Living Dead Girl

The Disappearance of Julie Peters – Part 13

(This is Part 13 of a series that I began several months ago. If you’re new here, you may want to start from Part 1)

September, 2019

Eagleville, Missouri

Sweat burns in my eyes like sulfuric acid as I draw my right arm back for the final blow.  I can feel the lactic acid burning in my shoulders and upper back, accumulating slowly  under the sweltering Missouri sun. 

Drops of  fresh blood cake the jagged edges of the stone as I hold it’s awkward weight aloft in the air. 

I summon what remains of my dwindling energy, grit my teeth, and swing the rock down one last time, hammering it home with an almost animalistic brutality. 

The force of the blow ricochets up my forearm and settles deep within my bones.   A muffled THUD rings out across the grass and over the nearby pond, before dwindling off into silence.  

I rise slowly, and stumble backward as the rock falls from my fingers.  I wince as it grazes the raw, open skin of my right palm. 

Take a minute to admire my handiwork as my labored breathing begins to slow. 

Not bad, considering I’ve never done this before.  Not bad at all. 

I make my way over to the water and dip my hands beneath it’s murky surface, watching as the dirt from my skin mingles with the silt and the soggy weeds. 

Finally, I turn back towards the source of my grisly efforts, and breathe in the stunning panoramic view. 

Trees line the perimeter, offering an eerily quiet and utterly palpable isolation.  A bright blue cloudless sky hovers above.  Springy grass carpets the Earth.  Tiny bugs weave through the undergrowth, humming cheerfully to themselves.  

And framed perfectly between the foliage and aloft the greenery  – a small tent, big enough for one. 

Bright-orange, plastic stakes secure it to the ground, hammered home by a large rock, now cast aside… having served it’s purpose.  It’s surface is stained a soft, bloody red.

A gentle breeze floats across the campsite and brushes my sweaty skin, pulling me out of my reverie with a subtle shiver. 

It’s late afternoon, and the sun is inching it’s way towards the horizon.  Soon, it will be dark. 

What to do, with these remaining hours of daylight?  What options do I really have, in this tiny RV park near the Iowa border, surrounded by rolling farmland as far as the eye can see?

 The fatigue from my earlier efforts has already begun to dissipate.  I can feel the anxious energy building slowly again, crawling up my belly towards my chest.  Nothing seems to quell it’s hunger, this ravenous beast inside me. 

What had once been a limitless well of euphoric energy has begun to transform into something… unrecognizable. 

I suppose all those nights spent gazing up at the ceiling of a shoddy hotel room, plotting and planning instead of sleeping, has begun to take it’s toll on me. 

Eating one hurried meal a day and sipping water only occasionally hasn’t helped either.  Factor in the countless hours of disheveled driving, and it’s a wonder I’m still standing upright.  

But while my body is near it’s breaking point, the tiny neurons inside my brain continue to fire ceaselessly. 

Always churning, always contemplating.  Deliberating.  Dwelling.  Ruminating. 

And the only way to quiet it is with motion. 

Physical exertion.  Constant movement. 

Constant progress.

Go. Go. Go. GO. GO.  

Another wave of energy washes over me, and I hurry over to the rental car, parked haphazardly on the grass beside my new tent.  I pop the trunk to reveal a jumbled heap of clothes, camp food, and highway maps.  Reach into the pile and retrieve a pair of freshly-purchased hiking boots. 

Lace them up. 

And feel my legs carry me away.


Several Hours Later…


Bits of gravel scatter down the dusty road, my dirt-covered boot-tips knocking them loose.  I stop to moisten my parched throat with a long drink from a crinkled plastic water bottle. 

As I raise my chin to the sky, my eyelids scrape across my bloodshot eyes like sandpaper. 

As they pull strenuously downwards, a curtain of black shrouds my vision, and little dots of light sprinkle into existence in front of me.  They coalesce into figures – silhouettes that dance and waver to silent, unearthly music. 

I open my eyes and they disappear. 

But with each and every blink, they return. 

I shake my head pointedly from side to side, attempting to remove their wispy bodies from my visual field like the erasable lines of an etch-a-sketch.

I force myself to continue walking, kicking up more dust and distracting myself from the light-people by forcing an interest in the surrounding farmland.

A brown cow rests serenely behind a nearby fence, chewing in his enviable and blissful ignorance of the woeful tragedies of my human condition. 

What I wouldn’t give to be that cow. 

To bask in that mid-afternoon sun, admiring that cornfield…

…unaware of the all the little political and societal nuances that allow for that genetically-modified corn to be planted, reaped, taxed, branded and advertised as the quintessential component of the American diet…

… elevated in price and processed by underpaid workers into cereal, after being drowned in carcinogenic additives and refined sugar…

… and plastered with the colorful cartoon label that’s been psychologically proven to ensure that children will beg their mothers to purchase it. 

 Because our society has become nothing more than a consumption machine – a chronically underfed one. 

Because the basic components of human need as defined by Maslow, have been exploited, repackaged, and sold back to us for profit. 

Because we’re spending our hard-earned dollars on the publicly tangible evidence of our accumulated material wealth…

… all as a means to appear successful to our peers – without stopping to question the origins of this perceived idea of success. 

Because our definition of success is, at it’s very roots,  bred into us as children in the form of standardized public education and pressured social conformity by which we feel we have no choice but to abide. 

Because even now, in the 21st century, in the era of globalization and widespread publicly-available knowledge, it’s even harder to tell the difference between truth and fiction than it was 20 years ago and that despite social media we feel more disconnected from each other than we ever have before…

… and because our replacement for that lack of connection is a DIGITALLY-SIMULATED VERSION OF CONNECTION comprised of airwaves and fiber-optic cables… 

…and we’ve all become slaves to these imaginary digital misrepresentations of ourselves and spend our entire lives locked inside the confines of these prisons of our own making…

…and adding to that we have the political unrest and generational divide which are all perpetuated by the media in news-stories that are spoon-fed directly from the mouths of the shady politicians that are bought and paid for by the greedy corporations that keep all of us in a form of…

… INDENTURED SERVITUDE BY ENSURING WE NEVER RISE ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE BECAUSE WE WILL SPEND OUR ENTIRE LIVES PAYING OFF THE INTEREST OF OUR VASTLY INFLATED STUDENT LOANS and can’t afford to buy houses or start families…

… and half of the American public believes that the solution to that is to introduce a form of governmental socialism and to demonize capitalism which is actually fucking ridiculous because capitalism is the most productive form of self-governance when it IS NOT CORRUPT BUT THAT’S OUR PROBLEM IS CORPORATE CORRUPTION AND WE’RE TOO BUSY bickering amongst ourselves to actually do anything about it AND THE CORPORATIONS LOVE THAT BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES THAT PAY FOR THE PROMOTIONS THAT START THE BICKERING AND—-


Fuck.  

That little spot in my left temple is throbbing again. 

Breathe, I need to breathe. 

I plop down on the picnic table and stare at my little tent.  How long have I been back here, at my campsite? 

My mind is whirling again.  Spiraling out of control. 

Rest… I need some rest.

But it’s difficult to rest when your mind is buzzing, whirring, vibrating. 

When you can see all of the problems of the world so clearly.

When you know the answers to those problems. 

I know that I know the answers…

…don’t I? 

See, that’s the thing.  I’ve had so many epiphanies over the past week. 

I’ve had so many ideas. 

And sometimes, when I go to plan out those ideas, more ideas pop up before I finish the plan for the first ideas…

… and so what I’ve done is I’ve taken certain parts of some ideas and other parts of other ideas and I’ve sewn those parts together…

… and then I took still other ideas and I glued them over top of the first ideas and now what I have is a giant, amorphous blob of idea-parts – a Frankenstein idea.  

The problem with all this, though, is that the idea is so big that when I look at it, I can no longer see the whole thing, and it’s a bit fuzzy on the edges and so my plans have begun to represent that. 

For instance, part of my idea required that I drive South and the other part required that I go North, and so I tried to do both and wound up driving in a bit of a circle, which is how I wound up in this strange little farm-town. 

Also, I had planned to walk for a long distance but I had also been determined to bike that same distance and so I’d bought hiking gear but also tried to buy an expensive bicycle before I’d run out of money.

And even now… my body seems to be telling me to slow down, while my mind is telling me to speed up. 

It’s all so very confusing and I’m starting to get a bit scared and also sort of lonely. 

I’ve been awake so long that none of this feels real anymore and I’m beginning to suspect that I may have already died and that I’m walking around in my already dead body. 

A living dead girl.  That’s what I am.  

The ghost of a person, who wasn’t ever really a person at all. Just a big, jumbled mess of confused ideas that never came to fruition. Just a scared little zombie out in the middle of nowhere, all alone.

I find myself walking towards the pond at the very end of my little campsite. 

I step out onto the dock. Stoop down. And begin to cry.


To Be Continued…

Where is My Mind?

Present Day

I awake with a violent jerk, tangled inside a nest of disorganized cotton sheets and blankets.

The room is dark, with a hint of fluorescent light trickling in through the cracks in the blinds. A lone streetlight casting its ghostly rays on the quiet, chilly corner outside.

I blindly reach my hand out from beneath the down comforter, probing expectantly with grasping fingers, and wincing as the cold air strikes my exposed skin.

The tiny muscles at the base of my fluffy arm-hairs tighten. I shiver as the goosebumps erupt. 

I continue my sightless search, combing the perimeter for that tiny familiar device, containing all the abstract data that comprises my existence here in the 21st Century.

Finally, my palm slaps something smooth and hard. My thumb instinctively swipes across its polished surface. 

I squint my eyes as the screen springs to life.

An angry grunt bubbles up in my throat as I note the time. 

4 AM

GOD. DAMMIT.

I toss the phone away and scoop up an armful of blankets instead, bundling them over my face. Letting out a muffled wail of frustration into the soft, cushy fabric.  

Suddenly, a sharp pang ripples through my belly, and my irritation at the ungodly hour evaporates. An impending sense of urgency replaces it.

I frantically kick my feet, attempting to free my legs from their tangled bonds before it’s too late.

My stomach bubbles ominously. I Groan as the walls of my intestines dance and writhe and twist, swishing their contents back and forth like a small child making waves in a bathtub.

Not a moment too soon, my legs have tunneled their way to freedom and I plant my feet on the cold hardwood floor. 

As I rise from the mattress, I reach down with one hand and grab a handful of the elastic waistband, hanging loosely around my sharply protruding hip bones.

It’s a habit I’ve only recently grown accustomed to.

Five weeks ago, these pants had fit perfectly.

Funny how quickly the body turns on itself, cannibalizing it’s own precious tissues in a desperate plea for sustenance. Liquidating it’s own assets in a frantic attempt to survive the nutritional recession.

Cinching the fabric tightly about my waist, I stumble  into the hallway and onward to the bathroom. 

How many times has this happened tonight?

What number am I on? 

7?

8?

How is there anything left in my stomach to expel?

Surely it must be empty by now?

Several minutes later, I collapse back into bed. The sheets have grown cold in my absence.

Oddly, I’m no longer wallowing in self-pity.  Instead, I feel… reassured. Relieved. Vindicated. 

I’m reacting to this much better than I had two weeks ago. I’m not panicking, like I did last time.

Because now, after 1 month of slowly titrating up the dosage of this new medication, I’m finally recognizing the patterns.

Patterns lead to predictions.

And predictions lead to preparation.

And preparation, leads to a sense of control. 

I may not have control over my body just yet, but if the cycle continues… I will feel physically well again in about a week. My body will adjust to the higher dose, and the cramping and nausea will subside.

I just have to keep the faith and ride out the storm. 

Easier said than done.

Because as much as I’ve come to accept the physical demands of this adjustment period, they absolutely pale in comparison to the hell they’ve imposed on me MENTALLY.

Three weeks ago I was out running when I passed by a garage sale.

As I coasted along the sidewalk, I noticed a spunky little clock that stood out among the rest of the mundane and perfectly ordinary baubles. It’s borders were undulated, as though someone had suspended it over a blowtorch. It was artistically melted.

I thought to myself, “That’s cool. Looks like one of those paintings by… by… by….”

That artist. 

You know the one…

C’mon you know this.

You wrote a research paper on him in college. 

It’s a household name, for Chrissake.

You KNOW this. 

You have to know this. 

Why don’t you know this?

Why don’t you fucking know this? 

What’s WRONG WITH YOU?

Why can’t you REMEMBER?

This went on for my entire run.

I don’t remember what route I took, what music I listened to, or what my time was.

But I vividly recall spiraling into a full-blown panic attack that didn’t let up until I arrived back at my front porch and FINALLY, screamed aloud, practically sobbing in relief…

SALVADOR DALI!!

Salvador fucking Dali.

I get it. I know it’s stupid.

Normal humans, all over the world, are probably forgetting the names of Early-20th century Spanish painters on a DAILY basis.

No one, that I’m aware of, has ever found themselves in mortal peril from their lack of useless art facts.

And more importantly, I’m not an artist.

Nor am I a curator, or a museum-owner, or someone who can dissect a famous painting for hidden meaning, or really comment on art at all, except maybe to say things like “I think this one might be a watercolor?”

So why did I let Salvador Dali and his bizarre acid-trip style interpretation of the world ruin my day? 

Let me explain.

I am by nature, an extremely scholarly person.

I love to learn new things, expand my vocabulary, and binge-watch Netflix documentaries until I can recite all the exact dates of the major World War II battles for no particular reason other than to annoy you. 

I tend to consume information gluttonously, eating it up like a package of freshly-opened Girl Scout cookies.

And I pride myself on retaining that information. Its a huge part of who I am and how I define myself.

And throughout the past few weeks, as my psychiatrist has slowly begun to alter the dosages of some of my meds, I’ve felt that part of myself slipping, ever so slightly. 

And that scares the shit out of me.

For the last two weeks, I’ve had my own brain under interrogation almost constantly. 

Insignificant bits of forgotten information have become evidence…

… that my medicine has dissolved my memory into soup.  

Every perceived deviance from my normal way of thinking has been carefully monitored, cataloged, and placed in the repository of “Things That Prove I’m Now an Idiot and will be This way Forever.” 

To top it off, I’ve been terrified to write anything for fear that the entire world would pick up on the fact that I’ve somehow transformed into Charlie Gordon from Flowers for Algernon.

And even if I’d wanted to write, I was having trouble finding the right words to convey even relatively simple ideas.

That burning flame of creativity that had always been raging in my mind, had been extinguished.

Needless to say, it’s been a trying 2 weeks.

But near the tail end of it, the fog began to lift, ever so slowly, as my body became accustomed to these strange new chemicals.

And I realized, much to my relief, that the change… was hardly permanent. 

Best of all, I’m beginning to feel, a hint of “something else” that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I feel, slightly better? A tiny bit… balanced?

Not an overwhelming change, but enough to give me a tiny glimpse of hope to get through these next two weeks, as my dosage was increased again yesterday. It’s a perpetuating cycle of adaptation and agony.

As I lay atop my sheets now, preparing for the next round of cramping and nausea to begin, I desperately cling to the idea that this is temporary.

My body, will recover.

The atrophied muscles, I can rebuild.

I won’t live on soup and crackers forever. 

My mind, is healing. That takes time.

And although this all seems so wildly unfair… in the broad scheme of things, it’s actually not so bad.

So I close my eyes… grit my teeth, and probe my struggling mind for activity.

Salvador Dali

It becomes my mantra.

I clench the phrase in my hands and squeeze it until my knuckles turn white.  

As long as I can remember it… I know I’ll be okay. 

My mind, is in there somewhere. Lying dormant.

Waiting. Healing.

It will return when it’s ready.