Dumb Things that Happen

The clock is ticking. Time might be my enemy today.

I notice a couple in their SUV, pulling out of a driveway. I wonder if they’re nice, normal people and then decide to take the risk and ask them to give me a lift.

I’m really hot and tired by this stage and I’m worried about getting back to my sister’s house in time to make my appointment, which is an hour’s drive further north than I’ve already travelled.

Today, I have a medical appointment at a hospital three hours north of where I live. I left home early with my three-year-old, in a luggage-packed car and plenty of time on my side. I’m about to get the quickest answer to prayer I’ve ever received.

Let me back up for a minute.

I’ve driven to my sister’s house where my son and I are staying for two nights. After dropping my son off at his Granddad’s to be babysat for the day, I park on the lawn, unlock the front door, drop my handbag (with everything in it) inside the front door and return to the car to unpack.

I’ve taken everything out of the car and piled it up outside the house.

I grasp the lever on the front door. It won’t move. A feeling of dread plummets into my tummy. The door has made a vile move against me on this busy, hot day and self-locked. The bitch!

I pat my hands around my jeans pockets, searching for my mobile phone. I have no phone, car keys, nothing. They’re all in my handbag inside the house. A whispered curse escapes my lips. Of all days, this cannot be happening today!

Panic turns into quick thinking and I start knocking on neighbours’ front doors until I find one who’ll not only open their door to me, but also let me use their phone.

I call my husband. My husband calls my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law calls me. He’s in Perth with the spare key, working. The only other spare key is with my niece and she’s at school. Fortunately, the school isn’t too far away.

I have to leave everything (including my unlocked car and several valuables) and walk to the school. Well, that’s where I think I’m going.

It’s 11am, 33 degrees celsius and I’m already feeling too hot. I’m puffing, I’m scared of burning and also worried about passing out (I have a history of heat exhaustion).

The school feels like a light year away. I’m not even sure I’m heading in the right direction. After about ten minutes, I discover I’m heading in the wrong direction and turn around. And that brings me back to the couple pulling out of a driveway in their SUV.

The couple clearly thinks I’m strange but respond kindly to my request for a lift and take me to my niece’s school. I thank them repeatedly then wait at reception in the air conditioning while the key is being retrieved from my niece in class. I’m feeling impatient but try to relax.

The key is finally in my hot little hands and I start walking back. Two minutes pass and I’m already completely over the heat so I squash my pride and employ my hitchhikers thumb. Another risk.

No one stops. I hope someone is going to pick me up and take me back to my sister’s house – not some unfamiliar place to slaughter me. I try not to think about all the possible things an evil person could do to me.

I’ve been whispering prayers in my head up until this point.

This time I literally pray out loud for the very next car to pick me up. Two seconds later, a car approaches. The driver stops and invites me to sit in the passenger seat. There’s a cute Chihuahua in the back seat. The nice old lady drops me back at my sister’s house.

I unlock the house door, again, go inside, drink copious amounts of water and tear my jeans off to cool down. I still have time on my side. I’ll make it in time for my MRI appointment at the hospital after all.

Far. Out!

 

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The night of the alien

Once upon a time, in a hospital far away, there existed a 13-year-old girl whose life was surrounded by a sphere of mystery and desperation.

The girl’s name was Jodie. The girl was me.

I can’t remember all the details of my history, which is annoying. I’m guessing my memory is patchy because I had intense experiences, permeated by high levels of emotion.

I’ll try to recollect one especially peculiar scene for you…

This scene unfolded during a time when I was debilitated in hospital. My abnormal body had produced an abscess where a jejunostomy tube had been removed from my gut wall. Why did an abscess form? The answer is unknown.

I was lying, supine (as I often did) on my plastic mattress bed, watching TV. It was an average night on the teenager ward at Princess Margaret Hospital. I was reasonably happy because the dressing around my gut ‘hole’ had been fashioned by a skilled nurse. The dressing was secure, so stomach acid wasn’t burning my skin, as it so often did during this particular admission. It was a pretty ordinary hospital stay.

Then average changed and the ordinary got real weird. (Not that I wasn’t already familiar with all sorts of weird…)

Stomach acid began to seep under the expert dressing and sizzle away at my epidermis. The ostomy pouch secured over the hole (for drainage) puffed up with gas. I sensed impending doom.

When weird things happened to my body, as they did on semi-regular occasions, I felt astonished. But this time, I said, ‘Woaaaaah, check this out!’ to my mum who was sitting nearby.

We knew something was quite wrong when the pain started. Mum rushed off for a nurse.

The nurse, who tailed my mum back, loved grotesque human secretions. (Nurses are generally curious, fascinated creatures.) She took the ostomy pouch off. A foreign, disgusting smell filled the air.

What happened next was almost like the alien chest-bursting scene in the movie, Alien (or the rip-off version in Spaceballs). Funny thing was, I didn’t order the daily special.

What erupted out of my gut wasn’t an archetypal alien… But it was green, it was slimy and it was definitely disgusting. My adrenaline level soared. I stared at my tummy, grimacing, as if it were someone else’s bodily dysfunction that I was observing. It bubbled as it exited, like a creature moving of its own accord. The mass discharge happened in a matter of seconds.

Straight after the alien had slimed out of my gut hole, all covered in mucous like a baby – it burst.

The first thing the nurse said was, ‘Coooool!’ All I could say was, ‘FAR OUT!’ My body had produced this. It was surreal to see the abscess on the outside of me, after it had been causing so much trouble inside me.

What followed was a decent clean up effort and animated talk between medical staff. The best thing, after this episode was that I was free, for now, of physical pain. Finally, I had my jejunum back. Now, hydrochloric acid wouldn’t leak out, over my skin and torture me.

I may not have slept so well since The Night of the Alien.

 

 

 

 

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A Love for Cyberpunk

Guest Post by Christian Cölln

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about cyberpunk is the 1982 movie Blade Runner by Ridley Scott. Its iconic style shaped my view of this genre and influenced numerous books, TV shows, movies and video games.

But what makes this movie special? When it first came out, it was poorly received. Now, it’s a classic of science fiction and the prototype of cyberpunk. Many critics regard it as one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

You could say it was ahead of its time. Its dark and gritty style revolutionized the genre and was a contrast to the more optimistic, even utopian, movies of earlier decades. Blade Runner’s depressing world is dominated by huge corporations. Everything looks dirty and gritty. So-called Blade Runners hunt down rogue androids, called replicants, who were originally produced as work force for the Off-World colonies. They’re not allowed on Earth. The punishment is death. And in the middle of it is our lone hardboiled hero Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford.

At this point, I should confess that I haven’t read much cyberpunk, not even Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book Blade Runner is based on. Believe me when I say I feel horrible about this.

In my defense, I’ve watched a lot of cyberpunk movies such as Minority Report, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Strange Days and the 2012 version of Total Recall. That was more than enough to spark my interest in this genre. In fact, I fell in love with it. As a writer with a fascination for crime thrillers and science fiction, cyberpunk is the perfect playground to let my imagination roam and tell my stories.

I don’t claim to be an expert, especially when it comes to literary genres and their trademark elements, but I do love movies and everything sci-fi. So I’ve picked up a few things over the years.

There are a few themes which are distinctive of cyberpunk. It deals with social, economic or ecological problems and reveals a dark glimpse into our immediate future, populated by powerful mega corporations, hackers and artificial intelligence. There’s a heavy focus on technology and the atmosphere has a certain noir feel to it, also typical of detective novels and crime thrillers.

However, don’t confuse cyberpunk with the post-apocalyptic genre, where basically no proper society exists anymore, or stories like The Hunger Games, where you have a dystopian society of some sort. Cyberpunk could feature a normal democracy or a society run by a conglomerate. But it’s generally no dystopia.

The creative possibilities for writers of cyberpunk are pretty much endless. Once you’ve decided on a setting, you can tell all kinds of stories. I’ve just started to explore this genre, but there’s so much more to discover. I only know that I love every second I spend in these intriguing and highly fascinating worlds.

 

Christian Cölln is a German wordsmith with a passion for books and movies. He’s haunted by a wild bunch of characters who won’t leave him alone until he’s told their story. Besides the occasional short story and poem, he’s primarily working on his first novels Bloody Tears, Lost Dreams and No Man’s Land.

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Pledge

I made a pledge to myself a few months ago.

I made this promise because I feel like there’s too much isolated, silent struggle going on out there. It breaks my heart.

My pledge is this:

I will be honest about the struggle I go through with my thoughts and emotions. I will help to overcome the conspiracy of silence. I will speak up.

I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, poor health, relationships, conflict and life in general, in both silence and isolation – it’s horrible. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

My aim is to be transparent and honest with people about the battles I face – to set an example and to encourage community.

I want to be someone who’ll never cease caring about others. I want to be someone who others are willing to confide in. More than anything, I want to somehow help those who are struggling on their own, in silence. Even if all I can do for them is just listen.

I’ve discovered some lonely, silently suffering people in the world and they’re the most beautiful of souls. I’ve made friends with many of them.

I’m passionate in my belief that we’re all meant to be helping each other in this life. Let’s stop judging each other and living individualistic lives. Let’s get our shit together and break out of our boxes to speak up and help someone.

Are you with me?

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