You are about four years old. You lie in bed as a memory is made. Your father sings you to sleep. It is a song in a language you will take the pain to forget years down the line, then take the pain to salvage when sense settles. 

The air is dense, you can barely breathe it in and the nightly summer breeze does nothing to stir the humidity that clings to your skin like a damp cloth.

You realize this will be a memory as it is being made. You do not believe it completely.  Childhood is all you know. It cannot be fleeting. 

A decade and a half will pass before you are brought back here. On the other side of the line, you think about how you were a child just yesterday, being sung to sleep by Dad. Where have the years gone? Far, somewhere unattainable from where you stand. 

There is a narrow tube you can look through, somewhere in the back of your mind, that lets you dream. Dream about becoming a memory. Dream about your memories. 

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Soften your heart, child. 

Be free with forgiveness,

For on the other side of anger,

Is the hollow mourning for lost time. 

All rights reserved © 2022 Josephine Joyil

Prison Themed school

​​We go to a prison themed school, 

Don’t break the rules, 

Retribution can be so cruel. 

So long as you wear the school tie,

Don’t catch the eyes,

Of the principle, so you won’t cry. 

Too bad that you need the tool,

This education, without which you’d be the fool, 

How gruel(ing). 

You may think your just passing by, 

But without the high, 

Of self respect, 

Can you say you merely gave us just your best? 

And when those slackers go slackin’ by, 

Riding the wave of their papa’s buys, 

And growing addicted to mama’s high praise. 

You know you’d be denied the raise,

When the time comes to make the living, 

From blood and tears effaced. 

Cause one thing that prison theme school taught you, 

Is where to find your cue, 

Stand in you place, 

While your better ups become all the craze. 

Sure, go to your prison themed school,

See you on the other side, fool, 

But when you sell your mind to get there, 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, that it’s not fair.

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Exhaust Fan

It’s a silly fear, a child’s fear, but one that sends cold shivers down Sage’s back even now when she wakes from a restless nightmare featuring it. Marking her earliest memories, it was her oldest companion, this fear.  

Sage was a girl of seven, or eight, too old to have such silly fears. The thought occurred to her on the car ride to the hotel, it was a vivid image of five sharp blades conjoined in the center, surrounded by a perfectly square frame. Always presiding in the top corner of the shower window, it watched you, naked as you are with nowhere to run. 

No, Sage told herself, it won’t be there, not this time. 

But praying and wishing never kept it away. 

The elevator was ascending now. Excitement sparked amongst the other family members. Mom’s been waiting for this vacation for ages. Dad’s been researching the local scenic spots, eager to fill his new camera with family photos. Even Mai seemed vaguely happy at that moment. 

“Now don’t sit there sulking, Sage.”

But she couldn’t help it. Sage closed her eyes and it was waiting for her: five sharp blades spinning fiercely. 

The bellboy was walking them to their room, and Sage already had her senses on high alert, waiting for signs of its presence. 

The key clicked and the door swung open. Crossing the threshold with her breath held, she listened closely for the persistent hum. It was distant and faint, so quiet, for a moment Sage allowed herself to believe that she imagined it. 

“Help your sister with the bags.”

Sage made herself step forward, following the hum. It was cut off by silence. 


She took a few curious steps towards the bathroom. When the door swung open, she didn’t flinch. 

“What?” her father laughed nervously, “Go help Mom unpack.” He was never a good liar. 

Pushing past him, she grabbed the bathroom door handle. Though there was hesitation, she pushed through. 

The ceiling was too high and the lights too dim. The bathroom mirror only reflected the lower half of the room. It was a room hand tailored to deceive Sage. She knew what she ought to do, so her work commenced.

Her reflection caught her eye —angry and prepared— and ordered her to stay strong. She scanned up to the top of the wall and was relieved to find its corners bare. Inching her focus to the left, she found two more corners that housed nothing but an abandoned spider web. 

One more corner, she told herself. 


One more—

The door was in the way. She’d have to step in to get a proper look. Bracing herself, she treaded the tiled floor carefully. 

Just a little further in. 

The sight pricked fear into her heart. 

“Why are you just standing there? Oh—” Mai’s disappointment could not have been more thinly veiled, “Mom—”

It took a minute for Sage to force herself to look at the Fan. It lay dormant, a subtle breeze might wake it. Its blades were still, too still. If she broke her gaze, they were sure to move, so she never broke her gaze. There was an illusion of safety that the glass shower door provided Sage with, as it stood transparently between Sage and the Fan. 

The Fan grinned slyly down at her, knowing it had the power to pin her in its presence. The glass door that stood between the pair will soon cage her in. It has a long term alliance to consider and no time to spare Sage’s feelings regarding the matter. 

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A Little Fish in the Big Sea

Sage looked around to see faces broken open in glee. Red faces, freshly blushed from the midwinter storm that they just walked in from, smiling at each other in familiarity. There were no eyes willing to meet hers. 

Of course. 

People were too predictable.

Sage looked down at her own hands, fingers darkened and slightly swollen from the aggressive cold. Clenching them, she tried to calm the buzzing of her frozen nail beds. A sigh escaped her before she tried to pull a smile onto her face, to match those surrounding her. 

At times like these, she was sure she had made a mistake. 

“You’re doing this out of habit.” 

Her roommate’s words were far from a lie. It was a foolish pattern Sage had fallen into. When days blended together into a predictable march, a kindle sparked within her. She needed to burn down the life she built for herself just to know she can build something different from its ashes. Now, looking around at the damage she had done, she realizes she has no idea which pieces she needs to pick up to put back together. 

To make things worse, there were just too many people here, too many faces that have already grown familiar with each other. It would take a decade to beat this cacophonous noise into a predictable march. 

Is this what you moved here for?

The question, with all its bitter contempt, slapped her back into the present. 


There would be time later to mope around and feel sorry for herself, or maybe there won’t. Right now, she had ashes to collect and not time to focus on the unfamiliar noise. 

Scanning the room, she was adamant to find a space to pry herself into amidst the chaos. A friendly face caught Sage’s attention, and she fought her gut instinct to break eye contact. Though she couldn’t put a name to it, she feigned familiarity, and waved. They waved back. 

Of course. 

She could not help but let her smile grow genuine. 

People were too predictable.

The latter beckoned her over and she obliged. 

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The Travelers

It came to Gail like a sweet dream that night. A memory of a better time. A different time. They had been so young. Avery had just managed to grow a few inches taller than Gail. It was her first month on the streets. The dampness of the city was what bothered her the most. There was no dry land to settle down on. She was sure she’d catch a cold within the first week.  

The pavement was damper than Gail had been expecting. Clammy fabric clung to her skin. A shiver ran through her, unsolicited. Gritting her teeth, she wrapped her threadbare shrug tightly around her shoulders. 

“Cold?” Avery smirked, while trembling himself.  

“What’s it to you?” Gail snapped with as much spite as she could muster though clenched teeth. 

Avery sat down next to her, radiating heat, inviting, tempting, scarce heat. Gail scooted towards him. 

“Uh-uh!” Avery put up a lean finger,“Ask nicely.”

Gail scowled. “Avery.”

The latter smiled attentively. 

“Sweet Avery.” Gail swallowed her pride,“Be a dear and don’t let me freeze to death.”

Avery considered it. “You can do better.”

Gail scowled. Gathering what was left of her dignity, Gail peeled herself off of the pavement. Her limbs moved lethargically. “Avery-”

Avery waited, amused. 

“I swear,” Gail took a shaky breath, “When my fist thaws,” The words turned to mist before her, “I’ll plant it between your eyes—”

He was giggling now. “C’mere.” 

Avery’s arm fell heavily around her shoulders. He smelled like week old body odor, but to be fair, she did too. She let him know, nonetheless. 

“You’re a real dear, you know that?” He pulled her closer, still laughing. 

The sun was setting in front of them. Its rays refracted, aiming to burn her retinas. Rather than squinting, she closed her eyes all together. When the red passed from the back of her eyelids, she opened her eyes. Avery was peering down at her, a fly in her peripheral. Looking up, she met his eye. For a moment, the world went quiet and all she could hear was the heavy “thump” of his heart. A labored note against her eardrum. 

“Where do we go from here?”

He rolled his eyes,“Do you always need to have places to be?”

“And people to see,” She affirmed, resting her head more comfortably against his shoulder.

“Close your eyes for a while, Gail,” Avery did the same,“The people can wait.”

If there were any people left for her to see, she doubted they could afford to wait, but she closed her eyes nonetheless.

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The wind blew through Mai’s hair. Sand rushed past her toes when she wiggled them. To her left, the waves crashed desperately against the shore, only to be dragged back into open sea by the currents. Someone kicked, from behind, at the soft spot on the back of her knees. She knelt on the sand, having no reason to stand back up. Her palms sank into the soft sand. Succumbing to its invite, she leaned in, until the warm grains pressed against her cheeks. 

Someone laughed. She looked up to see them run before her. Someone else called for her to follow, and for a moment she almost got up to pursue her company. But she waited for too long and that made all the difference. For just a moment too long, she stayed put in the sand, allowing it to pour over her, against the howling wind. 

Maybe she would wait, and they’d return to fetch her. Maybe they won’t. The seconds poured in, the laughter grew to a distant echo and all she could hear was the desperate crash of the waves inching its way closer to her lying form. Growing closer by the second, never to reach her. 

All rights reserved © 2021 Josephine Joyil

Cold Room

The room went Cold, or was getting Cold rather. It wasn’t sudden, the Cold was asserting its dominance over the room steadily. It crawled into the crooks and crannies of the room, leaving no crevice untouched. It allowed the room to keep no secrets from it. It filled the room until all Gail could feel was the Cold.  

Gail walked over to the window to close the curtains, but a voice requested against it. The voice belonged to the slender masculine figure that sat at the foot of her bed. His eyes were drained, not of color but of another feature that when lacked causes the appearance of lifelessness.  

Perhaps agency? 

“Avery.” Gail greeted, “What are you doing here?” She talked over her shoulder, closing the window all the while.  

“No Abigail,” Avery frowned, “Keep the curtains open.” 

Gail let them slide from her hands.  

“I haven’t seen the moon in a while.” Avery went on, “He’s been keeping me inside a lot lately.” 

“Who has?” Gail made her way to him. 

“The warden himself,” Avery seemed to be fixated on the way the moonlight hit the dust that waltzed casually across the damp air in her bedroom. Gail once learned that this random motion was caused by diffusion, which in turn was caused by an energy imbalance. Or at least that’s how she understood it. The figure examined the dust particles in a manner that suggested that to him, the movement was anything but random. He seemed to be waiting for it to reveal the secrets engraved into its fine grains. “He’s got a chip on his shoulder, Robert.” Avery continued, “I think I’ve made him very angry. Can I stay here tonight?” 

“What did you do?” Gail took her seat beside him at the foot of the bed.  

“What didn’t I do?” Avery glanced at her with a smirk before returning his focus to the dust.  

“Avery,” Gail demanded sternly, taking his face in her hands to force his eyes into hers, “What did you do?” 

“Abigail,” He took her face in his hands. With a grin spread ear to ear he asked, “What didn’t I do?” 

Shrugging out of his hands, she demanded, “Why are you here Avery?” 

“I had a bad dream,” he replied transparently, “I needed company. Can I stay with you tonight? Robert’s no fun these days.” 

“When was Robert ever fun?” Gail teased, avoiding the topic of Avery staying here. She was adamant about getting all her facts straight before allowing her guest to stay.  

Avery remained quiet, sensing Gail’s reluctance to answer her.  

“Tell me about your dream,” Gail diverted the conversation. 

Avery shook his head. “I want to take you there,” Avery stated, “May I?” 

Gail nodded, and followed the homeless boy to the window. Her palms clammed at the sight of the drop to the ground, but she crawled out nonetheless, one limb after the other and followed him into the darkness.

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Sage wished she could go back to a different time, a simpler time perhaps, and live life from there. Maybe, with what she knows now, she would be able to keep life simple. Sage would not need to open her eyes to the ugly truths that exist before her. If that were the case, she would have never gained knowledge. In the absence of new knowledge, growth becomes stunted. The world discards that which could not grow and keep pace with its changes. A stubborn seed that will not sprout will fail to become a tree.  

Sage does not need to agree with this world to understand it. Understanding is simply a means of learning how to survive. On its own it is useless. Sage must utilise it to navigate this world without allowing it to consume her. She would like to believe that is one of the most important things that she learned from this world: to understand something that is disagreeable without hating it. 

Once, when Sage was a child, she lived without consciously understanding life.Sage might have been about ten. It was at that age that a conscious being awoke within her and decided that it desired to experience this world. Sage believes that is where childhood begins to die. Its decay is a slow and painful process, one that Sage believes is coming to an end soon. What comes after? Sage does not know. 

Until that delicate age, however, Sage was in a blissful state of dormancy. She  was like a seed held and protected within a fruit. All fruits fall from its tree and begin its slow and painful decay. The seed then finds itself in the midst of detritivores and dirt. It must be trampled on and pushed into the dirt to discover its true destiny. 

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No irrational emotions. Completely collected and calm in public. Mature when interacting with all company. Only your select social circle is privileged to hear your clever notes of humor. Of course, there is not a place for one of the common folk, such as Sage, in such a circle. She really should not know that such a side of you exists. No, in front of Sage you will be calm, collected, and mature. 

Sage looks up to see you hold your head high above her. Your eyes remain fixated in a distant nothingness. Her attempt to discover what keeps your attention is unfruitful. So she stands expectantly beneath you, but you will not lower your eyes to her standards. Do you fear the sight of her will taint you in some way? The air you breath must be of a better quality than that spared for Sage. 

It is difficult to get your attention. She wants you to see all the good that she can offer, but you refuse to lend your attention when the occasion calls for it. She wonders if she will ever be anything more than one of the masses that drowns beneath each other as they drift past you. Tell her how she has come to earn the title of irrelevance. 

Perhaps the fault is hers. Has she not offered you the joys and pains of being acquainted with her? For too long, she has been fixated on the idea of you. She permitted nothing to interfere with this vision of what you could be. A word uttered too loudly might break this illusion. This fear of corruption repels her. You must remain this rational, emotionless being. You must remain a figure to be looked up to. That is her mistake, for which she will be sincerely sorry.

She will try harder next time. Of the next peer she will make a friend. Over the next fear, she will gain victory. The next goal will be pursued until the end. It is time to give up on you, however. It is too late to try with you. Time had grown tired of lending her its seeds. It gained no harvest and thus is displeased. 

All rights reserved © 2020 Josephine Joyil