Nicholas sat on the large boulders that separated the tree line and the shore. Bowing his head and closing his eyes, he focused intently on the sound of the waves crashing and running up the sandbar. Loud, then hushed. Harsh, then soft. Then loud again.  Pushing all other thoughts aside, he focused on his breathing, matching it with the rhythm of the waves.  In. Out. He acclimated to their pulse, until he felt like even his heartbeat was in sync with their music. Every evening it was new. He had never noticed that before, the subtle differences in their nightly symphonies.  Then he opened his eyes and ran his bow across the strings of his violin. He joined in the song, his music filling the air, following the ocean’s lead. Emily had loved the water, the waves. And she had loved his violin. He wished she could hear it now, that she could be here.  When he played for the

ocean, she felt close. No longer just a memory, but present. And so he played his violin in the last rays of the sun, wishing the day well. As the dusk enveloped him, he closed his eyes once more and held one last note, letting the wind carry it out over the waves to the horizon. Then he fell silent and let several minutes pass, listening to the water once again.  The sky was almost dark when he opened his eyes. He turned to pack up his violin, but jumped when he saw the silhouette of someone sitting in the rocks a little ways down from him. He squinted, trying to make out the form. After several moments, he saw the figure rise and walk away.  It was a woman.  He continued putting his violin away, and when he looked up again, she was gone.  *** He sat at his dining room table, looking down at the notebook. It was…

“But don’t you want to save your wife?” Vicar Price asked, his throat tightening as he read the answer on John’s face before any words were spoken. He stood across the table from John, staring down at him, then turned away.  He looked around their house. This was her home. This was where she lived. The home was sparse but it still carried her warmth - as if it didn’t know she was gone yet. His heart ached at the thought of it growing cold. “Vicar, look, I respect you and the Lord knows how grateful I am for you to give Mary the opportunities you did,” John said. “The extra money helped us through some very hard times. But Hopkins … what he said about why we might be having the hard times to begin with …” “Mary is no witch, surely you can’t have doubt about that,” Vicar Price interjected. John wouldn’t meet his eyes. He watched John

search for words, but he sensed the struggle was superficial. The more he pressed John to help him approach Hopkins and make an appeal, the more John insisted to leave things as they were. From the moment he had walked in this morning he had been disgusted. John’s face looked refreshed, and Vicar Price recoiled at the idea that John had slept peacefully while Mary sat alone in the jail.  “John … she’s your wife. You know she’s not a witch. You two love each other...” For the first time since they started talking, John’s eyes filled with emotion and finally met his own. “You haven’t lived here all these years. You don’t know her, and honestly I never did either.”  Vicar Price wanted to strike him, he had never felt this kind of fury before and was unprepared when he suddenly felt himself overcome with it. He took a deep breath and looked around the house again, looking at…

Mary woke up next to the table. She had fallen asleep in her chair, waiting for John to come home. For a few moments she felt free, her mind felt light, then everything came rushing back.  Standing up, she stretched, yawned, and stumbled toward their bed. She knew it would be empty, and it was. Sighing, she walked over to the door and opened it. The morning sun streamed in, and a wave of fresh air wafted into the room. She breathed it in deeply, loving the feeling of a new day. She heard a groan, and turned to see John asleep on the ground, half leaning against the house. “John …” she said, her voice emotionless. He didn’t respond. She studied his face. He was a stranger to her.  She remembered when she thought that she loved him. Maybe she had only wanted to love him. Maybe he had only ever been just enough that if she squinted she

could make believe. But there was no mistaking what he was and wasn’t now. Whatever she had felt for him had turned like meat that had rotted. It was poison. She was glad they could never have kids. They’d never have to grow up with him as a father.  And better yet, they wouldn’t have to grow up at all. They could stay with all her other hopes and happiness - somewhere in her dreams. Protected. She waited to see John take a breath, and he finally did.  Had she even wanted him too?  Standing up straight, she walked away, feeling sick inside. What did it mean for her to be standing here feeling like this? What was wrong with her? Everyone else could be content with what God allotted them. Her own soul was dead soil - unable to grow anything that it was given. She went back inside and got ready. She just needed to get out of…

“They waste their lives,” Lucifer said. Serendipity watched the fire reflect in his eyes as he stared into it. The night around them was quiet. She looked up at the stars, thoughtful. “Maybe that was the point god was trying to make to you,” she said. She turned her gaze back to Lucifer, who continued to watch the flames. One of the logs broke into the fire and sent sparks up into the air. He shook his head, then looked up at Serendipity. “I’m tired,” he said. “This world keeps catching fire - everything goes wrong.” She searched his eyes and could see the truth in them. She could always see the truth in them, but this time it scared her. He had never seemed so empty. “We can’t give up hope,” Serendipity said.  He sat thinking for a few moments, then turned back to the fire. “Hope is what fuels it,” Lucifer said. “The more hope, the more to

burn.”  She kept watching his eyes. They always possessed something in them, something very similar to the flames they now reflected. Whatever it was, it was dim now. “Then will you give it all up?” she asked. “Leave this world to god?” Lucifer kept his eyes fixed on the fire. “When I reach this point - I remember that I didn’t choose this path because it’s a happy one. There’s no glory in it. Nothing comes easy,” he lifted his head and met her eyes again. “But doing anything else would betray my spirit. I would rather die than do that.”  They sat, the campfire illuminating their faces inconsistently. Waves of light and shadow washed over them. “Is that not enough this time?” Serendipity asked. “There are times I can’t even feel my spirit enough to betray it. I said I’d rather die, maybe I already did. Maybe that’s always been my only choice.” They sat in silence. “Even if…

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4 *** The wind brought no relief, only tiny bits of sand that stung his skin. The barren ground around him was littered with sun scorched stones, and he watched rolls of heat emanate from them like ripples across water.  Water. Jesus reached for his goatskin flask and lifted it to his dry lips. He sat quietly in the shade of a large boulder, waiting for evening to bring some relief. He took one more drink, and as he set the flask down he noticed his arms. They were so

thin. He couldn’t remember ever seeing them so frail.  His father had been a carpenter. Joseph had taken him everywhere - to him, Jesus had been an ever present shadow. Jesus learned everything a carpenter could ever know because he saw everything a carpenter could ever see. And everything required so much strength. Sometimes brute force, and at other times a don’t-breathe-don’t-blink attention to delicate details that would mean the success or failure of weeks of work. It was an exhausting exercise of both mind and muscle. Joseph loved it, and Jesus did too. He remembered as a young boy when he had finished building his first plough. Joseph had been so proud, he had laughed and grabbed his son’s sore arms exclaiming what a man he was becoming. Jesus had laughed too.  Ever since that day Jesus had taken great pride in his physical frame, knowing that it reflected his craft and - more importantly - the pride he…

“Stop looking at your phone.”  “Oh shit - didn’t even realize I was doing it again,” Mel said, slipping her phone back into her purse. Shannon took a long drag on her cigarette while Mel looked around at the crowd, avoiding Shannon’s accusing gaze.  Groups of people were clustered around tables, standing together by brick planters full of flowers, or leaning up against the ornate, black gate that enclosed the entire patio. The patio blended with the open-air restaurant, Diaz, so that any clear distinction of inside and outside was blurred - Mel could smell the fragrant flowers and the fresh food anywhere she went. Within the restaurant a live band was playing to a full dance floor, their music filling the air as much as the flowers and food. Looking up, Mel noticed strands of white lights stretched from the top of the perimeter gate to the restaurant’s overhang.  “I like these lights overtop of us. They look like

fireflies,” Mel said, her eyes jumping from one light to another. They swayed gently as a breeze passed by, as if they were also moving to the music. She smiled, turning back toward Shannon. “You remember my grandparents house? Sitting on their back porch watching the fireflies come out? I used to love that. They would come right up to us.” “I remember,” Shannon said. “We’d capture them in glass jars. I thought it would be fun to keep them as pets. It would have been really cool having firefly lanterns in our bedrooms. You always made us let them go before going back inside.”  “I just felt bad. Even as a kid I knew they’re meant to be free,” Mel laughed. “Imagine that … letting something go to be free,” Shannon said.  Mel nodded, knowing the jab was deserved. They were like sisters, and Mel knew that while Shannon could be pushy, she was never mean-spirited. Shannon had her…