2023 Submissions

Burning Pile by Katrina Torio

Marie liked playing house. She had little dolls that would represent her family, and the stories she played with them were based on her life. Others commented on how strange it was to see a girl thirteen still play with them, but Marie still enjoyed it. 

Sometimes, the The mother and daughter doll would have tea parties in the backyard, while the ones that portrayed her dad and older brother would go out and hunt, coming back with dinner. They were all one big happy family, until her older brother turned sixteen.

The mother and father doll would start bossing him around, ordering him to dress only in the clothes they chose, wearing him down further. Nothing her brother did was good enough for them, and he was always bound to fall short of imperfect, yet he tried. 

The daughter doll wasn’t let off the hook either; they'd compare her to her older brother, telling her how much of a failure she was in comparison to him. So, she’d push herself past her limits, trying to live up to his standard. She’d study until the morning sun rose, dressed in the clothes that looked like the ones her brother wore, sewed, cooked, baked, but her parents only saw a failure. 

Their once happy family was starting to fall apart under these new resolutions. Their mother had gone from a laid back, relaxed and flirty woman to an uptight harpy that would scream at everyone in a five mile radius. Her dad was no better. He’d grow violent while he was intoxicated, screaming at his family, the whole house becoming more tense when he was around. Both of them would constantly praise her brother for being so perfect, but the daughter? She was nothing but a scapegoat, a failure in their eyes. 

One day, the dad doll caught his daughter playing pretend with her dolls, and yelled at her. He broke her dollhouse and ripped apart her dolls, throwing them away into the furnace, as the stories she’d make them play out were far too dark, and were too horrible to be considered art. He called her evil, locking her in her room, saying that it was their job to keep the evil from bay to stop it from spreading. 

That’s when the spark of anger in the daughter’s heart grew into a raging fire of fury. She would use the fire that once burned away her comfort as a light that would lead her to the exit of her life. Before anyone could stop her, she threw a lamp into the fire, kicking off her parents as they tried to reach her, kicking the rug beneath her and into the furnace, watching it catch on fire, the flame spreading across the floor and up the walls, burning the shelves of books, engulfing the room in smoke. As her parents screamed at her, she made a run for it, flinging open the doors. She ran into her brother’s cage of perfection and pulled him out, holding him tightly by the hand as they raced through the flaming hallways, fire threatening to swallow them alive if they slowed down. 

They raced down the stairs, and out the door, the daughter pulling her brother out of the house, looking up as their entire house had been engulfed in flames. 

Not wanting to stay there any longer, the two siblings made a run for it, warmed by the fires of destruction, purified by their flames as they began a new life.



By Piper Tesdall


I am a painting.
I am hung in a museum, admired by few. 
I am painted by an artist you haven’t heard of. 
One person passes by, and another, but the last one stops. 
The last one studies my texture and bright colors, 
becoming immersed in ever every detail. 
They look at my eyelashes, the specks of brown littered in my eyes,
and the landscape that holds me. 
But i feel a guilt so great because i cannot reach out for this person. 
I cannot tell them how much i want them to stay staring at me forever 
just so that I can have them all to myself. 
I am a painting, and yet I am aware of the beauty of the viewer.

 

By Brandon Heit

I don't like the way I was forced to sit alone cowering in my own hate
I didn’t like the way they walked around like everyone would kiss their feet if they asked
We wouldn't kiss your feet.

I don't like how I didn't belong where I thought I did
I don't like how they told me I was their friend
But still, they never acted like it.

I didn't like the way that everything felt red
I didn’t like the way that the red was all I could see
I can see more than red now.

I don't like feeling like a wooden dummy
I don’t like feeling like I’m not working for myself
I’m working for them.

I don't like the way she would stare at me, but would be too afraid to get close
I don’t like the way he ignored me like I didn't say what I said
I speak words.

I don't like sitting down at my desk
I don't like wanting to do something, but having the invisible curtains fall again
Trapping me behind their flowy steel.

I don't like the eternal rise and fall of the sun and moon
I don't like the way it taunts me
“Just one more day” The sun would tell me, “Just do it all one more time” The moon said.

I don’t like their vile intentions
I don't like the way they talked
I wanted them to leave, or one of us to leave.

I don't like feeling exposed 
I don't like feeling like I’m helpless 
Every glance over my back makes my leg bounce just a little more

I don't like their stains
Goodnight and goodbye

 

By Milo Walker

Tea steam
fills the corners of my home

Sugar and spice
sprinkled in
Citrus smell that can roam

Taste of candied
comfort
sweetened by your gaze

 

Girl by Thea Wong

Girl: 

There was a Girl. She was the same as everyone else. 
But she was different. That was fine. Truly. She is young, 
she is wild, she is free, a creature of the night. She has 
nothing to worry about, and no one to worry for. Thankfully.
She grows older, the setting of the story changes, it is not 
right. It is too much. The Girl’s thoughts, they grow bigger, 
and bigger, they take shape. Scarily. Girl’s head is full of 
something dark, something with claws. It is a monster. And 
the monster is her. Unacceptably. The Girl and the monster, 
they do not agree, two different things in one same person. 
They will rip each other apart just to stop the noise. 
Inexplicably. She grows again, the characters in Girl’s life 
swap out. It is…better. The monster and the Girl, they begin 
to talk. Reach out a hand. ‘We can help each other’ Oddly.
Girl’s thoughts, those terrible terrible mangled thoughts, 
they begin to unknot. Girl and the monster, they teach each 
other. How to calm down, how to breathe. Exceedingly. Girl 
and the monster, one and the same, same body, same name, they
helped each other on their own. They can do this, they have 
grown. Finally.

 

Your love is like a sugary glaze By Milo Walker

Safe and tucked deep inside my
heart-shaped tomb

There's spoiled gifts
in the corners of my room

Injured and stressed
but stronger still

Crumbled love letters on my window sill

Hide behind my perfect eyes

I'll tell you my own pretty lies

A beautiful reconcile we could be

I'll love you forever, honey


The Haze of Good and Evil by Thea Wong

“On the summer solstice the world’s greatest superhero, Thorn, died. After a lengthy battle with lung cancer, 10 years spent in service, half of it doing chemo, half of it spent defeating various villains and thugs on the streets. They passed in what we can only hope was a painless death. The world waits as the tension mounts upon what the government will do with no one powerful enough to keep criminals in check. This is Fox News, I'm Katherine Potter, up next we have Jim Clark discussing what the next move is in the U.S.” [audio ends] [audio starts] “This is CNN, I’m Mary Langporter and many are still debating on what the major crime cities should do as we await an inevitable crime spree. Many are boarding up windows and shops, and many banks are working overtime as several of the major cities, Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, São Paulo, Mexico City, and Cairo, along with many others have had their civilians desperately trying to withdraw and safeguard their money. There are lesser superheroes that are desperately patrolling, but without their leader there’s not much that can be done. Up next-” [audio stops] TV static [emergency broadcast begins] “We interrupt this program for a worldwide warning. All patrons of major cities and any area marked on this map must go into lockdown. Do not answer doors. Do not let anyone inside. Stay in the basements. Lock all entry and exit points of your household. We have received a transmission from the Ixtal Association that all criminals, those in power, and those not, will come out in full force. We have dispatched all enhanced militia, along with SWAT, CIA, FBI, and every police station in any area that is in danger. For those who are not in danger we also ask that you remain in your homes. Any homeless civilians on the street head to the subways or underground areas of your city or town. For those that are on the road, park your vehicle on the side of the road and wait until further broadcasts. I will repeat. Do not answer doors. Do not let anyone inside. Stay in the basements. Lock all entry and exit points of your household. We will hold all of you in our prayers, stay safe.” [audio scratches] TV static [the screen remains dark] [Ixtal Association broadcast begins] “Your fallen hero was from America. They died fighting against us, fighting for what they believed was right. Simply following orders and hoping to change the world. *shuffling of papers and someone clears their throat* We were just the same, we wanted to change the view of the world, make them see what’s wrong. We started out like all you heroes, we wanted to change the world, we just used different methods. So, for the first time in the Ixtal Association’s history, we will march in America first, we will lay down arms, and we will pay respect.” [audio ends] [all devices are shut off] And so the world watches as row after row, group after group of villains, underlings, criminals, masterminds, thugs, and all march in the streets, silent, holding out candles reaching out the scent of roses. They avenge Thorn. The leader of the heroes of the world, the first ever to die in the League of Heroes. [all devices play a siren] [Ixtal Association broadcast begins] “Even villains show sympathy, even criminals, please do not be afraid, join us. Honor you hero, as we honor our foe.”