We walk, and we carry on walking across the lengths of this desolate world. Counting the stars and the steps taken, blistered feet and weathered minds. Something whispers in our ears during those cold, shivering nights; when the winds howl and the true wild sleeps. Bodies close, resting together, living as one like an ant colony. Needing the heat and needing to acknowledge those distinctive, most personal leads. There are days when the sun pours down, and days when the steaming rain beats silt and sand. Looking to the horizon and into the deep valleys – onwards towards an outpost, hope in hand of the life that might dutifully follow. For we live in desperate, yet revered hope.
Beside Broken Memories
It was a chilly day in the depths of winter, made even colder by the mist that rose from the banks of the nearby river. I liked mornings like this, the calmness of them, the even tone that seemed to ruminate through each breeze. Even here in the country, where this was an entirely average January day, there seemed to be something special about it. I saw it in the way the grass held itself, frost clinging to it. And in the way the birds swooped throughout the air, as if it wasn’t there at all. It was almost something you can touch. That elusive force that holds all things together, from the highest reaches of the sky, to the depths of our freezing river. I’m not talking about gravity, or dark matter – nothing like that. But, something less defined, something that doesn’t have numerical values, or written rules to abide by. A malleable effect, constantly changing to the shape of the world. It’s strange that, isn’t it?
“Frederich, here!” I shouted, as Frederich, my little Spaniel launched himself into the freezing water.
He ran over to me, soaking wet, muddy, and panting. “Yeah, yeah, I get it, you like water.”Read More »
*A little later than promised, but hey, it’s here….
Revelations From the Depths
Across the lake, the sun was beginning to set. Slowly, the sky changed from a pale yellow to a deepening orange. It glinted from the very points of the ripples, casting rays in all directions, illuminating the water in exotic colours.
Across, towards the other bank, the land rose sharply, covered in a thick layer of deep-green fir trees. As I bobbed up and down in the tiny rowing boat, the distance between there and here seemed immense, unfathomable. It was as though the water stretched outwards almost indefinitely, as if its end – the sandy banks, were nothing more than an illusion that one could never dream of reaching.
The resistance of the water pushed back against my palms, as my hands did well-practiced semi-circles, grasping the oars, pushing the tiny craft onwards. I cut my way through the orange water, headed towards the far Eastern point of the lake where it thinned and morphed into the outgoing river. There, the waters became shallow. Reeds and numerous other aquatic plants burst through the surface. Above the faint sound of running of water, the beating of dragonflies’ wings could be heard – darting gracefully from one perch to the next.
I stopped rowing, and brought the oars to rest on the damp bottom of the boat. I let my mind wander, from the farthest bank, to the nearest water lily, all the way to the sun, and back to the rippling water. The boat slowly drifted towards the mouth of the river, though, the motion was almost imperceptible – like a slow rocking, cradling me, ushering me into relaxing pastures. I let it happen, as my body forgave its rigidity, as my breaths slowed, as all my worries seemed to evaporate and become caught in the gentle Autumn breeze; carried away to distant lands, to be noticed by nobody.
Across The Dust
It’s been a very long time. My beard is long, my hair touches my shoulders in a tangled mess, and my body itches and stinks with retched uncleanliness.
But I do not care. I am beyond caring. That passed many months ago, as I realised what a shit-pit I now exist within.
Dawn breaks through the window. The early sun gleams and glints from the dust particles in the air, turning everything a deep shade of red. It is like this every morning – how long has it been now? Ten months? A year? More? It’s impossible to tell.
At the beginning I scratched the passing days onto the bare metal of the unit I live within, but soon, the days became lost, mingling with one another, until all I could measure time by, was the rising and the setting of the sun. Even that seems so inconsistent. A week seems like a day, and a day like a week. I have no point of reference, nothing to grasp hold of, nothing to direct me towards any type of goal.
I am a man, stuck in a metal box, on the surface of Mars – alone…
I pick up the radio transmitter on the desk in front of the window. I press it, and it beeps. “This is Nigel Warren of expedition Alpha 16. To anyone receiving, contact the European Space Agency, advising them that I am still alive within prototype habitat unit B3… Over and out…”
Two Hands, Two Tools, Two Killers
It was cold. I couldn’t feel my legs beneath the mud, beneath the sludge, beneath the weight of the world bearing down on them.
In my right hand I held my rifle – I could just feel the inscription I’d made into the wood, ‘PeaceMaker,’ it said. The irony, the cold-hearted humour of it, it wasn’t something I cared about anymore, I felt nothing for it. It was just there, in the same way many things were. My other hand, wrapped in gauze, pushed in Isaac’s gut in an attempt to stop blood that flowed from a bullet-wound in waves. Whilst peering over the ridge of our foxhole, I attempted to stuff more gauze into his jacket, into the wound itself. But, even then, I knew it was useless, that it only served to satisfy a dying part of myself – for he was already dead.
Pulling my hand away in a mass of sticky blood, I grabbed the remainder of his ammunition, his two grenades, and stuffed them into any remaining pockets of my own. He needed them no longer. It was the last thing he could do for me.
As I wrapped the bloodied hand around the wood of my rifle, a deep sadness arose. Not the kind that you instantly feel, nor feel in any true sense at all, but one that you just notice in all its pain, acknowledge its harrowing existence. I wanted to feel more, but after a year of this, I was asking a little too much of myself. I had been hulled of feeling, on some days even of compassion.
I laid the back of my hand on the freezing mud, and steadied the rifle. Slowly I scanned the misty forest; or maybe it was smoke, I wasn’t sure anymore. Behind a towering sycamore, a hundred-feet-or-so away, something shifted, trembling like a spectre in my half-vision, twinkling like a tracer round darting through the night. I put my eye to the sight, lining up the tree, and the glinting. My finger slid from the wood, and onto the cold metal of the trigger. This, it was what I lived for, this was my sole purpose of existence; a soldier, a killing machine, a pawn for the elite. Everything else I once was had melted away, leaving the husk of something unrecognisable behind. The worst part… it no longer scared me.
I saw a flash of green and grey. I pulled the trigger. The stock threw my shoulder back. It deafened me. The shot echoed around the forest and the surrounding valley, amidst many others. Then, I heard a scream – a gurgling of sorts. It was a sound I had listened to many times before, the sound of a man dying, not quickly but slowly. It was something I had knowingly inflicted many times. Both when my own life was in imminent danger, and when it was not. Neither was easier to begin with. But the killing of men, of people, had turned into something of a reflex, and nothing more. There were no tears. No sympathy. Nothing. I was the perfect soldier.
I looked to my left, where Isaac’s body was slowly turning cold. I had known him only a few days, I suppose that helped. Nonetheless, the view had become part of my daily scenery. One soaked in mud and blood. One that was cacophonous, insane. The trouble was, after a while, insanity become normality. Beyond, it is the normality that takes on a different meaning, one that is not so easy to get used to.
Once again, I leaned my head down and sighted my rifle, scanning the woods for any movement – anything I could put a bullet through. I felt the cold, and the wind, and the chill of snow in the air. Yet, I felt nothing in the killing of men.
And so, the days went by, one after the next. Soon I lost count, both of the days, and of the men I brought to earth within those days. Time, it had no end, nor any beginning. Everything was immeasurable, uncountable. That world, it turned me into something not entirely human. Something that couldn’t be given a name.
Noam Chomsky, Mince Pies, and Anne Frank
“What do you think the meaning of life is?” Emmy asks.
I stare at her, watching the cigarette stuck between her lips slowly burn down as she pondered this herself.
“I haven’t ever given it much thought,” I say.
“Do you not think it is the kind of question that demands significant thought?”
“Maybe so… though, even if we found an answer, do you really think it would make a difference to anything, to our daily lives?”
“I don’t know. Maybe then, all those little problems we have might seem less significant, they might take up less time than they currently do? What do you think?”
“I guess we can never know whichever way?”
“Why’s that?” She asks, taking a long drag on her cigarette.
“Because it would be foolish to think we are going to stumble on the meaning of life anytime soon. We don’t even know what we are looking for, nor what shape of form it comes in. And then, even if we did manage to find something, it would be impossible for all people to agree on that one thing.”
She tilts her head. “I suppose you are right…”
“Maybe it’s not all bad, though.”
“We could attempt to find a… more inclusive meaning, you know, for our own lives?”
“Alright then, what’s your reason, for living?”
I think about this, put on the spot, it is not as easy as it may first seem. “There are many things… you of course,” Emmy glances at me and smiles. “And, there are books, and happiness, love, coffee, mince pies, sex, Noam Chomsky, candles… and I would say death too.”
Emmy grunts, “death?”
“Why not?” I say. “We celebrate living, what about death? Sitting at the end of all things, I suppose it feels mightily lonely.”
She shrugs, and smiles a little more.
“So, how about you?” I ask.
“Well, of course there is you too,” this time I smile. “Beyond that… barbeques maybe, cereal bars, Anne Frank, The Walking Dead. Oh… and of course, the sex.”
“Can’t say it’s a terrible mix,” I laugh.
I head to the fridge, pull out two beers, and hand her one. She stubs out what remains of the cigarette and takes a long swig, inspecting the half-empty bottle afterwards.
“So, what do you want to do tomorrow?” She asks.
“I could make breakfast, then we could go for a stroll, and then the cinema later on?”
She shrugs. “Sure, why not?”
We both empty the beers, sit back, and stare at each other. The only things we feel and know for certain, are the smiles on our faces.
I pick up a coffee. But as the barista hands me the cup, it wobbles, and morphs, contracting, in and out, in and out. I take it in my own, hand over the money, and leave without collecting the change. I have to get outside, into the relative light, into a place that is not so constricting, so abrasive.
I haven’t slept for a number nights. Once or twice a year, things get like this. Night after night, for a few weeks sleep rarely comes at all. And if it does in fact show its face, it is for a tiny, unmotivating amount of time.
Days, they melt into each other. Darkness flows into light, and back again. This is how it goes, and this is how I accept it. It is something I have no power over, no choice but to be a part of. The fabric of reality blurs at the corners, tearing and ripping, morphing into something sinister, something beyond the boundaries, the limitations of human comprehension. It is as if the world has become something else. It is as if my eyes are seeing things they are not intended to, things they were not designed to.
Sometimes I am scared. Scared of the shapes and sounds that I see and hear. Those that are unique to me, those that others do not experience. I am not psychotic, I am not slipping into any designation of psychosis. For myself, this is complete reality, nothing but. At least it is a temporary reality, while things work out, while sleep is on its vacation.
Walking down the street, all faces turn my way. Some possessing only eyes, some hardly faces at all, but mounds of skin, undefinable. No matter what they are, no matter who owns them, they all look towards me, staring right through my soul, peering into places of privacy. I will them to stop, over and over again. But they do not. I feel like a magnet for eyes, a black hole for suspicion. I am just human. I am no different! I beg them to look away, will God to make it so.
I am falling apart. Reality is becoming something else. I exist within a perpetual slumber, completely disconnected from the world. It is not a new feeling, of course it isn’t. Although every time it comes around it seems to grow in intensity, in its numbing strangeness. I become a puppet to it. A leaf blowing in the wind of some higher force, some higher entity who has sole control over my mind, my consciousness.
I know will end, or at least… it has before. After some time, it has always retired back to where it dwells, building the energy to strike again. And so I wait for that moment in time when it recedes, when it crawls back, when it frees my mind. Until that point, coffee is my best friend. And reality is something I cannot even consider, something I question the very nature of.