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Genevieve Comar

Grade: 10

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Scott Parsons

And to Dust They Shall Return

Short Story

And to Dust They Shall Return

There was once a girl who longed more than anything to run fast as the eagle flies above and as smooth as polished marble beneath her stockinged feet. She longed for the strength and stamina necessary to succeed as a runner. Day after day, she pounded her feet on the beaten-down dirt trail. She knew every twist and turn, root and rut by heart. And still, no grand improvement came. Sure, her times decreased by a second or two. Her endurance went up. But it seemed as though she had hit her wall and her only hope was to find a way to knock it down.

One day, her mother suggested to her that she should try praying to God about it. It was sound advice, so the following Sunday, she stayed after Mass for Adoration. The girl made her way to a niche on the side of the church. An air of solemnity and piety, with a touch of pungent incense washed over her as she entered the delicate, candlelit sanctuary.

She knelt down on one of the soft leather kneelers, knees slipping perfectly into the two dips worn from the multitude of worshippers before her. Staring straight ahead, she rested her eyes on the monstrance. Gleaming spires burst from the center like rays of a liquid gold sun, burning from the center where the Eucharist dwelled. The girl folded her hands and began her prayers.

Nearby, an elderley grandmother slowly settled onto another kneeler, bones audibly creaking as her swollen knees almost gave out. The girl glanced at the distressed woman. "Babushka, do you need any help?" The woman's lacy veil fluttered as she turned her head, a blackbird longing to escape its confines. "Thank you, dear," the old woman replied, and grasped her arm tightly, "What could be troubling such a young one as you?"

Shame curled like suffocating smoke in the chambers of her heart. Surely this grandmother had much greater worries than her own petty desire to be faster. The girl was startled as the old woman suddenly grasped her chin with trembling, yellow-nailed fingers. "Don't be afraid to tell me, moja droga. Perhaps you long for a chłopak, or…"

"No! No, babushka, I'm not praying for a boyfriend! I just wish to be faster, that is all. I've been working so hard and I've not seen my times improve at all."

The old woman threw her head back and laughed a hearty chuckle. The girl's heart stuttered in fear as she caught a glimpse of sharp, elongated teeth in the gaping hole of her mouth.

"Might I trouble you for your name, dearest?" The witch inquired.

Her heart quickened at the thought of divulging her name, but she feared there were even greater consequences for refusing. "Of course, babushka. It's Irenka." She replied, fighting a nervous stutter.

"Well Irenka," the czarownica leaned in as if whispering a secret, "if this," she gestured to all the candles and grandeur surrounding them, "does not work out for you, come visit me and we'll see what I can do." She pressed a black and velvety ribbon into the girl's palm, before climbing to an upright position. The czarownica leaned heavily on her ivory cane, inlaid with sparkling gems and decorated with black inkings, as she ambled out of the sanctuary.

The following race after that fateful Sunday did not turn out in poor Irenka's favor. Her fervent prayers and zealous practicing did not come to fruition as she had hoped, and once again she let down her team, despite everyone else insisting that was not so. At Mass that Sunday, Irenka felt a familiar spike in her heart as she caught the eye of the czarownica who worshipped in a nearby pew. The witch winked at her, displaying her ghastly grin and inspiring a legion of invisible insects to scuttle up the girl's spine.

Irenka spent her time after the service in Adoration, just like the prior weekend. And just like the previous Sunday, the czarownica sidled up to Irenka, who was in the midst of earnest prayer, and questioned how the girl's race had gone. "I didn't improve at all, babushka," she wailed.

The old woman shook a liver-spotted, trembling finger at the girl, "What did I tell you?" She cackled, "Begging and prostrating yourself at this altar will do you no good, for He does not concern Himself with such pitiful and trivial matters. You must come to me. I have the means to find what you seek."

Years and years of catechesis told Irenka that this witch was surely wrong. Jesus concerned himself with everyone, no matter their troubles and choices! "Let the children come to me," He had said, when others told him not to bother. But...if that story were true, surely her desire would have already been fulfilled, wouldn't it? Irenka's two halves were warring, locked in an earnest battle. Thousands of years of Christian wisdom bore down on her. And yet. A whisper of shame and desperation coiled around her slender neck and yanked.

"Alright, babushka. I'll go."

And so, the czarownica and the girl traveled to the witch's cottage, where the old woman submerged the velvet ribbon in a font of herbs and other arcane substances. The ribbon, once black as an oil slick, bleached soft as the pure abalone white of a shell. The czarownica fastened it around the girl's pale neck and said to her, "Now, my moja droga, do not forget that it was I who bestowed this precious gift upon you. Now go! Go run your hardest and I assure you this ribbon will answer your prayer. Do not forget!" The girl thanked her and took her leave.

At Irenka's next race, she made sure to secure the alabaster ribbon around her throat before the race began. Doubt clouded her mind, but once the pistol sounded, she was off like a shot and quickly took place at the front of the pack, a shepherd leading her herd to safety. Irenka became afraid she would burn out, her muscles tired and strained from sprinting so hard, but the ribbon supplied steady energy to her legs and steady oxygen to her lungs. She remained at the head of the pack for the remainder of the race, and at the end, for once in her life, broke through the red tape first. She caught the eye of the czarownica in the cheering crowd and gave the witch a dazzling smile, bright enough to chase away any misgivings about accepting her help.

Once the girl had calmed her rapid breathing and quenched her thirst, a columnist from the local paper approached her, notepad in hand. "Irenka Lazarowicz, yes?" The girl nodded. "How does it feel to have finished first? Did you work with anyone to help achieve this accomplishment?"

Irenka was frozen, stiller than a forest that lies in wait . She could not tell about czarownica; they would think it dishonest and take away her oh-so-sweet victory. "I just prayed. God helped me push past my limits."

"Really? All you did was pray? Well it seems the good Lord has His hands over you, doesn't it?" She cried benevolently. Irenka could only nod along. "There was truly nothing else? What about that ribbon?" The columnist pried, pen at the ready.

"Oh, this?" She asked, fingering the gift anxiously, "It was...I found it in a shop and thought it might coordinate with our racing uniforms. I don't even like it very much" She desperately tried to throw the hungry reporter off the scent.

At once, the ribbon tightened around the girl's slender neck and began shrinking in on itself. Irenka clutched at her throat, thirsting for a sip of air as crops thirst for rain in drought. The reporter changed before her fearful eyes, becoming her true self, the bitter czarownica. The witch chortled as the girl struggled for air, crying out to the God she betrayed. The ribbon grew tighter as its pigment darkened black as pure obsidian, brimming with the life of poor Irenka. With a snap of the witch's fingers, the ribbon withered away to dust and the young girl fell limp against the ground.

Leaning forward, the witch stared into the girl's lifeless eyes and gently closed them. The czarownica cackled, "You brought this upon yourself, you greedy, ungrateful little suka." And then she too, withered away to dust.

Notes:

babushka→ grandmother

czarownica→ witch

moja droga→ my dear

chłopak→ boyfriend

Adoration: a type of prayer in catholicism that involves adoring/praying to the eucharist which is displayed on the altar


Hand of God

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Hand of God

Inspired by Through the Same Colors by Joseph Richmond

The darkness is closing in, and I do not know how to stop it.

I am helpless, vulnerable, and alone, stranded at the top of a ridge surrounded by so many valleys.

One false step, and like the pitter-patter scatter of pebbles tumbling down a

cliffside

so will I go.

I dance around the rocks, avoiding the stones that could take hold of my ankles and never let go. A silent cry for help; I can't even fathom how far I might fall, deep deep down into the waiting jaws of the darkness below. Waiting, a promise in the pitch black of night that when I fall, I will never stand up again. The fear curls dark inside me at the thought of that perilous end.

I can feel my heart fluttering, steady and insisting that I go on, keep living despite this pointless existence. We all know how this ends. No matter how long or hard I try to keep from tripping, I'll eventually lose my footing and fall. Pounding my palm heavy on my chest I urge it to go faster, faster. Will it to beat so fast, I am flung into oblivion before the darkness can take me first. What would it be like there? In that oblivion? Sweet, comforting, wrapped tightly in the embrace of nothing at all...

Stop.

What are you doing?

I don't know.

I don't know. I don't know I don't know I don't know why or how or anything at all.

I can't control it. I do not know why. I just want to be back. Better. Okay. Back off the ledge. Safe in the valley, surrounded by my family.

But my feet are cemented in reality.

Waves of inky darkness crash in, roiling over top another like silver dolphins weaving through the water. A wonderful dance but deadly too, to anyone who does not know it.

The black rises, so high it blocks out the sun. The last of the light.

Shadows slip over me, whispers caressing my skin with trailing fingers. This ridge of mine, so dark I can no longer even see the drop. For all I know I am millimeters from plunging to death, and oddly, I feel nothing. Perhaps it is poison, reaching the depths of my consciousness or I truly do desire to fling myself into oblivion

I do not know.

A scrape, a stumble. My feet slip against the rough rock of this ridge. If I listen close enough, I can hear the echo of pebbles scattering into the dark void. A spike of adrenaline stabs my heart, spreading throughout my body. A thousand millenniums worth of instinct kicking in. I dance away from the edge

And in one wrong step

My foot, thrust out to bring me farther from the edge

meets only air

And for that brief moment, time slows down. I cannot see, yet suddenly everything is shining with clarity. And I know in my heart, I finally know

I do not want to end.

My voice cracks, jaw unhinged and letting out a scream, tearing my throat raw and aching. My clothes slap against my skin and I stretch. I stretch and reach and yearn and pray and beg and grovel and hope because dammit I do not want to end this is not the way I will go out I am meant for more I need to be here longer—

GOD PLEASE LET ME LIVE.

And then my fingers brush it.

I barely catch onto its rough surface, tearing my nails and fingertips, wearing them away to bone. Bloody, slippery, raw and alive I cling to this lifeline. A hand reaching in the darkness, a beacon of life. My heart is pounding and my head is aching. Tears track rivers down my cheeks and my right arm is throbbing, bearing the weight of my entire body and so much more, but by some miracle, I am alive.

I claw up the branch, the hand from God that saved me, determined. Collapse onto the ledge and shaking from exhaustion and emotion and fear, I wrench my wretched eyes open.

The world is exploding.

The darkness, the inky black I could not fathom, it is gone. Chased into corners, banished to the shadows and in its place I see everything. The raw and contradictory and fierce beauty of the earthy green cliffs surrounding me, glowing in the light of the yellow sun. Rays like rivers of gold flow from the sky, a cerulean painting with wispy clouds like cotton candy trailing across the horizon.

The earth is raw and jagged, alive with colors I yearn to comprehend. Sharp and twisted blending into smooth peaks and curved valleys. Moulding, folding, growing into shapes and shrinking into space. It is a masterpiece.

My heart is pounding ferociously and I feel its rhythm all the way to my fingers. Coated in a slick layer of scarlet, the droplets carve through my roughed skin leaving white bone and blue fingertips behind.

But I don't feel pain and I do not care. Instead, I bask in the dazzling glory of this world born anew and I feel inside of me, a slow shift, grinding like rusty old gears until finally locking into place.

I am not alone. Through the unfathomable and the dazzling, and every shade in between, I have a guide ready to catch me should I ever fall again.


Rain and Sweat and Dust

Poetry

Rain and Sweat and Dust

Rain mixed with sweat mixed with
The stuff that is born of thousands of hours
Day after day
Year after year of pounding, grounding, pushing our legs
Our sinewy muscles that
bend/contract
straighten/relax
Hundreds of times per minute off the ground
and BRACE for impact

The muscles in our calves aching
our quads screaming
our lungs scraped raw of air and life
yet

Somehow our entire being is alive
teeming, breathing, spilling over into an endless repetition of
right-then-left-breath
right-then-left-breath.

Rain mixed with sweat mixed with
Spattered mud carving
dark trails through our skin,
ribbons of pain weaving over-under, around and through our legs
dancing up to our arms
skipping across collar bones and
severed airways
until it wreathes our entire bodies in
f l i c k e r i n g
fire stretching from the before:

anticipation.

To the after: hot shock of ice applied to
trembling joints and tattered muscles.

Rain mixed with sweat mixed with
steel-eyed determination
All too soon the only fuel left for our bodies,
no ATP fed through intricate,
intrinsic cycles only the lactic acid feeding our oxygen starved muscles and
punching fist-sized craters into our sides as we
somehow manage one more foot in front of the other

just one more again and again until somehow
someway the impossible occurs and that one more becomes the
this is it, all you've got left
and some unknown reservoir of energy becomes known to you and
your legs turn faster
expanding and contracting
lungs screaming
entire body a whole universe of pain and ache
of determination
of blood staining the back of your throat
of eyes squinted

zeroed in on that final destination, and then its

over.
You crossed the line and you're no longer running
but you are.
Your mind is lost in that race
that run and it's only when the
begging pleas of your exhausted body become too LOUD to ignore do you
focus on yourself as the rain
mixed with sweat streaks down your face and burns your watery eyes
dribbles into your sticky
cottonmouth that is somehow cracked into a brilliant, blinding grin
even amongst the red arrows of pain because
despite all of it, you love this sport.

You love what you do to yourself over and over
day after day
each footfall splintering our bones just a little bit more until all that is left is
steel-eyed determination
mixed with rain and sweat and dust.


A Journey of Faith

Critical Essay

A Journey of Faith

Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester are perhaps one of the most infamous couples in literary history. Their story of angst, longing, love, and separation resonated in the hearts of many readers. However, their relationship was not perfect. They had to overcome many obstacles to end up with a happily ever after, one of them being each other. Throughout Jane's time at Thornfield, she becomes increasingly dependent on Rochester for fulfillment and happiness, to the point where he becomes her idol. This is not healthy, nor condoned in the Christian faith. It is only when Jane and Rochester stop being each other's gods and instead let the real God into their lives, that they are able to be truly happy with one another.

In the beginning of the relationship, Jane idolizes Rochester, using him alone to fulfill her. After many months of playing hot and cold with each other, Jane is proposed to. She accepts, then going on to say, "My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol" (Bronte 316). Jane reflects and can tell that her infatuation was unhealthy. She admits that God was not a part of her life then, and she attempted to fill the empty space left behind with Rochester. She holds him in a godly regard and in her desperation for fulfillment, she makes him her "hope of heaven". For Christians, it is not an earthly man (or woman) that is the way to heaven, it is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who bridges the gap between man and God. It is only through Him that one can live a fulfilled life, only through Him that they can reach everlasting life in heaven. By Jane making Rochester her hope of heaven, she is turning away from her faith and trying to become complete through a man who cannot alone satisfy her. Instead, he becomes an obstacle standing between Jane and happiness, which is likened to how "the eclipse intervened between man and the broad sun". The quotation illustrates how Jane is the man, and God is the sun (or Son), and Rochester is the eclipse blocking all light from reaching Jane and casting upon her a shadow of darkness. Rochester is not her ticket to happiness, to everlasting life. God is, but she still needs time to realize it.

Similarly, Rochester also views Jane as his salvation, which is another barrier to them having a healthy relationship. It is only when he experiences the threat of her leaving does he realize how much he depended on her for redemption:

"After a youth and manhood passed half in unutterable misery and half in dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one" (Bronte 363).

Rochester attempts to fill the hole left by a life of "unutterable misery" and "dreary solitude" not with God, but with an unhealthy obsession of Jane who now bears the unbearable burden of being someone's only happiness. Tying a single person to one's entire world of happiness is impossible for a single soul to sustain. The only person who is capable of doing so is God, and at that point in time, God is not a part of Mr. Rochester's life. Mr. Rochester also continues with the motif of comparing Jane to an angel. She is his "good angel", his guardian angel, the one who fights for and protects him. The one who supposedly saves him, as angels are often connotated with salvation. He reiterates similar ideas earlier in the book, when he proposes to her as well: "Ten years since, I flew through Europe half mad; with disgust, hate, and rage as my companions: now shall revisit it healed and cleansed, with a very angel as my comforter" (Bronte 300). Once again, Rochester is leaning on Jane for emotional stability. She is attributed with cleansing him of disgust, rage, and hate, of all negative feelings. According to him, Jane is the only reason he is not "half-mad" anymore, and it is a lot of responsibility for her to bear. Jane is seen as the angel, as his salvation, rather than God, which keeps them from having a healthy relationship. Both Jane and Rochester have the habit of making each other their sole happiness and try to use each other to fill fathomless holes in their hearts.

Jane rediscovers God when Rochester betrays her. It is the morning after the "wedding" and Jane is distraught, saying, "One idea only still throbbed life-like within me—a remembrance of God: it begot an unuttered prayer: these words went wandering up and down in my rayless mind, as something that should be whispered, but no energy was found to express them—"Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help."It was near: and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it—as I had neither joined my hands, nor bent my knees, nor moved my lips—it came: in full heavy swing the torrent poured over me. The whole consciousness of my life lorn, my love lost, my hope quenched, my faith death-struck, swayed full and mighty above me in one sullen mass. That bitter hour cannot be described: in truth, "the waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing; I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me'" (Bronte 342). Jane realizes God's presence is there and that He will carry her through the deep water. Everything else inside of her is effectively dead except for an idea, a "remembrance of God". This tiny, flickering flame of an idea is enough to light her "rayless mind". The idea grows, and words form in her mouth, and she calls on God saying, "Be not far from me". In her darkest hour, it was not Mr. Rochester, her idol and "hope from heaven" that walked with her and pulled her through, it was God. Jane is overwhelmed by the betrayal and all that has happened. She experiences a moment of clarity where she comprehends all that she's lost: her love, her hope, and her faith. It is in that moment when Jane feels she is drowning in the "torrent" and has entered the deep waters that her faith is restored and she can share her burden with God, who is strong enough to bear the burdens of the whole world.

After being separated for some time, Rochester finally gives God control over his life, and it is only then that his life comes together.. He explains his revelation to him saying, "Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now" (Bronte 514). Everyone thought of Rochester as godless, faithless, but he experienced something that made him certain of God's existence. His heart now "swells" with love and thankfulness for God. He passed through the "valley of the shadow of death" (Bronte 514), a phrase that is commonly quoted from the Bible to represent someone's darkest hours, where there is no light to be found, only death and shadows. He was forced through emotional torment when Jane left him, and then it only grew darker, the shadows longer, when he lost his sight and his hand. Rochester mentions how much this loss affects him: " You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance" (Bronte 514). Only when Rochester was wading through darkness blind, maimed, and broken-hearted, did he realize that he is not a god, that he is not capable of walking through life with only himself to lean on. He handed control to God and began following the path that God was guiding him towards. And it is when he does this, his life begins to change: "I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere" (Bronte 514). Rochester realizes that Jane's leaving, that the fire, was God trying to get his attention and letting him know that the path that he was headed towards, filled with bigamy and relentless sin, was not right. God thaws Rochester's heart in ways Jane never could; he finally feels remorse and repentance for his actions. They were no longer quite justified in his mind and he wished to reconcile with God, to confess his sins and then be forgiven. He began to pray, finally reaching towards someone else besides Jane to fulfill him and make him whole once more.

It is only when Jane brings her and Rochester's relationship to God that they end up coming back together. Once again, Jane does this quite early on in their separation. She is stranded on the moors, looking to the heavens in desperation, thinking, " I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Saviour of spirits. Mr. Rochester was safe: he was God's, and by God would he be guarded" (Bronte 373). At this moment, Jane was deposited in the middle of nowhere, with no money or food, and it is not herself that she prays for in this moment, but for Rochester, who is safe, warm, and fed at Thornfield. She still loves Mr. Rochester. She is not so heartless as to abandon him and never give him another thought, instead, she finds God's presence in the moors and offers a prayer up for him. She finds peace through the knowledge that Rochester is safe and is one of the souls that God treasures. Christians believe that when they die, they will go to heaven to be with God eternally, and Jane is comforted by this. She believed that Rochester was safe, that he would be alright because he was one of God's children, and therefore be protected from evil. And if evil were to befall him, God would be there to walk with him through the darkness as he had and was doing with Jane. She feels the "might and strength of God" (Bronte 373) and is at peace knowing that whatever happens to her or Rochester, God would be there. When everyone else had abandoned and betrayed her, when he was completely alone in the world, she turned to God, and God was there to comfort her.

Although Rochester is reluctant, once he turns to God, he ends up happier than before. He finally acknowledges his pain for Jane and brings it to God months after Jane does, crying out, "I longed for thee both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss and peace once more. That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged..." (Bronte 515). Jane is all that Rochester wants, so much so that he is willing to admit his great pain to God, who he has been reluctant to open up to. The great Edward Rochester humbles (!) himself before God, he who has held himself in the highest esteem and above the rest of his species since he was thought into existence. He admits to anguish, to agony, to hurting to the God who knew every inch of soul and his life: his sins of adultery and taking mistresses, to the courage he displayed trying to save Bertha Rochester from the fire. He acknowledges it all, and accepts the consequences of his actions, of Jane leaving, of the fire, of his disabilities. And then he cries out to God, "Jane! Jane! Jane!" (Bronte 515), and miraculously, Jane, who is hundreds of miles away, hears him and begins the journey back to him. God heard his prayers and answered him. Mr. Rochester had truly become sorry for his sins, which allowed God to let Jane back into his life. It was only after Rochester brought his pain for Jane to God, that they were finally reunited.

Jane and Rochester both experience journeys that not only allow them to grow as people but to grow in their faith. Although they start off on different paths, they eventually lead back to one another. They are able to truly love each other, for the first time, without any lies or fake wives standing between them. Through this journey of faith, Bronte evinces how relationships between people who place their fulfillment entirely in each other often fail. It is only when one places their happiness in God's hands that relationships are able to thrive.