ben vandgrift · on living the dream

character writing - mark mccastlin

Samples from the journals of Marcus Ryan McCastlin, aka Mark Ryan.

jan 15.

every year i think it'll be different. i'll get better. i'll get left alone. and about this time every year, at least the years i can remember, i realize it won't get any better. great way to start off a year, not to mention a new journal, but it's going to have to do. new year, new journal, same problems. happy new year everybody.

jan 22.

for the past moon, the visions have been less interesting, at least from the point of view of the author in me. the stark trees are as sinister as ever, but the faces within aren't pained, just observant. the Strangers i see aren't moving, just watching, questioning. this could be because of the change in medication. based on the jpm this month, i'm returning to cycads—i've replaced the prozac with imipramine. I've cut the risperidone to half, but still take a full dose of zyprexa (olanzapine). at half, the resperidone isn't giving me the side effects. for the moment, i'm still taking ridalin, though i've cut my dosage down.

this combo seems to be working pretty well, though i have to keep the timing up, else everything comes back hard. while they don't kill off the hallucinations, i don't feel as threatened by them - that is to say, the images aren't as threatening. maybe it's just coincidence and the weather. the downside is i don't get as much free inspiration for stories. when the Strangers get distant, the typewriter seems like a foreign national - we just aren't communicating.

there was smoke coming from a tree on the way back home. i could barely make out faces coming from within the haze. they were chuckling and whispering. when i saw them, i saw others, around most of the trees. it looks like they come through the trees, using them as a gate or something. at least these were. i never saw forms, just faces.

feb 3.

i enjoy my vacations, i really do. it's good not to be any crazier than the people around me. cathartic. besides, it's good stdy material, and if i don't go, i'll lose my grant. either way, i win.

i am sticking with my present medication. it's doing well. the dry mouth is gone, as are the jitters, and things seem pretty benign, at least for now.

while i was away, i finished chapters 13-15. i do love portable electronics. bryan is finding gateways now, just about everywhere he looks. he's having a hard time blocking out that perception, now that its opened. i can't help but feel that bryan is real, but i know that that's a disassociative effect of the sp.

feb 14.

valentines day. there is a man following me—he has no face, but he moves around. i think he may have sinister intentions, and i don't like to turn away from him. i've been inside for a few days, but he comes in here too. he just paces around. he's from the Otherworld. definitely a Stranger. i wonder if they have noticed that i can see them. at least, that is what the construct in my mind would have me wonder. still, it affects me. i have to keep it down when i'm in class, else people will start to talk.

feb 18.

blank is still with me, and he's been joined off and on by others. they approach, and i can hear them giggling, even though they have no faces. i wonder if these images have been generated by my feelings of unimportance to the world at large? when dealing with things, i feel like a number, and these Strangers may be that feeling asserting itself into my perception. there's so much i don't know about my subconscious—or neurotransmitters, for that matter. what i really need is to dtop theorizing, and deal with this day to day.

christine came over again to study. maybe it's that romantic time of the year, maybe it's pity. maybe she just wants me for my notes. maybe she thinks i'm playing hard to get. who knows. she's really a great girl, i just wish i could generate some passion about it. i don't know whether or not she sees the affects—i hope so. it'll just be harder to get it out later. i guess i should write up a disclaimer and wavier for girls i want to go out with, letting them know about things. do you want to go out? great, sign these. i just can't feel right about it, though. if i tell them up front, i'm unloading my problems on them, if i wait, i'm hiding things. no matter how i approach the situation, i lose. maybe i should just have a third date rule. or explain my alarms, instead of ducking off to take some pills. still, i want this to work out.

feb 27.

today, because they're on my mind, i'll talk about my parents. turns out, they asked christine to look after me and convert me to their twisted parody of religion. why can't they just join the crowd and leave me alone. it's not the feelings of parent-child protectiveness, it's always guilt-based save my soul crap. i think that having a child that doesn't shout hallelujah makes them look bad in church or something.

here's the real trick. dad is smart. genuinely intelligent. he's has a mind like a razor blade, and yet when he approaches certain conceptual lines, he breaks down into a bible-spouting follower. mom is usually a bible-spouting follower, so that's no big suprise, but dad disappoints me. when i was 12, and started seeing the Strangers, they could've taken me to a doctor and cured me. instead, they take me to a faith healer, who decides that i'm posessed and my soul needs savin'. that guys name was jack frost, if you can believe it.

why this rift? i have bigger problems than god at the moment. a Stranger pushed me down a flight of stairs the other day—my wrist is still killing me, and my board cracked a wheel. i know they're hallucinations, but i still can't go through them. logic doesn't apply to the reaction of the mind when coming into contact with an object it knows is solid. and the people standing around didn't help, just laughed. i'm sure i yelled at them. i hope they didn't think i was crazy.

mar 1.

blank is gone, but the usual vision remains. it feels better to not be familiar with the Strangers—it's more impersonal when i tell myself they don't exist. i like it that way, less attachment.

mar 15.

i am not crazy. i am not crazy. i am not crazy. i'm back from my stay at the happy place. compared to most of the happy residents, i'm doing just fine. i hope my professors will let it slide. i'm pretty sure i'm their best students anyhow.

while in the farm, i changed my medication again—i added mesoridazine and removed the zyprexa. mesoridazine is a little tailored to the visual-audio receptors. let's see what happens after a couple of weeks.

mar 22.

i went to a doctor today about my wrist. the swelling is, it turns out, due to a ganglian cyst. the first thing they wanted was to do a blood test, but i put it off, citing religious reasons. he's also concerned about my weight, but i just don't have any appetite. i'll have ot make an effort to eat more, regardless. i can't be innocuous if everyone's staring at the scarecrow man.

blank is back. probably related to the doctor visit.

From the 'about the author' section of 'Trespassing'.

"Mark Ryan is a graduate student at the University of Cincinatti, studying Neuropsychology. He has Masters' Degrees in English and Clinical Psychology. His research takes him into the connections between the brain and the mind, the chemistry of thought, and the physics of the Idea. While he plans to practice in Cincinatti after receiving his Ph.D., writing is his first love."

Mark McCastlin is published (Swift) under the name Marcus Ryan. His last book, 'Trespassing', describes a world parallel to this, a forgotten place into which the hero (Bryan Rivers) stumbles through interaction with images from his subconscious. It describes the world which Mark has created to deal with his own problems. The sequel, 'Paths and Dreams' is due out next spring.

written: Nov 29 1999