Lorraine O’Byrne 

Sisters of Mercy, Galway

I tiptoe past the beds, groping my way through the dormitory. The gloom my shield. Latest victim, Pauline, lies curled up in a foetal position on a mere sheet, sniffling in her sleep. Something rankles. Poor sod must have wet the bed again. I throw the blanket over her then melt into the corridor. Silent as a wraith.  

The Virgin Mary leaps out at me from her sanctimonious perch on the window sill, amid intangible threats that lurk elsewhere in the shadows. Shoes squeak from a room to the left. A pungent odour of antiseptic wafts through the air. Someone flicks on a light from behind. Sister Joseph pushing a trolley heaped with towels and sheets. She’ll recognise me. Gotta get out of the open.  

Finding a door at my shoulder, I shove it aside. Stumble into a closet and wait for her to pass. Sister Joseph has the hearing of a flea, but she can smell fear a mile away. Sweat pools behind my neck and slithers down inside my clothes. I twist my hands, powerless to block the overwhelming panic about to drown me. The light goes out and murk descends in the hallway once again.  

I’m so cold, goosebumps prickle my legs and arms, and I can see the vapours from my breath billow into the frigid air. I rub saliva from my mouth, straighten, and will myself to think through the fog that fugs my mind.   

It will be morning soon and they will be searching for me. Hugging myself to keep warm, I glance down at my stained brown smock that is almost threadbare from constant use. At my knuckles, skinned from scrubbing concrete floors. Flinching at every rattle and floorboard creak, I squeeze the Claddagh ring suspended from a chain around my neck, close my eyes and recite a prayer in my mind my grandmother taught me when I was little, to give me courage.  

Angel of God
My Guardian dear
To whom God’s love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide

My breathing slows, and I scrutinise the little room with new eyes. A black habit dangles from a hook to the right and below that a tunic, wimple and gleaming black shoes. My hands are shaking so much, I struggle with the baggy habit and stuff my hair into the wimple. It’s just the right fit, tight against my skull.  

In my haste to escape, I knock a small bag of linen to the ground. I pick it up to cover me in case anyone questions what I’m doing. Heart pounding, shoulders back and striding with a confidence I don’t feel, I emerge from my place of hiding, praying that no one will see me.  

A weak shaft of light filters through the grimy windows overhead, revealing a grey dismal sky beyond, a promise of the day to come.  

The habit is so long I step on the hem, stumble and drop the bag. A voice stops me cold.  

‘Sister, goodness, where are you going at this hour?’ 

My gut clenches, screaming to flee and it takes every last ounce of willpower not to lunge for the stairs just four feet away. Rigid with fear I turn. Hands twisted in a ball at my side. 

Sister Concepta’s glasses rest askew halfway down her bulbous nose. Chocolate coats her face and biscuit crumbs muddy her tunic. She glances up as I turn around and squints. My mouth goes dry. 

‘Bit early for deliveries, isn’t it, Sister Margaret?’ she clucks. ‘What’s the world coming to – delivery vans at half seven in the morning. Lord save us and guard us.’ 

I’m so relieved that she doesn’t recognize me, air whooshes out of my body with enough force to cause a tornado. I shrug in reply, hoping to God she’ll leave it at that, but needn’t have worried as she’s off grumbling to herself down the corridor. Rosary beads swinging. Still shaking her head in bafflement. 

Clutching the bag full of washing, I rush downstairs to the basement. One ear cocked for activity upstairs. Out of breath, I toss the bag on the ground, and spring to the door. Cobwebs cling for dear life to crevices overhead. A pump hums in the corner. Empty boxes tossed upended in a pile. Clanking pipes. 

The bolt jams at first, I yank it back, my hands slippery with sweat and it opens. Cold air hits my face like a bucket of iced water. Nothing ever felt so good. As soon as I am free of the confines of the institute, I bolt up the street and lose myself in the maze of the town. 

A Volkswagen Beetle ploughs through a puddle drenching me. I gasp and jump back on to the pavement for safety, just as a green bus advertising Kellogg’s Cornflakes on the side, and belching smoke out its rear end, trundles to a stop not far from where I wait. The bus is my knight in shining armour. Arriving to my rescue on the nick of time. I scan the destination overhead. Salthill. 

The driver, round and bearded with black hair, steps out for a smoke. I hop on when he’s not looking, huddle at the back, and pray that my good fortune will hold out until I get to my destination. Babbling girls in school uniform get on the bus. Forming a wall in front of me. Concealing my presence. 

A weary sun dapples anaemic hedges scattered throughout the estates as the bus meanders along cobbled streets and squares, stopping now and then to let more passengers on. Heat sears my face; finding it hard to breathe I tug at the wimple. 

At the next stop, the girls disembark and a small slight middle-aged woman carrying a loud orange handbag, and a folded newspaper tucked under her left arm, boards the bus. She sits down opposite me, scans the headlines, then puts the paper down, and stares out the window. At the third stop, she gets out. The newspaper still on the seat. 

I pick up the Sun Herald and skim the first page. My eyes are drawn to a paragraph on the left column. Report exposes overcrowding and neglect at The Sisters of Mercy care home.  

I chuck the newspaper aside. The town slowly chugs to life. Up ahead the steeple from St. Mary’s Church pokes into the sky, like a beacon towering above the houses directing me where to go.  

I don’t have the luxury of resting. My heart is racing. At the last stop, I jump out. Pull down the wimple, and gasp at my reflection in the glass as the bus sputters away; my colourless cheeks and matted brown hair shorn to almost within an inch of my skull.   

I blink in disorientation at the buildings, the warren of streets around me. Everything looks so different. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be. My mind is smudged by hazy memories. I don’t know whether to go right or left. But I have to keep moving. So, I head west towards Salthill. Head bent against the biting wind.  

It doesn’t take long before I discover that I’m lost. My feet ache from walking, the shoes are pinching my toes. People are glancing curiously at me as I pass. Pointing and whispering. My head can’t take it anymore. I have to find Gran soon. If only I could remember. I press my knuckles to my head as if that will somehow release the memories trapped inside.  

The sun disappears behind a cloud. A gull swoops to the ground. Church bells chime out the midday hour. It’s been almost twelve months since I’ve seen or heard from my grandmother. What if she has died? Gripped with sudden panic, I stop and clutch a railing for support. I find it hard to breathe. A cyclist goes by in slow motion. I can’t hear the chuckles from the young couple pushing twins. Banging, clattering and hammering from a nearby building site has stunted my hearing. Weak from hunger and lack of sleep, I try to focus as everything whirls around me.  

A garda car pulls to the curb. I register the arrival too late; a guard jumps out; bull- necked, and cross-eyed. Marches towards me.  

‘Louisa Sheridan, stay right where you are.’ 

I spin on my heel, but the long habit hampers my escape, and I collide against two elderly ladies in headscarves carrying shopping. 

The Move

Olivia Mueller

I like to make lists. I like writing in rainbow pens, very neatly so the ink doesn’t smudge. I like checkboxes marching down the page in a neat, straight line, clean and uniform, and I like it even better to check them off. I like to see even rows of tasks, all completed, and I like to plan. I freak out less if I have a list. Things don’t seem as big when they’re all next to the same tiny little checkboxes. 

But sometimes making a list doesn’t make me feel better. Pack clothes, I write to myself, glancing up at the mountain I have on my bed. I’ve been putting this off for a while, having to take everything out of the drawers, off the immaculate hangers in my closet, only to fold it all over again and put it in brown cardboard boxes, boxes I have to tape shut with packing tape that makes a loud squeaking noise when I pull it off the roll. I fold and stack without really realizing what I’m doing. Jeans and sweatshirts and sandals all somehow find their way into appropriately labelled boxes, taped shut neatly along the seams. The mountain of clothes on my bed flattens into a sloping hill, then disappears entirely. Another task I can check off the list.  

My room already looked bare, but it looks even more spartan with an empty closet. All the posters I had up on my walls are gone. I cleared out my desk drawers. All my stationary and pens and binders are packed away. There is a growing stack of brown boxes in the corner near my window, and I can see out into the backyard because my curtains are gone, too. I consult my checklist again. I still have my shelves to clear off.  

As I pack away my books and school awards and stacks of Polaroids of me with my friends, I feel something heavy and angry pressing down in my chest. My eyes are a little wet, actually, but I blink it away. It’s just my shelves, and it’s not like I’m losing this stuff forever. In fact, it’s all going into another brown box. But with every box I fill, my room looks less and less like it’s mine, and it hits me that soon it won’t be.  

It should just be some checkboxes on a checklist, the kind I normally love. Pack shelves, move boxes, move out. But checking them off feels hollow. Instead of satisfaction, I feel dread.  

I fold up a pennant, probably from some spirit rally at school. “Go Cobbers!” it proclaims cheerfully in blocky letters over the fuzzy green felt. I hate my school’s mascot with a burning passion, and I often marvel at the fact that someone actually came up with it– and worse, the school approved it. It is literally an ear of corn. Or I guess I should say was, since I won’t exactly be attending anymore.  

“I can’t believe I’m going to miss a stupid ear of corn,” I mutter to myself, almost in disbelief. But the more I think about it, I really am. I was going to miss seeing Eric wear the mascot suit, eating popcorn at sports games and making, dare I say it, corny jokes with my friends when we hung out. I was going to miss Fletcher High and Minnesota.  

As I pack away a field day participation ribbon, I knock a photo onto the floor. A younger me beams back, hugging and Sadie and Tess, my two best friends. Only a year ago,we were wearing our matching Fletcher High sweatshirts, laughing and sitting on Sadie’s bed. We’ve already promised we will text each other every day and FaceTime a lot, but California isn’t exactly close by. I don’t know how I’m going to go from seeing them every single day to maybe never again. Mom and Dad weren’t exactly forthcoming about when we would be coming back to visit. 

I wish I could just add Be happy about moving to my list, check it off and move on. But unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Yes, I’ll still have all my memories, but I want to be able to make more. What if I forget? Or worse, what if I get forgotten? 


Emily Moore

Oh Lord, dear Lord, 
Blessed Creator of all 
Compared to Your might, 
All quandaries seem small. 

The billowing waves, 
Though they toss me about 
Are to you one raindrop 
In the midst of a drought. 

In the height of shadow, 
In lowliness of heart, 
You bring hope, joy, and strength  
Before the trials depart. 

You are there before, 
During, and after the pain. 
In the highest and lowest times, 
I never cease to praise your name. 

Overcome with power,  
love, and grace You bestow. 
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 
The only words my tongue now knows. 

Oh Lord, dear Lord, 
Now I see you face to face. 
I bow down and thank you 
For your mercy and your grace. 

The sanctification process  
Has led me to Your throne.  
I am with You forever. 
I am finally home. 

For this, You and I labored 
together many many years. 
Now, here we are in eternity. 
It was worth every tear. 

Oh Lord, dear Lord 
No number of praises  
would ever be enough.  
But eternity is long, and 
I will spend it singing Hallelujah. 

unstoppable force, meet immovable object

(a sonnet of Deborah) 

Emma McCoy 

I’m a God-given mouthpiece: a prophet. 
They call me a judge, I can do that too, 
watch the war-hungry men who would profit 
from God’s wisdom, falter, in my news-room. 
I was shocked, call me a maybe-quitter 
when he came in, brawn-bared, and asked for me 
I thought, what, you need a babysitter? 
God has not hidden me, my mysteries. 
He lays them all in lines like graveyard rows 
and so I see from the hills, in visions, 
a woman with a bloody stake who knows 
a ground-teeth promise and God’s precision. 
Human pride and fear tend to intermix, 
I don’t care for your death-bound politics. 

Drawn Into Water

(Miriam’s victory song)

Emma McCoy

I remember the sand under my feet 
when I watched my brother on the river- 
caught in the reeds, a prophecy in a wicker basket. 
There came Pharaoh’s daughter, I was afraid 

but watched my brother on the river, 
God whispering mystery in my ear. 
I, so afraid, saw Pharaoh’s daughter coming. 
She sent me back to Mother. 

God whispered mystery in my ear, 
always overflowing into song and tragedy 
and sending me back to Mother. 
My brother grew old in exile, 

he will overflow into song and tragedy 
like the guttural sound of freedom. 
My brother grew old in exile 
and we led an exodus across the sea 

to the guttural sound of freedom. 
God is in the air we breathe, He told me. 
We led an exodus across the sea 
and felt the heat of the desert. 

God is in the air we breathe, He told me 
to keep His commandments and love without restraint. 
I feel the heat of the desert, 
the cool uncertainty of an ocean split apart. 

Keep His commandments. Love without restraint. 
I sing the victory song as a vision for the future amid 
the cool uncertainty of an ocean split apart. 
The salt tangles my hair and closes my eyes. 

The victory song is a vision for the future and  
I remember the sand under my feet. 
The salt tangles my hair and closes my eyes. I am  
caught in the reeds- a prophecy in a wicker basket. 

The Long Plight

Jeffrey McClure

Use knowledge to see a much greater light, 
To see the world a new in one’s brief stay. 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight.  

Learning helps those who yearn for deeper sight 
To open one’s mind and to see all they, 
Use knowledge to see a much greater light. 

Those in deep struggle often quit their fight, 
To sink in defeat and confess dismay, 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight. 

The wisest scholar will teach in delight,  
And like a student, their mind goes astray.  
Use knowledge to see a much greater light.  

The learner attempts to reach greater heights, 
Like a bird soars against the wind away 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight.  

To you, dear reader, pick your pen and write. 

Do dare to recall this message, purvey, 
Use knowledge to see a much greater light, 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight. 

Let My Children Tell Their Children

Meagan Booker

         The hospital bed was smaller than I had expected it to be and much firmer. I could feel myself sweating from nerves and excitement as I sat under the thin white sheet and smelled the freshly cleaned room in the birthing suite. I had watched plenty of “positive birthing” videos in order to mentally prepare myself, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

         Ever since I can remember I knew I wanted to be a mother. So, when my husband and I found out we were pregnant we were so excited. When we found out we were having a little girl, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t stop dreaming about all the tea parties and dress ups we had ahead of us.

         Weeks turned to months and slowly my wardrobe shifted from size small rompers to large t-shirts and sweatpants I stole from my husband’s closet. He still hasn’t gotten back a hoodie I took from him. My emotions were growing along with my tummy and a precious life was kicking around inside of me. I will never forget that feeling. The feeling of her little legs running across my stomach. I could feel her very much alive inside of me, and I could even sense her personality. The Doctor said she would be a cuddly baby because she liked to snuggle up to my bladder. It’s crazy how well I already knew my daughter and how connected I felt to her. I’d sing to her, and her dad and I would read her stories so that she would know our voices.

         I had made my birthing plan, and everything was going accordingly. That is until I got a phone call from my brother.

         “Hey Sis. I need you to come down to the gym like now… Your husband blew his knee out playing basketball.” He said in a worried tone.

         “What? How did it happen? Is he okay?” I asked in shock.

         “I don’t know. Just get down here before they take him to the hospital.”

         “Okay I am on my way!” I said as I shoved the last bit of burger into my mouth and jumped in my car.

         I kept thinking, “Don’t get too stressed or you will stress the baby… stay calm for the baby.” My husband was the director of a summer camp for kids and my younger brother was working with him. The camp was about ten minutes from my house, so I made it there just before the ambulance. They rushed him to the hospital, and I had to follow behind them in my car because of COVID policies. I felt like I was in a Fast and Furious movie trying to keep up with the ambulance that said it wouldn’t drive too fast so that it wouldn’t lose me.

         My husband tore the patella tendon completely off his knee and had to have major surgery. This was not on my birthing plan at all. He wouldn’t be able to drive me to the hospital and I, nine months pregnant, had to deal with all my pregnancy stuff and take care of him. Thankfully my parents lived close by and were able to help. 

         I finally got to forty weeks and after a few contractions had come and gone I was sure I was going to go into labor at any moment. A week went by and still… nothing. I went to the scheduled Doctor’s appointment and the Doctor said, “The baby is doing good, but if you haven’t gone into labor by the end of the week, we will have to induce you. It’s safest for you and baby so she doesn’t stay in there too long.”
“Inducing her really wasn’t in my birth plan.” I said hesitantly. “But if it’s what is safest for her then I will do it.

         I was so incredibly ready to have her out in the world and in my arms, I couldn’t wait a day longer. Another week went by and still, my baby was swimming in my tummy with no plans to come out. So, the hospital told me to call them at 6:00pm so that they could officially tell me to come in for the induction. Knowing the day and time I would give birth made me so much more anxious than not knowing. Having the hospital keep delaying the time I should come in due to not having enough rooms available made it worse.  It ended up being the next day at 9:00am that they finally had a room available for me.

          There I sat on that firm hospital bed beyond ready to hold my little girl while my mom braided my hair. My husband sat by us looking more nervous than me.

         “All right mama,’ said the nurse, “We are going to put you on Pitocin to help your body go into labor. There is a small chance this could lead to you having to have a C-section but that just comes with the inducing process.”

         As soon as the nurse left the room, I remember looking at my mom and husband and saying, “Oh no. I didn’t prepare myself for a C-section.”

         My husband rolled over to me in his wheelchair and put his hand on my arm. “Hey, whatever happens, God has got you and He’s got our little girl.”

         His words calmed me as I thought about how God was in control of a situation that felt so incredibly out of control.

         Being a parent seemed as scary as it did wonderful, and I found myself going through major anxiety thinking about all the things that could go wrong. All of a sudden, a simple task had so many potential dangers attached to it. I couldn’t even imagine myself carrying our baby up the stairs without fearing tripping and falling. Then in the midst of all my fears I remembered that God is in control of the uncontrollable. My mom and dad did everything in their power to keep me safe, but still there were things they couldn’t control. Like the time I should have died in a four-wheeler accident at seven. God can control the things we cannot and remembering this gave me peace. 

          Everything was going smoothly, and the major contractions had started. It was getting close to the time to have my baby. The nurse came in, looked at mine and the baby’s vitals, wrote something down and then left the room. She returned with the doctor who then said, “Your baby’s heart rate is fluctuating due to the Pitocin. This is dangerous and if this continues, we will have to rush you into an emergency C-section to get your baby out.

         Tears swelled in my eyes as a mother’s worst fears clouded my every thought. “What if something bad happens to my baby? A C-section is so scary… what if something bad happens to me? Oh, my goodness, my poor baby.” These words spilled out of my mouth as my family tried to stay calm for me. I could see they were just as worried behind their gentle smiles.

         My mind felt like chaos when the song “No one ever cared for me like Jesus” by Steffany Gretzinger started playing from my playlist on my phone. It got to the part were the lyrics said,
“Let my children tell their children. Let this be their memory. That all my treasure was in heaven, and you were everything to me.”

         I remember hearing that and praying to God that that would be what my children would remember about me. I prayed that my baby would be safe and that her heart would stabilize so that she could live to love Him and tell her children about Him and His love for us. Listening to that song and praying to God gave me so much peace despite my fear. I told my mom and husband to pray, and they told the rest of the family. We joined together in prayer over our little girl and I trusted in the Lord.

         The nurse came back and said that her heart rate had stabilized and everything was going to be okay. After twelve hours of labor, it was finally time to push. My mom held one of my legs up and my husband held up the other, and within a few minutes of pushing, my little girl took her first breath. I was holding the greatest miracle I have ever received. The Lord answered our prayers and blessed us with a beautiful, healthy baby girl with a head full of black curls. Even with the stresses of life as a new mom that make it seem like I have a thousand things on my plate, I am reminded of God’s love when I look into the eyes of my baby. Her smile gives me so much peace as I think of my God in whom I can trust with all things.

The Procrastinator

Eva Cruz

Did you know that bats
are the only mammals
capable of true flight?
Or the human
circulatory system
is over 60,000 miles long?
To think
I have enough rope inside of me
to squeeze the Earth twice.
Get this! The man who
invented German chocolate cake
wasn’t even German.
He was actually from⸺
When’s that paper due?
Isn’t it due in a couple hours?
Don’t you think
you should be
typing your paper?
I sigh and exit
out of my Google
search about flying squirrels.
I just need
a good introduction sentence.

A Cowboy’s Dream

Eva Cruz

            “You know, when I was a little boy, I lived on a farm,” my dad said after taking a bite of his oatmeal.

I looked up at him with a dribble of cereal milk slipping down my chin, “You did? What did you do?”

          “Well,” he started, “I got up every morning, put on my cowboy boots, and walked out to the muddy pen where we kept the pigs.”

          I frowned, “Ew, I bet they smelled gross.”

          He laughed, “Yeah. It did a little, but they were always happy to see me. Grandma always got so mad when I splashed in the mud with the pigs. She would grab a hickory stick and chase me down. It was worth it though.”

He smiled and took the last bite of his apple cinnamon oatmeal. After a few moments, his smile faded. He stood up, grabbed both of our empty bowls, and took them to soak in the sink. He looked out of the small window like he was searching for something.

          He turned to me with his smile once more, “Hey! Do you wanna’ watch a John Wayne movie together?”

          “This movie is called The Shootist. Did you know it was John Wayne’s last film?”

          “Oh wow, I had no idea,” I said.

          “Yeah, it’s ironic how he plays as a famous gunslinger who is dying of cancer because in real life, he was actually dying of cancer. He died less than a year after the film was released”

          When John Wayne pulled out his revolver, I saw the excitement in my dad’s eyes. The eyes that yearned for action and adventure. The ones that longed for the wild of the west, wishing for whipping tumbleweeds and loose dirt under boots and spurs. The ones that want fast horses, chasing bullets, and whiskey by a fire under the moonlight. But his eyes were tired, just like John Wayne’s. I snuggled into his chest as we lied on the couch. He grabbed my hand, and I felt the roughness of them. They were rough like the men chewing tobacco and starting saloon fights, the men ranching cattle months at a time, and the men working all day for their family. They were dry and cracked like the earth under horse clops and covered wagons⸺ my very own cowboy.

          I walk to my dad’s shrine in the hallway and place my hand on his urn, stroking the black metal where he now rests. Next to his urn, his framed picture. The picture stares at me with its bright, blue eyes and long beard. I can hear his laugh in my head. Near the shrine is his white cowboy hat and bolo tie. I pick up his hat and trace its brown brim. It tips to the side when I set it on my head. A hat I will never fill. I wish he were here to wear them again. To wear the empty slippers forgotten by the front door. To watch John Wayne movies with me. To sit in the vacant chair at the head of the dinner table. I so long to feel his rough hands once more.

          I hope he is off somewhere riding horses and chasing outlaws. Or drinking whiskey and singing My Rifle, My Pony and Me from Rio Bravo. Or chewing tobacco and breaking bottles over some guy’s head. Or even feeding pigs and splashing in the mud on his grandmother’s farm.

“The sun is sinking in the west
The cattle go down to the stream
The redwing settles in the nest
It’s time for a cowboy to dream.”

-Rio Bravo

The Little Monsters

Kaitlin Creeger

         I had just deleted all my social media apps and the tiny monster called Addiction prodded my brain with irrationality, screaming at me for being so stupid, so careless.

          Realizing it is not working, it tries to help me rationalize reality.

          The voice of Addiction has been nothing but air. It has no face and no body, but it has will and determination to get its way. So, when it speaks after I committed such a horrendous crime, it tells me this: “It’s all right. You can always reinstall them. But you should do it now. Can’t you see your friends are missing you right now? Imagine all the texts, all the interactions you could be having with complete total strangers!”

          I almost give in. “No. This is for your own good,” I tell it.

          “But then why are you regretting the decision?” tempted Anxiety. Where Addiction is seen as strong and brute, Anxiety is gentle but a pest. “Addiction is right. You are missing out so much.”

          I shake my head. “Cut it out. I do not need social media.”

          “Liar,” they say in unison.

          I sigh. Addiction and Anxiety poke my brain, demanding going back to what I am used to, not this terrifying abyss I have put all of us through.

          A day goes by.

          “You can’t hold on forever,” Addiction chimes in. “Look at that YouTube app! All shiny red and calling out your name. You know you want to make yourself happy, so go watch some gaming videos. Come on, just a tiny little one?”

          Anxiety cannot help but overhear. “You are making yourself stressed and it is making us stressed. Please go back to normal. I cannot bear the tragedy of this change! I think I might die if we keep going!”

          Their will grows powerful by the second day. They beckon at me and deals start to be forged. Addiction is the first to strike me a deal. It tells me only a few hours and all will be better, it will listen to my authority afterwards. Anxiety agrees, telling me it would make me better than I am now.

          I consider it as I stare at my phone.

          And I take the bait.

          When I come to, I am exhausted. “What battle did you two put me through?” I complain, shutting off my phone.

          The next morning, Addiction speaks to me. “Don’t you feel better. I sure do. And look! Anxiety is only in a fretful sleep. She is much calmer now. Can we watch some horror videos now that you are awake?”

          I reach for my phone then pull back. “I’m not so sure. You said you would listen to me now, and we should not keep going down this route. I feel awful from yesterday.”

          “Nonsense. If I am happy, you are happy. Win-win situation!”

          “No. This was not part of the—”

          Anxiety wakes up. “You seriously think you can function throughout the day realizing all you are missing? Your grades will plummet.”

          I groan. “You are not in—”

          “You will get even more depressed. You need more endorphins than what little you get from exercise and writing. Just one video. Ten minutes on Instagram. Come on,” Addiction begs.

          “You know it won’t harm you,” Anxiety adds. “You have to listen to Addiction’s reasoning. It will help us all.”

          I look at my phone. The desire is so tempting, so strong.

          Only ten minutes, that is all. I can survive ten minutes, and besides, it will make me happier than I am now.

          I start to reach for my phone once again.

          What am I doing?

          My fingers unlock my phone. I look for Instagram’s shiny square app.

          You do not want this. They are telling you lies.

          But I believe them.

          But you are believing fakery.

          Addiction and Anxiety chant their happiness as I enter Instagram’s algorithm.

          I see nothing has changed.

          Is this really making you happy?

          I am scrolling, scrolling, scrolling…

          I am frustrated, bothered, and toss my phone on my bed.

          I stand and protest, “That’s it. This is ending now.”

          I stride to my laptop, log in, and go to social media.

          Anxiety screams at me to see reason while Addiction criticizes my decision.

          I pull up all my social media, and one by one, I delete the accounts.

          Addiction growls once I am finished. “We had a deal.”

          “A deal not worth keeping—”

          Anxiety mentions, “It is fine. There are preprogrammed social media apps on her phone. We can live with what you did. You have others on your phone so it is fine. Totally fine…”

          I grab my phone, and stare at the preprogrammed apps. YouTube and Instagram, my main addictions. I uninstall the updates.

          Instagram is inaccessible without an account.

          “That’s fine. YouTube still exists—” tries Addiction.

          YouTube works, even without an account. Then the Update Now page appears and there is no click off button.

          Addiction sputters. “But…we need—you can’t do this. This is not fair!”

          “Listen here my little monsters, I am in charge. If I want to use YouTube it will be for my purposes in life, not to create the fake happiness that leaves me a zombie. Addiction, you do not need this to fuel you. Anxiety, we will be fine without it. You all will move on with your problems and find new ones to pester me about. But for social media, I am the master, and the authority is no longer yours to control.”