"Forgive me; I’m thirteen,” she said to me.

          “No, you’re not,” I told my mother. But that was back then. Back when I was thirteen and she was forty-three. I still remember feeling the summer bees’ wind beat around my head and ears. And seeing the winter’s water churn the summer river streets. At night, the beating warmth drove beaked insects to our doorstep in droves. They rang the doorbell and swarmed in our wilting home. Ugly, bent men also circled at our door, constantly rotating and bobbing their knobby heads in the door’s lens. When they came inside, they smiled at me like skeletons. I saw their elbowed arms and their hooked paws as armed cannons that went off with a smack. Their hellish eyes pits of black smoke, and their mouths ghoulish caverns. Under their lips and eyelids is sludgy poison. They drift with seasons but are marked by forgotten memories and screaming voices. Distant screams sometimes echo from the underworld in my brain and bounce around in my lumpy insides. The reverberating of vaulted yells kept me up at night, and the men are somehow there. I lose things in my demonic brain, and I don't often hear them anymore. My mother is fifty now.


Phoenix Vaughan-Ende is an undergraduate at CU Boulder, and this brisk part-fiction will be a page in a larger book about identity and life. He struggles to say positive things about himself. He'll just say that he's learning as a student of life. Yet he tries hard to put his best foot forward, and that's what makes him human like you.