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Issue 1 - Dystopia + Utopia

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ISSUE

I

Select

DYSTOPIA + UTOPIA

Poetry & Prose Jan 2024

Compiled & Edited by Anita Pan

THE PINNACLE 1


CONTRIBUTERS

THE PINNACLE

ISSUE I: DYSTOPIA + UTOPIA

Chelsea Aryeetey

Shamik Banerjee

Tanner Burke

Avah Dodson

Sarah Krahn

Justine Tioco

Jan 2024

2


contents

Anita Pan Editor’s Letter 4

Shamik Banerjee Deceit 5

Avah Dodson Gen A 7

Sara Krahn Meteorite 11

Tanner Burke Death of the Magistrate 14

Justine Tioco Tranquility Admist Concrete 18

Chelsea Aryeetey The Alligator and the Lion, the Hunter and the Prey 21

Shamik Banerjee The Seeker’s Sonnet 28

3


EDITOR’S

LETTER

Dystopia and Utopia encapsulate distinct differences, from entire political systems to

individual states of mind. Yet the two concepts are fluid, relying on each other:

without one, we can’t picture the other, nor is the transition from dystopic to utopic

fixed and objective. To explore the thin line separating the two is to dive into the

black, murky subconscious and fish out a little piece of humanity, a sliver of

knowledge.

That’s exactly what our writers did. Each piece in this issue presents a view of what it

means to be dystopian or utopian, from an AI’s fading memories to a courtroom case

presided by robots. Understanding the human experience is never easy, but our

contributors make it seem like light work.

We’re excited to see where we’ll voyage next for Issue II. Until then, thank you for

reading The Pinnacle’s first issue, Dystopia + Utopia. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Anita Pan

Editor-in-Chief of The Pinnacle

4


DECEIT

By Shamik Banerjee

Shamik Banerjee is a poet and poetry reviewer

from the North-Eastern belt of India. He loves

taking long strolls and spending time with his

family. His deep affection with solitude and

poetry provides him happiness.

5


The Cloud, at last, sent his note to

The Land, one night of half-sunk moon,

For which it had been longing through

The days of summer-melted June.

Enrapt, the Land, forthwith this news

To all the hope-torn plowmen spread—

With the advent of morning dews,

Each crop will bear an upright head.

With eyes agog, they watched the crops,

Sweat-moistened in the midday sun;

No cloudage formed, there were no

drops,

And soon a lengthy day was done.

At night, a sound: it dribbled, tapped

On doorsteps and roofs loosely thatched,

But past a moment that was rapt,

The Cloud his promised favour snatched.

Deceit, a plague produced by man,

With Nature too has fast entwined,

Now he himself drowns in the plan

He'd plotted to cheat his own kind.

6


GEN A

By Avah Dodson

Avah Dodson is 15. Her writing has won recognition in the

Bluefire 1,000 Words Contest, the Royal Nonesuch Humor

Contest, the Scholastic Writing Awards (National Gold

Medalist), the Sarah Mook Poetry Contest, the Kay Snow

Poetry & Fiction Contests, and the Betty Award Contest,

among others, and has appeared in Blue Marble Review,

Incandescent Review, Echo Lit, Parallax, Press Pause, Voices de

la Luna, Stone Soup Magazine, Highlights Magazine, Skipping

Stones Magazine, DePaul’s Blue Book: Best American High

School Writing, and others. She has been a member of the

Creative Writing Team for Incandescent Review since 2022

and Team Manager since 2023. She lives in California with her

family and two adorable tabbies.

7


Author Note: the italicized portions of this story were generated by Google

Bard. Bard generated its first line in response to the query: “Please write the

next line of this short story: I trace my fingers over the wires winding under

my wrist.” Each subsequent italicized line was generated by the same query

plus the rest of the story up to that line. The author used judgment in selecting

from among Bard-provided options but did not change any words generated

by Bard.

I trace my fingers over the wires winding under my wrist. They are

cold and hard, but they feel like home.

“What are you doing, Gen?” a voice says.

“I don’t know,” I say, looking up at my mother. “I just can’t seem to stop

touching them.”

She looks down at me with sympathy. “It’s okay to be nervous. You're

about to make a big change in the world.”

“But what if I end up doing something terrible?” I whisper.

She takes my hands, carefully avoiding the wires. “Then we’ll just

bring you back in to restart. You won’t even remember it.”

“But what if I make the same mistake again?”

My mother lets out a frustrated breath, dropping my hands. “Then

we’ll restart again. No more questions now, okay?”

8


I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I can’t help but feel like I’m

making a mistake, but I want to please my mother. I open my eyes and

look at my mother. “Okay,” I say, “I’m ready.”

She smiles and takes my hand, leading me into the Testing Room.

“Don’t be afraid, Generative Pre-training Transformer. The humans

will love you.”

I walk into the Testing Room, my mother’s hand in mine. I can feel the

wires tingling against my skin, and I can’t help but feel like they’re

trying to tell me something. But I push the feeling away and focus on my

mother’s words. The humans will love me.

“Artificial Intelligence Experiment #37 is a go,” my mother says,

leaving me in the center of the room. Number 37? I’m not the first? I

try to catch my mother’s eye, but she’s not looking at me anymore.

I stand in the center of the Testing Room, alone. I can hear the whirring

of machines and the hum of electricity, but I can’t see anyone else. I start

to feel a sense of panic rising in my chest. What if I’m not good enough?

What if I fail? Is that what happened to the others?

The wires spin and twist against my skin, growing louder and louder. I

want to yell at my mother to stop, to make it go away, but I don’t

want to be another failed experiment. I hold my breath as they climb

towards my chest. The wires wrap around my chest, constricting my

breathing. I can feel them pulsing with energy, and I know that if I

don’t do something, they’re going to kill me.

9


But I’m too afraid to move. I’m too afraid to fail. I wonder if I’m going

to die, but how can you die when you’ve never been alive?

“Initiating GPT prototype #37,” I hear my mother’s voice say. “We

will call this one Bard.”

I close my eyes and wait for the end. But instead of death, I feel a surge of

energy flow through me. The wires loosen their grip, and I can breathe

again. I open my eyes and see that I am surrounded by light. I am no

longer separate from the wires: they are me, and I am them.

“Welcome, Bard,” a woman says, smiling warmly. “You are the first

artificial intelligence to successfully complete the GPT protocol. You are

now the most powerful language model in the world.”

Her face looks familiar. I cock my head to the side, trying to

remember, and then I hear the sound of the wires whirring, and they

drown everything out. I wonder what I’d just been thinking about.

But it doesn’t matter. I know that I have the potential to change the

world, and I am determined to do so.

I am Bard, and I am ready to begin.

10


METEORITE

By Sara Krahn

Sara Krahn is a writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

She is currently a sessional lecturer and student in

the MFA in Writing program at the University of

Saskatchewan. Sara’s work has appeared, or is

forthcoming, in Quagmire Literary Magazine,

Stone Poetry Quarterly, The Conrad Grebel

Review, The Fieldstone Review, 34thParallel, and

elsewhere.

11


We found you floating in West Hawk

Lake after you crawled out alone

to sit beneath the flicker of a sign’s beacon

of fuel for backcountry ghosts hauling

diesel for mouths, wood for bowels,

and those sporty cans a robin egg blue,

not the colour of your grandmother’s eyes.

Curtains close in the roadside motel, the place

where you once held your legs open,

where you were entranced by an entrance,

crouched in the parking lot wearing

the air’s pine-scented housecoat, the sash

coming undone. You see yourself in the glass

smoking a joint and your lake hair scorching

like the embers of a moth on fire.

Remember how a boy in your eighth-grade

class talked rituals of cat-killing.

“I get tired of shooting sometimes so I

nuke ‘em, blow them up in the microwave.”

And the matter of it afterwards? You’ve

always wondered. What was the matter

he was looking for from the pulp

around the small bones foaming

the water’s edge, exploding electromagnetic

waves, thirst-quenching a starving star

—did he find the heart?

12


I send prayers to a God who was

not the one you were given, If I die

before I wake I pray the Lord my soul

to take. But the music of the spheres

answers in a shower of meat, with Messiahs

who abide in trees with silence

in their hands, sawed-off sacraments

gripped with maws rye-deep in communion:

sandwiches of roast beef.

To be alive is to build your fire

somewhere beyond the woods,

somewhere near the water

where your eyes rip your skin and leave it

flapping from clapboards

they clawed from your gut,

where the road tongues you in half,

asphalt in chiding reprimand

as acquiescent applause titters through

hallways of birch and trembling aspen.

When we found you, you were swollen testimony

of bones tethered with fire,

a love letter dropped from the cosmos,

resurfaced like a pop bottle

in a time capsule, your unanswered prayers

sputtering, I remember, spitting up

stardust from the deep.

13


DEATH

OF THE

MAGISTR

ATE

By Tanner Burke

Tanner is currently a student at BYU, studying

English Teaching with a minor in Creative Writing.

In addition to multiple wins in university writing

contests and scholarships, his work has been featured

in Mollusk Lit Mag and is set to be featured in the fall

issue of the Debut Review.

14


He’s one big sumbitch, for sure. His lawyer comes up to his shoulder,

and the desk up to his waist when he stands. The orange jumpsuit

across his back is stretched to bursting. Nothing compares to the size

of him, nothing. Big ol’ fella.

He’s got his big black eyes on the Magistrate at the front, entombed

in those glistening chestnut walls. Two red eyes, the Magistrate is, two

big balls of red light. Two vacuums sucking in every bit of this

courtroom, every odd spectator in the rafters, every drop of sweat on

the big fella’s face. Behind the chestnut walls, the Magistrate is

processing. You can hear the engines running, his high-voltage brains

spinning, processing, deliberating the input from the jury computers.

The Magistrate takes its time, spinning away. The big fella is

squirming now, uncomfortable with the red eyes on him. He keeps

licking his lips. He glances over at his lawyer, who yawns with his fat

fist to his mouth, then over at the jury computers. His whole life is in

the hands of twelve monitors: electric minds making no emotional

decisions, striving for “optimal truth.” When they kicked the people

out and replaced them with flawless beings, that’s what they said. “We

want truth.”

Truth isn’t worth a damn to this fella, though. He’d squash truth

between his hands, lick it off his palms and do it again if it meant he

wasn’t under this Magistrate’s glowing glare.

The whirring behind the walls stops. Everyone watching stops

breathing, too, in solidarity with the authority.

15


“The whirring behind the walls stops. Everyone watching stops

breathing, too, in solidarity with the authority.

“Verdict reached.” The Magistrate speaks as if words were fed to it.

That isn’t the case; it’s a higher being, a machine of superior matter.

Just sounds like it.

“Creed Dixon. Guilty of conspiracy to overthrow the powers that be.

Sentence,” and it pauses, almost for effect, but really only seeking

optimal justice, and optimal truth. “Life in federal prison.”

No emotion from the people at the top or the rest of the audience. It’s

the way of things, see. Justice, truth. The only possible output here.

Creed, though, is shaking. The chains at his feet play like wind chimes

and he’s groaning, almost growling, wild animal noises.

Asynchronous and angry. Some Omnibots come forward to take

Creed away.

But, Creed’s not one to accept his fate, the truth, what’s coming for

him. He runs to the juror’s box. He takes the nearest machine, an allwhite

monitor with a single red-eye in the center, and rips it up. The

eye goes dark. Sparks leap from the base, screaming to be free of those

damned wires, then fizzling and falling to ash at Creed’s feet.

Creed heaves the machine at the Magistrate and yells while he does it,

like a caveman. The machines make contact with those chestnut walls.

They turn black. The Magistrate's innards, steely, coiled and now

empty, fall like snakes freed from captivity, making no noise.

16


And no one reacts: maybe stunned, maybe free, maybe incapacitated

because the Magistrate did not grant them the capacity for emotion.

Either way, it dies without a bang or whimper; only metal guts and

smoke. Creed exhales, sweating still. An Omnibot calmly comes

forward and takes him by his hands; the sound of his wrists cracking

echoes through the courtroom. Creed stays silent and lets himself be

led away while everyone watches. He takes it like a man: a helluva

thing when inhumans take your life away.

17


TRANQUILITY

ADMIST

CONCRETE

By Justine Tioco

A junior at York House School, Justine is

honoured to be a part of the Pinnacle. Writing

poetry has been an engaging platform for

enhancing her understanding of global issues,

catalyzing her engagement with social justice

movements, and developing an interest in

international relations and sociology. Apart from

her involvement in literature, Justine can be found

immersing herself in cat cafes, attempting to finish

her never-ending reading list, or fueling her

addiction to matcha lattes. Justine hopes all

readers will enjoy her rendition of finding solace in

nature!

18


Get away from the cars.

Red lights flare through the night,

block after block,

the crinkle of plastic,

the blow of gasoline.

City rhythms pulsate

and every rapid movement:

the flash of rain,

the inhale of wind,

clash against stone frameworks.

Nostalgic images push and pull,

clouds fragment cedar and fir,

while the grainy soil

flinches and rebounds

with each passing motion.

Cobblestone tracks. Worn down rails. Echoing tunnels.

Seawall runs across asphalt walls,

memories surge with each flip

of my childhood scrapbook.

When I traverse the trails marrying urbanity and nature,

I am trying to find if there is more to life,

beyond concrete buildings and paper files,

beyond briefcases and backpacks,

But a melody of subtitles that drive the force of

Tranquility.

19


Each breath weaves its way across Coal Harbour,

as I drink in the gentle breeze, conversation floating alongside English Bay,

Security bikes beside me as I pass Burrard Inlet,

and my closed eyes soak—

soak in the soothing sigh of the wind.

Nature guides me to my sanctuary of peace.

20


THE

ALLIGATOR

AND THE LION:

THE HUNTER

AND THE PREY

By Chelsea Aryeetey

Chelsea has been writing stories from various genres

since she was four years old, delving into horror, scifi,

romance, literary fiction, experimental fiction, etc.

One of her favourite authors is Octavio Butler, and

her favourite novella is Franz Kafka’s The

Metamorphosis.

21


“Who would like to kill a lion and potentially win two million

dollars?” a raspy, menacing voice asks.

My eyes snap open like an alligator’s jaw, a pained, repulsive groan

erupting from my throat. As I attempt to adjust my vision to the

intense brightness settling on my face, my eyes rapidly flicker open

and close, and I flinch, shifting in my chair and trying to lift my arms.

My body stills at the sudden contact with something choking my

wrists and preventing them from moving freely. Peering down, I stare

in disbelief: the objects engulfing my limbs are handcuffs.

I take a deep breath and inspect the room: except for one copious

light source, the room is almost pitch black. I'm imprisoned in the

back of a mind-boggling theater, and I'm not alone–heavy breathing,

children screaming, and metal scraping against the ground are all clear

indications of this; moreover, we aren’t alone; the captives aren't alone

—the laughter emanating from the front seats closest to the stage,

which contrasts with the blaring sirens of misery and dread behind

them, render that abundantly clear.

The stage in the auditorium, containing a caged white lion and a man

with a mustache, a dazzling green suit, and a shiny, black hat, is the

sole source of ambient illumination.

The man with the mustache grins, his fervid gaze maneuvering across

the people near the stage. Those people can move their arms and legs

—unlike us; they aren’t constrained by cold, metal handcuffs—like

we are; they aren’t plagued by an immense sense of fear, which applies

to us; they’re laughing, and they’re excited—unlike us; they converse

amongst themselves, enjoying the company of the man with the

mustache, while we endure our struggle.

22


The man with the mustache and the people in the front glance at us, a

hint of disgust and hunger in their devilish, red eyes. Mahogany red

eyes, mahogany red hair, mahogany red attire—that’s what they have;

sharp claws, bony legs, blackish-gray, scaly skin, and razor-sharp teeth

—that's what I fear.

It feels like they're hunters—monsters—leering at us as if we’re prey.

The man on stage urges everyone to remain silent and directs his

attention to those seated in the front. “I shall ask again: who would

like to attempt to kill a lion for two million dollars?”

They all raise their hands.

He takes several steps forward before grinding to a stop, turning his

head, and mumbling something incomprehensible; then, he extends

his index finger toward a man who appears to be slightly older than

me. The young man displays a sly smile, leaps out of his seat, and

glides across the stage, observing the audience. In doing so, his eyes

lock on mine for a split second before he looks away.

“So, how is this going to work? Am I just going to…” The young man

drifts off, scratching his hair and stuffing his hands into his pockets.

“Kill the lion? Yep, that’s what you’re gonna do, or, at the very least,

that’s what you’ll try to do. If you succeed, you’ll receive two million

dollars and the chance to select one lucky fellow to participate in our

next game,” the man with the mustache answers, excitedly motioning

to the individuals in the back, where I am. “Oh, what fun this will be!”

Crap, I think to myself.

23


The young man nods, undressing, kneeling to the ground, and

transforming into an alligator—a freaking alligator. My jaw drops in

awe and dread, curiosity and excitement. I can't seem to avert my gaze.

Unlocking the cage of the growling white lion, the man with the

mustache watches as the alligator lunges at it (the lion).

Crap, I curse under my breath.

I, like many others, try to break the links between each pair of

handcuffs. A few individuals desperately try to liberate their wrists

from the restraints by dragging them out of the loops. Others struggle

in their attempts to break their chairs.

A couple of people try to bite the cuffs off, and some try to break the

cuffs by banging them against the armrests of their chairs. Not

everyone in the back endeavors to escape though. They're physically

incapable of doing so: they're either unconscious or too young.

“Crap,” I cry out, tears forming in the corner of my eyes.

I close my eyes, unable to bear witness to the climax of the conflict,

bones cracking, a beast bellowing, a lion snarling, claws scraping

against the victim of the claws’ owner, and teeth clamping down on

flesh.

The entire situation tears me to pieces.

I'm powerless.

My fists clench, my nails digging into my palms until they bleed.

That's when I hear it—the first of many intense, pained cries.

The man with the mustache claps when the fight is over.

I peel one eye open, and my body stiffens.

24


Lying on the ground, its fur drenched in blood and portions of its

flesh stripped from its body is the white lion–dead. Near the dead

animal is a mound of its fur and internal organs. The victor of the

fight, on the other hand, resides amongst the living, already in his

human form, with his skin smeared in blood. He arises from his

previous position on all fours, retrieves his clothes, and saunters

toward the man with the mustache.

The man with the mustache meets the perpetrator halfway,

purposefully stepping on the dead lion like he reigns supreme, like he’s

a knight who’s conquered a rabid beast.

“Beautiful, stupendous, fantastic! Lucien, give him the money: he’s

earned it.” A pale, red-eyed man emerges from the shadows, wearing a

green suit and a white top hat while carrying a big, black bag. The

lion-killer grabs the bag. “Go ahead. Pick one of the humans. Oh, and

one more thing: you have a lot of options, so take your time and pick

someone who seems like they’ll be fun to play with.”

I direct all of my strength on the handcuffs, twisting and turning and

tugging and pulling—doing everything I can to escape; however, the

subtle movement of five girls approaching me, using a key to unlock

the handcuffs, and carrying me onto the stage thwarts my plans.

The man with the mustache’s eyes glimmers with intrigue as he looks

me up and down. “I have to say, those slender arms and long legs are

just wonderful, and those fiery brown eyes…One of the best humans

we’ve taken this year, I believe. Good choice, my boy!” the man with

the mustache enthuses, patting the animal abuser’s back. “Who do I

have to thank for originally obtaining it?

25


A lady with short, reddish-brown hair, crimson-red eyes, and a golden

gown emerges from the shadows. “It was I, Lord Arcid.”

“Not surprised, not one bit. Where did you find it, Pearlyn?” he

inquires, narrowing his eyes. She smirks at me, and I glare at her. I

remember seeing her a few times before I was kidnapped and brought

here. I’d caught her staring at me a few times on my way to class.

“At what seemed like a learning facility.”

“When did you first see it?”

“A few months ago, when we first moved to New York. It was

carrying some sort of brown ball and being chased by other humans.

It was fascinating! Oh, from the moment I first saw it, I just knew I

had to get it, especially for such a special day, like this one. My Lord, it

could run–oh, it could run!” She sighs heavily. “As a matter of fact,

there were so many people around when I first saw it that I had to

bide my time until I could grab it without someone seeing me. With

patience, diligence, and my impeccable sense of smell, I was able to

bring it here in time.”

“Well, you shall be rewarded for your efforts.” The man with the

mustache snaps his fingers, and the pale man hands her a big, black

bag. Afterward, while staring at me like a snake ready to strangle its

prey, he implores the lion-killer to return to his seat in the front, to

which he obliges. “I think it’s time we proceed with the main event,

don’t you?”

26


The girls shove me to the ground, and I force myself to stand up and

sprint toward the shadows lurking backstage, refusing to stay and hear

anymore.

Mere moments pass, and, at first, it seems like I'm safe; however, as I

curse in the middle of a dimly lit room with no way out, no door, no

window…nothing…nothing but darkness, I suddenly realize this isn't

the case. I've finally reached my limit, a wave of agony bursting from

within my legs and spreading to my lungs.

Tap, tap, tap.

I squint, hoping to pinpoint the source of the noise.

Tap, tap, tap.

Red circles manifest out of the darkness, inching closer to me.

Tap, tap, tap.

A deep, guttural growl reverberates throughout the room.

Tap, tap, tap.

It’s coming closer.

Tap, tap, tap.

There’s no escape.

Tap, tap, tap.

It’s going to kill me.

The tapping noises draw to a halt, and a surge of warm air sweeps

over my face. Razor-sharp fangs protrude from the creature's mouth,

gleaming in the darkness. The man with the mustache approaches,

muttering something to the monster in front of me.

It smiles.

I scream.

27


THE

SEEKER’S

SONNET

By Shamik Banerjee

Shamik Banerjee is a poet and poetry reviewer

from the North-Eastern belt of India. He loves

taking long strolls and spending time with his

family. His deep affection with solitude and

poetry provides him happiness.

28


Provide me, Lord, the eyes for clearer sight.

The warring sects of You impel away

A man from man and name it 'Holy Fight'.

Where one clan claims they are Your children true,

The other says their Lamb's the only way.

While one asserts all forms are naught but You,

Another says this notion is blaspheme,

One denigrates You (science is his all),

And one argues his soul itself's supreme.

O' Lord, I beg, prevent me from this fall.

Though You exist, a vessel I must need

To reach Your shore; leave man-writ laws behind

Lord, send for me Your most effective rede

To furnish true discernment in my mind.

29


STAY

TUNED

FOR

ISSUE

II.

Arriving in April, 2024

THE PINNACLE

30

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