This week, the writers write from the perspective of the villain; the only catch? The villain does not realize their evils...
The blame game
By: Trisha Iyer
I. What to Say
Nothing. You should listen.
No one does.
Well, not to her. She deserves better, no?
This is the last page of the picture book. The epilogue to the novel. The tiny section appended to Wikipedia.
After the happily ever after.
So just listen.
II. She Said
The stars are brighter during the winter.
This is what I find myself noticing since I won’t be here much longer. I’ll miss the stars, which twinkle ferociously by virtue of only their own light.
Much as I love the sky, it has too much light. I cannot hide in the light.
Yesterday Kusha and Lava wandered near the pond and found a blue lotus on it—just floating on it. It was the color of sapphire and glowed like a yagna fire—not of this world.
Which is precisely what it is. An offer.
Now it gleams its rarity over the words I write. I have cast my memory back to the scriptures in my father’s hall, and I know what I must do next. Tomorrow I shall ask my boys to fill a water vessel from the pond. I shall pluck some healing herbs from my garden.
The trickiest part will be finding a pomegranate. I shall have to walk over the nearby fields in my search.
Just as well. The boys are growing up fast—soon I shall take them to their father. Then I can return to the Earth. She might accept my offering.
III. He Said, Part One
It was wrong, but not my fault.
I did one silly thing, so I was cursed to live three bad lives, and now because of me, she will do a very stupid thing.
Judgemental for a gatekeeper? With so many people coming to the gate, I must speak the plain truth. I am weary of their trappings.
So what if I kidnapped her?
Ravana kidnapped her. He held her hostage (more grievous, to steal a person than a thing). And he brought doubt down on her pure shoulders—more vile, to take a reputation, which is irreplaceable.
Maybe you call this split personality disorder, but if you want to see that, visit my brother, who still thinks he’s a Kaurava fighting the Great War—
I took the Ravana’s form and visited her hut. Her sons are strong and healthy. She is, too, but she glimmers with defiance. Not a good life, to give it over in thoughts to whom you hate.
And like I can see my life ahead and behind me, and because I can see the strong kings her twins will be, and because she herself is living—
Time is cyclical. She is of this world, and she may always be.
For all of time’s loopholes, I did not see the consequences in my mortal persona. So I, Jaya/Ravana, will shoulder only one corner of the sky.
IV. Another He Said
I am not a dreamer. I never have been—I have been kind, and I flatter myself to say thoughtful, and a good king. A good example for my people. Lakshmana, my dear, rash brother, insists as much. Daily.
But as I grow older, I wonder that my people have not been a good example for me . . . I have always done my duty and felt secure in that goodness that lived at my core. But I have not dreamed outside this dharma, and maybe I was not supposed to.
But now I find myself dreaming of my wife again. Well, actually, two boys. Identical in skin tone to me. With her eyelashes. And her dimples popped out when they were chanting.
That’s what they were doing. Chanting my story.
They are her sons. So they must be mine.
Of course, they are. The people worried, but I knew better. So why did I send her away?
I visited her hut today. Not to talk. There she was in the garden—
Time is deceptive. They say it blinds and blunts, but it sharpens the few memories it leaves you. She looks exactly the same, after all these years, just more calloused from collecting herbs.
I swayed too easily, condemning her. It’s a novel feeling, to be wrong.
I, Rama, accept my portion of the blame. I take my fair share of everything.
V. And a Third He Said
It was a tiny little curse for a tiny little brat, a pittance.
Naturally, you blame me. For telling her, in my previous life, that she will be separated from her husband during her pregnancy, just like she separated my mate from me.
Naturally, you think it awful to damn a little girl.
Naturally, you think me evil. But I am dying now, and I really don’t care anymore.
When I felt my life force beginning to wane, I knew why—my purpose on this earth was about to be completed. I had to see her, to make sure that my revenge had been realized.
It wasn’t a long trip, to trek through the forest from my shack by the river to her hut on the edge of the forest—a hut almost as humble as mine. She was standing outside the hut, her lips parted slightly, cradling a lush red pomegranate. I could guess what it was for, and I grunted with satisfaction. I turned to leave, wondering when I would be reunited with my Medini.
Behind me, she sighed—and I paused. It was not a sigh of resignation, but a bitter huff. A hollow husk of a breath that had kept her alive on half-truths and defiance. She, too, would die out of spite.
Time is illusory. People make the mistake of trying to arrange it. Or tame it. They dream of lassoing a unicorn. We are all just a string of moments, tangled up in each other. There is no past or future.
So when I stepped out of the trees, I had the shape of my previous self—a mynah bird. I could not let her leave this earth without understanding. I, a humble washerman, the Dhobi, assume my part of the blame.
VI. She Said, Redux
It flies out of the trees, serving up its white-patched wings to the breeze below and the sun above, and glitters fierce dark eyes at me. And when I see them, I nearly drop my pomegranate, for I knew those eyes.
He has come back to curse me again.
He is the washerman who spread the rumors about my chastity—and his gossip had condemned me to an exile of grief, a pregnancy with no husband to fawn over me, a labor with no royal physicians to drip pain-relieving serums into my mouth.
“What do you want?” I huff at him. “Aren’t you happy with the havoc you’ve wrecked?”
Those glittering eyes follow me as I stoop to place the pomegranate on the ground. “But you don’t know why I wrecked it. How can I be happy?”
I feel a strong urge, which my father had trained out of me at a young age, to roll my eyes. “Your mate wanted to stay in my home. So I let her.”
“And then she died from loneliness!” he squawks.
“She wanted to escape you!” I sob, and swipe at my eyes, which would have smudged immediately with kohl had I still led a royal life. “I was trying to be kind.”
“Did she ever say that?” The bird is cold now. Odd for a bird.
“Well, I assumed . . .”
The eyes glitter with more hurt, a shining obsidian blade about to shatter. “It is against our nature to be domesticated, to be pets even of the great Janaki.”
It is a conscious effort to close my mouth.
“And you made up that story, flailing wildly for a target to lay blame on, building up some reason to keep her!”
My heart squeezes at the sorrow in his voice. I breathe in, questioning—
“If I can’t blame you, who do I blame?”
The flash of Rama’s bejeweled crown floats before me—a haze of gold and shine that I haven’t seen in years. The burning of Ravana’s eyes rushes down my spine, a creaky tango my body hasn’t felt in even longer. And now the rasp of the mynah bird’s voice calls forth the memories of my foolish childhood—
Am I the villain in my own story?
The blame lies only on myself.
I rush inside before my senses overwhelm me, giving frenzied instructions to my boys to stay safe. Then I fill my arms with the lotus, the crushed herbs, and the pomegranate, and reach down toward the ground.
I have given up on time’s ability to heal my wounds, for I’ve carried the cause inside myself all along.
Time is something I no longer wish to be involved with.
I, Sita, accept my blame. And I let that weight dissipate in the wind.
I close my eyes, pour my offerings out on the ground, and feel Mother open to accept me.
By: Ada Praun-petrovic
I know you.
I know you hate to get up in the morning,
but you don’t go to bed at night.
I know that you stay home all day,
and don’t set a foot outside.
I know that you cheat on your homework,
and that you scroll through your phone during class.
And I know that sitting and zooming all day
annoyingly cramps up your back.
I know that whenever you look in the mirror
your gaze will quickly drop down.
I know that in math you never raise your hand
for fear of the teacher's frown.
I know how you feel all your classmates' eyes
fixed on your disheveled hair.
And I know how you hate your acne
Of which you're hyper aware.
I know how you anxiously bite your nails,
you hide your braces when you smile;
The very thought of public speaking
makes your throat fill with bile;
You constantly wonder and worry
if you'll ever be enough -
For look at all the smarter kids
who thrive in a world so tough.
You're sure they must be judging you
for even daring to compete,
You feel their stares and whispers,
you're so beneath their feet.
But I also know
before you start to turn away -
Think a little more:
who said you weren’t good enough,
that you couldn’t measure up?
this villain in your life,
the source of all your doubts,
who stuffed your soul into a box
and left it shriveled in the dark -
That if you dig a little deeper,
You'll find that you were wrong.
No one ever glared at you -
You were the villain all along.
By: Sawyer Lai
In the weeks before the start of school, I would jokingly tell my friends that my greatest achievement of the summer before this year has been binging all 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. However, when I privately reflected back on all of my three months of summer, all I could remember doing was playing video games, watching Netflix, eating food, and occasionally reading. My friends, on the other hand, seemed to have been much more productive, whether they had spent their summers taking science courses or doing research or getting their licenses. No matter how much I tried to avoid it, I seemed to coalesce back into the ever-growing hole of self-doubt and the feeling of falling behind my peers.
I started to hate myself for not being productive over the summer: I’d never had a summer without tons of activities, and this summer in quarantine, I had let myself relax too much. A week before school started, I hadn’t even started my summer reading assignment. Even then, I couldn’t work up the mental fortitude needed to read a 300-page book (which I ended up reading the night before it was due). My disappointment in myself was so great, that I began to curse myself for even pressing play on yet another Criminal Minds episode.
Talking to other friends, I began to realize that I was not alone in this mentality: my other friends had similar complaints about their life. Some of them wished they exercised more, some had spent the summer in bed and were now regretting it, and some were suddenly stressed about their classes for which they hadn’t done their summer assignments. I started to feel better about myself, realizing I wasn’t falling behind, but rather in the same boat as everyone else. Instead of villainizing myself, I began thinking about things I was proud of myself for doing over the summer such as working out more, beginning to bullet journal, and starting to write creative pieces for the Outlet. Though I hadn’t done much academically, I was still improving myself by feeling more confident about my body and accomplishing weekly writings for the Outlet (something I never thought I would do).
Through this experience, I’ve learned that mindset is key. You should be proud of every accomplishment and milestone you achieve, rather than hate yourself for not being completely productive academically every moment of every day.
By: Ava Arasan
How subjective is the state of the world
The Influence of minds,
Spiraling up from the
Straight back of the spine,
And grazing the heavens with
How interesting how we define right and wrong,
Ideas abstract by their innate nature,
Prove them by a geometric shape,
Following each other in eternal bliss
Yet when is balance real?
What balance is shared amongst
Every single mind.
What balance is so
What balance is
One hundred percent palpable?
Soothing from Earth’s core
To the stars,
How odd that the hero of one person’s story
Can be the villain of another’s.
Where is balance then?
Where is balance now?
Where is balance when?
The only way to reach out and realize,
The closest, smoothest square
To that rolling black and white,
Is to listen,
Balance shall arrive,
When we listen,