Love of a Monster

Below is a short story written by me and published by Short Fiction Break. It involves a mentally ill wlw protecting a commune in a dystopic world. Please share from the website if you enjoyed it!

http://shortfictionbreak.com/love-of-a-monster/

———

The group huddles around me. Night is dripping down the skyline like a viscous syrup. We all eye it warily, silently thinking what no one will say: the Sundowners are going to stop us.

“We’re not going to make it in time,” Mango says flatly.

It’s my fault we were out so late; Mango and I were arguing, and I forget sometimes that the world outside our Aegis Commune follows strict curfew laws.

“Don’t be so pessimistic,” I say brightly.

A few members of the group are new, so they look up in confusion as I speak. It’s empty air to them. To me, it’s Mango, burly and dark and beautiful.

Mango juts a thumb over her shoulder. “They’re scared.” Maybe because they can’t see her, she chooses not to look at them. It’s a touchy subject, and so I don’t touch it. “They’re always scared,” she adds with a sneer.

Suddenly, Mango holds her arm out in front of my chest. I still without question. The group’s reaction is stark and immediate. Their faces drain of blood and someone shudders.

I squint into the receding sunlight and wait. Then the trees and bushes are pushed aside by violent, gloved hands and the Sundowners are here.

A low growl escapes Mango’s lips, and I thank the stars that I am the only one that can hear her. Mango notices the thought the moment it forms in my head and shoots me a sullen glare, but I can’t worry about her moods right now.

“Out a little late, are we?” the Sundowner says, licking his lips with anticipation. My anger pools in my gut slowly like the drip of a hospital IV, but Mango’s is quick to catch fire. Her tolerance for the Sundowners, the heavy-handed police, was never much to measure.

“And where are you headed?” the Sundowner tilts his head with a plastic curiosity. He knows exactly where we’re going.

“The Aegis commune,” I say casually. I can feel the twitching fear of my group behind me. “Of course,” I add after a beat. There is nothing in this direction but our tiny haven.

The Sundowner nods with a dash of his tongue to his lips. I can see the promotion floating in his eyes; he’s found exactly who he wanted to find. “I want everyone in an orderly line facing me with hands on their heads. We’ll start the identification with…” He trails off as if there is any doubt. I wonder idly if he enjoys playing pretend. Mango is circling behind him, studying him with the cold detachment of an apex predator. If only he could see the blades in her eyes, he might not sound so smug.

“You.” He points at me, as we all knew he would. He could identify me himself with the expensive machinery that lines his black gloves but he chooses to perform the manual inspection. Perhaps this is how he finds enjoyment.

“Name: Ditto. Designation: CX93611.” The number rolls off my tongue like an old dominoes set. It’s tattooed is on the back of my neck, but I don’t need to see it to remember and he doesn’t need to hear it to know.

“CX? You’re a bastard then, are you?” The Sundowner doesn’t suppress his glee.

“Wouldn’t know.” I berate myself for exacerbating the situation. “CX is the orphan designation. Isn’t that something you learn in basic training?”

Mango shoots me a proud grin, and my stomach clenches happily. I tell myself now is not the time and push up a mental wall so my thoughts won’t be so easily read. Mango’s grin falters when the wall goes up, then she’s frowning again and staring at me, head tilted. I look away, a strange pain in my throat and sudden weakness in my limbs.

The Sundowner’s smile breaks brittle. “Time for a random search, orphan.”

I hold out my arms. None of the contraband rests on my person; Mango is holding it all, and none of them can see her. Still, the moment those gloved hands start patting at my clothes, Mango is by my side.

“Sir, isn’t Ditto the one with the Demon?” a Sundowner asks anxiously. “Shouldn’t we take her into custody?”

Mango snorts. Ire rolls off her, waves of heat forming a battle circle in the cold forest. Her visceral reaction comforts me and I’m frightened for her to know just how much. Another mental wall is put into place; I feel Mango’s eyes on me again, curious. My body weakens a little more.

The Sundowner’s expression darkens as the search goes on. Mango smiles tightly. Her white teeth flash bright against her skin, dark like the bark of the trees that hide us. Then her smile fades. “They’re not listening. We’re going to have to fight,” she warns.

My muscles loosen like ice at sun-up. Mango is never wrong about this. The youngest of my group, Osten, stands the closest to me. In my most level voice, I say, “Osten, I want you to take the rest of the group back to Aegis. No matter what you hear, don’t look back. Do you understand me?”

I feel, rather than see, Osten nod shakily. The Sundowner captain’s eyes are nearly frantic with excitement now.

“You think you’re leaving?” He shakes his head. “No. You and the Aegis commune are a blight on this world and once you’re dead, your precious town falls next.”

Mango is nearly leaping out of her skin with exuberance. “Finally,” she whispers, “these wastes of human life will pay for the way that they treat you.”

Another flash of something in my gut, an emotion or adrenaline or something, and I don’t have time to hide it. Mango smiles up at my unguarded feelings.

“Are you going to be okay, Ditto?” Osten asks.

There isn’t a touch of fear on my soul. “I’ll be fine. Mango won’t let anyone hurt me, ever. Now go home. Run and don’t look back.”

Osten complies, the rest of the group chasing behind. The subordinate Sundowners attempt to cut them off, but Mango is too fast, and they don’t see her, don’t hear her, don’t realize she exists. My eyes close in concentration. Our minds meld and then we are fighting as one.

Suddenly I’m inside Mango; I feel her skin, her hair, the feel of her eyelids blinking against the cold. I feel the sweat on her wrists from her pumping fists and the combustible fury that makes up her veins instead of blood. It’s not that we move as one; we are one, we are the same, and we are powerful.

Our movements would be too fast to see even if Mango were visible. The coldness with which Mango draws her blades across the throats of the Sundowners keeps my own feelings in check. No matter how often we are forced to protect our own, I still wonder at how young these soldiers are as their blood paints the snow with jagged blossoms.

It doesn’t matter how young they are, Mango thinks at me. She doesn’t miss a beat as the primary group falls into a semi-circle of corpses. The Sundowner leader is whipping his head about wildly, terror in the whites of his eyes that have become so much wider, so much larger since the massacre began. They are the ones who are trying to kill us. To kill you, Ditto.

For a moment, it’s almost as though Mango loses her momentum, but it is so quick and so expeditious that I wonder if it happened at all. As we begin to circle around the Sundowner leader, I find myself distracted. Mango’s protectiveness has always been a part of her, of us, but something feels different now and for a moment, I dare to hope…

No. I slam down the thought forcefully. I create a mental wall so sudden and so thick that Mango and I are separated and I’m thrown back to my body, the air knocked out of my lungs. I grab at my throat and chest with a mixture of panics. I’ve never been separated from Mango before without our consent and is she okay?

Mango,” I wheeze.

There’s a thud, and then Mango is kneeling beside me, cradling my head in her arms. I stare up at the hard lines of her face, the masculine cut of her jawbone and the hard, angry lines. My mind is blank and something inside me tells me that important things are happening, too important to be staring into my Other’s eyes and thinking about how beautiful they are.

“The… Sundowner?” Each word comes out with another breath. My legs are numb and I wonder if something is damaged.

“Dead,” Mango says shortly, then hoists my body into her arms like a child and stares me in the eyes. “Don’t ever do that again.”

My eyelids lower and I bite my lip nervously, thinking she’s going to yell at me. Instead, she leans down and kisses my forehead with her characteristic swiftness, so rapid that it barely registers before the Sundowner rises silently behind Mango and clubs me over the head.

~

When I waken, everything is sore and tight. My chest rises slowly, shallow breaths struggling to make their way into my lungs, and I can hear the air wheeze between my lips.

Mango fills my vision. I’ve never seen her eyes brim with worry like this and strangely, I find myself happy. As soon as the thought slips through my mind without a barrier, my breathing eases and my muscles relax. I note the transition with some interest.

“What happened?” I ask quietly. It’s then that I realize where we are.

We’re in a cell.

“We’re prisoners. I’ve done some recon while you were asleep but I can’t really make a move until you’re up.” Mango’s voice is quiet. She sounds… hurt.

“Mango…” I begin.

“You kicked me out,” she says gruffly.

Guilt tugs at my heart and I bite my lip.

“You were there, and then you just… weren’t. It hurt, Ditto.” I can hear it plainly now; Mango isn’t mad at me. She’s heartbroken.

“I don’t know how it happened. I-“

Mango pulls me to a sitting position, cutting off my words. Her sudden nearness and the feeling of her hands on my arms swallows the entirety of my focus and I hear my heart racing in my ears. “I know what happened,” Mango says so quietly I can barely make out the words. “You’re hiding something from me and it’s tearing us apart.”

The truth of it stuns me into silence. I stare at her as though I’ve been caught stealing from her pocket. She fixes me with her no-nonsense stare. “I’ve been watching you,” she says. “You’ve been hiding thoughts from me. You’ve been growing weaker ever since you started.”

“Not just hiding from you,” I whisper, “but myself.” The starkness of the confession throws me off balance, but I feel strength return to my limbs as I speak. Mango is right.

A clatter behind me catches my attention and I remember where I am. The Sundowners have finally taken me, us, prisoner. My body is so weak, in so much pain, that there’s no possible way we can escape. The situation should distress me more but I find myself more focused on Mango beside me. They’re almost certainly going to kill us, and all I can think of is the truth so close at hand, the nervousness now tingling at the tips of my fingers as I consider how she may react when I finally confess…

“It’s okay,” Mango says.

“What?”

She smiles softly; I’ve never seen the lines of her face smooth out so. I’m lost in wonder at the affection in the small curve of her lips now.

“It’s okay, Ditto. I love you, too.”

After that, nothing in the world could have stopped the strength that flooded my body.

Advertisements

Writing with Depression.

“If you want to be a real writer, you’re going to have to write every day.”

Real writers make themselves write, no matter how they’re feeling.”

“The real, professional writer gets up at 5 in the morning to start writing, like a real job.”

I read through these reasonably well-intended tips on page after page of “How To Be A Real Writer” and find myself more discouraged with each passing page on Google. At first, I find myself feeling guilty. Am I not, after all, a real writer?

I struggle to sleep. When I do sleep, I struggle to get out of bed for several days at a time. I suffer from executive dysfunction on the best of days and complete, utter, comatose uselessness on the worst.

I have depression.

Having a mental illness can stymie the most valiant of attempts to function like any neurotypical artist apparently does. I’ve been writing since I was a child, and love doing so, but the pressures surrounding turning it into a career (or even continuing it as regular hobby!) compound with the general executive haziness of depression to turn me into a crying, miserable mess before I’ve even opened my laptop, much less gotten the document writer up and running.

It’s easy in this situation to be angry with yourself. Even with all the work I do in spreading awareness about mental illness, I still find myself battling with sneaky thoughts such as “If you would only try harder” and “You’re just being lazy”, and the best one of all: “Are you really as ill as you think you are?”.

These thoughts can be killer; while we may think they’re encouraging us to succeed, to fight to work harder when the odds seem stacked against us, the reality is that they destroy our creativity and force us into a pit of despair while we’re already climbing through the trenches of our mental illnesses.

I wish that I could offer you a solution to this problem. In a world that demeans the mentally ill as heavily as ours does, it seems impossible to escape the messages everywhere that parade “willpower” as the ultimate defeater of all personal issues, therefore placing the responsibility to perform as a neurotypical squarely in our laps and removing any need for the rest of the world to change their attitude towards us. It takes daily, strong words of self-love, affirmation, and encouragement to remind us that it is okay that we are the way we are. We are not lazy. We are not at fault. We are just as creative and talented as any neurotypical.

The world is simply built to cater to their needs rather than ours. That does not mean you cannot succeed. You have to first stop putting yourself up to the same expectations as someone without mental illness lives with. We have different brains, and therefore, different toolboxes with which to work. How can you request the same work requisitions from two different boxes of tools?

Take care of yourself to the best of your ability while you embark on this writing adventure. It’s rough out here in the artistic world and hard for someone with mental illness, but I know you can succeed. Be patient with yourself.

Grief, Loss, and Goddamn Vitamins.

ali2

It’s 3 in the morning and my boyfriend has been asleep for a few hours. I look at his peaceful, still face with some envy. I’ve been trying to sleep for hours now; muscle relaxers and Valerian root have done next to nothing to lull me into a comfortable state of unconsciousness. Instead, what am I doing?

Researching “natural ways of curing depression”.

Since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at 12 years old, I have sought a way to cure it. After years of fruitless attempts, I instead did my best to control the worst of the symptoms, the ones that drove me to suicidal thoughts and eventually to attempt suicide. I went through many anti-depressants and I was grateful for each one of them at first. As many others with depression, I am an addict, and drugs made their way into my daily routine until I became convinced that the comedown blues were a result of my medications not working. I told myself anything to avoid the truth of my mental illness and its seeming permanence.

My first therapist called me the “poster child for trauma survival”, and it’s a title I’ve held onto with white knuckles. It gave some meaning to the bullshit I had been through, and gave me a sense of strength in my continued determination to wake up each day instead of ending things.

In March of 2014, my best friend and the woman I loved with every ounce of my being was murdered by three people, a friend, a heroin dealer, and a stranger. The murder was driven by the $3,500 Rian, my love, had stolen from her father in an effort to impress her new friend and take them all on a road trip to a music festival. Instead of appreciating the gift, they shot her up with heroin until she overdosed and died while they slipped the cash from her pocket.

To say I fell into a depressive dip is the biggest understatement of all time, but I do not feel words could justly describe the pit my soul fell into. I was the waking dead; I was in a state of living nightmares. My days were hell and my nights were worse. The woman I loved, the woman I wanted to be with, was dead. I felt I might as well be dead with her, but I found the sweet embrace of lifelessness in drugs and drinking with a renewed fervor.

Depression reared its head in a way that encompassed my existence like never before. I was so deep into the mental anguish that the thought of seeking help never occurred to me; I concluded that I was locked in forever. This was it. My life would just be like this now, I thought.

Then I met Ali. Rather, Ali and I had known each other for a long time, but this time around, they and I became very close in my grief. The pictures above were the first time we ever saw each other in person; for the first time in a while, I remembered what happiness was like. I thought I had found the cure to my depression. In retrospect, I can laugh softly at myself for ever thinking a person would “fix” me.

Ali and I were together for two years. We used drugs, drank, moved states, got an apartment, dropped out of college, hid from ICE when their travel visa ran up. Like Rian, and like myself, Ali had BPD; towards the end of the relationship, I desperately sought medical help for them. It seemed Ali was slipping slowly from my grasp, and from life itself. Finally, in a final attempt to save both themselves and me, we decided to put them on a plane to return to England and their family.

It was the last time I ever saw Ali alive.

In a few, short months, my fiance had hung themselves in a park. I did not find out until the funeral had past. I remember when I finally received the news. My mother drew me a bubble bath and lit candles. I slid into the hot water numbly and hugged my knees. It took a while before the tears came. The only thought that felt concrete was “Not again. Please, not again.”

Rian’s death had strengthened me a little. Looking back, I can be grateful at least for that. When news of Ali’s demise came to me, it seemed I would finally slip through the cracks and my depression would claim me. Not so.

Fast forward to now. After my fifth visit to rehab, it seems that the lesson finally kicked in and I’m finding serenity in my sobriety, though I do slip up from time to time. I got back on my anti-depressants for a while, then in a daring move, left the state of Texas where my family is to be in Colorado with my boyfriend, Aaron and took myself off my medication. I’ve only been here a few days, but much has changed in such a short time.

The first day was rough. Depression shook me down and left me sobbing in the bed I would be sleeping in. The quiet of the mountains and the cold, clean air began to comfort me where it had only vexed me at first. I found a sort of peace in the solitude and the isolation. Being away from the big city seemed a death sentence at first, but now, I am beginning to find the gift in it.

The three year anniversary of Rian’s murder is coming up in a matter of weeks. Facebook reminded me with its memories of the day two years ago that I drove to the Dallas court to see Rian’s killers get justice. Last night, I found myself unable to sleep and nearly in tears, seeking ways that I could soften the edges of my mind and not fall prey to the monster that is my chronic depression.

And then it hit me.

March 25 will not only mark three years since Rian’s death, but three years since I believed my life was over. September 29 of this year will mark the anniversary of Ali’s suicide, and it will mark another milestone in my own recovery: it will mark yet another day that could have killed me, but didn’t.

I woke up this morning in a bit of a fog, but there was something at the horizon of my mood that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. Now, I can see it for what it is.

It’s hope.

It’s gratitude.

It’s the will to seek out happiness.

I might not be cured, and I may never reached that point. I do know, however, that the things that seemed that they would kill me have become dates on my calendar where I mourn, reflect, and at the end of the day, move on, knowing that I will survive the night and feel better the next morning.

I have come to tears many times writing this, but I have also smiled and laughed while I recall the times I had with my lovers who have passed on from this world. I fondly remember the me of three years ago that would look at the me of now and wonder in awe at the transformation. I won’t say that things will be perfect.

But I will say that they can get better.

Police State Under Trump Regime

The city of Anaheim in Southern California has seen its share of police brutality and political unrest in the past. On February 21st, a 13-year-old boy was the latest victim of police entitlement and violence. It seems no matter what your age, if you are person of color, you are seen as a threat.

The off-duty police officer dragged the child, Christian Dorscht, across his front yard after Christian had come to the aid of a female friend whom the cop had referred to as a “c*nt” after the girl had supposedly stepped on his yard. Some of Christian’s friends from school had gathered by now, watching the altercation. The cop pulled out a gun and fired into the crowd of schoolchildren.

A group of kids with backpacks. What a threat, right?

Though extreme in its own right, this situation indicates a larger problem under the recently-arisen Trump regime: the emboldening of police under a leader who values cop lives above the lives of those they seek to subvert and control.

We have lived under a police state for longer than most would care to admit, and many do not care to open their eyes to the reality of it at all. Police have long been agents of the state, boots on the ground for the rich to maintain control and restrict any possible outcry or resistance by those ground under the heel of their oppressors. Police are upholders of inequality and wielders of the guns of the State.

President Donald Trump is nothing if not an advocate for the continuing of oppression; since his very first days in office, he has enacted many an executive order and task legalizing and increasing discrimination towards Muslims, the LGBT community, begun dismantling reproductive rights, moved against Native Americans with the quick and brutal destruction of the Standing Rock protests, and begun deporting undocumented immigrants en masse.

Can things get much worse? Oh yes. Yes they can.

With Trump’s ascendance to power, the fascist, right-wing population has become inspired. No longer do they feel they are to be held accountable for the loud-mouthing of their bigoted, violent, murderous views. Hand in hand with this rise in right-wing energy is the rise of the police state, and the growth of their power.

Trump’s deceptively named “law and order” policies are, in truth, just another layer added to the pile of orders that legalize and enforce more oppression.

One of the policies is to establish a “Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety”, which focuses primarily on “illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime”. Findings are reported annually to Trump himself. A hard-line approach towards immigration was the platform that Trump built his presidency on, and the primary reason white supremacists all over the country were drawn to him. In the racist State we exist under, those that suffer the brunt of drug laws and crime laws in general are poor people of color. American prisons are populated with many people of color who have been victimized under these laws and incarcerated in a calculated approach to continue modern slavery.

Next, a concerted and vocal effort is being made through Trump’s “law and order” tasks to protect police and remove them even further from any sense of accountability, allowing them to further carry out their oppressive agenda. This task moves to ensure that police are protected enough from “anti-police crime” as well as creating greater penalties towards those who might commit crimes towards police. The truth of this measure is this: cops are under no great danger from civilians. In fact, the safety of the police occupation is higher than it has been in years. These motions are not being made to protect police from some imminent threat, but rather, to allow them more leeway in removing, silencing, and persecuting those that might stand up against police brutality and the injustice at the hands of cops enacted daily on the working class and the disenfranchised.

Already, police around the country are reveling in the new power granted to them by their white supremacist leader. The NRA have declared themselves the leaders in the opposition to the “anti-Trump movement”, and these two groups are very closely connected, along with right-wingers all over the country.

What we are seeing is just the beginning of a new rise to power for the police state of the United States of America. As with the rise of fascism in the past, each measure taken by Trump and right-wingers to “protect” and empower police will be a bit more than the last one, moving us from the pot into the fire with care and precision in hopes that we will not fight back.

We cannot allow this to happen.

New laws enacted across the country are making it more and more difficult for protesters and bystanders to record the actions of police officers and hold them accountable. It can be almost unthinkably dangerous to step in the way of a cop while they are in the process of enacting their brutality on those they think they can get away with hurting. Despite these obvious dangers, those of us who can absolutely must be willing to put ourselves on the line to stop it. In the macro sense, our voices must be heard to be in loud, constant opposition to the measures being taken by Trump and his regime.

Fight back. Never stop fighting. They don’t want you to realize your power, the depth of potential your resistance holds, the fear they have that we may one day unite and rise against them. And we will; we absolutely will.