanted to be a teacher,
    spent my nights daydreaming in books.
    Now looking for a come up from the preacher,
    reading street signs and the promise on the cigarette packs.

    Easy prey, that’s what I was.
    Not enough love at home to lift me up above,
    the grip of a pimp.
    That’s shame.

    Need to escape.
    Shooting up liquid heaven, can’t make the evade.
    Crisscrossed wrist so scarred in lines,
    my signs of dying to live.

    I’m a commodity—an item, a purchase.
    Change it!
    No demand–no supply needed!

    But, the Johns drive by.
    Buy my time and my pain is your crime.
    That’s shame.

  8. Lili Blackwell says:

    i feel them calling
    to go away
    to pull up the roots that have never been
    and follow them home

    down to the clay filled earth, below
    i live in caves
    of bird calls and cries
    mourning doves

    i will live again
    in deep sheltered wounds
    if you fear for my time
    look at your own

    twenty is very long
    for a mourning dove to fly
    around and around in circles
    circus ring master

    these high breathing
    low digging
    circus rats
    will drive me

    the acid filled earth
    is crying
    and i don’t know anymore

    i am not kudzu,
    you all are.
    i am cumberland snow
    and i can’t grow like you.

    i am dust inside
    my bones and kidneys,
    liver, lungs, brown-red,
    are crying

    i ask,
    tell me
    how to behave,
    be a proper lady.

  9. Thomas Maluck says:

    “Never The Night”

    You could blame her parents
    for giving her fingers
    with which to pinch the cig,
    but never the night
    for making it glow.

    You could boycott the store
    for selling mottos wholesale
    draped above clubbing gowns,
    but never the night
    for making them fit.

    You could edit Betsy Ross’s Wikipedia entry
    and she would have never sewed a stitch
    of stars nor stripes,
    but never the night
    for its soaring wind.

    You could ignore the girl
    and her time out of mind,
    skin and denim strung so loose,
    but never the night
    for making her shine.

  10. Shirley Belkowitz says:


    Women wait,alone
    in the uncertain dark
    for the ride going home
    bone-tired from work
    for the face of a friend
    and time just to talk
    for the lover who smiles
    and opens his heart
    moments of peace, of joy, of relief
    neon burns through the dark
    but doesn’t give truth
    and sometimes the ride never comes.

  11. Pixie E. Curry says:

    “Lost and Found”
    By Pixie E. Curry

    It was the last place I expected to see her. I’ve searched for her for years–a decade really–and there, as if only ten minutes had passed, she was.

    She still had that sharp fragile beauty that I desired and she hated. Soft wavy hair that easily curled up at the first hint of humidity, the bane of her existence, the way she used to tell it. I resented her slenderness and found myself pulling in my stomach and straightening my back to make my breasts stand up higher. Smooth skin that seems to shine from within. I was still envious of her beauty but proud of it, too

    I knew her choice of her makeshift American flag halter top was an assertion of sorts. “Still the rebel,” I thought to myself. Past arguments came to mind, some that had us not speaking to each other for days, but in the end always negotiating a truce after realizing we were on the same side, just expressing ourselves differently.

    I watched as she took a long draw from her cigarette, followed by a hacking cough. Her face took on a grimace with each cough but she still took another drag. She turned and rubbed the lit end of the cigarette against the brick wall to put it out. She must have done that a lot that night; there was a large stain on the wall. She let the dead cigarette drop from her fingers where it joined a litter of butts on the sidewalk. Hers? She coughed again.

    “How long are you going to just stand there and stare? I see you.” She hadn’t turned her head to look at me but she knew it was me.

    “I was waiting to see if you were going to light up another coffin nail before I said anything. Where have your ass been, girl? I have been looking for you for years. Didn’t your momma tell you?”

    “I haven’t been home for a while so, no, I didn’t know. Come here, girl. I see you still have that uppity attitude.” She flashed that smile; that bright, impish smile that said ‘I’m just joking, I’m not mad at you.’

    “I see you still have that ‘go screw yourself’ attitude.” We hugged and swayed there on her butt-littered sidewalk.
    “So, what have you been doing besides holding up this wall?” I crossed in front of her to check out the window display. Headlights from the cars turning from the stop sign across the street made momentary abstract patterns on the windowpane. When the lights disappeared, the cheap t-shirts and dresses resumed their dullness.

    “I work here part time. It puts a little change in my pocket. Still writing and singing. I work the clubs up and down the Strip. Virginia Beach has a lot of clubs so I do alright. What about you; you look like you’re doing alright.”

    “Still trying to figure it out. I finished college at last but still trying to find where I belong. It’s getting cold standing on this corner. Let’s get something eat. Where’s a good place?”

    “I’m good.” She puts on a jacket that she had wrapped over her handbag. Could it be the same handbag?

    “Isn’t that the same bag I gave you for your birthday? What, fourteen years ago? Dang, girl, you are a hoarder but it still looks good.”

    That smile again. “It’s been my home and a reminder of home for me.”

    A police car glides up to where we are standing and slows to a stop. The passenger side window rolls down and the officer driving leans over to talk through the now fully opened window.

    “Hey, Lady. You’re singing tonight? ”

    She goes to the car and leans into the open window, “In a couple of hours…Desperado’s at 11, the second set at 1. You’re coming?”

    “Yeah, I’ll bring the crew. You’re ok?”

    “Yeah, this is my family. Check you later. Bring money!”

    “You got it, Lady. Keep warm.”

    He drives the car back into the now thickening traffic.

    She’s ok. She has people that are watching over her. She is loved.

    “Look, what were you doing before I came up on you, I mean, am I taking you from anything? Do you have time to talk or at least let me know how I can get in touch with you? I found you and I am not losing you again.”

    “Naw, I have some time. I just like to chill and watch people ride up and down the street. Plus, my fan base comes by and gives me a holler. Most of the time, my gigs are advertised by word of mouth. I can bring in my own crowd so it’s a plus to some of these clubs that hire me; a fabulous singer and a large crowd with some bennies to spend. I get a lot of last minute calls so I put out the word as soon as I know I have a gig. It’s a win/win situation.”

    We start walking down the street. Everybody knows her. “Hey, Baby. Those pipes in tune?” “Sweet Mommy, when you gonna’ cut that album?” She smiles, high-fives, blows kisses. Love showers her like the glow that falls from the streetlights, the neon signs that highlight her face and hair–pink, red, green, yellow.

    She reaches into her handbag, her ‘home,’ for another cigarette and stops in her tracks, searching deeply until she finds her lighter. With a flick she has her flame and then an inhale, the orange glow. She uses the lit cigarette to point out our destination; a diner whose sign states they serve breakfast 24/7.

    “Let’s go in here. I could stand some coffee.”

    “Ok with me.”

    “Hey, little girl. Coffee coming. You on tonight?”

    “Desperado’s at 11, second set at 1.”

    The smiles, the hugs, the well wishes; all for her.

    She wasn’t lost at all. Not her.

  12. Brandy Hughes says:

    We live in the shadows too..
    A microcosm of the subconcious, perhaps.
    Polar opposites converge to its point in the middle creating, Us.

    Not worth living the unexamined life, we cast light, for a breakthrough but..

    We live in the shadows too..
    On the darkest side of 6, no carbon footpirnts.. just smoke.

    It’s what we prefer.

  13. Dante Burrichter says:


    August 7, 2013 Library of Virginia: Before continuing, the tour guide took one last glance at the people in her group. They were all unaware of the journey they were about to undergo. Their eyes glazed with the stupidity of this generation, with the thought that everything was fine. They were all in for a surprise, that she was more than happy to deliver to them.
    “Hello everyone, we are about to see the Dark Side Gallery here at our very own Library of Virginia. Each of these pictures tells a story, the most tragic of which being of Angela up here on your left.”
    July 12, 2000 Virginia Beach Boardwalk: Angela took one last drag of her third last cigarette savoring every disgusting bit of the bad habit she so despised. She had developed the habit to escape from the stress of her life that was all too tense. She was only 16 and already had to work two jobs in order to help support her family. Along with this she had to spend every second of her life trying to prove that she was better than her convict father.
    Cigarettes were the only vice she allowed herself and this was her third last moment with them. Each cigarette was like an escape for her, a one way ticket to a distant land, a vacation that was much too short, and also cancerous. As she slowly finished her last drag she thought about how much better her life would be without this vice. She would have no guilt, but most importantly no exterior flaw. And then the moment was gone and reality was more than happy to slap her in the face with the voice of her manager telling her that her break was over. She let out a deep sigh and walked into the t-shirt shop she worked at on the boardwalk.
    The work was monotonous but it paid well at $7 an hour. Her days were filled with the folding of t-shirts and the selling of those same t-shirts to unsuspecting tourists at ridiculous prices. All under the rule of her boss, who she was convinced, was Hitler’s mistress in a past life. Luckily she had good friends to help her escape from work by forcing her to have fun. They were all good kids born into not so good places just like her. Soon they would come to whisk her away from this place and to once again show her what fun was.
    Her heart leaped as the clock slowly settled upon its final destination, 8:00, the end of her shift. She meekly went up to her boss to ask for her check. She scowled at the clock, gave a curt nod, and then handed her the one piece of paper that kept her going each week. With that she exited one hell and walked unexpectedly into another.
    As Angela left the store she was surprised to see her friend Stephanie waiting outside for her. “Hey angel,” she said, “I got a little surprise for you.”
    “What is it?”
    “It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, now would it?”
    Angela smirked at this especially cheesy cliché and followed her friend into the unknown depths of adolescent hell.
    “We’re here,” Stephanie said.
    “And where exactly would here be,” said Angela looking at the unfamiliar location.
    “Here would be the surprise,” and with that she opened the door that should have been forever sealed.
    “Hey Tony I brought her.”
    “Yo Steph I always knew you had it in you.”
    “Had what,” asked Angela, a confused expression washing over her face as she slowly scanned the room seeing many familiar faces.
    “The skills to get miss perfect down to a proper party.”
    “What do you mean by a proper party?”
    “I mean a hit’in party, what else is proper,” and with that he took a step to the side to reveal a table piled with angel dust, “dust for the angel.”
    Angela immediately turned to run away, she had seen the look in Tony’s eyes and he was definitely no longer Tony. She had to leave this place; she had worked too hard to throw it away on drugs.
    Before she could get 50 yards Tony chased her down and put a hand on her shoulder. “Come on Angel, we’re all friends here, ain’t no need to be afraid.”
    “I know my friends, and you sure as hell aren’t them,” with that she spit in his eyes, and made one last sprint for the exit. This was met with the cold relentless feeling of steel on the back of her head.
    “Either you gonna hit, or you gonna die.”
    With one last sob, she turned around and allowed humanity to be taken from her. That night she “hit” 100mg. of cocaine, which subsequently was 100 mg. more than her body could handle.

  14. Biyengo Lwandiko says:

    Grave 1 4 2

    I posted this three years ago on postsecret.com, the words written on the back of the photograph.

    I took this picture of my cousin’s girlfriend while we were all hanging out down in VA beach for the summer. My cousin, who is also my best friend is 25 years old and an artist/graphic designer. I’m 27 and a photographer working at Sears. His girlfriend is 28, and a model/actress but really a cashier at Walgreens. We are all students at TCC, so we see each other pretty often. I’m not jealous of my cousin but his girlfriend
    Is way prettier than mine and smarter too. They always act like their love for each other is unbreakable. I’m not so optimistic, and I hate that my cousin, my best friend thinks that way. So the night I took this picture, I also f*cked his girlfriend while he was passed out in the back seat of my car. We did it in an ally not far from where I took this picture.

    Their love was not un-breakable.

    I posted that secret three months after they were engaged to be married. Two months before that, I had fallen in love with my cousin’s girlfriend and had repeatedly fooled around with her. Mostly we did it at my place, sometimes at her place, and on a few occasions at his place. We knew we were wrong, but we never talked about it…just did it.

    My cousin used to need me to pick him up from work sometimes, and he would ask me to pick his girl up first. I told him I was fine with that as long as he was paying for my gas. The truth though, it was because on every single trip, me and her would go to a parking lot for 30 minutes or so. I felt bad, and sometimes literally sick afterwards, but me and her had found something primal. I didn’t want to stop it, let alone even talk and acknowledged what we were doing.

    When he told me about the engagement, I was floored. Things were not so great between them so I was shocked. I would have sworn that they would have been broken up in two if not one month. It turns out that my cousin’s luck had changed, he got a corporate position at a local TV station as the head of the graphic department.

    I confronted her and told her that I would not let her do that to my cousin after all that we had done. I was ready to come completely clean to him. She responded by telling me that what we were doing was over and would never happen again, she begged me not to ruin their lives from some meaningless sex.

    I can’t really put in words how surprised I was at how much it hurt to hear her describe what we did as meaningless. I became so mad, I broke contact from both of them. I explained nothing to him, he thought I had become jealous of his success. He started giving me expensive gifts, and at that point the guilt became unbearable.

    I moved to Washington DC with my older brother, after a month away I still could not sleep or eat. It got to the point that I was hospitalized for several weeks. The doctors said I had a disorder that had resulted from psychological trauma. At this time I was on welfare and could not afford to pay my hospital bills. My shame grew and deepened to a point where I found it difficult to speak at all.

    My cousin decided to surprise me by taking a few weeks from work and visit me in DC. When he found out I could not pay my hospital bills, he told me he would take care of everything. He even pushed the date for their wedding a few weeks just to give me some time to prepare, because he wanted me to be the best man. I never said anything, there was no strength left in me to resist. He proceeded to tell me how great everything was turning out. His now fiancée had just scored a big time role in a major motion picture.

    I’m not sure if it was anger or what, but I called her the night he left, and threatened to tell him everything if she would not. She gave in midst a fit of tears while crying hysterically but she insisted that she had to do it on her terms, so that they would have a chance to work things out. I expected that I would be disowned by my family when everything came out. I prepared myself for the worst. I was sure my cousin would drive back to DC non stop, and lay a beating on me that would be remembered for ages. I could take all of that. I needed a fresh start with every thing, and was willing to pay that price. He would hate me, curse me, and never speak to me for the rest of our lives. Yes, it would be done and over. I would not leave in fear.

    I heard nothing for an entire month, and I began to think that my cousin’s fiancée had failed to do it. Honestly I could not blame her for that. I was ready to do it myself.

    Two nights ago, I got a call from my mother. My cousin is dead. He had walked into the bathroom and took some pills. There was no doubt about what he did or what he wanted. There was no note, but in his left hand he had his phone, as if about to make a call to someone.

    He could not live with it. So how can I.
    He did not leave a note, but I do.

    I started a long time ago, digging this grave….I just wish it wasn’t for two..

    I am sorry.

Dark Side writing contest

Required fields are marked *