Books by Nickolaus A. Pacione
This is about a period in my life where it was pure hell, leading into my first nervous breakdown. It previously appears on Deviantart.com listed under transgressive.
"Job, there is something about you that pisses me off!"
– Stephen King, Storm of the Century
It was a few days after the Columbine shooting took place when I started to lose my mind. I had no idea what was going on upstairs, but I know that I wouldn't last another day living with the accusations of child abuse looming over my head.
To this day I still have frightening nightmares about the accusations, those accusations drove me insane and that was the moment I wanted to reach for the bottle. People from The Christian Fellowship in Mason City, Iowa, having a pitchfork and torch party. I was the guest of honor – one of those parties I clearly wanted nothing to do with. The kind of thing one doesn't even want to begin to imagine, but in many ways you see the puppets dancing. They basically go at "God's Command."
I remember those few weeks well. It felt like I actually was living out a plot of one of my own horror short stories. Those nightmares seemed so real to me, and they are scars in the back of my mind because in the nightmares I can still see the youth pastor from that church holding the blood dripped screwdriver that tore the flesh from the back of my head.
"Destroy the outsider," he would bellow into the darkness.
"Down with the outsider and his thought patterns," the rest chanted back. I felt the lungs of hell touching my body and it wasn't a burning heat but a freezing cold.
The nightmares continued well into the times I spent at a friends residence. The fact that 11 years had managed to be left behind with them, but still I could see those fucked up nightmares as vivid as I write them to this day.
"I have the outsider's manuscripts – to me they're nothing but blank pages and they shall be burned as such," he continues.
During the haunting duration of the nightmare what I saw in his hand was a small disk with everything I've written on it from the age of nineteen to twenty-one. He first set fire to the manuscripts, and then tossed the floppy disk on the ground and allowed someone to run over then until they got destroyed. Living there during the years of 1998-1999, I had a lot of macabre nightmares about being the outsider there. I was the outsider and didn't exactly fit into their small town mold.
Over there they would watch the high school football game, when I was back in Glendale Heights – I would go to Elmhurst and do an open mic. I think about those days often when I go to the nightclubs for signings, the nightmares about the fucker called a youth pastor setting fire to my papers. It's every writers worst nightmares along with the one who says, "write a book just for me and only me. I'm your number one fan, and I will the only one to see it."
Living there, I don't think Stephen King would be able to make some of the shit up that goes on over there. This kind of horror that I faced through April and May, was driving me to the point of madness. I knew that if I went to the First Assembly of God Church in Mason City, Iowa, about the issue they wouldn't be much help to me.
"Your testimony should fill all these pages instead of what you've written – in my eyes, your fiction is nothing but blank pages," is what still rings in the back of my head about the legalistic fuck. I could picture someone like him wanting human thoughtless puppets where he could pull their strings – dance, puppet, dance.
I really think he never sat down in front of a computer and created something that belonged to him. I still hear those words to this day and get angry. I wanted to write a story with the fucker in it and kill him off in a way so horrible, people wouldn't believe that I actually wrote it. In my nightmares I see him and the female pastor from Mason City invoking a witch-hunt because I don't exactly think like them – they want robots instead of people who thought freely.
Living there was similar to the pages of Anthem. When I get sick during the times when I was living at the apartment, I will have those nightmares and I hate talking about them because it reminds me of what happened to my young son; at the time of writing this he's about to turn eleven.
"The outsider must go, he must perish!" the youth pastor chants to the crowd as they respond like puppets on a string. People don't have witch-hunts in 1999. That seemed true to form, but on April 20, 1999, they had one and everyone who wore black clothing, listened to loud heavy metal music, or read horror books. Because of those things, we were the ones being put on trial because of a hideous act two assholes did in the high school library that day. That gave the rest of the community permission to start another Salem Witch Trial.
Some might see this and ask, "Nick, are you making this up?"
I could fully picture that and would say no, because when I had the nervous breakdown. I had many nightmares about this and each one was too horrifying to put into words. That combined with the accusations of child abuse really weighed heavy on my conscious, and in many ways I am still haunted by this.
I keep having the nightmares of people saying that I turned into my biological father along with the nightmares of the youth pastor and the female pastor preaching off a near death experience. Things like that scare me to death for many reasons. One he was violent when he was school, and when I look in the mirror, I see the fucker's face instead of my own. Except he didn't have red hair, he had long black hair and a reddish tint of a goatee in the black hairs.
In the nightmares, I see the asshole quite well and still holding the screwdriver along with the clipping of the day that I was brutally attacked. What disturbs me is that the people who stabbed me were friends of his. That youth pastor was a different kind of monster, one that hides behind a caring smile. That caring smile was a mask for something more horrifying and that was the act of trying to brainwash as many people as he can – his way of sharing the Love of God was distorted with legalism. That in turn is something so sinister that I can't even put the words to describe.
"God loves you," the youth pastor would say, but it was a mixed message by staring at him. He said it with his words but his actions said "go fuck yourself; I don't like your kind walking into this church wearing all black."
Staring right at him after he said that was saying without actually saying it was, "Hope you die fucker! You're an outsider and no one will bother to help you. The reason you lost your son is because the way you think – the way you look and the way you carry yourself. If you want him back you have to look more like me, and think more like a puppet."
I thought when I stared right at the son of a bitch, you want to be a puppet you brainwashed fuck then dance. Puppet. Dance.
I would look up to the sky and ask God why the fuck is this shit happening to me. I must had done something to piss Him off. Something that made most of the church population invoke some kind of witch hunt for anyone who has a Gothic appearance to them. In Mason City from April 20, 1999, to the day I signed myself into the hospital was a form of the Salem Witch Trials in the last year of the 20th Century. Over there hardly anyone wore black clothing or read horror books, and over there it was if I was a stranger in a strange land.
In the nightmares I could still hear the dialog I would have with the youth pastor.
"Why the fuck are you doing this?" I would ask.
"Because you stopped going to church, and everything you've done is nothing but an abomination in God's eyes! I am here as your judge and destroyer of everything you create – you're nothing but a leper," he answers back.
"This what you've done is nothing but blank pages, they shouldn't even be written – and you're wasting your gift on writing such abominations," he continues.
"God gave me an imagination and a free will," I would argue back.
"Free will is a lie! God commands us to destroy anything that isn't of Him," he shouts as he takes the torch to the pile of classic books. His fear must be having a wide array of knowledge and a person who is self-educated.
From what I remember of him, he was a youth pastor only in name. He worked in the Christian bookstore in the mall for extra money. Those two words he said still rings in the back of my mind even when I was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown less than three weeks later – in the hospital I can still the two words ringing and burning in the back of my mind; blank pages.
I could still describe the nightmares to this present day, a man doing things accordance to "God's Will."
Doing things as a Nazi soldier and that's how he dressed in the nightmare, he even looked like he could pass off as a member of the "SS." Something that could fit the pages of Fahrenheit 441 – fear of the knowledge that breathes and beats within the pages.
Such nightmares I still remember and when I crashed at a friends house in Chicago, those nightmares plagued me in such a dark and disturbing way. I knew that I couldn't talk to him about such nightmares, and I didn't even mention them to my doctor in Oak Park, Illinois.
Those nightmares about a torch and pitchfork party being lead by the uneducated youth pastor and the female pastor who preaches on a NDE. Some would tell me to pray them out of the system, but something like that can't be healed with prayer – especially when they were triggered by the events of Columbine.
These nightmares were perplexed by the ones of losing custody of my son, seeing him at twenty saying, "You're not my father, and I want you out of my fucking life. You were never a father to me, I don't want to read the maps you created so I find you. You turned into your father!"
When I had my nervous breakdown, everything was crashing down on me at once. I came very close to losing my apartment, my job, and everything else if it was just dried clay falling to pieces. My engagement went right to hell at that moment because I knew her parents where the ones who made that notorious phone call. When I heard the two words "child abuse" there was a looming horror over my soul. That combined with what the one youth pastor said the reason I got stabbed for. The reason he gave me still gives me the chills to this day. The things he was saying he was doing in the name of God – leaves an unsettling terror in the pit of the human soul.
Those two words still linger at the darkest depths of my mind – "child abuse" along with my work being nothing but "blank pages."
Those still ring hard in the back of my mind especially when the child abuse accusations were unfounded. Yet they still hung my custody over me like some fucking carrot hanging from a fishing pole. The child abuse accusations left a huge mental scar on my memory and it still tears me apart thinking about it. It reminds me how bad of a nervous breakdown I had.
The fat bitch of a social worker actually did the deed of hanging the carrot in front of me, and other social worker had the nerve to be nice to me after taking my son away. I wanted to do something terrible to her, something unspeakable – I wanted to take loads of dog shit and unload them into the front and back seat of her car.
"Hello Nick," the one social worker said when I was on the phone.
I didn't say anything back though the look in my face said, "fuck off and die, I don't care how you die – just fucken die! You took my son away from me, and you're going to be nice to me. FUCK YOU, God-damned sow! I hope something terrible happens to you! Talking to me with a painted smiling face, rot in hell you half-decayed bitch!"
Those are one of those days I wished I practiced voodoo. I wasn't in the mood to be nice that day, part of me wanted to give her the middle finger – what made it even harder was the fat one's husband worked across the street from where I lived! That particular one I actually told her to go straight to hell. And right now as far as I care; I hope she fucking hangs herself for using my intellectual properties to fuck me over. (She did what the Washington Post did to a good friend of mine.)
I wonder if any others she stole their kid from actually has a voodoo doll of her on a dartboard.
I knew that my world was crashing down by the day and week. I sometimes didn't sleep in the apartment, but wandered the endless night like some vampire on the prowl or stayed all night in a diner to clear my head – something that would keep me away from the bottle.
I knew I hit rock bottom at this point, the fact I believe in God kept me from ending it there and then. If I did that, I would have given up on everything that I was striving to do – in that way, the sinister youth pastor would have won. I could still see his smile being a focal point for something much more sinister. Hiding behind the warm hearted facade was something, dark, something sinister that not even some of the more well known horror writers could begin to imagine.
In the nightmares I could see both dry bones waking and setting things on fire that were of the old horror classics in print or books of philosophy. I still get nightmares about how I was banned from the library there, and what they did had no idea that they would cut off my communication with the family back in Illinois – there, I was all alone.
"These manuscripts, nothing but blank pages – give me an Amen as I light them on fire," the female pastor shouted to the darkened skies as she took a torch to the pile of books and manuscripts.
Rough drafts that weren't allowed to see the light of day. I watched in horror as they did this as the nightmare played out. I was helpless to stop them because I was too medicated; it was if they didn't want anyone to actually have an individual thought pattern. To them, writing something that really made people think was a sin in their eyes. Something that expressed a darker side of human thought, a darker side of faith.
This in the waking world was going on between April and May 1999. In the nightmares, it was in the near future during the winter months; sometime in 2004. In the dream, they actually had copies of one of the books and tossed them into the pile of books to burn.
"What's not of God, shall be giveth to the fire with The Devil and his angels. Can everyone in the congregation an Amen!" I heard the female pastor bellow in the winter night.
The youth pastor only in name handled the torch and then tossed the floppy disks into the cold concrete along with books by Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. That dark revelation gave me a bone shattering chill, and when I think about those nightmares years later. The very thought still frightens me to the core; the idea that some would see free thought as a crime. The chilling portrait of Rural America walking around as a dark entity in the duration of April 20, 1999, to the middle of May 1999.
Thinking about this gives me a nerve numbing chill as the nightmares are still vivid in the back of my head. The two words that still ring in my mind, and would end up being the trigger the dark nightmares about two people hiding behind a faith in God to do evil deeds wanders deep in the mind. Things such as that leaves a frozen terror in the depths of the human soul.
Such things they say, "Think upon the pure and the lovely, but in truth – one man's pure and lovely is another man's tormented nightmares. Those nightmares, reflecting the horrifying memories of the figurative torch and pitchfork parties by the youth pastor only in name and the lady pastor who preaches on a near death experience."
I've known these kind of nightmares all too well and wander as an entity within my dreams as I would fall into a doped up slumber. Time span of April 20, 1999 to May 8, 1999, are the things that cast a looming shadow in the back of one's disturbed memory. The type of things one wishes they were making up about their hellbound nightmares – the things that horror stories are made out of is the best way to describe such nightmares about a youth pastor only in name or the lady pastor who preaches out of a near death experience.
I had these kind of nightmares when I was staying with the friend in Chicago and also while in the hospital The only thing that kept me from waking up and screaming was the drugs they had in my system. All those RX in my system, it was a god-forsaken-miracle that I was functioning –– the nurse and doctors didn't exactly want me functioning, when they pump one with such a high dose one is often sleeping for days on end.
The reason for the breakdown was that I was on the receiving end of a modern day witch hunt from some of the churches and from the damned social workers using my intellectual properties to fuck me over. The horror that echoed the Salem Witch hunts many centuries before in New England.
The use of my own intellectual properties to incriminate me was a nightmare waiting to happen – that every horror plot came to mind actually came true that day. After the day when they pulled out the my written works, I began to think my darkest hour was yet to come. If there was any time that I wanted to have a drink of hard liquor by the fifths, it was then.
The nightmares were painted in the back of one's psyche, and everything was turning to shit before my eyes. Started with the witch-hunts, then the engagement started crumbling before my hands as a lump of dry clay. What followed next was the legalistic churches started to corner me because of my nervous breakdown, deep down I heard the loud noise of the walls crumbling down upon me –– tried to pray to God for guidance but He wasn't listening. I actually felt like Job at that moment because I was losing my family (my then fiancée and my son,) the fight for custody was a nightmare – one that I can't sit down and relate in detail but my mind was decaying by the duration of weeks.
The only thing that was my saving grace was my writing habit. If I gave that up, I would end up the way Robert E. Howard would be before I turned twenty-three. If I gave up writing, my parents would have to make funeral arrangements because I would end up dead. I think a lot about that duration when I lived there –– it would make for a really fucked up horror film.
The fact there was at least eighteen churches within blocks of each other, much like how it is with Wheaton, Illinois. The difference between Mason City, Iowa, and Wheaton, Illinois, are that Wheaton is actually Goth and Horror friendly.
The kids never really thought for themselves and never really knew what Atheism was or had an idea what the nature of evil if God and Satan were taken out of the question, their idea of an open mind is one that is open to what only God has in store for them. Chances are they were either home-schooled or went to a Christian high school, their parents would not allow them to own a Stephen King novel or a Richard Matheson book because they would deem them mental poison. Living out there, it was a witch-hunt waiting to happen –– their logic is beyond raped with the idea of how a Christian oughta be. Their view of a Christian is something out of the movie Disturbing Behavior. That meaning no one there actually dressed in black, grew their hair long, had an earring in a guy or some other piercing on their face, or got ink (that is a slang term for a tattoo.)
They see people dressing in black as either a witch or a Satanist – when in truth, they're are a man or woman in God just they see God in a different way. Something that was referenced in Lucifer Dethroned – about people that are drawn to the color black. In my observations, I think what they portrayed is a misconception about people who tend to live closer to the shadows of light. The way they portray people with Bipolar as being some kind of monster, that's formation of nightmares waiting to occur. Some form of a dwindling horror as it dwells in the back of a withered soul.
When looking back at that area, there were only a few people who were kind enough to help me out or made me feel at home –– one of them had an article about Eva O being a Christian at the time. The photograph of her in the magazine was her caressing a crucifix. Since then she walked away from the church and God. When I see the shadows of the past about that place, the souls are often left as dry bones and whitewashed tombs –– left alone to their madness and the nightmares forge out of them.
When I see the purple or green t-shirts that read "Upper Room Ministries."
The first thing that I think is that they are zombies because they're brainwashed with the logic of a preacher that preaches on a near death experience. A MOTHERFUCKING near death experience; what the FUCK lady? The only reason I didn't buy into it is because I am an educated man.
If I had an NDE, I would become an even darker breed of horror writer by playing around with it. That "church" was helmed by children of the grave; their world; and when they see it through a man with a dark mind their world would be that the center failed to hold. I could remember when I brought two from that church into a place where I check my e-mail at, they bolted out like a banshee in a cemetery.
Horror crawled upon them as a shadow within darkness; as an entity that watches the blind children pray around the cold headstones. The madness became the catalyst for the endless nightmares, from the eyes of a man whose already fragile of mind they see someone whose about to see their walls crashing down on them. No matter how many prayers to God are spoken, He doesn't listen. The Fuck of Fucks doesn't hear anyone's prayer because there is something about mortals that just leaves Him royally pissed off.
Sometimes the slaves take it just a little too far. What is seen when the slaves act up are the horror that some wish not to see, but are the witness of a display of a modern torch and pitchfork party. They claim that if they are saved by grace – really in truth; the horrors of reality are weighing down upon them. Staring back as a shadow in the back of the mind creating the infinite nightmares that echo the madness crumbling down upon them. The shadows in the tormented memory would be created in the eyes of the youth pastor that is only a youth pastor by name and the pastor who would preach upon a near death experience.
Between the two of them, it's nearly sin to be writing of the nightmares they induced combined –– almost the memories are scarred in the back of one's mind of what they did. One saying what I do is nothing but blank pages, and the other causing me to lose all outside communication to my family back in Illinois. Every horror came to life when I lived there, and it was every horror playing heavy on the back of the mind –– the pure and the lovely turning to shit or that is the way it seems when the whole world was crashing down on oneself.
Each day I was growing more sky high and fucked by the hour, some refusing to help me get food or helping me find a way to get my custody back. It was just another carrot hanging in front of my face that I couldn't reach.
The nightmares of the constant holy-rollers tossing things of reason into the fire; it was if they were reflecting the shadow of abomination. Everything one sees within that kind of nightmare is every horror coming to life; the kind of picture where they say think upon the pure and the lovely only to see the pure and the lovely all of the sudden turn into a world of dog shit.
When they would approach me with their fake smiling faces and holy roller demeanor. They would say it would be in God's will that I get to reach my family, that was a lie to my face told as truth.
Something that would play in the back of my mind as much as the one the greeter told me about saying I don't have ADHD – saying it was a lie from the devil. Being lied in the face by other Christians. Puppets dancing on the strings of a religion known as legalism. I look at them now and sometimes ask them this with authority – do I scare you now?
I found myself being seen as a monster there, a monster of my own making when they try to put a mental illness as something demonic. The stigmas the pastors would put on a mental illness – thinking about it still gives me the chills in many ways. The kind of thing that drove Robert E. Howard to suicide – the kind of thing that would drive any fuck to the asylum.
Slavery in the name of God, and seeing those green and purple t-shirts reading "Upper Room Ministries" I wonder if they follow because of the near death experience. They are drawn to every damned word she says and like mindless puppets -- they follow. They follow to the point where they see no more free will, and in one's horror they obey every word she says.
She says, "Let us pray."
They without question bow their heads.
I, on the other hand, just kept my head up as an observer. A dark brooding beast that sat there – knowing that something was up when she started preaching from a damn near death experience. I watched as they allowed themselves to become brainwashed by the day – by the hour, the things of nightmares were being written in the back of my scarred psyche. Somewhere in my nightmares I would hear the bitch preaching in the cemeteries as the demons scream for the unholy choir, a question if she was from the heavens or from the abyss below. The shadows of a dark memory crawling, waiting as an entity waiting to be awakened with an incantation from a blasphemous tome.
The nightmares etched in the back of my mind as they wander as entities all their own! The shadows of their memory become the blueprint for the late 20th Century witch-hunts that shall cast a modern shadow on me for a good number of years. No matter how many times I try to wall the memories out of being made a demon in human form for my illness, they make their ways of being known. A dark, growing monster within the scarred remains of a tormented mind – with each memory screaming out incantations of the nightmares somewhere still-beating in the black heart of a tormented man.
(Those nightmares made themselves felt while being placed in the walls of a mental health facility, where time stands still and not even God will hear the sick man's prayers. The nightmares of a Salem Witch Trial still-beating alive and well within the present day within the fucking cornfields in the rotting heart of Iowa.
I could still hear the female pastor telling the congregation in the green and purple t-shirts saying, "Let us pray."
As I think of those times, they were somehow a madwoman's prey. When I see them bowing their heads somewhere to myself I would say of them, "Dance. Puppet. Dance." When I see that youth pastor only in name, there is one question I want to ask the brainwashed fuck – Do I scare you now?
I keep hearing the self-righteous fuck's works, "Blank pages" ringing in my head. The words that scream witch-hunt in the eyes of those who seem to have a view of the world that isn't the pure and the lovely, but distorted and perverse. Some might ask think this narrative of someone who fell from grace, but it's a narrative of a man who's torments dwell and breathed on their own for a good part of a decade of the horrible things people did in the name of God.
Such things become the nightmares of a tattered psyche, and the horror of it shall live within the pages of a narrative of a man who suffers with the stigma the church gave upon him. Being coined the modern leper in their eyes. Presenting themselves with hearts of gold, but in truth they have a hearts of still-rotting shit.
When they offer the way to heaven, the only thing they are giving in return is a detour into the depths of damnation on earth. Damnation seen in the guise of eternal life, the promise of the pearly gates but when they find out that one has a mental illness -– it became the gates of damnation. From the words of the holy woman and holy man raping redemption, salvation from mental illness is a lie. One that they say they have to seek deliverance from only to be the scarred horrors seen from one who suffers the most.
Sometimes I wonder about the female pastor having nightmares holding two coins over her physical lifeless body – those two coins being for the boatman to cross the river Styx.
The fact she preaches so much off her near death experience that she might have an obsession with it! She claims that she felt angels, but sometimes I wonder if she saw the boatman coming for her coins within the depths of her most death-laden dreams. The question if the near death experience she preaches upon still haunts her twisted mind, as often she prays to God for it to go away. Only for the nightmares to be even more intense by the night – does she wake up screaming? Does she beg God not to allow her to relive the horrors of that day she died, and does the lunacy haunt her day and night as she preaches out of her house?
The madness within her dreams becomes the darkening battery of a shadow from a entity that doesn't run from his darkness, one that doesn't hide but still casts a shadow looming in the depths of ones more tormented dreams – the one who watches her puppets dance when she says, "Let us prey!"
When I see those photographs of her, some of them look like she has pitch black eyes. She says she has her soul saved by Christ but when I see that photograph. The photograph brings a dark chill in the back of my spine being she might be a Child of Dagon – the photo looking she doesn't have any eyes! I am wondering if she has gills on her chest for her to breath when it rains. Some might not want to have that fucked up picture in they some of wouldn't even begin to imagine to illustrate from the depths of their shadows.
Over the past eleven years, I had morbid hued nightmares about that pastor and the youth pastor only in name. Sometimes, I actually wonder if this lady pastor is really a Miss Linda (something a friend of mine once wrote a song about a psychic with all seeing eyes. First thing at that comes to mind when I think of this lady pastor – the very thought gives me the chills.)
I sometimes wonder if the lady pastor could really be a medium, or something of that nature – using a near death experience to preach; in some ways would give someone an icy chill down one's spine. I sometimes have ideas of writing the Miss Linda into a story where she's holding the coins over her lifeless shell of body laying in the hospital bed, waiting to pay the boatman.
When I see that photograph, I wasn't looking at a Holy prophet – I staring in the eyes of a Miss Linda. A damned mystic that hides behind the Word of God. Standing from her wooden podium and preaching out of her house. Her living, thinking zombies in purple and green t-shirts with the church name on the shirts walked in the doors of the fringe store. The moment they entered; got scared shitless when walking into a store that does body ink. They though they actually stepped into a demon's apartment when they were in that place.
They act like they walked right into the Devil's den, especially when I saw one of them selling off their Black Sabbath cassettes a few months earlier – with the thoughts of Let Us Prey in their mind.
(Yes they were prey for Miss Linda. They sit and listen while she pulled their invisible strings with her hypnotic song, the song of the blond siren with black soulless eyes – Dance! Puppet! Dance! Their soul is slowly strangled in her spiritual tourniquet!)
I would loved to imagine them stepping foot at a night club in Chicago, and if they actually set foot in The Exit – they would have felt like they stepped into the lungs of hell with the dungeon shackles on the walls with the scribble bench in the back room. But looking back at those years, I kept having those disturbing dreams about the Miss Linda. She might go around thumping the Holy Book yet something was missing – her damned crystal ball! Her dark, soulless eyes in the photograph didn't even seem human but serpentine – it was if the nightmare was coming to life! I wonder if she could hear my darkening roar thundering these words as she lays with the blackest depths in her looming comatose nightmares of her soul holding out two coins over her sleeping corpse:
THAT WHICH IS NOT DEAD MAY ETERNAL LIE
AND WITH STRANGER EONS, EVEN DEATH MAY DIE
Site: Lake Fossil Press
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|Reviewed by Stinky Cat
|Well, you lost all parental rights to your child after Social Services investigated. That's a fact. But...if you say they were wrong.... You cannot support yourself without govt assistance. You should be thankful for the people who adopted the child you couldn't support.
it was something out of the pages of an Edgar Allan Poe short story