- The 2016-2017 issue of The Egerian features short fiction, poetry, and other writing pieces by SSA students.
- Beautifully illustrated with student artwork in full color with a variety of media.
- 6 x 9 inches, 74 pp.
- Available for purchase now via the Shady Side Academy Spirit Store!
Once upon a time, there was a great big room, some might even call it a ballroom, for there was something comparable to a ball transpiring that night. In said room stood many people, but among them two indescribably fantastic beings. Why, you may ask, are these two so indescribably fantastic? I don’t know, but the author decided to make them this way, so just suspend your disbelief and go along with it.
In the room was a very large staircase that went to the great door at the top all the way down to a dancefloor. It was shiny, and opulent, and people seemed to just glide over top it as they waltzed, as though they were on ice, but could never fall. The walls were gilded with intricate designs covering the molding with only a few small spaces for the stark white of the wall. Except of course the window, which seemed to stretch for eternity and needed no gold to look just as magnificent as the room itself, for it looked over a garden filled with more roses than you have ever seen. It was a maze of great imposing hedges with exuberant blooms of red throughout the sea of green. And the night sky lit up the garden, and well… everything. You see, a night as magical as this needs a sky to match. The stars shone brightly over an endless curtain of blue, and it was as though each star illuminated everything underneath it.
Back inside were countless people, all beautiful. Every single woman wore a ballgown that swished over the floor of ice as they twirled. The chiffon and satin spun around like a carousel. Men wore white ties and coats with tails in the back and mother of pearl buttons (as anyone would know is customary), and their eyes seemed permanently fixed on their partners as though they would fall if they weren’t. But, as wonderful a night as it was, it wasn’t so very special for them, as they had attended many balls just like this. They had waltzed and worn couture and tails like it was all they had to do (which it pretty much was). They were nothing but a crowd of faces that seemed already disinterested in this night, all too perfect for anyone really to be special.
But among the couples, was one man, really more of a boy, I suppose. A boy, already bored with life, because he had already seen so much of it. I won’t tell you exactly what he looked like (I couldn’t possibly do him justice), but I will tell you this: he was handsome enough not to dance with a single girl yet that night by his own choice. They would’ve loved for him to ask them, but he found them all terribly disinteresting. He was effortlessly put together, had consciously decided to leave his hair floppy and undone, but his tails were impeccable and he obviously had his suit tailored perfectly without any real effort. He stood in the back against a column, bored already, where he strategically placed himself across from the stairs so he could see everyone that entered, but they couldn’t see him. For he liked nothing less than the feeling of being watched.
He certainly wouldn’t like the fact that on those stairs was a creature who soon wouldn’t stop looking at him, even in thought, for the next forever. Neither would he stop looking at her. Said creature was a girl, just as pretty as everyone else in that room, but there was something else. Maybe it was that as she floated down the stairs, her eyes were just a limitless expanse of awe and wonder. To him, everything about her sparkled. But it seemed like he was the only one who saw it.
She had hair like silk that cascaded down her shoulders and back as she moved. It was soft and wavy, and perfect, but she had done absolutely nothing to it for the event. Her dress was pale pink with a huge dramatic skirt that seemed more cloud than fabric. There was something about her that was just lovely and beautiful, almost as though her entire being was in soft focus. Her eyes, wide and bright, looked around the room as though she had never seen anything so wonderful, but you see, she had. This was no poor little damsel at her first social event. She was just like that – she found everything about life extraordinary.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked over to one of the columns, letting her eyes aimlessly wander. Then she sees him. He had been looking at her since the moment she walked into the room, but he felt no need to look away when her eyes met his. Not to be cliche, but it was like every single piece of life momentarily stopped when they saw each other or maybe, the world was suddenly on fire. Even if it were, neither of them would’ve been able to know; they were far too busy looking at each other. She immediately looked away and pretended as though she was just surveying the area. He kept looking. She tried to hide it, but she did too. He watched her for hours, dancing and laughing and drinking champagne. And it vexed him so that he couldn’t just talk to her.
Finally, he knocks back his fourth (or is it fifth?) glass of Dom (or Moet if that’s more your speed) and walks up to her. Nothing is said, but it doesn’t need to be. He offers his hand to save her from whatever boring SOB she’s been dancing with for the last three songs. She would be happy to dance with any man, but as every song played and that boy with floppy hair didn’t ask her to dance, a part of her sunny disposition died. He must’ve just been looking at that other girl behind her, how silly to think he had been watching her. And finally… here he asks, but why so late?
Well, the truth is, he feels rather uncomfortable with this situation. He isn’t exactly used to being attracted to a pretty girl and wanting to know her. Shall I say… there wasn’t usually so much getting to know one another with most of his prior relationships. But God, he wants to know everything about her, and it kills him that he can’t. He seems to lack the proper words to do her justice. So he simply starts with a “May I steal the next dance?”
She says yes, of course, as any gracious young lady should. The music finally stops and her previous dancing partner walks away to go bore someone else to death. But suddenly, it is like her feet can’t move and she forgets what she is doing. Without the loud music to block her thoughts, she is suddenly aware of her every possible imperfection. Is the neckline of her dress uneven? Is her makeup smudged? Hair disheveled? Her legs are kind of shaky, and she wishes she had opted for flats instead of the painful heels that start to rub the backs of her ankles. Fortunately, he isn’t much better.
He obviously doesn’t care what he looks like, but he is acutely aware of his every action. Is he being improper to interrupt her dance? What if she likes that man? What if she finds it offensive that he would dare ask someone like her to dance? The man is supposed to lead a waltz such as this, but he is not exactly cut out for standing, let alone leading at the current moment.
The music starts coming forth from the band and the notes float through the air as the dance begins. It feels like a lifetime before they actually touch. They spend an abnormal amount of time just looking at each other expectantly, as though one of them will take the initiative and grab the other’s hand. It is a trying process for all parties. Finally, they realize that it is an impropriety to remain still as the dance floor comes to life again. Their hands touch, and intertwine, his hand takes rightful place on her hip and hers on his shoulder, and suddenly, like clockwork, they begin. All their previous thoughts melt away with each step, and both think they could stay like that forever.
He realizes that creepily staring into her eyes all night is not exactly the way to charm a girl, so he begins to talk. He asks her name and where she’s from and what she likes, and she responds with her answers and returns the questions. Her voice is a slow and opulent drawl like bells tinkling. He says very little else after she begins talking, just enjoying her. She likes nothing more than to talk, and he likes nothing more than to listen.
He cracks a stupid joke, and she laughs, not just to be courteous, but because she genuinely thinks that everything he says is the greatest thing she’s ever heard. Her heart keeps beating so hard she thinks he can hear it.
While they were transfixed, they both knew it wouldn’t last. They would never meet again. They would never retreat to their rooms (together or apart) stressing over what the other thought of them or if they would call. They didn’t even have that privilege. They would not have a first date or a second or a third. They would not fall in love or ever worry about how to admit it to one another. They would never get married or have children just as beautiful as them. They would never grow old together. It was just right then and there. And in that moment, neither of them really cared.
They glided across the ice until midnight, when they both had to leave. What happened that night was nothing but a very rare occurrence that only exists in the minds of hopeless romantics raised on Prince Charmings and Mr. Darcys. They would remember this night forever, but never meet again, always wondering if that bright light they had would have been blown out by the banalities of life had they met again…
I’m most sorry to say it, but the truth is, none of this is real. These two people have never met or connected or even existed, and if they did, the interaction would not have been love at first sight or dancing all night long. It would have been cheesy pickup lines and thinking “well he’s cute, I guess I’ll go out with him.” Or very little conversation at all, and stumbling out of a stranger’s apartment at seven a.m. with the same clothes you’d worn the night before. This was not real life. It was a figment of the writer’s imagination. In real life they would have been attracted or maybe charmed. They weren’t even just attracted, for their connection was far more than physical. “Charmed” is not enough for them. Charmed is a nice little cottage house in Cape Cod to spend your summers in once your children leave home for college. This was a sprawling estate with marble floors and high ceilings. Charmed is real and tangible and imperfect. This was romanticized and imagined and truly perfect. You see, they were something much greater than real life, something momentary, but monumental. It was temporary, but all consuming, and by the end of the night it seemed like the flame had burnt out before it even started.
And we must watch them and wish we could have what they did, but we couldn’t possibly. We get pretty words that mean nothing, and people who wear baseball caps and sweatshirts and say “babe.” They got wordless conversations that meant everything and white ties and ball gowns and “darling.” We will read Keats and Shakespeare and hopelessly convince ourselves that it exists, but it doesn’t. It couldn’t possibly. For that night, they were enchanted, and so were we…
There I was, a small, chubby youngling in my dark black cowboy hat. I had two small guns placed on my belt with six extra loops around the hips. The tips of the pistols were covered with bright white duct tape to hide the large orange ends of the barrels. With the small hand held camera turned on, I glowered at my opponent.
He stood, several feet taller than me, staring me down with his one solitary eye. The eye shined with a light blue hue, ready and yearning for a fight. His eye patch lay amongst his rough, scratchy eyebrow hairs with a light gray streak jutting across the small sea of hair. His hair was hidden partially under the dark black bowler hat with the rounded top, too small for his head. His dark green shirt contrasted with his silver and emerald colored plastic ring with the small label “Made in China” hidden on its under belly. The cuffs were scrunched up, out of the way of his gun hand. My hands twitched fiercely, mirroring the hands of my opponent. The man threatened to reach for his gun just below his hands, hidden in the dark shadow of his large fingers.
I was not myself anymore. I was Clyde, the mysterious cattle rustler, the unforgiving killer of Billy Shackleford. I remember seeing him walk once, tripping and falling on nothing but thin air, smiling and laughing in his feeble minded way. I remember his face slowly falling, turning pale as blood slowly drained out of his plaid collared shirt. A similar fate would meet my current enemy, Milford Gurden.
My hand dropped faster than the cattle I chased. I felt the cold metal rub across my pudgy, small fingers. The pistol quickly rose out of the dark depths of my holster. As it rose, the sun shone off of it, bouncing directly to the small glass lens of the camera. I pointed the pistol straight at the man, matching the white duct tape up with the small green buttons at the center of his chest. I knew that I could not shoot my father, not in the film, not in real life. My gun would soon malfunction, I would slap the side in an attempt to dislodge the small mechanism, but a shot would ring out, and Clyde would be lying dead on the ground.
The next few seconds whizzed by, just as they were planned. Clyde was officially dead, a bullet stuck in his gut. He had felt no pain, his death instantaneous. It did not hurt me, but I clasped a thin sorrow for my dead comrade. Once again a young boy in a cowboy suit, I jumped up and asked, “Did I do it right?” My father answered, “You were great, son.”
Recently, I saw an old, dark green shirt hanging in my closet. I slowly inspected the shirt, its large and wrinkled cuffs, its many green buttons. Some of the buttons were missing, lost in the vortex of time. There was a small tear in the right sleeve: my father’s gun hand. I took the green shirt off its hanger and tried it on. The buttons lined up perfectly, the cuffs unrolled at the perfect length. I closed my eyes and looked back, seeing a small, chubby youngling in a dark black cowboy hat.
When the time came for removal, I wanted to die.
Ten hours. That’s how long it took to reject it; my body pained, edematous. Bright lights and masked doctors. Rubber gloves bloodied in the corners where the fingers joined the hand.
They deliberated, unsure-
Cut it out?
I was resilient, masticating my insides, siphoning, virulently alive.
Purple and red-
Bruised like a smashed plum, they extracted it. Snip. Snip. Saturated flesh, slick with bits of me, slither up my chest, violating.
A slimy, new lifeform to make the skin crawl off my bones.
“Congratulations,” the nurse said. “It’s a girl.”
After the blazes of the smoky night
They wailed and bargained in the endless dark
When will they smile again with sheer delight?
The smoke rises from the forest at the breaking of daylight
I crave about home, but the roaring waves have left their mark
I ask, “is it over yet, that evil, daunting night?”
She relived the moment, when her heart shattered with fright
She could see it in her dreams, the instant that it sparked
When will she smile again with sheer delight?
He held onto his mother so tight
The difference now is utterly stark
He asks, “is it over yet, that evil, daunting night?”
You wonder when life will go back to being right
You remember the simple things, the songs of the larks
When will you smile again with sheer delight?
With a fire in our hearts, our fears take flight
Our bargaining ends, our unity is marked
When will we smile again with sheer delight?
We ask, “is it over yet, that evil, daunting night?”
In the darkness the children are screaming,
At the carnival of the masquerade.
With the grimaces and their color grayed,
Their appearances aren’t really pleasing.
Masked monsters all appear with a gleaming,
Then dim out into the night, thus they fade.
Leave us perplexed about the truth yet strayed,
Nothing persuades me that I’m not daydreaming.
I see your doubts about this fantasy,
But the fear in your eyes were plain and real,
The hands I held were frozen and trembled.
That turned the horrors into vanity,
I am only sure about how I feel,
Bet you feel the same for this, I gambled.
The summer’s fruits crumble in the shadows,*
Their life and flesh eaten away by the crows.
The bite of the air that once seemed so bold
Has faded into a constant, dreary cold.
The leaves are dying, turning brown,
Floating towards the cold, hard ground.
With colors so incredibly bland,
They form a bleak blanket over the land.
The sun and the flowers commence hibernation,
Hiding away, as if denying creation.
The world is cold and limp and pale,
The end approaching without fail.
The world feels like it has lost all its flare.
The leaves fall somberly through the air,
Descending towards their open grave,
As trees let go of what they can’t save.
The summer had been so alive,
The sun allowing the trees to thrive.
They sprouted flowers, grew and grew
Leaves holding on when the wind blew.
But all good things must come to an end,
Death a creature no being can fend.
Beautiful lives fade into the past,
Come and gone, gone so fast.
The black, bare branches all alone.
Gray and dark where the sun once shone.
The trees, mere skeletons of what they once were,
Shivering like dogs who’ve lost their fur.
It’s not hard to smell the scent of death
As it floats on the wind’s icy breath.
The memory of joy still remains,
But right now, there is only pain.
The asters, once blue,
Let go of their hue.
The Queen Ann’s Lace,
Has lost all its grace.
The core of their being no longer exists.
Life as they knew it cannot persist.
What happens in the end we might never know,
But when it comes time, we must let it go.**
The giant trees turn to gray
All their colors gone away.
A few still red, but losing the fight,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light***
But inevitably, they lose the war
The coming of winter always sure.
So they finally let go of all that is bright
And settle in for eternal night.
*Adapted from “Fall Song” (Oliver, 18).
**Adapted from “In Blackwater Woods”(Oliver, 83).
*** “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” Dylan Thomas.
I had created a new path through the forest that day,
Equipped with wooden outposts and all necessities,
Until my vision strayed away and struck my heart.
An object, with a fleeting shine caught my face,
And I, in reasonable disillusion, buried that evil sight which mocked me so.
I had created a new path through the forest that day.
Nevertheless, my curiosity revolted against me, I suppose,
And I, timid as the animals themselves, uncovered the strange mystery
Until my vision strayed away and struck my heart.
Dare I look at such a strange object, foreign to nature itself?
No, but yes. It was my trail before all else.
I had created a new path through the forest that day.
It was of nature, now that I recall, but not at the next moment.
My untrained hands examined the frigid copper
Until my vision strayed away and struck my heart.