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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
Copy Machine Repair Guy
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By D.E. Fredd
Corrupted Youth
_ By Kurt Kirchmeier
Dragon's Breath
_ By Lionel Cheng
Even the Damned Deserve to Love
_ By Anna Cortez
Gifts
_ By Jocelyn Johnson
House of Cards
_ By Steven J. Dines
In Doubt
_ By Stephanie Thoma
Lipstick
_ By Michelle Baron
Old Biddy
_ By Claire Nixon
Quinceañera
_ By Hester Young
The Fiddler and the Faerie
_ By Samantha Rae
When Barky Smiles
_ By S.E. Diamond

Poetry
2 A.M. Window Shopping
_ By Chris McGuffin
Alison
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Cloudy New Year's Morning
_ By Richard Fein
Not Easy
_ By Samantha Ogust
On Hearing Li-Young Lee Read His Poetry
_ By Foster Dickson
Prelude and Coda
_ By Richard Fein
Rainy Night Meditation
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Retreat
_ By Richard MacAleese
Silage Team--Machete Thirst
_ By Leland Jamieson
Starlight
_ By Richard MacAleese
Stolen Phone
_ By Jorge Jameson
The Abandoned Playground
_ By Richard MacAleese
Thought Provoking Baked Crescent
_ By Chris McGuffin

Art & Photography
Daniel Bravo
_ Paintings
Tove Hedengren
_ Photography
Peter Huettenrauch
_ Photography
E. Hunting
_ Drawings and Digital Art
Robin McQuay
_ Drawings
Iris Onica
_ Paintings
Pete Revonkorpi
_ Digital Art
Roy Wangsa
_ Photography

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Even the Damned Deserve to Love
By Anna Cortez


I had liked the slow drip of the moss-laden water on the cold stone floor. It had been so soothing. I had almost been able to feel the water sliding down the patch of green crawling up the walls as it captured traces of the plant life. That had been the best relief I could get.

Now, it didn’t help one bit. Sweat descended from my troubled forehead and mixed with the lingering blood on my mouth. I tried to bleed myself earlier to get attention, and maybe, to get out. All they did was throw a shred of raggedy cloth through the rusty bars of my cell.

I looked at the rag. It was soaked in blood.

I remembered the bloody sheets I found my father tangled in when I woke one morning, merely weeks before. My reaction was only of shock when I first saw him. Then I suddenly felt sick. He was still alive, slowly dying.

That made it worse. I remember wanting to die with him because nobody else would be left after he was gone. And I knew he was going to die. Part of me had given up.

He was telling me in his wavering breath that a knife had pierced his side in his sleep, and when he opened his eyes, the young man clutching it was still shaking after he stabbed him.

And my father knew him. He said his name was Philip and that he was an occasional hired hand. In drowned stutters, he said that Philip was saying he was sorry and didn’t want to do it.

I swore repeatedly. I was standing, on my knees, up again, then on the floor grasping at the roots of my hair. When I looked at the mass of red sheets once more, it had stopped moving. I screamed and cried into a nearby pillow hysterically. I didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye, I love you, even good morning--it was still early in the morning. I didn’t say anything at all. I just wept until there was nothing left to cry. I was furious that I didn’t know my father’s murderer. I had never seen him.

***

A new prisoner was announced and my eyes stirred out of their stolid state. My mind, which had fallen into a similar stagnant slumber, soon followed in waking. It had been a while since I heard a human voice outside of my head. I heard it again and my heart began to beat fiercely.

I was to have a cellmate. The fresh prisoner had nowhere else to go. I wondered if it would be wise to make friends with him, to even talk to him. I was going to die in a matter of hours.

As he first entered, it seemed that nothing was special about him. I looked at him, up and down, while he made his way to the opposite side of the confined chamber. He wasn’t too far from me. My eyes were still coursing on his features when he sat on the large bale of hay against the wall. It probably appeared to him like I was sizing him up, weighing him in.

The early judgments I made were incredibly wrong. His face would have had anyone at his mercy. The eyes were a smooth almond shape, of bluish-grey tincture, like deep pools of murky water. His lips, though weather-torn, were full and supple. They were as red as the blood that had stained my own. The soft tresses on his head were brown, so rich that they almost gave off a gentle glow.

He must have seen me watching him intently because he looked away. Instantaneously, I darted my eyes downward. For one reason or another, we both laughed and looked up again. I saw him making his way to my side so I shifted on the brittle bench I was sitting on. I was a little worried that it would collapse if he sat.

“So, what did they lock you up for?” he asked comfortably.

“Adultery. Attempted murder.” I answered succinctly, not wanting to add anything else.

“I’m in for murder.” he said languidly, realizing that I wasn’t going to return the question.

I noticed that he was staring at my broken lip. Without looking down, I pictured the laceration and knew that there was blood still glazing the cut.

“What happened to your lip?” he asked, his mouth slightly hanging for a response.

“I bit down hard on it. Thought they’d let me out for a bit to fix me and I’d be able to make my break.” I said flatly.

I thought he was going to laugh, but I didn’t even see a mocking smile. His hand motioned to my face. I made no attempt to back away. His thumb smoothed the remaining blood off my lower lip. It was cool, releasing the heat of my burning wound.

We looked at each other intensely.

In the next moment our lips met, entwining in heat. I could feel mine starting to bleed again. When we pulled apart, his mouth was redder than ever, bloodied by me. I expected to see him wiping it away hurriedly in disgust, but he didn’t. Instead, he took his hand, and with each of his fingertips, dipped down on the shiny crimson fluid. One, two, three, four, five. He suspended his hand before his face, which bore a look of child-like fascination.

I opened my mouth to say something but found myself pursing it closed in pain.

“No.” he said, seeing my effort to speak. “It’s no fault. I did this, and I’m not sorry. Are you?”

A smile crept up on my cheeks as I shook my head.

***

Conversation echoed in our cell in the following hours. Each word spoken was another step nearer to the gallows. I failed to keep count.

We talked about random things, each of us posing irrelevant questions. You never would have guessed how arbitrary our chat was by how vibrantly it rose, quieted, and rose again.

I nearly started to hate myself for liking this... stranger when I should still be mourning. I felt so selfish. I felt like I was easily bought, and he paid me with his kiss. But that was all erased every time I saw his face.

I was drawn to the same setting. I became fixed on his lips. When we kissed, it was as if we were weaving an invisible rope from the present to eternity. Neither of us wanted to let go. We wanted to find out more about each other. We wanted to remain connected even after death. But though our meeting had been so sudden, it already felt so fulfilled. So as the footsteps of the hangman grew louder, I had less and less regret left behind.

I kissed him for the last time.

“I’ll see you.” he tried to smile. And then as the man was undoing the lock, he added “I love you.”

I caught a glimpse of his tear.

My heart felt like it had been wringed. I thought of my father and how he would have wanted me to live, die. Before my thoughts finished running their course, the hangman had let himself in and was binding my hands. I turned around quickly and finally said “I love you.” I didn’t want to lose another chance.

After the executioner had led me out and well away from the cell, I whispered, “I forgive you too.”

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ANNA CORTEZ is a 16-year old self-proclaimed optimist who likes to consider herself an adult. She is what you may call an "old young person." She is also what you may call a "spontaneous writer." Her joys in life are laughing, music, friends, and family (in no particular order). And though it is sad to say that she has no affiliations with the creators or actors of the brilliant movie Velvet Goldmine, she has a rabid (and will possibly have a life-long) obsession with it nevertheless.

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