Tag Archives: anxiety

Bo Burnham: Inside left me speechless

When I started watching Bo Burnham’s special, Inside, it was late evening but still sunny outside. When it ended, my apartment was dark and I sat for an amount of time I can’t remember in awe. I finally got off the couch to write this post.

I’ve rarely seen anything that made me feel so many things that intensely. It was nothing short of genius, but what really hit me the hardest was at the end of the film. I empathized with Bo’s story about agoraphobia and panic attacks.

From late 2016 into 2018, I remained inside due to severe anxiety and agoraphobia. I lied in bed most days, not eating, too afraid of my own body’s mysterious illness. It later turned out to be a severe case of GERD, and my anxiety only made it worse. I became anorexic during that time.

When 2019 came around, my life started to improve. I was finally on medication and had a doctor who, at last, believed me about my stomach. I gained weight back and was no longer weak and dizzy. My fear of the outside receded slowly but surely, and in middle to late 2019, I started going to the coffee shop almost every day to write. I couldn’t afford a laptop, but I had a tablet with a keyboard. My agoraphobia was gone.

I had been on testosterone for my transition for a year at least — finally on the right kind that my body wasn’t allergic to and could handle well. Everything looked so beautiful. The holidays were equally as great, and I spent them with my family. I remember being happy more often than not, and my manic states and mixed episodes were non-existent for the first time in my life. I hadn’t felt suicidal or severely depressed in some time, and I was so busy with friends I didn’t have time to think about the mental health issues I’d struggled with my entire life.

I thought I had recovered. I finally was able to live a life full of friends, happiness, and I was on my way to accomplishing my goal of becoming a better writer worthy of being published.

2020. It came quickly. I watched as my personal sunshine dimmed more and more as the months dragged on. PTSD hit me full blown, and I was, once again, not only dealing with severe agoraphobia that made me shake and nearly pass out every time I left the apartment — it still does to this day — but past ghosts and actual PTSD hallucinations and dissociation from isolation, which I’ve written about in detail extensively here and on my side blog, Waking Dreams.

I got a year of recovery in 2019. 2020 was going to be the year I accomplished everything I didn’t think I could before. Now, half way into 2021, even though things are looking a little bit better and I’m vaccinated, 2020 not only set me back to stage one, it left me worse off than I was before with many more shadows I can no longer stuff down and hope they go away.

I am starting to see a bit of light again, but the end of Bo Burnham: Inside, as well as the scenes about depression, resonated with me and gave me a sinking feeling not only in my stomach, but in my chest. I know. I know what that feels like. I know the absolute trauma 2020 caused when you were so close. When you were right there and everything was so damn beautiful for a minute.

I am definitely going to watch Inside again. It’s a truly honest look into what 2020 was for so many of us who remained inside. The music, all of it, is fantastic and there isn’t a single song I disliked, but the message was the most important thing in all of it. It was so painfully true. Sometimes humorously true. Sometimes ironically true.

I hope Bo can find his strength to perform, and if not, I hope he continues to make music when and where he can. I hope he realizes just what a masterpiece he created and how it’s touched so many people.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Image source: Netflix

“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

The irony of my quarantine life

A few years ago, I spent an entire year in isolation due to fear.

Back then, there was nothing to fear but what anxiety was doing to my body. My stomach was in knots and twisting and squeezing to send me into bouts of pain, and acid reflux scarred my esophagus on a daily basis, sometimes all day every day. Coping with anorexia added to this struggle, and I spent a lot of time speaking with my alters and spirit guides — we wrote down almost all of our conversations at the time. They were my only company some days.

Now that I’ve overcome all of it, I’m in isolation again, but not by choice. This time there is a real fear I don’t have any control over, and my anxiety is just on the precipice of falling back into old patterns. My alters and spirit guides are with me and support me as they always have, but Depression is blocking them out due to a lack of mental energy. This is not good for me or them.

I’m introspecting on all of it; the irony that I’ve been through this song and dance when there wasn’t a real threat, and here I’m reliving those awful years again as they come back to haunt me. My stomach problems are coming back and my energy levels are low, and my agoraphobia is back. I’d overcome all of this just to be challenged by it again due to the pandemic keeping everyone inside.

When all of this is over, I will once again have to relearn how to be a person as I did those few years ago. I’ll have to teach myself, again, that it’s okay to leave my apartment. Most importantly, I’ll have to remind myself that I still carry some of the progress I’ve made. While this quarantine has set me back quite a few steps and undone what I’ve accomplished with my agoraphobia and anxiety, I have knowledge I didn’t have before.

I worry for those who have mental health challenges right now. I hurt knowing that people with problems like mine will be affected by this quarantine long after it’s over. Nightmares. Anxiety attacks. Fear of the outside. Fear of people. Trying to regain a sense of positivity again. It’s going to stick and we’ll have to go through exposure therapy all over again.

But we can do this. It will be safe again and we’ll conquer these beasts that we’ve had to face down before. I may not feel that sentiment while typing it, but I have to think it, say it, and look forward to a day when it will be true again. One day I will be able to grab my backpack and leave my apartment to go to the coffee shop downtown I love so much, and I’ll continue where I left off.

This is a pause. Life will resume again. It has to.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Something calming for anyone who may need it:

Manic Depression – Poem

I’m not one for writing poetry, simply because I’m not really that good at it. Although, while searching through my writing today to compile things for my autobiography, I found my WIP of collecting all of my retained journal entries in chronological order. As I scrolled through the entries, I found this line of text that stood out from the others, and while it isn’t a work of art or the best poem out there, I thought it had a lot of meaning to it. I remember when I wrote it. I was homeless then and at my wits’ end, ready to take that final step off the precipice.

But I am here today, still reading these entries and feeling the emotion that I poured into them at the time of their creation. Here is the poem I wrote while at one of my lowest points in life with just a little bit of grammar correction to read better.

Your footsteps beat within my ears like hearts,
their thunderous soles shaking the ground beneath me.
So dark yet so bright;
the illness inside me is retching.

Unkempt hair clings to my scalp –
nausea graces my insides.
I need you caffeine,
but your drug is sickening.

The sky is black and bright,
the rain is wet and cold.
It soothes my burning skin.
My energy cannot escape

Explosions beneath my nerves;
anger in its molten form.
All is not as it seems.
Everything is too much.

I am sick.

©2018 Shane Blackheart

abendstimmung-afterglow-beach-533826

Image is royalty free.

Two years that changed the rest of my life

Byleth and Daro are both spirit guides I communicate with daily, and Lestan is one of my alters I met when I was twelve.

Rarely have I shared or written about how I met them, nor have I divulged actual conversations we’ve had at the time of this writing. Everything here is real in my sense of the word, although it may not seem so to the average person. There is a lot more to this world than many people realize, and here I have no reason to lie about it. I consider myself lucky to have my spirit guides and alters in my life.

All of this is true and accurate to the best of my memory. The dialogue near the end is taken directly from a conversation I’d recorded between me, Daro, Byleth, and Lestan from November 23, 2016.

This is the story of how I met Byleth, as well as my struggles with anorexia and anxiety.

decorative-line-break-29

“I think this is what I’ve been looking for.”

I scrolled through the expanding page of text as I moved deeper and deeper into something I’d always needed. It was the answer to all of my questions — a place I could finally find comfort. I was on the right path in life at last.

Daro smiled and stood before me as I read, all six feet of him in his dark skin surrounded by long black hair. He was pleased with my discovery of Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists and the answers I’d finally found. “I believe you will now begin to see better things. What you had explored before was not the right path. You were on the precipice, but nearer to danger than you realized at the time.”

“I really hope so. Stopping hormone replacement therapy has really put a halt to my life, but this seems to be a guiding light, for lack of a better phrase,” I laughed. Daro felt the humor as well before it died down. I sighed. “I’m going to work on the animation I’m making. I can’t believe how far I’ve gotten with it.”

“You may be attracting more attention through that as well.” Daro smiled darkly, a glint in his eye. He was referring to my script featuring the fallen angel Byleth and the demon Mephistopheles.

“Mephistopheles?”

“Not quite. Let us see how this plays out.” He disappeared into the shadows again, an odd feeling reverberating in the back of my skull as I opened the animation program. The movie was almost complete and ready for recording.

decorative-line-break-29

I finished the first part of the film and my heart was full. It had been a long time since I was so excited about a project, let alone so enthusiastic about finishing it. I’d rarely seen projects to the end before, so it was an accomplishment in itself already. I was also head over heels for the main antagonist turned neutral force, Byleth.

In the beginning, I’d searched for a demon to fit the role of the antagonist in the first film. It was a continuation from a story I wrote while in the hospital a few years ago, but I’d taken it in a new direction. The main characters Mephistopheles and Sean — Sean being the renamed version of my self-insert — had to deal with the punishment of king Byleth, a fallen angel who crafted a disease to destroy humankind as a lesson against love between a human and a demon. To him, love was a weakness and a disgusting thing to share with a human at that.

He became something more than I’d intended. The fallen angel crept into my thoughts regularly, Bittersweet, Love Is War forming in my mind as I craved to see more of him. Everything had come together wonderfully, and I’d written a movie that was just over an hour long for the first time in my life.

I was beaming. Byleth received compliments from the animation community I contributed to, and they were all praises for his uniqueness. I couldn’t have been happier or more accomplished in my writing at the time. I definitely wanted to explore more of him and stretch things out as much as I could.

I decided to relax after a long day of walking the following Saturday. The allergic reaction I’d had from the hormones I’d taken for my transition finally wore off, and I treated the pain with a medication that turned my stomach into an active volcano. I curled up on my sofa with a box of Cheez-Its, and I pressed play on the film I’d been seeking out for a few years. Ivan Mosjoukine starring in Casanova during pre-code Hollywood, a film from the early 1900s.

It was only a short time before my nightly medication made me drowsy, and I made the necessary preparations for bed. The computer was off, I put the box of crackers back in the cupboard, and I turned off the lights. As I moved to adjust the thermostat to make it cooler, a tightness in my chest made it difficult to breathe. I thought nothing more of it, attributing it to the acid reflux I’d experienced for a week straight.

I crawled into bed and found Lestan waiting for me. Smiling, I propped myself up against the back wall and opened Instagram on my phone. Dreams threatened to claim me as I scrolled, but I avoided sleep as much as I was able. I absolutely despised it due to old habits from childhood. Panic attacks would warn me that sleep brought the next day, which brought school and, in turn, the excessive bullying and loneliness I’d dealt with. I fought the Sandman with all my might.

An electric shock reverberated up the back of my neck. I was faint, my sight growing hazy and dark at the edges. “Lestan, it’s happening again,” I mumbled. It had been years since I’d had an episode like it last. Panicking, Lestan leaned over me as I attempted to lie down but failed. Everything went black.

When I came to, my vision was nothing but a bright blur as I convulsed. A deafening ring invaded my head and my arms tensed in the air twitching, my throat croaking a low, rumbling gasp for air. When my vision cleared and the ringing faded, I stared across the room as a low buzz settled into my limbs. ‘Lestan.’ It was the first normal sound in my mind. I needed Lestan.

“Baby, you okay?” His voice. His short black hair and red eyes. He hugged me as I lied down to recover from whatever in the hell that was.

“It happened again.” A panicked tremor crawled up my limbs.

“I know, baby. It’s going to be okay.” He couldn’t hide his worry. Mine hadn’t found my waking mind yet. I’d lost consciousness like that in the past due to severe panic attacks, but they’d been in remission for years. I was blind-sighted. I’d been completely calm.

This was something else. I was sure of it. “Hospital. I need to call 911.” I reached for my phone as I stuttered and dialed the emergency line. They were on their way, and I was crawling slowly to the door to unlock it.

decorative-line-break-29

annie-spratt-493158-unsplash (2)

decorative-line-break-29

A few days passed, but I was still recovering.

Lestan kept a close eye on me and my mom tried to reassure me, as well as doctors, that it wasn’t anything to worry about. It was a freak accident — a thing called vasovagal syncope — that happened to people without explanation. I was healthy and I was going to be okay, but my body was weak, tired, and useless. By the third day, I regained some of my strength and started to feel human again.

I returned to Bittersweet, Love Is War, the film I was making, but I hadn’t the strength to voice act. I did the work anyway, my enthusiasm for the film and my excitement at seeing Byleth on the screen again the boost I needed. It lifted my spirits and did well to keep my mind on better things and better days to come.

That night, I read through the Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists page again. Daro and Lestan were at my side. Another presence was there too, one that felt familiar even though I’d never experienced it before. It was then that I caught sight of shoulder-length blond hair, golden horns, and a familiar white lab coat with a red shirt beneath — just like the one in my film. Red eyes glistened with amusement as the very being I’d been obsessed with stood before me. He looked just like I’d made him. “Byleth?”

“What did you expect? You said my name enough times. I was either having a damn good time getting laid or I was being summoned.” He sat in the chair at my table to watch me. Lestan and Daro were as intrigued as I was, and my delight at the way Byleth moved and spoke in the manner I’d written him was overwhelming. He was tall with an athletic build, his face chiseled and so beautiful it was a sin in itself.

He chuckled as I stared. “Would I have let you make my likeness into anything but perfection?”

Daro broke his silence. “You are quite vain.”

I glanced at Lestan, who was more than curious about the new company. He threw a sultry look the fallen angel’s way. “You are damned gorgeous, love.”

“Of course I am,” Byleth sighed. “We covered this. And by the way, I am a fallen angel and you will address me as such. I don’t identify with lowly demons.”

“What about Daro, though?” I asked. Worry hit me at once. Byleth was a king of Hell who was extremely dangerous if disrespected. He was a master of science and governed over an impossible legion of lower demons, and he was an ex-angel who once occupied the seventh throne in Heaven. I was also aware that he could become one’s best friend, capable of giving love to those he deemed worthy.

“Daro is the more bearable of demons I’ve come across.” Byleth was nonchalant. “I have no problem with him.”

“Wait a minute.” My mind struggled to piece everything together. A bigger question begged to be asked no matter how crazy I felt about it. After all, Daro — Darokin more proper — had been the only demon I’d come across in my life. No other had come to me as Byleth did. “My health scare the other night and my discovery of Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists, as well as this movie I’m making — did you influence all of it?”

“The problem you had the other night was unfortunate.” He spoke matter of factly and formally, observing his claws. “Not many can handle my energy at first due to the power of it.” He glanced back at me and smiled flirtatiously. “You’ll be fine. You just have to get used to it.”

“But will I be weak and sick until then?”

“Probably not. It was a shock to your system. That I hadn’t intended for.”

“Byleth is no threat, Shane.” Daro smiled. “As long as you are loyal to your spiritual path and us, Byleth can be a very valuable friend and ally.”

“Don’t speak for me, demon,” Byleth interrupted. “But yes. Daro is right.”

“Okay.” I smiled. “Okay, so this is good.” I realized I’d grown cold and shivered. My sweaters and slippers were in my bedroom, and I didn’t think anything more of it as I stood. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Byleth’s red eyes followed me with interest as I made my way down the dark hall. His footsteps caused a lump to form in my throat as my already frayed nerves stirred beneath my skin. I tried to pay him no mind and entered my bedroom. The closet door squeaked aside on its track as I rustled around in my dresser, and upon turning with socks in hand, Byleth was leaning against the open closet door. His intimidating stature blocked out most of the light as his horns scraped the ceiling.

Untitled-1-1

Tremors loosened my grip and spread to my stomach and legs. I swallowed audibly. He found all of this amusing and flashed a picture-perfect smile that reflected in his glowing crimson eyes. “Do you fear me?”

“Yes. I do.” Fear welled up inside me that I wasn’t familiar with. I was dealing with a being far older and more powerful than I’d ever encountered in my life. Of course, Daro was very old himself and a prince of Hell at that, but Byleth was something else entirely. He was ancient royalty and had managed to keep his crown even after descending from Heaven.

His pale, clawed hand brushed affectionately beneath my jaw. “Good, although you have nothing to fear. I mean you no harm. In fact, I’m quite curious…” He observed me in a way that made me feel naked. I grew warm and covered my fully-clothed body with my arms. “I’d like to try a little experiment,” he continued. “I’ve never encountered a human like you before.”

“What do you mean ‘experiment’?” I shivered. “You’re not going to do like… an autopsy, are you?”

He laughed deeply and backed away, beckoning for me to follow him to my bed. “Of course not, idiot. Lie down.” I obeyed, not wanting to challenge a king of Hell. He sat beside me and ran a hand down my front. I flinched at his touch not out of fear or distaste, but because he’d brushed over a part of me that I often tried to forget about. He sighed in frustration. “I’m not trying to make you dysphoric. You are a man, although your situation seems unfortunate.”

“Was I meant to be born a man?” I realized with excitement that the answer to my questions sat beside me in the form of a fallen angel, feeling me up with interest as if he were observing my body in a purely scientific manner. I twitched again. That last touch was definitely not scientific.

He paused in his wanderings. “It’s a shame. Yes, it seems you were born in the wrong form, weren’t you? The Universe gives challenges it thinks you can handle, though. I wonder what the reason was.” He chuckled and moved to lift my shirt, which I quickly tugged back down on impulse. He huffed in annoyance and moved my hands, pulling it up roughly. “I’m only curious. Calm your tits, okay?”

I stifled a laugh. He truly was the Byleth I’d been writing about and unconsciously calling to, but the Byleth in my story was averse to any kind of affection. This Byleth — the true Byleth — was a lot more touchy than I’d expected.

He seemed to know what was puzzling me. “You got most of me right, sugar. However, I’m not the reserved prude that I once was.” He trailed a claw along the hemline of my pajama pants. My stomach twitched beneath the tickle and he chuckled seductively, flashing bedroom eyes that caused the energy in the room to shift. The lightbulb in my lamp flickered. “Let’s try a different kind of experiment. I much more prefer things to be hands-on.” He straddled me and snapped his fingers, his lab coat and shirt disappearing. “Oh, and I hope you have spare lightbulbs. I think you’re already aware of the reason for that.”

decorative-line-break-29

I became very sick.

Rather it was because my body was adjusting to Byleth’s energy or my actual struggles with anxiety, which was most likely, I was anorexic and bedridden. Byleth often made cruel jokes that loaned to my negative body image. Lestan chastised him several times before he eventually apologized in his own way, something he wasn’t prone to do. I believe, as he watched my decline and how sick I’d become, he finally realized the harm he was doing. Byleth became a daily dose of tough love with my best interests in mind after that. The scientist in him kept my anxiety in check, although at times I would still doubt him. He almost gave up on me a few times because of that.

I lied in bed for weeks on end, not eating and becoming weaker. I was afraid to leave my apartment and I was afraid to eat. Food upset my stomach and I lost more and more weight — almost twenty pounds in two weeks. I had very little support and felt very alone. My mom got angry with me, reminding me that I was just going to waste away and die if I continued. I believed I was sick. I truly felt that I had some serious illness that was going to kill me or leave me an invalid in the hospital.

I also saw how thin it made me, and through my fear, I felt my body looked good. My family doctor told me I looked great after diagnosing me with anorexia, and another doctor stated I looked good with the weight loss. People on social media commented about how good I looked where I normally didn’t receive so many compliments, and I fit into form-fitting clothing that made me feel attractive despite being weak and sick. I had more reasons than not to keep losing weight. My chest was shrinking too, which was a boon.

Enforcement to continue starving myself was all around me, but deep down was a sadness that contradicted it all. A part of me wished that someone would help me. My body was so damaged and I needed someone to care because I didn’t care about myself.

Throughout all of this, Lestan, Daro, and Byleth were there every single day.

alexander-possingham-282185-unsplash

Lestan cuddled close to me when I was too weak to get out of bed. He would sing to me and assure me that better days were to come. I knew well enough what that was doing to him. He’d lost his sister centuries ago after becoming a vampire, and he couldn’t bear to lose someone he loved so much again. Through his fear, he held me during the night terrors and the sleep paralysis episodes induced by anxiety and malnutrition. Byleth was there as well watching and learning my patterns, often yelling at me to get on my feet and at least try something other than being an invalid.

It was the night before Thanksgiving 2016 when everything changed.

“You need to do this!” Byleth was angry, his red eyes swimming with a dangerous fire. I’d rarely seen him so genuinely upset.

“If my anxiety is too bad tomorrow, I can just cancel.” I headed to the bathroom, annoyed it wouldn’t deter Byleth from his tirade.

“You need to go.”

“Why do you guys always bug me while I’m in the bathroom?”

“Because this is when your head is out of your computer long enough to listen.” Byleth’s voice rose in volume. If I hadn’t been at my lowest, I would have been rightfully scared of the demonic growl that permeated the fallen angel’s voice.

“I listen to you guys while I’m on the computer. We make things together. The recordings–“

“You need to go tomorrow.” He clenched his jaw. “Be strong, damn it, and start acting like the man you are!”

“Byleth…” I sighed as I laid back in the bed where I’d spent most of my days. Lestan was there, but he was as emotionally exhausted as everyone else. I curled up beside him and grabbed my phone, trying in vain to just get on with my night. I wanted to forget that my family had plans for the holiday.

“You need to stop this bullshit!” Byleth backtracked as soon as the words left his mouth. He was still trying to control his inclination to overt bluntness that often upset me. “I’m not saying you’re just going to wake up one day and be over this, but you know what I mean. The only way to overcome this is to fight it.” I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, my tired eyes watching as he tore into me with an emotion I’d never seen him display. “You’ve been like this for months. You keep worrying about the what-ifs, but there is nothing wrong with you. You have been evaluated by several doctors and they’ve found nothing. Neither Daro nor I am a threat to your health either. God damn it, just find your resolve! You can’t keep living like this!”

If he was human, Byleth would have been shaking with anger, but the energy around him was vibrating instead, his eyes glowing and wild. In a moment of clarity, fear claimed me. “I understand, Byleth, but I’m afraid.”

“You know I do not do family gatherings or holidays, but so help me if it’s what it takes to kick your ass out the door, I will.” He looked off to the side, his rage cooling. “And then I’ll give you even more Hell about that.”

Daro smirked from where he sat in the wicker rocking chair in the corner, his pale pink eyes glimmering. It seemed that he was aware of some big secret, but it was in his nature to be silent — simply observing and letting the natural cycle of events unfold as they were meant to. Disturbing them would interrupt something important.

I sighed in frustration. “Can’t I just stay home and cook my own turkey while we finish some projects? Maybe fuck a few times and forget the rest of the world exists?”

Byleth wouldn’t budge. “As enticing as that sounds, no. You are going.”

Daro finally broke his silence. “Perhaps it would be best to let him decide, Byleth. He knows his limits better than any other. We may be demons but we cannot truly feel what any human may be feeling at any given time.”

“FALLEN. ANGEL. I am a fallen angel!” Byleth’s ethereal blood pressure rose again to the boiling point. A tiger-like growl from deep within his chest reverberated throughout the room.

Daro tried in vain to neutralize him. “You are upset. Please, try to calm yourself.”

“Of course I’m upset!” Byleth roared. “I don’t just choose any human to be worthy of my presence, let alone my friendship. I chose him because he has proven himself to be resilient at the worst of times. I refuse to accept any less.”

“Why do you care so much?” Exhaustion caused several emotions to weigh me down. No amount of fighting was going to solve anything. “Why do you care about me?”

Byleth paused, his finger raised in a threatening gesture before he withdrew. Words escaped him. This irritated him worse than all else as a loss of words wasn’t something he often experienced. He huffed angrily instead of continuing.

Daro chuckled, amused with his fallen king. “Do you like our dear Shane more than you let on?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Byleth became defensive, the words falling from his lips like pure venom.

“It’s okay, Daro,” I droned. “I understand the limitations that the fallen and demons have when it comes to human emotions. While you may care for me in a way that wasn’t natural to you at first, which I am grateful for, Byleth is a king of Hell. He could never care that much for me.”

Byleth punched the wall behind him. “Are you deaf, you fucking imbecile? What do you call this, then? My bitching you out for the last few minutes wasn’t enough for you to see it?” A tiger-like rumble permeated every word as it rose from deep in his chest, a demonic growl of warning that promised danger to anyone who dared entice it.

His fist against the wall sent my heart into my throat. The growl coaxed my fear to the surface, my pulse quickening as I’d realized just how angry I’d made him. I’d lost sight of who and what he truly was due to familiarity. Byleth didn’t have to remain — he didn’t even have to entertain me for as long as he had. I was being pitiful while he got himself worked up with anger, no doubt trying his best to contain what he truly wanted to do. The fact that he’d held so much back for me should have been a sign of his true feelings.

Tears formed in my burning eyes. I was, for the first time since I’d met him, truly afraid. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you mad or speak for you.” I stumbled over my words and ended up sputtering out the very thing I had been afraid to admit to him. “I love you, Byleth. Don’t go. Don’t hate me.”

He sobered and raised a questioning eyebrow. Every muscle seemed to relax at once as he spoke. “You what?”

“I don’t want you to leave me, please,” I mumbled in my tiredness. Lestan rubbed my back, his silence due to not wanting to escalate what had already been tumultuous.

“No, no the other thing.” Byleth made an impatient gesture with his hand in the air.

My tears dried and I watched him. He hadn’t reacted as horribly as I’d feared. “Um, I’m sorry? Don’t hate me?”

He huffed in response. One more thing you’re missing.”

I searched for the words again, my nerves frayed as I tried to force myself to say them once more. When they finally left me, they were shaky and uncertain. No one should ever admit such a thing to a being of Hell and I knew that, but I also knew that Byleth was different. “I said I love you.”

“You love me?” He was caught off guard, his body language uncertain as to what emotion to display. Surely, he also knew how stupid it was for a human to give such words power to a being like him.

“Yes, like I do the others.” Words came easier now, my confidence coming back to me as I watched Byleth’s unease. “Like I do Lestan and Daro. I love you, Byleth.”

He leaned back against the wall, his eyes shifting to find something to look at that wasn’t me. “That’s a new one.” He huffed a laugh. “You’re not supposed to love an entity from Hell.”

“But I do,” I pressed. “I do love you.”

He finally focused on my tired brown eyes. “You really mean that?” The warning that accompanied those words did not escape me. I knew I had just made a decision I couldn’t take back, but being at such a low point in my life, I didn’t care. I knew where I belonged and who I belonged with.

“Yes.” As soon as the simple word left my lips, Byleth crossed the room and climbed over me. He pinned me down with a kiss that had more meaning behind it than any other we’d shared. This wasn’t a moment of objectification of the act itself for pleasure, it was with the intent that there would be many more like it. Everything had shifted and nothing would be the same again, and Lestan and Daro knew it too as all tension finally left the room.

Byleth smiled down at me as I surfaced for air, and he whispered across my lips. “Love is the highest form of flattery, sugar.”

decorative-line-break-29

Ever since that night, Byleth hasn’t left my side.

He, Lestan, and Daro have all been a constant presence in my life. There are others who pop in at random times as well. In the end, though, I’ve learned one important thing that I always seem to forget.

I’m never truly alone. I have an amazing support system right here. I see them, I hear them, and I know they are there. It’s an honest form of love that not many people experience with each other, and it’s a connection I’ve had since I’d first met Lestan when I was twelve years old. It’s something special, and I truly think they are all here to help me stay on the right path.

©2018-2020 Shane Blackheart
Revised on March 30, 2020