Vignettes of Ruin and...

Archive for the ‘The Nightmare’ Category

Deluda (the God of Pretending This Isn’t Happening)

In The Nightmare on May 1, 2013 at 9:08 pm

The doctor is kind, but he still asks why- why’d you leave it so long?

The Gods of Vice, I think, it’s their fault. But the thought is hollow. It echoes without resonance. A tin can of self fed lies. Empty glass bottles of inhibition and low esteem. A crunched up paper ball of pathetic existence. It’s not anyone’s fault.

There is only me… and maybe Deluda. The God of Everything Is Okay Even When It’s Not. The God Compartmentalise Your Bullshit. The God of- you get the idea!

Lying back, I say, there is something inside of me. And it’s not a child, no- nothing quite so usual as that!

He says, but how do you know it isn’t a child? You say you are in a relationship. You say it is growing, it has a pulse…?

I tell him how we barely talk, we barely touch. There’s too much drinking so there is no time for that.

There is no child. There is something else.

He feels sorry for me, I can tell. He pushes down on my abdomen and I close my eyes. I feel relieved. Finally, I am facing this, whatever it is. When I open my eyes, tears leak down the sides of my face, down my temples, into my hair.

The doctor says quietly, I agree with you. He seems surprised that this is the case.

The relief dissolves and the fear returns.

My tumor has a heartbeat.


Tropic of Cancer

In The Nightmare on July 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I am fragile.

And I am no longer sure if I mean it in an abstract kind of way. I am thinking about my body and how I haven’t been looking after her. For years I thought she was fat when she wasn’t. I refused to allow my picture to be taken. I dared not step outside without make up on, so disastrously ugly I was. Untrue, perhaps. But it was how I felt. I think of how I have stuffed it with instantaneous gratification, and starved it of sustenance. I have clawed at it’s skin until I scarred it. I have condemned it to a relationship that does not love it. Each day I feel that bit closer to the realisation that forces of nature will never cause life to take root and grow from within these bones.

But something else has seeded there, where life should be.

I don’t know what it is, but I feel a paralysing terror every time I am reminded of it’s existence. At first I dismissed it. Nerves perhaps, but nothing serious. Should be gone tomorrow.

But the next day, it was still there. Give it a chance, I thought.

Weeks later, still there, but looming larger. Impossible to ignore.


So this is fear, in all it’s stark white purity. This is what it’s like to lie awake at night and try and reconcile oneself with their vulnerability, their fragility, their mortality.

In the dark, Vincent is oblivious to my pounding heart as I cautiously spread my fingers over my abdomen, tentatively pressing down. Yes it’s there, oh God it’s still there, how did I let it come to this.

I tell myself that panic is futile, that I must be logical. I need to see a doctor. Undoubtedly, I will be sent to hospital. And I will do this after the holidays, after I have finally paid my bills and when I have some money, that is the only time I can do it.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t really physically hurt. This monstrosity, growing where my womb should be idle, it is hurting me only in unexpected ways.

I must ask your forgiveness, dear aching body!

I am sorry for what I have done to you. I am sorry I did not love you enough to protect you. I am sorry I did not cherish your miraculous existence. You gave me a voice when I had none. You made it possible for me to walk upon the sand, to see the sun and catch the scent of the sea, you made it so that I could hear bittersweet music and run my hands through my dog’s fur and feel warmth, you made it so I could do anything I wanted.

And this… this is what I have done. This is what I have done to you.

I am sorry.

Amoris, Revulsio & Terribillis: The Wolves of Obscura (Part I)

In The Nightmare on April 30, 2012 at 10:53 am
V was sitting on the edge of the bed, putting on grey knit socks. Light streamed in the half open sash window. The sound and scent of the sea filled the room.

We were laughing at something. I can’t remember exactly what about, but it was a gentle amusement. It occurred to me how rare these moments could be. It had become so unusual to share a feeling of mutual and equal appreciation, but that golden morning, we loved each other.

All the strain and resentment we tended to trade in seemed a remote memory. For the longest time, the crushing experience of his addiction laid waste to my personal esteem and taste for life. I could not help but hold it against him, every time he so much as looked at me strangely. And he couldn’t help but hold it against me- the guilt I made him feel for actions he could scarcely recall.

Somehow though, we had come through it. The madness was stilled- for a time at least- and we were okay.

I moved to the window to take in the view when I noticed a large white wolf, sitting in the long grass behind our house, watching me. He was exquisite, with fierce yellow eyes, that bore deeply into me. A nervouseness and a fascination nestled in my belly.
“How long will you be gone?” I asked, tearing myself away and turning to V, as he pulled on his leather jacket.

“I’m not sure, I just want to knock in on my Dad-“

The sound of a vehicle pulling into the drive distracted me.

“Who’s that?” I wondered aloud as I went to peer out the window. To my surprise, it was my sister getting out of a shining black car. The sun reflected off its gleaming windows and mirrors. I had to shield my eyes.

“I don’t understand, she never said she was coming?” I looked to V as though he might give me an explanation for her unexpected arrival.

“You’d better go and answer the door,” he said, smiling. I smiled back at him, but I no longer felt comfortable or happy. The presence of my sister disturbed me. She would never visit without first making an arrangement. I ran down the stairs, feeling worried. I barely remember opening the door, but there she was. Her dark hair glossy and magnificent, her opaline skin blemish free. Her eyes, the colour of Connemara marble, were filled with tears.

“I’m so sorry,” she choked, stepping into the hall, opening her arms to me

“I don’t understand,” I said. “What’s happened?”

“I heard about V- god, how awful! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“What do you mean? Everything’s fine…“ I stopped. A flash of white movement beyond the drive way caught my eye. That white wolf again. I had seen him somewhere before today. I just couldn’t recall where.
He stood at the gate and resumed staring but I did not feel threatened.
“You’re in shock. I understand! I don’t blame you! Who could blame you?” she said, her voice filled with compassion.

“M, everything is fine. V is upstairs. He is okay.” I spoke calmly, with certainty.

“He is not okay. Come on. You know.” I was backing up the stairs with her words creeping after me.

“He is dead.”

I turned and fled to the bedroom.

It was empty.

My sister had quietly followed me, while I stood in the middle of the floor, desperately looking around for some vital clue that would disprove this new reality.

“It was on the news,” she said. “How he was found. Cold.In a ditch. His belly slit up to his throat.”

My heart was pounding rapidly.

“I’m telling you, I was just talking to him. He seemed so real…“ And then I began to cry.

She put her arm around my shoulder and led me to sit on the edge of the bed- where he had been sitting.

“I knew it would happen eventually. But I didn’t know I would feel like this,” I said, which probably seemed a ridiculous thing to say, given the circumstance. But after so long a time dwelling in an armour of desensitisation, the intensity of feeling overwhelmed me.

I left my body for a moment and found myself caught in the space between worlds, beholding myself as a spirit might, wistfully gazing upon someone they had been close to but perhaps regrettably did not love enough in their waking life. I saw my skin become paper thin and creased with age, my brown eyes grow sad, fixed on some faraway place not yet revealed to me. The rest of my days were laid out before me, like points on a well weathered map, drawing long shadows as the sun laid to rest on a perpetual evening. And the thing that occurred to me most was how lonely I was. It took my breath away and I couldn’t speak, though I wanted to say it all out loud, I wanted him to hear it, wherever he now was. If he knew how powerfully I felt, it might be enough to somehow bring him back.

I looked up and caught sight of our watery reflection in the mirror. To my utter shock, I could see V, staring at me from the corner of the room!

I wrenched myself from my sisters grasp and looked to where he stood, but there was no one there. Frantically, I looked back to the mirror and there he was again, a blue-tinged smile spread across his ashen face, cold and slow.

Then I started screaming.


I woke up suddenly, finding myself in the spare bedroom in the grip of a fearful sadness. My heart fluttered erratically in my chest like a moth suffocating in a glass jar. There was a weight upon me and as I pushed against it, I grasped handfuls of coarse warm fur, felt hot breath on my cheek. I reached for the curtains to let in the light- it was then I caught the ghostly sight of the white wolf, his image dispersing like mist in the morning sun. But the fear had left me. I felt comforted by the wolf, like perhaps he was guiding me through dream to a place of understanding. I went barefooted, in my nightdress, across the hall to where V lay sleeping. We had had a terrible flight the night before- we had both been so angry. But now I wanted to forget it all, so unimportant it seemed! The wolf emerged from the shadows of the room and softly crept to my side. I stroked his ears and he sat, quietly. I knew then that I was still dreaming, and who he was.
Amoris, Wolf of Obscura, the White Shepherd.I knew I had encountered him before, though he was a rare sight compared to his brothers Revulsio and Terribillis, who often disturbed my sleep. Amoris was here to send me back, but that was okay because he had helped me realise something.

In dream, my sorrow had been so exquisite and complete, I realised only then just how deeply I had come to feel compassion and love for him.

The terrible truth about what I have been through found itself without its lifeblood of anger and regret, and from its decay and rot in our dark foundation, I had found a seed of a truth that maybe I could grow with.

“I’m ready, ” I thought calmly, and truly opened my eyes.

Medicatus, God of Fleeting Mercy

In Sloth, The Nightmare on January 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Medicatus, God of Fleeting Mercy

Original Artwork by Linda McKernan.

Marvel at this beautiful painting in oils, inspired by Medicatus here on the Gods of Vice.

This piece joins Dormis, Somnia & Obscura in Linda’s new collection of works that seek to reconcile the corruptions born from our weakness with the heart of our humanity. Here, the moon-pill is omnipresent, but Medicatus still has the chance to open her eyes to the “natural path of wisdom.”

If you like what you see, you can visit Linda’s page here. I can’t recommend it enough.

Dormis, Somnia & Obscura

In The Nightmare on October 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Dormis, Somnia & Obscura (The Sisters of Sleep)

Original Artwork by Linda McKernan

I am honoured to present this painting in oils, inspired by Dormis, Somnia & Obscura here on the Gods of Vice. Although technically, from left to right, it’s really Obscura, Dormis & Somnia. There are little clues that identify each one.

Linda is extremely gifted, you can see more of her work here. The painting above now belongs to her series of works called “Cailín Beag.” (Gaelic for “little girl”).

I am amazed that something so pretty could come out the darkness I’ve felt writing the entries in this place. Looking at Dormis in repose, I feel the compulsion to close my own eyes, to try and follow her to wherever she has gone. I ascertained once that Dormis only grants a restful sleep devoid of dream, but I cannot help but think that here, she herself is dreaming, and it is good.

Medicatus (Holy Words from the Bastion of Fleeting Mercy)

In The Nightmare on September 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm

And Medicatus said on the 15000th day of the first age, come to me my child, follow me into the grey lake where the searing coals of suffering become cold diamonds.

Bow to the God of Inertia. Cut the  cord of strife that has tied you to the heartbeat of the Earth and allow yourself to drift away upon the surface of vagrant waters.

Just don’t look back.

Don’t look back to the lake shore where the effigies of the people who once were loved, now cast in pillars of salt, stand like sculptures commemorating a glorious past.  Their white eyes, emptied of your shared memory, only condemn you to a lonely onward road. They won’t allow you to turn the hourglass upside down and reverse the ravages of living in times where nothing mattered except the wanting of times that none of you had.

Never look ahead.

Never look ahead and give credence to the fears that brought you here to my kingdom. The fear that the black clouds gathering over the rolling fields of golden destiny beyond are the mantle of despair you have refused to wear. You couldn’t bear the weight then, and you won’t bear the weight now. Don’t follow the stony, puddle- splashed path that emerges from this lake, winding through ragged, thorny briars and desiccated thistles brings you to the domain of the Tower. Because once you reach it, you cannot turn back. This overwhelming obstacle to completeness, ascending into the sky with such startling certainty will only compel you to obey its form and push open its heavy wooden door with both hands and step inside. There will be nothing else for you to do, but climb the ever-tightening spiral of its ancient staircase until you are confronted by the uppermost glassless window. The assault of an urgent, impetuous gale that seems to push and pull you towards it until there is nowhere now to go, but down.

Just don’t look below.

Because in the receding depths, when the water rushes and roars into your ears until you think there is no room left for sound, you will be able to detect the faint cries of some troubled soul. In hearing it, something in you will awaken as the cry becomes an unbearable wail you cannot ignore. You will try to flee from it and so open your eyes, only to be confronted by the horror of what condemning your suffering has done. Below you, bound by weeds and silt, the bones of your life are trying to grasp your limbs and drag you down with them, the yawning, gaping sockets and holes where eyes once beheld you with love, where lips once kissed you as though in a dream, where fingers once reached out for your desperate hand: now only tormented remains exist. Their memory, contorted by your bitter recall, their faces, lost in your determination to eschew the fact that you once had it all before your own self loathing crushed it.

Unexpectedly, you find your voice and with it, the realisation that anguished lament you’ve been trying to escape has always been coming from you, a long pitched scream, tearing up the atoms inside. So you open your mouth to let it out, let the scream out and let the water in.

But only the idea of drowning has its solace.

So don’t look down.

Instead, take this tiny white pill and stay here, cradled by distance, coddled by safeness. Close your eyes and forget where you are and who you’ve been. Let me take the world away, piece by bitter piece, until a chemically constructed calm settles the battles in your blood.

Forget the machinations of suburban indoctrination. Forget the house, the car, the dogs, the little children. Forget the gym and rocket salad. Forget the gas bill and Sky Sports as an added extra. Forget garish romanticism of the 80’s and how nothing good has happened since. Forget the job, unchallenging and patronising. Forget relationships and constant compromises. Forget failure and death.

Just forget.

Entropia Libra (the Inevitable Descent into Chaos)

In The Nightmare, Wrath on August 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

“You choose the destination,” he said, “and I will build the ship. I will make sure it is provided before. I will look after our little family.”

I was so used to working alone that it was an alien notion, to not have to be that way anymore. At first, it was uncomfortable. Relinquishing control and being only responsible for oneself can be a difficult thing.

“Are you sure?” I was tentative, naturally suspicious.

Because nothing has ever been this easy.

“I’m sure,” he said with conviction, and I believed him. And so he began to cut the wood and assemble a solid ship with unexpected artistry.Yes, Vincent worked hard for his sobriety. I could see him struggle until with practice, he became so good at it, I couldn’t see him struggle any more, and I forgot much of what had passed. After enough time, we uncovered the threads of stray dreams and bound them once again to our ship. A new home beside the sea, we said. We wanted it once, maybe we could have it now. He even rescued a little puppy from a life of abuse and declared him ours: his shining little life, inexplicably unmarred by his suffering, became our beacon, our hope that yes, new beginnings were possible.  We slipped from the overcast loom of perilous cliffs upon the summits of which we once played our parts, caught between wanting to drag ourselves to safety, grasping fistfuls of cool dark earth and wanting to fall, down, down, down onto the jagged rocks below. Or perhaps wanting to watch each other fall. But those days were long gone. We set a course for that not-so-distant shore and allowed a carefree breeze to uplift our patchwork sails and carry us over unknown, but calmer seas.

The Age of Vice was in decline.

Spectoris- who was that? Substantia: I never heard of her. Apathia fell unconscious. The reign of Intoxicatus seemed well and truly over, more like a tired nightmare churned out by Obscura than something that really happened.

I just didn’t need them anymore. I enjoyed the peace. I liked the silent anonymity of these new purgatorial waters, that seemed to promise heaven.

But this transient gift of solitude only served to enslave me for the wanting of its permanency. All complete things must eventually become undone. Even mountains crumble over the vast reaches of time.

He turns on me. And he isn’t drunk. All this time, I continuously overlooked one vital thing, and that was his prescribed duty to Medicatus- the God of Anti-Depression.

How many gods do I have to face down before I just simply give up?

I gaze back longingly at the calm turquoise wavelets while I seek out something to hold on to. But I am too late as our so called ship is pitched into the heart of a violent vortex of rage and suffering. Vincent is suspended above me, condemning me and scathing me with words that have just enough truth in them to throw me into disarray. I lose my footing and am hurled across the deck. The sea I loved has turned on me and tries to drag the ship down into its underworld. The waves lash me but I do not let them claim me, as I hang steadfast to the edges. Below, the sea churns with foam, the vestiges of mermaids who lost their own battles in the dark grey of a merciless ocean.

Then it all stops- for a moment. The dogs huddle together, bedraggled and miserable. I am crushed by my guilt, my Culpa Immortalis. It is my fault the ship ended up here. My fault. I am to blame. I look frantically around for Vincent, but cannot see him.

Because he has become something else entirely. The temporary peace is demolished as a colossal Leviathan breaks through an oceanic portal and surges towards the heavens. The ship is plunged underwater, but just as quickly, it is freed from the watery enfolds, and raised above it. I manage to get back on my feet, wondering how this is possible, when I realise the ship is ensnared in the serpent’s tail. But it has only saved us so it can bestow a more cruel fate. It starts to squeeze. I look into the face of the monster and search from some tangible trace of Vincent’s humanity, something I can reach out to in its eyes. But it just seethes at me through narrowed yellow slits and intensifies his devastating assault on our ship, until its seams splinter and burst with deafening cracks and there is nothing left beneath me as it all disinitegrates into the open, roaring mouth of perdition in the waters below.

I awaken to a soundless world where the scattered debris of Before lays strewn about. I pull myself up and begin to pick my way through it, unable to make sense of anything or perhaps more truthfully, not wanting to.

I walk and walk until my feet blister and every step causes a burning pain. Hot tears I did not know I had in me roll down my dirt streaked face. A sob escapes me. This place is so devoid of life and so full of silence that I should discover I still have a voice seems strange to me. I feel so ready to give up. I sink to my knees.

It is then I become aware of being watched and as I raise my eyes, I am taken aback by the sight of a woman, so pristine and perfect and shimmering, I think she is perhaps a mirage.

She steps forward and opens her hand, and I see myself as I am now, kneeling, tired and filthy in the centre of her palm. In her other hand, I am as she is: calm, clean and content. Then she closes her hands and turns them over. My heart begins to pound as I try to discern her meaning. I am about to question her when all that falls through her fingers is warm dry sand that is carried away on the wind like smoke and dust.

It doesn’t matter where I am, where I run to, what I achieve or do not achieve. The end is the same.

Entropia has nothing more to say to me. I have survived the descent into chaos, from which I must now derive the embers of order.

With great difficulty, I get up once again. I can salvage something from these ruins. I always do. In the distance I see a dark figure slumped in the sands. Vincent has yet to open his eyes. When he does I imagine his hurt and fear to find me gone.

But even as I think it, I have already started winding my way towards him.

Animus Fractus (the Broken Centre)

In The Nightmare on March 20, 2011 at 12:03 am

The pantheon of compulsions otherwise known as the Gods of Vice reside in a place called the the Animus Fractus.

I am going to tell you of the time I found my way inside it, though I believe it is a unique experience for everyone. It was under a charcoal sky where clouds churned with dark promise. Nothing good could grow and anything that had survived was stripped of that which gave it purpose. The trees were gnarled and leafless, flowers were dry and colourless as paper.

I treaded carefully, barefoot, along a path of razor rocks, not really understanding where it might lead, until I stood outside a gate of metals and jewels. There was something familiar about the gold and the blue gems, something comforting about the shining silver and the amethyst: a closer look revealed their origins. Among the precious bounty were links to others in my life. The sapphire and seed pearl ring my mother gave me. The silver dragon my sister gave me. The golden crescent moon my grandad gave me.

The diamond tear Vincent gave me.

Trinkets of a past forgotten, held me outside the gates that concealed a terrible truth. To go forward, I must let go and so I tore the delicate chains from their mount to reveal a barrier of bones. I knew these bleached remains belonged to me. I pressed against them and they opened to reveal a roofless rotunda of ruined pillars and cracked mosaics. Red vines wired around the columns, a dark liquid was being pumped sluggishly through their canals. I knew these were my veins. In the centre of a the room, an ornate bird bath stood silently- I could not help but feel drawn towards it, it’s cool marble inviting. I peered into the depths of the water, but I could not see past what looked like strands of russet seaweed. I swept it aside and as it brushed my fingers, I suddenly knew it was something else. My hair.

It was as I drew back in horror that I became aware of an inscription around the rim of the basin. Thou shalt not live thy life fully except through the surrogate of fiction.

A series of commandments were set out in cold green stone. Thou shalt never stop being fat so you will never stop striving to be thin. Thou shalt not ever let your wounds heal completely. Thou shalt never cease the pursuit of an ideal and ageless beauty. Though shalt never make enough strong decisions in time to elevate you from your pit of existence. Thou shalt only ever have success in consistent failure. Thou shalt only feel purpose when derived from anger and hatred. Thou shalt be set apart from others in complete submission to your addictions. Thou shalt be devoid of any feelings on these matters except in moments of utter loneliness.

Thou shalt watch the hours of your life pass from the outside of the glass.

The water settled and it’s surface reflected back an image that looked like me but could not have been me. My sunken eyes regarded me with a knowing sorrow I did not yet feel, and right then, I only knew a smothering panic. I looked up and I was surrounded by the Gods of Vice. Spectoris with his glazed eyes. Virtua Retailia laden down with bags of rubbish. Adora smeared in garish make-up. Epidarium scratching at skin that was already bleeding. Substantia stuffing so much cake into her mouth she could hardly swallow it. Damnatio smashing his fist into the face of Severity, the Goddess of Self-Punishment. Despero crying while Oblivio looked on from a throne of shadow, utterly indifferent.

Any second now, Obscura will confront me and rip me from this realm of dream.

But it was no dream. Flakes of  ash began to fall, the remnants of a life burned with regret, the confetti of a grim ceremony. The gods stared and did not speak; they did not have to, becasue I already knew what they would say. For they were not great deities residing in some unreachable kingdom, built on the backs of slaves who never stop being hungry for more. I stood there facing only myself, over and over again, in a great hall built from my bones, cemented with my blood and bound with my hair. I realised I had always known where to find my Gods. For all of us were prisoners in the Broken Centre, the place where my heart once thrived without the burden of vice.

Dormis, Somnia & Obscura (the Sisters of Sleep)

In The Nightmare on February 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Dormis. Somnia. Obscura. Grant me restful and restorative sleep so that I may comfortably inhabit this body when I wake, amen.

And then it happens. I cease to exist in the physical world. I don’t even recall leaving it. But the bonds of flesh and bone have been transcended and I am carried, weightless, on the back of a black bottomless ocean. I am not cold or hot. My desires do not exist here, so I am at peace. I can breathe without burden. Everything I have ever known has ceased to be, and I have never felt more free.

The greatest gift Dormis can grant us is a dreamless sleep.

All Dormis requires in exchange, is that we submit to her world every night, for a few hours. When she calls us and wraps herself around our limbs, making them heavy, we should obey and give up the fight to stay open-eyed. When she passes her dry hands over our eye-lids, we do not make ourselves a cup of coffee and defy her, just so we can stay up all night watching films and playing games and even reading books.

Otherwise, she will banish us. This happened to me several times before. When I tried to return, she sent her sister, Somnia, to bar my path. She kept jolting me awake. When I tried to relax, she sent shots of nerves through me. Then she would not even let me close my eyes. I watched a starry night turn into a cloudless blue sky and back again. I watched the shadows of trees across the drawn curtains, their naked branches like fingers reaching through an invisible divide, beckoning. I lay there, growing more and more frustrated. If I knew which door to take, I would take it!

Dormis, Somnia, let me in, let me in, LET ME IN!!

And equally, when it is time to leave the realm of Dormis, we should not out-stay our welcome. Others must be allowed to take their turn, as the veil of night falls across the face of the Earth.

Otherwise, we stand to face the final sister, Obscura, and her wolves. I, for one, know the fear in being chased by them. When I run upstairs and end up downstairs, when I turn a door handle only to have it close instead of open, when I think I am awake in my mother’s house but I am really fighting the blankets in my lover’s bed, that is Obscura and her pack. They descend upon me in a storm of terror, driving me into the fringes of dream, where the life I have lived has been shredded and pasted back together, but in the wrong way. I recognise it but it no longer makes sense. Suddenly I am in my grandfather’s home, standing on the dark and dusty landing where the eyes of my ancestors coldly regard me from their Victorian frames. I call out but I know there is no one there and then the stairs give way and I am suspended in space. Above me, the world splits and crumbles. Then gravity pulls me and all the debris of conscious downward, at hyper speed. I feel like I might die after all- there is no way out that I can find-

Dormis, Somnia and Obscura are screaming: get out, get out, GET OUT!

And I am gasping, awake. Like taking my first breath, I have a second chance, I am reborn. The nightmare has reminded me I am alive!

And I cannot wait to sleep again.