On Valerie Hendon

I met a wizard on the corner of an unassuming street in the middle of a bustling city. It was right in front of her glass-paned studio—what passed for her wizard’s tower—as I exited a trolley, one that had turned in a direction I didn’t wish to take. I should say, rather, that I met a blinding flash of light and, just after, my past self.

Let me fast forward.

Glancing over my shoulder, I witnessed a frozen moment in time. It was a black and white version of the second I had stepped off that trolley, my foot just touching the sidewalk, my expression thoughtful. All had gone quiet. When I turned back, she was just lowering a sleek camera from in front of her face, revealing a rosy grin and keen eyes.

“*There* you are,” she said to me. Or, maybe, to the snapshot behind me.

Blinking, I asked, “Have we met?”

“We will,” she replied.

Through the windows behind her, I could see many such moments of stopped time, all lovingly arranged in cute frames along the studio walls. Shadowy patrons stood about admiring them. Somehow there was mine, too, though I had missed the moment of its appearance.

When I focused back on the present, the mysterious photographer had gone, as had her studio. Traffic roared by the empty corner, forever leaving me behind. Scratching my head, I made my way alongside the street, recalling then that I had a future appointment with a time wizard.

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On Laci McGee

The quiet life was not for her. She had a seeking, searching quality about her, a desire to forge ahead farther and farther. In a bygone era, she might have been an intrepid explorer—leading an expedition to chart vast seas and map hidden lands. In this time, she was a traveler. Every time I turned around, she was off on another trip or returning from a distant planet, happy to bring friends along or to go on alone. Just because others had already discovered the unknown didn’t mean she wouldn’t see the world with her own eyes.

If you witness her passing on your way to somewhere else, her receding back might be your only view of her. She has places to be, my friend. But should she pause to talk to you, know that you have drawn the attention of someone only captivated by the most stunning of vistas. It’s possible, even, that she was looking for you to join her all along.

Don’t miss your chance to follow her on her next grand adventure.

On Heath McLaughlin

In him I found a quiet attentiveness. Within a group setting, he was the one with his head cocked to the side, paying attention to everyone. An observational creature myself, I recognized him as one of my own, though of a different variety. He had a way of ascertaining a situation—listening, discussing, considering—then placing himself where he concluded himself needed most. A steady, rhythmic beat, one to count upon.

No need to give him direction—he knew what he was doing.

He spoke up fearlessly to challenge foolish orders, protecting those in his care with his voice. Both his dissent and his agreement had merit, because he made sure his opinion was not only heard, but worth hearing. However, if you were proud enough to ignore his input, he didn’t take it personally. He would just adjust his position to catch you if you fell.

On Samantha Sader

The sunshine loved her cheeks.

Imagine a wildflower planted right next to a busy sidewalk—face toward the sun, conversing with bees, colorful petals waving to passersby. That flower was her. A pedestrian’s day was made just a little brighter for having seen her; folks often left her presence wearing a fresh smile.

I happened to meet her on my way past her plot of earth on a foggy night, when everyone else had gone to bed. The busy sidewalk was empty of all but me and it was difficult to find my way. It should have been impossible to see her in the fuzzy dark like that, but a faint glow emanated from her fragile stem, casting glimmering light in a small sphere all around her.

I had never seen a night flower like her in all my travels.

There I paused a moment to appreciate this delightful display. She had a bit of daylight within her, I realized, borrowed from the sun and stored up for when gloom encroached. Though it had almost gotten me lost, I had to feel grateful to the confusing fog. Without it, I would’ve missed the chance to see a flower like her shine.

On Katie Byrne

Crackling energy bit the air at her approach and it was hard to miss her entrance. She had a way of striding into a room, as if into a castle under siege, she here to vanquish the enemy’s champion fighter. For armor, she wore a dark smile and snapping eyes, her sword the lightning dancing on her lips. Her battle cry was a dragon’s roar and her mighty footsteps shook the earth. Come to fight her prepared or don’t come at all. For when you clash with her, you’ll find yourself cut down with one snarky comment, bleeding out on the floor as she saunters past you in search of a worthier foe.

On Mariah Hendon

Some described her as ‘bright’ and ‘bubbly,’ and I supposed she was, most of the time. I happened to know she had a flickering blue flame trapped in a corked glass bottle, one small enough for her to hang from a delicate chain, which she wore around her neck, hiding the whole ensemble beneath her shirt.

Some described her as ‘bright’ and ‘bubbly,’ and I supposed she was, most of the time. I happened to know she had a flickering blue flame trapped in a corked glass bottle, one small enough for her to hang from a delicate chain, which she wore around her neck, hiding the whole ensemble beneath her shirt.

To my eyes, the little flame glowed right through the fabric. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell if she wore it or if it smoldered inside her rib cage, where her heart ought to be. If she caught me looking at the fire, she would hold her finger to her lips. “Shh…”

One day, when we were alone, she slipped the bottle from beneath her shirt and held it out on her upturned palm. She wore a fierce expression that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with proving the world wrong.

She uncorked the bottle and poured the fire out onto the ground, like hot, molten liquid. It caught on the dead grass and roared upward in a shower of golden sparks. In a blink, it was higher than our heads, hungry red, devouring everything.

I tasted the smoke of burned up dreams on the back of my tongue. “What is it?” I asked.

She placed dark sunglasses over her eyes in one smooth motion, the better to watch. The lenses reflected twin dancing suns back at me. She smiled and said, “Passion.”

As the fire ate the forest around us, I put my hands out toward the heat. “Passion,” I agreed.

On Joshua Kyle Watson

In a quiet back way, I met a colorful alley cat. Or, I should say, I stumbled right over him. He’d been basking in the sun in plain sight, minding his own business. Yet I, in my absentmindedness, hadn’t even seen him.

In a quiet back way, I met a colorful alley cat. Or, I should say, I stumbled right over him. He’d been basking in the sun in plain sight, minding his own business. Yet I, in my absentmindedness, hadn’t even seen him.

But then it was me sprawled on the cobblestones, surprised to be there on the ground, and him looking sidelong at me, still in his posture of relaxation but equally surprised at my bumbling arrival.

I’d expected him to run off then, as you well know cats do when they meet the toe end of your clumsy feet. Instead, he just curled his tail closer to himself and shut his eyes in apparent bliss. It seemed the warmth of his chosen sunbeam held more appeal than acknowledging my slight against him.

When I shifted to be on my way, I too found myself loathe to go. I wondered if he was a magic cat who made those near him feel content. Or maybe we were both just caught in the thrall of a lazy afternoon. Either way, I stopped there in my journey for a while and sat against the wall next to him. Until the sun had shifted down behind the buildings, we listened to the buzzing hubbub of those passing the alley who were too busy to pause and enjoy a little sunshine.