Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Submission Guidelines

Stories & Essays
A Wedding Toast For Daddy's Little Girl
By Miriam N. Kotzin
_ By Debbi Pless
_ By Rachel Miller
_ By Julie Jordan
Hearts Without Armor
_ By Angela P. Markham
Mental Constipation and Brain Vomit
_ By Winnie Khaw
My Best Subject
_ By Ashley Polker
_ By Samantha Rae
Requiem For An Author
_ By R. Holsen
Sometimes It Pours Only Dogs
_ By Saana Tykkä
The Black Tape
_ By Brad Jashinsky

A Slave To Time
_ By Clyde Windjammer
_ By Kaleen Love
Death By My Lover
_ By Jessica Tempestad
I Am A Pineapple
_ By Rachel Miller
Lament For the Lost Soldier
_ By Melissa Augeri
Laundry Arcade
_ By Ashley Polker
Left Silent To Dream of Wine
_ By Kaleen Love
_ By Henry Grieves
Ode To Microsoft Spell Cheque
_ By Arielle Demchuk
Reminiscent of Society As An Individual
_ By Henry Grieves
Ship's Cook
_ By Heather Inwood
The Phoenix
_ By Kaleen Love
The Raven and the Dove
_ By Melissa Augeri
Train Dreamer
_ By Heather Inwood 

Art & Photography
S. Camargo
_ Photography and Drawings
David C. Clarke
_ Photography
Wiltekirra Samaxionn
_ Photography
Anca Sandu
_ Paintings
Austin Tanney
_ Photography
Ray Tsang
_ Paintings
Mark Warren
_ Photography

By Samantha Rae

Sunlight and leaf whisper, peace and games.

That was what Elly thought of when she looked up from her never-ending carding in time to see the tall, gangly man in patchwork clothing stroll down her street. There was just something in his sparkling eyes, in his unassuming face, that reminded her of her early childhood, when all that mattered was food and shelter and love. Mixed with the reassuring promise that all three would be forthcoming in unlimited measure, he was the most appealing adult the twelve year old had ever seen. So she watched him as he walked past her house, then giggled and blushed pink when he made a gently teasing bow toward her with a warm smile on his face. She waved when he walked around a corner before resuming her all but forgotten chore, sighing her frustration when a large clump of briars appeared in the wool.

Others would disagree with her first impression. They would happen to look out upon the gangly man who strode down the main street with inborn confidence, admire the lavishly decorated, broad rimmed hat that he wore as proudly as a king's crown, realize with some shock that his clothing wasn't made of the silk and fine linen that his confident smile declared them to be (but rather tattered cotton of a rather coarse weave), and go away with their own views on the stranger. Some thought that he sang of wealth and power, with the means to raise others to that station; others nodded unconsciously at his promise of safety and security. Still others thought that he could mend anything broken, or close the rift between old friends, or help find the right words to prove love. But all of the townspeople who saw him, from beggar to Mayor, were absolutely certain that anything he promised would be realized.

Having seated himself at the town gates in the hopes of picking up a few extra coins from the scattered travelers that occasionally passed through, Axim—Hamelin’s sole beggar—was the first to meet the man who radiated assurances of good, warm food and a safe, comfortable home. Being the first to meet someone was hardly new to him. What was interesting was the fact that rather than hurrying past the beggar as so many travelers before him had, intent on seeing the Mayor, the tall man paused mid-stride, considered Axim for a moment, and then gave him a quick, ironic smile before resuming his journey. It wasn’t the condescending one that the beggar had seen all too often, but a shared moment of understanding of a beggar’s lot in life, as though the stranger had once been familiar with the trade. The only ones who could have known about the rather gangly man before Axim were the rats, and they had been comfortably asleep, safely away from the reaches of the midday sun. That proved that the creatures were far smarter than the humans that worked through the hottest part of the day, or—at the very least—it proved it to the rats.

Mayor Tommer was a crinkled old leaf of a man, with a crazed maze of wrinkles that decorated his oak brown face, the impossibly gnarled twist of his hands and fragile build only adding to that impression. He’d been Mayor of the town for so long that perhaps the only people who remembered him as anything other than Mayor Tommer were his children—who called him Father or Mayor, depending on the situation—and his grandchildren—Grampa Mayor Tommer. He was an only child, and his beloved wife of forty years was a decade dead, his parents even longer so. Whether or not he remembered his given name, no one knew.

He was also the only person who didn’t trust the stranger.

A moderate amount of caution was one of a responsible mayor's qualities. Tommer's son called it paranoia, but what did he know? It wasn't wholly the gangly man's fault. With his proud, open stride, easy smile and quiet charm, it came as a shock to many that the man who seemed to be the key to their every desire was likely to be the one most in need of aid. Safety, food, power, love—nothing was beyond him. And what Mayor Tommer expected, no, what he wanted, was a rival. He wanted the challenge of proving that though he was more than half a century old, he could still hold his own against a competitor. He wanted a foe dangerous enough to prove that he wasn’t about to step down, yet not so skilled that he would lose his town.

When the man stood in Mayor Tommer’s office, the Mayor analyzed him carefully through eyes half-buried in the mass of wrinkles on his old face. The stranger's broad rimmed hat hung over his eyes and shadowed his face, and beaded strings dangled from the brim clacking against one another whenever he moved his head. A large, black feather was tucked in the wide blue ribbon tied around his hat, pointing back at the door as though telling Tommer to watch the door. His dirt-brown knee-length coat was decorated with an assortment of mismatched buttons that might possibly keep it closed, though the Mayor doubted it. At that moment all of them were undone to reveal a frayed red shirt that hung off of the gangly man’s body, a few surprisingly neat seams that looked as though they had been done with threads pulled from the shirt, adding variety to the plain top. His pants (mostly hidden by the coat) and his mud-caked black boots were only revealed as grey and dingy when he moved. "Perhaps not a rival then, " Tommer thought, but the confidence and not-quite-hidden pride that shone through his tattered clothing still marked him as trouble.

It was more the way he stood than anything else, radiating a quiet self-confidence, gloriously certain that things would always work out in the end. A small smile crossed his face as he met the Mayor’s probing eyes, the sort of smile that was given to unimportant relatives of the influential. The sort of smile that accompanied the phrase, "Charmed, I’m sure," when it was obvious that the speaker meant anything but. So Mayor Tommer replied with the sort of smile that said, "As am I."

"I’m Mayor Tommer," he declared, extending his hand and waiting to see what would happen.

"Piper," the gangly man replied, accepting the hand. He gave it a firm, brisk shake, not testing the Mayor’s grip but still revealing some of his strength. "Charmed." He didn’t need to add the rest of the phrase, didn’t need to use the condescending tone or the smile.

That same smile that had so charmed Elly had somehow become a challenge in Tommer's mind, just as the once unusually fascinating clothing had become all but a mess of rags. Or perhaps it wasn't the Mayor's mind, but simply another aspect of Piper, that he could speak such disparate worlds of meaning with the same smile.

"And what brings you to our town?"

(Turn the page)