October 2013

Halloween

October brings with it the immediate rush of horror fests and ghostly thoughts, witch covens and jagged pumpkin teeth. Autumn shadows are a crisp inspiration to reflect on the shadows within ourselves. The following writers and artists have both created and uncovered their Halloween masks in the following issue. Enjoy.

Brooke Turpin

October, Again

The house was quiet, still;
But for a small scraping noise in the attic.
We thought it was the branches
Of the ageless oak, wrapping the sides of our home, an invitation
On this cold October night, a plea to enter the warmth.
Sticking its branches through the large bay window,
The one that overlooks the moors, and lets mist tiptoe
Through it’s shutters when the moon is taciturn as stone.
We asked you to check the attic; simply so bedtime was not met
With shadowy edges of phantoms, closing o’er our pillows.
You followed the sound, up the winding staircase and down
The dimly lit hall, until the last flecks of starlight
Abandoned you, alone, at the foot of the enormous, wooden door.
From the kitchen,
We listened as it opened and closed with a lingering creak.
We hold our
Breath.
And wait.
When you again appear, you say what you do every year,
As you stare right through us, face a peculiar shade,
As you hold yourself up, as we shiver to the bone.
The noises have stopped, you say.
The tree must have tired,
It’s tapping and calling deafened by the autumn wind.
But through the night, we hear the sounds.
The Screeching, Clawing, Scraping.
Trying to reach us.
Disturbing our dreams.
October nightfall, once again, is deafening.

Zach Siegal

It Sounds Like Breaking Glass

It sounds like breaking glass and she feels warm—feverish, really—but they made these doors thick to withstand fires and shoulders and more than breaking glass. But the space between the door and hardwood—the quarter inch of burning tungsten light—makes for a terrible sentry.

Six inches above the floor, I fall back into bed into arms into her. Her lip twitches and sweats and her breast shakes like a deflating nylon balloon. I switch out her water, her crackers, her bedpan. She grips my arm with wild eyes and mutters unintelligibly through gritted front teeth.

I expected to be caring for her like this years from now, when she was pregnant and hospitals were still open. I touch her stomach: no child, but a still sickness still growing inside of her. I dampen her forehead with the rest of the paper towels because the glass is louder now and there’s a rumble that supplements it.

“You’re trapped,” she teases. “You have them on that side and me over here.” She chortles and coughs blood. “What are you gonna do?”

I lean against a wall and sip the air into my diaphragm like my therapist taught me. I count the water bottles again and retrace my steps. There were a lot of these problems in elementary school: get the wolf, the sheep, and the crate of cabbages across the river one by one. But when left alone, the wolf will eat the sheep and the sheep will eat the cabbage. I figured this out once before; I just need more time.

They’re here and they start banging on the door before I can put my t-shirt back over her mouth. She screams and they stop for a beat. Their shadows crispen and cover the quarter inch of tungsten. They slip delicious pleas under the door but I know not to swallow them. Robbed of her words, she makes sounds through the cotton and begs with her pupiled eyes, but I shake my head.

What are you gonna do? She’s asked this question for fifty-three hours between gulps of water and bouts of retching. I still haven’t worked it out. I know I need to bring the sheep across first, but what happens when the wolf gets to the other side?

The voices have tripled and grown less soothing. They’re demanding her blood and her forehead’s afire. I kiss it and she flinches and I know that I’ve lost her.

I grip my cleaver and brace myself.

If the sheep is slaughtered when the wolf gets there, will he still want to eat her?

Christian Trujillo

vis 2

Chelsea Hernandez

Crackle

I know you’re out there.
I can hear you,
You’re digging your cracked nails through the shifting dirt…
The maggots and beetles crawl to the side,
Allowing you through;
Even they are afraid.
I tremble as the grains of the Earth moan apart to allow you access into my world…

Crackle Crackle Crackle

I hear your bones setting themselves
You sniff the air…
I know you can smell me.

You’re coming for me.

I knew this would happen.
I never should have cut you into pieces
And left you in the earth
Fragmented
When you decided to leave me.

I pull the blanket closer to my chin,
I shiver and shake,
Knowing I will feel your long white fingers on my skin

Crackle Crackle Crackle

Your spine moans as each vertebrate falls into place
So you can turn your face to my front door.
I can hear the grass pulling as you use it to drag yourself towards my house
Towards my door

Towards me.

My lip quakes as I feel the fear crawling up my spine, into my gut, into my mind,
Clouding my judgment.

Crackle Crackle Crackle

How are you inside already?

Crackle Crackle Crackle
Thump Thump Drag…
Thump Thump Drag…
Thump Thump Drag…

I hear you on the stairs.
Thump Thump Bang.

I hear you on the landing.
The door
Creeeeeeaaaaaaakkkkkkks
Open, and I stifle a cry.

Thump Thump Drag…
Thump Thump Drag…
Thump Thump Drag…

I can sense your presence at the foot of my bed,
I can smell your rotting flesh as its stench
Permeates my room, my nostrils, my skin,
Leaving a crust of betrayal coating my prickling flesh.
And I pull my covers over my head,
Thinking my childhood cloak of invisibility will shield me from your wandering, eyeless sockets.
Suddenly, your long, pale fingers start to tug at my blankets,
And I pull back, fighting for survival.

Suddenly, you stop.
Why?

All is quiet.
All is still.
I take a ragged breath,
So I can tentatively pull down my shield,
And see you.
Sitting at the foot of my bed, grinning,
Like an animal about to feed, observing its prey.
Your oversized teeth drip with your hunger,
Your withered lips, once rosy and full, crack as your smile widens,
Your broken, crackling spine jerks your head
As you unnaturally cock it to the side to better observe my expression of horror
Your ragged stumps for legs pull the blankets from me and behind you as you move closer
Pressing those long, pale fingers
With the cracked nails
Caked in dirt
Against my shaking leg that still seeks shelter beneath my covers,
And you begin to
Giggle with excitement,
And I understand:

Not even the dead are silent.

Catherine von Handorff

Graveyards

I sometimes wondered why my mother
didn’t speak of graveyards
growing up, why she refused to visit
even on the loveliest of days.
My older brothers told me
it was because too many
of our aunts and uncles lay buried there,
alongside our Grandpa,
and our Grandma,
and the slimy earthworms.
I tried to imagine
what lay beneath the grass,
beneath all those headstones
strewn with blue and purple flowers,
frantic bees still trying to pollinate their hearts.
But all I could see were stiff people I had never met
sinking into the soil,
pink worm bodies wound around their skeletons.
I hoped they stayed warm in winter.

Christian Trujillo

vis 5

Ty Sheedlo

I was a pumpkin. Patchwork, orange fabric, costume sewn by my mother. I looked more like an overripe carrot. The other parents told me I was cute, but even as a toddler, I knew it wasn’t true.

I was a ghost. Bed sheet, I insisted I make it myself. At five years old, I thought I was mature enough. The holes were too small, I couldn’t see through. The sheet was too long, it dragged on the floor. The top of the sheet on my head formed a point. But I held my head high, and said “BOO” with a smile. Oblivious to the fact that I looked like a Ku Klux Klan kid.

I was a ninja. Wearing black clothing, some of it dark blue, faded from the years. I tried to blend into the shadows, but it’s hard when your mask keeps falling down over your face. My sword was just plastic, it bent at the touch. The handle was broken, it chipped at my skin. Several months of allowance spent at the bargain mart. Just for people to ask me if I was Tom Cruise from Mission: Impossible. I don’t even like that movie at all.

I was a robot. A trip to the hardware store with my dad. Aluminum tubing, some cardboard, and a spare TV antenna. The result looked like something you’d throw in the trash. Was I a vacuum? A blender? A furnace? All of the tape in the world couldn’t keep me from falling apart.

I was a pirate. Sharpie mustache. Bandana on head. I tried to make a hook with a coat hanger, but how could I carry my candy with only one hand? So I walked down the street as a bandit or outlaw, no eyepatch, no skull and crossbones, no parrot to convince others that I was the scourge of the sea.

I was an alien. I painted my face green. The fumes might have been toxic. I felt a bit woozy the rest of the night. No I wasn’t the Hulk, or a goblin, or troll. I wished that a UFO would beam me up to anywhere but here.

I was a werewolf. I took some of my old tattered clothes. Some hair from my mother’s job at the barber. Sticky glue isn’t such a great idea to use on your face. It appeared to be peach fuzz, or some sort of skin rash. Lycanthropy no, leprosy likely.

I was a vampire. I knew now not to use red paint as the blood. Instead, I borrowed my mother’s lipstick. It was too rosy, too pink. I took some baby powder to lighten my pigment. It made me sneeze to no end. The sneezing was fine, I could handle the sneezing. But call me a clown one more time, and I’ll cry.

Now I’m just me. Too old to dress up. Or that’s what they tell me, the other ‘adults.’ It’s not cool anymore; don’t you want to be cool? So I stand on the other side, handing out candy. Telling the little ones to have a safe night. My costumes weren’t great, not like everyone else’s’. They tore and they ripped and they tugged at my crotch. But I didn’t care. I was a pumpkin. I was a ghost. I was a ninja and robot and pirate. I was an alien, a werewolf, and a blood-sucking vampire. Even if I was the only person who knew.

Jason Smith

vis 14

Veronica An

Monster Hunting and the Ghost Girl

1.

Where, oh where
Are the monsters?
Show me where you hide

In the hollows of
Your body
Behind your lovers’ eyes

Oh, scaly beast
Oh, horned djin
Tell me how you live

Behind clear eyes
And dew soft skin
Spinning yarns of lies

Oh, monsters
Monsters
Teach me how you hide

Inside the one
Who you once loved
Feeding on your pride

Oh, winged demon
Shining ghoul
Come taste the light of day!
Silent vulture,
Spiney foe,

I now know where you hide
I stopped looking for you, monsters,
I found you all inside

Christian Trujillo

vis 4

Veronica An

Monster Hunting and the Ghost Girl

2.

Oh silent, silent
Lurking sin
Unclasp her hand
Unsink your teeth
Let me have her
Let her live,
You parasitic beasts

Prideful demons
Slippery villains
Death-faced immortal foe
With smelly breath
And bloodshot eye
Crafting tales of woe

Oh cobweb words
Oh early death
Boastful hate
And silent pride
Darkened face
Blue-black sin
Floating ghosts
Of former lies

Oh demons, demons
Arch your backs!
Flex your talons!
Shrill your cries!

Rear your heads
Bend my words and
Shape your lies
Break my promise
Steal my heart
And spew your lies

Oh, beasts
Oh, demons
I am yours
Silent my words
And fog my vision
For I can no longer hide
I know you
Know you
All too well
Because you live inside

Jessica Koe

Colors

White.

White roses grew on the crumbling wall, finding homes in the weathered crevices worn down by time. That was where we met, by the wall on the hill. They said it used to be a castle, that everything except for that wall had been torn down by the rebels who claimed the land as their own. But now it was ours. Ours to see, ours to touch, and ours to use as a hiding spot. Because when we were among the roses we ignored the world and the world ignored us.

“And no one will ever find out?” he asked one afternoon as a light breeze ruffled his dark brown hair.

“No one.”

He drew me closer. No one saw us kiss.

Gray.

The house I lived in was gray. It was probably another color at some point, but the building had gotten so bored with itself that it lost all interest in being beautiful.

I placed the wildflowers in a glass vase and watched him through the window as he approached. His hands were rough from a day of work and his eyes were tired from concentrating for so long, but he always came to me when he said he would.

It started to rain just before he reached my front door. I opened it, knowing he wanted to get inside as fast as he could. Slightly wet, he came in before the heaviest part of the storm struck the village. It came just as we began to eat dinner with loud rumbling thunder and thick raindrops pelting the ground.

We watched from inside as lightning began to dance across the gray sky.

Cream.

Cream-colored brocade was lying across my bed along with other bolts of fabric for me to choose from. I hadn’t had an excuse to have a new dress since I was fifteen years old, and this was a terribly special occasion. The gown had to be perfect.

A vision had been pieced together in my mind. Rich. Elegant. A dress worthy enough to be worn on the day I joined hands with my beloved and pledged to be his forever.

I sewed everything together by hand for days, finally finishing the dress in the middle of the night three months before the wedding. Illuminated by a beam of moonlight coming in from the window, the cream brocade shimmered. I knew he would love it.

Gold.

A band of gold encircled her finger. I didn’t believe him the first time he told me. I twisted my own ring as he told me about how they had met, how he had been unable to stop himself from falling in love with her. And even though he told me he was sorry, even though he begged for forgiveness, I refused to accept the truth.

“Tell me you’re just playing a joke,” I said. “Tell me you’re lying.”

He wasn’t.

He told me that he still wanted to be my friend, and that he still liked me as one. But his heart had been captured by another. He was calling off our engagement, our wedding. I was going to be happy for him, he said. I would understand.

A heart that I thought was gold had been corrupted by rust.

Olive.

She was the daughter of an olive merchant. A rich olive merchant who apparently came to the market every week to sell his wares. That was how they met. At an olive stand.

He said it was her eyes that caught him. Dark, piercing eyes that intrigued him and made him want to know more about the girl helping her father sell olives. So they talked and talked and began meeting up every week at the market without her father knowing. And before either of them knew it, they were engaged.

I met her the day he asked me to serve as her bridesmaid. Her gold hair shone in the sunlight, and as she got closer with every step, I felt myself retreating into the darkness of my house. Long, dark hair hiding most of my face and emotions, I greeted her with the civility of a hostess and invited her inside as if nothing were wrong.

Emerald.

The ring he gave me had ten tiny emeralds circling a small diamond. The ring he gave her was an intricately designed gold thing with a pattern of tiny jeweled birds and flowers. Mine was beautiful, but the amount of time, trouble and money he must have spent in order to give her that ring made me mad. He was supposed to devote himself to me. The day he asked for my hand, he vowed that someday it would be mine forever. And now he had forgotten me because another girl stole his heart.

The thought of how she had charmed him so easily made me as green as the emeralds on my finger. A dark, dark green. Green like the grass that grew in the shade of the castle ruin I had once called home before it was ruined by a war between human men. And the thought of how he had abandoned that natural green for the dullness of an olive stand made me as angry as I was when that castle was torn down.

Pink.

Her cheeks blushed pink as we helped her into her dress. Even though I loathed the thought of her lips meeting my beloved’s, I still agreed to his request and helped her get ready for the wedding. I tried to ignore her twittering with her other bridesmaids, but her high voice was too irritating. We dressed her hair with pale flowers and guided her into the church with the veil draped over her golden curls.

Rose petals floated in the air as she walked down the aisle. She looked beautiful, and with each step she took I felt a stabbing pain pierce my heart. I wanted to be in her shoes. I wanted to wear her dress. And I wanted to marry the man she was pledging to belong to for the rest of eternity.

I cloaked my anger with smiles and smothered my jealousy by forcing myself to only provide compliments to the blushing bride and her groom. But deep inside something stirred.

Red.

Red flowed across the floor, pooling in little depressions caused by the aged wood. Red fluttered in the window casually, as if nothing had happened in the room and the window were only open because the occupant liked it so. Red flooded my vision as I stood over her body, analyzing what I had done.

In the span of five minutes, I had crept in through the curtained window of the cottage where the two of them lived, pounced on her, then sucked the life out of her, letting the excess blood run wild when I was finished. I felt invigorated; I hadn’t drunk like this in centuries. Years ago I had sworn to give up drinking in order to find love in the company of men who did not consume such fluid. But man after man disappointed me, and when this girl met my betrothed at the market her death warrant was sealed.

I no longer heard drops of red falling from my teeth onto the floor of the cottage. Wiping my mouth with the sleeve of my dress, I crept toward the door. I could hear him on the other side, getting ready to greet his wife after a day of hard work.

Welcome home.

Christian Trujillo

vis 3

Colyn Chadwick

Under Covers

Your mind plays tricks on you at night
Your imagination fully expressed
What you see isn’t real, you don’t have to fight

The best of us have sleepless nights, it’ll be all right
There is no unwanted guest
It’s your mind playing tricks on you at night

We all have our fears: monsters, and heights
Please calm down, you’re stressed
What you see isn’t real, you don’t have to fight

That creaking in the hall? No reason to fright
This is an old house, as you would’ve guessed
It’s your mind playing tricks on you at night

There is nothing there, don’t turn on the lights
What’s the cause of this unrest?
What you see isn’t real, you don’t have to fight

Oh dear, you’ve caught me. This must be a sight
Your heart is beating through your chest
What you see isn’t real, you don’t have to fight
It’s your mind playing tricks on you at night

Amy Sizer

Wolf Like Me

I live in the realm of those who do not sleep, some barren wasteland twilight zone twix bar combo caused by shut eye deprivation and

Goddamn

Stubborn force of

Will

People always ask me ‘how’d you sleep last night’ and the answer is always one broken record statement after another

I didn’t.

What sleep?

Who me?

HA!

It’s like you don’t know me at all.

I’m not a creature of the light. Shine those rays elsewhere; I’ve got a different drug of choice. One I take straight to the vein and ride high till the sky oozes from black to pink

Sun and day bake me til I’m compacted, boneless, light and insubstantial: freeze dried girl to go

I change-shift from dreams to reality in a zombified nightmare of dreams come true

I tumble headfirst down a hole, Alice in Slumberland

Where dreams are more vibrant with green chlorophyll pigment of life than my day to day routine of eatsstudysmilestudysmileharder gets to be

So I hit my 2 am peak with a post-coital rapture and I embrace 3 am like a new lover all over and I slide into 4 am with blurring blinding acid tears and the person I see in the mirror is a whole other human being away from

Truth

Reality

Wakefulness

Neither here nor there nor anywhere

I suck down moon beams like I can swallow them whole while my skin curdles and my blood races with coffee bean buzz

Good evening, moon says: time to wake up

I haven’t slept in days but nighttime makes me a new person, prom queen on the dark end of the day, stars on my dress and cool air in my eyes

Day ends, dusk arrives, and my muscles pull tight tighter tightest till I wrench apart, anew

A marionette on randy strings that toss me about pell mell

These shadows under my eyes are maps to the lies that I tell with cracked and bleeding lips

do you see the tired student

or a beast at bay chomping at the bit

waiting for the moon to come out

so she can wake up

wake to frigid creaking in my jaw

wake to the snap crackle pop of my spine as it breaks and reforms and I curl in to Remus and Romulus

and bones go off in my wrists like steaming pop corn kernels

wake to a symphony in my belly where the instruments are all out of tune

wake to the SCREECH of city traffic and howl of the forest where my limbs are valleys and my shoulders are mountains

the forest is becoming to me, puts heated blood to my pallor and cavernous dimples to my canine grin

there is no city to muck up my complexion or dull my coat’s sheen tonight

I am young and I am ancient and the night unburies unearths unmummifies one half of me and rips into another, leaves the carcass out for the scavengers to feast on

A girl who wears night on her sleeve stands like royalty, even when day makes her a peasant

I’d like to think that like most humans I rise with the sun but the truth is that Moon is my Sheppard I shall not want, She who pulls live thriving wolf from the marrow, She who sucks me raw turns me inside out spits me back in and I’m not awake I swear I’m not awake but I’m alive

and I run and I live and I run till my feet bleed and my sweat hardens like permafrost across my static skin

and then I run some more

And then the sun breaks through the sky, fist to my jaw and I fall backwards forwards sidewards as the blaring alarm of 7 am lulls me back to sleep to rinse, lather, repeat good morning world:

The lullaby of the mad

Contributors:

Veronica An is majoring in Narrative Studies at USC; she came all the way from the East coast to enjoy the California sunshine. When not writing, reading, listening to music, or hanging out in the library, she loves to explore Los Angeles.

Colyn Chadwick is a junior Creative Writing major with plans to go on to graduate school after USC. He is originally from Orange County and enjoys watching bad movies in his free time.

Catherine von Handorff is currently a senior at USC from Washington State and is studying creative writing. After graduation this coming May 2014, she plans to explore the possibility of graduate school in English Literature.

Chelsea Hernandez is a Junior transfer student at USC, transferring from the University of Arizona. She is a Creative Writing major with a minor in screenwriting. Chelsea enjoys writing short stories, specifically fiction, and takes much pleasure in writing allegories. John Steinbeck’s ‘East of Eden’ influenced her to enjoy the pleasure of allegories, and Edgar Allen Poe influenced her in her decision to write short fiction stories.

Ty Sheedlo is a junior acting and film student at USC. When he’s not writing, he’s probably scooping out the insides of pumpkins and carving faces into their exteriors. He was Shaun from Shaun of the Dead this Halloween.

Amy Sizer is a sophomore theater major who hopes to soon double major in theater and critical studies at the film school.

Zach Siegel is a Junior Film & Television Production major at USC focusing in Directing and Editing. He is currently working on season 2 of the USC-based web series, 101 Ways to Get Rejected, and enjoys climbing trees in his spare time.

Jason Smith is a Film Production student, currently in his Junior year. He loves working on scripts, films, animations, and art projects. There have been unproven rumors that he is “one hell of a guy”.

Christian Trujillo is a sophomore double majoring in Communication and Fine Art with a double emphasis in sculpture and design. He is considering a career in advertising or product/furniture design.

Brooke Turpin is a Junior creative writing major. She’s taking her first poetry class this semester and is really loving it. When she’s not in school, Brooke interns in Public Relations.

 

The work represented here is the intellectual property of each individual author and is not subject to replication or use without permission.  

© Brooke Turpin 2013. © Zach Siegal 2013. © Christian Trujillo 2013. © Chelsea Hernandez 2013. © Catherine von Handorff 2013. © Ty Sheedlo 2013. © Jason Smith 2013. © Veronica An 2013. © Jessica Koe 2013. © Colyn Chadwick 2013. © Amy Sizer 2013. 

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