“What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well,” observed Albert Camus in his prophetic novel The Plague. Having endured the past year well enough to read this, I would imagine that you probably find him rather correct.
I can distinctly recall thirteen months ago when Davina Teal (this magazine’s previous editor) informed the Creative Writing Club that we’d have to call off the remaining meetings for that semester. I had just gotten out of work, a stream of coworkers poured past into the parking lot, speaking with that strange, anxious tone everyone reserves just for global events. It was raining, the sky above, dark and immense. Everyone everywhere was nervous about the same thing, everyone everywhere knowing it was on the way. What it meant, what it would do, or how, or why, or when it would be stopped—all of those things were a mystery. The whole human race collectively blindsided. Our club wasn’t the first or last thing to go dormant.
Before the pandemic, Davina and I had discussed the possibility that I might steward the club and magazine once she transferred. It only seemed right that I at least try to make good on that intention. The literary and photographic art you see in this publication is the result. I did not and most certainly could not have achieved this all on my own. The 2021 issue of Dark Matter is both uplifted by, as well as indebted to, Lorynn Hackert’s grace and generosity in choosing to assist me—the both of us guided by Professor Wolff’s watchful erudition. To them both, I owe thanks. To Lorynn for agreeing to dedicate her limited time to this project before we’d ever even had a chance to meet, and to Professor Wolff for entrusting me with these editorial duties to begin with.
This year, Dark Matter lives up to its name quite well. It only seems right given the circumstances. Isolation. Destitution. Mental illness. Terrifying vigilantes. The supernatural. Social confines. The pains and anguish of motherhood. Strife, anomie, sturm und drang. You’ll find all of this and more on the tips of our contributors’ tongues. It’s only reasonable—humanity has a long history of meeting with the cataclysms of sickness, rolling in so profound and grievous I’m sure it was easy enough for our forebears to believe that God did indeed hate them.
Just as the fabled Oedipus arose to free his city from a plague did he learn of his mysterious past and his terrible, inexorable fate. He could not undo the plague laying waste to Thebes any more than the workings of his own destiny because they were one and the same. And the beat seems to go on.
The pandemic will someday perhaps be a plague largely retired with the other dark and sweeping terrors of history—polio, tuberculosis, the bubonic plague, and beyond. Whatever future epidemics ravage the world, it won’t be this one. Ours will be one of many, along with that of 1968. And 1957. And 1918. And 1855, 1772, 1576, 1346, 735, 217, and 1200 BC. So, I would encourage you to take time to reflect on how this sickness has influenced your life. No matter how good or how bad that change may be, it is an experience that is at once an ancestral tradition and yet utterly unique to our time.
And so too are our words, our art, an ancestral tradition uniquely our own. We add our words to the other annals of contagion, words baptized in the fires of a pestilence only we can lay claim to. We tell our stories. We utter our poems. And with our words, our art, we rise, accept, and go on, more fully human.
Ndio Battice Mitchell,
Student Editor, Dark Matter
I was once—and am now again—a West Shore Community College student, a reality that I could never have anticipated two years ago. I spent my freshman year at Northern Michigan University, where I felt truly independent for the first time. Like many other college students, however, my ideal educational experience was put on hold as a result of the coronavirus, and I found myself having to make the difficult decision to return to West Shore.
And I will be honest with you: I distinctly remember crying in my car before I walked into my first class of the fall 2020 semester. Thoughts like “How did I end up back here?” and “What opportunities will I be missing at Northern?” ate away at what little hope and enthusiasm I had left regarding the college experience. Looking back at that sad, perhaps even pitiful, picture now, I can’t help but smile. I wish I could wipe the tears from that girl’s face and tell her about all of the things she would accomplish during her stay at West Shore.
If this last year has taught us anything, it has taught us the amazing capability humans have to adapt to the unknown. This year’s issue of Dark Matter rings true to this. This year’s contributors have shared their vulnerable, raw, and authentic stories that revolve around their fears, their perseverance through unforeseen situations, and their newfound strength. It has been a joy to step into the minds of fellow students and community members, and I sincerely thank them for entrusting me with their words. Without you, Dark Matter simply would not be possible.
I must also extend my thanks to Ndio Mitchell and Professor Wolff. Without your advice, generosity, and trust in me to be a part of this project, my year at West Shore surely wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. You have given me an outlet to connect with others through the written word, and I simply can’t thank you enough. You both are wonderful, talented, and inspiring individuals, and it has been a pleasure to work alongside you for this year’s issue of Dark Matter.
I want to leave you with the advice of author and instructor Anne Lamont: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.” So please, to everyone who is reading this, I encourage you to write. Write about your joys, your sorrows, your enemies, your friends. Write about everything. And do not let the voice of perfectionism oppress you; horrendous first drafts serve as the beginning to beautiful stories. It is a courageous act to share your words with others, and as Dark Matter proves, it does not go unnoticed.
Lorynn Marie Hackert,
Adjutant Student Editor, Dark Matter