My brother bought me a necklace for $75, and it’s probably the tackiest thing I’ve ever seen. A plain golden chain with tiny cursive letters spelling out the word dreamer. I actually laughed out loud when he gave it to me, and fortunately, he thought it was because I loved it. 

I wear it all the time, just because it is so expensive, and tacky, and not even remotely worth the price. It suits me, I think. I find it so basic that I actually like it. Maybe my brother knows me better than I thought. 

Yesterday, I saw the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in my life. It was on the subway, and I had to look twice. I don’t think I would have found him beautiful had I not been in a certain mood, but yesterday was one of those days where the world is beautiful, and anything’s possible.  

I glanced at him, then my heart started pounding, forcing me to look back. He had dark hair, a smooth face, wearing a jean jacket and straight legged pants rolled up a couple of times to reveal about half an inch of his socks. He had headphones on, and he stared out the windows at the blackened tunnels with a look of wonder. 

A basic, beautiful boy. Perfect for me. 

And so, I decided that I was in love. 

I’m nineteen, so it’s about time that I have my first love. 

I’m normally a very timid person – sits in the middle of the classroom to avoid attention, never speaks first, breaks eye contact first – type of person.  

But, I’ve always wanted a first love, and yesterday was one of those days. It took some convincing, but I took out my phone and, very obviously, took a picture of this beautiful boy. He saw me, just like I knew that he would.  

I instinctively grabbed my dreamer necklace when I felt my face burning. I forced myself to look at him and smile. He looked freaked out, just like I would be if someone had randomly snapped a pic of me. 

Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, my mind kept informing me, but I shrugged it off and told it, Oh well.  

It was too late. 

The middle-aged business woman sitting across from me snorted, having seen it all go down, but quickly covered her mouth.  

I know, business woman, I know.  

There are two types of awkward – the kind that makes everyone laugh and blush and naturally love. And then there is the kind that makes everyone uncomfortable to where they don’t know if they should laugh or cry, so they just look away. Unfortunately, I’m the second kind. 

My dream boy did not shuffle over and speak to me. Instead, he spent the rest of the time staring uncomfortably out the subway’s darkened windows, refusing to look in my direction. 

I laughed softly. I hate myself. 

No I don’t. 

I actually love everything about myself. I just wish everyone else did too. 

That’s the story of my first love. 

I think I will download the picture of this boy, print it off, and stick it in a notebook somewhere with the date just so I can look back at it one day and laugh. 

Today is a beautiful day. Just as beautiful as yesterday, but there isn’t as brave a feeling coursing through my veins.  

I’m sitting in my room listening to the most beautiful, empowering remixes of love songs. Most people would probably find them stupid, just as my brother does, but I like them. The sun is shining through my white translucent curtains, and I swear, I want to travel. I want to go running; make a difference; love someone; read a book; rule the world. But I won’t. I’ll sit right here in my room dreaming of doing all of those things until chills travel up my arms because, for me, the idea of something is so much more attainable than the actual thing. 

Is anyone else like that? 

I smile and roll over onto my back and instinctively grip my dreamer necklace. 

Photo by Jordan Whitfield 




Why the ice? Why the tundra? Why the middle of nowhere you ask? Because it’s barren. Because I don’t want to look for Beauty in an obvious place. 

Josh clutches the ad between his forefinger and thumb. Why did he agree to do this?  

Wanted: 10 – 12 individuals who want adventure and are willing to risk their lives to get it. (I’m just kidding. Austria is fairly safe.) 

Why couldn’t he be a normal kid who got a basic-paying job in the short transition space between high school and college? He didn’t even want to go to college. His older brother Stephen just got promoted to CEO of JanGlass, and he agreed to fund a trip for Josh. Not college. But a trip. Because Stephen wasn’t going to pay for Josh to go party and mess around and eventually drop out because Josh never wanted to be there in the first place and so he wouldn’t care about his classes, and he would end up working at some ho hum job in a JanGlass warehouse after wasting several years of his own life along with thousands of dollars’ worth of Stephen’s hard-earned money. 

I’m a photographer, and I‘ve made journeys like this before. But I’m not as young as I used to be. Plus, I love the company, so long as your hard-working, respectful, and a bit on the curious side. Otherwise, you won’t like this job, and I won’t like you. 

There was a typo in the ad. A freaking typo. Oh well. This guy was supposed to be a professional photographer, not an English major. 

This job doesn’t pay so much in money, but it does pay in adventure, experience, and the chance of a lifetime. 

Stephen made a face when Josh first showed him the ad, and then he started laughing. He asked if Josh was serious, and Josh didn’t know what to say because, frankly, Josh didn’t know. He still doesn’t know. He’s made half-hearted decisions his entire life because they were the decisions he was supposed to make. Play this sport. Ask out this type of person. Go to this or that university, so long as you go to university.  

Stephen stopped laughing and said he was proud of how mature Josh was becoming – going someplace new as more than just a tourist and going with the intention of discovering what he wanted to do with his life, being a leader and not a follower.  

Josh still didn’t know what to say because he hadn’t even thought of that. He just couldn’t think of a place to go, and time was running out when he found this ad. 

Places we’ll be going: Across a few of the Alps (mostly in High Tauern) and anywhere else we need to go, depending on what we encounter or have yet to encounter.  

How long we’ll be gone: Around a month and a half. I’ll try not to make the trip any longer.  

Type of person: You need to be strong enough to carry your own weight on this trip, that includes carrying your own equipment like food, clothing, and camping supplies. You may need to carry a few other things as well, and be prepared to walk for several miles in a day’s given time, rain or snow, up or downhill. 

Josh wasn’t sure he was strong enough to do this, and he wanted Stephen to talk him out of it. Instead, Stephen made him come to the gym with him for the three weeks leading up to the trip, talking to Josh everyday about the story of a famous man who went to Antartica and wrote a similar ad to convince men to come with him, and how Tolkien used that story as part of the inspiration for The Hobbit.  

This Daniel Jackson reminded Stephen of the photographer from the Walter Mitty movie, and the more Stephen thought about it, the more Stephen liked the idea of sending Josh to Austria to find himself. 

Disclaimer: It’s very unlikely that you will die (unless you do something incredibly stupid), but I’m writing here to let you know that any who answer this ad do so at their own risk. I will interview all who respond and decide for myself whether or not you would be a good fit for this team. 

The interview is in Grossglockner, exactly where Josh in now, and he’s not going to purposely throw it despite how his stomach is churning and curling away from the rest of his insides. He will try his best because his brother paid for him to come all the way out here. And maybe he’ll get to join the adventure team with world class photographer Daniel Jackson. And maybe he’ll figure what he should do for the rest of his life, or at least develop enough of a spine to say no to whatever he doesn’t want to do. 

Photo by Jakob Owens


The Purpose of Writing

The Purpose of Writing

I need you to write what you know. 

Her eyes leveled with mine. 

I need you to be raw and unforgiving. None of this stuff about elves or outer space. That’s not what we need right now. 

“I can’t believe she said that to you.” Keisha’s eyes narrow. “Who does that woman think she is?” 

“Kinda stupid,” Andy adds. “She’s like opposite side of the spectrum from you. She’s writing about cocaine dealers sleeping with touch-hungry girls.” 

“All writing’s subjective,” I say before Keisha has a fit. “She just doesn’t like mine.” 

“It makes me so mad how they will praise something that’s absolute garbage to the high heavens, and they don’t say a word to those other writers about the ‘strong female character trope.’ I almost screamed.” 

“It’s crazy how different you are outside of class, Keisha.” Andy laughs 

I like talking to them. They say all the crude, brutally honest things that I’m thinking.  

We’re all in our own worlds. Andy weaves poetry into his tales about live paintings and ancient Japanese myths. Keisha puts a new spin on Poe stories with broken-winged birds penetrating the neck to pluck out the arteries. And me? I write what I want. 

I don’t write for the world. I write for me, what need. 

“Guys, I hate stories with sad endings.” I stir my lemon water until all the seeds and fibrous tissue have floated off the bottom of my glass. 

“Yeah, but that’s what real life is.”  

“Maybe her life,” Keisha growls. 

“We should’ve done this more often. Going out to eat after class? I wish we’d done this sooner than the last day of class,” I say. 

“Yeah…” Andy’s too busy going through his comment sheets to pay much attention. 

“Don’t listen to any of them. I really like your writing.”  

I return Keisha’s smile. “Yeah, I’m not changing. I’m not worried about what they think.” 

“And the real endings where everyone dies, or they’re all alone or – Wow…” Keisha puts her head in her hands. “I mean I can’t say much because my characters always die.” 

“Unless they’re already dead,” Andy mutters. 

“Yep. Exactly.” Keisha and I laugh. 

“I’m not worried about it.” 

I’m truly not. I never say anything but smile and take whatever criticism is thrown my way. Keisha does the same, though she has a very fiery opinion outside of class. 

“Guys, I think I come off as cocky when someone criticizes me,” Andy says, looking up. We finished our burritos nearly an hour ago, but none of us have anything better to do than mull over the biases of others. “You know, because I always laugh and say okay.” 

“You do,” I say as Keisha nods. “No one says anything much to you because you seem so arrogant about it.” 

Andy laughs but doesn’t correct me. He was, after all, voted the best writer in our class. 

He glances at me. “Hey if you get up, will you get me some more water?” 

“I’m not getting up, Andy.” 

It truly doesn’t bother me, but I like when my friends agree when I say, “I mean, I don’t like reading about eating disorders and kids sneaking into bars, but I’m careful not to be opinionated about that. I just talk about the style and what could be done to make me care about the characters.” 

I like it when my friends get angry when I say, “You know, I’ve never even written about elves or outer space.” 

“You’re just the opposite of her,” Andy says. “So, she’ll probably hate whatever you do.” 

“I just hate people,” Keisha adds. 

“Yeah, that’s why you’re so good at horror,” I say. 

“We need to hang out more,” Andy says. “Keep up with each other even after we graduate.” 

“Yeah, start our own writing group. With our own calligraphy pen.” Keisha rolls her eyes. “You know I still cannot believe–” 

“You’re so sassy.” Andy laughs, nearly choking on his water. “I’ve never seen this side of you.” 

Photo by Patrick Fore


Stolen Heart

Stolen Heart

He is the tall dark stranger those warnings prepared me for. Those dark eyes and soul-penetrating gaze. I notice his indifferent smile and lifeless words, yet I bare my chest and grit my teeth as his knife lacerates my skin.  

The blade is cold. The pain is barely noticeable until his fingers slide around my sternum. My heart rips from its vessels.  

He walks away, my beating heart in his hand.  

I stumble, leaving a mess of blood behind me. 

“I wish you would learn to listen.” My mother begins loading her gun. “Come on, before that heart stops beating.” 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema