Issue #28: BELONGING

Here you’ll find merch, Issue #28 story excerpts, and the issue’s Spotify playlist. So take a look, and make sure you haven’t missed anything!

Issue 28 Belonging Cover

Artwork by Ava Glori-Jean Tuitt

Story Previews

It’s well past midnight by the time he shows up. At first, there’s just a flash– white moving through the underbrush. Eventually a long fat body scurries along the honeysuckle bushes towards the tray of fruit I left out. Grapes are a favorite of mine. Figured he might likey-like, too, far as bait goes.

Didn’t want to deal with this thing when I first scented him a week ago, down by the creek, along the fence line, under the back porch. Don’t really want to deal with it now. But I’m sitting in a tree branch anyway, waiting.

I stay crouched against the trunk of an elm until he’s fully out in the open and I can get a good look. My eye-sight’s not what it should be at night, but the full moon’s light don’t keep secrets long and from this distance even I can tell it’s like I thought. He’s got to go. This opossum-thing’s both too close, and not far enough.

Waiting on the dock for her father to arrive, she inhaled the tang of seaside air.

Her father drove up in a rusted Volkswagen, his tires sending fine dust into the air. It was  the same car he’d driven her in his whole life. Coughing, he got out, feeling his knees ache as he crossed the dirt road, then the wooden dock. He wore his best clothes. This was an occasion. Fidgeting, he adjusted his grey wool jacket, his grey wool trousers, tailored twenty years back and now too big for his thinning frame.

Her eyes adjusted to all this bright, all this not-water but dust-air, to her feet walking on the ground. Rolling her shoulders, blinking sticky eyes. A man walked up to her. Thin, frail, weak. Oh yes. This is father. As he arrived, she bent down and kissed his stubbled cheek. Mother long dead; it was just the two of them now.

It’s been nearly a year since the infamous murder trial following the terrible fire at Knoxmarion Occultic Academy. The prestigious boarding school for the magical education of young men has new spiked iron fencing now; looking through it, one can see charcoaled earth being covered with fresh sod, new trees planted. The fire damage is nearly erased, but the mausoleum concealing the remains of founder Sir Martim Betancort is still tented, fenced off with barbed wire, and warded. Discussion of tearing the structure down is causing a continuation of the violent protests that began long before the trial of KOA v Pearson, Walsh, Robinson, and Hall. And looming high above it all is the grim, twisted remains of the school tower, a soot stain against the bright spring sky.

My mother grips me tight and begins with the lathering. Sweet seed oil, rubbed so thick onto my skin it streaks brown arms with traces of ghostly white. It fades into a slick gloss as it melts in the morning sun, and the beads of her headdress tap along my arm as she leans over to grip me, to focus. I am old enough to dress myself but also old enough to understand she needs the disguise of kneading the anxious shaking out of her hands. Rough hands grind my shoulders, my arms, my chest, my legs, my feet, my back, and I steel myself to take it because they always grow gentler. And they do. They move upward and show their mercy,  slower, more careful. They circle my neck, bringing oil up to my chin, and then gently up my jaw and onto my cheeks. Thumbs spread across my forehead, down the bridge of my nose, under my eyes, remembering. She finishes, letting down hiked up bunches of her ceremonial robes as I let my braids down, and she wipes the excess oil onto her own forearms, then elbows. I manage a small smile, and she manages to give one back.

Folks tell tales of people stepping out of the water. Lee’s River flows under Robert’s Bridge and stretches into a white mist for miles. Legend says the Bridge is a crossroads where spirits tread. Folks tell tales of people stepping out of the water. They say a body found in the River meant someone would rise out. Some believe someone or something lives down in the riverbed, making movements that no fish, frog, or beaver ever made. A “Do Not Swim” sign warns people to stay away, although reverence for the spirits, not to mention the foul odor of decay that emanates from the water, works just as well. The place hasn’t seen a rainbow in years. Even the gators keep their distance.

Glory is a funny thing. The search for it is an innate human nature and it is backed up by an even core aspect of a person’s character: just how selfish and selfless are they, and how much does that lead them to overlook the nature of others? When you really think about it, all of a person’s actions can be defined on a scale to determine just how selfish each action was.

“Are you really going to do it?”

I looked at my little brother and ruffled his bushy hair like he was a scruffy pup. “It’s a bit too late to turn back now, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I just don’t understand why you couldn’t choose an easier test, Ka. People don’t come back from this one,” he said.

I got down on one knee and placed my bow on the ground. Then I took out my dagger from its pouch and threw it with all my might towards the sky. “Do you know why the bird circles the snake before it swoops down?”

Poem: Imported Entry Into An Android Cosmos  by Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan

Poem: Woz Quartz V by Lysz Flo

Poem: Defiling Stone by Jarred Thompson

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