Depression-based writer’s block is a pain in the dick. I know that, in order to have any semblance of a life, I have to earn some sort of income. And, at the moment, that income hinges solely on my ability to come up with articles that I can pitch to magazine editors. The problem is…well…I got nothing. My head is basically a couple of rocks in a tin can rolling on a treadmill. There’s a whole lot of noise going on but it’s not really going anywhere. Naturally, if I don’t have ideas, I don’t write. If I don’t write, I don’t progress. I will try to sit down and cobble together something but I quickly lose focus and drift off to other, better things. Like video games and Twitter. So I’ve come up with a plan.
Awhile ago, I wrote a letter to a friend asking for a prompt. Just a simple sentence or two that will serve as a lynchpin for creativity. If I have something to work with, I can write for hours. But the paradox of choice that comes with being free to write ANYTHING means that I’m going to play Oblivion for six hours. The letter came in the mail with the prompt and, after a bit of self-coercion, I wrote. I’ve decided that, in order to get the engine fueled and running, I will accept all prompts sent via email: If you want, you can just send it to me on Twitter. Maybe this will help me get writing again. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s something to do!
I was walking home from the bar when I heard a rustle in the trees to my left. I wasn’t glad I was alone at that moment.
I was walking home from the bar when I heard a rustle in the trees to my left. I wasn’t glad I was alone at that moment. I was more relieved than anything.
My life has always been strange but you wouldn’t know it if you could watch the high-light reel of my upbringing. I was born to two normal parents: Violet and Carl Kemp. They named me June, after the month I arrived in this world. My parents loved and cared for me for all of my childhood. They spent most of their time doting over me in every aspect of my life. They called me “their little miracle”. My parents had trouble conceiving. They desperately wanted a biological child but the very thing they wanted to pass on to a new generation had other plans. Fertility treatments were useless on both my mother and father. No surrogate could be found. So they prayed. Every night, for two years, my parents would fall on bended knee and pray to God. He listened. After two years of the ecclesiastic sweat off their brow, the nausea and cravings came. A heartbeat signaled the tattoo of life.
I was born bright and inquisitive. I didn’t cry, my mother said. I just stared, absorbing all that I could with my newborn eyes. I was a star pupil the moment I entered elementary school. By middle school I was a straight A student and was beginning to delve into extracurricular activities. I was in Debate Club, Chess Club, Model UN, and the Improve troupe at my school. I excelled in everything I put my mind to and some that I didn’t. It didn’t take any effort on my part, either. Whatever I wanted to do, whatever I wanted to learn…it just came easily to me. Some were jealous, of course, but it was a hidden jealousy. It burned behind their eyes whenever they spoke to me. They dared not say it out loud; I was too diplomatic and genuinely well –liked by many of my classmates. But there were few that thought I had it too easy. And, as my life enriched itself without my interference, I began to believe them.
High school blew by like a hurricane wind. I took college level courses my sophomore year. By junior year, I was ready to graduate. I graduated valedictorian of a grade that never knew me. I was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools and eventually chose Harvard. College was where things became difficult. I became severely depressed my first year. My grades didn’t suffer but my mental state did. I became increasingly erratic and jumpy, followed by bouts of extreme lethargy. I was hungry all the time and began putting on weight rapidly. The “Freshman 15” became the “Freshman 50”. What few relationships I had with my hall-mates quickly deteriorated as I spent more and more time cloistered in my room. But the tipping point was the dreams. Horrid, gore-drenched nightmares spoke in thousands of tongues of ultimate disappointment. Every night I went to bed an academic success and awoke a catastrophic failure. They told me that I was failing in my mission, my purpose. The severed heads of my classmates and professors wailed at my lack of commitment. The carmine messages written on the walls of my brain were missives decrying my lackadaisical attitude. Junior year, despite stellar grades, I took a medical leave of absence and went home.
My parents understood. They welcomed me home as a prodigal daughter. They didn’t question why I came home or even seem to understand when I told them, with tears in my eyes, the dreams I had been having. My mother would cradle my head in her lap, brush my hair, and softly sing to me while my father read in his oversized faux leather chair. My once involved parents had forsaken me to my psychosis. I turned to books on dream interpretation to try to find an answer but none had chapters on “dismembered acquaintances yelling at you”. My depression worsened. Shortly after my twenty-first birthday, I took to drinking. I would buy a fifth of cheap vodka every morning and drink it throughout the day. It stilled my mind and, somehow, my appetite. Neither parent said a word as my mother dragged the clinking garbage bag of empty bottles and hope out to the recycling bin every week.
As summer came around, my former classmates began coming home from college. The social scene of rekindled friendships lost over time and distance began as people began throwing parties that served as both reunions and a chance to earn a bit of cash. I was invited to all of them but went to none, preferring instead to isolate myself in my house and catch up with old uncle Popov. It was then that my parents began to intervene.
“Go to one of the parties,” my mother said. “It will be good to reconnect with old friends over a drink or two.”
The sudden change of heart scared me but I couldn’t find fault in her argument. At least at a party I might be able to find other, more potent things to take my mind off the situation. So I went, a bottle of Popov in one hand and a forced smile in the other. Many didn’t recognize me due to what my heavy drinking and weight had done to my body. Those that did looked at me with either pity or disgust. But one of them looked at me with a look that I hadn’t seen in a very long time: jealousy. It ringed his eyes like they were trapped in the center of a forest fire. He came over and greeted me with fake pleasantries and false pretenses. He offered me a beer from his six pack, which I gladly took. We talked for a long time, hours maybe, about inane topics. The whole time, the jealousy was palpable in the air. Despite my appearance, he was still jealous of the hell I was living in. A primal urge burst forth from the depths of my brain. I needed him.
I steered the conversation towards relationships and found out that he was single. His parents were away on the west coast for a wedding. He subtly suggested that we go to his vacant house to continue talking. It wasn’t far and the walk would give us time to chat. We walked down the dirt road away from the party and onto the pavement of the main road. As we went, we talked and shared pulls from my bottle of Popov. I was beginning to lose my buzz so I doubled up on the liquor to quell the anxiety and yearning in my stomach. Twenty minutes into the walk, the vodka was gone and my nervousness was skyrocketing. He asked if I was okay and I said that I was just feeling a bit drunk. I mimed some mild stumbling and smiled sluggishly. Two can play the lying game.
By the time we hit his front lawn, I was shaking. I alternated between bouts of panic and nausea. As he unlocked the door, I blew past him and ran into the house. As I passed the threshold, a violent torrent of vomit shot out of my mouth, spattering the tile and walls. I apologized quickly but he didn’t seem to hear me, judging by his face. I turned to look at the social crime I had committed and gasped.
The vomit was black.
Nothing I had consumed had been black. I had studied biochemistry and knew that combining beer and cheap vodka doesn’t stain vomit the color of India ink. As I turned back to face him, my stomach lurched. Deep in its depths, the hunger and yearning reared. No, not hunger…more like famine, starvation. It was as if all the food I had ever eaten would pale in comparison to the meal before me. His jealousy and anger were perfect flaws. Without thinking, without knowing, my body began breaking. My ribs cracked and my spine buckled. My jaw unhinged and my mouth became a cavernous maw of serrated teeth. The pain was excruciating but the anguish of ignoring the flesh-feast in front of me was far greater. He screamed and drunkenly tried to stumble away but it was futile. My freakish grin clamped down on him and severed him in half. As my consciousness waned, my body was greedily gulping down chunks of sinew, bone, and muscle. My tongue was lapping up the blood that oozed out of him. As I ate…no…consumed him, the ever-present hunger vanished. When I finished, my soul felt whole, despite my body being far from it. I had done my duty; one step closer to finishing my mission. I blacked out.
The bushes and trees behind me rustled as a man stepped out. The street by the bar was desolate. I was not happy that I was alone, I was grateful. He was wearing a charcoal jacket and torn sweatpants. He was grimy and bedraggled. He ran up behind me and placed a small knife on my neck. His breath, thick with the smell of rot and chemicals, whispered into my ear to give him all of my money. As my jaw unhinged, I laughed, deep and guttural. I heard the knife clatter to the pavement as my tongue flopped uselessly in my widening mouth. The darkness poured from my body like an overflowing sink, causing the weeds growing among the cracks to wither and die. The mugger shrieked but it is cut short with a sickening crunch.
My parents prayed to God for a daughter.
Something else answered.