Not Killing People

Hey well I’m about to get probs a bit too honest on this here internet, so mum be prepared and maybe pretend someone else is writin this.

 

Lord knows I been through some dark times, cos I been prayin to him in gasping whispers in the dark with eyes too scared to close but too scared to look at anything too closely.

 

And now I pray in broad daylight as I walk down the street cos I walked right out the other side of the dark and I may look like a crazy person but sometimes looks ain’t deceiving in the slightest and there’s nothing wrong with being crazy if it’s most of us.

 

I wanna write to a very specific people because I don’t remember anyone writing to me when I was locked up in the dark with nothing but words to look to.

 

Lemme give some context.

 

I thought I was destined to kill people from about the age of 15 to 19, when I got diagnosed with a whole upstairs mixup.

 

As a teenager I thought about shooting up my school regularly. I was lucky enough to have the luxury of absolutely no access to firearms. And I do consider that a luxury.

 

All I seemed to feel were variations of rage or despair, not for any good reason, but I’ve come to learn there never is a good reason for these thoughts. They just happen.

 

When I finished school I moved into the city about three months after. I had to pay my rent, bills and food on a casual fast food wage. Didn’t have a washing machine or a bed or a computer. Had a foam mattress with a massive divot in the middle, a cupboard that wouldn’t close and a mobile phone that could only text and call. Obviously that sent me over the edge.

 

I would wander the streets late at night, seeing demons and being absolutely terrified. I was pretty switched on so part of me knew that I was probably mentally ill, but a lot of me was consumed by pain and fear.

 

And I wanted to kill people. Or, at least, I was fixated by the idea that it was something I would end up doing. I would scribble down stories about serial killers in the ends of high school notebooks, get blind drunk on weekends and slowly slip down the slope into hell.

 

There was this one house I would walk past, an old guy who would leave the door open as he watched tv. I would walk past his house after every shift, and each time I would picture walking in there and killing him. Fucken scary right? For everyone.

 

It’s probably the thing in my life I’m least proud of, those thoughts I had at that period of my life. And I got a lot of things to be least proud of.

 

Thing is, I never did it. Never actually hurt a fly on purpose, never been violent in my life unless you count wrestling with my many siblings. And something stopped me there, as it did many times over at many places.

 

And I could say that love and support or taking meds, eating properly or fucken exercising is the key to good mental health, but truth is I didn’t feel I could have any of those things at that point in time. And there will be times in your life when you got nothing but your own sheer will and a destination.

 

So listen, and take this from somebody who’s been down there in the dark with you, though we couldn’t see each other.

 

You don’t want to kill anyone.

 

You want a lot of things.

 

You want love.

 

You want freedom.

 

You want acceptance.

 

You don’t want to be in pain anymore.

 

You want support and you want help.

 

You want life and you want what you know being alive truly means.

 

And you’re missing that.

 

For now.

 

Life is long and roads turn corners. There are people out there for you, and they will come from unexpected places. Even now, alone in the dark, people are fighting battles for you unseen. There is a place for you that is right and good and whole, and that is not a belief of mine, that is a truth I’ve lived to see.

 

I can’t pretend to know how to fix you. You are not a machine, not a maths sum and what you got is more than a broken arm that needs time to heal. You are a lost human being, like the rest of us are lost, though your path has taken you to deeper and darker places.

 

In the end, though you need help and support and all those good things, and though this is sad to say, you need to rely on yourself. And sometimes all you need for that is to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. So here’s me waving a torch for you.

 

Not killing people is the way out.

 

The rest will come as it does, but if you hold to that all the rest is steps forward.

The Mega Sad

Oh lordy drama drama drama. Here the Mega Sad is again and you gonna have to write stuff that makes yours and everyone’s mums capital Worried about your mental health even though this about the healthiest thing you can do for it.

 

The Mega Sad is huge and it dwarfs you, but somehow you can do ok in its shadow. You still have fun, you still have friends, still got love. Still makin shit, and even though it’s sad shit, sad shit can be good too. And it doesn’t mean that your life is bad, or that you need to be consoled or helped. And it definitely don’t mean I need to see a doctor. It just means you gotta use the sad too, that it’s the cloth you gotta cut today.

 

There’s no shortage of sad people to write to, plenty of people on their last legs who don’t have to mope on their lonesome.

 

I ain’t know why I’m makin excuses just to pour my heart out on the internet.

 

Here is the thing I wrote today.

 

I ain’t that sad, mum’s don’t stress.

 

 

White Knuckles

 

This is not the end

 

Though tall waves crash

 

At our thinning shores

 

Though our fields burn

 

And red sparks fall like rain in summer

 

Though people die

 

And die

 

And

 

Die

 

Though this anger

 

Has replaced all hope

 

Though everything we’ve built

 

Fails

 

And falls

 

And eyes above

 

Close

 

Us from their vision

 

Though nothing

 

Will be left

 

Here

 

We will wash up

 

On far off shores

 

With fresh hearts

 

And tear stung eyes

 

We will gasp for breath and

 

Taste clean air once more

 

And though

 

I can’t believe it

 

As I say it

 

It has to be true

 

It has to

 

Because

 

What else is there

 

To hold onto?

The Puck

Hey nerds I’m back in the badly postured writin chair fuckin up my back again after a bit of a break so hi first up. It been a long time since I used my blog for its intended purpose, which was to give you all some bad writing advice which you all so sorely need cos’ you all writing so good, so here some wisdom luv ya.

 

The process never changes. You(me) push yourself real hard to get something done, decide to take a short break to recover, then stop writing for a month or two getting all blocked up on your own juices. There’s only one way to get back on the horse and it aint pretty (the way not the horse, all animals are beautiful).

 

It’s like when you forget to take a dump over the weekend and then you can’t do it during work on Monday for anxiety reasons and suddenly you gotta push out three days of compacted digesteds at once. The next 500 words are gonna be as dreaded and necessary as that shit.

 

It will make you sad. It will make you angry. It will make you react in all the ways you want the audience to from your beautiful and heartfelt words.

 

It will be the worst thing ever written.

 

Good news is after you’ve pushed through you’ll be as close to right as rain as you ever are and you can move on to a fun story about lizard people and ogresses or whatever tickles your grandma. You should delete whatever crap you wrote and definitely never show it to anyone. Anyway here’s mine:

 

Firty

 

Please god let me write something

 

Woop here we go

 

Never thought I’d turn 30.

 

I was a kid when I first started thinking about killing myself.

 

All kinds of crazy and didn’t see much for me but the afterlife.

 

Giufghsiuafsjngafs

 

^ anxiety spasm

 

haha

 

when I was thirteen I would write stories with me as the main character

 

but I’d always die at the end.

 

^ caps lock used to be automatic but now only works like sometimes? I get that I feel it

 

I spent my teenage years in some kind of hell

 

And my twenties in outer space

 

Now I’m here

 

And here is good

 

Here I have space to be happy

 

And pain is temporary

 

^there the caps lock is working again I don’t know. Like half my day is figuring out if I dreamed my problems (exaggeration)

 

wondering now If I’ll post this one or delete it

 

maybe just keep writing it

 

I wish I had the words to explain what life has been to me

 

Not trying to be dramatic shit’s just been real weird

 

And I can only explain snippets

 

And a lot I may have made up. Not even close to sure now

If I had my time again there’s definitely stuff I would have done different

 

But it aint work that way and there’s no point thinking about it

 

I say aint a lot because I read too much achewood when I was severely depressed

 

I would stay awake until the sun rose reading the archives and only go to sleep when the sun came up because I was terrified of monsters

 

I was twenty I think

 

Medication has been a godsend

 

Still unsure about posting this

 

Could be useful as a like this is my process thing

 

Might be more useful to get my sword out (not dick joke) do some magic and write something good

 

Good example of how weird my life is

 

Like I can’t just sit and write a cool fantasy story and be happy about it

 

I gotta make a fool outta myself in the process

 

Ah shit lost my train of thought

 

I was actually gonna write a heartfelt post about suicidal ideation and try and help people

 

Here’s some advice then

 

Don’t stop writing for six weeks or you gonna have to push out the blocked up shitwad in your brain and then hate yourself for how far you’ve fallen

 

Funny I guess

 

More advice

 

Use everything

 

Every last moment is your ammunition

 

If life tears you apart heal your heart into one big fat muscle to crush your pain

 

Spite yourself into a continued existence if you have to

 

Anything is better than being dead

I wanted to say it in a nice way

 

Haha

 

Yeah defs gonna delete this one

Wayshrine

Wayshrine was not what Rotgear expected. A slight left turn and a rickety sign, pointing to what was supposed to be a quick stop and a quiet word to the guys upstairs, turned into a tightly packed town, heavy traffic and several short and sporadic arguments with Nurff.

 

Nurff had already been in two fights since arriving, or more accurately, Nurff had been the two fights, while others had briefly participated and been quickly ejected. While entertaining, and a good way of betting a quick coin, Rotgear was growing tired and thirsty, and had become hopelessly lost amongst the winding stairs, thin canals and low hanging roofs of the alpine city.

 

Rotgear hoisted his sagging pack and stretched his aching shoulder backwards. His legs felt impacted together and his arse felt like it would fall off any second. Nurff was tireless. Her mountainous frame remained straight and her gravelly visage had the same stern expression that she had worn for hours. She stopped suddenly, and Rotgear’s plate rattled with the impact of a living brick wall.

 

“Rotty,” Nurff said, “I fink we are lost.”

 

“Yeah, I thought it’d sink in eventually.” Rotgear replied. “ Let’s drop into a tavern and get our bearings.”

 

Nurff grunted. “Which one of deez is a tavern?”

 

Rotgear looked up the street. It was lined with wooden signs inscribed with strange heraldry and phrases. The Headless Arms, The Dreary Maiden, The Lofty Standards. Rotgear scratched his helmet.

 

“All of them I think.” He said.

 

“Which one den?” Nurff looked up and down the street, swinging her head with all the gravity of a celestial body.

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Rotgear snapped, hoisting his pack. He took a breath, it wasn’t smart to get narky with an eight-foot troll berserker. “If it’s got beer and a chair I’m there.”

 

Nurff looked at him with a blank expression.

 

“Closest one.” Rotgear said.

 

“I’m not sure I like da look of dat one. Looks grimy.” Nurff said.

 

“Well you should pick then.” Rotgear replied, trying to knock the oncoming headache out of his helmet with the palm of his gauntlet.

 

Nurff scratched her mossy chin, then the back of her neck.

 

“What sort of places do you like den?” Nurff asked.

 

“One where I am sitting down and not in the street covered in road dust.” Rotgear sighed, he was pretty sure Nurff was too thick to read tone anyway. “One with a bath would be nice.”

 

Nurff peered at the signs, taking wayward steps up the steep and winding cobblestone. She returned to Rotgear.

 

“I don’t fink none of deez got a bath Rotty.” She said.

 

“Fucking hell.” Rotgear bee-lined for the nearest door.

 

The Sunken Tankard had character plastered over it like makeup on an unsupervised three-year-old. Rotgear pushed the intricately carved cedar door onto a winding, rickety staircase that lead down to a masonry pit swimming with spilled ale and missed spittoon shots. Every grizzled, one-eyed mercenary was flanked by darkly robed and heavily obscured wanderers on one side, and monks and scholars of premium, exotic religions on the other.

 

“Alright, let’s rest our legs and sink some walking booze.” Rotgear said.

 

“You find da table, I’ll get da drinks.” Nurff said. Rotgear nodded and grunted.

 

He scanned the floor for empty seats. There were two at the bar next to a one-legged sea captain obviously on the lookout for new recruits. There was half a table in a dark smoky corner next to a green cloaked stranger who was quite obviously pretending not to be interested in brave souls to help her reclaim her fallen kingdom. A small hand wrapped in vines belonging to a woodland sprite poked through the crowd and beckoned to Rotgear to take a seat beside it.

 

“We’re not gonna get out of here without six months of solid work.” Rotgear muttered to himself.

 

He searched for the biggest, hairiest warrior to take some of the heat off him and Nurff, his eyes resting on a pair of shoulders a full leg of ham taller than the rest of the bar.

 

Rotgear pushed his way into a gap next to a man built like an angry statue. The sound of glass shattering echoed in his helmet and he felt a spray of lukewarm ale between the gaps of his greaves. He kept his head down.

 

“That’s a lot of armour you’re wearin there.” The voice boomed in Rotgear’s right ear like submerged dynamite. Rotgear looked up past a hairy tattooed bicep into a hairy, tattooed face.

 

“You some kind of soldier?” The man asked.

 

“Sellsword actually. Just been successful enough to procure the right tools.” Rotgear cursed himself for saying it and glanced around. A sellsword with a full suit of plate could expect himself to be employed in a place like this within seconds.

 

“I expect you’re somewhat of the same sort.” Rotgear said, his eyes begging for a yes.

 

“Nah, not in the slightest.” The man said. He waved to the bartender. “An ale for my friend.”

 

The bartender drew ale into a large glass mug, filling it 4/5ths full of froth.

 

“New keg, might take a while to settle.” The bartender said, then sniffed.

 

Rotgear clicked his parched tongue and glanced around for a stool for his aching arse. Three were taken up by identically dressed magicians in obscuring blue robes. Though Rotgear was sure it was a single illusionist holding seats for friends, he felt a seat wasn’t worth losing a tooth in the inevitable bar-wide fistfight that would ensue if he started an argument. Instead he gazed like a labrador at a ham sandwich as the bartender drew another inch of beer into his mug of head.

 

“I’m actually a farmer by trade,” The large man interrupted Rotgear’s stupor, “Or at least I used to be.”

 

Rotgear grunted as a fat elf pushed his way next to him at the bar. The strap on Rotgear’s left greave started digging into his thigh.

 

“You see, one dark day last autumn, an evil beast invaded my land and scorched my earth. Slew my best farmhands and kidnapped my only son. And now I can’t find a warrior brave enough to help me no matter how hard I search or what payment I offer.”

 

The man looked at Rotgear with pleading eyes and a quivering lip. Rotgear’s jaw dropped below his gorget.

 

“You’re joking right?” Rotgear said.

 

The large man moved his mouth up and down and leaned back.

 

“You’re six-foot eight. Wide.” Rotgear shook his head, and was butted forward by the fat elf behind him. He steadied himself. “Find a warrior, pick him up, and swing him at whatever beasty is stomping your poor wheat you daft, fuckin… monolith.”

 

The large man’s lip trembled. Rotgear glanced at his beer, it was still half head.

 

“Fuck it.” He said, and slipped back into the crowd behind him. He pushed his way through thirty faces and hundreds of distinguishing features until Nurff loomed in front of him, a spire of rock in a sea of flesh and brightly coloured silk.

 

“Nurff, good.” Rotgear said. “No seats anywhere. Please tell me you got drinks.”

 

“Even better.” Nurff said, the stones on her brow and mouth arranging into a makeshift smile. “Dis guy says he’ll shout us drinks fer da whole night if we help him open his magic puzzle box dat he bought off a demon.”

 

“Ah shit, we’re outta here.” Rotgear said. He grabbed Nurff’s forearm with both his gauntlets and dragged her towards the door.

 

It was snowing outside. Rotgear’s plate misted over, reflecting the dull glow of the street lanterns like somebody else’s Christmas through a frosted glass window. Rotgear let go of Nurff’s fifty kilo forearm and aimed straight at the next bar up, The Far-Flung Gauntlet.

 

He opened the door onto a meaty fist already headed in his direction. It impacted with his helmet and another curse joined the cacophony of sailor’s tongue that filled the gaps between brawlers on the floor and hanging from the rafters of the tavern. Three more hits glanced from Rotgear’s gardbrace as he let Nurff in through the scratched and gashed oaken door and closed it behind her.

 

“Rotty.” Nurff said, a glass tankard exploding on her stone brow.

 

Rotgear ignored her and pushed forward through the brawl. A leg sweep glanced off his schynbald. Someone’s face slammed onto his breastplate. He instinctively broke someone’s forearm with his vambrace.

 

“Rotty!” Nurff called after him. She heaved a drunkard back into the crowd with her right arm as she strangled another with her left.

 

Rotgear pulled a stool out from under the bar. Someone grabbed it and shattered it over Rotgear’s back. He winced and stood, gesturing to the bartender for ale. Nurff joined his side.

 

“Rotty.” She said.

 

The bartender slammed a pewter tankard onto the bar, froth covering it like a cloak. Rotgear reached for it as a dwarf slid down the bar on his stomach, clearing it of drinks and peanuts. He turned, slid back through the mob, and out the front door.

 

Rotgear stomped out the door and hooked right for the next tavern over. Nurff emerged behind him, brushing angry dwarves off her shoulders.

 

“Third time’s always a charm.” Rotgear muttered, his voice growing more and more high-pitched. “Rule of threes. I ever tell you about how three is the number of divinity?”

 

He stepped through the door of The Leisure Chest, the red lantern above it bouncing off his helmet with a sharp ping. He glanced around then quickly turned his eyes down, using his gauntlet as a makeshift blinker.

 

“Ah shit.” He said.

 

Nurff squeezed her way through the door behind him.

 

“Err, Rotty? Something very strange is going on ere.”

 

“Yeah, yeah I know Nurff.” Rotgear waved her forward. “Just keep yer head down and don’t say yes to nothing that aint a big cold beer and a chair.”

 

He glanced up again.

 

“Actually forgo the chair.” He said.

 

They moved forward. Every cry or giggle he heard made Rotgear shrink into his breastplate. A figure stepped in front of him.

 

“You lookin for a good time soldier?” A smoky voice said.

 

“Nope, definitely not. Looking for a terrible time actually. Just a real shit of a day is what I’m after.”

 

“But Rotty…” Nurff said behind him. Rotgear said a word he didn’t know he knew. “I fort we were looking for a good time.”

 

“Hear that? She’s lookin for a good time. Aim all of your good times in her direction while I keep walkin.” Rotgear said, pushing past and reaching the bar. He put his gauntlets on the counter, took a deep breath and whispered.

 

“Beer and a chair.”

 

He looked down beside him. A stool sat empty by his hip. He dragged it over, adjusted the sword on his belt, and sat his aching arse.

 

“Halfway there.” He said, then waved to the bartender.

 

The bartender ambled over with a seaman’s gait, smiling with wooden teeth the same colour as his rugged complexion.

 

“A drink for the gentleman?” He asked.

 

“Ale. Big as you got.” Rotgear said.

 

The bartender drew a foot-and-a-half tall stein from under the bar, flipped it, then started pouring. Amber liquid filled four fifths of the glass, leaving a creamy head pouring over the side like a waterfall just being roused from winter.

 

Rotgear lifted the glass and sank a mouthful. His heart sank with it. He slammed the stein back down, spraying his stubbled chin with the contents.

 

“You’re joking right?” He said.

 

“The bartender shrugged, returning to polishing filthy glasses.

 

“Non-alcoholic beer. In a fuckin’ brothel.” Rotgear wiped the froth from his upper lip with his palm.

 

“Well we can’t have drunk patrons around with the… you know.” The bartender said, wiping his glass with the enthusiasm of a primary school bully at a spelling bee. “It’s not very safe.”

 

Rotgear pulled at his face. He felt tears sting his eyes for the first time since he had seen his most recent best friend take the angry end of a cannonball.

 

“It’s fine. It’s fine.” He said to himself, barely audible among the crowd of groans and squeaking bedsprings. He stood and adjusted his sword belt. “Right. If I’m gonna have a bad time I’m gonna do it on my lonesome and in the bloody quiet.”

 

He stood up, put his hand over his eyes, and walked out the door.

 

Nurff joined him shortly after. Rotgear pitched his tent in the middle of the street, his sabatons sliding on the snow piles building between the cobblestones. Rotgear ignored Nurff, keeping his back turned as he tried to prop the tent poles beneath the canvas. He swore and slipped backwards, Nurff caught him by the collar and lifted him to his feet with a fist the size of a keg.

 

“Rotty…” She began. Rotgear interrupted her.

 

“Say what you like Nurff, I aint going into any more bloody taverns. A town with hundreds of em and I can’t even get me a beer and a chair. It’s enough to turn a man into a bloody poet.”

 

Rotgear sat down cross-legged. He pulled a waterskin from his pack and drank from it, then rummaged around for dry trail rations. Nurff hunched down next to him.

 

“We’ve been miserable walkin for three weeks straight, so I don’t think another night or week or month is gonna do us any worse.”

 

Laughter and cheers erupted from a tavern across the road, then the sound of a hundred glasses clinking.

 

“What a miserable place this is.” Rotgear said, chewing the heel of bread with difficulty.

 

Nurff stood without a word. Rotgear adjusted, trying to get his belt buckle from out of his stomach. His armour scraped on the cobblestone. Nurff crossed the street to the loud tavern, ducking her eight-foot frame under the doorway.

 

Rotgear turned, trying to look over his shoulder, but couldn’t get his chin over his gardbrace. He heard loud swearing, then a crash as a patron exited via the window and rolled down the steep footpath.

 

Rotgear stood quickly, his hand grasping the pommel of his broadsword without asking his brain first. Nurff exited moments later, one fist grasping the backs of two shoddy wooden chairs, the index finger of her other hand slipped between the handles of two glass steins overflowing with frothy beer.

 

Nurff lumbered over to him, her hobnailed boots crunching on fresh snow. She placed the chairs down carefully, then grasped Rotgear by the shoulder and neatly placed him on the seat with a beer in hand. She sat opposite him, the chair groaning under her weight.

 

“I fink you’re right Rotty.” She said. She drank from her ale, noticed a tooth wedged between her knuckles and flicked it onto the cobblestone.

 

“Bloody miserable place dis is.”

Leaners

I had another premonition the night before my pension review. I was in one of those houses made up from many memories, filled with so much déjà vu I felt nauseous. It was half lit by flickering candles, a thin wall of warmth barely staving cold panic. I argued with my brother, I can’t remember what it was about. I grew rapidly more angry, started swearing and barking. My vision blurred.

My heart pounded. I lost control of my arms and they fell heavy to my sides. I stumbled, collapsed. I couldn’t move on the floor but my eyes were open. Something moved in the shadows under the couch. I tried to say “Get me a mirtazapine.” but I couldn’t speak, could barely breath. My vision faded out.

The review lasted fifteen minutes. There were a lot of questions. I didn’t know the answers to most of them.

*

My employment consultant seemed angry with me in my first appointment. She said she was jetlagged, but I knew it was because on paper I was another deadshit who had been sitting on my ass for five years, smoking weed and living off the government.

One of her colleagues looked at my file. He was very friendly.

“I see what they’ve done here.” he said. He even seemed nice when he was angry. “They get someone in for fifteen minutes and think they’ve got the whole story.”

He turned to me.

“Look I’m sorry to break this to you, but you’re going to lose the pension. You need to get organised and start making a case for your appeal.”

I went quiet, nodded a lot. My provider told me she was an empath and that she only got sent the “special cases”. She said she would look after me.

I gave my resume to the Empath to hand out to potential employers. There was nothing in the qualifications section. I’d dropped out of a creative writing course at uni and had been freelancing ever since. Writing whatever I felt like and taking jobs where I could.

The Empath set me up with a course for a Certificate III in hospitality at a nearby RTO.

“If you don’t get a call within 5 minutes walk up around the corner and ask about it.” She said.

I was panicking and sweating as I left, smoked two cigarettes as I walked up Brunswick Street. I walked into two other RTO’s before I found the right one.

They handed me a form to fill out. I sat down, wrote my name. The words on the page swam. I didn’t have any of the numbers I needed. I asked someone for help and a polite blonde lady filled the form out for me.

I asked how long it went for and she told me it was Monday to Wednesday for the next 12 weeks. I thought about losing the pension and how much rent was and the Japan tickets I had bought in a fit of enthusiasm. I thought about the novel I had been writing every day for the past few weeks and all the plans that seemed to be slipping through my fingers. I threw up on the walk home.

*

I walked in the next morning late and panicking. The trainer was an elderly, kind-hearted barkeep. He told me to sit down and not to stress.

There were seven in the class. Smiling mum who liked Tony Abbot, girl who laughed too loudly at every joke, homeless kiwi twenty-year-old, girl who was never there, meek metal dude and Ipswich girl with very blue eyes. I was already two days behind but I finished the week’s module in twenty minutes.

I slept past my alarm on the first Monday. I had gone to bed at 3am the night before. I texted kind-hearted barkeep and said I wouldn’t make it in. Kind-hearted barkeep sent two texts back.

“Try to come in if you can.”

“Sometimes we need to push ourselves.”

I had a panic attack at midday, took my meds and knocked myself out until the sun went down.

*

That Wednesday we went on an excursion to the casino. We met out the front; I was the first one there. Meek metal dude arrived a short while after and lifted his sunglasses.

“Are my eyes red?” he asked.

I grinned.

Kind-hearted barkeep didn’t realise we couldn’t bring bags into the casino so he holed up in the library and sent us over in groups to take notes. Ipswich girl and I were paired together. We grabbed drinks and bee-lined straight for the smoking area.

We smoked, drank and talked, mainly about our partners. She told me she was having trouble with her boyfriend. He had been going out all night drinking and not letting her know. I told her she needed to get that guy under the thumb. We bullshitted all of the answers and walked back ten minutes late. I didn’t know what kind-hearted barkeep expected.

*

The second Monday I slept through my alarm again. I didn’t text kind-hearted barkeep, let his call ring out. He texted me.

“You obviously aren’t coming in but will you be in tomorrow to do the assessment?”

I walked in about 11:30 and completed the week’s module in twenty minutes.

I spent most lunch-breaks with meek metal dude. I smoked and he puffed constantly on an e-cigarette. Every lunch break he would turn to me and ask “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” and I would say yes and we would walk down the street to the pub. We would drink a jug of cheap beer and talk about medication and weed and booze. We came back ten minutes late every day.

Meek metal dude wasn’t doing great that day. The e-cigarette shook in his hands and he was as quiet as the first day I’d met him. We smoked out the front after class. He said he was stressed about a psych appointment that afternoon. I offered to buy him a beer and we walked down to the pub.

I bought a jug and tried to pour it the way kind-hearted barkeep had taught us. The head overflowed onto the table and I inhaled bubbles as I drank. Meek metal dude talked a little, about how his girlfriend thought he was cheating. About how he had been waking and baking lately, drinking every night. I tried to keep him distracted. He seemed alright by the time I stumbled home.

*

Ipswich girl with very blue eyes showed up three hours late the next day. She had been missing two days out of three and looked in rough shape. Kind-hearted barkeep looked stressed. Attendance had been poor and he was worried that the course would get cancelled again. It had happened earlier, only going ahead this time because I made up the numbers at the last minute. He said he didn’t get paid if no one showed up.

Meek metal dude, Ipswich Girl and I smoked out the front at lunch. Ipswich girl was silent. I asked if she was okay. She said that she was in hospital the day before. She had collapsed in the shower. They gave her a catscan because they thought she had a tumour, but she knew it was because she was too nervous to eat.

She was going to text kind-hearted barkeep but she was afraid.

“I thought he would be on my back about it, like every time. Because I’m not, well, you. He treats you different.”

I thought about all the people who had been so helpful to me, even though I was flaky and didn’t keep in contact. I thought about all the special treatment I get that seems to be a given, that I don’t have to work for.

“You have to be open about it.” I said. “Tell him what’s going on. He understands, he’s suffered anxiety and depression before.”

Everyone has.

*

I slept through my alarm again the next Monday. Woke up ten minutes before class, considered texting kind-hearted barkeep. I came in half an hour late. Kind-hearted barkeep congratulated me.

He told the class about his wife. It was the first time since the first day that everyone had showed up. He said it was the anniversary of his wife’s death, that the previous night was rough.

He spoke about how he had started getting anxiety after his wife died, had a heart attack, gotten depressed. He said that he started drinking, knocking back a six-pack and a bottle of wine every night. He necked an imaginary drink.

He said that he’d decided to kill himself one night. There was a tree in the backyard, a branch at the perfect height to tie a rope around. He got blotto, walked outside with the rope, thought about his kids and went back inside. He tried to do it again three years later but the tree had grown and the branch was out of reach.

“You’re not like my other classes.” He said. “You all need a lot of T-L-C. Once you put yourselves out there you will gain confidence. Remember, work on technique and the speed will come.”

*

The Empath drove me over to a small teashop about a 45 minute walk from my house to set up work experience. She was sick with the Brisbane flu, but made it in specifically to drive me because she liked me. The boss seemed friendly enough; she was an elderly lady with white hair, pale skin and thick glasses. An Irish guy with a curly moustache would be training me.

I was panicking on the drive back. I had almost gotten in several fights with Irish guys because I couldn’t understand the accent. My hair wouldn’t stay tied back and I had been too nervous to speak throughout the whole interview.

I thanked the Empath for setting up the work experience.

“I really want this to work for you.” She said. “You’re different than the other cases I get. I think you’re lovely.”

I was quiet for a second, had trouble making words.

“Ah, I am alright,” I said. “I could be taller.”

She laughed and bought me donuts.

*

I woke up late the next day, didn’t have time for a coffee or a cigarette before work experience. My girlfriend accidentally ironed a hole into my shirt and my hair still wouldn’t stay back.

The pace was already frantic at the shop when I got in. There were four high teas planned for the first two hours of my shift. Irish guy rushed through a tour of the store. I struggled to make out what he was saying.

He set me on folding boxes. I couldn’t complete one. He asked me to grab some quiches out of the oven. The cooks out the back loomed silent as I fumbled the quiches onto the floor. Coffee cups rattled in my hands as I brought them out to customers. They asked me if it was my first day.

The boss set me on dishes so I would stop getting in the way. I struggled to get everything into the right place. The trays started stacking up across the sink. I kept drying dishes with a tea towel and the boss kept telling me to let them air dry. I got angry, snapped back at her. She gave me a lecture about health and safety. I nodded and practised active listening.

I looked at the huge pile of dishes, felt tears sting my eyes. I thought about how I was going to lose four hundred dollars a fortnight from my pension, thought about how I was going to make rent, thought about Japan slipping through my fingers. I thought about how all I ever wanted to do was sit down and write every day, that it was all I was capable of. I tried to breathe and gasped.

I put down the tea towel and walked up to the boss. I couldn’t look her in the eye. I said I couldn’t make it through the shift without having a fucking panic attack. I didn’t want to get in the way any more than I had. I left.

I bought a pack of cigarettes with the last of my cash, shook as I rolled one, cursed myself for being a fucking adult and not being able to get through three hours of doing dishes without fucking crying.

My head was aching from tying my hair back. I got home and took two ibuprofen from a packet on top of my brother’s chest of drawers, sat down and smoked cigarettes with my housemates. I felt more relaxed talking to them, then started feeling very tired. I lay back on the couch.

“I think I am adjusting to not having a headache?” I said. My eyes were closed.

I tried to lift my arms but they felt very heavy. I frowned, sat up and then hunched over. My housemates went silent. I said that I was going to lie down. I stood, swayed a bit. My arms fell to my sides. I got to the door, stumbled and leaned against it. My heart was beating hard.

“I don’t know what’s going on.”

My housemates got up and put my arms over their shoulders. I went limp but my mind was racing. I breathed rapidly. They supported me and lifted me to the couch. I fell onto my face. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My vision turned into a tunnel, at the end was an image I could barely see. A horrible face or pattern. My heart thumped in my ears.

My brother started arguing with my friend about what they needed to do. I tried to breathe slowly. My other housemate said to just let me lie for a second. I tried to speak.

“Get me…”

I breathed in and out.

“Get me a mirtazapine.”

My brother rushed into my room, came back with the little pink pill. I tried to sit up, asked him to help me. He lifted me and I slumped slightly forward. I asked him to get me water, then to put it in my hand. I sighed in frustration and asked him to help me lift it to my mouth. I swallowed.

They went to go outside. I had felt paralysed like this before and I knew if I was left alone I would start getting really horrible hallucinations. The face flashed in and out of my vision.

“Can you…” I managed to open my eyes. My housemate was sitting across from me. He looked scared. “Just sit with me for a minute?”

The room was lit with a dull orange glow. I couldn’t turn my head to figure out where the light was coming from. I frowned.

“This is a lot like seroquel.” I said. “Fuck.”

I asked my housemate to check my brother’s chest of drawers.

I had taken 400mg of seroquel, twice my brother’s already heavy dose of bipolar medication. I stopped panicking, felt a rush of calm. I was still hallucinating, but I laughed with my housemate. I lay back down, realised I was stuck like that. I couldn’t see if anyone was still in the room with me.

“What a life.” I said. I wasn’t sure if anyone heard.

*

At my next appointment I asked the Empath to call the boss of the cake shop and tell her I was sorry. The Empath seemed very tired. We were both quiet. I sat slumped as she typed into the computer.

“I called up Centrelink.” I said. “I’m too late to appeal the disability pension.”

The Empath looked concerned.

“I know you’re angry, but they are just doing their job.” She said.

“I’m not angry.” I said. “I understand they are trying to help, trying to get me out there. I’m not angry with Centrelink, with the bureaucracy. I’m frustrated. Someone in my position is bound to be frustrated.”

“I’m sick of being a burden.” I said.

“You’re not a burden.”

“Yes I am.” I said. Now I was angry. “I’m lumped from one person to the next and they are all in charge of fixing me.”

“I’m frustrated because I know what I’m meant to be doing. It’s all I ever wanted since I knew it was a thing I could do. And I was doing it, I was writing hard every day and now that is just getting further away.”

She was silent. I was near tears. She said she would leave the next appointment for a couple of weeks. As I was walking out she told me she liked to sing really loud by herself when she was angry. I said I like to do sword training because there is nothing like pretending to hit someone 200 times with a broadsword when you’re angry. She laughed.

*

I slept through my alarm again the next Monday. I thought about texting kind-hearted barkeep. Thought about how I had only missed one day so far, about how I was acing every assessment. I actually liked the course, despite never wanting to work in hospitality, despite me being useless in the craft and it serving no purpose but to make someone else think I was doing something when I could be doing something far more important.

I walked in and made it on time. Kind-hearted barkeep greeted me smiling. I was the first one there. He’d set me up with work experience at the cafe downstairs, the one that only used comic sans font and sold savoury muffins wrapped in glad wrap. The boss was a nice lady who already knew my coffee by heart. She was very excited that I was starting there.

I finished the week’s module in twenty minutes. The excursion that week was an unsupervised pub-crawl.

Spooks and Specks

Oh lordy I been getting spooked real bad lately. Those of you who are a big hot mixup of a little nervous, a little psychic and two steps from batshit will know what I’m talking about. One minute you are goin about your sad old day fine as normal and then suddenly there is something Else in the room. This can range from your regular old lady ghost sitting at the bottom or next to your eyelids, to a fully-fledged scary clown demon somehow in all of your cupboards simultaneously. No one can know how it came to this, but it was definitely because your were shirking your duties on the internet and saw a facebook ad for a scary movie.

Regardless, you gotta do something cos you can’t just spend your days sittin and sweatin with your back to the wall until your wife’s little brother who is taller and wider and hairier than you gets home and there is another target in the house which reduces your chance of getting ghost killed by 50%. Here is:

 

Operation Opposite Coward: Grand Strategy for Ghost Fights

 

Stage One: Getting the Population On Side

 

The population is you. Enemy population is spooky ghost.

You will probably not be prepared to fight a ghost. Money has it that less psychic adults have told you the majority of your life that anything that spooks you doesn’t exist. Do not be one of those people. They are always the ones that the monster goes for first, which is fair enough. I would be angry if someone said I do not exist. Or at least perplexed. I clearly do and that is a rabbit hole I am not gonna crawl down in cos my brain and head are too big.

If you gonna fight the spook on its terms you’re gonna have to do some weird things that would be inadvisable to tell your girlfriend or psychiatrist about. You’re gonna need some magic, a few delusions of grandeur and a deity or two just to be on the safe side. I find it helps to realise that 100% of everybody has stupid ideas about reality and at least yours helps you fight monsters.

 

Stage Two: Arming the Troops

 

It is a bad idea to go into this empty handed. Karate does shit all against ethereal creatures.

Guns also are useless because they kill people not dead people. Tasers are tools of torture and should be avoided. What you need is some straight up +1 or more magic items. Luckily the lord did see fit to gift you with an imagination, which is why you are in this damn mess in the first place but hey nobody real ever wanted their life to be boring.

Right now, on and around my desk I got a talking skull, a magic statue of a knight holding a very non-magic letter opener, a badly whittled magic wand, a straight up Gandalf staff I made with my father, a wizard hat with a couple of gold stars left sewn into it, and a giant Templar broadsword forged and reforged in Canada by Canadians. I use all of these things at various times in various pre-writing rituals, ghost/demon fight preparations or to make me look stupid in front of myself and myself only. I’m not going to tell you how the pre ghost fight ritual goes because you gotta make up your own one this ones copyright. Just know that in the otherworldly realms your imagination is your greatest weapon, your best friend, your direst enemy and a complete red herring. You gotta use it or it will use you.

 

Stage 3: D-day

 

Now comes the hard part. You gotta put your top one fantasy bittersweet emotional resolve soundtrack on and get yourself in a headspace to die. You are almost definitely not gonna die from this but it helps to Be There.

It’s good to have a bit of a ritual. Prayer or magic words or like slappin yourself medium hard in the face till you’re pissed off. Look back on your life and remember all the things you are fighting for and then remember some more important things because really what you’re fighting for is 30 minutes in a house by yourself without being scared of your own imagination. When you are like 80% ready you should just go for it because trust me you aint gonna get readier.

Figure out where the ghost is, which is easy because the ghost was inside you all along, and then just charge at it. Don’t break into a run because houses are small and you need a satisfying amount of time for this, just kinda walk real hard and purposeful. Start forcefully saying some magic words or the lord’s prayer or screaming “DEATH” in that half-whisper half-scream thing so you don’t freak out the neighbours too hard. Chase that ghost around your house, around all the scary basements and cupboards, just fuckin stamp around chasing spooks like the god damn hot crazy mess you are because you’ve got this far and it aint done you no bad.

You will feel it go, you will feel its fear. It will flee you and leave your place. The weight of its gaze will lift from you and you will be freed from the shackles of terror. At this point you should allow yourself a small celebration of music and a glass of whiskey and then you should probably do something important with your precious time.

 

Plan B:

 

Reading a magazine, talking to a friend on the internet or going for a short walk are also good options.

Now the Hard Part

I been gettin Disheartened lately. There dang be a great pile o’ shit in the world to clean up, and sittin on the internet lookin at it instead of doing like fuckin anything sure aint helping. Thing is, I can’t claim to be on the right side. The sides don’t exist. The lines on the map and the graphs showing which way our politics point at are all just pretty pictures we drew because humans are lost and scared little idiots lookin for something to cling to to make them feel like the good guy.

I gotta believe that at our core we all are good. I gotta believe that humans get scared, lose their way and themselves. I have to believe this is not going to work if some people get crushed for some to get their heads above the filth. I have to believe this because an evil person is not something I can understand. I can understand getting lost, going so far down a hole that you can’t see the way out. I can’t understand evil, and it scares the shit out of me.

What comes next is going to be fucking hard. We are going to have to take our insides out, spread them on the floor and see what is ours and what is killing us. There is no escaping this. Left and right, right and wrong we have to go through ourselves piece by piece and figure out what is wrong with us. Because we are still us, we all share humanity, regardless of our hate, regardless of our distance, and its never going to work if anyone gets left behind.

 

Pieces

 

How did we get hurt so bad

 

We are blown apart

 

Our guts are on the floor

 

Our hearts are torn

 

And we cling to our fear

 

As it shreds us

 

We drown

 

With those we hold under

 

And we have fallen

 

With those we have pushed over the edge

 

We have left the windows open for the dark

 

We have let the cold in

 

 

Pick up your body parts

 

Do not be afraid to scream

 

For you are needed

 

Every last piece

 

Forget what was lost

 

And do not scramble for what is left

 

Man is more than this

 

Our souls are needed now

 

A nightmare

 

Can become a dream

 

And we can wake from this hell

 

Whole again