Keep on Singing

Posted on: December 31, 2013

“Sorrysorrysorry,” Scott said, hustling up the hill.

“You should be,” Matt answered playfully, but Scott’s known him long enough to detect the sincerity hiding behind his words.

“Give him a break,” Dawn interjected. “We’ve got all day.”

“You know I’m just giving him a hard time,” Matt replied.

“Seriously, Matt,” Natalie chimed in. “I’m sure whatever’s going on with Scott is WAY more pressing than my pregnancy. God knows you guys had to cover for me a time or two during the nine months I was carrying a living creature around in my belly; feeding it, nurturing it, projectile vomiting because of it. ”

“Thank you, Dawn. F-you, Matt and Natalie.” Scott said, taking a swig of water.

Matt and Natalie’s high five overpowered the sound of Scott’s gurgling.

“GUYS,” Matt shouted.

“WHAT?” the others responded in unison.

“We did it!”

“Did what?” Scott asks.

“We kept this thing going for an ENTIRE YEAR!”

Matt blew his tuning whistle in celebration.

“Did you think we wouldn’t?” Dawn asked.

“Of course! Several times.”

“What the hell, Matt?” Natalie screamed, the pitch of her voice slapping Matt in the back of the head like she would’ve if she was within arm’s reach.

“Come ON. You mean to tell me you didn’t question our longevity for even the tiniest second? I don’t want to point any middle fingers or anything, but I know for a fact Scott did.”

Scott cleared his throat.

“And you did too, Natalie!”

“Those were the hormones talking.”

“I did too,” Dawn mumbled into the sleeve of her beige cardigan.

“Thou who hath not SINNED,” Matt spat, blowing the tuning whistle again to accent his point.

“But Matt’s right,” Dawn continued, “WE MADE IT A YEAR.”

Everyone “Woo-hoo’d,” at erratic pitches.

“That’s about how we sounded at our first practice,” Scott quipped once the chaotic noise subsided.

“HA. You ain’t kidding,” Matt confirmed. “My voice had the range of a bass drum back then.”

“I wouldn’t say any of us really mastered our craft at that point,” Dawn reassured him.

“Let’s not focus on our lows,” Natalie spoke up. “Let’s revel in our successes. We’ve managed to get a nice little following going.”

“You mean the close friends and family we begged to ‘Like‘ us on Facebook,” Scott clarified.

Bah-dah-tish,” Matt added.

“Ha, ha. But seriously, we may not fill auditoriums or anything, but people show up to every one of our shows,” Natalie reminded.

“EXACTLY,” Dawn agreed. “And we’ve inspired a bunch of others to hop on stage and lend us their talents from time to time.”

“Speaking of, where’s Luther?” asked Scott.

“Yeah, where’s everyone?” Natalie joined.

“They’re actually not coming,” Matt announced.

“WHAT?” The others barked.

“NOW,” Matt clarified. “They’re not coming NOW. They should be showing up in about an hour or so.”

“Then what were you giving me shit for?” Scott yapped.

“Because I’ve been giving you shit for almost fifteen years! Your brain would implode if I didn’t.”

“Oh. You’re probably right.”

“Seriously though, Matt, what’s up?” Natalie asked.

“Well, as we’ve previously established, we’ve been together for A YEAR NOW.”

Matt paused for a celebratory shout.

“No cheer this time? Okay. Well, I know this may sound a little sappy, but...”

“Aww, are you proposing!” Scott joked.

“Kill the moment why don’t you, SCOTT. Jeez!”

“Continue, Matt,” Dawn said, always a fan of heartfelt admissions.

“As I was SAYING,” Matt continued, shooting a glare at Scott,”I just wanted to let you guys know how much I’ve enjoyed collaborating with you over the last year. I’ve made a go of it on my own a few times in the past, but it always ended up as me just singing into the wind. And although our Facebook ‘following’ would suggest we’re still kind of harmonizing into thin air, at least we’ve found a nice rhythm together. Even if you’re the only ones who actually hear my baritone self, that’s enough to keep me doing this for the foreseeable future.”

“He IS proposing,” Scott cut in.

“SCOTT,” Dawn and Natalie scolded.

“I’m KIDDING. Sorry, Matt. You know sentimental moments bring out the seven year old in me, but I agree. This group has freed me from the shackles of my white-collar 9-to-5, and I apologize for keeping you my dirty little secret for as long as I did.”

“Oh YEAH. I forgot about that.” Matt said.

“Successes, Matt,” Natalie reiterated. “Let’s focus on our successes. And I agree. I, like Matt, have been down a handful of solo roads myself, and I gotta say, I’m liking the way it feels to be a part of this clique. If I didn’t just start a family of my own, you guys would definitely be my favorite family of 2013.”

Matt, Natalie and Scott turned towards the sniffles coming from the neckline of Dawn’s cardigan.

“Dawn?” Matt asked.

Dawn poked her head out from under the front of her sweater, a piece of lint clinging to the hinge of her glasses.

“I’m sorry, that was just...”

She paused to gain composure and continued.

“That was just beautiful, you guys! I know you three have known each other for over a decade, and I’ve only been a part of your lives for a year, but it just feels like we’ve been doing this since grade school, you know?”

“Aww Dawn,” the others caroled.

With everyone too choked up to speak, the four founding members of The Notebooks huddled together on the scenic hilltop for a jubilant group hug. As they waited for the other bandmates to arrive, Matt and Scott continued giving each other shit, Natalie shared photos of her newborn daughter and Dawn made the others look like underachievers by sharing the songs she’d already penned for next year’s setlist.

“So who’s ready to make an album cover?” Matt asked as the other a-cappella singers began making their way up the hill.

“How are we doing this again?” asked Dawn.

“In the most cliché way possible,” Matt answered.

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

Losing It

Posted on: December 24, 2013

Because your mother raised you Baptist, buy into your pastor's definition of fate. Believe in the existence of a soul mate and search for her. It’s never too early to find “The One.”

For guidance on this journey maintain perfect attendance at the Sex-Ed classes your church offers. The boys who share your curiosity about how and when God wants you to have intercourse will raise their hands and ask all the questions fumbling in your mind.

“So, when I get married I can do anything I want with my wife?” one will ask, as you imagine all the dirty things you’ve witnessed on late night web-browsing sprees.

“With your wife? Sure,” the pastor will guarantee despite the stunned look on his face.

When another kid asks him if he ever masturbated, he’ll end the class with a prayer begging the Holy Trinity for assistance.


At sixteen pursue a sweet Christian girl in your classes who’s impressed by your purity ring. She happens to be half Cuban, even though the only traits she inherits from her immigrant mother are her abilities to maintain a metabolism that sends food straight to her ass and to speak so fast that you have trouble keeping up with the words departing from her virgin lips.

Convince yourself you’ll end up with a Latina because the more time you spend swooning over the white girls at school, the less action you’ll get. God knows you’ll never make enough money to impress their fathers.

Develop a friendship before professing your love to her. That way you’ll know what songs to spend hours learning when you pick up the guitar. And she’ll appreciate that you sing her the one she likes to belt out of her window while driving around town on summer nights. Remain patient through the months she spends deciding if she’ll reciprocate your feelings.

During Youth Group discussions, when she defends the biblical condemnation of committing suicide, nod your head in agreement despite thinking life can be fucking depressing. Don’t mention that your father’s alcoholism looks a lot like someone ending his life “before God intends to.”

Ignore the invitations from your closest friends to party at the beach. To get drunk off light beer, get high on cheap weed, and roll around in the sand with girls who have daddy issues.

Instead, write your prudent girlfriend flattering lyrics accompanied by your guitar. Write her four-page letters explaining why you can’t breathe as easily now, because loving her has enlarged your heart so much that there’s hardly any room for your lungs. Or some corny shit like that.

Relish every opportunity to caress her round, soccer-toned ass. After your hand slips underneath her bra to grip her breast, her nipple poking the center of your palm, she’ll never allow you to do so again. Settle for dry-humping on your bed, the TV volume turned up so your mom can’t hear. One day the girl will mention that the friction between your jean-covered privates feels wrong. Because your religion has programmed you to associate pleasure with guilt.

That’ll be the extent of your sexual relationship for the three and a half years you spend admiring the virtue of her intentions.


In college, the two-hour drive between you will provide the space she needs to grow closer to God and for you to question whether He ever existed.

The Real Estate market will crash. She’ll know you transferred schools to help your parents so they don’t lose the house that represents an inkling of success after being uprooted from your homeland. But they’ll lose it, and she won’t call to ask how you’re doing.

When she does, she’ll say, “I don’t think we’re meant to be together.”

Realize she never loved you. Next time, listen to your mother, who foretold your heartbreak as if she were a prophet.

Go to your best friend’s house and drink your first beer, toasting the girl who wasted too much of your time. To hell with her and the morals she instilled in you.


Hang out with a good friend from high school who still talks to your ex. Lay a blanket at your favorite beach spot and drink a few brews to build courage. Tell her you always thought she was beautiful and kiss her when she tackles you onto the dunes.

You’ll drink too much on your twentieth birthday and almost hook up with the cute Colombian girl crushing on you. But your conscience will tell you you’re not ready. Her incessant texts after the party, outlining your future together, will prove it would’ve been a mistake.

At twenty-one ask out the cubanita who frequented the Spanish service at your church years ago. After a few dates she’ll sneak you into her house for foreplay, and you’ll wonder if she took that Sex-Ed class with the pastor’s wife.

Attend a drunkfest at your buddy’s pool. Your cubanita, who couldn’t look more like a white girl with her curly blond locks and icy blue eyes, will seduce you at the party and lead you to her car. Apologize when you leave her unsatisfied. She’ll say, “It’s okay,” and kiss you on the cheek before driving away.

Don’t think about your ex, who’s saving herself for marriage and expecting the same from her devout future husband—thereby forbidding your reconciliation. Don’t wonder if sex is the final Right of Passage to becoming a man. A man she would describe as ungodly.

Drown your regret in your father’s firewater. You’ll be unable to decipher what’s making you sick, if it’s the rum or the realization that you lost your virginity to a girl you’ll never love.

Written by: Eric Zurita
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe


Posted on: December 17, 2013

Angie’s cat gave Jayden that I-know-what-you’re-about-to-do look as he sat on the curb and spun his cell phone back and forth in his hands.

“Shut up, cat,” Jayden said. He sounded as stupid as Angie when she pranced out onto her patio in her underwear to feed the cat the dregs of her breakfast cereal. Sweet kitty! Kit-kit-kitty! Angie lived next door, and according to Jayden’s mother, spent rather a lot of time in her underwear as a profession, not just to give the neighbors a show.

The cat folded his flabby body in half and began to groom his undercoat, as if to say, “The thing that makes cats refined is we never say anything.”

Jayden checked the time on his cell phone. The plan would work. Wouldn’t it?

The cat stretched out his legs and began licking his privates. “At least I’m the real deal,” he seemed to say. “No shame. You’re a faker. Just look at your shoes.”

His shoes were brand new Adidas that he’d run over with his mom’s car to make them look beat up and vintage.

Jayden was going to call in a bomb threat. He was waiting until 11:05, the very moment the bell would ring for fourth period, to call the school’s front office.

It was 11:00. Jayden was almost sad he’d miss the chaotic moment. The skeptical but pounding pulse in Principal O’Shannon’s neck as he smacked the phone into its holster and hissed for the secretary to summon the campus cop. The teachers scuffling to herd everyone out into the parking lot across the street from the school, the one behind the old Piggly Wiggly.

The Piggly Wiggly, where the real bomb was hiding.

11:01. Angie’s cat stopped his beautification project. He was still slumped over, his white legs poking out like those of a pale man just home from work, stripped down to his boxers and collapsing into a Lay-Z Boy.

“You want me to bring you a beer?” Jayden drawled at the cat.

He knew when they linked the bombing to him they’d question his sanity. Talking to cats was a good start.

They’d peel through his life. They’d look for all his secrets, find none, and then construct some out of thin air.

They’d have his mother on TV, asking for privacy. The news would broadcast a street view shot of his sister’s dormitory at the University of Alabama. His sister, a bright young girl studying to be a doctor, recently returned from a medical mission trip to Belize, the news anchors would say. They’d shake their heads. They’d speculate about terrorist connections in Belize. They’d compare him to all the others who had come before.

But he wasn’t like all of them, his friend from an elementary school soccer team would say on Channel 5. Jayden wasn’t angry. He wasn’t bullied. No, I don’t think he was a psychopath.

11:03. It was interesting thinking of himself in the past tense.

Angie’s cat had enough of Jayden’s gaze. He stretched his back, spiking his claws into the ground a few times, before stalking off across the parking lot.

Jayden wondered what it would be like to be reborn as another person, maybe in Texas, maybe with a new name. He knew that wasn’t how it would shake out.

11:05. He tapped the school’s number into his phone, then Principal O’Shannon’s extension. Three rings.

“Ashton High School.”

“There’s a bomb in the building.” Jayden didn’t make any effort to disguise his voice.

“’Scuse me?”

“A bomb. In the building.”

“Who is this? Is this a joke?”

Jayden hung up the phone. His heart beat normally. He felt neither hot nor cold. He watched as if, almost in slow motion, Angie’s cat sauntered through the parking lot and sat in the middle of the drive.

The sun was shining. The students wouldn’t complain as they were led out of the school and closer to the ticking Piggly Wiggly building. They’d laugh. I bet it was Colton Simpkins, since he got suspended! Yeah, I bet he’s mad about missing football. Nah, I think Dontavius called it in. He hates fourth period chem.

11:08. And now, he waited. The bomb was set to go off at 11:17, just enough time for everyone to make it to the safety area. They’d done timed tests for fire drills. The current record was ten minutes, but Jayden had planned conservatively.

A white Honda Accord roared into the apartment complex from the street. It was going way too fast, thumping some R&B disaster at top volume. When the front bumper made contact with the cat, its furry black body, now looking somehow smaller, flew through the air and landed crumpled in the gutter.

The driver got out. It was Angie. Jayden could read the string of expletives forming on her lips. She stumbled toward the cat, but then pivoted and got back in the car.

The Honda reversed, skidded, and peeled out of the complex.

Was she drunk?

Jayden knew this was not a moment for judgment. He checked his phone as he walked towards the gutter. 11:14.

The cat was stiff. He nudged it with the toe of his Adidas. The cat gave a little rumble. Purring? Its dented body inflated.

“You good, buddy?” Jayden said.

The cat cracked an eyelid. Even having just dodged death, it could make time for a stink eye.

“What life was that? Four, seven? Hope you’re not up to nine.”

Jayden knew without checking his phone: 11:17. The ground of the apartment complex, only a mile from the abandoned Piggly Wiggly, shook. The cat lifted his head up out of the gutter. Jayden scratched him behind the ears.

Then Jayden ran towards the woods away from the direction of the blast.

They’d find his name on the absence list at the school. They’d trace his number from O’Shannon’s office phone. They’d bring in Angie as a witness. I might have seen him skipping school. He always did seem a little strange. They’d ask themselves why. They’d construct and deconstruct possible motives. They’d count the bodies. They’d hold a candlelight vigil. They’d find him. If he made it through the stakeout alive, they’d ask their questions.

And then he’d fold himself in half in the interrogation room chair. He’d look at the cops as if they were idiots. He’d say nothing. Just like the cat.

Written by: Dot Dannenberg
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

Hail Caesar!, or The Extended Obituary of Nell Riley Foster

Posted on: December 12, 2013

Nell Riley Foster, 23, of Brooklyn...

I can't do this.

Okay, fine - I don't want to do this. I volunteered. It's too late to back out now.

Nell Riley Foster, 23, of Brooklyn died early Sunday morning because some fucker got greedy and decided to rob the corner bodega with a loaded gun.

I shouldn’t say that, but you know when people your age die there's always that morbid curiosity about how it happened. I have to say something, Nell.

Nell Riley Foster, 23, of Brooklyn, died early Sunday morning. She was the victim of a violent crime.


Nell was born to Patrick and Lori Foster, March 15th, 1990, in Cambridge, Mass. After her brother learned about the Ides of March, he called her 'Caesar' and staged elaborate fake assassinations on her birthday. He feels a mixture of discomfort and joy about this now.

Of course I won't include that when I send it. That is too personal. Still, if only I hadn't tempted death or God or karma thirteen times.

Nell graduated from Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in 2007 and received a BA in English from Brown University in 2011. Nell studied abroad in Italy the summer before her junior year. She took an intensive language immersion course but still mistranslated dishes at Italian restaurants. She dated a guy who doesn't want to come to her memorial because it's "too hard, bro."

You'll note that out of respect, I did not call him a douchebag this time.

He is a total douchebag, though.

Nell worked for an online literary start-up. She blogged about Shakespeare's wittiest, dirtiest double entendres and why Northanger Abbey is a better Jane Austen novel than Pride & Prejudice. Her favorite response to readers' angry messages was "haters gonna hate." Her editor's favorite response was "I appreciate your comments and will keep this perspective in mind."

In her spare time, Nell wrote haiku poetry on fogged windows and steamed-up mirrors. Her goal was to finish the poem before the glass cleared. She became really good at it, dissecting syllable counts with an invisible abacus.

Nell spent a staggering amount of time contacting “those Iron Chef people.” She engaged in a one-woman campaign to have Nutella appear as the secret ingredient. Her emails bordered on propaganda.

Nell ran every day. Her brother would sometimes join her, but not enough for his own health, he thinks now that he has an opportunity to reflect and to regret.

Her legal name was "Nell," not Eleanor. She was very happy her parents skipped right to the nickname.

Nell preferred Thai curry to Indian curry, naan to pita bread, and coffee to tea. Her favorite taste was “Nutella” although she liked to use “umami” when the occasion arose. Based on her own ordering and cooking preferences, it seldom did.

This has turned into “Fun Facts about Nell.” I had to Google “how to write an obituary.” It seems like content shifts from salient biographies to trivia. Maybe I can contact your old editor and write a piece about it. It would either be hilarious or macabre. I’m betting the latter.

If our places were reversed, you would have made it a personal challenge. It would have been the former; it would have been brilliant and pitch-perfect, probably the best piece you’d ever written (but not the best piece you’d ever write). It would be a glorious memorial.

It should have been me, Nell. I should have gone with you. I could have pushed you out of the way. I could have done something. Even if it all played out the same - the stumbled-upon robbery, the gun, the shot - I would have been there with you.

What's the old saying? The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. You burned so bright you left pieces of yourself behind, and you linger like the light people see when they close their eyes. I swear I see you everywhere. Faint lines of you glow in panes of glass; your laugh smolders in my dreams (and nightmares); your smile flickers in the corner of my eyes. There is something comforting about walking into an empty room and it not feeling so empty anymore. Maybe I’m going crazy - I probably am; crazy is what happens when you intertwine your sister’s obituary with a letter to her, a letter she can’t see, a letter she’ll never see because she - you -

I need to take a break.

Nell is survived by her elder brother, Chase Foster, of Brooklyn; and her parents, Patrick and Lori Foster, of Cambridge. She is also survived by a chubby cat named Hazelnut and a betta fish named Cocoa.

Hazelnut and Cocoa seem to be adjusting to life with Mom and Dad. We try to adjust to life without you. It doesn’t always take.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Nell's name to 826 National, a national literary charity.

You mentioned trying to find a place to volunteer, and when I came to get Hazelnut and Cocoa I saw the pamphlet on your desk. It wasn't in the recycling pile, so I am almost positive it was on your shortlist and we would have talked about it.

For the record, I would have said "go for it!"

A private memorial service will be held at her family's home in Cambridge.

I will cry because you are gone. I will laugh at the good memories you gave me.

I miss you. I love you.

I know I will see you again when a room is empty. I will feel your presence fill it. Empty rooms are the dominion of the dead.

I will keep trying to adjust to life without you.

It will take. Eventually.

Written by: Erin Justice
Photograph by: Whitney Ott

The Outer Borough

Posted on: December 10, 2013

It was all too familiar. After awhile, all crime scenes started to feel the same. Especially the smell. The tinny smell of blood always saturated whatever shithole apartment the victim died in. And they were all shithole apartments in this part of town.

“Give me the rundown, Peterson,” Detective Thorne said as he snapped on a pair of rubber gloves, squatting to get a better look at the body.

“The victim’s name is Esther Walker. Sixty-three years old. Cause of death appears to be multiple stab wounds to her chest. Lives here in this apartment with her husband, Charles Walker.”

“Do we know where he is?” Thorne asked.

There were gelatinous mounds of blood surrounding Esther’s body, which told Thorne that the stab wounds he saw had penetrated her lungs. The blood had coagulated inside her body before seeping out onto the dated beige carpet.

“He’s supposed to be at work. South Bronx Auto Body over off of White Street. Our boys already checked it out, he’s not there. We got an APB out on him. Get this though, Charles is six months out of the pen. He was released last year after serving thirty years on a life sentence for the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl back in '79. The medical examiner’s report indicates that the girl was sexually assaulted and then stabbed to death.” Officer Peterson eyed Esther’s body and the similar wounds on her body. He was giddy, “You think he did this?”

Thorne glared at him. Peterson’s smirk quickly faded.

“Any eyes on a potential murder weapon?” Thorne asked as he scanned the one-bedroom apartment, hoping to gather enough clues to reconstruct the events leading up to Esther’s death.

“No, nothing yet.”

There was religious imagery everywhere. Esther was a woman of faith, after all. She had held on to hope all those years that her husband was innocent. For three long decades, she had filed petition after petition to have her husband freed, paying attorneys inordinate amounts of money, and begging non-profits to take on her husband’s case.

“My Charlie is innocent,” she had told reporters. “Charlie always told me that we would save up and move out to the country together. He wanted to get away from the big city. Charlie never did like it here. He said it corrupted people. After this experience, I believe it. The prosecutors, they didn’t have any leads, so they pinned it on him. Well, I have faith that Charlie and I will be reunited again one day and that we’ll make his dream of leaving this place a reality.”

Esther’s resolve ultimately paid off. She had finally brought her husband home and they would start saving up to move upstate, out of the city.


Charles had been nursing a glass of Jameson for a few hours now. The Blarney Stone was a few blocks away from his apartment, but Esther would never know to look for him there. He had lost his taste for alcohol in prison, but didn’t know where else to go.

“Charlie,” Gary started from behind the bar.

“Don’t call me that, only Esther calls me that,” Charles replied, still looking into his glass of brown liquor.

“Charles,” Gary continued, “what’s going on? You’ve been coming here every morning for the past week, ordering a glass of whiskey that you don’t touch, not saying a word to anyone.” Gary had known Charles from before the conviction, he hesitated before adding, “Look, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, but you gotta start living again. Get back into a normal routine – go to work and at the end of the day, go home to your loving wife.”

“I killed her Gary,” Charles said suddenly.

“What?” Gary was taken aback.

“I’ve never told anyone, but I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. I was drunk, that’s not an excuse, just a fact, and I killed her. I killed that girl.”

“Alright Charles, I think you should stop talking about all that now.” Gary wasn’t sure what to do with the information he was now privy to, wasn’t sure if he was supposed to do anything with it.

“I wanted to confess to the police, I really did, to get it off my chest. But Esther…I couldn’t break her heart. She was fighting so hard for me, you know? I never actually thought she’d be able to get me out. But she did it and they let me go...they let me go on a fucking technicality.”

“Charles, look buddy…” Gary was desperately trying to plug the leak he had inadvertently caused.

“I accepted it Gary,” Charles was looking straight at him now. “I was guilty and I accepted that I was supposed to be in there. I thought it was all over. How are you supposed to go on living after you’ve already accepted death?”


Nothing in the apartment appeared to have been disturbed, Thorne realized, at least not in any obvious way.

“What happened here?” Thorne wondered to himself.

The only thing that caught Thorne’s eyes was two framed paintings that were hanging at an angle. One was a reproduction of the Last Supper and the other was of a farmhouse. Thorne couldn’t be sure if the paintings had been jarred by a struggle or if they’d been crooked all along.


“Prison was supposed to be my punishment,” Charles continued, “It was supposed to be how I suffered. But now I’m a free man, living on good fortune that I didn’t earn. Human experiences are always paid back in turn,” Charles said as he threw back his glass of Jameson.

“You’ve been given a second chance Charles,” Gary mustered, not really knowing what to say at all.

“I’m an old man Gary. Even if I had all the time in the world, you can’t make up for taking away someone else’s.”

“You can at least try to lead a good life with what you have left.”

“Maybe, Gary, maybe. At least I have Esther.”

Written by: Sam Chow
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

A Tremor in Your Name

Posted on: December 3, 2013

(continued from "Beloved" and "Bury Their Own")

Anna stands by the window, resting her head on her forearm propped up against the wall. Searching the backyard, she spots the noose that almost ended her client’s life and the little red stool that kept death at bay. The yellow police tape wrapped around the perimeter of the house quivers as rain begins to fall. Anna closes her eyes as the pattering resonates through the ceiling, recalling the boil of her blood when Lucas appeared by her side, a ghost that had possessed an innocent man and compelled him to attempt murder. Suri, her client, hired Anna to extract Lucas from her life. For fourteen years he has haunted her and taken control of men’s bodies in order to do her harm. While Suri recovers, Anna remains in this abandoned house with nothing more than a name to go by, but in her line of work, a name is all the power she needs.

She sits down on the floor in the center of the room and rubs the cross dangling from a chain around her neck. In the blink of an eye, a ten year old girl sits in front of her wearing an easter dress and a blue bow in her blonde hair. Lydia Marie is the ghost haunting her necklace, and her phantom sidekick. She tilts her head to the left and studies Anna’s face, furrowing her brow.

“What’s wrong, Anna?”

Anna smiles with just the right corner of her lips and shakes her head, “I’m trying to track someone down.”

“A ghost?”


“Well, you can only see him if he lets you see him.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Lydia Marie wrinkles her nose and offers an impish grin. “But I can see him even if he doesn’t want me to.”

Anna looks up and mirrors the spectre’s expression. “Precisely. Lucas knows the rules; if I say his name, he has to come. You can be my lookout for when he decides to show up.”

“But how are you going to extract him? It doesn’t sound like he’ll be too interested in taking orders,” Lydia Marie says with some concern.

“He’s obviously got some unfinished business and it’s centered around Suri. A game of twenty questions is in order. If he gives me a motive, then I just need to provide him with a suitable substitution.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

Anna doesn’t answer. Instead, she claps her hands and rubs her palms together, fighting the chill down her spine. “You ready?”

Lydia Marie nods, unsure at first, but gaining confidence with the prospect of helping Anna catch the bad guy. Anna imagines her lungs expanding in every direction as she inhales, then whispers.


Lydia Marie hides in the closet, peeking through the shutter-style slats with her hands over her mouth. The hair on the back of Anna’s neck stands on end and her skin prickles with the presence of another otherworldly being. She does not see Lucas pacing in front of her with his hands behind his back, grinning from ear to ear. She waits for Lydia Marie to signal her, but instead the young ghost passes suddenly through the closet doors with horror written in her eyes.

“What are you doing here? Where’s my father?”

Lydia Marie is all but shrieking, her spectral hands balling up into fists and tears welling up in her eyes. Lucas turns toward her, still invisible to Anna who is startled and jumps to her feet. He narrows his eyes as he searches his memory for who she is and recognition passes over his face.

“Ah, Lydia. I left your father long ago…”

Lydia Marie’s entire body trembles, her bottom lip quivering. “It was you! It wasn’t Daddy! It was you!”

Lucas pulls the corners of his mouth up into a smile and shrugs. “If that makes it easier for you to cope, my dear, but I didn’t make him do anything other than what he’d already considered himself.”

Anna, unable to hear Lucas, asks desperately, “Lydia Marie, what’s he saying? Ask him what he wants. Ask him why he’s doing this!”

“You’re a monster! I’m all alone because of you!”

Lucas chuckles, his hiss like poison. “You and your father, ripped apart. All alone. Just like me.”

Before Anna has a chance to confront him, the chill leaves her skin and she knows that Lucas has disappeared. Lydia Marie wraps her arms around herself and looks up at Anna, shaking her head from left to right.

“Before Daddy drowned me, there was always a man at the house. He would sit with my dad while he drank and watch him when he hit me. I never knew who he was. I thought he was Daddy’s friend, but I understand now. It wasn’t Daddy who hurt me. It was Lucas.”

Flesh and spirit, the two stand in silence. A dog barks in the distance as thunder rips through the rain.

“Anna, Lucas said Daddy and me are all alone just like him.”

Kneeling down in front of Lydia Marie, Anna meets her gaze and whispers, “Let’s go find your father.”

The ghost looks down at her feet and asks, “What if he doesn’t want to see me?”

Anna shakes her head and says, “Baby girl, I think he’s been dying to see you since 1962.”

Lydia Marie looks up and says, “I want Daddy to know I forgive him, that I know it’s not his fault.”

Anna realizes that this is the reason why her friend hasn’t been able to crossover. All this time Lydia Marie was wandering between worlds because she believed a lie, that her father never loved her. Reconciliation could be the very thing she needs to move on, a bittersweet notion once Anna considers that she would lose her. But this is why Anna entered this obscure line of work, to secure peace for both the living and the dead.

“Come on. Maybe we can track him down before dinner time.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

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