Welcome to our eighty-seventh issue of Atlantis: A Creative Magazine!
It feels a bit strange to be at the helm of a literary magazine. I’ve been working for literary magazines for five years now, but I never imagined being the Big Boss. It is both terrifying and exhilarating to be in charge of a publication with such a long legacy, but I take comfort in knowing my remarkable team has my back.
This issue is our first to be completely designed on our website. I am so proud of the result. Lauran Jones, our Layout Editor, has seamlessly transitioned Atlantis to the web, bringing her flair for color into the website’s design. The pieces are equally colorful. I love the range of subjects in this issue: a couple with conflicting dreams, a self-portrait in Easter Egg pastels, a reflective tribute to Juneteenth.
Cat Strickland, our Marketing Coordinator, has beautifully restructured the rest of our website to create a more cohesive image for our magazine while also adding more function to our pages (goodbye, Archives drop-down menu...we won't miss you!).
We hope you take your time reading this issue. Each piece is a gem.
Thanks for being here,
Editor-in-Chief, Atlantis magazine
Editor in Chief
Table of Contents
Her Playroom by Shannon Kerrigan
RISK by Arianna Charapp
Blowout Blue by Madeline Litty
Tell me you want a fight,
and I’ll give you a good one.
gnashing and gnawing.
I’ll be the villain if that's what you want.
If you need something to vanquish,
I’ll let you come after me.
Whatever reason you need,
you can run your longsword down the length of it.
if you want love, I'll give you a dead blue jay
in the lock of my jaw.
I'll bring it home safe and sound
to lay outside your door, and
I'll sleep on the porch.
No light on,
just the big moon
and the headlights on the highway.
I'll wait for the sound of the lock on the door
and when the reprieve never sounds,
I’ll lick my wounds,
and set out to find another blue jay.
Self Portrait by Shannon Kerrigan
The Doll by Yasmeen Marie Owens
In the small town of Plainfield, New Jersey, I played with my toys until my grandmother asked me to grab a stack of clean clothes from the laundry room for her. I went downstairs and held on to the cool metal railing so I wouldn’t lose my balance going down to the first floor of my home as the green carpet fibers wedged between my toes.
I walked down the long hallway to the cold tile laundry room. It was dark while I felt along the wall for the light switch. And my fingers flipped the switch. When the light turned on, my eyes widened, and my jaw dropped as the light revealed what was hidden in the darkness: a life-size doll that was completely naked, limbless, and with glass eyes that seemed to follow my every movement.
I ran out screaming, back to my grandmother. She could hear my cries echo throughout the house. I crashed into her; if my feet didn’t lock into place, I would have fallen onto the floor. I looked over my shoulder to see if the limbless doll was chasing me.
“Yasmeen, what are you screaming at?” she asked.
“There is a creepy doll in the laundry room!” I said.
My grandmother let out a sigh and gently rubbed my back. I could feel the tears running down my face and my heart beating out of my chest.
“Yasmeen, that doll is an early birthday present for you,” she said. “You weren’t supposed to know about it until I got limbs for it.”
“I don’t want it. Take it back,” I replied.
I wiped the remaining tears away from my eyes.
“Don’t worry, Yasmeen. You will love her,” she said. “Just give her a try.”
I shook my head at my grandmother’s response. I avoided going back to the laundry room for a while. My grandmother tried her best to make me like this doll; she brushed its hair and gave it legs, a pink dress, and black school shoes.
Chills went down my spine when I found out that the clothes she gave this doll were my old clothes. I was relieved not to own them anymore. It still felt weird that a life-sized doll wore my old clothes, and this freaked me out.
The doll stayed downstairs in the corner, near the couch, and every time I would go downstairs, I would make sure that its eyes were closed and not following my every step. I tried to watch TV and not be paranoid that the doll could come alive and chase after me.
The situation became worse each time this doll stayed in my grandmother’s house. One night, a few of my cousins wanted to come for a sleepover. To make sure there was enough room for everyone, we had to sleep downstairs (where the doll was). I told my cousins about this doll, and they all thought I’d imagined the eyes following me.
“Come on, Yasmeen. There’s no way,” my cousin, Evan, said. “That doll can’t be haunted. It’s not possible.”
“Yes! The doll is haunted, and I have seen it,” I said. “When the doll’s eyes are open, it follows you everywhere.”
They just shook their heads and laid out their sleeping bags, side by side, not realizing the danger we were in. I had a feeling something was going to happen that night, and I was going to prove to them the doll was haunted.
“Okay, guys, if you don’t believe me,” I said. “You’re about to find out tonight.”
“What do you mean we will find out tonight?” Marcus asked.
I just smirked as I climbed into my sleeping bag. Then, I turned off the light and said goodnight to everyone. The illuminated clock on top of the television read the time: 12:30 a.m., and in the darkness, the moon shone through the window and hit the doll’s face in just the right spot to seem as if there was light in her eyes. My cousin, Kyle, saw how the moon was reflected on the doll’s face, and he screamed in horror.
“Run for your life!” he screamed.
My grandmother came running downstairs to see what was wrong.
“Yasmeen, what’s wrong now?” she yelled.
“It’s the Doll! It came alive!” I said.
She descended the staircase, turned on the light, walked over to the doll, and touched its face. Nothing happened.
Grandmother went back upstairs and told us to go back to sleep. I turned to look at my cousins and said to them, “Do you believe me now?”
We tried to go back to sleep. The next day my grandmother’s friend, Mrs. Jane, came to drop off some baked treats for us. I’m glad that my grandmother didn’t bring out that doll to show her. I didn’t need a reminder of what happened last night.
I needed to think of a plan to get rid of that doll for good if that was the last thing that I did—and it very well might be. The plan was as follows: distract my grandmother, hide the doll, make sure there were no witnesses.
The only problem with this plan was how I would distract my grandmother when she would know I was up to something by looking at my face. I scanned the living room to make sure she didn’t see me. I went downstairs, and my grandmother was nowhere in sight: the perfect opportunity to get rid of this terrifying doll. I walked over to close her eyes, picked her up by the waist, and put her in the guest room closet. I closed the door and made sure that my grandmother never set foot in the room.
I headed back upstairs, happy that I was able to pull off this plan without getting caught. I walked back to my room and turned on my television to watch my favorite show, Tokyo Mew Mew. This was a perfect way to end the day, as the doll was out of my sight and would no longer haunt my dreams.
Now I could enjoy the rest of my life and pray that my grandmother didn’t ask me where that creepy doll went. I grabbed my stuffed Blue Clues plushie, and we watched the cartoon together until we were interrupted by my grandmother calling out to me.
“Yasmeen, have you seen the doll?”
“No, I haven’t seen it,” I said.
Not taking my gaze away from the illuminated screen as I continued to watch my show, I heard my grandmother’s footsteps fade in the distance.
House Hunter by Shannon Kerrigan
Fur Elise by Kate Murphy
The rain ticked against the window in an endless warp-speed metronome. Tick, tick, tick, tick. The rain picked up and moved from quarter notes to eighth notes. Elise, just eight years old, tried to tune out the rhythmic tapping. She pulled the covers over her head and pressed her palms to her ears.
Not again, please, not again, she thought.
The ticking continued. Faster and faster until it was just a shower of white noise spraying her window. She squeezed her eyes shut and pushed her palms harder. Slowly, as if awakening, a melody started to echo through the house.
No, no, no, she thought to herself. Please, no. No more. Go away, just go away.
The melody picked up until it played at the right speed. Fur Elise. It had always been one of her favorites. Her mother's, too, apparently, as she'd named her only daughter after it. She'd been playing it that night, trying to teach Elise. But Elise hadn't wanted to learn.
"Mom, the piano’s dumb. I don't wanna do it. I wanna play soccer like Lizzy." Her best friend from school had just joined the local league. Elise wanted to play, too.
"You need to try new things. The piano is a new thing. You never know; you might like it," she said. She patted the bench beside her. “If you really don’t like it, we can sign you up for soccer.” Her mother tapped out the familiar first notes of her namesake.
"Ugh!" Elise went to her room, stomping her feet all the way up the stairs so that her mother would know just how displeased she was.
When she slammed her door shut, it was silent for a moment. Then she heard Fur Elise drifting through the house. The lively pace made the piece beautiful; the slow build-up, the fluidity. Then her favorite part, the increased tempo before it returned to calm. She loved how the music itself seemed to dance between slow and fast, calm and chaotic. But she still didn't want to play the piano. She laid back on her bed and let the music drift over her. She was nearly asleep when she heard it.
Elise pressed her hands harder over her ears. She knew what was coming. She knew she just had one more section before she had to hear it again. Her mother's agonized scream rang through the house. Just as quickly as it started, it stopped. No one would come now, just as they hadn't then. The ghost-echo of a loud crash made the house shake.
She heard footsteps on the stairs. Her heart started to race. It's not real, she thought. The knob jiggled. She'd locked it, but she knew that didn't matter. It would still open. She jumped up and hid in the closet. The air was stale, but she drank in lung-fulls of it all the same. She lifted the blanket on top of her safe box, as her mother had called it, and pulled the folded blanket over her head. When he looked in, he would see storage containers with a lot of stuff piled on top. He wouldn't even notice the one in the back covered with a quilt.
"This is for just in case times," her mother had said. "You always have to have a safe spot to hide. It'll be our little secret."
Elise held her breath as she heard the closet door creaking open. She pressed her hands over her ears and muffled her sobs on her knees. Be quiet, she told herself. Be very quiet.
The door closed, and Elise allowed herself to breathe again. Was it over? Did she pass? The footsteps faded away and went back down the stairs. Slowly, Elise got out of her safety bin and went to her window. It was still dark out, though it had to be well past four in the morning now. It always started at three. She pulled on her stained unicorn slippers and headed down the stairs. It was safe now that it was over, that ghostly replay that had been haunting her since it happened.
She walked slowly to the kitchen, careful not to look in the living room. She didn't want to see what she knew she would see. Not ghosts, nor phantoms. But her.
Her slippers stuck to the floor in places, almost like the time she'd spilled jam and forgotten to clean it up. But it wasn't jam. She didn't think about it. Instead, she side-stepped the crusted blood, and she got her water, drinking it down in one swig. She rinsed the glass, washed it with soap and hot water, and put it on the drying rack, just like her mother had taught her. She started to head back toward the stairs but wasn't careful enough.
Elise shrank back from the grisly sight. Her mother lay slumped over the piano, her neck red and jagged. She was swollen almost beyond recognition. Her skin had turned purple since the first time she saw it. Her mother's hands, her beautiful, musical hands, were puffy and no longer rigid. They'd never touch the keys again.
Tentatively she walked across the room. She wore the same pjs she'd been wearing that night, the same slippers. Both were tacky with blood. Flies buzzed through the air in a swarm, but she didn’t mind them anymore; she just brushed them away. How long had it been? She already knew that there was nothing she could do. Ever so gently, she leaned over and kissed her mother's forehead. Instead of the familiar and comforting scent of her mother’s perfume, the sickly scent of decay filled her nose and made her cough.
"I'm so sorry," Elise said.
Elise sat beside her mother and placed her hands on the keys. She hit the first few notes with unpracticed strokes before sitting back.
“Teach me, mommy?” she whispered.
Dreaming by Mylan Parker
Wanderlust by Katie Barton
Sawyer fiddled with her ring. The right rim of her forehead was pressed against the passenger seat window, the build-up of pressure giving her just enough of a headache to keep out whatever forbidden stream of consciousness might betray her composure. The light breeze from the A/C kicked curly red strands of hair around her face.
“Just a little over five miles now.” Rowan’s voice cut through the static that had been filling her head for the past hour and a half. “Should be no more than ten minutes.”
Her husband adjusted the rear-view mirror, shot a glance at the traffic behind them, and craned his neck forward to examine the red SUV ahead.
“That is if this guy decides to get off his damn phone and step on the gas.” He jammed his palm against the car horn and stuck his head out the rolled-down window. “Hey! Move it, asshole! The rest of us have places to be!”
Sawyer grabbed Rowan’s right arm and yanked him back into the car as he guffawed at his own inappropriate behavior.
“Jesus, do you want to get keyed?” Sawyer said.
She shielded her eyes from neighboring cars and sank deeper into the passenger seat.
“I wasn’t aware keying cars was such an issue on road bridges,” Rowan jested, then shrugged with a laugh and drummed his fingers on the wheel. “In that case, I say let them key her. If all goes as planned today, I give this gal a month before she’s a cube of junk resting in some garbage patch.”
“Right,” Sawyer muttered. She returned her gaze to the window, shifting her attention to a flock of seagulls as they disappeared below the bridge with a dive toward the chopped waters below. Part of her wished she could follow them.
“Act a little excited, Sawyer,” Rowan interjected. “This is an adventure!”
He took a hand off the wheel to gently shake her shoulder.
“I am excited,” Sawyer insisted as she nudged his hand away, trying to add a little lilt to her voice to further sell it. “I’m just tired. That’s all.”
“You’re always tired,” Rowan muttered as the car in front of them began to move. He pressed on the gas.
Sawyer’s phone buzzed, bouncing about in the cupholder beside her. She clasped it in her hands as the car tires jolted over the metal seam between road and bridge.
“Your mother?” Rowan asked with a quick glance in her direction.
“As always,” Sawyer sighed, rejecting the call and placing it back in the cupholder. She settled herself back against the window and closed her eyes.
“Have you told her yet?”
“Well, why not?”
I’m not sure she’d be too thrilled to hear her son-in-law quit his well-paying job and put the house on the market so that he could buy a yacht and whisk away her only daughter to travel the world with no financial plan whatsoever is what she wanted to say. Instead, she remained slumped against the door, not meeting her husband’s gaze.
“Not sure,” Sawyer said.
They drove past beach houses with faded paint jobs and clusters of palm trees—each one swaying in uneven motions against the dark storm clouds gathering in the sky.
“You know, I was thinking,” Rowan finally said, “we should start up our old travel blog again. Remember that?”
Sawyer nodded. How could she forget? It was their primary source of income for so many years. An unreliable source of income. That she remembered clearly.
“It will be hard to access the internet in the middle of the ocean,” she said.
Rowan laughed. “Well, obviously, we’d have to wait until we reached port somewhere. Hopefully, we haven’t lost too many readers. But just in case, you can always pick up your freelance work again. People still read National Geographic, right?”
“I sold my camera,” Sawyer reminded him. “We needed money for the baby crib.”
This time she turned to look directly at him, but his darkened eyes were kept purposely on the road ahead as he gripped the steering wheel.
There was that familiar silence. She knew what he wished he could say: how she should have sold that thing months ago, how it only brings back painful memories, how it only sits collecting dust. But, she also knew he was smarter than that, and the last thing he wanted to do was instigate another “episode” of hers.
“Well, I’m sure we’ll figure something out,” he said instead, offering her a quick glance. “We’ll be saving some money. Maybe I’ll use some of those funds to buy you a new one. Would you like that?”
Sawyer flashed him a faint smile. “Sure.”
Rowan returned the expression before shifting his attention ahead to enter a parking lot.
“Here we are!” he said gleefully.
Sawyer leaned in to get a better look at the rows of boats lining the adjacent docks. Everything from sunfish to catamarans to cuddy cabins bobbed up and down on dark, choppy water.
“There she is!” Rowan’s eyes were caught on what had to be a fifty-foot-long sailboat, complete with two towering masts that cast shadows over a weather-protected cockpit. “What do you think?” He studied Sawyer for a reaction. “Worth the three hundred grand we settled on?”
“Looks promising from here,” Sawyer commented, arms crossed. Her eyes drifted to an older man in a worn-down raincoat standing on the dock beside the vessel. He flipped through the pages on his clipboard and took a visual sweep of the parking lot.
“Well, it better be,” Rowan laughed as he followed her gaze. “After all the hours I spent on the phone with this guy.” He turned off the engine and ducked out of the car before beckoning for Sawyer to follow him.
“I’d rather stay in here,” Sawyer said, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. She wasn’t sure how much more pretending she could take. She noticed his brows furrowed in confusion. “If that’s alright with you.” She rolled her eyes playfully with a compulsory smile and fluttered her pointer finger toward the window. “The … storm.”
“Oh,” Rowan said. “Right.”
He flashed a look at the boat dealer and turned back to his wife.
“That’s fine. I mean, I’m sure it won’t rain for another thirty minutes, but whatever makes you most comfortable. I’ll just—,” he took a breath through his nose and drummed the top of the car, “leave you here then.” He pointed at the dock with his thumb as he took a slow step back. “I’m right over there if you need me.”
Sawyer smiled and nodded as the door slammed behind him, leaving her alone in the car. She watched as Rowan approached the boat dealer—then let out a deep, trembling breath and shook out her shoulders. In. Out. In. Out. She practiced the breathing exercises her therapist had taught her.
Several moments passed before the crushing weight in her chest had faded to a dull throb. She glanced around the car for a bit, then raised her chin toward the rear-view mirror and lifted a finger to tap the braided-rope sloth ornament dangling from it. The sloth bobbled back and forth for a moment before taking a slow spin to observe the car. The words Pura Vida were stitched into the side in faded green lettering. Which trip to Costa Rica was this one from? Sawyer couldn’t remember; they had all started to blend together in her memory. Rowan probably knew. He probably remembered what they had for breakfast that morning and the name of the hotel they stayed at.
It didn’t look old enough to be from their first trip ten years ago, back when they were just two college students seeking the thrills of studying abroad. Sawyer closed her eyes, trying to transport herself back to those times. Rowan and Sawyer. A match made in heaven, everyone said. Nobody was surprised when they got engaged after graduation. Nobody, that was, except Rowan, who proposed on a whim in the middle of a canal cruise in Amsterdam. Sawyer found his spontaneity charming back then.
The sloth's rotation ended with it facing her. Its faded eyes met hers, unblinking. Sawyer realized she was holding her breath. Next thing she saw was her fingers wrapped around the knitted animal’s head, the sloth’s delicate face squished within her palm, and her wrist yanking down. There was a snap, and then the threads came tumbling apart as her hand dropped to her lap, starting at the frayed ends of the broken loop before unraveling down the head. She watched as the sloth’s face turned into a disorganized mass of rope. And she felt nothing.
Her other hand reached for the dashboard to open the glove compartment. She dropped the disheveled thing among stashed-away travel brochures and educational pamphlets on destinations ranging from Iceland to the Galápagos—places Rowan still wanted to go. Places he likely blamed her for never visiting, even if he didn’t say it aloud.
“Whatever makes you happy, Sawyer,” he had said the day they hit “publish” on their last blog post and filed away their worn passports—over two years ago now, she realized. She had convinced herself the resignation in his eyes was nothing more than a product of her own insecurity. That once he was settled into his new desk job and they had a baby on the way, he would see the appeal of the new adventure she had spelled out to him. One far more exciting than backpacking across Europe or trekking through the Amazon.
Sawyer tried to close the glove compartment, seal away the brochures forever, but her hand was frozen in place as her eyes kept drifting toward a purple pamphlet stuck between the pages of Afar magazine. She slid the piece of parchment from its hold and held it, so it hovered just above her lap. At the top of the pamphlet in dusty white letters: Whole Family Adoption Agency. She ran her fingers over the cover, sending particles flying into the air, and admired the picture hiding underneath. A man and woman with wide grins and outstretched arms and an equally excited little girl sprinting across a fresh green lawn to fall into their embrace. Notes in Sawyer’s handwriting marked the margins of the information inside. A smeared list of phone numbers covered the back, penned by their doctor from the fertility clinic.
“Maybe someday.” Rowan’s words, ones Sawyer had heard time and time again, wrapped themselves around her brain. “But let’s focus on today.”
Sawyer jolted upright at the beep-and-click of the car unlocking. She shoved the pamphlet deep into the sea of papers and thrust the glove compartment shut with a clamorous slam.
“What’s that?” Rowan asked as he opened the driver’s seat door.
“Nothing.” Sawyer slid her hands down from the dashboard and folded them neatly in her lap.
“Just looking at our old travel brochures. So?”
Rowan held up and waved a stapled batch of papers.
“We’re the proud new owners of a forty-nine-point-four cutter ketch!”
The pride in his eyes as he opened his arms for a celebratory hug sent pain through Sawyer’s chest.
Sawyer smiled and leaned over the center console to wrap her arms around her husband.
She let out a happy “hmm,” eyes closed as she rested her chin on his shoulder, then added in a quieter voice, “I know you’ve wanted this for a really long time.”
Which was probably the first thing she said all day that she meant with her whole heart.
Rilee by Brielle Barrozini
Apples by Laura Lucas
D is for Dyslexia by Makenna Judy
D is for dog. A is for apple, B is for banana, C is for cat, and D is for dog; it is one of the first things kindergarteners learn. There are numerous other words that begin with the letter D, but the most popular word that gets its own cartoon picture and spot on the banner that runs the length of a classroom wall is dog. D is also for door, donut, doctor, dentist, duck, or Doritos, but it is dog that gets used most often, probably for the simple fact that it is a glorious three letters long, and the cartoon picture is most easily recognizable to children who can barely spell their own name.
But dog can be so easily confused with bog. A lowercase d and lowercase b are twins in a mirror, reflective of each other and, therefore, ripe for confusion. To some children, dog is read as bog, and bog is read as dog. Dig becomes big, and big becomes dig. D is B, and B is D. So close to each other in the alphabet, so similar in sound, that the brain reads one letter and processes it as something else, a true mystery of mechanics.
This is probably why the cheesy classroom banners use such different words for B and D. B is for banana, baby, boat, bacon, or ball but never for big or bog. D is for domino, dark, deer, dance, or dice but never dig though always dog.
And it’s not just B and D that warrant issues but also C and K, though this time for sound and not looks. C is for cat, coat, cold, cookie, can, or cartoon but not kite or kitten. K is for kite, kitten, king, kid, or kettle but never cat or coat. And the poor children who are mocked for thinking they are the same. And what is so wrong with “kat,” “kandy,” “cid,” or “cing”? The sound is the same, but the look is not. Right off the bat, an adult would look at those words and scold the child, making them dutifully study flashcards and dictionaries till “kat” became cat, “kandy” became candy, “cid” became kid, and “cing” became king.
Staring at those incorrect words, it’s so easy to point them out as wrong —a completely obvious observance, who wouldn’t catch the mistake?— but the child spelling those words can’t hear or see the difference. The word looks correct to them, and they cannot fathom what is wrong with it. And for this child, D is not for dog or door or donut or duck. For this child, D is for dyslexia, though they don’t know how to spell it.
You sit in the blue, plastic vinyl chair in your third-grade classroom that has the two metal screws in the back that will pull the long hair straight from little girls’ heads. Your teacher, Mrs. Schoff, shuffles through the papers on her desk, trying to find the manila folder she had put aside earlier that day. She orders the class to line up in alphabetical order so you’re squeezed in between the other kids with J last names, your back to the blue vinyl cabinets, a metal handle digging into your back.
When Mrs. Schoff finally finds her misplaced manila folder she comes and stands in front of her students. She reads from the pre-written instructions in front of her, explaining the rules of the class spelling bee taking place this very instant. There will be one practice round, with words at the first and second grade level. You may ask for the definition, the word’s origin, for it to be repeated, and for the word to be used in a sentence. You must say the word before you begin to spell it and after you finish spelling it. Once you begin to spell your given word, you may not go back and start over. If you spell the word wrong you are eliminated and must go sit down. The last two kids will represent the class in the school spelling bee.
You are nervous, more nervous than the other kids you are standing next to. Spelling is not your strong suit, spelling out loud is even worse. Mrs. Schoff, after confirming there are no questions, begins at the front of the line.
Seven kids later it is your turn.
Your word is dog.
That is correct. You sigh in relief even though this was just the practice round and the word you spelled was dog.
The classroom is silent save for Mrs. Schoff’s voice giving words and a kid repeating. Soon the practice round is done. Mrs. Schoff makes sure we know the real spelling bee will begin now. If we spell a word wrong we are out, simple as that.
You watch as Mrs. Schoff makes her way back to the front of the line, switching to her paper that holds the list of words the class must spell for her. You don’t hear what the first word is, you are too nervous to pay close attention. And then there are six kids till you must spell. Now five. Then four. Then three. Then two. Then one. And now it is your turn.
Mrs. Schoff stands in front of you, manila folder preventing you from seeing her sheet of words.
Your word is done.
That is correct. The relief is apparent on your face. You did not get out on the first round. Thank God, thank God, thank God. Two kids are eliminated from the first round; both are on words you would have spelled wrong.
Back at the front of the line the words get slightly harder. About. Kept. Climb. Meet. And then Mrs. Schoff is standing in front of you again.
Your word is comb.
That is incorrect.
You are surprised, sure that you had spelled the word correctly, and you walk back to your desk in shame.
Two other of your classmates that have their desks pushed into a table against yours are already sitting down, eliminated before you. They do not seem bothered that you are eliminated, instead they look relieved. They couldn’t believe you made it further than them—you, probably the worst speller in the class. But how do you spell “comb” if it is not spelled c-o-m-e? You take out a notebook and flip to the back where there are plenty of empty pages and you start to guess. Comm. Comd. Coma. Comma. Comme. You stare at the alphabet running the length of the wall, putting any letter you think might work in the coveted spot at the end of the word. Comy. Comu. Comi.
Finally one of your classmates takes pity on you, having watched as you spelled the word wrong again and again. They slide a sheet of paper over with the word spelled correctly on it. C-O-M-B. Comb. Your face flushes a bright red and you push the paper back towards them. B. The letter B had not even crossed your mind. Y seemed more likely than B. You’re more embarrassed now than before. Your classmates watched as you struggled to spell a simple four letter word that was really more second grade level than third. You fight the urge to cry.
You’ll cry on the stairs when your mother gets you a private tutor that you must go to after school. You’ll cry because none of the other kids in your class have to go to tutoring. You’ll cry because you’ll feel stupid and ashamed.
You’ll refuse to show your writing to anyone unless forced. You’ll cry when your classmates steal your journal and laugh at the absurd words on the page.
When you spell the word “picture” correctly on the first try, you beam with so much pride you could power the classroom lights. You will continue to stare at that word for the rest of class, tracing your finger over the letters because you spelled a seven-letter word correctly without help.
You’ll be observed by a child psychologist—twice—who is measuring your progress to make sure you are comfortable in the classroom setting. You won’t know this until you are in college.
Your mother will sit down with the school administration to talk about what the school can do for you. The school will not offer help beyond the classroom because your grades are not suffering, even though your mother tells them your spirit is suffering.
You’ll spell your friends’ names wrong in your phone and not realize until they laugh about it. You’ll pretend you did this on purpose.
Your essays will be chocked full of little red lines that highlight a misspelled word. Sometimes not even spell check can figure out what you are trying to say.
You’ll graduate Salutatorian of your high school class.
You’ll decide to major in Creative Writing as a final middle finger to the dyslexia that has beaten you down again and again.
For you, D will stand for dog, done, dig, drug, and duck. But most importantly, D will stand for dyslexia.
Down the Valley by Elizabeth Carroll
Empty Theater by Arianna Charapp
Survivants by Nicole Farmer
Three women padding in bare feet
around the wood floors of a cheery home
amidst the flat mud green
wasteland of Louisiana lawns.
mother, daughter, and grandmother
split open wide with grief
and joy—finding comfort in
each other's laughter during this
Now floating through ancient cypress trees
whose knobby knees kiss
a blue crack of sky, through winking
Spanish moss eyelashes—
our drifting boat rocks
daring sleepy-eyed alligators
to perform their favorite trick.
Displaced French tourists seek lunch conversation
screeching RV wheels spin,
stuck in the swamp mud,
crunching apples, salty olives,
New Yorker crossword puzzle,
peanut butter, and marmalade sighs.
A mockingbird pitches his song in oak
branches scratching puffy drifting clouds,
wet underbelly wind caressing my neck—
the patriarch now gone,
whispers of churning discontent
in sublime contentment.
Pandora 2 by Lilli Hogsten
Look at This by Elizabeth Marie Carroll
Of senseless tragedy and the chlorinated universe in a Virginian water park by Avi Kornfeld
I filled my mouth with hazelnuts, intent to portion them throughout one long drift around the lazy river. Yet ten-year-old wishes are often short-sighted, and I was lucky to make it an eighth of the way before finishing them. And what is the folly to that? There were always more hazelnuts in the resealable plastic bag, tainted only slightly by our pool water hands and several collective loose teeth. There were always more hazelnuts and enough time to run—no, to walk—just speedily enough that the whistle didn’t get you, even when you chose to run behind the lifeguards' backs all the way up the ladder to the best waterslide.
Mama has the best CDs. Mixes her friends burnt, Danny’s first album, the Black Eyed Peas before they were played at roller rinks and in animated action movies. She slides a mix into the player, and life leans back. Chlorine hair, fingers wrinkled from the pool water. The inside of the car is too humid, but better than the rain that drove us away from the water park just ten minutes before, and it is sort of like a stuffy hug, annoying, but not on purpose.
I am end-of-day child exhaustion as I topple to bed that night, and Mama sings a song anyway, Blackbird by The Beatles. A bed is shared upstairs; it’s not our house, not really, just visiting, but when we’re here, everyone in the house lives here. So we live there all weekend, I suppose. Motley family. Crammed into not enough square feet. She visits here to visit a bit of her life that happened before I happened, but she shares it with me, because above all, she will give me whatever she can manage. Be it hazelnuts or memory or Blackbird.
Breakfast here means the sugary marshmallow cereal I was never allowed to have, and as much as I want of it. It’s not the colorful kind—it’s the version from the co-op store just a mile away because this morning is a treat, but why add unnecessary food colorings to it? Legs that are still too short don’t reach the ground fully beneath a mismatched chair, so my toes swivel all by their lonesome on the unfinished, never-to-be-finished floorboards. The boy who was my brother for a moment eats three big bowls of cereal. He never slowed down enough to let getting tall catch up, much more concerned with cereal than he was with being lean.
Brother-for-a-moment was the first person to show me how to steal snacks from a vending machine when nobody’s looking. He uses a strong arm and a curved stick to knock Twizzlers off the second rack, and I am forevermore fascinated by taking without consequence.
Mama refuses to refer to him in the past tense.
The last boy I knew was the one at the waterpark, who ran too fast and got whistled at.
And he was big but still small, in the sense that even big little boys are small.
And in my head, he’s still just a big little boy with a penchant for free Twizzlers and sugar cereal. And in my mama’s head, he’s probably still covered in flowers in the densely packed earth. And his own mama is still crying like she forgot how not to.
And the time in between, the time when he grew up, never happened for me.
And he is still the big little waterpark boy, but all boxed up now and covered in flowers. And his own mama doesn’t have to worry about him anymore, and yet she’ll have to worry in a different way until the day she is covered in flowers as well.
I am nothing, if not the child who filled a small mouth with hazelnuts one day at the waterpark and sugar cereal the next. And I am nothing if not my mother's son, and I refuse to refer to him in the past tense. What is a past tense worth, if we’re both still kids at a waterpark, which we always will be, one running and one walking as fast as possible. One stealing and one watching in awe. One eating three bowls of cereal and one eating two. I am no more real now than he was back then.
And the day is still exhausting.
And the car ride home is still so warm.
And we are brothers for a moment.
Window Views by Elizabeth Carroll
The Blood Blues by Bianca Glinskas
Sideways on these new blue bed sheets in the Seattle summer sun, I wake to the disharmonic hums
erupting from the city’s machines: buses, garbage trucks, & cars grumble up & down the streets.
A siren swings its sound around the room. I am eating a peach. Its nectar drips down my chin, seeps
between my fingers. I am bleeding through my pants for the second time today. The first time I bled
I was thirteen. The slow red flow trickled on for a full cycle of moons & soon I couldn’t walk across a
room without hearing my heart pound in my ears like an alarm. Finally, I confided to my mother,
as if bleeding were a secret, something to confess, sitting in sin. A red wall of shame washed over me.
My cheeks bloomed, embarrassed. My chest swelled—my fresh womanhood peeking into view.
The doctor sent me to the hospital. I laid on my side, backside exposed in the blue hospital gown, eyes avoiding the tube feeding a stranger’s blood into my arm, steady drip by steady drip from behind the
curtain. I have been bleeding on & off for over a decade now, a small lifetime of dripping & hiding,
of peaches & sirens, creation’s drive: & yet I must. & yet I must. & yet I must: the body’s expectations
of life, the unhatched egg evicted each month, reminding. I echo my reply: Must I? Must I? Must I?
It is a persistent whine, this tango between my thighs, the embryo echo & my body’s indecisive drive.
Every month I am invited to motherhood, & every month so far, I have declined. But I am twenty-five
& I have always felt half-here, unformed—a touchable mirage—a woman who could never get
comfortable with her own blood.
Anger by Jose Daniel Juarez
We Were Seen, I Was Seen by Mylan Parker
1. Fourth grade—my teacher tells my class to choose a holiday in the United States to create a collage of. Everyone chooses all the popular holidays like Christmas, Halloween, the Fourth of July, etc. No one mentions Juneteenth—the holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in our country. I tell a fellow classmate about my holiday, and they tell me I made it up. I couldn’t fathom how someone else could think that I could make up something that so many people celebrate. But that was the thing; no one could celebrate something they knew nothing about. Flustered, I erased my holiday and wrote down “Christmas” instead.
2. Eighth grade, French class—Today, my teacher teaches us about racism towards Blacks in France. She mentions how Juneteenth is a controversial holiday across the ocean, saying that many do not celebrate because they feel it doesn’t apply to them.
“Slavery was predominantly in the United States,” she said.
I was baffled. Black immigrants who moved from the U.S. to France were able to because of their ancestors’ freedom. While my classmates yawned, I wondered why French Blacks wouldn’t want to wave the bright red and navy striped flag that embodied their identity. My teacher asks for my opinion on the French Blacks' lack of Juneteenth celebration, and the entire class stares at me—their eyes boring into my head like earthworms pushing their way through the dirt.
I say, “I’m not sure,” and look down, hoping that everyone would unsee my Blackness.
3. Sophomore year of high school, summer—I watched my dad prepare the dry rub for the chicken wings he was about to grill. He painted the chicken in splashes of red, orange, and yellow seasonings.
“Juneteenth is coming up!” he said.
I cringed at his words, joking with him about how he was the only one who celebrated. He raised an eyebrow at me, telling me how unique our people’s experience was. He recited the same speech of hardship and triumph every time. My cue to daydream. I wanted to be like the untouched chicken wing, unseasoned with judgmental looks and questions from strangers about my identity. Untouched by all that made me feel like an oddity.
4. Freshman year of college, summer—George Floyd was murdered amongst countless others for the color of his skin. The Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets, raising their voices and taking one knee, begging for our broken country to listen. Juneteenth became recognized as a national holiday for the first time in history. We were seen. I was seen. I told my dad that we should celebrate Juneteenth this year.
He laughed and said, “finally.” That afternoon I saw a bowl of chicken wings thawing in the sink.
5. Back then, I didn’t see the beauty in all the colors that seasoned chicken had—the complexities and strength that my ancestors painted. I was too tired from proving myself to a country that would never love me back. It wasn’t until the world started appreciating my Blackness that I began to appreciate it. That I began to appreciate the crown passed down to me from the kings and queens up above. That I began to see myself as the revolutionary feat my brothers and sisters hoped to see. When I look in the mirror, I see so many things: the optimist, the empath, the dreamer, and the writer. Most importantly, I see the survivor. My existence as a Black woman in America is a survival like no other. I am not only standing here, but I am standing here proud of a culture I represent every day of my life. Although I didn’t need the world’s validation of my existence, I realized how much I wanted it. I wanted it so that I could break the societal shackles in my mind. I wanted it so that fourth grader could scream loud and proud that her Blackness is a treasure worth celebrating.
Untitled No.1 by Chris Fowler
Katie Barton is a rising junior of the Honors College at UNCW and is double-majoring in biology and environmental science with a concentration in environmental conservation. Despite her STEM-centered education, she has a passion for artistic expression. She enjoys creative outlets in the form of writing (with a soft spot for fiction), digital art, and animation, which she’s self-taught in. Apart from her hobbies, Katie is involved in undergraduate research in wildlife biology through the EVS department and works for the Office of Admissions as a campus tour guide.
Brielle Barozzini is a senior at UNCW majoring in film studies. She is a passionate artist who enjoys many art mediums but especially enjoys projects involving a camera. She is honored to be featured in this issue of Atlantis.
Elizabeth Carroll is a senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she will be graduating in May of 2022 with a BA in studio art. She carries her creative bent with her beyond the classroom through her surf photography and collages. With the rest of her spare time, Elizabeth channels her love for all animals (but mostly beagles and her cat, Timmy) through her job in animal care.
The photographer, Arianna Charapp, is a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is majoring in psychology but has always had a passion for photography. Arianna took her first photography class when she was a sophomore in high school and has loved it ever since. Her favorite things to take photos of are people, nature, and macabre objects to showcase the beauty in the world.
Nicole Farmer is a writer, teacher, and theatre director living in Asheville, NC. Her poems have been published in the Sheepshead Review, Bangalore Review, Roadrunner Review, Wild Roof Journal, Bacopa Literary Review, The Great Smokies Review, and others. Her play 50 JOBS was produced in Los Angeles. As a child, she dreamed she was a superhero named Jake who rescued damsels in distress with no cape - but with a fantastic mustache!
Christopher Keith Fowler was born in Durham, North Carolina as the only child of Roger and Fontella Fowler. He attended Durham School of the Arts, where his passion for art brought him into the world of fashion, photography, journalism, and digital media. In his youth, he spent time watching his father create different brush strokes in Photoshop, playing with colors and fonts, not noticing that he was secretly teaching himself how to use the same artistic tools as his dad once did. His inspirations take after the influence of queer black culture and the colors of the sunset.
Bianca Glinskas is an emerging poet and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee from the West Coast. She studied English education and creative writing at California State University, Long Beach. She has also studied at Lighthouse Writers Workshops in Denver and Hugo House in Seattle, where she has received several writerships. Bianca is a literary journalist, publicity intern for Poetry Northwest, and a writing contest judge for NYC Midnight’s flash fiction contests. She is a member of Esmé Weijun Wang's The Unexpected Shape Community and a current MFA candidate in creative writing (poetry) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Find more of her writing here.
Lillianne Hogsten is a practicing photographer of eight years who focuses on portraiture and female expression. She currently is a third-year at UNCW, majoring in film and minoring in studio art; she hopes to graduate, become a freelance cinematographer, and use film and photography to represent women in the modern world.
José Daniel Juarez is a nineteen-year-old artist that was born and raised in Bakersville, NC. José's current work revolves around drawing, ceramics, and metal fabrication. He has an interest in art, an eye for detail, and a love for making things with his hands. José is inspired by the act of making and learning new processes. He enjoys getting lost in the work and perfecting techniques. Practice inspires him and drives him to improve.
Makenna Judy is a senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington studying creative writing and digital arts with a minor in computer science. Inspired by the films, she grew up with, her goal is to write and animate her own films with any studio that will give her a job. In between classes and lying on the beach, she hopes to someday finish editing her novel.
Shannon Kerrigan is a visual artist from New Jersey who currently lives and works in Wilmington, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a degree in studio art and is currently working towards her master's in art education. She works with a wide variety of mediums, including oil paint, gouache, watercolor, chalk pastels, colored pencil, ink, and printmaking. Her main focus is surrealism and altering scale in her artworks to create whimsical narratives.
Avi Kornfeld was born and raised in Asheville, NC, and is now pursuing a degree in studio arts at UNCW. In his free time, he enjoys baking, spending his paycheck on houseplants, and occasionally writing sad poetry. His interest in the arts dates all the way back to the moment he learned how to hold a pencil and has not diminished in the slightest since then.
Madeline Litty is nineteen years old and a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is majoring in dramatic art and is a member of the Writing for the Screen and Stage Minor class of 2022-24. She is currently working on two screenplays but enjoys writing poetry in her free time. This is her first published poem.
Laura Lucas was born in Australia and grew up in Hong Kong. Having grown up abroad and with an artistic mother, Laura developed her love for art from a very early age. However, her artistic expression has evolved from her own experiences and has relied on her own creative and emotional intuition. Laura’s focus is on portraiture and colorful expressions, with an emphasis on raw emotion. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at UNCC. Laura is featured in the Novant Health Student Art Show 2021 and is also working towards an upcoming exhibition at UNCC.
Kate Murphy is currently an MFA student at Queens University of Charlotte. She earned her English degree through UNC Charlotte and has published online with Mascara Literary Review. She is a contributor with the Southern Review of Books and an assistant editor with Qu Literary Journal. She currently lives in the mountains with her young daughter, husband, and beloved animals.
Yasmeen Owens has been writing stories and poetry since eighth grade. She graduated with a BFA in creative writing, a minor in English, and a certificate in publication. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in the publishing industry and one day publish her first novel series with the support of her family and two dogs by her side.
Mylan Parker is a rising junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is pursuing a degree in English with a concentration in professional writing and a minor in creative writing. After graduation, she would like to write for magazines, such as Teen Vogue, and become a publicist at a book publishing company. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading YA fantasy novels, spending time with her friends and family, and searching for Wonderland in nature.