Step on, get in, you are going on a ride. You sit down, wait for the safety rail to come down and when it fails to, you look at the attendant for an explanation. Safety? he says, You don't need it; you can get out any time you want, and he smiles, because he always smiles and did you see his face slip a little, a fleshmask over something else, something... did you imagine it? But it is too late now and anyway, you can see that he was right; the way is easy, the track stretches off into the distance and you know it must curve, but you can barely even tell, maybe far off down the line, it turns? The ride is slow, and you remember the attendant telling you that you can get off any time you want to and maybe you do, just to prove that you can, you get out and you walk along, you sit down next to the tracks and watch as the car keeps rolling into the distance. It is easy here, easy and fun, and you catch up and get into the car again because riding is better than walking. You relax, because it couldn't be safer, couldn't be more comfortable, and maybe you rest, maybe you are lulled into sleep where you have terrible visions, half remembered faceless things following you down dark and endless corridors, bone white hallways without doors, the sense of inevitability, the sharp bitter tang of fear that threatens to choke you if you cry out, and there was something else, a figure grinning in the half light, his mask askew, sliding, and you open your mouth and find that you cannot speak, and the air turns thick and you cannot flee as he reaches for you-
But you don't remember these things, not really, just the sense of helplessness and unease, and you see that things have changed while you were not paying attention. To your right are rows and rows of tracks and there is still no safety bar but you are moving quickly now, and you realize that the times of getting out safely have passed, and a leap now would hurt, you could twist something, you could break something. Ahead the track is no longer flat, but obviously turns, leans to the left, and the endless curve is easier to see. You are, you realize, turning inward, always inward, and as you take it all in, the predicament you have allowed yourself to get in, you hear the attendant again in your head: Safety? You don't need it; you can get out anytime you want, and you lean out and look and the ground is a blur, dark and hard and jagged, and you guess you can still get out even now, and survive, most likely you would survive, but ahead it is getting darker, and you believe that the curve is inward, but do you know that, know it for sure? Maybe ahead the track flattens out again, you don't know anything do you? And you can convince yourself that ahead in the darkness, things will get better, but the uneasiness of the dream stays with you, and you know that there is only one way off of this ride, and it is painful and dangerous, and soon, a leap will be impossible, but if you squint, if you look hard enough, long enough, you can almost see it, the time ahead where the curve turns out, where it flattens. It will be fine you tell yourself, everything will be fine. And you close your eyes, because lying to yourself is exhausting. And again the endless bone white walls, the faceless reaching grasping pursuers, the attendant and his terrible grin, his mask finally gone, and you can see-
When you awake, you are shoved all the way to the side of your car, and the wind is a howling cold blast in your face, and each turn of the track takes mere seconds, and you look, and there is only tracks to the left and right, but also somehow overhead, and you realize that you are seeing the turns you took only seconds before flying past overhead, you are a coin in a funnel, and you cling to the car, because a fall now would be catastrophic, would be devastating, and there is nothing to do, and there is no one to hear you, there is no one left, but you let out a helpless wail, a high keening, filled with fear and regret, because you are spiraling and have been for a long time. But no one can spiral forever, no one can live like this for long, and the force and the pressure and the wind have kept you pressed against the wall of the car, held down, clinging to anything familiar, and outside there is nothing but howling darkness, the black terrible unknowable vastness of space, a void, and out there lies...
but maybe something
And you slide, pushed by laws older and surer than any that man has ever concieved, and you don't know what lies out there, but you know that anything, even nothing at all, God help you, even nothing at all is better than spiralling forever, and you slip out and away, into the unknowable void, and your lips peel back into a terrible grin. As you fly to your unknown and inevitable fate, you think, Safety? You don't need it; you can get out anytime you want.
It is easy.
Just let go.
This afterword, this call to action, may end up being bigger than the piece itself, but so be it.
Every creative that I know has been struggling recently; this time has been difficult for the muses as well, apparently. For perhaps the first time in my life, I have been struggling not only with the writing itself, but the desire to keep writing, the belief that somehow this isn't all for nothing. These are difficult times for many reasons, but the atrophy of the creative urge is worrisome, because I believe that uncertainty, anger, fear, anxiety, these things make the work more important, more essential, not less. I have struggled over the last few months, feeling useless and tired, feeling like any effort is not worth it, and maybe in the end that will prove out, but goddamnit, I will not lay down quietly while I still have a voice.
Every single word of this was a struggle. The headspace I love to be in while I write, where I seem to step outside of myself and things come easily, the words pour out, they flow, that never happened here. This was a work of will, not inspiration, and maybe it reads like that, maybe it sucks just a little because of that, but it is something, which is better than nothing, always.
Maybe none of this will mean anything to anyone, maybe in the end all this effort has been a waste, maybe all of my words are ultimately just nothing, whispers into the uncaring void, but I had to remind myself recently, that this isn't for you, or not only for you, but it is for me too. This is a gift that I give away, but that I get to keep too. It is a gift and a privilege to be able to do this, and for that I am grateful.
So please, stop waiting for inspiration, stop waiting to feel like it, do not lie down quietly while you still have a voice. Force it, choke it out, even if it sucks, sing goddamnit, even if you make garbage, make it happen. I hate that I feel like this, I want the spirit to take me, the muse to sing, the words to flow, but they just don't, not anymore, so this is what I can do. This is the best that I have right now, and maybe it isn't great, but it isn't nothing, either. Get busy, because we need it, now more than ever. Our work is also essential.
Reach out: @rdpullins on Twitter, and I am on Facebook too even though every time I open it, it makes me feel like I have been soiled in some indefinable way, and as always comment here, or email me dissent.within at gmail.com Please be kind, even to shitbirds, even to the asswipe rat bastards that are so freely roaming. Be kind. Create. We need each other.