Survivor “Burning Heart”
Okay then, here goes. This piece has been coming; let’s be honest. I pledged a long time ago that I wouldn’t censor myself, even in my darkest hour. Well, I thought that had come and passed. It hadn’t. I sit here right now in total despair and I’m hoping that my inner ghost writer produces something to help me see beyond the hopelessness as right now that’s the horizon I look into. This isn’t designed to fuck up your day, even in turmoil I choose to find the light in any situation. That’s what I’m banking on right now you see.
I’m at my wit’s end as we speak. Like good old Edward Scissorhands I mean no harm but, just like him, I find myself vilified and entirely misunderstood by everyone around me, Grueheads excluded naturally. So my fingers are crossed tightly and I’m praying for an intervention of sorts. Searching for a sign, an indicator that everything is not, in fact, fucked and I can put together the fragmented pieces of my life… surge forward!
Problem is, I’ve shut myself off completely right now. There’s no internet connection where I’m situated and there are no pep talks scheduled. Just me and the quill. Don’t let me down quill please. I’m not quite ready to step over the edge of my gaping chasm, it looks worryingly deep and I can’t make out an end to the drop. No wayward branches for me to grab on my descent and footholds to abseil back to even ground. Just blackness.
I’ll make it transparent from the offset and anybody familiar with my work will already have clocked this long ago; I’m not equipped to self-terminate. I do however know my body. I ate a hearty meal earlier but that came back up the moment I was out of earshot. I’m under-nourished, my chest is tight, acid reflux is kicking my ass and I feel like death warmed up. This is the worst I’ve felt; right now if the Reaper cometh I would have no defenses left to ward him off.
Did I mention it’s sub-zero conditions tonight in the UK? I’ve got my last bag of weed, final box of smokes, papers, a couple of soft drinks and a bar of candy. No money, cut off and unwilling to return to a job which was sucking my essence away daily. I’ve got money coming, enough to get Grue off the ground, but in a cruel twist of fate I have no way of accessing it until divorce proceedings have played out. So I’m rendered impotent.
The body blows have come in vicious flurries this week, each one depleting my fatigue bar a little further and making me feel more and more as though I’m traversing a mud-slide. How much longer can this continue to happen before I take that step? I must’ve been a bastard in my previous life as I believe I’m a stand-up guy and cannot so much as fumble a break.
Scribing has been my therapy through all this, the one thing impervious to any attempts to strip me of everything is my creativity. Brain activity is the last thing to go which pleases me as I like it where it is. Short of a lobotomization I’m keeping that shit under lock and key. So then…come on my old friend; remind me why I should continue. What benefit is there to me carrying on like this, manhood in tatters, dignity slipping away like an eel on a flume and lifeforce starting to dissipate?
Right, I think I have a plan sussed out. My life has been a Technicolor affair, filled with incident and folly. I’ll just grab a memory, feed it into the quill and bleed it onto this screen. Simple. I’ve seen some crazy shit in my times and have only shared a cluster with you beautiful people. It needs to be a doozy, that’s for damn sure, as it is pretty much all I have right now separating me from an Emperor-style swan-dive into the sheerest of darkness. So here goes…
The Drop Off
Let Keeper supply you with a visual aid and a little clarity before we begin. First off, this happened to my friend and not, in fact, to me. For the purpose of Story Time I shall assume the role of my dear buddy and my reason for this is elementary. My writing is very visceral, I like to paint a scene. I trust I can do this justice as I’m the last person you want to tell a joke to. Give me ten minutes of Kingpin and I’ll show you a man laughing until his kidney explodes. Relay a story with a ‘punchline’ or badly recited attempt at humor and I’ll yawn it right back in your face.
Visual aids then?! Okay, we’re blazing you see. Kicking back, my friend and I like we do every week like clockwork. It’s a bit like poker night, only with two XBox 360s, an internet connection and two shiny copies of Dead Island. We’re mid-smoke, but resources are at a bare minimum. Just a little bit of tray left, probably enough to roll a one-skin but that’s about it. Times like this are truly heart-wrenching to a stoner; the end of a crop rotation when supplies become scarce and you have to resort to solids or even more hideous…nothing at all!!!
I look up at my old chum and he looks back into my crimson eyes like Switch from The Matrix. Never a good thing, I’m waiting for the words. ‘Not like this?!’ They don’t come thankfully as I suddenly remember I’ve been promised some new shit by a dealer I’ve had for a while now. I know his name but that’s about all I know. He pulls up outside in my local convenience store car park and keeps it ticking while I inconspicuously shuffle in and we commence some polite conversation.
I say polite, it has to be. This guy has a vastly inferior cerebral capacity to average. He has nothing very interesting to say to me and, moreover, I’m rational enough to know he probably feels the same way. The transaction is ordinarily awkward, like passing the baton to a double amputee. Fumbles are commonplace. You both have the desire to get this shit over with, stop pretending like you give a shit about each other and get another spliff constructed while the coffee simmers.
I call him up, place my order. He tells me he’ll be fifteen minutes which I understand to be thirty plus but will wait around anyway as I need this transaction more than he. So we save our game, blaze in the knowledge that replenishment will soon occur and talk some shit for a bit. Then I make my way to evac. I feel old Frosty Jack licking my very spine as I stand outside attempting to appear normal. All the time I crave the relative heat of my abode, the creature comforts.
The occasional watch-glance gives me hope; realistically after fifteen minutes have expired he could arrive at any given moment. He doesn’t of course, he’s fine in his air-conditioned Ford Focus, toasting marshmallows over the dash. What about me? I’m the hapless cunt left to slowly perish in conditions no man in his right mind would brave. At one point I’m sure I see Scatman Crowthers in his snow plough, busting out Hollywood Swingin’ by Kool & The Gang. See, even he’s warmer than I right now! I comfort myself with the knowledge that I shouldn’t receive an axe in my chest the moment I re-enter my domicile.
My saddles are well blazed remember; a real-time minute becomes a second when enjoying oneself but an hour when standing there exposed and trying to remain inauspicious. Folk pass, some manage a smile. Mine’s a grimace; I can barely feel my face anymore. A walker could have bitten out a fresh orifice in my cheek by this point and I’d have been none the wiser. My resolve is weakening, my spirit dissipating. Ten more minutes of this torture and I may begin to twitch uncontrollably and foam from my mouth like I’ve just had a lick of The Stuff.
It is then, as I begin to contemplate the thaw-out duration facing me and feeling sick to the pit of my stomach, that bright lights fall over my position. Could it be? Am I five minutes away from warming my cockles on a mug of Gold Blend? Obligatory checks must be carried out to ascertain that i haven’t in fact been rumbled by the cops. Ford Focus…check. Dirty silver…hard to make up but…check? It’s him! My knight in shining armor, the deliverer of evil.
My transmogrification is startling. In the blink of an eye I turn from Jessica Tandy to Mila Kunis. For the purpose of our tale, let’s imagine those Billie-Jean disco slabs lighting up as I moonwalk over to the car, clutching my globes and quite clearly having some sort of fit. I slide over to the passenger door, just about still looking ‘the shit’ and reach for that handle baby! I’m so excited…and I just can’t hide it. I am fucking joyous; ready to shatter like a pelvis through such unbridled glee. I summons any remaining might to pull the door open and cannot conceal my delirium any longer. So I bounce into the snug confines and deliver brashly with more than a hint of frustration.
My eyes are the last part of me to enter the doorway and, as they slide across to welcome this twentysomethings G, they are greeted by a scrawny balding middle-aged man wearing prescription glasses, possibly brogues and he almost dies right there before my eyes. He can’t be more than 5″8 on tiptoes but I swear this dude hit the sun roof. He consequently goes into mild convulsions, still looking as though he’s run up a week late fee for Ringu at Blockbuster.
I am agasp for a second as I watch the life draining out of him like a punctured colostomy bag. I know in this jiffy that his life will never be the same again, he’ll wake in hot sweats for years and erectile dysfunction may render him a eunuch after this startle. I instantly flee back to the shadows, not a further word spoken but both of our lives changed inexorably.
As I swoop back into the darkness, hardly able to grasp oxygen from my lung-basket, I see another car pulling into the lot and it is, ironically a silver Ford Focus no less…in need of a clean. I dash over there like Zorro on amphetamines, not even daring to glance leftward at the poor douche I’ve just sent back to factory settings. I grab my weed, make approximately forty seconds of polite conversation when all I want to do is get my bladder clear fast. Done! I glide back to the shadows and return to my creature comforts.
Fuck, do you know what? I think that may have done the trick you know. I’m the Keeper of the Crimson Quill, no less. What am I doing huddled in a garden shed, frost-bitten and high as a planet? I’ve created something so beautiful here, nay we’ve constructed it. Are still doing so. This is a place where we can be ourselves, step from those persistent shadows and become who we actually already are – beautiful flaming phoenixes. Rising against everything; just floating the fuck up to the promised land.
I am so not done yet. I wish to continue but some things have got to change with the Keeper. A dear friend gave me some sound advice today. Stop defending yourself. The words hit me like a splitting maul. She’s so right. I have bled and bled, and then continued the process and it has been my therapy. I now feel that I actually do know myself, my true self. Scribe, people person, motivational speaker, poet, storyteller. I’m all of these things when languishing within these resplendent crimson waters.
I do not need to defend my actions as all of you fine people practice what I preach. You don’t judge; my conscience is clean now. Any injustices I have performed in my life are on the parchment paper the quill bleeds eloquently into. I’m not accountable anymore; I exist in Rivers of Grue as that is the only place I feel home. I’ll return from my sheepish shell when I’m ready, let my loved ones back in. I can’t blame them for not understanding a mind I cannot even get the gist of.
Until this galleon sails into the open crimson sea I pledge to make it my life’s work bringing joy and love into all of your lives. I promise to make you laugh, to make you cry, to make you feel relevant and warranted, to touch all the souls I can possibly interact with, like poor hapless Jobe. I’m done with this wallowing in my own man-made problems. I’ve got lips to kiss and hugs to distribute.
I’ll never quit, not on myself. I’ve come too fucking far to make that Emperor-like plunge into perpetual darkness. My dear Father doesn’t want that for me, my beautiful blue-eyed boy doesn’t want that for me, my long-suffering Mother doesn’t want that for me and the Grueheads certainly don’t want that for me either. Perhaps most critically – I don’t want that for me! It’s time to start a fresh chapter in my life, step away from my ledge. Walk towards the illumination of our great dark nation and raise my machete high above in salute. Saved by the quill again it appears? You’re damned right I am.