PC: Celia Schouteden
the blue pill
I told the man in the white coat that I lost my lungs, he said the blue pill would help me find them. I said I lost them somewhere between the man who got me so drunk I couldn't move, and the man who got me so scared I couldn't think. The woman in the fleece sweater with the clipboard spent paid hours helping me retrace my steps, but I don't think we ever found them, not really.
I retraced my steps down the brick road to Oz. The steps were painted with the colour Van Gogh tried to put under his tongue, to paint himself bright. In Oz, there was a theatre. You, me, the doctor, the therapist, and Van Gogh all skipped there to fill the pews so we could watch a film on repeat. We watched as Dorothy climbed to the top of a 10-story building in the Matrix. Because she leaped, the men in charge paused the film before her feet hit the ground, and they let her take the blue pill so she could find her way home.
About The Author - Salena Wiener
Salena Wiener lives in Montreal, and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in English Literature Honours at Concordia University. She is a former Prose Editor for Soliloquies Anthology Magazine, and her poetry is featured or forthcoming in Pulp Poets Press, Peculiars Magazine, Cauldron Anthology, and Honey & Lime Magazine’s poetry blog Oceans & Time.
PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
How to Thwart a Baby Snatcher
Dear womb-sore mother,
dear mother half-asleep,
there is no time for rest.
Be vigilant— women
wait to steal the fruit
of your flesh. Be wary
not to slip into dreams,
young mother. Surely
you are aware, it’s one
step into the hall, less
than four seconds to hit
the stairs. Pay no heed
to the moonlight outside,
ignore your blood-battered
pelvic bone. Dear mother
body-weary, your newborn
cannot be left alone.
Don’t limp to the shower
to wash your wounded parts.
Pee with the bathroom door
open, bleed in the bed
if you must, but don’t rise,
dear mother. Presume she’ll
come from the nursery
to take your baby, claim
you need a reprieve— hold
your infant tight, dear girl,
this is how a snatcher
deceives. Tie your gown, pull
the crib against your bed.
Rouse yourself, new mother,
despite the temptation
to close your eyes. Tremble
with fever, discount aches,
pay no heed to the night--
sleep will come at daybreak.
Revel in your daughter,
dear mother. Stay awake.
At the edge of a country highway,
two turkey vultures stand, their heads bent
over the body of a broken doe.
They’ve torn her face into a morbid
half-grin, her teeth bared toward the sky.
She watches, her glassy eye, still open
from the moment of death, the misstep
toward an oncoming car. The tearers
crouch over her belly. Their black wings
flap slightly as they grunt into her womb,
now empty of the promise to nurse
and bed a new fawn. She will never
hear its tender bleat. Never ruminate
over fields, spattered with white clover,
or forage the Tennessee woods again.
The birds fill their craws with her grey
flesh. She, merely fur and hooves and bone,
shrouded by a curtain of sooty feathers.
About The Author: Melissa Tyndall
Melissa Tyndall is a writer, professor, and Supernatural fangirl with an MFA in Creative Writing from Murray State University. Her poems have appeared in Number One, Prism international, Red Mud Review, Words + Images, Sixfold, Gamut, The Ekphrastic Review, and Coffin Bell Journal. Her work is forthcoming in Sugared Water. She lives in Nashville with her partner and their infant daughter.
PC: Lexi Jude
Call Me Debris
I am what remains after two boats crash into each other
And I am nothing of what remains if they miss.
I hold every inch of debris within the vessel of my flesh
And hope it does not spill out from the holes I never asked for.
Imagine being solid. A container with an unknown containee.
Instead I have the robustness of a used burlap bag
Full of beach glass that for twenty years has been waiting
To be made into jewelry by fingers that do not know wires.
I am nothing of the sound the glass makes when dropped onto tile floor
And because of the ringing in my ears
I cannot even hear it.
About The Author - Ronny Ford
Ronny is beginning his first year as a PhD student studying Medieval Literature at Michigan State University. He obtained his Bachelor’s from the same university in the subject of creative writing. He has one poem published in Sagebrush Review XII (“God can’t always be God”), and one in Vagabond City (“on my gender being illegal”). He has another forthcoming in Cerurove Press Issue 4 (“On Being Baptized in a Drought”), one in Junk Drawer of Trans Voices Issue 3 (“Christmas Snow”), one in OCEANS AND TIME BLOG (“laundry room surgery”), and one in Picaroon's web journal ("I've Killed Things"). He is transgender and uses he/him pronouns.
I’ve received a few emails about some issues with the shipping (of the printed copies) and I wanted to make a little post about it.
SO… I honestly don’t know what’s happening. I’m feeling really powerless right now to say the least. I’ve been to the post offices many times, posted all the copies (even though it was the ‘holidays’ in December and therefore very very busy, and even though I’ve been studying and taking exams for almost 2 months now – I am EXHAUSTED, physically and mentally) and I’m completely lost. Apparently, some of you haven’t received their copy/ies yet. Maybe it has to do with the holidays and all the packages that are going around during that season ? I don’t know.
I truly truly understand how disappointing and annoying that is to you (i am too). I understand that you need answers, I do. Sadly, I don’t have answers right now. I wish I could tell you where your copy is but I can’t, there is no way for me to track them down, I’m just hoping for the best (which is that you get yours soon and finally breathe again)… I’m doing the best I can, I assure you that every one of you will get their copy OR if not, well, I will find a way to refund you (partially or entirely) I promise you. (So PLEASE, try taking deep breaths, relax, this is not a scam J ! Postal services are just shitty, especially in Belgium apparently). Next time, we will do it differently, that’s for sure…
Thank you so much for your understanding and your support. Thank you so much for your patience, again.
I’m truly doing the best I can.
Please, let me know if you haven’t received your copy yet, have questions,… at email@example.com
I will try to help. Just, please, please, remember that we’re not professionals (we are 3 students, living in 3 different countries, we’re doing this voluntarily) and we’re as lost as you are right now – especially me, since I’m the one who has been dealing with the shipping.
PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
the less i ate, the more i knew.
i felt closer to a truth
known by starving men.
i dreamed of a sailor lost at sea
drinking bird blood on a raft of debris.
i drank water like a sinking ship.
as i grew thinner —
“as i grew thinner”,
as if i were growing
and not disappearing —
my skin sank and my ribs surfaced
like frozen bones exposed by snowmelt.
i am writing this sentence in december,
and my stomach is still full of dust;
this poem was supposed to be about august,
but the stanzas are separated by months.
“i felt closer to a truth
known by starving men.”
i discovered hunger.
august is here again.
nothing ends until
the steam creeps across the mirror.
i savor the erasure,
the fogging of my flaws;
the shedding of sex
in the shower.
this is body origami:
folding and tucking myself
beneath scalding water.
this is chimeric,
i explore my false female form:
mons Venus — a cosmic name,
like Mare Nectaris:
the Moon’s nectar sea.
is this body dysmorphia
or is this Narcissus’ dream?
to be inside myself
like a lover or
About The Author: Sean Hogan
Sean lives in the Midwest, and the Midwest lives in him; it's mostly symbiotic.
PC: Celia Schouteden
Goodbye heart, I’ll miss you.
I already see the outline, a blown-out wall;
a self-shaped hole in the wood.
You’d rather leap than chat. I’ll miss
your voice the most, the way it calms
me, even when you say scary shit
about switchblades, old phone numbers.
Even horror glows a little
with a voice like that,
all passion and alveolar trills.
You sound like Gabo.
Say noradrenaline again.
I’d promise to write, but who knows
who I’ll be in two weeks. When, where
things will happen, if clocks will still work
for me. Maybe, I’ve been seeing numbers
differently than I’m supposed to. I’ve read
this is normal. Do people write letters
when they’re happy? Good thing
they make forever stamps.
Somebody will use them someday.
Guilt has me
squinting at scratch-card math.
Throwing mud over my shoulder
‘cause it’s heavier than salt.
Squeezing the living, kicking rabbit
to get my lips at its feet.
Blowing kisses and wishes
to rubber-molded martyrs
and rubbing painted bellies
of sawed trunks, turned to idols.
Softer slurps of goat horn soup
still burn my tongue (penance
for mocking an ancient, island religion).
Hearing the strained, dead-air wheeze of my wallet,
emaciated and poked
by every passing screen --
those windows to helpful heaven.
Swiping left for a whole new chapter
to be afraid of,
a whole new convoy
of junk to dampen the rumble,
and a whole new crop
of growing prices.
About The Author: Timothy Tarkelly
Timothy Tarkelly has a master's in Drama Therapy from Kansas State University and an MFA from National University. His work has been featured by Haunted Waters Press, Cauldron Anthology, Paragon Journal, Whisper and the Roar, and others. He was recently named an Honorable Mention for the Golden Fedora Poetry Prize by Noir Nation. When he is not writing, he works for a non-profit that serves survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Western Kansas.
PC: Lexi Jude
How The NHS Destroyed My Life
Disclaimer: If you feel as if you need/want to reach out to an organisation or person/s for help - PLEASE DO SO. There are many professionals who would love to help and listen to you. This post is not meant to deter anyone from seeking help but to act as a message to those experiencing poor treatment from mental health organisations that they aren't alone and they don't deserve such treatment. It also serves as a message to such organisations, showing them the consequences of poor or in some cases abusive treatment of those with mental illness.
(Trigger warning- this article talks about previous sexual abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.)
Between 1994 and 2006 I was brought up by my lone father, an extremely gentle, educated man with a passion for learning and three degrees. Sadly, my mother has never been a part of my life and I’ve only ever met her once, about fifteen years ago, accompanied with my father as a visitor to the mental hospital she was living in. She suffers from serious schizophrenia.
At secondary school I was heavily bullied, had few friends and felt constantly misunderstood. I’ve always enjoyed my own company rather than playing in groups and used to prefer reading in the school library rather than playing football or chatting in the playground. At twelve years old I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of Autism. A few months later, in the same year of 2006, I was arrested for an offence of having a knife in a public place and put into secure mental health services called ‘Roycroft Clinic’ in Newcastle upon Tyne where the onslaught of awful abuse started.
Many staff members got sacked and the articles about this are still available to read online to this day if you type ‘Roycroft Abuse Scandal’ into Google. I was subjected to sexual abuse, physical abuse and sheer cruelty on a daily basis. I witnessed staff sexually abuse patients right in front of my eyes, hot water being thrown at a fourteen year old girl, people being starved and people being told to ‘just speed it up and kill yourself’. All around me was a feeling of hopelessness, a stomach churning feeling of desperation. I was never safe. Most days I saw people get attacked and people hurt themselves. Most days I heard screaming of unwell children until the early hours of the morning. Too often I saw blood, urine and the tears of unwell children being abused. No smartphones, laptops or modern technology was allowed. Forget going down to the fiery pits of hell with the devil, that place was hell, and I had to live there for five, long, painful years. They denied me of any education as well, even though I was eager to get one. At twelve years old most children are out playing with friends or, these days, on their games consoles. Me? I was locked up in a tiny cell like bedroom dreading the next time I was going to be sexually abused or assaulted. That stuff never leaves you.
After I left Roycroft Clinic in Newcastle I was sent all around the country like a parcel for a further three years; residing in mental health units in Norwich, York, Market Weighton and Beverley until 2014; the year that I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, the year that I was finally taken off my mental health section and the year that I was allowed to return to my hometown of Hull. Sadly, back in my hometown I quickly realized that I was alone and that the so called ‘care and support package’ I was promised to follow me from the institutions into society didn’t actually exist, and only ever existed on paper in meetings to impress the right business people. I needed to grow up and learn how to live in the lonely, dangerous world quickly before I got devoured. My father couldn’t be there all the time because of his own mental health. The reality was that I was on my own. I couldn’t cope. I struggled so much with adjusting to freedom; the ability to do what I want, eat what I want, wear what I want. I struggled with the fact that I was no longer being abused. I struggled with bills and all of the stress of living on your own. I struggled with the fact that I was now technically an adult, and for the first time in my life, had a hell of a lot of adult responsibility on my shoulders. Deep down inside I still felt like a scared little girl.
Fast forward to 2016, a particularly bad year for me. My friend took her own life. On top of this, I was living on my own in a tiny flat next to people who used to leave heroin needles in the street, I couldn't get any form of employment or even any help to do this no matter where I turned and I was so lonely. During this time I often felt suicidal and under the instruction of my GP and other people, used to ring the crisis team hoping to get some support. Sadly, half the time I couldn't get through and was simply placed on hold for stupidly long periods of time, ranging from ten minutes to two hours, and on the occasions that I actually could get through, I got through to a tied, fed up sounding person who casually told me to make a cup of tea. I went on to cut my arm and wrist so deeply that they needed multiple stitches and I'm now left with permanent scarring for the rest of my life. I took multiple drug overdoses, one resulting in a four day hospital admission on the resus ward. I ended up going to prison for contacting them, dragged to court, and then given various criminal convictions and put on a 'criminal behaviour order' for ringing them when I wasn't in 'genuine enough' need. I guess narrowly missing my artery with a carpet cuter wasn’t serious enough. It seemed as though the Humberside police, CPS and Hull mental health services wanted me to die or got pleasure from watching me suffer. The authorities printed my photo, name, age and street address in various newspapers saying that I’d ‘wasted’ vital services time, which made me feel even more alone. The online articles are still available to read to this day. This is the reason I changed my name to what it is today. After this, I couldn't stay in Hull much longer and I no longer viewed the place as my hometown. I wrote various complaints but never got any responses.
In September 2017, I moved to Bradford for a fresh start, but within three weeks got sexually assaulted by a flatmate. In December 2017 I got offered a council house in Leeds due to all of these circumstances. I took it up and decided to move away for good. Within a few weeks of moving to Leeds my father became extremely ill and then another friend of mine took their own life. Just one traumatic thing after the other. Sadly, just as before, I was punished by the mental health services for asking for help. Due to contacting the Leeds Crisis Team, in January I got arrested and in April 12th was sent to court and charged because the member of staff was claiming that I wasn’t ringing for a ‘genuine reason’ yet again. Yet another criminal conviction just for wanting help that will stay on my record for life, hindering my chances of ever getting employment.
Although I am not locked up, I still don’t feel free and doubt I ever will. Horrific things are still constantly happening to me, I keep losing people to suicide because there is no mental health support anymore and if you ask for help your either get blatantly ignored or arrested. I have very few friends due to being sent around the country like a parcel. I have a suicidal father that I have to try and keep alive myself because he gets no mental health support. Everything I ever wanted has been taken away from me by the very authorities that were supposed to help me and support me. I can’t get work at all because everything I’m interested in has been shut off from me for the rest of my life due to my criminal record and this hurts more than I can put into words, its numbing. I am so passionate, driven and desperate to help other people but according to the UK rules will never be allowed in my lifetime. Originally I wanted to work as a Lawyer helping people get off mental health sections but was advised I wouldn’t be allowed, so turned to studying English to teach, but then the teaching society told me I’d never be able to do that either, so I then looked at becoming a support worker, homeless outreach worker or probation officer but was told I couldn’t do any of those roles either because I’m barred. The sad thing is 95 % of jobs in the UK require a standard or enhanced DBS check and I won’t get past them. Every advert on TV, radio or on the internet talking about hiring people I switch off or get upset by. It just reminds me of ‘what could have been’. It just reminds me that I won’t be able to do the job, no matter what Degrees or qualifications I get. Plus, I got rejected from four mainstream universities due to my criminal record. I’m barred from teaching, law, caring, banking, finance, security, any of the emergency services, RSPCA, RSPCC and anything working in hospitals, the medical sector, children or vulnerable adults. Which leaves very, very little. I often think what is the actual point in living knowing that I can never do what I want to do. Every time I see a nice car or an expensive looking apartment I get upset, because those things seem forever out of my grasp due to my circumstances. It seems like no matter how hard I try I will never get anything now.
Also, since I have very little money I cannot go anywhere or pursue any hobbies which means I can’t meet people, so I’m very isolated still and will be until something changes. I spend my days as a recluse. I just exist. I live off Asda smart price food, I rarely can afford new clothes so a lot of my clothes are too small for me, I can never afford to buy any treats or nice things for myself and often have to sell things just to get by. Being truthful, it was much nicer in prison. At least in there I got regular hot meals, exercise, a routine, a job, and didn’t need to sell things just to be able to raise enough money to put the heating on. When people tell me that ‘I’m so young’ and that ‘I have the rest of my life ahead of me’ it makes me feel sick to the stomach. Great. I have another sixty or so years to watch my hopes and dreams slip through my fingers, burn in the flames before my very eyes. To this day professionals that I’ve spoken to still don’t understand why I was locked up for so long. I spent a total of eight years locked up being subjected to abuse- the equivalent of a 15/16 year prison sentence. Rapists and attempted murderers do less. I will never get those years of my life back.
This is how the NHS has destroyed my life, I’ve had an awful life and what I have been through will affect the rest of my living days, I still have vivid nightmares about the abuse I was subjected to. I never got any apologies or any answers and know full damn well that I never will. If I ever get fully suicidal again I won’t ask for help because I know I will be punished. However, despite all of this I have kept going. Since I can’t get a job I make it my job to help others and inspire people. I hope this article has inspired you and has helped you to understand that no matter what you have been through, there is always the option to live and have hope. Thank you for reading.
About The Author: Michelle Torez
Michelle Torez is an established author and mentalhealth campaigner who has won various national writing awards. Her style is often described as 'extremely dark, gritty and brutally honest'. She says writing is ‘what keeps her alive’. She is a regular article contributor for the criminal justice charity Unlock and various mental health magazines due to being such a passionate mental health campaigner. Michelle is very anti-NHS in a lot of her publications due to the fact that she has endured so much trauma and abuse from NHS mental health services and lost various friends and loved ones to suicide due to being denied support. Her poetry book 'Broken Doll' was ranked in the top 1,000 for poetry books on Amazon, this book is full of graphic imagery and depictions of abuse in the NHS mental health system. In 2009 she came 3rd place nationally for Fiction with The Koestler Trust writing competition with her short story 'Interaction Is Pain' about social isolation. She has had various poems and articles published in both national and international writing magazines.
Michelle currently lives in Leeds, and is studying for a BA (Hons) in English Literature & Creative Writing with The Open University. She is working on new titles and due to all of the horrific experiences she has experienced continues to campaign for better mental health services.
She updates her blog www.michelletorez.com on a weekly basis were she talks about abuse and corruption in mentalhealth institutions, the UK criminal justice system, the benefit system and related matters.
You can check out her book ‘Broken Doll’ here – www.bit.ly/brokendollmt
written by Lexi Jude
Creepy crestfallen analog photography that transports you to a more chilling reality that is the work of the visual artist and photographer Aryhadne Sarda.
Her mind is always full of stories to be told, always fascinated with nature, witchcraft, and occultism. There was a time in her life that she was lost but sadly, or luckily, she has lived things that other people can not imagine, and that's why she does show this kind of mysterious atmosphere through her work.
Her artistic work started when her mother died. There was something inside of her stomach that she had to get out, or would end with her. Her artistic expression was an outlet for her to release the mental weight of her trauma and experiences into a more poetic and complex narrative form.
“I was in a kind of limbo for two long years,” said Sarda. “Fed with depression and grief, but that helped me to reconnect to myself and create, especially to create.”
For her, creating is a vital necessity. She is always taking notes and imagining stories and images. She consumes so much art on the Internet, and that makes her be continuously inspired and with enough imagination to non-stop. Like most artist of this time, a lot of inspiration can be found through different social media platforms and the art communities formed there. This goes for Sarda too. Historically, her work is inspired by the ancient times, such as Victorian Era, Romanticism, Greco-Roman mythology, and the entire underground metal scene.
She chose photography because it gave her the ease that allows her to express what she feels in my mind and turn into reality through conceptual imagery. Years ago, she used to paint and draw, but she thought she was so mediocre that she was never satisfied with the results. She never got to capture the concepts she wanted to express through other art mediums. She found that photography was a more suited practice to tend to her artistic needs and aspirations as an artist.
She found something about the analog process alluring.
“I must say that is pure magic, and I am in love with it, I feel like an alchemist when I'm in the laboratory, and I love it.”
“It's the best way to do it, get out of the box, shed the fear and the prejudice,” said Sarda. “We are what we are, and we are here with a purpose, and we are not going to hide, because it is ridiculous and because the world could be losing something really good from ourselves.” She goes on to discuss the reality of the inner-struggle she faces to show herself without the mask, but once you do it, you feel better about yourself, and it becomes a positive personal work. That through the fragile vulnerability there is a bold statement to be heard, in this case, mental health-related for Sarda.
“I was afraid of what the important people of my life were going to think about me,” said Sarda. “But it had a good reception and helped many people to understand me. It’s something that I appreciate infinitely.”
That after all was the most challenging thing for her at the beginning of her artistic practice, showing herself in such an intimate way. She learned a lot from herself through the vulnerability and the honest examination of her work. She would go on to analyze a work recalling why she did a something a certain way or how she felt at that time she created it to get a different perspective. Hoping that she and others will have emotions and experiences relating to the subject matters she depicts be acknowledged and discussed, and not be indifferent when they stand in front of the work.
PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
The Writing Prompt
content warning: please note that this piece mentions topics such as self-harm
The workshop instructor is discussing the first timed writing prompt, offering a choice of three topics like a menu. “Scars,” she says, “Write about the scars you have, or maybe the ones you cannot see.”
You immediately think of the self-inflicted Zippo lighter burn on the inside of your right forearm, a long-faded scar old enough to have children of its own. The scar is apropos of yesterday’s trigger, and last night’s drinking in a blessedly successful attempt to stave off an anxiety attack that had been creeping around the edges of your day. You almost cried at the grocery store after listening to another NPR story about the movement. The women are going public. They each have someone to blame. In a chorus, other women are saying, “We believe you,” and they all belong in this new movement.
You do not belong in this new movement. You went to work and tried to be good at your job. All the things that elicit a, “We believe you,” response, you did on purpose to pay the rent. Also, you pressed a red-hot Zippo into your arm because you needed a tangible way to say, “There is pain here.”
The sisterhood does not say, “We believe you,” to girls who go home with cash stuffed into their purses and hands that touched dirty things which cannot be scalded clean. Here is a writing prompt that says to think about this again, in a room with twenty other women who are also thinking of their scars.
You were pulling out your laptop when the instructor said the words "writing prompt." The suggestion to write about scars is a magnet and your own scar is a metal cage, so you stuffed your technology back into your bag. You're cheek to cheek with other writers in this workshop. “I made this scar,” would have appeared on your screen and that is a memoir you are not prepared to write today.
You’ve missed the second menu choice. The third is to write about what you carry. The instructor is saying you can just make a list if you get stuck. You need to get out of your head. If you don’t, the alternative is a familiar creeping blackness, good company to dirty hands that cannot be scalded clean. “You can just make a list,” she said, so you start listing items in your purse that you do not bear scars from: a phone, a Coach wallet, a fancy pen, and a keychain that holds fewer keys than most.
Disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with safe and consensual sex work. This is simply a recollection of the author’s internal struggles and mental health.
About The Author - Patricia Campbell
Patricia Campbell lives in Maryland with her husband and dog. She writes short fiction and essays, and she is working on a novel-length collection of memoir vignettes.
PC: Celia Schouteden
A Poem For The Voice in My Head
Psychosis: frantic: chaos & contusion: the frenetic texture
of a random noise still ringing cognate shadow dispensations: fast
as sound—is that the radio, or god, or pigeons at the window—I’m outside myself: a fixture
that repeats repeats: I can’t sleep: we have to check the face: the hands miscast:
light on / light off: retry: the oven & the door are shaking:
all you see are selves in the periphery: the pattern on the floor is playing
theater on the wall: it’s melting so pull off the paper:
wrench the blue part white: I need more light!: until your mouth is coming out:
you’re bleeding: all those teeth inside one head: this
is another god’s adventure: tear the body: skull: we have so many mouths: the world’s a gout:
I’m lining up the things from mine to his:
it’s dark & nothing now is new or safer--
I’m looking for a smaller space so I can’t sneak
up on myself like this. I’m getting better, so to speak.
trigger warning: suicide