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

Human Soup

The world done full of some messed shit at the moment.

 

We got fascist governments killing pedestrians with machine guns just for bein angry.

 

We got teenagers who are bad at having sex killing kids with machine guns because they are angry.

 

Machine guns are used in a variety of places for very negative reasons.

 

I for one am starting to think machine guns were a bad idea in the first place.

 

If you reverse the words machine gun you get organ sword.

 

And if angry teenagers who are bad at having sex be nice to ladies instead of swearing on the internet they have a much higher chance of using their organ swords for good and bam that’s at least part of the problem fixed.

 

Many if not more problems can be fixed if you do the opposite of swearing on the internet or using machine guns for any purpose.

 

Our government is running detention camps for people who use boats to run away from machine guns.

 

I don’t know how to unpack that.

 

Like regardless of the last half of that sentence detention has worked exactly never.

 

I never once saw a kid who went to detention suddenly turn into a real good rule-abiding student and become school captain.

 

And running away from machine guns seems like the right thing to do anyway.

 

If I am getting shot at by machine guns the last thing I’m gonna think about doing is buying a plane ticket and filling out a visa application.

 

I’m going to run away from the fucking machine gun.

 

My border protection policy would be let them fucking come we did it for all the white people.

 

I do not like the border force at all they are mall cop Nazis.

 

I had a point and I strayed, like Australia had a point, which was be a friendly beach country who didn’t care what hat you wore.

 

What I’m trying to say is that there is so much messed up shit going on around in real life.

 

So stop feeding people through wood chippers on my television shows.

 

I have spent all my life avoiding watching people get fed through wood chippers.

 

Or having their heads explode.

 

Or like their necks broken so they hang in a weird way.

 

At no point in my life have I watched a movie and said “I would have liked it better if I had seen some guy get blended.”

 

Did all the guys who got detention for showing other nervous kids videos of people suiciding on 4chan grow up to become the movie directors?

 

Who the fuck finds that funny?

 

You know what if find funny?

 

Jokes.

 

Or dogs making funny noises on the internet.

 

Not human soup.

 

Did I go soft in my old age(28/9M)?

 

Is it because I have genuine human connection now and all I can picture is people I like and trust going into my café bender with some chump’s mango smoothie?

 

Was it always like this? Did I just artfully dodge all the messed shit in my childhood with my thankfully overprotective parents?

 

Or do we just have the technology now to actually show every one of people’s insides instead of just off screen blood splatters?

 

I just don’t think it’s a good use of our developments in cgi.

 

In saying that I once pulled a dwarf’s head off in dungeons and dragons and I used to regularly pushed people down stairs in GTA 4.

 

I guess humans are just complicated creatures.

 

And each one of us has their own reasons

 

As to why

 

We shouldn’t have machine guns.

The Nap

It is three thirty on a Wednesday afternoon and I am capitol Tired from staying up late with my dad and Claire watchin Westworld and eatin deer. I got nothing much more to do with my afternoon and it is definitely naptime. I set my alarm for one hour’s time, lie down and get a vision.

 

A huge orange serpent with gross purple growths fills my sight, staring me in the eye as it approaches. I feel something biting my heel, a sharp stabbing pain that grows duller as my eyes get heavier and I fall

 

Asleep.

 

Back at my previous house there was a park nearby that I often had to walk through alone in the dark. There was a bridge over a creek, and as I walked across the hairs would stand on the back of my neck. My vision would fill with the face of a giant serpent and I would panic and pray but keep my pace as I crossed, feeling the malice grow small behind me as the park faded to the quiet suburbs surrounding the hospital district.

 

My alarm goes off at 4:30. I lift my face from the pool of dribble, set the alarm for another half hour, swap sides on the pillow and roll over.

 

I am small, maybe half the size of a mouse, wearing a worn blue robe and a brown wizard hat, my sword is on my belt. I am on a large wooden table, exploring with a small sparrow.

 

We come across a large wooden cage on the table. The door is open and we peer inside, the wooden bars as large as the pillars of a cathedral. A giant brown snake, probably regular sized because I am small, lunges out and catches the sparrow in its jaws, twisting it horribly.

 

I draw my sword and strike the serpent, it releases the sparrow and I lose sight of it. It buffets me with its body and knocks me to the side. I strike at it, wreathing my sword in fire, but the serpent draws away. It stares at me with one huge and horrible eye.

 

I feel my sword weaken and start to turn into tinfoil. I hold it together with sheer will and leap towards the serpent. I close my eyes, everything turns black except for the bright silver line of my blade. I spin, speeding up. My sword sounds like a helicopter blade, starts breaking the sound barrier.

 

The blade hits the serpent repeatedly in the face. It draws upwards, towering above me, and knocks my feet out from under me with its tail. I lie on my back, sword pointed up, as the serpent stares down at me with its wild, terrible eyes.

 

It goes to lunge and I know I have to use my last resort. I draw a line of white down from the sky to the ground. My blade extends in both directions, stabbing up through the roof of the serpent’s mouth and down straight through my stomach.

 

The serpent’s giant head slips down my blade and rests on my body. I feel pain and sickness in my stomach, feel life bleeding from my middle. I roll over under the serpent’s head and curl up, feel heaviness fall over my limbs. I want to sleep.

 

I hear Claire’s voice cry from the back of my head, sounding stricken and panicked.

 

“Sam, live!”

 

Electricity shoots through my body from my wound. I convulse and I

 

Wake.

 

I see my arm and the pillow, I’m lying on my other side now. I try to move but my body won’t work. All my limbs feel dead. I close my eyes, try to will myself to move. I lift my head up, put my arms beneath me.

 

I wake, see my arm and the pillow. Try not to panic. I move my other arm slightly. I can’t see it. I pull the pillow out from under me, feel my head drop in slow motion.

 

I wake, start to panic. I close my eyes and start to pray.

 

“Dear God, please wake me up, please let my body work.”

 

I am picked up, thrown across the bed. I wake see my arm and pillow. I close my eyes and pray.

 

Waves crash down on me, roll me over and over on sand. I wake. I close my eyes. I pray. I am thrown across the room and crash into a crowd of shopping trolleys. I wake see my arm and pillow. I can’t move. I pray. I

 

Wake

 

And see my arm and pillow. I move my arm. It feels normal. I lift myself off the bed, lift the sweaty sheet from me, sit on the side of the bed, stark naked. My body feels real but my head is distant, like it is sitting behind me. I put my hand on my forehead, try to make sense of my sight.

 

My phone alarm goes off.

Moped

Well my babies I am three days deep in a sad way for no real reason and that’s the way of things. I been huffin down my meds and forgettin I got the swings for nearly ten years and every now and then it creeps up on me and hangs on to the back of my shirt for a couple of sunups until I got the good sense to turn around.

One good thing I can tell you my bipolar buddies is that the cycle aint so vicious if you look closely and see that the blades on it are just taped on triangles of silver cardboard and if nothin else you got probable cause to really feel the sad songs even if things aint goin wrong.

So without further french here is this:

 

Get the Most out of your Bipolar Mope with our 10? Step Plan

 

Step one:

Get home from work resolved to do more than any human can get done in four hours

 

Step two:

Fuckin just refresh social media until you are Both: too angry to think straight And: too sad to do anything useful

 

Step 3:

Nap for just long enough to feel guilty but definitely not long enough to stop feeling tired

 

Step four:

Youtube time! Aim for songs that are either apocalyptically depressing or songs with a quiet energy and ironically depressing lyrics. Throw in some vines from cruel people to really fuck yourself up

 

Number five:

Resolve to write something that is incredibly important and heartfelt and will voice the pain of your generation and help people and bring about world peace and something that will definitely just make you sit at the computer screen staring with your head in your hands for so long that your hair sticks permanently up like you’ve been standing in one of those wind chambers where people desperately try to grab money

 

Six:

Click on an endless stream of Warhammer memes until you come across one of the gross ones of a space elf with grotesquely large boobs. Get angry with nerds. Tab back to empty word document. Repeat

 

Step Seven:

Probably a (fucking) great time to think really hard about your life while lying on a couch with your eyes closed

 

Step Ate:

Make sure you hit that dosage of caffeine where it has the opposite effect on you

 

Step Nine:

Wonder why you feel so terrible when literally everything in your life is going so well (Answer: you should feel bad about yourself)

 

Step Ten:

Remember that you have bipolar and that you are an idiot and none of this process was actually important because you are just tired and hot and probably need a good nights sleep and some chocolate

 

Step Ten:

Make 1(one) joke about it and put it on an internet

Christmas Meat

The dray horse eases the cart along a heavily rutted track surrounded by twisted gums. I walk alongside the front, clearing dried branches to either side while mum sits on top with the reins sitting loosely in her hands. Mum wears a wide-brimmed witch’s hat to keep the blinding sun from her eyes. It shadows most of her face, leaving only her mouth visible, set into a bored expression.

The road splits into two parallel tracks, with a line of twisted lantana between them. Branches cover both sides.

“Ut.” Mum says, pulling on the reins and clicking her tongue.

I step forward and start clearing branches from the left track. I step on a pile of sticks and they crack and fall beneath my feet, revealing a cave that dips down into blackness. I wave at mum to back up and she steers the cart to the right track.

Cool air blows from the cave beneath, inviting in the searing heat of the summer day. I lean my head down and feel the breeze on my hair. I call down into the hole and my voice travels a long way before echoing back.

“Hello.”

“Don’t.” Mum says, “You’ll call Him.”

I step back and lead the cart onwards. The heat has thickened the air like casserole and the forest fills my ears with buzzing and chirping insects. The line of gums finally breaks onto the steep hill covered with sharp grass that leads up to our sheds.

The three sheds are dull grey corrugated iron, one long and squat with several bedrooms for all my siblings, one half open and littered with rusting and cobwebbed farm equipment, and one towering and insulated where we store our perishables.

I move to the back of the cart and push as the dray horse drags it up the slope. We stop repeatedly as I untwist the long grass from the wheels, my thick hide gloves not quite enough to stop the grass from pricking my fingers.

We get the cart to the flat at the top of the hill and my little sister untacks the horse. Mum lowers herself from the cart and starts removing the canvas sheet from the cargo on the back. Several hessian wrapped parcels are neatly packed into the cart’s tray, each labelled with the names of members of my family.

I pile up the parcels and lift them to the living shed, holding the top of the pile in place with my chin.

Inside the shed is dark and cooler, though heat still gathers near the roof and makes my scalp sweat. My family are gathered on disintegrating couches in the living room. Four brothers, two sisters, dad and mum. I bend my knees and let the pile of gifts down next to the plastic Christmas tree, missing half its branches.

My only older brother pulls me aside.

“Come see,” he says, “I’ve ordered the meat for Christmas.”

He grins, revealing one grey tooth sitting amongst the others. He takes me out the back screen door, lifting it off the rails that are encrusted with dirt and bug corpses. It screeches as he pulls it back and forward.

We step out into the heat. Grasshoppers flee us as we make our way through the grass, seeds sticking to our rutted boots. I shade my eyes from the sun and I can feel the top of my hand burning.

He leads me to the storage shed, unlocks the heavily insulated door and it swings open without making a noise, smooth and solid. Inside is dark. White powder dances in the sunlight slipping between our legs. He flicks a switch beside the door.

Fluorescent lights flicker far above and catch, revealing a landscape of meat piled high above us. Red, dry muscle rises almost to the ceiling in rolling peaks, shot through with veins of white sinew. White powder clouds around the lights. The smell of talcum invades my nostrils.

My stomach undulates as my eyes trace the crests of the mountains. I see things moving up there. Serrated bone raised in crooked claws. Sinews tensing and relaxing.

I turn to my older brother.

“This is fucked.” I say.

He looks hurt but I feel too sick to care.

“We gotta get rid of this. This is really bad.”

I push him outside and close the door behind us, trying to be quiet.

“Look,” I say, putting my hand on his shoulder, “We’ll go back inside and enjoy Christmas. I’ll find a place in the bush to dump the meat. We can’t leave it sitting around. He’ll come. Don’t worry I won’t tell the others.”

My brother nods but looks deflated. My mind reels with the task of getting rid of the meat. I want to burn the shed down and run.

We get back inside and I jiggle the screen door back into place. My family is sitting on the floor around the pile of presents, drinking bitter moonshine with the last of our ice cubes.

I head for the hallway to get the shovel from the trunk under my bed. Dad sees me and rushes to his feet, spilling moonshine on the tacky carpet. He catches my eye and I stop as he approaches. He turns his back toward the rest of the family and I do the same.

“I already know what your mum got me.” He says, keeping his voice low. “I can tell from the shape of the package.”

I nod and force a grin, my eyes darting between the hallway and the screen door.

“It’s a new reloading kit.” Dad struggles to keep his voice down. “I’ve needed one since the vapours got into the barn. It’ll mean I can finally restock the 45-70.”

He raises his eyebrows. I nod.

“Yeah.” I say.

“That means proper game. I mean roos are alright but they haven’t got enough on them. This means I can clear those pigs from the dam, filter the water and get us back running proper again.”

“That’s good.” I say, “Look dad I…”

“I’ll get us some deer, do some venison roasts. Maybe I can sneak down to the creek and get us a buffalo. That’ll feed us for weeks. There’s plenty of room in the shed.”

I try to keep my legs from moving but they are starting to ache. Heat pours in from the ceiling. I can hear flies buzzing outside.

“I’ll bring your brother down. You can come too, do some spotting for us. I know you don’t like to shoot but it might be fun to come along.”

“Yeah sounds good dad. Look I gotta do something outside, I’ll be back in a sec.”

Dad raises his eyebrows.

“What’s wrong son?”

“Nothing. I’ll be back.”

I rush down the hall, feeling the weight of dad’s stare behind me. I open the makeshift mdf door to my older brother’s and my room, giving it a shove with my shoulder. It scrapes over the dried corpse of a gecko.

I can hear buzzing outside the small screen window, loud and machine-like. I drag my grey steel trunk from under the bed and it screeches on the concrete floor. I undo the latch, pull out my shovel and tartan bandana.

I hurry back down the hall. Dad has bailed my older brother in the corner, still talking about guns. My brother shoots me a sympathetic glance. I jiggle the screen door open, swear as I try to get it back into place.

The sun is setting outside, red light shining directly into my eyes. I juggle the shovel between my hands as I tie the bandana over my mouth.

I stop short as I see the door to the storage shed, vibrating and bleeding green light from around the doorframe.

I try to take a deep breath but I can’t seem to get air into my lungs. I hold my shovel close to my chest and approach the door. The heat coming off the grey steel walls is unbearable. Humming splits my temples like an axe bit, throbs in waves.

I take on hand off the shovel and twist the grimy steel door handle. I feel the lock uncatch and I push.

The door slides over neat grey carpet, tinged green with the light. Clean walls with a high roof stretch on for way too far. Potted ferns line the walls in perfect symmetry.

At the end of the room is a window, open and flooding green light that is almost solid. Before the window is a wooden desk with a small cactus sitting to one side. There is a figure sitting at the desk, I only catch a glimpse of Him.

A small, twisted body in a grey suit. A giant brown head with greasy black hair.

Something shoots out from under the desk, crosses the room in a second, rolling and bouncing. It cackles.

I drop my shovel and try to slam the door. The handle of the shovel catches between the door and frame. The little creature wrenches the door back, stronger than our dray horse. I kick the shovel away and pull the door back into place. The door crushes the little creature, it squeaks and folds like rubber.

I try to get the lock to catch but the creature is caught under the door. It cackles and squeaks with each pull. I hear the screen door jiggle behind me. Hear my dad talking to my brother as he walks outside.

Tears sting my eyes. I pull and the creature pulls back. Dad makes it around the corner.

“Shit.” He says, comes running.

“Dad…” I say, my arms wrench forward and back. I feel my muscles tear.

“He’s come.

You have to

Run.”

Dad runs up to grab the door handle. I push him away with my foot.

“Even though

I can’t do this

Myself.”

The door starts to twist.

“Please…

Get inside.

Lock the doors.”

Dad backs away, eyes wide. He turns for the back door.

“Tell everyone

I said…”

The creature cackles and squeaks. The light flickers from green to deep red. The creature pulls the door off its hinges. I grab the shovel.

“… Merry Christmas.”