“Don’t touch me” I snarled viciously, my voice super-charged with venom. “Don’t touch me…” No one could ever touch me however because I have no body. No one would want to touch me anyway because I’m so toxic. So very toxic. If anyone came across me they would avoid me like the plague, I’d say! I kind of am the plague, come to think of it. That’s not too far from the truth. You’d be right to avoid me. “Don’t touch me” I screamed again, recoiling violently from an imagined aggressor. There was no aggressor there however – there was only me. Only me. I was the aggressor. I have always been the aggressor. The aggressor has always been me, for as far back as I can remember. Always, always, always. How did I get to be so toxic, you might wonder? The same way as anyone else, is my reply. What other way is there? The same way as everybody else – exactly the same way, I would answer. There aren’t any other ways really – you just wander down that road, that old, old road. It’s easy enough to find your way onto it! You know the road I mean. Everyone knows it. ‘Easy is the descent to Avernus’ says Vigil. How right he was. How right he was. Easy is the descent. Easy is the descent. It’s so easy that you don’t even notice yourself descending – you don’t notice it at all. You drift onto the road that leads to Avernus and you never notice how you got there. You never see yourself doing it. It’s as if you’re a sleep-walker. What am I saying? You are a sleep-walker – that’s the whole point. You’re a fully paid-up somnambulist. You’re a member of the professional association. You’re an accredited member. Of the Guild of Somnambulists. You’re sleep-walking but you don’t know it. You don’t know it because that’s what sleep-walking is all about! It’s all about not knowing. It’s all about the absence of knowing. You don’t know what you’re doing. The easiest journey in the world, that’s what the trip to Avernus is like. ‘Bang’ and you’re there! You’re there before you know it. Does that frighten you? It ought to frighten you. Don’t you think? What could possibly be more frightening than that? Hey – wake up you dozy bastard! Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up you’re in hell. You dozy bastard. Wake up and smell the roses. Wake up and smell the coffee. “Don’t touch me” I hiss venomously, full of instant malice. But it’s only myself I’m talking to. There’s no one else here.
I’m sitting here in the shopping mall listening to piped music. It’s early enough in the day, maybe only nine thirty. I’m sitting here drinking a White Americano staring listlessly at the people walking to and forth getting ready for a day’s shopping despite the fact that it’s not even ten o’clock yet. “Nothing’s going to stop us now,” goes the song in the background. “Nothing’s going to stop us doing what exactly?” I ask myself bleakly. What exactly is it that we’re doing and not going to be stopped from doing? Shopping perhaps? Leading stupid, meaningless lives? Being utter idiots? Having our minds controlled by the advertising agencies? Being the helpless ridiculous tools of our blank-faced sociopathic corporate masters? Please someone help me out here. Do me a favour…
It’s Saturday morning in the shopping mall. Of course the crowd is out early – Saturday is shopping day. We’ve been waiting all week for it after all. We’ve been waiting all week to come out and spend our money. I continue to sip my White Americano, in a somewhat morose fashion. I feel tired and jaded. Very tired and very jaded, come to think of it. My eye-lids are heavy with fatigue but I could tell you why it is that I feel so tired. I haven’t been doing anything, after all. I’m only just sitting here. I never do much anyway, it occurs to me, and yet I’m always tired. My eyes feel stuck closed with tiredness – as much as I might try I can’t seem to manage to open them properly. I call it ‘Sticky-Eye Syndrome’. It’s a recognized thing. For me it is, anyway.
‘The Story of my Life, Part One’ I wrote down dutifully in my notepad. The Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One. I was stuck on the title and couldn’t get anywhere with it. This always happens, in my experience – never start with the title because you’ll never get beyond it. You’ll never get past it. Write something and then put a title on it. If you must. I toyed with the idea of getting another coffee. The first one wasn’t doing very much anyway, that was for sure! I’m a creature of habit, it occurred to me. I’m always thinking the same things, saying the same things, writing the same things. I’m stuck in a pattern and that pattern has become unbearable to me. It’s become my hell.
Music is still playing away insidiously in the background. Always the music. Always the rotten old music. Always the same old tracks – what a torture! Why doesn’t anyone else see that it’s a torture, I ask myself? Why are they just carrying on, oblivious, apparently content? Why is no one screaming? That should be the big question, I realize. The big question that is raised by society and the societal life in general. It’s the question that no one ever asks. The forbidden question. No one ever screams and no one ever asks why no one is screaming. The two go together I suppose. It’s all part of the same syndrome.
Even if you were to ask this question no one would know what you were talking about. They’d stare at you as if to say “Are you strange?” Is there something wrong with you? Are you a person with a problem? Is that what’s going on with you, you strange person? “Why aren’t you screaming?” I ask incredulously, practically begging for an answer, but all I get back in return is the deafening sound of silence. Like the song.
I was in the happy place doing all the happy things and then I woke up and realized that it wasn’t real. The happy place wasn’t real and I hadn’t been doing any happy things there. That hadn’t happened at all. Tears slowly rolled down my face as I realized that the happy place wasn’t real and that I had never been in it. It was a very sad moment for me.
Perhaps if I imagined very hard, I thought to myself, then I could imagine myself back into the happy place and everything would be good again. Even before I tried however I knew that this would never work. Never work, never work, never work, I said to myself dolefully as the big fat tears rolled down my cheeks. I could never go back to the happy place because it wasn’t real…
Do you know that feeling you get when… No forget it – I’m only upsetting myself. I’m only making things worse for myself. I don’t want to go into it. I walked into the Fun Max shop all bright and breezy and told the man behind the counter that I wanted to max out the fun. Max the fun, max the fun, max the fun I said, tapping out the beat on the counter with my fingers. Some of my fingers. I’ve got hundreds of fingers. Possibly over a thousand – I’ve never counted them. I’m like a human centipede only with lots and lots of fingers rather than lots and lots of feet. I’ve got fringes of fingers all over my body and they never stop moving, not ever.
The Fun Max shop is real, not a dream. The Fun Max man was real too. Smarmy-looking but real. “Well you’ve come to the right place,” he told me with a big grin all over his smarmy face, “There’s no shortage of fun here…” Plenty of fun, plenty of fun, plenty of fun I sang out enthusiastically, tapping the rhythm out on the counter, my fingers fairly flying. The Fun Max shop was real but the fun it sold was of a very low quality. It was like the Pound Shop of fun and the fun you could buy there was cheap and trashy. It left a bad taste in your mouth. You’d feel contaminated, polluted, sickened. But you’d be addicted all the same. You’d be all hollow inside afterwards – hungry for something you couldn’t have. You’d be hungry for something that didn’t exist.
My mood grew ugly, thinking about all of this. The more I looked at the man behind the counter in the Fun Shop, the man with the big cheesy grin of his plastered all over his face, the uglier my mood grew. I hated the sight of him. I longed to tear him to pieces with my needle-sharp venom-filled mandibles but I didn’t dare because I knew he was the devil in disguise. I was full of fear and driven by a thousand nameless addictions. I was eaten up on the inside with them, contaminated, tainted and polluted. I felt sickened to the core – sickened by myself mainly but also by the man in the Fun Max shop. I wished heartily that I’d never come to the place but I knew that now I could never leave…
So the corporate mechanism supplies the package to everyone concerned and that is fine, that is perfect. Everything’s always perfect, isn’t it? Everything’s always perfect, as the man said. Perfect, perfect, perfect. The corporate mechanism was perfect and so too was the package that we were being provided with, as and when required. Which was always, whether you wanted it or not. The package was a perfect package whichever way you looked at it – the package was a perfect package and no one would argue about that. No one would ever argue about that because they were always far too busy looking at their own perfect reflection and their own perfect reflection was the product that they were being provided with. The corporate mechanism provides us with who we want to be. Who would argue with a perfect reflection? Who would want to?
The product the mechanism provides you with is yourself, only perfect. It’s been improved and enhanced. It’s been made unreal. We can’t argue with a perfect reflection and we don’t want to but there’s a problem here all the same. And it’s not just any old sort of problem either – it’s the biggest problem there ever could be! We’re being supplied with the package that is ourselves and we have to buy into it every day but the problem is that it isn’t really us at all. Of course it isn’t. Naturally it isn’t. How could we think that it was? How could we think that it would be? It’s an empty image that’s being mass-produced by the corporate mechanism and it’s got nothing to do with us at all. How could the mechanism know about us, how could the mechanism care about us? How could we imagine that there’s anything at all personal about it?
So just to come back to the point again – the package we buy into is ourselves only it isn’t ourselves it’s a generic product of the machine and the machine neither knows about us nor cares. It’s incapable of knowing, it’s incapable of caring. It’s a machine. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t this seem just the tiniest bit ‘off’ to you? Just a teeny-weeny bit ‘not-quite-right’? I mean, you’d be careful who you invited back home with you if you didn’t know them, you’d be careful about who you’d accept a lift from late at night on a dark street, so why wouldn’t you also be a wee bit cautious about who you’d let construct your identity for you? You follow what I’m saying here I’m sure – the corporate mechanism is after all actively trying to exploit you for all you’re worth! That’s kind of what it does. That’s the type of relationship it has with us. I mean, we do know that for a fact, don’t we? These guys – the guys that go to make up the mechanism – don’t really care about your well-being. We can pretty much take that as read, right? I trust that we can all agree on this point. This is a fairly basic point, after all…
So let’s get this clear – we’re going to let some kind of predatory, exploitative entity define our identity for us, decide what we like and what we don’t like, decide what our world-view is, decide what we want to do with our lives, because WHY? Because that seems like a real smart idea? Because everyone else is doing it? Because it seems like ‘the thing to do’? OK. Fine. Alright. I can relate to that. I get all that. We could point at the nice shiny identity that we’ve bought and say “Yes but isn’t this cool?” It’s such a cool identity. It’s perfect, as we have already said. Perfect, perfect, perfect. What’s to question? What is there to argue with? You get to be a pretty little narcissist, a handsome little narcissist. You get to be all wrapped up in your own little world. Like the corporate mechanism tells you to be. You get to be all wrapped up in your own little world only it isn’t your own little world because it was designed for you by the mechanism. And it isn’t ‘you’ who is wrapped up in this perfect little manufactured world either because that so-called ‘you’ is also a product of the mechanism. That’s the thing isn’t it – a narcissist isn’t wrapped up in himself or herself. They’re not wrapped up in themselves at all (no matter what it may say in the psychology textbooks) – they’re ‘wrapped up’ in something else entirely, they’re wrapped up in a dream, they’re wrapped up in an illusion…
I was considering the possibility that all words served the purposes of the dark master. Do all words serve the purposes of the dark master, I asked? Is this how he controls us to do his bidding even when we wish most sincerely to speak bravely of the right of every human being to freedom, dignity and the possibility of self-determination? Even speaking thusly, in good faith as we do, do we play into the hands of the dark master?
These are the questions I found myself wrestling with. These, and many other questions like them. Many other questions. Many questions. The darkness of the darkness is very dark I said then to myself, nonsensically. I repeated this inanity a number of times, lost in a fog. I could see nothing in that fog – all I could do was keep going around in circles, repeating this foolish sentence as if it actually meant something. The darkness of the darkness is very dark, I told myself. The darkness of the darkness the darkness of the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness the darkness
And then – eventually – I pulled out of it. I started to emerge from the deadly fog. I came back to myself, back to my right mind. I have come through it, I realized. I have survived the ordeal – the dreadful punishing ordeal. I’m still here. I didn’t feel very good it was true. I felt like a weakened enfeebled shadow of myself. I didn’t feel right in myself at all. “One minute to go Mr Smith,” said the voice in my head. Sounding very official, sounding very businesslike. “One minute Mr Smith.” I had to get a move on I realized, time was moving on. I had to gather my scattered wits. I had to sort myself out but it was very hard because I was so dithery and tottery. I kept forgetting things. I kept forgetting what I was supposed to be doing.
I’ve beaten the darkness, I said to myself. It didn’t get me after all. I had survived the psychic attack, as intense as it had been. I’m a veteran of the psychic wars, I said to myself. I’m a survivor – scarred, somewhat unstable emotionally, full of traumatic memories of things that had not yet happened, alternative pasts and the like, but I was a survivor all the same. I had survived to fight another day. Then it occurred to me that I was late for work. I had been distracted by my own thoughts about being a veteran of the psychic wars, which no one knew about apart from me. I had left the hot tap running and the bathroom mirror had steamed up. I went to wipe a portion of it with a towel and then froze in numb disbelief, staring at my reflection in the mirror. I had turned old, very old. I was at least one hundred years old, it occurred to me. I had a wispy white beard and hair that went down to the floor and my face was all gaunt and skeletal. I hadn’t beaten the darkness after all I realized – the darkness had beaten me. The darkness was having the last laugh. I’d been a relatively young man when I had gone to bed last night I knew, but now it was as if half a century or more had past whilst I had slept. It hadn’t even been what you’d call a good night’s sleep either.
I was Rip Van Crinkle I realized. That was my name, not Mr Smith. That had been another world, another age. That had been an alternative past. My name was Rip Van Crinkle and the darkness was having the last laugh. Struggling with the darkness, wrestling with it, wandering around and around aimlessly in the fog, that hadn’t been just a few minutes – that had been my life. “What was that?” I asked myself, “What was that thing, what was that thing that just happened?”
“Why – that was your life!” I replied to my own question, feeling more than just a little bit surprised at my own foolishness. “Didn’t you recognize it…?”
Prius the mius the big-headed bius I said, but I didn’t know what I was talking about. I hadn’t a clue. Has language got the better of me, I wondered. Is it crushing me? Is it imprisoning me? Am I the master of language or is the master of me?
Then a darker current caught hold of me and I became a mouth-piece for a much more sinister strain of verbiage. Because it’s the summer that means that it’s time for chillin and grillin, I spouted whimsically, and then found that I could not stop. Chillin and grillin, chillin and grill, chillin and grillin I babbled, and I could feel the real evil at work deep in me. Evil that makes a mockery of life itself. What else does evil ever do anyway, I asked myself. Apart from make a mockery of life itself. It twists life to make a joke of it, but pretends that it doesn’t. It twists life to make a joke of it and then it encourages us to join in, on the ostensible basis that this is the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do. It demands that we join in. On the basis that this is the moral thing to do, the respectable thing to do.
Did you ever feel that you were vomiting up Satanic Darkness? Or is that a stupid question? That’s how I felt, anyway – I felt as if I was vomiting up Satanic Darkness and I couldn’t stop. Chillin and grillin I said, over and over again. Chillin and grillin chillin and grillin chillin and grillin chillin and grillin chillin and grilling chillin and grillin chillin and grilling. No matter how much of it I vomited it up there was always more there. It wasn’t a case of scraping the bottom of the barrel because no matter how much scraping you did you never really hit the bottom. You never got close. There’s no bottom to it because it’s a bottomless barrel. It’s a bottomless barrel of evil. Pure pure evil – the purest evil you can get…
Did you ever get the feeling that conforming to society was like selling your soul to Satan, only without admitting it? Only pretending that you were doing something good? Prius the mius the big-headed bius I warbled, as happy as Larry. Language gets the better of us all really. It lets us feel that we’re the boss but it’s got us under control every step of the way. How pitiful we are! We strut about, thinking that we have mastered language, thinking that we are expressing ourselves. What a joke that is! What a sad, sad joke…
Language is a virus from outer space, as William Burroughs says it is. It truly is. I can see that now, more clearly than I have ever seen it. I wonder if he ever escaped from it. There’s no hope for the rest of us anyway – we don’t even know that we’ve been infected. We’re such fools, such fools. Such such fools. It hurts my head to think what fools we are. We’re totally enslaved and yet we strut about the place, spouting. Spouting out of ourselves. Spouting out loud. Spouting our heads off. Spouting out like the fools we are.
We go to creative writing classes and we write our little pieces. Enslaved by language as we are. Mastered by it. Imprisoned by it. It allows us our petty freedoms to be sure. It allows us to strut like self-satisfied fools. It allows us to spout hideous nonsense. No one sees the terrible bleakness of language, I think to myself. That terrible bleak and rocky field through which we wander, imagining all the while that we are rolling in clover. Prius the mius the big-headed bius, I say out loud. Prius the mius. Purius the murius. Purius the murius. Burius the curius, the long-nosed lurius. I’m going to beat that virus, I say to myself. I’m going to beat that dirty old virus…
I was wondering what makes people like whatever it is they like. What makes them interested in whatever it is that they are interested in, I wondered? What factors are involved here, I asked myself. What is the mechanism? How does it function within us? I’m a bit of a people-watcher you see. Bit of an amateur psychologist. I like to try to work stuff out for myself. Observing folk going about their everyday business. Keeping an eye open. Paying attention. Not falling for the official propaganda. What they tell you in schools and universities. You can see people being interested in stuff all the time, particularly in shops and shopping centres of course. You can see their eyes darting to and fro, first looking this way and then looking that way. The eyes move almost independently of the person, or so it seems to me. So my observation – for what it’s worth – is that there is some independent factor at work there being the scenes, causing the person concerned to be interested in this and interested in that. Here’s the curious thing though – when these independent factors’ operate independently of us, as they do, causing us to take an interest, all of a sudden, in something out there, we invariably think that this impulse is coming from us. We assume that we genuinely are interested, rather than being mechanical manipulated to perceive that we are interested when actually we’re not. Of course, when you actually see this it puts a totally different perspective on human activity. How could it do otherwise? Just take a look around you, armed with this awareness, and notice the difference it makes in your perception of everyday human activity. The different is absolutely astonishing, I would say. I’m personally flabbergasted. Instead of ‘normal human behaviour’ we see the phenomenon of poor uncomprehending persons being jerked around helplessly in the most undignified fashion possible by the mechanical impulses that are busy governing their lives. Look here, say the impulses, look there. Think this, say the impulses, think that. Say this, say that. Blindly, obediently, we do so, thinking that we are somehow expressing our own inalienable freedom in this way. Proud we are to express our own inalienable freedom – both proud and defiant, sure of ourselves in every way. “There,” I say, to an invisible opponent with a flourish of self-assured activity, “Take that you swine! As you can see, I am expressing my own inalienable freedom. As you can see, I am living my own life…” Such is my life therefore – an endless exercise in self-deception. Such is our life – for you must not think you are excused. You must not think that you are the exception. Such is our life, this sad, pitiable mockery of freedom. Not only are we proud, we are arrogant. We are unforgivably arrogant. We are terribly arrogant. Great indeed is our arrogance and it will cost us dear. It will cost us dear indeed. So very dear. There is no fool like an arrogant fool I think to myself portentiously. No fool like an arrogant fool, no fool like an arrogant fool, no fool like an arrogant fool. But is it really me thinking this, I wonder then, or is this just the old mechanical impulses leading me around by the nose, spinning their endless webs of deception around me as they always do?