Nice Book

Nice Book

I’m not sure why, but the doctor’s office is always cold. The temperature difference was obvious as soon as I’d walked through the sliding double doors. The parking garage had been two blocks away, and walking that distance in 98-degree heat had me sweating. Maybe that’s why the cold air inside the building had felt stark enough to cause goosebumps on my arm.  

I had no idea if I’d come in the correct doors. Nurses in masks and other people walked by me briskly, sometimes even bumping into my shoulder, but in too big of a hurry to care. The elevators were easy enough to find, and I looked over the TV screen that showed the different offices of different doctors on different floors. It was overwhelming, but I finally found Dr. Samvel’s office. Floor 3, Room 316. 

When the elevator door opened, I walked slowly, analyzing the number of each room I passed. Room 316 was at the end of the hall.  

The waiting room was empty except two other people. We were pretty spaced out, an air of gloom settling over each of us. I pulled out the copy of the email I’d printed off to make sure of the room number, the time, and everything else that Dr. Samvel’s secretary had mentioned. 

My hands trembled slightly, but I figured it was because I was just cold. Even the secretary – or nurse, whoever sat behind the sliding window – wore a thin black jacket over her scrubs. 

I figured the wait would be a while, despite arriving precisely on time, so I pulled a book out of my bag. I kept the back down on my lap as I read. 

The story in the chapter I was reading mentioned the history of William Marshall, his cruel father who had abandoned him to be executed, and the kind king who had refused to do so. 

I nearly jumped when a nurse opened the doctor’s door and called out for someone. Before I had a chance to return to reading, someone else walked in. Instead of an older loner, like most people in this part of the large medical institute, it was a mother and her daughter who looked to be around eight or nine. The child wore a smile, which lifted some of the heaviness off the room. They sat along the wall, directly in my line of view, but I went back to reading and didn’t think anything else about it. 

When the nurse returned to call for another patient, I nearly jumped again. From the corner of my vision, I could see that the little girl was staring at me. She smiled and held up a book she’d been reading. It was the same one that I had. I returned the smile, a little embarrassed that I had lifted the book off my lap enough to someone to see it. 

It wasn’t that I was ashamed of what I’d been reading, it just wasn’t a book typical of someone like me, but it wasn’t a book typical for a little girl either. 

We were the only three in the waiting room now, and the mom was busy on a phone call. The girl tilted the book over to show me how much she’d read. That’s when I noticed the cast on her arm. She then craned her neck like she was trying to see my place as well. She was much farther along than me. I tilted my book to show her too. 

Excited, she flipped back to a previous chapter and held it up. I shook my head. It was still too far ahead. I counted up the pages till my next chapter. Three. I held them apart and lifted my book to show her the chapter and the three pages I still lacked. 

The girl flipped back further to where I was, then mouthed the words William Marshal? I nodded. She went ahead several chapters and pointed at the pages. Sad, she mouthed.  

Her mother noticed her holding up the book and gently pushed it down against her lap. Then, she noticed me and smiled. I returned the smile as best I could. The mother was beautiful and wearing a business suit and three-inch heels. She made me feel very insecure for some reason. 

The girl began flipping to the back of the book when the nurse reappeared and called for me. I stood, tucking my book into my bag. The little girl stared after me disappointed, so I forced a smile. I didn’t know what else to do. 

The checkup went well. Nothing had spread. 

“The patient who is coming in after me…” I began, but Dr. Samvel raised an eyebrow, as if he believed I should know better than to ask about another of his patients. “That little girl,” I persisted. “She was reading the same book as me.” I pulled the book up near the top of my bag to give Dr. Samvel a glimpse. 

He smiled and said, “Yes, I know who you mean.” 

“She’s going to be okay, isn’t she?” I thought about the cast on her arm, wondering if she even knew better because of the good mood she’d seemed to be in. 

“Well… she isn’t my next patient, if that’s what you’re asking.” He raised another eyebrow at me with a stern expression, as if he’d already said too much. 

“Thank you.” 

I got up to leave and thought about the mother, her perfect nails and confident smile. Had she been wearing a wedding band? What would happen to the little girl? Did her daughter even know? 

“Keep up those dietary changes, and we may not have to do anything invasive,” Dr. Samvel called out. “Talk to Melissa up front about coming back in another six months.” 

I waved goodbye over my shoulder as I walked away to talk to the lady up front about my next appointment. Despite getting used to the temperature, I had chills again. 

As Melissa went over the different dates for potential checkups, I felt someone lightly hit my arm. I looked down to see the little girl. 

“Nice book,” she said grinning up at me, even as her mom gently pulled her away and down the hall towards the examination room. 

“Nice book,” I returned, and I smiled, because I didn’t know what else to say. 

Photo by Annie Spratt  


The Chosen

The Chosen

His name is Eli Hoffman, and I have chosen him to be the hero. 

It was something I considered when he picked his sister daffodils after her bunny died. I wrote his name on my list and circled it when he chased off a fox who attacked the family’s chickens. However, it was when his father’s horse was bucking and kicked him down, and he got up anyway despite the broken ribs, that I opened my magic book and etched his prophecy in my blood. 

He will be the one to kill me. 

Of course, he is too young now. Only a child. Hair that shines like raven feathers in the sun and eyes that are as black and deep as ink pools. Eight-years-old. He won’t grow to be tall or exceptionally handsome. He’ll have to study hard with books, but he’ll learn the most by scratching down others’ stories and struggling to train himself. There’s not an ounce of magic in his bones, but he has grit and fire in his blood. 

He’s hardly the description of a knight who will one day slay the dragon, but maybe that is why I like him. 

Even now, he follows me towards the river. 

Eli wraps his hand around my wrinkled fingers. 

“Almost there, Auntie.” 

We walk past the city gates and down the forest trail. It is dusk, and wolf howls echo into the sky. Eli’s grip on my hand tightens.  

“Perhaps we should go back.” 

“No, child. We are almost to the river.” 

Before we can reach the banks, a wolf with luminous yellow eyes leaps in front of us. Eli screams. 

“Run child!” I cry, releasing his hand as the wolf sinks its teeth into my arm. Crimson blood falls to the forest floor. Eli is motionless, dumbfounded for a few seconds. The wolf growls and claws at my neck as Eli picks up a stick and tosses it at the beast, tears streaming down his face. 

The wolf rushes towards him, a black shadow of mangled fur, baring sharp teeth as yellow as the harvest moon. 

“Run!” I call out again, more weakly this time. Eli finally turns and flees. 

We watch him disappear down the forest path. The setting sun casts a red glow on the leaves. 

I peel back the skin on my arms, revealing my scales. The ancient wolf sits down beside me. His once arrogant head is bent low, and his eyes are dull with weariness. He does not even glance at the human flesh and blood I’ve shed beside him. 

“You know, he will kill you too,” I say. “You will die before me.”  

Eli would return as a young man to take vengeance for the death of Auntie Luka. Even now, he mourns his cowardice, though none blame him. He is only a child.  

The wolf blinks as if to disclose his indifference.  

I laugh. 

“I am tired too, old friend.” 

In ten years, Eli will return for the wolf, where he will almost lose an eye and receive a signature scar from his ear to chest. In another eight years, he will face the ancient bear of the north and the lion of the west. It will take another twenty years before he is ready to face me. 

I close my eyes and see myself dying. My scales fade and fall away, and my vision grows dim. Eli stands over me with a sword, once held defiantly against my chest, now fallen slack in his hand. A sad expression lines his face as he watches me bleed out. 

I will take many forms in Eli’s future: his departed mother, a beggar, a lost woman in the woods, an apothecary, and his lover. It is likely that I will lose my shapeshifting powers at my death, but I cannot be sure.  

His expression haunts me. What will he see me as when I die? 

I rise up to leave, and the wolf lays his head down on his paws and closes his eyes. He too longs for rest, to sleep beneath the soft brown earth, to forget time and forgive life. To finally be at peace. 

The wolf yawns and lets out a whining sound. He will try to rest, but he cannot sleep. None of us can sleep. 

The monsters of old, as they call us, once tried to rid the world of humans. We thought they were dangerous. But now, we want nothing more than to return to the earth who once summoned us to slay them.  

Mankind as a whole may be cancerous, but each individual is… peculiar. And their numbers grow so quickly. There will be no ridding the world of humans, so we will leave them to their devices and hope that they will not destroy what we have long watched over. 

My old friend opens a lazy eye towards me. He knows as well as I that we cannot simply lay down and die. If we are to leave the world to the humans, some of them must rise up to prove themselves. We will only depart at the hands of one bold enough to face us, and capable enough to defeat us in at least some of our might.  

It seems the humans are content to leave us weary and purposeless. They do not see the necessity to have a leader, to be brave, or to rid the earth of us, even as they take our land and suffer our wrath. So, I have chosen one from among them. Perhaps it is us ancient creatures who need a hero. Someone to finally give us peace. And we will have it, soon enough. 

He just needs a little more work. 

Photo by Ricardo Cruz  




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