By Angelica Castañeda
Stand Out was taken by Art Block's Editor in Chief, Angelica Castañeda. Stand Out has been featured in Art Block Zine's Volume 4, Issue 1 titled NORMAL.
You can find more works of art like in NORMAL available for purchase here.
To learn more about Art Block, visit our page here.
Stay tuned for more! -JNA
By Melina Chavarria
We are overjoyed with the amazing response we have received from the community for Issue 1 of Aurtistic Zine. We have consistently sold out events, and the awareness and interest for obtaining a copy of our first issue continues to grow. As a reminder, copies of our first issue are still available on our web store.
Our first issue was titled Spectrum, and we were fortunate to be able to share work from both Autistic Individuals and their families to give readers a better understanding of what it is like to come to the realization that they, or a loved one, is on the Autism Spectrum. We hope it gave the community a sense of belonging and validation, because even though people have a varied reaction to receiving a diagnosis, we all share a continued sense of hope, and determination to figure out how to live a full life, regardless of where we land on the spectrum.
In Issue 2 we hope to broaden your understanding by showing different perspectives. Our theme for this issue is “Perception,” where we hope to highlight work from Autistic individuals and their families, and what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes, viewing the world through their eyes. We are excited for how the community has embraced our new zine, and look forward to seeing more people submit their work so that we can continue to share their talents with the rest of the community.
Learn more about Aurtistic Zine and how to submit here!
By Jeremy Arias
Closing shifts are the bane and suffering of college students everywhere. At the end of a long day of lectures and studying, just as your bed jumps into your field of vision, you have to change into a bright blue collar and head to the opposite side of campus where you’re about to pull a five-hour closing shift into tomorrow morning.
After slapping on a black apron and piercing your name tag through it, you clock in and take a deep breath as you watch your reflection stare back at you from the blackened screen of the time-clock, locking you in place. Just as you begin walking to the storefront from the comfort of the customer free stockroom, through the slit of glass under an “employees only” sign, you see the empty register where you are to stand and charge helpless students like yourself until the end of the night.
You arrive to your crumb-filled, sticky battle post known as the register, arm yourself with the price gun, and summon forth the next customer in line. You are now a robot of few functions, speech choices, and a plastic smile that lies to everyone approaching.
“Hi, how’s it going… Will this be all? Have a good night!”
“Hi, how’s it going… Will this be all? Have a good night!
“Hi, how’s it going…” And again, and again…
And every once in a while you get a zinger, a glitch in the matrix, some spark, or act of god, made so that a customer goes against the natural script and throws your entire system to smithereens.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Will this be–“ wait what? And you think, am I being treated like a person? “Er– I’m good, would you like a bag– er– will this be all? How are you?” No no no! Ditch the script, this requires human attention…
And every once in a while there is a calm in the store in which there are no customers in line, no drinks to be made, nothing to be stocked, and nothing to be cleaned.
“There’s always something to do” is what the wall says, but “look busy” is more the employee attitude. How could a manager possibly ask you to go to the back and work on something else when you’re clearly busy wiping down the same counter for the fourth time in a row?
You adapt to the break, lower your guard and let your hand spin a moist rag in circles on the counter while you think about all the things you could be doing if not here. You look up from the register and see the customers browsing the variety of chips, frozen foods, medicine, and beverages all around them. You doze off in the middle of this floor scan and eventually snap back into reality where a customer has been standing in the vacant line watching you watch the customers.
“Hey, how’s it going…” And you scan the customer away, quickly reuniting the dry counter with the moist rag, occasionally glancing up to the aisles, then back at the sparkly counter.
Wait. Did you just see that? Did you see that?
You look back up from the register, replaying the hazy memory of the kid with grey sweat pants pocket a pack of cold medicine. He’s still in the aisle browsing the medicine, popping up his head like a whack-a-mole to look around. You pretend to take off something from the screen of the register while he scans the aisle, slithering over to the fruit display.
An urge tells you to follow him. You could report him and be a hero. You’d save the school some money, look good for your employer, and have a story to tell. So you grab the spray and rag to wipe down the counter one more time as you keep an eye on him. He grabs two apples, a banana, and walks over to the register. Your register.
There is undeniably something rattling in his pocket just begging to jump out. His forced limp tries to conceal it, but by now it’s switched twice from one leg to the other looking like a wobbling penguin.
“Good evening,” he sniffles and smiles.
“Hey, how’s it going?” You stick to the script, because anything against the script will cause confusion.
“I’m hanging in there,” he steps back to cough after giving the most honest answer of the night as you finish scanning what he plans to pay for, pretending like you both don’t know he’s stealing.
“I feel you.” You finish scanning as your job entails. “Will that be everything?”
“Um, yeah, that’s it…” he lies, but the customer is always right, and customer service is the mark that’s been branded in our brains.
“That’ll be a dollar eighty-seven,” you say, as he pulls out the most wrinkled dollar bill you’ve seen before digging through his pocket for change. There’s mostly foreign coins, but he manages to scrape up seventy nine cents, and like a heartless vending machine, you return his money.
“I only have this much,” he says as he shows you the pile of change on his outstretched hand. “I can leave an apple.”
“That’s fine,” you say as you swipe your store discount card. “Get well soon.”
By Jeremy Arias
There was a light wind pushing the leaves on the moon-soaked streets. The street lights dripped their light down to the pavement above parked cars, reflecting its light as far as it could.
I sat in the darkness of my porch looking at the lawn before me. Four trees sprouted out of the ground and let their branches reach for the sky. The wind began to whistle and the leaves rustled in synch like a tune from the earth. Do I dare contribute to this music? Would whatever rhythm I make add to the tranquility of the night?
I sat in silence listening to the world do as it does. I don’t deserve this. No, I don’t. Not tonight. Not any night. Not even the day. Not even as a punishment.
I took another deep breath to stifle a sigh.
Just as I was about to call it a night and give another shot at trying to sleep, I noticed movement on the street. Something moved swift and low as if trying to sneak between the cars. There was almost no sound to the steps taken. I ran my hand down my face and rubbed my eyes to see if I was seeing what I thought I was seeing, or maybe my tireless mind was getting the better of me.
There was the sound of the breeze again hitting the wind chimes and rustling leaves on trees. The figure held impossibly still in the gap between the parked cars. I couldn’t make out what it was or what it was doing, if anything at all. Maybe I shouldn’t care. Maybe this is something I’d rather not see and hear about on the news or something. Whatever it was, it shouldn’t be disturbed.
Silently, I rose from the stoop I sat on and creaked the screen door open slowly, letting myself back in. As I swung the door closed, it squeaked loud enough to end my heartbeat with a bang. I grit my teeth as my grip tightened on the knob, trying to suppress the closing squeal. That’s when I saw the figure rise up on a pair of feet.
The figure was dark. It almost seemed like staring at a silhouette from the bottom of an abyss. It’s shape barely seemed human. It had two barely-spaced legs, a fat, rectangular body, and an oval shaped head. Slowly, one leg dragged itself in front of the other and carried its body over to my side of the street. It’s legs moved like tentacles in cartoons with a slick motion that barely moved the top half of its body as it walked.
I locked the deadbolt on the door which clicked like a shotgun. I backed up into my room and searched frantically for my phone. The gate clinked and the fence ruffled, mocking the familiar sound of someone jumping over the fence. There was a crash and thudding sound that could only be compared to dropping a bag of meat. There was no bounce or reaction of pain of any type. It was just a plop as it fell.
Without turning on any lights, I felt my way around the bed looking for my phone, which was discovered only a few inches away from my pillow. I unlocked it and dialed the police as fast as my trembling fingers allowed.
The line began to ring.
“911 emergency, what’s your emergency?” the dispatch officer asked.
“Hello,” I whispered. “There’s something outside my-”
“911 emergency, is there anyone there?” she asked again.
“Yes, hello?” I called.
“911 emergency, is there someone there?” she repeated.
“Yes! I’m speaking!” I checked the phone to make sure my microphone wasn’t muted, but it seemed fine.
“Hello?” I called again into the speaker. “Hello?”
It sounded like nails on a chalkboard from the other side of my window.
“Hello?” I whispered into the microphone as I backed away from the bedroom window.
I hung up the phone. I figured they’d send a patrol car if there wasn’t a response, but how long from now until it got here? Would I last the minutes or hours until the police got here?
But there wasn’t anything that followed. Not a sound came from the window. I tiptoed my way to the window and placed my palm on the curtain, pinching my fingers against the cloth, delicately pulling a slit for my eye. There didn’t seem to be anything outside, which seemed cliche, but this made me believe it was time to go to sleep.
I spent an hour crouched by the window staring out into the emptiness. As every second went by, so did the thought that I was crazy and needed to sleep.
Look at me, I thought. Two in the morning, staring out the window in red shorts and a black shirt. If anyone with half a brain saw me, I’d look like a total creep.
My mind wandered to the thought of the police call. Perhaps I should call back and say nothing happened. I should still wait and see if they show up so they can check if anything was stolen. I adjusted my legs from the tireless crouch and rested my back against the wall, resting my head and closing my eyes.
All the sounds of the night combined with a sudden dragging sound. It sounded as if someone was dragging a bag of dirt across the cement little by little. Someone small, like a toddler too weak to pick it up or drag it a long distance, having to take sudden breaks to regain the strength to pull it some more.
I rose up again feeling tension all across my head. There was a pressure behind my eyes that felt as if my brain was being mangled into knots. I gripped my forehead and got to my feet pulling myself to the window. I peeled back the curtains and saw the figure now standing directly outside, peering into the window through the slit.
I jerked back releasing the grip on the curtain, stumbling to regain control of my feet. It had what looked like a disfigured face. There was a sole green spot that glowed like radiation in place of eyes. The rest of its face was charred black as well as what was visible of its body.
It’s raspy voice said.
“What the fuck are you?” I exclaimed as I searched and stumbled looking for anything to defend myself with in case it broke through my window.
Whyat the fook arrr yooooo?
It’s voice was clearing up and sounding awkwardly distinguished.
What the fuck arrrrr yooooo?
It began to push the window, which slowly cracked from the epicenter of where it pressed its dark, stubby arms.
My hands managed to find my swiss army knife from behind my pencil case. I drew the knife out as I watched it crack my window into tiny, brittle shards.
The figure leaned on the window sill, and like a ball of clay, began to ooze inside and tumbled onto my floor. I made out the shape of the figure in the darkness and found what appeared to be the head. I gripped my knife tightly, bracing my trembling hand, to go for a jab in the head.
I grit my teeth and sent my arm soaring to its head, jabbing across. It was like stabbing a pile of mashed potatoes. The knife went through, so I slid it back and tried again, but by now, the knife got stuck and began to sink into it’s head like quicksand.
I stepped back against the door and swallowed hard in shock. The figure was rising to its feet. It was only about my size and slowly produced arms, legs, and the rest of a face. I opened the door and ran out, into the living room, tripping over the coffee table. I rushed to my feet, cursing the cliche of tripping. I didn’t think I’d ever be that stupid, but in the darkness, anything can happen.
I turned on the light and ran to the kitchen looking for another knife. As I reached the knife rack, my eyes fixed onto the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall. I pulled it off and got ready to bash it against the figure.
The figure came out of my room, upright and standing, stepping into the light of the living room. When I saw it in full light, I dropped the fire extinguisher and my jaw. The figure was now wearing a black T-shirt and red shorts, had semi-combed, frizzy bed-hair, dark hazel eyes, a two-day beard, and light-brown skin with a swiss army knife in its hand. I was staring into a reflection of myself that moved all on its own.
“Oh fuck,” I muttered.
My heart raced, pounded as the figure got closer and closer. With every step, each detail of my own became clearer and appeared. The moles, the looser strands of hair, the scar on my arm, and even the size of its nails became much like my own.
My mind was racing and screaming, telling me to run, but my eyes were fixed on the figure, hypnotized in what felt like a trance. Any moment now, I’ll wake up. I’ll wake up.
Oh fuck, the figure said.
The figure got closer to my frozen body and slashed the knife across my forehead, then jabbing it into the side of my head where it became too weak to retract it. My eyes couldn’t widen any more than they already had, my body crashing to the floor like a bag of meat, a pool of blood spawning from my head.
I’ll wake up.
I’ll wake up.
By Jeremy Arias
The crow cawed as the morning rose. I could see his shadow spilling over the curtain with the sunlight. He hopped around and danced as he chippered a honking sound.
Cawnk Cawnk Cawnk!
If I’d leave him alone he’d start knocking on the door with his beak. By now he’d learned that I had a love for such birds, and I would give him crumbs of bread, seeds, or whatever other bird food items I had lying around. It was typical that he’d show up in the morning and impatiently wait for his serving of whatever surprise I had left over from last night’s dinner.
A few weeks ago was when he started showing up. You feed a bird once and they keep coming back. With crows, this trend is a bit different. When you feed a bird as smart as a crow or raven, they return the favor and give you things in return. The first morning I saw Atticus, which is what I named the crow, he was dancing around eating the chocolate candies I left out during a drunken escapade of mine and thought he was cute. He managed to open the packaging and helped himself to my snacks. If I saw a person eating it, I would’ve flipped out and kicked them out, but I figured if he’d opened it and helped himself, he deserved them for the trouble.
Atticus was dancing around at the sweetness of the chocolate and saw me peeking through the window. He cawed a couple times and danced back toward the edge of the porch. He flew away with the rest of the chocolates and came back the next morning. I hadn’t left anything out, but I managed to wake up early enough to hear him show up and scavenge the porch.
He’s back, I thought as I frantically searched for something to feed him. I went through my pantry and pulled out some nuts I had laying for a few months that I convinced myself I wasn’t going to eat after the first week they were hoarded in there, but I felt bad throwing them away. He took some time to get close to me, at first I had to lay down the nuts on the porch railing and allowed him to approach them. After a couple days he began to look for me and caw and honk on my porch until I came out.
Hawnk Hawnk Hawnk!
When I came out one morning with a cup of water and seeds, I noticed something lodged in his beak. It was a glossy brown button. He laid it down on the railing and took a step back stooping his head as if presenting it to me. I thanked him kindly although I knew he couldn’t understand, but he danced around happily as I put down his usual snack. I took the button and smiled at him as he finished up. He cawed twice and flew away.
Now he’s at my porch pecking his beak against my door. I don’t want to open the door again. I tried to shoo him away yesterday but he came back. I was hoping he didn’t come back today. Yesterday he brought a ring. It was golden with a diamond plastered on top of it. I was wondering what poor bastard he took the ring from or where he found it, but I’m not asking questions anymore, because today’s returning gift was an index finger with a shiny, red nail.
The content displayed here is submitted by various local authors, artists, and more, and is curated by the DSTL Arts Art Block Zine–Editorial Board. Works published here are done so with the permission of all artists involved. Artists hold all rights to their work, and none of it may be reproduced without their permission.