Photo by Rachael Whitlock

By Rachael Whitlock

A thin veil of smoke curled around her fingers before dissipating into the air. She held the cigarette loosely to her lips and felt the warmth of its tip radiate towards her skin. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks as she inhaled once more. For a moment, as smoke filled her nostrils, she relaxed. Then, with another exhale, she began to heave in quiet sobbing.

She brushed her black bangs out of her eyes before picking her head up and taking another hit of the fast-shrinking cigarette. Sitting on the edge of the sandy cliffs, she watched the sun – a fiery ball of orange – as it began to disappear beneath the horizon. The entire city beneath her was bathed in the pink glow of the sunset, and as the darkness slowly enveloped it, yellow squares of light began to brighten the buildings.

Behind her, she heard light feet kicking the gravelly sand; sighing, she knew exactly who was about to sit down. Part of her leapt with elation as the boy sat next to her, but another part recoiled in pain. She yearned to speak to him him, but she also didn’t think she could bear to see his face. “I knew I would find you here.” he said quietly.

His soft voice made her wince. She thought the pain would subside with time, but it seemed to loom over her, completely enveloping and suffocating her already broken heart. “I haven’t changed my mind, you know. I can’t keep it.” she said while brushing tears off her cheeks. He sat next to her silently with his blue eyes staring at the city lights. After a minute, she stole a glance of his face and saw the shine of tears rolling down his cheeks.

“But why not?” His words were barely more than a hoarse whisper; his pain was evident. In hushed desperation, he pleaded, “Let me have it. You wouldn’t have to do anything after…this part. I’ll take care of it myself.” and it hurt her to hear the desperation in his voice. A piece of her wanted the child.  She ached to keep it and raise it with this boy she loved, but she knew it was just a fantasy that would play out differently in reality.

“I told you already. I can’t do it. I just can’t.” Even though she said this with certainty, her mind was twisting with indecision. They loved each other, and it was as if she was ripping his heart out and watching him bleed. No one does that to someone they love, she thought silently. She couldn’t look at him, even just a glance at the broken boy would prove devastating. She could hear him crying quietly and knew comforting him, even just looking at him, would only bring her more misery. Her heart was being squeezed, tighter and tighter, until it was nearly impossible to breathe. She turned her face to the sky and stared at the moon, full and bright, surrounded  by thousands of twinkling stars. Please, tell me what to do, she thought emptily. She didn’t truly believe there was anything in the stars that would help her, but she figured she’d try.

Still sitting next to her, the boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver ring. He turned the jewel over in his fingers and let the moonlight shine on the cluster of diamonds on the top. After a minute of staring at the glittering silver, he held it out to her. “I got this for you. I don’t know why. I guess I thought it would help change your mind.” He continued to look at his hands, at the ring, and at the ground – anywhere but her face.

She held her breath in uncertainty. In her chest, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to reach out and grab the ring from his hand to put it on and never take it off. Instead, she simply sat there. One then two slow minutes passed before she even moved. Finally, she pulled her eyes away from the shining metal and looked up at his face, “I’m sorry, but I have to go.” It wasn’t until she had gotten up and walked away from him, out of earshot, that she began to sob.


A week later, she took a deep breath before dialing the number of her doctor’s office. A cheery nurse answered her on the first ring. She spoke to the nurse with certainty, for she knew   what she wanted. “Yes, I’d like to cancel the appointment I have next Tuesday.” The nurse asked her if she was sure and reminded her of the consequences of her decision. In two weeks, she could no longer change her mind if she decided she didn’t want it anymore. With an upbeat positivity, she exclaimed, “I know, but I want to keep it. I’m not going to change my mind.” A minute later, she hung up the phone and relaxed for the first time in months.

Then, she dialed another number. She wasn’t sure he would answer, but, after the fifth ring, she heard a sigh  with a strained “Hello?” that was a question more than it was a greeting.

She steeled herself for what she was about to say and decided to start slow. “Um…hey. I know this is hard, but can we talk? I have something important to tell you.”


The Squirrels, The Myths, The Legends


Photo from the Pensacola News Journal

By Jade Jacobs

For years, there has been lore on the University of West Florida campus regarding the existence of rare albino squirrels residing between the Information Technology building (79) and Math/Engineering building (4). Many students have their own theories about why the squirrels are here or what their purpose is among us. Although up to two have been seen at the same time, no one knows if there are more out there. A sighting of even one albino squirrel is said to alter a person’s mind and enlighten them to a bit more of life’s grand story. In hopes of gaining more insight to the mysteries of these aloof animals, students were asked to share their beliefs and myths about these legendary squirrels. These are their stories.

Long ago, the 6 colleges educated students as a university; then, everything changed when the funding arrived. Only the albino squirrel, master of all 6 disciplines, could divide funds. But when UWF needed him most, he vanished. Years passed until students discovered new albino squirrels living near building 4. Although the squirrels’ finance skills are great, they have a lot to learn before they’re ready to give any money. But I believe, they can save UWF.” – Albino squirrel advocate.

The white squirrel is a vengeful demon whose physical body was used in a ritual on UWF campus. He now roams the grounds looking for the people that caused his transformation in an attempt to repay them for their kindness.” – Jerrad H.

He’s an international squirrel from Antarctica here to study human behavior” – A friend from afar.

Not only are there rumors as to how the squirrels came to call UWF home, but mystery also surrounds exactly where the squirrels live on campus.

I heard it’s responsible for the weird missing reports on the nature trail.” – Patrick L.

It has been said that if you rub its head 3 times and scream ‘Yahtzee!’, class grades will improve miraculously.” – A believer.

Seeing him is an omen that you’ll make an A on your next test” – Brianna M.

Even further speculation has gone into why the squirrels have their prominent color in the fur-st place.

Supposedly, he jumped into a highly chlorinated pool. Some humans think it’s a ghost, but it’s far from dead.” – Anthony N.

The albino squirrel is the embodiment of unfulfilled wishes and dreams of all college students. That’s why it lacks color, with inadequacy and disappointment comes loss of wonder.” – A student in search of hope.

He was caught in a hurricane and the salt from the sea water turned his fur white.” – Jamar G.

Some students are firm believers in the existence and powers of the albino squirrels, while others just think it’s a tall, fluffy tale. Though it’s true that there is no conclusive evidence to back up these reports, the fantasy alone is enough to keep the dream alive. Whether you choose to believe these accounts is up to you. However, one thing is for certain: the imagination of college students knows no bounds in cases where oddly pigmented animals come into play.

The Sound of Goodbye

  1. Womenkissing (1)
    Art by Felicia Wahlstrom

By Rachael Whitlock

The machine’s steady beeping was the only sound I had heard for the last week. Everything else, the other machines, all the voices, the scuffling in the hallway, I couldn’t focus on any of it. I could only focus on the rhythm of the machine. This sound kept me from getting lost in my head. The rhythmic beating was all that kept me grounded.

I couldn’t touch her. Her hands were so cold, and I couldn’t bear to reach out to her. The blue veins crawling up her arms were sickeningly prominent; the chipped red nail polish on her fingertips was a painful reminder of our life before. Every time I summoned the courage to rest my hand on hers, I drew back as soon as I grazed her skin. Every time, I looked at her face afterwards there was no movement. Not even so much as a flutter of an eyelid escaped her body.

Her still face was smooth and, although her cheekbones were sharp underneath her skin, she was still beautiful. Her once-soft skin was pale and took on a bluish tone, her honey-blonde hair was no longer there, and there were small clear tubes that snaked into her nostrils. To me, though, everything about her was still perfect.  Even though her eyes were closed, I could still picture them: a light blue the color of a tranquil sea hiding beneath those dark lashes. What I would’ve given to see those eyes bright with life one more time.

I knew, though, that seeing that sea again was impossible because about a week ago, an insincere doctor had said so. I didn’t understand most of his words, but I picked up enough, enough to lose hope. After this news, I started focusing on the beeping.

Even with the machine’s calming rhythm, though, I was not calm. I couldn’t help but stare at the wedding band wrapped tight around her finger, and that was more painful to look at than her still body. The way the diamond mocked me as it glittered, and the gold metal took on a rosy tint in the pale blue light. The scene reminded me of what our life used to be. The ring that once symbolized love, hope, and progress was now nothing more than an artifact with the capacity to drudge up painfully sweet memories. I stared at the diamond until it was just a blurred shape in my vision, and my thoughts took over. I was no longer in the hospital room, but in a memory, I would give my life to go back to one more time.

I stood under a giant oak tree with the wind whipping my dress around my legs, and I was smiling as I watched her walk towards me. She was absolutely stunning- white dress glittering in the sun, honey-colored hair falling in rivulets down her back like a waterfall, red lipstick outlining her smile- I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She walked down the pale blue aisle slowly while holding an overflowing bouquet of wild flowers loosely at her chest. After she reached me under the oak tree, she read the vows she’d written nearly a month before she had even proposed, and then I read mine. Her smile got larger with every word, and tears began to spill down her cheeks behind her veil. Before I knew it, I gently lifted her veil over her face as she threw her arms around my neck. Then, her red lips were on mine, so warm and soft–

The frowning man with the lab coat pushed the door open to break me from my thoughts. He opened his mouth and sound came out, but I was trying to focus on the noise of the machine to keep from hearing him. I knew why he was here. I had signed all the paperwork yesterday, but I just couldn’t bear to hear him say it again.

The doctor continued to speak until I finally heard what I’d been waiting for: It’s time to say goodbye now. Right then, the crack in my heart that had been slowly growing the last few months broke open into a giant abyss that left me teetering on the edge. I took a deep breath and, with a shaking hand, finally reached out to her. I grabbed her icy hand and held on like I would never let go.

The slowing of the machine’s once-steady beeping threw me off rhythm. After a minute, the sound was replaced by a single drawn-out flat-line. Then, silence ushered its way into the room as the doctor turned the monitors off. He walked out.  He had left me alone in the room with nothing more than an empty shell of the woman I once loved. I stared dumbly for what seemed like an eternity before finally standing and wiping away the tears that had begun rolling down my cheeks. Without the machine, I had nothing left to focus on, nothing to hold on to, and nothing to keep the thoughts at bay. The silence was deafening.


Question (2)

By Joseph Cox

It was in the moments of grim contemplation that a pit plummeted itself in the depths of my stomach. The black hole spawned from the recesses of my thoughts and burrowed its way inside with nothing to halt its insatiable progress. But in due time, I had no desire to stop the consumption of my heart, for it was within its depths that I began to feel free. I felt the power of nothing as it spawned from nothingness.

When I was young, I’d pray to God every night to ensure the protection of the loved ones I believed to be with him because the comfort of eternal life felt blissful to me. The ones I had lost weren’t rotting in the ground, for they had become angels to guard me up above. The people I held most dear had relinquished their life with me to bless the souls of those they would come to interact with, and in that selfless attitude I always found comfort. It was this selfless nature that fueled my recovery from the first major blow of grief in my life: when I lost my grandfather. I knew that wherever my grandfather was, smiles were sure to follow. I had wished I could be the one smiling, but this selfishness was easily vanquished. Something was made happier by my loss, so everything became sensible.

The protective veil of eternity encased my life for quite some time, but skepticism crept its way under my covers. I’ve watched the pain a car accident can bring, heard the words of those caught in the abyss of depression, felt final touches, talked to dying children, felt the blade of self-harm, and I wondered how any God could watch its creations writhe. Philosophers refer to the sentiments I just expressed as the Problem of Evil, and to a believer, such problems are easily explained away. The suffering is merely a test. Passing the test brings no shortage of reward, so endurance must be shown throughout one’s life. Perhaps even more controversial is the notion that such sufferings are merely a part of the plan. In God’s plans, the good always outweighs the bad, so one must merely stick around to watch the rainbow after the hurricanes. I felt safe as a part of a plan, safe with every action a means to an end, safe under the covers with my prayers every night, but safety would be fulfilling only for so long.

I write to you now as an atheist that has found more comfort in the idea of nothingness than in the grace of whatever Gods may be because an endless story is a boring one. The problem with the idea of eternal life is that it doesn’t allow for much life at all. Everything becomes so helplessly trivial when perpetual happiness is guaranteed, so long as one remains a decent human. Problems become mute, fear is useless, happiness is monotonous, hope is worthless, and nearly all other emotions become a morphed blob of uninteresting worthlessness. There’s no sense in fussing around with the seemingly minuscule problems of everyday life when one day I’ll be waltzing around an endless wonderland, nor is there a reason to fear anything when the worst thing that can happen to me is happiness. Though, the blade that slashes the negative emotions of life cuts deep into the joy of our existence as well. Happiness during our time on Earth must pale in comparison to what heaven can provide, so it would be irrational to savor the moments of happiness we felt. Hope is useless, because there’s nothing to hope for that’s better than an eternal paradise which has already been promised to each of us. I was raised to believe that eternity is what would give my life its meaning, but instead I felt as though I was being sapped of what makes me alive. The beauty of life is not to be found in perpetuity, but in its finality.

Nothingness is utterly terrifying, and that’s what makes it eerily wonderful. Every nuance of life is to be savored because each minuscule piece is only temporary. Experiences, no matter how grim or how magnificent, come to be enjoyed due to the nature of their occurrence. Even the depths of misery become bearable because at least there’s something to feel. Nothingness is a bitter, indifferent, and fantastic motivator. It pushes everything it presides over to yearn for more because more is exactly what we can never have. Every second becomes something worth acknowledging, because that second might be your last. The fear is what makes me feel alive, and an eternity could never match the thrill of the temporary.

As for those that have already been lost, the permanence of their non-existence is a horrible pain to endure, but an endless life would do little to dampen such agony. Whether elsewhere or gone forever, those we have lost are felt most in their effects. The stories we share, the lessons we take, and the inspiration we absorb from the deaths of those we hold dear are what give them life beyond their ends. As a child, I had not realized that my grandfather had done all he needed to do to bring smiles into the present day because the stories I share with him are some of the best I tell. Though the dead may not receive eternal paradise, nothingness need not be some evil counterpart to eternity, for nothingness is merely the absence of something. No pain, no suffering, and no ills exist in nothingness just as the eternal paradise promises. Nothingness is just more direct in asserting that no good can come from it either. Though, as I’ve asserted earlier, an eternity anywhere doesn’t seem to bring much good either.

You and I are going to die one day, and that’s an uncomfortable thought. Would you want to learn to cope with the cruel indifference of a godless world by witnessing the hidden beauty that it holds? Or maybe live in the pursuit of the love of a God? A goal that, in some circumstances, can be quite noble, or perhaps you may wish to take your own route too, and find meaning in your own path. Whatever you choose, I hope that you come to savor each second as it passes you buy, live each moment as if your only responsibility were to enjoy it, and come to find that, at the end of it all, nothingness sounds like a much-needed rest from a life well lived.

This House Has Heart

Photo by Nick Wagner

By Victoria Clark

The petals fall lightly upon this place I call home. Each one falls once it is ready and gently lands on the surface of my heart. The floors creak softly beneath my careful footing. My weight pushes against the fragile floors and awakens the memories of everything and everyone who has ever crossed the room. When the air outside is crisp and cool, awaiting the break of a new season to dawn, the windows are cracked open. The breezes dance their way inside my house and flirt with the thin white curtains lying slightly agape across each window. Every wall is painted in bodacious shades of white and invites all doors of imagination to crack open enough to let in new creations.

Outside, where a world of green lightly brushes its seductive cheeks against the skies of blue, the blades of grass call out to me. I step with care, not wanting to disturb the earth, but letting it know I once walked here.

Outside, further in the oceans deep, I sit. Slowly, the world underwater moves around me, and pulls at my hair, my shoulders, and my waist to invite me further in. Each fish passes in curious wonder, and stares at its reflection in my eyes. Making their way down to join me on the ocean floor, the sun rays pierce the surface of the water.

Further, if the distance doesn’t scare me, I could rest on the dusty surface of a star in the depths of the universe. Here, within the chasms of my own mind, I find solace in the silence and simply sit in awe-struck wonder.

The home that I have created lives within me. The floors creak softly with each breath I take, the curtains beg me to dance in their glory, and the stars watch me with as much wonder as I stare at them with. My story, my home, shifts as easily as the keys moving through a piano song. Each melody, every key, sways with the movement of the ocean, and the winds encircle this earth in the hopes of unsteadying my world twig by leafy twig.

Sometimes there’s a hurricane where the walls shake and the windows shatter, and my knees hit the ground. The wind rips through my soul to take my breath away, yet I still step with care. I scream at the world saying, “I once walked here.”

Each drop of rain lands on a different path, and creates rivers and rushing waterfalls. Every day, there’s a new way to walk through this home I’ve built. My hands are cracked, hard, and covered in little scars from the memories I’ve been using as bricks to build my own little corner of the universe.

I’ve built a home on a planet I call my own. Here, among the thorns, the pouring rain, and the meteors, I have planted my feet and grown tall as a tree. Here, I’ve taken the arrows, the fallen snow, and the many memories forcing me to grow, and turned them into walls to run my fingers along as I walk. My home is intangible, yet I can still feel the wind as it pulses in my brain. I cannot waltz on these floors, open the windows, or walk out the doors. I cannot feel the dirt of the earth, the rain drops on my lips, or the dust of the moon. All I can do, from the corner of my heart I’ve built this home on, is smile, and know that I will never lose touch with this garden I’ve grown.

After all, this house has heart.

University Rhapsody: A Four Year Journey

Photo by Jade Jacobs

By Jade Jacobs

Do you ever wonder if the life you’re living is real or just a fantasy, a figment of the imagination? Sometimes we feel like the stress just gets to be too much and we get caught in a landslide with no escape from the reality of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Then when the weather’s nice we’ll take a break, maybe go out to the beach to open our eyes, look up to the sky and see clarity. We’re just college students, and we need no sympathy because days are easy come, easy go and grades are a little high, little low. We just flow with how the semester goes and anyway the wind blows.

When life gets to be too much, we call up our moms and tell her how we kill our motivation by how much of a crapshoot it is with how much we’ll actually get done by the time it’s due. When we got to college, we felt like our life had just begun, but now we’ve gone and thrown it all away by trying to “grow up” too quickly. We don’t want to make her cry along with us but let her know that if we don’t call again tomorrow to carry on as if nothing really matters.

It’s too late to go back now. Stress sends shivers down our spines and without sleep our bodies ache all the time. Some days we tell everyone goodbye so we can go face the truth of how much work we’ve gotten ourselves into. Even if we joke about it, we don’t want to die, but sometimes we wish we had never been born at all. Sometimes we see a little silhouette of our stress and just want to act like Scaramouche and to frolic about and do the Fandango. Other times, deadlines and exams loom eerily like thunderbolts and lightning that frighten us. We receive exam scores and wonder if we’ll ever reach the greatness of Galileo or be able to scheme like Figaro. Will we ever be magnifico?

We’re just poor college students and sometimes we feel like nobody loves us. We’re just poor students from poor families. We wish there was a way to spare us this life from this university! Too often our mental health is easy come easy go… Will anxiety every let us go? We pray, “Bismillah.” No, It will not let us go and often time it feels like Beelzebub has a devil put aside for each of us. Trying to keep our GPA up feels like we’re being stoned and spit in the eye. It seems social groups are just here to love us and leave us to die. By the time senior year comes and goes, we can’t do this anymore and just have to get out, just have to graduate from here.

Then the college years are over. We look back and see that all the stress over our grades, social groups, and resume builders doesn’t really matter. Anyone can see now that it never really mattered in the long run. We move on with our life, anyway the wind blows.
( fin )



By Joseph Cox

The wind wisped through the tree in an eerie flow and whistled through the depths of my hallowed soul. The willow hung dreadfully over me, as a fitting blanket for a lonely day. The table on which I sat had aged. When I was here last, the polished tan oak stood in contrast of the olive-green grass, but the graying wood now fades into the deepness of the green. I’ve faded too over the years, for time is rarely kind to the body. I had not wanted to come here again, but here I sit with the splintering wood jutting into my tailbone, as I helplessly prop myself on the table top. I slump over with my feet stamped into the seats of the table, and stare at the horizon. I do not know what I was looking for, but I knew this was the only place that it could be found. I cannot see my breath in the fading daylight, but I know it is cold. The air is much cooler than the last time I was here. It has an icy thickness to it. I took comfort in its steel embrace, for it reflected what I held back.

She didn’t take long to arrive. I heard her coming, as the wind wiped the moss along the bed of grass behind me, but I did not bother to turn around. She sat down behind me. Her body filled the small space left in the old table, and it creaked beneath the weight of a new wandering soul. At first, she sat upright to let me savor my final moments in the chilling tranquility. Soon, she would begin to pry her way in, and I played into her hand. I pushed my body upright, clenched my eyes, and felt the air seep into the goosebumps on my skin.

That’s when I felt her touch again. The contact was nothing more than a graze. She had pushed herself into me, but only to the point that her back lightly met my own. I could feel only the wool of her sweater, but that was enough. In just that graze, she had cut through the cold. She had ice picked her way inside me again, and I forgot why I had ever let her go. The chill within me melted down to the bones, as if my muscles had become rigid from ice. I could not remember the last time I had truly breathed. Everything felt limp, and I seeped into her, as I had done years before.

We sat back to back now. Our breaths in sequence with one another, and our hearts beating with the new-found freedom. Her head rested beneath mine, and her hair weaved its way onto the back of my neck. Amid this winter evening, she was the breath of spring. Her scent dug into the air around us, and encompassed me. I was caught once again, and had no desire to let go.

Here, in this warm embrace, we sat for what felt like hours. The time I had spent without her seemed distant now. The setting sun eclipsed on the horizon, and I felt tears well up in my eyes. I felt the warm water drift down my chilled cheeks, and began to breathe in bursts of exhalations. Weight escaped my shoulders with each passing moment, and each breath brought decompression to my constricted lungs. I thought I had lost her for good this time.

“Why did you come back?” Her voice wisped with the fairness of the wind. For a while, I did not answer; I just smiled, like a parched nomad that had finally found fresh water. Part of me did not want to reply, but bask in the glory of the moment. “Because I thought I had lost you for good this time,” I said to her between my deep exhalations. “I could feel my heart beat, but did not know if you were still there.” I had been broken, but with her I could heal once again. I could be free once more.