|ISSUE 2 / SPRING 2005|
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|Showcasing the best emerging and established talent in writing, photography, music and film.|
"And So It Begins..."Wake
by Spencer Dew
by Tom Barbash
by Cristina Henríquez
by Amy MacLennan
by Ellen Weis
Games You Can Play with the Dead
by Marion de Booy Wentzien
by Tony Palmieri
Some Advice on Reading Short Stories
by Kirk Lynn
by Dixon Long
Ray of Light
by Jamie Baughman
by Mai Linh Spencer
Ray of Light
by Jamie Baughman
Ganesh was temporarily blinded by a beam of sunlight that pierced through a hole in the yellowing shade that hung from the lone window in his flat. He gradually opened his eyes wider until they adjusted to the light, but the rest of his body remained motionless for several minutes. He ran through what he must do that day. This was one of the first things he was taught after being taken from his family. No matter how mundane, he listed every detail because it was the small things that crippled a great plan. Other than the solitary ray of light that infiltrated his apartment, nothing disturbed his morning supplication to routine. No sound, no movement, no smells, no feeling to break him from this concentration cultivated from eleven years of practice.
The air was thick and wet and smelled of gunpowder. Two twelve-year-old boys stood in line with nervous anticipation amid hundreds of other young soldiers. Their faces bore the soft expression of children, but their skin was weathered from work. Despite the soldiers' best efforts, they looked as though they could have been blown over by a gust of wind.
A loud bark shot from the awning and the boys marched forward. Although they could not make out the words, they knew from the cadence what it meant. It was time to graduate.
The water from the black pot on the stove boiled over and Ganesh walked over and turned off the gas. The boiling subsided and he poured the water over a bag of tealeaves. Within seconds, the small room, now flooded with sunlight, began to fill with the smell of Ceylon.
Ganesh and Ravi could barely contain themselves when they walked away from the awning. Ravi's hands gripped his Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle tighter than ever before. Sunlight bounced off the tip of his bayonet and into his eye. His grip on the rifle reminded him of the last time he held his mother's hand. He told Ganesh he wished his mother could be there to see him become a Tiger. Ganesh quickly and quietly told Ravi never to mention his parents again. Ravi's lip quivered and they both got in the back of a long line. At the front of the line, a tall, thin woman presented Ganesh and Ravi's fellow graduates with necklaces. Each recruit would get one and wear it for the rest of their life.
Ganesh thoroughly washed his teacup and walked into his bedroom. He went to his bed, where a thick vest threaded with wires lay open. He took the vest and gently put his arms through the holes, being mindful of the wires. He held the wires with one hand, walked to his nightstand and took up a roll of gaffer's tape. He took two small pieces and wrapped the loose wires into one neat, braided cord attached to a small plastic box about one inch square with a button on the topside. He took the box and pulled a wire from it. He peeled the rubber shielding from the button box's wire, twisted the exposed wire together with a wire from the braided cord, and wrapped it with another small piece of tape.
A hail of bullets flashed over their heads and shredded the side of a palm tree, nearly cutting it in two, but it told Ravi and Ganesh the direction of the fire they were taking. Ganesh slowly released his tight grip on his necklace, raised his weapon and unloaded all thirty rounds from his AK towards the newly located enemy. They had been close. Looking through a small field scope, Ravi announced in short controlled screams that two were down and three more were fleeing into a car. As Ganesh loaded a fresh magazine, Ravi fired at the men and told Ganesh that he thought he hit one, but they made it into the car, which was shielded by trees and rocks. The car was parked at the top of a small hill, so Ganesh and Ravi were at a serious disadvantage. Ravi's heart began to pound as he looked around, saw a small row of bodies he and Ganesh had respectfully stacked, and realized they were the only two Tigers alive out of the thirty that had set out that day.
Ganesh walked down the stairs of his ten unit apartment complex and came to the glass front door of his building. He saw a woman on the other side with a baby carriage and he went to hold the door. It was difficult to make out their faces since the sun was low behind them, but he could make out a smile as the woman approached the door. Ganesh allowed a brief memory of his mother to slip into his consciousness.
On the day he was taken from his family, his mother had raced after the car that carried him away, pushing his little brother in a rickety carriage as she called Ganesh's name. Ganesh had found the carriage in an alley the day before and cleaned it. His mother cried when he brought it home. Ganesh looked now at the woman who approached him and he wanted to go home. To find and clean himself, and watch his mother cry as he presented himself to her, her lost son.
As the carriage crossed the threshold, the baby dropped a teething toy close to Ganesh's feet. He started to pick it up but remembered the button box in his left hand. The woman was blocked by the carriage and could not pick it up, so Ganesh propped the door with his right foot and leaned down and picked it up with his right hand and awkwardly handed it to the baby. The woman thanked him and the baby smiled.
It had been ten minutes since the men had gone into the car. Ganesh had supposed that Ravi had seriously injured the one he had hit and the other two were tending to him. Ravi made a slow sweep of the surrounding area with his scope. He caught something out of the corner of his eye and turned to look. He quickly gave Ganesh an accounting of what he saw: three men carrying what he thought was an AGS-17 grenade launcher. They had just set it down and mounted it on a tripod. Ganesh surveyed the situation. He quickly opened up and with a burst of fire, dropped the largest of the three men.
The sudden eruption caused the other two to hunker down. Ravi sprayed the enemy position with fire and reported that he did not think he had hit any targets. Just then, a round from the AGS flew overhead and landed ten feet away, exploded, and sent shrapnel through the air. Ganesh and Ravi were not hit. Before they could return fire, another round flew by, landed close and sprayed shrapnel onto their position. Ganesh brought his head up from the ground and saw Ravi's arm, detached at the elbow, with the field scope still in the lifeless hand. Ravi was stark white and his eyes were fixed on the wavering fronds of a nearby palm.
Ganesh stood patiently at a bus stop along with ten or so other people. An elderly gentleman approached him and asked where the bus went. Ganesh told him that it would take him to the Old Parliament Building. The man thanked him and walked away. Ganesh looked at the people around him and felt flushed with a vitality that he had not felt in eleven years. For almost as long as he could remember, he had been a soldier. Now, at 22, he felt more like an indiscriminate murderer. How did he end up here, halfway around the world from his home?
Ganesh realized that he would die if he stayed by his friend. He gathered any useful items from the immediate area while staying in a low crouch. Another round flew within inches of his head, exploded, and sent another shower of metal through the air.
Ganesh went to Ravi and touched his cheek. Ravi glanced into Ganesh's eyes and cried. Ravi asked him to stay until his mother came. Ganesh told him that he had been hit by a grenade and lost a great deal of blood. He would not live long but it was still necessary to drink the contents of his necklace. Ravi sobbed and reached inside his flak jacket and pulled out his modest looking brown leather necklace. He stuffed the pouch into his mouth and started to sing. Ganesh told Ravi he would join a long list of Tiger heroes who chose to die rather than be captured. Ganesh took Ravi's remaining magazine and ran.
Ganesh got off the bus and soon found himself in front of the Old Parliament Building. In the adjoining park, dozens of people walked and played. They all enjoyed this beautiful day that started with a single ray of light that pierced through Ganesh's window. Ganesh wondered if the light could have been Ravi. He looked back at the park and saw rays of light everywhere. There were people with their families, their lovers, by themselves, living life as a ray of light, affecting each other just as Ravi had woken him that morning. Every single one of them shining. Ganesh walked over to a policeman and told him not to worry, but he had a vest on that contained plastic explosives and shrapnel. He told the policeman to cordon off an area of several hundred yards. The policeman called for back up on his walkie-talkie and made another call to someone Ganesh thought was a higher ranking officer. The officer looked nervous and Ganesh told him again, not to worry.
A matter of an hour or so went by quickly and it seemed that all of a sudden Ganesh and this man were the only two people there. Ganesh told the officer to run, and he then took position in a clearing far away from any structures. Ganesh knew he must act quickly. He took off his necklace and threw it to the ground. He called to Ravi and told him that he, too, wanted to be a ray of light. He took the button box from his pocket and held it far from his body. He pushed down the button and was transformed. He flew though the sky and through the clouds and straight to the sun. He was pure light now and was spit back from the sun onto the earth and shot through the open window of a very sad girl in Atlanta, Georgia.
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