Blank Stares

Don’t look up. Ignore them. Keep going.

Scott McEyecontact

Keep your eyes down. Keep them away from those that you pass. Keep them where no one can see what’s inside of them. Keep your eyes down to the ground.

Don’t dare to look up. Avoid confrontation form a passerby. Avoid the uncomfortable feeling of having your eyes meet with a stranger. If you keep your eyes down, you’ll avoid all of the discomfort and simply watch where you’re walking.

Watch where you’re going. Stay out of everyone’s way. Don’t touch their shoulders. Don’t do anything that will make you stand out. Don’t draw attention to yourself.

I’m not afraid of looking up. It’s just unpleasant. When you do look up, you see into people’s blank, expressionless faces. You see through the shield that they put up when they’re with people that they know. Their defenses are lowered and what takes their places are raw emotion.

grass grey alone symmetrical
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When I look up to see this emotion, it feels relatable… and that alone is depressing. When I stop to really look into these stranger’s eyes, they’re no happy than I am. They’re just going on with their lives in the same way that I do, with the same existential questions that I have. When I truly gaze into their face, the gateway to the soul, all I see is the same sadness that I have.

When I see the eyes of people older and younger than me, I become aware of the never-ending escape from the misery that I feel every day. People everywhere deal with the same issues that I have. To some, that may feel comforting; knowing that nothing will change and that you are as happy as you will ever be. For me, it is a rude awakening – an awakening that makes you consider if it’s truly worth seeing tomorrow.

But if I keep my eyes down, it’s easier to pretend that tomorrow will be better. If I avoid these blank stares that remind me of the inescapable future. If I simply avoid looking anywhere but my feet, I’ll keep the illusion that it will all be okay within my reach.

Ax Me a Question

This is not meant to disrespect anyone. Every lifestyle that’s chosen is difficult in its own way and is arguably just as difficult as any other.

Written by: Scott McWordplay

Art by: Kiersten Lee Ketter

I’m either going to work my ass off and become a big success, or I’m going to drive the blade of an ax through my skull. Either way, somethings going to touch my temporal lobe with everlasting effects more impressive than Willy Wonka’s candy. If I stop moving, then I’ll slide into a pit of quick sand. When the tip of my finger gets pulled under as I reach for my last breath of air, I’ll fall into a bed of Indiana Jones-esque spikes, and a tripwire-controlled ax will drop from the ceiling.

If I slow down that much, I’d welcome both the spikes and the ax. If I just kept sinking until I died of old age, never being totally pulled under, I’d be miserable for much too long; so long that it should be a violation of human rights. I don’t understand how people find it acceptable to work upwards of nine hours a day, spend the five after driving home, cooking dinner, and watching TV until they fall asleep. Then, the next morning, instead of working for some change or quitting altogether, they do it all again, hoping that it gets better, but not enough to inspire the hidden ambition beneath their skin.

The ambition crawls like a baby xenomorph. They’ll touch every part of your soul and do everything to break out, but humans have this impeccable ability to reach deep down and refuse to let it burst through their chest because of “security” or “comfort” or “energy” or “family” or whatever else they can muster up and throw at it. They pour the excuses onto the little alien until it’s drowned as much as their childhood whimsical spirit. It refuses to break out because their excitement’s gone.

People can say that adulthood slows you down because of responsibility, but I think that’s closed-minded and ridiculous. Just because your parents and friends have taken one generic route and that seems to be the easy one doesn’t mean it’s the only one. It’s easy because it doesn’t take as much effort. It’s the route for people that are okay with settling down. It’s not okay with people who equate settling down to an ax through the skull.

Axe Me A Question

Grandfather Clock

When depression and anxiety hit at the same time that you’re working on a project, time becomes a very unwelcome enemy.

Scott McFatherTime

The chimes of the loyal timekeeper echo through the halls, vibrating my bones. It’s midnight again. It’s midnight again. It’s another midnight. Another entire day of nothing.

When all else fails, I still have the bells of my six-foot master. When no one is around and nothing that I’ve done brings me feelings other than sorrow, the clock always reminds me of where I fall; between the clutches of sunlight and the strangling’s of night.

They bring me a sense of empty contempt. I’ve made this simple, inanimate creature my nemesis. For far too long it’s dictated my life, telling me how to live; how to exist.

shallow focus of clear hourglass
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It controls me, stealing my remaining sense of calm. Every midnight I wait for its lulling, infuriating ding-dong to command me to sleep. It talks to me. The optimistic sounds conveying that tomorrow will be better…the tomorrow will be better.

But I know all too well that it’s a lie. The optimism isn’t real. The chimes are inaudible when the deafening silence of anxiety take hold. The optimism is gone. The hope ceases to exist.

Even the clock leaves me alone. I thought the one constant was this simple, reassuring ticking and tocking.

No.

In time, even the grandfather clock leaves you alone, to sit in an endless cycle of midnight.

Spotlights and Attack Helicopters

Welcome to Room 101, where no one can hear your screams and the rats are hungry.

Written by: Scott McMusophobia

Art by: Kiersten Lee Ketter

It’s not 1984 or Brave New World. Each of them would be favorable when compared to the nightmares that I see every day. I see only darkness and spotlights when I go outside. Attack helicopters circle every city block around the world. Orwell must have thought he was being so clever when he designed a world that was controlled by three factions (or not, we’ll never truly know what that world was). I see only one, and the helicopters enforce their rule every step of the way.

I’m forced to take the same routine paths to the drudgery the awaits. When I wake up, the spotlight helps me see in the ice-cold shower. The curtain is covered in mold and mildew. It used to be covered in dolphins that were enjoying a seascape, but they’re long gone. Breakfast is always the same. I wish I could sit out with a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise. I haven’t done that since I… well, I don’t really remember when. The sun never rises. The spotlight is the new sun, but it doesn’t warm and gives no vitamins.

At least I’m able to drive. That’s something that will be taken away soon enough, but not yet. They haven’t decided that driving is too much freedom yet. They even let me play music. Every morning I turn it on, but it’s always sung or played by people who are followed by the same aerial enforcers, and that reminds me of only the same control that they have over me. I turn it on and off in the same hopelessly hopeful way as I did the day prior.

Spotlights and Attack Helicopters

When I get to the donkeywork, the spotlight stares through the paper blinds that don’t do what the name insinuates. My muzzle is tightened, and stale bread fills my mouth. I’d rather eat my shower curtain. The nourishment gives me exactly the amount of strength that I need to work, but no where near enough to fight back. I sit back and do my work, occasionally relieving myself into the tube below. They say it improves productivity if I don’t have to get up and get distracted. It’s hard to focus when the spotlight glares off of my computer screen and into my eyes, but no where near as much as all of the other helicopters, all piloted by different demons.

The drive to my apartment (I won’t call it a home because my heart is nowhere and doing nothing but waiting to stop) is always slower than the drive to work. I have no where that I need to be and no one that I have to please. I am only allowed to go back to my strategically crafted bed of nails, which has one too few to elicit any form of pseudocomfort, so that I can have enough energy to do it all again tomorrow. I sit and wait, until my eyes close like a hydraulic press, hoping that they don’t have to work tomorrow.

Ambient Noise

Scott McTinnitus

Birds chirping. Streams rolling. Dogs barking. Winds blowing.

Lost in thought. Not sure where to go. Not sure what I’m meant to do. Just… lost.

It’s beautiful. These sounds… they follow me. I want to be alone. They make me feel unsettled. They make me feel calm. I’m right where I need to be. I feel lost.

Birds mocking. Streams laughing. Dogs yelling. Winds taunting.

The noises stalk me. They’re unwelcome. They feel scornful. They sound like disappointment. They follow me like unkempt demons.

Not sure where to go. Thoughts jumbled. World moves fast…faster…faster. Not sure what I’m meant to be. Just… lost.

black and white blank challenge connect
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Flesh-Eating Bacteria

person s hands covered with blood
Photo by it’s me neosiam on Pexels.com

Scott McNecrosis

I was told that it was treatable but yet, it’s eating me alive. I’ve tried medication after medication and nothing seems to work. It’s hard not to lose hope. With no chance of relief, what’s the point?

I feel like I’ve lived a decent life. It’s not as long as I thought it would be, but it was still okay. Sometimes I think it’s a little unfair that I’m the one that got this… thing, but I think this is just how it’s meant to be. I think I handle it better than most people so if anyone was to get it, maybe it’s best that it’s me.

The doctors say that the medication will help but that’s just a lie. It’s not their fault. They don’t know any better. They just prescribe the medicine that someone else made. It does surprise me that after around eight years of college, doctors are just pushers for some pharmaceutical company’s product, but I’m getting off topic.

I don’t know how much longer I have left. I think it’s kind of up to me at this point. If I keep powering through, it might get better… but if I keep powering through and it doesn’t, then I’m right where I started, except maybe a little bit more exhausted. If I give up then I get the promise that at the very least, I don’t feel the painful decay of my body and mind for any longer.

But I won’t bother with any decisions today. I’ll keep powering through. It just wears more and more. Every day different than the last. Maybe tomorrow will be better. All I can really do is stay optimistic. But what’s the point of optimism if it all ends in the same thing.

The doctors say that a positive mindset is all I really need to keep going. But what do they know. I’m sure their lives aren’t anywhere near as bad as mine.

Get Out of My Head

The voices clang harder than someone chewing with their mouth open, breathing like they just ran a marathon or the vibrates of an unsilenced phone. They ring in a way that causes unbearable stress. I can do nothing but leave the room until they stop bickering and barking at each other, aggravating me more than any outside annoyance.

Scott McHeadache

Get out. Get out. Get out! Why won’t you let me think for one goddamned second! Just let go of me. You do it so easily for everyone else, why can’t you do it for me?

You let everyone else go faster than a lightning strike, but for me you linger. You stay and dangle a string before my eyes, always distracting me from what’s really in front of me. There’s always something else. Always something that keeps me from what I really want. You’ve done it for so long that I don’t know what I want anymore.

It’s a sick game for you, isn’t it? Just seeing what you can get away with before I snap? Seeing how far you can get and how many buttons you can push before I give in to you. You want me to suffer and I don’t know why.

I would give anything to know why you do it to me. I always thought that you were the one place I could go when everything else abandoned me, but instead I feel more alone than ever. And it’s all your fault.

grayscale photography of human skull
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Even now, you taunt me. I don’t know why you have this never-ending ambition to ruin me, but it’s working. Is that what you want? Is that it? Then I fold. I give up. I’ll try it your way for a little bit, but I don’t think it’s going to be helpful.

Why would it be? I wish I could escape you for just the smallest bit of time imaginable. Whatever you are trying to do to me, just stop or pull the trigger. Why do you force me to struggle more than anyone should ever need to? I’m not special. I know that I’m not special. So please, for the love of god, just let me go.

Filling Buckets

Scott McFantasia

Every time I disappoint you, one drop of sweat forms on my brow. I wipe it away with a handkerchief that’s moldy and ripped, then ring the sweat into a bucket. The bucket has filled by only the smallest amount every day. At first it was just a few drops the seemed harmless enough, but as time passed, the bucket started to fill.

white canoe over calm water
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When I saw how quickly the bottom of the bucket was covered up, I began to sweat more and more. How could I be disappointing you this much? I’m trying to be helpful and nice and kind and sweet, but I manage to screw it up anyway. Some days I can’t convince myself to keep trying, and then before bed, I can ring out an entire cup of sweat into the bucket. The bucket fills but what I worry about more is what will run out first, room in the bucket or your patience.

Occasionally, I’ll go down a rabbit hole and try to fix problems that aren’t there in a way that’s so self-deprecating and unnecessary that it starts to feel like I’m involuntarily harassing people. I’m still haunted by visions of me trying to fix things that were never wrong in the first place. Too many people from my past haunt my dreams and when I wake up, my pillow drips into the bucket as well. Today, nothing has changed. I misread people in a way that makes me feel like I should be back in second grade learning social skills again.

Enough time has passed to let the bucket fill to the top. Every drop could be the one that overflows it. I don’t know what will happen when it pours onto the floor. Will I start filling it again? Will I start trying to fill bigger and bigger basins until I’m the reason that Florida is underwater, or will I drown in the bucket so that I’m no longer the disappointment that I think I am? A drop of sweat burns my eyes. I’m afraid to see what happens when it drains over the edge.

Color Blind

Black and white.

White and black.

Gray and grayer.

Scott McMonochromatic

I miss the blue of the sky that I used to see. The green of the grass that no longer appeal to me. The red of the roses and the yellow of the sun.

When I used to look outside, I was gripped by color. It would force me to enjoy them. I would have to stop and smell the roses or lay down and watch as the clouds made different shapes above. There were those days where I woke up with an agenda, but by the end all I did was sit under a tree and read a book and I was perfectly okay with it.

attractive beautiful beauty black and white
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Now the days are darker, colors dimmer and books less enjoyable. It’s like the world has been cast under some monochromatic spell that leaves the old way of life as just a distant memory. It’s as if the vibrant nature of life has been ripped from my grasp. No matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to come back.

I would give anything just to experience life like I once did. The touch of the grass on my bare feet or just – goddammit, I could give an endless number of examples, but all they do is remind me of the joy that I don’t have. I don’t experience the pleasures that I used to love.

If I could see everything the way that I once did, then it wouldn’t feel so empty. My life wouldn’t feel so dull. It would go back to a time when it all made sense to me. I would do anything just to see the blue of the sky or the green of the grass. Please someone, let me feel like I used to.

Eyes

I got the idea for this while watching Evil Genius on Netflix. I have quite an active imagination so this short was written from the perspective of genuine fear that someone was constantly watching me, but as I wrote it, it took on a kind of mystical form.

Scott McCablesucks

adorable blur breed close up
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Whether I’m showering, sleeping, reading or eating, anytime I blink, I stare into the deep, dark, endless abyss of her black, unloving eyes. I see hatred that has been brought on by years of neglect, misunderstanding and hatred that cuts deeper than the sharpest blade. The unblinking focus gives me chills. She wants to do damage to someone – anyone that will be terrified and resent her, because those are the emotions that she feeds from.

adorable animal blur cat
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I open the shower curtain and before I dry my face, I shake my head to make sure she’s not standing in the doorway waiting for me. I dry off quickly because I know that it would only take her one second to pounce and change me to a state of rigor mortis. She could be anywhere, real or fake, causing entirely real fear. The eyes are the worst. She could be holding a knife and want to skin me alive, but the genuine nothingness in her eyes signaling only the worst intent is really what causes fear… and gives her enough to feed off of for months.

Falling asleep is a chore. The sweet, relaxing feeling of waking up in the morning, well-rested after eight hours of sleep is no more. I can’t fall asleep because I see her. I don’t dream happy thoughts because I see her. I wake up and before I can have the resuscitating powers of coffee, I must check every room of my house to know that I’m alone. By the time I get coffee started, twenty minutes after I wake up, the paranoia has driven me to a state of exhaustion. The fear it drives causes an eight-hour work day before I have to go in for my eight-hour work day.

photo of gray cat looking up against black background
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She’s not real. I don’t know why the paranoia drives me. It’s maddening. Reading is impossible. My focus is split between the pages and the occasional movement that my eyes and brain trick me with. Sometimes when I stare back to the pages, the eyes appear and stare back at me. They hold their gaze and watch as I begin to panic, rubbing my eyes repeatedly to make sure that they are fake. They aren’t there but they feel so real.

Eating has turned to a stage of weakness. I won’t let myself get lost in my taste buds because the second I close the eyes on the back of my head is when the other one’s strike. All food tastes the same, a mix of blandness and hideous textures. Chewing tires my jaw like never before. I’m in a state of insatiable hunger. When I put the dishes in the sink, I see the eyes in the drain, still unblinking, still watching.

Her shape, size and appearance mean nothing. She could be the most beautiful woman or the most hideous. No matter the aesthetics, I stare only into the portals of insanity. She won’t leave me alone. When I speak with her, she doesn’t respond. She’s watching my every move. Her eyes tell all. She’s pure evil.

close up photography of tiger
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