Stream of Consciousness

“my own world of make-believe”

“You ever get tired of being this way kid?” his voice mocks me. “You ever just want to quit?”

“Why quit? We’re just getting started.”

The smoke of burning rubber fogs the empty street. In the distance, their taillights are swallowed by the void. They’ll come back. They always do.

“Yes, whenever you need them most. Other times, you have me.”

“I don’t believe in you,” I say.

“And yet, here I am.”

“Where do we go from here?” I almost expect an answer.

“Where do any of us go?”

I close my eyes and I can hear the Billie Ellish song playing somewhere in the night. When we fall asleep, where do we go?

“I like this song,” he says. “C’mon, kid, let’s go get a drink.”

With a snap of his fingers, we’re standing in a tavern. Barmaids bustle drinks about. Women in stilettos strut on a catwalk. Hooting and howling men, chomping on cigars, cackle at obscenities whisper-shouted over the cacophony of music and glasses clinking.

“Tell me about it, kid,” he says, holding up two fingers to the bartender. “What brings you back to me? What sort of – what did you call it? – crisis of disbelief bring you back to me?”

“I’m still trying to make sense of it.”

“It’s rudderless, kid. Without plan. Without consequence.”

The roar of a 1960 Cadillac convertible turns into the parking lot outside. He nods his head, as if noting that they’re right on time. He continues, “Here’s point where the moment of truth comes, kid. Outside, your demons wait for you. Inside, you talk to a fictional character you personified whenever you’re confused.”

“I think he’s inside, Anderson,” Mackie shouts. “He ain’t out here that’s for sure.”

“Leave him be,” replies Chrysanthemum. “He’ll come out whenever he’s ready.”

“The verdict,” I begin, but he cuts off my words.

“Rudderless, kid.” He shakes his head, downs the two shots set before him. “You have to move on.”

“And what about…” I trail off.

“Kid, if you’re unsure how she feels, how the fuck am I supposed to know?”

“But aren’t you…”

He’s gone. The bar. The barmaids. The stiletto girls. Just dark. Quiet. Except for the roar of the engine.

“You coming?” Anderson asks.

“C’mon,” Cassie adds impatiently.

“I always wondered why I created you four.” Always wondered what parts of me each of them represents. Mackie and Anderson, the violence and anger buried deep inside me. But what role do the girls play? Chrysanthemum, the lustful? Cassie, the impatient?

“Not every thing has to be psychoanalyzed,” says Chrysanthemum. “We’re just who you turn to when you need to make sense of something. You grew us from nothing. Just fictional characters you embodied demons in. We used to be just a thing you did, until you made us into something more. All this is you.”

Mackie? Gone. Anderson? Gone. Cassie? Gone. It’s just me and Chrysanthemum in all her nakedness. She walks circles around me, her hand brushing my shoulder ever so often. She lifts her long, polished nail – red, of course – against my cheek and leans in close, her lips closing in on mine.

“I am the person you once thought you were. The person who only looked out for himself. But you were never that hard. Never that cold. You shut off the world because you thought it was the only way to keep yourself safe. Letting others in made you vulnerable. And,” she laughs, “I guess you were right. You shouldn’t never had opened yourself to that pain. Because what has it gotten you? Where has it gotten you?”

“Hush,” I say.

She moves back, the Cadillac door opens and she gets into the car.

“You’re wrong about me.”

“Am I?” And she too has gone.

Stream of Consciousness

“It’s not as much fun to pick up the pieces”

“It’s a fucking ziggurat,” Mackie spits out. “Look the way it towers out of fucking nowhere.” Anderson just smiles through bloodstained teeth. The three of them, some psychotropic fight club, had been at it for hours. At the penultimate round, Anderson reached around the poor fuck’s neck and sunk his teeth in. Moves like that earn the name hillbilly vampire, perks Cassie. She’s in the convertible smoking the last of their cigarettes. The buildings indiscernible. Etchings of some eldritch origin. Upon closer inspection, the poor fuck is still breathing. Uncertain for how much longer, though.

“In Autumn,” Anderson quips, “you can taste the sin on the teeth of those who eat.” Chrysanthemum chews her nails. She’s in the driver’s seat watching the orange glow pulsate from behind the billowing smoke. “Don’t mind her,” Anderson adds, “she ages in reverse.”

“Depression isn’t a career choice,” she says. “It’s a fucking destination you take where you’re on the road.” At this, Cassie gets off and walks to the poor fuck’s near-corpse. “Where do we go when we die, Mum?”

“No one knows, really,” she says. “Where do any of us go when we fall asleep, dear?”

The eyes, they’re bloodshot. “We go north,” Mackie says. “We go north and we find another one to fight.”

The four of them pile into the convertible. Are you coming? Some time. Yes. Some time to think, if you’d be so kind. No time for kindness, kid. One shot ride. We’re going to the fucking Ziggurat.

I turn my attention to the road turned off the edge. Powder blue sweater and matching eyes. Depression isn’t a career path. It isn’t a destination. It’s an obstacle. An inconvenience that I have to suffer in order to get to the other side.

“Funny you mention the other side,” Anderson laughs. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” At this, Chrysanthemum guns the engine and they dart away. “The end is not near where we start. Or some shit like that.”

Doldrums

Listening to demons

God sits at the end of the bar, nursing the strongest whisky he can muster. Boozed breath evaporates sobriety the moment I walk into the place. God isn’t a man, though he prefers the male pronouns. He isn’t a woman, either. He isn’t much of anything. Just an idea that we all have regardless if we believe in him. He is a state of gender confusion. The gray tinge between what’s binary and what lays beyond my comprehension. 

I’ve spoken to him several times in the past, but speaking to god is like speaking to the void. It offers nothing in return to your confessions. Offers not consolation to your misery. Creates more questions than it does answers. 

He pulls a bar stool out with his free hand while nursing the drink with his other. “It’s been a while, kid,” he says. “Thought you almost forgot about me.”

“It’s been a while,” I agree. “I haven’t had a crisis of disbelief in a while.”

“It rarely goes the other way,” he sniggers. “Take a seat, kid. You’re making me nervous.”

“I don’t plan on staying.”

“Sure. Sure.”

He peers at me through his peripherals. He scans me, reading the creases of my face like a hand on Braille. He pulls the last of his whisky and sets the glass down on the hard wood. He wipes his mouth with the back of his coat’s sleeve. “If we’re doing this,” he continues, “then I guess we should be doing this correctly.”

“If everything is part of your plan, I need to know why. I need to know how any of this plays out. I need to make sense of it all, because it’s been months and I can’t for the life of me understand how something like this happens.”

Getting up, he shakes his head. There’s that smirk again. That infuriating smirk. “That’s not how it works.”

“Then explain it to me. I need to know.”

“You, of all people, understand that no one steers the ship. That it’s rudderless.”

“They were my family. They were my friends. He was just a child. You didn’t even give him a fucking chance. Explain to me how that’s benevolent.”

It’s crushing. The whimpers that escape my lips as I speak. He places a hand on my shoulder, forces me backward. “You act like you’re the only person who’s lost anyone. Think about the others who lost more than you. Ever think about them for a second? Ever wonder what hell they’re going through? He lost his son. He lost his wife. Just like that—” he snaps—”and she lost her mother, her sister, her nephew. Do you ever see past your own grief to understand the hell they must be going through?”

And he’s gone. 

The lights decorate the houses of the neighborhood. It’s Christmas, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m partly bitter because of all the shit going on at work. Mostly, it’s the adjustment of life after the accident. It’s adapting to the new normal. It’s the marking down court hearings on my calendar of events. It’s worrying about who’s going to take of Shaun next summer while both Jeanna and I work. 

A beat up, 1960 Cadillac convertible speeds by. Its occupants frozen in a permanent state of youth. It swerves, colliding with the light post farther down the road. The world goes dark. A low rumble vibrates beneath my feet. Cracks in the asphalt, the pavement, and earth stretch out. I try to run, but it’s useless. The world devours me. And I fall. Deeper and deeper. And before the world pinholes, I see his face looking down at me. His words echoing as I’m engulfed. It’s rudderless.

I come to. The world is a shade of gray. My fall was broken by the mountains of bodies of those I loved and those I’ve lost. Those I hated and those I’ve fucked the pain away with. Those who took up chapters in the book of my life, and those who will remain footnotes.

I move to get up, but their hands take hold. They pull me down. Wrapped themselves around me. As I cling to whatever leverage I can, a hand reaches down for me. Grips my wrist tight, and pulls me out.

“Shit,” he says. That voice. That smile. Those eyes. “You’re lucky that we found when we did.”

“Who?”

He turns back, shouting towards the figure in the distance. “Hey, Anderson, I found him.”

“Anderson?” My eyes go wide. They haven’t aged a bit. Cassie and Chrysanthemum dig themselves out of the mass graveyard. And the four surround me, looking down upon me. Each of them smiling. 

“Missed us?” one of them says.

“Oh boy,” Mackie smirks. “We’re not done with you yet.”

I speak to ghosts like one would a higher power. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the demons that come out to hold communion. And I’m powerless against their whims. I look up at them and shake my head, “It’s about fucking time.”

The End.

Doldrums · Writing & Writers

The Worst Things Beautiful

 

Could I save your life, like you saved mine?

 

Sometimes I forget people exist. Sometimes I forget they stop existing. Sometimes I forget some people never existed to begin with.

Cassandra – but everyone calls me Cassie – wakes up one morning, staring up at the ceiling fan rotating above the bed she shares with long-term girlfriend, Flor. A buzz of a funeral procession echoes through her mind. She can ever smell the fresh, dug earth mounted. The murmurs of sobs and condolences. People speak at the podium. A preacher talks. She shakes her head and turns to see Flor sitting there on the bed. The night before, they spoke of their relationship. How it moved in two directions.

“We’ll talk later,” Flor says before grabbing her bag and books, heading out the door. “You have some things to think about yourself.”

Before walking out the door, Flor pauses and looks at Cassie lovingly. “I love you, Cassie. I always have and I always will.”

Cassie goes through her day. There are shots that ring out. The student union roars in a rising crescendo. Screams. People talk. Four shots and then a fifth and then nothing. Cops and medics pull the bodies out. Five dead, including the shooter.

There’s a tree I remember from my childhood. It stood gnarled and ugly. I imagined the imagines of dead children dancing around it. Skeletal masks upon their faces. I don’t remember if they were masks at all. For I know, their faces were skinned and they weren’t masks. Horror movie scenarios played and replayed in my head.

“What’s the cucumber song you’re playing?” Anderson asks.

“Shut up,” Mackie says.

No. This isn’t right.

“What isn’t right?” asks Mackie. “We’re not really here.”

Damien chuckles from somewhere else in the house. There aren’t many things left here. “You have to learn how to accept this.”

But that isn’t right either. Damien would never say something like that.

There are days when joy just comes naturally to me. I’m filled with undefined energy. I can do things. Accomplish little goals I set for myself. Then the inevitable crash comes and it’s not enough for me just to get out of bed. I’m irritated by everything, everyone. I feel the crushing sense of being alone. I talk out loud to myself just to hear a voice. And then they…

“This isn’t right,” Mackie jibes in. “You’re not right.”

Cassandra looks at Flor lovingly. “You’re dead, aren’t you?” she asks.

Flor simply nods. “You have to let go.”

There isn’t any letting go. I hope for moderate days. I don’t wish for the depression to ever go away, no matter how much better life would be. I don’t let it define me. I use it to mold myself. There are just days when I can’t hold on to reality and I slip. Float. Fleeting. Somewhere above head. And I become another person. Speak with a new voice.

And Anderson just smiles and takes Mackie into his arms as they watch Cassandra staring at the sunrise.