Angst: 101

Welcome to
Angst: 101

 

Angst 101c

There’s something beautiful to writing depression, anxiety, stress, and fear.

I’m called the Queen of Angst, and there’s a pretty good reason. Here’s an excerpt from my new manuscript, Message to New York:

” She spent her nights concealed under cotton quilts, hiding from the devils in the corners of the room and begging the sun to rise and vanquish the evil from her memories. But it never left her thoughts; when the daylight was at its brightest, beaming through her windows, the panes of her soul were dark as night.

The silence was as bad as the dark, where every shifting shadow was a Gestapo officer ready to rip him from her dreams, the only place he stayed safe and warm and fed. They’d already stolen him from her once; why did they insist on returning night after night to do it all over again? She hadn’t been able to save him; no matter how much they fought fate, taking up arms against the gods of providence, it had taken him.

With the dawn, she’d awaken from restless sleep to an empty, cool pillow beside her, a reminder of both love and failure, and fall into the routine she knew. Dress, eat, work, eat, home, eat. The romance of life dashed away with the laborious tasks of typing and filing and filling coffee cups. ”

But it gets better than simply writing worries. Angst can be dark and deadly and full of pain.  Slice throats, put bullets through skulls with words, destroy lives on that piece of paper or on your computer screen.

Why? Because your reader will finally feel something.

Try this. Take this prompt and write the darkest or most depressing short scene you can. Post it in the comments and we can talk about it.

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Remember: Your character will be a one-dimensional word on a piece of paper if you can’t do as this prompt suggests. Understand their silence, that same silence inside every person, so you can understand their words.

Give it a shot!

10 thoughts on “Angst: 101

  1. My shoes squeak as I drag my feet on the gym floor, holding my sweater close to my body as if it is my shield. The heavy weight of my backpack pulls me down and I sit against the grey bricks.

    Picking at my cuticles, pulling the skin away from my nail bed, I embrace the sharp pain I get and the little drops of blood that follow it. The pain reminds me that I’m in control. No one can hurt me if I don’t let them.

    I’m in control.

    I’m in control.

    I’m in control.

    It’s like a broken record playing in the emptiness of my mind. The constant mantra is better than the images that seem to sneak up on me, just like he did.

    I shiver involuntarily and close my eyes, trying to push everything away. Just try to clear my mind.

    “Watch out!” A voice echoes off the gym walls and my eyes snap open, just in time to see a basketball flying toward my head. I duck and miss the collision, but I don’t miss the laughter that comes from his friends.

    My stomach twists as I pull my knees into my chest. If I don’t make eye contact, then I don’t have to listen to them call me a bitch anymore. Or worse, have them ask me for my side of the story.

    It’s not like it matters anyway right? Whatever he says is true and whatever I went through is a lie. My tears aren’t real. The dark circles under my eyes, the constant reminder of my sleepless nights are fake. Just like the knife.

    “I don’t know what her problem is anyway,” Angela, his best friend says. She flicks her blonde hair over her shoulder as I watch her from the corner of my eye. “He wasn’t even on her property. Plus, it was a fake knife! He was across the street with a fake knife and she takes him to court. Unbelievable.”

    “That’s low.” Sneers another girl.

    “Now he has to go to a different school and everything. Forget about Prom. He can’t go because of her.” I hear the venom in her tone and I look back at my feet. Her eyes feel like their melting me down like you would a metal. No matter how strong it is, something could tear it apart.

    I’m in control.

    I’m in control.

    I’m in control.

    My stomach twists into knots as they walk away laughing. Their voices taking over the mantra in my head. No more control for me.

    It seems as if the dam holding back my memories just cracks, and my mind is flooded with visions of his face. Not the happy ones, when we first got together, but the volatile ones. The crazed look in his eyes as he popped out from behind the barrels by my door. The way his voice shook with rage as he screamed in my face, our noses touching and the smell of his breath hitting me hard. The words slicing through my wounded body so I had nothing left to feel. The force behind his hands as he pushed me as hard as he could when my feet out ran him. And the way he charged into my house, the door no barrier to him.

    I remembered the feel of his fingers as they gripped my arm like a snake suffocating it’s prey. I remember the salty tears that fell down my cheeks as the pain radiated from his vice like grip, wondering how a first love could hurt you so bad. Or the way my pale arm turned into a purple and yellow swirl of a bruise.

    The self defense I had learned didn’t work as I tried everything I knew on him. His face never changed from his heated eyes and fierce growl. My attempts to save myself were in vain.

    I can’t tell anyone that because how could they understand? How could they understand how suffocating he was by me telling my story? Or the way that smelling his perfume made me shake and cry? Or the way he still haunted me, even if it was in sleep?

    So I stay quiet.

    No one understands. No one cares what I said.

    If they did, maybe him missing prom wouldn’t be such a big deal.

    They would know the knife was real. And he wasn’t across the street.

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  2. The room is somehow silent and loud all at the same time. The blanket feels heavy against my body. Sometimes it’s a comforting weight, but not today. Today I want to throw it off and gasp for the air that will save me. But I can’t seem to move.

    The letter lies on the table by the bed, screaming its silent curses at me. I see it out of the corner of my eye, and I long to pick it up, but I know if I do, the nausea will return. Your words: short, blunt, to the point. Painful. They are my undoing, once again.

    I roll over–away from the letter–willing sleep to find me. But that would be too easy; too much of an escape. Instead, I stare blankly at the wall. I imagine that I hear the door creaking down the hall, and that it’s you, returning to me. In my head I hear the words I long for you to say: that you’re sorry, that you were wrong, that you’ll stay. In the agonizing theater that is my tortured mind you take me in your arms and kiss me tenderly, each caress a manifestation of your devotion.

    But of course. None of it is real. What’s real is the empty house, empty room, empty bed, and my empty, barren heart. The silence engulfs me once more.

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  3. Half the trees in this town are dead. The ice-storm glazed their branches with layer after layer of glistening snow until the weight of all that beauty caused them to crack completely. The glittering ground is littered with dead debris. A natural disaster.
    I came home last night. I was exhausted. They said I needed to take care of myself. I listened. I should not have come home. I shouldn’t have listened.
    Passed out on the bed with the cordless receiver in my hand. The snap of dying trees punctuated my dreamless sleep until I awoke. The window lit up like a solid neon sign. A flash of orange, unlike anything I’d ever seen. Is the entire town under siege? I thought this was a private war. Who would drop a bomb on an innocent little Canadian town? Right before Christmas, too. What heartless terrorists have targeted us?
    The clock stopped torturing me with time. No power.
    But I must be connected to the alien ship! My fiancé was taken aboard twenty-four hours ago. The aliens, in their blue uniforms, are torturing him. What have I done? Why am I here?
    The landline. I fetched it from the emergency supplies kit and plugged it in. There is a dial tone. Mr. Bee, my sister and I called it when we were kids. That was many years ago. That moment, when Mr. Bee buzzed at me, was days, no, hours ago. I listened to the trees die until I passed out again. Woke to the ringing of the telephone. And then I knew. The aliens will not release him after all.
    Taxi was waiting when I burst out the front doors of the apartment building, panting from running down many flights of stairs. Don’t slip goddam it! The taxi company had prioritized me. Everyone needs a taxi this time of year. It’s the holiday season! The town was dark; no twinkling lights for anyone. As it should be. Just the sparkle of frozen snow where the headlights granted it a festive spot dance.
    But I was too late. Because I never should have left. They let me see the carcass. Almost all the tubes were removed, but the catheter was still in place. He hated that thing. I examined him. He was bruised; the evidence of torture was everywhere. The weight of all that pain broke him. I sat with the body, for no good reason. He wouldn’t have liked it but he wasn’t there to forbid it. I did not pray. The deadly silence was shattered by the crack of branches, loud as claps of thunder. The giant tree at the entrance of the ship had broken. I watched with dull amazement. Was this for him? For me? Should I be grateful for this obvious metaphor: even the strongest living creature can be brought down by the force of nature. I could have laughed. No . . . I did laugh. How was it possible that this all happened at the very same time? Was I being mocked, or comforted? Did any of it have anything to do with me? Probably not. Not even the dead thing; not really.
    I took his medic alert bracelet and left.
    “Daddy died,” I tell the cat. I fall on the bed. If I sleep, I’ll have to wake up and remember. I don’t want to forget, not even long enough to get some rest. I cry in anguished bursts. This isn’t happening. This thing that happened isn’t happening. I sit up. All I have to do is find him.
    Grope my way around the apartment. My hands press hard to the wall, for support. If I have to, I’ll search for him on my knees, but I don’t. I can stay upright, with the walls, the furniture, for help. How is it that this place has magically doubled in size? But he’s here somewhere, I just have to keep my eyes peeled. He isn’t here. He was an atheist. He isn’t anywhere. Just gone. My eyes don’t like being peeled. They fill with tears.
    Oh I’m so silly. He’s in a drawer in the bowels of the Mother Ship. I need to go back there and visit him again. It’s common sense.
    Or not. This must be the thing called grief. I make my way back to the bedroom. Need to remember that phrase, “make my way.” Use it properly, in the future, or maybe not at all.
    Christ, how can it be that there are any branches left? Yet the noise draws me to the window. Interesting, the dead tree, where the hawks live, stands tall. You’d think it would be the first to fall but you’d be wrong.
    The medic alert bracelet is on the bed. My first Christmas gift for him. It’s white gold, diamond cut. We laughed at the idea of him wearing jewelry. He loved it. He loved me. The bracelet slips easily onto my wrist. My tattoo, “M” for Michael, goes well with white gold. I rub the tattoo. I kiss it. He isn’t here.
    It’s dark. The neon light that lit my window was the generating station blowing up. The great trees on King Street took it out when they collapsed. My taxi driver said so. The town has no power. We are all powerless. This much has been made very clear to me. I get it, okay? This is my only prayer.
    So I stand and watch the trees snap and die. Between these sharp punctuations, everything is silent but the steady beat of my treacherous, broken heart. I want the noise to stop.

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  4. People laughing. Eating ice cream. Talking about he lestest fashion or sports event.

    But I can’t. My throat constricts at the blossoming thought. My breath starts to get heavy and my shoulders tighten. Some people even peer over at me looking curious.

    I smile back. They wouldn’t understand. No one does.

    A soccer ball rolls its way towards me. I look around and see some young kids running towards it. Clearly it’s their toy. They gaze at me expectantly as a I roll the ball back towards them. A few pairs of eyes still linger, staring back at me as if they want me to join in.

    I muster up a stiff, but kind nod and off they go. Back to their game, their lives and what fun they were having.

    I fumble with my phone and check my messages. There’s nothing but some random drivel about work. I can deal with that later. I refresh my mail expectantly hoping for news about anything.

    About her.

    But all I can muster is a sigh in resignation. Anything more and I’ll throw up today’s breakfast and maybe dinner from last night.

    I chuckle harshly. It was a good meal. The portions could have been bigger, but they were the same as always. They were small, but still filling in the end.

    But it wasn’t the same. Without her.

    My partner.

    My conscience and as I slowly realize

    She is my life and I can’t live without her.

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  5. “I’m fine.” A fake smile and several quick blinks, fighting back the sting of tears that want to come.

    “I’m good, yeah, how are you? How’s the new baby?” Classic diversion tactic; deflect the question back on them.

    “Yeah, great thanks, same old same old, you know.” I want to roll my eyes at my words.

    They are all just empty words spoken with hollow tones and half smiles. Barely there feigned enthusiasm as I wander through the crowd, seething on the inside. My skin crawls as it makes contact with someone else’s, the nausea swirling in my stomach as the mass of bodies engulfs me.

    I squeeze my way through, stopping every so often to make more small talk with more of same.

    The same faces every year at the neighbours’ New Years Eve party. The whole neighbourhood are out in force, from the Stepford wives with their perfect blonde chignons to their preppy husbands with their Rolexes and golf talk, talking the talk and walking the walk.

    But it’s empty, and it’s fake and none of it appeals to me.

    I can’t stand any of it, and I just don’t fit in here.

    I down the contents of my cup, the smooth liquid burning my throat as it goes down, and make a break for it upstairs, where hopefully I can hide out in the bathroom for a little while.

    When I find the bathroom door locked, I slip into the guest bedroom where I know there is a balcony. Some air would do me good.

    I push the balcony doors open, stumbling over my own feet as fresh, frigid air reacts with the buzz of too much alcohol. I catch myself and lean on the balcony railing, taking deep gulps of air into my screaming lungs, relief washing over me as I find myself in solitude.

    I feel like I’m drowning in dark murky waters and no one can see my struggle. I feel like I’m screaming until my throat bleeds but no one can hear me. I feel like I’m clawing at my own skin until angry red stripes appear, and why the hell is no one stopping me?

    Away from the buzz of the party, in the silence of a starless night, I realise that I will never fit in here. I will never be the neighbour I should be or the wife my husband wants me to be. I will never be SuperMom who can do everything with a dozen cookies on top, nor have the perfect blonde chignon.

    My silence is approval – to my husband’s requests and my neighbours’ snarky comments.
    My silence means I’ll do whatever you ask with gritted teeth and fake smile, because sometimes it’s just easier to submit.

    But it’s stifling me. It’s oppressing me and submerging me and suffocating me all at once. Slowly killing my spirit and crushing my soul.

    As I gaze into the inky black night, illuminated only by the fairy lights from neighbouring houses, I wonder what it would be like to say all the things I really want to say. I wonder what kind of looks I would get or what whispers would surround me.

    I shake my head and force out a bitter laugh, because it will never happen.

    My silence is approval, and my words are empty, and no one hears my cries.

    I am alone.

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  6. The curtains move in the slight breeze causing sunlight to flicker across the bedroom. The patterns dance across the floor but I barely see them.

    Instead my gaze is on the bottle of vodka and several packets of pills on the bedside table.
    It would be so easy.

    By the time anyone notices I would be gone. It would be too late.

    I kick my empty bag to the floor not caring where it lands. I sit with my back against the headboard and pull my legs up to my chest.

    What am I even doing here?

    Why am I even considering this?

    With a shaking hand I take the bottle and open it. The lid puts up a fight but I’m stronger.

    I want this too much.

    My cell vibrates, the sound seemingly too loud as it echoes throughout the room. I glance it and decide to ignore it.

    They’ll just try and talk me out of it.

    They don’t understand. They never listen to me. They say they do, that they understand… but they just don’t.

    I take a drink straight from the bottle, not caring about the burn as it goes down.

    It feels good.

    I take another drink.

    And another.

    And another.

    Everything hurts less… but it’s not gone. I know the one thing that will cause the pain to stop… I just have to make sure…

    I set the vodka back on the table and pick up the phone and decide to call my husband.

    He answers on the first ring. “Where are you?”

    “Are you together?”

    “What? Where are you?” I close my eyes against the pain in the voice. It hurts him now but it’ll be better when it’s over. “We can come and get you over. It’ll be better… I promise. We’ll make it better.”

    “This is the only way… I need to know they’re with you.”

    “No… I’m not home yet.”

    “Is that Mom?” I hear my daughters in the background and hang up.

    The three of them are together and that’s all I wanted. They’ll hurt now, but they’ll see this is for the best. They’ll move on and find someone better.

    I’m doing this all for them.

    A few traitorous tears fall I pick up the pills and vodka.

    This is all for them.

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