“The Evenlanders” by Abigail Wetmore

“The Evenlanders”

Fiction

Abigail Wetmore

There is a place everyone has been and goes quite often. It is the place often thought of as the in-between. You’ve been there. You stop-by just before you fall completely asleep. There is a world you enter before sleep grabs hold, yet you are no longer awake. This is the land of Even. It still cannot be described by humans, for a human has never been to the real land. They have only been read what to dream by the creatures who dwell there. The Evenlanders. If you ever were to be lucky enough to see one, you might describe them as very small elves or possibly fairies without wings. But let me introduce you to what they actually are, these Evenlanders. They are you. They are the back of the mind that no one can reach. They are designed to be your friend if you accept them.

But I may be getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you more about the land of Even. The land itself is beautiful. It is flat with many windy roads. All roads are perfectly kept and every blade of grass in all the fields is healthy, strong and exactly the same size. There are no hills, no waterfalls, and no rivers. There are only wells and fountains for water. The land is perfectly level as far as the eye can see. Flowers line up in rows along the edge of every field. These flowers are homes to the Evenlanders. Each lives in a different flower. When a human is born into the world, a flower grows in theirs. It is the human’s favorite flower. As soon as an Evenlander comes into being, they are put to work with one very important job. They are given a book. One book, and only one book, will be their job to read for as long as their human dreams. Everyday, while their human are awake, the Evenlanders rest. When their human begins to fall asleep, the Evenlanders pull out the book and begin to read the humans dreams. Most of the dreams contained massive amounts of the humans actual life, so Evenlanders could claim to know more about the person they read to better than anyone else.

Now, there is something special about this book I haven’t mentioned yet. There is a certain amount of difficulty to an Evenlanders line of work, and that is keeping the book steady while they read it. If they turn a page too fast or move the book too suddenly, the letters will scatter and a new story will begin. Yes, even this job of just reading takes a great amount of skill. The very best Evenlanders know how to continue a story without interruption, sometimes several sleeping sessions in a row.

One Evenlander found this difficult as he had a rambunctious child to keep up with. Her name was Evie, and the little Evenlander had his hands full. Evie, at her very young age, had narcolepsy. She could be in the middle of recess during a day in kindergarten and quite literally fall down asleep. This presented a problem for both of them. It was dangerous for Evie and difficult for her Evenlander to ever rest.

Then, an evening came when her Evenlander had just finished reading her a lovely story of flying all about and around her house and town, when all the letters suddenly fell to the bottom of the pages. They lay in a big jumbled pile and no matter how much he shook the book itself, the letter just fell back into a pile. He put the book down and decided to wait until Evie was in the in-between again. He waited. After a day, he knew something must be terribly wrong. He asked other Evenlanders for answers, but they had none. No one else had seen this before. Evie’s poor Evenlander was stuck. He couldn’t rest and he couldn’t work. He decided to search for Evie. He looked for a way out of Evenland, but could find no door. No one had ever left Evenland before. Finally, he realized the only possible way out might be through one of the wells. Wells were the only thing in Evenland that were considered unknown, as the source of the wells had never before been discovered. Not being able to stand waiting any longer and growing weak himself, Evie’s Evenlander jumped down the well.

Down he fell. He kept falling for, what seemed like hours, through the subconscious to the conscious. Finally, he found himself crawling out into a big tub. He thought this must be the bathroom he had read about for so many years, but it looked different. Evie’s bathroom was pink and white with lots of hair bows hanging neatly by her mirror next to the sink. This bathroom was plain and generic. Maybe they were in a hotel. Evie’s book had read about a hotel when she and her family had gone on vacation before. But this did not seem right either.

He hopped around, being sure to always have a place in mind to hide if anyone were to come in. He searched for Evie. He slipped into the next room where he saw a lot of bright lights, a plain white wall and a bed in the middle of the room. At the end of the bed were balloons with words and pictures on them. ‘Get well soon’ one balloon read, ‘We miss you’ read another. Evie’s Evenlander climbed up the night stand and hid behind a large bouquet of sunflowers, the same kind of flower that was his home in Evenland. He looked at the bed and there he found his Evie. Her eyes were closed and breath was quiet. Evie’s Evenlander was terribly sad. He didn’t know what was wrong, but something surely was. He had known Evie since she was born. She was the reason he came to be. He knew her dreams, fears, and favorite kind of everything. He had been reading to her for years and knew her better than she knew herself. What was he to do? If only he knew what was wrong. He looked down at the book he had read so many times and wondered if he’d ever get to read to her again. Just then, two nurses came in to check on Evie. He hid and listened to them as they talked to each other. They spoke about her recovery from something called a coma. They were not too hopeful that she would get better. Evie’s Evenlander had to sit down at hearing these despairing words. He hugged Evie’s book of dreams as he gazed at his little girl,[BD5]  motionless on the bed. As the nurses continued to speak, he noticed the book felt different. He opened it up to find fear and frustration all over the pages. The book still worked! But how? He looked over at Evie and noticed her breathing was ever so slightly faster. Could she hear the awful words of the nurses?

The nurses left and Evie and her Evenlander were alone. He began to read the book. He couldn’t understand how it was working outside of Evenland boundaries. The words he read silently, worried him. Evie was scared. She knew more about what was going on with her condition than probably her family did.

Evie was the youngest of four. Her two brothers and one sister were at their aunt’s house. Her father worked long hours, but would soon be by Evie’s side. Her mother had passed away two years earlier in a car accident. Evie began having health problems ever since.

Her Evenlander now by her side, wishing he had some way of helping with the fears that she seemed to be so trapped in. He read her worries of leaving her family, if and when she’d ever wake up, and why this was happening to her at all. Finally, her Evenlander could not take anymore. He decided to break a rule all Evenlanders lived by, which was to never alter the book in anyway. He grabbed a pen lying on the table and began to write. He wrote and introduced himself to Evie and told her all about his land and how he knew her. He stopped writing for moment. He sat looking at the book as the pages absorbed the ink and his words disappeared. He sighed. He stared at the pages with his exhausted head in his hands as the pages remained blank.

Then, without warning, words appeared on the pages in front of him. They were words from Evie directly to him. She asked to know more about him and this land. He told her all she wished to know. He tried to tell in as many ways as he knew how that she would be fine and that everything was okay. She thanked him for being there and wished she could see him. He drew a picture of himself in his own words as best he could. His green hat with his blue feather in it, his long nose and round face, his large ears and cheerful eyes, but most of all his child-like, carefree smile. She answered with a smile and told him he looked funny, but that she was glad he was funny. He laughed. She asked if he knew she was turning six next week. He told her the date and time she was born. Evie liked having someone there that knew her so well.

When Evie told him that she wished they could meet, he had an idea. He told Evie he had to leave and go back to Evenland for a while, but that he would see her again soon. She pleaded with him to stay, but he convinced her he would not be away from her for long. She finally said good-bye and promised to try and rest while he was away.

He then hoped back down the drain and into Evenland. Once he was back home, he quickly began drawing in the book every word he could think of to describe his surroundings. The ink still vanished into the pages, but not before he could write about all of the roads and flat fields of Evenland. He then sat and waited while watching the pages of the book very closely. He almost decided that his idea hadn’t worked when Evie responded. She asked if that was Evenland. He replied that it was. She asked if she could visit. He gladly agreed. He then began writing about Evie in Evenland, walking down one of the many roads. He looked up, but did not see her. He kept writing. He wrote about her perfect health and endless energy skipping down the spotless pathways. Still he did not see her. He wrote about her in a blue dress he knew she had always wanted with a big white bow in her long, curly brown hair. Still she did not show.

He kept writing about Evenland. He kept writing about Evie. He wrote about the wells and fountains surrounding the fields next to the flowers they all lived in. He wrote as fast as he could. The ink began to disappear faster and faster now. He wasn’t sure if she was able to see it before it was gone.

Then a shadow appeared on the book as he wrote. He looked up to find Evie. She had made it. She smiled and picked him up and hugged him like a doll. He was so happy to see her. Though he barely stood as tall as her knees, he reached up and held her hand as walked her through Evenland. He showed her all the places in Evenland he liked to go best. He even took her to see the flowers they all called home. She could not see anyone else’s Evenlander, but she could see their flowers. Evie was without fear for the first time in a long time. She felt she never wanted to leave this place.

Evie then heard a familiar voice. The sound of the voice seemed to be coming from the sky. Her Evenlander heard it too. They looked at each other. They both knew at once it was her dad talking to her from beside the hospital bed. Evie realized then she could not stay. Her face began to drop. She did so love Evenland and wished that she could stay there and be safe with her Evenlander forever. He looked at her with understanding, but also knew she couldn’t stay. They walked a bit more hand in hand, not saying a word.

They came up to one of the wells and looked down. Just then, Evie’s Evenlander had a thought. Since they had broken any and every rule already, what could one more do? He asked Evie if she wanted to jump into the well with him so they could go back together. He knew it worked for him, so maybe it would work for Evie as well. Evie was a little scared, but also felt safe with her Evenlander by her side. The stood at edge and with hand in hand, they jumped. It seems like hours again as they passed through levels of consciousness into reality. Finally, Evie’s Evenlander was back in the bathtub. He shook his head and looked around for Evie. He couldn’t find her. He panicked and began to climb out of the bathtub.

He then heard a shout from the other room. He raced to the door of the bathroom and looked into the room where he first saw Evie. She was there. Her father was hugging her so tight she almost couldn’t catch her breath. She was awake! Evie was sitting up as her father let go and knelt down beside her. Evie’s Evenlander looked on, leaned his head against the doorframe, and smiled. Evie was safe again.

Since then, Evie and her Evenlander find ways to say hello to each other once in a while and he sends beautiful dreams her way whenever he can. Sometimes the book allowed it, sometimes it just let Evie work out dreams on her own. Either way, Evie never again suffered with sleep again. The land of Even was never the same as well. Once it had touched reality, Evie’s Evenlander noticed the roads were a little worn and the blades of grass grew as they pleased, hills began to form in the distance and flowers now grew up in the middle of the field or by the water. Even the wells and fountains had their cracks, leaks, and flaws. He didn’t mind these changes. They reminded him of his time outside Even. He wasn’t sure the perfect world of Even was so wonderful before anyway. Every beautiful, messy flaw reminded him of his little girl. He was glad to have these changes and Evie was more than thrilled to be free of her troubles. And from now on, a book, a girl, and an Evenlander lived happily ever uneven.


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Learning to Collaborate

We’ve all been in that situation when it’s your first class of the semester and your professor is going on and on about the syllabus and, suddenly, the words “group project” leaves their lips. It’s like you’ve been punched in the gut! All of these horrible memories of past group projects flood your mind and you remember all of the nameless slackers who left you high and dry to do the project yourself, taking half the credit and the undeserved A that you slaved over to get. Now, I get it. This is probably the last thing you want to read, and I’m not conceited enough to think I can change your negative opinions about group projects. But, I want you to know that there is hope. There are guidelines that you can lay down early on in the process when you first meet your group mates that can insure success.

These guidelines come straight from Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. Chapter 5, “Assembling Your Technologies and Your Team”, thoroughly describes how to effectively collaborate using certain guidelines. These paraphrased guidelines are as follows:

  • If possible, limit the size of your group. More members means more voices which means the possibility of trouble when coming to decisions and coordinating schedules.
  • If you have the chance to choose your teammates, try to choose members who bring a diverse set of skills and perspectives.
  • Exchange contact information with your teammates, so you can keep up with them and their progress.
  • Create a group contract that explains group expectations, member roles, communication procedures, meetings, and problem-solving tactics.
  • Contribute by coming to class or meetings, being prepared with materials and ideas, participate, and, especially, pull your own weight.
  • Listen to the ideas of others. Don’t just shut them down immediately.
  • Learn to compromise.
  • If there is conflict, let your teammates talk it out by explaining their own perspectives and suggestions for solving the issue. If it’s a serious conflict, speak with your professor who will help the team get back on track.

Some of these guidelines may seem obvious and self-explanatory, but, believe me, some people may need to hear the obvious. The problems that usually occur within groups stem from the fact that rules weren’t set and agreed upon at the first meeting. If this happens, then your group members can be held accountable for breaking them. Inevitably, there may be a bad egg in your group that just refuses to follow the status quo. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to go to your professor and tell them what’s going on. Your professor will be able to handle the situation better than you just chewing them out at the next meeting. I hope these guidelines help the next time you’re forced to work with others for an assignment or project. If not, then at least you tried.

-Rose Street

How Positive is Body Positivity?

For as long as I can remember, there has been an emphasis on men and women’s bodies in the media and in my everyday life. Up until about 1990, being curvy was “in,” and then by the time Kate Moss hit the runway, it was all the rage to be as thin as possible. Within the last five years or so, especially in the last two, there has been a rise in body positivity and body acceptance. People have finally started to come to the consensus that everyone is beautiful, no matter if you are tall, short, thin, or curvy; everything is accepted. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is the way to go when it comes to making men and women feel happy and comfortable in their own skin. No one should ever have to feel insecure because of how they look and there should never be a standard for everyone to try to live up to. Thankfully, we are in a generation that stands by the ideas of “wear what you want,” “do what you want,” and “be who you want.” I think that all of these things are great ideas to stand by to an extent, but we are still placing way too much importance on physical bodies.

It is normal to look at someone and notice their physical characteristics, but where we step over a boundary is making the body all there is to a person. By saying “all sizes are beautiful” we are still putting a lot of attention on the fact that everyone is a specific size and everyone should be aware that they should love themselves. Sarah Silverman said something very remarkable about young girls in on one of her comedy specials. She said, “Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t, but because it would’ve never occurred to them they couldn’t” (Silverman, “Jesus is Magic”). I think that this applies not only to feminism ideals, but to body size and appearance as well. If we would stop telling women that they needed to accept their bodies, and if we stopped pressing them to look closer at their superficial characteristics, maybe it wouldn’t occur to them that physical value had to be evaluated and accepted. Everyone just would be accepted.

Obviously, it is hard to switch into this way of thinking when our society has been so critical of bodies up until now. I understand that we had to start being vigilant about accepting all different body types, and it’s important that we did. But people have souls, ideas, ambitions, and dreams. It’s time to look past bodies altogether. We should definitely be thankful for the body positivity movement and all that it has done, but I wish it didn’t have to exist in the first place.

-Rebekah Jones

How to Travel as a Broke and Busy Student

Whenever I tell my friends I’m leaving for a trip, I’m always met with the same response: “Wish I could go…” Maybe they’re just trying to humor me, but I have noticed a trend of people in their early twenties saying they can’t travel because they don’t have enough money or time. These friends would like to travel, but they believe school, money, and time constraints hold them back. I am here to tell you how wrong that is!

Since I started college, I have been to countless states and cities across the country and the entire coast of California. From the Grand Tetons and Yosemite, to Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, I have climbed giant cliffs, swam in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and hiked through both deserts and forests. I have driven cars, flown in airplanes, and taken the Megabus.

I say none of this to brag or put homebodies down because there is nothing wrong with staying home. I’m simply trying to help you stop making excuses if traveling is something you are interested in. I am not wealthy. My parents didn’t help me out. I did it on my own. And you can, too.

Are You Really Tied Down?

During college, you are pretty much the opposite of tied down. Are you married? Do you have children? Do you have a full-time job? Chances are, you can’t check any of these boxes. Most of you work part-time jobs, and can easily ask off work. And if you can’t get off work to TRAVEL THE COUNTRY, then quit. There. I said it. Quit your silly part-time job, and find another one when you return. It’s really that simple, because if you don’t travel now you probably never will. Your part-time job at Jimmy Johns is not worth missing all of the experiences you’ll have, sights you’ll see, and people you’ll meet. You have the rest of your entire life to work. And what full-time job gives you as many days off as your university? Use your school breaks to your advantage!

Save Money!

You do have money- all you have to do is save that money. Whenever I decide I want to travel, I make a plan. I decide when I want to go, how I will get there, and how many days I will be there. I look at how expensive the destination is, and this decides how long I need to save and how much I need to save from each paycheck. I usually stay away from hotels, as they are unnecessary expensive. I love Airbnb because it is cheaper and having a local around saves you a lot of time and energy deciding on what to do. Hostels and camping are also great options, and can sometimes be even cheaper than Airbnb. All you have to do is book in advance. Remember, traveling while you’re in college is going to require a bit of “roughing it” so don’t expect the Four Seasons.

Save your money and plan wisely. That brunch might sound great now, but if it cuts into your travel fund, skip it. And when you finally arrive, don’t spend all of your money eating out at restaurants. Budget a certain amount of money you can spend each day on the trip, and stick to that budget.

Find a Fun Travel Partner (Not Required)

Your travel partner does not have to be your significant other, and you can even get together a whole group. Having a travel partner allows you to drive less, and see more. It’s also helpful because both of you can split the cost of rooms, gas, and food. We even built out the back of my husband’s Honda Element and have used his car as a kind of mini-camper, which helped us save on lodging costs. Whatever it takes, a travel partner will help you to enjoy things you might not have noticed, and of course, you are less of a target for criminals to take advantage of you.

Just Go

Quit fantasizing about traveling. Stop being envious of Instagram feeds showing you places you can’t go. If you plan accordingly, save money, and aren’t afraid to go somewhere you’ve never been, you can easily travel. Once you graduate and start your career, it will only become harder to get away. Satisfy your wanderlust now while you have the chance. It’s all worth it. Just go.

-Morgan Hodge

Sorry, Grandma

As an English major, or really any liberal arts major, you often hear, “So what are you going to do with your degree?”, or even worse, “Good luck finding a job with that”. Emphasis on the “that”. It’s like some kind of atrocity that I’ve chosen to study the written English language and the centuries of literature it has produced. Because for some people, the fact that my major will not lead me down a specific path to a predetermined profession makes it somewhat less valid than others. My family, for example, seems to fall into this category. When I told my parents I was changing my major (from nursing to English of all things), their only response was, “But why??” They couldn’t possibly fathom why I would want to give up my chance at a ‘real’, well-paying profession “just to read”. My sister’s response? “You’re wasting your intelligence”.

I spoke to my grandmother on the phone the other day. After the obligatory “How are you?’s, she steered the subject towards my upcoming graduation – and I knew what was coming: “So what are your plans for after graduation? Where are you applying to grad school? Will you have a job lined up for you?” I had to break it to her that “No, Grandma, I’m not going to grad school”. She was so disappointed. She doesn’t think I could possibly get a good job with my degree, regardless of the countless hours I’ve put into my schoolwork. To be fair, she did give me some credit for my communication skills, but I know she’s thinking how that’s not nearly enough to support me. What’s worse, I made the mistake of telling her I’ve considered law school if everything else fails. It was only to placate her, but I could feel her excitement through the phone. It was completely disappointing to hear that change in her voice—for her to be disappointed when I’m doing something that I absolutely love, but then for her to be over the moon about something purely for the fact that I “would have a real profession”. But what she doesn’t realize is that it’s not about money. Or prestige. Or a position of power or whatever else it is that she values. It’s about doing what I love and feeling like what I’m studying is actually worthwhile. I’ve learned to be more empathetic, more understanding. I’ve learned to be more open minded and to respect others’ opinions. I’ve just learned to be a better person in general. That means so much more to me than making money. So I hate to break it to you, Grandma, but I’m not going to be a lawyer.

-Haley Baldwin

Response to Cracked’s Criticisms of “Kickass” Female Characters in Film

I am a frequent reader of the comedy website Cracked, which has articles on a range of topics including pop culture, weird science and history, and sometimes insightful personal accounts from people with unique jobs or living situations. I usually gravitate toward the articles on pop culture and media for a light, fun read. In doing so, I came across an article entitled “6 Stupid Characters That Hollywood Now Puts in Every Movie.” Like most of these types of articles featured on the site, this article was just some simple observations by a columnist about the way movies are being made today, but there was one entry that really made me stop and think. It was something the author referred to as “Kickass” Female Characters Who Don’t Really Do Anything. The main point the author of the article was trying to make is that there is an ever-growing number of  female characters appearing in films, mainly blockbusters, that are designated as being a “tough” or “kickass” woman but never prove their toughness. He says, “there’s a tendency in modern films to create kickass female co-stars with hot leather fighting abilities who are of zero consequence to the plot … no matter how bumbling their male co-stars may be.” This sounded reasonable enough and even though some arguments could be made against a few of the examples he gives, Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Widow are two that could be considered less than solid,  I was generally on board with his assessment.

My main issue with his argument is that he’s kind of missing the point of why these types of characters are so frustrating, especially to female viewers. He takes issue with the fact that these “badass” characters don’t actually serve the function of being a badass; I find them troubling because they are representative of the type of one dimensional female character that Hollywood has been churning out in response to the call for “stronger” female characters, which has been misinterpreted to mean women who can fight or shoot a gun. What is really meant by “strong female characters” then? It is a desire for female characters that are rounded, three dimensional human beings. This means women who might be tough or vulnerable, strong or weak, but who are probably all of these things because real people are flawed and possess a capacity to experience an array of emotions.

The biggest hole in his argument is one he makes himself. After giving all of these examples of characters that could be construed to fit into this frame of one dimensional badassery, he hinges his argument on the uselessness of Katniss Everdeen. He claims that she is a useless female character because she doesn’t use her archery skills to kill enough people, and because she is manipulated into providing propaganda for the revolution. With this example and reasoning, he proves that he has not only missed the bigger point of why superficially tough female characters are a problem, but that he has also misidentified and misinterpreted one of the few attempts to provide a female hero who is not the perfect, emotionless action hero. The whole point of Katniss Everdeen is that she is a reluctant hero who’s more than just good with a bow. She is only in the Hunger Games to save her sister and has no desire to kill anyone if it can be avoided. The fact that she is manipulated and vulnerable doesn’t make her any less of a “strong” character, it just means that she is a flawed character who’s more than a one dimensional killing machine.

I think it’s great that people try to point out the problems with our modern films, especially those with the portrayal of women on screen, but it’s also very important to understand what you’re actually writing about and the overall point. The point was missed here and the criticisms of female characters should depend less upon how much butt they can kick and more upon whether or not they are dynamic, fleshed-out, and well-rounded characters.

-Shelby Bess