The Secrets of Bayou Galafete

Posted on: August 31, 2016

Meg needed money. She had graduated in the spring with a degree in journalism, and though she had been on more than a dozen interviews, stiff competition was making it tough to land even an entry-level position. With dwindling options, Meg took a short-term, temporary assignment filing reports, test results, and memos in a cramped, windowless storage room at a local research facility, Sidero BioLabs, Inc. There was nothing exciting about it—until she discovered a handwritten note stuck to the back of a report.

Heart pounding, Meg raced home that evening and booted up her laptop. Still trembling from her earlier discovery, she opened a search engine and typed “Bayou Galafete news articles.” The results included various human interest stories, articles on local history, and reported ghost sightings. However, two stories in particular looked promising. In the first, nearly a decade before, residents reported strange activities in and around the bayou including unmarked vans coming and going in the middle of the night. Others stated seeing fish disfigured and five times their average size, birds with only one eye, and aggressive behavior in animals typically considered docile.

The second, more recent article—dated two years earlier and buried in a small-town online newspaper—reported that evidence of illegal dumping in several waterways pointed to members of the Gedeon Clan, local swamp folk going back generations. Men further down in the clan pecking order were arrested and charged, but when questioned about dumping into the Bayou Galafete, a high-priced lawyer materialized arguing that the evidence was circumstantial at best and proclaiming his clients’ innocence. He brushed aside all of the accusations as unfounded ramblings by local drunks. He was quoted as saying, “The Gedeons are upstanding citizens with legitimate business interests in the community. They stand firm that these allegations are baseless and only meant to tarnish their reputation.” The judge quickly dismissed the charges and the clansmen were released.

Meg’s journalistic instincts kicked in.


“You want me to do what?” Jack said.

Meg had briefly explained her concerns about what she found but felt it best not to go into too much detail with her anxious roommate.

“Aren’t you overreacting just a bit?” Jack added.

“No, I’m not. Something weird is going on out at Galafete. This could be the break I've needed. If there is something to that note and I have the exclusive on it, then the sky’s the limit. Please, Jack. I don’t want to go by myself,” Meg pleaded.

“You know I would do anything for you, but that place freaks me out just thinking about it. Besides,” Jack said with a flip of his hand, “I’m busy tonight.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll have you back in time to watch ‘Housewives of Atlanta’,” Meg replied, rolling her eyes.

“Hey, that show happens to be an important sociological commentary on women’s role in a male-dominated culture.”

“Of course it is. So will you go?” Meg persisted.

“Fine, but you owe me. Big time,” Jack said.


The soupy bayou, entangled in ghostly vapors, slithering evil, and the raucous cacophony of bullfrogs, cicadas, and screech owls unnerved the young couple. Sunset was still an hour away, but deep in the bayou, darkness was already upon them as they wound through towering bald cypress and ancient oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Meg’s flashlight beam caught on the weather-worn cottage as they made their way down the overgrown path. “Just a little further,” Meg whispered.

The crumbling stucco and rusted tin roof were clear indications the small house had been abandoned long ago. They stepped inside through a collapsed wall. The current residents – cockroaches and a family of mice – shared the mildew-covered room with containers of various sizes labeled SIDERO BIOLABS, INC. and marked with a crudely drawn skull and crossbones.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jack said, backing straight into a spider web. “Eew!” He screamed, flapping at the sticky tangle wrapped around his head.

“Shhhh. Be quiet,” Meg said.

“I’m outta here,” Jack huffed.

“Let me get a few pictures first.” Meg pulled her phone from of her back pocket and snapped photos of the containers.

A loud splash drew their attention.

“Omigod, was that a gator?” Jack said.

“Mmm, probably,” Meg replied, heading out through the hole in the wall.

“Meg...Meg....” Jack called out in a hoarse whisper.

“Not so loud,” Meg said. “Come on, just a quick look and then I promise we’ll leave.”

“Two seconds, that’s it,” Jack said stomping after her.

They crept onto the wobbly wooden pier, conscious of their every move as it swayed beneath them. Meg skimmed the water with her flashlight. A large shape breached the still surface twenty feet from where they stood, its disfigured tail fin slapping the water as it dove out of sight.

“What the hell was that?” Jack whispered, stepping forward.

Meg grabbed his arm. “I don’t know, but stay back.”

“Man, that was no gator.”

“Do you still think I’m overreacting?” Meg said.

“We need to call... Wait, who deals with something like this? EPA, FBI?” Jack said, watching for signs of the creature’s return.

“EPA I guess,” Meg replied. “But we have a problem.”

“What now?” Jack said, his voice jumping up an octave.

“No reception,” she replied, turning in circles, tilting her phone. “But I’ll get a few photos of this area, plus I have you as my witness, in case— “

“In case what?” Jack demanded.

“Never mind, let’s just get out of here.”

They turned. A dirty bearded man, menacing in head-to-toe camouflage, with his pistol drawn, blocked their path.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Written by: Enid Cokinos
Photo by: Kassie Ritman

The Dictator's Lemonade

Posted on: August 24, 2016

The Dictator was exiled to a small island in the Pacific, somewhere between Hawaii and Australia. The parallels to a famous, short, French dictator were obvious. But The Dictator, Our Dictator, stopped reading that biography around the halfway point.

“Why’d you stop reading?” I asked him under a blistering South Pacific sun.

I was writing a magazine article - a human interest piece commissioned by a now-defunct periodical - designed, I guess, to humanize him, my editor thinking, surely, exile must have done him some good.

“He’d just won a great victory,” he told me. He took a drink of lemonade. He smoothed his beautiful hair with one, heavily-jeweled hand. “It was very well done. He did very, very well. And you know what? I’d learned all I needed to know about him.”

“I have a gift,” he continued. “I know people. I really do. And I knew when I read of his victory, his great victory, very well-earned, I knew it then, I knew…”

He trails off as a very beautiful woman, very tall, exceptionally tan, approaches and puts her hand on his shoulder.

“I found your sock,” she says in a heavy, foreign accent. “I didn’t think I would find it, but then I looked again! There it was.”

“Wow!” he says.

The Dictator shifts his focus to me. “Did you hear that? She found my sock!”

“Fantastic,” I say.

“I thought it might be lost,” the woman says to me. “But then I found it. Later. At a different time.”

“That’s very good,” he says. “Very, very good.”

He pats her backside and she slinks off down steps behind the infinity pool, so that it appears she’s disappeared into the ocean.

The Dictator and I sit on the back porch with the ocean and a sweating carafe of lemonade as our only distractions. The house is all open white doors that hope to corral what’s left of the breeze after the heavy humid air shakes it down. There’s a television the size of a wall playing old Scooby Doo cartoons in the living room, and through our conversation the bizarre patois of slobbering Scooby bookends any silence found in our conversation.

The Dictator has had work done on his hair, his face, his hands, but peculiarly not his body. His paunch is a personal TV dinner tray under his button up white shirt. The shirt is too small and has somehow collected crumbs, though we haven’t eaten anything since sitting down. He’s wearing white linen pants. His tan is fluorescent even under an afternoon sun. He once joked, with his counterpart of some vaguely European, nuclear-powered dynasty, that, “If they turn the lights out on me I’d glow like a fucking night light,” and even now, years later, when you look at him you believe it.

“That’s what they don’t understand,” he says unprompted. “That’s the thing about guys like me!”

I wait for him to supply some context to his outburst, but he waits for me to respond. He does this all the time. It’s like he’s been interrupted by silence and he holds it against you, and more importantly, he wants you to know that he holds it against you. In conversation with The Dictator, you are responsible for the uncouth interjections of silence, so get used to it.

“How has your life changed since you’ve been exiled?” I ask him.

“Oh, I love it,” he says. “Look around. I’ve done very, very well here. Did you see that woman earlier?”

“You know I did.”

“That woman,” he leans in to whisper, “that woman is a treasure. I found her here. She was buried in the holds of an old Spanish galleon, The Conquistador, that’s wrecked a few miles that way.”

He points towards the open ocean but locks his eyes on mine.

“Under lock and key,” he continues. “17th century. Hundreds...hundreds of years she’s been there waiting for a guy like me to dig her up. Centuries. I went down there myself. My good friend, Billy, the director - you’ve heard of him - he has a submersible. A submarine. It has claws, and I went down there myself. And I tell you what, pal, I saw her down there shining like a billion Spanish coins, and that’s what she does...she lights up my life.”

He leans back and takes another sip of lemonade. I know he’s joking but his eyes don’t seem to agree. It strikes me, seriously for the first time in years, that perhaps he’s had a break from reality. In the beginning, of course, it was easy to think that way. He made it easy. It was his greatest trick. The Devil and The Dictator...

“The finest trick of the devil,” he says to me, somehow (no... surely not) reading my mind, “is to persuade you that he does not exist.”

The Dictator sits back in his chair, satisfied. “Shakespeare.”

I grin. “I think it was Charles Baudelaire,” I say. “French. Nineteenth Century. He was a poet.”

“Listen, Charles…?”

“Baudelaire,” I say.

“Right,” he says. “He might have said it. Technically, he might have said it. But it was Shakespeare that came up with it. Will Shakespeare. Greatest writer the world has ever known. Smart guy. Very, very smart guy.”

In certain circles, particularly circles of The Revolution, there once floated tales of arguments and consequences; a word cloud of disappearance, strangulation, poison, torture - all orbiting The Dictator, sucked in by that gravity of Power.

I keep my mouth shut about Baudelaire and Shakespeare.

“You see those boats out there?” he asks me, pointing towards anchored yachts not far off the coast of his island. “I’ll let you in on a secret.”

He leans in and whispers, “One day. Soon. Someday soon. Very soon. Those boats are going to take me back home. Back to my people. Back to where I belong. And when I get there, I’m going to do very, very well. Because they love me. They really do. It’s easy to see.”

“This,” he gestures to everything - the lemonade, the house, the ocean - “It’s rigged. Really. They know it, you know it, I know it. Everyone knows it.”

He leans back in his chair, and takes a long drink of his lemonade. “Jesus, fuck.”

After I leave his island, but before this story goes to print, The Dictator is found dead in his bath. The official causes are au naturel, but the country whispers, “Poison,” and then, even softer, “Lemonade? Really?”

Written by: Logan Theissen

The Fortunate Beasts

Posted on: August 17, 2016

Heights aren’t really my thing, so I only look down briefly. Just enough to get the gist. Some crazy motherfucker, spinning in circles, riding his bike on the walls. A blur that defies both gravity and sanity. I’m not here to watch a sideshow though.

I shift my gaze to the assembled crowd. A lot of families. Honest, wholesome people. Curiosity seekers who love the spectacle, the magic. The type who hold their breath and offer prayers even though basic physics says what these daredevils are doing is relatively safe. Especially for skilled professionals.

And there are the others. Gawkers, I call them. Those that want the rider to fail, that want to see the carnage. The type of people who get off on pain. A couple of them recognize me, they point and smile and whisper to each other and I know they will be here later too, after the fair closes to the public. They will be here to watch me.


The walls don’t look as tall from the bottom of the wooden pit. The air tastes like burnt rubber and gasoline. This is definitely a first for me, but it doesn’t really matter. I’ve fought in all sorts of places. Rundown boxing rings. Empty swimming pools. Old warehouses. Cement pits still slick and sticky with the blood of unfortunate animals, forced to fight for the amusement of the most fortunate beasts of all.

I look at the crowd. It’s mostly men, though there are some brave females sprinkled throughout. I see the guys that recognized me earlier and give them a nod. My eyes continue around the makeshift ring until finally, I find her.

We met at a party in L.A. a couple years back; both part of the evening’s entertainment. I was there to fight. She was there to fuck. It’s not pretty but it’s what we do, how we survive. We make our way with blood and sweat. It’s all we have, the tears dried up long ago.

She tries to smile. She doesn’t want to watch me fight. I know how she feels, the hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach that’s slowly creeping up her throat until it almost chokes her. It’s why I can’t watch her videos. But tonight, I need her here. I don’t trust anyone else, and neither does she.

* * *

My old man used to say that once you get used to the taste of blood, you’ll learn to like it. Maybe he said it as a way to cope with some deep down guilt about smacking me across the mouth. Maybe he had no guilt and just said it to try and toughen me up. Either way he was full of shit, I’m used to it, but I still hate the taste.

I hate the pain too, but there’s no getting used to that. The throbbing knuckles, raw and swollen and disjointed. The short, stifled breaths as my lungs try to expand and contract in a cage of broken ribs. The electric jolt as my nose breaks for the hundredth time. There are no romantic notions here. None of that Tyler Durden, fighting makes me feel alive bullshit.

I fight because it is my gift, beaten into me by a man who was supposed to love me, who was supposed to take care of me. In a sad, sick way, I guess he did. My gift will be my escape.

I glance back up at her. She gives me a weak smile. She understands. In the dark of night, she fell prey to her father too.

* * *

I stare across the wooden pit at my opponent. The last of the gypsy kings, champion of the Irish bare-knuckle brawlers. One hundred ninety pounds of pure gristle and bone. Stories of his fights have reached near mythic proportions in the dimly lit backrooms where such things are spoken of.

But most of this blood-thirsty crowd isn’t here for him. He isn’t the one with millions of views and thousands of followers on Youtube. He isn’t the one dubbed by the media as the “Lord of the Underground.” In this world, he is a relic, a boxer who has never studied the militaristic martial arts of sambo and krav maga, who couldn’t tell you the difference between jiu jitsu and a jujube. Tonight is being promoted as a crossroads, a generational shift, the passing of the torch from the old school to the new. 

The murmurs of the crowd begin to build. I hear the bookies screaming, taking last minute action. The odds have increased. It’s up to seven to one for me. I try to shut out everything and everyone.

The referee brings us together. He explains the rule. The only rule; we go until one of us can’t.

I study my opponent’s face. His scars are a roadmap of hell. I look into his eyes. I don’t expect to see fear, but it’s right there, in plain sight. Has it been too long? When was the last time he fought?

We shake hands and start to cirlce. My jab fires quickly, mashing his lips into his teeth. I jab again and swing for an overhand right but his uppercut collides with my chin. I crumple to the ground. He swarms quickly and I can do nothing but cover up as he rains down punches. His fists dance, finding their mark again and again. I look towards the referee. He won’t interfere until I’m out cold or I submit. Another punch lands flush. I tap and the ref pulls him off me. The crowd erupts, some cheering, most jeering. I look up and find her in the crowd.

I read her lips. “Are you okay?”

I spit blood on the ground and nod.

* * *

As we sign the papers on the RV, I look at her. It was all her idea. Not long after we met, I asked her what would make her happy.

“The open road,” she said as she weaved her fingers into mine. “Just you and me and the open road.”

“And how exactly do we do that?” I asked.

And so she figured out a way. The videos. The internet celebrity. All her creations. She saved every dime we made from exploiting our bodies and when the right time came along she bet it all.

On the other man.

Losing doesn’t hurt bad at all when it pays so well.

Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

Where the Wild Went

Posted on: August 11, 2016

Flames lick at the leaves. Burning captured in photos. The pictures flash over the stage, stretched into obscurity, but Pike knows them. A forest eaten by fire, frame after frame. 

Light pools and melts over their guitars; Pike purchased his sister’s portfolio for this purpose.

He drinks in the darkness off stage, large lungfuls of dank air from the club. Tonight Helen and the Torches are the headliners and he is not Pike, but Flint. No longer labeled a Flynn Twin.

Beer on the shoe, in the mouth, alcohol slows…the…songs…down. Acoustics arc the soul into shape.

Pike wonders what’s happened to live shows. The painful beat in the ear, in the head. Understanding the lyrics like no one else. The beauty of lavender light from stage on skin. Hot kiss of melody sung just off-key enough to be endearing.

Now people want perfection.

Their filters are new and they are new and he wonders why they can’t trust their own memories.

He only trusts what he remembers.

Keeps the music his own.

* * *

Pike took a beer out past the tree line, walked until the bonfire burned like a lit match in the distance. He’d been led from town by the blaze; hot and thick and delicious.

“Thought you'd forget, Pember,” he said.

His sister joined after the beer was gone, sipped slow, can crushed in his hand.

“A promise is sacred,” she said, smiling through her discomfort.

Pike knew she didn’t like the past.

They unearthed the plastic Power Rangers thermos, which once fit into the matching lunchbox before Louis Alexander stole it during their third grade field trip to the Jell-O museum. Pemberley had kissed Pike’s forehead after, took him to bury the dead.

His thermos had lost its twin.

“You’ll do the same when I die,” she’d said.

They’d sworn with paper cuts pressed together: “To be opened again, before we become different.”

College was coming.

They knew the world would change them.

Pike popped the lid, revealed old things inside. Their dad’s favorite matchbox car. Papers and pens.

Their secrets.

“Ever think, maybe, we were never the people we were supposed to be?” Pike asked.

“You think you’re so much smarter,” Pemberley said. The words arrived soft and sure, and they sounded raw. Too real. And it hurt Pike to hear this from his twin.

“Belongs to you,” he said, handing a piece of paper with her small, seven-year-old print on the lines.

“One secret for another,” she said, using her phone’s light. “Always Remember: Never trust dreams. They’re not real. Don’t show your emotions until night. Kids ruin you. Don’t fall. Always be strong.”

“That’s—Pember, do you—”

“Just give me your secret.”

“I don’t hate him,” he said, spinning the wheels of the matchbox between his fingers. He scrunched up his nose to keep himself from crying.

He knew, even as he said it, that the words weren’t the same for his sister. She’d needed their dad, and he hadn’t been there. Their father had left once when they were six, again when they were nine. He’d returned broken, and maybe Pemberley still blamed him for being weak, but he would never ask. And the silent way she still hurt had always been enough to keep him quiet, too.

“God, Pike. He’s not a parent. Not the way he should be.”

“Dad will miss us,” Pike said. “He loves us.”

He needed the words to mean something.

“Used to think that, too. But maybe he just loves the parts of us that belong to him. Your name, like some fucked up fishing trophy. My eyes. The way we fight. Whatever. But that’s not love.”

He wanted to write her a poem then about love being the wild within them, how he only felt it around her. But they walked back to the bonfire without words. Pike first, Pemberley a few steps behind.

* * *

Too often, he sees her in trees, the way leaves flutter. Pike uses her pictures throughout the set, his own paramnesia. The destruction. The death of it all. He believes this is his sister.

There are nights when he tries to find the only girl really watching. Other times, he searches for the one staring at anything but them. He can’t know how she’d watch, feel his music. But he hopes she wouldn’t want to sway with strangers who only see the show through phone screens. She might read about his band while openers calibrate voices and instruments to octaves she couldn’t care about. She’d still need him to sing some sense into her.

They’d parted ways; separate colleges on separate coasts where they’d needed to become separate people. The distance never meant anything. He knew they’d come back together for the important things.

After their dad died, she didn’t come home. She sent him a postcard, featuring a picture she’d taken on assignment. It was hers, words her own, too. But none of it was his sister. None of those things were real. Pemberley promised: see you soon. but not now. not for this.

The image of her first forest fire in Wyoming is obliterated by those words, projected on his face, in the song. He plays the opening chords of “Heart Attack,” croaks the first line: “She was obsessed with time.” But he doesn’t finish it, because he can’t. His father’s death is still too real.

He knows he could’ve been the one to go to her after.

But he is here now with music and words and the past trapped somewhere between them; the betwixt formed and fossilized from too many months of not speaking.

Now, when they open with “Of Embers and Pyres,” he understands her obsession with fire, bones breaking into dust; their father’s cremation too much like a Viking ritual.

Pike’s lyrics take the crowd to distant places: “Soon you’ll hear this song, and remember the fire. They will know your name. Sing of embers and pyres. Pemberley, Pember. All of us, liars…”

And they sing with him, voices in unison. Each of them calls her out instead of him, sets Pike free.

The blame should burn.

When Pike sings about her now, he gives her to empty people waiting to be filled, and they take her. He wonders if the crowd understands she’d burn down an entire town if given the chance. Watch it disappear.

Written by: Kayla King
Photograph by: Justin Maher

A Beautiful Place

Posted on: August 9, 2016

There are dead things in the whirlpool. On hot summer days you can smell the remains of fish and birds and other victims of the river rotting in the sun.

Today is one of those days. The sun has just entered the sky and already it’s baking the world. The dead things that have been thrown from the swirling water fester on the banks of the whirlpool. Other dead things are still caught in the current. They’re hidden from view by movement, by the white water churning and spinning. The current keeps them for a long time, but eventually all the detritus are tossed out and wash up on shore. I wonder if I’ll join them.

I never liked Niagara Falls. It’s the sort of place that lets you know how close we all are to chaos. Other cities do a better job of hiding the animal madness of us, the ugly, the mean, the horny. This is a place that you could easily imagine abandoned and falling apart. So much of it already I s. The restaurants and shops and churches, now empty for decades. No one cares to fix them up. Those who build in the area, build new.

I hear Sam grunting with exertion. I want to fight back but I can't. Something broke inside me with that last kick to the spine. I can't feel my arms trailing along the dirt path, or my ankles that he holds tight, pulling me through the forest.

There’s blood in my mouth. I can feel it but I can't taste it and that scares me more than anything. I know the taste of my own blood. Last night wasn't the first time Sam hit me. I want to think it won't be the last, but I'm afraid that would be a lie.

“You should’ve never talked to me like that,” Sam says. His voice is trembling. He’s scared. He isn't mad anymore like he was when I mocked him last night. I shouldn't have. I know it, but I didn't want him climbing on top of me with the chlorine stink all over him from his shift at the water park. I should have said I was sick instead of getting mouthy.

Sam was the first person I met in Niagara Falls. I hitchhiked here from Oshawa to see a wonder of the world and instantly wanted to say fuck this whole thing and thumb it back home. Only, I didn't have a home to thumb it too. My home was supposed to be with Aunt Jen and her pervert husband but neither of them were missing me.

I heard the rumble first. It was hidden under the sounds of cars and tourists. I kept heading down hill and the sond kept growing. Soon I could hear it over all the other sounds of this shitty little city. It was everywhere. Next I saw the mist on the horizon. It rose above the buildings, stretching for the sky, like a cloud, and I knew I was getting closer.

The roar of the whirlpool is different than the falls. It fills my ears as I'm pulled helplessly through the forest. Sam drops my feet and stumbles away from me. I see him leaning against a tree. I think he’s vomiting. After, he falls on his knees beside me.

“I’m sorry, baby. You know I didn't mean to,” he sobs into my hair.

He has puke and mucus on his chin, and my blood on his hands. I want to move but nothing is listening.

When Sam brought me home I knew to be afraid of him – grown men who bring home homeless girls are trouble. He had a place on the edge of town, run down and faded like all the rest of this crap city. There’s no heart to this city. There’s a centre which fades to decay as you near the edges where it finally blends with the rural areas that surround it. Sam’s house sat, across from an abandoned warehouse and beside a forgotten train track. His place was near the whirlpool. I’d never heard of the whirlpool, but it was beautiful too.

Sam was old and ugly, but he took care of me so I didn't fight back when he started getting mean. I knew I could end up worse places. He didn't ask for weird sex stuff and when he was in a good mood he was funny. I know it's true—he didn't mean to kill me.

My first day in Niagara, when I finally found the waterfall, I was shocked by the colour of it. None of the pictures I saw ever captured the green of that water. I thought someone must have dyed it. I forgot that the falls weren't fake like the rest of this town. It wasn't made by man, but by thousands of tons of water crashing through rock and time. The river was real, and it didn't matter that all this ugliness had built up around it – the river was a beautiful place in the world.

Sam’s stopped crying and he's on his knees, rolling me over the rock. I know where we are. He brought me here once to sit on the ledge over the whirlpool. He wanted to hold hands, but I didn't want to hold his where tourists and families could come by and see us. I remember the view, the churning turquoise water and the forest all around.

I know now this is the end. I will fall from this cliff into the whirlpool and my body will be sucked into the current. I want it to stay there forever, bouncing around with the dead fish and raccoons and whatever else might be in there. I don't want to wash up and be found baking in the sun. I don't want them taking me back to Aunt Jen and her dick-head husband so they can cry over a grave and say they did what they could to help me. I don't want to think of Sam in a prison for the rest of his days.

My body rolls off the edge of the cliff and into the air. I don't want to think of any of that ugly shit while I fall through the sky. Instead, I think of the swirling green water, and I remember that the world is a beautiful place.

Photograph and Story by: Sarah Scott

Half Horse

Posted on: August 4, 2016

“Cygnus 731 preparing for contact.”

The ship’s voice is metallic and feminine. The crew calls her Marta, a common North American name after the collapse of the Great Wall between the United States and Mexico. Cygnus 731 has been in orbit for close to three Earth years, which seems paltry, but the days have crept by like a lizard trapped inside for too long, eager to feel the sun and the wind on her skin. When Marta announced the presence of another ship within their vicinity, they were terrified and overjoyed at once.

“Marta, can you confirm if the ship is Deneb 864?” asks the captain.

Captain Liza Frederickson stands with hands on her hips, staring up at the smart screen in the command center. Sweat beads on her upper lip and loose strands from her high and tight pony tail are pasted against her forehead from the ten-mile run on the treadmill.

“I will be able to confirm in thirty seconds, Captain,” Marta replies.

“Going after Deneb 864 has been like chasing a chihuahua back into the yard,” says Sergeant Ballard.

“Yes, Captain,” Marta beings. “The ship is Deneb 864. Establishing contact now.”

“Deneb 864, Cygnus 731 approaches. Do you copy?”

The static is soft and distant before a cavernous silence replaces it. Captain Frederickson closes her eyes, praying for a response.

“What is the worst case scenario? Everyone is dead?” she wonders aloud.

“We’d just hook ships and head home if that were the case. Maybe if visitors have control of the Deneb, but that’s unlikely,” Sergeant Ballard says.


The crew approaches behind her, eyes wide as they stare at the screen, waiting for more than a single word answer.

“Excellent. What is your status? Is anyone harmed?” Captain Frederickson asks.

“All is well. The Half Horse flourishes.”

“The heck is a half horse?” Sergeant Ballard hisses.

“He’s talking about the galaxy, sir,” Officer Truno whispers, rolling her eyes and folding her arms over her chest.

For centuries, the Milky Way ripped apart another galaxy named Sagittarius, pulling its stars and planets into itself, making them orphans and claiming them as her own. Earth is one of Sagittarius’ orphans. Deneb 864 and her crew went in search of answers of humankind’s parentage within the remnants of the ravaged galaxy.

“I am Captain Liza Frederickson. Who speaks?”

“Larak Nergal, right hand of Ninsun Uras.”

Captain Frederickson narrows her eyes, then turns her head to look back at Sergeant Ballard. He shakes his head.

“I wish to speak with Captain Fletcher Gallo.”

“Fletcher Gallo met his end in orbit. We have tended to his remains so that you may return them to his Earth family,” Larak says.

Cygnus 731’s crew shifts, murmuring to one another. The command center in Guadalajara mentioned the possibility of the ship being overtaken.

“Is Ninsun Uras your captain, sir?” Frederickson asks.

“Ninsun Uras, may she live in our hearts, is Monarch of the Heavenly Region in place of her father Anu.”

“And the crew - are they well, Nergal?”

“Yes, lady. They have been escorted to the Heavenly Region to recuperate after an arduous and unfruitful journey.”

“Finding an alien race hardly seems unfruitful,” chimes Sergeant Ballard.

“We desire contact with you so that you may return the Deneb ship back to your home planet. Ninsun Uras recognizes its value and does not wish to commandeer it,” Nergal says.

The screen flickers once.

“Image calibrating,” Marta states.

Cyngus 731’s crew beholds Larak Nergal, a dark-skinned man who looks no older than twenty four Earth years, green eyes clear and illuminated by screen light.

“When will the crew be able to rejoin Deneb 864, Larak Nergal?” Captain Frederickson asks.

“They will not rejoin, Captain.” Nergal’s voice is matter of fact.


“Captain Frederickson, the crew has suffered much. They wish to be still. To root down. To remain at home.”

Captain Frederickson’s armpits start to itch from the accumulating sweat, her toes curling in her boots with anxiety.

“To remain at home?” she asks.

“Yes, Captain. You and your crew are welcome home as well. Suffering several incarnations in another galaxy takes its toll on sensitive souls.”

“Sir, Deneb 864’s crew as well as ours have families that await them on Earth. I have made a promise to reunite them.”

“Yes, and we shall give you the body of Captain Fletcher Gallo; he died in the Heavenly Region so he will reincarnate in the Sagittarius galaxy. Your comrades have chosen to remain; when they pass, their souls will sanctify those of their families. All souls will reunite in Sagittarius. I understand this is troubling news; we will give you letters and recordings made by your sister crew alongside Captain Gallo.”

“It’s not just troubling, Nergal. It is hard to believe. I wish to board at once,” Captain Frederickson says, followed by her crew’s soft protest behind her.

“Of course, Captain. Ninsun Uras expected nothing less; she is eager to see you.”

When Cygnus 731 and Deneb 864 merge, the ships tremble. Captain Frederickson and her crew stand in the transfer bay.

“Sergeant Ballard, if I do not return, disconnect and retreat.”

Blue and white lights illuminate the transfer bay. Captain Frederickson walks forward, Cygnus 731’s doors closing behind her. Her footsteps and heartbeat are loud in her ears as the lights dim and her breath quickens. She is no longer alone.

“Liza. I am Ninsun Uras,” says a still, soft voice in the dark. “I implore you, come home to us. You have endured seven incarnations in the Milky Way; seek respite in the Heavenly Region.”

Captain Frederickson can see nothing, but she feels suddenly weary. So many lifetimes, so much suffering. Oh, to lie down. To find peace. To be still.

She feels Ninsun Uras draw her close, but she is not afraid. Captain Frederickson wants nothing more than to shed the fragile skin of this lifetime, and release the karmic turbulence of her previous incarnations.

“Welcome home, sister. I have missed you so much.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Rob Gregory

Live a Great Story

Posted on: August 2, 2016

Dakota Foreman faced the bright orange brick wall, staring at the eye-level sign. Underneath the words LIVE A GREAT STORY would be an ironic place to die, but that is what she thought she might do.

The middle-aged man behind Dakota reburied his pistol into the twenty-two-year-old's lower back. The barrel was hot from the warning shot he had just fired. It burned Dakota’s skin through her shirt.

The man had startled Dakota, jumping into her backseat as she was leaving the gym. She was trying to text the boyfriend she wanted to break up with that she had quit her job. The man’s gun was up before she could dial 9-1-1.

He made Dakota drive to the outskirts of Charleston. Now they stood in front of an empty building in an abandoned part of the commercial district.

“You’re the final piece to the puzzle I’ve been putting together for the past twenty-four years.”

Dakota felt the pistol barrel dig deeper into her lower back, pushing her forward towards the wall. She had cried the entire drive out to this location. But her nerves had calmed since she parked the car and climbed out.

“Peel off the sticker,” said the man.

Dakota hesitated for a moment.

“Three seconds,” said the man, raising the gun to poke into Dakota’s rib cage. “I don’t have all day.”

Dakota jumped forward and dug her fingers into the brick at the left edge of the sticker. The adhesive held at first. Dakota felt the brick scratching away her green nail polish while the sticker refused to budge.

Eventually, Dakota successfully pulled the sticker away, revealing a circular stone carved to resemble a screaming face. There were two dots for eyes, a big mouth and three slits on each cheek.

“What is that?” asked Dakota.

She partly asked because she had no idea why there was a screaming face cut into the wall – or why it had been covered up by a sticker. But she also asked because the face had an unexplained effect on her. For the first time in years, she felt at home.

“A doorway.”

“To where?”

“That’s for us to find out,” the man replied. “Push it.”

Dakota’s gut told her to oblige. Her mind screamed in protest.

“Why me?” she asked, biding time to settle her internal conflict.

“Because I’ve seen enough Indiana Jones movies. And I have the gun.”

“Fair enough,” replied Dakota.

Like the man, Dakota had seen plenty of Indiana Jones movies. She knew what happened to the no-names who messed with secret doors and mystical objects. But her gut told her she was far from a no-name here.

Dakota took two deep breaths and slammed her palm into the stone face. The rock resisted at first, holding its ground. Then there was a soft click and the piece slid back into the brick wall.

A soft hum started behind the stone face. It quickly turned to a louder buzz. Dakota peeked over her shoulder at the man behind her, but he looked just as perplexed by the sound.

Then the buzzing intensified.

“What’s happening?” asked Dakota.

“The door’s opening.”

“What door?”

Dakota had confirmed multiple times there was no door. But as she turned around, she saw that was no longer true.

The buzzing was thunderous now. The ground shook and the bright orange wall that had previously rested before them was splitting and folding away. When the rumbling stopped and the wall settled, there was now an empty doorway leading to pitch black mystery.

“I was right,” said the man, stepping up next to Dakota. “You’re one of them.”

“One of what?”

“An Atlantean,” he said. “I found the way to Atlantis.”

Suddenly, the smile was gone as a spear flew from the darkness and tore through the man’s midsection. In horrified shock, he looked down at the back of the spear protruding from his stomach. He dropped the gun, collapsed to his knees and then fell to his right.

Dakota froze next to the man. She wanted to run, but her legs refused.

A mountain of a man scooted through the doorway and stepped out in front of Dakota. His dark brown beard was thick, bushy and stretched down past his chest. His hair was pulled back into a braid that extended down the same distance. The man did not wear a shirt, revealing skin bronzed as if it had never missed a minute in the sun. His muscles were ripped – taut, holding another spear, ready to throw at Dakota.

The man’s expression quickly shifted from anger and questioning to recognition. Then a smile appeared.

In a deep, rumbling voice, he stated something in a language Dakota did not understand.

Chills rushed up her spine. Chills of relief.

“You’ve arrived,” the man said in English. “The princess is home.”

Dakota’s eyebrows jumped at the word ‘princess.’

“Follow me,” said the man, waving for Dakota to follow him.

She followed. The other side of the doorway was not the dark cavern she expected. Rather, Dakota found herself in awe of a white marble walkway lined by a majestic ceiling, grandiose walls and Greek-like columns.

“Where are we?” asked Dakota, walking along the Atlantean’s side.

“This is a portal station. A bridge between our world and theirs.”

“Our world?”

“Yes,” said the Atlantean. “Ours. Including yours. Heirs to the throne spend their formative years above so they can better understand the land humans. So that you can empathize with them.”

“I’m from Atlantis?”

“Everything will come back to you once you’re home.”

“And who was that?” asked Dakota, peeking back over her shoulder to where they had left the armed man.

“Doctor Higgins has spent the better part of three decades hunting proof of our existence.”

“I’d say he found it.”

“He has found proof before,” said the Atlantean. “But he was obsessed with proof he could share.”

Dakota and the Atlantean stopped at a set of tall stone doors, having reached the end of the long walkway. The man banged his fist on the door in front of him three times.

“I hope he lived a great story,” he said. “Or at least a good enough story for him.”

Written by: Kevin Treaccar
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart

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