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The Underground - Spring 2011

The Underground Spring 2011
Beautiful (Front Cover Photograph) by Jaime Soto
Hi (Photograph) by Sr. Margaret Egan......................................................... 2
The Big L (Poem) by Valerie A. Gruber....................................................... 3
Cinderella (Poem) by Veronica Matta........................................................... 4
That Was Enough (Short Story) by Leah Munch.......................................... 5
The Hudson (Photograph) by Lauren Rooney.............................................. 6
Blinking (Poem) by Ariel Pimentel................................................................ 6
Rain Drops (Poem) by Derek Valance.......................................................... 7
DemocracY(?) (Poem) by Matt Klingbeil...................................................... 8
Untitled (Photograph) by Juan Ramirez........................................................ 9
Papasito (Short Story) by Melanie Martinez................................................. 10
For Love (Photograph) by Sr. Margaret Egan.............................................. 13
Beautiful (Poem) by Cavan Valance............................................................. 14
Nightmares (Poem) by Selin Kilic................................................................ 15
Untitled (Photograph) by Samantha Bula..................................................... 15
Poetic Madness Part II (Poem) by Ryan Downey........................................ 16
Various Poetry by Chavy Delgado.............................................................. 16
The Big Picture, With Its Mosaic of Small Details (Poem) by Andy Compere 17
The Words of Mr. Perfect (Poem) by Michael Velez.................................... 18
You Know Who (Poem) by Shirley SanAndres............................................ 19
The Dead Below (Short Story) by Christine Westphal.................................. 20
Better (Photograph) by Lucille Marcello....................................................... 23
Untitled (Back Cover Photograph) by Melanie Martinez

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Cinderella
By Veronica Matta

The clock ticks, steadily, loudly,
As I wait for the cursed hour which will be my end:
Once again, to be nothing but a scullery maid,
With only the rats as my companions,
Only the rats—and an old grandmother—to witness my
Hear my prayers, know my needs, and love me.
O prince, do you love me only because my hair is shini
My cheeks are rouged, my lips are painted
My dress of the finest silk and my shoes of crystal?
Would you love me still
When I am dressed in rags,
My hair shorn crudely,
My face covered in soot like my namesake?
Will you love me when this silver illusion fades,
And you find I am but a servant girl?
Will you love me when you see my garret?
The cold night air and the rain leak through the holes.
The mice are not friendly.
I have no bed, but sleep on the cold, bare floor.
Would you love me then?
Now, the clock tolls;
Listen to it chime.
It strikes to twelve this time.
So, my prince, do you still love me?

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That Was Enough
By Leah Munch

She threw the flowers down. The fresh earth was scattered freely over the granite and through the overgrown weeds. He wasn’t worth it. It was another wasted $8.25 anyway. She could have bought that second pack of cigarettes for the week instead of that small flower arrangement.

She wasn’t mourning, not for him. She couldn’t even remember him. She would try repeatedly to fill her mind with non-existent memories in an attempt to replenish the void. He was never there. The only memories she could summon were of embarrassment and disappointment. She was pretty sure his eyes were blue, like hers. Or maybe they were bloodshot; how could she be sure? She spent more time hiding her own eyes from his rather than looking at him. It was too late to check now anyway.

A familiar memory flooded her mind and she saw a blurred pair of brown eyes looking back at her from the front seat of a car. She could feel the innocence of a child and was frightened.

“…Mom?” she said as she woke up from a nap. She was in the backseat of her father’s car, but she knew she wasn’t supposed to be there.

“Oh!” the girlish voice whined out from the front passenger seat, “I’m not your mom, sweetie.  You’ll see her soon.” The girl watched the young, blonde woman kiss her father passionately and leave the car. This was a memory she was not supposed to remember. How stupid her father was to think she couldn’t have the capacity to recognize another woman at the age of four.

Well, he was wrong. She remembered more than the women. She remembered his lies, his broken promises and the empty glass bottles. She relived the memory when she opened the bottom drawer of his file cabinet. She wandered into the family office, skipping over the forest green shaggy rug. Then, unaware, she slid the drawer out. The sound of the thick, empty glass clanking together rang through her ears. Nothing like a slap in the face for finding a secret stash of at least ten twenty-five ounce bottles of Jack, empty in the office. She had been so ashamed, but so confused as to why. The drawer wasn’t locked and the bottles were exposed. She did nothing wrong, but wondered why he couldn’t just throw the bottles away. She could still feel the sting.

Jack Daniels was his drink of choice. The Tennessee whiskey always ran smoothly down his throat, or down the front of his face. What a slob. He’d waste away on that bottle, sucking it dry. He remained faithful to its black label. She could still smell the remnants of the putrid, stale alcohol off of his breath. He would sweat and shake when he spoke, hiding behind slurs and cowardly mumbles. It was Jack she blamed for the dissolution of her family. The drinking was enough.

She remembered packing. It was a Friday afternoon, the last day she would be privileged enough to walk home from school. The two block walk extended from a casual five to twenty minutes. She cherished every last step, dragging her heels against the rough sidewalk. Her mom was yelling at her from the yard, shoving boxes into the moving truck. She continued the dreaded walk up the driveway knowing she would face the boxes inside. As she entered the house, she felt lost. It was completely packed up.  There were boxes everywhere. They were stacked one on top of the other, overflowing with miscellaneous household items. The smell of fresh cardboard lingered in the air. She shrugged up to her room gripping onto the railing she would soon forget, she told herself.  She turned the knob and pushed her door open. The smell of cardboard was even stronger now and the realization was shocking. Her entire life as she knew it was packed away in the orange and tan U-Haul moving truck. She couldn’t stop it.

It was inevitable she was back here. It had been years since she last saw him and even in the final days he was pale, bloated and swollen. Still, she found herself here, year after year, with something deep inside her pulling her back to this same spot. Why did she waste her time cowering alone, staring at a stone? If it had an animate ability it would choose to not stare back.

Tired of not being able to let go, she stood up next to the grave. Inscribed under the name read “Beloved Husband and Father.” She laughed.  He was neither. She wished it could have read “Coward” instead. He wasn’t even worth the title forever etched into a pointless rock.
Tired of not being able to let go, she stood up next to the grave. Inscribed under the name read “Beloved Husband and Father.” She laughed.  He was neither. She wished it could have read “Coward” instead. He wasn’t even worth the title forever etched into a pointless rock.

“I hate you,” she whispered into the dead air.

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Various Poetry
By Chavy Delgado

Truth, Fact, and Opinion
Truth: Perfect can be made, perfect can be copied, imitated. You are human, you are not perfect, you are what you are. You are amazing, beautiful, and unique. You will never know that.
Fact: Truth is, it’s all opinion.
Opinion: That is your own, my opinion is fact.

Words
Words are god. We do not realize that words can build and destroy, not only beings, but whole civilizations. We are a perfectly horrible creature and we destroy anything beautiful and majestic. That is our job, and we are good at it.
‘What is left of our purity?’ You ask me.
None of it ever left, I respond.

You and Your Youth
There is an importance to youth and thankfully it is eternal, but eternity has loopholes, and we are the ones who discovered the loopholes. We are the only creature given the ability to destroy eternity, and we also do so. We are stupid and ignorant, and most of all, perfect and Beautiful.

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The Dead Below
By Christine Westphal 

Against the sunset over New Jersey’s eastern border, the snow reminded her of ash. Eva watched it fall from one of the lounge’s barstools, where she had been perched since the early afternoon, nearly motionless. She was afraid to move very much; every time she tried, her nerves, ligaments, and tendons would tighten, would lock themselves up within her body, knowing that at any moment they might be exposed, ripped out, destroyed. Sensing her tension, Mr. Simmons had mixed her a gin and tonic—more gin than tonic—no ice, and a big, bitter lime. Eva didn’t want it—she had only ever tried a few sips of wine before. She faked a smile for her favorite teacher’s sake even though her stomach was so empty, all she wanted was food. She had sucked on the lime for a few seconds before dropping it back into the drink, disgusted. Now, hours later, the tattered fruit remained floating on the undrunk liquor as still as she was.

She tried to focus on the snow to white out her mind, to keep it blank, free of fear. But it was hard to ignore the constant sobbing, that low-pitched moaning, growling, screaming, endless banging on the other side of the door, the fear on the faces of her classmates and other survivors as they paced over and over between the bar and the glass wall window, obstructing her view, and the persistent sobbing of the middle-aged woman now sitting just a few barstools away. For most of the morning Eva had watched the woman cry uncontrollably, a messy, snotty cry, her entire body leaning near collapse over against one section of the glass wall. She’d been noticeably shaking, her fur coat bouncing up and down on her back like it still had some life in it. Eventually, Eva had watched her turn away from the window, leaving a ghostly impression of her breath and tears against it, and she had shuffled slowly towards the bar, fur pulled up over her nose and mouth, her bulging, makeup-stained eyes peering out through her bangs over her coat’s collar. She shook with sobs as she poured herself a glass of straight Jack before throwing her frail body onto the farthest stool from Eva. The woman had remained there ever since, and now Eva watched her as she held her fallen forehead, her short, choppy hair hanging like a veil over her eyes, yet unable to obscure Eva’s vision of tear after tear dripping into the empty glass.

Sighing anxiously, Eva looked around again for Aiden. She found him in the same place he’d been for hours now, standing guard by the barricaded door with a revolver gripped tightly in his palm. Sometime during the attack, Aiden had grabbed the gun off a fallen cop, and now he was one of only six with a weapon. Each of them was standing guard by the door—the only entrance into the concierge lounge besides the elevator, which the survivors had discovered was out-of-service, stuck hanging in place at the lounge, at the very top floor. The people with guns and knives and lead pipes—the people in charge—decided to barricade the door with some of the heavier tables and chairs in the room. They stood in front of their makeshift barrier calm as cattle, as if their guts and their guns weren’t the only things standing in between the living above and the cannibals below.

There were probably hundreds of them waiting impatiently behind that door, but Aiden didn’t look scared at all, and for a moment Eva envied him. But she would never want to be the one in charge of protecting all these people—she could hardly protect herself. Eva wondered why, after everything she had been through since the night before, after all of the blood she had seen spilt, some of it splattered across her very own dress, she still cared and worried so much for a boy she should despise. Why wouldn’t he look at her? Even now, after everything had changed, he couldn’t so much as spare a glance, couldn’t show any indication that he cared whether she was alive or dead. It was clear from the way he ignored her, from the way he hadn’t even approached her to see if she was okay, he felt nothing for her besides indifference. Yet—she found a strange sort of comfort in counting his face among the living.

She wanted to watch the snow fall over her native state where she longed so badly to be at the moment, but she couldn’t settle her eyes on it with all of these people walking aimlessly, shaking like weakened leaves, back and forth and back and forth across her view of the window. She willed her body to break Medusa’s curse and, hopping off the stool, managed to put one heavy foot in front of the other until she reached the wall of glass. Grazing dry eyes across the quickly reddening horizon, Eva pressed her forehead and the tip of her nose against the window. As she wondered why the fates were so cruel to her, separating her so remotely from her home and her family at a time like this, she realized the unsettling beauty of the Hudson River, its stagnancy reflecting a bright, almost blinding light from underneath the growing darkness of the sunset. Her eyes scanned the Jersey coastline. She tried to approximate where Monroeville might be, where her mother and brother and sister might be safe, might be in danger, might already be tearing each other to shreds. She felt her throat close up, and tears began to form at the thought. She closed her eyes to stop them, and cursed herself for the billionth time for going on this stupid trip to the city in the first place. She hadn’t even really wanted to go; she had absolutely no interest in seeing Broadway’s revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night; reading it had been depressing enough. But Mr. Simmons had pleaded with her to come, and once she found out Aiden would be also going, she decided to suck it up and participate in the field trip. Her convoluted mind churned up unrealistic scenarios, fantasies—maybe Aiden would sit next to her on the bus or in the theatre. Maybe he would pull her to the side, kiss her, apologize. Maybe she would forgive him. Maybe everything would be alright…

None of that had happened, of course. He had ignored her and avoided her throughout the entire day, even through all of last night’s catastrophes. And now, as the living waited for… nothing, she guessed—in the concierge lounge on the top floor of the Marriott Marquis where they had fled last night for refuge, he was still ignoring her, and she was still thinking about him, constantly, without reason. He was gnawing away at her mind painfully, little by little, like she had seen that little girl do to that old man’s brain the night before.

When she opened her eyes again, she found her focus had shifted from her home across the river to the dirty snow descending right outside the window, inches from her face. She followed it as it fell from the dead sky, down, down, until her eyes reached the city streets for the first time. Her heart stopped, and her breath caught in her throat.

The dead below were swarming. Cold corpses filled midtown to the brim and spilled over, biting and clawing and crawling all over each other in a blood-soaked crowd a dozen times denser than the New Year’s celebration, which had only occurred the week before. All the flesh, the pulp, some warm, some cold, and all stained, fell and was festering upon itself in an indistinguishable mass of undead and unliving. Eva couldn’t understand how all of this had happened so fast… This time last night, she had been yawning in her seat at the theatre as the Tyrones took turns lamenting the loss of their beloved Mary’s sanity. And now… The unrelenting carnage overwhelmed her; she couldn’t bear to look at it for very long. She lifted her eyes, wide with terror, to the figures on the roofs of some of the buildings across the street. Those people were still alive, she could tell, even though all she could see were their shadows. Some huddled together in the middles of the buildings, while others stood on the edges looking down. Eva thought she saw a rifle in one of their hands. None of them were moving, until one caught her eye. The figure stood up from his place in the center of the roof, walked slowly to the edge of the building, looked down, and jumped.

As he fell, Eva gasped, but could not turn away. She watched the body fall, fall, slowly, like it was floating for a moment, before it crashed head-on into the corpses. The collision caused a ripple effect throughout the swarm as the monsters saw and smelt the fresh food, and the ones lucky enough to be near the fleshy meal dragged it down beneath them like an undertow.

Bang – like a gunshot across the lounge, Eva heard – before she saw – the collapse. It was followed immediately by piercing screams, and she snapped her neck around just in time to witness the fall of the barricade of chairs and tables as the door to the staircase was destroyed, and finally, in rushed a hoard of the hungry dead.

As they poured into the room, fast like a flood, rushing into the pop pop pop of the protectors’ futile gunshots, Eva’s first instinct was to hide, to cower in fear. But as she saw one of them grab Aiden from behind, something inexplicable, unreasonable inside her went against every ounce of will her mind possessed, and she sprinted as fast as she could towards the massacre, screaming her ex-boyfriend’s name. She narrowly avoided being ravaged by the monsters as she made her way over to him. He was collapsed on the ground, one of them gnawing at his legs, another tearing apart his left arm. The hand gun had fallen to the ground, so she snatched it up and shot them both fast—one in the neck, the other in the head. She had never fired a gun before, and it scared her how easy it was. She shot a few more before dragging Aiden’s body as fast as she could towards the elevator door. He felt surprisingly light to her as the adrenaline surged in her veins.

Most of the monsters were preoccupied with the dozens of other living humans in the room, but some of them advanced towards Eva and her ex-lover. She mashed the elevator button quickly until the door opened, and she dragged Aiden in, hit Door Close, and lifted the revolver to the faces of the quickly approaching half-human creatures. Eva saw Whisky Woman’s fur coat undulating across the waves of the dead. Her heart sank as she realized one of them was the former Mr. Simmons. He had transformed into a beast in a matter of moments—his skin was yellowed, stretched tight over his face and an exposed, bloody cheekbone. His mouth was hanging open in a perpetual growl, his formerly pearly white teeth appeared decayed and misaligned. And his eyes… they were reduced to sunken sockets, his irises once beautiful and blue now burning red and lifeless. He no longer recognized her, Eva could tell. She could see the bite wound on his neck dripping. He lurched at her as the elevator door was about to close, and through the narrowing gap, Eva shot him in the skull.

The door shut on the bloodbath just in time, and Eva pressed the “stop” button to lock herself and Aiden inside. She looked down at him and really took in his wounds for the first time—his legs were a bloody, tangled mass, and half of his left arm was missing. The bone was exposed, and the blood pouring out of him was forming a dark pool. He appeared to be unconscious. Eva got down next to him, cradled his head in her arms, and smacked him lightly on the face a few times.

“Aiden! Aiden! Please wake up… oh God, please wake up,” she sobbed. His head lolled back and forth and he moaned, opening his dark brown eyes slightly and looking up at her. He hadn’t changed yet. But when he looked into her eyes, Eva saw no fear in them, no life either. She saw nothing in them at all. They closed again, but she knew it wasn’t for the last time.

Eva could barely see through her tears as she lowered his head onto the floor, and crawled backwards into the opposite corner of the elevator, still clutching the gun tight. All she could hear were the growls of the monsters outside, and the screams of those they hadn’t yet devoured. She shook with her sobs as she held the revolver in Aiden’s direction, aiming at his head, her finger twitching on the trigger. She watched as his skin slowly started losing pigment, as the flesh around his eyes began to darken and sink. She wasn’t ready.

Aiden’s eyes shot open, no longer brown, but bloodshot. And angry. He was ravenous, and she knew what that meant. His neck snapped in her direction, his nostrils flared, and their eyes met once again. But this time, Aiden was not indifferent. He was starving.
His legs now useless, he began to drag his body towards her with his one good arm. He sneered at her, growling, drooling—a savage and murderous animal. Eva’s hand would not stop shaking as she fingered the trigger, trying to pull it several times, but she felt suddenly too weak. Closer he crawled, and closer, closer. He reached, and grabbed her by the neck. She dropped the gun.

Aiden sank his teeth in, and Eva, overtaken with bliss, faded to black.

He ravaged every last organ.

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