Aglaope’s Last Song

Pencil drawing of a siren flying around rocks
Eduardo Suré; Aglaope, 2018; Graphite

A long time ago, between the Gulf of Naples and the Tyrrhenian Sea, there was a group of beautiful islands. They were each like gardens filled with trees and fields of colorful flowers. Though beautiful, people did not live there. They were too difficult to access because they were surrounded by steep cliffs and ship-wrecking rocks.

The islands, however, were inhabited by the Sirens. There were three, and they were named Peisinoe, Aglaope, and Thelxiepeia. The Sirens had the bodies and heads of women; but they also had wings, talons, and beaks. They sang beautifully. Their voices were irresistible to mortals: no matter what it took, mortals would go to the Sirens if they heard their song.

The Sirens were born deities. They were the daughters of the river god Achelous and the muse Melpomene. After failing to perform a task assigned to them by Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, she cursed them to live until mortals who heard their song could pass them. So, the Sirens lived on the islands to be near mortals and try to free themselves from the curse. They lived there in misery from a long life of isolation, failure, and the rot that grows inside oneself when one is the cause of death and destruction.

The Sirens had tried many times to free themselves from the curse. They had flown over the sea between the islands and perched on the edge of the cliffs watching for passing ships. The cliffs and rocks provided them protection from injury and capture. Unfortunately, mortals could not resist their song and sailed into the rocks that surrounded the island destroying their ships and drowning the crew.

After too many sailors and ships had been lost, mortals found different routes. Many years had passed without seeing a ship, so the Sirens had stopped searching. New generations of mortals had been born who had never heard of them.

On a coast across the sea, there was a young man named Hesiod who dreamed of sailing the circumference of the Tyrrhenian Sea. With focus, tenacity, and the sweat of his brow he succeeded in gathering materials and building a ship. It was a small boat that he could sail around the sea with a small crew or alone if he had to.

Hesiod wanted to share his adventure with everyone he could. He spoke to his friends to try to convince them to join him. They reminded him of their families, work, and other obligations. Since he was a good young man, they sincerely expressed their regrets that they could not go and wished him luck.

Hesiod’s parents did not want him to go. They begged him to be practical, stay, and use the boat to make a living. They argued that while he worked, he would sail with an experienced crew.

Hesiod replied with his old argument: he was not ready to be tied down by a job without having had an adventure. He told his parents that making a living was not actually living. So, with many hugs they wished him well and prayed to their gods for his safety.

Aglaope’s frustration reached a peak and she could only find temporary peace through action. She asked Peisinoe to fly with her around the islands and help her find mortals to sing to. Peisinoe did not see a point, and suggested that she ask Thelxiepeia just so Aglaope would leave her alone. And so she did and flew off to find Thelxiepeia.

Thelxiepeia also refused to help Aglaope. She argued that she was no longer sure what would happen if they were able to end the curse. Would their existence go back to what it had been before they were cursed, or did their release mean they would be allowed to die? She said she was done chasing an uncertainty, and was trying to find peace with her situation.

So, Aglaope flew around the islands alone. She flew many days and nights. For as long as she flew, she did not see any ships pass by the islands.

Frustrated, she landed one morning on some rocks and watched waves slam violently against them. The waves roared and sprayed water upward making it sound like heavy rain when the drops hit the ground. While she sat, she began to feel that Peisinoe’s and Thelxieeia’s attitudes were right. She felt she should make peace with her situation rather than pursue an uncertain end. Then, she looked up and saw a small ship sailing near the island.

Aglaope’s hope shot through her body and burned hot in her veins. Even though she was not driven by a firmly held belief or opinion about the end of the curse, she sang. She sang beautifully and loudly so the sailor heard her song. She hoped to see the small ship pass, so she sang and watched and the ship as it stayed on its course. With great excitement as she sang, she watched it appear smaller and smaller until it disappeared in the horizon.

When it was gone, she stopped singing. She paused to look inside herself for the end of the curse and did not feel different. She was sure the sailor had heard her and so the curse must have been broken. She composed in her mind what she would say to Peisinoe and Thelxieeia. Then, the roaring waves placed a young man on the rocks at her feet.

Aglaope was deeply upset. She flew away crying and left the young man on the rocks. She would not tell Peisinoe and Thelxieeia what had happened. Like them, she would never try to free herself again. She would find peace with her situation.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Everyday Monsters

Watercolor painting of a night sky and desert landscape
Eduardo Suré; Desert Night, 2018; Watercolor

We crossed the United States/Mexico border on a cold night in February. My brother, Mateo, and I didn’t know how cold it was until we had been out of the car and had walked for an hour. We both worked as laborers, so being outside in the cold was not an unknown discomfort for us; but it was an especially cold night. The air felt heavy and dense. Whenever the wind blew, it came through our coats like water through a colander. We felt the cold on our legs. Our hands could not stay warm in our pockets, so we had to place them against our necks to warm them.

We hoped a fast walking pace would warm us. It was easy to see where we walked without a flashlight: the sky was big and clear so the moon and the stars illuminated our way through the desert. We would need to walk all night and half the next day before we would meet our contact in the United States. He or she would find us a place to live and work. The set up would be Spartan, but it would give us a start until we found our own way to realize our American Dream.

After hours of walking in silence, I heard my brother exclaim, “¡Trucha! Santiago,” It was not something I wanted to hear. I searched the horizon and saw what he had seen: headlights.

“Escondamonos hasta que pase,” I suggested although there were not many places to hide until the vehicle passed. The only options for cover were small plants that were spaced far apart and thin from their adaptation to the desert climate. There were barely perceptible hills of dirt and depressions. Mateo laid down behind a cluster of shrubs. I hid behind a hill of dirt.

I listened as the sound of an engine increased. I hoped our paths had crossed by coincidence. I hoped the sound of the engine would increase and then decrease as the vehicle passed and continued on its way. But where would it go? What business could it have out at night in the middle of the desert?

The noise of the engine reached a steady level. The vehicle had stopped. Headlights illuminated my leg, but I did not dare to move. Shadows moved in my periphery. Then, I heard ‘shick-shick.’

“Get up,” I heard a man say behind a rifle that was pointed at me. He flicked the tip upward as if he was jigging a fishing lure. As I slowly rose from the dirt, I saw another man lead my brother toward me at gunpoint. Since he was not pointing his gun at me; I noticed he wore a cowboy hat, camouflage coat, jeans, and ropers. I called him the cowboy in my mind. My captor was camouflaged from head to toe. He wore a cap. I called him the hunter.

Once Mateo and I stood side-by-side, the hunter said “Now, we know that you know that what you’re doing is wrong. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be coming into our country like thieves in the night.”

“They didn’t understand a word,” the cowboy said.

“You’re going to have to walk back,” the hunter said. “You,” he pointed at Mateo and me. “Are going to walk,” he made his fingers walk through the air. “Back to Mexico,” he pointed south.

“But it’s going to cost you,” the cowboy said. Like a caveman, the hunter communicated that I needed to take off my backpack and coat. Then, with the authority of the rifle, told Mateo he needed to do the same.

When I saw the cowboy return with a jug of drinking water, I thought we were going to be all right. I thought the men would punish us, but would have enough compassion not to cross a line.

I was wrong. The cowboy poured water all over Mateo. After Mateo was soaked, the cowboy poured water all over me. It was so cold, it took my breath away.

The two men got in the truck and forced us to walk south at gunpoint. I told Mateo that we should run to warm ourselves. The men in the truck howled and laughed at us when we started running, but allowed it.

We ran until we could not run anymore. Then, we walked. When we stopped to rest, the hunter forced us to stand in one place while the cowboy poured cold water on us.

After that, we were too tired to run. We walked south as briskly as we could, but we only felt colder. We shivered and stomped our feet to stay warm; but, whatever heat our bodies produced was blown away by cold desert breezes. After a while, I stopped shivering. Mateo had stopped too. He looked confused and disoriented as he followed me.

My mind clouded up as well. I tried to keep Mateo moving, but I was not sure where I was supposed to be going. Mateo started having trouble walking: it was as if he had forgotten. His breathing slowed. I knew there was something very wrong, but I did not know what to do.

The men stopped us, or perhaps we stopped ourselves – I was not thinking anymore. The cowboy took our coats and bags out of the truck bed and brought them to us. It gave me hope.

“Here, put these on,” the hunter said. “You don’t want whoever finds your bodies to think you came out here unprepared, do you?” We put our coats on. Mine was cold and my body was not producing heat.

“Alright, break’s over,” the cowboy said. He pointed something out to the other man. He got a disappointed look on his face, and they left abruptly in their truck.

The men were gone, but we did not move. I looked over at Mateo, and he just stood in his coat breathing as if he were sleeping. I felt the same: exhausted, confused, like I wanted to sleep forever. The desert was quiet, dark, and cold; like a good bedroom. I continued to look at my brother and was sorry that I had brought him with me. I was sorry about our situation, but not sorry to be with him.

His face was suddenly illuminated by a multitude of colors of light. I thought my mind was finally going, but then I saw a truck. It was the Border Patrol.

Men in green uniforms carried us to the truck where it was warm and dry. Someone removed my wet clothes and wrapped me in a blanket and then plastic bags. My brother was laid beside me, also wrapped in a blanket and plastic. I saw his chest slowly rise and fall. Then, I went to sleep.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Major Case Squad

Pencil drawing of a woman walking down a hall
Eduardo Suré; Woman in Hall, 2018; Graphite

There is a large brown square building in New York that looks like a waffle. It is a somewhat dark brown as if it had been toasted too long. The sunken windows and their reflection make it appear as if every square is full of syrup. Inside one of those windows, there is an office where a man is speaking to a woman sitting behind her desk.

“So what’s the strangest case you’ve ever had?” Detective Alexander Hall asks his sergeant. He unbuttons his suit coat, leans back in his chair, and crosses his legs by placing his right ankle over his knee.

“Come on, Detective, I have work to do,” Sergeant Christine Walker replies as she leans back herself. She is older than the detective, but not much more.

“You asked me if I had any questions, so that’s my question,” the detective says with a friendly smile.

“About the job,” the sergeant replies. She wonders if his lack of deference is due to their small difference in age or to her being a woman.

“It is about the job.” He continues to smile.

“All right.” Sergeant Walker can tell the new detective is going to test her patience, but she could use a friend. “A few months ago, when I was in your position, I got a call about a first degree burglary. It was here in Manhattan – in one of the richer buildings – but still, it’s New York. The resident, some Wall Street alpha woman named Samantha Allen, woke up after she heard the familiar snap of a faulty drawer in one of the antique pieces in her living room. She lived alone. Instead of picking up her phone and calling security, she went to the living room herself.”

“Was she expecting a boyfriend or something?” the sergeant asks.

“I don’t know, but that might explain why she walked down her hall without caution or turning on the lights. When she got to the living room, she reached out for the light switch. But instead of feeling the wall, she said she felt a body.”

“She didn’t see someone standing there?”

“Surprisingly, no. Now, her living room was not completely dark because there was light coming in from the street through the windows. So, she said she felt a body she could not see.” The sergeant watches the detectives face for disbelief, but he remains interested. “What was worse, she said, was that she felt it recoil from her touch.”

“Did she run?” the sergeant asks.

“She should have. She said she saw the door leading out of her apartment opening and, without conscious thought, grabbed for the person. Whatever wrestling or martial arts move she had learned at the gym, she used to wrestle and pin the unseen person down. She said she had him, but then didn’t know what to do after that.”

“That’s some hallucination. She said it was a male?”

“She said it felt like one, especially when the invisible person fought back. She said he struck her face twice: the first time in the chin and the second on the nose. The pain made her let go. She said she’d never been struck outside of whatever class she said she took. She was stunned when she felt the pain; but she pulled herself together, ran to her room, locked herself in, and called the police.”

“Were her injuries consistent with her story?”

“They were, but an invisible man?”

“What did you do?”

“We took notes and offered her security advice, but we didn’t take fingerprints or DNA for an invisible man.”

“She was good with that?”

“No, she really wanted us to believe her. What could we do? We spoke to her neighbors to see if they had heard or seen anything, but you know how the story usually ends.”

“The burglar gets away. Anything taken?”

“Funny that you should ask.” The sergeant leans forward and picks up a folder from the top of her desk. She offers it to the detective.

“What is this?” the detective asks after taking the folder.

“Bank robberies. All the same. All very, very clean,” the sergeant says as she leans back in her chair.

“As they would be done by someone who’s invisible?”

“Welcome to the Major Case Squad,” the sergeant says with a smile.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Between the Creature and the Hull

Pencil drawing of a sailboat
Eduardo Suré; Catboat, 2018; Graphite

Water and sky were the only things Samuel saw as he sat at the stern of his best friend Benjamin’s 22 foot catboat. He was disappointed that the color of the sky beginning at the horizon was light blue and then darkened as he looked upward. He had always hoped there would be a day when the entire sky would be the same blue color. Of course, no such day would ever be. There were no clouds and the sun was where he could not see it, so he felt pulled into the sky’s enormity. Nearly feeling sublime, he pulled himself out of it by looking back down at the water surrounding them. He felt its strength as waves lifted the four thousand pound sailboat and dropped it over and over again.

“Shouldn’t we begin heading back?” Samuel shouted into the ocean.

“What?” Benjamin was occupied tightening the sail sheet to stop it from luffing. He was not satisfied with the results, so he steered the sailboat away from the wind. Samuel felt him bear off, so he thought his friend had heard his suggestion. However, Benjamin did not intend to begin to return to port until much later.

“So when are you going to relax, man?” Samuel shouted.

“Well, we’ve gone as far as we can on this tack and I was about to turn the boat through the wind; but I can lower the sails and let you sit on my lap while I stroke your hair for a few minutes if that’s what you want.”

“Why am I even friends with you?”

“Because I have a cool car, and a boat, and my parents are never home,” Benjamin shouted back as he alternated between looking at the sail and telltales.

“That’s right! I’m a mooch!”

“Well, stay alert, Mooch: the boom is going to go across the boat in a minute.”

Suddenly, the boat struck something in the water. Benjamin fell forward and his head struck the top beam of the cabin. He lost consciousness.

“Oh, crap! Ben! Ben! Are you OK?” Samuel moved quickly to where Benjamin had fallen. “Ben? Ben?” he pleaded as he shook him. Benjamin did not wake, so he adjusted Benjamin’s body so he was on his back.

The bow of the sailboat did not go through the wind quickly enough, so the boat came to a complete stop. Samuel attributed the stop to whatever they had struck, so he made his way toward the bow. Before he reached it, he saw a huge blob attached to the hull. It looked disgusting to him. It was the size of a refrigerator, amorphous, and beige and pink colored. Its texture appeared wet and slimy. Removing the creature from the hull felt more urgent than waking Benjamin.

Samuel retrieved a pole he had seen on the sailboat. He returned to the bow and stood over the hull where the creature was attached. Then, he lowered an end of the pole to it. The creature felt fleshy, but firm. He tried to gently push it off. It did not budge. He thought he might be able to force the pole between the creature and the hull to pry it off. He tried several spots, but gentle and firm force did not work. So, he tried with all of his strength to stab the pole in between the creature and the hull. The creature reacted to being struck by releasing a foul odor like rotten eggs, but much stronger. Samuel stumbled backward when it hit his nose.

“What is that horrible smell?” Benjamin yelled from the deck. He was awake.

“Ben! You really freaked me out!”

“Why is the boat in irons?” he asked as he felt around his head with his hands.

“What?”

“Why aren’t we moving?” Benjamin stood up.

“We hit this thing that’s attached to the hull,” Samuel said as he pointed to the creature. Standing at the stern, Benjamin looked over the starboard side and saw it on the hull.

“Gross! It looks like a giant intestine turned inside out and tied in a knot!”

Benjamin dashed into the cabin and then walked out with a hatchet. He scurried to the bow. Then; he leaned over the side, swung the hatchet in a plane parallel to the hull, and struck the creature. It released a smell more horrible than the first. Benjamin and Samuel both fell back when it hit their noses.

“It smells like the body odor of an extremely sick person!” Samuel exclaimed.

“Yeah, if you place your nose between infected fat folds!” Benjamin added.

“Look! It’s crawling into the boat!” Samuel shouted. The creature moved like an amoeba. It was using its blobby feet to climb into the boat. It appeared to be making its way to Samuel and Benjamin.

“I think it wants to eat us!” Benjamin shouted.

“Hit it again!” Samuel said.

“You hit it!” Benjamin handed the hatchet to Samuel.

“Does it have a head?” Samuel asked as he adjusted the hatchet in his fist.

“How should I know?” Benjamin replied. Samuel approached the creature cautiously and hacked at the front end of it with the hatchet. Each strike released a horrible stench. “Stop it! It smells like the armpits of a corpse! I’m going to throw up!” His eyes watered as he gagged.

“I feel like I’m getting sick,” Samuel said. “We can’t kill it. Look at the size of that thing! It’s going to absorb us or digest us if we don’t do something.”

“I have an idea,” Benjamin said as he rushed back to the cabin. He emerged with a liquor bottle.

“Nothing is so bad, a drink won’t make it worse,” Samuel said.

“Shut up,” Benjamin smirked as he tossed a lighter to Samuel. “I’m going to pour this all over the thing and then you’re going to light it up.”

“We’re going to burn down your dad’s boat,” Samuel said.

“No, we won’t. This is going to work.”

“I’m going to go put on a life vest,” Samuel said.

“Sam, let’s hurry up and do this before that thing eats one of us,” Benjamin looked for confirmation in Samuel’s face. “Ready?” Samuel nodded. Benjamin poured liquor over the creature. It released a horrible stench, but Benjamin held his breath and, through watery eyes, kept pouring until the bottle was empty. Benjamin stepped back and away from the creature.

Then, Samuel ran his thumb over the lighter’s wheel. It did not produce a flame. He ran his thumb over it again and again, but it did not produce a flame.

“I don’t think this lighter works!” Samuel shouted.

“Keep trying!”

The creature touched Samuel’s leg with its amorphous foot. Samuel yelped, ran his thumb over the lighter’s wheel, and – after it ignited – he lowered the flame to the creature. It burst into flames. The creature’s violent thrashing rocked the boat as Benjamin and Samuel held on to stay aboard. Finally, it dove away into the water.

The boat was being blown backwards by the wind. Benjamin began to steer it so the bow was at the right angle to sail again. The sailboat gained speed. Soon, they were far away from where the creature had dove into the water. Benjamin gave Samuel a very concerned look. When Samuel looked back at him, Benjamin asked, “Hey, man. Did you yelp?”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Virginia Lee

The image displays a pencil drawing of a creek.
Eduardo Suré; Drawing of a Creek, 2018; Graphite

About half of a mile past the highway bridge, there is a section of Beaver Creek where Gregory can fish with no one else around. He is wading as he casts his lure upstream wondering what lure trout will bite that evening. A vast cornfield on his right separates him from the road. On his left, a very steep hill is between him and a large lonely farm. Trees grow along both banks and shade him from the sun as he wades. The only sounds he hears are the white noise from the wind moving through the leaves and the babbling of the water moving around obstacles in the creek.

Gregory reels his lure out of the water just inches from the tip of his rod. He is using a small silver minnow crank bait. The treble hook at the tail is tangled with the line. He tells himself to retrieve the lure at a more appropriate speed for the flow of the stream. He studies the treble hook and the tangled line, and sees a simple solution for untangling them. While his eyes are focused on the minnow, he detects movement to his right. He quickly looks over hoping it is not a rabid raccoon or a hillbilly. Seeing nothing, he returns to his task which helps to slow his racing heart.

After untangling the minnow, Gregory unclips it from the end of the line. He holds it carefully in the palm of his hand while he handles a tiny tackle box that is clipped to the top of his waders. He exchanges the minnow for a small pink jig with a chartreuse grub tail. Then, he carefully walks upstream about twenty feet to a pool next to the roots of a large tree where trout may be hiding.

Gregory stops when he is about ten feet from the pool. He casts the lure into the water and lets it float down to the bottom. He lets it sit there while he holds the fishing line with his right hand so that he might feel a strike. After a few seconds, he carefully reels in the slack. As he does, he feels a tap. He flicks the lure so it appears to the trout like it is trying to dart away. He feels a solid strike. He snaps up the tip of the rod to set the hook. The tip of the rod bends toward the water and he begins to reel in the fish.

Water splashes. Gregory reaches into the water to pick up the fish. The beautiful brook trout lies in his hand gasping. As he admires it, he sees movement again out of the corner of his eye. This time it is clearer. It looks like there is a child by the stream and he turns quickly in the direction of the movement. No one is there. However, a bush is swaying as if it had just been disturbed. He convinces himself that a weasel just darted out of the water and ran into a hole hidden by the bush. As he is distracted; the trout thrashes suddenly, slips out of his grasp, and swims away.

The fish in the hole are too startled for Gregory to try again there. He carefully wades upstream about fifteen feet and stops. The water is almost to his waist. It is too deep. He must be very careful because he is alone. No one would hear him cry for help, much less pull him out if he were to begin to drown. He decides to find a shallower part of the creek.

Before leaving, Gregory casts his lure one last time toward the bank on the right. It plops into deep water next to a little girl. She is watching him. When he looks back at her, he notices that he can see distorted images of the ground, bushes, and trees that are behind her. Her body is translucent. While he stands motionless with fear, she slowly picks up her right hand and waves at him. Suddenly, she appears to slide unintentionally into the creek.

The water in the creek around her splashes violently. The ghost grabs Gregory’s line and pulls him toward the deep. It is six-pound line, but it will not snap. He releases his fishing rod.

The water begins to rise. It fills his waders. He goes under. He unclips the suspenders and frantically climbs out of them. He comes up for air.

The creek is now too deep to stand on the bottom with his head above water. He uses all of his strength to swim with the current toward the shore. He grabs for tree roots and uses them to pull himself out of the water.

Gregory lies on the ground. He needs to catch his breath. He turns his head to cough out some water. He sees the ghost climbing out of the creek. He rolls over, pushes himself up, and stumbles as he sprints into a cornfield.

Gregory runs at top speed until he is out of breath. Over the top of the corn, he sees the roof of a house in the horizon. He goes toward it. Leaves cut him arms as he moves through the corn field. He cannot see anything, except for corn, so he keeps his eyes on the house to find his way.

When Gregory arrives at the house, he sees an old woman in a rocking chair on the porch. He walks toward her, but stops at the edge of her property. He does not want to frighten her. Being wet, barefooted, and gasping; he believes he appears as if he is suffering from mental problems.

“You saw Virginia Lee, didn’t you?” she shouts from her chair. “The little girl who was drowned in the creek.” She adds without emotion as if she is commenting on the weather or untied shoes.

“A ghost,” Gregory says between deep breaths. “It tried to drown me.” He sounds mentally disturbed.

“Well, you can’t blame her: you look a lot like her father,” she says accusingly. “Come up onto the porch. I’ll call you a cab and get you a towel.” She pushes herself up and shuffles to her door. He watches her struggle to open the screen door as the bottom catches, slowly climb up the step leading into her house, and then fidget with the door to shut it.

Gregory does not want to wait barefooted on the porch for a cab. He does not want to make small talk with the old woman. He looks down the street in one direction and sees a dead end. So, he takes a chance and walks in the other direction hoping it will lead him to the highway.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Pride

The image shows a pencil drawing of a roaring lion.
Eduardo Suré; Roaring Lion, 2018; Graphite

The sun is set, and stars begin to appear brighter in the African sky above the camp. Roaring fires surround and illuminate a laughing quartet made up of two men and two women sitting at a table together. One man is the safari’s guide. His damp hair is flat against his head, he wears a khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and he uses his fedora to fan himself as he leans back in his chair. The other man in the group and the two women are photographers. They enjoy dinner together, recall their day, and tease each other.

“And while the bird chased Nicole, Katherine and I took some amazing photos of it in action!” Brandon says. He is dressed like the guide, but his clothes are new and make him look like he is wearing a costume.

“I don’t know why you just watched it chase me all the way to the truck, Raymond,” Nicole says. “You could have fired a round into the air or something to scare it away. Aren’t you supposed to keep us safe?” Nicole has a kind face and the gentleness of a mother holding her newborn.

“She has a point, Raymond,” Katherine says. Her clothes are soiled and worn as if she had been crawling on the ground all day. She speaks to everyone as if she’s their older sister who always knows better. “You carry all those scary guns with you.”

“Why do you have all those guns?” Brandon asks as he leans forward on the table. “You really only need one, right? We’re on a reserve. All we’re doing is driving around, shooting photos, and camping.”

“I only have one,” Raymond says as he glances at his gun. “And it only looks big because it is a double-rifle.”

“All of your assistants have one too,” Nicole says. When her large eyes make contact with Raymond, he has to resist the urge to look away.

“They are for you protection,” Raymond says. He fans himself with his hat and closes his eyes.

“Protection from what?” Katherine asks. “Not birds, obviously.” She and Brandon chuckle, and Nicole pretends to be very embarrassed. After laughing, they settle down and watch Raymond quietly. They use silence to pressure him to answer.

“Lions,” Raymond finally says. He looks up into the night sky and fans himself briskly. He means for this to be the final answer that completely satisfies them.

“Oh, come on!” Katherine scoffs. “Lions? We haven’t even seen any, which – by the way – may cost you a star on my review.”

“Well, there is a dangerous lion out there,” Raymond says. “Didn’t you read your waiver before signing it?”

“Nobody reads those” Brandon says. “But it sounds like you have an anecdote for us. Let’s hear it.”

“Yes, please tell us about this murderous lion,” Katherine says as she leans back into her chair. “If it’s good, I’ll give you all five stars.” The three photographers use silence to pressure Raymond again.

“All right. If it helps my review-” Raymond says breaking the silence. He fans his face with his hat briskly for a moment, then stops abruptly and says, “Back in 2057 – I remember the year because it was the year I graduated – an eccentric millionaire named Frank Lewis decided he was done being human. He’d done everything he’d wanted to do, he had more money than anyone needed, but – like all of us – he had a limited lifespan. He estimated that he had about fifteen years left. He wanted to them as a lion. It’s a little more than the lifespan of a lion in the wild. So, he decided to have his brain transplanted into a lion.”

“Shut up!” Katherine scoffs. She looks at Nicole and Brandon to see if they find what Raymond said believable.

“Please go on,” Nicole says.

Raymond continues, “Whether the surgery failed and he died or it succeeded, he considered both a win. I don’t know where he found the team of unethical doctors, but they were actually good enough to make it work. At the end of the operation, the lucky old man’s brain was transplanted into an unlucky three-year-old lion.”

“I hear a truck backing up. Beep, beep, beep,” Katherine says. “It’s loaded with bull-“

“Katherine! Let the man finish!” Brandon says.

“Katherine already guessed what I was going to say: the lion was placed in this reserve,” Raymond says. “In fact, nearly all of our operating costs are still paid by the income from Mr. Lewis’s endowment fund. You can verify that online. Mr. Lewis thrived here. Soon after he arrived, he fought another lion for a pride and won. He kept the pride for years.” Raymond places his hat on his head and stands. He looks out into the darkness as he speaks.

“One day, poachers snuck into the reserve to harvest rhino horns,” Raymond says. “They got what they came for, but they didn’t leave right away. As they rode out, the poachers saw a pride of lions and shot at them for fun.”

“Oh, no!” Nicole exclaims. “Was it Mr. Lewis’s pride?”

Raymond nods his head to Nicole and says, “They killed several lions.” Raymond takes his hat off his head and fans himself. He squints as he searches beyond camp for something. “Mr. Lewis tracked the men to their camp. Now, understand that lions aren’t the best hunters. Most lions don’t even take the wind into consideration when they hunt, so prey knows they’re coming. But Mr. Lewis was not an ordinary lion. He planned things out like a human. He tracked the men until he found their camp. Then, he waited hidden in the tall grass for the sun to go down. After it was dark and the poachers went to sleep, he mauled them through their tents. All of them, but one. The sole survivor was the one who told the story. He said he didn’t hear anything and only woke up when the lion destroyed his leg.”

“You wouldn’t have a spare rifle?” Brandon asks.

“You are safer without one,” Raymond says. “Mr. Lewis does not like anyone who looks like a hunter.”

“Raymond is just pulling our leg,” Katherine says as she playfully swats a hand at him through the air. “Nice try. I’ll give him five stars for his horror story anyway.”

“You had me worried for a minute, Raymond,” Nicole said.

The quartet stays up a few hours more. They take turns sharing anecdotes from their travels. Darkness surrounds them as the campfires die down. As the last fire begins to go out, fatigue compels them to go to bed. They wish each other good night, split up, and go to their tents.

Raymond wakes up in the middle of the night. He needs to go to the bathroom. The moonlight is so bright that he can see without a flashlight. He crawls out of his sleeping bag, slips on his boots, and unzips his tent to exit. He quietly walks out to the edge of the camp and looks out into the savannah. He watches the wind sweep over the tall grass. As his eyes move over the quiet landscape, he makes eye contact with a very large male lion. Raymond freezes. His rifle is in his tent. He cannot outrun the lion. He knows he will not survive the lions charge. The two stare at each other intensely for what seems like minutes to Raymond. Then, the lion turns around and walks away disappearing into the tall grass.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Subway Zombies

The image shows a pencil drawing of a zombie woman.
Eduardo Suré; Zombie Woman, 2018; Graphite

I keep telling myself, ‘Scott, the zombies are going to get you in those subway tunnels if you keep using them!’ But I don’t listen to myself. The tunnels are just too convenient! There are maps to everywhere I want to go. It can be hot, cold, rainy, or snowing outside; but it’s always nice inside the tunnels. There are also less places for zombies to hide. If I’m walking through the city streets; they can come out of an alley, a store, or reach out from under a car and grab my ankle. That’s why I like the subway tunnels.

The zombies almost got me the other day though. I was caught by surprise by a group of them at a transfer station. They must have been turned into zombies on their way to a hockey game because they were all wearing red team jerseys. I ended up on an upper level platform surrounded by zombie sports fans on the platform below. I was safe because there was a sealed entrance behind me, and I had switched the direction of the escalators leading from the bottom level where the zombies were to the level I was on. I made all of the escalators leading up to my level run in the downstairs direction. Zombies are clumsy and uncoordinated, so they couldn’t climb up fast enough to reach the top of the stairs. I was able to do that using some keys I had scavenged off the body of a subway station manager. I was safe, but I was also trapped.

As I thought about what I could do to get myself out of the situation, I heard footsteps. It was like tapping in eighth notes: tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap. I looked in the direction of the sound and saw a man run into the subway station. You can tell when a man is running toward something and when he is running away from something. The man had a look of horror on his face and ran clumsily. Fear makes a person dumb. The man was definitely being chased.

I couldn’t see the zombies he ran from right away because the entrance he had used was around a corner, but I could hear them. They were groaning and growling and yelling. It is normally a horrible sound, but there were little pauses as they fell down the stairs that made it a little bit funny to me. I have seen them fall downstairs and just break apart or burst open. It’s disgusting because their meat is all tenderized and beat up and they are oozing all over when they finally reach the landing. It gets really interesting when there’s a group of zombies because they gather up like idiotic fire ants in water as they roll down.

I was stuck myself at the time, so there was not much I could do to help the man. The most I could do was tell him where things were from my higher point of view. The zombies that were chasing him finally came around the corner. They looked like they had been turned into zombies at work. There were men in suits and women in modest dresses limping after the man. I had to do something to help him. So, I called to him to let him know where I was.

I yelled, “Hey, Mr! Up here!” He looked up, saw me, and started running toward me. I remembered there were zombies surrounding the escalators that led up to my level. I tried to tell him not to come to me, but it was too late: the Zombies that had trapped me spotted him and began to chase him. So, he ended up pursued by two groups of zombies: zombie fans and zombie office workers.

From where he was, the man only saw one choice. There was an exit all the way on the other side of the station. He sprinted down the platform to try to get to that exit. The two groups of zombies merged and blended into one big group and proceeded to chase him. I counted about thirteen zombies in the mob.

I thought he could outrun them. It looked to me for about a minute like he might get away. Then, more zombies emerged from the other end. The new group looked like former subway employees. They stumbled comically down the stairs leading to the exit the man intended to use. He probably didn’t laugh.

The man almost fell over when he tried to stop after seeing the new group of zombies. Since there were zombies in front and behind him, it looked to me like he only had one choice: he had to jump inside of the trench where the train tracks were and try to cross to the other side of the station. I think he figured that out too. I saw him move to the edge of the platform and look down at the tracks. If he was going to do it, he needed to act quickly because I heard the rumble of an arriving train. The trains were automated, so many of them continued to run even after the zombies had infested everything.

To my surprise, the man ran toward the smaller group of zombies. It was easy to become infected; so, I thought this was the end for him. Maybe he wanted to go out fighting. When he reached the first zombie in the group, he grabbed it by the shirt and threw it into the trench of subway tracks. He grabbed a zombie woman by the hair and flung her off the platform too. Then, he pushed a zombie man who was already near the edge of the platform onto the tracks. I watched him wrestle, push, and kick the entire group off the platform and into the trench. At the same time, he kicked the faces of the zombies who tried to crawl back up onto the platform.

As promised by the rumble I had heard earlier, a train arrived. It rolled right over the zombies. I could not see under the train, but there was no way they survived. It probably looked like someone had spilled meat soup under the train.

I had to jump for joy and let out a cheer for the man after he triumphed. He saved both of us. And he did it without getting a scratch! I expected him to walk over to me afterward, or wave and walk out of the station, or even board the train when it stopped. Instead, I watched him cemented to the floor staring openmouthed at the train in front of him. I could only see the top of the train from where I stood, so I didn’t know what happened to make him pause like that.

When the train doors opened, a new group of zombies stumbled out and went after the man. The man snapped out of his shock, ran down the platform, skated around the corner, and stumbled up the stairs he used to come into the station. Since the zombies coming off the train chased after him, I ran in the opposite direction and escaped.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Pup

The image shows a pencil drawing of a full moon.
Eduardo Suré; Full Moon, 2018; Graphite

One bright and clear Saturday afternoon, Pamela was at the playground at the park in her neighborhood. The nine-year-old girl was surrounded by younger children; but she climbed over, under, and through the playground equipment alone.

Pamela stayed there for a long time and did not give any sign that she was getting tired of playing. Parents gathered up their children and left. More children arrived. Then, children went home. There were times as groups of people arrived and left that no one was at the park, but her. It was during one of those gaps between crowds that a stranger approached her.

“Hi, little girl,” the man excitedly said as he walked toward her. The overweight man wore a scraggly beard, a worn brown cap, and a stained black polo tucked into his blue jeans. “Have you seen a puppy come through here? Chocolate color. Super cute.”

“No,” she replied. “Sorry.”

“Maybe you can help me find him,” he said. “Would you?”

“There isn’t a puppy here, Mr.,” she said.

“I bet you’re right,” he said. “He’s probably back at the parking lot waiting by my car. You’re so smart! Please help me catch him before he gets run over. C’mon! Let’s hurry!” The man jogged toward the lot and Pamela followed.

The parking lot was empty when they arrived, except for a van. The heat of the afternoon may have sent people inside or perhaps it was dinner time, but no one was out. There were no kids at the park. There were no adults taking a walk. Pamela was alone with the man.

“Little girl!” he exclaimed, “I think I see my puppy under the van.”

“I don’t think so, Mr.,” Pamela replied.

“Sure, I do,” he said. “I bet if we look behind the tire, he’s right there. He’s probably scared.”

Pamela’s face conveyed doubt as she walked toward the back of the van. She squatted down to look under it. There was not a puppy by the tire. Suddenly; the man swung the van’s back door open, picked Pamela up, and roughly tossed her into the back. He slammed the doors shut before she could stand. She pounded the doors and yelled from inside, but she was too quiet for anyone to hear. The man looked around, saw no one, stepped into the driver’s seat, and left the park with Pamela.

It was pitch black in the back of the van. The cab and the cargo area were separated by a solid wall. Pamela stumbled around trying to find a way to escape. The back doors, were locked from the outside. They were the only possible exit. Finally, the heat exhausted her and she sat on the floor wet from her own sweat and tears.

When the van stopped, Pamela prepared herself to run out after the doors opened. She heard the driver’s door slam shut and she readied herself. However, the man did not open the back doors. He left her sitting alone and blind from absence of light.

It was night when the man finally opened the doors. Even with the doors open, it remained dark inside of the van. The van was inside of a barn, which was a little more illuminated. The most illumination was outside of the barn where the full moon lit up the night. Since the light source was behind the man, Pamela could not see his face. She could tell that he held in his right hand something that looked like a pipe with a forked end. After seeing it, she quickly scooted back into a dark corner in the van.

“Come sit over here,” the man said as he patted the floor at the open end of the van. Pamela did not move. “I can make you sit here, but it’s really going to hurt.” She saw an electric arc flash at the end of the pipe.

“I want to go home,” Pamela said weakly.

“You’re home now,” he said. He tapped the van’s floor with the rod he was holding. Pamela crawled over and sat at the edge of the van. “Extend your arms out with your wrists together like this.” She complied. He wrapped duct tape around her wrists.

“Please let me go, Mr.” Pamela said before he put duct tape over her mouth. He reached out with his left hand to direct her toward the house. After she did not move, he tapped her shoulder with the rod.

Pamela jumped from where she sat onto the floor. She walked out of the shadow inside of the barn and into the light of the full moon. The weight of it seemed to be too much. She stumbled to the ground onto her bound hands and knees as if she meant to crawl.

“Get up, girl,” he ordered. Pamela’s back rose and fell as she took fast shallow breaths. She clenched her fists. He placed the cattle prod against her back. “I said, ‘get up!’”

Pamela turned her head and faced him. She no longer had a human face: she had a wolf’s. The duct tape the man had put over her mouth was in her snout and muffled her menacing growl.

The man dropped the cattle prod, turned, and ran behind the barn. Pamela continued her transformation. Fur grew over her body. Her muscles grew. She became strong enough to rip the duct tape around her wrists. She used her sharp claws to remove the duct tape from her mouth and revealed large sharp teeth. When she stood up, she looked ridiculous wearing a little girl’s dress many sizes too small.

Pamela bent over to sniff the cattle prod. Then, she sniffed the air. She followed the man’s route to the back of the barn. There were woods behind it, but no clear path into them. It did not matter: she had his scent.

Pamela moved quickly through the woods. Her fur protected her from branches and thorns. When she spotted the man, she slowed down and moved quietly. She remained close to him without his noticing her. He stopped running and walked. She stalked him easily. When he began to cross a meadow, she closed the gap between them.

Pamela moved quietly behind him and got as close as she could. The man turned to look back and saw her. She growled. The man stood his ground, so she intensified her growl and snapped at him. She wanted his heart to race.  The man turned and ran. She chased him. She caught him. She bit his neck and ended him.

It took Pamela most of the night, but she found her way home before the moon set. The lights in her house were on when she arrived. She hesitated to announce herself and sat at the back door for a few minutes. Then, she scratched at the door until an older woman came to open it.

“Where have you been?” the old woman asked. “Your parents are still out looking for you. Get yourself inside right now, young lady.” She closed the door after Pamela went inside. Using a higher pitched voice she asked, “Look at what you’ve done to that dress! Whose blood is that?”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Two Minutes at Midnight

The image shows a pencil sketch of a full moon surrounded by clouds.
Eduardo Suré; Sketch of Moon and Clouds, 2018; Graphite

The moon shines down on an affluent middle class neighborhood. It illuminates a beautiful two story craftsman style home that is visible through a clearing. Its owner keeps trees away from the structure allowing light to reflect off the snow. It looks like dusk outside the home rather than what it actually is: midnight.

The light from outside spills into a bedroom on the second floor. There, Justin Clark lies awake staring at the ceiling. Several worries chafe his brain. Chief among them is Brenda’s, his wife’s, depression. He wonders if he is doing all he can to help her. He reviews his responses to her illness: he is supportive of her feelings; he helps with chores and with the children; he finds ways to pay for the frequent counseling, psychiatrists, and medications. He even installed special lighting in the bedroom to simulate sunlight to combat seasonal affective disorder. It sounds to him like he has been doing his part, but he worries he may not be doing enough to save her.

The doorbell rings. Justin looks at his alarm clock. It is 12:30 AM. It is 12:30 AM on a Tuesday. He backhands his bedcovers off and throws his legs over the side of the bed. He does not put his slippers on or retrieve his bathrobe. He intends to have words with whoever rung his doorbell behind a closed door. He walks down the hall with crossed arms and taking quick short steps. He climbs down the stairs glaring at the front door as if annoyance will give him the power to see through it. He cannot, so he looks through one of the narrow windows decorating the sides of the door. He sees his neighbor and exhales a low growl.

Justin opens the door and asks with exasperated calm, “Mr. Rodriguez, is everything alright?”

“I was wondering if I could come in,” he replies. The young man wears an elegant suit without a coat even though it is winter.

“Mr. Rodriguez, you know very well that I can’t invite you in: you’re a vampire,” Justin says.

“In that case,” he says as he tosses a device into the house. It looks like a round bathroom scale with a calculator attached to the top.

“Mr. Rodriguez, what is that?” Justin asks as he walks toward the device lying on the floor in a spot between his living room and foyer.

“That is a bomb,” he replies. “Well, it is a bomb and a mine. If you pick it up, your house and its contents will be scattered everywhere. It will be quite a mess.”

“It’s not a bomb,” Justin says as he reaches it. He bends over to inspect the device, and it is too convincing to handle. “What good does it do you to toss a bomb into my house?”

“It makes our interaction brief. You have two minutes to decide whether you will invite me into your house so I can disarm the bomb and then dine on a family member of your choice,” he allows his words to hang in the air. Justin shivers from the cold or fear, he cannot tell. “Or, the Clarks can all die leaving me hungry, but free of witnesses.”

“Why don’t you just tell me the code before I throw it at you?” Justin says.

“You know how fast I can move,” he replies. “You only have a minute to decide now.”

Justin considers covering the bomb with his body, but that amount of power will just go through him. He thinks he can push the refrigerator onto it, but he cannot drag it over in less than a minute. He looks at the timer on the bomb. It reads thirty seconds. He tries to dig his nails into a gap between floor boards.

“Good thinking. Only, if you tilt the bomb, it will go off,” he says. It reads fifteen seconds. Justin considers his alternatives. They all end badly.

“All right!” Justin whispers loudly. “Please come in!” Mr. Rodriguez rushes past Justin in a blur and with the force of a train arriving at a platform. He enters a four digit code and the timer stops. The bomb is disarmed.

“My conditions,” he says. He is elegant and grinning.

“My wife,” Justin says. “Just please don’t wake her up before you do it.”

“Reasonable,” he replies.

“Follow me,” Justin says. He and the vampire walk up the stairs. Justin can only hear his own footsteps. When they are on the second floor, he continues walking quietly down the hall. He is afraid that one of the children will walk out and see them marching toward their mother’s bedroom. There would be no questions, only the screams of horrified children.

They reach the door. Justin turns toward Mr. Rodriguez and puts his index finger against his lips requesting silence. Mr. Rodriguez smiles broadly and mockingly mimics the gesture. His fangs glow even in the faint light of the hall.

Justin walks into the bedroom first. He steps aside at the doorway and motions for Mr. Rodriguez to come in. Mr. Rodriguez appears to glide silently across the room to Mrs. Clark’s side of the bed. He observes her as she sleeps. He turns toward Justin and mockingly puts his finger against his lips signing silence. Justin maintains eye contact with Mr. Rodriguez, feels the wall for the light switch, and then flips on the bedroom lights.

Mr. Rodriguez can only hiss loudly as he turns into ash. His clothes fall empty to the floor. The sound wakes Mrs. Clark.

“What was that?” Brenda asks with a voice modified by the effect of waking and irritation.

“Mr. Rodriguez got in the house,” Justin replies. “I just turned on the sun lamps we installed.”

“Are the kids OK?” she asks.

“They’re fine,” Justin replies. “Do you want to go sleep in one of their bedrooms while I vacuum up the ashes?”

“I’ll vacuum it up in the morning,” Brenda says. “I’m finally getting some good sleep.” Justin is happy to hear her say that. He turns off the light and remembers the bomb Mr. Rodriguez left disarmed downstairs.

“Thanks, honey. I’m going to check on the kids real quick and then I’ll come back to bed.”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Men, Like Mice

The image shows a pencil sketch of a cave.
Eduardo Suré; Sketch of a Cave, 2018; Graphite

As I hike through the canyon alone and exhausted from carrying my heavy backpack, I am simultaneously stressed and comforted. I hear my feet crunching the gravel of the dry creek I’m using as a trail, and I fear I am giving away my location. However; when I look about the vast and arid land I’m traveling through, I don’t see anything hunting me. I can imagine I’m safe.

I follow the dry creek bed uphill hoping I will find some fruit. Evolution has allowed pomegranates and figs to grow in this desert. I have found enough of them to keep me hungry. I have also found just enough water to keep me thirsty. Hunger and thirst give me purpose. They also remind me that I’m still alive, so I welcome them.

As the sun beats down on the back of my neck, the creek trail evaporates. I find myself on the side of a mountain. I see a trail I assume was made by animals during their seasonal migrations. I am too far from where civilization used to be for the trail to be manmade. It could have been made by deer. Deer are herbivores. I travel using it hoping to find food.

The trail leads me to a cave. I remember having found water in caves, but also unfriendly animals. What is certain is that I will have shade. I look around the opening for snakes. Seeing none, I step inside. I am momentarily blind because of the darkness. As my eyes adapt, I see a man sitting inside the cave against the wall. He is pointing a shotgun at me.

“Don’t shoot,” I say as calmly as I can after the unpleasant surprise. “I’m human.”

“I’m can see that,” he says.

“Please stop pointing the gun at me,” I say.

“I’ll point my gun where I want,” he says.

“I just came in to get out of the sun and maybe find some water,” I say. “I can leave.”

“There’s some water in the caverns below if you want to fill your canteen,” he says. “You’ll need a headlamp and some courage to climb down. Then you can be on your way. I’ll even point the way back to civilization.”

“I don’t want to go back to civilization,” I say. He shrugs his shoulders, and it occurs to me he does not know. “You don’t know about the aliens, do you?”

“How much sun did you say you got today?” he asks.

“I’m not crazy,” I say.

“Alright, then,” he says. “Tell me about the aliens.”

“You think I’m crazy, but it would be wrong for me not to tell you. About three years ago, a huge alien ship arrived and parked just outside high-earth orbit.” I realize I’m too animated as I’m telling the story.

“High-earth orbit?” he asks as he lowers his shotgun.

“It’s a term the media used. It’s in space beyond our satellites. The ship did nothing when it arrived. Some expected it to shoot lasers at us, others expected ambassadors. It just floated out there. At first, there was a lot of emotion. Some were excited, others were angry. There was happiness and fear – lots of talk and speculation; but the alien ship did nothing. People lost interest. Soon, everyone went back to their routine with this big ship just orbiting the planet.”

“So this ship was just another thing out in space?” he asks.

“Yeah, nobody cared about the ship after a while. What everyone did care about was the world economy. It boomed. It boomed at a rate no one had seen before. And in a way no one had experienced – I mean, it wasn’t just the rich getting richer. Everyone got a piece of the pie.”

“Sounds like a world party,” he says. “Sad I missed it.”

“Yeah, big party – until everyone started to die,” I say.

“What do you mean by that?” he asks.

“People began dying at an alarming rate,” I say. I feel the weight of my backpack. I take it off and set it down slowly as he watches me. “We didn’t even notice at first because the old and the sick died first. Then the weak and the frail died. When healthier and younger people began to die, the cases were spread out over a wide area. There wasn’t a cluster or common illness that made the deaths stand out to doctors or the government. When someone finally noticed, we didn’t know why people were dying – much less what we should do. All we could do was bury our dead.”

“It was the aliens,” he says.

“Some people said that, but there was no proof. We didn’t know it was them until we were unable to keep up with our dead. When we started falling behind at the morgues, that’s when the ship did something. That’s when the aliens came down.”

“What did they look like?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply.

“What?” he scoffs. I begin to fear I might lose his interest.

“They were just too good at getting us. Anyone who saw them was gone. There were news reports, but those crews brave enough to go out only captured enough footage for us to know we should run. We should grab whatever we can and go hide. Many people went underground, but I knew I’d be better off in the backcountry.”

“It was the money,” he says.

“What do you mean it was the money?” I ask.

“Beings advanced enough to travel through space and find new worlds – we’re nothing but mice to them,” he says. “They put poison in the money. It was the bait. They put it in the thing people could not resist. People took the poisoned bait and just spread it around – handing it to each other. The poison entered through our skin and we started dropping off. Then they let us clean ourselves up until we couldn’t do it anymore. They didn’t want the mice dying in the walls of their new home, do you understand? They didn’t want us stinking up the place. So once we couldn’t clean up after ourselves, they came down to get rid of us. Like mice.”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED