Manaal Azhar is a fourth-year English major at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is also pursuing a History minor and a creative writing concentration. She enjoys writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry; though mostly poetry.
Follow her on Twitter @ManaalAzhar
Standing among sunflower, drenched in golden light
before the pale-faced lover guides a stolen daughter
into a bloodied underworld.
The heat of the sunlit woman burns the hands of the unknown man,
and he becomes known to her in a way
that could fix her deadly blight.
So she looks at the man that looks like twilight,
and they fall in love that very first night.
The man named Midnight begs to save her with a deal
before she fades into the wispy green field:
A part of the mortal garden forever,
or a bewitched queen for all of eternity?
To make a deal means to heal, so she gives up her sun,
and Midnight becomes a scourge that steals away her burn.
So she looks at the man that looks like twilight,
And they fall in love that very first night.
They travel in two separate canoes that merge
into the narrow river of nighttime,
and watch the dimly lit sky brighten and brighten.
An explosion of stars blind their path
until they reach their home under waves of black sea.
She looks at the man that looks like twilight,
And they fall in love that very first night.
But Midnight never admits his lie; he heals her,
though the sickness will return if she escapes.
Colourful lilacs and roses in bouquets are only hints of guilt;
forging fake paths to affirm a validity of a stolen love,
a stolen body, a stolen daughter.
She can only look at the man that looks like twilight,
And be in love since that very first night.
When they fight, they thunder at each other like
kings at battle; a war that leaves little stain of red,
but horrific revelations of a sick and twisted truth.
Belittling his beloved only ends in her misery,
And Midnight is exposed to be a falsity.
She looks at the man that looks like twilight,
And loses love, unlike that very first night.
Glistening burned hands yearn for sunflower seeds,
and the sunlit aroma of her mother’s warmth.
The beginning of a just hatred,
as pain enters the tired body of a stolen daughter.
An explosive realization pushes her back to life.
The man that looks like twilight,
Does not deserve her since that first night
A splitting of the pomegranate seed between death-stained teeth,
splattering red pouring rain onto the lilac, the daisy, and the pale rose;
The flowers die, sickened with distrust.
The young lover loses her sight,
and sees nothing but blood flowers surrounding a grave of love.
The man that looks like twilight
Gives up all hopes of love in the night
A rejection of the rules, and a hatred of the savior,
returns her to an earthy world.
She lays like Ophelia in the same canoe that took her,
and waits for her mother to hold her swooning body.
All the while holding her chest, where a red thread tugs her below.
And she can’t wait to thank her,
for being so patient with a childish endeavor,
and an adventure soon to be forgotten.
But she cannot help but remember
To die is to be reunited with Midnight once again.
The sound of rapid knocking fired through the house. I ran to the living room window and peaked through the curtains to see the gang was standing at my doorstep. I went over to the door and opened it wide with a smile on my face. “What took you so long, fuckers?”
The boys rushed inside, kicking off their shoes. Eddie kicked his dirty sneakers almost into the hall, Goose was barely getting his off, and James placed his by the door.
“Sorry it took so long, we saw another ‘Lost Animal Poster’ by the corner of Stone and King street,” James said with a shrug.
“Another one?” I said with shock. “That’s like the fifth one this month. First it was Maddie’s dog, then Paul’s dog, then Kathy’s cat and… Well I forget the rest but that’s kinda crazy.”
Eddie scoffed. “Whoever is kidnapping these animals is a genius, I think. Have you seen some of the rewards for them? 500$ for some stupid cat. It’s just a fucking cat.”
“What? You jealous that a cat is more loved than you, Eddie?” I said.
Eddie smirked. “Pfft, I know I’m loved, at least that’s what your mom said to me last night.” He held an off-white hand up to his mouth, stifling his giggles. His greasy hair stuck to his head like spaghetti to a wall. His dirt speckled cheeks puffed up as he smiled at me waiting for a response.
“That’s funny, cause I didn’t hear a thing last night.”
Eddie frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you have a small pecker,” James said coming up behind him, patting Eddie’s back with his massive hands.
Goose laughed at Eddie. His fat chubby cheeks bouncing like two little balls on his face. He pointed at Eddie with a sausage-like finger and said, “Pencil dick.”
Eddie scowled at him. “At least I can see my own dick,” he said and walked into the living room, as Goose and I trailed behind.
“I have a thyroid issue, okay?” Goose whined.
I looked to Goose and rolled my eyes. Leaning on the chair’s arm, I said, “Alright, so you ladies wanna play some ball or what? Cause I sure as hell didn’t invite you over to stare at your ugly mugs.”
James chuckled. “You got the bat? I got a ball.” He then looked to Goose. “We got the umpire.” Then he looked at Eddie. “And the outfielder.”
I nodded my head at the shoes. “Let’s see what you’re made of then.”
The boys ran and picked up their shoes. Eddie nearly knocked over Goose, probably on purpose. Goose fumbled for his pair and James grabbed both his and mine.
Running to the back of the house, I slid the patio door open as all of us rushed outside. Everything was already set up. The bases were mom’s furniture cushions, the scoreboard an old chalkboard we found on the sidewalk, and the pitcher’s dune was a sandbag. We all rushed to our positions – me at bat, James as pitcher, Eddie in outfield and Goose as the umpire.
I hit the bat at the ground. “Don’t throw like the old man you are, now.”
James smiled. “Don’t be a wimp and hit it, then.”
James cocked his hand while twisting his body, raising his leg up and threw the ball towards me with the hardest hand I’ve ever seen. Watching it fly towards me, I bit my lip and swung the bat, hitting the ball with a thunderous crack. With open mouths, more out of shock than amusement, we watched the ball soar into the sky, over the back fence into Mr. Wilkens backyard and crash into his garage window.
Nobody had to say anything, I knew I was fucked. I looked to the boys and their expressions said it all. I hit the ball so it’s my job to go and get it. I sighed. Out of all the places the ball could have gone it went into creepy Old Man Wilkens yard, not even his yard but into his garage, where it did damage that I would probably have to pay for.
“This is gonna be a whole month’s allowance to fix that window,” I said as I walked over to the fence, looking up at its looming figure. “James, boost me up.”
“I wouldn’t be worried about that, Billy. Old Man Wilkens is a fucking creep. Always lurking on his front porch, never going anywhere, never saying anything. He’s like a lawn ornament in the clearance section, ugly and unwanted.” James grunted and pushed me over the top.
Having never seen over the fence, what I imagined is not what I found. I jumped into Wilkens backyard to stand in what looked like a field of red flowers. They were all in narrow troughs running north to south. The flowers were so big and there were so many of them that you couldn’t see their stems. They spilled over the troughs like a steady flowing fountain but instead of water coming out it looked like blood. I walked through the aisles, trying not to step on the flowers while also keeping an eye out for Wilkens. When I got to the garage, I saw that the ball had made a fist-sized hole in the window next to the door. I turned the doorknob, but it was locked.
I looked over my shoulder to see if the boys had peaked over the fence, but they weren’t there. I looked back to the window and slid my hand through the hole, reaching for the lock on the door and twisting it. With a click, a smile appeared on my face. I slid my hand out of the hole and turned the doorknob again, turning it fully this time.
I opened the door slowly, trying not to make a sound that would alert anyone of my presence. I slipped in and closed the door, almost all the way. The garage was dark – really dark – except for a small beam of light that shone through the hole in the window. I saw that it was tinted with a black film. A fly flew into the side of my face. I swatted and missed.
“God, this place smells.”
I turned around and started to scan the floor for James’ ball. The floor was covered in a weird dirt with little white balls in it. It was so lumpy that I was tripping every other step as I waded into the garage. Another fly flew into my head. I smacked my forehead – hoping to have killed the bastard – but missed. I stumbled into a partial wall that hung from the ceiling with an opening at the bottom.
Bending down, I put my head to the floor. Blinking rapidly, I started to see a small white thing at the back. I moved my head slightly, trying to get the small amount of light to shine further into the garage, and there it was – the battered baseball. I got up and started to feel around the wall, looking for another door or an opening to get onto the other side. Finding a gap big enough for a child or a small man, I walked onto the other side with the ball in sight. Running over to grab the ball, I bent down and picked it up with a smile.
I held up the ball to admire my finding. My eyes caught onto something else. Along the makeshift wall, I could see small silhouettes hanging from the ceiling. Taking a step closer, the smell hit me like a brick wall. I dropped the ball and immediately held my hand up to my mouth trying not to puke. I coughed as I brought my shirt over my nose and mouth, stretching out my hand to figure out whatever it was hanging up in Old Man Wilkens’s garage.
Reaching out, I tried to touch the shape in the shadows but was too far from it. Taking a slight step closer, I extended my fingers as far as they could go. Still not feeling anything, I took a full step and my fingers jabbed into a stiff bag, making it sway. Reaching out with my other hand, I steadied the bag and began feeling it more. It was long and narrow, smelled like shit and was rough to touch. My hand was continuing up the bag when I heard a click, making my head snap behind me as the lights went on.
Old Man Wilkens was coming into his garage. The only thing separating us was another wall behind me. Listening to him whistle, I stood petrified with my hand still on the bag. Turning around, I realized that what I was touching was not a bag but a dried out dead cat, hanging from a butcher’s hook. I looked to the other silhouettes that I’d seen, eyes widening. These were all the missing animals from our neighbourhood.
Maddie’s dog, Sparky, hung upside down with a hook in its back legs, stretched into what looked like an uncomfortable position. Its fur was practically gone, and what remained was matted with blood. Its skin, a dark leathery colour, with its lips shrunken back so much it looked like it had a permanent smile. The once lovable poodle was now nothing but a dried-up relic of itself. I looked at the other animals hanging around me and that’s when I saw the buckets by the wall. They were a weird shiny black colour with thousands of flies swooping and diving around them. As I was about to take a step closer, I heard the jingle of keys on the other side of the door and backed up almost tripping on the baseball.
I bent down, grabbed the ball, and then ran to the gap in the wall. I looked behind me as I heard Old Man Wilkens put the key into the door. I darted for the other door, opening it wide and sprinting for the fence.
“Boys! Help me the fuck up!” I screamed as I ran from the garage. I didn’t care about the flowers anymore and trampled through them. I looked back to see if Wilkens was following me but tripped in the process. I fell face first into the flowers. When I looked up to see if Wilkens had found me, I saw something glistening out of the corner of my eye. It was a small rubber tube, stained red, leading from the garage to the troughs. My eyes traced the tube leading to the flower bed. I then looked to my hands and saw them stained a crimson red, just like the flowers.
Scrambling to get up, I kicked the flowers, grinding them into the dirt to get traction as I stood up and ran for the fence.
“Get me the fuck out of here!” I yelled.
I stepped on the trough’s edge and jumped onto the fence where a firm, hairy hand caught mine and pulled me over. I fell with a thud into my father’s lap, my worried mother over his one shoulder and my speechless friends over his other.
“Blood flowers! Blood flowers! Wilkens is killing animals and growing flowers!” I yelled.
“Calm down, you’re making no sense. Why are you covered in red paint?” Asked my mother.
“Open your fucking ears! Wilkens is killing the neighbourhood animals and draining their blood to grow his flowers. Look at his backyard. It’s covered in them.”
With a heave, my dad brought me to my feet by the collar of my shirt and dragged me into the house. “Don’t you dare talk to your mother like that.”
I turned around and looked at my friends who stood scared shitless, looking at the fence. “You guys gotta believe me!”
Before my father closed the door, I saw a scared look on James’ face as he bent down to pick up his baseball, which was now stained red.
Isabella Andrade is a recent graduate who has been contributing to Blueprint Magazine for four years.
A slow drizzle began, dusk less than an hour away. I trudged up the muddy laneway to the shoemaker’s cabin. It was so chilly already this October. It was no wonder they were dropping dead. I knocked on the door of the log cabin, and the shoemaker’s wife answered. Her face was lined with wrinkles and strands of gray hair fell out from her linen cap.
“At last, you’re here, Doctor!” she said, taking my sodden wool coat from me. “The fever struck last night, and he’s been feeling chills and pains all day. Can’t keep nothing in his stomach, neither.”
In the one-room cabin, a fire burned slowly in one wall, with roughly hewn wood furniture lining the other walls. The wife had decorated the cabin with salt on the windowsills and a bundle of rosemary hanging on the mantle. In the east corner, a small boy laid wrapped in quilts on a simple bed.
“Where is your husband?” I asked as she twisted her soiled apron.
“He went to fetch the priest,” she paused. “But if you’re here, maybe the priest ain’t necessary.”
I sighed deeply. The village priest was as busy as I was in those days. With every new afflicted diagnosis, there were more demanding final confessions, last rites, and funeral prayers. The fever sweeping through the village was deadly – unlike anything the villagers had seen before. When I came to this small farming community, I was expecting to care for the elderly, the pregnant women, the occasional amputation… I never expected a plague like this.
I used to practice in a port city, where fevers festered among us — brought in by sailors from the West Indies or Spain and propagated by the whores. At least in the port cities, people were rational thinkers, unlike these rural farmers. Even if my city folk understood fevers, they too would have never seen a fever like this.
Slowly, I took the boy’s chin in my hand and turned his cheek to face me. He did not stir, like all the other children stricken by the fever. The telltale sign of the disease was on his face: blood vessels engorged and twisted into rosettes that pulsed luminescent against his pale cheeks. It was not a pox. This fever – identifiable by red bruises that bloomed on the skin, like a blood flower – was ravaging the village and its most innocent inhabitants.
The shoemaker’s wife sat down at the end of the bed, and needlessly rearranged the blankets around her sleeping son. With reluctance, she turned her eyes away from her boy and looked at me. The flickering candles cast shadows on her face, deepening the stress lines that had permanently engraved themselves there.
“What do you think?” she asked. I knew no matter what I said to her, she would not accept the truth.
“The best you can do is make him comfortable,” I said calmly. “From what I have seen from the other children, the next few days will be… uncomfortable. I can give him something to ease the pain.”
The wife’s mouth was twisted. “It is a witch’s doing, ain’t it? I know which old hag it is, too. She sets a curse on the babes, makes them ill, and then, she snatches them in her old spider’s web and eats them up.”
“Woman, how outrageous! I am a man of science! No witches are out to harm your son and eat his soul. No human being could have caused this fever, that is simply not how it works.”
“Then how does it?” she cried. “How do all the children in the village, all of a sudden, fall sick with no good reason? It’s that old witch!”
I had no answer for her. Even with the advancements in medicine and European philosophy, I could not explain the cause behind the fever. No rational mind could.
Suddenly, the boy twisted and contorted his facial features. His mother hugged him to her breast. He heaved but nothing came up from his throat. As he spasmed and shook, I opened my leather bag and found a vial. I grabbed the boy’s chin, pinched his jaw to open his mouth, and let the amber liquid drip down his throat. After a few moments, he relaxed. Outside, dusk coloured the horizon. For once, I was thankful for the dim light for it obscured the unnerving sight of his pale face, stained by those blood flower bruises. I looked at the boy’s mother. “He will go tonight.”
“Will you stay?” she whispered.
“I will stay until your husband returns. There is nothing else I can do now.” I settled onto the stool and leaned back against the wall. She settled onto the bed and leaned back against the endlessness. There was no denying the last few weeks had been endless. Every night was like this; death after death after death. As my eyelids grew sore and heavy, three knocks pounded on the door.
I startled into alertness, as did the woman. Hesitantly, she removed the small piece of leather that covered the peephole and peeked through…
“Doctor,” she whispered, her voice wavering. “There ain’t no one there.”
With a gust, the door swept open and rocked on its hinges. A wild wind whipped through the cabin. The fire sputtered as rain blew in. The fierce wind knocked over the candles, the pewter goblets, the boxes on the shelves. Dishware fell from the cupboard and shattered on the ground. The only glass in the house, the precious windowpanes, cracked with an unearthly force.
“It’s the witch!” the shoemaker’s wife screamed over the sound of the wind.
“Nonsense!” I yelled. “It’s just a storm!” As the words left my lips, an eerie uneasiness pooled in my belly and I knew the three of us were no longer safe.
The boy started violently coughing, his chest heaving, and the red spots on his face throbbing. He yanked his shirt collar down as if to relieve some pressure that was choking him. Along his neck and clavicle, blood flowers blossomed within seconds, his small intricate blue veins looked like vines connecting the malefic florets. To my horror, I counted ten, in the exact alignment of where fingerprints would be, as though an invisible pair of hands strangled the boy.
“It’s the witch. She’s come. She’ll take his soul away and eat it up! Help us!” The woman whimpered. I scarcely heard her over the sound of the wind. I stepped to the entrance and with great difficulty, pushed against the overwhelming force and closed the door. I stepped back and it was as if something was heaving against the latch.
Lightning flashed through the cracks of the doorframe. A great shudder of wind and rain shook the wooden walls. A boom sounded on the other side of the gateway. One of the hinges snapped and detached itself from the wall. A second later, another boom cracked the other hinge. The door was only standing in the frame by balance but did not yet fall, a foreboding peculiarity given the wind raging outside. The thick door stood precariously, and I knew whatever — or whomever — was outside could now enter the cabin with just a push of their hand.
The woman wept and prayed incoherently. “It’s the witch! Doctor, do something. Save my baby!” She cried.
“Woman, do you hear yourself? There is no such thing as WITCHES!”
The wood groaned, and the door fell inward onto the cabin floor. A malicious silhouette stood in the doorway. The woman shrieked, “He’s my boy! He’s staying with me!”
A flash of lightning illuminated the doorway and in an instant, the silhouette disappeared. The wind stopped and the rain halted. I turned to the boy and he quit his coughing fit, blinking heavily but breathing easy.
Since that night in October, there were no new cases of the blood flower fever, but the town will always lament the loss of their children. Years later, as I reflect on the events of that Fall, I remind myself that I still have no rational explanation for the illness that plagued the town. I doubt I ever will.