Letter to You

We had two babies. First there came a Son, and then a Daughter. I remember holding them both in my arms at the same time, my face beaming the same way my Father’s did whenever he was really excited. I remember looking at them, and then looking at Meagen, my voice shaking a little the way my Mother’s did whenever she was overjoyed.

“This better not be a dream, or I don’t know what I’m going to do when I wake up!”

Then I dreamed of a lonely spaceship captain, the entire crew just holograms winking out as he drifted further and further into oblivion.

When I woke up my arms were empty, and I walked into the bathroom only mildly surprised at the tears in my eyes.

*

It’s Toothless Tuesday today.

No, that’s not a regular thing in the South. Well, maybe it is. Perhaps the full knowledge of it will hit me once the dentist rips out two (two!) teeth from my living skull this afternoon. I’ll wake up with a small pamphlet on my chest tomorrow morning: “WELCOME BROTHER” it will say upon it, inside will be a cross-promotional coupon for The Gap .

The number of teeth in my mouth isn’t the only thing changing around here, as  ̷I̷’̷v̷e̷ ̷b̷e̷e̷n̷ ̷p̷a̷i̷n̷t̷i̷n̷g̷ ̷m̷y̷ ̷f̷a̷c̷e̷ ̷l̷i̷k̷e̷ ̷t̷h̷a̷t̷ ̷o̷f̷ ̷a̷ ̷l̷i̷z̷a̷r̷d̷’̷s̷ ̷f̷o̷r̷ ̷3̷2̷ ̷d̷a̷y̷s̷ ̷s̷t̷r̷a̷i̷g̷h̷t̷-- life has changed considerably for me in the last two weeks.

Some of it is cosmetic: I took a vacation for the first time in four years and did nothing except make new websites for both SUBHEATHEN & Spell Saga. That’s all I did, for days. And I loved it. When my time to shine was over, I returned to the restaurant with a new job and new schedule. I now work three days a week. In those 72, I make as much money as I did working two weeks at my old office job, all those years ago, when Spell Saga was just a daydream in the parking every lunch hour. (and now all that money I make GOES to Spell Saga so it’s really a full circle sort of thing).

...but some of the changes are more emotional in nature.

My own personal astral plane is often bereft of any guidebook, other than the pages I keep crumbled in a pocket or clutched in my palm.  It took me an entire childhood and much of my adult life to find the truth about myself, that I am complicated, but not without logic or reason.

Like, you can be depressed and happy at the same time. Did you know this? I did not. But I found out two weeks ago during a very unexpected Bad Night.

Sometimes I feel wrong, or badly about some of the songs I’ve written. That first EFFORTS record has a lot of stuff about death and suicide on it. I’ll look back on those tunes and wonder who wrote them, or why did I think it was okay to even bring that stuff up? And then I’ll have a night where I remember; where the only point of existence (As far as I can tell) is to to die alone.

That’s when I remember who wrote those songs, and why

As for the Bad Night...I don’t even remember the details. I was talking to Meagen on our couch, and some unpolished stone of truth tumbled out of me. I became unraveled. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t manic. I was just...pointless.  Don’t get me wrong...I’m always sad. But it’s often buried behind other emotions like being hopeful.

When I was a kid my parents took me to a lot of doctors to figure me out. I don’t know why they felt the need to single me out, it was obvious our family tree was mangled by the weather of Heaven long ago, why try to fix a brach if the rest are broken too? But try to fix it they did! But It never worked. In hindsight, because there wasn’t much there to fix. I just needed time to know myself.

I don’t even remember what bothered me the other night, just that I was sad, and that I’m not quite sure why. I think it had something to do with loneliness. What I do remember is that it became a hard reset for me. I had been hiding and holding myself back in the years of toil and trouble made by Spell Saga. I spent four years tiptoeing non-stop across a junkyard of broken glass to make sure I didn't’ fuck everything in my life up the way everyone growing up thought I would.

When I woke up the day after the Bad Night, I was filled with the sort of newfound hope and stability one would only expect after a exorcism. And that’s what it was. A stress related exorcism. And it broke me like a hard reset.

*

It was raining. Or maybe it had been raining. Either way everything was wet and grey. And humid. It’s July so everything was muggy, or as the toothless of The South call it, “Double-Dang Weather.” (that’s not true). But what IS true is that I was sitting on a blanket, in the road, in what soon became obvious was a puddle. I had a toothache, and I’m fairly certain my jaw was infected. I was trying to change a flat on my car--a vehicle that I wasn’t even sure would START because I’ve been ignoring all the problems it was having. And I looked down at myself, at my bird nest of a crotch spilling out from the giant hole in my jeans, I had a moment of clarity. Am I a vagrant? Why am I living my life like this?

And just like that, the place I was in--the dark curtain I had to hide behind just to make sure Spell Saga arrived on my doorstep from hong Kong...was gone.

I drove my car to get it fixed. I started combing my hair and shaving my face clean each day. I made a dental appointment. I looked at our living space and said “No. This is how animals live.” And then I bought groceries and started eating at home again. I made a budget, and plans, and started paying attention to myself and how I spend my time.

I honestly did not realize that I was depressed. It didn’t look anything like I’ve seen with other people. I was productive and happy, laughing and hopeful. Then again, I didn’t realize I was an alcoholic either, as it looked so different from any standard sort of definition (15 months sober, baby!). I suppose I can forgive my parents in retrospect, for not understanding my sadness was just manifesting unexpectedly.

I got a lot of shit done when staring into the sunset of depression; Can you imagine what I’ll be capable of, turning to see the sunrise?

*

I got an email that looked like a fax from the 1970’s. It was from a New York Shipping agent who told me the cargo (read: spell saga) would be arriving shortly. It is fifty-something odd boxes on three pallets weighing a combined weight of 3000 lbs. It is going in my living room.

That email was a month ago. I wrote once more. Again, a terse fax-like response, something like: CARGO ARRIVING SOON. WILL NOTIFY YOU SHORTLY.

The formatting on the letters is always so strange looking at I feel I’ve done something wrong if I respond. Like some advanced foreign nation is reaching out to me and I might offend them.

It’s to the point now where I keep forgetting that everything I worked so hard for is arriving any day now. Like, I’ll be eating a muffin and go: OH that’s right. A thing is happening. The only thing that mattered to me. And then I forget again but I’m busy doing other things.

*

Let’s talk about music.

Beset. Released our first double-single a year-to-the-day-or-so after The Weapon and I started the band. It took months of practicing, recording, failing. We have another single coming soon, called We Brought Weapons, and I think it’s the best album cover I’ve ever designed.

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I’m also excited to say that I’ve found a way for us to do limited edition runs of vinyl picture discs. I’m having a lot of fun delving into the world of lathe cut vinyls, and so we’ll do some for Beset. And some for EFFORTS.

And SPEAKING of EFFORTS. This week should see the release of another album cover I’m in love with, and certainly our longest if not best title ever: MAY THE EYES THAT RISE UPON YOU NEVER KNOW (YOUR TRUE HEART). This is the last EP we’ll be producing before the LP is finished.

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What I like about these EFFORTS extended plays is, although the songs are culled from the eventual LP (I Bought You a Coffin), each EP has a special song made just for itself. In the case of MAY YOU ABSORB ALL EVIL (released last January) there was “Ringtone Money” and on this latest release, we have “I’ll Bring The Blood”. Which is a song I begged us to record. I thought it was important for two reasons: 1) this is a real rough EP. It’s mean, spiteful, and a little harrowing. And although these lyrics came from honest and truthful places, if you write stuff like “we used to be brothers/now we’re nothing” or “what’s the use if you’re not able/to turn your noose into a halo” ...you have to have something cleanse the pallet, and push all those feelings into the right mindscape. The second reason is, though I don’t think anyone else would remember it, this was the first rough idea that all two-and-a-half members of EFFORTS ever played together as a band.

Zach and I recorded this new track (and as it so happens, the final song to be recorded for this first EFFORTS era) by having each of us playing dueling acoustic guitars, with a microphone hung between us. It was the most fun and certainly a scene that a time-traveling version of myself would say” this is fake...and did you mean to gain so much weight?”

So that’s releasing this week or the next. And then it’s on to the full length album that we spent three years working on. Three years! That is a long time! We have decided to print up several hundred promo copies to just give out to people. I’ll package them with Spell Saga and we won’t make a dime off any of it. Which was sort of the plan from the beginning. Then next year we’ll start playing shows again and shooting music videos. Here is a mock-up files for the inside of the packaging:

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My other gig, DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP, with my good friend Geoffrey Maybe was also supposed to be performing next year--along with various costumed creatures and puppets. But last night I sat on a couch with Geoffrey as he told me he would be leaving forever at the end of the year. I wished him luck and drove home slightly heartbroken. Hopefully his plans fail and he is forced to live out my dreams for his life.

*

I dreamed I was walking into a room where my brothers and childhood friends were playing music and I was not invited or allowed.

*

The Novel has reached a place where I can see the end off it. I stopped a year ago and went back and rewrote the whole thing, even giving it a new title and to more than some degree, a new purpose and identity.

The chapter I was stuck on before, The Return of The Häx has not only changed its placement in the story, but also its purpose and content. The stuff I was trying to write kept getting interrupted by these other ideas, until I just let it happen (by worrying about it a whole bunch and forcing myself to do it), and now I’m telling the story in a much more honest manner (and in a more original manner too, I might add). Now I just have to finish the thing, and then rewrite the chapter it now proceeds--which is also affected in a much better manner, as now a chapter that I liked, but felt worried towards, will now move all the more quicker, and will have a better purpose than it did (not just character driven, but now plot and character driven, with several different motives and emotions all playing against one another).

My favorite thing to do is take the rough nearly finished version of a chapter (or even a scene) and then read it to Meagen. There are times when I’m reading, and we both laugh at something I wrote, and it feels like a god damn magic trick (the book isn’t humor-based, but you gotta have some giggles during the introspective drama, right). Here is part of a scene that I like:

 


Chapter Thirteen

The Return of The Häx


Somewhere else, at a time yet to be determined, Sylvan The Magician was staring into the depths of a hotel room wall. There were no pictures hung for him to look at (he had taken them all down). And the wall was nothing special (except for the large stain, which hung like a grotesque reflectionless mirror before him). Sylvan knew what the stain was--he could read a magical accident with the best of them, even without a degree in occult forensics.

There had been an attack, of that he was sure. And the stain was the blood of a victim who was male, with legs thin as a skeleton, his hair styled in two long braids that hung down to his chest. Sylvan could even read the stain upon the wall in such a manner that he could knew the victim’s name (it was Cut-Punch) and his profession (a drug dealer who sold gender-bending pills). And if he concentrated on the stain for long enough, he could see the boxing gloves Cut-Punch never took off, the ones with steak-knives sticking out from the ends of them. But as to what had caused the stain, and Cut-Punch’s untimely death, of this The Magician could not be certain. There had been some sort of brawl, from the looks of things...and a demon had been involved.  It was hard to say who had won, but the mark occured after the ma named Cut-Punch had been thrown against the wall.

Sylvan was sure it was quite a story, but it had nothing to do with him. In fact, the only reason he was staring at the stain now was it was the one blank wall he could stare at comfortably while sitting at the edge of the bed. He put the image of the attack out of his mind. And stared past the stain, into the white vast beyond it. He was searching for answers. And failing somewhat miserably.

The room worked best when ignored. Sylvan knew this, and had even taught himself several techniques of deliberate non-listening (from modern schools of thought, like The Crumbling Tower, to ancient ideas like The Misheed Form of The Blinded Eye.

But it was no use.

“What’s that?” Francois asked, pointing at the stain on the wall.

Sylvan pretended not to hear him.

“What are you listening to?”

Sylvan ignored that question too. His Mp3 player was set to repeat the song it was playing, and the volume turned up loud enough to drown out most of the child’s questions. But no matter how long he stared at the wall, or how hard he concentrated on the song about fleeting dreams and a place called California, he knew Francois was beside him, staring intently. And this would not do.

Sylvan pulled the headphones out and tried his best to stay focused on the white spray along the wall. “I am Attempting.” he told him.

He could almost hear Francois cock his head to the side as he asked, “Attempting what?”

“Magic.” said Sylvan. And then, because he knew it was useless, and because he quite liked explaining how clever he was, he did his best to explain the whole thing quickly.

“Francois, you and I have done our best to tell everyone to meet us here at this hotel. We have popped and blinked across countless worlds, delivering our magic flyers--”

“But those flyers didn’t say anything on them! It was like all the words were…” Francois, paused, as if embarrassed, “...well they moved like insects, is all. I don’t see how anyone is gonna be able to read them, Sylvan.”

“It’s just an enchanted font.” the magician smiled. “The words are not viewable until someone believes they are truly a hero.”

“Oh.” said Francois. “So if the true hero of each world finds the flyer, they’ll know where to find us.”

“Precisely.”

“Well that will be my biggest coincidence yet.” Francois smiled to himself. “You’re lucky I’m traveling with you!”

“Am I?” Sylvan mumbled to himself, turning back to the stain on the wall.

“But why listen to that song on repeat? Why change a blood stain on the wall to make it look the color white?”

“It was a cheap trick, to be sure.” Sylvan agreed. “But I need to try and see things. And a blank white spot, with a simple melody, is a great start.” Sylvan turned back to Francois. “I’m trying to catch a glimpse of what our heroes might be up to.”

“That sounds like pretty advanced magic!”

“It is not so accomplished as all that.”

“Aren’t you accomplished, Sylvan?”

“I warn you. I am very Accomplished.” But then Sylvan was mumbling, his thoughts going adrift into the white ocean before him.

Why can’t I see anything? He wondered. Why is this so hard?

But he could almost hear his friend, The Wizard Jonas Tombstone’s voice answering him:

Why not stop feeling sorry for yourself? and Anyone can clearly see that your thoughts are too full to see through them clearly.

Jonas loved saying that one. Sylvan felt his face twitch in annoyance. More so that the advice was good than anything else. But how could he possibly clear his mind at a time like this? He was a magician with a lot going on. He gave himself a moment to think back on the events which had led him to ignoring a child in a hotel room.

He and Jonas had met the boy in the astral plane, sometime ago, by any decent measure of time. And then there had been that business in the restaurant, where they had first met Esperanto Crown-Killer, and then the rest of their company, The Council of Myths & Secrets.

That was when things really got uncomfortable for Sylvan, because the head of the council was a young woman named July Hollander, and though he had never met her before, she knew him exceedingly well.

Is that what bothers you? Sylvan asked himself. No, he answered. And yet perhaps it does.

A magician should know himself completely, and spend many quiet moments reflecting on the truth of themself and their actions. If they did not, magic could become quite dangerous if one was not honest with themself. In that sense, July Hollander knowing him better than he knew himself felt like a threat--in the world of magicians, knowledge was a threat. But according to xxxxx, not only did she know him, she had travelled with him in her youth.

I do hate time travel. Sylvan admitted to himself. And then, like a small firework of epiphany, he heard himself responding to his own thoughts,  You hate time travel, and you hate the truth about yourself.

Because it wasn’t just that this unknown woman knew him so well, it was that she knew him with anger in her eyes. She had been through much, anyone could see it. From the missing leg she had replaced with an obsidian antler; to the leather armor she wore, her shield kept safely beside her. This woman had known Sylvan in her youth, and he was sure, beyond a doubt, by the look in her eyes and the manner she held herself, Sylvan had let her down.

That was why he felt so upset. It was unnatural event to meet someone after they had already met you, and the magician had no emotional resistance to handle it. The truth of the matter was that soon, he would meet this young girl, and he was going to let her down. And he knew this. As surely as he knew his techniques of ignoring things. Because Sylvan The Magician was selfish. And he hated this about himself.

Just admitting it was a relief. And Sylvan felt the room wash away until it was just him and his Mp3 player, staring into the stain of a white space in front of him. And as he watched, it became snow.

There were other things in that wall too. Something horrible was happening at a school. A young girl named Victoria was tied to a chair somewhere in an abandoned building. Her eyes were closed tightly as the sound a crash was coming from somewhere up above her. And someplace else, in a world of pitch black darkness, he could hear two people whispering to one another.

But it was The Tundra which had caught his attention.

Sylvan focused on the white spot, trying to see the same lone figure standing where he had seen them. He could hear the chorus repeating itself at the end of the song. He tried to blur his eyes a little. Focusing on nothing. Ignoring the room. There was a woman standing in the snow. He could almost see her. And all of a sudden, he knew her name, and much more about her.

 

 

*

I was in the mall, it wasn’t a dream, though I often dream of this place during times of change; this is after all, where I spent most of my early adolescence, where I spent all my time and money on fantasy card games. I was walking up the stairs and turned to find Joshua Rizzo walking down them. He said my full name when we embraced. Joshua helped me get Spell Saga ready for the public, spending most of every day for two years next to me while I did so. But we haven’t talked much in years. “I was gonna call you thiS week” I told him, honestly. “Oh yeah?” he asked, his eyes darting around like he was both happy and uncomfortable. “I got 3000 lbs. Of a fantasy card game you helped me make showing up to the house this week. I’ll call ya.”

Then I left him on the stairs and bought myself pants without holes, and a bitchin’ jean jacket.

I gotta go get my teeth ripped out. See you when I look more Southern.

Todd Rogers