Hi. So…. Odd that even this introductory hello that no one will read is so difficult to write. Comical, in its way. Hi. The reason I’m starting this blog is one of necessity. You see, like many people, and equally unlike all of them in exactly the same way I have some, oh, let’s call them issues for now… And they are things which require explanation and expulsion through the medium of language.
I have never been good at, or developed a habit of expressing my feelings verbally. I am however, in all other respects, considered an excellent communicator. I believe that’s one of those chucklesome personal ironies. Possibly, but hopefully not a ‘tragic flaw’.
I have in the past maintained diaries of my feelings for the express purpose of being able to accurately share the details of my emotional turmoil without having to force my tongue to wrap itself around horrid vocalisations. For no reason clear to me I am perfectly happy to be honest in text.
Of late, and really for many years (though they blur together into a fog of unquestioned and intended amnesiacal relief) I have failed to express my feelings about myself, the world and my partner to her in a useful way. This is to my deep regret. In my defence (to which I spring, though woundedly with shame) I have not always been all there. But then who is?
Regardless. I have been increasingly locked within myself and unable to do more than ocular pleading and grim steadfastness. Both of which are useless.
So – in a roundabout and obfuscatory manner, this blog is here so that I can relate my feelings, in detail, in freedom for her benefit. So that I can properly share myself as I would wish. I also consider the process of self-revelation to be valuable and a massive improvement on my natural inclination to bury, ignore, deny and forget.
I anticipate that this will be an erratic, probably irritating memoir of my mind and mood. Apologies in advance.
Do you have a cat? I do. This is the beast. There remains, cliched and predictable, the incredible value of a creature whose affection is unconditional, semi-dependant and gloriously mercurial. I have almost always lived with cats and most of my calmest memories as well as the most distraught are intimately wrapped up with them.
One of my first real memories, of which I seem to have few (my sense of time seems poor and I don’t feel an affinity for my own past) is when our first cat was killed, torn open by a larger tom with whom she had a long-running war.
I guess it was a first sense of mortality. And a lesson (of sorts, if you want to be tritely moralistic and fabley about it), in the responses to grief. I was in floods of tears, so much so that the friends who were in the garden with me playing on the climbing frame were sent home. I must have been five or six and I still recall their incomprehension of why I was so upset. It was terrible. A tiny, vibrant creature that had just stopped, or been stopped from continuing with their marvellous existence.
I’ve never had any illusions about life after death, and that some do does rather baffle me. When you see something dead that once lived both its fragility and strength in that now-ended life seem dreadfully apparent. But it’s over. A sadness and a reminder that immortality is only memory. She was a lovely cat. And I still miss her, sometimes, when I think of her.
It upset me that other people didn’t care, that they thought my grief disproportionate to the loss. Well, they would. Don’t we always? In not being each other we can’t really feel the losses of others – at best we can imagine how we might feel. But I don’t know how intensely you feel for something, or how it’s loss will make you feel. I can guess, try to model you and maybe get close. Or I can just be there for you however you react.
I’ve always grieved more for pets than for family. That feels as if I should be ashamed of it, but I’m not – exactly as above. Only I know how I feel and the closest you can get is what I tell you, or you infer from my behaviour. Maybe it’s because I spent more time, physically with the pets. Maybe because their lives are generally so short, compared to those family I’ve lost. A shock, sure. But genuine surprise that someone’s died? Not something I’ve felt. We know it’s coming. And I know that they’ve done more – it’ll always be strange for them not to be there, but they’re always going to be gone one day.
You can either cherish them and invest in those relationships while they’re alive (against the threat of death) or accept that however you know and relate to them is okay. I’ve tried regretting not being closer to my grandparents before they died. And it would have been nice, and I’m sure I’d welcome that surfeit of memories. But what time I spent with them I enjoyed.
The regret I think is when I imagine or guess how they felt about our relationship – perhaps they wanted more and I never gave it. But I can’t know that. So is it a thing to dwell on, this imagined comprehension of an unverifiable artifact of half-memories and assumptions? Probably not.
I’m mostly content for their memories to arise as they do, and what fleeting regret I feel on occasion tells me that I loved them, and that I believe they loved me. It does not diminish my memory of affection, and knowing that it is unchangeable I’m warmed by what we had.
But pets… That’s a heart-tearing loss of daily companionship for me, of dependance and abuse of responsibility in permitting harm to come to them. People are self-determining, to a point. But I feel so much more for these simple beasts we take into our homes. Perhaps this is why some friends think my values are misplaced.
It’s hard to express – I feel more for those who had least freedom. Or something. I’m confusing myself.
Gaargh, there’s a mean-looking fish-legged fellow at me door, using a trident as a door bell. Tis likely to progress in an ill manner for all concerned, namely meself. I’ve been evading these sea men for these past weeks but they’ve finally caught up with me. ‘Tween times they’ve plagued me with oceanic assaults and scores o’ noisome sea beasts.
The last maritime misfortune I’d suffered by the fins of them merfolk was the sad loss of Grim Pitch, the cabin lad. The manner of his death called to me mind the ancient curse we’d once found and largely ignored as we plundered an undersea cave: “Dare ye to dip ye mitt in a mermaid’s purse, And Neptune’s foamy fist’ll bring down on ye a terrible curse.” Twas not redolent with clarity about the nature of the curse though some annoyance on the sea’s part was plain. But since I’d begun me wooin’ of mermaids I’d felt a teeming worry about King Clam’s paternal temper. For the merfolk are a proud and warlike people and take such sea-shufflin’ shenanigans most seriously.
Ye may not directly perceive the link to the death of me third-favourite cabin boy, but tis me belief that all bad things congregate by the window when ye feel a mite blue, and those nearby may find ’emselves splashed with the calamitous cast-off. I fear that poor hapless, stupid and unlucky Grim Pitch was the accidental victim of me merwenching lifestyle. I’d never taken the boy with me when I sought out me saucy sea life – tis only metaphorically that I suggest he were caught between me and me mermaid matin’. Twould be an inappropriate venture for a lad o’ his indeterminate age.
Grim’s me lad for patchin’ of the sails, for his grip’s fine and his head for heights second to none. After taking issue with a flock o’ Gobshite Gulls our sailcloth was the worse for wear and needful o’ Grim’s magic slathering. The lad’s tar was freshly drawn and ready for use when a freak swarm of Tiger-Faced Penguins took the ship by storm. The ferocious harbingers o’ nasty pecks and shin-kicking barrelled up out of the water and smashed through or over our railings. They set to their notorious war-warbles and grumpily pecked at me crew with their cruel pointy beaks. Huge and striped like the tigers that also bear their names they lack some of the felines’ artistry and cunning. But they make up for it with their weight of numbers and slappy fin-wings. They’re beasts that call for up close punchin’ in the feather-patch.
Alas, in the excitement no one thought to safeguard the bubblin’ pitch. The added weight of the penguins had the Good Ship Lollipop pitching and yawing like a fat man struggling out of a bath tub. As poor Grim fought with one of the vicious bird-fish creatures the bucket flipped over and engulfed them both in boiling gunk. The wailing and fowl squalling were piteous and irritating in equal measure, though the latter did motivate me to boot another Tiger-Faced Penguin right in the air-sacs and hurry to Grim’s aid.
Twas like watching an exotic love-dance under a black silk sheet, though involving a great deal more pain and but a man and a penguin. There was little we could do but knock ’em overboard in the hope of cooling the stinky burn fluid. The explosion o’ vapour as they hit the sea saw off most of the Tiggy-guins. The steam took the eyes of Watchful Harry and perfectly prepared a pair of penguins for our postmeridian picnic. Poor Grim and his Siamese twin penguin sank without a trace.
Gaargh! I was enraged for I takes the care of me crew as of at least middling importance and we really had needed that bucket of pitch. I bellowed me defiance at the skies, and then realisin’ me error, re-directed me complaints to the sea and that miserable King Clam whom I were certain lay behind our recent spate o’ watery worries. I suppose I could have recanted me invective but I was fond of the King’s daughter and her scaly thighs and pouted petulantly at the though of nevermore tickling her teasing tail.
Now, o’ course, as the sound of the mermen beating down me door alternates with the sound of ’em falling over and hauling themselves back up again I’ve cause to regret me angry words. Maybe I’ll just climb out of this window and see if I can give these flippery slap-footed lads the slip.
It’s not that I don’t – love them I mean. I only have a few; divorced parents with their respective partners, a brother and a sister (with their other halves – a brother-in-law, with niece and a soon-to-be sister-in-law) and an uncle. Oh, and cousins and aunt overseas, but I hardly ever count them in. But few enough that you’d think I could manage to maintain some degree of sensible relationship. And yet I struggle.
I do enjoy being with them, I just find it extremely difficult to get round to getting in touch and arranging anything. I’m not really sure why. For example – it’s my Mum’s birthday this Sunday and I haven’t arranged to do anything. I pretty much forgot anyway, till my other half reminded me of its imminence. I genuinely believed her birthday was later in the month. I am not a good son. So I texted to say hi… And i’ve made and sent a good birthday card. But i’ve done nothing else. And how does that make me feel? Well, I do have that lagging sense that I ought to have tried to sort out at least a visit I guess. But I haven’t. I’ll make more effort to see my Dad. And that’s a bit mean I suppose, but I have a much stronger relationship with my Dad and I feel a greater need to see him, to re-connect and be together than I do with my Mum. Of course, none of that is my Mum’s fault and yet from a certain slant it’s not my fault either. In fact, is there even any fault going? Isn’t it just the way it is?
Many years ago, after my Mum left my Dad when I was ten and me and my siblings’ lives were bizarrely and stressfully split between two homes for literally half a week and alternate weekends, and Mum met some guy, who was a prick, with four daughters and we kind of all lived together… Sigh. It’s potentially a long and confusing story. Suffice to say divorce is upsetting, even as the eldest child, but I had no desire for a step-father or four step-sisters.
Well, we fell out. It was a complex spatial and social environment. We fell out over freedoms I guess, in my case the traditional dromedary’s spine was cracked by an insistence I eat the despised Brussel sprouts. So, so trivial.
But it followed a week at Dad’s which I was loathe to end with the space, attitude and freedom I so adored and replace with a busy household of people I didn’t want to know, (but a tiny cat I was besotted with) and a mother whose needs and situation I neither understood nor wished to. Still, it feels trivial – and worse in the telling. But I declared my independence / tearfully and defiantly packed those few things I needed (when Mum first moved out I remember painstakingly halving the sets of all things I owned, to equitably distribute the things I loved between those I loved. Obviously this made most things unplayable and the toys I wanted most were always elsewhere. The absurd finale of this was taking half of the Chronicles of Narnia to Mum’s; the rest remained at Dad’s) and stormed out. I recall Mum equally defiantly trying to force me to take some object which i’d given her as a display of filial love. I don’t recall what it was, but I know I left it – not out of spite, but because I loved her and although I was terribly angry, had no wish to revoke that love.
We didn’t speak or see each other for nearly a year. I even spent Christmas abroad since my Dad had already made plans and had not anticipated the full-time return of his son. He did however welcome me with open arms, I guess partly for my rebellion and because he missed us all dreadfully. And so I lived with Dad from when I was thirteen (a guess – my sense of chronology is awful). And that did seem to balance a rage and upset for me. I’d made a choice, or had it forced upon me – depending on how I think about it.
I’ve never really talked to Mum about that – she’s onto a second husband since that twat showed all of his colours (to no one’s surprise), but we made up to an extent a few years later and i’d visit weekly. But it’s never been the same. I have a dim recollection that it was Mum who I was really close to as a young child and I think the whole divorce flipped all of our relationships around. I suppose it’s hard, if not impossible, to overcome that sense of being abandoned, which I then later repeated on Mum. Our relationship now is an adult one of conversation and friendship, but it’s never reached an emotional closeness again. I feel sometimes that i’d like to have that, but also recognise that there are too many gaps, too much concealed – and I don’t know if I can recover that sort of relationship to the way I have with Dad. Or that I want to. It’s almost like i’ve chosen to invest in Dad… And more than that feels.. Excessive? That sounds pretty messed up.
And yet the strain I feel, the reluctance to make contact, to use up my time to see my Mum, my siblings and sometimes even Dad. Well, it worries me I suppose – it feels almost unnatural, but I don’t feel drawn to see them. I enjoy it when someone else, usually my sister or Dad, draws us together for some occasion. But otherwise, I can go for days even weeks without thinking of them or wondering what they’re up to.
I do wonder if i’m a good person and what on Earth they must think of me.
The shadows faded as the sun waxed up over the hills. The valley slowly filled with golden light. Mari and Tomas stumbled down the rocky path.
They caught each other as they tripped on loose stones and their ankles were snagged by those plants which had strived to escape the cleft in the landscape. No doubt they regretted it; their leaves were pale and mottled, branches dry and snapped as Tomas kicked past them.
Tomas and Mari cast long black shapes into the declining darkness. It reached up eagerly to envelop them, and they ran into it with hope in their joined hands. The heart of the valley was twisted under itself and the river that ran through it was clothed in night throughout the day. It was not far. But the sun rises quickly. Its heat chased them down the bank.
Mari slipped once too many and fell, her grip tugging him off balance, sliding and scraping down the sharp slope. The valley grew steeper as it raced towards the black river. They fell with it, rolling and tumbling, bouncing awkwardly. With every roll the sun grew closer.
Desperately Tomas sought to control his descent, twisting and digging his heels in. His feet hit a rock and jerked him upright, but with too much velocity to slow he flipped over the edge of the cliff and was launched face down into the water. Darkness and cold embraced him and he gasped in relief, punching up for the surface.
Mari wasn’t there. No tell tale stream of bubbles and splashed wake. The cliff above him was out of reach, dust and pebbles streamed over the edge. As did the light. Tomas had no choice. He turned and swam into the safety of the darkness, the water hiding his tears.
Well my shoulders are an agony of tension. Feels like i’m going to pop my shoulder blades out from squeezing so hard. And breathe… Attempt to relaxe (not one of my strong suits).
So, some disclosure required to explain why my spine is trying to escape through my skull. I’ve been in well, therapy I guess, for a little over a month now. Ostensibly it’s for sleep disorder (I am a bad sleeping person), but I was well aware when I signed up, or rather allowed the doc to refer me that it was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and that I was unlikely to be able to tackle sleep in isolation from the fuckeduppeness that inhabits, or is, my mind.
Gosh what a long sentence. And that’s very much been the way of it today. I had a telephone appointment with my Brain Lady today. She’s great, and i’ve found myself far more able to engage and talk about myself than i’d imagined or desired.
I need to rewind to last week… Last week we were talking about mental and thought behaviours- those horrid loops and murky waterfalls we/I (own it!) can sucked into when i’m quiet or down. I managed to evade the deeper issues avenue too easily with a shield made of deflection, humour and ambiguity. Thus denying myself the route to discuss them which is what I really want. Afterwards I was furious with myself and thoroughly antisocial at work. All because I need a push. There’s nothing worse than crying for help too quietly or obliquely for anyone to hear you. It’s annoying, disappointing, hurtful and makes you do stupid things to get attention.
Obviously we’re supposed to just say stuff. And I couldn’t tell whether my Brain Lady was waiting for me, hadn’t noticed or whatever. Naturally I blamed myself. I did write about that, but I haven’t typed it up (might do that later) as it was immediate and veryfuckingannoying.
What i’m writing about now is actually a form of celebration, personally. I managed to broach the subject of wanting to talk about issues which have in the past lead to self-harm and sadness and frustration. It wasn’t easy, and my Brain Lady had to endure a lot of elliptical and sidewaysy endless sentences. But I got there, and said that there were things I believed I was just avoiding and had done forever, or had forgotten about how they make me feel when I do recall them. About as vaguely as here – i’m in a process.
But I feel enormously relieved. I’ve admitted that I have both a need to talk about stuff (most over-used word in my mind), and that i’ve been endlessly evading it, and that doing so made me really angry and upset.
So what now? I get to think about what I want some more. I’ll continue with my new sleep routine and habits, which have helped loads (more about that another day) and keep trying to write about how I feel and why I think so stupid.
So… In continuous personal bravery and optimism, plus knowing I do stuff if I promise to others that will… Things to talk about further include (and I pause here, to breathe and prevaricate): sexual abuse, self-harm, drug use, introspection, family and love, dreams and what the fuck happens in my head.
More weeks of being driven insane by a society dead set on celebrating and promoting mediocrity, if not outright stupidity. And relax… I think it’s fair to say that most of these are work-related. But then I guess that’s where most of us encounter maximum idiocy; I know I do, because otherwise I avoid mankind entirely. Well, I hope you enjoy them. If you do, and feel you need to taste someone else’s poison more frequently then you can follow @shankanalia on Twitter too.
Listen to Vitriol
Oh, almost forgot – I’ve recorded one bilious spurting of poems and you can listen to it here:Shankanolalia The Sensation of Being Verse Shanked, if you prefer to read them, they’re here.
At first we ran. Then we walked. Some of us crawled. Some had stopped: too tired, too weak, injured. Infected.
We few stumbled onto the wet sand, our feet sinking deep and wet into its cloying embrace. We hadn’t heard the beasts for days. Not since Adam, the guy with the two kids had fallen behind one evening. We did start to go back for him, but by the time we realised he hadn’t made it out of the woods… Well. The howls started up, hoots and screams carried by the wind. And in them all that hatred, all that vicious, incomprehensible envy for the blood in our veins.
We didn’t go back for him. Or his children. We just kept going. Over the hills and far away. To the beach. Where else was there to go? That’s where it ends. We have could have gone inland, to the heart of them. We’d have been surrounded; consumed. Here we could see freedom. The waves thundered with hope. None of us noticed the tide was coming in, that the waves were against us, keeping us there.
They let us touch the water at least. They gave us that. But no mercy. The beasts rose out of the sand, it fell away from them as they stretched, soaked, waiting for us. I can’t imagine how long they must have been there. How patient hatred can be.
I was lucky. They fell upon us, tooth and claw ripping and clutching at men and women. Blood spattered the sand, tears fell like rain. I fell backwards into the sea. Arms reached up, closed around me and bore me down under the waves.
She stood at the top of the stairs, tall and glamorous. Her fur coat snapped and howled at the light fittings, her long blonde hair danced in the breeze from the open window.
Then the drug took effect. The air shimmered about her like a haze of heat rising from the sultry street. The foxes snaked around her, their heads diving through and out again like worms through an apple. Her already long fingers lengthened, the nails twitching into talons.
The light bulbs exploded, showering her in a fine glass rain. Out of the fresh darkness came a deep moan, and a growl. Her paws descended the staircase with a soft step and click of claw.
I stepped back behind the curtain and activated the twilight-sight. The gloom became a blue efflorescence as the device drew on the magical energy in the room and gave me a clear view of my love.
Magnificent. Nine feet at the shoulder, her fine features drawn into a toothy snarl, the fur coat’s animals a Medusa swirl of sinous foxy tentacles.
She click-clacked across the foyer and nosed open the front door of our home. The hunt was on.
Cat-calls and whistles rang out from the foredeck as Sharon danced and wheeled. Dark though the night was, we’d fought it back with gaily coloured lanterns and affixed candles to our clothes such as those flingin’ wax from Sharon’s shimmies. Every crewman was on deck, save for a sole lookout in the crow’s nest, his peepers peeled for trouble. For tonight was a time of celebration.
Gaargh, me betrothal to me beloved Roberta Clementine had been a stressful and dangerous time. Her brother’s me arch-nemesis y’see- the indefatigable bastard Admiral Kneehorn. I’d bested him in cunning on many occasions and seen me men busted in irons. Just the presence of Roberta Clementine on board The Grim Bastard placed us all in terrible danger. Know ye that the heart of a pirate cannot be quenched with the bowel-watery fear of steel, additionally ye have to prioritise in this job. Lovely she were, laden with white silks, plundered jewels and gold. Men would happily die just to get a glimpse of her winking charm.
Ne’er before has me chest swelled with such pride as I stepped onto deck, me unicorn of the sea peg leg and black velvet night-smiting suit cutting an equally fine figure. Oh, certainly the narwhal’s face spike gouged horrible holes in the deck, as tis mainly for harming the ships of others’ on special occasions.
Proudly I took her arm and led her twixt a corridor of mooning pirates to the forecastle where we’d installed our captive priesty-man. Quellglum, or Reverend Quellglum as he insisted, we’d lately acquired from a missionary vessel which had willingly spread her legs for us. Reading us the ceremony his delivery was marred only a little by the tics and stammer that afflicted the shy clergical. Signalling to Gashin’ Alan to draw off his blade from the vicar’s throat seemed to aid his wordery.
The ceremony was lovely: No Hands Mick gave a rousin’ shanty and the cabin lads’d sought out some moving verse to enchant and inspire the night. Under the glow of our lanterns and grins of me men I took Roberta Clementine’s hand and placed a ring upon it, for she was a thing I liked. Virginal she seemed, and though twas laughably untrue for either of us, we were reborn in our vows.
We kissed and the wedding entertainment unfolded. Exceeding fully me expectations (these being the lads who’d inflated squid for strewing about the Christmas tree) we had bunting o’ stolen lace, music, dancing and an ominous soliloquy. Ye tone was odd but Gashin’ Alan had had an awful lot of rum so we cheered him regardless. Zealously he concluded his solo by hurling himself from the ship. After fishing him out we further rummed ourselves and danced the night away.
Bright was our future, so bright that it blinded me to the unmanned crow’s nest and that the Reverend Quellglum was signalling with a lamp into the night…
She fell upwards through the blinding darkness. Black night erupted around her. Consciousness hit her like a bus, the shock kick-starting her heart. A whirl of stars as her eyes tracked helplessly in spirals. Focus. Got to breathe. Remember how to breathe. Fresh wet lungs regretfully inflate with the fear of dying so soon. A shuddering gasp; barely remembering what to do. With air the sensations become overwhelming – inside matching the outside. Coldness invades her, at odds with the fever burn of raging senses. Focus, draw it in. Hot. No, cold. Colours; the body cycling through them a painful kaleidoscope. The whorls on her fingertips are huge, overlapping with the revolving star-scape above. The spiky wet green below comes overhead and the dark is behind her again.
Sound penetrates her. It judders up from the earth before the air insinuates it into her mind. She’s preoccupied by the awful whole body retching for a while and doesn’t notice that her vision has stopped slip-sliding around. She only notices that when the hands reach down out of the blue and turn her over so she’s vomiting safely on her side. Through tear-stained eyes an assemblage of white and brown shapes descends on her and moves rhythmically. The noise is concurrent with the motion but is meaningless. Belatedly she realises it’s a human face talking. Pressure on her hair – which she has – pressing the follicles down on her scalp. It tingles violently but the nausea retreats. The velvet dark takes her away again.
The light is fainter here. Dimmer? Less harsh. She’s lying down, warm and dry. She can identify the sensations. Her breathing feels regular, if not yet natural. There’s some weird sensory feedback going on – touching of touching. Oh yeah, fingers. Right. Fingers, knees and toes. That’s not right. Fingers – hands. Arms shoulders body legs feet. Toes. Head on top. Okay, this is normal. Gender-appropriate. Good. Apart from the corporeality. Suddenly there’s a roar and whistling and a terrible rocking of the world that she remembers from a different time. Different place. Different body. A man rushes in (the one from outside?). His face is contorted with emotion, and disfigured with blood. She giggles: blood should be inside, not outside. “You’re feeling better then? Good. We have to go, now.” He hauls her to her feet, making the room spin as her own blood sways inside her. Ah, empathy.
Now she’s upright the dismal dimensions of the room are evident – it’s a small square room, made of concrete and dust. The dust is falling from the ceiling, following each booming crack above. The next roar throws them both into the door frame, his weight pushing her hard into the edge of the door. She cries out at the new pain but adds it to the set of feelings she recognises. Her motor response is working better than she thought too – they get up together and stumble into the corridor.
There’s smoke which bites at the throat and eyes, adding tears to its own misty blur. The frequency of strikes increases into a steady rain of blows to the corridor they half run half walk down. His clothes are rough, torn and patched. A soldier’s garb, but probably not his own. Her own feet are not bare, she realises but in light boots. Someone dressed her. She turns to ask the man who smells of sweat, dust and blood if it was him.
There’s no answer. Not in the vastness of noise which explodes around them. There is no longer a roof. Through a halo of fire and smoke the sky is etched with contrails and explosions. She’s on the ground again, thick with plaster and brick. The man lies over her. Still. More hands tear him away from her and pull her out to the now distant background of screaming and detonations. The man doesn’t join them. With the help of the new hands she’s pushed up the wall and into the open air.
A scream of strangled metal whips her attention to the left – a four wheeled vehicle rotates through the air above her, landing with a crash amidst a group of armed men and women. It explodes. More screams. But… that was only an effect so she re-traces its arc. The cause is a shocking assemblage of metal and fury, snarling and loosing death into scattering soldiers. It lunges towards her, its car-sized feet gouging the earth. The thing’s nightmare Cubist face angles towards her and its hulking girder arms extend vicious grasping claws. She’s overwhelmed, terrified.
The hands that forced her up and out of the tunnels’ safety hold weapons. The closer the giant’s fingers reach the greater the intensity of fire. It flinches away as the steady stream splashes over its face. Then it makes a concerted movement, stepping forward huge and imposing, claws reaching down at them. There’s a brief, shrill squeal. A gout of fire nearby. The giant’s angular face comes apart suddenly. The tangram panels of its head bouncing around them. The headless monster reels drunkenly, trips in the trench it uncovered and collapses, an arm still swinging wildly, beating down into the ground.
Aside from the still-thrashing windmill all is calm. Screams mute to sobs and moans and the staccato gunshot retreats into their barrels. Another man helps her to her feet (again- must re-learn balance), she can tell them apart now. He’s sooty and bloodied too; so is she.
“I’m John,” looking at her expectantly, gently releasing her hand.
I should have one of those she thinks, a name. What’s in a name?
“What’s your name?” again an expectance in his voice, heavy on the pronouns.
It takes a moment, but she can feel it rising within her. A coiling around her mind, squeezing it, re-framing her world:
“Marielle” she blurts, ” OverTwelve: Marielle.” She can feel that she looks surprised.
“Good, welcome back Marielle”.
It did seem familiar being here, back in the world.
While Marielle rediscovers her name, John continues, though not to her. The soldiers have gathered round. Guns point out from their perimeter.
“She’ll get it all back eventually. Primed with key word question and answer responses. We’ve just got to ask the right questions.”
The camp disintegrates around him. Half the soldiers vanish across the fields, leaving the torn earth and the foundered machine behind. Only John and three others remain. John is tall and thin, dressed in the same third-hand uniform as the others.
“This is Jules”, he distinguishes her with a casual wave. A short woman toting a massive weapon across her back and shoulders. The sides of her face and hair are red and scuffed from the barrels of her gun. She smiles encouragingly.
“Jules finished off the Testament.” Marielle stares at them both. Jules smirks; turns away and starts packing a series of cases.
“Sergeant Mastiff,” he says nodding at the man tending to her own shoulder. Cleaning and wrapping the long gash she’d received when the ceiling was torn away. His hands are gentle. His face a mess of scars and missing shapes. He brushes her hair out of a cut above her left eye. The cuts are strange, they feel… strong. “They’ll hurt for a bit” Mastiff says. That’s the word: hurt. The other side of sensation. Pain. Now she knows it her shoulder aches terribly. He stands. Slowly. Stiffly. Only one of his legs bends. “She’ll be fine”.
There’s just one of the party left, a smooth-faced man who wears the uniform like it belongs to him. He can’t take his eyes off her. “Wh- why did you. Why are you here?” she’s talking to John but looking at the man by his side. The other man exchanges a look with John that Marielle cannot understand.
“We saw you. You won’t remember, but we saw you. Coming down in a pillar of fire. From up there.” But she does remember, her memory unlocking to that time before she had memories. Remembers shedding her skin.
“You came down, coming back to us.” John continued, “we saw where you’d be and reckoned we’d get to you first, though not by much”.
The clarity, blackness in the distance, everything pin sharp wherever she looked. Then the fall, burning through the atmosphere. The inside of her twisted, reforming, sucking at the substance of her strength. Plates, parts ablating away, ripped off by the speed of descent. A sudden shift of self and then that hard contact of mind.
“She’s doing better than you did.”
“It hasn’t been as long. She’s slept too.”
They’re still talking as is she isn’t there. Maybe she isn’t, not really, not yet.
“This is Michael.”
Michael looks at her intently. “You don’t remember me do you?”
“I- I don’t know. I don’t. I remember falling.”
“Yes. It’s a long way back down isn’t it?” he sighs. “I’m Michael. Michael OverEleven.” Her face crawls between blankness, confusion and recognition.
“How long has it been?” she manages.
Michael nods to John. “We think- we know- we looked you up once we found you, before the Testament came. It’s been seventy-two years Mariella. Seventy-two years since they took you.”
“She doesn’t get it.” says Jules, “we have to go. The others are away but we have to go now.” She stuffs a case into each soldier’s arms and stalks away across the field.
“Come on Marielle. We’ll talk more when we get there.” Michael slings the case onto his back. Glances warily around. Takes Marielle by the elbow. His grip is tight. Warm. Marielle goes with him.
The Testament brokenly slumps alone in the mud. Its pounding fist slowly beats a pit into the earth as Sergeant Mastiff limps about the battlefield. He kneels by each dead soldier for a moment and steps away. When the metal fist finally halts, hanging twice the height of a man from the ground, the bodies are burning in tight fierce blazes and Mastiff has gone.
This is a backdated post, so apologies for the lack of ordering. To be fair (to myself) that’s much like the inside of my head so I guess it’s appropriate. What follows is straight from my hand-written diary of brain thoughts, and led directly to setting up this blog anyway. This is me just starting a course of cognitive behavioural therapy for wellbeing and sleep disorder.
18/04/12 – the night before a therapy session.
So I’m doing this therapy tyhing – a referral from my doctor, ostensibly for sleep disordery things, but increasingly it’s making me think about depression and anxiety. I guess those are underlying or related issues. I know I’m going to end up having to talk about things I don’t want to – I have already hinted at them, so I’m kind of committing. Honesty’s a bitch. I don’t want to lie to this ‘brain lady’ who I’ve told that I want to help me, so I guess… I won’t? I’m both nervous about it all and relieved. I know we’re going to talk about self-harm, which will eventually wind its way back to abuse and all godknowswhat.
There’s a plan though – come off the amitriptyline (can only spell that with the aid of the internet) and get a proper sleep pattern. Whatever else comes up – fine. Get it out, right? Am I to return to my teen years of endless self-indulgent self-analysis? Or was it? Was it actually much-needed introspection that kept me alive? Maybe. If so, it’s just stupid to ignore it and deny the validity or utility of the process, just because I can’t quite recall feeling that way. I do have all the notebooks still, of course. Would re-reading them (if they’re legible) be like feeling it all again? I just don’t know if I actually am that emotionally cut off from myself and others.
I feel better for having someone to talk to but I’m also fascinated to know what the brain lady thinks of me! Massive egotism, narcissism, but also I can talk of myself and that’s great, but don’t the opinions of others matter? I think that’s how we evaluate ourselves- against or at least to the extent that we agree with someone else’s ideas or model of ourselves. Ah I don’t know. Really I’d like another whiskey – squash some of this down and just get drowsy. I am unlikely to be a good patient – endless second guessing, enjoying the ‘game’ of it all – the attention and the opportunity to indulge myself.
Maybe those are things that I or anyone else needs. And I’ve denied myself that opportunity until now because I’ve felt it too difficult or unhelpful. At the weekend I need to go through some of those notebooks and get a sense of what the fuck I was thinking when I was 17 and 20-something. To night no? Yay.
Gaargh, I’m back on ye Flash Cast! Tis just a short warning on this occasion and I am but a week late in the posting of it!
Listen to it now:
The wondrous folk of Flash Pulp have once more been content to add one of me gentle tales of oceanic erotica to their splendid pulp magazine show. Aye that’s right, me party favourite The Mermaid’s Tale can be in your ears in moments:
Again, another that I wrote before I’d started committing to the whole bloggy thing. And it feels to me like I need to include these things because this is for me an account of understanding myself, partly through the agency of therapy but also the conscious decision to lay out (if not confront) some aspects of my life. So this is from 01/05/12 following a therapy session which I found really difficult.
Why do I start to crash emotionally when I have nothing in particular to do? Is it because I’m well aware of what happens when I’m unoccupied: my thoughts wind back to unhappy memories and invent ways in which I can be unhappy – so I’m trying to avoid them. Is that self-help therapy? Quite annoyed with myself that I’m, on the verge of talking about the underlying shit from my past but not quite going there when talking to my Brain Lady. It’s frustrating to not know whether she’s got it in mind to explore more deeply than just the sleep and relationship habits – whether I’ve evaded or hinted at things. Do I want to talk about them? I don’t know. And yet, if, underneath these problems are the causes (however displaced) of my proper habits and states then this is the time to discuss them. Or is it? Do we really have the time or objective of getting into the heart of things? Or am I now minimising and diverting attention from myself? For pity’s sake. But if this new routine does fix my sleep… why get into the past at all?
I feel sick. Whether it’s the prospect of enduring the coming team meeting and presentation or from the last hour of discussion about myself I can’t tell. It’s the getting near to these thoughts and feelings that is perversely making me feel worse and more nervous; perhaps because I’m allowing myself / being allowed to avoid it all. Do I just need to confess that in addition to the dead feelings, relationship equality worries and sleep fucktedness there’s this history of being abused in my teens and the self-harm that resulted from it as well as the years of failing to resolve that?
I’ve kind of put much of this into abeyance through time and other activities and now I feel like it’s all back – and although I do feel differently about it all, the chance of bringing it up and discussing it again – for the first time, given my penchant for written emoting – this is making me unwell. I do feel sick and somewhat faint at the prospect of talking anyone through what happened to me just so that they can maybe help me.
How to communicate something I’ve repeatedly failed to communicate about? Just say it. Write is as the opening gambit and then start the therapy session with it? Hardcore. Or write it and somehow get it to my Brain Lady – to do what with? Read it and ask me questions? This feels fucking childish. Is this just outside the remit of these sessions? Circular: don’t want to talk about and can’t talk about it so don’t need to talk about it because that’s not the purpose of these sessions. So…. nowhere then.
Start a brutally honest blog about it all and see how it feels? What’s making this hard and all backwards is that at the moment I feel fine – because I’m doing all this self-work and so I feel I don’t need to do this. Which is false. Because I feeel fine-ish during this period of prescription and extra care I’m ignoring how I may feel when left to my own devices once more. And that’s just stupid. This is an opportunity for me. It’s not about my Brain Lady. It’s about me and I can get from this as much as I want to. So I guess I need to make some decisions. Or just act – and see what results from that. Follow an improv principle – commit and react. Terrifying.
I have the answers and most of the questions but if they remain unspoken how can they be used?
Okay so I’ve successfully spent the rest of the day in self-induced rage and tension. Well done. Have failed to be able to talk to M about it. I’m going to have to do something about this blog idea, because this is getting silly. I’m angry with myself for putting me in this situation. My problem (or one of them) is that I really want to do a cry for help, but I’m never loud or clear enough when I do – so I’ve rarely been noticed in my various attempts over the years. Perhaps it’s because I think it is terribly crass or something to demand help, but less so if someone else offers it to me – with the degree of forecefulness I require to engage.
My fingers were clenched tight and the bony ridge cut into my fingers. I could feel my blood pulsing past the nicks and gashes in the dismembered skeleton I hid behind, as if they were my bones and it was my blood the floor was awash with. I was giddy with the scent of that coppery tang overlaying the reek of old blood, rotting and soaked into the floorboards.
The night bled around me and I hugged myself tighter to the empty body which scarcely concealed me. I had been warned about the cellar. But I still allowed myself to be drawn here by the soft music and the eager chatter of my friends. Perhaps this was one of them. We’d been joined as we walked down the long corridor by men and women whom I had seen when I was with my parents. I think they knew them, but my parents had steered us away when we met in the caverns. Time and time again we are told not to go off alone, especially at night, and especially to these places. I feel stupid now.
The thought of my parents distracted me from the awful sounds which came from the self-imposed darkness. I didn’t need to see anything to know that I shouldn’t have come. I knew no one would be coming for us. No one goes out on winter’s eve. If only I’d said no to my friends. If only I hadn’t argued with my mother and sneaked between the peals of the night time bells. If only I’d stayed at home.
The gnawing and ripping continued but my eyes were squeezed shut so tight I could see the angels in stark white relief dancing past me, grinning and offering their hands. I knew at least not to let go, no matter how close the snarls and meaty slaps became. I was safe as long as I was blind.
Perhaps I slept. I couldn’t have stayed silent and unseeing for so long. The idea that I might have dozed off scared me almost as much as what I had slept through. It was quiet now. There was no feel of blood lapping at my thighs as I knelt there, alone in the dark. It felt much later, perhaps it was morning now. My eyes ached with the fear that had kept them closed. My hands were sore, but clutched only each other now. I summoned my courage – I had to escape. The way we had come in would surely be open now, even if I would be leaving alone.
Tentatively I opened my eyes, hardly daring to relax my eyelids for fear of what I might see. I was right to be fearful. It was still night. Silent and staring one of the angels crouched before me. I knew it was too late, but I closed my eyes again because I did not want to see what would happen next.
The box rocked violently between the two books which held it neatly in place; at one end a large hardback collection of artistic cat prints, opposing it an equally large dictionary. Both looked rather worse for wear, broken bindings, loose threads and gold type wearing thin. By marked contrast the box between them appeared brand new, or at least one presumed it was brand new: it had no scratches, no markings, no chipped corners or any of the usual injuries sustained either before or during arrival here. Instead it had a peculiarly smooth finish, which made it glisten in the dim, mote-filled light. When touched however, it felt neither smooth nor wet. But then again, it didn’t feel rough or dry. Really it felt of nothing at all. Those same fingertips could only sense that the muscles were being prevented from contracting further- no sensory information was available. Even the hairline crack running precisely between the halves of the box was too fine, the parts too perfectly flush, for the primitive agency of touch.
The box was naturally something of a curiosity, less that people would come to see such a curious object, rather that should someone classify it, it would certainly be as a curious curio from unknown parts of unknown parts. This though a classifier, when in fact none existed nor had one done so for a long time. Books aged and withered, creaking and cracking until the binding snapped, emptying volumes of paper flakes upon the shelves and floor. The books surrounding the box had not yet reached this stage of decay; a trifle worn they possessed sufficient weight to pin the curio down.
The rocking subsided once more, as it always did, apparently having rid itself of dead pages and dust. The glistening box grew darker, murkier in colour, slowly sinking through the spectrum of night until its intactile sheen was now complemented by its total lack of reflectivity. The box was to all intents and purposes invisible. But what were its intents, its purposes?
Content, as all immobile objects appear to be, simply to wait, unaffected by the continual erosion of the material beyond it. It was an age since anyone had even seen the box, let alone moved it from between the guarding tomes. The guards, however slowly were also decaying, it was but a matter of time before one or the other gave way and slowly collapsed into debris.
As the dust continued to pile up the box gave the distinct impression of impatience; shaking itself more furiously and more frequently to prevent itself from being buried. At last only the top of the box could be seen, or rather unseen, since it left only a disc of darkness nestled in the greying crater. Flecks of dust settled lightly on the exposure, plotting the box’s curve. Still the box remained. Finally, with agonising slowness the outside cover of the dictionary pulled itself free from the terribly worn and abused binding which split, threads splaying forwards and downwards. An avalanche of slow motion paper fell next, crumbling from the top of the dictionary, pulling more flecks free until whole pages disintegrated, heaping onto the shelf.
As it wasted away, there was only ‘A’ and the cover left, by a heap of decaying paper. The bulk of the fine book of artistic cat prints, no longer counter-weighted by the lexicon, fell hard onto the box. Its descent was somewhat slowed by the great dust drifts between them; but when forced down they burst out outwards like the exhaust from some terrific engine. The standing dictionary cover toppled, and tumbled off the shelf. The moment the obstruction was gone the grinning face of a cat slapped down upon the box, propelling it swiftly across the shelf on a platform of dust which it dragged behind, arcing into a shaft of thick sunlight; the box an impenetrable hole in the light.
Entering the shadows the box did not vanish as might be supposed, the box as it flew began to glimmer again, as if the moments of frantic activity had energised it, and its speed did not diminish but increase. The flawless and now luminescent box displayed an infinitely thin glowing yellow line about its perimeter as the box made first contact with a wall of brick and wood and passed through it without even a whisper, leaving a perfectly smooth and featureless hole behind it. The box stopped in mid-air, and could now be seen oscillating so rapidly that were it not for the slight distortion effected upon the yellow line it should have been perceived motionless.
As it hung there the yellow light distorted more wildly, weaving an erratic web around the box. The oscillation continued until the entire box gave out a uniform yellow light, easily discernible in the shadows next to the wall it had so neatly punctured. Cautiously the luminous box sank toward the ground, folding down long blades of grass. As it neared the ground the shaking lessened and the yellow light drew back into its minute groove. The light cast a neat halo upon the bare earth a few inches beyond the box, and the box’s colours began to run, from the top downwards; a slow running and dripping. The darkness of the box spread onto the ground, pouring like black coffee into the halo’s confines; once the area was filled, the halo vanished, leaving a disc of darkness on the ground. The rest of the box was now a brilliant white, the base pearlescent in its own shade.
It was a quiet day, a light breeze made the sharp blades of grass rasp against one another, and when that sound died there was the industrious racket of insect hordes determinedly approaching the interloper. The first was a beetle, with its shiny black oil-slick shell, marching over the uneven ground on six delicately articulated legs, its antenna waving in the air as it neared the disc of blackness. Abruptly the beetle turned and proceeded to tour the perimeter of the box. Soon the beetle arrived back where it began, having described a perfect circle. It settled down on the ground, squarely facing the box as if resigned to a long wait; the twitching of its feelers the only animation. Other insects also approached, ants- travelling in a solid file surrounded the box briefly before concluding that the dark halo was entirely unknown and thoroughly impregnable. The ants retreated in confusion, lacking the coherence with which they arrived in a rambling, rushing flood of armour. Other insects came and went with varying reactions: flying insects were unable to land on the box and buzzed ineffectually about it; gastropods found they could get no grip with their powerful feet and got no further.
Eventually all the insects left, except for that first beetle to come on the scene. Hours had passed and all manner of creeping, crawling insectile life had been unable to so much as lay a feeler upon the black disc or the white block on it. The beetle’s feelers waved feebly and it reared up on its hindmost legs, gesticulating in the air, weaving a complex of patterns with its segmented limbs, spread wide in appeal and calm, encouraging gestures. The beetle’s wings unfolded and re-folded producing a rasping rhythm to accompany its dance. Finished, the beetle hesitated briefly as it regained its footing and then shook its heavy carapace from side to side; the beetle rocked more and more violently, until it overcame its own sense of balance and toppled, rolling helpless onto its back.
The legs did not waggle frantically as might be expected; rather the legs extended fully and bent in half, bringing the sharp points of six feet to rest along the centre of the beetle’s abdomen. Those feet dug down, hard and swift into the beetle and the abdomen split, smoothly and cleanly with no outpouring of fluids. The two halves rolled back into the shell and the head flipped back as if hinged, leaving a gaping opening into the body of the bug. Its interior was faintly lighted, and became brighter, casting a tiny silhouette out over the beetle’s upside-down head. That shadow vanished, to be replaced by a powerful beam of light which passed over the black disc and onto the white box, not merely reaching, but piercing the smooth finish; ripples formed as the beam struck, suggesting motion. Simultaneously, the beetle rose into the air and towards the box. It passed the darkness and followed the beam of light into the whiteness: the beetle was smoothly enveloped as if sunk gently in a mildly viscous pool.
Still once more, all ripples caused by that beam of light now spent, the box gave no hint that the beetle had entered it. The black halo began to fall back, slickly running up over the white box, consuming it in blackness again, but this time broken by tiny, distant-star-like points, slowly moving in spirals about the box, rising ever upwards. As the spirals continued to rise, they coiled, their multicoloured specks fusing together, coating the box in vivid iridescent rainbows until the whole box was one spectral mass, the previous luminescence now rich and oily again. The box rose slowly into the air, grass beneath it straightening themselves and creaking with the effort, up and up it rose, above the holed wall, high into the air still visible as a dark, shining speck hurtling upwards past the limits of vision, and on.
I’ve just told my Brain Lady that I was abused as a teenager. That’s true. I don’t think i’ve ever been able to just say it to someone like that before. So I feel kind of shocked.
At the last session I’d managed to say that there were more things than the sleep disorder and depression that I wanted to get help with. I knew that at some point I’d have to elaborate on the intricate obfuscation I’d woven and say something more. For some reason – probably the usual mental tricks
of deflection – I hadn’t clicked that it would be soon. So when my Brain Lady asked me about it today I was a bit flustered. I have thought about it a lot – but about going forwards and doing a thing, not about why I needed to go forwards. Dumbass.
I don’t think I could have prepared for it though. And it’s weird writing it again here – i’ve confessed the things that have happened to me on paper, and shared that with some of my loved ones, but to say them out loud… It took a lot. But once i’d said “i was abused as a teenager” I found I could talk about it a little. Knowing that we weren’t about to launch into details helped. Obviously it’s the missing link when I think about self-harm and depression and so talking about it makes more of my life make sense – even to me, who knows that already. The things we hide from ourselves.
I did feel obliged, as I always do, to state that it wasn’t awful – I wasn’t abducted or anything and millions have suffered far worse. But it happened to me and that is significant enough for me. The scale I always imagine is, I guess, a way of normalising, gaining perspective on my experience. But however minor it may have been compared to someone’s else’s experience doesn’t really matter. It’s a kind of self-denial – minimising the value and worth of how I feel.
Writing like this helps me to explore how I feel, and I get to see it. And look at it, as I would any other piece of writing and criticise it. (I’m not checking for spelling and grammar – sorry.) And as I write I’m starting to find the answers to questions I asked my Brain Lady and myself about the purpose of pursuing treatment for something that happened so long ago which I survived. The mere fact that i’m writing about it at all, and worse, scarcely managing to even fucking say makes it pitifully obvious why I need to take action. That is scares me, freezes my silver tongue, turns me instinctively – these are such clear indications to me.
I’ve hidden from myself for too long. I’m not sure I like it out here yet. I’ll allow myself a shudder of tears. I realise this is a big deal and has not been easy and i’m torn in my chest and I don’t know what this is going to be like.
The gnarl-tongued lizard man coiled itself for another strike. I slapped it firmly about the scaly chops and earned a moment of respite. My incarceration in the Halls of the Soulless Ones had been alternately tedious and freighted with menace. Worse still I had long exhausted my supplies of travelling brandy and caravan opiates. It was doing my nerves no favours at all.
The nameless horrors grew more horrible and nameless by the hour. A fearful dread struck me whenever they laid their cold unidentifiably alien minds upon me. The chill terror they wrought in me I diffused by allocating them disparaging nicknames. ‘Old Cock Stalk Eyes’ was unamused when I named him so and through my hysterical laughter I stepped back from the brink of madness.
They tormented my frail humanity in that weird place between the stars and moon. Only my environment seemed fixed while time ran amok like an epileptic lady-gibbon: the hours raced by or dilated for seeming days. The hands of my watch disported themselves energetically which helped not at all. I sprawled, bored and confused upon a slab of stone so unusual in hue that I hesitate to grant it colour at all – perhaps its colour was in my mind only and there are not words to represent it. Walls of stone rose high above me. I imagined that they met in a vast arch in the sky – if sky there was. The vault was filled with windows subtly aglow with a gross tantric haze and behind them a darkness that grew blacker the longer I looked, as if I were being drawn into a bleak pupil of my own death. Gloomy.
I contented myself with staring at the floor, for the windows were too terrible to contemplate. Through the floor I grew dimmingly aware of another man such as myself, leaning against a similar slab of prisonhood. I attempted a tapping Morse upon the stone, with hopes of conveying a greeting through its resonant essence. He stirred not, though the sound was returned to me thrice-fold and punchy to my ears. As I watched (in a manner unlike voyeurism, for I was lonely in this space with only the grimming faces of ‘Old Gashey Face Spume’ and ‘Lady Horn Buttocks’ to oppress me) the man started in alarm and cowered by the slab.
My heart leapt into my mouth and I was obliged to swallow it lest my fevered pulse choke me. Approaching him clawfully was a vile nightmare brute: half fish-scaled goat and half horse-lobster, its head a single hugely glistening eyeball rimed with bloody sleep. The poor fellow fled, but the eerie chimera was before him at every turn. My unique eyrie gave me an unrivalled view, though I’d have traded it for a blinding. The ocular beast held the man down, and its dire pupil widened as if plunged into night. A chitinous nether spout unfurled from the gaping orb and jerked ominously before loosing a wetly spurting string of ichorous insectile oospore into the man’s terrified eyes. He screamed, which struck me as entirely reasonable, as the monster’s roe burrowed into his face.
The cackleberry-headed thing retreated, with its spiny recoiling pistil. I realised the rime was not bloody tears but the crusted rudiment of its own lost progeny. The man lay on the unhueable slab, hands over his eyes sobbing with horror. As the only other human present I felt I ought to pat him on the shoulder, or offer him a handkerchief. Some well-intentioned platitude or other in this dark and gruesome place. He was unreachable – as cut off from my cotton kerchief as man is from the mind of woman. He began to shudder and buck as if swiving a reluctant tiger. For the eggs were hatching. Those appalling nuclei of the Soulless Ones delivered by Captain Jism-Eye himself had completed their awful gestation in mere seconds, though to our time-shagged senses it might have been years.
The man threw back his head and his face was seamed with writhing ridges where those horrid oculist spawn roved. The spectral germs opened his mind like an origami crane handled by a child, rippingly and without grace. His inner eye floated free and was drawn into the future. I saw what he saw, a future rife with flames and misery: the Soulless Ones returned to our realm with their cold hatred of our life, a terrible insight into the future these creatures desired for us. It was as I shared in these visions that I had cause to wonder how it could be that I, pitying this fellow’s plight from above whose fate I envied not at all, could be twinned with him for this portentous glimpsing…
Aaagh! The worms wriggled under the flesh of my beautiful features – it was I, not he! For there was no he – only I suffered in that hellish Hall. It was my eyes into which that opthalmic bastard had spurted its embryonic eyeballs. I bellowed and raged, scratching at my face as I blundered about the hall cursing the Soulless Ones with all the names and mockery my gifted tongue could muster.
Apparently displeased by my description of its majesty as ‘Buttock-clad mal-faced leper-fist of faecal croco-chickens’ one of the ancient creatures stirred into motion. I named each one of those cruel and unfriendly gods and derided them loudly in their sacred space. With a victorious squeeze of my cheeks I exploded a gout of wriggling oculant horrors from my flesh. I took no little pleasure in stamping them to an ectoplasmic smear. It was perhaps this which roused their wrath for they all rose from their slumber; walking, dragging or even hopping dreams made flesh (albeit from half a hundred ill-chosen species, blended with the skill of a coprophilic artiste) hating at me with their emanations of terror.
I was beyond their reach, so agog with their seeding of my brow that my anger impelled my imprecative oratory to ever greater heights of insult. I realised I might have pushed the cockish jerk monkeys too far when I found myself standing in one of those bleak window arches, the darkness pulling at me- a mortuary ghost suckling on life. With wide, crazed eyes I stared defiant into their many, many eyes and found myself free. A roaring filled my ears and I fell backwards into the gloom.
A billion stars rushed around me and were still. I lay in a rose bed, ringed by the concerned faces of my neighbours from Harleigh (a small town temporarily unstained by my reputation). They helped me to my feet and I was grateful for the warm crush of their hands. Laughingly, I attributed my battered state to a gardener’s combat with an aggressive weed. I fended off further aid by declaring that whiskey and a hot bath would doubtless set me aright.
It was as I lounged in my tub, steaming clean the stink of the ancients that I felt a popping by my ear and heard a splash. An undulant tremor of horror ran through my belly. A grub of optic flesh waggled through the water. I splashed it ineffectually in my panic before anger strengthened me. I leapt from the bath and seized a jar in which I trapped the disgusting parasite. I sloshed it full of with paraffin and grinningly set it ablaze. The worm thrashed and swelled alarmingly, growing to the size of a burning horse in mere moments. Resuming my panic, I hurled the remainder of the oil at its maddened head-orb. The explosion blew me into my drawing room where I dazedly seized the bare necessities of life and fled the house.
I squatted in a robe, sopping wet and drinking whiskey in the street, and watched the flames spread through the neighbourhood with dreary predictability. The ghastly optomobeast ululated its immolatory end in a slow death of taking its pyre to the rest of the town. At least I’d leave this place with my reputation intact, for it seemed there would be no survivors. Damn those Soulless Ones, I feared that their bitter reign already begun.
The bus lurched to a halt and vomited us onto the pavement. The main plaza was a sea of heavy clothes crested with people’s downcast faces. I allowed myself to join that miserable surf and was washed across the square. The damp concrete squelched under my shoes. It can’t have been that loud, but every step made me wince.
Head down; hat tipped forward. Not enough to look like I was hiding, but enough to shade my face. I’d be scanned, but the machines would process the clearest pictures first.
I casually approached my first stop; saw myself in the shop window and checked the time. I looked much calmer than I felt: the city’s equivocal scrutiny raised horripilations inside and out – look away from the glass. I opened the shop door and walked in.
The brassy ring hung in the air as the door closed. It was darker here, and the outside world seemed bright in spite of the drizzle. I shouldered through the racks of designer suits and dresses for hire, up the steps and swept aside the tatty curtain hiding the dressing room. I knelt and ripped away the wallet taped underneath the worn bench. I replaced the curtain and returned to the shop floor.
Alerted by the bell, the owner had appeared, a soft aging gentleman with thin hair and thick glasses. We nodded amiably and I murmured something about how nice the suits were and that I’d be back for a fitting. I smiled warmly at a woman (whom I presumed was his wife), then made the bell ring again.
The sky spat coldly at my feet, giving me a reason to hunch into my coat and tilt the brim again. I went against the flow back across the plaza, but joined a group of be-suited citizens marching with corporate urgency. I was glad of our uniformity, hiding me from the glass-eyed gargoyles clinging to every pole and rooftop.
While we cut through the masses I fished out the wallet. It didn’t feel like cowhide, probably some poor endangered brute worth more dead than alive; not unlike the wallet’s owner. I extracted the cash card and threw away its skin.
I left the business folk with a fraudulent wave and strode upright into the bank. Security stood at precise intervals along the walls, with their dutifully suspicious faces ogling us all. I brushed ostentatiously past one, causing him to apologise profusely. I ignored him and attended to the lonely automatic teller.
This might be trickier. The machine accepted the card and allowed me to enter the twenty-four digit pin number I’d memorised earlier, confirm the owner’s date of birth and then answer a host of security questions. That was the cost of a machine withdrawal and denoted my newfound status. His privacy premium should ensure my anonymity. Other customers sneered enviously from the winding queues. I selected a total withdrawal. Thankfully it was not unheard of for the wealthy to pimp their cash around the banking district for a higher interest rate. And with the market so buoyant it was a risk I could justify.
I tried to enjoy a complimentary coffee while the machine sucked on my card. Eventually the big glossy notes were shuffled and stacked, and began to clutter the table. There was so much that they piled up and some fell to the floor. I immediately leaned over to scoop it up, acutely conscious of their uniqueness: the thick notes gave the denomination next to a large photograph of the card’s owner and details. We wouldn’t even have passed for distant cousins.
But I was hasty and bumped into another customer. The man stepped away muttering to himself. I apologised and straightened his jacket, my back to the table. Out of the corner of my eye I could saw security guards whispering into their headsets. It was time to leave.
I packed the money into the complimentary valise and set off. I caught the eye of a man entering the bank and greeted him effusively. I grasped his arm with a large handshake, twisted and hurled him into the guards by the exit. It was a tiny delay, but all that I needed to dart out of the bank into the street. The rain had stopped.
The banks took pride in their account security and customer privacy, so my withdrawal would remain secret: a thief couldn’t spend their money as its theft would be so obvious at the point of sale. I had other financial plans. The scuffle however would have been noted by state security, and that alone prompt swift action. Abandoning my earlier caution, I ran.
The sun had dried up the square, so I could no longer merge with the crowd. I ducked under a café’s parasol and detached the lower half of my coat, tore off my trouser-bottoms and threw them, with my hat, on an empty chair. Leaving my cover I shook out my hair and forced my run into a saunter. Then I turned into the correct side alley and vanished from their oversight.
Behind me at the café would be a man in a standard grey coat and hat, examining my discarded clothing and demanding information. I didn’t have all day to get away. A few blocks away I picked up my pace and took advantage of another blind spot to slip into a narrow doorway. This was safe, for a moment. I had just enough time to reverse my jacket and add the cap and glasses from the shelf. I swapped the money to a bag on a hook and stuffed the freebie into a drawer, checked the time and left through the other side of the building.
I changed my walk and swaggered down the road. I passed at least two security agents but they showed no interest in me. That wasn’t necessarily encouraging, not if I was doing what they expected. I’d exhausted my disguises and had to be running out of luck. They would be listening for me now, tuning into my walking rhythms, having measured my height, weight and countless other features. It was only a matter of time before they caught up, or I escaped their electronic senses.
Two pairs of footsteps were suddenly loud at my heels. A glance into a window confirmed that I was being followed. But when I turned the next corner the footsteps died away. Had I lost them? Maybe they were toying with me. Maybe they weren’t following me at all. I couldn’t second-guess them and so had to stick to the plan. I had a destination, and a rapidly elapsing time frame. I jogged through a warehouse yard and into the utility landscape beyond.
A sound to my right nearly made me sick with panic. My heartbeat thundered in my ears – I was so close. A welcome shape emerged from a massive pipe and waved. We smiled grimly at one another and I followed her through the maze of machinery until we reached the railway line.
“That’s one more then,” she said.
“How much time do we have?”
“The train’ll be here in time,” she checked her watch, “- just. Get ready.”
We crouched, waiting, and as the train came past we grabbed the railing and pulled ourselves onto the last wagon. A gang of grey-coated men strode urgently towards the tracks we were leaving. The first man staggered, clutched at another before they all toppled to the ground and were still.
She raised an eyebrow at me and I smiled tightly, and raised my bag. In return she nodded and produced a tall glass container. The yellow biohazard sticker protested futilely against the broken seal. She tossed the empty vessel into the fresh rain. We clung to each other as the train sped up, taking us away from the cold, dark city.
We sat, huddled together against the weather and checked our funds. The currency would be bankable, no questions asked, for a day or two. It would fund the rest of our journey. My partner’s rucksack clinked with the train’s motion. Through the drawstring opening I counted our other supplies, their red warning lights jostling in lethal merriment. We would be in our second city by morning.
This week started pretty badly for me on the snooze front. I’m going to partly blame it on my other half, the Lady M (anonynymity in this blog is by my discretion and whim).
I should say first that we had a great weekend – we both performed in a fantastic show on Friday which was an immense high and a really good vibe emotionally for both of us. The Lady M’s been quite down about our shows recently – not feeling she was hitting the peaks and consequently mentally spiralling about participating at all.
The Big Show is one of the things that we do which I most enjoy – unfettered creation (and horror) with an audience, and for me, doing it is very much tied in with The Lady M. We’ve done this together (with others) for about the last ten years and the idea of not doing it together is actually nauseating. So to have a really strong show was very important for her wellbeing, and mine, and our joint wellbeing. Ace. A nice quiet dopey Saturday and slightly busier but good Sunday.
Good that was until I recalled and mentioned that I was planning to join a workmate after work on Monday (yesterday) for a drink to celebrate his birthday. That conflicted with another plan we’d discussed, of going to the cinema. Now I must confess that i’d been dreading mentioning that there was something else I wanted to do. Not that I was desperate to go out with workmates, but it seemed like a nice thing to do, and I turn down such offers very often. The thing is that The Lady M reacts terribly to interruptions to what I think she perceives as ‘our time’.
For me, the time in the evenings is ‘our time’, but it’s also ‘my time’ and ‘her time’. I work 9-5 so it’s the time for doing anything and everything which isn’t work. That’s not quite the same for The Lady M, who is self-employed and work-seeking, mainly from home. I love spending time together and I have lots of interests and activities which I want to, and do pursue.
So – Sunday night. I knew The Lady M was annoyed, and i’d known she would be. The clash of events was not insurmountable, but that’s not the problem. So there was some stomping around, angry hurt brow and silence. I know these things. They are painful to me. And because I know they’ll come up – almost regardless of the event (invited out for a drink, family visit, a night out for open mic or a show, see some friends), I spin up an awesome weight of anxiety about telling her. Frequently I just turn people down, or choose not to even mention something, or try to slowly and distantly introduce the thing. It’s horrible. I get stressed, don’t get what I want, The Lady M gets angry and upset and it’s all kinds of fucked up.
So on Sunday I pressed the issue. Good idea? Maybe. We went to bed and she was clearly still furious. I’m quite good at ignoring these mood swings when I need to, but if it’s at bedtime it kills my chill. So I asked why she was so upset (bear in mind that this is strictly my account and recollection – bias!) and it all went to fuck.
The Lady M threw at me that we’d prearranged going to the cinema, that i’d previously dedicated Monday nights to her and the cat-beast. Now I don’t want this to sound silly or trivial – stuff does when it’s written down, but this isn’t silly or trivial when it’s about how we feel. I finally managed to snap, and get out how I am in fear of her reactions. It was difficult and it upset her.
We had a very long talk in which The Lady M said some terrible things about hating herself, all the time, and not being able to control how she feels. We’ve been together for a long time – nearly 14 years and we’ve both been up and down emotionally. But what The Lady M was saying horrified me – that she thought I loved her, but didn’t like her – couldn’t like her. I don’t think she’d realised how her reactions made me feel. It’s easy not to – we’re all focussed on ourselves. I know how The Lady M will react, but I didn’t necessarily know why. I can take guesses, but she confirmed many of them.
When your self-esteem and self-worth is at rock bottom, or lower it’s impossible to balance information with feelings, or to control how you feel, or even figure out that what you’re feeling is maybe a bit askew.
These were some of the things we talked about. We could have split up, but that would have been awful. It’s an easy way out, and would just throw two slightly broken parts away, whereas in fact we fit together pretty well. And what can you say when presented with despair and self-hatred? I have no idea. All I ever feel I can do is be there. I know i’m strong emotionally, incredibly resilient and what I can do for My Lady M is to just be here.
I don’t know if that’s enough, and I fear that it won’t be. But she knows she’s not in the right place in her mind. She knows she needs help, and if I can help for that to happen then I will.
I do love My Lady M, and I do like her. I don’t always like the things she does, but then I don’t like everything I do. I’m here to stay.
Something else she brought up was that she didn’t think I was attracted to her. I confess that’s a tricky one for me to answer at the moment. I don’t really know how I feel sexually at present, and my libido has dragged behind for several years. I don’t think i’m strongly attracted to anything. I’ve kind of fallen into an amiable companionship without ever intending to. I suspect in part it’s the fallout of very stressful emotional periods for both of us which turned us away from sex and each other, which have in turn confirmed and complemented each other in very negative ways. I would like to change that. Again, right now I don’t know how, but I know I want to stay with My Lady M and we can find each other again.
To be flippant – all of this is a terrible way to get to sleep. But it was for both of us and hard and painful way to be very honest with each other. And that can only be a good thing – we have a better sense of who we are and how we’re treating each other. But it did make for a bad night’s sleep. The consolation was that we went to sleep together, together in mind and together by our hands. I woke up tired but much happier, and My Lady M seems better too.
I’ve just finished the first period of therapy I’ve had in my life. Its purpose, on referral from my GP was to address sleeping problems. My sleep had gotten so irregular, and so bad that it was affecting many aspects of my life and I finally conceded (with incredible and typical reluctance) to proceed with the wacky notion that talking to someone might help.
And it’s been quite remarkable. Transformative even. I’m not fixed, but it’s been very useful. I was challenged and encouraged to define objectives I wanted to achieve – my objective was to consistently get 7.5 hours sleep per night. Well i’ve pretty much got that.
I also have a morning and evening routine which ensure I do more of things I enjoy. And that’s another thing – this process has reawakened a self-reflective insight which i’d largely shut down. I’ve been helped to figure out what it is I enjoy doing and why. I’ve managed this fairly quickly, perhaps because despite my initial cynicism I do like to talk about myself – I’d just forgotten how. It’s helped me to realise just how closed off from myself I have been, which suggests i’ve been terribly shut off from others too.
The therapy process did get thrown from its original object, sleep, because it is impossible to talk about yourself without admitting all of yourself into the discussion as exhibits and evidence. I knew this was likely to happen and had to battle with myself to bring up the subject of sexual abuse. It was horrible. But in doing so I can move on from this awesomely useful process and refer myself to another organisation who can help me figure more of this abuse crap out. I feel nervous, and worried, but I also feel more powerful than I have in a long time. As my Brain Lady said – anger is a good thing, it means you’re not directing it inwards. I like anger – it’s clear cut blazing black and white with none of the numb grey in between. I can do angry. And I can talk about myself. I didn’t think i’d be able to do that.
Moving forwards: I have to maintain my routine – i’m off the sleeping tablets, i’m more prolific, i’m happier, my skillz are sharper and better. I need to find some system for checking up on myself – here perhaps. I need to refer myself on to a sexual abuse counselling service. It’s going to hurt and be stressful, but I think I can, and I want to do it. I need to repair and improve the relationships I have damaged and continue to damage while I am Slightly Broken. I get to return to my Brain Lady in a few months for a review, and I want to be able to report progress.
Ah Summer, a time of sweating heat and the IQs dropping as the mercury rises. I find it harder to care with the endless greenhouse that is work – we’re now hitting 30 degrees most days. It’s horrible. I’m pretty sure if I bathed in the blood of strangers I’d feel much cooler.
Anyway, this seemed an excellent point to perspire some bile. Hope you like them. You can follow @shankanalia on Twitter too. You can also listen to one lot of shanking verse: Shankanolalia The Sensation of Being Verse Shanked. I’ll pop some more up this weekend.
What the fuck do you mean
Twat. All The Snakes Are Gone
Swarming faux-Irish fucktits
Obsessed with an unimpressive ale.
Slow to thought,
Quick to bellow,
Big hatted adverts for idiots.
Something on your face
In your face
No time to suture
Hole in the back
To match the front
Give me back my axe.
These Am The Alphabet
I’m sorry but you don’t make sense
That’s not a word you see.
Yes, you used letters.
But they have to be in order
To be a word.
In your mind:
Marbles circling the drain
Tossed out by a child’s shake.
No one knows.
You’re a madman
Squawks of language;
No I don’t know what you mean,
We lack common reference.
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