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“Writing fiction feels like an adventurous act, nudging aside reality a word at a time.” - James Van Pelt



She blew the hot chocolate lightly, the steam fogging up her glasses. It was cold outside, and the warm drink had to battle against the biting winds and icy sidewalks. Brushing a layer of powdery snow off a bench, she sat down. She waited, trying to cool her beverage so that it wouldn’t burn her tongue when she took a sip. By the time the figure approached from behind her, boots crunching heavily, it had gone cold.

“Hi, Janie.”

She took a deep breath, air stinging her nose, and turned to look up at the source of the sound. He stood tall above her, and suddenly she regretted sitting down. He was holding two paper cups from a nearby coffee shop.

“I brought you a hot chocolate,” he explained, and his eyes darted down to her own drink. “I guess you already have one.

“This one is still hot, though. And it has whipped cream. I—“


He froze, meeting her eyes reluctantly.

“Roger, we can’t do this anymore. You know it and I know it.”

He seemed to melt slightly. “Jan, just take the hot chocolate. I know how much you love whipped cream.”

“Roger, we need to talk about this! You can’t avoid it anymore. I can’t avoid it anymore.”

“Yours doesn’t have whipped cream. Why didn’t you ask for whipped cream?”

She rose from the bench, looking away to break his intense gaze.


A moment of silence passed before her shoulders drooped in resignation.

“…It reminds me of you. I can’t—I can’t. I can’t have the whipped cream because you goddamn ruined it for me, Roger!”

Her words cut the air as sharply as the ice that had formed all around them. Slowly, she breathed out, shivering. She finally turned back to face him, her expression pained. A single tear seemed to crystallize against her cheek.

He stared at her for a long moment, eyes frosted over, before he spun on his heels and stormed away. As he left, he tipped the hot chocolate over, and it stained the snow with a hiss.



The sun was just about to set. Its core was a golden bell, and with every move towards the horizon, it was struck, releasing threads of bronze and gold vibrating throughout the land, and the blue in the sky hesitated into the shadows.


In the distance, books of mountains lined up on a shelf of the Earth’s surface, fading away with every ring of the bell, turning into waves of grey, blending with the skyline. A few remaining clouds hovered closely above them, dancing good-bye.


The hill was weaved from a dark green cloth growing darker and darker with the sun’s descent. Rocks and stones patterned it as they crept out of the ground trying to harvest the sun’s final touches. The trees stood on their toes, waving their limbs upwards, submitting themselves into the flood of light. Houses scattered along the Earth’s plain, turned towards the sun, reflecting its rays, rejecting its farewell.


With every ring of the bell, the sky grew closer to unity, to be lit with other stars.


The sun moved down, lower and lower into the horizon. The sky unified itself into a solid, black screen, glittered with stars. All the elements were silent, awaiting their starlight banquet.


With every ring of the bell, Earth took a step closer to darkness, to silence, to stillness.


The trees withered, the ground dampened, light shattered.


Moments went, the bell hushed. A calamity of silence echoed. Night took its first breath.


by ayaat rabaa

 “Do you have any more of that purple drink?” Amy asked. Her thirst for it was visible in her eyes.

   “You mean the jallab my mom used to make?” Zahra replied.

“Yeah, that. And what do you mean ‘used to’? Doesn’t she make it anymore?”

   “No, not after all the bannings the government has forced upon us.”

   "Oh, c'mon man! They even banned drinks?"

   "Yup," Zahra assured. "We're not allowed to make any traditional food or drinks. Ever since foreign foods and drinks were banned from entering the country, Mama started making jallab at home. But even the making of them at home is now forbidden."

   "I don’t get it. What do food and drinks have to do with any of this?"

   Zahra let out a long sigh.

   "You know how the government has a phobia of anything that doesn't look like them, right?"

Amy nodded.

   "Well," Zahra continued, "This is their way of cleansing us from our culture and traditions. We have to dress like them, talk like them, and now we even have to eat and drink like them, too."

   "Geez!" Amy yelled. "To that extent?"

   "I'm afraid so, my friend."

   "Do you think they would take their 'precautions' any further?"

   "I honestly have no idea what to expect. They might ask us to brighten our skin and bleach our hair. They might even try to brainwash us to forget our mother tongue."

   "No way!" Amy protested. "They can't do that to other humans!"

   "Well, there's nobody to stand in their way and stop them. But if they don't want to go through all that hassle, I wouldn't be surprised if were to be kicked out of the country."

   Amy froze in her spot, trying to comprehend the severity of this possibility. Zahra noticed her like that and grabbed her by her hands.

   "Amy," she whispered gently. "All this is just a possibility. Only God knows what will happen. Come. I'm pretty sure Mama has some jallab hidden in the kitchen somewhere."

   Amy followed her with a bit of optimism of finding some.

*Jallab is a very popular drink in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine It’s made by diluting the syrup made of grape molasses, dates and rose water with water and serving it in a glass. Many people drink it with crushed ice or topped with nuts, most of the time pine nuts and golden raisins. It is most popular during Ramadan.

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