Written By Greg Giovannini

A hallway, long and dark, stretches before me. Behind and ahead, there is only blackness, an inscrutable fog clouding the distant past and future. I walk forward simply because that’s the last way I remember walking, but I could just as well be walking backwards.

My steps are slow, careful, investigative, as though each movement spawns a clue to unravel the mystery of my destination. A small candle in my hand provides the only light, but it is enough. I am comfortably lost. I think of the future beyond the blackness, and it fills me with hope. I do not think of the blackness behind me; it reeks of despair, a despair that feeds on sadness and pain. As long as I have my light, I am safe – the darkness chases but cannot catch me.

Step after step, and there is still nothing. The corridor narrows ever so slightly. Shadows dance over the wooden floor from my flickering candlelight; there is no sound but that of my shoes rhythmically striking the smooth planks. I do not wonder and walk on.

Eventually the wax drips onto my hand. I wipe it off and shiver. Something tickles the back of my mind, like an unscratchable itch, but I ignore it as I press onward, a bit faster now. The light flickers more erratically, and I notice with a twinge of something else that my circle of light has waned. Still I continue my march.

The feeling deepens, but the word eludes me. An unsteady beat joins the sound of my steps – it is my heart. The candlelight dwindles further. I start jogging.

It strikes me that I don’t know why I’m moving forward. The darkness ahead seems more oppressive, more malicious, harboring the enigma of my destination. At least the darkness behind me holds no secrets. I suck in a breath, heart racing. There is a person somewhere, I think. But which way are they? Surely ahead. I feel that unknown word on the tip of my tongue.

I am running now, the shrinking light nursing my growing clarity; it is a thin barrier between the layers of dark I am sandwiched between, and the shadows kiss through the porous membrane. I feel on the verge of a massive revelation, of some truth left behind and forgotten.

Then the candle goes out. My lifeline vanishes. The darkness is absolute, petrifying. I freeze; the silence screams around my thundering heart. Fear. I feel it like two walls crushing the life out of me, and I collapse to the cold ground in a trembling pile. Someone is yelling in my ear. I curl up and cover them with my hands, but I still hear the voice. Another joins it. Words reach me, and I fight them off, but they wound my feeble defense. It is a chorus of voices now, and they storm my wall like a bellicose army and flood my soul in ruthless fury. Worthless. Pathetic. Weak. I beg them to stop. Useless, sniveling, crying, whining, baby. I scream and want to die. Sad trash depressed worthless burden die die die die die. I feel as though I am being ripped apart by a savage beast. Hopeless, I sink into it and let it take me, the cacophony drowning out every thought until only a white noise assaults me. I remain like that for some time – minutes? Days? – and then I am conscious of my heartbeat, and my shivering body hugging the floor. Terrified that the voices will return, I leap up, my darting eyes useless in the inky blackness. And then a fleeting image of the person pops into my mind like the wink of a lighthouse beacon.

I need to find her. She is somewhere back there, I am sure of it. I propel myself in what feels like the opposite direction at full speed. My body feels sluggish, as though the air itself is viscous. But I run on and on, blindly, searching for something in the nothing. The corridor seems to never end.

Until I smash head-first into something solid. I stagger back, stunned, but my desperation to find her clears my senses rapidly. As though my crash-landing had triggered some response, the tiniest sliver of light appears at the ground. It is enough to illuminate the outline of a door in front of me. I can hear a voice speaking energetically beyond. Hopeful, I search for a handle, some means of opening it. But it is just a slab of wood. I pound it, kick it, yell at it; the unyielding monolith crushes my spark of hope into the ashes of despair.

In defeat, I sink to the ground again with my back to the door, listening. I can hear her, just beyond the threshold, laughing. She says something, and I feel the love in the words, feel it but cannot have it, cannot have what is not for me. The light at the bottom of the door catches my wet eye. It is a spectrum of color, a pattern that reminds me of the promise she never got to fill, the rainbow butterflies that would never fly. Just like her, a flightless butterfly, the world unable to appreciate her beauty.

But I did. I saw that beauty every day, witnessed it on the good days and bad days, watched it suffer through four years of hell. That beauty was my mother, and so much more. She wasn’t a writer, but she wrote for me. I devoured every poem, never thinking, This will be the last, but tepidly understanding that it could be the last, until brutally forced to accept that it was the last. She wasn’t an artist, but she painted for me, each work a bundle of love. They say love is eternal; I say love is my mother. She wasn’t a goddess, but she was perfect.

It all amounts to nothing. She’s gone.

Tears stream down my face; I was wrong – there is no happiness here. Only painful memories muffled behind an eternally-locked door. I brought myself here as I always do when I am lost, expecting to hear her guiding voice, the strength of her commands to move forward, to crush the voices of my insecurities that paralyze me and send me hunting for her in the first place.

But I am alone. The only voice I have is my own.

That’s not true. I stand, slowly, as a light shines ahead in the distance. I walk towards it. My instinct is always to run backwards to find her. To pound on that locked door in desperation, to get nowhere trying to go back to her. But she lives in me. The light grows; a casket surrounded by hundreds of candles comes into focus. The gifts she left for me. An explosion of golds and cherry reds, a rainbow of warmth. I pick one up, and the flame grows brighter in my hand.

I glance at the casket and cry, but through the tears, I smile ever so slightly. The candle I hold burns into my mind the last birthday I spent with her.

Memories have a way of dragging me back to the past. Memories are what will light my way to the future.

I know I will get lost again. But I hang on to the hope that I will find my way back here, not to the locked door, but to the wealth of light she left for me to move on.

I turn and face forward.

A hallway, long and dark, stretches before me. For the first time, I notice the doors on either side. No rainbow of light, no voices, only bare possibilities. I walk forward and wonder which to open first.


The Desecration of the Jack (Or: A Pile of Allusions and Nonsensical Garbage)

Written by Greg Giovannini

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Have you ever been to Walmart? An affirmative answer to that question will quickly disprove this time-overhonored proverb. For there is no beauty, no sugar magnolia, no rippling touch of gray (insert other Grateful Dead song titles here), to be glimpsed among the ghastly corridors of that hell. Hell, indeed – what is a Walmart but a haven for the people you love to hate, the people that turn society upside-down and kick it in the butt by their continuing existence? You’ve been there. You’ve seen them. Mothers pushing their kids in shopping carts at five miles per hour – well above the speed limit, mind you – without a seatbelt. Fathers in Aisle 12 paying no attention to their kids in shopping carts in Aisle 3. Kids in shopping carts flying at you. Murder and death around every corner. Really, it’s nothing more than a hate fest, a place to go to hate the world when you hate the world. I love it.

You can tell a lot about someone by the retail stores he or she frequents. Take my old schoolmate Jack, for instance. Jack is a frequenter of Walmart, unsurprisingly, a token quality of our sustained friendship. Really, we couldn’t be closer. His favorite pastimes include dropping out of school, being unemployed, leeching money off of actual working-class people, and baseball. A really solid list, that. Up until 2004, Jack was so sure that the Boston Red Sox were cursed – the Curse of the Bambino, as he and his less-than-desirable Target-shopping ex-girlfriend Rose called it. (Fun fact: Rose is stupid, ugly, and also unemployed.) That year, Jack got a job at Target for a few months. “Few” is the operative word there – recall that unemployment is a hobby of his, and besides, Walmart has always been his true home. Did I mention Rose shops at Target? That’s where they met; Rose is really awful. Anyway, Jack was in charge of returning the carts, so clearly, someone valued his presence. Jack himself isn’t very big on the whole “value” thing, though; one day, he pushed a giant line of shopping carts directly in front of a speeding car. The driver, swerving to avoid Jack, nailed a stop sign and flew through the windshield like a child in a shopping cart not wearing a seatbelt (see how the first paragraph cleverly foreshadowed this unexpectedly expected turn of events? Wear your seatbelts, kids!). After the accident, Jack promptly lost his job and drank to forget. Rose made him feel like trash for inadvertently killing someone while simultaneously pushing him to become a serial killer for a living. (Allusion: Rose is Lady Macbeth). Eventually, being too small-minded to understand Rose’s plans for world domination, Jack returned to Walmart to spend his days wandering around the aisles searching for meaning in his life as an impoverished murderer.

It was the day of the 2004 World Series. In what will be remembered by no one but me as the Great Desecration of the Jack, Jack took Rose to Walmart. He had no idea what was going to happen until it was too late. After blindfolding her to bring her to the baseball party in the dessert section of the store that he planned on raiding, Jack walked Rose through the sliding door and into the bright fire of hell. Her true form was revealed; the Wicked Witch of the North-West-ish-Direction boiled as her skin was exposed to the harsh lights of Walmart. There was no time to care, though; a dead witch always meant a lifted curse! The TVs in the electronics section were showing the game on every screen. The Boston Red Sox had just won. The Curse of the Bambino was finally broken, and all because Jack had let Rose go.

Ultimate Doom

Written by Greg Giovannini

Everything was pressuring me to do it. I couldn’t just not. I mean, not doing it would obviously mean ultimate doom, and who was I to bring about that kind of horror on a grossly unsuspecting world? It’s not like it was all that difficult to do. In retrospect, I really had no excuse not to do it. My friends would tell me I’d be fine, that it wasn’t a big deal – well, that is, if I actually had friends. I never really jumped on the whole “friends” bandwagon. Maybe I should’ve, that way the weight of ultimate doom wouldn’t be resting on my shoulders alone. But it was. After all, I have a Master’s in Computer Science and Being Antisocial. It’s a dual degree program, a two-for-one package. The best part is, they make you do both regardless of your decision; it’s like a free little dose of feudalism, where people with more money than you make your decisions and shape your personality for you. That’s kind of what was happening now. I couldn’t just not do it.

So I did it. I hit the brake and stopped for the deer. I could hear God whispering words of gratitude in my ear. I swear I did. Either that, or the depths of my subconscious were imposing positive auditory hallucinations to satisfy the cravings spawned from years with no friends. Regardless, the little faun walked across the street very much not like a deer in headlights as my trusty Elentra glided to a stop (not moving was something my car was particularly good at – I’ve learned to make use of things’ natural abilities).

“Whew. Crisis averted; the world is safe.” I drove off into the distance. Then I hit a traffic light. Because one good deed must naturally be balanced out by a less tasteful act, I ran it as it turned yellow like a real rebel. None of my existent friends saw that one coming – but that statement was rather loaded, because it assumed that 1) I had friends, and 2) that such friends were still in existence. I’m on fire; and now I’m in present tense.

As I drive on in the aftermath of my heroic deed and heinous crime, I feel the ultimate doom receding back into the shadowy depths of Mordor, like Jack slipping off the edge of a piece of driftwood in Titanic.


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.

Driftwood: A 500-word Tribute to Titanic

Written by Greg Giovannini

Torn asunder. A forlorn vestige of the hulking titan that, hours before, cut through the water like shrapnel through flesh, now sliced in half by a silent machete of ice. Punctured, she bled the precious air that kept her aloft, until the force of her weight and the wound in her side, infected with the dark salt of the sea, tore her apart from within. Panicked screams, lifeboats splashing, an orchestra calmly playing on as she went down – the sounds of chaos and the tranquility of disaster filled the frigid air. This is the way the world ends; the last lights went out with a muffled gurgle.

The screams would fade and die – those that had not retreated into the sobbing messes of sods crowded into the scarce lifeboats – but I would exist perpetually as the remnant of a failure, doomed to the hell of no purpose. Purpose lost meaning in its absence; floating aimlessly became my life, and prescribed to it a meaning of rhythmic bobbing and dismal sloshing. This was my purpose now.

Until she climbed aboard. The sea rocked, and from it birthed another lost treasure of the great mother. I felt cold hands gripping my wooden skin, a shivering woman embracing my jagged edges in terror. A survivor. I remembered what I had once been, what I once more could be. Yes, come to me, I said to her. Give me one more purpose. She pulled herself further up, claiming nearly my entire surface despite her small size. Hold on, dear woman; I will protect you from the sea. I was pathetic in comparison to the mother I once served, but her arrogant enormity had been her downfall; perhaps my humble size would be my salvation. Hold on.

“Jack,” I heard her whisper. Her fingers crept off my skin, into the water, searching. Another. There surely could not be two. “Jack, come back.” I would fail again, just like mother.

“I’m here, Rose, I’m here.” Her hand blindly grasped at the dying voice. I began to tip ever-so-slightly. I will not last.

I felt their hands meet, a tenacious ferocity like a blade of steel that skewered the monstrous despair breathing down on them, and in that moment, I understood what forever meant. “I’ll never let go.”

But he was slipping away, already dead. She would die too, if she kept her promise. I would save her the choice. I gently pushed him away, severed their entwined hands, killed Jack to save Rose. A death for a life. Life, death, it was always a battle between one and the other, a messy collection of transient victories and defeats – but their love was perpetual. And I knew that, somehow, her heart would go on.

“I’m so sorry, Jack.” Then she let go.

Two drifters, reborn in the wake of our loss, floating on a mass watery grave towards a new life. This was our purpose now. The world begins with a sob, to wash away the past.