The Corner Of My Mind

Random thoughts were playing in some long forgotten corner of my mind. Only maybe they were not so random after all! Random thoughts, random thoughts. Or maybe not so random. Or maybe not so random. I had been studying the role of evil in myths and fairytales but my work had started to get too much for me. I slunk around the streets at night with a beaten expression on my face, hoping that I wouldn’t bump into anyone that I knew. I knew no other life than this – the life of slinking around the streets, the life of sticking to the shadows, the life of sticking to the little-known alleyways where only drug addicts and alcoholics were wont to go. I saw them as my kin whilst they – for their part – tended to shun me. There was something about me that marked me out – something in my aura perhaps that warned people off. I could see the pity in their eyes as they looked away from me. My work had gotten on top of me and things gone from bad to worse. My dreams were disturbed and wracked by guilt; my waking hours – in their turn – had little to offer in the way of respite. I slunk around the streets late at night, a hangdog expression on my face, visibly ill at ease, visibly at odds with the world around me. Visibly at odds with the world around me. I had no place to turn, no place of sanctuary. My work had gotten on top of me and I had the feeling that I was only half in this world – the other half of me inhabited a world that very few of my fellow human beings were unlucky enough to know about. There is a disturbing flickering energy to this other world and things have a disconcerting way of moving very rapidly when you look the other way. Sometimes you can walk for hours only to find yourself right back where you started from. You may come across strange sights in this world – people spinning like tops where they stood. Or perhaps you may see small dogs looking up at you from the street, dogs with the faces of people you know, people you half remember. They look up at you sadly as if trying to communicate something that you cannot understand. I no longer ask people if they know of this world because when I do they only look at me with that look of pity in their eyes. That look of mingled pity and contempt. You could so easily miss it – it’s only there for a fraction of a second before they turn away, before they take an interest in something else. Before they walk away from you in a hurry. I knew no other life than this, this life of slinking through the streets, a haunted expression on my face, avoiding human contact whenever I could. I knew no other life. I had been doing research into the role of the trickster in myths and fairy tales. I had been doing research into the role of the trickster…

 

 

 

 

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Here’s The Thing…

Here’s the thing, I quip, as snug as a bug in my very own hallucination. Here’s the thing, here’s the thing… Here’s the thing, here’s the thing, here’s the thing. Just let us suppose something, just for the sake, just for the sake of supposing! Suppose, suppose, suppose. It’s all just supposing anyway, so there’s no need to worry! No need at all. There’s no need to worry, no need to fret – not yet, anyway!

 

I’m a spider now, sitting in the middle of my web. That’s how I see myself anyway – as a big fat old spider sitting right in the middle of its web, winking its little eyes at you.  All eight of them. Winking its eyes, winking its eyes. Waiting for you to pay it a visit…

 

Just suppose that everything that ever happened to you, everything that ever will happen to you, is just a five minute Tom and Jerry cartoon, over before it even begins. It never really happened at all! Just suppose – just for the sake of supposing, that is – suppose that was IT – suppose that was all it ever was. All it is. All it ever will be. You can see that so clearly – you can see it all in the one go. You can draw a line all the way around it and see it for what it is. It’s just a speeded-up nonsensical cartoon bubble that’s over as soon as it begins. That’s ALL it is – it’s no big deal. It’s nothing, it’s just a stupid blip….

 

Of course we all know that it’s different when you’re actually in it – it’s very different then of course. It’s super-immersive then. So very immersive, so very immersive. It seems to stretch on forever then, it’s all you can think about. You can’t get beyond it – you can’t see beyond it. You can’t get free from it enough to see beyond it. You’re the stuck fly and it’s the sticky flypaper.

 

But then suppose you suddenly see it for what it is – you can see that it’s all just a meaningless frenetic ‘blip’, a dumb empty cartoon. All so busy, all so busy – but with nothing in it. It’s not really going anywhere. It’s just like the head on a pint of Guinness, frothing away quietly as you sup it…

 

Your whole life – everything that ever happened to you, everything you ever thought of, everything you ever feared or hoped for, is only just that ridiculous blip. The dumbest cartoon show ever… You start laughing of course – you see the joke and it’s a rich one. It’s a very rich one. You laugh long and loud – you’re in danger of wetting yourself! You laugh and you laugh. It’s the best joke ever.

 

Here’s the thing though – you’ll always meet those who will tell you that this frenetic squiggle, this bit of frothy nonsense, this preposterous cartoon ‘blip’ is real and that you should take it very seriously! You’ll spot them approaching you, don’t you worry; you’ll get the measure of them quickly enough. You’ll see them coming – if you have any cop on at all, that is. If you’re in any way alert you’ll smell the badness off them. Just watch out for those fuckers, that’s all I’m saying. Just watch out for them…

 

 

Art- Todd Schorr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Was Happy In My Happy Place

I was happy in my happy place. Happy. Happy in my happy place. I was happy in my happy place and I didn’t want to leave. Please believe me when I tell you that! No, I didn’t want to leave. Can you imagine what it was like when I had to? Can you imagine? Can you imagine how that hurt? Perhaps you know – perhaps you know from your own experience? Perhaps something similar has happened to you? Perhaps you had to leave your happy place when you didn’t want to? I really was happy in my happy place. I really was happy in my happy place but we’ll say no more about it. We leave it at that – there’s no sense in raking over the past! What do you do when you see the past? Do you walk away, or do you walk over to it with your rake and start raking it over? I know that’s what I’d do… I’d attack it with my bloody rake, that’s what I’d do! I’d bloody attack it like some kind of mad deranged demented psycho-bastard! You’d have to hold me back, I tell you. I’d need some serious restraining. Me and my rake. Me and my rake. Going at it hammer and tongs – raking the fuck out of it. Going pure mental like a pure mental bastard. It’s not politically correct to say that these days, is it? Never mind about that, though. We not being politically correct here. This isn’t one of those politically correct forums, don’t you worry. Far from it. You bet it isn’t. ‘When you see the past, what do you see?’ someone once asked me. Well, that’s a hard question for me to answer you see. I don’t see anything. I just see lost opportunities. I just see a hellish landscape of fear and desire. I just see the nightmarish hellscape of my own tormented mind. I can never forgive myself for not appreciating my happy place when I was in it, you see. I didn’t actually appreciate it at all; I was actually always complaining about how crap it was! I was always disgruntled, I was always out of sorts. I was always finding faults with my happy place. ‘It’s not in good enough because of this, it’s not good enough because of that’, I was always whining. I was indignant, I was outraged because it was never good enough. I was always making a fuss over all sorts of trifles. And now all I want is to be back there! ‘So you weren’t happy in your happy place’, you point out, spotting the glaring inconsistency in my narrative. No indeed, I reply. You’re quite right – I wasn’t…

 

 

 

 

My Favourite Place

‘I was in my favourite place,’ I began. I always begin like this when I’m unsure of myself. I picture myself in my favourite place and I start off from here; I start off from a position of strength, you might say. I start off from a position of strength. Sometimes I get worried that I might be expressing myself entirely in clichés, entirely in stereotypes. I’ve noticed them creeping in rather a lot recently. ‘What would happen to me if I ever did start expressing myself entirely in clichés?’ I wondered. ‘Then you’d have to live in one of the ghost worlds,’ I replied to myself, answering my own question just a bit too smartly. Then you’d go to live in one of the ghost worlds. That should frighten me I know, but it doesn’t. My mind is dull and unresponsive, it flicks through its limited possibilities listlessly, unimpressed with any of its options. ‘So that’s your hand huh? How are you going to play it? I asked my mind cheekily. The cards were dirty and dog-eared; the pack should really have been replaced a long time ago. ‘How you going to play that crappy old hand of yours?’ I insist. I’m pushing it, looking for a reaction. ‘How are you going to play that, mind?’ I ask. My mind took no notice – it never does. It just keeps on going through its routines; somehow it never seems to get tired of this. It’s hoping to get a result, I know. It’s always hoping to get a result. It never does of course – it just keeps going through its routines. Somehow it never seems to get tired of this. I wanted to abuse my mind, I wanted to swear at it. I wanted to ridicule it, to revile it. It struck me that I had never seen anything stupider than my mind – It was the stupidest thing going! All it ever does is to flick through its limited range of dog-eared possibilities. All it ever does is to rattle through its dusty old routines, evidently hoping for something happen differently next time round. It’s like shaking a salt-shaker over your food and expecting something other than salt to come out. Expecting what, though? What exactly would you expect to come out of it? Pepper perhaps? Potassium permanganate? Magic fairy dust? I don’t know what my mind is expecting; I don’t know what my mind is waiting for. Does anyone, I wonder? Does anyone know? Could anyone ever find out? This could be one of the great unsolved mysteries, I realize – a true riddle, a true enigma, like those mathematical problems people try to solve down through the centuries. What does my stupid mind expect to happen? ‘Hey mind, you dumb fuck!’ I call out loudly, ‘What do you think is going to happen differently when you keep on doing the same old things? What you expect to see coming out of the salt-shaker this time?’ My mind says nothing, however. It ignores me, just as it always does…

 

 

 

 

Mellowmarsh

These notes are transcribed directly out of my field journals. I considered re-editing them but to be frank I see little point in doing so at this stage as it is unlikely that anyone will ever read them, apart from me. There’s no one else here to read them! And even I – having gone to the considerable trouble of writing them – am unlikely to ever look at them again.  I wrote them just for the sake of recording scientific data really, but there’s nothing that can actually be done with this data. It’s not ‘usable’, I suppose you could say. It’s still possibly of interest though – who knows? The following passage comes from my first entry:

 

There is a place where no one wants to be, and this is it. There is a region of space where no one wants to end up and that is where I have ended up! This region of space functions – as far as I can tell – as an entropic sinkhole. Whole worlds, whole start-systems fall into it, and when they are when they do they are subtly transformed. They are transformed into simulations of themselves, analogues of themselves – misleading echoes of themselves. In most cases I think no one would even notice the difference; in other cases however the differences are somewhat more pronounced, although still difficult to pinpoint to any great degree of accuracy. One such world is this – it’s a world with no name, for no one can be bothered to name it. It doesn’t show up on the star-charts. There is little point in naming it, and that is why no one ever has. Not only that, but to name it would be bad luck – the energy associated with these entropic worlds is so attenuated that to speak of them at all is to be subject to their insidious entropic drain. To name them I would consider especially dangerous, especially foolhardy…

 

This is a world that no one has named, and yet I have named it. I call it Mondo 3562-A. I am the last surviving member of the survey team that crash-landed on this most unusual of planets and I see it as my duty to name, to designate, to categorize, to classify. The old training dies hard, as they say. Sometimes I have other names for this place, but I will not mention them here. Not only am I in danger of confusing matters if I do so, there is also the danger of inadvertently creating a copy of a copy, an analogue of an analogue, a deceptive echo of a deceptive echo. In my more poetical moments I call this place Mellowmarsh – a strange, ungainly name and I know not why or how it came so readily to my mind. This is a world that lies at the very bottom of all the information gradients that run through the multiverse; it is a place from which no one has ever returned to speak about, for no information can ever leave it. And yet I have to say that Mellowmarsh is not without its own peculiar beauty! There is a perennial soft, misty rain that is never too hot and never too cold, and the earth is pleasingly moist and yielding underfoot. Mushrooms and toadstools grow in Mellowmarsh in vast, unending profusion – most of them powerfully hallucinogenic. Even to touch off one of them can be enough to induce violent irreversible dissociation into various conflicting alternative realities. Time loses its way here in Mellowmarsh – it seems to run off in all directions except the one it is supposed to be running in! It collects in muddy puddles here and there and small, colourless amphibians lay clusters of transparent eggs in them…

 

This planet has its own strange ecosystem and – being the official taxonomist of the mission – it is my task to draw up a system of classifications that can account for it. I have nothing else to do anyway, so I might as well do this. I often think that this is what has kept me going over the years, and prevented me from losing my core identity in the way that the other crew members appear to have done. They no longer seem to recognize me, in any event, and resist every attempt I make to communicate with them. They appear to have ‘gone native’, as it is said, and clearly no longer regard themselves as human beings. I don’t know what they do regard themselves as, to be honest. In all fairness, they seem happy enough. They seem appreciably happier than they used to be, at any rate. Every creature here is a parasite of one sort or another, and that was the First Great Peculiarity of this world that I learned about. This shouldn’t work as an ecosystem of course, yet somehow it does, and I will go into details about that later on in my account. The Second Great Peculiarity that came to my attention is that every day that dawns here on Mellowmarsh runs out of momentum before it ever ends, leaving an infinite multitude of unfinished worlds, unfinished realities lying around all over the place. Each one of these worlds or realities is an entropic sinkhole in its own right, leading nowhere, petering out imperceptibly into an impoverishment of self-referential possibilities, bifurcating endlessly to produce a dense cluster of obscure infra-dimensions.

 

The parasitic life-forms of which I speak appear in many guises – some are translucent ribbon-like pseudo-nematodes that enter through the feet and swim about ceaselessly just under the surface of your skin like so many transparent two-dimensional fish in what I ironically like to refer to as ‘the glorified goldfish-bowl’ of my own body. I call them ‘Skinfish’, for obvious reasons. At night they seem to be dancing. Or perhaps they’re mating – I can’t really be sure. My preferred theory is that they are processing information in some way. There is another type of indigenous parasitic life-form which can best be explained perhaps by saying that they are friends you have never met before but who will want to come over and talk to you about memories which you don’t have yet, but which you nevertheless will have. These false memories will gradually take root in your subconscious mind during the course of the long conversations that you will forced – out of politeness – to have with them. Eventually these ‘friends’ will know you better than you know yourself – which isn’t saying much because you won’t really know what’s a genuine memory and what’s only an implanted pseudo-memory at that stage.

 

Some of these parasites propagate as fungal spores that enter the body through the respiratory system; once established they lay down their own complex mycelial pathways and networks in your brain, creating in this way a fungal duplicate of your own nervous system. In time the copy will supersede the role of the original but as far as I can tell this substitution seems to create little or no damage to the host – the new nervous system works as well, if not better, than the old one. Memories are kept perfectly intact and are transferred to the new neural network. Everything copies everything else in this strange entropic world; the indigenous life forms enter into symbiotic relationships both with themselves and any newcomers. There is no overt predation as such, just the endless scrupulous duplication of the hosts by the parasites, which seems – in some way that I cannot as yet understand – to sustain the whole ecosystem. Sometimes all of this becomes quite troubling and I find myself wondering if I really am ‘my true self’, or if perhaps ‘the original me’ has been lost – mislaid, misplaced, misappropriated or otherwise gone astray without me realizing it. There is no point in thinking like this though – where after all would that get me?

 

 

 

 

The Rant Of The Hero

‘I have learned my lesson well,’ I begin, repeating by rote the words which I know so well. Repeating by rote the words that I know so well, but which I have never heard. Repeating dutifully the words which I have never heard. The words that I have never heard, the words that I have never heard.

 

‘We cannot but reflect the lifeless nature of the cruel insensate mechanisms that exist hidden within us,’ I declaim loudly, my voice echoing endlessly in the vast subterranean caverns of my own cavernous mind. ‘I would speak the truth,’ I intone again, more hesitantly this time, ‘but my nature is sterile, and cannot give rise to anything but discordant scraping noises’.

 

Such is my nature and I cannot go beyond it, no matter how I strain myself, no matter how much I stretch and contort myself, no matter how much torture I subject myself to… A thing cannot be what it is not – I cannot speak the words that I so yearn to speak. I cannot express a truth that I know nothing of. I am like an empty steel barrel that has been beaten with a stick; I am like an immense sullen gong that has been struck with an iron hammer…

 

‘I cannot go beyond my own nature,’ I bellow, my immense stentorian voice clattering the saucers and teacups in the kitchen cupboard, rattling the knives and forks in the drawer, scattering the crows from the field where they gather. ‘I am Chemosh the Subduer, worshipped daily by my blind, fervently deluded followers. I am Tammuz. I am Dagon. I am the Iron Bull, who men blindly worship in the oppressive darkness of their own pointlessly sterile delusions. I am the Bronze Calf. I am the Salamander. I am the Speaker of the Magical Words. I am the Blacksmith who toils away in his airless Underground Cavern’.

 

‘I have learned my lesson well’, I begin again, trying as I speak to remember that lesson, learnt so badly and so long ago. My voice shakes with unidentifiable emotions as I strive to recall it. I remember so many things, and yet I remember nothing…

 

Stumbling and falling, stumbling and falling, barely able to see where I am going, I make my way through the scrublands bordering on that desolate territory they call The Great Waste. The pitiless sun beats down on me from above as I walk and a great cloud of biting creatures swarms around my head. My weather-beaten face is all but hidden by a Halo of Flies; my bowed head is wreathed by a Mighty Mane of Midges. I wish to cry out in my anguish, but I forbear from doing so, for the journey ahead of me is long. ‘I am he who paves the way for those who are yet to come’ I shout out, my voice exultant with the awareness that has come upon me. ‘I am he…’ I say. ‘I am he…’

 

I have my Hero Coat on and I am walking the Hero Path. None can gainsay me. A bitter wind howls down from the bleak mountain tops that surround me but I feel it not for my Hero Coat is made of yak wool two inches thick. It goes down to my ankles. No mortal man can wear this coat and yet walk. My enemies are possessed of telepathic powers and they already know of my approach. They know of my approach and they are afraid…

 

 

Art – Micheal Whelan

 

 

 

Confidence Is Everything

It makes me sad sometimes when I think about what human beings have to endure. Having to listen to other people talk, for example! Having to endure it – that’s enough to wear anyone down, isn’t it? It’s the whole sad spectacle of it, people talking at each other, yakking at each other, yakking in general, wearing each other down relentlessly. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not being unduly misanthropic here. If that’s the word I’m looking for. I’m really not. I’m coming from a place of compassion. We’re such sad dysfunctional creatures, aren’t we? So very sad, so very dysfunctional… It’s often struck me that the reason we human beings spend so much time yakking at each other, yakking on mobile phones, and just yakking our heads off in general, is because we’re trying to prove to ourselves, and to other people, that we aren’t sad and dysfunctional creatures. It’s a tactic of desperation. A tactic of pure desperation.

 

We are desperately talking away to each other nine to the dozen without ever taking a break because we want to prove to ourselves that we’re normal. Okay, you’re probably thinking, but isn’t it true that most people don’t seem particularly desperate when they’re chatting, isn’t it true that most people seem to take to it like ducks to water. Don’t they love it? That’s exactly the point I’m making however – that’s the whole point right there, you see. That’s the point. That’s the point. You see the thing is that we’ve got so very used to this gimmick of ours that it now seems perfectly natural; we’re so well adapted to it that we think we’re talking about things because we actually want to, not because we desperately need to in order to persuade ourselves that we’re not total freaks. The gimmick has taken over you see and it’s got the upper hand. It’s got the better of us. It’s taken on a life of its own and we’re just going along with it. We’re hitch-hikers – we’re just hitching a lift. We’re just going along for the ride. Isn’t that always the way?

 

It’s got so that when I notice people talking away to each other nine to the dozen I look at them with pity and I think ‘you poor bastard’. ‘You poor bastard,’ I say to myself, ‘life is grim, life is grim’. But on the other hand you could say that perhaps they’re enjoying the grotesque suffering of it all and so who am I to judge? Who am I to interfere? Who am I to say what’s right and wrong? Life’s a funny old thing, isn’t it? I know that’s a cliché but never mind. We put ourselves in such dreadfully uncomfortable positions, don’t we? But who’s to say, perhaps we enjoy it on some level. Perhaps we like it. There has to be some kind of an old pay-off in it for us for God’s sake. Some kind of an old perk. There has to be some kind of an old perk now wouldn’t you say. Some kind of an old perk, some kind of an old perk. Wouldn’t you say. They take to it like ducks to water you know. That’s the whole point I’m trying to make here. That’s the point. That the gimmick has got the better of us – that we don’t know what we’re doing anymore but we don’t want to let on to ourselves. We don’t want to see the darkness. Confidence is everything – isn’t that what they say?