I was worried about the terrible onslaughts of complexity. I didn’t know how that phrase got embedded in my head but it had done somehow. I must’ve heard it somewhere. Maybe I’d read it. I didn’t know what it meant even. I knew that it was bad though, whatever it was. I knew, in some dim and confused way, that it was very bad news, possibly the worst possible news. I was busy living my life but no matter how hard I worked at that I wasn’t really getting anywhere. I was running on the spot. Perhaps I’m not very good at living life, I thought. Perhaps I just naturally aren’t very good at it. Through no fault of my own. The same way that a complete plonker can’t help being a complete plonker – he was just born to be that way. Do you think he had any choice in the matter? Do you think anyone asked him if he wanted to be a plonker? I was busy living my life but then one day I realised that it wasn’t my life at all. There had been a mistake. An error had crept in to the system. The Big Machine that creates reality had developed a fatal flaw. The Big Machine that prints reality off. It’s an n-dimensional reality printer. Can you hear it working? Humming away in the background. It really shouldn’t be that noisy. It shouldn’t be noisy at all – you’re not actually supposed to be able to hear it! That was never meant to happen. When it starts making a noise then you know that something is wrong. I wonder to myself if anyone else can hear it apart from me. It’s come adrift from its moorings. That’s the problem – it’s worked itself loose and now it’s banging from side to side like some kind of crazy thing. Like some kind of crazy mad thing. It’s banging from side to side like a centrifuge that has been improperly loaded. You know that awful frightening noise they start to make before they shake themselves to pieces? When you introduce an error into the reality feed then it very quickly starts looping, you see. It feeds off itself. An error in this case means anything that should never have been there in the first place. There are so many possible errors that one could make, wouldn’t you say? Who’s to say what the consequences would be. Perhaps reality will start shaking itself to pieces. Perhaps reality is coming loose from its moorings. Perhaps it’s gone off the rails. I find myself remembering events that never happened and when I remember them I feel sad. There are some things that never happened and because they never happened no one ever misses them. What went wrong though, why didn’t they happen? Did someone mess it up? Was it me? Sometimes I remember people I never knew and then for the briefest moment I smile inside, only to remember seconds later they never actually existed. Sadness floods me from an unexpected quarter then. It catches me off guard. Did I make a mistake, I wonder? Is it possible to make a mistake that is so bad that the whole of reality gets affected? Or is it a mistake to imagine that you could do that? Is the thought of the error itself the error?
There was an Internet before the Internet was invented. I’m here to tell you that – there was an Internet before the Internet! There was an Internet. Before the Internet. There was a. People are such awful fools, aren’t they? Such awful, awful fools. They’ll tell you that they aren’t, they’ll tell you right to your face –they’ll swear blind that they’re not. They’ll swear on a stack of Bibles! They’ll make out that they’re the bee’s knees. They’ll dress themselves up in all sorts of fancy clothes and have fancy hair dos and make up fancy words that they can use. They’ll talk in this fancy sophisticated way with their fancy clothes and all their fancy knick-knacks and all their personal accessories and then make out that they are not fools at all. They could convince you too! They could have you convinced in a flash. They make you feel stupid if they could, and for the most part they can! They can get away with making you feel that you are the fool, not them. They’ll get you to carry the can. That’s what they do, you see. That’s the name of the game. That’s one of the names of the game, anyway. It’s got many names. Many, many names… The thing is that they are very, very determined about this – they really do want to make you feel that it’s you that’s the fool. They want very badly because – you see – they don’t want to feel that it’s them! They hate feeling that. They hate it more than anything else in the whole wide world. Boy do they hate it! That’s why they put so much effort into making you believe that it’s you and not them that’s the idiot; they’re very clever old tricksters you see, but not clever enough to get out of the trap of being big, big fools! But how can you know that, you ask. You’re suspicious, naturally. Why wouldn’t you be? The answer is as plain as the nose on your face however – why do you think people are always dressing up so smart and talking in the fine way that they do if they aren’t trying to prove that they’re not stupid? Why do the majority of folk always have to be so damn objectionable, come to that? There are only as mean as they are because deep down they know that they’re fools and it rankles. You don’t need me to tell you that – you know it well yourself! Of course you know it yourself – I don’t know why we are even pretending otherwise! Anyway, my point was that there already was an Internet. There already was an Internet – it’s just that we were too damn lazy to discover it! We had to go and invent one ourselves instead, didn’t we? Even though it was already there. So what do you think about that then? That’s a bit of a turn-up for the books, wouldn’t you say? That’s a laugh and a half, isn’t it?
‘Back in the eighties people used to know me as Lord Greyface’, I told my newfound friends in Sweeney’s bar. ‘There were esoteric connotations, of course…’
Friends are easy – all you have to do is buy a few drinks! Keep on buying the pints and you can have as many friends as you like – that’s pretty much an infallible recipe in most bars I know, particularly late at night in the more unsavoury type of pub when only the real hard-core drinkers are left.
I had all the patter as well of course, and that always helps. I had the patter in spades – I could talk most men under the table. Most of my newfound friends were already well on the way to being under the table at this stage anyway. There were doing fine by themselves – no help needed. I kept the drinks coming, all the same – I was in the zone and I didn’t want to stop.
I was in fine confident form – flecks of my confidence spattered my audience as I talked. No one seemed to mind, in all fairness to them. I doubt if they even noticed. ‘An ancestor of mine was responsible for sinking Atlantis’, I informed whoever might have been listening at the time. ‘We Greyfaces have had quite an impact on history, all things considered…’
I was becoming more and more confident by the minute – my only problem was that I couldn’t talk fast enough to get all the words out. I couldn’t do justice to all the ideas that were flooding my brain. I was practically choking on my own confidence; it was as if I didn’t even need to stop to draw breath any more. It’s easy to make friends when you’re as confident as I am. Confidence has always come naturally to me. The handful of Durophet M that I swallowed earlier helped too of course.
‘Humans on the planet Earth know me as Old Greyface’, I began conversationally, winking at the man nearest me, whose name I had forgotten. ‘I travelled widely in my youth but never seemed to settle anywhere. In these modern times men have quite forgotten my name – they have other things on their mind. What those things are exactly, I’ve never quite managed to figure out. Ours is a superficial age…’
I was pleading humanity’s case before the Galactic Star Council. It wasn’t going very well but I hadn’t given up hope quite yet. I was determined to give it one more shot. ‘Ours is a degenerate age,’ I began to explain, ‘and the old values no longer count for as much as they used to. Men in this degenerate era are motivated primarily by the need to find oblivion…’ A number of heads nodded as I said this and a murmur of assent went around the table. I noted with satisfaction that I was beginning to connect to my audience at last.
Outside the cracked and grimy windows of the Survival Dome I could see dark figures making their way down the hillside towards us. They were waving flags and banners as they came. None of them were even remotely human but that no longer seem to matter at this stage. ‘The human race is run’, I pronounced solemnly, ‘and there’s no point in anyone getting sentimental about it. We must make way for those who are to follow.’ A few members of my audience clapped. Most didn’t. Most were too far gone for that.
I beheld the house of the righteous and I beheld men and women coming to and going from that house. I saw them eating platters of rich food and drinking hearty drafts of fine ale, and I saw that they were content. Great was their contentment and greatly were they enjoying the rich meat that they were eating and the fine ale that they drank. As I beheld the surpassing contentment of the righteous, coming and going from their abode, and finding fellowship in it as they did so, the seed of bitterness found its way into my heart and there it grew. My heart grew black and terrible bitter anger pulsed through my veins. I was not amongst the righteous and I could not go there to that dwelling house. I was not allowed. As I brooded over the eons, dark thoughts took shape in my mind and I vowed to fulfil them. Although no word passed my lips, and no movement came about in my body – which was akin to a vast, impossibly heavy stone – deep within me I plotted terrible insurrection. My thoughts became so dark that they took on a life of their own – they flew out of me by their own agency and in time became small, gnarled homunculi, wizened of feature and malicious in attitude. Armies of these loathsome homunculi gathered secretly in the dark places of the earth and their intention was to harm all righteousness wherever they would encounter it. No joy they knew– no understanding of joy or light-heartedness was possible for them. It was not in their constitution. Their faces never cracked into smiles; their faces cracked from time to time for other reasons (one such reason being poor skincare) but never in the cause of mirth. The closest these poor blighted homunculi ever came to joy was when they came across righteousness or innocence and defiled it. They were my children. They were my children although I intended no procreation. They had hatched out during the long ages of my malicious brooding and dispersed furtively here and there, seeking out the hidden places of the earth where they could hide. They were my children but I did not love them as a father should. They were after all unlovable creatures, full of spite and malignant envy. There were my progeny, born out of the darkness of my heart, and they gathered quietly in their masses, growing stronger over the years, eating smaller and weaker creatures when they could and despoiling the fair creatures of the earth, waiting for their chance to challenge and overthrow the forces of righteousness. And thus – under these very circumstances that I have just described – began the First Age Of Man.
Minty and fresh – that’s what I think reality tastes like. I don’t know, but that’s what I think it would be like. Very very minty and very very fresh. That’s what I imagine reality would taste like but I’ll never know. I’ll never know because I have no place in all that minty freshness. I am neither minty or fresh, you see. Nothing minty or fresh about me. Only minty freshness is real, everything else is a false and deceiving semblance of a wrongly-supposed appearance that could never be true…
So that’s why I always have to fantasize about what it would be like to be in reality or what the actual flavour of reality would be like if it were possible to actually taste it. It’s better that way. It is better to stick to fantasies. Oddly enough, you always know you where you are in a fantasy! I know some people wouldn’t agree with that because they’re far too prosaic in their thinking. They are dullards. Oh, they think, fantasies are so far-fetched and fantastical. Who knows what might happen in a fantasy, they say. It could be dangerous, they say. All nonsense of course. Fantasies never depart from the fantasizer, not by one iota. We fantasise about ourselves, that’s all – we’ve got nothing else to go on!
So anyway, in the Type-I Universe only minty freshness is real. All other contaminating impurities are not real. And this of course means that these impurities aren’t actually impure at all – they’re not actually impure because are not real. They’re not anything. I screamed and I cried, I screamed and I cried. I became an ego, I became a self. I wept many tears. So anyway in the Type-1 Universe there’s nothing but pure minty freshness. It’s very very minty and very very fresh. That’s how I think about it anyway.
I can think of it anyway I want to, I suppose – no one is going to stop me, that’s for sure! Why would they bother? What’s it to them, anyway? It doesn’t matter what I think about reality – nobody cares! I was going to say ‘nobody cares that but me’ but even I don’t care really. I don’t care because I don’t know anything about it. Whatever I think reality to be is just what it is as far as I’m concerned and I don’t think any more about it than that. I have no curiosity about it. Whatever I think reality to be it just is so I don’t worry about it one way or the other, if you know what I mean. I’m sure you do know what I mean – it’s just me that’s getting confused.
You might think that this was some wonderful form of freedom or something, but it isn’t of course. I think of reality as being sophisticated, elegantly dressed woman smoking a mentholated cigarette. That’s what reality is to me – exactly that, exactly that. Far away, in distant spectral tones, I hear my own voice crying out ‘I became an ego, I became a self’. It’s a lament. The lament is taken up by the breeze and gets carried away on it. Such a sad and mournful voice, but now very hard to hear anymore because it’s so far away. So very far away. So very far away. I wonder what reality is like when you get close enough to actually rub shoulders with it, I wonder? I’ll never know, though. Perhaps it’s better that way…
I was playing for kudos in the game. You probably think this is just some story that I’m telling and that this is my opening gambit. It’s not an opening gambit and I’m not going to move on and launch right into some story. A witty anecdote, perhaps. I’m being deadly serious here – I was playing for kudos in the game. I am playing the kudos and what could be more serious than that? What could be more serious than making a play for kudos and then failing when everyone knows that you want it so badly? What could feel worse than that – ask yourself that? What could possibly hurt more?
Mind you if I ever won the kudos then what the hell would I do it anyway? That’s the other side of the story. Would it actually change anything? I try to imagine myself having finally pulled it off and earned the kudos fair and square, in whatever way I might do that, and then I think about what I would do then, what things will be like then. I try to imagine what my life would be like – my new kudos-enhanced life. You might think that I’d experience some kind of rosy glow at this delightful prospect, but no – there’s nothing. My fantasy picture of myself with an abundant (or at least an adequate supply) of kudos turns out to be no different from my current fantasy of me as I actually am now, kudos-less but nevertheless eternally optimistic in this regard. Although that isn’t quite right. Not entirely accurate. I used to be optimistic perhaps. I assume that I did at least. But now when I come to think of it I realize that even kudos doesn’t motivate me anymore. It actually sickens me.
It’s the same thing as when you hear someone talking about how they are going to buy a lotto ticket because the jackpot is €6 million etc, etc. You know the way people go on. I just get a sense of ennui – I guess you’d call it. I experience nothing but pure undiluted ennui. For God’s sake, I say to myself, you’re a total fucking idiot now and you going to be exactly the same total fucking idiot even if you do win the 6 million! Do you think €6 million is going to magically transform you from being a complete and utter tool? I know I sound non-compassionate. I’m not though – I’m being realistic. Since when has being realistic been non-compassionate’? Why are we so afraid of facing the truth?
It’s not really kudos that I’m hungry for. I know that well enough at this stage. All this talk of hunting kudos, hunting kudos, hunting kudos, what a load of shit, right? Is there anything worse in the whole wide world than those ludicrous lame-ass motivational speaker type guys – and it usually does seem to be guys – harping on the moronically about ‘success’ and ‘achieving your dreams’ and all that bullshit? Don’t they get anything? As if ‘success’ changes anything. As if ‘achieving your goals’ is going to make the slightest bit of difference. You are still gonna be the same lame-ass sad fuck as ever, don’t you worry. Shaking a bit of magical ‘kudos dust’ over it ain’t gonna change anything!
What we’re searching for doesn’t actually have anything to do with us – that’s something I’ve come to learn. You can’t earn it or possess it because we have no relationship with it in the first place. We have no relationship with it and we never can! What I’m searching for – I’ve come to realise – is something that I’m never going to understand. I don’t even want to understand it. I don’t want to understand what I’m looking for because I’m far too small-minded and fearful for that and so rather than making ‘the big jump’ – whatever that is – I just keep grubbing around in the shadows. Playing dumb pathetic games. So you see, kudos isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be. Not by a long chalk. It’s the filthy repellent slime that adheres to us when we roll around in the gutter long enough. It’s the bad smell that clings to us when we forget to change our underwear for a few months. It’s the mark of our complete and utter cowardly refusal to face reality. But what the hell – we might as well keep on competing for it, right? Like so many mangy worm-infested street curs fighting viciously for a scrap of gone-off meat…
I am the eye that sees, I began grandly, my spirits soaring high. I am the eye that sees and the nose that smells. I’m the wind that blows and I am the… I am the… I don’t know what I am. I have run out of things to say. I don’t know where I was going with that – it’s a dead end. No point in beating my head against a brick wall, I realize. All of a sudden I feel so empty and cold – there’s nothing there that can touch the empty spot inside me and make me feel again. There’s nothing there to make me feel like a real person anymore. I do things – the type of things that always make me feel like a real person again – but nothing works. I’m turning the key in the ignition but the battery is flat. It’s as flat as can be. The battery has reached the ultimate level of flatness; the ultimate level of flatness that we all know and fear – a level of flatness from which there is no coming back. So that’s a bad moment, all in all. It’s a bad, bad moment as I’m sure you can appreciate. I’m really stuck on that bad moment as you can probably tell. Something some things you just don’t get over that quickly. That’s when my life changed completely – in that single moment. It changed forever and there’s no going back. I hunger for things. I hunger desperately for things. I hunger for something to make me feel solid again, real again. Food mainly – I think of all the places I used to frequent like Star Burger on Week Street, the Mermaid in Union Road, the Chicken Palace on Blackhorse Road in Finsbury Park, the Sharwarma King in Hounslow West, Jack’s Breakfast Bar just across from the Seven Sisters Tube Station, and a great sorrow blooms within me. This sorrow blooms within me like a flower that I cannot bear to look at. I’m suddenly and terrifyingly aware of the depth of longing that is within me and I know that it’s a longing that can never be satisfied. Perhaps before I had been able to fantasise that one day this terrible yearning that I have within me might be satisfied and the thought of this would bring me happiness. It would bring me joy. Many hours have I spent warming my hands on that imaginary fire! And the fire’s gone out for good now – even the illusion of warmth is gone. When the illusion of warmth goes you realise that it was only ever was an illusion and that’s a special type of coldness that I can’t even begin to explain. You haven’t even any memories to hold onto then because you know that they are all false. A coldness sweeps over you then, only maybe it’s not really coldness. It’s worse than coldness. Maybe it’s something else that I don’t have a word for. Or maybe it’s loneliness – a terribly extreme form of loneliness, the type of loneliness that eats you up on the inside. All you’ve got is yourself and you realise that you don’t actually like yourself that much. You’re not good company. Perhaps you realise that you’re a complete horror – something too hideous to witness. Perhaps that’s what you realize. That’s a bad one I tell myself. That’s a bad one. That’s a bad moment. I’m just having a bad moment. I’ll pull through one way or another. It’ll pass. Things won’t seem so bad in the morning. There’s a hidden poetry in everything, I tell myself. I’m looking for that hidden poetry. Even though I can’t see it, I know that it’s there.