My dear Lucy, tonight I found you in the dusty depths of a long ago time. I saw our home in the rolling green hills. We stood outside the stable on well worn earth, breathing in the fresh scent of early morning spring dew, filled with excitement of what the day may bring. You looked so different then to the way you do now, but your soul is undeniable and I knew you right away.

I had but a moment with you back there again, yet that moment was long enough to feel the power of our entire lifetime together. You were my big sister, my best friend. You were beautiful and I idolised you, with your long black hair brushed 100 times a night and those bright green eyes hinting at your fiery nature and a cautious desire for rebellion.

In that moment together in history we were faced down the hillside into the valley, you were being silly, doing carts wheels in your dress and we were laughing. Sunlight shon through the white mane of our dappled grey mare Estelle as she blew small clouds of mist from her nose into the cold air. ‘Stella’ you always called her.

I was filled with a sense of pure love as I stroked the pony’s cheek, tracing the shape of her face with my finger, mesmerised by her wise black eyes that had listened to our stories and comforted us when we wept.

I don’t remember much about our life there, but I know we were happy. I know that John the stable boy loved you and he would have done anything to make you smile. I remember you wanted a red saddle for Stella and were most upset that you couldn’t have one because ‘oh the shame such an outlandish thing would bring upon the family!’

I feel that I died young from an illness of sorts, I was scared and you were heartbroken because you couldn’t save me. I feel you have been trying to save me ever since, an unfinished quest to ease a burden of unnecessary guilt.

It was never your fault.

I had my own lessons to learn, death was but a part of life and you made me brave enough to face it. Now I want you to let that pain go. I want you to know that you have saved me, so many times and in so many ways far more important than the lengths of time spent on this earth, and for that I am so incredibly grateful.

The love I have always felt from you radiates through my soul, it has strengthened me and allowed me to keep going through the hardest of times, shining light into the darkest of moments. Now I can face the world, this life and whatever it may bring, I am not scared anymore.

My darling Lucy, I am free.

The Right to Fight

My head hurts, I want to die, I’m not capable of handling this world, this life. I am shit and I’m so, so tired. I just want to sink into a hole and be left alone forever, sleep forever. End.
They keep saying ‘you don’t want to die, you only want the pain to end’ but I truly want to die, to stop. I can’t remember a world without this pain, living is pain, breathing is pain, trying to not be this way is the hardest pain. If the pain stops I stop, not just the other way around, I am the pain.

This is all that I know. This life, this feeling.

All those “good things”, all those “reasons to live”, they aren’t mine, they don’t belong to me, they are hidden behind impenetrable frosted glass; I can’t reach them, I can’t feel them or see them, I barely know that they are there at all.

You can’t hold onto a world you don’t exist in, or a memory you don’t have. You can’t cling to a hope when there was never a dream or a plan.

All I have apart from this very feeling is a vague and incomplete storyline, and it’s not even accurate.
I am only here because I haven’t been able to prevent myself from returning, I hadn’t been able to control it.
I can’t keep living like this, as me. It’s no longer possible. I need to go away, and never come back.”

I found this in an old journal entry, written around two months before our stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

People have made comments about how well I’m handling this cancer lark. They think I’m brave, they think I’m resilient, they think I’m inspirational. All because I’m cracking jokes about it, discussing it emotionlessly and generally not falling in a heap.

In reality, I think I’m just confused.

I wonder how people would react if they knew how much I’d wanted a get out of life free card? It would be extremely hypocritical of me to start crying and proclaiming my desire to live now when I’ve literally been begging to die since I was around eight years old.

An unforeseen death sentence at no fault of our own? The cancer takes the rap and we are just another helpless victim, losing a battle? I should be singing and dancing, I got my greatest wish.

But… And there’s always a but…

When the choice is taken from you, particularly when it’s just as you’ve started to understand your selves better, started to find a sense of your own self and realised that some things that happened to you as a little kid were pretty shitty really and weren’t necessarily the result of just being born a faulty human being, well it kinda hurts.

Once when I complained about my hypocrisy of choosing to have the chemotherapy and feeling guilty for now actually quite liking the idea of living a bit longer, M commented “don’t people have the right to grow from their experiences? The right to change their minds?”

I don’t recall how I responded to her. Thinking on it now, on one hand my answer is a resounding “Yes!” of course people do! Only… At the same time, I’m not “people”. I’m me, and in a narcissistic self important way I feel that I should be held to different standards.

I feel like I have absolutely no right whatsoever to “fight” this cancer. As grateful as I am for Australia’s Medicare system, I hold an incredible amount of guilt at how many tax payer dollars have been wasted on trying to keep me alive when frankly, I don’t think I deserve it. But when I think of the other parts of ‘me’, the hurt kids and angsty teens, I want them to have a chance to heal.

Just before I started chemo my oncologist said he wanted me to do immunotherapy instead. I was told it would give us twice the chance at longer term recovery but it was $60,000 out of pocket. I politely declined as we had roughly $60 in the back account and it wasn’t an option.

A bunch of our friends offered to start us up a Go Fund Me but I couldn’t bring myself to let them. I felt it wouldn’t be fair for people to contribute money to saving a life I didn’t deserve to have, at least not without knowing that I had actively attempted suicide in the past and wished for death most of my life and I just wasn’t ready to start divulging that information.

So I had the chemo and tried to be grateful for it. The PET scan was clear and everyone around me celebrated while I felt like I’d cheated the system.

Now we’re in that awkward after chemo but before next scans phase. Every little ache or pain I get I immediately wonder if it’s the cancer coming back for round 2 and I get scared.

I get scared because now I want to live long enough to find the lessons in it all, heal my hurting alters, share some hope, give something back to the world. I want to inspire the people who should have the chance to learn and grow from their experiences, because to come this far and drop dead without helping others feels like a wasted opportunity.

So I know I don’t deserve to survive this, not after all my bitching about being alive. But just quietly, I hope we do.

Identity and Grief

I’m constantly struggling to understand myself. Understand my selves. Unfortunately my memory of past events is so compartmentalised that every now and then something happens to challenge my beliefs about who I think I am and it throws me for a loop.

My understanding has always been that I was a lover not a fighter. I loathe conflict and run away or hide when challenged. Apparently I haven’t always been that way. Apparently I was a yeller and a screamer, apparently I’d argue so loudly it was embarrassing to those around me. I don’t remember that at all and it feels so shameful and so disconnected from who I thought I am, who believed I was back then that this new found knowledge cuts me like a knife.

I feel like I can never know the truth. That I will never know what was real. Have I just made up a life history based on what a ‘good girl’ should be like or what I feel has been expected of me? In so many ways it seems like I have only existed in fragmented moments. I try to grasp on tight to memories, searching for ones that that feel like my own and I can count them on one hand.

Who is the real me? Do I exist? Did I ever exist?

Yes. I understand that there are ‘alters’, I read their stories and see their drawings. I see the bizarrely different handwriting styles on notes around the house and feel overwhelmed because at the end of the day I know I wrote those things but I don’t remember doing it and I don’t understand what it all means for me.

This house is full of people. Children I apparently birthed and raised. A man I apparently married a few decades ago. Animals that rely on me to survive, animals I can’t remember feeding and yet they are alive so they must have been fed. My dog has been dead for 10 years. My father is dead. My mother is old. I have cancer that has a 70% chance of killing me within the next two years.

All of these are facts I am aware of, yet I relate emotionally to none of it. I can find things stored in my house as though I put them there and I guess I must have but I don’t remember doing it. I can’t plan a future, I can’t remember my past, now I’m dying and the life I led feels like a distant dream.

I’m just so tired. I want to curl up and sleep forever. Outside is cold and the sun is starting to set. I remember the last time I saw the sun setting, I remember seeing the scarf, knowing it was how I would die. I remember it was 2004. I remember telling my friend, I remember we were in her car parked outside her house and I remembered that she cried and promised to protect me.

This farm. This is the place where I saw that sun set all those years ago. It’s become a real place now, not just a fleeting vision of possible future. Yet now it seems perhaps I traded a part of myself back then, for the knowledge of my demise. It seems as the further the prophecy unfolded the more unreal I became, my existence now feels unproven and doubtful and I fear I have become no more than a ghost who haunts a memory

Wild Thing

A dark shape darted across the chicken coop in front of me and disappeared. I blinked, rubbed my eyes and surveyed my surroundings. Nothing was amiss, the sun was shining, wind whispered through the lightly waving trees and my lone chicken tilted her head unfazed, looked at me with curiosity and let out an expectant “berrrerk!” I sighed releasing a handful of scratch mix onto the ground in front of her and watching as she pecked the ground furiously, clucking softly in appreciation.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t. I don’t hallucinate often but when Ezzy is close by, well the world around me can take on a whole new life. To understand what I mean here you will need to understand Ezzy. She see’s things the rest of us can’t.

It’s not so much by way of an object blatantly added to a landscape, we won’t see anything so brash as a hippopotamus picnicking on the lawn. No, it’s more as though she can grasp the magic inside a rich tapestry of tiny worlds that already exist around us. Ones we are simply unable to notice when our mind is too clouded by the expectations of the physical realm.

It can be frightening for the unseasoned among us yet it is a sacred experience for her. She watches what can only be described as the atoms around her, moving, flowing as you might observe dust floating around a room when sunlight streams in through a window. Some of these appear to be attracted to each other, some repelled and they make up everything around us from solid objects to the spaces between.

We’ve often referred to this phenomenon as observing the pixels of the universe, enthralled by them as they twist and twirl, morphing into a scene, a brief movie or image which tells a long lost tale of something ancient, tragic or beautiful.

A smudge on a wall to me, is a smudge on a wall but filtered through Ezzy’s eyes it will become a intricate picture, often times moving about as it shares its story. Ezzy believes that each of these parables comes from a lost soul desperate to be heard. She is an observer, speaking only through her art. Watching, listening, like a therapist to the universe as it quietly shares it’s stream of consciousness, unfurling vast wisdom and beauty.

Ezzy can’t function in the world you and I understand. Unable to see the forest for the trees it’s all too overwhelming and her lingering presence will always eventually send us mad. She comes close though sometimes, our heart rate falls to 40 when she draws and occasionally she shows us things, we can only watch in wonder as the walls catch fire and the carpet swims.

The photo folder on my phone is filled with images of dusty walls and misted glass taken in an attempt to capture times Ezzy has given us glimpses into her matrix.

Now where was I? Ah yes, the chicken coop.

I had dismissed the dark shape as a figment of my imagination and gone about my day thinking little of it, but early the next morning when I fed the hen I saw it again, this time it was crouching in the corner of the shed beside a nesting box. It was too dark in there to see properly, the wild thing was very still, furry and black, I couldn’t see a face.

I felt my heart pounding as I walked closer. The creature looked up, wide yellow eyes stared at me, sizing me up. It was a cat, dark silver with thick black stripes, then it was gone. I didn’t see it run, there one minute gone the next. Over the following few days there was no sign of the mysterious ghost cat and I still wasn’t sure if it was real or I’d imagined it. I’ve ‘seen’ cats before, ones that others couldn’t. They were usually black, always staring and I still have no idea what they symbolised.

Then my daughter came crashing into the house one afternoon, “There’s a feral cat!” she proclaimed excitedly “It is in the chicken coop!” That made me feel better, it was real. She grabbed the box of cat food and I followed her out. We already had pet cats, I wasn’t sure encouraging a feral was such a great idea but I wanted it out of the hen house, my poor chook had been through enough lately, this couldn’t be good for her nerves.

The cat stared at us with its big yellow eyes trying to decide if it should bolt or not. It’s fur was all matted up, it was painfully skinny and there was something terribly wrong with its face. We called out to it gently but it took off at high speed trying to scale the wire of the coop. In its haste it misjudged its distance and fell off, running so frantically from one end to the other you could almost hear its heart beat. It took another huge leap this time clearing the fence and disappearing into the bush.

We saw it sporadically over the next few days, it clearly wanted to be close but was obviously terrified. We left food out closer to the house and eventually saw it eating desperately from the bowl. It was really struggling to chew. I tried to get a closer look and could see that it’s mouth was badly damaged, it appeared to be missing part of its bottom jaw and it looked infected. No wonder the poor thing was so thin.

We started offering soft food instead and over several weeks the cat progressively let us closer and closer until we could pat it. Our big ginger Tom cats who usually ruled their territory with iron claws seemed to recognise the creature was weak and in need and they let it be. Once it seemed apparent the cat wanted to stay we coaxed it into a carrier and took him off to the vet.

The vet gave antibiotics for the infection ravaging the felines mouth and jaw and upon closer examination there was evidence of old awkwardly healed broken rib bones. He suggested it had most likely been hit by a car at some point. We bundled him up, took him home and named him Bandit.

For months he startled at the slightest sound. Content one minute, bolting under the house as though his life was in danger the next. When he finally emerged he would sit on the edge of the deck for literal hours, tail twitching slightly, staring wide eyed out into the abyss as though searching for the enemy, if you touched him he bolted again, if you spoke to him he didn’t hear you, lost in the harshness of the world he’d once known.

Bandit rarely leaves our front porch these days, content to snuggle on whoever is sitting out there at the time he can vibrate the whole chair with his intense purring. He has become the sweetest cat we’ve ever owned, he quickly befriended our giant German Shepard and intimidates our poor little Pomeranian. Occasionally he still gets startled by a noise and bolts under the house, but he no longer stares hyper vigilantly off into space like a shell shocked soldier.

We love our little wild thing.

Super Ted and Finding Sarah

I need to get up and have a shower. It’s 7:30 am and I’ve been lying here awake since 5 but it’s cold, bitterly cold, too cold to survive the 4 metre dash to the bathroom let alone strip naked and wait for the water to warm up. So instead, I lie in bed awake and shivering hoping someone else will re light the fire. I pull the bed covers up around me. Two winter doonas and a blanket and it’s not even taking the edge off.

I put my head under the doona to try and warm up, my breath clouds around me and I fight the sense of suffocation that’s rapidly enveloping my chest. This feeling is part of why I can’t stand to wear a face mask, hot breath in my face, even my own sends me into a panic. I peek my nose and mouth out and take gulps of the freezing air then dive back into the warm blanket cave that is equal parts comforting and terrifying.

I feel suddenly oddly small and a random image of ‘Super Ted’ flashes in my mind. Weird… I haven’t thought about that show in decades.

The image of the bear wearing a super hero outfit flashes in my head again somewhat indignantly. Usually this kind of flash image is an attempt at communicating by one of the others. Often bizarre in nature but meaningful to the messenger, unfortunately working out what that meaning is can be really difficult. I stick my head out from the covers and gasp in more of the ice cold fresh air before ducking down again.

I was a sensitive child. My mother tells a story of when I was four or five and I watched an episode of the kids cartoon for the first time. There’s a line in the opening theme that states “and they threw him away like a piece of rubbish” referring to the Teddy bear that starred in the show. Apparently I had cried for hours, I hadn’t even seen the actual program yet and I was already inconsolable. The thought of someone tossing that bear away simply broke me no matter how much my mother explained that he was okay now, that he was a super hero now.

Who on earth was trying to communicate Super Ted to me, and why? I chuckled softly to myself thinking about my mothers story and how oddly sensitive I had been about that bear.

Then I heard her. Her voice was desperate yet soft and meek as though coming from far away. “Don’t throw him away, I’m sorry! Don’t throw away Michael”.

It’s a little girl, she’s sobbing. I see her only for a second, cross legged, hiding under a blanket with red tear stained cheeks and a teddy squished under her arm.

Michael? Who’s…? And it comes rushing back like a freight train.

Suddenly I’m there with her, hiding under the blankets. Downstairs in the kitchen our father is raging again, I don’t know what happened this time but venomous expletives are flying. “Stop!” My mother’s exasperation comes out as a staggered whine. She hates him swearing, the explosive anger she seems to take without question but for some reason when he starts a swearing tangent she will object.

This is nothing we haven’t heard before, nothing new. But I look at the little girl clutching her teddy and holding her breath, eyes squished shut; she’s three years old tops. I suddenly feel her fear viscerally, this little girl under the blanket with hot wet cheeks. It envelopes me, clutches in my chest, my neck. Its hard to breath, but I don’t want to stick my head out. Nobody can see me here. I have to be quiet, I have to be good.

But I remember I’m not a good girl. I remember that I killed Michael.

I had forgotten. How could I forget? My little brother never got to be alive, never got pat my cat and it was all my fault.

I was three, nearly four. I guess they had to explain why mummy suddenly didn’t have a baby in her tummy anymore. They told me that they’d done a test and the doctor said he would have been disabled. They said they didn’t want me to feel like I had to look after him when I was an adult, he would have held me back, ruined my life. They told me it would have been too hard so they got rid of Michael for me.

But they didn’t understand that I would never have thrown Michael away like Super Ted got thrown away. I would have loved him forever, I wouldn’t have cared if he was different looking and didn’t understand things. I just wanted to have a little brother to love and play with. I just wanted to show him my cat.

But they thought I would hate them for it later, that it would be too hard on me, that I couldn’t handle it. Michael’s life had been snuffed out before it began, but all I knew was they chose me over him and I didn’t deserve life any more than he did. The guilt broke me in two. What if I became too hard too? What if I was bad or upset my daddy? Would they throw me away like Super Ted, like Michael?

I fight to separate, to look at the little girl again. For 33 years she’s been crying, cloaked by a blanket of guilt, hiding under the weight of responsibility for the death of an unborn baby boy. I desperately want to hug her, tell her it’s okay.

Seeing it from adult eyes, seeing her quiver and sob for the brother she believed she had killed because her parents thought she wasn’t going to be a good enough sister for them to keep him. I try to tell her it wasn’t her fault. That they didn’t do it for her, or because she wasn’t good enough. They did it for themselves, because they couldn’t be parents to a child with Down syndrome.

Our moment is broken by footsteps up the hall in present time and I hold my breath instinctively. I can feel my heart beat echo through my body like a subwoofer, my face is burning with snot and tears. I carefully emerge from my cocoon, the cold hits me like a bucket of ice water and I frantically try to wipe my eyes to pretend I’m okay. The footsteps pass by and I can breathe again.

I shiver and pull back under the covers. The little girl is still under her blanket but she’s not sobbing anymore. I ask her name and I get the word “Sarah”. I focus on her, try and embrace her, try and tell her over and over “It’s not your fault, Sarah. I found you, you are safe now, we are okay now.” I feel a shift inside.

Like releasing a spirit to the light, a weight lifts and I see her again, just for a second. Her face is still sad, still haunted, blonde hair plastered against tear soaked cheeks, but one corner of her mouth is slightly turned up in a shy half smile and the blanket is wrapped around her shoulders now, her head is free, she can breathe.

What’s in a name?

Life’s been funny lately. I’m not complaining, it’s just kind of strange. I feel different but I can’t properly explain how. Almost like I somehow merged minds with some other parts of us but couldn’t tell you who, why or when.

I just suddenly have different perspectives on some people in my life and seem to have gained a stack of childhood memories, not bad ones or anything traumatic just random stuff. Lots of stories of my formative years, connections between people and places, things that I know I didn’t recall a few weeks ago.

I’m also suddenly unusually competent with paperwork related stuff in regards to Hubby’s work, I’ve always had trouble with computers, they frustrate the shit out of me, other parts of us handled that for the most part, but I seem to suddenly just know how to do things but can’t explain how I know; which is a bit of a weird feeling, kinda like if I just understood a foreign language all of a sudden without learning it.

My head is unusually quiet. Scribe rattles away in the background but Catherine seems to have taken a leave of absence after our last therapy session a month or so ago; I’m really going to have to ask what went down because something must have. Kate’s not about much either. I can just reach out to two of the little ones but I’m almost afraid to, it feels unsafe.

I look around the house at the legacy of the others and I struggle to relate to it. I shouldn’t say legacy, it’s not like they’re gone. I know they are still about somewhere, but everything just feels different. Or I feel different, less connected to them or something.

Like there was make up and hair products piled around our bathroom for easy access I guess but in the end I just got the shits, gathered it up and stuck it in a draw in the cupboard. I don’t wear make up, can’t use it to save myself and frankly I’m not interested, whereas Kate won’t leave the house without it. Our hair is thin and the short hair cut is hard to do anything decent with, I’m not going to spend any time styling it to cover up chemo bald spots when I can just wear a beanie.

It’s funny, Kate changed our name on our IRL FB to her own a while ago and a most people hadn’t noticed but just recently few people have commented.

One fairly close friend of ours recently told me she’d seen it and asked me outright what I prefer to be called. It was a really hard question to answer. Kinda like when one of the few people in our world who know about the DID asks who I am. I’m not sure why I hate that question so much, it feels too vulnerable, almost violating somehow. I prefer to stay in the shadows of anonymity.

This friend knows about some of our mental health issues but I’ve stopped short of telling her about the DID. I explained that I (we) passionately loathe our birth name and changed it on FB to pacify the frustration of seeing it all the time. But of course I couldn’t explain that I have an alter named Kate who will always just introduce herself as Kate because she can get away with it so a good percentage of people we’ve met in the last 6 years call us Kate anyway.

I joked that I wish our birth name was Catherine because there are so many more variables of that name and it just sits better with me. So she laughed and asked if she should just call me Catherine then and honestly to me it sounded a lot better out of her mouth than Kate did, she’s my friend not Kate’s anyway, so I was like “Yeah! Why not!”

I’m not Catherine of course, but my name is too different to even bring up without raising far too many questions. We’d always said that if we ever changed our name legally we’d go with Catherine because it really matters to her and it can be broken into enough nicknames and variants that we wouldn’t need to explain ourselves to everyone in our life, they’d just assume that it was always our full name.

I’d be fine with it because honestly I don’t really care, where as it’s important to Kate to be called Kate and the real Catherine literally cried when our psychiatrist used her name for the first time. So anyway, said friend is now calling us Catherine and we laughed that if anyone comments then we can say it’s a reverse nickname.

A Fox in the Hen House

I used to keep and breed both chickens and Muscovy ducks. For a time they were my pride and joy. A mismatched flock of Isa browns, Rhode Island Red’s and crested silkies with their fluffy feet and pom pom hats would scavenge and peck their way around a parade of whispering black and white ducks.

The birds had gifted me an abundance of fresh eggs over the years, we ate a lot of omelette and hollandaise sauce back then. Use one duck egg in place of two chicken eggs in a cake and it will have the fluffiest texture you could imagine.

We’d built the coop well knowing that feral foxes were a problem in the area. A concrete border dug nearly a foot deep around the perimeter was connected to strong chain link wire fencing nearly two meters high.

Every neighbour had a tale of woe and carnage at the paws of a fox, they proclaimed that guns were the only answer. “Shoot ‘em dead between the eyes and string ‘em up on the fence to warn off the others!” It’s not unusual in these parts, to see a line of fluffy tails clipped along fence lines in a public display of sadistic victory.

They’re harder to come by in Australia, almost unheard of in the cities but it seemed everyone we knew in Tiny Town owned a gun. You have to have a bloody good reason to own one in this country, self defence isn’t allowed so their mostly reserved for land owners to control vermin and quietly chase away the odd trespassing teenager.

Getting a firearm licence involves a short course, a pile of paperwork and a police check. I held a gun licence for years but I had only ever applied for it because The Husband had drunk the town kool aid when we bought the farm and he wanted one. I only went along with him as moral support for the course, or more rightly perhaps, as someone to fill out his paperwork for him.

An animal lover from way back, I had zero intention of ever pulling a trigger aimed at anything other than a Coke can and somewhat ironically when The Husband was denied his licence due to a paperwork error, my mentally questionable self was approved.

The Husband had gradually lost interest in the whole affair while caught up in the government red tape and in the end neither of us could be bothered following up and so we never actually purchased a gun.

For eight long years while the gun toting neighbours lost flock after flock, we didn’t have a problem. Upon closer inspection we determined that other people simply hadn’t built their coops to the same standards we had, theirs could be dug under or scaled while ours was an impenetrable fortress.

Then things went up in a cloud of feathers. We’d had a bad week. Dramatic things always happened in a row for us and that week was no exception. We’d lost our beloved pet Rosella a few days before, Tigerlilly had been having problems in her latest placement and had been dropped off late the previous night by a desperate social worker and then when we went outside to feed the chooks she loved in the morning, the usually bustling coop was deadly silent.

My heart sunk immediately, the gate was still closed but the pen was completely empty, not a duck or chicken to be seen. Had they gotten out somehow? I went into the shed where the nesting boxes were and there was nothing but a few feathers.

Birds are vulnerable in the dark. You can pick up even the most feisty of roosters at night and the most he will do is mutter a disgruntled “Bererrrk”.

We mounted a search, heading off around the farm in different directions. The boys found piles of white feathers streaked with red scattered near the dam and signs of a struggle. The ducks were all dead. Clumps of brown chicken feathers a little further up. Hope was lost.

We returned to the barren coop and inspected the fence line like homicide detectives. There right near the gate the wire holding it to the frame had rusted away into brown dust leaving just enough room for a cunning fox to push it aside, slip in and take his pick.

I got startled by a sudden flurry above my head, I looked up and perched on a branch of the small gum tree in the middle of the coop sat a lone and very traumatised brown hen.

We lifted her out of the tree, re-named her lucky and secured the broken fence to keep her safe. Lucky refused to leave the corner of the shed. If we put food down in front of her she pecked at it furiously but would not venture out into the yard for anything.

For the next few nights the boys formed a plan to avenge Lucky’s lost tribe. They hid outside the coop with their bows and arrows, torches and snacks waiting out into the wee hours of the morning for the fox to return, but it never came.

After several weeks a shell shocked Lucky started to reluctantly come out of the shed again but she wasn’t the same, never quite shaking off the effects of the massacre that had taken her family. Not long later I found her dead in a nesting box. At least she had peace now.

A night or two after Lucky died there was a storm, winds battled the house and as if to admit final defeat in a secret war against poultry, a big tree in the middle of the chicken coop cracked and split falling dramatically to the ground and crushing the fence in its wake. I saw the destruction and only had the energy left to sigh and walk away. My chicken keeping days were over.

It’s incredible how quickly nature reclaims it’s domain once the humans walk away. We had walked away from that coop just over a year ago, some point after the arrival of the Wild Thing, but before the cancer diagnosis.

Today I had followed a strange yet familiar scent and found myself wandering up toward the old chicken coop again, it’s not visible from the house, hidden away in a place you’d never pass by unless you were intentionally seeking it out.

The odd musky smell seemed to grow stronger with each step intriguing me as I walked through the gate now forced open by tangled weeds and into the old chook yard. I surveyed the once bustling coop for a moment, it had become a wasteland.

The big tree lay dead where it fell, cracked branches all strewn about. An array of weeds now covered the ground that had once stood bare from the wrath of scratching hens and an unknown vine had weaved its way up around the fences and shed entwining itself up into the small Gum where we’d found Lucky.

Upon closer inspection there were tracks through the weeds, worn over time by an animal of some sort now apparently calling this place home. Scattered droppings similar to those of a dog were lying throughout the creatures lair, investigating further I noticed a pile of fresh colourful feathers in the corner of the shed marking the death of something once beautiful.

Then all of a sudden I remembered what the familiar pungent odour was.

It was the smell of a fox.

Dark Winter

We had discussed music in our therapy appointment. Music holds a lot of power over us, it can calm us down from a manic rampage or send us spiralling into madness depending on the day. We love every shade of it and treasure it’s ability to honour any mood we may fall prey to.

It had been a rough session, we had felt the foundations of The Wall crumbling between us and as we left M had suggested we listen to something soothing to offset the heaviness.

We were raised in a world filled with the sounds of the great composers. Mozart and Beethoven reigned supreme in our house and symphonies never failed to transport Catherine back to a carefree part of our childhood.

Tension was building internally as we walked away from M’s office and by the time we reached the car the commotion from inside was so great that Catherine pulled away from the curb without noticing the stark silence around us.

We can’t drive without some sort of noise at the best of times, music or talking, something to ground us to the car. Without it we disconnect and float away, without it we lose all sense of speed and time. Without it, we are dangerous.

We’re a hundred metres up the road before Catherine realises her mistake, the silence around us is suddenly obvious. A deafening contrast to our screaming mind, it hangs thick in the air threatening to swallow us up into its starkness.

We have to fix this. A familiar haze descends upon Catherine as she fumbles frantically for the radio. Ads burst into our consciousness like nails on a chalk board and she shudders hard, she’s grappling to stay but losing the battle. Station after station is filled with ads, It was almost worse than the quiet. Doesn’t anyone play song’s anymore?

Our head is roaring. Catherine’s fading fast. She can’t pull over, there’s nowhere to go and the traffic is unforgiving and everywhere. In desperation she cries out for Siri, “Play Vivaldi Winter!”

Buried in a black bag resting somewhere on the cluttered floor, a muffled tone sounds compliantly and the slow burn of an electric guitar forges it’s way into the car.

“What the fuck is this? This isn’t…”

Catherine howls in defeat and V takes her place in the drivers seat as Winters expected flurry turns into a blizzard of epic proportions, cascading through our soul and shattering everything we thought we knew about music.

The rise and fall of the wrong yet oh so right version of a song meant to soothe us vibrates frantically through the speakers blocking out the screams coming from the other side of The Wall and consuming us with its raw power.

Everyone is listening.

This Dark Winter knows us, it senses our pain and grabs on tight, injecting itself into our veins and coursing through our body like life blood. It wants to show us its shadow side. It wants to show us that we too belong with its demons. It wants us all for itself and we are merciless to its whim.

V’s heart is pounding as the song fades out leaving behind only haunted echoes of itself begging for more.

Just one more hit. She presses play again and again laughing at the absurdity of it all. The pixels of universe begin to twist and turn around us dancing in time to the music until tears of joy and sorrow fall from our eyes and we are forced to accept our fate.

One more hit was all it took for the sound of a jaded season to infiltrate our mind and merge itself into our soul.

It has played inside ever since. For weeks now day in, day out it has become our master, our protector; a dark winter sheltering us from the secrets and screams on the other side of the wall.

Follow Me

Follow Me

Follow me, I know the way.
I know this worn out path through Hell.
The secrets we keep live forever here,
Secrets we’ll never tell.

Ask me all your questions,
I’ll know just what to say.
Tell me all your fears,
let me make everything okay.

Depend on me and smother me,
I’m lost without your needs.
I’ll beg for freedom silently,
but know you’ll never let me flee,

Tell me you don’t want me,
but hold me back from running away,
Push my head below the water
as you beg me again to stay.

I need you to need me,
to let me pretend you know what’s best.
I need to know that I am un-wantable,
so I can want to be needed instead.

I can hate you, fear you,
love you and revere you,
but as long as I think I can save you
I’ll come back just to be near you.

I hold on to keep from fading,
into that dark abyss.
Because with nobody left to protect,
I can’t prove that I exist.

Fragmenting consciousnesses compartmentalise the stress. But if I’m really honest I know I’ll never have time to rest.

Time to listen to the silence,
time to feel the pain
time to watch everything I once lived for, run crimson down the drain.