This is a novel.
I wrote it in an experimental manner that reflected the fragmentary, non-sequential thoughts of a man, myself, trapped in a car upside down in a ditch following a crash and slowly bleeding to death.
There is the journey, the crash and the thoughts, feelings and hopes of someone slipping in and out of consciousness.
They say your life flows through your mind. Maybe it does but maybe it is not all in the order it took place in. Who knows what thoughts might go through your mind when you are busy slowly dying?
Here is an extract. I hope you like it!
Reflections from a ditch
I sometimes write books. I don’t know why. I started off wanting to change the world. I had a dream that I could escape from this career of mine. I harbour an illusion that I can shed light on the human condition. I fool myself with dreams. I write because I enjoy it and it is cathartic. It stops me going mad.
Maybe that’s not true – perhaps I am mad and it stops it manifesting itself so that it is obvious to others.
Anyway I write books.
Things are different now. I know I cannot change the world. There is a madness at work there that will likely have to run its course towards its inevitable conclusion. No amount of shouting will wake the drivers up. The directors’ sit back and give out their instructions and the instructions are always – ‘Faster’.
Even when they have more opulence than is good for the eyes; more possessions than they can digest; more power than they can control they still scream for ‘More’.
I am a little like that. It frightens me – but I am human.
I thought I wasn’t. I wish I wasn’t. And I still dream that I can change the world. I still think that warnings can be listened to, drivers can be woken, and directors have intelligence. As for my writing – it is harmless. They have already calculated for it. I fulfil a role. It is poor enough to be laughed at and idealistic enough to incite ridicule. The content will be ignored. The electricity flowing through my neuronal synapses will generate no revolutions. I sometimes think that unseen hands control me; I am manipulated like a puppet. I am part of their master plan. I am contributing to the ‘Faster’ ‘More’ philosophy and actively precipitating the very destructions I am seeking to prevent just as work increases entropy.
Yet I do not believe that – that paranoia. An idea can change the world. Despite the proof of countless genocides, extinctions and the stench of terminal pollution we are capable of poems. But then I can now see that books should be banned. All books. They have become complacent. Each word is a land mine. A sentence is made of a million different explosions and a book can go off in the mind with the force of a nuclear bomb.
And I am a liar. I know that nothing can stop this mad career towards ownership and opulence. But I don’t quite believe it. I believe in the power of words.
They change things. They do. They alter minds. They eat their way into the soul and work on the very fabric of existence like hungry maggots feasting on living flesh. They threaten the stability of civilisation. Words. They shake the foundations of sanity and leave one standing on air.
Slippery words; like eels wriggling through the waving fronds of thought; insinuating themselves in the Sargasso seas of the mind. Those becalmed areas of mindlessness where life is so tranquil and easy; just the bills to think about; just the work to do. So simple. The daily routine, with all its myriad of worries, is none the less a linear series of stepping stones through the bottomless bog of mundane life.
Safe and secure.
Then one is confronted with a single word; a slimy eel weaving its spell through the tangled mass of order. And as you reach for it, to grasp it, to tie it down into the pattern of today’s breakfast, it slips away and explodes in your brain with a million nuances.
And you know that life is different.
It will never be the same again. There is this chain reaction going through the whole of your being. You may look calm and peaceful but the tendrils of a subtle explosion are eating their way through your existence. You know that nobody else can understand that word the way you do. You have cracked open its code, reached into the guts of the beast and opened up a monster. It is spread-eagled before you, its viscera still vibrant with life, laughing in your face.
This word has detonated.
Its inner meaning is resounding through you like mental shrapnel. Wriggling through your mind.
How come you had never understood all this before; that each word has a million meanings; that nobody really understands a single thing anyone has ever said. The words shimmer and change before the eyes like chameleons. They seem to say something. They seem to communicate. But all that is just on the surface. It is the appearance of sense within the confines of this moment, this mundane existence, when there is no sense. Beneath the surface they are laughing and swirling through a million disguises.
DNA does not use words. Fucking is the only pure communication.
I have come to realise that every word I have ever written is a lie; every thought I have dreamed, every deed I have executed badly, every utterance I have committed to vibrating air. All of this a lie. All of it. Making no sense. Based on deceit. Conceit.
Once the nuclear bomb has cleared the mental tangles and the words are free to dance on a clear stage where they can be seen in all their glory the universe is bared and the stepping stones sink out of sight.
You are truly alone. But nothing is different. You live. That is the only thing you can be sure of. You cannot communicate. That is an illusion. You have a life and you live in the instant of your being. Even your memories play tricks with you. Your whole life is a transparent tapestry of half-truths, innuendo and supposition created by yourself. I write about what is real in my head. That is why I write books. I communicate it to you. But even in the instant of its creation I know that it is a lie; that I no longer believe that what I have written is accurate; and I am certain that you cannot understand it even if it was. All the words would mean something slightly different to you.
Words are only symbols for other things. We each live in a private universe. Who knows what colour your blue is in my head?
I offer you a word or two. Beware.
Explosions can be so slow. Now I am standing on air. I look through the air to see what I think is my life. This is real. This is my life.
I am standing on air.
Even the longest journey starts with a single step. I think it was Lao Tsu the Chinese philosopher who said that. But I’m only quoting from memory and memory is a funny thing.
It is strange the way we accept the permanence of this journey we are on when it is so obvious that the only unchanging thing about it is that it is never the same. We develop our little routines and drift into accepting them. It is just what happens to you. It happens today and it will happen again tomorrow.
I wake up when the radio sounds. I listen to the news and drowse. At the very last moment I prise myself out of bed, piss, wash and dress. I eat my breakfast, grab my coat and scarf, shout my goodbyes and leave the house.
I open the gates. I put my work on the passenger seat, key in the ignition, start the car and back out. I am doing that thing I promised myself I would never get caught up in; I am going off to further my career and make my way in the world.
It is my unchanging routine. I have adjusted to it. I am used to it. I do not question what I am about to do and I do not anticipate that, barring minor variation, it will be much different to any other similar journey.
I could run through the whole course of it in my head. I do not even have to be fully awake. I can run this one on clockwork.
I am doing what I always do, what I have done a thousand times, I am driving of to work.
Love is sweeter than friction.
I am the product of sheer incredibility. Each moment of the whole existence of the universe has built towards the culmination of this moment. It has conspired.
I am upside down and afraid- no – terrified.
The routine has become extraordinary as it was always bound to, and indeed, as it always was.
Perhaps it started in my childhood. Everything was concrete and real then, going on quite the way it should. I had a happy childhood being a little rugged demon, dirty and cheerful, with grubby face, dirty knees and scabs and bruises. My fingernails were black and bitten ragged. My tufty hair dangled over my forehead into my brown eyes. Ten seconds after getting clean clothes on they were torn, crumpled and coated in tree bark, leaf sap, snot and grime.
There is a wonderful photograph of me taken by a neighbour whose son, Jeff, was always immaculate. I had got in my cub’s gear and walked the 200 yards down the road to call for him. We both stand to attention as only boys can do. He with his most serious expression, neat creases and gleaming face, me smudged with dirt, crumpled, crooked and askew. One sock around my ankle and grinning from ear to ear. That summed up my childhood for me: loved and crumpled; free and filthy; running wild through the quiet streets and fields.
In the streets we played cricket, football and tennis. We groped in ditches for sticklebacks and frogs. We played cowboys and Indians, gangsters and war, safe within little gangs. I lived in a pretend world. We hunted birds’ eggs and bats, built dens and raced carts. We built forts and tree houses. The sun burnt us into brown fiends that the dirt never showed on. We kept wild mice, snakes, lizards and slow-worms. The days were long endless bouts of sunshine viewed from the tops of tall trees, from the undergrowth of meadows and the bottom of ditches and ponds. It seemed I lived my life from the bottom of a ditch. Which was more real – the mud and slime of the frogs world or the bright light filtering through the trees?
The world outside was reflected in the surface of the stream and even as a young boy I spent my life peering through the shimmering ripples of the reality out there towards some deeper, murkier world below.
I guess we all live in a ditch with no real view over distance. We don’t even know we are so restricted because so many other peoples’ ditches are really open sewers.
Blackie got a broken nose because he wouldn’t stay quiet while we were in ambush behind the wall. Serious stuff. Clive lost his temper with him and smacked him straight on the nose. I was transfixed. I had never seen so much blood. It spurted out and poured over his shirt, squirting through his fingers as he howled. In seconds his shirt was a sodden crimson gore.
Adults appeared from nowhere and an ambulance swooped him away never to be seen again. Blackie went with barely a second thought from us. We never did find out if he got his blood transfusion or if they had to operate to reset his squashed nose. He just went.
Some people think I am strange. That is because they are more perceptive than others.
The times, like childhood, that seem simple and uncomplicated are only so because you are not brushing up against the power of politics, religion, control or possession. You are in control and living in the moment. Pure.
Jeff was standing in the middle of the street wide-eyed, petrified to stone, shrieking in such a way that turned your gizzards to jelly and sent waves of horror through you to fuel your nightmares for years. Then not shrieking. Too horrified to shriek any longer. Wanting it to not be true. Wanting to climb back out of that nightmare and into the warm summer sun of reality. Standing, arms held out, like a scarecrow.
And again adults appeared and fussed around as we stood back in the shadows and watched. No one was volunteering the information.
Clive had put the huge hairy house spider he had found down Jeff’s shirt. A spider so big it filled your hand. Its legs stretched across the bottom of a bucket. And so quick and sinister. It stood stock-still evaluating and then would dart and scurry seeking cover. And Clive had gleefully grabbed it and stuffed it down Jeff’s shirt, his face alive with delight. And Jeff had taken a second to register that it had happened. His face blank as the spider must have scurried across his skin beneath his thin cotton shirt. It was too dreadful to accept.
Then he had realised it was true.
He ran to the centre of the road, shrieking and flapping at his body with his hands. Eyes bulging. We were at once horrified at what we had done and intrigued. As Jeff had a hysterical fit, slavering foam and diving for the safety of catatonia. We watched.
I remember feeling horrified. I remember feeling grateful that it wasn’t me. I empathised. I could feel that spider crawling under my shirt. I can still feel it. The hairy legs gripping and tickling as it scurried – the horror of it. But another part of me felt intrigued. What would he do? What was going to happen? Would he just die with the terror of it?
We were excited. Our eyes gleamed. A part of us was enjoying this.
The adults milled around in confusion. What was going on?
Eventually someone whispered what had happened. They undressed him in the street. Actually stripped him naked. Infront of everyone! We watched for the spider to emerge. It was hard to get his clothes off, as his body was completely rigid. They took everything off till he was naked but nobody saw the spider. It had vanished to feed my nightmares forever. They took Jeff off to be sedated and when we saw him a week later he was fine. Nobody ever mentioned the event again.
When you are born they do not give you a map to find your way through life.
The whole damn world is run on exclusive little clubs geared to keeping people down – making outsiders of them. The real power resides in grubby little dives and huge faceless palaces. Quiet thin lipped men in suits look down their nose at you and feed sops from the table. Here nothing is important except power and power can be bought if you have the price and know whom to ask. Having the right name and connections helps. Behind the overt corridors of power there lurks a dim recess of real power. Narrow eyes watch your every move. The games are played out with winners and losers but the strings are pulled by the faceless power brokers. They use religion. They use drugs. They use politics and they are patient. They sit in dingy leather chairs and think in terms of centuries. Fashions come and go. Life goes on.
Love and intrigue? Nothing matters except the hypocrisy of the meetings behind the scenes. Rich or not those rooms are sealed to all but the necessary. You may even rise to sit at their table, but voice your views, as they smile, tilt their heads and acknowledge your genius, and it slides off them like shit off a window. Jeff and Blackie are meaningless little snotty kids with no value, worth or purpose other that to be manipulated like pawns on a board. Little pageants played out on inconsequential stages, which will not touch the minds of the masters – the fashioners of destiny. Us little zits, pimples on the face of the universe, worthless units to become consumers, their work force, and then die our grovelling little impoverished deaths in the meaningless mediocrity of everyday nowhereism. Suckered with the carrot of possibility – ‘You could become one of us – if you work hard – get lucky – get rich’. Bought with little sops – ‘Find your place in life’ ‘Be happy’ ‘There’s a place for you in Heaven’.
And we are all, masters included, pimples of inconsequence, self-obsessed simpletons. In the face of a raging eternity, before the cataclysmic silence, we scream and stand our ground with the magic Tantric repetition of the word ‘I’. Just leaving our mark for eternity, a name for ourselves, our place in history. Just changing the world, imposing my views, sharing my perspective.
What I have to say and do is important, worth listening to.
Every true story is a work of fiction.
Nothing matters in eternity. The sun will grow and the Earth will be subsumed. The sun will die. The universe will die. There is no God. Even a life made of air will fade away. Some way off all there will be is darkness and cold lifeless space. Long before that we will all be dead. There will be nothing to leave for eternity to mull – no fossils – no archaeology for future civilisations.
What does it matter if that’s a million years hence or four zillion.
What the fuck does it matter.
Every moment in the whole universe has contributed to this moment. This is true magic.
But then there’s love. Love that conquers all – transcends politics, power and intrigue, and makes fools of us all.
Yet love that imbues the universe with purpose has a price.
The day the universe changed was because of Glenys, Welsh temptress of eleven. Black hair, dark eyes, twenty-seven real lovers kisses. Heady days whistling ‘Slow boat to China’ outside bedroom windows. Playing ‘Show me’ games in the garage with hard prick and naive mind. Groping each other. ‘How many kids do I want?’
I was a kid. I didn’t want any kids. I had no concept of parenthood. I just wanted to be with her and talk and kiss – ‘Real lovers kisses’ like on the films.
I gave her my favourite Famous Five book when she left. She left me with tales of her new life; the boys in the wood who called to her to ‘get out yer milk-carriers’ and her disturbing tales of older boys and girls in the public toilets. The boy with his hand up the girls dress, her tits out, sucking.
I did not really understand, I was ten years old, for fucks sake, but I was intrigued and strangely excited.
Nothing was ever the same
I do not understand why I am alive? It does not make sense to me.