Therapy

My first therapy session…

“So what brings you in today? What’s going on?” She smiles knowingly behind her glasses. A plus six-foot-tall lady who towers over me while walking or standing. Luckily sitting down we are closer to peers, but not really. Her: The Help, The Knowledge, The Cure. And me? Utterly Fucked Up; a flawed and defective human unable to function at a basic level in life.

“Well,” I sit back and think. I pick at my fingers nervously. I shake in my usual way although a bit more driven by anxiety over the situation. “Well, I think…I think I struggle with depression.” She raises her eyebrows and nods, allowing me to continue on. “I hate my life. Something is wrong. Something I’m not consciously aware of. Others seem more…functional than I am? If that makes sense. Everyone seems okay with life and…I’m not.” I shrug and smile the smile that I always wear when talking about serious topics; a mask which I happily wear to drive away the inevitable pressing questions. If anything life is a joke and you need to be able to laugh about it.

And was I even that dysfunctional? I didn’t feel depressed or suicidal at the time. No, I had taken the first important steps to getting help and that meant I was probably not depressed at all, right? Not dysfunctional. I felt fine at the time; the depression was false. It was a lie. I was looking for attention, something like the school shooter’s desperate attempt at asking for help, the bridge jumper’s way of screaming to be noticed, but if I made the effort to find help didn’t that imply that I was functioning at a normal level? Was I a fraud even coming here and talking to her?

Something about the last two months stirred in my mind. The haze, the blur of it all. Sitting in the yard drunk off of ten beers and crying didn’t seem right — normal people didn’t do this (or did they?) — but everyone was unique, right? Maybe it was normal. Or that I was normal and everyone else was fucked up. And was debating jumping off a bridge in the early morning hours after work normal? Probably not. Something in the past few months caused me to make the desperate phone call for help, even being as socially awkward as anyone could be. The phone call itself was the sign that I needed help. I couldn’t even call the internet company to negotiate a lower monthly bill, so would I really call a number hungover and jittery and tell them I suffer from depression and that I Wanted to Talk to Someone? No, I probably wouldn’t. But I did, and this was a sign. A symptom of desperation. Maybe I did need help after all.

She peered at me through the glasses daring me to go on; there was always more to the story and everyone was hesitant at first. Please tell your story Defective Human and I’ll listen; it’s what you’re paying me for, her eyes said.

As if acknowledging her silent cues I said, “Okay, fine. I, uh, I think I hate myself. I hate everything I am. I know I’m supposed to love myself and I totally agree with it in theory…but I don’t. I don’t like me. I don’t want to be me. Sometimes I want to scratch my skin off and escape to another body — the same ugly bastard greets me in the mirror every morning — because I just can’t take it anymore. I overthink everything. Everyone hates me: at least I think so. I’m pretty sure of it actually. And I have nothing to offer the world. I don’t have any gifts — nothing that makes me unique or special — and I hate myself.” I put another fragile smile on my face and shrugged. It’s all a joke, everything is a joke. Maybe I got that from my dad.

She cleared her throat and looked at me from the clipboard she was violently scribbling notes on. I imagined what it said: Total nutcase, crazy, lack of self-esteem, possible alcoholic, severe past family issues, bipolar like no one else before, anxiety, fear of social rejection, McDonald’s after work? Maybe. But no; Taco Bell sounds much better!

She smiled knowingly over the glasses again and finally said something. “If you could take a stab at it, why do you think you feel this way? What specifically are you unhappy with in your life?”

I looked down at my shaking hands and thought for a moment. I looked out of the window at my parked car. I watched the clouds creep across the sky. I watched an old man hobble to his car. I wondered what he was suffering from. Was he too old to be a Vietnam veteran? PTSD? Scarred from the war fifty years ago? Or some other problem, maybe alcoholism to cope with the war? I scratched my head. My mind locked up as I felt her glare on my face. I fidgeted a bit to look casual. I looked at the scuff marks on my shoes. And why are there blankets and pillows on the couch I’m sitting on? Was I supposed to be lying down?

This seemed to be endless but I eventually came to a conclusion. I looked at her with a blank and helpless look and shrugged. “I have no idea. But four days ago I was, well, this probably doesn’t mean much, but I was…”

***

What I’ve learned is that any session that doesn’t leave you crying in a parking lot behind a fast food restaurant wasn’t productive. Some sessions you have don’t go anywhere. You should be okay with that. You’ll get there.

That was the comment she left on my social media page. The old “she,” the past “her,” not the new one. The new “her” doesn’t say much although I still crave anything from her. Four years later and the cycle repeats, stuck in a rut and unable to escape.

Although I disagree with her. The session wasn’t productive at all — I felt more lost than usual — but here I was crying in a park. Where was the fast food? Where was the enlightening moment? After finally getting help wasn’t I supposed to feel better? When was the magical moment supposed to happen? When was I supposed to be happy, or at least functional, in this thing called life? The more questions the therapist asked the more answers I lacked. I had no idea why I did what I did. My actions didn’t make any sense, especially to me. I knew other people to a higher degree than I knew myself. I have no idea why I’m writing this now at 1:05 in the morning trying to tie it all together: nothing makes sense. At all. Even the bare trees in February don’t make sense. Why were they there? I was seeing a fragment of the world in this tiny city in America, but was I even really here? It felt like a dream, a terrible dream, with time fixed that I couldn’t escape from. The dream was reality, the place you escape nightmares to find comfort in. But when reality is a nightmare what else is there for you to wake up in comfort to?

I thought of her for a bit randomly and without thought or reason. Maybe she was right. But maybe I didn’t care about what she thought anymore. And this made me more depressed somehow. And then back to my old habits. What does she think about me? Does she approve of me? Am I cooler now because I’m seeking help? Is it honorable to admit to your problems? Does she sympathize with my struggle? Is she impressed that I’m writing consistently now? Does she randomly think of me like I think of her? Or am I some past apparition that is just a ghost in her past, some fragment in her imagination, some shadow in her dreams?

And no progress. I am me with no escape. Thirty years of living with the same person and you’d think you’d grow to like yourself being stuck with yourself for so long. It’s the opposite. Every year I spend with myself I hate myself: my roommate of depression and gloom. He is stubborn. He is bitter. He is depressing. He can’t help himself. He is as ineffective at life as his mother and father. He is insecure. He is brutal. He has no self-esteem. He farms approval from everyone else and is pathetic. He can’t function in life. He lives at a basic level only surviving day after day just trying to pass time. He harms himself in some grand quest to transcend himself. He tries to escape himself despite himself. He wants to love what he hates which turns out to be himself and everything he is. And despite his best intentions he is inevitably trapped inside a prison that he cannot escape.

I looked down at my arm blurred by tears and started to scratch. Desperately trying to escape myself. No escape and only pain that I can’t avoid despite my dissociation. It’s always a part of me, the pain. And this is me. Stuck behind bars until I die. Escaping into reality that is outside the nightmare.

The Virus (Part Two)

A typical trip to the store during a pandemic.

Note: This is a continuation of The Virus (Part One). I orginally planned for this to be a two-part story, but it looks like it’ll be a three-parter.

Who is infected? Who isn’t? You can’t tell: treat everyone as a hazard. The six-foot rule? No, give people ten or twenty feet, as much as you possibly can because your life is at stake. The virus is small, invisible, and deadly. Walking corpses of the future pumping respiratory failure into the air with their still-functioning lungs. I picture the air currents and the wind stirring the invisible death into the air, swirling and making beautiful unseen vertices mixing virus and atmosphere together.

A man is riding his bike along my side of the road. I’m upwind of him, and picturing the air leaving his mouth and swirling around his cheeks and chin, around his neck, and into the slipstream he’s dragging behind him. He’s not a threat with the air currents today. Any death he might be carrying blows the other way and I’m safe. As safe as can be in this world at least.

The rest of the trip to the dollar store was uneventful, at least as uneventful as you could expect in these times. A few gunshots and screams rang out in the distance, punctuating the silence of our new world with reminders of the horrors occurring nearby. A drive-by shooting a mile ahead on the road I was walking along; I could see the car slow down and the crack crack of gunshots delayed by five seconds, and the small group of people walking on the side of the road fleeing and collapsing. I couldn’t tell if murder was involved from this distance.

And clouds of smoke rose up to the east, near downtown. More fires, more rioting, more unrest. It was all so uneventful that I didn’t pay it much mind. This was the world now.

Finally I arrived at the store, but as I reached the front corner I noticed something. Blood, a lot of blood on the sidewalk and road that led around the side of the store. The blood smeared towards the back as if someone was dragged away; the streaks leading around the back corner of the store.

My choices were laid out in front of me in a mere fraction of a second. Continue on into the store and pretend that I didn’t notice the blood, cower my head and flee, or investigate the scene. My heart started pounding and I began to shake with adrenaline once again filling my body. Fight or flight? Decisions had to be made even if adrenaline cripples logical thought. Before I realized it my knife was out and I was turning the corner to the back of the store. The choice was made, but seemingly not by me.

The path of blood led to the store’s dumpster area, a tiny fenced-in area to hide the trash the store accumulates daily. The gate was slightly propped open and the path of blood welcomed me through the gate. One new problem now; there was a second path of blood leading from the other side of the building, two streaks of blood from each side of the store. What awaited me along with the pungent smell of trash and refuse?

I slowly peered around the gate with knife in one hand and pepper spray in the other, my body permanently shaking from what might greet me. I was relieved to find two bodies, one with their neck slit wide open and one with a myriad of gunshot wounds in the chest. Relieved because dead bodies weren’t a threat to me, only a sign of a threat, a threat that wasn’t in my immediate area. The shaking still continued though; the mystery still hadn’t been solved.

A weapon, a gun, anything? The man whose neck that was slit open — both of them armed guards popularly employed to stop robberies and hostage situations in these troubling times — had no gun on him, with his holster strangely empty with the strap open. The other man, the one with the gunshots, still had his weapon. I quickly changed my gloves and took the firearm. It would serve me better than it would serve him. Crouched down, I noticed bloody footsteps leading to and from the dumpsters and back around to the front of the store.

Another conflict arose within me between fighting or fleeing, but the new weapon in my hand urged me on. I took a guard’s gun which was a crime itself, and what if I was charged for these murders? Nothing to worry about though, more crimes were more important to investigate even if the law could eventually catch up to me. Once all of this shit was over they could charge me. That was later, in the indefinite future, and I was determined to survive until that day.

Once again, before I knew it I was standing next to the double glass doors at the front of the store. The world was silent — too silent — and time seemed to stand still. I could feel the sun creeping slowly across the sky, my shadow passing as a sluggish sundial on the sidewalk. More choices — act or flee — but here I was: why run now? Everyone fantasizes about these do or die moments where logic doesn’t apply; what you think you’d do you’d never do and my intuition to flee was countered by this chance encounter to finally do something. Face your fate. Confront the demon in the store whose bloody footprints lead directly to his lair, because the alternative was boring everyday life. Escape it even if it means likely death.

The first door opened quietly as I gently eased through it. And the second door? One of those damn bells to notify the store employees when someone entered. Even though I tried to open it slowly, the bell still jingled making a piercingly loud sound in the silence of the world. No sound answered the bell in return. Everything was silent, still, and oppressive.

But not totally silent as I discovered upon entering the store. Strange muffling arose from behind the counter. I stood there for a moment to gauge the layout of the store and listened for any sounds from the beast that might be lurking in here. Still and silent. Only the rustling behind the counter gave my senses something to latch onto. I glanced over and an employee was seated on the floor, gagged and tied up with the look of sheer panic on her face. She appeared unharmed and nodded her head towards the back of the store, with unintelligible grunts accompanying each motion. The beast was back there, she was saying.

More oppressive silence. It was lurking, hiding, stalking me. I crept forward with my finger on the trigger ready to defend myself and the helpless employee if I needed to. Creeping forward step by step until I reached the end of one of the aisles where I hid on the other side of the end cap. 

This time faint footsteps were heard. Cautious footsteps at the opposite end of the aisle. I looked around trying to formulate some plan of attack, some plan for defense, shoot to kill or shoot to wound? Too many thought racing through my head to make sense of anything. And…and above the door was a mirror: one of those spherical mirrors that allows you to see nearly the entire store in a tiny glass ball. Distorted perspectives but the human eye is sensitive to motion, and at the end of the aisle I was lurking at, a shape moved.

I waited until the shape was halfway down the aisle and peered around the racks to get a glimpse of whoever was stalking me. Gunshots immediately rang out in my direction, some missing down the aisle and shattering into the main door while others slammed into the shaving behind me. This man was unhinged, not even paying attention or deciding if I was a threat or not. Instant firing to kill, reckless firing, and my mind was made up: Kill or be killed. There was no reasoning with this person. Shoot first and enjoy your life if you still had it after time ceased to be frozen.

More creeping from the man towards me. I cleared my throat and said in a weak and shaky voice, “Alright. Let’s talk about this. Okay?” There was no reply besides the footsteps creeping towards me. In the mirror he was three-quarters of the way down the aisle, about fifteen feet away from my location. In the distorted mirror I could see his arm extended with the firearm poised to fill my body full of lead.

“Come on, let’s talk. I’m not a cop. I’m…nobody.” No reply. Unhinged. Unreasonable. Off the rails. And he was almost here.

I shot out from behind the endcap with my arms extended. The man with wild eyes seemed surprised, as if he could sneak up and kill me and I wouldn’t bat an eye or fight otherwise, the finger on his trigger poised, but I was quicker. Filled with adrenaline from the past ten minutes of stopped time, my body was as tense as a compressed spring, and at the tip of the spring ready to snap was my finger. The trigger jarred back and forth an indefinite amount of times before time unfroze and the moment was over. The man lay on the ground ten feet from me, slightly quivering extremities until all motion ceased.

And I realized I had killed a man. A fellow human being. Kill or be killed, right?

More footsteps sounded from the rear of the store, somehow quieter than the man’s careful steps moments earlier. I held the gun up again, unsure of how much ammo was left, but there wasn’t time to do anything about it. Bluff if necessary; the gun looked fully-loaded anyways. Recite the mantra again: Kill or be killed.

Around the end of the aisle shuffled a girl, maybe five- or six-year-old. She looked at me, down to the man on the ground, and then looked back at me. She walked over to the man and sat down cross-legged next to him. There were no tears or cries or shouts or curses, just a glazed look on her eyes. The same glazed look the man on the floor had.

“Da…daddy?” she asked the man bleeding on the floor.

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Anna of the Woods

Strange things happen while camping in the woods…

Note: Hopefully my writer’s block is over. I’ve been finding a ton of inspiration and motivation lately: use it while I have it, right? This is a mostly fictionalized account of my time trying to live in the woods.

I was lost for sorts. Not physically lost but mentally lost. Lost in life. Depressed. A drunkard to cope with being lost. Being drunk lets you feel okay with being lost, with having no idea what you’re supposed to do, because it shrinks reality into the present. All you must deal with is the here and now and people are always happier when they pay attention to the here and now. The trouble only begins when you dwell on the past or look forward to the future, traveling the x-axis too far. Regret, anger, helplessness, dread, and anxiety all seem to come from either looking backwards or forwards too much or too desperately.

To find my place I set out for the woods. That was the plan. I was drunk again and it seemed like a great idea. I gathered all the supplies I casually thought about over the past few months in case I ever became crazy enough to actually do it. Cans of coup, a can opener, tent and sleeping bag, a few tiny cans of Sterno, rice, cans of beans, a knife, cigarettes, everything I could think of I put into my car and set out. And alcohol of course. And some drugs in the form of my trusty cough medicine dextromethorphan, DXM. Something to help oil the gears within my mind. Something to let my mind expand outward along the y-axis of whatever you’d call it. Space. Time. Peace. Nirvana. Whatever. I’d felt it countless times but it always escapes grasp.

I went to a local park; an isolated park, not too popular but also not totally forgotten. It was a popular area for disc golfers as there is a course there, but disc golfers are there to golf and not to hike. That was part of the appeal, to hide in plain sight in a park populated by disc golfers who didn’t care much for exploration in the woods. Up a path into the trees I went for a quarter mile in dark, then turned off and walked another few hundred feet. Located close enough to the path for convenience but far enough away that I was fairly hidden. It took three trips to haul all of the supplies to my new home.

I sat in the tent and cracked open a beer. The trusty thought that I always dwelled too much on reared its hideous head: So now what?

I texted some friends and no one replied. I tried to start a fire but the wood and twigs I could find were soaked from days of rain. Even the air seemed chilly and thick with too much water and a faint mist seemed to envelop the woods. Not that I could tell because it was dark; only the lights from the city reflecting pale off the clouds provided any illumination. The tiny candles I had did little to push back the ever present darkness around me.

I was alone. Utterly alone. I checked social media for signs of life and found only ghosts, only the faint images of real life that people wanted others to see. Memes shared, political opinions posted, happy family pictures and dinners. Picturesque to a tee. No, there was no life there at all, and if anything this made me more depressed. Trapped in my mind and isolated left me gasping for anything to hold onto. Some sense of peace. There was no answer from the woods. Only the scraping of tree limbs in the wind replied. Maybe a creature sounded in the dark, but they stayed far enough away from the deadly human trespassing in their domain. Silence. Loneliness. And the time crept ever so slowly. It was only one in the morning. So, now what?

I thought as I drank and made no progress. The same issues over and over. The same flawed person thinking their regular flawed thoughts endlessly. But maybe I needed to go deeper, really get down into the nitty gritty of my mind. Have an experience. Steal some insight forcefully from the universe as if it was mine by right. I popped open my cough syrup bottle and began to drink. The stuff was horrendous and I drank beer and medicine back and forth, desperately trying to clear my tastebuds from the twisted flavors of each of them.

I did some math about how much of the sticky, bitter stuff to actually drink. I came to about half a bottle, but as boozed up as I was wasn’t very confident in my math. Who the hell knew. I guessed. I’d either end up not feeling anything or transcending reality. The stuff tasted disgusting and after 75% of the bottle I gave up the whole project. I wasn’t feeling anything and it was time I tried to get some sleep. My math was probably wrong so I put the cap back on and regretfully laid down for the night.

Sleep. Sleep? No. Music. More infernal music, something I had heard in the past ages ago. Or maybe the future. I sat up and looked at the candle feebly flickering in the tent. And. Fire. Fire. That’s what was missing tonight. This morning. Time didn’t mean anything — the world simply spun and only us humans put meaning on it — and that was fine. Everything was fine. But, fire. Fire makes us human, right? There I was in the woods as a prehistoric human, nothing more than a caveman who happened to have a phone and internet with him. I didn’t have fire. Until I had fire I wasn’t enlightened. I could never be at peace living as a slovenly creature in the woods.

In the tent I said aloud to no one in particular. “I want fire. I will make a campfire. If it’s the last thing I do, I will have fire.” I stood up, grabbed my cigarette lighter, a beer, hobbled a bit, and stepped out into the damp and chilly air.

Sticks. Wood. Kindle. Start small with dry stuff and build up to larger branches. Until you had logs. A self-sustaining fire. A fire hot and fierce enough to burn anything liquid thrown into it. Sure the branches were wet, but with a blazing fire they’d dry and burn like everything else did in the world.

I gathered my piles into categories based on how large the branches were. Twigs, here. And there, larger sticks. And here, branches. The only thing missing was grass, something small and dry that would easily light. But I had paper towels and a nearly empty case of beer; maybe that would suffice? I grabbed the towels, emptied the box, and started tearing the shreds of paper into smaller and smaller bits. I would have fire. It was the meaning of my life in the all-consuming present.

Onto the ground they went into a small pile. I then made a tiny tent of twigs and smaller sticks on top of the pile. I rolled up a tiny bit of paper on the end of a stick and dipped it in the liquid candle wax: a tiny homemade torch. It took fire easily. And this went into the bottom of the tent of twigs.

And fire! It smoked, glowed, sputtered, and then went out. I hopped onto my knees to blow on the remaining feeble embers only to have them die. I tried again. And again. And there was no fire. I was still a dumb caveman who’d never be enlightened and wise. I’d never cook meat, have crops, smelt metal, or build cities. Left in the woods to die and discovered thousands of years later like Homo Neanderthalensis.

I stood up, looked around, and nearly gave up. A tiny bush next to fire seemed to taunt me but I didn’t know why. It was a strange plant, a bush that was only a bush only when you looked at it. Because when you looked away and viewed it out of your peripheral it took on a humanoid appearance. This bush was something human, or humanlike, and it taunted me. It stood over my pile of sticks that refused to burn and made them refuse to burn. It’s name, because it did have a name, was Anna.

I stared at the bush again, knowing who it was (but not what), and said, “Anna, please let me make a fire.”

She stared at me silently, reverting into a form or a bush depending on if I looked directly at it or not.

“Come on. Why? Why do you do this to me?! I just want to make a fire.”

I set back to work. Anna wouldn’t stop me.

More timeless time passed and nothing happened. I came close, once or twice, where flames licked the sticks for nearly ten minutes before it smoldered into nothing.

“Anna. Anna, why?”

Reality came back in waves where I realized I was talking to a bush. A plant. Nothing more and nothing less. I was in the woods trying to build a fire and I couldn’t and I was talking to a plant. Begging the plant to let me make a fire. I felt like I was losing my mind. Nothing made sense. Who was Anna and why was that the plant’s name? Why was I stumbling around? Why did the bush appear so lifelike at times? My thought came back to an old Stephen King story I had read. Something about a hotel room that a totally skeptical guy wanted to spend the night in. And in the room he slowly goes crazy. The room itself was a malevolent being that degrades your sanity causing you to question everything. Until you lost it. Until you went mad. Until the room killed you.

And, what?

I remembered old stories about this park: many people in my city say it’s haunted. My cousin, a supposed ghost hunter, claims she’s seen ghosts in this very park on countless occasions. Right where I was trying to spend the night and seek some solace. There were no ghosts, obviously, and I was a skeptic. Maybe it was just her imagination? There weren’t any ghosts here.

But what if there was.

The woods did seem very silent and malevolent. And I was losing my mind. Was it that far-fetched to believe that I was surrounded by a horde of ghosts or worse, demonic beings that wanted to claim me as their own? I started to panic at the thought. Anna, the bush three feet from my tent, was one of them. A spirit of some long lost and forgotten soul who for some reason haunted in the park I was in. She probably died in a fire, which explained her stopping me from making mine. Even in death she was scared, or even protective of me. Or not. Maybe she was trying to drive me insane, to get me to hang myself off a tree? Or do something crazy. What would happen if I chopped my hand off with my hatchet? Where did that thought even come from? What would people think and say if I came out of the park after one day and had to be hospitalized and institutionalized for hacking my hand off? What if I was going crazy?

No. No way. It was the drugs. Didn’t I drink a bunch of cough medicine ages ago? But, what if it wasn’t the drugs? What if they only allowed me to perceive the unknown? As my mind raced I desperately tried to get a hold of it and keep it under control. Think happy thoughts. I gave up on the failed fire, got into my tent, and finished off the last few beers of the twelve pack.

I awoke a few hours later once again feeling lost, this time mentally. I questioned where I was and what I was doing there. Rain was soaking in through my tent that I was in, my sleeping bag was damp, and I was freezing. My head hurt — the familiar feeling of the hangover — and time would only make it worse. My mind turned back to the previous night which felt like a dream. The demons, the demons that weren’t there but seemed to be there at time, had haunted me and now they were gone. I opened the door to my tent and looked out. I was in the woods and I was certain of my place in space this time. Birds were chirping, the wind wasn’t blowing, and the only sound was the rain in the middle of the forest. Despite my brutal confusion and hangover, there I was. Maybe I wasn’t lost.

And Anna stood by the failed fire. Still a tree but as I looked away there was a person there. I was sober. I wasn’t high. But…the bush was a human. A person. A spirit. Something. I stepped out of my tent and grabbed a couple of beers to think about the situation. I didn’t feel threatened, just confused with this presence still there. After a beer and a half I walked over and grabbed my hatchet which I tossed aside early in the morning into a pile of mud for some reason. I wiped the blade off and it glistened as well as it could under the cloudy and dreary day. I walked up to Anna.

“Anna. You need to leave. You’re disturbing my peace. This whole thing, this whole adventure, was only meant for me to find peace. So, please leave.”

Anna stood there.

I sighed. “Alright, have it your way. I’m sorry.”

I swung as hard as I could drawing all the strength from my body. I waited for a cry or a shout or anything from Anna, but there was nothing. Just the dull plop plop plop of the hatchet striking branches over mud. Eventually Anna toppled over right on top of my aborted bonfire.

And as damp as it was the night before, and as much as it was raining at the time, the fire started to smoulder and burst into a large blazing flame. Here was my fire, here was my peace, here was me transcending my primal spirit.

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The Vacant Lot

A bike ride past a vacant field filled with memories.

Note: Instead of working on the actual “coherent” stories I’ve been trying to write, I’ve been reading the older stories I’d written years ago. They’re not too bad, and it’s fun to tidy them up a bit. This is one of them.

Without a clear goal or plan I turned left at this street and right at another. I was a free spirit, riding in whichever direction I fancied at the time. The way I took was dictated by emotion and past memory: I remember going down a certain street in high school, or a girl I used to know lived down a street which I blindly turned down. Memories were everywhere — the time was different and sometimes the scenery was different — but the memories still lingered in some way even though they were horribly nonexistent in the present.

I rode by the park we used to play football in, years ago in high school. I wondered if we would ever get people together to play again. Maybe as a ten-year, twenty-year, or even a thirty-year reunion. We could be fifty-year-olds trying to play tackle football at the old park we used to play in. I knew we wouldn’t, and at most maybe a friend or two would meet up someday and throw a football around for nostalgic reasons. But those games, no, they were forever gone. No one ever knew at the time we were playing the last football game that we’d ever play.

The street I was on along the park also had other familiarity to it. It took a few moments of thought — some tying of the strings of my memory — but I finally connected the dots in my head: this was the street my ex-girlfriend and I had rented a house on. It was long ago, not terribly long ago — only a few years — but I was immensely changed since then, making it feel like ages had passed. I felt decades older and wiser even though I’d only gone around the sun two and a half times since. I had no goals or plans that day, so I continued on down the street. It’d be nice to ride by the old house and reminisce.

As I got closer to the house we had rented I realized something; the houses that were along this street were gone. I remembered years earlier there had been a flood, these houses which bordered on the creek had become lost causes, and the city moved to purchase and demolish them. Her and I were together when the flood happened, and being alongside the creek allowed us to see a large part of what had happened. We were on the higher side of the creek and our street didn’t flood; our house wasn’t afloat. Around us were houses seemingly boats in endless water: drifting in a lake that had appeared out of nowhere from the clouds and the rain one August night. The vacant lots allowed me to see the next street over, unimpeded by trees, houses, or any other obstruction and it seemed very strange. Only the creek which had caused the flooding was between me and the street to the north. The creek seemed harmless and nothing like the demon that I knew it could be if fed well enough.

I continued on and finally arrived where our old house was, but something didn’t seem right. I glanced back at the street sign to make sure I didn’t mistake what block I was on, and it was the block, but where was the house? The vacant fields of grass that had stretched endlessly also stretched into this area completely catching me off guard. And further down the road, the field continued. Had the city demolished the entire area?

I slowed and eased my bike towards the curb at the location where I thought the house used to be. There was the same, bland grassy field and nothing gave away the hints of the past. But here, along the curb, was a tree: a single tree between the sidewalk and the street. As I parked under it, I glanced up and felt something. It was a tree, a tree that was unremarkable in every way possible, but something in my memory moved. This was the tree I had parked under for years straight, never really looking up to examine it but seeing it so frequently made an imprint on my memory. It was a ghost, an image of a peripheral that etched its way into my mind. Never noticed but always there. It felt familiar, like an old friend or acquaintance, and I knew this was where the house used to be.

I looked at the field with determination and yearning. Behind me was slightly lower where a driveway used to be, and imagining the memory of the property fit like a puzzle to this sparse field with a creek in the middle of it. Here was where the driveway was, and here was where I put our garbage out on a Wednesday, and there was where the next door neighbors lived, and over there was where I’d sit on the steps and think about us and how we’d never work.

I frowned as I examined the vacant field some more. The memories were both good and bad and they randomly came at me with no rhyme or reason; they just appeared as ghosts of the location. 

I thought of the house, and where I happened to be currently. There was a pile of rubble of the old house somewhere and I wondered if anyone thought of the memories they held. There was a chunk of concrete out there in the world that I walked on daily, and a board of wood that creaked every time we went up the steps, and the walls that watched us smile, cry, scream, and yell as the days came and passed. They existed somewhere and in some form out in the world without anyone but myself knowing their history.

Reality slowly creeped back in as I stared into the air. I was standing there next to a field and, well, I was on a bike ride that day. Feeling the outside world pressing in on my senses again, I mounted the bike and kicked off from the curb that her car tire had rubbed on countless times. I imagined that maybe there were bits of rubber from her car on my shoes as I sped off down the street. But that was the past that was past and this was the neverending present and it was time to get on with life.

I moved on from that day, from that leisurely bike ride, without much conscious thought about what I had seen. Going to work, sleeping, eating, and generally existing were enough to fill my time, and I didn’t think of the lost house very much. But as much as I’d have liked to think it didn’t weigh on me, it must have, because my mind would somehow turn to the image of the empty field with the creek behind it, and it would seem to occur when I was alone, trying to not think of anything at all. As I tried to fall asleep, I’d see the field again, and sometimes the house that used to be there. I thought of her, and wondered what she was up to. The thoughts were never strong enough to give me pause, to keep me awake at night, or to make me think deeply; they would randomly appear and then after a few thoughtful moments, they’d drift away into the oblivion from which they came.

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Search for The Truth

My submission for some Wattpad contest.

At least I can give some background behind this mess of story here. Wattpad sent me a message about some 500-word contest for something called Home Before Dark. Luckily, I have no idea what it is even after writing my submission. The challenge was to…well, I’ll just post the message itself:

We’re reaching out to you because we’ve just launched a writing contest with AppleTV+, and we thought you might want to enter! Wattpad has teamed up with AppleTV+ and Home Before Dark to bring you an exciting writing challenge that encourages you to share your truth with the world! Just create a 500-word letter about a time you stood up for the truth for your chance to win a Mystery prize pack!

This was like a week ago. 500 words is nothing — about five measly paragraphs — and I had no fucking clue if I wanted to even try writing a submission. I suck at stories, especially stories with a purpose and a theme, so I’m about 99.5% sure I’m not going to win. But why the hell not write something? After about 25 minutes of writing and editing it down below 500 words I ended up with this story. Enjoy!

The world blurred and my thoughts shifted without any conscious effort on my part. They flowed like a river, in one shape initially, a memory of something fond, into the next shape, a hideous and malformed entity of the past. Fond memories naturally hold negative aspects. Loss. Regret. The ever marching force of time. Change built into the nature of the universe. What is real? What is true? What can you hold onto when everything shifts and morphs? Even the most sluggish river still flows and changes with time.

It was the drugs to be sure, a strange concoction of whatever I could find hours ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time, like everything usually does, but now there was regret. But still the regret flowed into other forms — my past self had decided this was the best place for my future self to be — and wasn’t there something I was seeking? The shadow of introspection and self-discovery hours ago loomed over me and shifted into regret, and then back again into hope. There was something to look for, some reason, some concrete realness to myself, and maybe I could find it

Bad vibes swirled around me, torrents of a bleak river grabbing my thoughts, thoughts of safety and fixedness and concreteness, and wrecked them. Anything I could find to grasp was ripped away from me before I could take solace. Nothing was fixed, nothing was firm, and everything was framed by mindset.

Then the crux of the problem finally reared its head: Was I even real? What did ‘real’ even mean? Real. Reeling away from reality, but there it was, staring me in my twisted and drugged up mind. And if reality was this question, that of even being real, what did that mean?

The thoughts drifted again without any power from myself and I realized the question was pointless to begin with. What we experience is real. If a person thinks they’re losing their mind: that’s their reality. That’s their truth. The outside truth of someone else — that they’re crazy — is not the Truth of the suffering person. A billion truths, maybe more, all swirling around and changing in every conscious being in the universe. A multiverse within a multiverse, a billion worlds, all unable to be explored by being self-contained. Beauty. Glory. Sadness. Regret.

My universe is chaos. An inability to hold onto thoughts, to form them, in the torrent of the river of time. I don’t even know why I do what I do. I have no idea why I write what I write. Adrift in the sea, river, ocean, air, whatever you’d like. A thought appears and I have no control over it. Where did that come from? And why did I take a ton of drugs? I’m a robot controlled by a program I didn’t even make. These thoughts aren’t my own; there are no thoughts to take ownership of. And…and now what? Now what?

Check out my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics every whenever I get around to it.

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Clubbin’ in The Skooma Den

Pip the Argonian goes on a violent rampage in The Skooma Den.

Note: I don’t usually post chapters from my Morrowind fanfic here, mostly because it’s over at Wattpad, but I think this chapter came out fucked up enough to serve as a stand-alone story. If you’d like to read more of it, here’s the link.

The skooma den only a few buildings down from The Eight Plates didn’t have a proper name: only The Skooma Den. It was known to everyone in the city certainly, but the official view of nearly every inhabitant of Balmora was to ignore its presence entirely. The locals who lived quiet and happy lives gave the place a wide berth, barely even glancing in its direction as they passed by. Imperial law enforcement didn’t want anything to do with it despite it breaking countless laws, mostly because their jobs were supported by it. The lowlifes that inhabited the place surely caused trouble elsewhere, usually minor crimes like thieving, stealing, or selling their drugs outside of the establishment, and the Empire was happy to crack down on those poor souls. This way they didn’t have to deal with cutting off the head of the monster whose tentacles inadvertently paid their salaries. And the local Dunmer house in charge didn’t want anything to do with the place either due to the countless higher ups within House Hlaalu having very important obligations to the building and its business. The pockets of corruption are always deep and widespread and it’s best not to get tangled into the web too much if you valued your life.

The inhabitants of The Skooma Den were the lowest that Tamriel had to offer the world. Those well over the cliff of addiction, those who had thrown all aspects of their lives away in chase of the ever fading high they couldn’t live without. In fact, the high was their life and they accepted it for better or for worse (mostly worse). It’s noble in a way to accept what your life is or isn’t and these people surely woke up one day, well down the skooma hole but still grasping desperately at a normal and happy life, only to finally accept their fate. Looking in the mirror they would eventually say a variation of this: I am a skooma addict: this is who I am.

The place was part skooma dealing, part partying; a safe zone for the skooma junkie to let their inhibitions loose with other like-minded individuals. The floor was littered with the corpses of old and busted glass skooma pipes and alcohol bottles, and no one seemed to care about walking around barefoot on the sharp shards. Skooma dulls the nerves and leaves you feeling wistful and undefeatable: to them the glass slicing their feet with every sloppy and misplaced step only seemed some abstraction of the mind because their minds were Truly Free. There was no need for physical distractions from their consciousness, at least the bad physical distractions.

And the back room was called “the orgy room” for obvious reasons. It was a constant naked, hedonistic, and fluid-stained room with no policy to participation at all. When you felt the urge to partake you went into the room and did whatever the skooma told you to do in the moment. And when you finally got your fill (were filled or did the filling, it didn’t matter) you left. No one cared anymore about the vague ideas of love or partnership. Everything was temporary and they all grasped at the temporary pleasures whenever they felt like they needed them.

One day an Argonian walked into The Skooma Den from the Balmoran streets. He had never been there before but had heard whispers of the place since he had arrived weeks ago. And he didn’t have a reason to go there or to not go there besides some vague curiosity. Pip, as his name was, didn’t do any drugs passionately and certainly wasn’t the type of person to find The Den an appealing place to be. That would require having purpose, the purpose of living your life as a lost addict. Even a twisted and flawed purpose was still purpose and Pip didn’t have any.

No one noticed Pip as he walked in, his scaly Argonian feet being immune to the blood stained glass that littered the floor. The addicts were all too blasted out of their mind to notice him. Pip looked around, slowly pulled out his two meter long silver staff from his back, and held it poised to strike.

Pip walked up to a man on his hands and knees screaming, occasionally looking at his bloody hands laughing for reasons only he was aware of. And then he struck him over the back lightly. The man giggled. Pip swung again, this time harder than before. The man laughed even more. One more strike from his club with as much Argonian strength as he could muster — enough to break bones if hitting the right spot at the right angle — knocked the man down to the floor, his hands sliding violently over the shards of glass as he collapsed. He rolled over, looked at Pip, pointed, and started laughing so hard he began crying. His body was dead to any physical pain.

Pip thought this was the perfect place for him. 

He walked into the central crowd of people smoking, talking, laughing, screaming, making out, whatever it was that the skooma addicts were occupied with. And he started swinging as hard as he could at anyone within reach of the massive staff. Surprised looks from the junkies: where was this Argonian before? Some people took the bludgeons from the Argonian as a friendly challenge — another skooma head looking for a fight — and tried to tackle him. Pip knocked them down viciously as each charged him. He wheeled and danced around the room swinging his club, knocking people down, raising bruises, removing teeth, and snapping bones like some twisted and graceful ballerina of pain, his club using the force of its length and angular velocity to inflict massive damage to anyone it connected with. The dance only lasted ten minutes before everyone was lying on the jagged floor, dried blood from the past mixing with fresh blood from Pip’s outburst. The blood was black in the strange red and blue lanterns that lit the smoke filled room making the scene appear as a dream.

Pip did the same thing in the orgy room, but this time the occupants seemed to take pleasure from all the pain, it all being the same in their state. Blood mixed in with the various fluids on the bed, chairs, and floor until everyone lay silent, bludgeoned to the brink of their lives during their orgy.

“Clubbin’ fun for Pip. Me do again tomorrow.” And he left.

Not that he killed anyone: Pip wasn’t that viscous. And not that he had any negative views of the skooma addicts. No, he only chose to beat these people within inches of their lives because he could. No one would notice, no one would care, their families and loved ones discarding them long ago. And they could always get healed, either via the Temple, the Cult, or from alchemists and Mages’ Guild restoration magic experts. As their drug wore off and the pain became impossible to ignore, they’d surely crawl, hobble, and limp their way to a healer and beg for something to be done to help them.

As Pip walked in the following day he was greeted with a cheer. They knew him this time and they couldn’t wait for their beating to begin.

“Come on, you can’t do shit to me today! Let’s have a brawl!” On Imperial challenged.

“You got me in the ribs yesterday, get my face today!” A Dunmer exclaimed.

“End my life; I am miserable. I want to die!” screamed one Khajiit in pure joy.

And Pip obliged them all (except the Khajiit), dancing like a ballerina for the second night in a row, beating them all to a pulp once again. Twirling, swinging, clubbing. Some people, before collapsing from the beating, even slipped a few septims into Pip’s robes. They were huge fans of him and his dancing.

Pip showed up for the third night to even more passionate cheers. But this time he was bored with it. Clubbing was only fun for a while and sadly for Pip these people enjoyed it a bit too much. It wasn’t spontaneous anymore. He had a crowd to please, an obligation. It was a job. It was required. And what would he do now that his two days of clubbin’ in The Skooma Den was over before they had even begun?

Pip silenced the expecting and elated cheers with only a few sentences.”Pip no club tonight. Pip no club anymore. Pip bored. Pip have mission to do. Ald’ruhn. Hmm. Pip go find Funny Head. Yessss.” He turned around and walked out of The Skooma Den never to return again, the disappointed howls, screams, and protests following him out the door and into the barren evening streets.

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The Virus (Part One)

A typical trip to the store during a pandemic.

Note: This is totally unrelated to the other stories I’ve been working on. I think I need to branch out into making separate short stories instead of trying to piece together a novel. As always, I have no plans so whatever I post is whatever I post.

Early May and not a cloud in the sky. The temperature outside was in the 70s — the lower 70s probably — and a slight breeze blew out of the east. The humidity also wasn’t too bad either; maybe I could drag myself outside and go for a bike ride? Or maybe do some yard work? Gardening always needed to be done. The crops were very important this year.

I made some coffee via a pot on the stove; the electricity wasn’t working again and the few solar panels I had couldn’t supply the power to run a coffee maker. Pour the boiling water into a mug and dump the coffee grounds in. It makes a sludge but if you stir it enough the grounds eventually sink to the bottom. Coffee is coffee and depending on how the day is going you can always opt to slurp the sludge from the bottom when the drink itself is gone for an extra jolt of stimulants. This is what I did today.

And no eggs in the fridge either. No bread. Nothing. All the canned beans have been eaten weeks ago. And then the rice. And then the frostbitten meats in the back of the fridge. I had been in the phase of forced caloric restriction for weeks but soon I would graduate to forced fasting. Before I did anything, especially physical yard work/gardening, I’d have to go to the store, or try to at least. I hope it wouldn’t be another day where I’d be forced to feast on dandelions and mulberries from the yard. No mushrooms until the fall, so that wasn’t an option. There were always the five or six stray cats outside or squirrels and groundhogs. But it wasn’t bad enough for that. Yet, always a ‘yet’. One of the cats was pregnant and that wasn’t an option either, not a wise one at least. The smart move would be to wait until the kittens become adults and then see what needed to be done to survive.

I went downstairs and got dressed. New t-shirt, a pair of dirty pants, socks, and shoes. Loop the belt through the pant’s loops and give a thought about hanging the thing from the ceiling with my neck in it instead of pants and my waist. Once again: not yet. Someday, but not yet.

Grab the two pocket knives and place one in each pocket. Grab two bottles of pepper-spray: one clipped to my belt and the other in the pocket for a reserve. I purchased an entire ten pack of these spray cans when things started to go downhill. When was it even? A year ago? No. Just a few months, but the year felt like a decade thus far. Everyone I caught a glimpse of seemed to have aged as well as if the five months of the year really were a decade. Wrinkly skin, sagging collagen draped over bony frames along with grey, unkempt, and dirty hair. Even if the hair wasn’t actually grey, the hues always seemed slightly and tinged towards dreary and earthy tones. Dark circles and bags around and under every eye and even worse, a hopeless, blank, and dead look peering through the masks.

And back upstairs to find a bag. A black bag from the gas station would suffice. Weeks earlier it had held cheap liquor that wasn’t cheap cost wise. Alcohol was in high demand at the time for various reasons. Disinfectant, intoxication, fuel, whatever would kill and burn was needed. Malt liquor supplies were forcefully redirected to distilleries to make sanitizer. Hell, even E85 blend of ethanol/gasoline was being used as a makeshift disinfectant and was more expensive than gasoline for the first (and probably only) time in history. Some heathens with a death wish were even drinking the stuff or attempting to distill it. The news, whenever it was on, would occasionally mention the home fires/explosions due to these activities. Amateurs, I’d always think.

Take the bag, cut two holes in the side, and find some hemp cord. Place the bag on your head and adjust properly: one hole at your mouth and the other at your eyes. And then some fabric for a filter: this time an old dishrag. Place the rag inside the bag over your mouth and tie the hemp cord around your head accordingly. Everyone was using this technique or variation of it: cover your face, nose, and mouth at all costs. Hide your identity in case the worst should happen. In case survival boiled down to instinct. The killing of your own species in order for your own life to continue on. The world was a cruel place and spiraling downwards still. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the perpetual ‘if’ of life was really a ‘when’.

And how could I forget my own sanitizer? Grab a spray bottle of that before I leave. Homemade from a shitty still and a bunch of wine I had brewed up years ago. Put anything with alcohol into the metal pot from Walmart rigged with copper tubing from the hardware store and cook it on top of a stove or any other available heat source. Water and ice to cool the vapor and you’re left with pure alcohol. Add some water to dilute it down to 70% and you have sanitizer, even if it wasn’t a gel like the fancy store-bought stuff. And it was drinkable: a sanitizer/coping mechanism even if you need to weigh the pros and cons of each. Alcohol is limited and you can get drunk or sanitize. Pick your poison — a zero-sum game — would you like your world to be Clean and Safe or would you prefer a mind that can cope, if only temporarily? A little of both was always a valid option. I opened the bottle and took a drink and sprayed my hands after putting the cap back on.

I put a baseball cap on my head over the black bag, along with some aviator sunglasses. Even during the crisis you needed to look somewhat stylish. The hat had a yellow sun with a silhouette of a tree on it with the words ‘Life is Good’ below the design. Time to go outside, to go to the store. Time to see what horrible things the day held for me and society in general.

The world still looked the same. The birds were chirping, stray dogs and cats roamed the streets, yards, and sidewalks, and the squirrels acted as jittery and flighty as always. The sun was still bright in the sky, the clouds still provided rain and storms, and the flowers and plants were joyfully growing. Trees were as stoic as trees always were and nothing was obviously wrong with the world. You needed to pay attention to other details: subtle details. The lack of litter around the neighborhoods. The quietness of the roads with only a few cars passing here and there. The smoke and scent from the fires. The vividness of the night sky when the power was out. But mostly it was the silence that was strange. Humans are loud, society is loud, motorcycles and cars and semis fueling leisure and the economy with perpetual sounds. The drunken shouting of the nearby bars, the endless drones of the TVs and music from homes. Nothing anymore. It’s dead quiet.

The grocery store was only a half mile away, a peaceful walk on this sunny and pleasant Thursday in May. Was it Thursday though? Luckily, I had a ton of cash saved up and it had benefited me greatly in the past few months. The agreement as society spiraled was that cash, US Federal Reserve Notes, are still worth something. Even as the economy shuts down like a patient being taken off life support, the forces of supply-and-demand and The Market are still enough to hold the Federal Reserve Note as the de-facto lifeblood of the economy. As others steal, kill, and maim to survive I could still live in a somewhat civilized manner. None of that for me yet, although I’ll l do whatever I need to survive and defend myself. I double checked the location of my pepper-spray bottles and adjusted my shopping bag facemask for comfort.

Another subtle thing that isn’t really that subtle — just ever-present now to a degree that people don’t notice much — is the stench. As the hospitals filled and as crematoriums ran at capacity and as society collapsed around us the infected had nowhere to go. The doctors eventually began turning sick people away; there wasn’t any way to treat the amount of Diseased People with our medical system’s limited capacity. So back home they went, usually to die. It attacks the lungs causing difficulty in breathing until you suffocated painfully in your own fluids. It’s a painful and slow death, one you can feel coming in the next day or two but have no way to avoid it. Some energetic people would put a bullet into their heads, or dangle themselves from the ceiling or a tree, but most clung to the slim hope of survival. Instinct is strong and hope is stronger, even if there is no hope. Knowing they’re going to die, most people hung onto life and suffered until their bodies regretfully shut down. Luckily the screams and gasps we’re faint enough; you only heard them if you were directly outside their homes.

But the stench — the ever-present stench of rotting and decaying bodies holded up in their former homes, now their temporary caskets — permeated the atmosphere. Those without families or friends. Those that would rot indefinatley until society pulled itself together enough to clease the homes. You never knew which homes had corpses in them either, the smells of the bodies intermingling indiscriminately in the wind. A few bodies hanging from trees had been picked clean by mice, birds, maggots, and anything else looking for an easy meal, their skeletons hanging by tendons until even those couldn’t support the weight of the bones. Skeletons in yards under the trees, sometimes the skull and vertebrae still hanging from the branches. It was a grim sight but I was used to it by now despite a vague knowledge of the trauma I’d surely carry around with me for the rest of my life; I would be another survivor of a war stricken with PTSD and substance abuse issues. Curious glances at the remains now and wondering how their final moments were. What would my final moment be? How far away was it? Yet? If? When? Not thinking, I pulled my homemade sanitizer out and sprayed my gloved hands.

Around the corner at the end of the block I ran into a group of three teenagers. I knew they’d be an issue as soon as I saw them. Out to cause trouble for no other reason than to cause trouble with law enforcement either non-existent or busy doing other more important things. Cleaning the dead bodies out of the homes, protecting businesses being robbed and picked clean, or battling the periodic riots. No one cared about some punks beating innocent people up. It was every man and woman for themselves in this world.

They eyed me suspiciously as I tried to ignore them by casually walking past them. Finally one, after looking back and forth to his friends spoke up. “Hey friend, what are you doing today? Out for a peaceful walk?”

“Yes. It’s a beautiful day today, isn’t it?” I replied, once again trying to mind my own business.

“Where are you going? Huh?” They walked closer to me as I walked along the side of the street.

“Just running errands. No big deal. To the store. For food.” I shrugged and walked past them. As I passed them I turned my head slightly to the side to keep their vague shapes in my peripheral, acting as though I was looking at the homes to my side.

“Hey, where are you going? We want to talk to you. Don’t be rude,” one of them said.

And another said, “Yeah, get the hell back here. Fucking punk. Rude ass.”

And then I heard them walking towards me. Vague shapes moving in the blurry corners of my vision. And without thinking my hand was on one of my bottles of pepper-spray. I knew what was about to go down and I was ready. I had plenty of perfect practice over the past few months; you got your ass kicked a few times and you learned quickly.

One mistake the teens made was not wearing glasses of any sort. A rookie mistake really. My hands would be full if they had their eyes covered, but they didn’t and I realized this fact as soon as I saw their group. I’d be fine. As soon as they were behind me, pounced and tensed to strike, I turned and released a fiery spray of concentrated capsaicin completely taking them by surprise.

At first I sprayed each one in the eyes as quickly as I could. Just a small amount to neutralize the threat and cause them some intense burning and pain. Not surprisingly, they started to scream and flail and were no longer a threat. Eventually they became disoriented and fell to the ground a few feet apart, crawling, screaming, writhing, crying and wondering what the hell they were supposed to do next. What went wrong? They thought in bursts of thought interspersed in tiny gaps of the intense pain.

One thing about the lawlessness in the world is that it works both ways, a fact forgotten by any would be criminal punks looking to fuck someone’s day up. And I wasn’t just some innocent victim acting in self defense here, no, these fuckers wanted my blood; I was their prey. But now I was the predator. In this new society you need to teach lessons where lessons need to be taught.

So as they laid there squirming, I walked up to one of them and hosed him in the face with the spray for a few seemingly endless seconds. While the first spray was for self defense, this was for blatant offence. It was to hurt, to cause harm, with zero regard for these people as fellow human beings. His eyes wouldn’t work for another hour now. And then I crouched down, held the can up to his screaming and foaming mouth and sprayed some more down his throat. The cry that came out was from an animal, an animal that had no idea what was going on. His friends heard and started screaming in sympathy and fear over what was happening to him, and what would soon be happening to them. 

I calmly proceeded to the other two and did the same thing to them. More animalistic shrieks and squirming. They tried to pierce some sense of sympathy into my mind. No, it wouldn’t work. Nothing personal, this world was a cold world where justice was in short supply. Sometimes you need to exact cold vengeance on people that deserve it. They would learn if they haven’t learned already.

More hand sanitizer and adjusting my facemask. Just a tiny bump in the road, no big deal, for the current situation in the world. And onward to the store with the screams behind me turning into sad whimpering and then fading with distance. I wondered what chaos awaited me there.

Read The Virus (Part Two), the obvious second part to this story, if you’re interested.

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Untitled

This was a post from my other blog. I think it sort of fits the theme I’ve been keeping here though. Might as well post it.

“So, how have you been the past two weeks?”

Perfect. Happy. Depression was a thing of the past. Totally conquered. I had finally discovered myself. A toolkit of ways to fend off the bad vibes and thoughts. Perfectly comfortable in my skin. Cool, confident, and quiet. Problem solved! Problem solved…Problem solved?

Two days ago. Spiraling. Pointlessness. Anxiety. Depression. Dread. More sleeplessness. 5 a.m. with the sun coming up wondering what exactly life is. Benadryl to sleep; a drug to crutch along. Sleep at any cost. Where’s the purpose? The point? What am I meant to do here? Wasn’t I out of the woods? Wasn’t I happy? Weren’t those damn pills magical and finally fixed me?

“Where do you see yourself in the future.”

I shrug. “I don’t know. I feel like I’m floating through life too scared to make any choice.”

“Sometimes it helps to visualize where you want to be in the future. This will give you purpose and something to work towards.”

Every path is miserable, only changing certain pros for cons. More money, less happiness. More possessions, more responsibilities, less freedom. More attachment. More stuff. More freedom, less security. The grass is always greener everywhere else. Not knowing what I’m meant to do. Knowing there is nothing I’m meant to do and it’s up for me to decide. Being unable to decide anything for fear of what misery each path holds. And all paths hold misery; I always make the wrong choice. Is floating such a bad thing? Is pointlessness such a bad thing? Is there anyone that knows what the hell they’re meant to do, even if there is nothing we’re meant to do? Is anyone as blindly confident that they know where to go? Is this another form of blindness? Is blindness happiness?

Five steps forward and six steps backwards. Seven, perhaps. No progress. No sense of empowerment. No moving forward. Self-discovery? No. Self-confusion and self-loss. When I think I find myself it disappears. Too much effort, too much work. The tools in the kit take too much work to use. Constantly being on-edge, looking for the next crisis. Playing chess with your own brain, trying to bring up thoughts as pawns to try to stop yourself from checkmating yourself. And the opponent is so much more motivated than you, the bad vibes are effortless. The chess grandmaster in your head; checkmated in less than ten moves. When are all my pawns gone? When do I run out of motivation to fight? When does it become easier to give in?

Awake after twelve hours of sleep: still tired. Still groggy. Still sleepy. Five cups of coffee, eight cups of coffee: still tired. But shaky. Just enough semblance of being awake to function. Nicotine, caffeine, give me any -ine you can find, maybe I’ll eventually wake up. Constantly shaking and tired. Constantly anxious. Enough awakeness to write low-quality posts. Not enough motivation to work on a story. Writer’s block that never ends. The constant fight towards some goal you don’t even have. And the tiredness. And time always moving forward. And you not moving anywhere at all except towards old age, failing mind, and death. Float along the river until it’s too late to change your course.

And sleeplessness at 5 a.m. once again. Still tired but awake.

“Is it possible that I like being miserable? Is that a thing?”

“Yes. Misery is easier than working to be happy. It takes less effort.”

The comfort of depression. Not caring. Knowing you don’t care. Knowing you’re functioning as a basic animal just staying alive. Food not for enjoyment but so you don’t feel more miserable. Water because your mouth is dry. Work because of bills and money. Write because there is nothing else better to do. Silence around people — you’re a piece of shit and are miserable to be around — why make everyone else miserable by being a piece of shit? Blaming your mood for being a failure. The comfort of depression. The comfort of giving up. Thirty years of nothing. Thirty years of zero progress. Thirty years of depression. Of never knowing yourself. Of never knowing anything. Of being totally lost, blind, and stumbling through life. How many more years?

“I woudn’t say this if it wasn’t true: you are making progress. I can see it. You just need to keep discovering yourself and moving forward.”

Values. What are my values? I don’t know. Blank slate once again. I am a nobody. The blank whiteboard waiting to have a purpose. The blank piece of paper waiting for a story, a picture, or spilled ink: waiting for anything.

I’m not cut out for self-discovery. I’m an idiot hiding under a mask of being smart. Maybe I shouldn’t know myself. Maybe I should stay blind to everything. The trivial defines me. Deep down? I don’t know. Why do I do the things I do? No clue. Ram through another wall and find another. The wall is well-constructed this time. Smash through this to find an iron gate. And another taller iron-gate. On and on from one problem to the next.

“Self-discovery is like an onion; it has many layers.”

Infinite layers. The radius never shrinks, the circle never gets smaller. One layer leads to another layer. There is no core. There is no bright and shiny center. So much goddamn effort to peel anything away. Years of grime and dirt that doesn’t make any sense. If it does makes sense you can’t do anything with the sense it does make. One more layer down and onto the next. More confusion than before. More paralysis than before. More dread then before. Why am I this way? I hate myself for being this way. Helplessness knowing I can’t be anything else. This is me, and I hate it.

“Bring yourself to the source — whatever that is — and bask in it. Recharge.”

“Think of the love you hold in other peoples’ lives. Think happy thoughts. Think how you’re part of the whole.”

“Decide where you want to be in the future. It’ll help give you something to work towards.”

“Break a large goal down into smaller goals. Take small steps towards the goals.”

“Decide what your values are.”

“Think, ‘Is this thought useful to have right now?'”

“Maybe set boundaries with yourself in your interactions.”

It’s Friday. March 27th, 2020. 5:09 p.m. Now what? Always: Now What?

“You Are Safe”

“What does the voice of Fear whisper to you?”

The lady on the podcast asked the question, a seemingly straightforward question that wasn’t straightforward at all when you get down to it. What was I scared of? Spiders? Not really. Heights? Kinda. But it was implied that she was asking about visceral fear. Not the anxious fear of being late for work, the fear of creepy bugs, or the offsetting disgust that you have when you see someone with rotting teeth but the Fear that lives deep within you. The Fear that you’re not even aware of carrying around, the Fear that only manifests on sleepless nights or during mental breakdowns.

“Fear speaks to you in logic and reason.”

She said these statements with a loving smooth and reassuring voice, a voice that was made to be reassuring on podcasts. A friend had recommended this podcast, a certain Liturgist episode. I was on my way to work and figured I’d give it a shot. There was nothing else to do on the way to work. On a singular, straight road for the next ten miles until I hit the river. Corn on both sides. As flat as can be. The clouds above me so far in the distance that they barely seemed to move. I was both flying down the road at 60 m.p.h. and not moving at all. Corn, clouds, soybeans, farm homes and grain silos. The dank smell of cow and pig shit wafting into my car via the heater. Soon I’d be on dissociation highway; it was Friday after all.

The fear of death?

The scariest thing people usually imagine is death. Death is as inevitable as anything else in the world, the most inevitable thing that anyone could have happen to them. As the church near my house states, “One out of one people will die.” This naturally makes it scary. Someone scared of spiders doesn’t live with the dread of an inevitable giant spider appearing eventually in their lives. Hell, if they’re lucky they could live the rest of their life without seeing another spider ever again. Death is inevitable. It is the final and unavoidable end. The Actual End.

Is death my Fear? No. I’m not terrified by it unless I think about it too much at night. I envision my car hitting a patch of rain water on an oil slick, spinning out of control, and flipping over killing me in the process. Am I scared of this? No. It’d be so fast where I wouldn’t even be aware of it. Only feeling the helplessness of it and going along for the ride.

I’ve felt this way before. The small amount of times you actually face possible death give you a glimpse into what the impending doom is like. The human mind is a screwy thing and I vividly recall one time where I was riding my bike to work for the first time last year. I had ridden up a hill and was deathly tired and exhausted to the point my brain stopped working. Physical exhaustion begets mental exhaustion, the higher parts of my brain weren’t processing like they usually did. And while crossing a busy intersection I somehow thought of only looking one way for traffic; my brain blanked out and I didn’t even acknowledge the fact that vehicles drive both ways along the road. Before I knew what was happening I was in the street being greeted by a very loud, threatening, piercing horn from a truck. A large truck. I knew this because of the horn; a deep, loud horn that you hear from semi-trucks, garbage trucks, and trains. Not the meep, meep of a compact car horn. Primitive brain felt utter terror while conscious brain had the vivid thought of something like this: I’ve made a terrible mistake. This is it.

I looked left and the garbage truck was hauling full speed at me doing at least 45 m.p.h. I couldn’t even think. The world kinda slowed down and I fully accepted how this one tiny mistake and all the other tiny choices in my life led me to this singular moment of being killed by a garbage truck. Just one key mistake, one minor oversight in my exhausted mind meant my death.

And I wasn’t scared. I accepted it. I didn’t even have time to accept it, it just was in that moment. It was a cold fact that I wasn’t scared of: this is how it feels to die. I know it’ll be quick and painless. A quick flip of a light switch. On and then off. Light and then dark. Instantly falling asleep.

I’m not scared of death. Not scared in a way that causes me too much anxiety and dread; I know when the moment comes it’ll just be there and it’ll happen and I won’t be scared. So what is my Fear?

“It assumes the language of Love itself.”

Love itself. I repeated it in my head over and over trying to make sense of it. The idea that Fear masquerades around under the guise of Love. What was love? A self-love? Me trying to protect myself, backing myself into a corner, out of Fear acting as love. Self-preservation. Security. From a paralyzing lifelong insecurity given to me from childhood?

“Fear says, ‘Give me symbols…give me something I can rely on.’”

My mind dances and wanders to places that are dark against my will. Loneliness: why doesn’t anyone see me as a friend like I see them as a friend? Do they? And if they do, why can’t I understand it?  Why, despite all conscious thought, effort, and exercise, do I think everyone fundamentally hates me? How can people make friends so easily while it takes me literal years to open up? Another conscious thought that’s defied by my emotions. I can’t shut them off. Depression: why is life so unfulfilling? Why is it that when I do find something fulfilling it always wanes? Anxiety: why am I always on edge? Why is my fight or flight response constantly engaged? Why do I feel I’m waging a constant war against everything I seem to be? Why do I think so much? Why do I analyze so much? What can’t I let things be the way they will be and be happy with everything?

“Love says, ‘You Are Safe.’”

I am safe. Safe. From Fear. This paralyzing Fear. But the fear is so internalized, a part of myself and how can you be safe when it’s you and your mind that you fear? The main enemy in the world, the main antagonist in your own quest is yourself and all of your insecurities and problems. How are you ever safe from that? Ever? How do you feel safe from yourself?

I am safe: perfect in my own little way despite being unaware of it. An awesome person to everyone else except myself. Conscious thoughts that can’t force their way into the subconscious. A tiny little unique gift of the universe to the universe and all the beings in it. Logically accepting the fact but unable to retain it into your soul. Skin crawling with your own self-hatred and inability to love yourself. I don’t want to accept myself because there is nothing worthy of acceptance. A human pile of flaws that everyone else is too blind to see even though you show them every single day. A certainty that you’re both not accepted by people because you’re a terribly flawed person and being upset that people aren’t accepting you because of your flaws. Please accept me even though I don’t accept myself. Come rescue me from myself if you would.

How do you feel safe from the worst thing in the world, the number one threat to your sanity and existence: yourself? Does she know this? It seems she does; there’s a tone to her voice that seems to know my deepest and darkest secrets. The soothing and reassuring voice that implores me to discover that everything is really fine despite any outward appearance. That the Universe itself is constantly embracing me. That she’s aware that the demon I’m fighting is really myself, and despite feeling safe in the world in general and from others, the thing I’m really scared of is the shit that constantly plays in my head. It’s the opposite of her voice: a cold, harsh, terrifyingly truthful voice saying you are not enough, you are flawed, you will never be happy, you will never find yourself, you will never get anywhere.

“Give me only this moment.”

And so I speed down the road beginning to lose myself. Dissociation comes early today, still miles away from the road that slithers along the river. Feeling like a puppet, a dream, a disconnect with existence itself. Too many thoughts in my head here and there, not enough ways to shut them off. No alcohol because I’m going to work. No calling in because then people will know my problems and ask questions. I’ll never be missed but what if I am missed? More anxious thought fueled by Love and Fear. The overthinking. The questioning. What if those people who don’t care about me will somehow realize my problems and notice me in just the perfect way to think I’m strange? To think I’m insane. To know I’m not all there up in my head. To think I’m not a sane, happy, and regular person. And then I’ll lose them with my own unexplainable actions, once again being the primary threat to myself. Constantly self-sabotage. Constantly fucking things up.

“Love says, ‘Open your arms and fly with me.’”

My hands start to shake and I start to cry. I don’t even know what I’m crying about. Nothing makes sense. Not even the not making sense makes sense. Why can’t anything just fucking make sense? I can’t do this, I can’t go to work. But what else can I do? Sit on the side of the road for the next few hours breaking down? Go to a park and isolate myself? What good will that do? I’ll feel even worse: lost, forgotten, and lonely. As much as I’m positive everyone hates me, I still need to be around them. Curse this social creature that I am. I want to be cold and dead and lifeless, showing up to work like a robot going through the motions. But I can’t. I pull the car over to think. To think about something even though there is nothing to think about.

“Truth has the power to transform Fear.”

Fuck, I want to get out of my head. I need to get out of my head. Just for a moment. Please? Let me the fuck out of my head for just an instant; I don’t want to feel this way. I want my brain to stop. Why won’t the thoughts stop? Where is this safety at? Where is my safe spot? Where can you run to escape yourself?

“You were going that way anyway.”

In the end there is no resolution, no grand realization, no clear way forward. This story doesn’t have an ending. Crying on the side of the road and feeling terrified of yourself eventually passes with time. It turns from sharp self-hatred into mild self-loathing and finally into an empty acceptance. A hollow sort of pain. An empty black hole where your heart pitifully and dutifully beats because what else is it supposed to do? It’s in this wreckage that you find your way forward. The path isn’t clear — in fact it’s hidden — but it’s there. I have no choice. This is my life. I can’t escape myself. I’m temporarily safe from the demon that shares my name. I put the car in gear and set off once again for work. Just another day. Another crisis averted for however long until the next one. And I’m tired and exhausted. I don’t want another crisis. I just want to be safe. And despite the incessant imploring over the car’s stereo I don’t feel safe at all. The next hour, day, week, or month the monster lurks around the corner to attack: Myself.

“Love says, ‘You Are Safe.’”

Chapter 9

Just finish the story. Just write. Just write something. It doesn’t have to be good. The whole point of this adventure was to write without thought and now you’re thinking about it. And thinking about it way too much. Defeating the entire purpose of the project. Right?

People want plot, and world building, and characters, and character development; the story has none of that. No overarching goals, points, themes or anything. It’s all a goddamn mess that doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even know what it means. What’s the point of writing if you yourself aren’t aware of what exactly it is that you’re writing?

The goal here was to farm the subconscious and to hell with a plot. To hell with making sense. Life doesn’t make much sense. What’s the point of writing a cute, tidy story with a hero who saves the world when there are no cute and tidy stories within the actual world? There are no heroes. Everyone likes to be the protagonist in their own stories, but if everyone is a protagonist, who are the villains? We all play each role — protagonist, antagonist, supporting chracters, and nobodys — and we’re nearly unaware of it. Stories are all lies painting the infinite color in life as shades of grey with no basis in reality, and they’re disorienting in their cleanliness. Stories make too much sense. Even the most unhinged horror stories have a plot, an antagonist, and a hero. Even the most unhinged stories and shitty romance novels are cut out of the same essential fabric. Different types of cookies cut with the same Christmas tree shaped cutter. Different flavors, same shape.

People want to escape from life. They want the stories to make sense to escape the life that doesn’t make sense. The themes in the stories speak to something deeper within them. And within all of us. People live in chaos and crave order, some semblance of meaning and clarity that simply doesn’t seem to exist. People want a happy and clean fictional world and I can’t do that. I’m uncreative. I can’t conjure up fantasy worlds and tie the plot into a nice little story. I can’t find an ending to any story. I’m uncreative. I take what I see, copy it nearly word for word, action for action, tweak it a little bit so it’s not blatantly stealing, and that’s what I write. The world doesn’t make sense and that gets copied and pasted directly into the drivel that I write.

But what’s so wrong with people adding their own meaning to the mess? Even if what you write is life as unaltered as it could possibly be, and it doesn’t make much sense, isn’t this like a puzzle for other people? Think of it as a blank sheet of paper: you can do whatever it is you’d like with it. If you want the story to make sense and find it a mess then take the paper and light it on fire. If you think the story needs tweaking, then cut the paper into shapes that you prefer. If you think the story needs some piecing together, fold the paper into an origami frog. If you read if and enjoy it without much thought, take the paper, fold it into an airplane and let it ride along the air currents. Do whatever you want with it: paint on it, write a love letter on it, wipe your nose on it, use it to soak up spilled juice with. As blank as a piece of paper is, let the story be the same. It’s blank, but it doesn’t mean it’s useless.

And you know what else you can do with a blank piece of paper? Write a story on it. A story that is about whatever you want it to be about.