Walk with me in hell
I will be posting pieces from Chronicles of Chaos here, along with accompanying music. Enjoy, and remember, there is always an underground.
I have nothing to say. As I sit here pondering a blank page, no engaging or original quips strike me. What is there to say about nothing other than it can be comforting at times, or crippling. Professionals call it writer’s block — the clinical term to describe the nothingness that creeps into the brain more often than not. Symptoms include mindlessly fiddling around on other menial tasks in an attempt to ignore the blank page, self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, the urge to run into the woods and never return, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, and in some extreme cases, thoughts of suicide. I’ve experienced it so many times before that I know none of the symptoms are serious enough to be terminal, but for the rookie scribe, writer’s block can be enough for them to find another profession. Those are the lucky ones. The ones with more useful skills like cleaning windows or licking envelopes for invalids.
Hitting any type of word count seems insurmountable during such droughts. I’d rather run a marathon in high heels right now. My weak ankles would surely give out and snap. The injury would require weeks of physical therapy, and I wouldn’t have the time to think about anything writing related. It feels like I’m learning how to walk again at the moment anyway.
Thanks to the internet, I’m googling writing prompts in a last-ditch effort to kick start my creative juices, or whatever’s left of them. The deadline approaches like death. I’m kicking myself. Real writers don’t freakin’ google how to write. It’s supposed to just happen, as if the language lords throw down lightning bolts at worthy scribes. They must not have chosen me today. I shake my fist at the heavens, but only fools shout at the clouds and expect a response. I’m starting to seriously doubt my ability to form sentences in a somewhat pleasurable, digestible way. Sorry, valued readers, it’s over. The gig is up. Bon voyage. My time to eat a bullet has come. Oh, well, it’s been a good run.
But then I turn to my coworker and associate editor Suzanne Cheavens, who’s also a poet and master of the written word, and explain my problem.
“Well, what does your muse look like?” she asks.
“Good question. I never really thought about it.”
“Mine’s a dude. … It’s basically Keith Richards.”
“Mine’s like a nebulous blob, I guess, like the Holy Spirit. Just out there in the ether.”
Then I start to think about it more. My muse is anything and everything — the human experience, existence. The exhilaration of an adrenaline rush after conquering something you didn’t think you could do. How love and lust always ignite a fire in the loins, whether you’re expecting it or not. The physical pain of a broken heart and how it miraculously heals itself over time. The camaraderie of a life-long friendship. The doldrums of loss. Processing the finality of death.
I think of Charles Bukowski’s poem “the crunch,” published in his 1977 collection “Love Is a Dog from Hell.” It ends:
who put this brain inside of me?
it says that there is a chance.
it will not say
Self-medicating with reading and music is one way I try to conjure the muse. I sit here with headphones on, about 400 words from hitting an acceptable word count. I drain out the world. The snowplow scraping past my window annoyingly beeps as it backs up and pulverizes ice and asphalt. The bumping of the bass from the early morning spin class happening in the gym below the office makes my feet tingle. The unsolicited phone calls and text messages don’t stop. Everything can wait as I get into my groove.
I have my playlist on shuffle. “With A Thousand Words To Say But One” by Darkest Hour blasts into my ears.
“If we can make it through the landslide standing
We'll lift each other up to see the bliss on the horizon
Been looking in from the outside lately
I've seen who I used to be, and it's not me”
The universe is mocking my plight. I hit next.
Then it’s Meshuggah’s “Bleed.”
“Beams of fire sweep through my head
Thrusts of pain increasingly engaged
Sensory receptors succumb
I'm no one now, only agony
My crimson liquid so frantically spilled
The ruby fluid of life unleashed”
Don’t overthink it. It’s been said by many word wranglers that writing is quite simple, all one must do is sit down, open up a vein and bleed onto the page.
I’m coming back to life. My brain won’t say no. I’m starting to feel normal again. Maybe I just needed to drink more water and eat that banana I brought for breakfast.
Massacre’s 1991 album “From Beyond,” one of my favorite death metal works of all time, kicks in. The record and its cover art are homage to H.P. Lovecraft’s short horror story of the same name. In it the unnamed narrator outlines his dealings with a mad scientist who invented a device that targets people’s pineal glands so they can see planes of existence beyond the bounds of their accepted reality. Mayhem and carnage ensue. Monsters beyond description emerge. Reality is terrifying. I chuckle. That’s exactly what having nothing to say feels like. You have to fight off the beasts that live between the ears and dig a little deeper. You can’t say no.
I gave myself two hours to finish this particular piece. I have 30 minutes left. The Massacre album ends. “Flesh and the Power It Holds” by Death starts.
“It will take you in
It will spit you out
Behold the flesh
And the power it holds
Passion is a poison
Laced with pleasure bitter-sweet
One of many faces
That hide deep beneath”
I think of an ex-lover. Suddenly I’m overwhelmed with a wave of embarrassment that a younger, more romantic version of myself mistook such lust for love. I’ll remember the sex forever, though. It’s a fact of life I’ve learned to accept. Once you’ve become entangled with someone long enough, it’s impossible not to walk away without some sort of permanent stain. She’s long gone, but I still keep the husk of her memory locked up in the back of my mind to feed on sometimes. What weird webs we weave. Who put this brain inside of me? But sins of the flesh aren’t so appealing anymore.
Ten more minutes and I’m ridding myself of this writing nonsense. I should have become an accountant. At least numbers are definitive. The value of words is trickier to calculate. I sit and think. Six more minutes. My emails are piling up, and I’ve received three more text messages. Answering them is a chore I don’t want to get to anytime soon. Maybe I’ll stay in purgatory a little longer. They’ll understand, or maybe not. It's not something many people can relate to.
It’s noon the day of deadline. There’s a conspiracy of ravens gathered on the road where the snowplow cleared. I count 20 of them. There must be something edible down there. An SUV turns onto the street, and the black birds flee. The muse is gone again, but thanks for stopping by. Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe is screaming at me now.
“Take hold of my hand, for you are no longer alone. Walk with me in hell.