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Excerpt from ‘Bittersweet; Love Is War’ – my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel

I won my first year of NaNoWriMo! It feels pretty great, to be honest. I feel like it has been some of the best writing I’ve done in quite some time, and it’s worked wonders to jumpstart my vigor for writing again. Since, I’ve rewritten a short story and doubled its word length from an old favorite in high school, I’ve continued a few other projects — I work on more than one at a time sometimes — and I’ve just generally been extremely creative since my start in November. I’ve hit some major bumps in the road along the way (more like potholes), but I’m happy to say I’ve produced some pretty awesome things.

Here is an excerpt from my 2018 winning NaNoWriMo novel, ‘Bittersweet; Love Is War,’ and it is appropriate for all ages.


As the clock ticked loudly against the walls of the stone room, Byleth stood in the center of it all. The cold metal table beside him chilled his fingers as he drifted claws across its scratched surface, its sheen adding a glow to his already luminescent red eyes. So many times had he looked down at Faye from the doorway as she sat there — a spread out mess of a human hanging back in her chair and watching the smoke drift across the ceiling from her menthol cigarette. Although an immortal being, Byleth still couldn’t stand the smell of the cancerous stuff, and there was definitely plenty of it on a daily basis. He could almost smell its miasma now as the memory of it drifted across time.

He clenched his teeth and ran a hand through his jaw-length, wavy blond hair. ‘I could just imprison her again. Tie her to the chair and take away all of her free will, and I would find a way to make her fear me. That would dispel any kind of affection for me, surely. Then we can both move on.’ It would most likely do the exact opposite, knowing her. She was fearless and mad about him, which was a sick joke in itself. He chuckled. She’d probably get off over being tied to a chair by him anyway.

He was brought away from his reveries by the sound of pages flapping in the wind, and recognized the natural glow that had spread throughout the room. It shrunk to reveal a form that Byleth remembered all too well, and he instantly went on guard. The being was lucky he didn’t react on impulse and tear into its glowing, pale flesh. “What do you want?!”

“Hello, brother!” An angel with short, upswept blond hair smiled kindly at the Fallen, his soft features flawless and beautiful beneath the dim lighting in the room that had returned. “I see you are well, and that you have taken a turn for the better.”

“Voyeuristic, aren’t you?” Byleth scoffed and crossed his arms. “What brings you down here to pester me, Gabriel?”

“I’ve come to offer you a chance. As God’s messenger, I wish to make a proposition with you.” The angel’s blue eyes had a spark to them that caught Byleth off guard, and he realized that something was amiss. This angel had a different kind of aura than the one he knew all too well, although it most definitely seemed to be Gabriel.

He lowered his eyes in suspicion and decided to play along. “Oh yeah? What kind of proposition does daddy dearest possibly have to offer? Is he finally kissing my ass to get something out of me?”

“Language, Byleth!” Gabriel wiggled a finger in the air with silent judgment. “It is something great — something you have been desiring for a long time, I am sure. There is something in Heaven you wish to reclaim, isn’t there?”

Byleth’s eyes grew wide and his breath came short. He’d spent the better part of his time as a Fallen plotting ways to get back into Heaven to reclaim his throne. Most often, it had been a violent fantasy that involved much force and a taking over of Heaven, but he knew it was an impossible and foolish thing to try. God was too powerful for anything in the entirety of time, even for Satan’s seven-headed dragon with his legion of demons to conquer, but if he could get back onto his throne and allow them all to think that he had been redeemed, he stood an honest chance of at least enacting revenge on a grand scale.

He snapped back to reality as Gabriel’s expression changed to become something darker. The angel’s eyes shone a pale gray for a millisecond, which a Fallen would not have missed. Although he knew no being immediately with eyes like that, the underlying darkness made everything quite obvious. There was corruption on the other side of the charade. “Who are you? Show yourself!”

The being laughed darkly and the form blurred and shifted as if it were warped, and came clear once more as Byleth’s suspicions were confirmed. The being that stood before him then, however, hadn’t been expected. It was one of the few times he had honestly been at a nervous unease. The name he was finally able to mutter was as quiet as it was dangerous. “Azazel.”

 

©2018 Shane Blackheart

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NaNoWriMo; November 2018!

Another absence on this blog, and another reason. Although, it’s an amazing reason this time (I promise)!

I’ve made the decision to do NaNoWriMo this year. If you aren’t aware of what that is, in short, it’s a challenge to write an entire 50,000 word — or more — novel in 30 days. On the more descriptive end of things, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that raises money for all kinds of good causes related to writing. One, in particular, is to fund kits to send to schools that need them and to encourage younger writers. Besides that, it is an event every year in November that has been going since 1999, and millions of writers join in on the chaos every year. This year is my first.

The idea is to start with a brand new manuscript; a clean slate. You may also begin with an outline, or a part of an outline and nothing else to go on other than your imagination. Either way, after you’ve created your own profile and filled in your novel’s basic details, you’re ready to begin.

Every day, ideally, you’ll log your word count in one of two ways. There are stats you can watch to see where you are at compared to the average person, and you can also see a projected completion date determined by your average daily word count, and how many words you have left to write to complete the 50k dash (or more!). Below are my latest stats, taken as of today.

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You write your novel outside of the website, and as you log your word count and interact with the site, as well as donate if you so choose, you will earn badges. There are also badges you can choose to give yourself based on an honor system, as they are achievements that can’t actually be measured in any way. For example, I gave myself the ‘Something in my eye’ badge for wringing my heart out over a few scenes or more. Sometimes writing really can be an emotional roller coaster, but that makes for some of the best writing out there.

From November 20th onward, you can claim your win by pasting the entirety of your first draft in their official word counter. They also give you the option to scramble your words if you wish, although no one is actually going to read your novel. Nothing gets uploaded to the website and your words are deleted as soon as they are counted. Once that process is complete, I imagine you’ll feel pretty good about yourself for your successes.

There are prizes, but there are no limits to winners, so be honest! They are small things like coupons to writing programs and online courses, and other little things that really aren’t a huge deal, but a help to writers to keep them going strong long after they’ve finished their NaNoWriMo novel. Personally, the feeling of accomplishment from completing an entire first draft of a novel in a month is the biggest win of being a participant. Even if you don’t complete your novel, you’ve still accomplished something great, and you still have words there that you didn’t have before. It’s even more incentive to keep going for yourself, and for the story you have to tell.

I’m well into 27k words on the eighth day, which isn’t something I thought I would be capable of. I passed NaNoWriMo by for a few years after hearing about it, mostly because I didn’t think I could do it. I sold myself short due to my own insecurities, and I was doing the very thing some people in my life have done to me in the past — I was putting myself down because of a lack of faith in myself. I believed my anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses left me unable to do much of anything, and I was destined to fail. I would become too stressed and spiral down into a mess of a human being.

Yet, it’s November 8th and I have come a long way from that mindset. On the first, I’d sat in front of my computer mulling it over. A friend from a Facebook writing group brought it to my attention again, claiming that she was doing it herself. She needed a writing buddy. I’d told her I wasn’t participating before, but on a whim, I signed up for the site and I locked myself in. I haven’t looked back.

It’s like something lit a fire under me (usually, that’s Byleth, but this time I did it myself. He and Lestan have been the best cheerleaders). Having a deadline with the goal of having fun and just letting loose on the page, not caring about editing as I went like I usually did, was freeing. The goal was to just go until it was time to stop, as editing during NaNoWriMo is heavily discouraged. All of that would come in the months to pass after ‘winning’, and the site also has a section for just that. My goal is to be able to open up that part of the site after my victory.

At 27k in after only the first week, I am certain I can ‘win’. I can safely say that if you go into this as a lover of words, stories, and a passion for the art of writing, you’ll win too. Just keep at it and don’t worry about the numbers while you’re writing. Focus on the amazing story you have to tell, and the rest will come in time.

The best of luck to anyone who is participating this year. I hope to be able to make another blog entry when I’ve finally reached the ultimate goal.

A positive absence, for once!

When I am absent, it’s usually due to a multitude of emotions destroying me from the inside out. I can’t manage more than the videos I barely take in on my favorite Youtube channels, and my creative drive has taken a vacation abroad for an indeterminable amount of time. Things have been different this time around, though.

My mind has been more stable since trying the injectable form of testosterone over the gel to get my transition going again. It had been hell during my first try with the injections, and since I’ve covered all of that elsewhere on this blog, I won’t get into it here. Long story short, it seems like a different mixture is what was needed. My mood swings, while still there in the background, have dimmed significantly. I didn’t expect this to cure my bipolar episodes or the interpersonal problems I have with my borderline personality disorder, but it has been much easier to calm myself as well as stand up for myself when I need to. I’ve had this fire within me that refuses to let me take shit from anyone. This isn’t a bad thing for someone like me, who was more likely to sit by silently while verbal abuse or any other kind of bad thing would happen. To be able to speak up when I need to has been a great change for me.

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Along with all of this, I’ve pulled my creativity back from its extended vacation. My writing is important to me again and I’ve made it my job, or at least, I’m treating it like one until I can officially call it that. I’ve become more involved in writing communities online and am getting braver about asking for critiques, and I am learning to give them. I have learned so much within the last week about publishing, editing, and I’ve gotten great advice from editors and published authors alike on how to navigate all of this. It was something I desperately needed, but I couldn’t possibly accomplish it while I remained in my little bubble of self-hatred.

Yesterday, I finished editing and looking over the fifth draft of a novella. I had finished writing it during the summer of 2015 during a manic episode while I was homeless, and it was the first book I’d written that I saw to completion. Although it was riddled with poor grammar and my sentence structure was just as poor at best, I was proud of it. Over the past few days, I went and I fixed the earlier chapters that had been started years ago. It was something I began and left to sit, unable to finish like I’d done with so many. I fixed the wording, added new things and explained others, and poured more emotion into the original draft than was originally there. After all of this and splitting it into chapters, I feel like I have a second book ready to send out.

I’m in contact with an editor or two, one of which I am certain I want to do the job for my longer book that I’d like to publish first. Hopefully I can build up a working relationship with them for my future projects. Having that thought alone makes my nerves jump in all of the best ways.

I’m no stranger to anxiety. I’ve seen it in its worst form and it’s left me sickly and bedridden. (I wrote about that here: From My Memoir – Two Years that Changed the Rest of My Life and I recorded it with Byleth and the others here.) To finally understand that there is good anxiety and be able to feel it is freeing for me. It feels the same in all of the physical sensations, but there is a different emotion attached. It’s not fear, but anticipation.

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If you want something bad enough, it will happen. I’ve been wanting the title ‘author’ officially for many years. I can only hope that my want and need for this is bad enough to make it all happen.

What If…?

Although I am not feeling so great today, I still wanted to post something a bit more positive since a lot of my entries have been dark. So, to mix up the monotony, I wanted to share a video I made solely in Plotagon itself without any outside editing. I am a beta tester for the program, and I was able to get my hands on a version that is still under heavy testing, but I’ve produced some amazing things with it! Hopefully, these new features will be available to all, but not until the bugs are worked out properly.

I made this video during a particularly bad night, as they have been lately. I was in a lot of pain from a medication that my body just didn’t like, but I wouldn’t let it stop me from creating this bit of comedy that I’m still pretty proud of. So without further commentary, here is the video, voiced by myself, Byleth, and Lestan:

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Grab Plotagon here: http://plotagon.com
Join the community and upload your own animations, and meet some awesome people! You can find me here: http://plotagon.com/ShaneLestan

‘End’ is Such an Empty Word

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END.

As I finished typing the simple three-letter word, I fell back into my computer chair and stared at the screen. The cursor was blinking at me on the document page as if it were tempting me to write more as it always had, but this time it felt odd to look at. I rarely finish things after all, so the forever blinking of the cursor didn’t seem as foreboding as it used to. It usually meant minutes upon hours staring at an unfinished story, the cursor beckoning to me to just try and to just do something and maybe things will start to flow to move that little cursor down the page. I had started my writing today with that feeling, but I ended it with just three simple words.

Yes, I finally finished my first longer piece of work. Totaling 135 pages in Google Docs, 55,796 words, and page after page of an emotional rollercoaster. It all started as a dream I’d had one night a year or so ago and it ended up blooming into this gigantic, complex, crazy world. I never thought I would see it to the end, and I can’t say I won’t miss it not ever being the end. I feel sort of empty now that my biggest project is finally complete. I’m so used to things never being finished that I always felt whole in that vastness of incomplete work – I always had something to do and some work to look forward to. Now? I hear crickets. The tension has left my muscles and I am breathing calmly, and I am staring at three simple letters that have caused me so many emotions.

It may seem silly to be so excited over this. There are authors out there who have published several books and continue on to their next project, not skipping a beat (or skipping a few beats to get a breather in). But for someone like me, who has little to no self-esteem or faith in myself to do much right, to accomplish this is to accomplish a goal I set out for myself. The next steps will probably be that much harder. It always is as you climb up the endless ladder of goal-setting.

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Now, to edit all of these pages. I have to go back through it all and make a second draft and a third, and possibly a fourth. Then the formatting, the query letter, the summary that’s good enough to sell, and submissions to agents with no prior experience of my own to speak of. Goodness knows I’ll need one to navigate this hell I’ve just opened up for myself, and not the good kind of hell. I’ve already attempted to gather beta readers, close friends and friends from afar, but all I hear on the line is crickets. I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands since my support system is so small and practically not there, save for two or three loyal friends. I’ve accepted that I’m very much on my own for this one and no amount of teeth pulling and pestering is going to get me any response aside from the usual defensive response or endless reasons as to why no one can seem to find time for my manuscript, but have hours to post memes and watch endless Facebook and Youtube videos. If I sound slightly bitter, I admit that I am, but not so much bitter as I am hurt.

I wish I possessed the magical key to unlock this support system I see so many with. Reaching out for help and asking for help gains me silence. I see others receive answers where I am ignored, and I see friends uplifting and promoting other friends’ work but not mine. At first, I was afraid it was due in part to the fact that I was no good as a writer or creator, but I found over time that it would only be true if anyone would ever take the time to set aside and actually read my work at all. It genuinely makes me feel undervalued as a friend and I wonder what my friends’ friends’ do that is so great and different with their writing that is different from me. What they’ve done that is so different from what I’ve tried.

I promote others and help where I can. I support all of my friends when I can as well where I can. I spend a lot of time doing this when I stumble across their things. I will always do it without expecting anything in return because I love and support my friends, but it does sting to not feel that love back. I can be humble until I’m blue in the face, but in the end it does get frustrating when you put hours and, in the case of my books, a year or more into something and no one wants to even bother to open it, and this is despite their claims of the synopsis sounding very interesting and good. I’ve gotten that across the board when I give the synopsis. So why, then, can’t I get anyone to open to the first page?

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Maybe they genuinely don’t care. Maybe I’m not worth their time. Maybe I am fooling myself and people are just being kind so as not to hurt my feelings. But I cannot get answers if no one will tell me anything, good or bad. Even writers who have written things that aren’t up to par get feedback! It’s endlessly frustrating and I’ve found myself close to screaming out of that frustration.

How do you figure out how to not be invisible to people anymore? How do you do this, even though you speak so loudly, approach people directly, and try with all your might to do everything in your power to be heard, even among loved ones, only to be ignored or brushed aside? My whole life I have felt like a ghost drifting amongst people, and only a few can even see and hear me, and even then that’s a toss-up.

Being invisible when you work so hard to not be is exhausting. I know I started this entry with a positive outlook, and I still have that, but it brought up so many other feelings that I’ve been battling with throughout this process. It doesn’t feel good to know you have something you’re very proud of to tell the world, and no one will listen.

But to end on a lighter note, I am proud of my writing, at least. I am proud of myself for accomplishing the feat of writing an entire book to completion, and I am happy that I can continue to write even though I may be the only one reading it sometimes. I can only dream that one day I won’t have to say that and I can have others enjoy these things with me.

Ramblings to a Dead Tree

This bit of writing is from an entry I made in my newest journal. I tend to have a bad habit of buying new journals even though I haven’t filled the last, but I also do the same things with books – I haven’t finished half of the ones I own but I MUST have that new book I just found! An antique book? Rare or out of print? Hard to find? Give them all to me. I just add them to the stack of things ‘to do’ that I never get around to. Such is the life of a bibliophile. Being obsessed with antiques makes it worse.

So, I made a commitment to this journal that I have yet to stick to. I haven’t written in it again, but at least I made an effort to start. The cover reads ‘Fucking Brilliant’ anyway, so I figured it would be best for things I thought were… well… fucking brilliant. As is expected of something like that, what I wrote at first did not live up to this goal. It’s an entry from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share it here regardless, mostly because I managed to weave senseless rambling with flowery words.

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From May 17, 2018

I got this notebook to jot down genius ideas or stories – to dedicate one notebook to a single subject – yet here I am sitting outside my counselor’s office waiting for my appointment. The sun is out, the weather is hot, and the breeze feels nice in contrast to the sun’s warm rays. I’ve had a rough couple of days so it is welcome. I lost a friend, but I think it was a long time coming. ‘Exes for a reason’ comes to mind. I think I’m just done with people using me for money – using me in general. But that’s not what I wanted to write about. No. I’d intended to draw.

While on the bus, I felt inspired emotionally by a few things that I can’t put words to. I know, how can you be inspired by something that escapes you? Maybe I’m manic or maybe I’m going insane from being perpetually broke the moment my SSI check goes into my account. Maybe I just grip my pencil too god damned hard when I write and the pain distracts me. No matter the reason, here I am, writing drabbles of senseless mind-clusterings. (Is that a word? My word processor didn’t mark it as an error, so a word it is!) Such is the consequence of being a manic erratic creator. I bet this all sounds cringey and stereotypically embarrassing too.

But at least I am writing. Not in pen, but in pencil. Mistakes are my forte’ after all, as is senseless rambling, but I’m becoming self-deprecating. I’m good at that too. And again. Is there even a point to this rambling or is it a way to communicate with a faceless listener due to my loneliness? Although I do have Lestan, Byleth, Daro, and the others – my alters, others, or whatever you’d like to call them – I am physically lonely. All I’ve ever wanted is a physical companion; that hopeless romantic notion of a soul mate for true love. As a transman, I feel that’s impossible, so I converse through graphite with a dead tree.

But I am lonely. I can’t drive and I’m stuck in life with very little – at least I have that little, though. Unfortunately, being a transman who doesn’t look like a lovechild of the Hulk and Chris Evans, along with mental illness and being on disability, as well as having no car, is the recipe for loneliness. No one is interested in who you are anymore. Everyone just wants an easy ticket to romance with no effort and no baggage without realizing that everyone has baggage. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

But it’s time to see my counselor now. Hopefully, good news for top surgery is to follow within the next month or two, and progress with my projects.

[End of entry]

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I’m never really alone to be truthful. I do have my alters or others (I haven’t yet found a good enough word for them that feels ‘right’, although the medical term would be ‘alters’) to keep me company and provide me with companionship. They even give me a nudge and ask to take over when things get to be too much, and usually, I let them. But the physical companionship of another person is often lost with me. I’ve been single for quite a few years now and am still trying to find a date despite my looming failure of it. Life gets lonely no matter how many friends you have and no matter how big your support system is. It’s no replacement for that special kind of relationship that only is shared with one special person – your person (or persons if you are polyamorous).

All of my attempts to confess to people I’ve liked has ended in me never hearing from them again, or them disappearing shortly after. It has made me feel pretty undesirable and unloveable, and I know that it’s popular to say: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?!’ (thank you, RuPaul), but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Sometimes a special person is all you need to learn to love yourself, especially when you’ve had a life of others convincing you of how worthless of a person you are and believing it.

I’d like to think I am capable of being loved in that way. I’d like to believe I am desirable and that someone is out there for me, but I’ve given up again. I’m overweight, my teeth are a bit messed up because I broke my jaw when I was thirteen, I’m dysphoric on the best of days and don’t pass as a cisgender man yet, I have mental illness, and I’m on a fixed income due to disability and unable to safely operate a car even though I do have my license.

But I take care of myself. I live on my own and have two awesome cats. I pay my own bills and do my own grocery shopping. I get by. I make art in several different mediums by either sketching or drawing digitally. I have a Youtube channel and I make animations and voice act them, as well as organize everything and write the scripts. I am a writer above all of that and have aspirations of being published one day to be able to have accomplished my dream I’ve had since I was a child.

I love video games, anime, and long conversations about deeper subjects. I have an entire family who also comes along for the ride, although I can only show you them through drawings and voice recordings they’ve come to the forefront to do and not physically. While it seems overwhelming, they’re an awesome bunch who just want to see me live and strive to be the best I can be and to, of course, find what makes me happy. 

I’ve repeated a few times now in this blog that there is so much more to me than my illnesses and my financial situation, as well as the shortcomings in general. But no one wants to get far enough romantically to see any of it. No one sees that as any value compared to the small things that are out of my control. I just wish I could get lucky someday and meet someone and we can have a mutual interest in each other, and the shortcomings will seem so much smaller than the greater things that make us who we really are.

Kolton – A character summary (Original Writing)

I was finally able to write something for the first time in about a month tonight. It felt good to have the creativity flowing again, even if it was just a beginning or a summary of sorts for a character I’ve been keeping to myself for a while. I adore him and I could never really figure out how to write his story or his summary, but tonight it finally came to me. I would also like to preface this with the fact that I am not a person of color, so I in no way have any idea what it is like. I can only write and be true to the character that Kolton has become as a black man, a character I love very much. I want him to see his true beauty, but he has certain struggles that I can only hope are not deemed offensive. If any of my readers are of color and see that I have written something wrong or offensively by accident, please let me know so I can correct it. Please know, also, that everyone has their own struggles that may not always be politically correct in their own head. As a trans person, I’ve had my own struggles that I just haven’t said aloud – struggles I’ve since overcome. Nothing written here is meant to be offensive, but an exploration of something deeper for this character. I can’t wait to write more for him.

For now, I hope this beginning and character profile is interesting enough to read as it was for me to write it. I think I love Kolton even more after all of this.

***

Kolton sighed, the red blush on his dark skin clearly visible beneath the dancing fountain lights. He hugged his arms around himself, his revealing deep v-neck sweater drooping from his right shoulder as he tried to gain some sort of modesty. It was his own fault he was standing there then, dressed more inappropriately than he’d ever been in his life. He was very aware that his smooth black leather pants left little to the imagination. “What am I doing, Jupiter?” He sat at the edge of the fountain as he spoke to his absent dog who was most likely resting comfortably at home, his deep British tone just barely above a whisper. His black rectangular glasses slipped down his nose as he stared at the ground.

He dared to glance around the city before him, the large wall of water behind him attracting late-night couples to its beauty. What had he been hoping for? Certainly not something he’d truly wanted. Or maybe he really did want the very thing he’d kept from himself in all of his thirty years of existence. He huffed a laugh. He had been the spoiled rich boy who lost everything.

As a child, his father and mother were very well off, although both neglected him more often than not. Parties and expensive luxuries consumed their world, and as far as Kolton was concerned, they’d forgotten they had a son. He was cared for by the butler and their few maids and it was enough for a child like him – a loveless child. He spent all of his free time writing when he wasn’t sleepless from studying for the prestigious private school he attended. The family butler, Grant, was his sole supporter and would often look over the young master’s journals when appropriate, giving praise where it was due. Kolton smiled. Grant was probably his only friend then too, and where the stirrings of his early budding sexuality began.

He felt emotion well up inside him and took a deep breath, standing at last to head home. He brushed his short black hair to the side where it had fallen in his face. The butler had never made advances toward him or anything like that. The older man actually didn’t have to do anything – his support was enough for poor young Kolton to confuse love with fondness or friendship. Since he hadn’t much experience with any of those things, he’d always just suspected he was broken or emotionless – asexual as he grew into a young adult. Grant had been the only person to ever make him feel somewhat normal.

Then everything came crashing down when he became a man. Instead of partying like everyone else on his twenty-first birthday, his parents had suddenly recognized his existence just long enough to see him off. Kolton had nothing but what fit in the trunk of the family car and the money in his bank account that he’d earned during his short time as an intern at the hospital. He’d been foolish to think that having rich parents meant security. Fortunately for him, he was very good at managing his finances and ended up with a small house in the country and a Borzoi puppy that gave him more joy than any other human on Earth. Jupiter was his everything.

He’d been neglecting the dog lately, but with moving them into a larger home after establishing himself as an author, along with the stress of his attempts to be more social left him with little energy at the end of the day. And then there was that short time in his life in between the mess that destroyed him and everything he’d learned for himself about human interaction – that painful blip in his life that kept gnawing at him any time he felt alone. He’d roomed with three of the most infuriating people he’d ever known, but it had been his only option upon leaving his parents behind.

It was a large home with rooms made into apartments, all of which were occupied once Kolton moved in for a short while. He had only needed a place during the transition while he sought out an affordable house, his life of luxury having spoiled him in the most horrible of ways. He noticed often the way the others stared at the gold and silver jewelry he wore – his rose gold watch one of the only presents his father had ever given him for Christmas one year. The rings were of his own acquisition, but their value alone was enough to have them kept hidden at all times when he wasn’t wearing them. The only housemate out of the three that never really bothered him, and seemed to be at peace with life in general, was the nature-loving blonde Minkz.

Minkz Murdock lived in a world all his own. His hair was equivalent to an 80’s glam metal band fashion disaster and he often wore a ridiculous pair of short cut-off shorts for a man. His heavily tattooed body only added to the clash of style that the man was. Regardless, he was kind and mostly kept to himself when he wasn’t outside fishing behind the house in the large lake. For some reason he’d taken an interest in Kolton, often watching him from afar and eventually striking up small conversation. At the time Kolton was repelled not only by his lazy, nature-loving persona, but by the fact that the man was obviously hitting on him. Repulsive.

Regardless, the two started talking more and more, Minkz inviting Kolton out back to sit with him in nature and Kolton rejecting many times. Eventually, Kolton made his way out to humor the man and found that existing in nature, where the only sounds were the wind and the rushing water, was rather healing and quieted his constantly rushing mind. He’d picked up smoking then for a short while, although he eventually stopped. During that time, Minkz would often share a cigarette with him – not because the man smoked himself, but to have a reason to be closer to the ex-rich boy that intrigued him so much.

“Why are you so fascinated with me?” Kolton put out his cigarette and slipped his hands into his pockets as he watched Minkz’s fishing line follow the stream of water.

“Honestly? I think you’re hot.”

“That’s a bit forward, isn’t it?” Kolton blushed and looked to the ground, suddenly wishing he hadn’t ventured out to the lake that afternoon. It was too damn hot out anyway and he was in one of his black turtlenecks. Minkz shrugged.

“Life’s too short not to be honest, man. Let me guess, you aren’t actually gay, are you?”

“I’m asexual, actually.”

“You can be asexual and have a preference – or no preference like me.”

“How can you not have a preference?!”

“So you do, then? Sorry, man. My gaydar just goes off when I’m around you.” Minkz chuckled as he began to fight a fish tugging at his line. Kolton blushed a dark pink.

“That’s rude. Besides, we’re much too different to even consider such a thing.” Yet, Kolton had actually thought about it. Even if it was just a fleeting thought brought on by the conversation, it hadn’t repulsed him as much as he’d wanted to say out loud. He felt queasy. Minkz had finally brought up the small fish that was now flopping around in the dirt and rocks.

“Different? Money doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

“I didn’t mean money…” Kolton suddenly felt self-conscious. It’s not that he wasn’t attracted to people of lighter skin colors, but that someone with skin so beautiful and pale like Minkz would even find his extremely dark skin attractive. He had always been self-conscious about it due to being teased in school for being one of the only kids with skin so dark in his class. Racism wasn’t something he was a stranger to.

Kolton was caught off guard when Minkz stood before him, lifting his chin to better see his pale gray eyes. The man’s voice was warm and gruff. “Kolton, you’re an attractive man regardless of anything so superficial. I think your skin is beautiful. You should be more confident in yourself.” It was the first time Kolton had ever been kissed or even considered kissing anyone, let alone a man dressed like some Woodstock hobo. Regardless, he’d fallen into it like a love-starved teenager, his whole body screaming at him to push Minkz away and never see him again. Once the rush in his stomach had turned to nausea he found the will to push the man away, backing up to gain some distance and wiping his mouth as if he’d tasted something foul. He’d been without affection his whole life in any physical manner and the very idea of it made him shake with anxiety. Minkz watched after him as he left angrily to return to the house, the blonde man returning to his fishing while deep in thought.

“Jupiter, there you are!” Kolton flipped on the light as he entered his home, his best friend coming to greet him with a wet kiss that was full of slobber. The man chuckled and kneeled down to hug the cream and tan colored Borzoi, rubbing the dog’s sides before ushering Jupiter into the kitchen. “Would you like a biscuit? Have you been a good boy?” The dog barked excitedly and Kolton tossed him a treat, then proceeded to make something for himself. It was much too late and he had gone without eating for most of the day. His stomach was still in knots.

Ever since Minkz had ruined him he’d discovered something within himself that he’d always tried to keep away. He had spent so much time fearing and detesting all forms of physical affection – love or friendship-wise – that he’d lived a celibate life up until then. Until Minkz had crept into his room and showed him just what physical affection could feel like and what he’d been missing for so many years. Kolton felt his cheeks grow warm and his stomach flipped in that familiar way that told him he was going to need a cold shower. It still disgusted him – that feeling that people often likened to ‘butterflies’ – but it seemed that once awakened it was a switch that he couldn’t turn off again. He hadn’t even seen Minkz since he’d moved out of there and he hadn’t been with anyone since they’d experimented that one night. Not until more recently when he’d decided that he couldn’t take it anymore and he had to explore those feelings again. He had to confront the fact that he’d been a closeted gay man for much too long, and rather it was Minkz’s fault or not, it was a beast that was slowly clawing at the closet door in a demand to be let free. He had himself to satisfy his embarrassing urges, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

So he’d gone out for the first time in search of… something. He’d purposely dressed provocative – revealing more of his dark skin that he tried so hard to cover up. It was progress at least, if he could even count it as anything positive. He was still confused and he still didn’t know anything about anything. He’d made it far enough to enter the nightclub, be hit on by a rather douchey looking guy, and then leave before the guy could even turn back around to hand Kolton a drink. The music had been too loud and there were too many people – too much noise. So he’d ended up in the city square, sitting by a fountain with dancing lights and suddenly so self-conscious he could have crawled into a hole. He’d felt naked even though he wasn’t.

Kolton managed a few bites of his sandwich before putting the rest in the fridge. It was going on ten at night and his office seemed a comforting getaway to all of his problems. Flipping on the dim light that illuminated the red wallpaper, Kolton sat down at his computer to start a new poem. He’d been writing a lot of poetry since he’d began exploring himself and who he truly was inside. He couldn’t admit it out loud or even truly to himself, but in reality, he was thinking about Minkz. Every time he sat down to write a poem the man’s glam rock blonde hair slid into his thoughts, remaining there until Kolton felt the need to pour bleach into his ears to cleanse the memories. The man had made him into an insatiable depravity.

Jupiter was at his feet, curling around his cold toes as he typed away. Giving into the words that wanted to remain hidden was at least a bit of a catharsis for his exhausted mind. Although it would probably never see the light of day, the series of poems that flowed from his fingers brought about a quiet that would lull him into sleep, Kolton once again realizing he’d almost fallen asleep at his desk. With his computer on standby and the house dark, Kolton drug himself up the steps with Jupiter at his heels to disrobe in his bedroom and then sink into the gray-blue silk sheets on his king size bed. His dreams were full of heartache and closeted monsters.

©2018 Shane Blackheart

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Kolton