“Fear Itself” – Excerpt from my current novel

It’s been some time since I’ve written much of anything, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. Writing a query letter, crafting a good pitch, preparing for the rejections to surely come. Beating myself over the head with self-doubt as PTSD grips its icy claws around me once more.

In between, I’ve been editing and posting short stories to my Wattpad page that are of a more erotic nature, although they aren’t typical erotica. There’s more introspection in them and the emotional responses are more of the focus. There’s also some comedy to give readers a breath of fresh air after the dark.

I returned to the book I’m crafting the perfect query for. I remembered a scene in it near the end where my alias has to conquer his fear of the unknown, namely darkness and the entities that exist in it. My spirit guide, Darokin, who is front and center in that scene, delivers some advice I’d nearly forgotten, and re-reading the whole scene, which is based on true events of my life, choked me up.

I’d fallen so far down again after nearly making the climb to the top. Metaphorically speaking, I’d started to conquer my fears before 2020 hit, and then fresh trauma, and being in a PTSD loop for months led me to write this book.

So, with a risk for spoilers that I’ll let slide, here is that scene I wrote during a PTSD-fueled bit of passion for my book, ‘Everything Is Wonderful Now’:

Sean shivered in the cold as he zipped his black hoodie to the neck. There was a full moon shining down on him and the demon prince, which was a perfect atmosphere for what Darokin had in mind. The cemetery wasn’t a place Sean often went after dark due to irrational fears, but it was all a part of the plan. Now that he knew he was a child of Lilith, and both Byleth and Darokin confirmed it, he would have to get over these fears and embrace his true nature. It didn’t help that he was weak, malnourished, and sick on a daily basis. But Darokin’s presence that night was all the more important.

The prince worked in the shadows and was familiar with the energy within it. The moon’s silver rays gave him a renewed vigor, and his eyes glowed beneath it as he was in his element. He looked to Sean as the boy stopped half way through the cemetery. “You have nothing to fear, Sean. The shadows are your allies, not your enemies.”

“Yeah, except for the thing feeding off me.” The boy wrapped his arms around himself and continued past an ancient mausoleum, pausing to stare up at its beauty. The cemetery during the day was a regular place of relaxation for him when he wasn’t ill, and it had been some time since he’d been there. At night, however, it was a strange new world to him. The dead lied below every step he took, but he knew they were just that. Their souls had moved on and they were no longer present. It wasn’t them he had to fear, but the echoes of mourning that remained in the atmosphere. Distant cries of grieving families drifted between the trees, and the occasional footstep that didn’t belong to him or his companion caused him to pause and listen.

Darokin stopped Sean as they reached a patch of grass at the center. A large monument towered over them, but otherwise, it was a place to rest with a few benches in a circle. “Nothing here means you harm, dear Sean. You must make peace with it, and in doing so, you will begin to conquer that which has latched onto you.”

“The thing I helped to create.” The boy stepped into the grass and turned to face Darokin. “So how do I do it? How do I stop being afraid?” A powerful dizziness struck him, and he realized he hadn’t eaten that day. It was no way to begin this.

Darokin knew it as well, but the demon prince pushed. “This does not require physical strength. It’s mere exposure therapy, as you are no stranger to.” He waved his hand at a rhythm, stirring the shadows around them. “Energies of the night — they take many forms. But they are merely onlookers. The ones you see and the ones I call to you tonight are merely curious. They do not wish to scare you or harm you, but they are honest in their presence. They will not spare you their gaze because you fear them, for they know you as well as I do. As well as Zagan and Byleth do. Better than you know yourself.”

Sean knew what he meant. The boy had no idea what it entailed to be a child of Lilith, other than what his path was destined to be. It explained a lot of things, such as meeting Death at birth and coming back from it, as well as living a challenging life to put it mildly, but he also remembered many things he felt as a child. He never spoke of them to Byleth back then because he didn’t have a word for them, but he could sense the good and bad in people. He felt their energy like a suffocating blanket if he were too close, which is a lot of the reason he couldn’t stand up to the children who meant him harm. He had to grow numb to their blind hatred to protect himself, but being so young and not knowing what was happening, he reacted as a child would. With fear and tears.

He was tempted to do that then as a feeling of being watched surrounded him. He turned to see the shadows swaying, and after a short time, a pair of milky white eyes stared at him from one of the forms. He was certain it was a singular being among many, but it looked more like the things he noticed while doing rituals in the safety of his home. Here — beneath the moon and in the middle of the night surrounded by the dead — Sean was among the rawest of energies these forms could take. Nothing was filtered through windows or mesh screens. There were no candles or lamps, and no light switch to run to in fear.

The boy kept his eyes on the being that watched him. It made no move to approach, but merely stood with the others as a more definite form took shape. Its face was emaciated and it’s hands bony, and it wore a long black robe that seemed to be made of the shadows themselves. It’s eyes seemed to glow like white pearls, but it had no mouth or nose. It was quite inhuman.

“You are familiar with Hades in your reading, are you not?” Darokin interrupted the swishing of the light breeze. He smiled hopelessly as the boy made a step toward him, and as much as he wanted to open his arms to Sean to comfort him, it was counterproductive. “You will notice that what is drawn to you resembles your own passions and interests — including the darkness and death. You have been obsessed with Death since birth, and they have been obsessed with you. They know they failed to claim you, so they admire you. You’ve beaten the odds, so to speak.” Darokin stepped back and held out a hand. “Stay where you are. Let them speak to you.”

Sean paused and took his eyes off the emaciated being to plead with his friend. He couldn’t bear to see it. “This is fucking ironic then, isn’t it?” Sean’s emotions surged as he fought the anxiety. “I’ve spent most of my life wanting to die, but when I’m finally confronted with things resembling death, I’m terrified. Why am I so afraid?”

“The unknown is what you fear,” one of the beings spoke softly. “The unknown is that which many refuse to acknowledge. You dress up your dead to appear as if they are merely sleeping, and you forget about them once all has been made clear with the dark blessings of graveyard dirt. You fear what cannot be seen because you feel the need to fight its existence. You deny it.”

Sean finally turned to see that the being approached, but kept a safe distance. A musty, damp, and cold aura seeped from it, and it smelled like mold. “What you fail to see is that you cannot resist the unknown, but face it. It cannot hurt you. Only enlighten you. And you fear knowledge.”

“As most angels and God would have it,” Darokin continued. “So you see, dear heart, the only way forward is to face the unknown. You have a lot of fear within you, but you resist that which is your true home. Where you belong. It is among those like myself and these.” Darokin gestured to the many dark forms that gathered Sean hadn’t noticed. There were so many of them. “You are not a child of the light. You can only benefit from finding comfort within the dark instead of fighting it. Only then will your ailments begin to lift — including your irrational fears — and you will be able to face that which is draining you. That which feeds on your fear. Because fear is the most potent of human emotions. If you show that you are at home in your darkness, and that you have control over the unknown and welcome it, your Intruder will recede. He will lose his power.”

“But what do I do about being anxious? I can’t control it. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. When stuff catches you off guard…” Sean paused and held his breath in fear as another being came closer. It had become so cold he was shivering. “How do people not even flinch?”

“Come.” Darokin gestured for the boy to follow, and Sean was more than happy to do so. He grabbed onto the demon’s dark muscular arm and continued through the cemetery until they reached a mausoleum, in which Darokin clicked open the lock. They entered through the iron doors and were greeted with the smell of ages past, and crept lower down a set of steps that led to complete blackness.

“What’s down here?” Sean’s heart leaped into his throat when he heard scuttling. “What was that?”

“Tell me, you do not really fear physical pain or actual harm, do you?” Darokin stopped and backed away from the boy, and the wave of anxiety that enveloped him was powerful. “You fear not knowing. You fear not having control over your environment. Here, in the darkness, you cannot see as I can. But you see, you have not come to harm. That which circle around us and those who lie in their shrouds beside you, they will never harm you. You fear it because in reality, you do not really want to die, do you?”

“I don’t know.” Sean sank to the ground and hugged himself. Despite the darkness providing no line of sight in any direction, he squeezed his eyes shut. “I really don’t know.” More scuttling. Was that a moan? A breath from ages past. A death rattle?

“And here is the obvious sign.” Darokin became firm, which was not a tone he usually expressed. “You’ve closed yourself off. What you refuse to realize is that by closing yourself off like this and succumbing to your fear, you become vulnerable to things that do wish you harm. You are a spiritual parasite’s absolute dream. You do not fight back.”

“So it’s my fault I’m being targeted? Are you seriously victim blaming me?”

“There is your problem as well.” Darokin pointed to the boy on the ground. “You are beyond a victim of this life. I have chosen to guide you. Byleth has chosen you. Zagan has come to join you to protect you. We do so not just because you belong to the darkness like we do, but because you are capable of a strength you refuse to acknowledge. You survived Lilith’s test — her curse. Will you let that be in vain? Will you turn your back on all of us after what we have done for you by allowing yourself to be the victim?”

“I’m sorry.” Sean took a deep breath, stood, and opened his eyes. Fear shot through his veins and nerve endings like electricity and he felt faint. “One of my first experiences with the unknown was an angel that looked like something out of the Necronomicon. I was in the dark and I was alone, and he wanted to hurt me. What if something like that happens again?”

“Do you really believe Byleth, myself, and Zagan would let that harm come to you?” Darokin approached Sean at last and placed a hand on his forehead. “Why would we let you continue to seek out this Intruder if we did not believe you were capable of defeating it?” He trailed a finger down the boy’s face and lifted a bony chin. “The universe only gives challenges it knows you can overcome. It would not make anything impossible. And you see, you are safe even now in the bleakest of shadows. You have received wisdom from your true allies. So, dear Sean, tell me. What do you really have to fear if not fear itself?”

The boy realized he’d stopped trembling and searched for a good excuse. He was full of them and exhausted all the same, but something else rang true in the prince’s words. He’d never come to harm from anything he’d feared in the dark. He tiptoed around their help during rituals with the safety of a candle’s light, but he’d seen them in the flame’s flickering shadows. In the smoke from the incense and in his peripheral on particularly manic nights. He communicated with them unknowingly when he drew each tarot card, and the energy he called to when looking for answers — when Byleth, Darokin, and Zagan were nearby to protect him so that the wrong thing didn’t reach back — was the very same that surrounded them then. It was the only force that answered his calls for help when he was told it was the angels who would do so.

And the Intruder — he wasn’t of this darkness. He wasn’t of Lilith or Hell or whatever anyone wanted to call it. He was of Sean’s own darkness he’d given power to for so many years. A thought form that became something real when he’d succumbed to defeat and stopped eating. When he grew tired from not sleeping and fearing death, causing his body to become weak as he was paralyzed with panic attacks night after night. In reality, he feared meeting the Intruder again and he’d unconsciously placed that fear on other things. Yes, the entity was feeding from him, but only because he let it. He’d given up.

Sean let out a shaky breath as tears fell. When had things gotten so bad? He was practically killing himself without meaning to, and that thing wasn’t helping. It wanted to keep him — to have him, as it often said. To keep growing stronger because that fear was what had haunted Sean his entire life. It was as powerful as was his resilience, and that resilience was needed now. Although he’d wanted to die for so long, he realized he feared it too. But now that he knew the truth of everything, he realized why the words had become empty. It was an easy escape. But he’d survived for a reason. He’d made important friends for a reason. And Lilith, wherever she was, had chosen him to defy the odds and show the world the truth they tried to ignore. The unknown that the angels wanted to keep humans ignorant on so the divine would have control and power. With knowledge came power in itself, and that was detrimental to them.

Sean’s tears stopped as Darokin wiped them with his thumb. “I’ll try harder, I’m sorry.”

“You always do,” Darokin smiled. “And you always will. This is but another hill to climb, but trust me, dear one. It is a small hill.” The dark prince leaned low to meet Sean from his six point five foot stature, and kissed him. “Welcome home.”

Sean’s nerves finally eased, and he placed a hand in Darokin’s. “I guess the first thing I should do is eat. Right?”

The demon chuckled. “It would be wise.”

©2021 Shane Blackheart

To the Darklings

Tonight, I found myself unexpectedly diving back into 90s punk, industrial, and the general dark scene I loved as a kid. I was about ten years old as I recorded Type O Negative and Marilyn Manson onto a taped cassette from the radio, and I remember slipping the thin headphones onto my ears from my off-brand Walkman as I rode in the back seat of the car. It was grocery shopping eve, and rain was pattering against the window as I looked out across the road. Type O Negative’s ‘Love You To Death’ soothed me into an early moment of awe. I was forming an early taste for the darkly romantic before I even knew what romance was.

If my parents knew I was listening to the band Orgy and obsessing over Poe, the musician, they would have been concerned. I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV for the longest time, and they kept a pretty tight grip on the movies and media I was allowed to consume. Keep it G or PG, basically. Nickelodeon dot com. Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. Disney movies. All of that stuff.

My mom did get me the Garbage 2.0 album though. I think it was because she’d heard one of the songs on the Now 2 compilation — the second Now That’s What I Call Music album. Shirley Manson, the lead singer of Garbage, wasn’t really vulgar, but her music delved into some pretty dark stuff that I shouldn’t have understood as a kid, but I was already struggling with depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide from being bullied, and I was taking Zoloft and coping with disabling agoraphobia.

I remember being very young when I fell in love with horror as well. Goosebumps were my introduction, and I knew my dad loved Stephen King, who is considered a modern horror master. I stumbled upon the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy, and that was one of my first tastes of truly being afraid of literature. Granted, the reason they were so alarming to me was because of the Bloody Mary legend, which was really popular then. It was used to traumatize me at a birthday party, and I was forever afraid of the dark.

While I didn’t have access to a lot of media due to a strict rule on what I was allowed to consume, I regularly discovered things in secret. My love for vampires was sparked when I snuck the Interview With A Vampire VHS from the video cabinet in my parent’s room, and I remember how entrancing it was to see for the first time. I didn’t yet know what love or warm and mushy feelings felt like or meant, but when I saw the vampire Lestat and how bratty and brilliant he was, I think that’s what sparked some kind of sexual awakening.

I guess I should take the time to say, too, that I stumbled upon all sorts of ‘forbidden’ things like that as a kid, and I turned out alright where having morals and being a good person is concerned. And a lot of the media I enjoyed and consumed was very dark.

Something inside me was yearning for… something from a very young age. I never truly felt a connection to the Christian religion I went to church for. I always felt very weird compared to other kids, and listening to Marilyn Manson in daycare definitely didn’t win me any friends. I didn’t go out of my way to be strange or stand out just to be cool. Even as a teenager who wore Tripp NYC pants with chains, spiked collars, and hoodies year-round to hide my self-harm injuries, nothing I did was to make a point or stand out.

I’d been naturally drawn to darker things for as long as I’ve been able to have any sense of self. I’ve always understood the dark because it understood me. And then I wonder if some people are just born with a darker aura. Some of us just belong in the dark, and it’s not a bad or negative thing.

Those in the dark tend to think deeply, feel intensely, and most have an urge to express themselves artistically in some way. Speaking for myself, I’ve been writing stories since I was seven. Even then, I remember a few darker things I wrote that I couldn’t have possibly understood. I don’t even know how my mind was able to concoct a story about a woman who was escaping an abuser only to stumble upon multiple horrors like a badly written horror film. I was probably about nine or ten with that one.

I’m no stranger to trauma, and I have enough mental health diagnoses to get tongue-tied. But before the life-altering trauma that gave me PTSD, way back to my earliest memories of Kindergarten, I experienced intense fear. I’ve had an anxiety disorder for as long as my memories exist, and even before that, I had chronic nightmares and night terrors that followed me into adulthood and the present day. I started keeping a dream journal that’s been scattered in many places over the years. More recently, I’ve started turning my nightmares — including the most traumatic ones — as well as my sleep paralysis experiences with the entity I call the Intruder, into short stories.

My most recent complete book explores all of this. All of my childhood memories that were traumatic, all of the frightening thoughts I had as a kid that I’ve rarely uttered to anyone else, and my journey through nightmares and trauma as I grew into a teen. The book ends with my adult years as I face down my sleep paralysis entity — the Intruder — and confront fear itself through a series of horrific dreams. And the dreams in the story are real — taken directly from my dream journals. All of this is, of course, weaved into a bit of a side plot with angels and demons to make things interesting. But there is more truth than fiction in the book.

I’ve tripped into one thing after another in this, and I’m not sure where I meant to end it. Tonight was filled with a lot of introspective moments, and it was inspired by some music from the 90s I’d missed out on. When I hear something unique like I did tonight — something that makes everything in my constantly buzzing brain come to a halt the moment it hits — I am overwhelmed again with a love for art. For all forms of artistic expression that humans use to show the world something that can’t otherwise be perceived. And when it’s done authentically, and when the artist truly means what they are saying and showing and they can capture that in their work, that’s a rarity that makes life beautiful. It’s like magic.

There is beauty to be had in the dark that way. And some of us are just meant to make friends with our demons.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

It’s Just the Wind

I exist e v e r y w h e r e

but at the same time,

I am nothing.

A ghost with unfinished business;

a bleeding heart with too much hemorrhaging.

Others are not responsible for my happiness,

yet I continue to reach for them in the stars.

Their lives flash by and I am but a speck of dirt on their window–

to be washed away by the rain.

The passion I pour onto a page is muddy water.

It is no more important than the speck on the window,

yet the pool of mud delves deep into the earth,

deep into the life-giving center of everything.

And as time passes, the trees blur by the window.

And I become a tree only to blur past.

Another

another

another

anotheranotheranotheranotheranother

I’ve become a storm;

howling and knocking people off their feet.

Yet I am invisible and my yelling is merely nature;

temporary.

It’s nothing more than the wind.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

When I realized I was different

Now published on The Mighty!

It’s immensely hard to wake up one day and realize you’ve been playing a part — wearing a mask your whole life.

And I don’t mean a literal waking up, as in waking up in the afternoon like I do, and then noticing, again, that I can’t sleep a full night and haven’t since I was a kid. That I can’t go to bed before the wee hours of the morning.

I mean the ‘AHA!’ moment-that-rocks-your-world waking up. The kind of moment I felt when I realized I was transgender. And that was very much solidified after I had top surgery — a double mastectomy — in July of 2020. I couldn’t stop smiling and I felt complete.

Something else was always wrong. Even though I’d finally accepted my gender identity back in 2015 and transitioned as fully as I needed to, there was still something under the surface. Things relating to stuff I joked about for years — even with friends. Things that felt so far out of reach because I kept them that way. I was ashamed of a lot of things I did in private, sometimes because of the fact that they were common poking points when I was bullied. Some things were habits I had to learn to not do, especially in public, because they were embarrassing to the person I was with or people would stare.

Having an anxiety disorder from birth did not make it any easier to be myself. But as a child, I remember being bossed around easily. Even if my friends ‘hurt,’ I did what they told me. I let bullies beat me up, kick my head in while buried in the snow, and I would often end up playing by myself or with kids who were incredibly cruel to me at times. Sometimes, I’d have one person who I didn’t speak to often, or even after the particular day, who I’d spend alone time with.

I remember a few peaceful moments as a kid on the playground, though. One in particular involved a girl I don’t remember. We were at peace wandering along the fenced off barrier of the school grounds, and we would sit to pick flowers or dig up clay far from others. While the other kids played pretend and chased each other, or went down slides and chatted in groups, I was happy picking at grass and being convinced that the little white flowers that bees fed from were also nutritious to humans too.

I remember one constant friend I had who was developmentally disabled I got along with best, and we never played in a group but among ourselves.

During this time, I would sometimes have to wear Pull-ups to school, or ‘big kid’ diapers. I had to wear them to bed as well because I couldn’t stop wetting the bed. I got in trouble whenever I did, but I can imagine how frustrating it would be to have a kid, making their way through elementary school, who still soiled their own bed every night. My doctor at the time finally explained that I just hadn’t developed the antidiuretic hormone yet, which is a hormone usually developed by the age of 5 that causes the body to produce less urine at night.

Among being bullied for that, I was quiet and shy, and often kept to myself. I would memorize my favorite horror stories from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark until I could recite them word for word. And I was so proud of that. I often wrote stories from the age of 7, and writing is still a passion of mine to this day. Books and notebooks, pencils, and other office supplies make me lose my shit with happiness, even if I never could learn to properly grip a pencil in a way that doesn’t make my fingers feel as if they’ll break (or the pencil, in that case).

Besides the social ineptness, like not being able to start conversations with other kids well or even maintain healthy friendships, if any friendships at all sometimes, I never had imaginary friends. Not one. But I did treat my stuffed animals as if they were creatures with feelings and souls. I still do to this day, and would not have admitted it before now. I would often cry if a stuffed animal was the last of its kind on the store shelf as a kid, begging for it to be taken home with me because I didn’t want it to be alone. I still have the lion I remembered doing that with.

I’m clumsy. I trip over myself, drag my feet, walk flat-footed, and I run into tables and doors. I can’t judge distance to save my life, literally. While driving a car, my depth perception just doesn’t exist. It took me weeks of driving school and I still failed the maneuvering lessons. I magically passed with my one stroke of luck on the actual driving portion of the test, but haven’t driven since.

When I get excited, I get the urge to flap my hands or wiggle my fingers, which I’ve been allowing myself to do freely now. I realized it’s been an unconscious thing for a long time, and probably much longer than I’m conscious of. It comes on strong when I get happy and experience joy so intensely I start trembling, and I grow hot and anxiety-like from being overstimulated. Sometimes this will devolve into a shaking panic attack if I don’t reign it in. This was something I got very good at hiding, but at the cost of complete exhaustion after I returned to a private space.

I’ve asked at least two close friends about the hand flapping, worried that it was a side effect of my medications, but it couldn’t have been because I could control it. I could make it stop. But yet, it happened autonomously. Commonly while I am on the phone, because I pace quickly and continuously while talking and have for a lot of my life. I cannot sit and have a conversation. I’m usually out of breath by the end of one from the laps around my apartment.

Among many other things, lastly at least, I have always had trouble taking a joke, and I have asked friends how to start or continue conversations with new people. I cannot clearly read sarcasm, teasing, or joking. Often, I’ll get defensive and upset and over-explain, only to feel embarrassed when I’m told it was only a joke or a tease. My mom confirmed this as well when I last talked to her. 

But now I know why all of these things have been so troubling. From communication issues — and losing friends over completely failing at expressing myself or reading them — to my constant downplaying of my experiences, as well as my clumsiness and severe social ineptitude. My formal way of talking, even in text, that I often try to break because when people have read some of my stories in the past, they’ve expressed annoyance at the ‘purple prose’ that just was naturally how I like to think. It’s an explanation for why I become so intensely obsessed with things and it overwhelms me and I cannot focus on anything else, and I annoy friends with the same subject over and over until they’ve told me to stop at times. This is another thing I taught myself to reign in, or to mask as best as I could.

My ‘aha!’ moment was when speaking with autistic friends, which I realized I have a lot of; when I noticed that I’ve always related to them and find conversations easier with them than most other people (obviously, there are a few exceptions, and I don’t want to invalidate my few closest friends who are not on the spectrum. They’re dear to me and we have a lot of years behind us).

I am incredibly certain, if not as certain as I was when I realized I was trans, that I’m autistic. And the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. It was hard to see that I had been unknowingly taught to mask my symptoms out of fear of social rejection. The end goal for me was always to find ‘normal’ or some semblance of a normal life like everyone else. As an adult, I had no business keeping stuffed animals everywhere. I had no business messing with fidget toys or enjoying things I enjoyed in the past as a teen or a kid. I had to grow up quickly, learn to pay my bills and manage my finances despite my dyscalculia, and grow a damn backbone.

And now I see it was all a well-rehearsed act in a part that society and others expected me to play. An ableist society that looks upon autistic people with unease as we flap our hands or do harmless things like stim in public — especially with objects that appear to be made for children when we’re older. Or in my case, like when I’d bite my hand in the middle of a store.

We’re considered annoying when we obsess over things, and often people lose patience with our needs, like a need to be in quiet places when necessary due to sensory processing issues. As well as that last one, I’ve had issues with doctors even making jokes that they’re surprised when a medication sits well with me. I’m so sensitive that I feel every side effect, even if it’s not serious, intensely. I have often tried and gone off so many medications because I’ve joked that my body just doesn’t like medication.

Nothing I’ve grown up joking about is a joke anymore. I really don’t understand when someone is flirting with me. I truly am clumsy and half the bruises I get are from me bumping into things or injuring myself. I really don’t understand sarcasm or jokes that well, especially if they aren’t clear or given some kind of inflection to clearly note the mood of the speech or text. I really do need to flap my hands and wiggle my fingers, and move in rhythmic ways sometimes to stim and it feels nice and helps me cope. And I’m allowed to do it. I shouldn’t have to hide it like I have been.

Among a plethora of other things and information I won’t delve into other than with my therapist and psychiatrist, realizing I’m autistc has explained so many things in my life I felt were faults. That I thought were weird things that made me a messed up person. And it’s a devastating thing to realize you really don’t know how to be you after all, and you don’t even really know who you are.

But I am starting to realize who I am by reflection. I am looking back at my younger years and recent ones, and I am finding patterns that have caused me to swallow down the need to start sobbing because I’m so confused. How do I live without that mask? How do I take it off and be comfortable with who I really am? How?

It seems impossible, but I am finding that coping mechanisms I forbid myself from using due to my age are helping. Despite the distress I’ve felt over the realizations I’ve had, my moods have been good. I’ve started going on walks again and I have felt happiness, at least so far, for a small stretch of time. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be me. It’s okay to embrace those things I forced myself to hide or unlearn. There is nothing wrong with me after all, and that’s a feeling that settles in my chest in a way that makes me both anxious and nauseated. It’s a hard thing to accept, but if I can finally start using the right coping mechanisms in therapy, I feel my outcome will be much better than what it was.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Cover photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Disabled People in America Deserve Dignity – The Alarming Gap

Being disabled and poor at any time during a normal year is difficult. Most things people take for granted, like clean laundry, access to food, and simple pleasures like a coffee at a cafe’ or getting a take out meal without much stress. Buying a book here or there. Being able to afford new shoes that won’t fall apart in a month. And especially, access to the internet.

Basic needs are a luxury

During a normal year, despite being disabled and poor, I can usually scrape the bottom of the barrel and make a lot of these things work. I don’t have Netflix. My shoes fall apart quickly from walking everywhere. I can usually do a couple loads of laundry a month if I’m frugal. I can get Taco Bell or a pizza a few times. I can get a coffee or two. I can buy a new book. And my internet bill keeps rising, but I can cover it. Often, I sacrifice groceries or food to have these things, and I just fast off and on for a week at the end of the month because I don’t get any more than $16 in food stamps, so my cupboards go bare.

Then the pandemic hit. I already knew a lot of things I struggled with were a given for others but a luxury for me, but now, I realize just how much basic necessities are a luxury for disabled and poor people in America.

I can’t drive, so I order delivery for groceries, which at the cheapest is $7.95 for delivery plus a $10 tip. I can only afford this twice a month, but often must make due with a shortage of online stock, and I have to either ration or ask for help at the end of the month to make up. Thankfully, I have extra food stamps through the pandemic otherwise I’d be starving. I get about $195 a month now in EBT — temporary to the pandemic until the aid runs out.

Stores are also making it hard to access things for delivery, like WalMart, when they have ‘pick up only’ or ‘in store deals only’ stipulations for many necessary household items, limiting me to whatever happens to be in stock for delivery I can grab, which has been a more expensive brand than I normally afford.

My internet bill has risen $10 since 2020, making my internet access alone $80 for decent speeds. I don’t even have cable TV. My phone is about $38 a month for the phone cards I buy.

I am lucky that my rent is based off of my income, and then I have to cover all non-food necessities with my own bank account. That means trying to find paper towels and toilet paper, dish soap, and other necessities that keep going out of stock or are limited to higher priced items I don’t normally buy. Basically, I grab whatever I can find at the lowest price, but it’s a toss up.

Add in laundry. I haven’t done it in months, save for washing things in my sink because the nearest laundromat is a joint bar, and people aren’t wearing masks and are drinking there. The smaller places are self-serve and unsanitary. Our washer downstairs, the only one, is wrecked because someone is destroying the laundry room. So by hand it is, as I’ve been doing. I wash a few things as I need them, so everything I own is dirty and it just has to stay that way for now.

I do find room for enjoyment. And again, it’s at the cost of food. If I didn’t make room for something to make myself smile, I don’t think I’d even be here right now. I might buy a few books or a new game. I might buy a much needed new pair of pants. And I feel anxiety any time I buy anything at all. It takes me forever to check out due to nerves.

The stimulus checks allowed me a bit of comfort. I got to see what it was like to not worry about food. I got to see what it was like to not struggle for a month. I remember feeling euphoria. “This is what people who live well feel like? This is great! I won’t run out of food!”

And that was just from my usual $785 disability check plus the first stimulus which was $1,200. I was euphoric over having $1,985 for a month. It was unreal.

Being disabled is a poverty trap

This is the America many of us live in. Disabled people who are on SSI like me who get the bare minimum struggle even when there isn’t a pandemic. It’s often a choice between sanity or food. ‘My pants have holes, but I need groceries at the end of the month’ is a real thought process. Get food or go hungry making yourself smile. There is even an entire blog out there dedicated to helping people on SSI and SSDI survive.

We can’t work. And it isn’t our fault. We didn’t choose to be disabled. We didn’t choose chronic illness, severe mental illness, or physical disabilities. We did not want this, yet, we have it and it’s out of our control.

If you have a chance to write to your government officials, please pester them about this. Disabled Americans deserve dignity. We shouldn’t have to be scared to accept cash gifts on a birthday or we’ll lose some of our benefits. We shouldn’t have to hide the fact that someone in our family bought us food, otherwise it will count against our benefits. We are not allowed to have any help on SSI, nor are we allowed to own any more than $2,000 at any given time, and that includes assets like a car (i.e; you can’t own a car worth more than $2k). If you save money for too long and it stays in your bank account, it starts counting against you. It’s a poverty trap.

This is my experience being disabled on SSI (Social Security Insurance). SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is different and only available to those who have worked enough to qualify, so I can’t speak for that. But SSDI has its limits as well, and every disabled American on SSI or SSDI deserves dignity and enough to afford basic necessities. As SSI went up this year, $795 a month is not enough to have a home and all your necessities paid for unless you go through a subsidized housing plan, which there are often huge waiting lists for.

Getting help is difficult and convoluted

Help is complicated, convoluted, and often nearly impossible for some to access. Add in having to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare to afford medication and medical treatment, which thankfully SSI and SSDI recipients mostly qualify for, and then there is a general lack of accessible community resources to get help. There is a lack of mental health care. All of this is buckling under a system that under funds it.

Before I arrived to where I am now, I was homeless as many end up due to a lack of resources or available shelter space. It’s disappointing how few studies have been done about homelessness and mental illness or disabilities together, and it was difficult to find anything as of 2019, but I found some data from the BBR Foundation that was extremely concerning, and that’s an understatement.

As posted on the BBR Foundation’s website:

According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. By comparison, a 2016 study found that 4.2 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

That paints a grim picture. Not only because studies like these are not done often enough, but nothing is done with them. As it goes in America, the rich get richer, and the poor are looked down on like leeches. But how much of our taxes are actually used for food stamps and other programs for disabled people and those in poverty?

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Safety net programs: About 8 percent of the federal budget in 2019, or $361 billion, supported programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship. Safety net programs include: the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist low- and moderate-income working families; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income people, including SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, and help meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused or neglected children.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A measly 8%. Eight. Percent.

The real problem: Greed

The problem in America has nothing to do with those who are disabled, in poverty, or otherwise those who use safety net programs. The problem is greed and hoarding wealth, and it starts at the core of our government. Just within the last month alone, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are arguing over whether Americans should get $1,000 or $1,400 for one month. Meanwhile, they make leaps and bounds more than your average person, and they return to their lavish homes and make plans for cocktail parties.

As mentioned in Business Insider recently about further stimulus checks:

Biden and other senior White House officials have said they are open to negotiating the income thresholds for direct payments. “Further targeting means not the size of the check, it means the income level of people who receive the check,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Wednesday. “That’s something that is under discussion.”

Business Insider

Our lawmakers have been sitting at the table and negotiating when it’s convenient for them, and the negotiations are stretching too long. They duke it out to allow everyone an opinion on what they think poverty is and what they feel we deserve or can live on at the minimum. And help has been at a minimum — if that.

It’s time to stop negotiating and pull up statistics. Pull up the research. Face the actual data. Americans cannot keep living like this. Even long after the pandemic is over.

To put this huge gap in perspective, according to the House of Representatives Press Gallery;

Source: House of Representatives Press Gallery

That’s roughly $14,000 a month at the lowest tier of salary. And when it comes time to negotiate the well-being of Americans who are starving, dying, and living on the streets and in their cars, lawmakers aren’t seeing the reality. They aren’t driving around to these poor communities or testing for themselves if what little they give is livable. And with figures like the above, you can see how out of touch they are.

They are living in nice homes with good healthcare, and they have access to groceries and don’t have to worry about going hungry. They can sip a martini on their back deck and take in the sun after negotiating on a $600 stimulus that was the last poor excuse for aid.

I have no problem with people being paid large amounts of money to do an important job. I have no issue with anyone who built up their career and have earned a large salary through hard work. What I do take issue with is their skewed thinking that comes from an entitled life. They give us breadcrumbs while they take a few fresh loaves out of the oven for themselves.

The argument for universal basic income

To close this, I fear this problem will never be addressed properly. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a start, but again, it’s the bare minimum. Even considering a universal basic income like Andrew Yang proposed, which would ensure all Americans at least $1,000 a month, would solve a slew of issues. Redirect the money flowing into food stamps, SSI, SSDI, unemployment, TANF, and other monetary aids into one universal basic income, and America would start to thrive. It would not only help the economy, but take away one major cause of depression that causes people to not want to work. That causes people to ultimately destroy themselves because they have nothing and can’t get their head above water, and there is often no safety net if they fail.

With a basic safety net, not only would disabled people have what they need to thrive, those who are able to work will still work to make even more money. When people are happy and safe, they can do amazing things, and our economy would be booming again. But that’s my utopia dream. I’m not a businessman, mathematician, or even good with numbers. I’ve never been in government work. I just know what I’ve heard from Andrew Yang and what I’ve seen in the studies from Finland, which did a test run of UBI distributed to 2,000 citizens while having a larger control group of 5,000 others on unemployment benefits:

There was no difference between the two groups in terms of the number of days in employment in 2017 – both groups worked on average 49 days. The UBI trial group only earned €21 less on average than the control group during 2017. The surveys also showed that the UBI group perceived their health and stress levels to be significantly better than in the control group.

New Scientist

America is in a scary place right now, but there are ideas and wonderful theories that could pull us out of this dangerous road we’re going down. Equity, equality, and basic dignity are not too much to ask for. When it comes to money in America, there’s a lot of redistributing and shuffling around of papers that needs to be done.

Now, we just need our government to care as much about us as they do themselves.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Unconditional

[Content Warning; mild adult content]

“So this is the music we’re listening to?”

Byleth stood from the rock on the cliff, smiling before looking down at me. The sunset seemed so close yet so far away, and it painted his face in a warm orange as his eyes flashed crimson.

My breath was shaky as I averted my gaze. I brushed some of my brown hair behind my ear and realized I’d started trembling. The ethereal, dreamy tones of ‘Like Lust’ by MOVEMENT did nothing to calm my nerves as I’d hoped. I was still glad that Byleth brought it into being. Everything in that space was of his will according to my wishes, and it was more than I could have asked for. He always did more for me than he had to. “Yeah, it calms me. Usually.” I chuckled.

Byleth noticed my shivering, and it wasn’t a chill. The temperature was an ideal warmth. “Sweetie, you’re shaking. I thought you wanted to make out?” He laughed to temper the mood, but quieted just as soon and sunk to a knee before me. He took my hands away from my face and neck where they were rubbing the skin with anxiety. “Why are you shaking? It’s me.”

“I’ve had this problem lately. You know.” I chewed on my lip.

His hands moved with mine as they trembled, and he squeezed. “Are you afraid to be intimate with me? You never were before.”

“No, I know. It’s weird to me, too. But since my PTSD symptoms have been so bad, it’s all coming back. The trauma is coming back and it’s like muscle memory.”

“It’s not just that,” Byleth soothed. He slid a finger beneath my chin and lifted it. My eyes had gone dark. “You have this other problem. You have such a negative image of yourself you can’t even let yourself enjoy simple pleasures. But let me show you something, sugar.” The fallen angel king stood and slipped his red jacket off, and then worked at the buttons on his white button-down.

I glanced down to see that he was aroused and looked away as my face grew hot. “You can’t possibly be turned on by me.”

He quirked a brow and dropped his shirt. “Are you telling me my body is lying?”

“No, but you’ve told me before that you can make your body do anything you want it to. So, I guess, maybe you’re just making yourself aroused to make me feel better.”

Byleth sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Do you remember when we first met? When I asked you to lie in your bed and it was the first time we slept together?”

“Yeah.” I held back a laugh. “You said I was a science experiment. That a human’s inner workings were interesting, or something like that.”

Yes.” He crossed his arms and shifted his weight. “But you’ll remember I was turned on then too. I didn’t even know you, dude. So what reason did I have to fake it for a human — which is a species I don’t often give a shit about — that I barely knew?”

“That doesn’t explain now.” I hugged myself. “I gained a lot of weight. When we met I was skinny.”

“You were ill. You were anorexic. I’d rather you not have an eating disorder. It’s not hot when you’re practically dying.” Byleth grabbed my arm and pulled me up.

I stumbled and grabbed onto him as I collided with his chest, and I looked up. I often forgot just how tall he truly was. He could carry me around like a doll if he wanted to. He was so warm in a way that was comforting, and I nuzzled his bare chest. “I want to do things with you, Byleth. I really do. I’m just scared.”

He pet my head with a clawed hand. “What are you afraid of, sugar? I’ve always been honest with you. I’ve never lied to you.”

“No, you haven’t.” I looked up into his red eyes. Maybe it would be alright. “Can we take it slow?”

He snorted. “No, we have to get this over with quickly. Of course we’re going to go slow, you goof.” He snapped his fingers and pointed to the ground. “Now lay down.”

I turned to see a thick white blanket on the ground, and I sunk down onto it. It was cool and felt like soft cotton beneath my fingers, and I fell forward. I could have slept for an entire week. It wasn’t in Byleth’s plans though, and he dropped down onto my back, hovering over me. A shiver drifted over my body as Byleth breathed against my neck, laying kisses behind the hair he pulled aside.

“Are we going to do it this way?” He chuckled. “A bit primal, but I’m up for something different.” He coaxed me up onto my hands and knees and ran his hands up my shirt and around to my scarred chest. “Yes, now I can touch your chest without you objecting.”

“Because it’s fine now.” I bit back a smile. “Those things are gone.”

“You’re a proper man now.” He hummed as his fingers traced my scars, the sensation strange as they remained numb. “But you’ve always been a proper man.”

I smiled and rolled over to look up at him. I didn’t want our first time in a while to be all hands and knees. I wanted to watch him. Observe his supernatural beauty as he willingly came to me. Desired me. It was still foreign to see someone with a desire for me that was honest. One that was truthful. Nothing else mattered. Byleth knew how to work with me and my trauma, and he always made everything feel amazing in the end. He wasn’t selfish. Nothing was expected.

“You’re really staring, sweetie,” he laughed. I realized it too and hid my face behind my hands. He moved them aside. “No, none of that. Do you really want to block out my glory? I mean, I am gorgeous.” He flipped his shoulder-length blond hair as he sat back on his knees, and I laughed as I watched him in his glamour. Everything sobered when he reached for the waist of his bell bottoms. “But I want you to see all of me. No matter how shy you might be or how much you feel like you don’t deserve it.” He flicked open the button and slid the zipper down. “Don’t you look away. I’m giving myself to you because I want you, and I won’t let you believe otherwise. You’re stronger than this, and I know you are. I know there’s a sexual creature underneath somewhere because I’ve seen it in you before, sugar. Let him out.”

I tried to still the trembling in my limbs but became frustrated instead. I loved Byleth — every part of him. The brattiness and the sarcasm, and the offensive humor. The huge ego. The perfection that was him. Dark Lord in Hell, I loved him just as much as I loved Lestan — more than the air I breathed. My stomach fluttered with butterflies any time he spoke or looked my way. He was just so…

Byleth smirked and snapped his fingers as he took in my silent adoration. Nothing covered his toned body now, and he stared down at me with confidence as he hid nothing from me. Not even his love for me, and it was apparent in the way he remained still despite his truest desires. He was patient for me. Silent for me. Waiting for me to say it was okay.

“I love you, Byleth.” I reached out with a trembling hand to take his, and I pulled myself up to melt into him. I squeezed my arms around my king and a calm washed over me. All tension left my limbs and I hummed with happiness as his arms hugged me close. He rubbed my back and kissed the top of my head.

His voice was calm. “I love you too, sweetie. And don’t you forget that.” He pulled away just enough to lift my chin, and he lowered his head to capture my lips.

I’d forgotten what his kisses felt like. Tasted like. A moment of doubt and self-loathing surfaced and I faltered, but Byleth slipped his hand to the back of my head and took my breath away. When he finally drew back, he licked his lips with a forked tongue. His golden horns glistened in the forever setting sun of our fabricated escape.

“Now let me do that somewhere else.”

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Home

The day after I unpacked my things

and settled back down to claim peace,

the sun came out.

It had been absent for days

and the storm in my heart poured rain,

the gray skies mourning with my life.

And today as I sit by the window with the sun

I feel the longing of nostalgia for better days.

I smell times past upon the air;

in the orange sun that refuses to warm the frigid breeze.

And although my heart is empty,

I am home.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Book Review: Demon Beauty

Demon BeautyDemon Beauty by Stefanie Simpson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went into this knowing the basic premise of it being a Beauty and the Beast style tale, but I did not expect how it unfolded. Possible light spoilers.

Rosalin, a tough woman who can stand on her own and work a sword like an expert, flees war. She loses everything and hardens her heart in order to survive, but she never expects to meet a demon who ends up helping her, especially after she intrudes in his peaceful home. His presence in her life brings her many more challenges, but she can’t stay away from him. The world is much more magical than Roslin realizes, and she becomes capable of harnessing that magic herself.

Rosalin is an amazing woman that was refreshing to see. She can fight and face soldiers head-on, and she knows how to survive without anyone else. She was never the damsel in distress, which had me falling in love with her even more. I don’t want to give away too much, but it really is nice to see a woman save a man instead of the other way around.

The story as a whole had a very fairytale feel to it, as did the writing. It was different in a good way, and although Crawt’s, her demon companion’s, dialogue was a bit difficult to wrap my head around sometimes — mostly when he was explaining his past — it always became clearer as I read more.

Crawt, though. He was visually stunning and equally frightening, but he’s kind. As much as I like my beasts scary, intimidating, and a bit cold, Crawt was a nice change from that. When he interacted with Fox and Crow, his animal companions, like he did, it warmed my heart. And they were a special part of this book, too. I was really happy with the ending they got, and we do get to see inside Crow and Fox’s heads at least once, which was fun and confirmed that they truly were more than just pets.

Overall, with the intense action and the interesting take on demons, as well as having a strong leading female character and a softer beast, I really liked this story. It kept moving and didn’t get caught up with any slow points, and as mentioned above, the fairytale feel came out in the writing as well. I’m really glad I got the opportunity to read it, and I already have another of Stefanie’s books I plan on reading very soon.

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Book Review: My Lord

My LordMy Lord by L.B. Shimaira
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to start by saying I’ve spoken with L.B. Shimaira, and she’s one of the sweetest, most supportive people in the writing community. I wanted to support her because I love darker books, and I’m really glad I did.

‘My Lord’ begins with Meya, a woman who had lost pretty much everything to war. She’s captured and abused by slavers, and after getting sexually assaulted — which Shimaira does not describe but fades to black — Meya realizes her fate is inevitable. She is sold to Lord Deminas, who is a sadistic and inhuman ruler. Yet, he treats her differently from the other servants, and he seems to enjoy teasing her more than entertaining the idea of actually harming her. And he drinks blood…

At first, I suspected this might be a vampire story due to the blood-drinking. It’s definitely something much more than that, although it’s never truly clarified other than stating that Deminas is an immortal. I like that, though. It adds to the air of mystery around the sadistic Lord, and it made him that much more enticing to read. And he truly was a character that made me squirm a bit in all the good ways.

I couldn’t put this book down. Granted, I may be biased because this is exactly the kind of plot I crave in darker fiction, but this is genuinely a gripping book. Meya seems to be in danger quite a bit, and although we know the Lord likes her more than the others, we aren’t quite sure that he isn’t above harming her. This is what had me turning pages most of all. Shimaira leads you into a false sense of security repeatedly, and it truly makes you feel what Meya is most likely feeling.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the strange wholesomeness I didn’t expect. Yes, there’s sadism, BDSM, cruelty, death, blood-drinking, and other things I won’t mention to not spoil it, but the companionship Meya finds in Nina, another servant, is so refreshing. And just when you think there might be a love triangle, there isn’t really. That was also refreshing. I rarely, actually never, see polyamory in the books I read. I loved it!

Consent was also a point that was repeatedly enforced, even by Deminas, and that was amazing. I truly didn’t think a book like this could be written with wholesome and ethical themes, but I stood corrected. It was such a wonderful mix of wholesome and darkness.

Overall, I have no nit-picks about this book like I normally do. I got a good sense of the characters, who they were, where they came from, and I fell in love with them. The ending was so fulfilling and felt complete even though it mentioned it was to be continued, and I will definitely await the next book if there is one.

Shimaira is an amazing writer. ‘My Lord’ is full of dark and wonderful surprises that feel like little rewards after enduring the pain with Meya. I truly did appreciate, and I applaud, Shimaira for including a note at the end of the book explaining things. She states specifically what Deminas did wasn’t a realistic way of helping a victim of sexual assault, and she also details safe BDSM practices and, also, what not to do. That was a very caring touch to show that Shimaira truly cares about her readers. I don’t see that. Ever.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys deliciously dark naughtiness, but not in the traditional erotic sense. There is an amazing story to be told alongside the erotic themes that fall just in the right places, and they aren’t too heavy until the very end. And the last erotic scene we get is something else. I’ll leave it at that. I look forward to reading more from Shimaira.

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Why I write

I often lose sight of my future. I always have. The thoughts take many forms that cause me to pause for too long at times, and at others, the thoughts have nearly made me stop existing all together. Although those thoughts are far and few in between now, I still have those hopeless moments that cause me to stop everything. Except for writing.

I’ve written so many pages of dark emotion that are painful to read back. I’ve written so much fiction that at times it seems so real, and there are some things in my life that may seem like fiction to others on the page, but it’s very real. And through all of this, no matter how hopeless I feel, no matter how much I feel like no one will ever care but me, I can’t stop my fingers reaching for the keyboard. Just like they’re doing now.

When I started writing stories for fun as a kid at seven — shortly after learning to read and fall in love with books — I didn’t think too much about why I wrote. I just knew that it made me feel happy and it took me away from the real world for a while. So many amazing things could happen on paper that couldn’t in real life. I could spend time with my friend who’d moved away again. I could continue the stories of my favorite cartoon characters when the episodes were over for the afternoon. I’d forget there was even a reality around me at all.

I wrote during the lunch block in elementary school as the other kids stared at me and laughed, and to give myself something to do so I didn’t have to know that I was being bullied. I was the quiet kid everyone avoided because I was strange. I wrote all the time and had too much anxiety, and I was perfectly content being left in the corner of a room with my notebook and pen. None of the other kids understood it. They were busy sharing HitClips of Britney Spears and N*Sync and playing with Sky Dancers. Sharing Beanie Baby collections and making plans to hang out for the weekend. I liked that stuff too, but never really had anyone to share those things with.

As I got older, I learned that the reason I didn’t have any friends and I was bullied so much was because I was quiet, and that made me creepy. I’d given up at some point, I think. I didn’t try to make friends anymore because the ones I had were mean, and the kids who bullied me just caused me physical pain.

I had a Windows 95 Packard Bell in my bedroom at this time, and although I didn’t have access to AOL on it like the family computer did, I had a small collection of floppy disks and Word Pad. I can’t remember most of what I wrote about back then, but I stored more than a few stories on those floppy disks. And when I wasn’t writing the stories down, I was living them through my toys as I acted out so many different plot lines.

As an adult now, I’ve recently finished an urban fantasy book exploring that part of my life. It brought back the fears I grew to have over the years, as I was often overlooked for writing prizes in school or was the last minute replacement for someone who couldn’t make an event, like Young Author’s club. The spelling bee. My father told me often that I needed to grow up and stop writing stories and drawing. No one else was going to care and I was going to end up penniless on a street corner with no support, eating peanut butter sandwiches to survive.

I’ve always had the fear that I’ll end up on my death bed having written a plethora of books, but never accomplished my goals. I want to be published. I want to have others read my stories and appreciate them, as all authors do. More importantly, I want to tell my own story. I want to change minds and make people think — to understand that even the weirdest kids — and adults — can be someone amazing if they’d only gotten to know them. That sometimes the quietest people have the most to say. That sometimes, our preconceived notions about things we fear, like religions and beliefs different than our own, are simply another person’s unique life experience and nothing to fear at all.

I want parents to see that kids and teenagers get hurt in ways they don’t always talk about — that not many will explore with unabashed honesty in writing. I want to help the world be a better and more understanding place with my books. And sometimes I write about things that I know will make people uncomfortable, but that’s the point. That discomfort is the start of change. And I’m not shy in the way I deliver things bluntly, because sugar-coating things isn’t going to accomplish anything worthy.

And there lies my fear. The fear that I’ll die and never accomplish anything like that. That I’ll never have touched anyone or helped anyone, or made a dent in changing the world for the better. And I’m not so full of myself — in fact my self-esteem doesn’t even exist — to think my books will be popular or change the world. On the contrary, I often worry my books really aren’t as good as I feel they are. That I’m the only one who’s ever going to get so damn excited and passionate over the content in them.

And even if that were the case, I’d keep writing anyway. I have to. It’s an addiction I can’t stop, even when I want to stop. During the three times I attempted suicide, I wrote something before or after the attempt. I wrote during the days that were my worst, and I’ve written while being heavily symptomatic with PTSD. I recently finished my current work in progress while having psychotic depression symptoms. And that’s because I just simply can’t stop no matter who cares or doesn’t care.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to breathe. I’ll get to hold at least one of my books in my hands and know that I accomplished my dream. Even though I’m disabled with severe mental illness and am often in that same quiet corner as I was when I was a kid, maybe I’ll be able to do something that can help someone or change something for the better.

©2020 Shane Blackheart