By Niko Sheffield
By Kristen Rebelo
If you’re reading this that means that my discovery has already come to light in the world and I am dead…but hopefully I’m not because that would suck. My name is Matt Scathers, and I discovered the first chupacabra. That’s right, me. Well, me and my cousin.
On May 25, 2014 I got a phone call from my mother telling me that I needed to call my cousin Jackie to see how she was doing. Apparently someone had come onto Cousin Jackie’s farm and slaughtered her family’s goats. Jackie is like a sister to me, so even though I didn’t want to go I initially agreed. At her request I packed up my things to stay with my aunt, uncle, and cousin for a while to keep her company. When I arrived at the train station my aunt and uncle were waiting patiently for me to arrive. At 7:15pm I grabbed my duffle bag, stepped onto South Carolina soil, and waved to my second family. They ran towards me, taking my bag from me and embracing me overdramatically.
“Hey there, Matt,” my Uncle Boogie said with a huge smile, “seems like you get taller every year.”
“I don’t, you’re just short,” I said laughing. “Hey Auntie Angela, how’s everything?”
“I’m…not going to lie to you, I’m scared shitless,” she replied bluntly. I chuckled at the look on my uncle’s facial expression after he heard this. My aunt laughed a bit too. She didn’t cuss much in public or anywhere for the most part so it kind of threw us off. My family typically comprises of good natured country folk and smart aleck city goers. I’m a part of the latter.
“Let’s get you back home, shall we?” my uncle said nicely.
Before arriving I had truly tired my hardest not to go. The summer had started and I didn’t want to begin my adventurous three months by catering to my spooked out cousin. I had thought back to the conversation I had with my mother at the train station.
“Why do I have to go visit her?” I asked my mother. “I hate South Carolina.”
“Don’t talk about your home-state that way, Matty,” she said pointing her finger in my direction. “Your aunt and uncle say that Jackie is really scared so you’re going to spend a week with her so that she feels better.”
“Why can’t she come here?”
“They don’t have the funds.”
“Well then, you pay for it.”
“Hell no, I’m not looking after two sixteen year olds for a week. Get on the damn train.”
With that last statement she kissed me on the forehead and I hopped aboard. As unhappy as I was about I was getting to see some close family members, and it was only for a week so it shouldn’t be that bad, or at least so I thought.
As we hopped into the shiny old 1995 grey Mustang that my uncle has had for what feels like forever, I realized how much I never really liked it here. Andrews, South Carolina felt more like a place that you go when you retire, not a place you have to spend four weeks at for the summer to “keep close” with your relatives, but that was my case. We pulled up to the large blue and white house that has pretty much been my second home since I began visiting here when I was five. My cousin Jackie was on the front porch sitting in a hammock.
“Jackie!” my uncle called out. “Matty’s here!” When she heard that my cousin poked her head up and looked in my direction. She waved at me and laid her head back down. Apparently I wasn’t getting the loud, over-the-top greeting that I usually get when I visit.
“She’s still a bit shook up,” Aunt Angela said lowly.
“We all are,” Uncle Boogie said slapping my shoulder. “Come on in, we’ll fix you up a plate.”
After placing my stuff in my room, I headed downstairs for a huge country style feast. As I grabbed my aunt’s signature buttery biscuits and indulged in the lovely sweet potatoes and deep fried turkey, I was nudged by my uncle. I looked up and saw that Jackie hadn’t touched her plate. He gave me a look that said, Talk to her you idiot.
“So, uh, you ready for the summer?” I asked.
“Remove your hat from the table,” she said without looking at me. I didn’t, and she knew I wasn’t going to, even teachers know not to make me take off my hat.
“After dinner you wanna go for a walk?” I asked with a slightly demanding tone.
“Sure,” she said. At that point she began eating her food. I waited until she was finished and I grabbed her by the arm, pulling her away from the table. With a wave to my surrogate immediate family, we walked out of the door and headed down the country street.
“Alright,” I began, “what’s your problem?”
“I don’t have a problem,” she said quickly. “Everybody’s trying to act like they don’t know what’s going on. But I know what’s going on.”
“What’s going on?”
“You really wanna to know what’s going on?”
“That’s pretty much why I asked, Jackie.”
Jackie stopped in mid-stride and with a sigh said, “Chupacabra!”
“Jackie,” I said confused, “what the fuck is a chupacabra?”
“Oh, I forgot. You’re a city boy. You don’t know about chupacabras.”
“Insulting me isn’t really gonna tell me what chupalupa is.”
I stopped talking when I caught a blurred image zooming across the field we were next to. Both of our gazes followed in its direction and for about two minutes we just stood there trying to comprehend what was going on. We still didn’t know what it was that we’d seen, but we were just scared because of the prior topic we were speaking on.
“I wanna go check it out, Matt,” she said heading in the direction of the animal.
“Hell no,” I said walking back towards the house.
“Matty,” she said in her mischievous voice. That tone meant she had some kind of logic to a troublesome plan. “If you go home without me, my parents will never forgive you if something happens to me.” I turn around and we head in the direction of the possible chupacabra.
We kept walking until we heard what sounded like a goat getting murdered. I’d never heard a goat scream before, and possibly still haven’t, but if I had to guess on what a goat screaming sounded like then what we heard would be my answer. We followed the sound and ended up at a farm. There were three goats laid out across the grass, obviously dead, and that’s when we saw it.
“Jackie, I think that’s the chupawumba,” I said. She didn’t respond.
What my cousin and I were looking at was a werewolf looking beast hunched over sucking the blood out of a goat. It was eerily muscular even though it was skinnier than one would expect. The thing that shocked both me and Jackie was the long gray Mohawk. It started in the middle of its head and stretched to its tail with the rest of his body covered in thin gray hairs. It was as if he had a barber. Then it hit me, we were standing twenty feet behind it…openly.
Before I could react the beast turned his head around revealing its blood covered snout. Staring at us through emerald eyes, the beast stood upright at a height of 7’2 and began walking towards us slowly. I’m not sure if it was the human characteristics or the violent emerald eyes, but Jackie and I stood motionless. The chupacabra was now in front of us breathing heavily with the scent of blood and goat stained his breath. In complete and total shock we stood there motionless, waiting on him to gnaw into one of us. But to our surprise, he didn’t do anything. Instead he looked at Jackie, huffed three times, and turned away from us. Then he began running away, slowly picking up speed until we couldn’t see him anymore.
“What the fuck?” was all I managed to get out.
“Matty…” Jackie said hyperventilating. She dropped to the ground and I got down holding her for comfort, it didn’t help much though.
“You ok?” I asked her.
“No,” she said quietly, “Matty, I think I knew him.”
By Laura Scrivano
By Damien Power
Film adapted from the original monologue, Little Love
By Tyler Withrow
The last guardian fell slowly to the ground, his armor emitting a hollow thud as it collided with the ground. He sank slightly into the muddy soil of the swamp, the light fading from his eyes. His opponent, a slender knight wearing rusting armor, chipped and cracked with age, walked quickly to the fallen warrior’s side, plunging his sword through the prone figure’s helmet with a sickening crunch. The knight looked up, perusing the battlefield, now strewn with corpses. A marsh…no, a bog. Another day of rain and the battle would be all but forgotten, washed away into the surrounding swamplands. The knight sighed and removed his sword from his opponent’s skull, eliciting another unpleasant noise from the unfortunate corpse. He reached into the lining of his armor and slowly pulled out a torn rag, dyed an ugly brown by dried blood, and proceeded to clean his aged blade, accidentally tearing the lace on the rag, which upon closer inspection revealed itself to be something of a handkerchief. He cursed quietly to himself, placing the handkerchief carefully back into his chest plate. He looked up, spotting the tree in the center of the bog, his destination from the beginning. His body relaxed slightly, casting off the chains of war as he stepped towards the tree, a knotted, old, twisted dogwood, dead and rotting in the middle of the bog.
“Witch!” He cried, looking up at the tree.
“Where is my prize? You promised me that you would reward me if I defeated these men, whatever I want!”
For a moment, there was nothing. Suddenly, out of the flesh of the tree melted a figure, clad in a black cloak and holding a staff that emitted a dull glow, illuminating the witch’s face through the shadow of her hood. The light from her staff receded, encasing her face in darkness, but flared up again, revealing a wide grin spreading across her face, unnaturally beautiful with porcelain-white skin.
“Anything you want, you say? What is it you want, then?” she said, her body lifting off the ground ever so slightly.
“I require a new body.” The knight said. After a short pause, racking coughs exploded from inside his helmet, followed by a hollow, splattering sound. Blood began to drip from the inside of his helmet. He fell to his knees for a moment, quickly dragging himself back to his feet with practiced ease. “One that is not…dying.” The witch, hearing his request, flitted close to him and inspected his helmet, touching the rusted iron lightly.
“Is that all…very well then.” She stepped closer to the knight, placing a hand on his head, and uttering the word Bas under her breath. The knight was ripped from his feet into the air, struggling wildly. His rusted armor, by some unseen force, was slowly peeled back from his body. As it tore away, a blinding white light emitted from within it, masking his body in an unearthly glow. As quickly as it had begun, it ended, and the man dropped to the ground. Rising from his knees, he looked at the smooth, pale skin of his arms in surprise, quickly transitioning into shock.
“What…this is…not my body, nothing at all like my body.” He placed his hand on his chest, ran it across his widened hips, quickly realizing how smooth his skin was and how slender his body had become.
“A woman’s body!” The knight shouted, her new voice cracking with a mixture of bewilderment and outrage. “How could you do this to me, witch! She stepped forward, grasping the witch by the front of her cloak and pulling the taller woman towards her face. “I was meant to fight for my people, destroy my enemies! How could I do it like this…” The warrior glanced down with distaste at the witch’s gift.
The witch, still smiling, looked into the knight’s eyes.
“Do not doubt the quality of the body I have given you. Fight with me and you will do so with the strength of one hundred men.” The knight looked up, hope in her eyes. “But you should also realize that you are bound to me. Leave my side and you will turn to dust as you should have today.” The knight released the witch’s cloak and fell to the ground, tears of frustration gathering in her eyes.
“I was to be the champion of my people…I could have saved them…” The witch laughed to herself, leaning down and grasping the knight’s smooth, unlined face in her hands, forcing the woman to look into her eyes once again. Smiling softly, she said,
“There is a price for every wish. You are my champion now.”
By Vivian Caethe
“That night was the brightest moon of the whole year.” Her eyes were as wide as the celestial body described, her little hands expanding to demonstrate immensity in her small context. I smiled down at her tolerantly, unsure if we were having a conversation or if she was merely extemporizing for the sake of her audience.
“Why do you think it was so big?” I tried not to hunker down too much. Bringing myself down to her height was one thing, but if I hunkered too much, I still tended to loom. I imagined it was an uncomfortable experience for one so small.
“Mommy says that it is just because the moon gets really close to the earth every once in a while.” She frowned. It was the least imaginative explanation a parent could have given to their children. Although I had no children of my own, my people had a long history of telling tall tales to children. They would grow up soon enough to learn the lessons of harsh reality. It was better that they spend their childhoods in a state of wonder; it fed the soul for the long lean days of adulthood.
“I heard a different story.” I settled more comfortably on my haunches, all this bending and hunkering was bad on my old knees.
“What was it?” Her expression hungered for something more. She expected fairy tales from me and was rarely disappointed. I lived to please, after all. The children could ask anything of me. Adults, and goats, were another matter.
”Once, long ago, longer than you can even imagine, the moon and the earth were the best of friends.” I paused and she nodded for me to continue, settling into the posture of intense listening common to all children. “And one day, the moon came to talk to the earth. She was an insistent thing, you see. Quite like you, actually. Well, the earth was busy talking to the sun, serious conversation about allocation of sunlight, allowances for searing heat, amounts of atmosphere. You know, the sort of boring things that concern adults.”
“Well, the moon wanted a hug, since she still loved her friend and realized that the earth had been ignoring her for some time. It wasn’t that the earth didn’t love the moon, you see. It was just that the earth was busy with work and was trying to concentrate on serious business. The sun always was trying to reorganize the terms of their agreement, his nature being one of searing and burning and eating. Back then he wasn’t as kind and warm, he’s aged, you see.”
She nodded, the wet in her eyes telling me I had guessed her situation quickly. There were only a couple reasons why children found their way to my bridge. “The moon just wanted some attention and the earth wasn’t in the mood to deal with her. So she glared at her and told her to get out of the way and stop bothering her. Now, this hurt the moon so much that she cried so hard she got black splotches all over her pretty white face. She wobbled and wibbled and her orbit went from its perfect circle to the oval shape we see today. But in that moment of inattention, the sun took what he wanted and burned the top right off of Africa. Do you know what the Sahara is?”
“We saw it in the movie Ms. Hanson showed us. It seemed so big. I wanted to slide down the dunes.”
“Well, that’s what caused that. The sun taking what wasn’t his just because the moon wanted a hug. The earth forgave the moon, of course, but the damage was already done. But when the sun saw how sad he had made the moon, he apologized and struck an agreement with the earth. They would still have to negotiate, but every so often, the moon would be allowed to come between them. During those times, the earth would be protected from the sun for just long enough for a hug. Then it would be back to business as normal. But even now the moon only dares to come close to the earth to see what she’s doing once in every while. And when she gets close, she gets big and everyone earth can look and marvel at how pretty she is.”
“Is she as pretty as me?” She looked up at me, the need for approbation burning in her eyes.
“Of course my dear. All little girls take their beauty from the moon.” I looked up at the sky, seeing that the afternoon was shading to evening. “But now you should go home. Your mommy is probably missing you now.”
“All right Mr. Troll.” She stood up, brushing the knees of her jeans. “Can I come back tomorrow?”
“Only if your mommy doesn’t mind.”
“I don’t think she would care.”
A Nest of Straw and Stick
By David Macpherson
The house was toppled over and it seemed like the very structure exploded. The pig ran out from what once was his home and scurried to his brother’s stick house down the road. The wolf did not chase after, just laughed and waited. A game. A seasoning for the pursuit. The wolf loped off slowly in the direction of his prey.
A large amount of straw remained scattered like the blasted face of a bomb site. Some wrens began to gather the straw for nests, but were too overwhelmed by the enormity. Hawks finally found the strength to create something from all that straw. It was a beautiful, large nest, too large for the hawks, but how could they resist all that ample material. When the second house, the one from sticks, was demolished, they took some of that to help sturdy up this now gigantic structure.
The hawks knew they would not keep their creation. A giant bird, like none they had known in these climates, came and tossed the hawks out with an insolent wing. It was as if the nest’s existence conjured the bird. It settled in and felt content. It nested and sat on its eggs while noticing what was occurring in and around the house of bricks.
The giant bird watched the wolf go down the chimney and, almost immediately, jump back up burned, but still alive. The bird soared down and swallowed the wolf down its gullet whole. The wolf hardly put up a fight. The bird returned to its luxurious home and waited for the pigs to emerge, comforted in their belief of safety. Pigs would be something lovely for the bird’s children to have for a first meal. Just lovely.
By Natalia Yanchak
At the grocery, Hailey bumps in to an old acquaintance:
“Hailey! I haven't seen you in a dog's age. And I see you've still got that glorified shopping cart!”
“Hello, Mabel,” Hailey says, forcing a smile.“Look at your unit! It doesn't even have arms.”
Hailey is not the least bit amused by Mabel's observations. “He does. And he's very useful. I don't need much anymore.”
“Oh Hailey, if only everything in life was so simple.”
“We get by.”
“Why don't you and your...” She lowers her chin, looking over the tops of her reading glasses. “... help join us for a game? We're still doing cribbage on Thursdays. It's so much easier with this one around the house,” Mabel says, tapping her android's head. “Anyhow, my Geri prepares and serves all the food, then cleans the mess afterwards. I can just sit back and enjoy the game.”
“Mm-hm? Well, I appreciate the invitation.” Hailey nods a little and turns to leave. Mabel catches her shoulder.
“Listen, hon,” Mabel grips Hailey's pale green viscose blouse and leans in closer, as if worried she might offend someone. “These things are only good for a few years. And you never know, a few years may be all you have left. I'll have the pamphlet sent to you. You know, my son-in-law gets a great deal.” Mabel rides off, pompously sitting on the cushioned seat of her robotic scooter. A bumper sticker reads: You've been graced by the presence of my GeriForce 5000.
“Just ignore her, Om.” Hailey, delicate and grey at 73, places a stack of partially-prepared OmniFood automated entrees into the OmniMove's basket. “If you ask me it's all a bunch of phooey. Loyalty, above all else. You've never let me down. Not once.”
Hailey and Om leave the store. In a perky, metallic voice he utters: “You have 27 minutes before food storage temperature loss. Would you like me to recommend transportation?”
“Oh yes, please.” Hailey responds.“The travel time by bus is 19 minutes but takes a longer route. If we go through the park we will arrive at home in 14 minutes. However, upon arrival my batteries will be exhausted.”
“Thank you, Om. Let's walk.” Hailey sits on a small bench seat that folds out from under Om's armpit. They veer off the sidewalk and into the grassy park, increasing speed slightly as the robot corrects his motor's torque.
“I am glad you decided on this method of transportation, Ms. Hailey. Today is a lovely day.”
They travel together in silence, watching birds sail through the blotted sunlight as it filters through the trees.From the outside, Hailey's four-foot tall OmniMove is unimpressive: a small mango-sized head with one beady camera-lens eye, a wire basket belly framed by a robust mechanical arm. Rounded shoulders in an off-white moulded plastic give a human appearance: durable and washable, his temperature-controlled skin is smooth to the touch. He is mobile on all terrains thanks to treaded, caterpillar-track rollers. The voice of a young man -- a calm timbre despite gurgly syllabic limitations --emanates from a speaker behind a moulded plastic grid where a mouth should be: “Ms. Hailey, we have arrived.”
Hailey wakes from a light doze at the foot of The Burgundy Arms: a government-funded highrise for independent retirees. Hers was a life of detail, working as a bookkeeper until a softbot made her redundant. She put her only child through school before he moved away, then her husband left for something younger. Then belt-tightening measures imposed during the Depression led her here, to a sterile one-bedroom apartment on the 37th floor.
Om is at the charging station, facing the window, looking out over the city lights. A view of the smog as it hangs over the dark river, clouds punctured by the tips of tall downtown buildings on the opposite shore. It was verdant and picturesque once. On Om's chest a pink LED pulses softly, slowly, as if it were taking a laboured breath with each rise and fall in brightness. At 17:45 the LED switches off and Om powers up. Rotating his head slightly, he hears Hailey's voice in the other room. Hailey is at the phone console, the image of a middle-aged man on the monitor before her.
“...and how is your assistant? Did Maintenance visit?”
“Oh, yes, thank you for arranging that. A man came by last week and said my Om was working surprisingly well.” She smiles, seeing her own small grey head in the bottom left corner of the screen.“But I do wish you weren't so far away.”
“I know, mom, I miss you too.”
“When will you come visit?”
“Well, that's why I called. My contract ends in four months and I got a great offer for work in Taipei City,” he explains, excitedly.
“Mom, it's not like it used to be. It's competitive out there. I have to take what I can get, when I can get it. I don't want to end up in one of those Tenements for the Unemployed. I want to make you happy, comfortable.”
“I know, dear, and I am so proud of you.” She stares into his eyes, wishing she could hold him, her precious son, just for a moment. She hears something beep off screen, his gaze distracted by another device.
“Sorry, mom. I have to take this. I love you and... I'll try to visit soon.”
“I love you too... ”
And before the words have left her lips the screen flicks to black. Hailey remains in her seat for a few moments, unmoving, alone. She places her elbows on the console and holds her head in her hands. In the background she hears the whirring treads of Om as he begins to prepare dinner.
“Om?” She mutters.
“Yes, Ms. Hailey?” He moves closer and as he nears she flings her arms around him. Hailey feels the warmth of his artificial skin against hers.
“Thank you,” she sniffles. With all the precision his servomechanisms offer, he gently places his oven-mitted claw against her bony back.
In the morning, Om brings the mail as Hailey drinks her tea. Among the coupon books and flyers is an envelope from Home Helper Incorporated. Hailey passes the envelope to Om, who inserts the short end into his receptor utility. The envelope emerges with one end opened, which Om returns to Hailey. Inside is a brightly coloured pamphlet emblazoned with grinning seniors interacting with scooter-like machines. Cleanliness above all else! From the internal tank, super-heated steam disinfects your floors! The vacuum tube cleans upholsteries and removes unwanted residues. Both water and waste reservoirs are maintained via the patented Home Helper Autonomous Charging Station (additional charges may apply). Instruments on the Utility Arm include tools for the kitchen: knife, spatula, ladle, scissors and tongs! And a set for small repairs: screwdrivers, drill, saw, vices even a hammer! The InfirmaryPlus pack can be customized to meet your medical needs: blood testers and syringes pre-filled with medications and prescriptions! Never forget to take your pills again (additional charges may apply)! On the reverse side a dealer's name and address is printed, with the message: Mabel Strauss has recommended the GeriForce 5000! Place your order now to receive an exclusive referral discount! Don't delay!
Hailey looks up at Om, who is at the counter preparing breakfast. He turns, gripping a tray in his clawed arm, which he places before her. It is exactly how she likes it: white bread toasted to a golden brown, imported marmalade and a soft, unripened cheese set at room temperature. She tosses the pamphlet on the table. Om scans the document without moving.
“Is there anything else you require?” He nudges forward, eager for her response. Hailey looks up at him and notices he has her old, frilly apron tied around his obtuse basket belly. She smiles.
“No, thank you, Om,” She looks back down, taking up a butter knife to spread some marmalade. “But please dispose of this junk mail.”
“Yes, Ms. Hailey.”