Bama Bridge – Chloe Fox
Sitting in this cell I’m both pained and saved by the memories. I can’t quite recall what exactly went south. My guess would be it began when our partners and workers insisted on incorporating technology into our work. My brother’s been insistent on incorporating technology into our business. He claimed that it would be easier and more efficient. While I understood computers would be good for researching when libraries were crowded, or telephones for arranging meetings, I didn’t understand his obsession with smartphones. He and my youngest brother would sit around for ages looking into their phones, finding new ways to download games and software. It’d frustrated me as every five or so minutes they’d wander from our conversation at the ping of their phones. I thought adding technology to our line of work would be bullshit. Technology leaves traces everywhere, and not the silent bloody kind. But since I was outvoted, for some reason, it’d been agreed we had to change some of our policies to be digital. I wished with everything in me that things continued to be done the old way. Bloody packages, sending a trembling child to someone’s doorstep to relay a message, following someone around until they know for sure, without a word, that their life is in jeopardy. But my brother and his cronies convinced my our team that it was unethical. Then I couldn’t care less about ethics. We had a business to run, I thought. Now I regret everything. Everything that took the life from my chest and replaced it with the moldy cold air that has surrounded me for years.
Around that time Tecca, my brother who stayed in the business, sent a message to one of his clients threatening a broken arm. He explained that it was fine because the client was in a similar line of business, and small threats were okay to send via text because often people don’t take them seriously. While on the other hand my youngest brother, Bryson, texted in a family “group chat” that he needed to have a family meeting. At the time I figured it was some of his cowardly shit when, but would have never anticipated it would be the greatest decision for my baby girl. Soon after, over dinner, he explained he’d stay in college and make a living out of basketball. He’d decided that he wouldn’t join us in business. It came both as a shock and with resistance, to begin with, but eventually, we all agreed it may be better for one of us to stay out of the family line.
That morning my phone buzzed me awake. It sat on my nightstand buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. Typically I woke up to the sun shining in my room, but ever since I was forced to get that phone it woke me up with texts from desperate clients, employees, or “spam.” The first message I got was from one of my special contractors, Thomas. My eyes were foggy with sleep but I knew what he was concerned about. He wrote good morning and asked how long he had to complete his task. Some crap about his loading truck needing to be sanitized.
I had Mikey move the body. You have three days to complete your end of the bargain or I’ll hire someone else, I sent.
I rubbed my eyes before hitting the green send button. As I headed toward the bathroom, my wife rushed past me. She said there was an emergency at the warehouse and she needed to make sure she secured some files before they fully uploaded. Mornings like these weren’t entirely unusual. She kept record of all of our cases and often would need to work with a sense of urgency since it included both money and survival. However, I wished I’d paid more attention to the panic in her eyes. I wish I had the knowledge and words to comfort her for what was to come. Moreover, I wish most that I could hold her again and feel her melt into me the way she always seemed to when stressed.
“Make sure Mina eats breakfast! She likes the waffles in the freezer with cut banana.” She pressed her lips into my cheek before rushing out of our bedroom, her purse dangling from her shoulder. I smiled, softened by the thought of my little family. After brushing my teeth I went downstairs to see, our daughter, Mina sitting on the couch watching Doc McStuffins. I sat next to her snuggling my head on her lap, intimidating her.
“Good morning! Can I have waffles? Mommy makes them with-”
“Bananas” I finish.”Of course, you can! Waffles right up for Dr. Mimi!” I said before heading toward the kitchen. She giggled behind me and I heard her little feet trailing after me. I pulled out the waffles, toaster oven, bananas, and syrup. She smiled at the syrup because her mom didn’t usually let her have any. Then when I pulled out the chocolate fudge I was awarded with an applause. As I prepared her easy breakfast, she played on my phone. Her uncle Bryson downloaded some games on it. I thought it was a waste, but it made her happy and I was a sucker for that bright toothy smile.
“O-K” she read slowly. She was ahead of her classmates in reading, but it was still new to her. “I weell get it done two- tonigh!.”
“What’re you reading there, ladybug?”
“What did I tell you about opening my texts?” I say sternly. While I’m sure she couldn’t quite grasp what the content of our work is yet, her mother and I agreed to keep it from her until she turned 16. I grabbed the phone from her, my hands sticky with banana, and opened the message. Tecca texted me about one of our clients finally paying off all of his debt. More texts come through from both of my brothers. Apparently, Tecca was followed on his way to work for a while by unmarked police cars. He said that each cop dipped off before he got 5 minutes from the warehouse but that I should be careful. Bryson texted that he was back home from college, in San Diego, to pick up a part for his car and that he would pick Mina up from preschool later because he promised her a tea party the last time he was home. His texts were always long and drawn out, explaining every detail and laced with too many unnecessary emojis. I decided I’d answer them all later before turning the phone on “do not disturb,” so that Mina could play her games in peace.
“Daddy I’m hungry. Are you almost done?”
She sighed at the counter. It was good that Bryson was home more often. Each day it felt as if Tecca and I were being watched. Even at nineteen, he was responsible and was on a great track to creating a life of his own. Something Tecca and I never had the courage or drive for. I doubted anything would happen but it was better to have him as a backup. Especially when the backup loves his niece the way Bryson does Mimi.
On the way to Mimi’s preschool, I missed at least four phone calls, forgetting to turn my “do not disturb” off from breakfast. Mimi smiled at me from the backseat, practicing her little dance moves, swaying side to side. When the shark song began I sang along in my Daddy Shark voice, which had her giggling for the rest of the ride. It wasn’t until we pulled up to her school that I knew something was wrong. Bryson stood at the entrance of her preschool looking frantically at my car as we pulled up. His arms were crossed in front of him and his eyes had the same panic as my wife’s that morning. Mimi’s face brightened when she saw him. Just as I put the car in park he opened the back door, unbuckled Mimi from her seatbelt, and swept her up into his arms.
He moved quickly as he told her to go to his car, and grabbed her backpack and car seat from my back seat.
“Answer your fucking phone! Tecca and your wife are behind bars and said they’re after you next. All of your cars are bugged. Somehow some files were leaked from all of your emails. I’m taking Mina. We’re gonna get out of here quickly so she doesn’t have to see you get arrested.” His eyes surveyed the parking lot. “Mimi come here and tell daddy you love him.”
Everything moved so quickly. So when Mina walked up to my door I jumped out and held her close in my arms. Kneeling on the ground in front of my car, it was then I knew this was the last hug I’d get from my daughter for a long time. She could tell by our sense of urgency that something was wrong. Over and over again I told her I love her and that daddy was sorry. When the sirens wailed I painfully let her go and looked up at Bryson. Taking her hand in his, he looked at me with the most seriousness I’d ever seen on his usually playful face and said “I promise I got her, Lino. We’ll be okay.” I nodded before the two of them quickly got in his car and drove off. And suddenly years of guilt came crashing down.
Scroll of Life – Lilla Megyeri
KONSTANTINE: Who Are You?
ARYAN: Hi, my name is Aryan Ghodrat and I’m 17 years old.
KONSTANTINE: No you are not, repeat.
ARYAN: Hi, my name is Aryan Ghodrat and I’m playing the role of a villain.
KONSTANTINE: No you are not, repeat.
ARYAN: I’m playing the Joker.
JOKER: Hi, I am the Joker. I am a psychopath, manipulator, and villain.
The Stanislavski Method, a brilliant process crafted by theater practitioner Konstantine Stanislavski, is the foundation for any thespian seeking mastery in the art of emotional and psychological realism. The first step in this journey of self-discovery is for the actor to ask themselves the self-defining question, “who are you?” A performer must delve deep into the character portrayed on stage and explore their characteristics, relationships, and role in the production. This preliminary step sets the stage for the actor’s concentration of mind and spirit, fully immersing themselves into the character’s world. In playing the Joker convincingly, Aryan must understand the Joker’s character before proceeding with the Stanislavski Method. This defining step may involve research and work on behalf of the actor in establishing a clear foundation for the performer’s future abilities on stage.
KONSTANTINE: Where Are You?
Step two, concentration, is arguably the most crucial aspect of the Stanislavski Method, as it creates emotional connection and authenticity between the actor and character. Without it, they will go haywire on stage, making both the audience and performer feel detached from the script. For instance, instead of fixating on the idea of an audience staring at them, the artist must focus solely on their character, transcending any fear or anxiety. This way, the actor creates a much more authentic product while also feeling confident in their own body for future steps. Once the step is complete, the entertainer can continue peeling back the layers of the character, emerging themselves into the tedious levels of the method. The whole journey of the Stanislavski Method is an odyssey toward unlocking the character’s full potential, and concentration is a necessity in completing it.
JOKER: Gotham City
KONSTANTINE: What does it feel like?
JOKER: I don’t know.
KONSTANTINE: That’s okay. Reattach to Aryan, and ask, how would he feel?
Step three of the Stanislavski method implores the actor to dive deep into their spirit and connect their personal experiences to their acting. Though it may feel contradictory to the first two steps, simply imagining oneself as the character is not enough for a profound and authentic production. Instead, the actor must incorporate their own memories and emotions into the portrayal of their character. By tapping into their past, the artist can add a sense of reality to their performance that excels past boring performers who simply just imitate. For example, by recalling a time when they felt anger, the possibility of experiencing raw emotion on stage is a whole lot greater. Maybe thinking about a time when their partner cheated on them, or the time they were pickpocketed in the streets of Paris creates that anger. With this in mind, the performance not only feels more dynamic but also helps the actor overcome any feelings of remoteness they might feel from the script. According to Stanislavski, emotions are the driving force behind human behavior and it is the thespian’s job to tap into their emotional memories, making their performance convincing.
However, sometimes our memories aren’t qualified enough, and instead, we may feel numb at the thought of them. The memory of the performer’s partner cheating on them no longer makes them feel emotion. They have restored all the things that the pickpocketer stole, and now they simply do not care. In these instances, imagination plays a crucial role in helping actors fuse with their characters. By creating vivid and sensory images, actors can evoke the emotions they need in bringing their characters to life. This may include exaggerating memories that may have not been serious or emotional at all. What if the actor thought about the time their best friend got them a gift, and then imagined them getting run over by a car at the same time. Kinda sad, right? The key when using imagination in the actor’s favor is for them to create an emotional experience that feels authentic to themselves, not the audience. At the end of the day, the people watching have no clue what the performer ponders about; they can use the darkest of their imagination, creating a wicked performance.
KONSTANTINE: What do you want?
JOKER: I want you dead.
KONSTANTINE: Why do you want it?
Step four of the Stanislavski Method mandates actors to delve into the depths of their psyche and uncover the character’s motives. The main question in this step is, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” It requires a level of soul-searching that can be both illuminating and unsettling. By uncovering the layers of your character’s motivations, you may discover that they aren’t as virtuous as they initially seemed. Perhaps jealousy, anger, or even madness drives them.
This step brings depth and nuance to the actor’s portrayal, making their character’s actions more complex and believable. People’s motives constantly change and the same applies when acting. Even though there is a script with prewritten lines, each run may evoke different emotions and create different motives for the actor in moving forward, meaning that they must remain vigilant and constantly re-evaluate their character. For example, let’s take the character of the Joker. What drives him as a criminal mastermind? Why does he want chaos in Gotham City? By examining the character’s backstory, relationships, and personality traits, we can understand the roots of his madness. Perhaps he was mistreated and neglected as an infant, making him seek revenge on society. Regardless of the specifics, the key is for the performer to understand the emotional and psychological state that drives the character’s actions.
JOKER: Ha ha ha, you’re messing with me.
KONSTANTINE: I’m not, you are. Now tell me, where is Aryan?
JOKER: I will kill you.
KONSTANTINE: How will you do that?
The fifth and final step of the Stanislavski method is an immersive descent into the abyss of a character’s motivations and desires. Actors must surrender their identity in displaying their character’s physicality. The use of facial expressions, postures, and movements must be calculated, fitting the actor’s choices from the previous steps. When their physicality matches the emotional and psychological state of the character, it transforms the performance from plain words and actions into a sinister and captivating display of human nature. In this next part of the script, the Joker will kill Stanislavski. The Joker has completely severed from Aryan and no longer feels any attachment to him. The backstory that the Joker has created for himself is enough to keep him motivated in future scenes. In just a moment, the Joker will follow through with the Stanislavski method by using physicality as he leisurely draws out his knife, revealing a wide grin on his face, and flailing his arms around to the sound of his chilling laughter.
KONSTANTINE: Aryan, put the knife down.
JOKER: Too late!
Congratulations. The thespian has now fully descended into the darkness of the Stanislavski Method, casting aside their own identity for the applause of an audience. They have meticulously built the foundation of their twisted creation, and will obsessively continue molding their character. Though Stanislavski may be dead, his revolutionary method will continue following and haunting actors forever.
Sentinel – Henry Zhang
A duty and, at times, a burden forced the lighthouse keeper to protect the sailors from nature until the sun rose. The nights when the man felt more burdened was when the hue of the distant hanging lightbulb filled the dark room–his heart–with warmth. His eyes could not help but close as the hammering rain silenced and hushed blues music amplified as it emanated from the watch room. His soft, warm sheets eliminated his ability to stay vigilant. He almost dozed off when his snoring startled him awake. Although it was dark, he could not retire. So, he begrudgingly climbed up the spiraled, creaky steps of the lighthouse as he did night after pitiful night.
When the man reluctantly stepped out into the fridged gallery, he overlooked the ocean’s vastness. The only thing that gave him solace was the regularity of the lighthouse’s reassuring, spinning rays and the lonely yellow sailboat. On the rare day when there were no sailboats, he wondered if there were any other humans, to begin with. The next time a day like this came, he decided to write a letter.
If you receive this, for whatever reason, I hope you aren’t too estranged. Yes, I have waited for you every day even though I don’t know you, and yes, I feel as though I know you, but I imagine you would understand. When the ocean is your life, there is hardly any room for others. Please don’t stop visiting me.
Untitled – Jae Ramsey
Trigger warning: The poem discusses eating disorders and unhealthy weight loss.
I threw her up against the wall.
An attempt to make her feel the same way
She made me.
It didn’t help.
I sat there against the sink,
Thinking, remembering, and contemplating.
She didn’t say anything back,
Just laid there in pieces.
I didn’t bother to pick them up.
Not just yet, I think.
“Four more pounds until you’ll be beautiful.”
“Just two days until you need to fit into that skirt.”
I swallowed my pride,
“Get your fat-ass off the floor.”
Her words rang in my head–
Her bright eyes glared into my soul.
I rose to my feet,
My head begged for forgiveness.
“Sit back down please,”
“Go lay in bed please.”
I can be done soon.
Just one hundred more.
My muscles ached and told me no,
My abs pleaded for mercy.
I hate you.
I am never good enough
For you to say one kind word.
Please release me as your prisoner.
Lethologica – Chloe Fox
If the world was quiet, then you would be able to live
without worry – about money, about friends, about
school, about anything; and you could buy
whatever your heart desired.
If you could buy whatever your heart desired, then
you would buy a large house with a pool, one that
you could jump in without slathering oily sunscreen
on your skin.
If you could jump into the pool without slathering oily
sunscreen on your skin, then you would finally get
your sweet freckles and rosy cheeks back without
If you finally got your sweet freckles back, maybe
then you would feel a little bit more confident and
would speak up in class, sharing your opinions.
If you would speak up in class sharing your
opinions, then maybe people would listen to you
and you would make more friends.
If you would make more friends, then maybe you
wouldn’t feel so lonely every day, sitting by yourself
left wondering if people actually cared about you or
if they were pretending to like you.
If you wouldn’t feel so lonely, then you would be
able to believe people when they said that they liked
If you were able to believe people when they said
that they liked you, then you’d be able to talk to
them about anything that was on your mind instead
of going home and sitting on your bed for hours.
If you were able to talk with them about anything
that was on your mind, then maybe you’d feel as
though you wanted to get out of bed in the morning,
excited for days to come.
If you felt as though you wanted to get up in the
morning, then you would slowly become happy;
smiling and laughing without it being fake.
If you were able to smile and laugh without it being
fake, then you’d be yourself, never having to hide
around everyone. You’d be able to cherish every
moment you have with the people you love without
worrying about whether they liked you.
Rubik – Mia Bitman
Hello, today I’d like to take you on a nautical journey. A descent into the depths. So please, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let it all sink in. We begin bobbing at the surface, cresting and falling with the waves. A cloudless above bathes your skin in a blanket of warm sunlight and the refreshingly cool water caresses your back. You look around to see an endless horizon of blue, the borders of the sky and water blurred by their similar hue. There is nothing out here but you and the waters below. Let’s go a little deeper, shall we?
You begin to slip beneath the rhythmic waves, that equilibrium between warm light and cool water shifting until you are entirely overtaken by the sea. We have entered the uppermost layer of the ocean, the aptly named sunlight zone. The water here maintains that brilliant, cerulean blue shade seen at the very surface. Shafts of light refract and dance through the waters above, decorating the vast blue canvas with an array of almost god-like beams. Around you swarming schools of fish dart about, nimbly avoiding the attempts of predators to hunt them. Were we near the coast, you might see a bustling coral reef, painted with the dazzling array of bright colors often seen, starkly contrasting the surrounding, oppressively blue backdrop. Unfortunately, we are not near the coast. A quick glance reveals no such reef, only a seemingly endless darkness below. Let’s not keep it waiting.
As you continue to sink through this layer, you pass a plethora of sea life. In fact, nearly 90% of all sea life lives in the sunlight zone, the deeper, darker regions of the sea pose far too great a threat for most life to thrive. The sunlight fades further and further as you sink deeper. With it, goes color and warmth. At around 650ft deep, you have now entered the twilight zone, and yet, you are only 1% of our way to the bottom. Here the sunlight can barely reach, casting the waters in a grim dusk, and the once refreshing coolness turns to unrelenting, biting cold. Some of the only light visible at this depth is the ghostly glow of the life around you: the sinister shine of bioluminescence. At this depth, light a tool for survival, an alluring trap. As you take in the life and death lightshow around you, a sudden noise pierces the darkness. A varying, clicking sound surrounds your, shaking you violently. Then comes a sudden rush of water. The currents send you spiraling as you get brief glimpses of tentacles flailing and tearing at some larger creature. A whale, you’d have to guess. The battle between these two titans is suddenly obscured as an inky blackness surrounds you, and you sink yet deeper, into the midnight zone.
Here, at around 3200ft deep, there is no light. Gazing out into the oppressive veil of darkness, your eyes strain for something, a passing fish, sunken ship, hell even just a basic geometric shape, just something to focus on. But there is nothing. Your plea is met with endless black. Even with some kind of light, you would have nothing but miles upon miles of open water to look at. What sea life there is, is not a pretty sight. Translucent skin, unhinged jaws, rows of horrible, horrible, curved teeth, they seem almost hand picked from the collective fears of humanity. But you don’t have to worry about them. Were we actually concerned about your survival in this situation, you would have long since been violently compressed by the water pressure into a grisly cloud of bone and viscera.
You sink further into the awaiting caress of deep unknown. The descent takes long, leaving you utterly alone in the uncaring dark. Well, at least, you think you are alone, it’s impossible to tell without light. Reaching a depth of 13000ft, you pass by the decaying metal grave of hundreds, Her Royal Majesty’s Titanic. No surface is untouched by the almost alien growths that cover the collapsing sarcophagus. The famous wreck marks your entry into the abyssal zone. For the next 6000ft, everything will look maddeningly similar. Vast, empty ocean. Until you finally reunite with ground at 19000ft. Here, the abyssal plain stretches on endlessly in every direction as a barren wasteland, dotted by swarms of creatures feasting on the corpses sunken from layers above. For much of the sea floor, this is as deep as it gets. But we’re not stopping here. You’re only about halfway to the bottom of it all.
Now you descend further, into the hadal zone. A series of narrow trenches crisscrossing the ocean floor, sparsely populated by the most extreme creatures alive. For hours you continue down through the convening canyon walls. You descend into a subtrench, barely over a kilometer wide, before settling down to your final destination. The Challenger Deep. Nearly 36,000ft below the surface, and a full 6000ft deeper, than mt. Everest, earth’s highest point. Finally your journey is complete. Ironically enough, at the most remote and extreme place on earth, you find a sign of humanity. Like a jellyfish, a translucent white plastic bag drifts elegantly through the pitch black depths.
And now you begin to rise, revisiting each layer, getting brighter and warmer as you return to the sun. At about 20ft deep, the upwards motion ceases entirely, and your lungs begin to ache. They burn with hellish intensity, immediately your body begins to move, you tear and pull at the water above you like a man possessed, kicking with all your strength, heart pounding out of your chest, but the surface seems no nearer, all sense disappears you can only focus on getting air, you need air, every corner of your mind screams it GET OUT GET UP GET OUT, YOU NEED TO GET OUT.
Then you suddenly burst through the surface. The air fills your lungs completely as you gasp incessantly, the warm sun once again drenches over you. That was just a gentle reminder, at merely 20ft you nearly met your fate. You stare back down towards your feet, towards the immensity that lay below. There be beauty beneath the waves, for sure. But there too be fury and power, beyond calculation. Thank you for accompanying me, and I hope you enjoy the trip.
“Well, we’re lost,” I exclaim as my best friend and I circle the same tree for the third time in twenty minutes.
“We are not lost,” he replies while his magnetic eyes scan the surrounding area. “Just… mildly confused.” Usually, I would laugh at his attempt at humor, but night is approaching quickly; I’ve heard about the horrors that take place in the woods at night.
“Now is not the time for humor. We need to get home. There are bears, wolves, and murderers….” Gooseflesh appears on my skin while my shoulders shudder.
“Hey,” he interrupts, calmly placing his warm hands on my shoulders, steadying me (little does he know that makes me even more nervous). His eyes meet mine, filled with humor, and my train of thought derails. “We’re going to be fine, Ok? I’ll get us out of here.” His hands leave my shoulders, and there is a coldness now like my body knows his hands are supposed to wrap around me… I clear my throat and turn around to pretend I am looking for a way out; really, I just need to collect myself. “Maybe we can find the road,” he says hopefully.
“What if we try over there,” I point towards the left, where the trees seem to break slightly, and a road almost seems visible. Maybe it’s just my imagination. Or perhaps a part of me wants to stay lost in the woods so we can have this time together. I look over and see him smiling at me with his goofy grin that makes girls fall to their knees.
“I knew I was friends with you for a reason,” he says, ruffling my hair and walking in the direction I pointed. And just like that, reality sets in, and I remember my place: his best friend. Nothing more. There is a heavy compression on my chest at the realization, but I do with it as I do with all my emotions: pretend it doesn’t exist.
“Wait up,” I say, following him like a lost puppy. How pathetic. Just tell him, my inner monologue shouts in protest. What if he likes you back? He might! I push down the hopeful thought and collect myself once again. I jog and fall into stride with him as we search for the exit. Tell him. You may never get another chance. “Hey,” I say loudly and unintentionally. He stops walking and turns around to face me, and my courage disappears.
“Yes?” His eyes twinkle with curiosity as I fidget with the bracelet around my wrist.
“Um… well… I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time, and I don’t know when I’ll get another chance or the courage or if you’ll hate me or….” My knee bounces up and down rapidly in rhythm with my irregular heart and I look anywhere but him, finding interest in the pattern of roots on the forest floor.
“I get it. Just tell me.” He crosses his arms over his chest, and I take a deep breath.
“Ok… Um, Well, I like you.” The relief of finally removing that weight from my shoulders engulfs me but shatters when I look up and see a knife held to his throat. Terror fills my senses, but before I can scream, a hand claps over my mouth, silencing me. In one quick moment, the knife slides across the neck of my best friend—the love of my life—spilling blood onto the forest floor of dead leaves. Tears well up in my eyes, and a scream erupts, but it is muted by the hand covering my mouth. I use all my strength to pull away and run towards him as he falls to the ground, but strong arms restrain me.
“Stop struggling,” the deep, rough voice says as he readjusts his hold on me. His strong terrifying hands press harder into my skin as I thrash around, desperate for any leeway. I am fully sobbing now as his beautiful, striking eyes lose their life for good. I’ll never laugh at another joke or blush like an idiot when he compliments me; I won’t help him with his homework ever again—my best friend, my guiding light, my love, gone in an instant. A dark cloth covers my nose, and the smell of chemicals is the last thing I sense before everything fades to black.