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2024 Digital Bonus Content

The following submissions were also accepted by our editorial jury. We didn't have the space to put them all into the print journal, so here they are online for your enjoyment.


Check out "#CallOuttheBullshit," an anonymous zine of stories shared by women who are sick of misogyny.

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—© 2024 by Cheyenne Schreiner and Ginger Knauer


A sorrow grows
a puddle with the rain
The rain relentless
A flood

A fire sparks
A passionate flame
The storm soon follows

sail the lengths of this great flood or fall to its majesty
A vessel so grand
An ocean awaits
The hurricane guides your fate

The sun is no star in this place
Celestial bodies crumble
A cyclone is coming
But your ship unsinkable

The cruel cerulean void
It calls
It beckons
It waits

A galleon has as much honor as its hull
With no stars in the sky
You can only wonder when you will die

Your fire merely an ember yet
The torrent envelopes your spark
“You will no longer wonder,” it proclaims

And so you fight against the inevitable
A battle not so easily won
Slowly you slip

You are no longer a sun in this world
You no longer have to be the light
You can give in
Relax against the tempest
An inferno fades into ash austerely

Let it wash over you
Let your mind relax

You are the waves

You are the ocean

You are it all

—© 2024 by Ben Snyder


—© 2024 by Tiffany Jablonowski


—© 2024 by Tiffany Jablonowski

Dog Teeth

I am thoroughly convinced that I must have dog teeth,
And I know you are afraid of me
And these white, sharp, glimmering fangs
I swear they won’t bite

They stay shut They tear,

In your presence At your flesh,

As they are nothing more  I’ll destroy all of you,

Than a front  With no regard

To scare off dangers For your good intentions

Because I
Am not
A dog

I am a damaged soul I am so much worse than that,

That learned fear is the only way Though you won’t figure that out

To defend what is left of me  Until the damage is done,

I will always bear these wretched When you are branded in

That you can’t tear out
They stay where they were placed
By unloving hands

But maybe I can learn That will never learn

To love again

If you can give me your patience, Because I bear a ruthless heart

Maybe one day Damaged beyond repair

I will no longer bear them And if you dare come too close

And To me again

I will prove to you that

My troubled heart can An animal can never

Truly change

—© 2024 by Vanessa Stalvey

Crochet Creations

—© 2024 by Kimberly Rouse

Connor Hug

—© 2024 by Melanie Lucht

Growing Up

Sneaker tips pointed up to the sky

with the intent to fly

only to be shackled

by chains of a swing

Worn soles revealed

dirt below the safety of woodchips

as it taints what used to be pure and white

When did my feet touch the ground

my swing no longer going forth

only back 

—© 2024 by Shia Lang

Untitled Photo: Aden Short

Untitled Photo by Aiden Short

—© 2024 by Aden Short

Jamie's Journal

March 8, 2009 – Today is the day I leave Wisconsin. In a couple hours I will be on a plane to Charlotte, NC. I know this happened kind of suddenly. It’s been a while since I last saw you. I tried to take the time to come see you but for some reason we continue to miss each other. I will come back and visit you soon. Call me or write me as soon as you can.

September 9, 2009 - I am back in Wisconsin visiting family and friends. I tried calling but there was no answer. I really wanted to stop by and say hello but could not seem to get ahold of you. I will come visit again as soon as I can. I hope next time we can spend some time together. I really miss you.

June 30, 2010 - I made it back to Wisconsin. I really want to see you. I missed you the last time I was here. I heard you moved. You didn’t tell me where you moved to. I can’t find you. I spent the week having some fun with friends, but I feel my visit isn’t complete until I see you. It's been a couple years now. I wish I could come over and say hello.

November 10, 2010 - Cancer is the most dreadful word to hear when the diagnosis hits someone you care about most in your life. I just can’t believe this person is you. I am so sorry you are dealing with this. You must feel so alone right now, afraid, hurt, hopeless and defeated. I will never forget these words, “Jamie, I have cancer.” It was very hard to hear this over the phone. I wish I could be home with you now, so you don’t feel so alone. The doctor told me it was terminal and there isn’t much time. I asked him if I had time to come home for New Year’s and he said “yes.” I believe him. I promise you I will be home soon.

December 10, 2010 - “I’m sorry” was the last two words I can remember hearing from you. You don’t need to be sorry; he hurt you too. I can’t have the last words, last thoughts of you in my head being that you are hurting so much and feeling guilty over what he had done to us. It wasn’t your fault. I can’t forgive you as there is nothing to forgive. Don’t cry, he is not worth your suffering. I know you are hurting, and I will be home soon. I know it has been three years since I last saw you, but I promise I will be home for the new year. Try to hold on as best as you can.

January 1, 2011 - I am back in Wisconsin. I am here to see you. It has been too long, and I miss you terribly. The problem is you are no longer here. On December 28, you said goodbye to this world. I remember the call from my brother. “She’s dead, she is gone.” My heart instantly broke and I felt empty inside. How was I not there to say goodbye? The doctor told me I had time! Why did he lie to me? Today I wear my best in black as I say goodbye to you. You must know, I feel so guilty for not being there when you passed on. I wish I was there. Maybe it was best because I don’t have any memories of seeing you so sick, I only have memories of seeing you well.

February 14, 2011 - I just woke up from a nightmare. You were in it. We were in the living room of my house, when three guys broke in the front door. All three had guns. You were lying on the couch sleeping. Your eyes were closed. I kept screaming, “Mom, wake up. You need to wake up.” You never opened your eyes. I kept screaming at you, but you didn’t wake up, your eyes remained closed. Why? Are you angry with me for not being there? Are you angry because I have not seen you in 3 years? Maybe I didn’t try hard enough to come visit you when I should have. You left too early, now I am just left with guilt and my heart is in so much pain.

December 28, 2020 - It’s been ten years since you left us. I am in the car with my best friend. He is the only friend who I have been able to confide in about the stuff our stepdad put us through. I told him everything. He listened and he did not judge me. He treats me like I matter in this world. He has given me life back, when all I wanted to do was end it. I am telling him about you. I am yelling because I am so angry that our stepdad is alive, and you are not. All I can hear in my head right now is your screams as he was beating you. I am in tears, crying. For the first time in many years, I am crying in front of someone! I am crying because for the last ten years, I can only see you in my dreams, but I can’t hear you. I feel so angry. It’s been thirteen years since I last saw you. I wish I could see you one last time. Great, now my friend is crying with me. I wish you could meet him. I feel in some way you brought him to me when I needed someone the most in my life. You would have loved him. He is amazing. I miss you so much. Where are you? I need you more than ever!

December 29, 2020 - I finally have peace! After I had my breakdown last night in my friend’s car, we had a couple drinks and played a few rounds of darts. I felt so much better getting everything off my mind. I truly have an amazing friend in my life. When I got home last night, I kept thinking of how much I miss you. Next thing I know, I am dreaming. My brothers, sister and I are outside our home. It was getting dark outside. You came out of the house, and you had your bags packed. You looked amazing. Your face was glowing, you looked so peaceful, and your hair was so red, it was breathtaking. As we all started saying goodbye to you, I kept looking at you. I kept yelling at you “Goodbye mom!” You went up to Raymond and said goodbye, and then Brandy and then Suzanna. You didn’t look at me, you didn’t respond to my goodbyes. I felt so hurt. You walked around the corner and disappeared without saying goodbye to me. I was heartbroken. I kept yelling to you, “Mom, goodbye!” hoping you hear me. Just when I thought you were leaving for good, you came back around the corner. You walked right up to me, looked at me and said, “Goodbye, Jamie.” I heard your voice! I woke up, crying, my pillow was soaked but I smiled. You said goodbye to me! I saw my mom for the first time in 13 years! 

—© 2024 by Jamie Witte

Educational Cover-Up

—© 2024 by Aubrey Laux

Hometown Values

Growing up in my small town, I often passed the old grounds
     some buildings still remain

I heard stories from my grandparents
     of where artists, writers, orators, intellects, dignitaries, and musicians
               luminaries of the past
          engaged, shared, relaxed, and revived
               on the shores of “The Bay”
     and of the trolley that ran to the meeting grounds
               of the former Chautauqua Institute
          and the amusement park beyond it
               both now long gone

I imagined living there then
     immersed in the knowledge and culture shared
          by notable stars
               from across the land 

Decades ago, I discovered one day
     on the clearance shelf in a thrift store
          one step
               from the dumpster
     a set of old Chautauqua books used at the grounds
          they looked brand new and never opened
     rescuing them from disposal, I took those treasures home
          and I learned
               cherishing their ideals and words 

     Motivated, I took up cello at school
     the next year, the orchestra was canceled
drama was eliminated a few years later
          “to save money”
     still, in my heart, I carried the message I learned

Today, my hometown boasts a sport’s hall of fame
     with the names of their local athletic heroes
          engraved on brass plaques
               enough metal to build a bridge
     yet at the old grounds, there remains no figure or trace
          of the auditorium that once stood there
          or the entrance arches that greeted visitors
               at the trolley stop  

Few people in my hometown now know
     The boy—John Hubley—who became an animator
          winning three Academy Awards 
               beating his former boss, Walt Disney
          and creating Mr. Magoo
     The boy—Arthur Gardner—who became a producer
          of TV shows and films
               namely action-adventures and Westerns
                starring John Wayne and Chuck Conners
     The boy—Howell Conant—who became a photographer
          of presidents and movie stars
                including John F. Kennedy and Grace Kelly
          and a friend of the royal family of Monaco 

Few people, if any, heard of all three boys          
     who came from their hometown 

Yet, almost everyone from my hometown knows that
     at a time, a long time ago
           they heard stories from their grandparents
     somewhere, somehow
     some boy* performed the “most amazing” and “wonderful thing”
          a boy from my town, Marinette, Wisconsin
               adored by and the envy of boys who came after him
                    his name must be on a brass plaque somewhere
          made his hometown proud
               when he adorned himself with the coveted mantle
                    and stepped on the hallowed grounds
                         of the celebrated gridiron
                    to play for the Packers of Green Bay 

I, however, seek and hold on to the values
     of those visiting journeyers and ancient voyagers of Truth
          who paced the paths and traveled the roads
              that led to knowledge and enlightenment
               on the shores of “The Bay”
                    at those former cherished grounds
                         not forgotten by me
                              in my hometown 

*Four Marinetteans became Green Bay Packers: Earl “Jug” Girard (1948-1951), Ed Glick (1922), Sammy Powers (1919-1921), Buff Wagner (1920-1921) 

—© 2024 by Tony Perkins

Hometown Postcards

—Auditorium, Chautauqua, Marinette, Wis,  Wisconsin Historical Society

—Entrance to Chautauqua, Marinette, Wis,  Wisconsin Historical Society

—Entrance to Chautauqua Grounds, Marinette, Wis, Photo from a Google search

Untitled Photo 1: Matthew Freitag

—© 2024 by Matthew Freitag

Untitled Photo 2: Matthew Freitag

—© 2024 by Matthew Freitag

Untitled Photo 3: Matthew Freitag

—© 2024 by Matthew Freitag

Nebulous Dreams

I heard once that all dreams have some sort of deeper meaning, that they’re a reflection of some tribulation in our lives that we’re too cowardly to confront while awake. Dreams are like shadows in that they give us an unfocused perspective of one’s thoughts and feelings, minus all of the explicit details. But even as I sit here and ponder the content of my own dreams of late, the same burning question persists relentlessly in my mind: what deeper meaning could there be in dreams of the distant past? The past is exactly that—the past. So why should it matter in the present? Is it a simple case of my consciousness perusing the timeline of events that have been my life in search of something, anything to cling to that will grant me access to nostalgia’s warm embrace?

Or is it something deeper, something far less transparent than fond memories alone? Could I be subconsciously identifying an element of my being that I possessed in the past but lack in the present? I can’t imagine what that could be. Becoming an adult has brought with it a plethora of benefits, many of which I would spend hours fantasizing over as a child. I can drive a car. I can own a house. I can make my own decisions. So why is it that my dreams continue to teleport me back to the days of elementary school, when nothing mattered but the time and place of my next playdate with friends? There wasn’t a deeper meaning to my life back then—why should it have any now?

Every night, as my mind wanders from the mortal plane into a realm where even the wildest fantasies can be made into reality, I find myself gazing into the small, grimy mirror above the laminate sink of my childhood home’s bathroom. My reflection is one of myself if I were still only eight years old. My curly black hair is a mess, and I’m wearing a red graphic T-shirt accompanied by an unmatching pair of basketball shorts. Life back then was so chaotic, so unstable. I was incapable of accomplishing even the most mundane of tasks without my mother’s assistance—what meaning could that possibly carry into the present? And more importantly—why would I ever want to go back?

 I study my surroundings carefully, but I start to panic as everything around me begins to fade into nothingness. However, before I can be fully warped into the next segment of my dream an old photograph on the wall catches my eye. Within its honey oak frame stands my father as a young man, alongside several other men of about the same age. Upon each of their heads is an old firefighter helmet with a white number ‘7’ emblazoned at the front of its crown. That’s right. I remember this picture. I used to stare at it longingly for hours on end, imagining the same scenario every time as I did. In my vision I was a firefighter, a local hero lauded by all like my father before me. I was like a superhero, plunging headfirst into burning buildings to rescue babies removed from their mothers, and as I re-emerged from the embers I waved to the cheering crowd in the streets with a pearly white smile. It was a glorious vision, complete with all of the confetti and balloons a child’s imagination can muster, and as I reminisce on my oldest aspiration my face contorts into an involuntary grin.

But why was it that this dream of mine never became reality? Was it because of my mother, who had forbidden me from pursuing it after my father’s untimely passing? Or was it something else entirely? I struggle to recall the answer, but as my consciousness finally removes me from the confines of my old bathroom these thoughts are replaced by the same provocative question as before: what relevance do these hallucinations of the past have in the present?

In the next sector of my memory bank I find myself sitting on a swing set that belongs to my old elementary school’s playground, and despite the memory’s hazy undertone I can see and feel the world around me as plainly as I could in the days of my youth. A bright blue sky, occupied by a warm yellow sun and fluffy white clouds that assume the shapes of dinosaurs and spaceships. Beneath its heavenly canvas is a lush green soccer field, its rogue dandelions and blades of grass swaying gently in the warm spring breeze. All around me are children, laughing and playing a variety of games with the ignorant bliss that only a child could possess, and as I watch them in silence a strange sensation emerges from my heart. But what is it? Is it longing? But why? Nothing these children are capable of is unachievable for my adult self; why would I long to be like them again?

As I turn my head slowly around the playground my line of vision eventually reaches the nearby jungle gym, where I notice a pair of boys huddled together beneath the slide. My eyes widen, and my sorrowful longing is instantly eclipsed by an intense surge of joy. I know these boys. Their names are Kyle and Joseph, and once upon a time they were my best friends. Without hesitation I hop off my swing and dash forward, eager to make my voice heard on what game I want to play today, but as my ears pick up the sound of their voices I realize that their conversation is of a different nature entirely.

“My dad says I have a real chance of being a doctor someday If I put my mind to it!” Kyle says, his eyes alight with dreams of grandeur. I can’t help but smile. That had always been Kyle’s dream, since the moment we had first met in Preschool. He used to ramble on and on about wearing a long white coat and having an entire office of his own, but most importantly he wanted people to admire him and to be someone that could save people’s lives.

But why am I thinking of Kyle now? Fifteen years have passed since we graduated high school, and there hasn’t been a single day since where we’ve so much as spoken on the phone. From what I’ve heard he spends his days and nights mourning the loss of his wife and daughter over a bottle of whisky at the local bar, unemployed and unable to come to terms with the unfortunate circumstances that have become his life. I sometimes wonder if he has dreams similar to my own, but I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to talk to him while sober again.

“Oh yeah? Well when I grow up I’m planning on being a football player! I’ll be the best quarterback the world has ever seen!” Joseph responds with an excited giggle, fully reciprocating Kyle’s enthusiasm about the future.

That’s right, I had completely forgotten. Whenever we would play football at recess Joseph would scream about his desire to become an even greater quarterback than Joe Montana, his childhood idol after whom he was named. He would tell us of his genetic disposition for success ad nauseum, and although Kyle and I used to mock him we still believed he could do it. After all, why couldn’t he? Determination and effort can get you as far as you want in life! Or so our parents and teachers used to say.

I spent many years wondering what happened to Joseph, but on one gloomy day in April my phone rang, delivering me my answer. After a gruesome leg injury had prematurely ended his college football career he fell into a state of depression and dropped out of school, eventually turning to the military as a last resort. He spent the next four years on active duty in Iraq, battling his enemies during the day and his inner demons throughout the night. By the time he returned home he was but a mere shell of his former self, devoid of anything but flashbacks of unspoken horrors from the war that haunted his every step. On the phone he told me he wasn’t certain what the future held in store, but that regardless of what it may be he hoped he could someday return to being the person he once was and be rid of his demons for good.

But why am I thinking of Joseph now? Three years have passed since the day he finally succumbed to his demons, unable to cope with the harsh realities of the world any longer. Had he returned from the afterlife in a half-baked attempt to bestow some obscure message upon my soul? That sounds like something he would do. Or was this simply wishful thinking on the part of my overworked brain, proof that I’m no more capable of coping with the world than Joseph?

As I listen to my friends debate over their futures I open my mouth to speak of my own dreams, but much to my surprise no words will come out. I furrow my brow and step forward, inserting myself between the two of them, but even if I were a ghost I couldn’t have been any more invisible. They go about their business as if nobody else is present, and I sigh, the sorrow possessing my soul once more.

Suddenly I feel myself being pulled away from my friends, and reality begins to fade yet again. I grab hold of the metal support beam beneath the swing and hold on for dear life, desperate to remain with Kyle and Joseph forever. But fate doesn’t want any part of my futile rebellion, and before long I lose my grip, soaring violently into the skies above. The playground below dissipates into oblivion as I rocket through a prismatic realm at breakneck speeds, and by the time my feet find themselves firmly planted at my final destination I’m left a disoriented mess. I rapidly blink my eyes to regain my composure, but as I peer around at whatever vision my mind has conjured up next I’m left with an overwhelming sense of terror.

Where I stand is at the center of a silent and empty void, with nothing but my own adult body to be seen and my own adult thoughts to be heard. What is this place? It’s cold, unfamiliar, and nothing like the segments before it. My heart begins to beat faster and faster by the second. I can feel the beads of sweat tracing their path across my face from my forehead to my chin. Where are all of my friends? What happened to my family? I’m completely alone, but why? There’s nothing for me to hold on to in this deep, dark place. No more dreams of being a firefighter, a hero like my father before me. No more dreams of becoming successful alongside my childhood friends, celebrating all of life’s triumphs together with our ever-growing families. No, as the darkness seeps through the very pores of my skin I realize that there are no dreams at all. But why? What happened to all of my dreams? At what point did they fade from my mind, transforming the inner sanctum of my soul into this empty void that I see before me?

As I sit here and ponder over the content of my dreams of late, the harsh reality of the situation finally begins to settle its unwelcome way into the very core of my being. There it is, the answer I’ve been searching for all along, although now that it’s revealed itself I’m not sure if I want it. I know now, without a shred of doubt, why the sun no longer feels as warm as it used to, why the clouds no longer present themselves to me as dinosaurs and spaceships. What’s that? You want to know what tribulation of mine could be so horrendous that it could rob me of my dreams AND my imagination? You want to know what conclusion I’ve managed to draw on the sorry state of my existence? Well to you, the reader I say this.

I grew up.


—© 2024 by Noah Spellich


—© 2024 by Tiffany Jablonowski

Q & A

Q: Why am I here?
A: The answer is unfortunate. You are here because you are dead. Maybe you got hit by a bus. Maybe you died of terminal illness. Whatever the case, you’ve recently entered our jurisdiction.

Q: What is this place?
A: Heaven! Congratulations, sport, you made it! No, we’re kidding. This is the Office of Procession for the Department of Sadly-Passed Mortals. We’re here to filter you through the complicated bureaucracy that is dying!

Q: So what happens now?
A: Well, that depends. See, we’ve got a long waiting list for the processing. Chances are, you’re going to be standing in line for a few hours. I know, I know; it’s a difficult wait. You’re probably raring to be properly dead! All we can assure you is that we’ll make it happen. We’re surprisingly efficient, and we take our clients’ needs seriously.

Q: What needs do the dead have?
A: Well, being dead is a lot easier than being alive. You no longer need to eat. You no longer need to sleep. You won’t get tired, or sick. That said, the dead have all kinds of needs. You still need to talk, which is why we have a number of on-site counselors (Their faces may be skulls, but they have your best interests in mind).

Q: So how do I get out of here?
A: There’s all sorts of doors out of here. It depends on race, religion, personal preference, etcetera. We try to have a very inclusive process. All of them will lead you to your respective afterlife (Cessation and reincarnation are both alternative options), where you will spend the rest of eternity.

Q: What about returning back to life?
A: Sorry. That’s just not how it works. Once you’re done with your run on life, you don’t get to go back. You can always reincarnate, but there’s no walking back up.

Q: What if I was a bad person?
A: Refer to the “So how do I get out of here?” question.

Q: What if I was an extremely good person?
A: We appreciate you, but death doesn’t make exceptions and neither do we. You’ll get to go somewhere nice, but you’re not going back.

Q: I’m too young to die! 
A: Nobody is too young to die. We’re not discriminatory.

Q: I don’t know what I’ll do!
A: That’s okay. You’ve got eternity to figure it out.

Q: I had so much I wanted to do!
A: There’s always plenty to do here. Don’t worry. You’ll have an opportunity to do something, no matter what.

Q: What about my family? Friends? The people I loved?
A: So, here’s the hard part. As we said, death isn’t discriminatory. They might be here too, in which case you’ll be reunited. If they aren’t, that’s when things get hard. That’s when things get complicated. The truth is that all people react differently to losing someone. Some of them get angry. Some of them deny it. The truth is we can’t say what’ll happen. That said, we can assure you that in ninety-five percent of cases, it all turns out okay. Not always happy, but okay. You are missed. You are mourned. The people up there loved you, and their lives will never be the same without you. That said, they’ll move. They’ll climb back up. They’ll get better. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love you, or that they’ve abandoned you. It just means that their lives are going on. It’s inevitable. We all die someday, and there’s no point in resisting it, but it makes us all stronger and it makes us all better. Without the end of life, death, we would be stagnant. We wouldn’t enjoy it. The fact it’s over doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It means the opposite. Your life is worth something to somebody, no matter who you are. All human lives are. You are all special, beautiful individuals, unique like stars in the night sky. All stars burn out someday. It just means we have to appreciate their beauty while they’re still out there.

Q: Anything else?
A: Welcome home. 

—© 2024 by Conor Lowery

Perks of Being a Sunflower

—© 2024 by Aubrey Laux

The Rain

          The clouds grieved tonight.
          Rain drained into the alley’s gutters as the man in black walked past, droplets running over the brim of his black hat. All black, his clothing so dark as to blend in with the starless night sky. The only color anyone could see were the reds and blues of a distant siren. The barking of dogs rang out, muffled by cataclysmic thunder in the night. Flashes of lightning illuminated the flooding city streets.
          The man had only a single block to go, yet he heard them. Concealed by the storm, yes, but not so much that he couldn’t hear. The rhythmic pressing of footsteps against the ground. The man adjusted his hat, looking down at the streets below. Lightning blasted across the sky once more, revealing a shadow behind him. The man’s eyes flickered, just for a moment, to a worn poster on the wall that hawked machines. Machines to do what humans wouldn’t. Machines to do what humans couldn’t.
          The man in black turned his eyes down to the bouquet of roses in his blue-gloved hand, raindrops running down his hat. Humans. They were such fragile things. So easily broken. Easily broken physically, of course. Machines could be built hardier. Their metal limbs didn’t snap like bone. A CPU wasn’t soft like a brain, and the wires within could simply be plugged back in. Machines didn’t feel pain. They didn’t bow, bend, or break before the forces of nature. To a machine, thunder was nothing but a sound.
          The sound of footsteps grew quicker as he rounded the corner into another alley, flowers still firmly in hand. The man in black sped up his own pace. Lightning again, illuminating the gray world in deadly color. The shadow, once again, inching ever nearer. Another corner rounded. Complete silence. The man in black took his hat into his hand, water pooling into it the moment he took it from his head. A sigh of steam drifted into the rainy wind. A moment of relief.
          Then, his pursuer was right in front of him.
          The pursuer stood eight feet tall, a flash of lightning exposing a blank metal face. The man in black ducked beneath its fist, dropping his own hat to the ground. The pursuer’s waist swiveled, turning unnaturally toward him. Some machines had the illusion of humanity. Not this one. Not the one standing before him. This was nothing but wires and circuits, a single command running through its mind.
          The man in black sidestepped an uppercut. The machine began to turn. It turned, and turned, and turned; suddenly, it began to spin like a whirlwind, its pace rapid and its fists deadly. A mechanical tornado of death. The man in black caught a glimpse of his hat, flying from his left hand. Then, the bestial machine that stood before him struck the ground like a sledgehammer; the man in black stumbled. No retreat now, he supposed.
          The next move the machine made was its last. It swung its fist in a wide arc once again. The man in black knew he would need both hands for this affair; he tossed the bouquet into the air, and grabbed the machine’s arm. Pressing a foot against its leg, he pulled backward. The technological terror’s own momentum betrayed it, and it slammed into the wall. The man in black couldn’t help but feel repulsed as he looked at its inner workings upon the alley ground.
          With his right hand, the man caught the bouquet. The storm thundered on, but he met no more pursuers. They would come in time, of course. They’d come ever since he’d escaped. His life was a chase, and it had cost him. Oh, how it had cost him.
          A block down, the man in black stood over a grave at a local cemetery. The grave was clean, polished. Without a second thought, he laid down the roses. Then, he heard the whirring. He saw the damage, black liquid dripping down toward the grave. He looked into the grave, and saw his own face.
          His own blank, metal face.
          It was funny how they extolled the virtues of machines. The classic sales pitch. Their incredible might. Their legs would never grow tired. Their muscles would never atrophy. Their bones would never break.
          If only the same were true of their hearts. 

—© 2024 by Conor Lowery


—© 2024 by Roshelle Amundson

The Arbiter

Do you dare
Think of me

In your eyes
Am I so

Like a song
Right or wrong

In the storm
Is your sworn

Plead for love
What’s your heart

—© 2024 by Vanessa Stalvey

Sunday Stroll

Sunday Stroll by Kira Ashbeck

—© 2024 by Kira Ashbeck


          I’ve been watching her all this time.
          I saw as her blue eyes widened when he got down on one knee, the tears in her eyes shining brighter than the diamond ring he held out. It didn’t matter that the ring was too small or that her soon-to-be father-in-law was the one who had to pay for it. Even if she knew at the time, she wouldn’t have cared. She wept at all the suffering she had gone through—the cheating, the arguments, the pain… it was all over now. Their happy ending was one short engagement away.
          I could see in her eyes that she wanted to believe it. But if she looked into my eyes, she would see that I thought she was a fool.
          With the engagement came new rules. I watched as she shackled herself for him, surely telling herself that love requires some sacrifices. If she hadn’t cut off her own ears, I would have told her the difference between compromise and sacrifice.
          It was when I was watching them eat dinner at a restaurant that I started to question my feelings. I couldn’t stop staring at the candle on the table, the way its bright flame glared against the wine glasses. I couldn’t stop imagining knocking it over—it would just take a nudge—and watching her burn. I wondered if she would scream as her dress caught fire, would cry as her ring melted into her skin. But I didn’t knock it over because I knew what would happen. She would just obediently sit there, quiet as a doll, and stare up at him with her big blue eyes and the expectation that he would save her. He wouldn’t; he would use her flames to light his last cigarette and then tell her to buy him more.
          And she would. Of course she would. I’ve never seen a marionette more eager to tie her own strings.
          I can save you. Just look at me, I want to say but I can’t. She won’t listen.
         Just like she isn’t listening now as I watch her adjust her makeup for the third time. I watch as she glances at the clock again, anxious that they’re going to be late. I’m trying to tell her that it doesn’t matter if she’s made plans to see a venue; he’s not coming home. He’s with that other girl, the one I know that she knows that he’s been seeing. I want to scream as she applies more concealer, hoping that he doesn’t notice the bruise that he caused. I beg her to look into my eyes and see the truth, but I’m mute as she steps out of the bathroom and shuts off the light.
          I’m helpless from the other side of the mirror pane. All I can do is watch. 

—© 2024 by Kimberly Rouse

Untitled Photo 1: Victoria Stock

—© 2024 by Victoria Stock

Untitled Photo 2: Victoria Stock

Untitled by Victoria Stock

—© 2024 by Victoria Stock

Meet the Team

With years of experience as an editor-in-chief for The Green America, a magazine focused on environmental and social justice issues, Professor Tracy Fernandez Rysavy is our advisor for the Northern Lights Journal. You can also get in touch with our current editorial staff.

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