Letter to the Editor – “Critical” Success

By Jeremy Stevens

 

This morning, I read a review of a hit Country Music song performed by an immensely popular artist. This critic wrote that the song made him want to “barf in [his] mouth.” I know, the artistic expression is strong with this one.

But, this one line that I originally saw on the song’s Wikipedia page made me think, although not just about what the critic said, but rather about what it means to be successful and what it means to be someone who criticizes success.

I know that in the game of the Internet, I’m losing because I’m reacting to critical Internet messages. So I must be mad. Bro. But, to paraphrase Dr. Phil McGraw, words are a powerful thing, and they mean something when we use them. Furthermore, it cheapens words when we exaggerate to this degree. Eventually “barf in [his] mouth” becomes “Eh, I could take it or leave it” in the mind of the writer as well as the reader.

Shouldn’t we question the taste of a critic who goes around barfing at a product that millions of people like?

Wouldn’t this be particularly true when music is something that the critic is supposed to know quite a bit about?

Within the scope of this article, let’s talk about success within the parameters of commercial success. Let’s quantify success and say that in today’s market, if a million people like what you’re doing enough to go out and buy it, you’re a wild success by commercial standards. Of earth’s 7 billion residents, 6,999,000,000 of those can hate your guts and say terrible things about you, but if the remaining million subscribe to your YouTube Channel, you’re quitting that job at Starbucks, waking up at noon every day and making prank videos all night. If you can sell a $5 newspaper, music album, or website subscription to that tiny fraction of people, it’s the same story.

This is the secret to the Kardashians’ success, just on a different scale. Do you think it bothers them that six billion people are put off by them? No, they probably secretly revel in it. They know that the remaining billion are willing to buy every, single thing they’re selling.

Obviously this particular “review” that I referred to employs a wild exaggeration meant to express displeasure. So was he really going to barf in his mouth as his words stated? Or was he simply trying to garner attention for himself and his website?

By my estimation, there is no difference between this statement and a twelve-year old going to Twitter and insulting Adele’s appearance.

Neither is a critique, it’s just simply the new critical normal that we are becoming accustomed to in the age of the Internet. But, it’s not just the insult and the lack of decency in an alleged “critique” like the one in question, what about the lack of journalism/professionalism going on while using words such as those?

I ask myself who I would rather be, the person winning awards and selling records/books (whatever), or the guy writing that it makes him want to barf in his mouth.

The answer is pretty clear; I’d rather produce than try to eek out a professional existence trying to climb up the backs of the producers of the world.

At the time of writing this, the song in question is number 3 on the Billboard Country Music charts, and has sold hundreds of thousands of downloads. Meanwhile, a quick Google search reveals that there are “13 people talking” about the critic’s associated Facebook page and website.

So, I guess Taylor was right after all when she sang that the “Haters Gonna Hate.” But don’t think that because people are critical, you can’t achieve success.

Even if almost all of the people are critical, there’s still a whole world of people out there to sell yourself and/or your product to.

Finally, remember to choose your words carefully, because they do mean something.

Date Night is brought to Vol State campus

By: Jessica Peña, Staff Writer

 

Volunteer State Community College will be hosting a ‘Date Night’ on Feb. 5 from 6 to 10 p.m. in the Rochelle Center. Kids can enjoy crafts and a movie while parents enjoy a “kid-free” dinner and movie in the Tiled Dining Room.

When you are a parent, it can be difficult to find time to share with your significant other with parental duties on the mind. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the student body organizations could not have chosen a more fitting event for the February Family Series.

“The event started as a conversation about what kind of family friendly event we could host in the month of February. Of course we did think about Valentine’s Day and how hard it can be to get a babysitter and plan a “date night.” We decided to provide a FREE date night option for them,’ said Tabitha Sherrell, Coordinator of Student Activities.

“The goal is to provide an event that allows non-traditional students to participate with their families.” added Sherrell.

Date Night was coordinated through the Office of Student Life & Diversity Initiatives. It is being co-sponsored by some of Vol State’s very own clubs and organizations. Club leaders will discuss the type of activities and crafts that will be available to the children. Movie selections for the evening are still in discussion, but are soon to be revealed as our students and faculty return to campus this week.

Date Night is directed toward students who are parents, but it is free for anyone to attend. Faculty, staff, and couples in general are welcome to come and enjoy this event.

Of course, a good thing for parents to know is the conditions for who will watch over their kids that evening. The clubs who have signed up for it, with assistance from Sherrell and Lori Miller, Secretary of Student Services, will oversee supervision in the Tiled Dining Room.

The dinner menu for kids will consist of pizza, chips and salsa, cookies, water and punch. Manicotti, salad, breadsticks, cheesecake, water and sweet tea will be on the menu for parents and couples attending Date Night. Meals will be served for kids at 6:45 PM, with the adults served at 7 PM.

“That’s actually not a bad idea. I would definitely try and take my girlfriend that night. It’s free, so you can’t beat that,” said Brian Cummings, a Fire Science major here at Vol State.

Be on the lookout for the next issue of The Settler to see which films were selected for the screenings!

Blake’s Book Bag: Winter Weather Reading

By Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor

 

Welcome back to The Settler’s book review, where I sift what you should be reading from what you could be reading.

This week we are going to discuss good books to read for winter when you are stuck at home and can’t go anywhere because of the centimeters and centimeters of snow piled up around your house (we poor Southerners just don’t know any better).

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Now my first recommendation serves two purposes. 1) Alan Rickman, known for a fantastic performance as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, just passed away. 2) Harry Potter is the perfect thing to read for when you are going just a little stir crazy when cooped up in your house.

I chose “Goblet of Fire” because it is almost certain to hold your attention between everything going on in it. Between two Olympic-style wizarding events, a ball, Voldemort’s return, the Forbidden Curses, the mystery of who put Harry’s name in the goblet – there will definitely be something here to engross you and keep you reading for hours on end

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

If you want a cutesy-type comedy to occupy your attention and ensure your cheeks are not rosy just from the frigid wind, then give “Landline” a try.

This book is so delightfully quotable with the one-liners Rowell gives her characters. The book is basically about a screenwriter whose marriage is on the rocks with her husband and hurts it even further when she tells him she will have to work on Christmas rather than go to his parents’ house down south.

With an iciness that has nothing to do with the weather between them, he leaves with the kids while Georgie stays at her mother’s house. There she uses her mom’s landline to call him, but discovers that each call she makes is to her husband of years ago, while he was in college.

Time-travelling phone calling that doesn’t waste time trying to explain itself, interesting characters, a snowy Nebraska setting, and whip-snapping dialogue ensure you might just finish this before the snow melts.

 

61 Hours by Lee Child.

It was between this one and “And Then There Were None,” but I ultimately settled on this one because with Child’s writing you will feel just how cold the main character, Jack Reacher, is.

If you like a little bit of thrill and mystery to your late nights by the fire, look no further than “61 Hours.” Jack Reacher is on a tour bus with several senior citizens when it breaks down near South Dakota.

On the kindness of a stranger, he ends up staying at the house of a star witness in a case against the corruption of the town. But witness is in danger because a hitman for the mafia is coming to town.

Told over the course of (you guessed it) 61 hours, Child’s writing shows he knows how to do what he does when it comes to showing off a kick-butt character and overwhelming odds – all against the backdrop of the frozen South Dakota landscape.

International education week comes to Vol State

 

Blake Bouza

Volunteer State Community College is hosting its annual International Education Week this week.

According to Tabitha Sherrell, Coordinator of Student Activities, there will be several different events promoting the benefits of international education.

On Monday, Nov. 16, the Student Government Association will be giving out free international coffee at their meeting in the carpeted dining room at 12:45pm. It is open for anyone to attend.

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Around the World in a Day begins at 12:45pm in the carpeted dining room.

“This event is an opportunity for all students, faculty, and staff who have traveled overseas to show off their pictures and items as table displays,” Sherrell said.

The event is open to everyone to come and talk to those who have traveled and hear their travel experiences.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Asia Project will be performing spoken word in the carpeted dining room at 12:45pm.

Asia Project is a multi-talented, award winning spoken word artist who has toured almost 300 colleges/universities in the last two years.

“He is a cancer survivor who has won audiences throughout the country with a spoken word show that has nothing less than an honest and genuine testimony of his life,” Sherrell said.

According to the APCA National Campus Events Planning Conference book, “the show is always inspiring, sometimes gut wrenching, and most often times comical buffoonery.”

Alexis Deere, student at Vol State, did not know about International Education Week, but wishes she would have.

“I think students should know the opportunities that they can get it while being in college and study abroad is a very good opportunity to see new things and learn in different ways,” said Deere.

Deere said that she has always dreamed of leaving the country and learning about another culture.

“I’m a very hands-on learner and I believe if I was to travel and learn, it would be so much easier for me to learn by actually being there and experiencing country,” said Deere.

“Studying abroad isn’t just about learning from the class that you’re taking, it’s also learning how to communicate and interact with other people, while learning and experiencing how they live,” Deere said.

According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs website, “this [International Education Week] is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.”

International Education Week is to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.

Homecoming festivities come to campus

Barbara Harmon

Homecoming week at Volunteer State Community College will be Nov. 16-21, coinciding with International Education Week.

Tabitha Sherrell, Coordinator of Student Activities for Student Life and Diversity Initiatives, said that they have divided the week up for both.

“On Tuesday the 17th, we are going to do what is called Around the World in a Day; that is part of International Ed.,” said Sherrell.

“Any of our faculty staff or students that have traveled overseas will have the opportunity to do a table setup with their pictures, any memorabilia they brought back, and then they will be sharing their story and things that they did while they were there,” said Sherrell.

She said people will be able to come into the dining area and walk from table to table.

The International Education Department is paying for the lunch, said Sherrell.

She said, on Wednesday, there will be a spoken words artist, Asia Project, at 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m. in the carpeted dining room.

SLDI and the student organizations attend an annual national conference (APCA) where they listen to all types of artist, said Sherrell.

They heard Asia Project at the conference, and the students that heard him proposed to the SGA that they should have him come to Vol State, she said.

“SGA actually voted to bring Asia Project here, so this is the opportunity where he now gets to come here,” said Sherrell.

SLDI and the International Education Department are dividing the cost for this, since he is the act for both homecoming and International Education week, she said.

“Then, on Thursday the 19th, the cheerleaders are going to do a pep rally in the carpeted dining room,” said Sherrell.

“This is kind of moving into the homecoming part of it.

“They are going to introduce the men’s and women’s basketball team, while they are in there,” said Sherrell.

The cheerleaders will also be giving out flyers for the homecoming games, where a GoPro camera will be given away during both the men’s and women’s halftimes, she said.

“All you have to do is come to the games to get a raffle ticket, and you have to be present to win,” said Sherrell.

They will also be giving out small megaphones and suggesting people bring them with them to the games, she said.

Sherrell said there will also be some small refreshments, in the dining room, during the pep rally.

“Then, that evening, Evening Services is going to do the Clearly You crystals, and that is going to start at 1 p.m. in the Carpeted Dining Room,” said Sherrell.

“They will go until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., and Evening Services will provide dinner starting at 5:30 p.m.,” said Sherrell.

She said the dinner will be set up in the 217 hallway.

There will be basketball games on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and everyone is encouraged to attend, said Sherrell.

“Then, of course, Nov. 21 is the actual homecoming where the raffle for the GoPro cameras is going to take place; that’s where they will vote for the best club poster and announce the winners of the coloring contest from the Halloween Party,” said Sherrell.

“We are also doing a Spirit Lunch, and that will start at 12:30 p.m.; first come, first serve, for anybody and everybody, and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Sherrell.

She said admission to all these events, including home games, are free this year.

“When you come, you and your family get to walk in for free,” said Sherrell.

Chastity Crabtree, Chair of SGA, said the club with the best poster will win $100, and the second place prize will be $50.

Crabtree wanted to encourage students to participate in this week’s events, she said.

“Thursday dress up as your favorite superhero, and Saturday wear superhero attire to the games,” said Crabtree.

She said even if it is just wearing a cape or putting on face paint, students should get into the spirit.

“Come cheer our team on,” said Crabtree.

Joshua Brewster, a student a Vol State, said that if there were better notifications for these activities he would like to participate in them.

He feels that students would be more involved if there was.

He does, however, like the superhero dress up idea and may have to find something to wear for it.

ACE Showcase with Royce Lovett

Barbara Harmon

Royce Lovett performed at Volunteer State Community College on Nov. 4 for the ACE Showcase event.

Lovett opened with an original song that he had written about hip hop.

When his song had finished, he told the audience some things that were going on with him.

“I’ve been on the road since Sept. 11, and I’m tired and excited,” said Lovett, “and extremely happy to be here with you guys.”

He had been hearing positive feedback about his album “Write it on the Wall” that had come out in Oct., he said.

“Yesterday I got some news that it did number 10 on the Billboard Chart for gospel,” said Lovett.

Lovett also sang “Writing on the Wall,” which made 93 on the Billboard Chart in Oct., he said.

“If you like this song, and you want to hear it on the radio, please call your radio and tell them to play it,” said Lovett.  “I would really appreciate that.”

“A lot of my musical career, because my music is different, you’re told it’s not going to get radio play, but it actually did and it got on the Billboard Chart,” said Lovett.  “And I’m really excited about that.”

He said that “Writing on the Wall” is about what is happening in the world today with pointless killings and how he feels that what everyone needs is love.

After the song ended Lovett reintroduced himself and said, “I like writing music or playing a rap, and I grew up listening to hip hop and soul music, so I guess that is how this thing happened.”

When the show was over Lovett signed autographs and took pictures with the students.

Maggie Lewis, a former Vol State student and now owner of Elevated Talent Group, said she met Royce in Jacksonville, Fla., at a conference he showcased.

“I just talked to him and wanted to represent him, so that’s how that happened,” said Lewis.

She said she does his corporate and college bookings, and she has been representing him since March.

“Royce is finishing up his “Write it On the Wall” tour, and then I’m just hoping to get his name and his music out there to just help him share his story,” said Lewis.

Lovett said that he started writing in 2003, after he found Christ.

“I was like, yo God what should I do with my life, and then I felt like it was music,” said Lovett.

“So that’s when I started being serious about being purposeful about something,” said Lovett.

He said when he was growing up he was always in a choir, his mom sang at church, and he had also been in a dance group, but was a lot more interested in sports.

“Things kind of changed after I really fell in love with music, and I just kind of found out who I was after that,” said Lovett.

Lovett feels like his songs are mostly about love, because he believes everything relates back to love, he said.

“Once you find out what love is, then you find out what you love to do and your purpose,” said Lovett.

“Then, after you find your purpose, you find your security,” he said.

Lovett enjoys having the opportunity to perform at colleges, because if the students really like him then they take his music back to wherever they are from, he said.

“Today was a little different, because the atmosphere was a little more relaxed; in the sense that everyone is doing something,” said Lovett.

“But when I perform at colleges with my band, it gets loud and sweaty jumping around.

“I throw water on people; you stage dive and stuff,” said Lovett.

He said he also loves it because it’s his age group, and they are all thinking about the same things.

“All you think about in college is love, purpose, and security,” said Lovett.

As far as his accomplishments go, Lovett would like to “take over the world,” he said.

More seriously: “I hope to do this for the rest of my life, see everything to be seen in the world, pay my bills on time, and inspire people—that’s it,” said Lovett.

“I encourage everyone to continue to learn who they are and who other people are.

“I’m still learning,” said Lovett.  “I think that’s what makes you good at whatever you do, if you keep learning.”

Lovett had something else to add.

He said the first five people that take a picture of this, post it with #VSCCroycelovett and tag him in it, will get a free necklace.

Tabitha Sherrell, Coordinator of Student Activities for Student Life and Diversity Initiatives, said Lovett had performed at a national conference (APCA) in March that Dr. Kenny E. Yarbrough, Th.D., CDP, Director of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives, and Gabrielle Stanton, a Vol State student, had attended, and they both really enjoyed his performance.

“When Gabrielle came back, she went to the Student Government Association (SGA),” said Sherrell.

“Every year after we come back from APCA we do a showcase at the SGA meeting to show everybody the stuff that we saw and what we thought was good, and then they vote on what they liked.

“SGA voted Royce as one of their top performers that they wanted to see on campus,” said Sherrell.

Annual Volstate Fall Festival a Success

Blake Bouza
Volunteer State Community College hosted its annual Fall Festival on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. in the Carpeted/Tiled Dining Room and the balcony.

Students received a ticket with seven squares upon entering one of the dining rooms. Participants in the Festival were asked to participate in at least three of the seven items listed on the ticket to get a free lunch. A lunch of hot dogs and condiments was served at 12:30 p.m. in the carpeted dining room on a first-come, first-serve basis.

According to Tabitha Sherrell, Coordinator of Student Activities, the idea of the event “is to offer fun activities along with interactive community service tables to encourage students, faculty, and staff to give back to the community.”

Community service tables included CAP (Children Are People) Hygiene Bags, where Service Learning and Artisan’s Alliance asked participants to fill Ziploc bags with deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and a toothbrush to donate to Children Are People.

Team Change and The Settler collaborated to create snack bags to donate to the Shalom Zone. Participants were asked to decorate a brown paper bag and fill it with three snack items to deliver to the Shalom Zone.

Free HIV testing was offered to students in the cafeteria.

Phi Theta Kappa, Spectrum, and the Psychology Club operated a table on the balcony where participants were asked to stuff an animal to donate to hospitalized children for the Stuff-A-Plush table.

Sarah Naleby said this in particular hit close to home for her as she picked stuffing out of a large cardboard box and pushed it into the opening on the back of a plush Cocker Spaniel.

“I was in the hospital three weeks before Christmas,” said Naleby. “I remember getting toy donations like this from the local colleges.

“Even Tim McGraw gave us kids some Target gift cards,” said Naleby while laughing. “I am happy to return the favor to kids in need.”

Games were led by the Music Club and the African-American Student Union, including a ping pong table, corn hole, spider ring toss, and pumpkin toss.

Free caricature sketches were offered in the cafeteria while a free photobooth was set. According to Sherrell, students could get their picture taken with friends and a fall themed photo strip was printed out for the students to keep.

The photo and caricature booths were sponsored by the National Society of Leadership & Success, the college republicans, and Returning Student Organization.

Halloween Story Contest: Schrodinger’s Man

By Kevin Yeargin

 

The following is a transcription of audio recovered from the tape recorder of Johan Verner. In the interest of public safety, the tape and every physical remnant of the experiment have been destroyed. In the interest of science, this transcription remains in the custody of the U.S. government.

VERNER [11:45 AM, Thursday]: Hello, my name is Johan Verner. I am a particle physicist here at Venkman Labs, and I am conducting what I hope to be a monumental experiment on quantum superposition. I am sequestered here inside a 20 ft. by 30 ft. bunker 1000 ft. underground. And I have with me here a device of my own design which should create a closed quantum field around the bunker, effectively turning its walls into the boundaries of a new universe. Honestly, I have no idea what will happen. Might be nothing. Could really be something. In approximately 10 minutes, I will turn the machine on. Then I will report back at 12:30 PM.

VERNER [12:30 PM, Thursday]: Well, the machine has been on for 30 minutes. I observe no physical changes. [light static, indistinct voice?] I will continue to observe the environment and, if nothing changes, report back at 4:00 PM.

VERNER [3:41 PM, Thursday]: Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Just… incredible.

VERNER [4:00 PM, Thursday]: Umm, hmm. I, uh, have discovered a strange phenomenon that I will attempt to describe here. Physical contact with the walls produces some sort of rippling effect, almost as if I were touching… I don’t know, touching water.

VOICE [4:01 PM, Thursday]: W-w-w-water.

VERNER [4:01 PM, Thursday]: Did you hear that? I will, umm, I will play the recording back to see if it picked up that voice. I will report back in one hour at the latest.

VOICE [4:02 PM, Thursday]: L-l-l-latest.

No further recordings Thursday.

No further recordings Friday.

VERNER [3:31 AM, Saturday]: I’ve just had… I’ve just…

VERNER [7:55 AM, Saturday]: I was right. I was so right. The experiment is a success. I have just made first contact with another form of intelligence. We talked for hours about Mozart, about elementary physics, about nothing at all! It was so engrossing that I did not sleep for the past, what is it, two days?! I will get some rest and then attempt to communicate further with my new friend. He does look tired. He is now sitting in the corner of the room, behind the bed. He is not looking at me.

VOICE [7:57 AM, Saturday]: [indistinct screaming, language unknown]

VOICE [8:43 PM, Saturday]: [whispering] Johan… Johan… [static]

No further recordings Saturday.

No further recordings Sunday.

No further recordings Monday.

No further recordings Tuesday.

No further recordings Wednesday.

UNKNOWN [11:00 AM, Thursday]: I am.

ASSISTANT [11:30 AM, Thursday]: [indistinct rustling] [hatch opens] Got it. Dr. Verner? The lights are off. What’s that smell? [flick of the light switch, rustling continues] Oh my god. I can’t, no… no!

End of recording.

The bodies of Dr. Johan Verner and his assistant were never recovered. The bunker was destroyed with dynamite, and the shaft leading to the bunker was filled with cement.

Halloween Story Contest: The Quiz

April Young

It was the stuff of nightmares. My alarm sounded five times that morning, yet I’d slept through each alert. By the time I was in my car, tying my shoes as I navigated the busy commute, I was already late for class. The professor had hinted at a quiz, and while I’d barely glanced over the assigned reading, I hoped to get by on my brilliant ability to guess and my artistic flair; maybe a smiling velociraptor at the top of the page would convince the professor to go easy on me.

It must’ve been Perfect Attendance Day on campus. Passing through the gates, I realized  the only thing less likely than earning an ‘A’ today was finding a parking spot. I circled each lot like an exhaust-spewing buzzard, begrudgingly giving way to a group at the crosswalk. My foot itched over the gas pedal.

I gave up with a growl and returned to the highway, flying through a yellow light and sliding into the Publix lot. I scowled at the brightly colored decal on my back windshield.

Greasy spots on the pavement don’t have to take quizzes, I thought optimistically as I put one foot over the yellow line on Nashville Pike. Someone must’ve fired a racing pistol. Every lane came alive! I made a mad dash across two of the five lanes, horns blowing from every direction. The turning lane opened just as I reached it. I closed my eyes and lunged across the final two lanes, surprised when I finally felt grass under my feet.

My heart beat wildly as I entered Ramer. It didn’t slow down as I noticed the ominous quiet. Were some of the lights out? Where was everyone?

A check of my watch gave me hope: only an hour late. My professor probably wouldn’t notice. I slipped into the classroom and took the only open desk, right in front.

“Quiz time!” my professor trilled.

I breathed a sigh of relief but immediately began to choke. I hung my head as I pictured my backpack tucked into the passenger seat of my car.

The girl to my right gave me a look of disgust when I asked for paper. The girl to my left threw the pen I requested at my head, narrowly missing my eye. I waited for the first question. It never came—at least, not in a language I understood. My professor made a series of sounds, and my classmates began to scribble furiously. “What are they writing?” a voice in my head screamed. I slammed my head against the desk. I was going to fail—at life!

I awoke with a cry. It had been a nightmare. I wasn’t late, and I wouldn’t fail the quiz. I was going to give the quiz. My students had no idea.

I giggled as I tucked my hooves into loafers and brushed my hair over my horns. I grabbed my pitchfork on the way out. It was going to be a great day.

Halloween Story Contest: Bonds In Silk

Blake Bouza

Dying is not peaceful. Not when you can feel two tons of metal squeezing your suddenly fragile body into the unyielding earth, not when you have adrenaline coursing through your veins like a freight train barreling down tracks.

First, there is the chaos as events leading to death suddenly spiral out of human control; the car whirling through the air, the sudden stop, the screeching of metal, a fiery flash of pain, the fluids that flood your mouth as your skull cracks -

- and I do not so much wake up on the table as I become aware that I am lying on it. A single, soft-lit light bulb swings overhead. When the bulb reaches the end of one swing, an accompanying tap resounds in the space I am in, like a nail on metal.

I cannot hear my heartbeat.

“My child,” says a deeply masculine voice in the softest of whispers that flutters against my eardrums like silk against the precious flesh of a newborn.

My back arches as a throat-searing scream rips from my mouth. I taste blood.

Shh. Shhhh.

Screams give way to whimpers. My throat burns.

“What?” I whisper hoarsely.

I feel its silken voice within me this time. Don’t be afraid, soothes the silk. Where had I heard that before? I want to give you your life back. To help me save the world. I need only one thing from you.

I don’t think. “No.”

The silk coils. Throat hurt?

The question catches me off guard. “Yes, it does.”

A warm, thick peppermint flavor floods my mouth, filling my sinuses with its refreshing aroma. My mouth instantly waters and I swallow.

It begins to burn. I try to gasp but my mouth and esophagus are on fire. Flames lick at my innards. My eyeballs burst into bright coronas of flame and when I open my mouth to shriek in perfect agony, fire plumes from my throat. There is no journey through a dark graveyard, no reliving the worst moments of my life. Just fire. Past, present, and future are only words. I see myself burn for an eternity for the instant the flame touches me.

Somewhere near the end/beginning of this torment, I am flung back onto the table. Naked, leaking everywhere.

I will return you to your existence, the silk breathes, as though the interim between its last words had been only a minor annoyance. You will go back to your friends, your family, your immoralities that plague the human existence. A single tap punctuates these words. There is a condition. In return for your continued existence, you will give me exactly one day, twenty-four hours, of your life. Gooseflesh rises along my arm as I feel the silk smile. Or you can stay with me down here.

“What does that mean?” I whisper.

The silk sighs beneath my skin. For one day of your life, you will be mine. Anything I wish of you. You cannot say no. I want you to blow up a building, you do it. I want you to donate to the Salvation Army, you will do it. No question.

I cannot stay here. “Yes.” My voice breaks.

A kiss, then. The silk ripples. To seal the deal.

An invisible force throws me to my feet. I blink rapidly but all I see is darkness before me. When I am embraced, I feel breasts press against my chest. My mind banishes the kiss from memory. All I recall is a slow song reaching a crescendo.

The light bulb bursts and I am blown backward into existence.