Two Men in Lab Coats

“What stage is the sample at now?”

“It looks like it’s just progressed beyond a high infantile mortality rate. The lifespan of individual organisms has risen by a good two minutes.”

“That’s good. Looks like we’ve found one with the potential to develop further.”

“Also, the population’s booming.”

“What else do you expect?”

“Honestly, the chances of this naturally occurring without the tinkering you’ve done in shielding their breeding grounds is slim to none.”

“Give it enough trials and it would’ve happened eventually. I’m just helping things along a bit.”

“We began less than two hours ago. If their self-sufficiency follows traditional patterns, they’re still debating the existence of us.”

“If they’re smart enough, they’ll understand how the timeline just doesn’t add up without an interfering entity to set it all in motion.”

“So what, you just like being a god?”

“It’s fun isn’t it?”

“Wholly unethical – but, if anything, its an ego boost.”

“Listen, think of it like art. We build, we destroy, we manipulate – but in the end, we’re creators nonetheless. It’s just art.”

“So… you’re a biological artist?”


“Don’t you have some sort of… I don’t know, duty to what you create then?”

“That’s just what’s been pedaled by people looking from the outside it. What I create is my business, and what I decide to do with it is totally my own prerogative.”

“I – hold on, we’ve hit another snag.”


“The population level: it’s taking a nosedive.”

“There’s already been one near mass extinction.”

“No, this isn’t from an outside force, like when you replenished their supply of hydrogen dioxide. This is self-induced extermination.”

“Just hang on. It’s growing pains.”

“Wow. Yeah, it’s leveling out again.”


“I don’t get it. Why? What possible reason could they have for something of this scale?”

“They’re territorial, and divisive. A bad combination.”

“We’re referring to the organisms as ‘they.’ Does that not weird you out?”

“They’ve got a basic level of sentience. They always do. That’s how they climbed the damn food chain.”

“And you didn’t help out with that at all?”

“I tweaked the atmospheric conditions a bit so they’d grow bigger faster, and now we’ve got this.”

“Looks like someone’s taking a personal interest.”

“You haven’t?”

“It’s an experiment with the sole purpose of simulating the conditions necessary to develop a lasting existence with the ability to survive as a singular, coherent population. No, I’m not attached. And I don’t think you should be either.”

“And if it works?”

“It can only spread to the boundaries of the vacuumed space. And if it does, then it’ll have been a success.”

“Weren’t you criticizing me as the unsympathetic one?”

“You’ve got a personal, vested interest. That’s why you altered the variables.”

“Look – we’ve only gotten this far because –“

“Hey, they’re expanding their presence.”

“Well then. Right on time actually.”

“They’re sending scouts.”

“Yeah. And soon, the existential dread sets in.”

“That’s presumptive. Maybe this could be the one.”

“That’d be nice.”

“’Nice’? That doesn’t sound very enthusiastic.”

“I’ve gotten my hopes up one too many times.”

“That’s what you get for being sympathetic.”

“The near successful tests always look promising.”

“You say that, but what’s stopping them?



“Their nature.”

“Oh. Well that makes a little more sense. After all, aren’t we in control of nature?”

“To a point.”

“Hah. Can god make a mountain he can’t climb?”

“Can man make a simulation that outlives him?”

There was a pause.

“Doesn’t matter. Look, there goes the population again.”


“What’s causing it?”

“Does it matter?”

“Is it the atmosphere?”

“Whatever it is, it’s not of our doing.”

“The population’s still declining.”


“Aren’t you going to do something?”

“Wouldn’t that be tampering?”

“Oh shut up.”

“Besides, there’s little we can do.”


“No, mark it.”

“I… Yeah. Yeah, there goes the last of ‘em.”

“I’ll prep the next sample. We’ve got a full day ahead of us.”

He took the scotch tape and stuck it on the outside of the glass orb, writing:




It’s hard to keep my eyes open.

I blink and remember where I am. The ground is pulling forward and the sky is pulling back. Seconds, as I was once knew them, trudged through them, no longer hold their weight, like all things in free fall.

You have a lot of time to think when there’s not much time left, and seemingly all things vast and important dwindle down into next to nothing. It’s like when people who’ve lived long lives tell you how it all goes by so fast. My theory is that you only have a certain amount of life in you and you can choose to spread it thin over a lengthy lifetime, or you can squeeze it so tight that it scrambles to fill what you have left.

The world around me is bustling – no better word for it. Nonstop rat-racing from one shithole to the next, and you get pension. People flashing bright lights at each other and burning the midnight candles not realizing they’re trading their lives for the time they think they’re wasting.


My hair feels pasted back against the top of my head. I don’t remember gelling it this morning and I don’t remember telling my mother goodbye.

I used to dive under the water in swimming pools. I’d let out just enough air so I would sink to the bottom and float damn near weightless. I felt real freedom for a moment, liberated from the crushing pressures of thought and life and godliness. Free, I guess, from the pressures that etched my body into what it was. There was no past, no future, just that submerged, blue silence that filled your ears. And then your breath ran out and these jellyfish sacs of used air raced you to the surface where you were plunged back into the light.

I blink slowly. The ground rises.


Throated calls of distant trains echo,
Resonating as the soft enticing bellow
Catches in your head and spreads below
To neck and lung and torso.

Spare me; the voice hangs low,
lower than the hooked undertoe
Of the washed up sweep and sow
Reaped and reheaped on the shoulders of a poet as of yet

That temping, preemptive glow
That picks away at your soul
Drags a slow scraping breath cold,
And now returns above to lick the heavens,
born from the burn,
and bold.

Mr. Ruin

The Shimmering Hand extends to touch my toes
As I am caught be the gently stop and go
Of an ancient body, long preserved and creased
Beyond recognition; those pioneers who pleased
Their god and cast first lots are known for naught
Except its finding. And now their name is Gone.
The arm is halved by and American steed’s long tug
That splits the face long worn by an amorous sun;
That which they found was here before their time
Will pass them over. All these pleasantries of mine
Cannot persist beyond tomorrow’s dawn,
But the aged toes shall curl forever on.

Liberty’s flame is fed on liberty’s blood,
Yet all is quenched in his returning flood.

Good Bye

Last time we met, your hands,
taut with indifference, rolled
slim joints to metal bands
rung tight round my collar.

Someone else’s burden
grew thin and sharp, I choked
and choked up once again
as canvas sought to learn

just what made stone so strong.
There – my reflection bold
grasps firm in hand and heart
to the beat beat I heard

calling out my tired,
familiar greeting.
You, whose first name – Liar –
recalls buried loss burned

beneath the pile of tears
turned ashes. Do not think
you own me from my fears.
Soon I’ll bid you Adieux.

A Fond Farewell

It’s the end of the year, at long last. Here is what I wrote as a speech for my teachers class, and the only *ahem* poetic value it holds is in the magic we shared throughout the school year. Carry on, Hinksonites.

Annie Shustrin


Dear Hinkson class of 2014: I love you guys. For those of you who’ve taken the time to ask what I wanna do with my future, which would specifically be, well, all of you, I want to go to English class for the rest of my life. As sappy or cliché as that may sound, I’m serious. Walking into this classroom at the beginning of September, I didn’t realize what this English class, and a number of the works of literature we’ve dug into, would come to mean to me. Reading through canonical books of American Literature like The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, and anything by Flannery O’Connor has shown me how vital English is to whom we are today and to whom we will be tomorrow. I liked to let my imagination sail away on that raft of Huck’s or ride too fast in that big bright yellow car of Gatsby’s. Jake took me along and opened my eyes up to that sacred time in a land called France, showing me how to write and how to live, what sunrise to look forward to and what friendships to pass up, when to speak my mind and when to shut up – who to be, really. Reading into the minds of these authors – I became me. And entering into those realms with you all at my side – you became my family. And that’s all I really have to say about that.

I think you were right, Mr. O, when you talked about the low points in school and how its hard to find something that really makes you wanna attend. For me, the one consolation for going to school on these days was English class. Sure I missed an assignment or two, or forgot to memorize a poem or four, but you made this class my home. And if there’s one thing I’m gonna take away from this year, it’s that home isn’t a place you run back to, nor is it something to always remember, but it’s a time and a place that you, with the help of those around you, have created. You carry it with you when you leave until it’s time to make a new home. But one thing I overlooked in the beginning of the year was that with every new home comes a new family of brothers and sisters who, unlike the home, stay with you wherever you are. And I would like you all to know that you are my family and I will always regard each and every one of you as such.

Some may call me a dreamer, and in fact I wouldn’t mind being called that. I do have dreams, and I cherish each and every one of those. But I’d like to share with you one dream that’ll stick with me for a very long time, I bet. I’ve been enamored with France and the wonderful minds that once dwelled there together in competitive harmony, and I’ve always wished that I could go there, my Midnight in Paris. I’ll never make it to that time, but I will go to France one day, and on that day the lights will be green in the yellow haze that covers the city and the fog will rise off the waters and there will be singing in the streets and we’ll meet up once again as the day draws to a close and we’ll walk the cobbled streets and we look out at that sunrise and see it finally set, -me, with my family, in my home, together.

To Light

She stands
on the edge
infinity offers,

lit torch
in hand, knees
trembling, the slish
slosh courage sends melancholy

who dance to
pistachio pop and crackle – Snap
preacher hands produce to bring you back
from the brink.

In step
with the tune
of ten thousand lyres

her toes
dig into
the ground and embrace
the masses huddled at her feet.

Let the
freedom bell
ring true and transcend
coiled doubts poised and ready
to spring.

sail past for-
bidden shores;

test, see
that good Lord
at work in the field-
He seeks what has been turned away.

Your light
draws others
as you see them shy;
take heart, and through the white waters
march on.