by Rani Deigh Crowe


flash fiction

By the time the writings were traced back to me on Sixty Minutes, I was living a reasonably well-adjusted life with a Mormon lesbian couple in Brooklyn. And my boyfriend, a manic depressive, named Howl.

I worked at the suicide hotline, counseling others from taking their own lives. At first, I followed the script, feeding the lonely and desperate the same lines I had been fed when I was lonely and desperate and under mandatory care. I said them, but I couldn’t believe them. And one day I could no longer bring myself to say them anymore. I heard the voice at the other end of the phone: “I can’t go on, life has no meaning,” and instead of encouraging him out of discouragement, I discouraged him even more encouragingly. “You are right. There is no meaning.” He talked for a while about his life. I competed with the tragedy of my own.

We were kindred spirits. We met later that evening at a Starbucks down the street from a Starbucks. We compared scars and psychiatric ward notes. We walked around all night visiting our favorite ledges, window shopping for cutlery and handguns. We’d never felt more alive. Suddenly, having a companion in misery and meaninglessness, my life was filled with joy and meaning.

I’d forgotten all about the writings. Barely knew what they said. I had written them during a different time. A dark time. A time when I could only see one option: to end it all, quite physically, literally ending my life. I had accepted this choice, and was freeing my soul. But once you arrive at this power over your life, you needn’t physically perform such violence against the body. It is no longer necessary. Most people do not understand. This sloughing off of the former self. Letting everything go. Reinventing the meaning the rules, the persona of one’s life.

You must go through a withdrawn retrograde period to be reborn whole and new and fresh. Contemplating suicide is cleansing, positive, ritual, as long as you complete the meditation in full. But most people do not understand. It is dangerous to discuss with the uninitiated.

They think you are too dark and immediately begin telegraphing others that you are unwell. It is uncomfortable to talk about. Suicide. It is dangerous. And the others, the ones who get it, but are not strong enough, you can only protect them with silence on the subject. Silence and clichés. It is safest.

That’s when I started writing. Sitting in the window in my nightgown, watching bills stamped “past due” slide through my mailbox. I was just writing for myself. Writing for my own survival, my journal a surrogate therapist meant to protect the unwitting but well-meaning LPCs and LPCCs and LPCCCCCCs of this world.

How it became published and established me as a charismatic cult leader is just one of those chains of randomness, like a butterfly flapping its wings. I was only flapping my wings.

It was after the last past due bill had been delivered. I was sitting on my floor in my dirty gown with my dirty hair writing by candlelight. I had been writing for days, weeks, months. Losing all sense of time with no responsibilities or occupation. With no electricity or water. With no way to punctuate my days and divide them into sections. But there I was writing what would become the manifesto of the Church of Denial, when the eviction crew carried me out. My journal fell to the floor in the commotion, eventually boxed up and auctioned off for a dollar with the rest of my belongings.

It was only by chance that the journal fell into the hands of a young but brilliant and ambitious squatter punk by the name of Chunder who had a highly circulated underground zine. He published excerpts of the journal as anonymous spiritual self-help guides. They were picked up by a new age existential feminist conspiracy theorist who served beer at music festivals. She passed them along to the young hip groovy and confused, spreading my gospel across the country.

I’d read about the Sarasota suicides. Who hadn’t? Five hundred young people killing themselves as part of a crazy cult. It was all over social media. I’d clicked on the sad emoticon. I’d commented how horrible and reposted the stories, spreading the shocking news. But it wasn’t until the Sixty Minutes camera crew showed up at my door that I learned the whole world blamed me and my dark thoughts. People had read them, but they didn’t understand them. They misused and abused my darkest thoughts instead of having their own.

They couldn’t prosecute me criminally for the suicides, but several families brought a civil suit against me. My lawyer defended my right to freedom of speech, but she couldn’t defend my freedom of thought. I lost everything.

Howl and I have never been happier. My darkest thoughts have been seen. I have already been found guilty. Confirmation of life’s lack of meaning has really taken off a lot of pressure. People are afraid of the dark, but when you live in the dark, your eyes adjust. They don’t understand, the others. Getting stuck on the event horizon, fooled by the illusion, never expanding into the full limits of the black hole. You must be fully absorbed and fully absorb it when faced with the black hole. Only then can you fit your hand around it to carry it like a pebble. Few belong to the totem of the black hole.