Mystery Gateway

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The ramshackle gate creeks open, lisping to the side with a rusty groan. You jump back, heart beating rapidly, sweat running down your spine like a ice cold finger. Soft voices glide through the open gateway, promising grand adventures undertoned with dark desires. Your companion turns to you, “Will you come with me?” He asks, grabbing your hand, allowing his plea to soften his sharp handsome face, “Please?”
How can you say no to him? He saved your life, he wants YOU to go with HIM.
Those eyes.
Piercing, pleading blue.
Without making a conscious decision, you squeeze his hand and say,
“Lead the way.”

Tiny Tale by Tiff the Traveler.
Photo Manipulation by Jasmin Junger

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A Path Most Deadly, a Poem

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Insulted Witch Laura, temper flaring,
Sorely slighted on a path most daring.
The slighting Man she doomed to linger,
On this path, keeping his arms and fingers.
Laura forever waits for victims unknowing,
She’ll take only hands, hot blood flowing.
Slighters walking this way better beware,
This idyllic lane is now called Despair.
You must fear this path soaked in red,
Even deadly Ghosts have chosen to fled.
Hands reach out from Hell to grab,
Clawing fingers to scratch and stab.
Big hands, small hands, young and old,
Wrinkled and smooth, with stories untold.

Poem by Tiff the Traveler
Artist unknown

The Alchemist

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“Subject 110, how do you feel today?” Asked the Alchemist.
Tisha slowly got to her feet, flexing and stretching like a cat after a long nap. Looking up at the scholarly looking old man, “Ah, Doc X is once again gracing me with his presence. If you must know, fantastic. But you can’t keep me in here forever and keep shoot me up with all kinds of weird chemicals! You do know Spider-Man is only a comic right? No mutation going on here.” She emphasized by pointing to her wrists.
The old man narrowed his eyes in annoyance, “I’m doing more for you than you could ever possible fathom. One more shot and then on to your first test. Afterward, I’ll let you sleep.” He unlocked her cell and walked in, carrying a large syringe filled with thick silver liquid, moving and swirling on its own. “Give me your right arm.”
Tisha belligerently sat on her cot, arms crossed. The orderly in the corner started cracking his knuckles and walked over to her. The girl grudgingly rolled up her sleeve, glaring at both the orderly and the doctor in equal contempt. The Alchemist plunged it into her arm, causing the girl to wince and then sigh euphorically as the chemical worked its way inside her. Then she fell onto her hands and knees, hacking and coughing, silver tinted saliva dripping and splattering on the cell floor.
“Aaah, my dear, you see? The treatments are working! Please report to the Training Room when you’re done…making a mess.”

Tiny Tale by Tiff the Traveler
Art titled Silver Lining by Emyah

On Love and Bruises

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All the boys had left their mark on her in some form or fashion.
Her First boy taught her that some boys really did like smart girls.
Her Country boy taught her that country music wasn’t so bad.
Her Pretty boy taught her how to dance, while her Tough boy taught her how to fight.
Her College boy taught her how to make love and play video games, while her Outdoorsy boy taught her to climb mountains.
But not all the boys taught her something useful.
Mean boy taught her that not all boys are trustworthy and lies are easier than truth.
Play boy taught her that she wasn’t as special to him as he led her to believe.
Abusive boy left bruises on her arms and scars on her heart that are still healing.
She allowed these lessons to inadvertently form and shape her, until she finally got fed up.
She kicked all these lessons out of her heart and mind, and allowed the first lesson she had ever learned from her Dad to take over: it’s ok love a boy, but never give your heart and mind to a boy that will not treasure it like you deserve.

-Art titled Close to You by Christian Schloe

Hannah’s War

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Flutter of wings, a great whoosh and I feel Ariel settling down next to me.
“Nihael, my friend, how is she?” he asks, tilting his head to one side to get a good look at his new charge.
My eyes move off the girl for a moment to look at Ariel, then immediately back on her. “This assignment was supposed to be easy, but I won’t say the same; she has been very difficult to keep alive.”
Ariel shifts to a more ready position atop our perch on a old crumbing building, as we both peer down at a brown-haired girl sitting on a park bench about ten feet below us. She was busily writing down something in a notebook, and would occasionally look up dreamily across the park, then eyes would light up and she would be back to writing.
“She seems to be harmless enough, and somewhat unremarkable,” says the Newcomer, wondering how difficult one young girl could be. Ariel was a huge Being, even for a Protector, standing almost nine feet tall with the bravado and build of an battle hardened gladiator.
“You know she’s been a Participant for almost a year now, even though she still acts like an Observer. What you see before you is calm within a continuous storm. I’ve had so many fights to the death, so many near misses, so many close calls, that I sliced through her curtains last night because they made a noise.”
Now Ariel titled his head to look at me. He was starting to remind me of a curious puppy but with a massive wingspan and equally massive sword. “Please debrief me; I need to know everything before you leave.”
Without taking eyes off my human, I give a brief history about her incessantly grim life.
“Birth to high school was easy enough, Hannah listened to her mother back then, but college…college was a dangerous time. She put herself into so many bad situations, and would never ask for help until the very last second. I spent a lot of time sprinting into the Dark, stabbing through blood and smoke so I could pull her out. Both of us barely survived the last fight, but as you can see we’re still alive. Post-college is when the real war started, literarily and figuratively.”
Ariel sighs and says, “Wish we were allowed to just jump in, that’d probably save us a lot of ripped wings and bloodshed.” He unsheathes his sword and grips it in his fighting hand, feeling less laid back about his new charge.
I nod in agreement, and continue, “If Earth wasn’t a place of blood and hate already, she joined her country’s military, and entered active warzones multiple times. To say that I was fighting for both of our lives constantly was an understatement. The Land of First Beginnings hasn’t been the same since the Roman days. Prince Jazre’el still rules that place, and when he learned about her possible change in status, we were attacked almost everyday. Roaniel was sent to assist me until we left, but she didn’t make it til the end, Jazre’el himself butchered her. So you understand that I was very happy when we finally left and came back, since we still have strongholds here.”
“So that’s what happened to Roaniel, I thought she was just on another assignment. Is Hannah heading back any time soon?”
“No, not that I can see,” I say, “but the fighting heightened even more the day she finally became a Participant. One improvement is that she’s so much better at asking for help before she needs it, freeing me up to do some preemptive damage to the Dark before they damage us again. And I know we’re not supposed to take pleasure in destruction, but I can’t lie: I really enjoy sending them back to Arroyo.”
Ariel nods, and starts surveying the scene, “Is she Weaponized?”
It’s my turn to nod, “Oh yeah, even though she still has no idea what she can really do, but she’s trying to learn.”
“Maybe I’m being a coward, but you should stay. Consider me a reinforcement instead of a replacement,” says Ariel, looking just a tad bit nervous now, bravado slowly leaking out of him like a deflating balloon.
I consider this for a moment: I probably should have asked for permanent reinforcements after that Incident her Freshman year in college and during her last deployment, but pride and her lack of Participation had held me back. Could I really leave Hannah now, after all we’ve been through? I’ve grown to love her very deeply, and things will only get worse. When she had chosen to become Weaponized earlier this year, the Dark must have felt the change, because their efforts had increased. They delight in tormenting Participants, Weaponized or not, knowing that if they’re successful in keeping them from reaching full potential, Participants can dissipate and die a tormented death full of regret and should-have-beens. But if the Participants realize their purpose, they can dispel the Dark at the flick of a wrist; in a single word they can decimate an entire room full of Dark. A whole city full of Dark will flee before a fully Weaponized Participant that has come into their own.
“I have to check with HQ, and if they give the ok, I will stay. Who needs to retire anyways in this day and age? Seven thousand years is the new four thousand years right?”
Ariel smiles, and pounds me on the back, “Get your permission and come back so we can keep our girl safe.”
We went through a few other minor debriefing points, and I take off for HQ. I arrive and check in, and moments later, I express my desire to return to Hannah, my human, and I get pulled into an office by my supervisor.
“Good, because you’re going back regardless. Hannah needs both you and Ariel. NOW,” says Myriel shoving a folder into my hands and pushing me back out the door.
Perplexed, I walk and read at the same time, I start to run and take off, flying as fast as possible as the realization and panic of what I just read is building to a breaking point in my chest.
I hope I’m not too late.
Moments later I’m back in the park and land in the middle of a vicious battle. Ariel is in the middle of a sea of Dark, hacking and slashing away with his sword, and using his wings to clothesline the them with every swing of his torso.
“Welcome back!” Please, jump in whenever you feel so inclined!” he bellows as he slices off a horned head that spurts black smoke and smells like rotten eggs and rage.
I jump in the skirmish and start my own hacking and slashing, working my way towards Ariel who is standing over Hannah. She can’t actually see what’s going on all around her, but she looks distraught nonetheless, still sitting on the park bench with her arms wrapped around herself, rocking back and forth. “Please, please help me, I don’t know what to do,” she’s praying over and over again. Her phone was laying on top of her forgotten notebook, pulled open to an email. Whatever the message was, it had sent her spiraling into an abysmal mental pit of despair and agony, which had attracted the Dark to her in the first place, and they weren’t taking any chances, all the Dark in the city had come to torment and torture her.
Hack hack
Clang crunch
Hack shwack
Grunt squeal
Hack scring…went the sounds of the battle, Ariel maintaining his position in front of Hannah, and I stand behind her. We are surrounded, and the Dark are closing in fast, as more and more of them poured into the park.
“What do we do?” shouts Ariel, as he gets splattered in oily black blood and starts bleeding himself, getting weaker by the minute.
“We fight, we never stop. Hannah depends on us!” I shout back.

And that’s when it happened.

Hannah stops rocking and violently grabs her notebook and reads something she wrote down on the back page. After reading the notebook, she drops it and stands up, with hands clenched to her chest, head bowed eyes closed, determination written across her face. She begins to murmur in a strange language, so quiet that we couldn’t hear her above the screeching and flapping from the Dark.
But the Dark could hear Hannah.

Perfectly.

As soon as her lips start moving, otherworldly screams sound off. But not their battle cries: they were in pain. They started floating around listlessly, trying to go towards Hannah, but Ariel and I were cutting them down easily now.
Hannah takes a step away from the bench, head up eyes open, extending her palms out and downward towards the ground, and fiercely says “Leave. NOW.”
It looked like the Dark were getting sucked up by a giant vacuum and getting deposited on the far side of the horizon. Vicious cries of agony and fury echo in our ears as we stand silently and watch as all the Dark are violently expelled from the park and from the city.
The silence is deafening, so loud that it rings in our ears as we both turn at the same time towards Hannah.
She now has a smile of her face, and sits back down to her writing as if nothing had happened. Ariel and I take turns binding up our wounds, and then I hand him the folder that Myriel had given to me before my departure.
He looked through it, and lets out a low whistle when he gets to the end, looking over the top of the folder to admire Hannah.
“If I had known this, I would’ve brought more warriors with me from the get go!” he chuckled, handing me back the folder, “Our girl has decided to be a heavy hitter now huh?”
Now it’s my turn to chuckle, “Yeah you know humans and that free will nonsense.”
Together, we sit down next to Hannah, one facing the East, one facing the West, and start watching the skies. We know that was not the last battle, but we now know that we were going to win Hannah’s War.

Bring Back Record Players!

Walk through the front door, and the smell of old cardboard and ink, slight decay and age hits your nostrils. While at the same time, ears are greeted by the best of Chuck Berry crackling through the air, and eyes rest on a proverbial museum of music from years past. Strolling around the small store, you let your hands drift over cardboard album covers of Elvis Presley, Van Halen, and the Andrews Sisters, wishing you could take them all home. But regardless you are thrilled: you have finally found YOUR music store, because everyone should have their own! Just for a moment, you can forget about things like iTunes and Spotify, and just enjoy the authentic sound of record player music. You promise yourself that soon enough, you will buy your own player, and spend your days listening to that crackling clear music while dreaming away.

Ah, sorry I had to reminisce for a moment about last Sunday’s foray into my local records store. I think the owner is getting kind of annoyed with me because I walk through every Sunday, just to smell that cardboard, hear that music quality, and to peruse that collection. But this time, I decided to take pics and really check out all the stuff he had scattered about the store.

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I think my grandparents had one of these.

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My mom still has her collection stored somewhere and she still will not let me touch them!

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Looks like the record player and the CD are trying to console each other over the fact that they’re not used as much anymore.

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Never had the privilege of employing these to satisfy my music needs, a little before I entered the music scene, or just the scene in general haha.

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Not to date myself or anything, but I distinctly remember recording my first cassette, a beautiful memory full of neon clothes, crimped hair, and Aerosmith.

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This was a new addition: Steampunk art! It’s called Javaplex…I think it’s trying to be a coffee maker.

Music has come such a far way, with the norm now being completely digital (haven’t touched a music CD in years). It’s funny though that we have access to some of the best high quality players for music to date, but lots of us still love the sound of music coming out of a record player (definitely including me). I swear to you, nothing sounds better than Frank Sinatra crooning away from a record player nestled in the corner of the room (my room).

What do you think? What was your favorite type of music player growing up? Lemme know down below!

6 Perks and 6 Horrors of Living in Los Angeles

Everyone and their mom wants to move to LA, to visit LA, to exist in LA. That’s all well and good until you actually move here, and you have to deal less glamorous stuff like skyrocketing insurance, rabid bums, or stepping in dog shit at every turn. But there’s the sunny flip side, where there’s literally sun almost every day, access to unlimited fresh fruits and veggies, and the beach…did I mention the beach? The beach! BEACH!!! So I compiled a short list of good and bad things about being an Angeleno. Since I like to end on a positive note, we’ll start with the baddies:

1. Traffic: I could write a book on the traffic of LA. No. One. Can. Drive. Here. Or maybe I’m so egotistical that I think I’m the best driver anywhere, but putting that aside, people on the road here are DANGEROUS for a few reasons:
-Lots of people smoke weed while driving
-People texting and talking on their phones, causing us all of us but you to miss the green light *shakes fist in anger*
-People here generally don’t know what the frickin blinker/turn signal is or even bother checking to see if they can even cross into my lane (that would be a NO because I’m right next to you yelling at you!!!)

2. Pollution: my sinuses have been permanently plugged since I moved here (no I don’t have allergies)

3. Dog shit: it’s EVERYWHERE. Also, there was an underground wild Chihuahua mafia plotting the downfall of Los Angeles about a year ago. You think I’m kidding? Makes me scared anytime I pass someone with a Chihuahua, it might be undercover!

4. Mutilated people everywhere: Such a variety of uses for silicone and plastic unseen anywhere else. Come on, you’re 21 years old, WTF do you need bigger boobs and a brow lift already?? Are duck-faced good selfies that important?

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5. Insurance: not sure if this needs more explanation other than my stuff tripled when I moved here. *Palm to the face*

6. Tourists: it can cost me up to $30 just to park by the beach during the summer because all the parking garages are gouging everyone because they can. I live just far enough away from the beach that I need to drive, and all I want is to see some sand and the water, and I have to cough up my first born to see it.

Ok ok baddies and rants over with, onto the goodies:

1. The Beach: sand, sun and fun in basically year round wonderful weather: even in January and February you can probably go sunbathe. Aaaaand I live really close to it.

2. Farmers markets: dude, brah, man…these are awesome. It’s nice to know that you can still get food that’s not poisonous, and it’s actually cheaper sometimes than at a grocery store. Plus you shop at one often enough and the folks get to know you and cut you deals.

3. All the crazy awesome different types of people: people from all over want to be in LA, so whether you’re in class, the market, church, or walking by a group of angry bums on the corner, most people are from somewhere else other than LA.

4. You can be an extra in a major movie: It might take a little time, but it can happen. Current dream is to be a zombie movie extra, covered in guts and slime, chewing on Brad Pitts’ arm.

Hopefully I won't look this ratchet

Hopefully I won’t look this ratchet

5. Name anything and you can find it in LA: it might take you an hour to go 5 miles to get it, but it’s quicker than ordering it online! Or you could FINALLY develop some patience (or lack thereof) and just order it online anyways so you’re not stuck in traffic (see Baddies, #1).

6. Outdoor activities: on any given time of the year, you can rent a boat, jet ski, paddle board, canoe, dinghy, some flippers, and hit the water. You might freeze your important personal parts off, but it’ll be fun! Hiking, camping, just being outside! You could surf in the morning, and snowboard by the afternoon if you REALLY wanted to.

So those are a few good and bad reasons for living in LA, I’m sure there are tons more but these were the most obvious for me. What do you think? What are your favorite or most hated reasons from living/visiting in LA? Lemme know down below!