Prologue Literary Gutter
An Explosive Encounter by Sarah Martin
The crash was loud and climactic as the employees would later recall in their reports on the matter. Though the event was seemingly out of the blue, hindsight proved twenty twenty and after observing the circumstances that led to Bill Wallace lighting a stick of dynamite on the safe in the express car, the explosion started to seem more calculated than random. Kristine read all this in the reports on her father’s desk some weeks after the incident and thought to herself, No. I wouldn’t have seen it coming even if I’d been an expressman himself. Then again, she also thought that dynamite was a stupid tool and wouldn’t assume that anyone in his right mind would use it even if he was robbing a train. After all, she’d seen what had happened to poor Bill Wallace.
Right after she’d heard the crash, Kristine had been on her feet, heading toward the express car despite the urgings of the conductors to stay seated. Stay seated indeed. This was her father’s train and she was not about to miss an opportunity to see whoever had the audacity to try and rob it. She found some porters and a conductor all crowded about a charred pile of rubble and a thoroughly beat-up safe that had tumbled to the floor. The floor also hosted several expressmen, dead, and Bill Wallace, also dead, or so it appeared. The conductor immediately greeted her.
“Miss Hill, please return to your car, this will distress you.”
“I am not distressed, Mr. Mitchell, thank you,” Kristine said. Handkerchief to her nose, she breathed in the smell of cloth. She looked away from the bodies of the expressmen towards Bill’s slack face.
“Did he do it?” she asked.
“We believe so, Miss Hill. Damn fool. Blew his own leg off!”
Kristine craned her neck to look at his pelvis. “His leg is still there.”
“Well I meant he shot his own leg off. See, there.” The conductor pointed to a hole in the man’s right thigh. Blood dribbled out of it. Kristine shuddered but did not budge. The conductor cleared his throat. “Anyway it doesn’t matter. He’s dead.”
“Is he?” asked Kristine, stepping closer to the robber.
“Well, yes,” said the conductor.
“Well, he’s breathing.”
It was true. Bill Wallace was breathing. Despite his explosive plan to become rich going awry, he’d survived. The dynamite had merely knocked him out cold, by the time the train employees and Miss Hill discovered him.
“Well a noose ought to finish him off then. Er, excuse my indelicacy Miss Hill,” the conductor said.
“My deepest apologies, miss.”
“No, I mean he should not be hanged,” Kristine clarified looking toward the conductor. He was frowning as were the porters who looked to be on the verge of gossiping amongst themselves once out of her company.
“He’s a thief, Miss Hill,” argued the conductor.
“An attempted thief. And I should like to take him into my care,” Kristine replied. Her heart thudded in her chest in time with the pace her mind kept as it raced. Indifferent to such nervousness rising in her throat, Kristine stuck her chin out defiantly and continued. “He is clearly injured as you have so plainly pointed out, and I believe he might learn to repent for his crimes under the guidance of a gentle hand rather than a noose.”
“He’s dangerous, Miss Hill.”
“He cannot walk. He will be confined to a bed where he will have no access to weapons or anything he might use to hurt me or anyone else in my home. This is my father’s train and I want to save this man so that he and others may see the generosity and gentility of my family.”
She then promptly turned on her heel and marched toward the exit of the express car. The plans bloomed in her head one after another like apple blossoms and she called over her shoulder, “I will get off at the next stop and take the next train home with this man under my care. Make sure he is ready to be transported by then.”
“Yes, Miss Hill,” said the waiting staff. They had nothing else left to say. They began to clear the debris off of the still unconscious Mr. Wallace.
“Oh.” Kristine paused. The conductor and porters all looked up. “Please, be discreet. I would like to make the announcement myself that I have taken this man under my care. Until then, no one else needs to know about it.”
With that, she passed through the door of the express car and hurried back to her own, heart leaping about her breast in the excitement of her undertaking. Her father would never approve. He need not know, she thought giddily. Benton, she could easily keep oblivious as well. This man, he would be hers alone. Hers to hide. Hers to keep. Hers to own.
Journal of Lucious by Ari Eskinazi
She was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. A white dress, slender figure of a dancer,hair that looked as if it were silk, and skin unblemished . She was a doll. She spun round and round on the stage to the sound of clashing lovers. And all while she danced, not a single expression came to her face. She was a doll, nothing more than a doll. When she had finally stopped, silence fell upon all of the land, but soon after, the roar of thousands in the crowd. Some had tears in their eyes, others not, but all seemed to have touched in some way, but all ignorant the same. Perhaps I am one just like in the crowd, ignorant to the pain that the doll felt, who wanted only to have her strings cut. She was drowning and none of us could see it.
Entry 1, A quick introduction
Where to start? I guess I can start writing about myself. My name is Lucious Hemstover. I have very light brown hair; (boardiering being dirty blonde), and green eyes. I would say I have a decently attractive voice. The Hemstover family are all rather good looking, and I like to think I am no exception.
The Hemstover family is of nobility. At a young age, I was accustomed to all different kinds of commodities that others did not know. We had a large home with a courtyard in the middle. We had a personal chef that would make the most lavish meals, and the palace was always kept tidy by maids and butlers. I had a private tutor and a sword instructor. My tutor was a professor at a prestigious university. And the sword instructor was a former adventurer and soldier. The Hemstover family would only take the best.
Very rarely did I leave the estate. only for outings, and other events that my parents would take me out on. I was never good at speaking to people, I was only ever focused on furthering myself. I had no interest in others. I felt so empty at these gatherings, keeping up the same routine: leg turned behind the other, lower head, right hand behind back, left hand forward, it is a pleasure to meet. The routine stuck in my head.
My parents weren’t necessarily mean, but they weren’t very loving. They rarely spoke to me, but it’s not like I wanted them to anyway. When my parents did talk to me, it would always be how are your studies? and whatnot. The few that I really talked to were my tutor, my sword instructor, a certain maid, and my grandmother. My grandmother and I had a good relationship. She herself was an adventurer in her days. She would always tell me the stories of the adventures she would go on with her future husband, my grandfather. My grandfather was apparently very strong, he could wipe out a pack of beasts on his own. He wasn’t of nobility, but my grandmother was. They married and had a child, my father, and then I came in the next generation. My grandmother was the only one with whom I truly enjoyed speaking, and then she passed away.
Since my grandmother's passing, I put even greater focus on studying the sword. At the age of eight, I had become quite adequate with the sword, but I was still too young to go out and take a quest. I was adequate but not perfect. I needed perfection. I would stop at nothing less. I trained and trained, I trained for so long that at my young age, my palms resembled that of a lizard's skin.
Blistered, bloodied, and rough.
My hands held the sword. Stance one, stance two, stances three, stance four.
Blistered bloodied and rough
My hands held the sword
I continued to practice until eventually I surpassed my instructor at the age of ten. He told me, “I have nothing left to teach you. I wanted to go out into the world by myself with no other. I did not care to be so social. I could not become strong if I relied on others… no people can become stronger in numbers as they work together, but I wanted a different kind of strength. I wanted my strength to truly be mine and mine alone.
Entry 2, The start of my Journey
This is why I started writing this journal: to document my journey as a try to further myself. I went into the magical forest that was near the kingdom. I planned to train thereuntil I could become strong. Here, I could fight magical and demonic beasts of all different ferocities. Through my pain, I would gain the knowledge of combat that I craved. At least, I hoped.
This was the first time I had encountered a beast in the forest. I thought it was the last of my days. The roar was as loud as the clap of thunder. Claws so long that they could reach the heavens. Fur darker than black, so ominous that one could get lost inside. On all fours, it circled around me, staring at me… staring into me. It could see my fear. It could hear my heart, beating louder than its roar. Its glare could be that strong enough to kill a god. With one swing, the beast left a scar from my shoulder down to my knee. By some grace of the gods, I was not the only one who was injured, and I was able to drive my sword into the leg that had procured this scar. The monster limped away, and I laid there bleeding out.
I felt hot, I felt cold, I felt dizzy. The world danced around me, spinning, spinning, spinning.
I felt scared, I felt Angry, I felt sad, the emotions swirled around me, swirling swirling swirling. Pain, desire.
I felt pain, I felt desire, I felt nothing… nothing nothing nothing.
Entry 3, awakening
“Are you finally awake? C’mon, you can’t freeload here forever. Hey, you hear me? Hey… c’mon hang in there!”
I couldn’t recognize the voice, or couldn’t make out where it was coming from, only that it seemed to care. The world became silent yet again. It became lonely. How could I be lonely? I wanted to be alone. I wanted to become stronger on my own… That’s right! I ventured out into the Sonsaphrath Forest. Huh. That came to an end rather quickly, didn’t it. I wished I could hear that voice again. I didn’t want to be alone. Did I ever wanted to be alone? No, I just made myself believe I wanted to be alone. But why? Was I dead? I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. I had to live. I wanted to see everyone. I wanted to talk to someone. But… where was I? it’s so dark. I was surrounded by darkness that embraced me in its omnipotence. Would I escape it’s clutches? Or fall victim to its whimsical nature?
No! What was I saying? GET ME OUT! I WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE!
“I WANT TO LIVE!!”
“Well then aren't we a lively one. You almost gave me a heart attack.” - A woman was standing by a door frame. She was tall, broad shoulders, defined muscles, long white hair, tan skin, silver eyes, with a young and pretty face.
“Where am I? Who are you? Did you save me? Where is that beast?” I tried to get up, but it hurt. The mark left by the beast burned as if it were a ravine that reached down to the depth of hell.
“Calm down kid, you’ll open your wound back up. It took a lot of effort to stitch that up. And then you come at me asking a bunch of questions? The least you could do is thank me for saving you.”
“I… I’m sorry, thank you for saving my life.”
“You’re welcome. Now, how are you going to pay me?”
“I don’t take care of freeloaders. So pay up.”
“Oh. Yes, of course. My family is wealthy so it shouldn’t be a problem—”
“HUH! You think I need your money?”
“But how else will I pay you?”
“I live in the middle of the forest! You think I need money? No. When you recover, you're going to be working off your debt.”
And that is how I met the woman who helped shape me.
Entry: 4, training
It’s been a week since I felt much better, and of course she took notice of it. She kicked me out of bed! And on top of that she had the audacity to give me work, she gave me a hatchet and told me to start chopping some wood. Me, an injured boy! She was an odd one, unlike all the nobles that I have known, I thought money was more important than labor… well I guess she does lived out in the middle of Sonsaphrath Forest, one of the most dangerous areas in the kingdom. I hadn’t asked her how long she was here for, but I was able to ask her some other questions:
“How did you find me?”
“I heard a pathetic scream near my house.”
“Oh. I see. Well… What is your name?”
“Delhovia. Delhovia Drakeblood. And you?”
“My name is Lucious Hemstovear.”
“Huh, that’s quite the name you got.”
“Umm… what kind of work do you plan to have me do?”
“Hmmm… I was planning to cook, clean, chop wood, and… uh… oh! And I'll train you a bit so you can hunt those beasts out there for me.”
“Eh?” I'm just a housemaid to her! Wait and what is this about hunting beasts? “I am pretty well versed in the sword. What kind of training did you have in mind?”
“Since you are ‘well versed’ in the sword, I will be teaching you my specialty. Magic.” She didn’t look like a mage. Mages were usually put in the back to support the rest. She looked like she would be on the frontlines of a battle. No, she looked like she would lead the army into the battle!
“Huh!? What's that look for!? You don’t think I look like a mage!?” She looked angry. I hadn’t noticed that I was making a face, I regret making that face. I got a loud lecture; (if you could even call it a lecture), well at least now, I know to never judge a book by it’s cover.
The sword training continued. She told me to neglect the sword, so I practiced what I knew in the mornings when I woke up. I needed to get stronger inorder to be of service to pay my debt. So the first two weeks of my training were push ups, pull ups, squats running, etc. It started with the basics, but soon devolved into a somewhat bizarre training regiment…
“Alright Luc, I want you to use this urn to get some water from the river to the east.”
“A nickname. It’s sure easier to say than Lucious. What, you don’t like it?”
“No. It’s not that, I was just surprised.”
“Hmm. Well, here's the urn!” She brought out a huge urn that was twice my size and put it on the ground with a large thump. I couldn’t wrap my arms around it, so I decided to carry it as if I were giving someone a ride on my back. It was heavy. I thought it might break me, and my legs were buckling.
“Huh!? You still can’t do it!? Ahhhhh. I guess we’ll have to ease you into it.” With a long sigh, the basics resumed… except with an urn strapped to my back.
I trained with the urn strapped to my back, and I felt no improvement in my strength whatsoever, I just felt the same pain every time. But I still went through with it until one day:
“I think you're ready to start collecting some water.” Was she crazy?
“But this urn still feels so heavy.”
“Oh. about that. I have been swapping out the urns. I have been making them heavier.”
This woman... is trying to kill me.
My Senior Year Journey by Nina Randazzo
I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. A year of wearing masks and social distancing. A year since I sat in a classroom without a mask on my face. As I sit at my desk in my bedroom, I reflect on this roller coaster on which we’ve been riding. Senior year has been the most unexpected thing--I never would have thought that I would spend my last year of high school online. Yes, I chose to be virtual, but I didn’t think that it would have such an impact on me. I go in for dance and even have to dance with a mask on. How weird is that? Definitely something I’m not used to.
I feel like nothing will be normal again for a while. Will I start college in the fall wearing a mask? Will I get to be in person for my first semester? If there are a lot of restrictions, I hope it doesn’t stay that way. As I sit here thinking about the pros and cons and everything I have learned throughout this yearI appreciate that I have had a lot of family time, learned new crafts and hobbies, and got to experience virtual school, which is something I have always wanted to do. It has been a roller coaster. Lots of ups and downs, but I am thankful for all of the great experiences I’ve had within the pandemic. I tried to keep it as positive as I can, even though COVID-19 is serious.
The Freedom of Quarantine by Cassie LaMastra
It's crazy to look back on this year and see what it has become. Ever since I stepped foot in high school I couldn't wait for my senior year. I was excited to have all the Senior privileges such as leave the school building for lunch, have a study, participate in the schools’ haunted house, pasta night, prom and more. Everything I was looking forward to was taken away. It's tough, because as I look back, I keep thinking that it's all a dream. It doesn't feel real. Has it really been a year since life was normal? I remember hearing the news that school closed for two weeks and rejoicing. I was so excited for a two week vacation! Well, that two week vacation led me here: not being able to see my friends, not getting any senior activities, and going to all my classes through a computer. Ever since I was a freshman, my senior night, happy hauntings, the fashion show, prom and graduation were all I looked forward to. I would dream about my senior night for volleyball, being surrounded by my team, friends, and family. Now, only my parents aren’t even allowed in the gym to let me play. So for my last game I’ll ever play, I won’t be surrounded by friends and family. I’ll be six feet apart from my teammates and my own sister won’t even be able to come. Two years ago, I fantasized about how I would feel when I was handed that diploma, knowing all my hard work had paid off. All the projects I worked on for hours, studying every page of the textbooks I was given, all of it would be worth it. But instead, all that hard work has led to me sitting at home everyday on a computer, seeing my senior year go by on a screen, not even knowing if I’ll get to be handed my diploma without a hazmat suit on.
With all the sadness and negativity that came from the pandemic Because of the pandemic, I was able to have the time to go out and find a job where I met the most amazing people. I also had the time to really focus on my future and find the right college. Since my life wasn’t so busy, I was able to do a lot of research and find my perfect fit. Most of all, I grew as a person. I learned to adjust to what life throws at me and try to make the most of it. Before Covid, I had a difficult time adjusting to change. I liked things planned out and knowing what was going to happen next. However with Covid nobody knew what was going on, so it was refreshing to get out of my own head and just take each day as it comes. Quarantine has made me feel more free than I ever have with everything open. Without this happening, I would be a totally different person and I like the person I've become so I wouldn't change a thing.
Alone by Chris Locastro
BAM! The crashing noise haunts me of the plywood into ice,
We collided far out at a sea in the night dark as black,
If only we weren’t so immature and simply followed the captain’s advice.
Now we sit and wallow in fear if our last meal will suffice
No, we cannot allow just one of us to take the flak
As we, the crew, shall endure and overcome this vice.
I sit at the fishing hole in awe of how the sea is so nice
So far away from the shore and safe from a human attack
Full of life and diversity, and yet still and quiet as mice.
To survive, we must divide our portions of rice
And eventually we brainstorm how to get back on track
Or if we ever left it, because we are beginning to enjoy this device.
I imagined that this catastrophe would surely make us pay the price
As we drift further from land, the decreasing odds of our return stack
Like the fish pile of future dinners, to which we have gorged from already thrice.
Yes, I could begin to get used to a life of the roll of a dice,
Never knowing what may happen next, when I may have another snack,
And yet the sea sweetens the air unlike the smog of home that lacks spice;
Maybe we found where we belong, maybe I can truly live life twice.
The Dominant Prisoners by Chris Locastro
Those small little bricks that they carry around all day,
Eyes fixed on the bright lights, possessed by inscriptions which flow across the glass
Like an army of ants united in duty and survival,
Infiltrating the minds of those who dare to touch their enchanting bodies.
How can this dominant species that exudes power over everything and anything,
That has the potential to raise seas and move mountains far and wide across their territory
Become enslaved to what their own creation?
It’s laughable to observe as they fret and panic when these boxes awaken,
Buzzing and humming for attention from their servants
Who scramble across boundaries to reach them, to touch them, to see them,
To press their sensors up against them and feel the warmth that is oh so comforting!
It is as if these machines contain the secrets to life itself.
The way that this dominant kind has been shackled and imprisoned is frightening,
But not for us.
They should live in fear of what they have become,
How they have simplified their minds,
And how they have exposed themselves to danger.
We pity these fools.
Time Passes By
I cannot seem to understand
How Time flies by before I can catch my breath,
Yes, I am shaken and thrusted by Life like wind undoes the sand
Hurdled forward towards impending Death
A victim of my own fate, oh how I comprehend Macbeth.
I rush forward, gasping and shouting
My fist raises above my head
I clock the Clock, a prophecy foretelling,
No protection from the moral novellas I once read
From this dreadful path of Life that I tread.
Allow me some time to rest here,
Away from the hardships of the daily grind,
I want to drift to sea as the buccaneer
Who seeks peace and tranquility within his mind
As an individual who fails to associate with the rest of mankind.
Oh, the sun will rise still tomorrow
As the moon sets tonight
Earth still spins on its axis in the starry glow,
As the future grows nearer, I shiver in fright,
I do not know when, but it is coming; my plight.