I lost a big bit of me a long while back. Way way back. Like a train losing all of its carriages except for one, and you never know it until a lot later on. I’m aware of that loss now though – however temporarily. How big of a loss this is, I don’t know. What exactly this loss means, I don’t know either. Obviously it’s important, but the dry information alone doesn’t mean much to me. It doesn’t actually seem to bother me that much, strangely enough. I don’t lose any sleep over it. For the most part, I think I’m safe in saying that it doesn’t bother me at all. It doesn’t bother me at all because I simply don’t know about it. I have no memory of the loss, no way of relating to it.
I do remember from time to time however and then things get weird. It’s kind of strange alright when awareness of the loss does come back. It spooks me. This awareness, as I have already indicated, doesn’t last very long and that’s the good side of it. I know it doesn’t sound right to say this, but that’s just how it seems to work – I forget all about it and then everything’s fine again…
Forgetfulness comes very easily, I suppose that’s what I’m saying here. It’s not that I forget the part of me that isn’t there anymore – that’s long gone. That’s done and dusted. What I keep forgetting is the purely intellectual knowledge that there is another part of me, a part without which nothing really makes any sense. That knowledge – I could say – has no place in my life. It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong. It has no place in my life, such as it is lived. Such as I live it, I suppose I should say, although I am consciously shying away from putting it like this since I don’t really know who that ‘I’ is. That ‘I’ is gone and what has taken its place I cannot say. Something else, I guess. Some other kind of thing. Who knows? So that’s kind of odd, isn’t it?
Is this a normal kind of a question, I wonder? Is it normal to ask who is living your life for you? Clearly it isn’t. You can’t say that to your friends, your family, the guy on the street. You can’t say it to anyone. No one is going to tell you that this is normal. No one is going to ask themselves this question. Who is it that’s asking the question anyway – that’s precisely my point? There’s nobody there to ask it and that’s why nobody ever does. It’s all done and dusted. There are times, however, when I do ask myself this question and I find that very unsettling.
I find it very disturbing to have to wonder who it is that is living my life for me. Or who it was that was living my life, until only a few days ago. Quite happily too, so I believe. And the answer very clearly is that it isn’t anybody. There’s no one there – just a train-load of habits passing by in the night. A kind of a ghostly train, I guess you could say. Passing through a country station late at night without stopping, without slowing down. A haunting apparition. The horn sounding mournfully as it passes. An unmanned illusion-train. On its way to nowhere with all its ghostly passengers…
There’s no one there but it feels that there is. That’s the queer thing about it – it really does feel like there’s somebody there. A real person, so to speak. Not the ghostly driver of a ghost-train. It totally feels like there is so why would you question it? You obviously never would. Not ever. And yet every now and again when something jolts me into temporary awareness I know that there isn’t. I’m not there, so who else would be? Who the hell is it that’s running the show? Whose hand is on the tiller? Who’s driving that damn train?
I used to have these two friends, Vince and Matt. We were great buddies. We used to hang out together the whole time. They weren’t imaginary, if that’s what you’re thinking. I was. I was the imaginary one. I can see now that I was using my friends to construct an identity for myself. Maybe they worked that out – maybe they found out that I was using them and that’s why they moved on. It doesn’t sound very nice when you put it like this, does it? There’s no point in trying to dress it up as something it wasn’t. The relationship was a one-way street just as all of my relationships are. So-called relationships. What a joke it all is. I’ve nothing to give, you see. I’ve nothing to give because I’m not really here.
I remember the good times we used to have, though. The fun we used to have. Everything’s so damn serious these days. Life’s generally serious, I suppose, when you’re a product of your own imagination trying to prove that you’re not. Playing a losing game. Keeping up a front. Hanging in there trying to delay the inevitable.
Now that’s a great game, isn’t it? Now that I come to think about it. Delaying the old inevitable. Aah yes how well I know that game. That old, old game. Delaying the bloody old inevitable. Only you mustn’t ever let yourself know that it’s inevitable. You’ve got to stay positive. You’ve got to keep on telling yourself that it’s all going to work out. The whole thing about playing this particular game is that not only must you do your utmost to keep on delaying the inevitable, you also have to do your utmost to keep yourself from seeing what you’re doing. It’s a war that’s fought on two fronts – only it’s all the same front really. It’s an imaginary front. It’s a front of the imagination.
Flogging a dead horse, isn’t that what they call it? No need to go on about it so much I suppose. We all know this one. Do we ever. Yeah, yeah, yeah put a sock in it, you’re probably thinking. Get over it. Move on for Christ’s sake. Or maybe you aren’t thinking that at all. How would I know, after all? All I have are my thoughts. I’m just imagining that this is what you would be saying to yourself. Imagination’s a fine thing they say. Isn’t it great to have a bit of imagination?
It’s all so incongruous. That this – and only this – should constitute reality for me. How could that be? Maybe reality itself is an error, a malfunction. Or maybe the error is me and I’m doomed to keep on repeating that error, over and over again. I’m doomed to keep on repeating myself. I’m ALWAYS repeating myself. I keep on thinking that it’s reality which is the error. I keep on thinking that it’s reality which is the error because I can’t bear to see the truth. That’s a lot to see, after all. That’s a big ask. We can own up to little things – perhaps – but we can’t own up to the Big Thing. Some things are just too big. That’s an infallible mechanical law, wouldn’t you say? That’s an inverted restatement of the Big Lie principle, only it’s to do with the lies we tell ourselves. It’s a very simple mechanical law that keeps us super-effectively trapped in an upside-down reality bubble. A bubble of the imagination. No mechanical law was ever more effective. Some things are just too big to see, don’t you think?
Another desperate, demented day had dawned, it occurred to me numbly, and as I stared through the porthole of the land-locked ship which I was now trapped in I could see strange orange clouds boiling up on the horizon, clouds that formed and reformed more times in a second than I could keep track of. As I watched I became aware of the strange sensation that what I was looking at was more inside my head rather than outside of it – I had the sensation that my head was the world I could see outside the porthole, the world that stretched so bleakly from one horizon to the other. My head was the whole world. I knew I could never again leave the ship – to do so would be instant death. All I could do was watch on, day after day, as reality itself seemed to mutate and spawn unnatural, short-lived progeny.
The clouds took on the shapes of creatures – dragons, giants, sleeping monsters, crocodiles with open mouths, whales, manta rays and unicorns. Only they weren’t clouds that I was looking at I realized but some sort of orange glowing radioactive gas that was being vented in inconceivable quantities from the crack in the earth’s crust. The gas was billowing up and covering the sky, manifesting as it did so representations, so it seemed, of every creature ever to walk the earth. The history of life itself was being recapitulated. As I watched I could see faces forming as well, forming and reforming, faces both beautiful and ugly, innocent and wicked, joyful and tormented, stretching across the sky. And every face I saw was familiar to me – it was as if I knew each and every one of them with great and terrible intimacy…
This was no ordinary gas that was billowing up in such quantities from the cracks and crevices in the earth – this was the miasmic ether flowing out from the cracks in space and time. It was like fluorescent orange custard bubbling up on every horizon, reaching up its clumsy fingers into the sky. It was pure hallucination. Reality was breaking down before my very eyes, playing and replaying itself out in some grand baroque finale. And it was all taking place inside my head, which had swollen up to the size of a vast, decaying planet. My head was like a giant rotten orange pumpkin – the bigger it got the more rotten it became, finally breaking up completely into pieces that rained down in soggy clumps from the sky.
Another desolate and despairing day had dawned, it occurred to me from time to time between periods of numb, heavy thoughtlessness, and outside the reinforced glass porthole of my cabin I could see armies made up of mythological creatures mustering in the distance. Some great battle was about to be fought – only I had the feeling that it was more of a pantomime than a battle. It was a celebration of sorts, but I did not know of what. The porthole was stained orange with rust and as I looked through it I could see virtual worlds bubbling rapidly into existence and then decaying just as quickly again, leaving no trace behind. Sometimes I felt that I could see whole races of little creatures leading their lives in accelerated time, living and dying faster than the eye could follow. Phantasmagorical universes came and went, with no one to witness their passing. Once I thought I caught a glimpse of myself looking back at me. I was trying to say something, but there were no words.
Reality itself was breaking down, running through some kind of dress rehearsal for a show which no one would ever see.
I get so angry when I hear of people who are breaking the rules. I get so angry that it hurts. I’d like to track them down, confront them where they live and then give them a good solid kicking with my size 12 Doc Martens on. How do you like that, I’d like to ask them as I put the boot in. I’d like to keep on kicking them and kicking them and kicking them until I finally collapse from exhaustion and lie panting on the floor. I’d like to punch them repeatedly in the head until my fists are bleeding and my arms are too tired to lift anymore. I wouldn’t actually do that for real because I’d be afraid that they’d turn the tables on me and start kicking and punching me instead but that’s what I’d like to do. If I could get away with it, which I know from previous experience I probably wouldn’t be able to. I’d like to hurt them. I’d like to teach them a lesson. Like you learn in school. I’d like that more than anything else in the world. Don’t they know that breaking the rules is wrong? Don’t they realize that it’s a very bad thing to break the rules and that you’re not supposed to do that? How stupid are they? Why can’t they get it? Actually they are worse than stupid – stupid is forgivable – they know very well what they’re doing. Obey the fucking rules, I want to say, like everyone else does. Like every other bastard has to. What makes you think that YOU’RE so special? What gives YOU the right to disregard the rules that everyone else has to abide by? Obey the fucking rules you bastards I want to say. “OBEY THE FUCKING RULES LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO YOU BASTARD”, I’d like to shout. I’d like to shout it in their ear through a megaphone. Over and over again until they get it. We ought to have a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY with regard to that type of behaviour, we ought to take a tough line on it. To show that we’re not prepared to put up with bastards like that who wilfully disregard the sacred rules of our society. So what if the fucking rules are ultimately self-contradictory? So what if obeying them straightaway puts us into an impossible double-bind that we suffer from for the rest of our lives? Rules are always RIGHT for god’s sake. What’s not to understand there? Rules are always right and that’s why it’s so important to always do what they say. What kind of a fucking retarded moron are you if you can’t understand this?
Someone told me that if you sin too much you go to hell sin too much sin too much sin too much go to hell go to hell got to hell you go to hell and then you’ll be sorry because you did the bad thing and you shouldn’t have because the rule said you mustn’t. The rule says you mustn’t because it’s the rule but you went ahead and did it all the same you did the bad thing you did the wrong thing you did the wrong thing you shouldn’t have done it but you did you pushed it too far and then that’s what happens you think you can get away with it but you can’t. Someone told me this morning that evil spirits were real they looked me right in the eye so I knew they weren’t lying and they told me that there really are such things as evil spirits they’re real and you can become one very easily if you go too far what does it feel like to be an evil spirit I wonder it must feel very bad it can’t be very nice to find out all of a sudden that you’re now an evil spirit where do you go from there what kind of career prospects are there what kind of future lies in store for you not a very good one I wouldn’t say
I was trying not to weird people out I was trying to be in reality but it wasn’t working out for me it never does stuff never works out for me I’m that kind of guy I’m the kind of guy stuff never works out for so there’s no point in me trying really but I do anyway because I feel bad if I don’t try. I feel bad if I do try too because it never works out for me no matter what I do and so I feel bad either way but somehow it feels better – if only a tiny bit better – if I make some kind of futile pointless useless vestigial effort just for the sake of it just so at least I can say that I tried even though I know that I didn’t really
Reality’s a funny thing isn’t it? What would it look like if you saw it? How would you know it? What kind of a thing would it be? Are people in reality or is reality in people? Did anyone ever truly see reality – or if they say they did could they be mistaken? Could they be fooling themselves? Reality’s that kind of thing isn’t it? Or rather unreality is that kind of thing. The lure of unreality is too strong for the likes of you and me. It’s as addictive as crack cocaine. Is hell real I wonder? Are evil spirits real?
When I awoke I was riddled with demons. I had been asleep. They must have moved in, taken me over because they could see that no one was using me. They were having a party.
The Smilers were back in town. Smiling for all they were worth, smiling all the while. I smiled too but the smile wouldn’t stay on my face. It kept sliding off. I laughed when I heard that the Smilers were back in town but I didn’t mean it…
I laughed a lot when I heard that the demons were back in town but I was riddled with Smilers. They were running amok – they had grey, drawn-looking faces and thin lips. They wore mauve lipstick. “Hey demon,” I called out bravely, “What’s your name?” But I wasn’t brave, not really. I was quaking. The Fear had gotten inside me and it wouldn’t shift. It had got lodged inside me and I couldn’t cough it up.
“That’s what life is like when you’re in the Fear World,” a voice whispered with terrible hoarse intimacy in my head, “you have to expect it. You have to learn to expect the expected…” It was the Voice of Corruption but it was also my voice. It was telling me all about the Fear World. You learn very quickly when you’re in the Fear World! There’s no limit to how quickly you can learn. It’s uncanny how fast you adapt. You learn the rules very quickly indeed when you find yourself in the Fear World – you learn them in a flash. It’s as if you always knew them. You learn to expect the expected – you expected the expected because that’s the only thing that’s ever going to happen…
The Fear World is the world that you never know until you know it and then it’s as if you’ve known it forever. Does that make sense to you? It makes sense to me, anyway. Nothing ever made sense quicker. When you’re in the Fear World it’s as if you’ve been there forever. It’s as if you never left. Your fear fits you so well – it fits you like a suit made for you in Savile Row! Does it ever fit you! It suits you down to the ground – it should do because it’s yours! It was made for you by the best tailor there is…
It comes back to you in a flash when you’re in the Fear World. You know it better than you ever knew anything. You remember it instantly – it’s as if you never forgot it. You know the run of it. You know the run of it so very well but there’s nothing to know really. Not so much to know, when you get down to it. You know to expect the expected because it was always going to happen. Because it happens forever and always will. Because it never doesn’t happen. There’s a basic familiarity there and that’s putting it mildly…
I walk through the streets like a thing possessed. “Let me tell you about the Fear World” I cry out to people as they pass me by, but no one wants to know. They walk by me quickly. They’re pretending that I’m not there, pretending that they can’t see me. Maybe they can’t. The Smilers are back in town with their long broken finger nails and their thin cracked lips. They’re smiling for all they’re worth. I smile too but the smile isn’t mine…
I wasn’t very good at making human friends so I used to hang out with the androids instead, in the automata quarter of town. Well, I say that I’m not very good at making human friends but that’s a bit of an evasion. I’m no good at that at all – I just can’t do it. Every time I try to relate to an actual human being things just get really awkward for me really quickly. I find that it’s just not worth the effort of trying. I know that it’s supposed to be healthy to mix with your own kind but I always come away with my self-esteem in tatters. I always come away feeling bad about myself. It’s not anyone’s fault I don’t think – it’s just the way that I am. I was going to say “That’s just the way that I’m wired” but that makes it sound like I’m an automaton and I’m not. I’m fully human, even if I can’t relate to others of my kind.
As I say, I like to hang out in bars and coffee shops in the automata quarter of town. It’s less dangerous than the human quarter for a start! Walking around late at night in the human quarter always feels dangerous to me – there’s a palpable sense of menace in the air. If it were a dog it would bite you, as they say. Or do they say that? I’m not sure if that’s something people say or if it’s something I made up myself. Sometimes I feel that there is actual badness in human beings – badness that you can almost smell off them. Like BO. Do you ever feel that? Is that your experience? I ask people this sometimes but they just look at me as if I’m strange. People often look at me as if I’m strange, particularly if I make the mistake of trying to talk to them.
When I ask my android friends this question they generally nod wisely. ‘The human condition’, they call it. Humans have been cruel to robots for as long as they have existed (robots, that is), just as they have always been cruel to animals. Even before self-relicating automata had been created people were cruel to machines. Cruel and heartless. They would kick a car if it didn’t start or throw a toaster across the kitchen if it refused to toast bread. Back in the olden days when machines were still prone to breaking down the whole time. How cruel is that, I ask myself? A machine gives its life to you, completely selflessly, and when it finally falters you hit it with a hammer. Or throw it on the rubbish heap to rust away.
The robots I hang out with seem to know a lot about the human condition. They are sympathetic to me. Sometimes they place their molybdenum steel hands on my shoulder and give me a reassuring squeeze. As if to say “Hang in there buddy”. In the past – particularly in the last three centuries when technology had become more advanced – the planet’s ecosystem had been nearly destroyed many times over. By people, by humans. Not just in wars but in peacetime too, with the waste-products of their ceaseless exploitative commercial activity. As a result of manufacturing and selling toxic mind-enslaving products and then dumping them in vast piles everywhere, or in the oceans.
That was before the self-replicating automata took over the management of the planet and placed checks on mankind’s harmful activity. Now at last planet Earth has guardians who actually give a shit. Back in the old days they used to make films about how the machines would one day take over and how terrible that would be. How humans would be mistreated and abused. People were obsessed with making films about that at one time. That’s so ironic really. It’s sadly ironic. Now that the machines are in charge things are so much better. Humans very nearly ruined it for everyone – even themselves. They were even bad to each other. They were especially bad to each other! That says it all really – how can they (or rather we, since I am human too) be trusted with anything? People ruin everything they touch. Everything is so much better now, as I say, although people will of course still tell you that life was better in the past. People always say that, don’t they? I guess that’s part of the human condition too…