Dark Side

Night Photography in Virginia

Virginia Night Sky, 2010

Chris Anton Virginia Night Sky, 2010

Chris Anton
Virginia Night Sky, 2010
Copyright 2010 by Chris Anton


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11 Responses to “Virginia Night Sky, 2010”

  1. Claudia Brookman says:


    The sun’s setting and the colors fan up like a rainbow through the trees. From red at the ground on up to blue and darkness in the sky. I guess it is pretty out here. The little kids are still hollering and running around in the pasture. I can see them like dark holes or ghosts flying around. It gets dark so early now and each night is a little colder than the last but they’ve thrown off their coats by the fence. They hate to wear them. They’ll forget to bring them in and Aunt Bethany will send me back out with the flashlight later to gather them up. I’ll spend all our TV time picking bits of grass and burrs out of the fleece linings because they have sensitive skin and I’ll miss all the jokes, the double takes, the pratfalls while I’m bent over wresting little seed heads from the inside of a sleeve.

    Dusk is a strange word. It sounds harsh as I sit and listen to the yelling and shrieking, with the sky all beautiful like this. Dusk is the gentlest time of day, whereas sunrise sounds nice but is painful like a bucket of icy water in the face. Sunrise sets the roosters crowing and the Jenkins’ dog, Bessie, starts barking. Bessie hates chickens. I don’t really like them either but I do like eggs so I guess there’s a good angle and a bad angle to everything. Bessie’s barking sets off Trousers who is too dumb to know when to stop.

    My favorite time of day though is night. Dark, darkest night. When the little kids are asleep and Mom and Aunt Bethany are drinking wine and watching some boring show with people in costumes who are always mean to each other in the nicest possible way. That’s when I sneak out with a blanket and lie in the pasture and look up at the stars flashing in the blackest sky. I can’t see the curve of the earth for the trees but I know it’s there. I can almost feel myself rolling off the edge except there is no edge.

    Some nights I spin in circles until I’m dizzy and then lie down and see the stars zooming in a rush above me like I’ve fallen down a drain hole. I can’t help thinking of The Little Prince who had a planet all to himself. Just him and his rose bush that he kept under a glass jar. I can’t read that story anymore without feeling jealous.

    Aunt Bethany has pointed out a few of the constellations to me since I’m the only kid who can focus on an idea for more than ten seconds: Orion, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Canis Major, Canis Minor. But when I’m alone I don’t want to connect the dots. I want them to rain down on me, twinkle and sparkle with SOS messages, secret summonses. I want to pull them all into view like a giant blanket of jewels. I lie at a different angle each night so I don’t miss anything. Shooting stars. Those are worth living for. I can’t stress this enough.

    Out here, I am only myself and it’s not lonely at all. I am not a daughter or a niece or a sister or a student or a person who is sent to Principal Wright’s office once a week for my smart mouth. This week I got caught turning in the same Dead Fathers essay that I’d been perfecting since the incident. Apparently teachers – across grade levels! – talk and gossip and third time was not the charm. I have to redo my essay and it has to be ORIGINAL. I tried to explain that my Dead Fathers essay is 100% original and also my best work to date so why should I attempt to turn in sub-par writing when I’ve peaked at twelve? Principal Wright called Mom. Mom was not amused.

    More often than not, Trousers (Canis Minor) will join me in the pasture and spread his smelly body along the length of me and make a series of groans that dogs make like they are bellows being squeezed or bagpipes that have been stepped on. I’m really waiting for Cupcake (Leo), my cat, who is black as the night and often can’t be seen until she’s sticking her soft snoot in your face to make sure you are what she thinks you are: her person, her beloved. And even then, she might not settle down. Sometimes she’ll decide she’s still got business (cat business is a serious full-time job) to attend to and will trot back off into the woods. But every once in a while, she’ll deign to rest her front paws on my stomach and purr. Even with Trousers there stinking up the joint. Cupcake tries hard to pretend Trousers is nothing, not a thing actually there, but sometimes she can’t quite do it. Trousers will lift his head and Cupcake will be gone. Just like that. Darkness absorbed by darkness.

    And I’m left with the night sky and the smelly dog and my thoughts. Thoughts like: will I ever be able to surpass the brilliance of the Dead Fathers essay and pass 6th grade? Will I ever not have to shepherd the little kids while Mom and Aunt Bethany learn how to be widows? Will the night sky still be here – just exactly like this – when I’m 20 and 30 and 80? Because it’s too large to cover in a jar to protect against sheep (Aries).

  2. Jesse Adcock says:

    She smiled at him, pleated braids swaying forwards and backwards rhythmically, in tandem with the rope swing they shared.
    He remembered the late afternoon sun kissing his face, the smell of the freshly grown grass brought by the wind in its never ending quest to paint the world with its invisible brush tickling his sense of placement. Did he belong? One tiny spark of consciousness surrounded by a cold world that threatened to douse him as it did his parents?
    Yes. Indeed, he did belong, here in this moment with her. Their mutual hate of the future and distrust of the past bonding them in time.
    She remembered the look on his face, that contented gleam in the his eye, the wry smile that bisected his face they laughed together, reveling in that moment which would never happen again.
    They mourned its passing not with flowers, tears, or black garb, instead they relished the chase of new moments, of new singularities in time which set them apart. Each one was a golden thread in a long, gray tapestry.
    Belying this blissful happening, these gaps in time, there was an underlying fear. Fear that such moments would become few and far between, perhaps in the future they would be snuffed out all together.
    This is why they hated the future. They hated living with an expiration date; youth did not last forever. They would congeal into the shapes that society demanded. But for now, they exulted.
    She swung forwards, legs extended towards the setting sun as if she could, if only for a moment, stop the journey of Helios all together. To bring his chariot to a stop and preserve this moment of the perfect union forever.
    He turned towards her as she brought her legs back to build momentum for the next try, and he remembered her from years past.
    The past. They rejected it in principle, the very act of dwelling on the intentions of people they were not anymore disgusting them to their core. They were in an endless state of genesis, recreating themselves in a futile attempt to create the perfect being, able to juggle and fondle life’s balls without missing a step into black polished shoes, and a colorless shirt and tie.
    He watched her brow furrow in concentration as she tried once again to transcend this cage of decay, a slow rot that would eat out their minds, until all the was left was a bare, fully grown, shell.
    He frowned. She noticed. Removing her hands from the chains which kept her secured, she let loose a cry of sheer exultation, shaking the very trees with her vitality. She sailed through the air, to tumble gracelessly in the overgrown grass in a blur of tangled limbs.
    He grinned, and followed suit. Roaring his defiance at the heavens, he took flight from his seat, arms and legs splayed to take the upward draft to freedom.
    It didn’t come. But the ground was all too eager to meet him, chaining him in its embrace. He groaned and rolled until he felt her prone pressure beside him, and together they looked into the clouds, their imaginations an infinite expanse of possibility, shackled only by time.
    She pulled him to his feet, gesturing to the boundless terra before them, and took off at a sprint through the grass, leaving only blooming sunflowers in her wake.
    He scrambled to his feet to give chase, eyes alight with the prospect of finally catching her. This would never get old, because moments he had with her never lasted long, only fragmentary hiccups in life’s droning sigh.
    She laughed as she ran, braids whipping around her head in a hurricane embrace. The paragon of energy pumped her arms and legs furiously to gain ground.
    He would catch her. It wasn’t a prediction, nor a theory. He would catch her because existence without her wasn’t worth it, and existence with her was all he had. Like his body shifted gears, he broke into a new cadence, his bare feet thundering across the plain.
    She heard this and smiled, her heart thrilling at the thought of his renewed spirits. She turned abruptly, holding her arms out in preparation for an embrace that would melt glaciers with its intensity.
    He couldn’t stop. He careened into her, his arms wrapping around her in a simulacrum of hers around him.
    It was bliss. No other sensation could match it, this union of two beings that only functioned when circling each other in an endless chase.
    When it was over, he stood first, shakily rising to his feet. She took his proffered hand, rising. Her silhouette stood highlighted in the endless hues of a setting sun.
    She took a step back, opening a gap between them. It was coming. Her moment of confession, that terrible enunciation that would writhe within him whenever he was alone. He closed his eyes, and his palms began to sweat. He licked his lips and prepared to taste the words, to remember their exact flavor as they transitioned between them.
    “I-” she began, and didn’t continue. He waited. A momentary distraction? It could be. It’s what made her eternal, her ability to remain in a fluid state of consciousness. He waited a moment longer, and the silence began to irk him. No, this was something else. He opened his eyes, and was chilled to his bones by what he saw. Her visage was one of sheer terror, and she wasn’t looking at him, to his relief, but behind him. He turned, apprehension running rampant.
    Their tree was burning, and the swing which borne them aloft was being eaten away by ravenous flames.
    A keening wail split the air, and it took him a moment to realize that it was issuing from his throat. He turned back towards her.
    “No!” he wailed. “Not like this! You promised!”
    “I know,” she soothed, “But just listen I-”
    “NO!” he roared thunderously, the earth shaking in reply and the lighting crackled in the distance. “You promised it wouldn’t catch us!” He didn’t have to turn to see the encroaching fire storm. He could feel it behind him, feeding on their grasslands, their sunflowers and memories. Their moments.
    “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, her head drooping, eyes locked on his bare feet. He didn’t reply, only bristling in anger and shame in the knowledge that their dominion was being eaten away while he stood. “It was inevitable,” she moaned, “We both knew that.”
    “No! We only thought that! But look!” he said pointing to the rolling grasslands that stretched towards the Sun. Even it was on its last legs. His eyes caught movement at her feet. Flames coalesced around the hem of her dress, licking hungrily at her figure.
    With a roar of defiance he embraced her, vowing to burn with her. Instead, he felt only a bitter chill as she was consumed by flame, a cold, creeping sensation that worked its way up his body, infecting him with its lifelessness. He raised his head to look her in her inviolate eyes.
    “Stay with me.” He pleaded, his eyes working furiously to keep back tears that were inevitable.
    “I’m sorry,” she said, fathomless eyes burring into his soul, filling him with one last flutter of warmth.”I-” she coughed, and ash billowed out of her mouth. It blasted his face, coating his features in a thick gray paste. Letting go of her and stepping backwards, he rubbed his eyes furiously trying with every once of his being to clear them and return his image of her.
    He opened his eyes to a sight that branded his consciousness, the image of her imprinting itself on his every though and action for a lifetime to come.
    Her skin was ashen gray, and her eyes black as coal. Her cracked lips moved wordlessly as she was blown away, her essence carried away by the very wind he used to admire.
    He merely stood, his gaze not leaving the spot she once occupied.
    An age passed. The winds blew regardless.
    He came alive suddenly, sputtering ash and filth from his lungs. His plane of existence was gone. In its place stretched a barren ash land, its very makeup repellent to life.
    He would find her. It wasn’t a prediction nor a theory, he just would. Because existence wasn’t worth it without her, and existence was her was all he had.
    He would find her. He took comfort in the certainty of the fact. To be denied was to face the wilderness of life alone, a prospect that would surely be the end of him.
    He would run. Not to chase her. Not with eyes alight with the prospect of catching her. No, he would run to find her her, his eyes only alight with the fervor of a desperate soul, running for his life.
    He breathed in, raised one leg and tried to step forward, stopped only by an ill sensation.
    He looked down. Oily black ropes coalesced at his feet, licking hungrily at his figure.
    He screamed. Not in defiance, but in terror as ribbons of bile and terror twined about his protesting body, dragging him downward into a mire of utter nothingness.
    It poured into his mouth, invaded his eyes and ears, his every fear scraped from his mind and brought to the forefront of his consciousness.
    His screams echoed for aeons, all congealing into one monotonous, endless tune, that grated the very nerves in its attempt to unsettle.
    He slapped his alarm clock angrily, and stared at the ceiling. Hope rose in his throat. That or vomit. They felt the same. He turned on his side, every fiber of his being hoping that she was there.
    She wasn’t there. She hadn’t been in a long time.
    Turns out that it really was vomit.

  3. Thomas Maluck says:

    “Three Turns”

    “I’ll bet you a hundred dollars I can take this in one.” Bill took off his baseball cap and tossed it up, nearly hanging it on the moon before twirling back down and almost off the hill.

    Trey scoffed. “That’s not the bet. We each get three turns. Play it even.”

    “There’s nothing more even than that! I think in circles around you clowns. I think like the Flash. See the library down there? Already read all of it. Blink? I’ll read it again.”

    Kashawnda poked Bill in the ribs. “Yeah, yeah, mister big shot. Take the bat and show us.”

    Brad examined the aluminum bat underneath his truck’s headlights. Smudges of dirt, swirly thumbprints, and the frayed-to-obscurity brand sticker were sacrosanct reminders of what the three of them would be leaving behind come fall.

    “Been a long time since you handled that stick?” Kashawnda laughed.

    “Been even longer since you threw anything my way,” Bill said. Kashawnda wound up an invisible ball and tossed it to Bill, who swung.

    “Look at her fly,” Trey said. “Senior year all over again.” Along the sky, blue specks blinked above the nothingness of the Virginia summer night.

    Kashawnda cracked a bottle open with her keychain and flicked the overflow off her wrists. “A little more liquid courage for the all-star?”

    “First, last, and best.” Bill chugged the entire bottle, flipped it up in the air, and smashed it with a swing of the bat. Shards cut into the dirt and grass outside of the headlights’ beams.

    “This is it,” Trey smiled.

    Bill planted the thick end of the bat against the ground, hunched over, and placed his forehead against the top of the bat, running in tiny circles around the bat while holding it up.

    “One, two, three!” Trey and Kashawnda announced. “Four, five, six?” they looked at each other. “Eight, nine, uh oh.” Bill stood up straight, running in small circles and spiraling toward the edge of the hill.

    “Look out!”

    Bill tumbled down the hill, letting out a gutteral moan just before vomiting on his way down. When his world quit spinning he was on his back, his shoulders and stomach burning and all of the stars above accelerating into a shared hyperspace tornado.

    He could hear his friends’ laughter up the hill and his eyes ached, but he stared at the spinning stars for as long as they would last.

  4. Lili Blackwell says:

    “Star Shower”

    the bitter trees are swaying again
    to the sound of the stars falling,
    a million miles an hour,
    towards the crooked earth.

  5. C. Davis says:

    Well, it was sure as all damn going to be impossible finding his home planet from this streaky mess the human called “photography.”

    Zaster threw the photo on Phil’s desk and rolled all three of his eyes.

    “I do not need a pretty picture of the heavens,” Zaster said. “I need a MAP. A detailed map, ideally with the constellations clearly visible as to their shape and mathematical distance from this rock you call home.”

    Sweating, the human called Phil turned back to his computer and clattered at the keys.

    “Sure as all damn” was a phrase Zaster had picked up from the first being he’d met on this planet, one Mr. George Harkness, whose full comment on the matter had been, “Well, Myrtle, it sure as all damn LOOKS foreign.” That had, in fact, been Mr. Harkness’ last utterance on earth. Zaster shrugged at the memory. He’d needed a snack.

    Zaster liked the way the phrase felt in his mouth. “Sure as all damn. Sure as all damn,” he muttered, rolling the words from the right fork of his tongue to the left. Phil, perhaps feeling that Zaster was becoming alarmingly sibilant, looked up warily.

    Zaster tapped a tentacle to the back of Phil’s head — gently, he’d learned that lesson with Mr. Harkness, freakishly fragile creatures these were, no exoskeleton at all, practically larvae — to direct his attention back to the task at hand.

    “The sooner you find me a usable map, the sooner I’ll be on my way,” Zaster said, which was true as far as it went. Zaster didn’t mention that the sooner Phil found a map, the less likely Zaster was to get hungry again. Mr. Harkness had been portly and filling, but he wouldn’t last forever.

    Zaster had not intended to visit this out-of-the-way planet at all. It was far from the usual intergalactic travel lanes and hardly anyone ever went there, due to the fact that its inhabitants were generally unfriendly and so backwards they hadn’t bothered to personally go further away from home than their own moon.

    But Zaster had been pointedly avoiding the high-traffic areas, a choice made because he’d stolen the ship in which he was traveling. He thus thought it wise to swing wide of the Plutonian checkpoint. But actually landing here was his own fault. He’d indulged his own sightseeing desires a bit too much, gotten too close — after all, one never met Earthlings, was it really so bad to want to see their planet — and once one was sucked into a planet’s gravitational pull, well, that was that. Easier to set down and try to relaunch from solid ground.

    Easier, that is, if one had a map. Zaster had no desire to launch blindly back into space with no clue where he might end up. He’d seen comrades have some highly unpleasant experiences that way.

    Still, the visit hadn’t been entirely unpleasant. In fact, it was quite educational. Zaster thought someone back home might ought to have another look at this Earth, because it seemed a great deal more advanced than popular opinion had suggested. They had metal objects on the edge of their atmosphere, and cities, and everything. From the dismissive attitude everyone had toward Earthlings, Zaster had thought they were just sitting here in huts grunting at each other, but it didn’t look to be that way at all. Idly, he wondered what their mineral situation was. Perhaps someone who could answer that question back home would find that the small matter of a stolen ship might be overlooked.

    It was lucky, really, that he could even communicate with Phil. In flight training they taught you some of the languages you might encounter while out in the field. Every year the Earth Languages class was endangered during budget time, since it was so rarely needed, but so far it survived because it was thought wise to keep an occasional ear on what the Earthlings were saying to each other. Plus who knows, they might send out a message one day.

    If they did, Zaster reflected, it wouldn’t be Phil who sent it. The poor creature was still scrabbling away at his machine, flipping through pictures that were fuzzy or small or useless altogether. The Earthlings had certainly managed to get a fair idea of their surroundings, Zaster mused. Some level of technological advancement had clearly been attained. He decided that once Phil had found a good map, he’d ask about the mineral deposits. Maybe get Phil to make some notes.

    He glanced down at the streaky star photo he’d already rejected, its lines of light arcing across the sky. It was useless, of course, but not ugly, Zaster conceded. Funny to think that Earthlings were down here, making pictures, while around those stars were other beings going about their business. Whole worlds were out there and the Earthlings didn’t even know it. Maybe somewhere in that photo, beyond the lines of light, Zaster had been zipping around the galaxy in his ship.

    Just then the walls around them began to shake. Phil jumped and turned startled eyes on Zaster.

    “Are you doing this?” Phil asked.

    “Me? Did this happen when I landed a while ago?” Zaster replied. Really, as if everything were all his fault.

    “No,” Phil whispered, as a picture fell off the wall. The rumbling grew louder.

    “Oh, this is TOO much,” Zaster said, and marched toward the door. Just what he needed, some sort of local upheaval to delay his departure.

    He stepped outside and all thought of maps, minerals and indeed of his departure fled. Hovering outside, causing the air itself to shudder, blowing down Phil’s trees, was a ship. A ship from Zaster’s planet, a ship like those he’d been careful to avoid on the voyage here. A ship that had sought him out, even here on this backwards, out-of-the-way planet. He was dimly aware of the screaming of Earthlings.

    “Sure as all damn,” Zaster sighed.

  6. Heather Moon says:

    So slowly the world spins
    In the vastness of the universe
    We are mere specks
    Motes of humanity
    Dancing in the infinite void
    That our complete insignificance
    In all that is
    Belies our total significance
    That is our soul

  7. Christopher Thomas says:

    Chris Anton’s Virginia Night Sky light against the horizon shows one just how the world is a crazy place. The 80 individual snaps taken in thirty seconds display life in grandiuer, no mistaken. The picture presents a calm, tranquil surrounding at the break of day when its time to strectch out in example, as the rolling hills and trees seeming to present a time of leige. As the atmosphere rips smooth as linen sheets, it cracks open a clouded future, and becomes torn under the tones of Earth sky in transparent illumination of day and hewn texture as heads undercover from the elements. Then there is the similie to rolling hills, open fields, torrential planes, and galactic reign in this picture that show the revolving doors of opportunity here on this eliptical globe. The ball of sunshine buried in the background lights as a blazing glory or a distant raw solar heat spot content on being, not leaving, or fleeing off into an upcoming dark-side but emblazoned to mix with the colors of the wind and make chemistry, a physical anomaly, maybe even life in new pastel colors yet defined; such as, purple and pink, a yellow with orange, an a shade of green branched into eggshell whites forming air apparent. I visualize the galaxies spinning about orbits casting lights and bringing forth the dark-side of solar systems as the Virginia Night sky Planet Rocks! Moving yet unmoved in station due to communication differences and no breaking barriers it has taken thousands of years for the universe to be presented in this light only to fashion that style upon current living grounds, now!

  8. Casey Lee Mitchem says:

    Pocket Universe

    The party was winding down and we found ourselves on the cement steps of that porch on Thole Street. Our hosts have already gone to bed and we are waiting on your sister who is getting a private concert in the living room from a trust fund country troubadour she has fallen head over heels for. We snuff the porchlight so that even the moths will give us our privacy.

    We learned so much about each other before our first date that by now -our third- we fill the silence by stargazing. We marvel at the fact that the nearest star is four years away from Earth. That the light we see tonight was generated four years earlier when we had both resigned ourselves to poisonous relationships.

    I tell you my deep, abiding belief – a belief cribbed from a childhood filled with reruns of Cosmos on PBS – that we are all made of star stuff. You tell me about your dream to be a professional singer. You preface this with a humility that suggests you think this is impossible, but just listening to you speak is the only evidence I need to show me the truth in Carl Sagan’s cosmic wisdom.

    Our tranquility is interrupted by the last guest to leave. He shows us an App on his smart phone that can name any star in the horizon but we are unimpressed. We’ve wordlessly given each one our own name and attached our own meanings. Two lonely planets now in orbit of one another. He burns up in our atmosphere.

    Under the milky way, you confess things you’ve left unspoken to anyone else. That your family have always referred to your sister as “the beautiful one”, that the men in your life have always gravitated to her. They called you “smart” as a token gesture, but only after exhausting all other possible superlatives on her. I tell you about how I learned of death from a Bugs Bunny cartoon at the age of three. About being tucked in by my mother that night and asking if people could die. About how she said “Yes” without further explanation, turned out my light and left me with the monsters. About how this was the least of her neglects. I am hydrogen and you are helium. We bond.

    Today we bought a step-ladder. Our day jobs have afforded us a little place of our own with high ceilings. I replace a lightbulb as you chisel out a new melody piecemeal from the ivory keys of your piano. The house on Thole is long abandoned and your sister’s taste in music has changed with her taste in men. I stand one rung from the top of the ladder and listen to you tease out the handwritten lyrics in your notebook. The light that nearby star gave off that night is minutes from breaking cloud cover. We forget that it’s coming but trust that it’s there.

  9. Sharon Larkins-Peder says:

    I’m almost there
    Eighty life-lines less eight
    That’s me
    Just think..eighty captured
    in thirty seconds
    Surely validiates the infinity
    We call the Universe.
    Sometimes I wish I were young enough
    To grap a ride on a star streak
    But if I close my eyes tightly and listen to Debussy
    I still can.

  10. Cierra Johnson says:

    Accessory Cloud

    In the middle of a thunder storm we hear nothing but the rain. We hold hands, lace our fingers together, and watch the curtains go powder blue with light. Thunder crashes, rattles the paper thin walls and the silence trapped between us. Andi jumps. Her hand jerks away from my palm. Her head moves from my shoulder and she stands.

    “My mom,” she says staring at the muted static on the television screen. “Always told me to turn the TV off when it stormed like this. Something about the connection but I never listened.”
    She takes a few steps forward and pirouettes to the window. The skirt of her dress lifts, circling in the air she creates and in my mind I mark her as a storm more erratic and unforgiving than the one outside. Like hurricane wind she splits the curtains and becomes that shadow following behind the rain.
    “What do you want to do,” I yawn getting to my feet. “Since you’re bored?”
    Her silhouette shifts and she goes into her own whirlwind of thoughts, processing my question like it’s that much of an effort. I look to the ceiling fan shifting my weight from foot to foot like her. It feels like we’re dating, like she’s not using me as the guy she can love on occasion when time is lonely and friends are few. I give her the affection she craves and let her see herself, sometimes through a foggy mirror. It’s not my fault that she doesn’t know how to wipe away the steam.
    I look back at her and she faces me. Instead of a solid response she replies to my question with a shrug even with all that time she had to think.
    “You do know, ” I say. “You just don’t wanna tell me.”
    She turns back to the window and places a hand on the shaking glass.
    She says something under the tender roar of thunder.
    “What? ” I ask stepping closer.
    “I want to go outside,” she shouts. The thunder stops but her voice echoes.
    “But it’s storming, ” I point out like she doesn’t already know.
    “But I want to have fun,” she starts to leave barefooted out of the livingroom. “You don’t have to follow. ”
    It’s grey, dismal, and loud. The rain pounds against the sidewalk and the street making everything look slick, glass like. Even the trees slump over. Jade leaves mop the wet earth like housemaids and Andi stands in the grass. She sways from side to side reaching towards the roaring sky, hands extended, fingers splayed open. Rain rushes down her skin and her dress, cold and relentless. She doesn’t seem to be phased.
    I watch her from safety, underneath the small awning of the house.
    Andi puts her arms down and faces me with a smirk.
    “Dance with me?”
    “I don’t want to get sick. ”
    She extends a hand in my direction.”You won’t.”

    I can feel her mother checking in on us like she used to years ago when I was introduced as just a friend. Her padded footsteps stopped by the entry way of her livingroom. I tried not to look but I felt her glare as Andi and I sat on the couch in a different storm. After all of the talk before about morality and values it was tense.
    “Is the tv off?” She asked.

    Swaying back and forth with Andi in my arms I touch her lips and kiss her because I know this is not enough for me. She pulls back, eyes wild like California fire.
    “Why? ”
    “Because I wanted to.” I say and release her. “I’ve always wanted to do that without you telling me to.”
    She stares at me, “Am I an issue to you?”
    “No,” I back up. “I just needed something else.”
    “Else? ”
    “Spontaneity. ”
    The word she uses, the word she lives by.
    “I don’t like your spontaneity , ” she stammers touching her lips.
    “So when I do it it’s wrong? ”
    Andi nods and I laugh extending my arms to the rain. She stands there squinting, questioning me and I like it. Now I’m the one with all of the answers a freak God of the storm in control of all of its quirks and in the moment I feel like Andi.
    “You’re freaking me out, ” she says. “Stop it.”
    “Relax,” I step foward. “And just go with the flow.”
    We end up on the wet pavement playing like polar bears, laughing like kids, rolling around like the clouds until I am on top of her lacing my fingers through her hair.
    “Enough? ” I ask.
    “Enough, ” she agrees.
    I look to the sky with the real storm underneath my weight and I realize that I’m not a god. I’m just the lightning in front of Andi’s actions, more judgmental and exact. Makes me wonder why we credit the thunder so much, the crash after the strike.

  11. Riley Slate says:

    Entry 1-

    My neck is bent and sore. My face is being warmed by the sun. My clothes smell like moss and sweat. This is my first memory of being a traveler. I am in the backseat of my mother’s car, slumped down in my seat so that my feet rest far underneath the seat in front of me. I keep my eyes on the mirror above my mother’s head so that every time she looks in it, at me, I know she is still thinking of me. The car jolts to a stop at the next gas station and my four-year-old body slips down even farther in the seat. My mother says nothing as she steps carefully out of the car. I can’t see much from so far down, but every once in a while, I see a wave of her golden hair swing near my window. I can’t look for too long; it hurt to stare into the sun. When she gets back into the car, she drops a bag of chips and a banana into my lap.
    “Thanks, mommy.” I respond.
    “Leila, sit up. This car’ll kill you.”

    Entry 2-

    It is a Saturday evening, so I am sitting in the front seat. My mother had forced me to wear a seatbelt while I sat in the front and it is chafing my neck. I am ten years old now, and have started to see the world the way my mother does; full of endless places to go, to visit, to discover. We are tamers of the jungle. At my young age, I have already been to more places in the world than most people visit in a lifetime. Right now, we are parked in front of a Motel 6 in the middle of Wyoming. I am eating ice cream from a container with a plastic spoon while my mom stares out the window to her left like she’s expecting something to happen. We sit like this for hours until finally, something does happen. A man knocks on her window. I can’t see his face because my mother’s head is blocking it from view. She gets out of the car and turns back to me, leaning her head into the car through the open window.
    “I won’t be long, Leila. Goodnight.” She whispers. The man puts his hand on her shoulder and I watch them over the dashboard as they go into the motel together.
    “Goodnight.” I whisper back.

    Entry 3-

    My legs are long and prickly now. They sit up on the dashboard as I sit in the passenger seat, my toes poking the windshield. I have been waiting for my mother to come out of Franklin Women’s Medical Center for hours. She woke me up at six o’clock in the morning to drive here, which had taken three hours. I was trying to doze off now, but the mystery of why my mother had driven us here was keeping me awake and alert. When I see her emerge from the doors of the Medical Center, I sit straight up in my seat and take my feet off the dashboard. She gets into the car and rests her forehead on the steering wheel.
    “Mom, what’s wrong?” I ask quietly. My words made her upset.
    “Nothing’s wrong! For God’s sake, Leila, nothing’s wrong!” She yells into the steering wheel.
    Entry 4-

    “Mommy, I can’t see. I’m scared.” I reach for my mom’s hand but she pulls hers away.
    “You’re twelve years old, Leila. You’re too old to be scared of the dark.”
    It is midnight, and we are laying on a picnic blanket under the sky. I look over to see where her hand is but the stars are dim and her hand is invisible.
    “Mom, please-”
    “No, Leila. Watch the stars.” She commands. I lift my eyes to the sky and focus on the stars instead of the terror creeping its way up my throat. My mother shifts her position and I feel something cold touch my ankle. The scream that tears out of my throat makes my mom emit a small shriek of her own.
    “Leila! You can’t make noises like that! We’re not even supposed to be here!” My mom stands up and yanks me to my feet. We both get into the car, me in the back and her in the front, and she drives towards the fence where we came in.
    “I can’t believe we have to leave so soon.” She says thickly, and I think I hear her start to cry.

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