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Why We Need Stories about Dark Things

One of the things I get tired of from time to time is the perspective that if something shows evil behavior then that means the story, song, game, whatever, is inherently bad. But there is a difference between illustrating evil behavior and promoting it.

Not all appearances of bad behavior invite bad behavior.

While one purpose of storytelling is to entertain, another purpose is to teach or educate–a purpose that in today’s world, most people seem to have forgotten.

A long time ago, there used to be all sorts of horrific stories told. Open Grimms’ fairy tales, and you’ll see that Cinderella really isn’t that Disney-friendly. But often some of those older stories were meant to teach a lesson or scare children into behaving (that latter point is one I personally don’t condone). Horrific things happen in the Bible (and the Book of Mormon). We can often learn from these accounts, but some of them are simply a record of what happened (if you believe in that), whether you like the content or not. It is what it is. Conspiring incest, rape, slaughter, and even cannibalism can be found in scripture stories. In today’s world, most people have been conditioned to believe that stories are only meant to entertain. Or entertain and uplift.

Those two things are valid. But what I get tired of, though, is the perspective that all stories should be full of puppies and rainbows (yeah, that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean), and that’s what we should be writing, and if a story is dark, it’s “bad” or lesser or … something.

The World Needs Stories about Dark Things

It’s important we write about what I call “the big and heavies”–rape, addiction, suicide, massacre, societal brainwashing, etc. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean specifically that you or I HAVE to; I mean “we” as in us, writers and creatives everywhere. The world needs creatives who delve into the big and heavies, and here’s why:

1. Stories provide a safe means to explore and discuss dark things

The big and heavies are vital to discuss for a healthy society. We shouldn’t be turning a blind eye to dark deeds. We should be turning the right eye to them. Literature offers a safe way to explore and discuss these issues. It offers some distance (because it’s usually a work of fiction) while simultaneously having the ability to offer closeness–empathy.

Also, fiction provides a type of lens to view these behaviors through. Speculative fiction might have a more exaggerated or symbolic lens, such as the fashion industry of Panem in The Hunger Games, or the discussion of pure bloods in Harry Potter. A lens lets us view the issues in a way that may emphasize certain points or give us a new perspective on them, and again, the distance can provide a bit of a “safe” buffer for readers. We aren’t talking about racism; we’re talking about magical blood–and we can have a whole discussion on it that correlates with issues seen in racism, and no one needs to feel uncomfortable because this is about wizarding blood. Even realistic fiction provides a perspective, though less exaggerated, to see these issues through.

2. Powerful, emotional ramification drives home a point or idea or lesson.

Unlike reading text books or the news, fiction writing often works off making the audience feel something. It appeals to emotional experience, even more than intellectual experience. It is one of the only mediums where we can put on the skin and thoughts of another person.

In parts of society, we try hard to divorce intellect and emotion, but powerful emotional experiences are often what cement ideas and lessons into our minds. Back in the day, fathers used to take their children out to their property line and beat them so that the child would never forget where the property line was. We’ve seen similar conditioning with training wild animals. Both are crude examples, of course, but the emotional experience drove home the lesson. While negative emotions are powerful, this same thing can happen with strong positive emotions. We remember powerful feelings of happiness and of love, and if there are any lessons or insights associated with those, we recall those too.

In fiction, emotional experiences can drive home powerful lessons. And they stick with the audience.

Strong emotional experiences in fiction amplify the conceptual ramifications of dark deeds, and cements into the reader the weight of such behavior, in a way that pure intellect cannot. Once we “experience” an issue, we care more about it. Fiction is a vehicle that allows us to develop and fine-tune our empathetic skills, so we can better understand and relate to those who’ve dealt with such issues.

3. Explore, cognitively, the causes, consequences, and facets of the big and heavies

In the real world, we live our own lives in our own perspectives, and that’s it. In literature, you can include several perspectives of those involved with an issue. You can often see the issue’s causes, consequences, and facets to a degree you may not in your own life. You can see far-reaching effects in a matter of hundreds of pages, rather than decades or hundreds of years. This opens up new ideas, new perspectives on the topic, which leads to more discussion.

4. To provide hope and uplift, in spite of darkness. To overcome.

I sometimes see this weird idea that an uplifting story needs to not cross some invisible line too far into the dark. In some ways, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As a Harry Potter fan, I’ve had friends come up to me and talk about how they’re disappointed that the stories got darker and darker. Maybe I’m weird (okay, there’s no “maybe” about it), but I like that. I like stories getting dark. I like when they get darker and darker. I like my evil, evil. I want the Voldemort who tries to possess Harry to get Dumbledore to kill him. I want the Voldemort who tortured animals as a small child and who murdered others to split his soul into seven pieces. The world is often an evil place. And how much more powerful is it to overcome the bowels of the most wicked, than it is to overcome a guy who shoplifted? I like my evil, evil. Not because I want to be part of the dark, but because I like seeing people overcome it.

A story that includes dark materials can be just as uplifting, if not more uplifting (because of the contrast) than a story that doesn’t. The idea that a story can’t be dark and inspiring is just unfounded.

Every Christmas season, I become a fan of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra all over again. If you’ve never heard of them, you may still recognize some of their most iconic Christmas songs, some of which have gone viral on synchronized Christmas light videos.

What many people might not realize is that each of their Christmas albums actual tells, and comes with, a written story. If you see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra live, they will read the story to you bits at a time, interspersed with music. But not all their stories are about happy sleigh rides, warm fires, Christmas hams, and decorated trees. There are parents who abandoned their disabled children, babies born addicted to crack, love that has been lost. But the stories and albums are uplifting, not because the creators avoided dark subject matter, but because they illustrated the power of overcoming–overcoming difficult times and personal mistakes. It’s hard to make it through one of their performances with a dry eye through the whole thing.

5. To render reality–others’ reality or your own

But some stories aren’t necessarily meant to be about overcoming the dark or inspiring an audience. Some stories are just about reality. Human nature. The natural man. Experiences that people actually go through. Some stories are simply meant to render, often for reasons 1-3. It’s a statement. It’s meant to create social awareness, empathy. Maybe it’s meant to start a discussion. Those stories need to exist too.

Closing Thoughts

Keep in mind that many audiences only see stories strictly as mediums for entertainment and, on a subconscious level, a reinforcement of a positive, maybe even sugary, feelings and ideas. Those audiences may (on a subconscious level) refuse anything that is otherwise, and consider any mention of the dark and heavies as something that shouldn’t be there. That is their right.

And in some cases, they are correct. Some stories do not need and should not have dark content. It doesn’t serve the purpose of the story, it messes up the tone of the story, and it can ruin what was already working. You wouldn’t, for example, put in a serious plot line in The Office about Pam being legitimately raped. It doesn’t fit.

And with all that said, you shouldn’t feel forced to write content you feel very uncomfortable writing. Your work should reflect the writerly you.

Next week, I’ll talk about how to write about dark things without promoting them.

Recommended Reading: Haitian Vodou

First: Vodou—or any religion—cannot be learned from a book. A living religion like vodou can only be learned in person from a reputable, lineaged teacher-priest—not online, not in the pages of any book. Reading books on vodou is like smelling coffee from three blocks away—you might get a whiff and maybe you’ll recognize the scent, but you have no idea what it will taste like nor how rich it will be on your tongue until you have the cup in your hands. Vodou is the same same way—you can read all you want, but until you are in the literal room with your teacher-priest and the Lwa, the taste will escape you. That taste, by the way, will blow your mind—it will be like nothing that is contained on any pages, nothing like you’ve imagined, and nothing like anyone has ever been able to explain to you.

Second: HOWEVER, reading about religion and the culture a religion comes from should be considered a fundamental skill worth developing. While a book will never let you experience vodou, nor will it teach you the intricacies of the religious practice, give you an license for ritual work, or give you any insight into any Lwa who may move with you, it can give you a bit of context to work with.

Third: There is a lot of bullshit written about vodou and a lot of books composed of utter crap, whether it be things that are made up whole cloth, things that have been twisted in such a way that the author stands to benefit, conflates vodou with things that it very much is not, or is some sort of undecipherable nonsense that is better off as toilet paper. Listed here are books that I have for the most part read, with a few that I have been told to read so many damn times but that I have yet to get a copy of. I’m happy to field questions about books and other writings as best as I am able, if you have a question about a particular book or article.

Here we go..

Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown By far one of my favorite books about vodou and the first of it’s kind—an ethnographic study of the religion done by an anthropologist who eventually initiated. It’s a wonderful book, truly, and I love it a lot. Reading it feels like being in my Manmi’s house—it is incredibly familiar and it takes several readings to get it all. It contains a lot of insider information that may be hard to grasp or understand the importance of if you haven’t been involved in vodou, but it is glorious. There are some quibbles in the vodou community about some of the conclusions Brown draws, but they don’t affect the reading of the text. Mama Lola is still alive and well in Brooklyn. Pick up the 2011 re-issue for the really nice introduction by Claudine Michel.

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren. Another of my favorites. Deren originally went to Haiti to record and detail Haitian dance—she was a film maker and dancer who was solely interested in Haitian folk dancing, and then the Lwa showed up for her. This was the first book really published on vodou at all that wasn’t all in French and marketed outside of the United States or completely sensationalistic. It is fantastically detailed and full of observations of both vodou and Haitian culture as seen by an outsider. Joseph Campbell was very excited about this book and was involved in it coming to print, which is a bit shitty—he really, REALLY wanted vodou and Deren’s narrative to fit his narratives about mythology and global hero cycles. This meant some of Deren’s materials were edited or altered somewhat. She mostly stuck to her guns, but some stuff was edited and there doesn’t seem to be a copy of her original manuscript anywhere. There is a big archive of her correspondence with Campbell and other things at Boston University, which is fascinating to view.

Anything by Claudine Michel or Patrick Bellegarde-Smith. Really, anything. They are fantastic scholars and have written some really great books together—namely, Haitian Vodou: Spirit, Myth, and Reality and Vodou in Haitian Life and Culture: Invisible Powers. Bellegarde-Smith also wrote an excellent book called Fragments of Bone: Neo-African Religions in a New World, which is not specifically about vodou, but it worthwhile nonetheless.

Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou edited by Donald Cosentino. This is a beautiful, glorious book that I cannot wait to own. It details a lot about Haitian art and culture, which is a primary vehicle for both communication about vodou and learning about Haitian culture. It’s usually quite expensive, but a lot of libraries have it available at least through interlibrary loan.

Rara! Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and it’s Diaspora by Elizabeth McAlister. This is a more specific book about Haitian culture, but it’s an excellent read.

–-

There’s also other book-type things that are important in vodou, particularly for outsiders.

If you want any sort of understanding of vodou beyond what you can read in any of these books, you must, must, MUST learn Kreyol. Kreyol is vital to vodou—any respectable sosyete conducts all their services in Kreyol, for reasons beyond Haitians speaking Kreyol. A lot of understanding of vodou happens in double-speak—a sentence in Kreyol may mean one thing to someone who is an outsider or doesn’t have a lot of experience with vodou, but to a practitioner means something wholly different and communicate quite a bit about practice, lineage, and one’s personal Lwa.

To that end, the Pimsleur system is a great beginner resource and, from there, the Pawol Lakay set works really well. Being able to at least casually converse in Kreyol means you will understand quite a bit of what is going on around you should you go to a service, speak with the Lwa yourself [They by and large only speak Kreyol, French, or langaj/spirit language when They come down, and sometimes They do not want to wait for you to grab someone to translate for you]. Plus, if you’re not Haitian, it’s a good first impression.

History is part of vodou, and vodou is part of history. The two are inseparable and each feeds each other. Every vodou service embodies this—the various prayers involve a subtle re-telling of how each Haitian came to be alive today through use of a variety of languages—Old French, modern French, Kreyol, and langaj—and tools, like whips and swords. To understand why things are how they are, it is important to have at least a grasp on where Haiti has been and where Haiti is now. Here are a few decent books on history and politics:

Haiti: The Tumultuous History - From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation by Phillipe Girard. I don’t like the title of this one, but it’s got a lot of good stuff in it.

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois. Though it’s not often explicitly explored here, the story of the Haitian revolution is the story of how vodou came to be what it is today.

Rainy Season: Haiti—Then and Now by Amy Wilentz. This one explores where Haiti has been in recent years, with a focus on post-earthquake Haiti and Haitians.

The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer. This book will make you cry.

I’ll add more as more fall into my hands and make this a permanent page here.

The Official “Badsters I need to Punch in the Face” list.

I’ve been going on about my “List” for a good long while, But I think it’s about time I actually stuck it out here and now and give my reasons Why these particular Badsters have Invoked my Rage.

Now I’m going state this for the record this isn’t Genocide-Run. Even these Assholes don’t deserve that. this list is made to resolve personal greviances I have had while reading the material of their authors. I don’t do angst. I do Justice, and even justice requires Mercy. After all the Dead can’t fix their mistakes can they?

If you want to reblog or Add/reorganized the list to your preferences go ahead! I’m sure I’ve probably missed a few? #KnockoutBadsters

With that Stated Let’s get started.

Keep reading

Good Night Calls

Chapter 6

By @johnlockedslashprincess and @weetiebel

Chapter 5:http://weetiebel.tumblr.com/post/151310676700/good-night-calls-chapter-five

Delirious sighed with the door closing behind him. He just got back home, his bag hitting the floor with a silent thud and he heard the sound of his dog, Ted, jumping to the ground, his claws scratching the wooden floor.

“Oh, finally. Where the fuck have you been for so long?” Luke called from the living room; he had been looking after Ted whilst he had been away. Del was sure Cartoonz was going to kill him for not telling him anything about the fact he was staying longer than planned. Jon smiled when Ted came running to him and jumped onto him, licking at his hands.

“Hey, Teddy, how have you been? I know, I missed you too. I won’t go anywhere again, I promise.” He said, even though he knew he was lying as he was going to Evan’s wedding in just a few weeks time. Luke appeared in the doorway frowning at him.

“Do you know you were supposed to be back like a week ago? You could’ve at least let me know.”

“I’m sorry, Luke. I… had some troubles.” Jon looked at him with apologetic smile, not wanting to go into any further details.

“Oh yeah, like getting plastered at Evan’s and forgetting your phone there, I’ve heard something.” Luke said sarcastically. “You look like shit, dude. What did Ohm do to you?”

“Nothing.” Delirious sighed again, picking up his luggage from the ground and walking away.

It was the next evening when he decided to let it all out. He was at Luke’s house, sitting next to him on a sofa with a beer in his hand. They were playing Mario Kart just for fun and he couldn’t keep his thoughts off of Ohm.

“I think we almost had sex.” He muttered.

Luke turned his head towards him. He was used to Del talking random shit, but this caught him off guard a little. “What?”

“Me and Ohm. I got drunk at Evan’s party and he came to pick me up. I had no idea why actually. But I woke up next day, totally blank, with hickeys all over my body.” He took a gulp, feeling the crimson on his cheeks.

“Are you kidding me?” Luke raised his eyebrow.

“He told me he didn’t fuck me. And that I didn’t fuck with Vanoss. That’s all I know. I don’t remember anything.”

“That happens when people get drunk, Delirious. You say it like it’s the end of the world.” Luke said with a reassuring smile.

“And we also made out. Just a night before. With his sister and niece sleeping just a foot next to us while we were both sober. But we never said a word about it. Jesus Christ, it sounds fucking awful saying it out loud.” He wanted to slap himself for everything he’d ever done.

“Oh my god, you’re both idiots, you know that? You’re acting like you’re fucking fifteen, Jonathan. Why did you do that? I thought you were crying your eyes out because of Vanoss and now you’re… what? Sucking Ohm’s dick?”

“Yeah…” Delirious sighed, feeling a bit broken and a lot more confused than he’d ever been before.

“And how does Ohm feel about it?” Luke asked, and Jonathan’s gut twisted. He looked up, meeting Luke’s eyes. “Oh fuck off. Did you even talk about it?” He was raising his voice.

“No, he hates me. He doesn’t even want to talk to me.”

“Of course. And that’s why you got hickeys on your neck.” Luke shook his head. “You know, Delirious. You should try to get your head out of your ass for once and sort the mess both of you made.”

Delirious looked at him again, feeling like a child after an ass whooping. Luke was right, there was no sense in crying about it. But there was no way he was talking to Ohm right now. He was too much of a bitch to do it himself.

The days were passing by, Delirious was slowly getting back to his normal life, playing video games, recording and editing videos, keeping his mind away from the things that happened. He and Ohm haven’t played or even talked since he left the apartment and it was getting harder and harder every day to make himself talk to him. So he didn’t, and Ohm had never contacted him, so Jon presumed it was what Ohm wanted. To get rid of him.

It was kind of nice, to be back to his old life. Being able to talk to Evan how he used to before, their friendship had never been as strong as it was these days and he was actually happy to be his best man. He couldn’t wait to see him again, to see Sydney and all the guys.

He wasn’t letting himself wonder about what could’ve been different if he didn’t act like a total dick to Ohm. But he was missing him and hearing his voice every day before going to bed.

“So what’s the plan, dude?” He asked Evan one day after a long GTA gaming session. Evan’s marriage was just in a week’s time and they never talked about it since they saw each other at E3.

“Hmm?” Evan mumbled, his voice barely there. Delirious laughed, Evan was amazing but sometimes he was just fucking incredible.

“Earth to Vanoss. You’re getting married, you asshole. And you asked me to be your best man. I just wanna know what to get ready for.”

“Well, you know. A suit, nice pair of shoes and some pin up flowers. But I will probably take care of those. So your task is just the suit and shoes. And maybe a few words about how awesome I am and how much you owe me.” Evan laughed cheesily and Del laughed with him.

“I think I can manage that. Can I wear a clown’s mask?” Del joked and snorted slightly to his mic.

“You can do whatever as long as you come.” Evan said softly, Del could almost see him smiling and he couldn’t help himself but laugh even more.

“I was just joking, man.”

“Yeah… Hey Delirious. I was just… it may sound a bit stupid, but you never told me… Uhh.” Evan was mumbling to his mic and Delirious was frowning at his screen as he started editing the new material.

“Yeah? What?” Del asked.

“You know. About you and Ohm.” Evan explained.

“Oh.” Delirious breathed out, his head blank out of nowhere. He was trying not to think of him and his rabbit friend so hard he might’ve freaked out a bit, thinking about his glowing eyes that were piercing his mind and the strong hands that had touched his body so many times. “Uh, we… well. Nothing much happened, you know. Except me being a colossal brainless idiot and him being… angry.”

“I’m sorry, Delirious. I was just thinking, cause I haven’t seen you playing together since you got back from LA. And you seemed to be really concerned about him back then.”

“I was. I still am. But I don’t think he wants to talk to me anymore.” Del sighed, squeezing his temples.

“You haven’t talked to each other?” Evan asked in surprise.

“No. The last thing he told me was…” Delirious paused and laughed before speaking again, the irony washed over his body. “He asked me if I wanted him to fuck me in your bed.”  

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No, I’m fucking serious, man.” He said when a message from Bryce popped up on his skype, inviting him to play some Rainbow Six. He said quick bye to Evan, glad he had an excuse to end the conversation, taking a few minutes to man up a bit before joining Bryce’s skype call.

Ohm slumped into his desk chair, Buddy following quietly behind him. He popped his headphones on and beckoned his poochie pal onto his lap, cuddling into him.

It had been almost a month since E3 where Ohm had done just as Del had suggested, and gone home after the fight. They hadn’t spoken since then, and it aggravated Ohm. He felt like he needed to apologise, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so, scared of even more heartbreak and rejection. So he had left it hanging, and by the way things were going, so had Del.

Bryce had asked him to join him in a game of Rainbow Six Siege. So he had agreed; the little gaming session definitely needed after his stressful day at work. However, what he didn’t consider was the fact that both Cartoonz and Delirious were in the call when he joined.

“Hey dude!” Bryce joyfully jeered into his mic, almost deafening Ohm as his sound was on full blast without warning.

“Hey.” Ohm replied, Bryce never failed to amuse him. He was always so happy and cheerful.

“We all decided to do another ‘dream team’ thingy, as we haven’t done one in ages!”

“We?” That’s when the realisation hit. He hadn’t even bothered taking a look at the list of names in the call, assuming it was nobody he had to worry about. But there it was, ‘H2O Delirious’. He took in a sharp breath as he read the name, and then read it a second time. He had been trying to avoid that name, telling his fans when they asked ‘why?’ that it was just coincidence they hadn’t played together, and that they would soon.

“Yeah, Delirious and Cartoonz, you idiot.” Bryce laughed, tutting afterwards causing Cartoonz to laugh.

“Are we really that unimportant to you!?” Cartoonz joked, pretending to sob. There was no way Cartoonz didn’t know about the ordeal. Why was he even talking to him?

“No, you’re not!” Ohm exclaimed a bit too loudly, causing Buddy to jump off to try and find a quieter place to nap. “You’ll matter.”

Bryce giggled, it sounded like he was shaking his head in disgust. “You’ve done it now, Ohm, they hate you.” Ohm knew he was joking, but it hurt. They probably did after what he had said to Del.

Cartoonz laughed. “We always have!” He joked again. Ohm was surprised Cartoonz wasn’t more forceful actually, being the older protective brother he was to Del. It was weird how mild the insults were. Maybe he didn’t know?

“Anyway, let’s get into this Goddamn game.” Del suddenly interrupted, causing Ohm’s heart strings to tighten a little. It had been so long since he had heard his voice over Skype. The only connection he had left with him was being a fan and watching his video. Not saying it was a bad thing, but it was definitely a demotion.

The gaming session became more tense as they started playing, like usual Ohm got ignored, but this time intentionally rather than in pure obliviousness. It hurt. Bryce ended up being the only one to call him out on mistakes and cheering him on, and after a while Ohm became quiet. Letting the other’s chat amongst themselves.

Del seemed to be his normal self, being silly and laughing his unforgettable laugh. God, Ohm wanted to see him again and hear his laugh in real life once more. He wanted to touch him again, brush arms with him, hug him, kiss him.

“Ohm?”

“Yes?” Bryce voice cutting through his thoughts. “What?”

“Weren’t you listening to me!” He exclaimed, giggling slightly under his breath.

“Well!” Ohm mumbled, trying to think of an excuse. But Bryce was having none of it.

“Who are you going to pick?”

“Who?”

“Yes ‘Who’, Ohm.” Cartoonz cried, chuckling. “I swear you literally lose your brain sometimes.”

Ohm scoffed, smiling to himself as he continued to listen to their moaning. There was a reason why he loved all of them. They were his best friends. He had forgotten what it was like to play in his little gang and he had forgotten the main point of it, friendship.  

They played well over 3 hours before saying goodnight; Ohm had been quiet for at least 2 of them. He hadn’t really had anything to say and was scared he would flirt by accident. However, this lack had caused Bryce concern.

‘Hey dude, you feeling alright? You were pretty quiet.’ He read the text message Bryce sent him.

Ohm wasn’t sure whether to tell him the reasoning behind it. He was scared for the first time in his life by Bryce. He didn’t want him to ignore him like Cartoonz and Delirious had through the video. Bryce was too nice to lose. But, he didn’t want to lie to him, didn’t want to disclude him from the group like he had been so many times. He didn’t know how much he could tell him about what had happened.

‘Look, I fucked up. Me and Delirious had a fight, like a big one.’

‘Oh, what about? It can’t be that bad dude… Can it?’

‘It was pretty bad… We haven’t spoken in a month, Bryce, a month.’ Ohm swallowed harshly as he read their conversation back to himself, scared he had made the wrong choice. What was he going to say if Bryce asked more questions? Bryce didn’t know about the whole Vanoss thing, hell, he didn’t even know they were at E3.

‘Oh, well, talk to him? Idk, I’m not good at this stuff.’

A sigh of relief left Ohm’s lips as he read, thank God Bryce wasn’t asking any questions about it. Bryce was such a nice person. Everyone knew it. Ohm had no idea why Bryce even hung out with him, he was like a beautiful flower among a field of boring grass, he really was.

‘Yeah, probably. Thanks Bryce, for being understanding.’

‘Sure, and just remember, no matter how bad it was, Delirious could never hate you; nobody could, Ohm. I’ll always be here for you, and so will our little team. We’ll have your back, even if there is a bit of conflict within. Okay?’

Ohm stared at his screen, amazed by the younger boys compassionate words. He didn’t deserve this, they didn’t deserve Bryce.

‘Okay! Thank you, Bryce. For being here. Anyway, I better let you go to bed. Have a good night, buddy, and thanks again, you have no idea how much you have helped already. Night :)’

‘Night :)’

And with that the green outlined tick disappeared into blank space and Ohm was left alone once again, however he didn’t feel so alone after Bryce’s kind words. Maybe this was going to be okay, maybe he could just say sorry and it all be better, maybe Del wasn’t as mad at him as he thought.

Ohm grabbed his phone off the side, scrolling to J - Jonathan.

‘Hey, you probably don’t want to hear from me tonight after that awkward gaming session, but I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for everything. I know I had hurt you, and I hope you can come to accept you did the same to me. But this isn’t about that. I don’t want our friendship to get ripped apart by all of this, and I sure as hell don’t want Bryce’s or Cartoonz’s relationships to falter either. I know you told Cartoonz about it, just as I have told Bryce something ‘happened’ between us. Luckily he didn’t ask questions and just accepted the fact something was wrong. I’m sure he was thinking how childish we were being, let’s be honest, this is Bryce we are talking about. Anyway, I’ve let this go on too long; this silent treatment and this text. So, yeah. I hope you can come to understand that this isn’t just about us, but about our little group. I don’t want to hurt anyone else.

I’m sorry.

Ryan’

Ohm added the final word, even though it was quite obvious from the text’s context who it was, in case Del had deleted him from his contacts. He sat there for a minute, maybe even an hour, checking through it to make sure he was conveying the right thing, and making sure it wasn’t too forceful; that was the last thing he wanted to be.

Finally, he called it a night, sending it and hugging his phone close to him just in case of that sudden buzz. But nothing happened. Not even a sound. So he popped it on his bedstand, and snuggled into his blankets, before drifting off to sleep.

Ohm bundled balloons into the back of his car before attempting to close the boot, only popping one in the process. It was Alex’s birthday, and Ohm was excited. He loved birthdays, he loved seeing people happy, especially Alex. She meant everything to him and more.

He jumped in, exhaling before starting up his vehicle. It was 5 am in the morning and he knew he had a long journey ahead. He wanted to surprise her before she got up - Susan’s idea - so he had gotten up extra early despite the ridiculous time he went to bed.

The drive wasn’t what was frustrating about it, it was the morning traffic around his home. Everyone seemed to get up early for work in the city, so he took a different route as he tried to make it in time, up a lane, along a housing estate. It was quiet, peaceful almost. Everyone still tucked under their covers, sound asleep. He felt bad for driving through the undisturbed neighbourhood.

Suddenly, this all came to an end in the moment he was driving through a crossroad and another car had come speeding along from behind a turn on the untouched morning road, plummeting into Ohm’s car as he drove around the unexpected corner. He saw the car by just a glimpse of his eye before he felt the energy of the two vehicles colliding into each other, his face getting hit by an air bag. All he could hear was the sudden crunch of metal against metal and then there was just a silence.

Dizzy from the unexpected turn he raised his head which had collided with the steering wheel to see a young man in front of him, around late teens, with blood running from his forehead and his body smashed in between the cars as his corpse had launched from his unbuckled seat. Ohm wanted to scream in terror, but he couldn’t, his voice was stuck. All he could do was stare, his blurred vision capturing the scene.  

His own head was bleeding, and his glasses smashed into the side of his face. He couldn’t feel his lower body as it was wedged, almost so tight he thought he was cut in half. His front windshield had smashed causing a rain of glass to fall over him. Everything hurt, he didn’t know what was wrong, and that was the worst thing of all. He started to panic, the dread of dying falling over him as he heard the shouts of people coming out of the houses to see. He didn’t want to die now, he couldn’t, not on Alex’s birthday. He didn’t want this to be the memory of him on her fifth birthday. This was just a dream, a cruel, messed up dream.

He began to feel sick, the blurred world spinning around him and black dots clouding his vision. He grabbed his phone, going to his emergency contact - Susan.

“Hey big bro, don’t tell me you’ve overslept and you’ll be late.” He heard her voice when she picked up, it was sleepy, but it was his sister’s voice and it made him feel so much better.

“Hey Sue, I’m not going to be able to make it to Alex’s birthday.”

“Ry-Ry? Why? Are you okay?”

“I….” He stumbled, choking on his words, what was he gonna tell her? “I had an accident.”

Susan choked on her morning coffee but Ohm couldn’t hear it anymore as his face hit the steering wheel and he let the phone slip to the floor, his body was submitting to the shock it had just gone through.

Susan was screaming at him but he didn’t know it, he was blinking to the darkness that was slowly embracing his vision and he was muttering the last words just for himself to hear before he lost his consciousness: 

“I love you so much.”

Part 7 coming soon 

3

The Colorful Masks and Music of Lightning Bolt Drummer @chimpendale

To see more of Brian’s colorful creations, follow @chimpendale on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Brian Chippendale (@chimpendale) is into masks. There’s the blue balaclava-like one that stretches out over his face, and the magenta one attached to two giant severed teddy bear heads. These days, Brian prefers his “tiger mask,” a multicolored stitched shell he wears while drumming for his band, the noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt. Inside it is a contact microphone, which picks up all the guttural vibrations, rumblings and sweat that accumulate during a show.

“Wearing a sweat-soaked rag on your head an hour a day helps dispel inhibitions,” says Brian, over the phone, about his facial disguise. “It’s funny because people are just like, ‘It must be so disgusting.’ But I wash it every night that I play.”

Washing may disinfect it, but it doesn’t keep it intact. The more laundry cycles it goes through, the more it starts to shred and fall apart, the more it begins to turn into another one of Brian’s growing pile of tattered creations.

The Rhode Island native’s tradition of designing and wearing his own costumes began some time in the 1990s. Back then, he and a group of artists were shacked up in a warehouse in Providence known as Fort Thunder, a collective art space where they played shows, drew comics and held wrestling matches. Then some developers came in and tore the place down to make way for a parking lot. So Brian packed up his stuff and, after living in a new space for a couple years, eventually moved down the road into the third floor of an old mill, which serves as his current home base.

“I miss Fort Thunder days in the same way I miss my 20s,” says Brian. “But I am also really happy where I am in my life now. If I had the option to go back, I wouldn’t. We had like eight cats and one litter pan. It was pretty ridiculous in its filthiness, and [there were] tons of roommates, which is so awesome and horrible at the same time.”

Brian is an artist-musician, or possibly a musician-artist. It’s hard to say which comes first. Drawing a comic comes just as easy to him as providing a steady backbeat on his two-decade-old kick drum. His group Lightning Bolt began in 1995, around the time Fort Thunder was getting off the ground. Since then, the duo has released seven official records, including its latest, Fantasy Empire. The new album has the same piercing dissonance and guitar shredding from the group’s previous efforts. But this one sounds crisper, due to the band utilizing the full digital technology of a studio for the first time.

The music wasn’t the only thing they approached with a fresh perspective. Lightning Bolt album covers, which are handled by Brian, have always included bursts of color. But this one is more minimalist––a black-and-white collage redrawn with a small pen.

“A lot of our covers are these colorful, aggressive things,” he says. “For this one I wanted to go for more of an atmosphere and an air of mystery.”

Like all of his projects, Brian worked on the cover while parked in his current studio in Providence. The building spans almost a city block –– 8,000 square feet (743 square meters) of wood and brick and a broken elevator, which makes loading gear for tours a bit of a pain. But the space is very much his own. There’s a room full of shredded paper for collaging, a room for silk screening, a room to record Lightning Bolt material and several rooms to draw in. There are also spaces filled with junk and other knickknacks he’s dragged up there over the years.

“An old roommate came over here once and started rummaging around in some room that I don’t really go to,” he says. “He pulled out an entire windsurfing board and I had never even seen this thing.”

The building switched hands a few years ago to a new landlord, but unlike Fort Thunder, Brian doesn’t think he’ll be kicked to the curb any time soon. There’s too much stuff to get him to leave –– art materials and toys, a couple of printing presses and his drum set, and maybe even that two-headed bear suit from the Fort Thunder days, languishing in some hidden corner in a box. Worst-case: If he gets evicted, Brian will just set up shop somewhere else.

“I am an artist and a musician just because I can’t do anything else and I won’t do anything else.”

–– Instagram @music

surprise: mc

A/N: idk I based this off of the interview thing with bea miller/luke if you havent seen it then look it up! 

“Hello everyone we are back with the sensational, one and only, miss Y/N Y/L/N!” Ryan Seacrest paused as the few people in the room applauded and cheered as you blushed and grinned. 

“Thank you! Thank you very much” you laughed. 

The past few months had been a whirlwind for you, shifting your entire life upside down. In a wave of pure luck, Justin Bieber (it took you a few hours for that to fully sink in) had discovered you on YouTube and insisted on meeting you. You had just been posting covers online and keeping some rough song ideas tucked away, but after getting together with the international superstar and sharing your material it wasn’t long before you were signed to his record label and working on your debut album. 

“So as we all know you have been climbing the charts with your new single, And Another, and your first album is going to be released soon! How does it feel?” 

You nodded as he talked and then cleared your throat before answering, “It’s all very overwhelming if I’m honest” you said shyly, “I’m not really used to such a fast pace but ever since we’ve released the single everything else has kind of been falling into place you know? It’s been quite a lifestyle change but I couldn’t be happier.” 

“And what can we expect from the album?” Ryan asked. 

“Um, well it’s like I’ve taken a chunk of myself and uh…..put it in song form?” You internally slapped yourself for such a weird answer but tried to salvage the word vomit. “I mean, I did a large part of the writing for all of the songs on the album, and they’re all about things that I’ve gone through, or seen, or felt, or just adapting the music I like to listen to so uh, yeah….. it’s just really personal that way.” Relief washed over you as Ryan smiled and nodded, good that seemed to save it! you thought. 

“So you’re just diving in with the personal stuff then? That’s bold!” he chuckled. 

“Yeeaaah,” you agreed, your voice a higher pitch than usual, “I just figured that people might as well know from the get-go what I’m about and who I am. It’s important to me to be my most authentic self as much as I can, and if people don’t like that then……well I guess that sucks for me doesn’t it!” You smiled as the room laughed at your joke at the end, and you were glad that you were getting a good response so far. Radio interviews were tricky at first because you were reaching an instantaneous audience that couldn’t see you so you had to convey everything with what you said, but as time passed you learned how to answer questions and show your personality through your responses. 

“Well that’s one way to look at it!” Ryan laughed. “So you’re the new kid on the block and no one really knows that much about you..”  

You nodded and adjusted the large headphones on your head as you waited for him to get to the point. “Okay…and?” you prompted. 

“…And so we thought it would be fun to do a little quick-fire get to know Y/N? Are you game?” 

“Yes! Sounds good!” you smiled, getting in a more comfortable position in your chair. 

“Okay so the goal is to answer as quickly as you can, ready?” 

“Yes! Go for it!” 

“Alright, favourite colour?” 

“Depends on what mood I’m in, but right now it’s like a deep magenta purple.”

“Favourite food?” 

“All of it.” Ryan paused and gave you a funny look, doing a double take at your response. 

“All of it?” he asked. 

“Yes,” you laughed, “I like to eat I can’t just pick one thing! Next question.” He just chuckled and continued. 

“What is the one thing you can’t live without?”

“My loved ones” you answered without hesitation.

“Any tattoos?” 

“Yes.”

“Where?” 

“Gotta keep some of the mystery alive Ryan! Have to keep your audience wanting more” you laughed, shaking your head.

“Celebrity crush?” 

“Well Ryan,” you said lightly, “I have many. I can’t really choose because I like them all! Some days I’m feeling Nick Jonas, other days I’m feeling Chris Hemsworth, or maybe Matthew Gray Gubler….I don’t know it varies.” 

Ryan pressed on, “But if you had to choose one, your consistent go-to guy, who would it be?”

You took a moment to think (for dramatic effect, you already knew full well who your celebrity crush was). “I think I’d have to say Michael Clifford, from 5 Seconds of Summer” you said softly, a shy smile on your face. “Really? That’s unexpected, are you a fan of theirs?” Ryan looked genuinely surprised and you kind of expected that. The music you made was very much unlike some of the music you listened to, like 5sos for example. “Yeah, I really like them…I think they’ve grown up a lot which shows in their second album and they’ve taken more time to grow musically and lyrically and I think that’s awesome. Plus they just seem like really cool guys.” You smiled as you talked about them; you always smiled whenever one of their songs came on the radio or they were doing an interview…they just had that effect. 

“What is it about Michael that you like so much?” 

“Well he’s just a really genuine person I think, he’s so candid about anything he says or does, and that’s not something you see very often,” you smiled. “Plus everyone knows he’s attractive so that may have something to do with it” you added with a laugh. Ryan smirked and you knew something was afoot…. “Well it just so happens that we have them on Skype right now, say hello boys!” 

“HI!” The familiar chorus of their voices echoed through the small room and you felt the blood drain out of your face. 

“What the fuck….” you whispered, earning a laugh from everyone who was watching your reaction. 

“So boys how do you feel about Y/N being a fan of you guys?” Ryan asked. 

“We’re very flattered!” You picked out Ashton’s voice right away, although there was scuffling sounds in the background. “We’re so happy that someone as talented as Y/N likes our music and uh, I know Michael is pleased about it esp–” More scuffling sounds as Ashton got cut off. 

“I’m sorry but what is happening?” you asked, looking around in confusion, “Is this real life?” 

“I can confirm this is in fact real life” Calum replied, getting a laugh from everyone.  

You leaned across the table and whispered to Ryan, “Where am I even supposed to be looking? You said they’re on Skype right?” He laughed and pointed to a monitor where you saw the four boys who waved at you as you looked at them. Not knowing what else to do you waved back with a dumb smile on your face. 

“So boys, tell us where you are right now” Ryan prompted, and only then did you see they were walking down a corridor. 

“Well we’re…….and getting ready for………now….soon..” Luke was speaking but he was getting cut off as the video and audio were cutting in and out. The call ended suddenly and you turned to Ryan with wide eyes. 

“Was that real or a set up?” you asked, whispering for no reason. 

“Well that was really them” he answered, “But it seems like the wifi signal wasn’t quite good enough, sorry about that.”

“No no, that’s okay! I probably would have passed out if that continued any longer” you joked, laughing nervously as you tried to calm down, fidgeting with your hair and headphones and anything around you. 

“Please don’t pass out.” 

“Yeah that would be very bad for all of us if you did that.” 

You froze, the voices (and giggles) coming from the door were as clear as day and you did not want to believe they were right there. You slowly swivelled around your chair and saw 4 familiar figures in the doorway, with big stupid smiles on their faces. You felt your cheeks heat up as they walked in the room. 

“No…..no no no!” You gasped, curling up in the fetal position in the chair. “I’m gonna die and my career just started I cannot leave the earth this way” you mumbled into your legs. You heard laughter and a pair of arms wrap around you. 

“Awe, please don’t die, we would all be very sad” a familiar Aussie voice chuckled, and when you looked up you were face to face with none other than Michael Clifford. He was grinning and you were sure that your face was as red as his hair. Letting go of you he pulled up a chair and sat beside you as the other boys did the same, spreading out around the table. 

“Well for those of you at home the boys of 5 Seconds of Summer have joined us, hello!” Ryan laughed, still amused at your current state. “Y/N how are you feeling?” 

“I’m feeling like you should sleep with one eye open tonight” you said, thankfully getting laughs from everyone. Even though you were only half joking. “I think I’m still dreaming this cannot be real……OUCH! What the hell!” You turned around and smacked Michael in the shoulder after he pinched you. 

“What! You said you were dreaming so to prove you weren’t I pinched you, that’s what you’re supposed to do right?” he giggled. 

You rolled your eyes. “I still don’t know how you guys managed this….. I mean none of you are sneaky enough to pull this off.” 

“And yet here we are!” laughed Calum, smiling and nudging his bandmates as you and Michael couldn’t stop sneaking looks at each other. 

“Well unfortunately we have to wrap things up but thank you to 5 Seconds of Summer for joining us today, they’ll be back here tomorrow so answer some questions.” He paused for a round of applause, “And thank you to the always lovely Y/N Y/L/N for joining us, her new single And Another is out now and her new album will be out soon! This has been On Air with Ryan Seacrest, thank you for listening.” 

As soon as you were given the signal that you were off air you turned to Ryan, “I’m actually going to kill you I wasn’t joking.” But he just laughed, “Ha! You’re funny, there’s no way you could take me.” “Oh yeah?” you laughed, raising your eyebrows. “Yeah! And as much as I would love to work out the logistics of my death, I’ve got a meeting” he said quickly, coming around the table to give you a hug and a kiss on the cheek, “It was so great to meet you Y/N, I can’t wait to see you again soon!” He said a quick goodbye to the boys and dashed out the door, “Great stuff today guys!” he called over his shoulder. 

“So uh, we’re just gonna go…” Ashton said, shuffling out of the room awkwardly with Luke and Calum not far behind, “Michael…you coming mate?” 

“Uh yeah, I’ll be there in a second” he said, waving as they turned around and left. He turned to you with a playful smirk on his face. “So uh…..you think I’m attractive?” He wiggled his eyebrows playfully and you burst into laughter. 

“Really? That’s all you got our of what I said? That is so typical” you chuckled, feeling more at ease with just the two of you in the room. 

“Well I wasn’t really paying attention to the other stuff, maybe you could refresh my memory over dinner?” He looked at you with a cheesy grin in hopes that you would say yes. 

“That was probably the worst pick up line I’ve ever heard,” you giggled, a blush creeping onto your cheeks, “but yes, I would love to have dinner with you.” You smiled shyly as Michael handed you his phone and you put in your contact information. 

“Awesome….well I should probably get going” he said, opening his arms for a hug. You nodded and took a step forward and felt his arms wrap around you, strong and warm and you didn’t want him to let go. But he did and he smiled at you as you tucked a stray strand of hair out of your face. 

“Well um, I’ll just wait for your text then?” you asked shyly. 

“Which won’t be long,” he replied, grinning as you blushed, “I’ll see you later Y/N!” And with a wave he left, leaving you in a daze, still wondering if you had been dreaming the whole time. 


A/N: okay idk what that was but if you want a part 2 request here…..or maybe check my sweet masterlist here xx hope you all are doing well!

Getting Through Life’s Most Difficult Times …

Dr. Christina Hibbert, author of This is How We Grow …

It’s pretty easy to be happy and content when things are going well in your life; but what about when circumstances change for the worse? How do you react to this type of change?

Dwight Moody once said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” These dark moments are a reflection of your inner strength, courage, and resilience. Most people go through at least one very difficult time in their life – grief over the loss of a loved one, poverty, job loss, homelessness, or some other tremendous hardship which tests every ounce of strength they can muster.

Here’s something to remember that is easy to forget: you are much stronger than you think. And you are stronger still for going through difficult times. You’ll go through an inner storm; you’ll suffer; you’ll beg for it all to end, and it eventually will. When it does end, you’ll come out stronger and better than before.

Here are 4 ways to get you through life’s most difficult times:

1. Remember that happiness comes from within

Our society is inundated with messages of consumerism and materialism. The constant barrage of messages from the advertisement and marketing industries has created the illusion that more stuff means more happiness. This is simply untrue.

Sure, a spending spree at the local mall can provide some pleasure…temporary pleasure. Spending is never a long-term solution for easing pain – in fact, it’s just the opposite. In developed countries, most households have debt amounts that exceed their disposable income. This overspending has had tremendous repercussions on individuals and families.

The truth is that happiness will always be found internally. Doing things that truly promote happiness – being grateful, learning, playing, curiosity, meditation, exercise, prayer, family time, etc. – will provide genuine happiness…even in very difficult times.

No matter what is happening externally, you can tap into this inner source of happiness. Yes, the external circumstances of your life have an effect, but it’s not to the degree that you may think. It’s still possible to tap into a multitude of things – both discovered and undiscovered – that will create true happiness. Find those things and focus on them.

2. Acknowledge your emotions

When pain – especially tremendous pain – presents itself, it is natural to want to run away and ignore it. Ask anyone who’s lost a child, parent, or someone near and dear to their heart. Quite understandably, the last thing they want to do is relive the hurt of that loss.

But the truth is that emotions need to be faced and experienced. Yes, you may worry because emotions can be overwhelming. As a result, many fear that they won’t be able to handle them. Just remember what was discussed in the introduction – you are stronger than you think.

Dr. Christina Hibbert, author of This is How We Grow, has experienced some tumultuous times – losing one sister at age 8, and another sister (and her husband) at a later age. As a result, she inherited an extended family; including two children as a result of the second sister’s death.

She’s certainly earned the right to give her advice, so here are her own words:

“(Ignoring your emotions) is like trying to run away from something that’s right on your shoulder. The only way to truly be free is to stop and face your emotions…people tend to get stuck because they’re not feeling their emotions…they are not letting themselves really feel the pain, loss, sadness, anger, that is lurking within.”

Hibbert developed her own grief coping method called TEARS – “Talking, Exercising, Artistic express, Recording or writing experiences, and Sobbing” she continues, “These five things can give us something to do when feeling overwhelmed by stress.”

3. Remember to be grateful (even for the little things).

When dark moments happen in life, it’s easy to forget a lot of things, including gratitude. Emotions overtake our rational thought processes when we are overwhelmed with any type of stimuli, including pain.

The beautiful thing about gratitude is that you’ll never run out of it. Being grateful is all about perspective. Thinking about or meditating on the abundance in your life is a wonderful way to bring these things to the surface.

For example, if you are reading this right now, you have a computer (or smartphone) and internet access. Only about 40% of people in the world have access to the internet; with even fewer having access to a device such as a smartphone or computer. Did you have something for breakfast or lunch? About 1 billion people have gone without. Have you earned more than $1.25 today? About 1.2 billion people in the world have received less.

These statistics are not meant to create guilt, but to cause a change in perspective. There are destitute people all over the world that still manage to create happiness under far more difficult circumstances. Find something in your life to be grateful for and focus on it.

(As a side note): If able, please consider giving your time or money to those less fortunate. There are many great organizations focused on reducing and eradicating hunger, poverty, and disease in countries all over the world. These people need strong individuals to take a stand and help.

4. Practice being present

You’ll find that this is a consistent theme through much of the material on this site: the practice of being present. Living in the here and now is so important, and it helps you to deal with problems as they arise – without judgment, hesitance, or objection. Things are just as they should be, for better or for worse.

Regardless of the painful circumstances facing you, it is important to realize that this is where you are, wanted or unwanted. You can attempt to dodge, avoid, suppress or deny, but in the end, it just is what it is.

Being present goes beyond dealing with painful circumstances. Mindfulness and presence enable you to express full joy and gratefulness towards the blessings in life. Further, it allows you to perceive these blessings better when they do surface.

Resist the urge to judge what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future. All you have and all that you are guaranteed is the present moment. Take full advantage of the moment and appreciate the beauty of life that exists all around you.

Of course, being present sometimes involves pain, but it will be okay. Allow yourself to experience the moment, however painful it may be, knowing that it will pass…you will eventually flourish as a person – perhaps as a better version of yourself.

Shared With Love. Peace & Blessings, Our Journey to Balance