The Hell Butterfly

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Thank God For The Manga

So it’s that time of year again: the weather is turning; uni is starting up; and yep, you guessed it, illness is in the air.

I’m usually the kind of person who rarely gets ill, but when I do, even the simplest illness can be hard to shake. I have had a cold (mild, I thought, until today) for 4 and a half days. This is probably average, but the fact most people will probably shake it in a week makes me nervous, as it’s nearing day 5 and it’s getting worse. It went from sore throat, to no sore throat but sniffly nose, to no sniffly nose but headache and temperature fluctuations, to no headache but a constantly changing temperature and pain when I breathe, to today. My temperature is all over the shop, my throat is hurting again, the nose won’t stop and my head hurts a bunch. The last time I felt like this I passed out. That was last December.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on passing out today. Slow movements, lots of water and – if I can force myself into it – food. I’ve heard sugar is good in these situations. Maybe I’ll have a sugary tea in a bit, liquid sweetness. Lush.

Until then, I will be sitting here doing not much in particular. I have just this morning received an email about an induction for the International Book Festival happening in Plymouth in late October. I applied last week for a position as a Festival Steward. It’s a voluntary position and would look good on a CV. They just got back to me saying I’d passed the first stage and now have an induction session next week. Woohoo! I may feel like crap, but with a boyfriend who says he’d happily take care of me even if he got ill himself, and a position almost confirmed for the Book Festival, not all looks dire.

I mean, sure the online magazine I write for hasn’t published any of my articles in a month, and yeah so I haven’t gotten over my crippling inability to cook in front of my housemates, and yes I did just finish all 102 episodes of D.Gray Man and the post-series blues are kicking in. But at least I can walk around knowing I have a mini job and a very kind young man to look after me. It’s odd to me, looking at the positives in a negative situation, but I’ll take it. What’s the use of wallowing in my illness? It’s not like it’ll make it go away. Why get hung up over the lack of updates on the magazine? I can’t control it. Why get upset over no more D.Gray Man? I can always watch it again. And besides, there’s always the manga.

Well, Colour Me Twitterpated

That’s right people, crack out the party poppers and punch bowls, because this little blogger just got herself a boyfriend.

I’m too excited to care about the details, but approximately two months ago I began speaking to a wonderful chap who went by the name of Bambi. Regulars at The Hell Butterfly should remember him. He was the one that challenged my writing skills, made me think harder about what I wrote and form opinions on things I’d never thought about before. He was the one that made me feel comfortable talking about so many things that I felt I couldn’t talk about with anyone else. He was the one that I may have actually passed unknowingly at London Film and Comic Con this year, the both of us having attended the Saturday convention.

He is the one who introduced me to The Voodoo Lounge bar and took me to see my first firework show in several years. He is the one I cuddled as we laughed at the small children and admired the rare red moon over The Hoe. He is the one I introduced to my Dad the evening that Plymouth won their game against Exeter. He was the one I had my first kiss with.

He is the one I just closed my Plenty of Fish account because of.

He is also the one who just helped me move into my new house. He is the one who just spent all weekend with me, rather than meeting his own friends. He is the one who just made the approval of my mum and younger sister. He is the one who stayed at my new house two nights in a row, and made me a cup of tea in the morning. He is the one who cooked us the best pasta bake I’ve ever tasted.

Bambi is the one I just became official with.

Bambi is my boyfriend. I am Bambi’s girlfriend.

It feels surreal saying it, but hell I’m going to keep saying it because it feels damn good to be able to do so without it being a lie. I am in a relationship. It took me a few years longer than some of my friends, longer than some of my family, but while I may already be 21, the reward of waiting for the right person to come along has paid off. Could I have seen myself allowing R, or T, or J, or M24 to sleep in the same bed as myself all weekend? Could I have seen myself waking up to see R, or T, or J, or M24 laying next to me as I woke up? Could I have seen myself being cooked for by R, or T, or J, or M24? Honestly, not really. I’m sitting here as I type this picturing those scenarios, and none of them fit right. Some feel awkward, some too fake, too stereotypical. Then I picture the weekend I just had with Bambi.

Click.

That fits. Bambi fits.

Now, I don’t want this to seem like I’m suddenly head over heels, and I’m going to try and control myself so as I don’t cause any problems by getting ahead of myself, but the fact I haven’t stopped smiling since my Facebook status first read “Bambi is now in a relationship with Megan” is proof enough that this is something I want.  And more importantly, that it’s something I want to do right. No rushing, no assumptions, just honesty, trust and patience.

It’s going to take hard work, but aren’t the best things in life worth working hard for?

Still Alive, I Swear

Some of you may have noticed The Hell Butterfly has been dormant a while. Some of you may not, and that’s okay too. But in either case, here is a brief update of why.

I have, as you may recall, moved out of my old student house. Unfortunately, there is no rest for the homeless (or something like that). I have been unpacking, repacking, unboxing, reboxing, organising, moving around and generally preparing for the next big move at the end of this week. As it stands, on Friday I will get an early train to Plymouth, where I shall meet Bambi, then pick up my key and slob at mine until Bambi goes to work. The next three hours of my life will be spent filling out the inventory form, setting up the wifi and acclimatising to my new abode. Bambi will return after work to chill for the evening. So far I have discovered I shall be sharing my house with Richard, Adrian, Thomas and Waleed. It would appear I will be the only female in a house of men. What could go wrong? I just hope none of them are misogynists.

In other news, I have just submitted my third article to The Unknowledgeable. This one is one I was asked personally by my boss, the founder of the online magazine, to write. Now, this may sound impressive, and indeed it is to me, but before we get ahead of ourselves I should say I don’t believe there can be many more than 10 members of ‘staff’, myself included. Perhaps I just can’t see behind the proverbial curtain, but while the quality is good and I enjoy writing for them, I don’t think it’s a greatly known magazine. And I’m definitely not traffic-trawling by saying this or posting the link to my article on online safety or anything [I totally am, click the doobly-doo, go on, do it for me: 'Catfish' Lessons in Online Safety]. This request to write the article came straight after I created my sister website Stop The Silent Killer and shared the link on my Facebook page. My boss approached me in a very formal (lies, all lies) Facebook Chat message and basically asked me to write a monthly mental health feature for the magazine. Of course I readily accepted, and within a couple of days my introduction to mental health article should be up online. I had some struggles writing it, but I found sitting in my bed in the quiet I was finally comfortable enough to get into the mind frame and complete it. Hopefully soon I should be back on track with this blog too.

On the Bambi front, things are good. Talking to him is effortless. Well, mostly effortless. He has so many interesting things to say and so many good opinions I sometimes wonder what I’ve been doing all my life to be so .. uninteresting. So uncultured, so lacking of my own opinion on pretty much anything. But he’s fascinating to talk to, and I find I can talk to him about things in a way I haven’t ever been able to talk to people about them before. He just has a way of making me feel at ease. And he’s very sweet (duh, Statement of the Year, Captain Obvious). In a nutshell, he knows how to treat a person right, as a girl, a friend, and a human being. As you will remember from the beginning of this post, I will be meeting him on Friday straight from my 4 hour train journey and I don’t doubt my belongings will be thrown to the ground so I will be able to give him a big hug. Neither of us want to rush things, but I can’t help but be optimistic about what might develop if things keep up this way. Though I might blow my chances if I keep pretending that I can speak German.

My depression is attempting to make an appearance. I’m beginning to notice certain places where it shows itself in my everyday life, and while it’s not a good sign that they’re coming up, I can also say from experience things are far from terrible. Lately I am tired all the time. Whether I sleep for 2 or 12 hours, I am always exhausted. Perhaps lethargic is a better word. Essentially, I lack energy no matter how long I sleep for. I’m also noticing the time-mood correlation returning. The later it gets, the lower my mood sinks. During the day I am pretty much always okay, but as the evening draws on into night, so my mood follows suit and becomes darker. In this respect I must say Bambi has been amazing. When my mood dips he is willing to simply listen as I pour my crap out, and is great at having just the right thing to say in the end. I feel I should put this return of symptoms down to the building stress of moving house, and I suppose in general, to change. New house, new job, new man, maybe, new academic year. If it is stress related, I am afraid things may turn a little darker on The Hell Butterfly for a time, but I implore you please do not see it as a bad thing. If I post about the problems I am having, and the struggles in my life, it is because I trust you enough to tell you, and value your support.

I will wrap this up for tonight by saying that I may be absent again for a short while with moving and things, but hopefully the hiatus will be temporary. This next year is going to be very tough in more ways than I would like to list, but I’m going to try my hardest to make it count. Things need to change, and I think that with support, drive, and perseverance I might be able to come out the other side the better for it.

Happy 2nd Anniversary

If you had told me two years ago to the day that I would be sitting here typing this to 130 readers while talking to an incredibly sweet guy I would have stared blankly at you and raised an eyebrow. That is because, almost exactly two years ago, I had plans – serious plans – to kill myself. But I am here, and my life is actually quite fantastic.

August 2012: The last two months have been spent convinced I had failed my A-Levels. There was no way I was going to get into university, I told myself. And of course if – I’m sorry, when - I didn’t get into university I wouldn’t get a good job and wouldn’t have a career and wouldn’t have even a slightly decent quality of life. It was all downhill from my final exam in June as far as I was concerned. I hadn’t felt a single emotion in months. Since the exams began in May I had been an empty shell, existing, drifting. Three months of this had gotten me to a point where I didn’t care about anything. I could no longer be happy, couldn’t even laugh at a joke. I could no longer get angry at anything. Not even mildly passionate about the subjects dearest to my heart. I hadn’t cried in months and simply, I just didn’t care. I couldn’t feel. It was scary. I was scared of myself, what I had become. But the scariest thing of all, was that no-one noticed.

I had decided. When results day came along and I didn’t get the grades or the university acceptance, I would get my things together. My family had all been on holiday in Croatia at the time, but I had elected to stay behind. I was home alone for the next week, but still had our German Shephard, Heidi, to look after. I would never abandon her while the family were away. I was emotionless, not heartless. So come results day I would organise: write a makeshift will; give my parents my bank details; arrange my funeral preferences and guest list; allocate my belongings; write letters to my friends and family; stock take (I would be crushing boxes of pills into a glass and washing it down with whatever alcohol I could stomach). It was all planned. Then, once I had everything together, I would sit tight until my family got home. I would see them one last time, say goodnight to them, to my dog, to my life. I was going to go downstairs that night, sit on the kitchen floor, and toast eternity.

Then I got in.

“Congratulations, you have achieved the necessary grades and have been accepted at Plymouth University beginning September 2012.”

I don’t know if that’s exactly what it said, but the point is I got in, and I was terrified. For every other final year college student finishing their exams they had been preparing for this moment for months. They had been packing, planning, anticipating. I had done none of that, and suddenly I would be moving across the country in 3 weeks. After the initial shock came the blinding panic. I text my best friend at the time to tell her I was in but I was freaking out, and she didn’t help. I had to deal with it by myself.

And somehow, I did.

I didn’t write my will. I didn’t write letters to my family. I didn’t hoard pills and booze. Somehow, and I don’t know quite how, I pulled my shit together and made it to university three weeks later.

Obviously I have had my ups and my downs – though, to amend the Robin Hood lyrics, “sometimes ups, outnumbered the downs, but not in Megan’s head” – throughout the last two years, including an ever-growing self harm habit, more tears than droplets in the Great Flood and a number of suicidal contemplations. But nothing has compared to the dull ache of emptiness I had during those three months.

Tonight, while discussing the success of my autistic cousin, my mood dipped to a significant low. In the last two years my cousin has joined respite care to learn independent living, done a money management course to better his knowledge of finances, joined a catering course to gain experience in the workplace and a qualification. What did I, an able-bodied 21 year old flake, have to show for the last two years?

The fact he keeps pushing forward is the best way to get the better of a bully. If you let a bully hold you back then they win. And from what I can see from the time we have known each other, you keep moving forward. You’re about to go into your 3rd year of uni, compared to where you were 3 years prior I would say that’s moving forward. You’re doing your best to step out and experience new things. You are doing well.

Upon speaking of my cousin and his success, this is what Bambi said to me. I don’t know if he realises yet, and I’m certain he didn’t at the time, how amazing it felt to hear him say that. Three years ago I lost all my friends as they left for uni and I was depressed, cutting, and failing everything. Two years ago I was nigh on friendless, emotionless, and perfectly ready to kill myself. Last year I was contemplating dropping out of university and shitting myself about moving into a house of strangers. This year I am mildly nervous about moving into a house of strangers. This year I am contemplating staying at university, and working out how to be successful at it. This year I am ready to feel, to live, to breathe. This year I have Bambi.

Ask me again if, two years ago, I thought that I would be sitting here now telling all of you that the simple kind words of an incredibly sweet guy had allowed me to see, for the first time in my life, that I have come a long way .. I would still be staring you blank in the face and raising an eyebrow. But I am. I am here. I am here.

Today was the first time I had ever been able to look back on that moment two years ago, almost to the day, where I was ready to die, and smile. Smile because I survived. Smile because it got better. Smile because I was my own bully, and I won. All this time I have said it was my acceptance into uni that stopped me from killing myself, but really it was me. I stopped myself. I made the conscious – or maybe subconscious – decision not to swallow a tumbler of pills and shnapps.

I saved myself.

And now, two years, almost to the day, later, I am here and I am alive.

And I am happy.

God it feels great to say that. It is so strange, as I don’t remember the last time I could legitimately say “I am happy with my life”. But for once I think it’s true. I am happy with my life. I’ve always known I had a good life, I had all the tools and all the potential to make something good out of it, but the one thing I lacked to make it work was motivation. It was too easy being depressed. It was too easy being in pain. I think to an extent I was in love with it. It was simple, familiar. Sitting, slumped, in a dark room staring at the wall while sombre music played out in minor key in my headphones. It was a safe zone. It had been my home for years. The place I returned to at the end of every night after a hard day.

But now ..

Now I think I finally have the motivation to make something happen. I have the support, the will, the drive. I’m scared, that’s not changed, but to quote a good friend of mine, I am “nervcited”. It’s terrifying but I am excited about the possibilities and the potential. I could make something good out of the pieces I have been given, and today is the first time I have ever seen the light in my word of black.

I am here.

It would have been around the two year anniversary of my death today.

I am happy.

I had forgotten what it was like to feel, but I broke down that wall and now I am free. Free to feel. Free to be human.

 

I can make it.

 

A Triumph on All Fronts

Today’s title is a little dramatic, but I don’t know what better one to use. This week was a triumph in every way.

1. Room packed down, cleaned. Keys handed back in. Moved successfully out of my second year student house.

2. Met Bambi, twice. Had a very nice time on both occasions, possibility of meeting again. Dad approves of him.

3. England wins Test Cricket 3 – 1 against India. Plymouth Argyle beat Exeter City 3 – 0. Swansea beat Manchester United 2 – 1. England wins 23 medals at the European Athletic Championships, breaking several records along the way.

It has been a good week.

****

WEDNESDAY

Mum drives me to Plymouth. This journey was rocky for me. As I mentioned in a previous post this is the first time in over three years I was physically sick from traveling. Perhaps it was using my phone, perhaps the stress of the upcoming week, perhaps I was just unlucky. Regardless I made it to Plymouth, and the next hour was spent shuttling boxes from room, to landing, to stairs, to car: CD’s; books; Xbox; more books; printer. There were probably other things, but that’s what I remember. By 3pm, Mum was gone. From then, the next three and a half hours were spent showering, eating, getting ready and texting. At 6:45, I left the house.

7pm – I meet Bambi. I step out in front of the university library and see him, we shake hands, and head to the pub, The Voodoo Lounge. I don’t know if this is a chain, or a Plymouth specific pub, but I liked it. Well, more the interior. Perhaps it was the dull sky but it wasn’t quite to my taste on the outside, though I imagine it could be quite nice in a group. The interior was all wood panelling and red leather, pool table, subtle lighting. Nice. But it was hot, felt a little closed, so we sat outside. Two drinks and a smoke later we were off for part two: fireworks.

9.30 pm – we watch the show. One picnic blanket, several comments about the irritating children and one hour later than expected, the first display began. Until this point, conversation has been entertaining, serious, funny, cute and deep. It seems effortless, and there has never been an awkward pause. The moon this night is red, a rare occurrence, possibly in relation to the meteor shower. The fireworks happen right next to this, so we get a good view of both. We cannot help but laugh at the people who “ooh” and “ahh” and feebly applaud the display. We cuddle as the second display happens, and as the families leave, and as the final display is put on. In this one the  melodramatic “ooh” from the other side of the water is heard even here. My vote goes to the first or second display, but not the last. We then went home, conversation still holding strong, and I am home by midnight. It was a very good night.

THURSDAY

Cleaning day. This entire day is dedicated to packing down, boxing up, and cleaning. The rest of the day was spent on my computer, taking to Bambi, talking to my bestie, writing blog posts. I was also feeling very down. So was my bestie. I wrote ‘In Which the Blind Leads the Blind’ to express this. I was having a bad time of it, and I felt like a hypocrite trying to cheer him up. I hope he can get better, and I hope I can be there to help, but on this particular day, neither of us were having such a great day. Needless to say, after lots of heavy lifting and cleaning, coupled with a painfully low mood, I was ready for bed.

FRIDAY

More cleaning. The morning and most of my afternoon was spent attempting to clean blue tack marks off my walls. I tried water. I tried water and washing up liquid. I tried plain washing up liquid. I tried a shop bought solution aptly labelled ‘Elbow Grease’. I tried a shop bought, but very strong, Sugar Soap. I moved out with my walls still sporting the scars of my rock band obsession. It must not have been a particularly interesting day, as aside from a shower, I cannot remember anything else I did that day. My Dad showed up late in the evening, we watched the last half hour of Million Pound Drop, then went to bed.

SATURDAY

The morning is unremarkable. Honestly, it is. I cannot remember what I did. I think I probably slept in, ate half a breakfast bar and drank a cup of tea. What happened after that was much more entertaining and memorable. After this, we are off to Home Park. The FansFest to be precise. The FansFest is a fan run pre-match event offering pasties, beer, music and laughter. Rick O’Shay and Dave Banana perform a small stand-up comedy show, making fun of recent news, and whipping out the best general jokes they come up with that week. It truly is a special experience, being in a room packed with jolly football fans, full of comradery, and having a laugh without a smidge of negativity. Plymouth Argyle has one of the biggest fan bases in the League. I am proud to wear my green and whites.

Speaking of which, we spent out yet more money on the new uniform. My Dad’s shirt says “Chooch 13″ and my own says “Moozle 7″. Not only is it my nickname and my favourite number, it is also the number of one of my favourite Argyle players, Lewis Alessandra. It’s an honour to wear his number on my back. Plus, it’s a child’s Small. Got to love that. The game was fantastic. We began by holding up our plastic sheets and hoisting our colours to the sky, and ended 3 – 0 up, beating our biggest rivals, Exeter City. Our defense was impeccable, our attack was on top form, and while I miss such players as Cole, Young and Berry, I must say Sheridan has done a great job on this season’s team. I foresee good things from them.

A small lunch is had and the evening’s plans are made. After the game we returned to mine, and watched television until we were ready to go out to the pub to celebrate the win. During this time, I was texting Bambi and discovered he had no plans, and invited him to join us. I had asked my Dad beforehand if this was okay, and he said yes. I hadn’t intended for it to be a movie cliche “I want you to meet my parents” scene, but I couldn’t help still wanting my Dad to approve of him. Bambi is the first person I’ve ever wanted my family to approve of. So me and my Dad went to the Caffeine Club, a particular favourite haunt of ours, and Bambi joined us shortly after. I must say, I think it went well. The two of them appeared to get on well, and as I later heard my Dad say, “[Bambi's] a little rough around the edges but gets softer every time.” Knowing my Dad, this is a good sign. He also happened to notice a certain amount of affectionate behaviour (ie. hand-holding). I will admit at first I was unsure, but very quickly grew comfortable with it. Four hours later and we were walking back to mine. My Dad went inside and left us to our goodbyes. Bambi, if you’re reading this I hope you don’t mind my telling my readers, but I can’t help it, I like to say it. At quarter to one on Sunday morning I had my first kiss. I won’t talk much about it, but suffice to say, it was an awesome moment and I’ve been grinning like an idiot since.

SUNDAY

52 Beaumont Road is left behind me. I’m not convinced I slept that night. One moment I was trying to convince myself it had happened, the next I was laughing to myself about it, the next I was stressing about the move, the next I was simply trying to clear my head to sleep but then I’d remember again and smile. I got out of bed at around 9am and finished packing up my room. Boxes were moved from room to car, surfaces were cleaned, the floor was hoovered and by eleven o’clock we were on the road. Before I continue, I should say that in the 48 hours prior to this journey I had consumed around 800 calories. I can’t lie, writing that number feels like a lot, but considering the time span I realise it is not. I had barely eaten on that Saturday, at first for time constraints, then later on because of my inability to eat in front of people. By the time we got home after our night at the pub it was almost 1am, I felt sick, and it was too late to eat. Fast forward to Sunday morning and, though I possibly should have, I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. After my bout of travel sickness on the journey up, I would do nothing to risk it happening again. By the time I got home that afternoon I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. So it is eleven o’clock, and we get to North Road. I hand my keys in, walk away, and that is it. My contact with Clever Student Lets has ceased. We were on the road to pit stop number two.

A visit to the grandparents and four hours driving. Twelve o’clock and we are at my grandparents. Not much can be said for this visit. It’s always nice seeing them, but this time was a flying visit, a quick catch up. I told them about my new position at the online magazine, we talked about my sister getting in to uni, my Dad fixed my uncle’s computer and taught my Granddad how to use Bluetooth, and we saw a picture of a man up a tree. Standard visit. I also got to see my cousin Billy again who I haven’t seen in some time. He got tall. I remember when he was just a diddy little thing, smaller than me, but despite being 4 years my junior, he is at least 7 inches taller than me now. It was nice to see he’s doing well in his football career, even if he is being a rebellious teen for his dad (my uncle). He gave me a friendly nod as he left, and ten minutes later we were gone too. The journey was pretty horrid. On the way up to Plymouth it was bad because I felt very sick. On the way back, my Dad’s driving made me feel sick. 30mph down narrow back roads, 90mph down the motorway, taking downhill bends at full throttle. I genuinely felt like we would topple over at one stage. It was horrible. Add in us getting lost near Southampton and getting stuck in traffic, I was beyond relieved to be back on solid ground. We were home, and I could sit still.

Since then, we have unpacked the car, I have helped my sister write a list for her own uni things, I have put in my second article and Bambi and I have talked almost constantly. I really do feel very lucky to have found someone like him. It already feels different to M24. With him, I was all girly and gushy over the smallest of things, but with Bambi, sure I’m girly and gushy but that’s only a small part of it. I smile every time I get a text from him. I look forward to waking up every day knowing I’ll have a text from him saying good morning. I’d happily stay up (and have done) until 4am talking to him about nonsense, or about us, or about, well, anything. I really think I’m on to something good with him. And if I can make him half as happy as he makes me I’ll be content.

So I have moved out, I have found a very sweet guy who I can’t wait to see again (and who has been kind enough to offer to help me move in to my new place next year), and it is a great time for sports. A triumph on all fronts. For once, I finally feel as though my life is going in the right direction, and I’m not completely terrified that I’ll mess it up. I actually feel like I can do this, I can make my life work, that just maybe, if I can hold it together, I have the makings of a great life. Now all I have to do is help my bestie through his rough patch, and things will be nigh on perfect.

Excerpt from ‘Unsafe Haven’

This weekend I will be busy with moving out of my second year student house, and bonding with The Dad, so posts will be sparce. To make up for it, here is a section from a story in progress, Unsafe Haven. I only began this yesterday but the idea has been floating around for a while. As a quick disclaimer, yes I have used the terms “Draculoid” and “Killjoy” which is a direct reference to My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days, but I do not mean to steal the terms permanently. I actually owe a lot to the album for the idea, and a lot of the places, events and characters I have in my head were spawned from that album, but I will not attempt to claim a right to any of it, and hopefully will adapt it, in time, to an extent where it is all my idea and not stealing from you. Sorry, Gerard, I love your work, and it helped me make this. I promise to do you justice.

So here it is, the opening chapter of Unsafe Haven.

****

“I hate seeing you like this. I wish I could help you.”

“I know, love. Don’t worry about me.”

Severin sat staring blank across the room. He was empty inside, Madeline could see it. There was nothing in his eyes. And as he breathed, slow, controlled, she searched desperately for a way to draw him out of his head. To find a way to bring him back to her. His mask concealed most of his face, but the eyes were clear as day to her. Eventually, she pulled herself up on the counter and waited. He would come around.

The room they were in was large, square, and piled high with trash. The two walls facing East and South had taken the brunt of it. All the windows had been blasted from their frames in the last attack. Glass still littered the floor. Long boards of graffited wood now covered the gaps in a futile attempt at reparations. They never spent much time fixing battle damage out here. The Western wall was the least damaged, due to its being the only side of the building not facing a road. They always began a raid from the roads. The Draculoids were predictable, but effective. Where bricks were coming loose on every other wall, this Western one was as solid as when it was built. That was probably the only reason this building was still standing. The North wall was where Madeline now turned her gaze. This was where the roof access was. A cracked and flaking red fireman’s ladder bridged the gap from central chamber to lookout point. This is where she headed. The mask that was looped loose around her neck was pulled up over her eyes before she spoke. For her plan to work they were going to have to go outside. Concealment was key. Her jacket was zipped to the throat and she paused as she spoke her words.

“Come with me. We’re going to have some fun.” The hovering hand continued its journey to close the zip over her chin, mouth, nose. She held out her hand to Severin and prayed for a response. It was answered. He looked at her with dark eyes, then took her hand. With her free one she scooped up a handful of rubble and led him to the ladder. Dust sifted between her fingers.

On the roof, she sat cross legged and tipped the loose stones into a section of broken gutter. As she dusted her hands on her shirt, Severin took his place beside her, his legs wrapping over the plastic to hang over the edge into the dusk. They wouldn’t have long. Night was coming.

The sensation of movement at his hand made Severin look up. Madeline had placed a small rock in his palm, and now looked off in the direction of The Oak Barrel. His mind turned sad for an instant as he remembered better days, drinking at the saloon, dancing on the bar to jaunty folk songs. Back then things were easier. He hadn’t had to pretend to smile then.

“See that?” He didn’t. She pointed. “Target acquired. Two o’clock, man with briefcase and bowler hat, mid thirties, trying too hard not to be noticed.” Severin looked, and found him. He was short, stocky. “Reckon you could knock off his hat from here?” A quick assessment of the distance and analysis of the stone was all he needed. He could make that happen. He stood, the lethargy of his movements not unnoticed by Madeline. At least he was moving now. One step back, a curl at the elbow. He shifted his body to face his prey side-on, wound up his arm in a display of theatrics and kicked out his leg, hurling the stone through the damp air. It arced, and the pair squinted to watch its descent. Seeing it would no doubt reach the man, Madeline shouted “Fore!”, her voice echoing in ripples into the night. Mr Businessman looked up at her call, and perfectly on time, the stone connected with the hat and sent it spinning into the dust.

Severin turned to her and held up three fingers. “Strike three”.

The air shuddered in the silence. It grew cold. Severin’s arm drew up at a 90 degree angle. He pointed East. Madeline tracked his direction and found the target. He couldn’t be missed: scruffy teen; balaclava; 99 flake. A Devil Dancer. A rage sparked in the pairs’ chests. It was the Devil Dancers that put the safety of everybody, themselves included, at risk. It was because of them it was so hard to hide at night. “Your turn.” Severin’s voice was husky in the darkness.

“Might need a run up for this one.” A sizeable rock was selected from the pile. The added weight would assist in carrying it the distance. As she retreated, Severin pulled his hood over his head to protect himself from both the chill, and identification. Devil Dancers were notorious snitches. Madeline ran on the spot then took three quick strides to the very edge of the roof. Her training had prepared her to brake effortlessly. Windmilling her arms in an impersonation of Stuart Broad, the stone was sent on its trajectory. In another life, she would have been a spin bowler. But this was where she had ended up. The anticipation was physical. Up it went, then down, down it came. A quiet, high pitched whistle emerged from Severin’s lips, comically lowering in pitch in time with the stone.

Impact.

The destruction was greater than either had predicted. Countless hours of target practice had obviously paid off. The cone exploded. Fragments of wafer were propelled into the air and his face, and still the stone kept traveling. Even from here the pair could see the blood that now dripped from the Dancer’s hand. The jagged edge had ripped the skin open. The flake fell into the dirt.

“Out.”

The Dancer’s curses could be heard, even at this distance. It was dark now, but they could take no chances: Devil Dancer’s had even better eyesight than regular Killjoys. They had to. Time to move.

Back inside, the gloom seemed deeper. During the day, dust clouds made the room seem smaller, but the sun was still a comfort. At night, they were invisible, as if they too knew hiding was essential. Madeline felt bare, exposed. With night came a threat more harrowing than the dark. She thought of days gone by, days when laughter was on the agenda, weapons training was not, and the scars of battle did not mar her skin. The burns seemed newly aflame in her dreaming. Why did it have to come to this?

Cracking of metal against metal sounded. Severin was readying the armory: two nine-millimetre police grade pistols, silenced; one military sniper rifle, silenced; one hunting rifle with Schmidt and Bender scope attachment, silenced; hand grenades, military grade; blue flares; Kukri dagger, Gurkha Officer grade. This was simply Severin’s arsenal. In a place like Zone Three, in the dead of night, you couldn’t afford to be unarmed. That was the glory of their hideout. They were in Big Al’s Gun Store. The Draculoids never thought the inhabitants would ever be brave enough to arm themselves against them, much less use such an obvious building as a headquarters. But that was the glory of it. It was their unsafe haven. Here, they were untouchable.

In the distance, the sirens began, deep, moaning. The pairs’ eyes met in the shadows. Even the Devil Dancers would be running now. They were always running. Gunfire trilled. The raids had begun.

“Must be Tuesday,” Severin whispered. His voice was close to her. Within minutes the calm of Avenue 59 would be a battleground. In that instant, they were no longer Severin and Madeline. They were Eagle Eyes and The Vulture. War was upon them, and they were ready.

In Which the Blind Leads the Blind

As the months go by, and Summer makes her dreary way towards Autumn, I find myself spending more of my time trying not to cry, and more still actually crying. Like the clouds that appear to be growing in multitude above the city, so too have my anxieties one by one accumulated to elevate my stress levels. It hurts. Physically hurts. My head feels almost thick, like there’s not enough space in there for all the negativity, and it’s trying to burrow it’s way out of my via my temples. and what doesn’t make it to the brain to start cranial hammering, makes its way behind the eyes, pushing at the back of them, and to the tear ducts, straining them against their boundaries trying to make them burst.

I’ve been trying very hard recently to do things out of the ordinary. Three examples I could pull up here are 1. starting up The Hell Butterfly’s sister website, Stop The Silent Killer, a blog for mental health awareness, 2. joining an online magazine as a writer, for which I have not only had my first article published but have been asked to write a monthly piece about depression and mental health, and 3. talking to, and meeting up with, Bambi who you may remember me having mentioned in my PoF posts (Hi, Bambi). None of these things are part of my normal routine: sitting on my arse watching television, playing video games, wasting my life away in a puddle of self-loathing while I wonder how I’m going to make it out of bed the next day. Sometimes I won’t even know if I’ll be able to make it to the next day to figure out how to get out of said bed. But thinking in the last month or so that my head has been clearer, and my mood on a general high, I decided to break that destructive routine and get out into the world.

I won’t lie to you, it’s been fucking hard. It’s been so hard. Not knowing how to do things, simple things, that the rest of the world seems to be able to do. Getting out of bed in the morning. Getting dressed instead of slumming it in my pajamas all day. Applying for a job. Eating proper meals. Stepping outside the house. Getting that job. Getting my life on track. Telling myself I deserve it. None of it has been easy for me, and yet I somehow managed it. Okay, maybe not the last one, but the fact I’ve managed to function like a proper human being the last few weeks is cause enough for celebration.

But before I get carried away, I should follow this up by saying that, in my desperation to maintain this positivity, I have failed to notice the signs of the downfall. At least, the ones I may usually have picked up on sooner. Where normally my eating habits, or my sensitivity to certain films, may be an indicator of a mood drop, I failed to pick up on the downslide until the headaches, tiredness and stress crying came upon me. Maybe I just took on too much and didn’t know how to handle it. Maybe it was just time, time for that downswing of the pendulum. because no matter how high it goes, it always must come down again.

And boy have I come down.

I have suffered with travel sickness for as long as I can remember. Over the years I’ve developed methods to help combat it: don’t consume dairy products; don’t have fizzy drinks; watch the road; don’t read, or use your phone; listen to music and sing along. All of this has helped me get to a point where I barely notice the travel sickness, or if I do, I’m able to get past it fairly easily. Yesterday was the first time in at least three years that travel sickness made me vomit. Twice. Now, maybe it was just a case of, “it had to happen sometime”. But I don’t think so. That’s too much of an easy solution. I’m a firm believer that stress can manifest in physical ways. For me it’s often headaches, and more often still stress crying. This is the first time I’ve been so stressed it’s triggered physical nausea.

I’ve also, I think, been having several minor panic attacks lately. I’ve felt a panic attack, I know the feeling. The hyperventilating, terror, hopelessness. There’s a frantic feel about them. They’re gut wrenching, and at their worst they can make you feel like you’re dying. I didn’t believe this last until I had my first attack. Then I believed it. But lately I’ve been having these brief spells, just a moment or two, where suddenly I’m blind, I can’t think, all I want to do is cry because, in that moment, I let my life get on top of me. I let it take control, and I let it scare me. And then, as soon as they come, they go, for no apparent reason.

Looking at it now, how my condition is right this second, I can tell how bad it’s gotten. I don’t want to eat, in fact I detest the idea. My head is killing me. I’m trying hard to give a satisfying response in conversation and apologising for everything I say. I don’t seem to be able to understand even the simplest of things. It makes me angry. Every now and then I want to burst into tears but when I try my head protests and I’m stuck without that relief, and with a bigger headache than before. I’m also, despite sleeping a solid 10-11 hours, exhausted. My body doesn’t want to move.

Take into account my current condition, and we get to the main point of this post. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I commend you, and assure you I’m about to get to the point. A good friend of mine is struggling, really struggling, with depression. I know the symptoms, I can see he’s in pain, and I want to help. I know some of the ways to get out of this godforsaken shit-hole, even if I can’t take my own advice. But that is where the problem comes in.

Compare: a blind man who cannot see his way, will not know how to direct another blind man around. In this same way, I am not fit to tell another human being how to deal with depression. I want to help him, and I can’t stand the thought of him getting to a point as low as I’ve been. I’ve tasted the darkness. It tastes like metal. I don’t want him to have to experience that. But how can I, of all people, possibly give advice? Given my recent ventures into the world of mental health, you’d think I’d have more confidence in my ability to talk about the subject, to give a good pep talk, to find the right advice and help for a person.

But underneath it all, I’m just a girl with depression, scars, and the worst headache of the century, trying not to reach for that piece of metal, or find that tie and a high place.

I’ll probably survive this. I always seem to. But it hurts, and it’s hard, and I can only hope for the energy to get out of bed every morning. To write an article for the magazine. To write a post for The Hell Butterfly, and search for inspiration for her sister website. To talk to my friends, and make it convincing. To put food in my mouth, chew, swallow.

But like I always say: the pendulum always has to swing the other way.

Better days are coming.

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