He found he could not breathe.
“The window.” He murmured, and fumbled with the latch. He threw it open, and frosty air slipped into his lungs. He convulsed momentarily, grasping the corners of the window frame to keep from falling, before collapsing against a wooden chair and throwing his head back into his hands.
He sighed, staring at the half-finished painting in front of him. Acrylics lay scattered around the splintery easel, and dabs of paint littered the corner of what appeared to be a half-finished portrait.
Lingering only a second, his eyes darting across the painting, he grasped a brush. With a fluid motion, he dabbed it across the black pigments spilling from a paint tube.
The portrait's single completed eye stared at him, wanting. He could scavenge it. The eye was fine, only, he needed to correct the hair--no, it wouldn't do.
It wasn't her.
With a violent striking motion, he splattered the paint across the paper in a careless X. Something like exhaustion settled in his veins at the first shiver of the paper's texture running through his skin, and he leaned back into his chair once more.
"I can't do it." He murmured. The window was still unlatched, and it was beginning to get chilly. He pulled it closed rather absentmindedly, leaving it cracked the slightest bit open. Somewhere beyond, he could hear music. A concert in town?
“I need a break.“ He thought to himself, before retaliating against himself. “I have work to do.”
Something struggled inside him. He glanced around his studio, at the paints that had once seemed vibrant, at the spools of paper dotting scattered shelves. It felt dead, somehow, lifeless with repetition. Blankets covered a pile of junk in the corner--even more failed projects.
The sun glimmered through the tiny crack in the window, illuminating the black X on his painting.
He stepped outside. The music was still playing, although it felt even more distant. He shivered; he'd forgotten to take a jacket with him, and found the snow seeping through his shoddy boots.
"What lovely weather." He murmured to himself, staring at the grays of the sky and the snow. The city stretched out before him, covered in muted colors and faint sunshine.
It stretched before him, enormous, a canvas waited to be used.
"Stop that." He could hear screeching. “I don't care,” he thought. “I should care, and I don't, and I'm sorry that I don't, but I don't. I don't care so much at all.”
Red paint ran down his arms, staining his apron. The streets of the city ran red, and blue, and yellow with paint, which lit the inky road a mirage of explosive colors.
"This is green." He murmured, splashing it onto the sidewalk. "Here is blue." He tried to dab it onto the cracks--someone was grasping his shoulders, speaking into his ear. He pushed them back, stumbled. The paint can fell, splattering across the snow and rolling downhill the empty road.
He could hear yelling. It sounded muted, as though he were underwater. His heart was trembling, and he couldn't' have cared less.
It wouldn't have mattered. He had spent years alone, hunched over an easel, and his muscles were limp from lack of use. He found himself fighting, but his arms wouldn't move the way he told them to. He felt sluggish, frustrated. His legs couldn't run, and he spat at them. “You're my legs, aren't you? Get up!”
It was cold in the hospital.
He watched the clock tick closer and closer to midnight, playing with the edge of his sheets. It had been a week already. He was annoyed, annoyed that they wouldn't let him back into the streets to finish his work, annoyed that they wouldn't even let him back to his studio at the top of the little hill.
He had stopped caring an hour earlier, when a chill had settled inside the clean rooms. It smelled strongly of antiseptic. Each time a nurse opened the door to check on him, he thought he could smell the cold. Smell it.
Perhaps someone has died, he thought, vaguely.
It felt like he was in a morgue. Silence, the occasional patter of footsteps, and now the frigid air.
He sat up. The sheets rustled, and he was careful to quiet them.
The walls were white, the walls were white, the walls were white. There were no boundaries. He felt surrounded, surrounded by a blank parchment paper--only this time, without boundaries. He spun around in a circle, arms flinging out. Is this what heaven looks like, he wondered, bright all around but for my own breathing and the beating of my heart? What a cruel, cruel place.
He needed paint.
Color, any color. He glanced at the bed-stand and found grape juice.
He splattered it against the walls, watched as it dripped down and formed puddles against the bed. He dipped his fingers in it and ran them along the wall, drawing swirling lines and intricate doodles, of which he scribble over and over and over again. Violently crossing them out, a red sheen beginning to show against his forehead.
"Not right," He muttered, feverish, "not right." He traced another eye and found that, at the very least, he could remember and illustrate one mere part of her. He tried to add to it--but it wasn't the same, it wasn't the same person at all. His hand smeared it out, and he glanced down and the feeble cup in his hands.
He was running out of juice.
He wondered where he was.
A hand stroked his face, played with the stubble that had grown across his chin. He tried to tilt his neck, to see who it might be, but the dream fell away just as they let out a giggle.
Evelina, he thought, and his heart let out a pang.
They were watching him, he knew. He was somewhere else now, somewhere far away. It smelled like lavender half the time, and the other half of the time it smelled like nothing at all. The walls were beige, the floor was patterned wood, and his bed had sheets the color of roses.
“They were careful this time, weren't they?” He thought of this to himself mildly, tracing the scars along his arm with his finger. The scratches he had made a month since, to color the walls and bring them to life.
He could draw her nose now, he found.
It satisfied him, and he was content to lay back in the plush bed and let the nurses bring food and drink to him. He could look out the window from here, and what he saw was magnificent. A beautiful lake and river system, coated in whitewater and violent boulders. “How lovely, how lovely,” he thought to himself, and tears flooded his eyes at the beauty of it.
He asked for paper.
A pencil, as well, but this they only gave to him on the condition that an assistant stood by at all times.
It snowed again.
By now, his notebook was filled to the brim with sketches and doodles. He had flipped back through it, trying to find space, filling every last bit of lined brightness the papers had to offer.
His hand ached. He stared down at the drawing. Her eyes and nose were exactly like he remembered them. But her lips, no, they were flawed. Angrily, he grasped the notebook and tried to rip it. He found he lacked the strength to do so, and satisfied himself with tossing it across the room.
“I'll never get it right,” he though desperately.
He wasn't content anymore. Just knowing that he was close--so close--it pained him, clawed at him, the tantalizing outcome only so far away. Sinking into the wall of pillows on his bed, he stared vacantly out the window. It was snowing in flurries, a brilliant blizzard that obscured the lake beyond. He stood and crept near the window.
He tested it. Locked, as it had been the last time he felt desperate enough to check. The glass panes grew foggy from his breath, and he inhaled. Exhaled.
He touched it, quietly, listening to the beating of his heart.
They had...they had held storms. A stroke of his finger, and an eye emerged.
Prominent, she strove to hide it behind a fleeting smile. He drew her nose, curved and crooked along the tip.
Soft. He hesitated, his hand touching the glass lightly, carefully, shyly, as though it were her skin. Lovely.
Here. Her lips, and he laughed in delight when he found, he could draw her, he could draw her, he could draw her.
If only he could show her.
The snow settles on an age-old graveyard, covered with cracks and falling snow. A bucket of paint lies besides it, toppled, empty, and rusted, bolted to the ground in chains. A paintbrush is screwed to it, coated in frost.
I fell in love with myself,
and with a lovely painter,
before Death fell in love
A man sits on the ground and cries. Behind him stand two nurses, averting their eyes.
"Lina," He murmurs, shivering in the cold. His bones are frail, frailer than they should be. "I did it, Lina. I wish you could have been there to see. Oh, I wish you could have been there to see!"
He touches the paintbrush, faded and gray, clutches the handle of the paint can with his scarred hand. Evelina touched this bucket, he thinks, Evelina touched this paintbrush.
In the storm, an old man's shoulders are racked with sobs. He craves the past, he craves it, because he knows it is time to let go.
Something is missing, and it will always be this way.
He has realized this by now. It does not stop him anymore, does not pull at him as it did years prior. He no longer obsesses over the same drawing, repeating it over and over again from morning until night. His studio is no longer claustrophobic, but a place of exploration.
He sits at the window, as she had done once, long ago. He stares down the street and paints the lamps lighting the cobblestone at night, or the children who clamber over the garden wall on dares, or the old couples who sit on benches, side by side and huddling together. He paints what he sees, and lets memories go.
Only now and then does he let himself slip. He sits in his blankets for hours and watches the clock tick, before curling open a sketchbook with one hand. An eye, another, a nose, lips. Evelina. He stops and stares at it, something like sorrow in his expression before he quietly shuts the book.
He turns. The light clicks off, and he goes to sleep.
I have moved on. He wanders in his dreams, a mindless wander, instead of desperate. No longer does he try to push back the walls of time. The words drift in his consciousness, soft edges against a field of dreams. No longer.
I have moved on.
Image Credit Samantha Ward-Carnegie Melon on Flickr.
As a child, the sky is the limit. You can say you want to be a ballerina one day and the President of the United States the next, and no one will object. They will smile and tell you to pursue whatever you want to do. As you grow older, everything becomes convoluted. No longer is the route to life a clear cut line, black and white, right and wrong. No longer can you choose to do something on a whim; instead, you have responsibilities to fill—homework, jobs, and family to list a few. Somewhere along life’s journey, we lose our way, and we may become full of doubt on whether or not we are walking in the right direction.
As an aspiring artist and photographer, I question my abilities. Will I ever become good enough to do what I love as a job? Should I pursue this career or should I strive for a more financially stable career? All these questions plague me on a day to day basis. At the end of the day though, very few to none of these questions are answerable at the present moment, so why should I fret over them?
I created the painting “A Dance with the Clouds” on a whim. I thought back to the mindset of my 5 year old self and just let myself do what I love—I painted. I didn’t know what I wanted to paint, but I knew I wanted to create something. I opened up Photoshop and I chose a brush and just began to lay in some color until shapes were formed. Perhaps I started the piece with uncertainty, but by the end of it, I knew what I wanted it to look like.
In my life, I’m still on the step of layering color hoping something takes shape. I don’t know where I’m going to college, I don’t know what career I will ultimately choose to pursue, and I don’t know what the future holds, but I will continue to live my life until something takes shape. Nothing will take shape though if I don’t take the initiative to at least try.
Outlived them all -
After one passes,
Pick yourself up,
After a phase
Scrounge up the courage
To get another -
Each gives me a piece of their heart
As I give them all of mine.
But are they really each so different?
All the same
In heart and dedication -
Those floppy ears
That perk at each sound;
That ever-wagging tail
Always happy to greet me.
Another takes its place,
A never-ending cycle.
Maybe they are not multiple
But one and the same:
Always my best friend.
Image Credit Spookfisheye on Flickr.
The time has come to vote for your top 10 favorite titles of 2015! Voting for the 2015 Teens' Top Ten is now open through Teen Read Week (Oct. 18-24). There are 24 titles to choose from or you can nominate your favorite book that didn't make the list. Not sure about some of these titles? Take a look at the book trailers to see for yourself.
It is said that there are very few heroines. This is true, for strength is a trait commonly reserved for men. Women on the other hand, are given traits like knowledge and beauty. But on one day, on the island of Crete, a baby girl was born. She was perfect in every sense of the word; exemplary, flawless, faultless. This was to be expected though; she was the daughter of two gods, Athena and Apollo.
Her name was Andreia. Athena and Apollo were inquisitive and questioned what their wonderful daughter would come to be known for.
Would it be strength like Hercules?
Bravery like Perseus?
Or would she take after her mother? For years they watched Andreia grow, fiercely training in combat and excelling in everything she did.
At the age of sixteen, Andreia was given her first set of armor which included the best crafted sword and shield made by Hephaestus himself. Apollo had already given her his gift years before: a beautiful lyre crafted with the love and pride of his heart. Andreia possessed her father's love and talent for music and was unquestionably beautiful like her mother. She had hypnotizing jade eyes and cascading hair the color of fire embers drifting through the empty night sky. She also showed tremendous strength and bravery like Hercules.
A few weeks later, Andreia came home from a long day of brutal training only to find her home engulfed in deep red-blue flames. Her house was engulfed in the hungry flames and her childhood memories flashed before her eyes. Full of rage, she assumed Hades was the culprit of the destruction. Her thoughts were confirmed.The sound of air snapping in on itself pierced the air as Hades returned to his realm.
Quickly, she was informed by Apollo that Hades had taken his precious golden lyre in a fit of jealousy, for he wished to be wanted and welcomed instead of being banished to the underworld. Doing this, Hades left both worlds - leaving gods and humans without music forever unless the lyre was returned.
In the middle of preparing for the journey to the Underworld Andreia confronted Apollo to ask if she could go in his place. He refused and told her she was too young and dainty for such a dangerous and tedious task. But Athena was lurking in the shadows listening in. She thought it wasn’t fair to keep Andreia from her first quest. And a great quest at that, as it was a once in a lifetime trip to the Underworld. She knew she had trained her daughter for a momentous occasion such as this, and felt that denying her this wasted the past sixteen years of training for the moment when she would depart on her first journey. Andreia was brave, strong and more than capable of protecting herself from danger to be able to come home safely.
For weeks, Apollo and Athena argued about whether or not she should go. Apollo was discouraging, telling Andreia that she would never be able to complete such a task, fearing he would lose his beloved daughter forever to Hades. Finally, Athena came to her senses and decided one night she would help Andreia on her first journey to retrieve the lyre without her father's permission
At dawn the next day she would set off equipped with her armor and the cloak of swiftness and silence to sneak past the gates of the Underworld.
At the gates to the Underworld she slipped on her cloak to slyly get past Cerberus: Hades’ three-headed, dragon-tailed beast of a dog. That was the easiest part and didn't require any work. Next she had to reach the center of the Underworld where she would find Hades. The only way to get to the core was to walk along Hades’ rivers. The first was the Cocytus River. It was also known as the River of Wailing, because the tormented souls that inhabited the Underworld lived in this river, constantly moaning in sorrow and pain. With two more rivers to go Andreia was already regretting the journey. She was mentally exhausted after spending hours listening to the souls. But determined to prove her father wrong she treaded on.
The next river was very common among the gods, known as the River of Hate or River of Styx. The Shades of the Underworld traveled by this river. Andreia was taught at a young age about the Shades. They are smoky versions of their former selves. They keep the negative emotions they died with, such as hate and anger. As Andreia passed the very last Shade, she heard a noise and smoothly and quickly unsheathed her sword, preparing for battle. When she turned around she saw Hades’ very own monsters. They were so dangerous he only needed two in order to protect the entire underworld. With fangs as deadly as a freshly sharpened sword and a flesh eating acid in place of saliva the monsters could kill almost anything in its path. The monsters towered over her, slime dripping from their blood red bodies. She tilted her head back to fully see them, it was then she remembered her lyre. Andreia pulled it from the chain around her neck and in the same motion and began to play a rhythm so fast and high pitched it caused even the great beats to collapse on the floor in fear.
Hades heard the ruckus and instantly appeared in front of her. He ordered his monsters to seize Andreia. They marched behind Hades to his dungeons. The monsters threw Andreia violently to the floor like rag doll. Hades knew what she wanted and like Athena forewarned her he offered her a deal. He told her she could leave without the lyre and she would leave on the same risky path she came. Or, she could be locked away in Tartus with the Titans for ten years and, if she survived she would be free to take the lyre back home to her father and he would personally escort her. She decided it was too late to turn back and took Hades’ offer of spending ten years with Titans.
Hades was thrilled she chose his devious option. He confiscated all of her weapons, armor and lyre and took her down to the depths of the underworld, to Tartus, and bound her in the same bitter chains the Titans were eternally bound in. Once Hades was sure Andreia was secured, he traveled to find Athena and Apollo and silently gave them the gifts they had given their daughter only months before. He left with an arrogant smirk before any questions could be asked. Apollo was enraged; his stormy words tore through the sky as he blamed Athena for the death of their daughter.
For the next ten years Andreia was tortured but to her it was worth it as long as she got to bring the lyre back to her father and make the gods proud. The entire time Andreia was in Tartus her parents believed her dead and did not speak a single word each other because Apollo was still angry and resentful because towards Athena for her seemingly naive decision.
At last, after ten years of suffering for all involved, apart from the one behind it all, Andreia was released. With the skin around her wrists and ankles burned, cut and bruised from the chains Hades took her home to Crete. He had since been exiled from the island and could not return so instead of taking her directly to her house, he left her at the edge of the island with only a sword and the lyre she worked so hard for. Once again he left with an all knowing smirk.
She was left to trudge home, the blackness of the night concealing everything around her. Carefully she felt before taking each step, halfway home she sat down to rest her tired legs. The sun was beginning to rise, covering the earth with a pale pink blanket. Taking in her surroundings, she saw a serpent like head slowly rise up, then two, then three. They rose up and up and up. Recognizing it has the Lernaean Hydra, she realized why Hades was wearing his signature smirk; he had summoned the hydra here. Knowing the only way to kill it was to plunge the sword deep into its throat without touching or inhaling its poisonous breath, she contemplated how to go about slaying it.
Andreia charged at it with sword in hand and leaped up to put the sword down its throat but instead sliced off one of the heads. In its place grew two more. The creature reeled all four heads back and swept them in her direction, knocking her off of her feet and throwing her into a tree cutting up the side of her face. Blood dripping down her face and neck and anger boiling her blood, she charged at the monster once again determined to hit her target this time. She was not about to let a glorified snake get in her way after coming this far. As she felt the sword slip down the throat of the first head, she jumped back and watched the body fall with a thud that shook the ground. Proudly she stomped away from the body and sprinted the rest of the way home.
Around noon she arrived home beaten, bloody and bruised. Her father was facing away from her when she first saw him. Quietly she snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around she presented him with the lyre at last. He pulled her into a hug, relieved she was not dead and proud of her for completing her first quest. She had successfully returned music to the worlds.
If you're interested in learning more about Greek Mythology check out the library's Gods, Goddesses and Mythology database.
Image Credit Giorgos~ on Flickr.
In a broken world
Grey and void of hope
Tears hit the dust
For they are no more
Many are hopeless
They can’t see the light
But as for me
I see differently
For I see rainbows in the road
Made from the dust of dreams
Dropped from the minds and thoughts of those
Who left them all behind.
I see memories
All but forgotten
Just a small taste
Of what it once was
Hopes long abandoned
Dropped into the dirt
And as for me?
I see differently
For I see hope that will not die
No matter where it lies
Given back to all the people
This is where it will thrive
Image Credit: Laura D. Whitehead on Flickr
Everyone has certain core traits that can be used to describe them at any point in their life so far, and likely will be continue to being a key part of their personality. Some people are kind, or funny. Some people are bossy. Some are athletes or artists. Others are animal lovers. I am a reader. I have read more books that I care to admit, and if there is such a point of reading too much, I have reached it. I was the kid who would stay up way past their bedtime with a good book. I was the kid who would get grounded from reading. However, I don't own all that many books. I go through so much material that it has never made any sense for me to buy books, because they last me maybe a week. So, any of the books that I own are books that I have loved so much that I needed to have on my shelf, either to reread and reread and reread again, or to give to my friends to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to read these books.
I tell you all of this because it is difficult to put into just a few words how spectacular these next two books are.
The first one is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. This one starts out with Charlie, getting ready for his first year of high school, writing letters in his journal to a friend. This friend isn't real, in the strictest sense. He is someone that Charlie has invented who will just listen to him, and understand him, because "[he] needs to know these people exist." This creation of this partial friend gives the book a completely honest feel--all of Charlie's emotions, everything he is going through, it is laid out for you to see. He is lonely, lost, and confused. And every single ounce of those emotions, you feel it. And you feel his joy, and desire to fit in, when he meets Patrick and Sam, two seniors, who teach him about music and friendship. This book is about growing up and learning who you are. It's about music and literature and life and love. It goes through his first year of high school, and to me, it is just one of the best books ever written. And, though I cannot believe that I am about to say this…the movie actually does the book justice. Part of that is due to the strong musical component, which comes across much better on a screen, and the other part is because I adore Emma Watson. This is a book for anyone who is starting high school, especially if you have ever felt like an outsider. TRIGGER WARNING: this book goes into some heavy topics, which is half of what makes the book as amazing as it is, but if you are sensitive, I might stay away from this book.
The second book is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is lighter than Perks, so I love it in a completely different way. Without a doubt, out of every single book that I have ever read, this one resonates with me the most. Center to the story lays Cath, a girl starting her freshman year of college with her twin sister, who has been her best friend and partner in crime for years. But, suddenly, Wren doesn't want to be her roommate, and worse, doesn't really seem to share their lifelong interest in the Simon Snow books, about a young boy who goes to wizarding school. When I read this book, I happened to be a freshman in college, where all of my friends had gone off, and I stayed close to Lakewood. I might, perhaps, also share a certain obsession with Simon Snow, I mean Harry Potter. So, this book means a lot to me on a personal level. However, it cannot be said that this is the only reason that Fangirl is an amazing book. For one, Rainbow Rowell is a phenomenal author. She writes characters that I automatically fall in love with, and creates relationships that are beautifully real. From Cath's strange roommate (and based on stories from my friends, those are really the only kind) to Cath's inability to leave her room for dinner, so she ends up living on energy bars, this book is funny. But because of her relationship with her sister, her father, her mother, the book has its serious notes. Honestly, this book is perfection, and I am not doing nearly a good enough job at telling you why you should read it. But, as an added incentive, Rowell is writing Carry On soon, the last book in the Simon Snow series. This will be a treat to anyone who loved Fangirl, which, in my opinion should be everyone who has read Fangirl, and anyone who is unusually obsessed with stories about wizarding schools (meaning most everyone who has read Harry Potter).
So, whether you are going to high school or college for the first time, or simply want a good book to start off the school year, there is no doubt in my mind that The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Fangirl are two of the best books for those purposes, or really just for reading.
The second annual Teen Fandom contest was a success! A number of teens released their inner fanboys/girls through these creative projects. Did you miss the contest? Here are some of the entries we received:
Nowadays, there are many types of social media out there. From Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, Snapchat and Vine…there are too many to name! There is however, one that practically rises above all: YouTube. There are many people who you will see and hear on a daily basis via YouTube. For example, on January 22 YouTubers got to talk with the President of the United States while he was in the white house. In addition, YouTube personality Tyler Oakley has interviewed many celebrities on the red carpet.
I could go on and on about my YouTube obsessions with people like Jenna Marbles, Pewdiepie, AmazingPhil, and Danisnotonfire. But there are people on the internet who actually make a difference in the internet community. For example, people like Joey Graceffa, Tyler Oakley, Troye Sivan, Connor Franta and Hannah Hart all embrace their true selves. They all have one thing in common too: They all have come out of the closet and told the world that they’re gay, and they help others with things like self-confidence and becoming yourself. There are some people like Markiplier, who have live stream charities to help with a variety of things like Alzheimer's and children's hospitals of America.
A lot of people just think the internet is a dark place that makes it impossible to accomplish anything in a day, but really it has made a change on the world. YouTube has even changed lives. From last year’s "ice bucket challenge" to this year’s sketchy "charlie, charlie challenge" to the famed "Harlem Shake", YouTube has made a huge effect on the world. You tube can be accessed all over the world, from the United States to the United Kingdom, to Australia and even Japan. The internet is an amazing place where you can learn anything, like how to cut a watermelon, but really it’s just a place like no other.
To learn more about these YouTube stars check out these books:
In real life: my journey to a pixelated world, by Joey Graceffa
BINGE, by Tyler Oakley
A work in progress: a memoir, by Connor Franta
Image Credit: Katie Killary on Flickr