My Depression

Human vision is based on movement. The human eye is always moving, even when it is seemingly still. It undergoes ocular microtremors, a constant vibration not detectable without special equipment. As vision is based on movement, this sensory information is reliant on differentiation from a static background. Without this differentiation, the result would be blindness. Human hearing also works on this principle of differentiation. Notice that when you move from a noisy party to a quiet hallway, many sounds that were previously lost in the background become detectable. In fact, all five senses work on this principle.

So does human emotion. The healthy mind moves fluidly through a plethora of feelings on any given day. From happiness to anger to sadness, ad infinitum, we feel that which we feel in relation to other feelings. Now imagine if all that rich emotive experience were to cease. The result would be emotional blindness.

In other words, the result is depression.
I can usually feel a depressive phase approaching like a locomotive. I am caught helpless on the tracks as the world loses all of its shiny allure. I lie down and feel the loss of feeling, itself. Some might argue that a lack of emotions should convey some advantage. It does not. I feel a gray nothingness. The world seems leeched of color. Food tastes like ashes; music becomes a cacophonous jumble of unrelated sounds; attempts at sexual arousal end in disappointment. Any attempt to find pleasure ends in failure.
When I’m in the grip of deep depression, I endlessly recall all of the things I have done wrong, and foresee all of the things I will do wrong. Sometimes there are tears, but they fail to bring relief. This is Milton’s Paradise Lost. I have tumbled into depression and “long is the way and hard, that out of the Darkness leads up to the light.”

Typically, while I am depressed, hours of sleep accrue with interest. After twelve to fifteen hours of constant slumber, I find myself slept out. Thereafter, I sit in my reading chair with my forehead cupped in my hand, trying to think myself into a better place. I have tried for thirty years to use positive thoughts to lift me up. I’ve also tried deep breathing, meditation, and good old-fashioned hard work, all to no avail. Clinical depression is melancholy boredom magnified 100 times. It consumes 40,000 lives each year.
I’ve been told that “it’s all in your head,” “snap out of it,” and by one well-meaning friend that I am “really talented. Shake off the shadows.” These comments ignore the biological basis of my depression.

As I’ve grown older, the lows have gotten lower. Medication provides some relief, but often, psychiatric medications stop working after a while. Each year that I age, I take another turn around the downward spiral of longer and more intense major depressive episodes.

If there is one simple antidote that occasionally works, it is affection. Especially verbal affection from someone who understands. That, at least, relieves the isolation.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

I have a drawing in the forthcoming anthology, which is for a very good cause. The excellent write-up below was posted by Elizabeth Massie in Facebook.

“NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP, is a brand new anthology of horror bedtime stories from which 100% of all proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund supporting Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Available at Necon 37 and then afterwards (late July) exclusively on Amazon! I’ll post the link when available!

Check out the lineup!

Cover artwork by Necon 37 Legend Cortney Skinner

Foreword by Christopher Golden
Mother and Daughter by Jack Ketchum
Messages by Errick Nunnally
Sleepless by Mark Steensland
The Vacant Lot by Thomas Tessier
blood, cold like ice by Doungjai Gam Bepko (Doungjai Gam Bepko)
A Life Unremembered by G. Daniel Gunn (Dan Keohane)
Wired by Elizabeth Massie
Blue Stars by Tony Tremblay
Happy Now Mother? by John Buja
Nina by John M. McIlveen
Housing the Hollygobs by Marianne Halbert
Inertia Creeps by Charles Colyott
Leave Here Alive by Bracken MacLeod
Sleep Well by Angi Shearstone
The Fine Art of Madness by Gary Frank
The Beach by Cara M. Colyott (Cara Marie)
Angel Tears by Jill Bauman
Darkness on the Edge of Town by James A. Moore
Would You, Could You, In the Dark? by Craig Wolf
Wishing Won’t by Richard Dansky
The Phobia Where You’re Afraid of Words by Paul McMahon
Nightly Rituals by William Carl
White Wings by Mark Morris
The Other Side by Paul McNally
Truth or Dare? by Bev Vincent
Unexpected Attraction by Matthew Matt Costello
The Ritual Remains by Jonathan Lees
The End of All Stories by Trevor Firetog
Duality by Brian Keene
The Lake Children by Izzy Lee
The Circus Under the Bed by T.J. Wooldridge (Trisha Wooldridge)
1-2-3 Red Light by Gregory Norris
The Old Men Know by Charles L. Grant
The Oldest Fear by Shikhar S Dixit”

Collaboration With Jeffrey Thomas

The cyclops’ s father and his beautiful wife.

A couple of years ago, I suggested to my friend Jeffrey Thomas that he might use one of my drawings for inspiration to write a story. As it turned out, it became a long story entitled “The Cyclops,” though my drawing encompassed a small part of it. Still, it is a fine, weird and melancholy tale, and I’m proud to have played a small part in it.

You can find Jeffrey Thomas’s work, where this story was serialized, on his Patreon page.

The Starving Queen

A novel I copy-edited, The Starving Queen, by the gifted Dean Italiano, is now available for sale. This is truly a visceral, thought-provoking experience that speaks to issues of body image, and the horrors we perpetrate upon ourselves in a search for that unattainable perfection with which society and fashion media have infected us. I encountered shocking moments of recognition as I worked on The Starving Queen, and I have no doubt that this particular supernatural entity has stalked me for much of my life. This is a chilling novel by a very bright talent.

My First Best Friend


Long ago, before I had read the word “sociopath” in some now outdated psychology text book, I met Joe* (*not his real name). Joe introduced himself to me by kicking me in the ass, repeatedly, while we walked home from school. I was eight, and my parents and I had just bought our first house, a ranch-style two-bedroom one-and-a-half bath in Parlin, NJ. It wasn’t my first day at that particular school, but it was the first time I walked home afterwards, rather than being bussed to the apartment complex we’d previously inhabited.

Joe was walking with a kid I didn’t recognize, nailing my buttock with his sneaker to a cadence that any boot camp instructor would have approved of. When I finally turned around to confront him, we somehow got to talking, and realized we lived on the same street and that we both liked Star Wars. Joe was my first best friend. I knew this because he told me so a few weeks later. By then, we’d started playing over at each other’s houses, as well as those parts of Parlin easily accessible to a couple of boys with bicycles.

Joe was my first experience with deliberate, willful lying, simply for its own sake, as if it were not a sin or a crime, but rather, a way of life. He lied about the most inconsequential things. Joe cheated at every game we played, and if I managed to win, he would explain to me why I’d still lost. To me it didn’t matter. I was just thrilled to have a best friend. We also used to play make-believe type games, which I enjoyed the most, as I got a thrill out of inhabiting a character, whether it be a starship engineer (Joe was always captain,) a cowboy, a gangster, or a Jedi Knight. It was during one of these games that Joe got me using the word “nigger.” To this day, I do not know if Joe knew the actual meaning behind that word, but he’d convinced me that niggers were cute little creatures that spoke in cartoonishly high voices and became embroiled in various hijinks. We played that game for several years until, overhearing us as we ran around their backyard, Joe’s father admonished us that it was a cuss word denigrating black people, and that we were to cease using it immediately. His father was one of the few people, in fact the only one that I can recall, that Joe truly feared.

Joe had an adorable mutt named Barney. He was something like a long-haired terrier with the saddest eyes I’d seen on any animal. One day, while playing with Barney in the kitchen, Joe got him to leap up on his hind legs, and proceeded to “dance” with him, far too roughly and far too quickly. Suddenly, Joe gave Barney a backwards push, and an audible snap echoed in the small kitchen, followed by piteous howls. When Joe tried to calm Barney, the dog bit him. I felt horrified and confused as we watched Barney roll side-to-side. When Joe’s mother got home from some errand, she was furious. Barney had snapped both of his hind legs. Joe described the incident, and complained that Barney had bit him. What stands out in my memory, beyond poor Barney’s obvious suffering, is the expression on Joe’s face as his mother bundled the pooch up in a blanket and headed out to the car. Utter fascination. I had witnessed him scooping goldfish out of the pond in their backyard and smashing them flat with bricks, but in hindsight, I can see that this was a pivotal moment in which Joe became cognizant of his power over larger animals.

Another of Joe’s favorite pastimes was playing with his magnifying glass. He liked lighting dry leaves and twigs on fire, then quickly stamping them out. He enjoyed frying ants and beetles under the glass’s focused beam even more. I was just as guilty. Joe insisted that I cook bugs with his magnifier, so I did. I don’t recall feeling guilty about it; it was just something we did. Joe’s lure, capture, and torture of cats, however, wasn’t something I could get myself to join in. I told him I was afraid of them (and I was, actually) and he called me chickenshit and chuckled about it. By this point in our relationship, I had begun to realize I was in a kind of trap. His escalating cruelty frightened me, but the idea of walking away from our friendship, or telling somebody, an adult perhaps, completely terrified me. I didn’t like to contemplate what Joe would do to me if I tried to break away from him.

By this point, I was eleven years old, and three long years had deposited me in a place I could never escape from — never would have ebscaped from, had my father not gotten a substantial promotion and salary hike at work. My parents informed me that we were going to buy a new house, a house nobody had ever lived in before, in another town. However hard I try, I cannot recall Joe’s reaction to this news. Perhaps it is something I have blocked out.

In 1983, we moved to East Brunswick. Though Joe and I kept in touch by phone, gradually, his hold over me lessened and disappeared. There was no great moment of relief, no joy. My friendship with Joe had left me permanently weird inside, and at my new school, other kids could sense that strangeness in me. Those who didn’t avoid and ignore me generally bullied me. Looking back, however, armed now with the knowledge of a man in middle age, I know that my father’s promotion saved me, saved some integral part of who I essentially was and would become.