Tales From the Other Side

by Connor Rohan '24 on March 2, 2023
Portfolio Staff


There exists a place unseen from normal eyes. A place not known to those who don’t already know it. A place filled with wonder and excitement, monsters and adventure. This place is known as the other side. No one knows how it came to be nor why its laws are what they are, but what the residents of that place do know is that once you find yourself past the walls of normalcy you can never leave. Now normally that would be a problem, a place with weird laws that doesn’t let you leave and yet no one who lives in that strange place ever complains about being there. They go about their days as normal peaceful citizens to their towns. Then it showed up, bringing with it discourse and chaos. The once peaceful lives of the villagers and townsfolk were thrown into disarray. The being took what it wanted, did what it wanted. Neglecting and ignoring any that it would inconvenience. Breaking into people’s homes, stealing their crops, killing the townsfolk without mercy. The world was already filled with beasts and creatures but up until that point the other side had never seen a monster of that caliber. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it, it claimed it was helping us, that it would help guide all those lost to this place home, and yet when told that no one wanted to go home it lured people into the woods never to return. Yet when the monster came back there always seemed to be one more tree in that forest from before. Soon the once bustling towns and villages were scarce and empty. The residents that survived hid from the ever-encroaching shadows that lured them into the woods which by this point had formed a prison around the towns, trees that touched the sky stretched for infinity in every direction. Hope was lost, fear ran rampant, and everyone lived their lives a little less than before, unable to mourn their losses as there were never any bodies to bury. Life went on for these people for centuries, the lives that were born were raised to fear the dark. As they had no idea that the monster was lurking in it, waiting for the chance to lure them away. Until the Other side found itself a new resident, someone from the outside, someone not versed in the laws and rules of this world. Having gotten lost with their sibling they journeyed across the land, through the woods and from town to town trying to find a way home, and yet everywhere they went they were told the same thing. Be afraid of the dark, the monster is waiting for you. Having come from the real world they didn’t believe in such things, sure the dark was scary but there were no such things as monsters. They were probably talking about a bear or something. Unfortunately, monsters were real and this one had its eyes on the newcomers. And the newcomers would soon learn that getting home would be the easiest of their problems. Soon they would learn of the problems awaiting them, and the tales that would be told about the place they were currently in. Tales from the Other side.

Nobody’s Darling

by Sarah Klema '23 on January 29, 2023
Portfolio Staff


Ruby lips descending into salty brine. My lips. Bright light yielding to dark, fathomless depths on a midsummer’s eve where the sweltering heat of the sun still lingers in the damp night air of the goldfields. Eighteen years of growing up in each other’s company, budding feelings finally confessed—only to have the last night marred by the shattered delusion of something we were never meant to be. A first date gone wrong.

That day—the day you watched me die,

what were you thinking?

I know. You were feeling sorry for yourself, for the loss you would have to suffer so early on in your youth, and for having to conjure up an explanation plausible enough to avoid scrutiny: “My Darling Clementine, drowned!”

Does my death yet haunt you? Very well, poor dear, console yourself. Exchange one woman for another; touch is all the same. Rest your brow upon my little sister’s breast—see if it helps you to forget. Forget me. Forget you. You forget yourself.

Not I, though—I will never forget.

Clusters of lanky ash trees lining the brine pools before us bear mute witness as you snake your hand around my waist, seizing me with clammy fingers.

Clementine—kiss me. I can’t contain myself—I love you. You joke, surely, I think, until your fingers fix themselves under the hollows of my jaw, vice-like. I meet your gaze, alarmed by what I see—not the face of a friend, but something strange, twisted.

Your mouth is shaping lovely lies—deceit etched into the corners of your smile. Something heinous lurks there, heretofore unnoticed. I see it clearly now, reflected in your features, some hidden urge burgeoning to the surface. In your eyes a manic glee. Your tongue, a serpent’s tongue, moving to ensnare mine.

If this is love, I want no part of it.

Let go of me—are you insane?! You’re hurting me—

A gasp of breath, a stifled scream, a stumble and a fall. Followed by splashing, flailing. Silence. All at once, the mania flees your face. Not so very bold now. I recognize you again, but it is with

changed eyes. You pause in horror for a spell before departing, thinking I am lost and gone—for good.

I am not lost. Still here, fighting in that one suspended moment where you watch me drown and whimper to yourself, clasping your hands tightly around your arms—arms that were all too quick to release me—or was it push, rather? —as I tripped and fell. I struggle to keep my head afloat as the weight of my woolen dress pulls me down.

Yet, be it the work of some sick miracle or sheer force of will, I can still see your figure—clearly outlined—as my eyes lapse under the slippery film of the water. With piercing scrutiny I trace every movement in your face—those frantic eyes, that pale, trembling jaw…

Why do you tremble so, and not I?

When Were; You and I: A Hedge Stone among the Graveyard of Artistic Demise

by The Cowl Editor on October 7, 2021


sketchbook with people's faces drawn inside
image credits: pexels

By Max Gilman ’25


Tell them tales, 

Entwine them with snaring literary truths, 

Yet they slip through, 


Slip through the spiked thorns amongst them, 


Carry on, 

And so begins the cycle again, 

Yet the outcome is the same, 

But now, 


Are experienced in slipping through the thorns, 

What is it man truly yearns? 



Denial of truth, 


Substance is needed, 

What does it mean, 

To run alongside the sun? 


Tap, tap, tap, 

Strokes from my hand hit the sides of the metallic desk, 

With a pencil, 

Barely sharpened, 

They listen with thoughts, 

Tap, tap, tap, 

Wandering elsewhere, 

They, the blue people, 

Living blue lives, 

Under blue rays, 

Who never leave the box they exist in, 

Tap, tap, tap, tap, 

I decide to join them, 

In my mind’s blue disillusion, 

Distracted by purposeless truths, 

Those of inconsequential value, 

And there I observe moments of elation, 

Tap, tap, tap, tap, 


Blank your mind, 

Make a fool of art, 

For realism’s sake, 

What they say is of no importance, 

They seek truth published by man, 

Constructed in a factory, 

Of partisan labor for the victimized workers, 

Sealed with the blood of the author’s eye, 

And cleansed with the tears of a marginalized citizenship, 

That is the truth they seek, 

And so they live their blue lives now, 

As it has come in accordance, 

Down the line of succession, 

So they take their seat, 

Upon a throne engulfed in blue light, 

Hypnotized by the denial of art, 


Tap, tap, tap, 


Quickly I lost control of the pencil, 

As it fell to the ground, 

And embedded itself inside a crack, 

That ran through a spiderweb of cracks, 

And I became entranced, 

Hypnotized by the art, 


But what did they see, 

Not art, no, 

Instead they noticed the ground, 

And its need for repair, 


Years have passed since, 

The air has grown stale, 

But not a bad stale, 

More like a stale you smell in an old closet, 

With jackets from your older family, 

I stand up from the library steps and walk, 

Strolling down the street I call to you, 

With both hands shuddered away in pockets, 

And ask you to meet me, 

By the entrance to the graveyard, 


You thank me for the offer but leave me, 

And so I come to the graveyard alone, 

With a notebook, 

Full of drawings, 

Mostly incomplete,  

But they express how I feel, 


I sit by a fallen tree, 

In the moist morning air, 

As the fog rises just above my line of sight, 

As my hand accidentally touches a patch of moss, 

I dust off the palm and open the notebook, 

To see pictures of me running with the sun, 

Sketches I made during class a long time ago, 


I look to the sun, 

And wonder how long I must wait, 

Before our cosmic dance together, 

I must wait here as always, 

And reside among the blue people, 

But I too will not prove to be blue, 


I seek a truth I do not understand, 

For it is not made by man, 

But by truth alone, 

An artistic truth, 

A belief in love, 


So accordingly, 

I proceed to flip a new page open, 

And begin to draw, 

What it is I want to see, 



But I have forgotten a pen, 

And so I lay down in the graveyard, 

Accompanied by the dead, 

Those who have escaped the blue light, 

And weep, 

For art’s demise, 

And its people, 

Who appreciate it not, 


Blue can only go so far, 

And so I pursue life, 

Through a ballad of different colors, 

All wonderful in their own regard.