Author has written 1 story for Tomb Raider.
When scholars study a thing, they strive to kill it first, if it's alive; then they have the parts and the'be lost the whole,
for the link that's missing was the living soul
- Goethe's Faust
June 06 2014.
RA isn't abandoned... in fact, chapter nine is currently in beta.
Meanwhile, here is something to describe why it's taken me so long.
The enemy within
I put on the override on the internet timer that usually protects my sleeping pattern by cutting off the 'outside' before it gets too late at night to still function the next morning. A glass of wine is in my hand now, its dark red liquid reflecting the pale white light of the opent text document. I savour the bouquet of earth and spices and drink deeply from the dark red warmth. 'Terra de Lobos', my all time Portuguese favourite. I'll need it tonight; its earthy notes to cling to, its warmth to keep me upright and of course its alcohol... softening the edges of that which I'm attempting. I will write about the 'Black Dog', my condition, or illness, or just it.
The last one is the most fitting I think, and I feel my nerves tingling; and it is not the wine, not yet. It is stirring as I try to focus and moisture begins to blur my vision. More wine and inhale deeply. I'll get though this, this time. Just keep writing.
It has always been there, or maybe it chose me when I was still a kid. Thinking back I recognize it in my memories of childhood when I had those dark moments of not wanting to be me, not wanting to be in my body, wanting to be alone, solitude... it was evaluating its host for suitability I guess. As many things do, it took hold in adolescence; when I sided with the underdog because I could relate to what was going on in their mind, making myself an underdog with them. I only ever succeeded in making things worse for me, I was never good enough, could never solve anything. As I stopped trying to find friends no one befriended me and I blamed it on myself. I didn't blame myself for not trying or shutting myself away, no, I blamed myself for being unworthy of friendship with those I wanted to be with.
More wine as I lose the plot and drift off.. focus. It sensed the vulnerability and decided to latch onto me. Into me. There it lay dormant through the better times, waiting.
Most of my adult life I have had recurring respiratory illnesses, a pressure on my chest that more often than not had no medical explanation although I always was prone to actual illness like bronchitis. This only ever dissipated when I was alone in the outdoors, far away from people and at peace while I focused on putting one foot before the other toward an enticingly distant horizon.
Alas, adult life, jobs and studying and finally also parenthood drained away the time and energy to undertake these silent respites and the cracks finally began to widen. Almost twenty years it had lain in wait in my chest, only feeding occasionally to stay alive when my defences were down. I had felt it then, although by then I didn't know what it was.
When I finally settled down after a life on the move it sensed its opportunity: I had moved thirteen times in twenty years, five of them internationally. I had worked and studied in three countries. I had scouted for opportunities and explored promising locations; I had moved on, had to move on, every time I felt that this could have been the place to stay except there wasn't anything left for me there. Thus I ripped up my roots again and again, I made friends and lost friends again and again and I grew tired. So very tired.
The memories flow with the wine... why can't I write the stories that I want to write but I can write this story that I never wanted to write - except for that it needs to be written? Desperation is a strong motivator.
It began with the mornings filled with lead. In the bones, the muscles, the lungs. No matter how long I slept, the freshness after a good nights sleep would not materialize. In fact, the more I slept the worse it got. I remember how I used to swing my legs out of the bed in anticipation of a new day and I mourn the feeling.
Then came the difficulties concentrating on something for any length of time, especially at work. It was painful, I loved what I was doing back then. Meaningful research on a topic I was passionate about – that I still am passionate about – but I was so tired, more often than not finding myself staring out the window or at some useless website instead of doing what I really wanted to do, needed to do. Procrastination is one thing, this wasn't. It was feeding on me.
Every spring it would come to the surface to eat the surplus energy you get from the first warm rays of sunshine in April or May. When everything turned green, everything turned grey. Three years in a row it drained my life in the summer months to release me when the leafs began to fall and the days turned grey and cold on their own. I've always liked autumn; today I know why: it's always been the month where I could breathe freely after a suffocating summer filled with exhaustion.
A year ago it finally took too much to be sustainable. It ate too much, too irregularly. In addition to the downs, erratic ups began to appear when it loosened its grip for a little while. I became irritable, fast thinking but unfocussed and often confused. I shouted at my kids and I got silently angry with my colleagues. Then the down would return with a vengeance... and after a while, the two things began to happen simultaneously.
A mind full of brilliant ideas and designs, especially research designs that my PhD supervisor was really excited about... and no energy whatsoever to do anything about it. No ability to focus on those designs to bring them into existence. Things that would actually make a difference in the real world. It hurt. Oh god it hurt. The two opposites drifted further and further apart while still happening at exactly the same time until it all came crashing down and I couldn't, by any means, continue.
Every now and then I get a glimpse of what has become of my projects and ideas. The project that was meant to be my post doc, designed by me, is well on its way with a young researcher in my place whose name I don't even know. I wish him success. Others have picked up upon these ideas as I against all odds managed to publish something. My ideas are being used by people in three countries, sometimes talked about on international conferences. But I, I just fade away from that world of brilliant minds. It hurts.
It is trying to divert me now... hence the need for wine. It makes it sluggish, slower than me. And no looking at the screen and get bogged down with spelling mistakes. It loves doing that. I swallow heavily... it doesn't like it when I think of it. My eyes turn moist again.
And suddenly I'm crying. I hate you. I'm faster than you.
Not this time. Wiping my eyes I drink again.
Alcohol makes my 'condition' worse in every way. The next day. That's far away and will be miserable anyway. It's nice and smooth, right now, right here.
I've tried to describe its personality. This thing is not me. I am in therapy and have learned a lot. Actually, I have done a lot of reading on the topic, I am a scientist after all, and in a very detached way I find my 'condition' strangely fascinating. I've learned that I'm in good company. Julius Caesar and Winston Churchill, to name but two.
One day I tried visualizing it before my inner eye... and this is where I struck home.
When I felt inside me and imagined a totally blank space, just concentrating on that eternal pressure on my chest, it suddenly appeared: a dice of reinforced concrete. The surface was rough, a few crumbs having fallen off and lying scattered around it. I could feel its age, how long it already had to have been there. The rusted steel was visible where the surface was broken. And it just sat there.
Months later, my efforts at understanding it had altered the image, now a sizeable chunk had been chipped out of the right-hand side, corroded steel bars protruding into empty air. But no matter what I did from that point onwards, it stayed that way. It was impermeable to any tool of rationally applied knowledge. Or medication for that matter.
The latter keeps it from feeding most of the time. But when it manages, it's hungry.
After months of trying to get some backup from somewhere we were assigned a 'relief family' by the local social services. As our family and relations are scattered across Europe this was the only feasible way to go. I won't go into the process... suffice to say that it's exhausting. Anyway, the point is to get some 'spare grandparents' to take the kids every now and then to allow for a breather.
We tried it for the first time recently. By the way, giving your kids away because you just don't have the energy left to do anything but child minding did not feel like a defeat at this point. Nothing does. Anyway, this is how I really got to meet it.
It began with a sarcastic comment to something my wife said on the way home from bringing the kids to their 'new grandparents'. One of those comments you regret while saying them but simply can't stop. Sarcasm has always been my outlet for the frustrations and pressures of this life but this time it really hurt, both her and me.
My eyelids grow heavy while I clench my teeth at the sudden dizziness. Nope, not the wine, not yet. It's that old acquaintance of mine, that sudden, leaden tiredness. Fuck that, on we go.
An hour or so later I tried to break the ensuing silence by talking about it, just as we've always done in situations like these. I think I managed two or three sentences before I started to cry, I don't know. I couldn't, couldn't stay in the same room and ran away to the bedroom where I threw myself onto the bed and cried like I hadn't cried for more than twenty years. I cried out all the things I was sorry about. My failure at making anybody happy. My failure at living up to everybody's expectations, including my own. My despair at always just hanging on. Just hanging on. My fear of losing everything to this cursed entity, of forever walking this edge of a knife. My utter frustration about everybody I know always admiring my 'strength against all odds' when there is no such thing, just pure survival instinct overriding the fear and weakness. My deepest, innermost feelings of being insufficient, just not good enough. For everything.
An hour or so later I tried talking about it, wondering how I managed to keep myself upright.
The scientist in me analysed that the breakdown probably was triggered by removing the enormous weight on the pressure cooker that is my mind and soul. The prospect of help had taken enough weight of my shoulders to let the whole thing blow up, thus ensuing the exact opposite of the desired outcome. Sweet irony. Pressure keeps it at bay... but every day of doing this is taken on credit.
Then I started to describe my picture of it. It took me several minutes to even find the first word of what I wanted to tell. And tears are running down my face as I write this.
The concrete block lay shattered but the lower quarter of it, bits of bent corroded metal and crumbling concrete all over the place.
I shut my eyes tightly while I drip tears onto my keyboard. It is an ugly sound, a grown man crying who hasn't done so for two decades. It HATES when I think back to that day, when I picture it. It hurts.
It sat there, wounded. A bright red sphere, in the middle of that ripped apart block. Crimson fluid bands where meandering out of the remains of the cubus on every side... I don't know if they actually were tentacles or blood oozing from a wound. There was no doubt it was wounded though, and my describing it to my partner made it fight back as ferocious as any cornered animal. It hurt. God it hurt. It still does, almost as bad as then. Wine. More Wine.
It laid a whole ton of pain on my chest when I focussed on it, but this time I didn't relent. I fought it, and it became desperate. It was like an arrow to my chest and somebody cruelly twisting it. I was grabbing onto my shirt and chest, leaving red marks on the skin while I told my better half what I was seeing. And feeling. She was terrified.
I drink another large mouthful to try and still the sobs. It hurts... god it hurts so much.
I fought it to an impasse where I could describe it in detail without writhing.
And then, the image faded all of its own. And I could breathe, freely, for the first time in many years. There was no weight on my chest. It was incredible.
Alas, it wasn't to last. Just three hours later my visualization returned completely unbidden and with it the weight on my chest. It had been just enough time to realize how heavy it had always been and would now be again. Badly wounded, the being had shrunk back onto itself and pulled its concrete shell together. It was smooth now. Entirely smooth. No crumbling parts, no nothing.
It has healed now, it seems. Yesterday it began to feed once more and all the colours drained away.
A day spent staring at a meaningless computer screen or at the walls of our little house. Or crying, every now and then.
Crying has become much easier and happens frequently now. It also seems to help.
Maybe it has changed in its new, smooth shell. Maybe not. It certainly has recovered.
At least I now know its true form. And that it is vulnerable. Yet terrifyingly strong.
But I'll fight it. To live. Even if death seems enticing ever more frequently.
But I'm not going to give it that satisfaction.