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Hell, Ipswich, 4304

I was possessed by demons for a while. Either that or batshit crazy, but I like to think it’s a liberal dose of both. I went to a Christian primary school for a few years, so naturally I turned from God at a young age. Partly because I hated the music, and partly because of the very legitimate reason of God refusing to give me badass bat wings so I could fly around and scare my bullies. Surely, you’d think, that would be the end of it.

            Well I sold my soul in high school and started practising black magic, summoning demons and putting curses on kids I didn’t like. I wasn’t very good at being atheist. There were three demons I summoned, and in my burgeoning psychosis they appeared in my dreams and scrawled over my high-school exercise books. The vivid nightmares, hallucinations and visitations from evil spirits should have been a big red flag that I’d done something wrong, but it took me about as long to catch on as it takes me to realise that a girl is hitting on me at a bar. Generally about three years later.

            So three years later I was in Hell, or as it’s known in the common tongue, Ebbw Vale, Ipswich 4305. I was very unemployed, very medicated, and very possessed by demons. I would spend my days writing, smoking unfiltered Port Royal from a long Gandalf pipe, and having harrowing supernatural experiences. I wasted away to a scrawny 55 kilos, pale and jumpy from long nights of terrors.

            The nightmares followed a similar pattern, with just enough variation to keep my torment feeling fresh. I would lie in bed, trying to ignore the ethereal fingers running through my hair so I could sleep, when a great pressure would come down on my body and a horn would blast in my ear. Then I would be thrown off the bed and land right next to the dark space beneath. I would try to stand, but as I got to my feet I would wake up back in bed. This would repeat a few times before the light in my room would turn either a hellish red or eerie green, and rotting, monstrous hands would claw at me from under the mattress. I’d scream until I was empty, then find myself alone in the bed again with pins and needles shooting down my side.  I would get up, unsure if I was awake or still asleep, and smoke the night away at the dirty plastic outside table on our back verandah. Needless to say, I wasn’t having a great time.

            I lived with my variety of brothers in a dilapidated Queenslander across the road from the post-apocalyptic train station and several acres of rusted metal and german shepherds. My stepbrother, when not spending his time in his mouse and pizza box infested room, would throw large parties with the Bundamba Hungry Jacks crew. The dichotomy was vast, we wouldn’t see him for days, then in an instant 30 wasted teenagers would pack out the house. With no warning or means of stopping it, all you could do was ride the wave of trash and get plastered with the rest of them.

             After an afternoon nap/nightmare sleep paralysis hell-fight, I woke to find my home once again occupied by drunk suburban fast food workers. With no other recourse, I threw on torn jeans and my baggy depression jumper, grabbed the nearest beverage, and settled into my favourite five-dollar plastic chair to smoke the night away. Scowling and dodging splashes of vodka and Gatorade, I tried in vain to avoid conversations with my least favourite thing on the planet. High-school kids.           

            A girl settled in next to me, a regular to the parties. She was a teen single mum that had been trying and failing to get past my mentally-ill chastity belt for months. With no other surface to sit on that wasn’t covered in vomit or cigarette ash, I resigned myself to a lesson in numerology. I gave her my date of birth, and she scribbled on a piece of paper.

            “This is funny, our paths have crossed before,” she said. “In our past lives both of us served in World War 2.”

            “You don’t say.”

            “We were in the Air Force. Fighter pilots and war buddies.”

            “That’s crazy.”

            “Hey, I don’t have a place to crash tonight. Can I stay here?”

            “Sure, why not?” I said, though my inner monologue was a long line of capitalised swear words.

            I could see an apocalyptically awkward situation looming in my future, so I went to my last resort. Sleeping. I grabbed a blanket and a spare pillow for teen mum then Irish shuffled to my bedroom. I kicked the two kids canoodling in my bed out into the lounge room, flipped my pillow over and took my tranquillisers. Soon enough the room turned red and I descended into my nightly damnation.

            When I roused in the morning, stinking of booze sweat and on the verge of regurgitation, teen mum had folded her blanket neatly and placed it under her pillow on the couch. She had also brewed a pot of coffee, and we drank it and smoked cigarettes out the back because one of the little shits had made off with my Gandalf pipe.

            “I had the weirdest nightmare last night,” She said. “I was visited by three demons. They said that I wasn’t allowed to touch you. They said they owned you. It was really scary.”

            I believed her, despite the psychiatrists and the diagnoses and the meds and the numerology. When I experienced things like hallucinations and delusions, I was always in two minds. Viewing it as an illness and an experience at the same time. I straddled those two worlds all my life, there was no way I couldn’t. Knowing the causes of these symptoms didn’t change the fact that they made sense, that they meant something to me.

            I got my soul back a few years later, embarrassingly enough while smoking weed and listening to Led Zeppelin. I was somehow whole again in an instant. Part of me likes to believe God felt I’d done my time in hell, and part of me knows I was stoned and The Rain Song is really damn good.

            Scripture says that hell is a world without God, but I think hell is also a world without the Devil. Where we are just meat machines with malfunctions. Where meaning is just another number in a universal maths sum. These strange things that have happened to me had to be lived as well as analysed, and the spiritual is just as useful a weapon as the medical. I still have to fight for my soul, the difference now is the ground I’ve gained. Salvation is not a happy ending, but it’s still a victory. Numerology is bullshit though.

On Fire or Under Water

Minden was a place of extremes. Depending on the year, the barren, clay-packed hills and fields were either ravaged by terrible bushfires, burning the already brown grass black, or terrible storm fronts that would lift sheds in the air and submerge whole buildings under a torrent of filthy water. Growing up there, I don’t remember a time of calm or peace. There was always a looming threat, a pillar of smoke or a bank of green clouds just over the edge of the hills on the horizon.

The two-lane rural highway that the pale orange school bus drove to take me to school had a kill count to fill a professional Call of Duty streamer with mad envy. Riddled with potholes and blind corners, and haunted by trash heap Skylines piloted by plastered teenagers with their feet welded to the accelerator. Every morning, the bus packed to standing room only, and rocketed down Lowood-Minden road filled with unsecured and unsupervised high-school hellions.

My stop was at the entrance to a cheap, colour-by-number housing estate just off the Warrego. I was a wretched fourteen year old, thin as a whip from sharing a single income through a family of nine. By three-quarters through my second year of high school, I had firmly trimmed my tall and sensitive poppy and hid in the grass from the predators that moved through the early naughties school system.

I shared the stop with my main school bully, a hefty, freckled redhead with a heart of violence. For the 45-minute journey to Lowood, I was his to enjoy.  Whether through impossible to navigate word traps, or good old fashioned clenched fists, he would have his fun until we were dropped off, then go his separate way past the homebrew alcoholics and unleashed Dobermans that were our neighbours.

That morning, in the middle of bushfire season after a long drought, we weren’t alone at our stop. A new family had moved from The Gap, seeking cheaper rent after a bitter divorce. The new kid was the same age as me and my bully, but taller and somehow scrawnier, as though God had pulled him like chewing gum from the bottom of a school desk. For the first time since I had started walking to that corner, the bully had a new target.

I kept my head down as the bully probed him for weakness. The new kid was more confident than me, worldlier and socially capable. By the time I saw the flash of pale orange come around the corner, the bully was growing impatient with the new kid’s stalwart self-assurance.

The bully continued his attack on the new kid as I took the empty seat furthest away from the both of them. The new peace of an unexamined 45 minutes was a godsend. I stared out the window at the passing hills and cow paddocks, blackened by daily fires. My mind wandered beyond self-preservation, into creative and constructive territory. When I reached school, I actually felt ready to learn and progress, rather than tired and jumpy.

I had a brief glimpse of what school was actually for, shaping and growing. Where classes were opportunities and broadened horizons, rather than a list of tasks to survive at the end of my rope. I finished the day with a rare lightness and optimism, when I’d be usually planning a way to make myself throw up and get out of going to school the next day.

On the trip home, the bully took the seat right behind me. The bus rattled as we ploughed along the highway, the yelling and cursing of the densely packed students deafening. I tried to ignore him, tried to get back to a place of peace and solitude, watching the scorched earth flick by the window.

I felt something wrap around my throat. Thin wire bit my skin and blocked my airway.

“Hey cunt,” the bully whispered in my ear.

I scrambled to try and get my fingers under the wire, felt the blood failing to circulate through me head. I gurgled, trying to shout for help. My vision dimmed.

“What the fuck are you doing?”  The new kid dove over. He wrestled the wire out of the bully’s hands. I wheezed.

The new kid and the bully shoved each other. The bus driver swore at them. I moved to a seat on the other side of the bus. Tears stung my eyes so I pointed them towards the burning paddocks.

When we got off the bus, the pair started shoving each other. The new kid put his guard up as the bully started swinging meaty fists at his face. The new kid slapped his punches away, eyes wide, stumbling as he stepped backwards.

I walked away, leaving the both of them, shame digging into my core and twisting. I didn’t talk to either the next morning, waiting for the bus while standing on the edge of a blade.

Two years later, both of the bully’s parents died in a car crash on that same highway. I didn’t see him at school again, had no idea whether he’d dropped out, if he had family to look after him or if he had to try and make it on his own. All I knew was that I wasn’t a target anymore.

The floods came after that, washed away all the ash and the local service station. Replaced it with silt and a new form of destruction. Through the flood I stayed locked at home amid a turbulent ocean, and tried yet again just to survive,

Looking back, I don’t know where I’d begin to try and fix that place. I don’t think it’s possible short of a biblical redux, short of humans becoming a different animal.

Violence is unsupervised, life is unsupervised, no amount of school programs or anti-bullying initiatives could change that.

I don’t hold that bully, that kid, any ill will. He was just another broken piece of a broken place, like me. More I hope that he found his own healing, as I later found my own courage.

I like to think maybe now, after the fire has scorched us and the flood has washed us away, we could both be different animals.

Hunting the Ego

The word is out

The beast is loose

The frog is drinking all the rivers

The hungry, hungry for compliments caterpillar has eaten the village

The Harry Potter is hoarding all of the sorcerer’s stones or some shit

Your ego is wild and free

Unchecked

And ruining your social interactions

Your craft and soul

Arm yourself

With the rifle of your self loathing

And the ammunition of your mistakes

Counted one by one

Felt ploughing through the small of your back

Clothe yourself

In the garb of the hunter

The shitty webcomic t-shirt that your wife hates

The worn track pants you got for free

You don’t know where or who from

Go barefoot in the wild

Shod in scars and dirt, feet unwashed before bed

Lie in the scabies of your unwanted arrogance

Find the beast

Great and hairy

Clawed and fanged

Hiding in the wilderness

Preying on the weak

Your insecurities

Your lacks and wants

Harm it and degrade it

Bring it down and down

Into the dust

Chained and torn

And after it lies there

At your mercy

Take it home

Leash it and feed it

Scraps at first, the leftovers from your miseries

Then meals

Bacon and eggs

Club sandwiches

Roast meat, peas and gravy

Shave your beast naked and cold

Wash it

Brush its hair

Cut its claws and blunt its fangs

Tame it

Call it new names, slave names

Self confidence

Drive

(I always liked Banjo)

Teach it tricks

Let it do new things

Make it earn its place in your world

And when your beast is new

Beautiful and unrecognisable

Ride it

Spider Country

The blistering sun gleamed off the black scales of Soldier 1077’s riding monitor, flashing in her glassy eyes and baking her ochre chitin. She dipped a clawed hand into a tub of black grease and rubbed it on the ridges under her eyes and above her mandibles. The monitor’s long, bony spine rolled back and forth as its claws found purchase in the dry, brittle scrub, and 1077’s joints ached from rocking with its movements.

1077 checked inventory again, her memory always growing hazy every few hours of the journey. She ran her hand across the belt of shells. 12 left. She checked again. Yes 12. More than enough for, what was it? She unfolded the rawhide map tattooed with dotted lines and crosses in red ink. 3 sheds. Yes 3.

She drew her lever-action 8 gauge from its cracked leather holster and checked the action several times. It clicked smoothly, with no trace of jamming. She’d traded it from the ape-kin for a year’s worth of sheddings, her life savings. At fourteen months, 1077 was older than all in the colony but the queen, and sacrificing a few comforts was well worth the time the shotgun had added to her service.

All memory of luxuries and leave-time faded quickly, the only strong memories she could hold were the action and the Queen. The action she learned from, the Queen she loved. A deep primal love, a desire not to please, but to serve. The Queen’s word hung in her brain for weeks, long after anything else had faded.

The taste of fear pheromone split 1077’s mouth and her musings. The hairs on her back and upper arms stood on end. She slipped five shells into the 8 gauge without looking, her eyes darting around the scrub and burnt gums.

The beaten yellow path in the scrub twisted around a fallen gum and a red rock outcropping. Dark wet splashes crossed the path and led into the bush. 1077 pulled on the reins of her monitor and tasted the air. The pheromones followed the trail of splashes to her left. She jabbed her monitor with a tranquiliser and it fell to its stomach, billowing out a cloud of dust.

1077 swung down from her saddle, draping the belt of shells over her shoulder and swinging the 8 gauge from side to side with her right arms. She called out into the bush, her voice a series of clicks and high-pitched scrapes.

“Queen Misery of Guilt, report.”

There was no reply.

1077 stepped into the brush, using her lower left arm to push spikey grass out of the way while she held the shotgun with her right. Past a thick hedge of lantana, on a mound of gravel under a paperbark, were the thorax and head of an ochre-coloured Soldier. Long dead, but arms still seeming to claw for a text-caster just out of reach.

She tasted the Soldier, then reached down and picked up the text-caster. Random characters on an unsent message. She walked back to the Soldier, hefted her body face up. A haemorrhage lance lay snapped in half beneath. 1077 checked the map again twice. The forage shed was just around the corner.

She swore, a series of slow clicks. Making her way back to the monitor, she buttoned up the found text caster in the woven sack on the back of her saddle, and strapped her own over her left shoulder. She unsheathed her sting, just in case. A last resort that was equally deadly for both parties. 1077 made round the corner, swinging the 8 gauge at each blind spot she passed.

The shed was buried in a pile of lantana and broken branches. Its corrugated iron walls had a patina of patchy red and yellow rust. The door had been torn open, and hung by one twisted hinge. The shed was deceptively small from the outside, with only the entrance peeking out from the vines, but inside was enough foraging equipment for 70 or so Workers, smaller and more vulnerable than 1077 and the rest of the Soldiers.

1077 tasted the air again. A strong scent. Female. The taste of spit and battery acid. It was a scent not many recognised. Usually only the nomadic males holed up in the forage sheds, and either moved along after a brief respite or were cleared out by patrolling Soldiers.

Females mostly stuck to their own territories, the cracks and caverns and underground seas of the deep beneath, relying on the males that crept up to them in hopes of reproduction for sustenance. A female on the surface hadn’t been encountered in many of 1077’s lifetimes, and she had only seen one, once on a low patrol.

They hadn’t bothered trying to fight on that patrol, though several Soldiers were present. They caved the tunnel and dug in a different direction.

1077 stepped into the shed, her eyes fading gradually from colour to grey as they picked out detail in the dark. Thick cords of silk were strung taught across the wide concrete floor. Broken harvesting equipment covered with a sheet of web created a mountainous grey landscape. The husks of males, half again as big as 1077, were strung from the ceiling, nine legs curled around them and eyes white and drained of liquid.

1077’s body pressure increased. The memories of action flooded back. Vivid images flashed in her mind’s eye, and she had to fight not to dodge phantom blows.

She moved further into the dark, 8 gauge shaking in her claws, stepping where the web was thinnest. There were no signs of life or movement, not even the webs stirred in the still and stagnant air. She entertained the briefest hope that the female had moved on, that maybe the Soldier had proved more trouble than the shed was worth.

The landscape of web rose in a circular crest, then dipped down to a wide hole. Filling its centre was a frieze of fractal ridges on a circle of grey carapace. 1077 froze, her body still but her antennae flailing. The circular pattern lifted slightly, revealing the massive, deep black abdomen it was connected to. A hairy claw slipped out. She readied the shotgun.

It sprang, faster than anything she’d seen, faster than the trigger on her shotgun. Eleven black, furry legs scrambled wild across the web, swinging out and sweeping 1077 under fat mandibles and a mess of milky, oozing eyes. The female was monstrous, easily the size of the biggest of the Worker’s harvesting equipment. Bigger than the queen, though ugly and malefic where the queen was beautiful and maternal. Smaller males clung to the jagged bristles that jutted from the female’s carapace. Every interlocking part of the female moved rapidly and randomly, and screamed violence.

1077 braced herself under the female with her legs and lower arms. Four glassy fangs extended from the female’s maw, dripping a slow and painful liquidation from the inside out. 1077 planted the 8 gauge in the gap between the female’s thorax and abdomen, and fired, pulling the action down quickly and getting three shots through. The first two sprayed shards of carapace and droplets of ichor all over her, the recoil sending the third up the female’s side and shearing the mandibles off a stray male.

The female stamped down on 1077’s upper left arm, crushing chitin and tearing it and the belt of shells away. 1077’s legs spasmed and she dragged herself out from under the female with her arms, still gripping the shotgun and text-caster tightly.

The female drew back, legs coiling and ready to spring. 1077 lifted herself to her feet, legs still spasming and making her wobble in place.

The female sprung. 1077 loosed her last two shells into the female’s pus-seeping eyes and fell onto her back, slipping under and digging her sting into the gap in the female’s carapace. The sting dug into flesh, hooked and tore out of 1077’s abdomen.

The female’s bristles vibrated, making a loud and low hum. She flailed and drew back, leaving 1077 prone in the middle of the shed. The males abandoned the female’s back, crawling across the floor and up into the roof, randomly placed eyes glinting in 1077’s grey vision. The female pulled into the corner and curled up, forelegs covering her face, as if in shame.

1077’s legs were uncontrollable now, thrashing in all directions. She glanced over at the belt of shells, still draped over her severed arm. It was too far, too close to the female, who still shook and hummed deafening death cries. 1077 dragged herself back with her lower arms, still pointing the shotgun at the males. They hadn’t worked out she was dry of ammo yet, but it wouldn’t be long.

A trail of her life fluids extended from the torn hole in 1077’s abdomen across the floor of web and concrete. She got her back against the corrugated iron wall, baking hot to the touch from the harsh sun above. She unslung the text caster from her shoulder, her claws fumbling over the keys.

She tried to think, her thoughts slipping, of all the things she wanted to say to her love, her duty. The fate she cleaved to. She felt things she couldn’t quite understand. 1077 wrote.

“Action required. Forage Shed 37 West Kingdom.”

She looked up at where the 8 gauge was pointing. The males were making tentative steps down the strands of silk to the floor.

“I’m sorry,” she added to the message, and sent it.

Nervous Stick

Well hey there my chunky newborn babes. I’m postin again and there ain’t nothing no one can do about it, and there aint no one who wants to do nothing about it cos you all been real nice about my posts and I am real grateful.

Here another one and it makes me real nervous to talk about this biz, but I also get real nervous if I see a particular pattern of seeds in bird shit on the ground so no news there. Hope you enjoy or feel something or at least don’t say mean things about me on the internetz.

S xx

 

Old Battle Wound

 

And here it comes again. A shot to the nerves between my shoulder blades. My fists clench, and the words spill from my mouth.

“I wanna die.”

The pang recurs daily, almost hourly. Even though that battle is long since won. Even though there are years between me and that desire. Just a pang and a dark memory from a time before the light.

It was so natural for me to say, in time thankfully long past, and the fight to where I am was bitter and long. These old wounds don’t fully heal, and I’m not the warrior I once was.

By god I wish it would stop. I don’t need this reminder of times gone, of ghosts still too real. But wishes are nothing, and purpose remains. There isn’t a sea of joy to fall into at the end of this path, but more paths and paths beyond.

Ah, all this doom and gloom, hanging onto my legs like cobbler’s pegs on a peaceful walk through wild lands. What’s a little limp in my step when the air is fresh and new and full of opportunity?

I may scream and curse and carry these old wounds for the rest of my life, but I will die a man that conquered this. A man that lived and found a life whole and filled with good.

Just as I may remember and wince with pain refreshed, I will look back and smile at the memories I fought for and won.

Pre-Smash

Hoo bebes I been taking a break now for three minutes past way too long. Stuff ain’t moving liked I’d hoped and I ain’t talking about the thunderbox because I been eating plenty lentils. But something done lit a fire under my ass (wife) and I can feel the writing comin on for I hope less than miles in the distance. Dat means I gotta work my way up with some good ole’ fashioned posting, so here’s one for you and you specifically. Enjoy or don’t, I ain’t reading it for you.

 

First Left Turn

 

There is a secret place, at one of my many childhood homes. Down the back, into the maze of lantana vines and prickly pears. First left turn into the tunnel of scrub. If you miss it, you’ll never find it again.

I’m sure I’ve seen it. A ceiling of leaves and flowers, a neon blue creek, a rocky ledge bathed in the light from the water. Cool air and a sweet fragrance. There could have been a boat, though there was nowhere for it to go.

I’ve tried to go back, again and again. Each time I miss that turn and head further into the dark, until I reach the usual spot. A steep grassy ridge down into brown water. Once wild and ugly, now tamed and plain. A kiosk, concrete and screaming children.

I wonder, who tamed this place in me? Who put paths and walls in my dreams? Why can’t I take that first left turn? If I’ve been there, why is it missing from me, and if I haven’t, why is its memory so clear? Why do I long for it, with heart aching and tears welling?

This tangled world I’ve dreamed in for decades. It must have meaning, have purpose. These feelings are too strong to be random, these sights and tastes and smells are too real not to be somewhere.

There is hope in me, in decades repose, I will find this place, this purpose for what I’ve seen. That this longing is the pain that will make the salve sweeter. That once more, in this place, in this dream, would be enough.

Brick Wall

I had a good idea

At some point

And now I sit here

Ready

And with time on my hands

And there is nothing

What I had has slipped and gone

And what I’ve got is empty space

How frustrating

All that time I spent

Fucking around

All I want is this

This

The only thing that escapes me

I know

That it is in me

But here I am at the brick wall

Without a hammer

If I had a spoon

Maybe I

Could dig, and dig, and dig

And time, and time, and time

Would pass

Till I got through

For all time is

Is long empty hours

Wasted and regretted

By all who had plans

In the first place

A few more words

Another spoonful of stone

And maybe

In time, and time, and time

I could see

If there is

Another side

Loathe Self

Use your words

 

Filth

Trash

Garbage

Waste

Leftovers

Unused materials

Plenty

 

 

A simple, long hard slog back into the light

 

One tiny topple

Back into your arms

And I realise

 

 

I never hated myself

I just missed being better

 

So, only the good things to do now

Such a relief

 

Joy floods in

The gap left by that weight

 

I am me

That makes me happy

Beyond words

Enough

The war isn’t starting

 

This genocide has been passed down to us through generations

 

The toll is too heavy to count

 

The pain to great to comprehend

 

With guns and disease and batons

 

With our words and our silence

 

We each have been complicit

 

 

The war is not just coming to us now

 

We have been fighting all our lives

 

For the wrong side

 

Our forefathers came here drunk and shot up paradise

 

Our forefathers slaughtered and raped and stole

 

 

It never stopped

 

Form after form it took

 

Our secret war

 

On those who should have been our kin

 

 

We have nothing left to take pride in

 

And who is there but us to atone?

 

 

The fire is at our feet

 

And we have one choice to make

 

Do we join the right side

 

Or do we condemn ourselves

 

To a hellish world of injustice

 

To a world of cruelty

 

Of brutality

 

Of indifference

 

 

The stones are tumbling down the mountain

 

And now is our chance

 

To throw the shackles of our pride

 

To rise higher than those who came before

 

To find truth and beauty in a cruel place

 

To find the good in ourselves

 

 

Truth and determination are invincible

 

And the truth is

 

We can be what the lies told us we were already

 

Free and just and equal

 

We can be

 

What we’ve dreamed and we’ve hoped could be true

 

 

March

 

And keep marching

 

No more despair

 

No more stopping

 

Until we reach the gates of paradise

Playing Minecraft in my Dreams

My brother and I have been playing the same minecraft saved game since 2012. We started with a little shed on a hill and a large stash of homebrew in the fridge. Both unemployed, both drunk and very bipolar.

 

Our little town grew to a city, then to a kingdom. Now we have over 30 small villages, several large towns and big cities, multiple kingdoms with huge statues, massive lord of the rings sized fortresses, underground markets, secret passages, puzzle dungeons, pirate ships, and my brother is currently working on his own personal Mines of Moria.

 

We have sunk more than stupid hours into this little universe. My brother dug out a massive dwarven hall at the bedrock by hand, taking hundreds of hours to finish the thing. I’ve spent no idea hours wandering along its many roads, killing zombies, paying merchants and sitting around the fire at Snowmane Memorial Campsite (RIP) or drinking in the tree-top tavern The Lofty Standards on the Champ Memorial Balcony (RIP).

 

We have a national currency, business ventures, and we are digging a road between two portals in hell. I wish I knew how to make the computer box make pictures so I could show you.

 

I have a recurring dream about being in minecraft.

 

It started off in a vast and intricate desert structure. I was solving a puzzle by floating beneath sandstone beams and pushing heavy cubes onto buttons. The puzzle unearthed a long, cavernous road beneath the sand, half in shadow and engraved with ornate pictograms. I followed it for what seemed like miles, hiding from giants in the deep shadows until the dream disintegrated.

 

In a following dream I was in a deep cave structure. I kept diving deeper and deeper down, block by block, in a jagged and vertical shaft. Each time I reached flat ground I would find a new, darker passage leading further down and I would continue to dive. I reached craggy bedrock at the bottom of the now claustrophobic shaft, and saw a hole glowing with red light. I stood on the edge and looked down, seeing a wide burning chamber with a circular bloodstain smeared out into runes. Pink and hairless devils wandered around with blank eyes frozen in glares of pure disgust. Terror woke me but it was hours until I felt like I left the dream.

 

Weeks later I had moved on to a far off Nordic land over the ocean, filled with sweeping hills, dark hollow mountains and frozen forests. I had built a small settlement there and was showing my brother around. Log cabins behind tall and thick palisade stood empty in the snow, and the place felt new and wild and dangerous. I told my brother of all my plans for this new kingdom, though I knew it would be a long time before I came back because it was so far away. The dream left an ache in me that gives me shivers, longing for a place unreal and untamed, far from any place I’ve been or will go.

 

The most recent dream I had I visited my small settlement with my brother after many years, but giants had come and broken everything down. All that was left was blocky rubble and floating item sprites. The giants stomped around, throwing the wooden blocks my cabins were built out of and crushing them beneath their boots. My brother looked worried but I just laughed. I led him into the ruined tavern and we sat against the broken wall drinking beer out of 2D mugs.

 

I drank and leaned back and said to him:

 

“I know this ain’t the right place to admit that I’ve been struggling.

 

You know I get real sad at the drop of a hat and pretty regularly.

 

And it feels like there’s always been this deep sadness in me, and maybe there’s just no reason for it.

 

I’ve thought about it hard, and I don’t know what I’d do if the sadness wasn’t there, if there was nothing to build in me and nothing to fight against.

 

It would feel like it was over and I don’t want that yet.

 

I’m not moping or drowning in my sadness.

 

I’m building.

 

Building shit makes me happy.

 

Even if it gets torn down or torn up.

 

Every block I put down fills that gaping hole in me just a little.

 

And even if I’m just building minecraft in my dreams, that’s at least doing something.

 

Struggling is still doing something.

 

The end of it ain’t that far away, and I know I’ll be happy again.

 

And that’s good enough

 

For now.”