A Shot in the Silence
A sinister silence looms over the abandoned park, keen and unyielding as the blade of an executioner’s axe. No critters creep. No crickets chirp. The wind itself won’t risk the barest whisper.
Nothing stirs. The equine figures that once danced merrily ’round and around lie in collapsed ruin, their joints buckled and broken, their eyes wide in eternal tortured agony. Wooden tracks, once the blazing trail of thrill-seeking shrieks, are now nothing more than splintered shards that threaten to skewer any foolish creature who dares come too close. Dull remains of once-bright awnings hang in lifeless tatters, the unwilling victims of unrelenting time.
Heavy clouds crawl across the sky, blocking out the stars, and drenching the place in a pervasive dampness. The cloying scent of rotting things permeates, seeping into every hidden nook and cranny; it assaults the nostrils and causes the stomach to roil.
Just beyond a warped and errant Ferris wheel, a solitary figure stands in shadow. A malignant aura enshrouds him, poisoning the air he breathes: an admonition that warns life has no place here. But life isn’t what he seeks.
A single tear slips down his cheek, a lonely tribute to this place; to what it once was, and what it will never be again.
A shot shatters the silence, the echoing sound waves ricocheting off the forgotten rides and attractions. The figure crumples, an accursed corpse left to decay in this barren graveyard of forsaken dreams.
Moments pass. Heavy silence returns. On the far north end of the park, a sliver of moonlight breaks through the clouds and glints off the face of the funhouse. The windows gleam, and the doorway gapes; the building seems to grin. And whatever grim presence lurks there, gloats.
I need a feeling plumber.
I believe the title offers sufficient imagery, to be self-explanatory, thanks very much.
Vulgar, Vindictive, Verbal, and Voluptuous.
Engage at own risk.
If I should measure summer’s joy beside you,
No hint of allure could ever shine through.
For the bright blooms of May never make it to June,
And the summertide vacay is gone far too soon.
The sun often swelters and leaves one fatigued;
Then its sparkle is lost to threatening winter’s cruel greed.
Summer, like all good things, comes to an end
For nature, like time, is no one’s true friend.
But fear not; give no thought to infinity--
It can’t taint a heart that brims so with beauty.
And death, though it be dark and unending,
Has no power o’er my words, ever true and transcending
All time. As long as a man can draw breath to his lungs,
Your story, though told, shall never be done.
#Shakespeare #sonnets #summerday #poetry #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
It’s Not What You Think
"Can't you just stop being sad?" "Why don't you get over it already?" "Go out, get some sun, you'll feel better." "We all get sad sometimes. It passes."
We've all heard these platitudes before; some of us might even say them at times. And they're usually said to someone claiming to suffer from depression. Why do I say claim? Because the unfortunate reality is that the majority of those who've never dealt with clinical depression don't understand clinical depression. They have a skewed perception of what depression actually is, and they don't recognize it as a chronic issue that never actually goes away.
Their fault? Not necessarily. Media and lack of government support do their fair share of damage. But the result is the same.
People think being depressed means being sad, and yes, we all get sad sometimes. But that's not what having depression means.
Having depression goes so far beyond feeling sad. In truth, sometimes--most of the time--we don't feel sad at all. We feel a whole array of other feelings, though.
We feel angry. We feel tired. We feel useless. We feel apathetic. We feel listless. We feel isolated.
We lose all sense of hope. We hate ourselves. We worry constantly. We sit, motionless, staring at nothing, unable to do anything else.
We collapse under the weight of guilt we feel for being constantly angry, tired, useless, apathetic, isolated, and hopeless. We consider suicide because we truly do believe the world, and those around us, would be better off if they didn't have to deal with us--and then we feel guilty, because we're told suicide is a selfish act. We question if we're good enough, if we're doing enough, if we're trying hard enough--and then feel guilty when the answer is inevitably no. We inwardly berate ourselves to get up, take a shower, get dressed, take a walk, make a phone call, hug our kids, make dinner, go out and see a movie, live for chrissakes--and then feel guilty when we literally can't.
Being depressed isn't something any of us has asked for. It isn't easy, and it isn't something we just get over. Because it isn't something we can control.
Sure, we can take medication. Sometimes--for the lucky ones, of which I consider myself one--it works. It keeps our worlds from spinning completely off their axes and drifting aimlessly through space. But more often than not, medication is worse than the depression itself.
And we don't get to choose when depression decides to rear its ugly head. For me, most recently, it was Valentine's Day. My husband brought me home a beautiful set of earrings and a necklace, along with a box of chocolates. It was sweet and romantic, and I loved him for it. But the entire day was nothing but a massive clusterfuck for me.
I wasn't happy. I wanted to be, but I wasn't.
I wasn't gushing with romance. I wanted to be, but I wasn't.
I wasn't overcome with the need to be affectionate. I wanted to be, but I wasn't.
I didn't initiate sex. I wanted to, but I couldn't.
Depression sabotaged my Valentine's Day, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about, no matter how I tried. And I did try.
That's the thing. We all try. We try so damn hard, because the rest of the world thinks we don't, and we're so sick of feeling like failures, that it's all we can do to keep trying. Because maybe one day, it will be enough. Maybe one day, we won't feel like a failure anymore.
Except it won't be, and we will. Isn't that a depressing thought?
Yeah. You're damn right it is.
Failure isn't an option,
yet it seems destined
to be my final destination.
The Villain Inside
A lot of times, authors get asked why they write, or what inspires them to write. It's a fairly cliche question, and I know many authors who are often frustrated by it, because sometimes, it can be a difficult question to answer.
Answers are usually similar, and often can be vague: I just have to. I can't not write. I enjoy it. It's fun. It's my outlet. It's how I express myself. It's how I survive.
For me, it's all of these things and none of these things. At different times, it's a different combination of a handful. There are times I do have to write; other times, it's just as easy not to. Sometimes, writing is fun. But more often than not, it's an extremely hard and emotionally taxing thing, and it is definitely not fun. One thing I can say for certain is that writing is how I survive.
I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety, and for anyone who hasn't experienced those conditions, they can be almost impossible to accurately explain or describe. Mental illness in this country, especially depression, is so stigmatized and misunderstood--for the longest time I, like so many others, was hesitant to make my condition public because of it. We're told to just get over it. Do something that makes us happy. Eat better. Get some exercise. Get some sunshine. Think positively.
If only it were that easy. If only doing all those things was enough.
It's not. Not nearly.
Sometimes meds work. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes being with people is a balm; other times, it's exhausting. Sometimes the endorphins from a good workout just aren't enough to drive away the barrage of feelings depressions brings with it.
Depression isn't simple. Mental illness isn't simple. And there isn't an easy remedy to cure it.
But for me, writing is part--a small, singular part--of the "cure." Because writing--and often drawing from personal experience--is how I get to exorcise my demons and get through the negative thoughts and emotions that I absolutely cannot allow to take over my life.
For example: I have three girls. They're six, four, and 9 months. They are the joy of my life, and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. But there are days when I resent their presence. There are days when I wish they were old enough to not need me to cater to their every need. There are days when I want them to leave me the hell alone.
I don't get those days. Because they're six and four and 9 months, and I'm their mother. I'm responsible for them.
I used to say--before I had kids--and I've heard multitudes of other people say, "I don't understand how someone could ever shake a child," or "I could never get to that point where I would harm my child."
Now, it's true, I absolutely believe I will never get to the point where I would hurt one of my girls. I never have. I never will. But I can definitely understand how other parents get to that point. I cannot count the times I have had to set one of my girls down and walk out of the room while they cried and screamed, because if I didn't, I might cross a line.
I have thought about it. And I could pretty much guarantee you that every other parent probably has at some point, too--anyone who tells you differently is probably lying. And the fact that we think about it doesn't make us bad parents. But I digress.
What I'm getting at here is that yes, I've thought about it. No, I've never done it. And writing is how I guarantee that I never will.
How? Because in my writing, my characters do all the things that I've thought about but never would. And when I've finished their stories, I'm so horrified by what I've put them through. At times I'm thoroughly disgusted. And that's how I know I can keep from crossing that line. My characters follow through on the suicidal thoughts. My characters succumb to the depression. My characters give up the fight.
I make them go through my greatest fears. I make them suffer past the point that I'm willing to let myself go. I put them through the worst of the worst, in order to remind myself that I'm not there, and I can keep myself from going there.
My characters shake their babies. They take a loaded gun into a school full of kids. They look away when the child starts drinking the mop water laced with bleach. They ignore the cries. They lock the doors. They shut everyone out. They quit looking for help.
They are surrounded by the horror that is real; the horror that occurs in everyday life. They create it. They are it.
The fact is, humans can be the most loving, caring, sympathetic, and giving people. They can also be the cruelest, meanest, vindictive, and selfish people. They are both good and bad.
We are both good and bad.
I am both good and bad.
The good's easy enough to handle. But the bad? It can be hard to look in the mirror sometimes.
It's not easy to own one's demons, whether those demons are the product of nature or nurture, personality or illness. We don't like to show people our ugly sides. But the truth is, I have an ugly side. It holds a grudge. It judges people. It suffers from thoughts of self-harm. It tells the pretty side it's not good enough, that it's a failure, that it will never succeed in this dog-eat-dog world. It tries to convince me I'm worthless.
The ugly side is why I write, and specifically why I write dark fiction.
Because to find a good villain, all I have to do is look inside myself. She's there. I just make sure the only place she wins is on paper.
A stray thought knocks,
playing freeze tag among
But as the walls close in,
breath grows thin
and becomes a limited commodity.
Lungs lock and capsize,
the key trapped inside,
swallowed by an irrational fear
that can’t be denied.
Heart races, then trips,
unable to keep pace
with the need to survive.
Get a grip--stay alive--
except there’s nothing
to hold on to.
No hope to get you through.
Nothing but a
dark, bleak chasm
that stretches and yawns
a mental maze of madness
with no way out.
And as you scream
and pray for release,
you face the unrelenting truth:
This never ends.
Not until the moment
your life really does cease.
Open Call #2
Again, I hope this isn't against some unspoken rule ...
But Stitched Smile Publications has a magazine they're trying to launch, and they're currently open for submissions!
I know when I posted about the 7 Deadly Sins anthology, the length was a potential issue for a number of Prosers; with the magazine, submissions are pretty open-ended. We're looking for poetry, flash fiction, short stories, recipes, artwork--you name in and chances are, we're looking for it. As long as it's on the dark(er) spectrum of things, we're interested in seeing it.
For more information, or if you have any questions, feel free to visit SSP's submissions page at www.stitchedsmilepublications.com. Or you can look up MF Wahl on FB--she's the managing editor of the 'zine. Hope to see your name in print!
Stranger At the Table
He sits at a table, a steaming cup of coffee at his wrist, the newspaper flipped to the business section. It’s easy to imagine he’s checking the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, and he looks so serious, so fraught with concern, I almost call out to him. But then again, what do I know about stock exchanges?
I stand at the counter, mixing up a batch of pancake batter. I add some vanilla, not bothering to measure it out; I memorized the recipe years ago, and the motions are second-nature. As I pour the batter, I glance over at him, hoping the alluring scent will tempt him. But I know it won’t; it never does. It’s always a cup of coffee and the business section. No eggs. No sausage or bacon. Just coffee, and the paper for company.
His face is familiar—brown eyes nearly hidden beneath drawn brows, sharp cheekbones, and the very slightest of underbites. His fingers tap impatiently against the wood, waiting for the coffee to cool. After a moment, he raises the cup to his lips.
“Shit!” He mutters the curse, but I hear it, because I expect it. He always tries to take that first sip too soon and ends up with a scalded tongue. The corner of my mouth quirks, and I shake my head. He never learns.
I finish flipping pancakes and pop them on readied plates, then gather butter, jelly, and syrup. As I pass by and begin setting the breakfast plates down, I wait, hoping against hope he’ll acknowledge me. He just flips the next page of the newspaper and takes another sip from his cup.
I should leave him alone, I know, but I can’t help it—I break the silence.
He glances up, brows raised, surprised by my sudden presence. Then, with a shake of his head, his face clears, all emotion erased like chalk from a blackboard. He folds the paper and stands.
“Nope. Same old, same old.”
“Oh.” I nod, as if I understand what he means by that. The sound of footsteps clattering down the hall draws my attention. By the time I look back, he’s grabbed his keys and is headed for the door. Now—desperate—I do call out.
“Have a good day! I love you!”
He doesn’t respond and barely bothers to glance over his shoulder. Tears prick my eyes, and I swallow, trying to force my heart back into my chest. As our three children race into the kitchen and devour their food, I watch my husband of twenty years walk out the door.