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Written by Mark Koehr

The Dowager held the crystal goblet between her thin fingers, debating whether or not to take another sip. Sunlight penetrating through the stained glass windows filled her bedroom in an array of multi-colored blotches. The light had successfully phased through the side of the goblet nearest the window, but when it tried to pierce the other side, a thick, red liquid stopped it.

Eventually the Dowager gave in and allowed a single drop to slip down her long throat in one satisfying gulp.

The taste was exquisite. A sweet nectar that filled her stomach and satiated her appetite, even if only for a moment. The woman slammed the goblet back down onto the table. She could feel them. Sharp knives trying to dig their way up through her gums.

I can do this,” she whispered to herself, banishing the knives back to where they came from. “I can resist. I am stronger than him.” The dowager had lost count of how many times she had said that. She had the exact same new year’s resolution for the past two centuries: self-control.

Yet time after time, the Dowager gave in to her bloodlust, and countless villages had paid the price for it. If she thinks hard enough, she can still taste the blood of the children. Still remember the euphoria it brought. Still feel it slide down her throat.

No, she snapped herself back to reality. The Dowager got up from the table she sat at, and in three great strides, stormed over to the body-length mirror at the end of her quarters. In the looking glass, she saw a young woman She stood with her back straight, in a long gown, red as the blood she just drank. It hugged her body tighter than what would have been appropriate in her hometown. The dress was the oldest the Dowager had, even older than herself. A memory of a mother she never had the chance to meet.

The Dowager reached her hand out to the mirror. “You are Lucia Umbra,” the woman in the mirror repeated every word. “The dowager to this estate. You are strong, stronger than anyone else. If anyone can fight this, it is you.

When she gave the speech this time, Dowager Lucia Umbra finally believed it.

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Happy

Written by Greg Giovannini

They say he’s sixteen and still collects toys.
They say his Transformers sit in neat little rows arranged by height,
From Bumblebee to Optimus Prime.

They say he believes in aliens and robots.
They say he’s not a child of God;
Moreover, that he disproved God’s existence in his seventh-grade history class.

They say he can solve a Rubix Cube in four seconds.
They say he studied Euler and Fermat while learning to read,
And cracked Einstein’s tensors before ten.

They say he smiles funny, that he broke half his teeth from smiling so much.
They say he’s chipper all the time,
And his smile’s so big, people think he’s Mormon.

They say he’s genetically enhanced, a freak government-experiment.
They say he’s an alien himself,
Green Martian-skin hiding under that human disguise.

They say he’s sick, that his head is going to explode one day.
They say he surely won’t live to twenty.
They say it’s alright, he doesn’t have feelings anyway;
Which is all a shame, because I saw him on the playground yesterday,
Alone in the metal-barred tower, happy.

What are our members reading?

“What are our members reading?” is a series of reviews to showcase all the great books that members of our club have enjoyed reading.

Submitted by Dana Sheehan

I just finished A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. A national bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel was deeply enjoyable in its entirety. There is no easy way to describe this novel. Overall, there’s no main character. Not a single one of them is fully “central” in this story. It follows the lives of several characters, almost all of them somehow related or impacted by each other. There is no straightforward narrative either. The story switches between first person, third person, second person—there’s even a PowerPoint chapter. This exhilarating novel focuses on the passage of time, regret, addiction, trauma, broken families, and music. Music, as a key aspect of this novel, shows the music industry through time and creates nostalgia throughout the novel.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a question of how we get from point A to point B. The answer isn’t always that simple.

The Superiority of Elephant Jerry Over The Puny Human Jack

Written by LunaLali

Jack sped down the freeway. He had exactly 30 seconds left before the bridge closed. If he didn’t make this, the dozens of elephants chasing behind him would tear him to shreds. Sparing a moment to glance in the rearview mirror, he curled his upper lip in distaste. The elephants’ bulging eyes, their frothing mouths, and the machine guns that had replaced their ivory tusks only served to prove to Jack that he had made the right decision when he blew up their State Bank. Semi-robotic sentient purple elephants should not be allowed to live in this world!

His 30 seconds were up. Jack slammed on the brakes, threw his car perpendicular to the gap, and in moments both he and the automobile were airborne. The herd lifted their trunks in anger, hooting “Oooh!” at the criminal about to make his great escape. Jack threw his head back in triumphant laughter. Nothing could stop him now. To hell with those damned elephants, those freaks of nature borne from human greed. To hell with the government too timid to stand against a clan of tyrannical elephants. To hell with control! It was time to let loose! It was time to be free!

Off to the right and surrounded by blithering idiots stood Jerry. He was the only elephant not entirely purple. Instead, his coat had dulled to somewhere more indigo after the contagion of intelligence was released. He was also one of the few elephants to have been born after the Overtaking of Elephants Against Humans. His generation would be the one to eradicate the human species and settle elephants as top of the food chain. Two-leggers like Jack, that loved to cause chaos and disruption, needed to be put down. Effective immediately.

A flash of brilliance gleamed in the indigo elephant’s eyes, and with dexterity never before seen in a creature that size, Jerry bowed his head and took aim. His robotic tusk honed in and fired a single shot.

The sound reached Jack first. The acoustics of the bridge allowed him to hear death before it claimed him. Half in disbelief, Jack almost dismissed it; no way would they fire at him. Elephants may have guns for tusks now, but no way can they shoot. Jack was wrong. Within seconds, the bullet tore through Jack’s heart and exploded out the other side, dragging with it bits of flesh and splattering blood.

Besides, it was best that Jack died then. Regardless of his cinematics, Jack had not successfully made the jump over the gapped bridge. Both Jack and his car plopped into the river, sinking, taking with them humanity’s one last, insane hope.

Jerry stood proudly. The other elephants bowed their trunks at his glory. He decided to give his arch nemesis one last moment of recognition. “I’m so sorry, Jack.”