SUBMISSIONS

ISSUE 26 | 25. 09. 2022

TIME-WALK

- ADORA WILLIAMS

I operate in capitals but the low case

Is always afraid of existing alone

Or not existing at 

All

 

I need someone to watch existence for me while I 

Sleep 

 

Haze-fire

                       was supposed to be poetic

But it just reminds me of the day I almost died

Trying to get to the bottom of the hill

I couldn’t see a thing

And all I could think was how much I

Would do stuff to forever regret

When I got to that town

 

I was alone, no one knew I was there

I didn’t exist at that time

And that terrified me

 

The frightening of the course

Of the mist, of the source

           I was the worst at being dense enough

                                           So others could orbit me

                                                                                                                                I ex

spelled

                               Everything

Away

 

You’re just walking in time and time is already late

Watch existence for me

URBAN ANTI STANZAS

- ADORA WILLIAMS

I. If one could only envision 

The deepness that exist in the insignificance of their lives

In the colloquial prose, in cordial relationships, in a word you say, in how 

Someone shakes your hand, in how someone walks, in a different rock thrown 

On street, in the birds on a wire, in the flower that lost one petal and stands out 

From the rest, 

Beautifully

 

II. If one could only lose their concepts of life

In the shape of a tree, 

In the darkness of 5 in the morning on a winter day in the city centre, 

In how words feel when you close your eyes, in how someone sits, 

In how someone talks, in accents, in big words, in small words, 

In ugly words, in beautiful words, in the colours, 

In the way colours mix, in how they should be mixed, 

In the polluted dawn, in the foggy dusk, in how the stars start to appear 

If you take some time to look above, distracting yourself from the city lights

 

III. If one could only shut the thoughts and let the environment speak

In a painting, in a song, in lost love, found love, in a smile, in a tear, 

During the rush hour, 

From the dirt to the concrete, in the tree as a house, 

And the house that becomes the tree of life, of everything and how 

The house should not exist

 

IV. If one could only escape duality for a millisecond and see

The forks on the counter, the foam in the sponge, the foam and the soap

The boiling water on the kettle, it whistles

The position each pen chose in the holder

The Bohemians in the city square and their liquor and their reasons why

Your reasons why and why they’re reasons

And why they should or should not be

Everything becomes poetry

A PIECE OF ADVICE

- CHATURVEDI DIVI

“If you want to enjoy the view more, you should walk down half a kilometre. This place will be crowded in a few minutes. Many visit this café to have their morning coffee,” Sheila said.

“I didn’t notice you. By the way are you …are you from one of the massage centres in the neighbourhood?” Rakesh asked.

 

Sheila laughed. “It is true there is a tough competition among the massage centres, mushrooming around Kovalam beach and they do try to woo tourists by appointing lady masseurs. I assure you I don’t belong to that tribe.” Sheila again laughed.

 

 “I’m sorry.”

       

“It’s okay. You are very cautious. I like it. Not many young men are as cautious as you.”

 

 “You were talking about more fascinating places somewhere down there.”

 

“Yes, come along. By the way, I’m Sheila, a garment designer.

 

 “Oh, you belong to the fashion world.”

 

Sheila smiled.

 

 Rakesh looked at her curiously.

 

She has an attractive smile. The black shorts and the sports shirt, she is wearing go well with her fair complexion. Her hairstyle, the single mini ponytail, seems to be simple but it is evident that she has taken meticulous care in combing and arranging her hair. It’s natural for someone who belongs to such a glamorous profession, Rakesh thought.

 

“I suppose you design women’s garments.”

“Not exactly, these days fashion is not the prerogative of women. I get orders from manufacturers of men’s clothes too. However, usually not many young men know how to select the right clothes. Oh, you are walking fast. I’m almost running to keep pace with you,” Sheila said.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

 

Rakesh slowed down. He looked at the clothes he was wearing and felt embarrassed. He never bothered to take so much care even on formal occasions.

 

“You know it’s not just taste; it’s not just fancy either. It’s the question of suitability…I mean the structure, complexion and gait,” Sheila said.

 

“Gait! What do you mean?”

 

“For example, in your case…Oh, I’m sorry. I’m taking too much liberty.”

 

“No, not at all and I’m glad I met you at the right time. Tomorrow I’ve an interview as a trainee marketing manager in Keltron. I’m wondering what type of dress I should wear, Rakesh said.

 

“Then I shouldn’t hesitate to give you a few tips. Shall I start with the gait?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

“You see, you are taking long strides and lifting your left leg a split second late. You are almost dragging it. Take shorter strides and move your left leg slightly quicker.”

 

“Is it? I never noticed it and no one pointed it out earlier.” 

       

“Your family members and friends might have noticed it. Usually, people consider such things as inherent defects. They don’t tell you as they don’t want to hurt you. Professionals know that the defect can be rectified but they don’t say a word unless you consult them.”

 

Rakesh observed his steps carefully and started taking shorter strides. He felt that he was able to walk with ease and grace.

 

“That is right. Let us move towards the café. It’s not convenient to practice on the sands.”

 

 Rakesh was consciously taking shorter strides and was feeling great. Now he became confident that he would impress the interviewers the next day with his newly acquired gait.

 

When they reached the café, Sheila said, “Now, about your clothes. I don’t find anything wrong with them in general. You’ve a great taste but I’m afraid that the side pockets of your trousers are too deep and your blazer just can’t cover them. You won’t feel comfortable if people know that your pockets are bulging.”

 

 

“Yes, of course,” Rakesh said.

 

She ran her fingers over his pockets as if she were measuring them.  “Never keep the hanky in your trouser pockets. Imagine yourself sitting in a sofa. You have to make some awkward movements to take it out.”

 

She folded the hanky neatly and kept it in his blazer pocket. Then she looked at her watch and said,” Oh, I’m getting late. I must go home. I’ll give you more tips another time.”

 

“If I want to consult you at your office…”

 

Sheila quickly took out a card and gave it to him, ran towards the cycle stand and rode away. 

  

Rakesh looked at the gold embossed letters on the calling card. The card is as impressive as the woman, he thought. Then he moved towards the kiosk near the café.

 

“Gold Flake,” he said to the man in the kiosk and ran his hand into his pocket. His face turned pale. He felt that his pockets should have been still deeper beyond the reach of the garment designer’s fingers, he thought. After some time, he noticed that he was taking long strides again.

ISSUE 25 | 04. 09. 2022

DELUSION

- AIMAN SHAH

You’ve convinced yourself these past thirty-something years 

Thinking that the blood jumping in your veins is royal

And that this is the only thing that makes everything else you do okay

Because you’re special somehow,

Maybe even rare. 

 

But now, raising your kid in the same backyard where your parents once raised you,

Teaching her to spell the same things that you once spelled,

You’re getting scared. 

Because what if your child continues on believing that?

What if she deludes herself the way you do?

 

And it’s so scary for you to think that children can grow up

The way the hands that clap for them do,

Cold and utterly hard enough to hold.

So full of life but dead enough to tell you

When you’re old. 

But maybe that is what it takes 

For all of us to grow.

MEMORIES PICKED CLEAN FROM A WHALE CARCASS

- CARINA SOLIS

do you remember the morning we found 

a whale carcass / bloated seaside by the rocks 

& pulsing with lavender bones / i imagine 

if we stayed a few moments longer / instead of 

crying with the seagulls for its moon belly / 

the body would have burst / red and lovely 

& we’d have walked home with flecks of death 

tangled in our hair / it would have

become our antique legend / curled within our palms

like a dragon’s tail / something more to remember

summer by / than black cherry pits / cyanide hearts /

& the whir of your dad’s old stand fan.

WISHING THROUGH THE NIGHT

- CARINA SOLIS

i.

i’ve fallen in love with the bones

poking through your ribcage;

and your back, the way

your scars unravel you

like a secret;

and your shoulders

weighted with the sky,

how they slope

from darkness to dawn.

 

ii.

an airplane swoons

into the left chamber

of my peeling heart;

below, a boy walks

in a song of lanterns.

i watch him

gleam in the glow

and then, melt away.

the night is almost

gone now; i

count my wishes.

i met a painter who was friends with a painter.

the second painter gave the first the 

canvases they’d stretched before dying of dementia 

now that’s a pretty weird idea

a whole side of the shed with leaning frames laughing 

at you, your tragedy is a comedy

each one a tooth

from the mouth of the joke

 

(what would you do to the white canvas?)

 

i like to think the second painter, the dying painter,

carried each canvas, all heights, one by one

& each canvas going unnoticed until the news came

and our painter walked to the shed to mourn 

to hold a bench and to run his hands across it

feeling the cuts sharp and worn, the stains and creaks.

feeling the self.

and in the lumpy shed full of white canvas, 

like a bucket of canes at a charity shop,

the painter’s shell cracks so quietly

and stood not-crying, his pearl shows

he thinks: 

remember those quiet evenings, when i would smile before you cried

THE WHITE CANVAS

-LEE OWEN ELLIS

ISSUE 24 | 07. 08. 2022

Lollipop Boy, was holding 

traffic only one road

away from his mother. 

 

Imagine: falling

infatuated with college girls in long skirts.

Their quiet talking, loud eyes; 

his museum-ready Mackintosh.

I saw him for a flash and 

the more I thought of the boy

the more I did not like him. 

 

He was shy and it made me feel unoriginal.

 

Leaves had fallen in neat lines

along pavements or roadsides.

All of Britain looks the same 

under victorian skies. I thought 

of all the ways to my house 

through the various alleyways and the ones I liked best. 

The springtime weight to the brambles.

Wet autumn leaves stroking your jacket.

Muddy verges and scratched winter ice. 

Summer. 

 

The weather was fine for October-

November but it was that time of year 

where you can feel things being 

tipped 

day by day life gets smaller. I walked

dreaming of springtime where it’s light all day and 

summertime where it’s light all night. 

 

As I went along the last leaves left fell. I was sure of it.

THE BOY WITH THE LOLLIPOP STICK

-LEE OWEN ELLIS

THE LOVER AS DEATH

-DIA BHOJWANI

The lover as death. 

Inescapable. Inevitable. 

Spring as the endtimes. 

Love as the beast bringing berserkers to their knees. 

Love as the black hole swallowing all of creation.

Anticipate the end of knowing what it means. 

Expect the end of you as yourself.

Love as the swelling of music as the shot pans out

And words roll across the screen:

THE END

ISSUE 22 | 26. 06. 2022

Stop! Stay. Wait a moment.

Watch the hoi polloi. 

Movers and shakers.

Candlestick makers. 

The lily white, the liver spotted, 

the lovers lingering a moment longer. 

 

Me? 

I stand at the street corner.

 I turn tricks.

 I swallow fire. 

Not quite a creature of the night - 

more a midsummer afternoon’s dream.

 The swish of a curtain

when the light moves slow, 

goes sticky like honey. 

 

Stay. 

Sit on my stoop

and stone the birds. 

Drink from my hands 

and watch the sky 

give way to endless sky. 

CALLE

-DIA BHOJWANI

I'VE BEEN READING A LOT OF DOROTHY PARKER

-LIV CAMPBELL

Don’t scare the goat, don’t make it mad.

 

Startle it, and gone is the chance to

 

Slice it into two bleating halves.

 

 

A witch is naught without a lad,

 

But naught she’ll be if she can’t make a roux.

 

Don’t scare the goat, don’t make it mad.

 

There, lady! it is in your path,

 

Ripe and roughly ready for stew.

 

Slice it into two bleating halves.

 

 

A hush in the air, a day spun sad,

 

Cry, but hold the axe above you.

 

Don’t scare the goat, don’t make it mad.

 

Give it your repulsive wrath,

 

And a man, like a baby , will mew.

 

Slice it into two bleating halves.

 

Dear, where’d he go? That little man?

 

Oh, he’s wasted away, under your shoe.

 

Don’t scare the goat, don’t make it mad.

 

Slice it into two bleating halves.

TASSEOGRAPHY

-LAURA EPPINGER

My stomach gurgles announcing I am ready for dinner, but there’s no eating in the MultiMedia Room. Time to scan for CDs. A Friday night spent at home to save money will feel less lonely if I am ripping albums to keep me company.

 

I nod at this week’s Newsweek headline, WHAT HE BELIEVES, blazing over an image of the Democratic presidential candidate. We know all about Barack Obama in Milwaukee, we’ve been to his rallies, we already believe.

 

One rotating book display labeled “Essential Esoteria” stands out in this section filled with news. A book promises: Use tea leaf divination to decode the messages from the universe!

 

I picture it: the set that came from Target, surely the “Decorate Your Dorm!” sale, but none of my housemates remembers who left it here.

 

I add it to my stack to check out. Why not? The public library is the only place I can afford to be greedy.

 

#

 

I wipe the dust off the tea set, fuss with the cups and matching teapot, all squat cubes, dark red. The tasseography book describes sacred circles, like motherhood, like time. Apparently I should be performing this with white porcelain so the signs can be read. Instead I peer down at brown leaves against the cup’s inside, also maroon. I cannot make out a thing. 

 

Instructions guide me to turn the upside-down cup three times. The leaves pool in a single corner of the cup, one floral blob releasing amber drops. Strange to see every bit standing in a line. It plops onto my plate without ceremony, one long lump.

 

Interpretation: I’ve fallen into a faultline and I’ll never crawl out.

 

The brick of a laptop whirs, making robot noises and heating till I smell toasted plastic. I use the hot laptop to log into Facebook. Mady just shared a picture, so I have to click on the image of a wall graffitied with a Paolo Fiere quote.

 

Mady is one of the club-joiners, the fund-raisers, the hunger-strikers I fell in with during undergrad. They all moved, as planned, into the Catholic Worker house this summer. Their rent is paid in community service work, at food pantries and clinics. The payment for their labor is shelter and meals.

 

The Catholic Worker guys share Upworthy posts or GOOD Magazine articles. Meanwhile I am already getting billed, monthly, for this degree we all earned. I cannot pay in garlic bread. Seems to me their life of service is only available to those whose parents paid their tuition.

 

The water I heated in a sauce pot on the stove sizzles. I’ll try to read from this thing; at least it’s round. I rip open a tea bag and dump the dried bits of leaf into the pot itself.

 

A tender sip from the sauce pot once it cools, and I swallow an herb or two. I’m trying to fill up on all this hot water, stretch my groceries for another day, maybe all weekend long. The office gig pays just enough for rent and loans, nothing else: No food. No clothes. On weekends with my Catholic Worker crew, I harvest abandoned community garden beds and come home with the spoils. I set up placemats at the soup kitchen then grab a tray to feast.

 

I know black tea is rich in antioxidants, but it makes me need to pee again already, and I swear this is making me hungrier, not fuller. Drinking from the pot disturbs everything inside and still, I see the tea leaves clump in a straight line down the center.

 

It cannot be that magic’s not real. I must be too dull to channel it. Maybe if I lived in an artist’s commune or cooperative house packed with optimists …

 

The whole house buzzes; someone ringing our doorbell from the front steps. Must be one of the freshly-minted Marketing majors I live with, locked out and tipsy. They have pocket money from mommy so on the weekends, they grab takeout and drink. Boy do they drink.

 

Too much tye-die in the doorframe to be my housemates: It’s Mady, Noah, Christine!

 

“You won’t believe it,” says Christine, her hair tied in a blue bandana. “The ceiling over the kitchen caved in!”

 

Their arms are full of brown paper bags; some carrot greens peek out, a long baguette.

 

“We were about to start dinner. Have you eaten? Can we cook here?” asks Noah. My eyes fix on his knobby knees, his khaki shorts. 

 

I wave them into the house. They know their way to the kitchen.

 

“Look at this,” Mady says, flipping open her phone to show me a picture. So weird that she can do that, this new camera-phone thing. Always odd when these hippies have fresh tech, but of course they’re still on the family phone plan.

 

The first picture is of a rotten ceiling, sodden with debris only half-fallen to the floor. The second is of the destruction atop the kitchen linoleum, bits of wood and wallpaper. The flooring must be uneven, for it all pools in a line.

 

“The whole house is shifting, sinking,” Mady sighs. “Not sure when we’ll even get back in.”

 

“How much tea were you drinking?” Noah calls from the kitchen, and I remember I’ve left out the weird square teapot, a mug, a plate full of soggy leaves, and a saucepot of steeping tea.

 

I call back, “Let me clear it and find you the cutting board!”

 

We plot out who can fit in my twin bed with me, who on the air mattress, Noah on the living room sofa.

 

Private University only revealed my own disadvantages to me. But the tea leaves just taught me: I wield the power to move the commune to my front doorstep.

 

I cover the lump of leaves from the red, square cup and whisper to them, “Thank you.” I’ll bury this in the backyard later. For now it’s a reminder that interpretation takes time and I am only getting started.

ISSUE 21 | 12. 06. 2022

O ACHILLES

- PRACHETA

The court of Menoetius,

Where my childhood pursued

Alas, banished from home

In Phthia, life renewed

 

O Achilles, son of Peleus

Who art thou so odd?

Recounting the times I’ve seen

You with your mighty sword

 

O Achilles, my companion

You showed me the light

Through your kind words, despite

My dishonouring plight

 

O Achilles, what’s this sensation?

A spark ignites my soul

When your gentle hands meet mine

Or in the gardens we stroll

 

The eyes of the beholder 

Tinged with lucent hues

Some say tis’ the devil

Whose mastery ensues

 

Am I truly imperfect?

Alas, what do they say?

Nay, we’re all unique

Beautiful in our own way

 

The clash of fine droplets 

And the sun so brilliant

Tis’ Achilles I love, near whom

My heart grows ebullient

DEATH GHOST-WRITES FIRE

How death ghost-writes the memoir

for the fire bothers me;

I desire to edit it, and that I cannot fill

it with periods inlays my intestine with pain.

 

Leave my mother's name out of it.

I whisper hoping, my voice will

set a herd of butterflies on peregrination.

 

Springtime toddles towards a slide.

A few sparrows are born near 

one half devoured sandwich on the grass.

I wipe what death has written

on my eyes. Leave. I say 

staring at the dark foliage.

- KUSHAL PODDAR

SIRENS

- LIV CAMPBELL

One manic summer when all three of us went blonde

 

And lightning struck us in our guts and below our feet,

 

We lived like flotsam, sipped on the sea, and kept it in our bellies.

 

We grew full of fish, deep ends, and sunken ships, 

 

Coral, sand dollars, and dead pelicans.

 

We got drunk on figures fallen under and forgotten things that use to soar.

 

 

Having been on land for far too long now, I make renderings of us, when I know of nothing else to do.

 

Into the wet shore with a stick, I etch things that burn, and things that swing, and things that chime,

 

Like in my grandmother’s garden, where we’d like to be buried 

 

In a hatching and green spring, 

 

Once we die of old age 

 

Because we eventually got clean.

 

 

I grow a tale when I swirl wine

 

And a gill when I get blue. 

 

I get a freckle with every seashell find

 

And another heart when I get to see you.

ISSUE 19 | 08. 05. 2022

“Misery breeds art,” my granduncle had proclaimed once.

Funny then, I remember thinking, why being miserable isn’t something we strive to achieve more than anything else. To oppress our soul (or whatever we call the encapsulation of our consciousness) with the unrelenting pressure of this thing we call life, to have it willingly step into an inescapable black hole that’s devoid of any trace of joy or happiness, to subject it to a pain that borders on agony…

Sounds foreboding, doesn’t it?

My granduncle’s maxim was part of a tale he shared with me, one he claimed was “as real as the sun that gives us warmth, as the water that quenches our thirst.” 

“There is a large field close to where I used to live as a kid,” he started. “I had never been there. Theories support that it’s haunted, and I was too scared to not disbelieve it. Anyhow, over the course of its existence, several stories have sprung from its infamous legacy. According to one of them, anyone who walked through the seemingly endless treacherous path – a territory ruled by walking demons who breathed out fire – to get to this field was emancipated.”

As a kid, I didn’t know what “emancipated” meant, but I didn’t disturb him.

He continued. “They are the ones, it was said, who had truly endured sufferance, who didn’t submit to those demons, and attained glory.” 

He leaned a little closer then, and, looking at me squarely, took his time before continuing. “These people are called artists,” he said, letting me absorb the story. “Misery breeds art, always remember that.” Only when he saw me nodding did he go back to the football game he was watching on the TV; leaving me, a mere nine-year-old boy, wondering just what the story really meant. 

I wanted to ask him if he’d had a bit to drink, but I held my tongue.

That story came back to me many years later, when, last week, I finished the first draft of my debut novel. I don’t know if it’s any good (to tell you the truth, I would call it a relentless and ridiculously long rant), let alone if I’ll be able to find a publisher who will back it. And, even if I do, it’s highly unlikely it’ll sell well. It took me two years to write it, and, regardless of its probable fate, I can say that I’m quite proud of it. Going through the massive pile of the hard work I’d put in in the last couple of years, I discovered a sense of relief wash over me; and what followed that relief was what I would like to call, for the lack of a better word, emancipated.

Yes, exactly like the victors who had trudged through the treacherous path and tasted the glory my granduncle had spoken about. Oh, how these warriors must have felt as they stepped onto the carpet of freshly cut grass, the sun on their faces, the sinister demons behind them. The elation, the sheer joy they must have left. 

But, as I think now, would this emancipation even be realisable if it wasn’t for my own treacherous path that I had to move through? For the needles I had to walk on, with cuts and bruises all over my feet as I determinedly put one leg after another? For the fire breathing demon chasing me, his face a horrid mix of revulsion and sinisterness?

Or perhaps I’m blowing things a little too much out of proportion. But, then again, exaggeration is a useful asset for a storyteller. And, after the last two years, I do get to call myself a storyteller, don’t I? 

Maybe my miseries aren’t as significant as some of the more pressing – more tangible – issues our world faces today. I have a job, one which gives me no reason to complain financially. I have a place to live; and, even though I rent it, you don’t take a roof over your head for granted. I have friends and family who care for me. I am in good health; sure, I could cut down on unhealthy habits (too embarrassing to be specified), but I do maintain what I can safely call a reasonably fit lifestyle.

And isn’t that all that we need? 

But, yet, time and again I find myself… miserable. 

Especially when, for example, I have just had a tiresome call with a disgruntled client who, unhappy with the services our company was providing her, called me a “thief” and a “sadist”; and a panic so deep and formidable set in me because the cycle (“part of what I’m being paid for,” as I would be reminded) would repeat the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that. Or each time I would let my aunt walk all over me pointing to how my boy, who dropped a year in high school, was a “failure”; while, inwardly, I’m visibly seething, cursing myself at not being courageous enough to tell her off. Or even when, sucked into the wormhole of memories from my past, I am forced to relive the bullying and the name-calling I had to endure in school because of my stuttering. Kids in high school are ruthless, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or incredibly fortunate.

I opened about how these instances leave me miserable to a friend a few years ago, and she, a well-wisher as she likes to call herself, was quick to point out that I “can’t keep all this bottled in,” or that I’ll “erupt like a volcano,” with the “lava of these miseries scorching everything they so much as touch.” 

Quite a colourful picture, isn’t it?

Today, as I leaf through this documented rant that I ambitiously call a novel, I say to her, “Look, Nancy. I erupted.” 

A drop forms at the corner of my eye, and I don’t bat it away. 

“I finally erupted.”

INTERPRETATION OF MISERY

-SHAURYA ARYA

ISSUE 18 | 24. 04. 2022

STEEL MAGNOLIA AHEAD

- ILANA DRAKE

steel magnolia ahead

 

it is easy to change 

based on your surroundings,

like a chameleon’s ability

to use camouflage.

 

because that is steel magnolia.

 

steel magnolia 

is holding her 

tongue because

she has to,

but, lord, oh lord,

she wants to speak.

 

but steel magnolia cannot roar

because her voice 

should be as sweet

as honey,

but she is tough as steel.

 

so she writes about 

the memories,

of the words she cannot

say out loud.

 

and the memories

bring back the times

she was an outlier.

 

steel magnolia has 

grown up stiff

because

of the exclusion,

 

and so many sticks

have been thrown 

against her,

but she still stands.

There can only be one of two explanations. I’ve either slipped into an alternate dimension, or this is a dream.

Things changed in, quite literally, the blink of an eye. One second, I was out on my evening walk in the park, the sun gliding towards the western horizon, spraying a blast of orange across the sky. And, in the next, a darkness I can attribute to nothing but an indescribable phenomenon cast its shadow over my surroundings. The people in the park had magically vaporized, like some invisible hand had come down and, before I could even start to wrap my head around what had happened, swept everyone up. The sky had as if metamorphosed into a chilling, malicious dark blue. The grass all around, though still technically green, was devoid of its earlier colour, of its vivaciousness.

The path in front of me had cowered in the shadows of the trees overhead. I looked up, and could only see the silhouettes of the leaves as they held absolutely still. Not a leaf moved. 

I took a step forward, my shoe grinding the loose dirt underneath. The crunch was like a gunshot in the absolute silence. I could even hear my breath, the beating of my heart. I took another step forward, and then another. Gradually, I started walking. A dream or not, I realized staying put wouldn’t serve any purpose. 

Crickets started singing their irritating creek-creek in the distance; and then, abruptly, stopped. A bird flew overhead, crying a shriek. It startled me. I stopped, pulled in some air, blew it out, let the dark world I had fallen into come into perspective, and moved. 

I knew the way around this park like the back of my hand. Over the years, new features – including a cemented basketball court, modern swing sets, and an expansive flower bed – had been added to the park, but the graveled path remained the same. No one had thought of paving it with tiles. After rains, water clogged it in patches, inconveniencing strollers like me.

I also knew that, a hundred meters ahead, I would need to take a right. And, after a few more paces, a left. That would open into the west side of the park, where the basketball court was. At this turn, behind me, would be the lonesome house I have, in my evening strolls, found myself being fascinated by. A hand pump stood atop a wide platform in the large veranda outside. Around the house, a staircase opened into the terrace above. Next to the verandah, a curved walkway led to somewhere out of sight. I know that was an exit, but for reasons beyond me I don’t go there.

Straight ahead was the gate that led to the neighbouring colony. I decided to exit from that gate instead, which, though held by a rickety chain link, could open just wide enough to let a skinny man like me sneak through. 

Even with the darkness still hanging about, I could make out the bend a few steps away. I rounded the corner, my feet now more confident. Just a few more steps, I reassured myself; and started walking faster. My head felt lighter. I took a deep breath, calming myself. The next turn was maybe a few meters ahead. By now, I was rushing towards it.

But something – an invisible force is all I can describe it as – in the darkness was clinging to the back of my neck; and, no matter how much I wiped my hand at it, it stayed. 

Even though just a few steps away, I couldn’t get close to the turn I had to take next; it was like walking on a treadmill. My feet were moving, but I couldn’t get nearer. Something was pulling me as I tried pushing ahead. The anxiety was creeping its way back in me. I could imagine its slimy antlers on my skin, pushing themselves within. The air I had been breathing didn’t come as freely now. I gasped and, then, started running; my feet eager, the crunch on the gravel more urgent.

The turn, still visibly a stone’s throw away, seemed farther than the moon.

A sound, of something creaking, came from my right.  I turned, and, in the distance, saw the house. 

It was bathed in a gorgeous, magnificent light. Such was its brightness I had to shield my eyes at first glance. As my eyes adjusted to its glow, I saw the door opening; and, from within it, someone – a silhouette at first – walked out. 

A boy, no more than ten years old, wearing a blue t-shirt and red shorts. 

He extended one arm, beckoning me. 

“It’s okay,” he said. “He won’t hurt you anymore.”

I wanted to pretend that I didn’t understand what he meant, but I couldn’t. “You promise?” I asked him instead.

In the bright light, I saw his head – cast in a golden light from an unidentifiable source – move. He nodded. I wondered if the boy was playing a trick on me; that he was the Ghost Man from all those years ago. The creature who had come into the house and robbed my family before killing them and escaping; as I, a ten-year-old dressed in a blue oversized t-shirt and red shorts, was crouched behind my bed, crying but not daring to utter a word. Sometime in the night, I must have passed out. Because the next morning I found myself in the police station. 

“A robbery gone wrong,” was how the inspector described it. “Your mother woke up as he was closing the cupboard. Don’t worry, we’ve apprehended him.”

But he – he who I started recognizing as the Ghost Man ever since – didn’t leave my thoughts for years; tormenting me, anguishing me. 

“You promise?” I asked the boy. “You promise?”

He nodded.

As I neared the few stairs leading to the house – my house – the boy turned and went inside.

And I followed him. 

BLINK OF AN EYE

- SHAURYA ARYA

ISSUE 17 | 10. 04. 2022

MOONLIT PATH

- ROBERT YATES

I walk a moonlit path,  

starving myself of sleep  

and sanity - sometimes.  

A symphony of night calls me,   

The last act for the   

evening - a cricket's encore   

is a lullaby for lovers,  

dancing down the bricks   

of a river park.  

   

Quiet.  

   

I watch each  

porch go dark,  

and wonder what it's like   

in there - a room with  

Christmas dinners and  

stupid sweaters.   

"Where are you?"  

When I'm running late-  

  

Crash.  

   

A raccoon tips over a   

trashcan with his wife  

and kids.   

   

I walk a moonlit path, alone,  

but at the very last notes  

the whole world sings for me. 

YELLOW FEAR

- SHAURYA ARYA

Corrine Bailey Rae knew what she was saying when she sang, The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.

Sure, I’ve grown up. Crossed the line into adulthood and become the man I am today. And, believe me, I’m happy. But there’s something that still lingers, refusing to escape even as the years roll by and old memories and experiences get whitewashed with new ones. Something that either you are too scared to let go of or that it’s too strong that you just can’t. 

Monsters. 

Monsters under the bed. Monsters watching you from behind the curtains. Monsters in the shadows. 

Monsters living within you. 

Today, while taking my evening walk, I slipped into a hole – metaphorical, but every bit real – where I confronted a monster I thought I had left behind years ago. Beside the track I walk on is a patch dominated by bushes. I heard a couple of kids giggling there, and a faint snatch of “I don’t think he can find us.” One of these kids, a boy, brought up his head from behind the bush and looked around. His eyes met mine for a second, but, in that fleeting moment, I found myself sliding through the tunnel leading to my monster.

 

The same monster I had met as a kid playing hide and seek with my friends in a park just like this. I had decided to hide behind a bush and find a place to sit against the ten feet wall that separated the park on one side and the neighbouring locality on the other. Faint music floated from there; a disco tune from the 80s my mum loved.

A lamp glowing behind me allowed me to make my way through the bushes. Finding my way was difficult; I had to do it silently. The crunch of the leaves on the ground as I stepped on them was audibly loud. Even though it was only 5:30, it was almost dark. A couple of times, something – a thorn is the most logical guess – pricked my thigh, and I think I yelped.

But I still made it to where I wanted, and sat down. The light from the lamp ended a little further away, affording me unnoticeability. I was on my hunches, my back against the wall. After a minute, shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I moved my foot; crunching a leaf underneath it. The disco track behind me ended, giving way to another.

I felt a prick at my neck. I slapped it and wiped whatever it was away. It felt moist. Ugh. I rested my head against the wall, and…

I must have dozed off. I think I heard a voice from somewhere far away. My eyes flew open. It took a few seconds for the world around me – the sound of the crickets, the thump of the disco – to fill my mind. 

And, with it, came a fear as sharp as an icicle. 

I lifted myself a little, enough so my head poked out of the bushes. There was no one in sight. I started deliberating if I should call out to my friends. I had left my wrist watch back home, so I had little to no idea what time it was. The last of the colour had left the sky, and I was terrified. Surely, I remember thinking, the park was closed for the day by now. My friends were naturally not able to find me, and had to give up eventually. They must have told my parents. 

But what if… No one was looking for me. What if my parents were happy I was lost? A week prior, mum had said, no doubt in a fit of rage, what a bad son I was when she discovered I had stolen money from her purse. I knew she was angry, but was she angry enough to wish I would go missing?

An urge to scream was forming inside me. It began as a tiny bubble, and started expanding, gaining mass; until it became too big to be contained within. 

“Help!” I cried out. 

And help did come. I heard footsteps further ahead, away from the cone of light the lamp was casting. I could make out an outline. I wanted to call out, but only managed a feeble, barely audible whimper. “Help, please.” His footsteps were slow, deliberate. Just as he was a step away from the cone of light, I saw, or at least I think I saw… 

Were those yellow balls of light where his eyes should have been?

“Arayan!” I heard my mom cry out. I whipped my head, and saw my mother running towards me from the far right. The pink robe she loved as dearly as the 80s disco flapped about her. I felt a jolt of happiness and relief wash over me. I stood up, and ran out from the thick bushes; scratching my thigh as I did. But the pain didn’t matter then. When we met, she lifted me in her arms, and we both cried tears of joy. I told her I was sorry, and she said it was okay. 

I turned my head, and, as I had expected, I saw the man with the sick yellow eyes. He stood beside the lamppost now, conveniently away from the light; just a shadow in the envelope of darkness. 

Except the eyes. They were looking at me.

Half an hour later, I was in my bed, a cup of cocoa in my hand. My mum sat at the foot of the bed, looking at me. Into my eyes.

The eyes behind which the image of the monster burned. 

The same monster I would see years from then – on an ordinary evening when I thought I had cast those silly childhood fears away. 

How wrong I was.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.

ISSUE 16 | 19. 03. 2022

JUST ANOTHER OTAKU

- MAITHREYI

One of my absolute favourite things to do when I’m bored (or not) is just binge watch anime. Yes, a girl who’s obsessed with anime. Throughout my life I’ve been called many things and the ‘cool girl who watches anime’ is probably my favourite. Being my conceited self, I do sometimes love the attention, but I also think it’s very stupid.  

 

P.S. Before I continue this article, as the otaku I am, (yes, a girl can be an Otaku - it’s a gender neutral word, Google it). TO THE PERSON READING THIS: GO WATCH NARUTO RIGHT NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T. That anime is beautiful and changed my life and will forever be my favourite thing to watch.

 

Getting back to the article, I will never forget guys’ faces when I tell them I watch anime, or no wait, Naruto and Demon Slayer, because aren’t those animes too gory for girls? Honestly, they really aren’t - coming from someone who does not like gory stuff, it was totally fine. 

 

Why do people see anime as something only guys like watching? Many girls have an aversion to it just based on the fact that they hear and believe that ‘Anime is only for guys’. Whenever the girls I talk to hear the word ‘anime’ they would say “Oh no, I don’t watch anime, I don’t really like it. Doesn’t it have a lot of killing?”. Let me clarify. Anime is a style of Japanese art in literally every genre to ever exist. Just because the most popular ones are supposed to be ‘vehemently violent’ and ‘solely watched by guys’, it does not mean no other anime exists. 

 

Straying away from the topic of anime for a while, this is also experienced by girls who game, and guys who like romance, fashion, or makeup. It’s something that is completely ordinary for them to take a shine to, yet people exclaim in surprise on hearing them say they do so. This seems harmless, but could make(and has made) people extremely insecure. 

 

The root of this problem is, of course, gender stereotypes. Our society, the way we behave, what we do and watch, are all teeming with gender stereotypes; the worst part is that sometimes we don’t even realise it. The marketing of anime and gaming includes ads showing only boys enjoying those, while Barbies and makeup are portrayed as something only girls like. Even these minute details greatly influence us and our mindset. Brands don’t expect girls to watch anime to the point where all my anime merchandise is from the guys’ section of clothing. 

 

Our generation claims to be cognizant or ‘woke’, the ones breaking all possible gender stereotypes, accepting of everything someone does despite their gender, etc. But honestly, the astonished faces of people with them subsequently saying, “I never knew guys/girls do that too”, speak for themselves. Society has embedded it into our brains that guys like certain things which girls don’t and vice versa. Does that mean we have to go around flipping every stereotype until we’ve successfully created new stereotypes? Well, definitely not.

 

Neither everyone breaking stereotypes nor everyone abiding by them is a solution to this problem. We all should have the right to do the things we like. If you aren’t clichéd you would  know that all it takes is ridding one’s mind of the thought that somethings aren’t meant to be done by particular genders.

 

So, the next time you hear a girl saying she watches anime, hit her with a “That’s really cool”, and move on.

ISSUE 11 | 12. 12. 2021

GUILT

- VYAS

Raindrops of guilt falling,

On a cloudy night,

What choice do I have,

But to stand still?

 

Cannot move or sleep,

air is all there is,

In this cloudy space,

Full of illusions.

 

No support, no pillar

No ally I have,

Too scared to scream for help,

even to my closest friends.

 

People oblivious to this state of mine,

Because I do not speak,

Just reply with a misleading smile,

Suffocating from this pain inside.

 

It was my mistake,

To enter a cave with no light 

and expect the rays of the sun.

I know the real truth now.

ISSUE 9 | 31. 10. 2021

​ON THE WAY TO HELL

- IVAN DE MONBRISON

The walls are all around.

There is no one here.

I’m in bed.

A woman screams in the street and walks away quickly.

Then it’s all silent. 

The glass of the stars is

Rustling in the wind.

I painted a portrait on the wall.

The wall is like a mirror.

Blood is all over the furniture, 

on the chair, on the bed, on the floor too.

But on the street the sun is a ball 

walking legless.

(ORIGINAL VERSION IN RUSSIAN)

​По дороге в ад

Стены кругом.

Здесь никого. 

Я в кровати.

Женщина кричит на улице и быстро идет.

Потом тишина.

стекло звезд шумит на ветру.

Я нарисовал портрет на стене.

Стена как зеркало.

Кровь по всей мебели, на стуле, на кровати, на полу тоже.

Но на улице солнце – мяч, который ходит без ног.

ISSUE 8 | 17. 10. 2021

​ON THE WAY TO HELL

- IVAN DE MONBRISON

The words remained on the sheet of paper like ink marks

But the book is white.

Your eyes are white too.

The horizon is red and blue.

There is a madman, he screams alone in a closed room.

He knocks on the walls.

Tomorrow I will collect  severed heads in the garden of pain

to make a bouquet of thoughts out of them.

(ORIGINAL VERSION IN RUSSIAN)

​По дороге в ад

Слова остались на листе бумаги, 

как следы чернил, 

Но книга белая.

Твои глаза тоже белые.

Горизонт красный и синий.

Есть безумный , он кричит один в закрытой комнате.

Он стучит по стенам.

Завтра буду собирать отрубленных голов в сад боли, 

чтобы сделать из них букет мыслей.

ISSUE 7 | 19. 09. 2021

-VYAS

A RED THREAD OF FAITH

The red thread of Faith

On that sunny day, on top of the hill

Our eyes met for the first time

And a crimson bond, invisible to the naked eye

Was born

We met at various places

like the fresh green fields and the holy church

And the journey became thicker and longer

And brought us closer

On a new moon night, I found the courage

To ask you to accompany me

On an adventure

To explore the vast seas and oceans

You, frightened, took a step back and then another

Scared of knowing the unknown

And ran away, leaving me unanswered

A hundred years passed

Still on the same coast, on the same boat

I wait; Waiting to hold your hand

ISSUE 6 | 05. 09. 2021

- MAITHREYI SRINIVASAN

MIRRORED

Just another arbitrary day,

Just for fun she stood on the scale.

The smartest math addict- yes she has the crown,

And to her the result of this number is equal to a mental breakdown.

 

Triangle, rectangle, round, oval 

Normal geometric shapes.

But anorexic models and celebrities 

Show that hourglass is the perfect make.

 

Chloe Ting and Lilly Sabri 

Workouts that will make you wail.

Deadly K-pop diets to starve yourself

On this mortal ship she sails.

 

Braces to get rid of crooked teeth 

And have a flawless smile,

Rhinoplasty for that misshapen nose 

And other feminine guile. 

 

Previously a dainty innocent girl,

Now substituting sugar with harmful stevia,

She didn’t know how much was wrong with her body

Until she came on social media. 

 

Deceiving camera angles,

Yes, she knew it was all fake.

Yet she got trapped in her insecurity 

And in this darkness the exit became faint. 

 

After hours of effort to change her image 

“Who am I doing this for?”, she finally asked,

The answer was definitely not herself 

And voila her vision was unmasked.

 

The lock had been decoded

And out the exit she fled with glee

Untroubled and confident,she was finally at peace, 

And with her power and wisdom the ones stuck in this trap she freed.

ISSUE 5 | 22. 08. 2021

SITCOMS AND SUFFERRING

- SANJANA

Picture this. You open your eyes to a green wall, birdsong, and a reassuring message staring you in the face. A voice calls you in and informs you’ve achieved the single greatest thing in your life - and death - You’ve made it to The Good Place. 

Eleanor Shellstrop, the main character of the critically acclaimed sitcom ‘The Good Place’ finds herself in this exact predicament. But the twist? She knows she doesn’t belong there.  

The Good Place was a breath of fresh air for me. With its witty dialogue and complex situations, it managed to create the perfect atmosphere to learn a lot of profound theories without feeling like it was a classroom. And philosophy, our topic of discussion today, laid much of the groundwork for the overall narrative and character arcs of the show. 

Philosophy is defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. 

Regardless of which religion you subscribe to (or the absence of such a subscription), everyone follows a certain philosophy. Even claiming to not have a philosophy is a philosophy in itself. Broadly speaking from my point of view, there are 4 main branches of philosophy - Logic, Epistemology, Axiology and Metaphysics. Logic deals with organising and understanding our reasoning. Epistemology helps us discover how we came to know what we know today. Axiology studies basic principles and values, and Metaphysics delves into the true reality of the physical world and the universe. 

Today, I would like to discuss a certain branch of Axiology: Ethics. 

Ethical philosophy, or moral philosophy, is the discipline concerned with the system of moral and values. The concept of ethical philosophy has always intrigued me, but the catalyst for my renewed interest and research into it was watching The Good Place.

The show, as we’ve previously covered, follows Eleanor Shellstrop, who dies in the beginning and ends up in the Good Place. But she knows she doesn’t belong there. To quote Eleanor herself, “I’m an Arizona trashbag who lived and died pathetically.” So she seeks the aid of her ‘soulmate’, Chidi Anagonye, a professor who studied moral philosophy, to help her become a better person. Eleanor and Chidi aren’t the only beings on this philosophical journey. At first, the people they meet seem to be caricatures. Complete archetypes of their characters - a silent monk, a superficial socialite, an all-knowing mentor. But slowly, everything begins to rip at the seams. The show evolves from a distinctive sitcom with a unique take, to an absolutely heart-wrenching, hilarious, and thought-provoking story that makes you sit and stare at the ceiling for an hour after watching it. The kind of show that inspires a week-long existential crisis. 

The enlightenment of the show comes mostly from Chidi, as he teaches Eleanor about different schools of thought, theories and philosophers, all in the hope of making her deserving of the Good Place. 

 

Aiding them in their journey have been several moral philosophy concepts, that I’ll attempt to expand on:

Utilitarianism: This theory says that an action is morally right if it results in the happiness or well-being of people. It doesn’t matter what your reasoning was, the morality of the action relies purely on the consequences it had.

Deontology: This ethical theory presents that there are a set of moral rules by which any action can be deemed good or bad, and that there are no exceptions to this. For example, Kant, who is known to have aligned with deontology, believed that actions follow universal moral laws that must never be violated. 

Existentialism: Existentialism deals with the nature of the human condition itself. This philosophy stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for their own decisions. With this responsibility, comes profound dread. What if there is no set meaning to life? Do you control your actions, (and hence their morality)? These are the questions posed in this branch of philosophy. 

The schools of reasoning I’ve listed above are interesting to think about, but I find it easier to learn hands-on. Here’s where the ‘Trolley Problem’ comes in: a wonderful example of the more philosophical elements of ‘The Good Place’. The Trolley Problem is, by now, a well-known ethical thought experiment that explores sacrifice and the greater good. In the show, it was a unique practical application of a hypothetical situation.

Imagine that you are watching a trolley, hurtling out of control on a track towards five workers that cannot escape. Right next to you is a lever that could divert the trolley to a second track. But the catch? There is one worker on the other track too. What would you do? 

Most people would pull the lever, and divert the train so that only one person would be killed. Let’s look at this choice through the lens of utilitarianism. Though nobody would choose to cause the death of another person, this action (of diverting the train that leads to the death of one person) would definitely be the lesser of two evils, in terms of consequences. Hence, with this theory, the action can be considered morally good.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? 

But let’s up the stakes a little. 

Imagine, instead, that you’re a doctor that witnesses five patients who are slowly dying of organ failure. Surprisingly, you find a healthy person who is a perfect organ match to all five dying people. If you harvest this person’s organs, you can save five people. But in the process, you are essentially killing a healthy individual. 

Now if we look at this from a utilitarian perspective, they would claim that harvesting the organs of the healthy person is the morally good thing to do. In their perspective, nothing has changed since the previous situation. The death of one individual would definitely be better than the death of five, relatively speaking. The consequences would reflect a morally sound action. 

So why is it that most of us would choose not to eliminate the healthy person? 

This is where deontology comes into the picture. As we’ve previously covered, deontology dictates that a set of rules must be followed when you make certain decisions, no matter the circumstances. 

Most of us have rules condemning lying, stealing, or murder, despite what the motivation behind it could be. So in this situation, most people would choose to not kill the person. because they would have to actively take action as opposed to simply watching it take place. 

To me, there is no logic in condemning an action no matter the circumstances. There will inevitably come a time in your life when you’ll be forced to do things you don’t want to do and it’s only logical to accept that at face value. That being said, judging an action solely based on the effect it has on the people around may not be the best idea either. It could result in a very stressful life where you sacrifice your happiness and well-being for the rest of the world. 

Moving back to our trolley predicament, what is the solution to this dilemma? The perfect answer that presents a win-win situation for everyone involved? 

Well, I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t one. 

This problem, like several other thought experiments, has no definite answer. It was created to stimulate intellectual discourse and compare different schools of ethical philosophy. Nonetheless, I consider it an extremely thought-provoking quandary. 

The Good Place offers no concrete answer to this question either. The thought experiment - which began as a futile attempt at educating and enlightening a thousand-year old demon - unsurprisingly backfired. As soon as the harmless thought experiment turned into something bigger, more lifelike, more realistic, decisions changed entirely. The heat of the moment gets us to do some dangerous things, which reminds us that you can never really live life through hypotheticals. 

The fact that this thought experiment has no ‘correct’ solution brings me some amount of peace, because human beings are messy and complex and there’s almost never an easy-out. But whether we’re trolley-drivers or master surgeons, we’re all in this together.

SUBMISSIONS

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ISSUE 22 | 26. 06. 2022

ISSUE 21 | 12. 06. 2022

O ACHILLES

- PRACHETA

The court of Menoetius,

Where my childhood pursued

Alas, banished from home

In Phthia, life renewed

 

O Achilles, son of Peleus

Who art thou so odd?

Recounting the times I’ve seen

You with your mighty sword

 

O Achilles, my companion

You showed me the light

Through your kind words, despite

My dishonouring plight

 

O Achilles, what’s this sensation?

A spark ignites my soul

When your gentle hands meet mine

Or in the gardens we stroll

 

The eyes of the beholder 

Tinged with lucent hues

Some say tis’ the devil

Whose mastery ensues

 

Am I truly imperfect?

Alas, what do they say?

Nay, we’re all unique

Beautiful in our own way

 

The clash of fine droplets 

And the sun so brilliant

Tis’ Achilles I love, near whom

My heart grows ebullient

DEATH GHOST-WRITES FIRE

How death ghost-writes the memoir

for the fire bothers me;

I desire to edit it, and that I cannot fill

it with periods inlays my intestine with pain.

 

Leave my mother's name out of it.

I whisper hoping, my voice will

set a herd of butterflies on peregrination.

 

Springtime toddles towards a slide.

A few sparrows are born near 

one half devoured sandwich on the grass.

I wipe what death has written

on my eyes. Leave. I say 

staring at the dark foliage.

- KUSHAL PODDAR

SIRENS

- LIV CAMPBELL

One manic summer when all three of us went blonde

 

And lightning struck us in our guts and below our feet,

 

We lived like flotsam, sipped on the sea, and kept it in our bellies.

 

We grew full of fish, deep ends, and sunken ships, 

 

Coral, sand dollars, and dead pelicans.

 

We got drunk on figures fallen under and forgotten things that use to soar.

 

 

Having been on land for far too long now, I make renderings of us, when I know of nothing else to do.

 

Into the wet shore with a stick, I etch things that burn, and things that swing, and things that chime,

 

Like in my grandmother’s garden, where we’d like to be buried 

 

In a hatching and green spring, 

 

Once we die of old age 

 

Because we eventually got clean.

 

 

I grow a tale when I swirl wine

 

And a gill when I get blue. 

 

I get a freckle with every seashell find

 

And another heart when I get to see you.

ISSUE 19 | 08. 05. 2022

“Misery breeds art,” my granduncle had proclaimed once.

Funny then, I remember thinking, why being miserable isn’t something we strive to achieve more than anything else. To oppress our soul (or whatever we call the encapsulation of our consciousness) with the unrelenting pressure of this thing we call life, to have it willingly step into an inescapable black hole that’s devoid of any trace of joy or happiness, to subject it to a pain that borders on agony…

Sounds foreboding, doesn’t it?

My granduncle’s maxim was part of a tale he shared with me, one he claimed was “as real as the sun that gives us warmth, as the water that quenches our thirst.” 

“There is a large field close to where I used to live as a kid,” he started. “I had never been there. Theories support that it’s haunted, and I was too scared to not disbelieve it. Anyhow, over the course of its existence, several stories have sprung from its infamous legacy. According to one of them, anyone who walked through the seemingly endless treacherous path – a territory ruled by walking demons who breathed out fire – to get to this field was emancipated.”

As a kid, I didn’t know what “emancipated” meant, but I didn’t disturb him.

He continued. “They are the ones, it was said, who had truly endured sufferance, who didn’t submit to those demons, and attained glory.” 

He leaned a little closer then, and, looking at me squarely, took his time before continuing. “These people are called artists,” he said, letting me absorb the story. “Misery breeds art, always remember that.” Only when he saw me nodding did he go back to the football game he was watching on the TV; leaving me, a mere nine-year-old boy, wondering just what the story really meant. 

I wanted to ask him if he’d had a bit to drink, but I held my tongue.

That story came back to me many years later, when, last week, I finished the first draft of my debut novel. I don’t know if it’s any good (to tell you the truth, I would call it a relentless and ridiculously long rant), let alone if I’ll be able to find a publisher who will back it. And, even if I do, it’s highly unlikely it’ll sell well. It took me two years to write it, and, regardless of its probable fate, I can say that I’m quite proud of it. Going through the massive pile of the hard work I’d put in in the last couple of years, I discovered a sense of relief wash over me; and what followed that relief was what I would like to call, for the lack of a better word, emancipated.

Yes, exactly like the victors who had trudged through the treacherous path and tasted the glory my granduncle had spoken about. Oh, how these warriors must have felt as they stepped onto the carpet of freshly cut grass, the sun on their faces, the sinister demons behind them. The elation, the sheer joy they must have left. 

But, as I think now, would this emancipation even be realisable if it wasn’t for my own treacherous path that I had to move through? For the needles I had to walk on, with cuts and bruises all over my feet as I determinedly put one leg after another? For the fire breathing demon chasing me, his face a horrid mix of revulsion and sinisterness?

Or perhaps I’m blowing things a little too much out of proportion. But, then again, exaggeration is a useful asset for a storyteller. And, after the last two years, I do get to call myself a storyteller, don’t I? 

Maybe my miseries aren’t as significant as some of the more pressing – more tangible – issues our world faces today. I have a job, one which gives me no reason to complain financially. I have a place to live; and, even though I rent it, you don’t take a roof over your head for granted. I have friends and family who care for me. I am in good health; sure, I could cut down on unhealthy habits (too embarrassing to be specified), but I do maintain what I can safely call a reasonably fit lifestyle.

And isn’t that all that we need? 

But, yet, time and again I find myself… miserable. 

Especially when, for example, I have just had a tiresome call with a disgruntled client who, unhappy with the services our company was providing her, called me a “thief” and a “sadist”; and a panic so deep and formidable set in me because the cycle (“part of what I’m being paid for,” as I would be reminded) would repeat the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that. Or each time I would let my aunt walk all over me pointing to how my boy, who dropped a year in high school, was a “failure”; while, inwardly, I’m visibly seething, cursing myself at not being courageous enough to tell her off. Or even when, sucked into the wormhole of memories from my past, I am forced to relive the bullying and the name-calling I had to endure in school because of my stuttering. Kids in high school are ruthless, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or incredibly fortunate.

I opened about how these instances leave me miserable to a friend a few years ago, and she, a well-wisher as she likes to call herself, was quick to point out that I “can’t keep all this bottled in,” or that I’ll “erupt like a volcano,” with the “lava of these miseries scorching everything they so much as touch.” 

Quite a colourful picture, isn’t it?

Today, as I leaf through this documented rant that I ambitiously call a novel, I say to her, “Look, Nancy. I erupted.” 

A drop forms at the corner of my eye, and I don’t bat it away. 

“I finally erupted.”

INTERPRETATION OF MISERY

-SHAURYA ARYA

ISSUE 18 | 24. 04. 2022

STEEL MAGNOLIA AHEAD

- ILANA DRAKE

steel magnolia ahead

 

it is easy to change 

based on your surroundings,

like a chameleon’s ability

to use camouflage.

 

because that is steel magnolia.

 

steel magnolia 

is holding her 

tongue because

she has to,

but, lord, oh lord,

she wants to speak.

 

but steel magnolia cannot roar

because her voice 

should be as sweet

as honey,

but she is tough as steel.

 

so she writes about 

the memories,

of the words she cannot

say out loud.

 

and the memories

bring back the times

she was an outlier.

 

steel magnolia has 

grown up stiff

because

of the exclusion,

 

and so many sticks

have been thrown 

against her,

but she still stands.

There can only be one of two explanations. I’ve either slipped into an alternate dimension, or this is a dream.

Things changed in, quite literally, the blink of an eye. One second, I was out on my evening walk in the park, the sun gliding towards the western horizon, spraying a blast of orange across the sky. And, in the next, a darkness I can attribute to nothing but an indescribable phenomenon cast its shadow over my surroundings. The people in the park had magically vaporized, like some invisible hand had come down and, before I could even start to wrap my head around what had happened, swept everyone up. The sky had as if metamorphosed into a chilling, malicious dark blue. The grass all around, though still technically green, was devoid of its earlier colour, of its vivaciousness.

The path in front of me had cowered in the shadows of the trees overhead. I looked up, and could only see the silhouettes of the leaves as they held absolutely still. Not a leaf moved. 

I took a step forward, my shoe grinding the loose dirt underneath. The crunch was like a gunshot in the absolute silence. I could even hear my breath, the beating of my heart. I took another step forward, and then another. Gradually, I started walking. A dream or not, I realized staying put wouldn’t serve any purpose. 

Crickets started singing their irritating creek-creek in the distance; and then, abruptly, stopped. A bird flew overhead, crying a shriek. It startled me. I stopped, pulled in some air, blew it out, let the dark world I had fallen into come into perspective, and moved. 

I knew the way around this park like the back of my hand. Over the years, new features – including a cemented basketball court, modern swing sets, and an expansive flower bed – had been added to the park, but the graveled path remained the same. No one had thought of paving it with tiles. After rains, water clogged it in patches, inconveniencing strollers like me.

I also knew that, a hundred meters ahead, I would need to take a right. And, after a few more paces, a left. That would open into the west side of the park, where the basketball court was. At this turn, behind me, would be the lonesome house I have, in my evening strolls, found myself being fascinated by. A hand pump stood atop a wide platform in the large veranda outside. Around the house, a staircase opened into the terrace above. Next to the verandah, a curved walkway led to somewhere out of sight. I know that was an exit, but for reasons beyond me I don’t go there.

Straight ahead was the gate that led to the neighbouring colony. I decided to exit from that gate instead, which, though held by a rickety chain link, could open just wide enough to let a skinny man like me sneak through. 

Even with the darkness still hanging about, I could make out the bend a few steps away. I rounded the corner, my feet now more confident. Just a few more steps, I reassured myself; and started walking faster. My head felt lighter. I took a deep breath, calming myself. The next turn was maybe a few meters ahead. By now, I was rushing towards it.

But something – an invisible force is all I can describe it as – in the darkness was clinging to the back of my neck; and, no matter how much I wiped my hand at it, it stayed. 

Even though just a few steps away, I couldn’t get close to the turn I had to take next; it was like walking on a treadmill. My feet were moving, but I couldn’t get nearer. Something was pulling me as I tried pushing ahead. The anxiety was creeping its way back in me. I could imagine its slimy antlers on my skin, pushing themselves within. The air I had been breathing didn’t come as freely now. I gasped and, then, started running; my feet eager, the crunch on the gravel more urgent.

The turn, still visibly a stone’s throw away, seemed farther than the moon.

A sound, of something creaking, came from my right.  I turned, and, in the distance, saw the house. 

It was bathed in a gorgeous, magnificent light. Such was its brightness I had to shield my eyes at first glance. As my eyes adjusted to its glow, I saw the door opening; and, from within it, someone – a silhouette at first – walked out. 

A boy, no more than ten years old, wearing a blue t-shirt and red shorts. 

He extended one arm, beckoning me. 

“It’s okay,” he said. “He won’t hurt you anymore.”

I wanted to pretend that I didn’t understand what he meant, but I couldn’t. “You promise?” I asked him instead.

In the bright light, I saw his head – cast in a golden light from an unidentifiable source – move. He nodded. I wondered if the boy was playing a trick on me; that he was the Ghost Man from all those years ago. The creature who had come into the house and robbed my family before killing them and escaping; as I, a ten-year-old dressed in a blue oversized t-shirt and red shorts, was crouched behind my bed, crying but not daring to utter a word. Sometime in the night, I must have passed out. Because the next morning I found myself in the police station. 

“A robbery gone wrong,” was how the inspector described it. “Your mother woke up as he was closing the cupboard. Don’t worry, we’ve apprehended him.”

But he – he who I started recognizing as the Ghost Man ever since – didn’t leave my thoughts for years; tormenting me, anguishing me. 

“You promise?” I asked the boy. “You promise?”

He nodded.

As I neared the few stairs leading to the house – my house – the boy turned and went inside.

And I followed him. 

BLINK OF AN EYE

- SHAURYA ARYA

ISSUE 17 | 10. 04. 2022

MOONLIT PATH

- ROBERT YATES

I walk a moonlit path,  

starving myself of sleep  

and sanity - sometimes.  

A symphony of night calls me,   

The last act for the   

evening - a cricket's encore   

is a lullaby for lovers,  

dancing down the bricks   

of a river park.  

   

Quiet.  

   

I watch each  

porch go dark,  

and wonder what it's like   

in there - a room with  

Christmas dinners and  

stupid sweaters.   

"Where are you?"  

When I'm running late-  

  

Crash.  

   

A raccoon tips over a   

trashcan with his wife  

and kids.   

   

I walk a moonlit path, alone,  

but at the very last notes  

the whole world sings for me. 

YELLOW FEAR

- SHAURYA ARYA

Corrine Bailey Rae knew what she was saying when she sang, The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.

Sure, I’ve grown up. Crossed the line into adulthood and become the man I am today. And, believe me, I’m happy. But there’s something that still lingers, refusing to escape even as the years roll by and old memories and experiences get whitewashed with new ones. Something that either you are too scared to let go of or that it’s too strong that you just can’t. 

Monsters. 

Monsters under the bed. Monsters watching you from behind the curtains. Monsters in the shadows. 

Monsters living within you. 

Today, while taking my evening walk, I slipped into a hole – metaphorical, but every bit real – where I confronted a monster I thought I had left behind years ago. Beside the track I walk on is a patch dominated by bushes. I heard a couple of kids giggling there, and a faint snatch of “I don’t think he can find us.” One of these kids, a boy, brought up his head from behind the bush and looked around. His eyes met mine for a second, but, in that fleeting moment, I found myself sliding through the tunnel leading to my monster.

 

The same monster I had met as a kid playing hide and seek with my friends in a park just like this. I had decided to hide behind a bush and find a place to sit against the ten feet wall that separated the park on one side and the neighbouring locality on the other. Faint music floated from there; a disco tune from the 80s my mum loved.

A lamp glowing behind me allowed me to make my way through the bushes. Finding my way was difficult; I had to do it silently. The crunch of the leaves on the ground as I stepped on them was audibly loud. Even though it was only 5:30, it was almost dark. A couple of times, something – a thorn is the most logical guess – pricked my thigh, and I think I yelped.

But I still made it to where I wanted, and sat down. The light from the lamp ended a little further away, affording me unnoticeability. I was on my hunches, my back against the wall. After a minute, shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I moved my foot; crunching a leaf underneath it. The disco track behind me ended, giving way to another.

I felt a prick at my neck. I slapped it and wiped whatever it was away. It felt moist. Ugh. I rested my head against the wall, and…

I must have dozed off. I think I heard a voice from somewhere far away. My eyes flew open. It took a few seconds for the world around me – the sound of the crickets, the thump of the disco – to fill my mind. 

And, with it, came a fear as sharp as an icicle. 

I lifted myself a little, enough so my head poked out of the bushes. There was no one in sight. I started deliberating if I should call out to my friends. I had left my wrist watch back home, so I had little to no idea what time it was. The last of the colour had left the sky, and I was terrified. Surely, I remember thinking, the park was closed for the day by now. My friends were naturally not able to find me, and had to give up eventually. They must have told my parents. 

But what if… No one was looking for me. What if my parents were happy I was lost? A week prior, mum had said, no doubt in a fit of rage, what a bad son I was when she discovered I had stolen money from her purse. I knew she was angry, but was she angry enough to wish I would go missing?

An urge to scream was forming inside me. It began as a tiny bubble, and started expanding, gaining mass; until it became too big to be contained within. 

“Help!” I cried out. 

And help did come. I heard footsteps further ahead, away from the cone of light the lamp was casting. I could make out an outline. I wanted to call out, but only managed a feeble, barely audible whimper. “Help, please.” His footsteps were slow, deliberate. Just as he was a step away from the cone of light, I saw, or at least I think I saw… 

Were those yellow balls of light where his eyes should have been?

“Arayan!” I heard my mom cry out. I whipped my head, and saw my mother running towards me from the far right. The pink robe she loved as dearly as the 80s disco flapped about her. I felt a jolt of happiness and relief wash over me. I stood up, and ran out from the thick bushes; scratching my thigh as I did. But the pain didn’t matter then. When we met, she lifted me in her arms, and we both cried tears of joy. I told her I was sorry, and she said it was okay. 

I turned my head, and, as I had expected, I saw the man with the sick yellow eyes. He stood beside the lamppost now, conveniently away from the light; just a shadow in the envelope of darkness. 

Except the eyes. They were looking at me.

Half an hour later, I was in my bed, a cup of cocoa in my hand. My mum sat at the foot of the bed, looking at me. Into my eyes.

The eyes behind which the image of the monster burned. 

The same monster I would see years from then – on an ordinary evening when I thought I had cast those silly childhood fears away. 

How wrong I was.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.

ISSUE 16 | 19. 03. 2022

JUST ANOTHER OTAKU

- MAITHREYI

One of my absolute favourite things to do when I’m bored (or not) is just binge watch anime. Yes, a girl who’s obsessed with anime. Throughout my life I’ve been called many things and the ‘cool girl who watches anime’ is probably my favourite. Being my conceited self, I do sometimes love the attention, but I also think it’s very stupid.  

 

P.S. Before I continue this article, as the otaku I am, (yes, a girl can be an Otaku - it’s a gender neutral word, Google it). TO THE PERSON READING THIS: GO WATCH NARUTO RIGHT NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T. That anime is beautiful and changed my life and will forever be my favourite thing to watch.

 

Getting back to the article, I will never forget guys’ faces when I tell them I watch anime, or no wait, Naruto and Demon Slayer, because aren’t those animes too gory for girls? Honestly, they really aren’t - coming from someone who does not like gory stuff, it was totally fine. 

 

Why do people see anime as something only guys like watching? Many girls have an aversion to it just based on the fact that they hear and believe that ‘Anime is only for guys’. Whenever the girls I talk to hear the word ‘anime’ they would say “Oh no, I don’t watch anime, I don’t really like it. Doesn’t it have a lot of killing?”. Let me clarify. Anime is a style of Japanese art in literally every genre to ever exist. Just because the most popular ones are supposed to be ‘vehemently violent’ and ‘solely watched by guys’, it does not mean no other anime exists. 

 

Straying away from the topic of anime for a while, this is also experienced by girls who game, and guys who like romance, fashion, or makeup. It’s something that is completely ordinary for them to take a shine to, yet people exclaim in surprise on hearing them say they do so. This seems harmless, but could make(and has made) people extremely insecure. 

 

The root of this problem is, of course, gender stereotypes. Our society, the way we behave, what we do and watch, are all teeming with gender stereotypes; the worst part is that sometimes we don’t even realise it. The marketing of anime and gaming includes ads showing only boys enjoying those, while Barbies and makeup are portrayed as something only girls like. Even these minute details greatly influence us and our mindset. Brands don’t expect girls to watch anime to the point where all my anime merchandise is from the guys’ section of clothing. 

 

Our generation claims to be cognizant or ‘woke’, the ones breaking all possible gender stereotypes, accepting of everything someone does despite their gender, etc. But honestly, the astonished faces of people with them subsequently saying, “I never knew guys/girls do that too”, speak for themselves. Society has embedded it into our brains that guys like certain things which girls don’t and vice versa. Does that mean we have to go around flipping every stereotype until we’ve successfully created new stereotypes? Well, definitely not.

 

Neither everyone breaking stereotypes nor everyone abiding by them is a solution to this problem. We all should have the right to do the things we like. If you aren’t clichéd you would  know that all it takes is ridding one’s mind of the thought that somethings aren’t meant to be done by particular genders.

 

So, the next time you hear a girl saying she watches anime, hit her with a “That’s really cool”, and move on.

ISSUE 11 | 12. 12. 2021

GUILT

- VYAS

Raindrops of guilt falling,

On a cloudy night,

What choice do I have,

But to stand still?

 

Cannot move or sleep,

air is all there is,

In this cloudy space,

Full of illusions.

 

No support, no pillar

No ally I have,

Too scared to scream for help,

even to my closest friends.

 

People oblivious to this state of mine,

Because I do not speak,

Just reply with a misleading smile,

Suffocating from this pain inside.

 

It was my mistake,

To enter a cave with no light 

and expect the rays of the sun.

I know the real truth now.

ISSUE 9 | 31. 10. 2021

​ON THE WAY TO HELL

- IVAN DE MONBRISON

The walls are all around.

There is no one here.

I’m in bed.

A woman screams in the street and walks away quickly.

Then it’s all silent. 

The glass of the stars is

Rustling in the wind.

I painted a portrait on the wall.

The wall is like a mirror.

Blood is all over the furniture, 

on the chair, on the bed, on the floor too.

But on the street the sun is a ball 

walking legless.

(ORIGINAL VERSION IN RUSSIAN)

​По дороге в ад

Стены кругом.

Здесь никого. 

Я в кровати.

Женщина кричит на улице и быстро идет.

Потом тишина.

стекло звезд шумит на ветру.

Я нарисовал портрет на стене.

Стена как зеркало.

Кровь по всей мебели, на стуле, на кровати, на полу тоже.

Но на улице солнце – мяч, который ходит без ног.

ISSUE 8 | 17. 10. 2021

​ON THE WAY TO HELL

- IVAN DE MONBRISON

The words remained on the sheet of paper like ink marks

But the book is white.

Your eyes are white too.

The horizon is red and blue.

There is a madman, he screams alone in a closed room.

He knocks on the walls.

Tomorrow I will collect  severed heads in the garden of pain

to make a bouquet of thoughts out of them.

(ORIGINAL VERSION IN RUSSIAN)

​По дороге в ад

Слова остались на листе бумаги, 

как следы чернил, 

Но книга белая.

Твои глаза тоже белые.

Горизонт красный и синий.

Есть безумный , он кричит один в закрытой комнате.

Он стучит по стенам.

Завтра буду собирать отрубленных голов в сад боли, 

чтобы сделать из них букет мыслей.

ISSUE 7 | 19. 09. 2021

-VYAS

A RED THREAD OF FAITH

The red thread of Faith

On that sunny day, on top of the hill

Our eyes met for the first time

And a crimson bond, invisible to the naked eye

Was born

We met at various places

like the fresh green fields and the holy church

And the journey became thicker and longer

And brought us closer

On a new moon night, I found the courage

To ask you to accompany me

On an adventure

To explore the vast seas and oceans

You, frightened, took a step back and then another

Scared of knowing the unknown

And ran away, leaving me unanswered

A hundred years passed

Still on the same coast, on the same boat

I wait; Waiting to hold your hand

ISSUE 6 | 05. 09. 2021

- MAITHREYI SRINIVASAN

MIRRORED

Just another arbitrary day,

Just for fun she stood on the scale.

The smartest math addict- yes she has the crown,

And to her the result of this number is equal to a mental breakdown.

 

Triangle, rectangle, round, oval 

Normal geometric shapes.

But anorexic models and celebrities 

Show that hourglass is the perfect make.

 

Chloe Ting and Lilly Sabri 

Workouts that will make you wail.

Deadly K-pop diets to starve yourself

On this mortal ship she sails.

 

Braces to get rid of crooked teeth 

And have a flawless smile,

Rhinoplasty for that misshapen nose 

And other feminine guile. 

 

Previously a dainty innocent girl,

Now substituting sugar with harmful stevia,

She didn’t know how much was wrong with her body

Until she came on social media. 

 

Deceiving camera angles,

Yes, she knew it was all fake.

Yet she got trapped in her insecurity 

And in this darkness the exit became faint. 

 

After hours of effort to change her image 

“Who am I doing this for?”, she finally asked,

The answer was definitely not herself 

And voila her vision was unmasked.

 

The lock had been decoded

And out the exit she fled with glee

Untroubled and confident,she was finally at peace, 

And with her power and wisdom the ones stuck in this trap she freed.

ISSUE 5 | 22. 08. 2021

SITCOMS AND SUFFERRING

- SANJANA

Picture this. You open your eyes to a green wall, birdsong, and a reassuring message staring you in the face. A voice calls you in and informs you’ve achieved the single greatest thing in your life - and death - You’ve made it to The Good Place. 

Eleanor Shellstrop, the main character of the critically acclaimed sitcom ‘The Good Place’ finds herself in this exact predicament. But the twist? She knows she doesn’t belong there.  

The Good Place was a breath of fresh air for me. With its witty dialogue and complex situations, it managed to create the perfect atmosphere to learn a lot of profound theories without feeling like it was a classroom. And philosophy, our topic of discussion today, laid much of the groundwork for the overall narrative and character arcs of the show. 

Philosophy is defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. 

Regardless of which religion you subscribe to (or the absence of such a subscription), everyone follows a certain philosophy. Even claiming to not have a philosophy is a philosophy in itself. Broadly speaking from my point of view, there are 4 main branches of philosophy - Logic, Epistemology, Axiology and Metaphysics. Logic deals with organising and understanding our reasoning. Epistemology helps us discover how we came to know what we know today. Axiology studies basic principles and values, and Metaphysics delves into the true reality of the physical world and the universe. 

Today, I would like to discuss a certain branch of Axiology: Ethics. 

Ethical philosophy, or moral philosophy, is the discipline concerned with the system of moral and values. The concept of ethical philosophy has always intrigued me, but the catalyst for my renewed interest and research into it was watching The Good Place.

The show, as we’ve previously covered, follows Eleanor Shellstrop, who dies in the beginning and ends up in the Good Place. But she knows she doesn’t belong there. To quote Eleanor herself, “I’m an Arizona trashbag who lived and died pathetically.” So she seeks the aid of her ‘soulmate’, Chidi Anagonye, a professor who studied moral philosophy, to help her become a better person. Eleanor and Chidi aren’t the only beings on this philosophical journey. At first, the people they meet seem to be caricatures. Complete archetypes of their characters - a silent monk, a superficial socialite, an all-knowing mentor. But slowly, everything begins to rip at the seams. The show evolves from a distinctive sitcom with a unique take, to an absolutely heart-wrenching, hilarious, and thought-provoking story that makes you sit and stare at the ceiling for an hour after watching it. The kind of show that inspires a week-long existential crisis. 

The enlightenment of the show comes mostly from Chidi, as he teaches Eleanor about different schools of thought, theories and philosophers, all in the hope of making her deserving of the Good Place. 

 

Aiding them in their journey have been several moral philosophy concepts, that I’ll attempt to expand on:

Utilitarianism: This theory says that an action is morally right if it results in the happiness or well-being of people. It doesn’t matter what your reasoning was, the morality of the action relies purely on the consequences it had.

Deontology: This ethical theory presents that there are a set of moral rules by which any action can be deemed good or bad, and that there are no exceptions to this. For example, Kant, who is known to have aligned with deontology, believed that actions follow universal moral laws that must never be violated. 

Existentialism: Existentialism deals with the nature of the human condition itself. This philosophy stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for their own decisions. With this responsibility, comes profound dread. What if there is no set meaning to life? Do you control your actions, (and hence their morality)? These are the questions posed in this branch of philosophy. 

The schools of reasoning I’ve listed above are interesting to think about, but I find it easier to learn hands-on. Here’s where the ‘Trolley Problem’ comes in: a wonderful example of the more philosophical elements of ‘The Good Place’. The Trolley Problem is, by now, a well-known ethical thought experiment that explores sacrifice and the greater good. In the show, it was a unique practical application of a hypothetical situation.

Imagine that you are watching a trolley, hurtling out of control on a track towards five workers that cannot escape. Right next to you is a lever that could divert the trolley to a second track. But the catch? There is one worker on the other track too. What would you do? 

Most people would pull the lever, and divert the train so that only one person would be killed. Let’s look at this choice through the lens of utilitarianism. Though nobody would choose to cause the death of another person, this action (of diverting the train that leads to the death of one person) would definitely be the lesser of two evils, in terms of consequences. Hence, with this theory, the action can be considered morally good.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? 

But let’s up the stakes a little. 

Imagine, instead, that you’re a doctor that witnesses five patients who are slowly dying of organ failure. Surprisingly, you find a healthy person who is a perfect organ match to all five dying people. If you harvest this person’s organs, you can save five people. But in the process, you are essentially killing a healthy individual. 

Now if we look at this from a utilitarian perspective, they would claim that harvesting the organs of the healthy person is the morally good thing to do. In their perspective, nothing has changed since the previous situation. The death of one individual would definitely be better than the death of five, relatively speaking. The consequences would reflect a morally sound action. 

So why is it that most of us would choose not to eliminate the healthy person? 

This is where deontology comes into the picture. As we’ve previously covered, deontology dictates that a set of rules must be followed when you make certain decisions, no matter the circumstances. 

Most of us have rules condemning lying, stealing, or murder, despite what the motivation behind it could be. So in this situation, most people would choose to not kill the person. because they would have to actively take action as opposed to simply watching it take place. 

To me, there is no logic in condemning an action no matter the circumstances. There will inevitably come a time in your life when you’ll be forced to do things you don’t want to do and it’s only logical to accept that at face value. That being said, judging an action solely based on the effect it has on the people around may not be the best idea either. It could result in a very stressful life where you sacrifice your happiness and well-being for the rest of the world. 

Moving back to our trolley predicament, what is the solution to this dilemma? The perfect answer that presents a win-win situation for everyone involved? 

Well, I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t one. 

This problem, like several other thought experiments, has no definite answer. It was created to stimulate intellectual discourse and compare different schools of ethical philosophy. Nonetheless, I consider it an extremely thought-provoking quandary. 

The Good Place offers no concrete answer to this question either. The thought experiment - which began as a futile attempt at educating and enlightening a thousand-year old demon - unsurprisingly backfired. As soon as the harmless thought experiment turned into something bigger, more lifelike, more realistic, decisions changed entirely. The heat of the moment gets us to do some dangerous things, which reminds us that you can never really live life through hypotheticals. 

The fact that this thought experiment has no ‘correct’ solution brings me some amount of peace, because human beings are messy and complex and there’s almost never an easy-out. But whether we’re trolley-drivers or master surgeons, we’re all in this together.