Daniel Avery “Simulrec”
 Nine Inch Nails “Adrift And At Peace”
 Tangerine Dream “Loved By The Sun”
He’s only at it again isn’t he? That’s right; the Keeper of The Crimson Quill is currently teetering above that over-familiar chasm once again and contemplating an eternity in downward transit. How do I get myself into such disarray? I ask myself that very question every day and it only ever throws back a solitary answer. Life is evidently messing with me; somebody somewhere is having a tremendous belly laugh at my expense. What a callous bastard! One of these days I’m going to find the shameful charlatan responsible and make them suffer in no uncertain terms for teasing me like a double-jointed cheerleader. But what about right now? Well I have felt pretty desperate before now, on numerous occasions of late, and these instances have led me to pour my heart out like Tom Cruise on that couch. As a means to an end, the results have been encouraging, and writing about my grief has saved me from myself in the eleventh hour on more than one occasion. But it’s all just so darned depressing!
I don’t think I have it in me right now to introduce you to my old friend woe; been there and done that already. Besides, things are different this time. You see, for as much as I regularly feel like Seabiscuit with shin splints, and pray for a swift bullet to the reverse of my cranium; there is one solitary thing keeping the blood pumping around my heart. I refer to this as The Rose Trail and it is my way out of this sorry mess. I’m not going to reveal any more about this shortcut as I believe that it can represent many different things for different people. To me it is everything. I look around me and there are a thousand gnarled demons grinding their gums and gesturing their intent to maim and destroy, and not necessarily in that order either. Ugly little nomads; every last one of ’em. However, for all their best game faces, I remain oddly unperturbed.
That is where The Rose Trail comes into play. This offers the one safe passage out of this infernal place; my emergency exit if you like. The astonishing thing is that it started with a single bloom. One day I emerged from my slumber chamber and stepped outside for that first expressive early morning yawn, only to spot a solitary flower over by the riverbank. I stumbled across the grounds like a newborn fawn and perched alongside it for a moment; just to drink in its sublime beauty. Considering I hadn’t yet prepared myself the obligatory early morning caffeine shot; I wasn’t exactly filled with the glee of Jehovah. But there was something significant about this particular rose. I’d never before seen another quite like it and its retort suggested that it was fully aware of my presence. I know right? The moment when a forty-year old man engages in dialogue with his garden is ordinarily one to call the men in white lab coats. However, I have never felt more sane than the moment when I fed my finger directly into its unfurling petals.
This beautiful rendezvous was interrupted at that point as I had failed to discern the rows of regimented jaws snapping away within the petals and drew back a bloody digit for my troubles. Any typical alpha would have trounced the offending shrub into the ground or plucked it from its very root for such an exhibition of thorned barbarism but I have never regarded myself as your typical alpha. Perhaps it is the fact that I grew up as the youngest of a four-strong brood; all of which were of the fairer sex. My memories of childhood include being accosted using a pair of my grandmother’s stockings, made to wear them as a balaclava, then dragged upstairs face first by the three smiling feminine assassins at the summit clutching the gusset. They garbed me in their frocks too but always made sure that my father was out of earshot before fastening the petticoat. He would spend his days teaching me of soccer and the intricacies of a car engine, whereas they unpicked all his hard work by changing my name to Regina and teaching me the art of walking in stilettos. As I learned to fear women; I also ascertained the importance of treating them respectfully. In some twisted way my siblings paid it forward through their callous actions. It helped make me the man I am today.
So you see, there was no way I was about to snuff out the only communicative flower in the kingdom. I therefore allowed it to quench on my supply until which time as the rose began to flourish. It revealed a single word to me and, once again, I won’t be divulging any intelligence provided. I know, I know, being cagey isn’t Keeper’s style. However, this time, I wish you to fill in your own voids. The critical point is that whatever this rose shared during that moment saved my life. I wouldn’t be sat here now if it hadn’t been for a single instance of inspiration. Talk about cutting it fine; should I have overslept that day then it may have been an entirely different story and I would likely be propping up a rose bed of an entirely more nefarious variety. The single bud continued to replenish itself until which point as I came over a little woozy and decided to make my way back inside to ponder further. Giving blood can leave one somewhat drained and this proved to be the case as the Sandman snatched me away before I could so much as apply a band-aid. My dreams that night were vivid in the über-extreme; more so than any other phantasm and I’ve had some doozies believe me. It was requested that I follow The Rose Trail and the harbinger in question was certainly not to be trifled with so I took this sound advice straight to heart.
The next morning things felt a little offbeat. Once again I negated to pour myself any wake-up nectar and plodded outside to breathe in the putrid air of a kingdom which had been in desperate decline for some time by this point. Lo-and-behold; the rose was no longer solo. Somehow, by some bizarre twist of grand fortune, it had multiplied. Now there were a thousand identical roses all vying for my attention and stretching off as far as the eye could see. Moreover, they highlighted a clear passageway which danced with astronomical light, the likes of which I had never before discerned. Everybody receives a sign at some point in their lives and this epiphany changed everything for me in an instant. Suddenly there was hope where before I had seen only despair and I had finally been offered a route out of my dark palace. I knew straight off the bat that my life would never be the same again and, considering the horrendous downward spiral I had been descending for so long, I grabbed my opportunity with both open hands and heart.
I have written many times about self-belief, why it is so critical, how it can enrich your vista. In that time, I have spoken candidly about my relentless inner demons and, I regret to inform my impish foul-weather friends, that you are no longer of great relevance to me. I know precisely where you reside, how you choose to manifest, and am aware of every last one of your vile tricks. But, alas, you’re not terribly important to Keeper any longer. Battling said fiends uses so much precious energy whereas turning a blind eye to their hateful suggestion affords far greater remuneration in the grander scheme of things. Sometimes in life it is all about being mindful that something dubious exists; then choosing not to let it define you. There is a mountain of difference between bottling something and purely discarding it. I have learned that and thus I share any findings with you all as that has always been my chosen form of caring.
The Rose Trail has offered me a release from my personal purgatory and I walk it without a single fear or suspicion in my mind. Sure, I still have my moments, the edges close in around me leaving me feeling asphyxiated and destitute like anyone else. However, I have no intention of succumbing any longer. Instead I steadily progress through this passageway with my eyes fixated on the ultimate prize. Never before in my entire existence have I possessed this kind of clarity moving forward. These roses offer me so much more than simple sanctuary; they suggest a supremely contented existence which I have no intention of passing up now that I have basked in such resplendent rays. My hope and faith have returned in great leaps and bounds; nothing can halt my ascension. There are many of you going through the same turbulent trauma as I and, to you all, I wish to embellish this pearl of wisdom further. Find your own Rose Trails; keep believing that something better exists. It does and often it requires just a solitary leap of faith. Should you plummet then allow others to cradle you and help facilitate any subsequent leaps.
My whole outlook has changed now. Yes I struggle with depression and, yes, my mind is still my very worst adversary at times. But inside I have bloomed; I’m ready for whatever life chooses to throw my way as I know what I desire more than anything in the world and, most critically, how to achieve that. As I mentioned at the offset, I am done now with feeling beaten. I have scribed enough about desolation and silence and there really isn’t much more to elaborate now that I have discovered the correct manner in which to live out loud. Besides, it grows a little irksome being despondent. There are fairy tales to tell, fables to elucidate, and most critically a Rose Trail to traverse. I walk it with hope in my heart and a perpetual spring in my stride. It is everything and doesn’t necessitate me compromising myself to ensure any secure passage. So the next time you witness a single red rose by the riverside; don’t discard it. It could just offer the absolution you have craved all along. I know now of my chosen path; the illumination before me is more radiant than anything I have ever before been made privy to. I truly hope that every last one of you locate your own exclusive Rose Trails. If you bleed, let it feed, and I Richard Charles Stevens am living, breathing proof that it will ultimately seed.