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THIS is the hardest story that I've ever told. The match head sizzles anew and I bring it close to the tobacco end of my cigarette and I inhale. It burns an angry red and settles into a calm orange as I breathe out, grey smoke billowing through flared nostrils and the sliver of a mouth. I close my eyes as I pull into the butt, smoke fills my mouth and I puff my cheeks. I breathe in once more, and I sigh out the fumes that couldn't attach themselves to my lungs, corroding it further.

This is indeed the hardest story that I've ever told. For I've tooted this horn too many times, I've been the boy who cried wolf, correctly, charging with its fanged teeth soaked in the blood of what I overzealously feel, over and over and over again. And someone's always heard the screams, the cries of desperation straining under the intensity of lost causes, of past experiences, and irrelevant pain, but no one's listened. And this has got to stop.

My phone rings and I see that it's her. I know where she's calling me from and I let the inspired inhalation out. I sigh. That seems to be the only way I exhale nowadays. I answer.

“Hey,” my voice croaks.

“Hey.” The end of the word extends, as more y's hint to the sincerity of her affection.

“How's it going?”

“It's going great. We're just headed off to the next sight. You sure you can't come?”

I'm sure. “Sorry. You know, got tied up-.”

She starts laughing, interrupting me. “Zee, that's disgusting!” Her excited shrieks of pleasure pierce my ear and I am forced to inhale again. “Zunayed was just pretending to poke his nose!” She laughs again. “You should've seen it. Sorry, you were saying?”

I smile. Wry. That seems to have become the only way I smile, too. “Nothing, nothing. Have fun.”

“Okay. I'll talk to you later, 'kay? Bye.” She starts laughing again and hangs up, before I can reply. Just as well.

Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death in the US, maybe even the world. It's a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary disease, emphysema, and cancer. Each puff of a cigarette contains tobacco, nicotine, different acids, ammonia, oils, and over four thousand other compounds. Each cigarette has the power to reduce a man's life by twelve minutes, corroding the very essence of his physical being.

And I loved every moment of it.

I feel mildly masochistic, the evening now darkening to a shady grey, and brightness has receded the sky to an orange pulp, streaked with white strips of soft cloudy tissue, as I stub out the remnants of a cigarette that has reached the end of its time.

I see a hand, a hand that caresses up her spine, dabbing into each vertebrae, another hand that skirts down the back of her knee, as it tucks it in, and a hand, the back of it, going up and down her jaw line. I see intermingling lips, going in and out of focus, probing into depths, I see vapourous breaths, intersecting into each other with fierce intimacy. I see interlocked legs and arms and minds, perfectly synchronized to each other's presences, their hearts beating to frenzy, jumping under their beings as skins sizzle with the paradoxically delicate and rough power of their touch. I see them again and again, over and over, and where I imagine, it's burning, the heat vaporizes their mere presences into one, and as I do, I am so cold, so cold.

And the hands and feet and lips and arms, they're not mine.

I sit down in front of my computer and the masochistic hold I have, it doesn't let go. I look at pictures of her with him, with them, and the hollowness that endowed upon is me beyond relief, beyond sustenance. I mildly stroke my untouched lips and I close my eyes. The images, they wouldn't stop. I get lost in the presences of better men, in the arms of others, in a land of people that reek of the past. Their faces are sharp, intelligent, and I cannot ignore them. I hear her laugh, scream with joy, and I see her smile, and giggle, and blush. And not for me. I feel what she felt as she loved him, loved him insanely. I see the hole of his absence, and the burning sensation of his presence, his star blazing for her in the night. I feel his words burn through me to her, and the blue, soothing petals of his affection. And I see his coffee on her table, his saliva cloaked in her lipstick, half-finished. I see her, in his arms, and his body, more than just handsome, gorgeous, self-conscious, clutching at her and at what he was to her.

He is the sun. I don't see him, but he's everywhere and I feel him. Even at night. And he burns.

I smile again. It's the wriest of smiles. I light another cigarette, and I inhale its deathly fumes into the depths of what I have become, of what I feel and the impossibility of what I want. Some things, you just can't do anything about. I sigh. Smoke.

In the end, all you really have is a cigarette.

By S. N. Rasul

Furry Reading

READING makes you wiser. Not age, but reading. And some old man said that. Messed up, huh? So yeah, these "tomes" of knowledge as they're sometimes called gives you the knowledge and ultimately makes you wiser. Looking back, one will notice that wise men always have obstinate facial hair. Old Albert, Karl Marx, Aristotle, Ptolemy, they all had crazy hair on their heads or faces. And since hair can also be called fur, it can be said that fur is directly proportional to knowledge and that fur is directly proportional to reading (since knowledge=reading).

If only I applied that power of deduction in Physics, I wouldn't be failing in it. Or, maybe it's because I don't read enough? But I do have insane amounts of out of control hair. And I do read a lot. This is confusing. I think I'm going to come back to this problem after 8 hours of straight up gaming.

Reading is furry. It really is. I don't know if it has been scientifically linked or not, but I think a person who reads books or at least thinks about books is more likely to have facial hair than others.

For people with large hair-do's who read a lot, I put forth the following explanation: reading gives you knowledge. It is eventually stored in your brain. Since your brain is in your head, your hair is forced to grow longer to accommodate the extra knowledge. It's so simple.

For those who read and have more facial hair than others, this is how it goes: reading a good book promotes deep thinking. Unless you read Twilight and Harry Potter all day, reading should make you go into a reverie where you ponder on the inner meaning of the words you have just read. To go with Rodin's classic thinker, then, most wise men strike up the classic thinker pose. This is accompanied by an irresistible urge to stroke one's chin, an act made more comforting by the presence of a beard. Also, I think that stroking one's moustache makes the brain juice flow more easily and helps in problem solving. Herein the brain encourages facial growth.

One might say that tramps on the street have more facial hair than almost all educated men. They are absolutely correct. What they don't get, though, a tramp has a different type of knowledge; he has seen the world through different eyes. He knows what "educated" men behave like, he is not fooled by the outer mask of superiority most wear. A tramp may be the most knowledgeable amongst us.

This brings me to my initial statement, reading is furry. So go read more. (Not applicable to women, because that's just gross).

By Shaer Duita Fish Reaz

Winds of change

The earth turns, days and months come to pass leaving memories, shadows of memories, legends and reflections of myths, and as the months turn to years, and years to eras, the memories fade. Only legends and myths remain, of an art long gone and best forgotten. But the wind rises once again, a stench most foul and most vile flooding through the hearts of mankind, from the innards of the world. A passing wind that strikes fear and terror, foretelling the coming of a thousand more other winds- nay, tens of thousand other winds. The wind blows as sure as the world burns.

By Emil


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