The Subtle Abyss

Joel Biroco

‘The void is the abyss without vertigo.’

– E M Cioran

The sound of children walking through fallen brown leaves. Sound of cars going past as the ocean. Sometimes, often, there is the blankness, the void that refuses to be filled, the light at the end of the day taking up its place on the stage of going. I feel trapped in the concrete. My whole life has been wanting something else and not getting it, making do with what was given. Or so it seemed. It was only a way of it seeming, I don’t know what made it seem that way save that it didn’t seem any other way. Trying to see it some other way always was an effort, although when I look at it seeing it that way was a hell of an effort, just an effort I had got used to, an effort that couldn’t not be, no, it had to be that effort I made, shut up all day with my thoughts of it. Any other effort soon fizzled out, soon went nowhere. So I said to myself, crack it son, crack it. This is what is given to you to crack, appreciate it. Sometimes I felt like a maniac, and, truth be told, I preferred to feel like a maniac, or a madman, I preferred being a trapped explosion waiting to happen.

The rebellious spirit took kindly to being shut up, being suppressed, kept down, by being kept down it built up in silent plotting. It drowned in its own anger sitting squat-legged on the wooden floorboards under the bare 60-watt bulb, meditating on fury. Sometimes it even felt like choice, like I had chosen this, for some uncertain purpose, and I drilled holes into my head trying to discover this purpose, but even my anger seemed an imitation, written and acted, years and years of limitation bends you to its shape, it takes years to buy a lampshade, a minimum of furniture. You wonder if you don’t prefer the sparseness and think then of disposing of what you have gathered, it all tilts down a little too insistently, it gathers dust, now you have to think about it when before when you didn’t have it it was not there to think about. What was any of it for, but fitting in, you gain your freedom from want only to daily tend the objects you’ve pulled towards you. But no matter how much time is wasted on such considerations, you are modestly pleased to see that your rebellious spirit has not gone away, it has simply been absorbed by the walls, your thousand nights of silent screaming has gone into the walls, the books piled up from floor to ceiling has formed the new walls, making the room slightly smaller the walls thicker, but essentially it is as bare as ever, paper bricks the poultice of literature that sucked the pus out of you. Not one author still alive, the words of the dead stacked up. A little table with a typewriter on to wick away the black bile remaining. It seems like recapturing something of my youth to cook up such despair, cook it up like a junkie his fix. But let me make it plain that all of it can be discarded in an instant, it is simply a way I have strayed, for uncertain reasons as yet, but it is not as if I choose anything, or go anywhere I like, I go where the room orders, and if I should dwell on who I was fifteen or twenty years ago, who I appeared to be I mean, I should write it as if it is who I am now shouldn’t I, I should draw it into me, invoke it, the demon of a previous self, since who am I now but everyman, or, at least, the dark soul of everyman, the shop with nothing to buy but things you least want to remember. I have often thought I would rather tell tales of high adventure, but no, I am tethered to this post, teasing out the account of it, half in the hope it is my own tale of high adventure, in that few have set foot here, few have had flowers grow out of the thin cracks of this fractured skull or received visitors on this dark plain. Someone has to dare, to solicit this absence of light, and who better than one whose strength has been forged in the void? So now I am sucking out snake venom from a bite, an old good-for-nothing failure of a man whose hopes and dreams have come to nothing. It’s true enough that I accentuate the eccentricities, or couldn’t care less that they be exposed, I’ve opened the door to all of that and am listening a thousand times over in case there is much that is any good, I’ve made a present of it to myself, as if to say here it is anyway, the door is flung open, there is not much else here but it won’t be exhausted as easily as all that, this pyre of precious endless becomings. I am twice as bright as I need to be like a light bulb on the point of burning out. Still the cars go by as the ocean. Why is it that adventure always seems to be out there, outside the window? What is wrong with high adventure in here, here in this padded cell of why why why because because because. There are fifty different kinds of lasting the night, I’ve seen forty-nine of them taking nothingness out for a walk sucking up my damnation like a vacuum cleaner. Yet what is it but high words for an inescapable ennui, putting your feet up in it so to speak, taking back all that you have not yet given as if moistening the burning fuse of the dynamite with spittled fingers, not so much that you’ve changed your mind more that you’re fussy to get it right.

It’s surprising just how much there is to say about nothing. It has a book of cherished memories in every household. While I lounge around on the dusty floor all day long ‘people’, yes, those, are quietly building up their portfolio of moments to remember, going to bed at the proper time, getting up when everyone else gets up, going to work every day to increase the size of somebody else’s tombstone, doggedly determined to succeed, engaging the whole caboodle as if it matters. I used to hide from them. Now, they don’t exist unless I keep them spinning like a magician’s plates. Occasionally I am reminded of them, when one is about to topple, and I’ve got it going again before I’ve even had a chance to wonder why.

I am busy enough with the edges keeping on catching alight, this world that so wants to burn up like film jammed in the projector. Once a month I allow it to get on my nerves, I let the adjoining universe have its toilet flushes and raised voices, I rest my forehead against the cold glass pane and stare out into the blackness, I come running up the corridor for washed-up messages in a bottle. I put my head on backwards and don’t even realise until I get an askance glare from the conundrum that vaguely reassembles to resemble past impressions of a world, or should I say the world, no business of mine. Little clinging scenes, organisms escorting little versions of themselves, harder and harder to make out, to make anything intelligible of, she had red hair, she held out her hand down low and a little hand reached up for it hidden behind the purply blueness of numerous Michaelmas daisies. And still, the cars go by with the sound of the sea. It is like a lost world. Once I was in it, now it is in me, as is everything, generals, factories, presidents, land, capital cities and names, so much so I forget quite convincingly that there was ever a time I distinguished life and death, men and women. If I had a profession I’ve forgotten it. If I had a family, it’s gone. Everything was kept up for appearance sake, what went before I have some idea about but it’s like not wishing to believe gossip, I cannot say I am in ignorance about it but it is nothing I have reason to believe, only what is directly before me concerns me, and if that is the pattern in the wallpaper or the itch on my head, then that is the sum of it. I see no reason to introduce what is not there and cannot be brought in the instant save as a pining memory or a forlorn hope. I have had enough of living in a prattling head, I’ve shaved it of its fantasies and removed its interest in a world that constantly gropes its way into existence and insinuates itself upon my senses. The void with an occasional breeze of sights and sounds is quite sufficient. Curiosity is a bitter wind, innocent enough to wonder, but soon one has vanished and is at the mercy of mere impressions, the seductive storm of thought veered away, back toadying with the masses for one’s well-deserved life, by definition anything but this one. Soon lumbered with the chores of fetching and carrying for His Imperial Majesty gone forever the life of a lazy lizard basking in the sun. Oh no, now one has goals to work towards, money to earn, property to own, desires to nurse, one is on one’s way, every hamster on its wheel must think so. Permission to come aboard sir. Three bags full sir. All for burrowing out of that cosy womb to take a look around, won’t be gone long mum, just seeing what it is, what the fuss and palaver’s all about. And so, the terrible affliction of being born. Being convinced of it, actually convinced it’s happened, not doubting it for a second, taking it for granted, yes, I’ve been born, I am this little tiny thing playing with toys, I am this slightly bigger thing going to school, the need to have the ‘full experience’, we’re sold on it, you’ve been born now so you’d better enjoy it, don’t want to waste it, it’d be a terrible shame to let it all go to waste. Oh, and you’re a boy and she’s a girl. You have every chance to go places, look how far this one has got, or that one, look at history, Julius Caesar, he came he saw he conquered, your dad’s a postman. And you’re a lichen growing on a rock but sure, have ambition, why not, you have ambition if you want, be an ambitious lichen growing on a rock, aim to cover the whole rock by the time you’re seventy. Sure, go to those garden fêtes that you’ll never see any more of past a certain age, know your onions, learn to ride a bike, get swotting up on the names of birds and trees from a little book you can slip in your pocket, know the names of all the butterflies and a few of the moths, put beetles in jars, it’s fun isn’t it. Now spend a few decades, the best years of your life they say, your twenties and thirties, gradually growing bitter, cover that rock boy cover that rock. Be so poor you have to be tight-fisted, climb a few mountains and sit and look, then come down again. Fall like a castle wall in ruins, neglect your good and great wishes, never be quite sure whether you’re happy or not, and when you’ve got that out of your system spend as long never being quite sure whether you’re sad or not. Look out of your jar like the beetles you once enclosed and be grateful at least that it has air holes bodged in the lid. Is it an illusion that everyone else manages to get what they want and you’re the only one who doesn’t? That’s a good illusion, got your work cut out for you there. Do you think everyone feels it? Dunno, I solved it by realising that there isn’t anyone else. It was a projection from the beginning. I only thought I was born.

As the evening comes, words come. With no more meaning or purpose. Save to answer questions that only words form. One can see them waiting, asking for company. Who knows what else one should do? A big crowd waiting to get in. Workers at the factory gates. Have to keep them dusted. Where to put them? In what order? They stutter and stumble. They don’t know their role. There’s nothing to do with them, they never stay long, they’re uncomfortable hanging around, as if they have somewhere else to be. They wonder whether I’ll be able to show them off, use them to good effect. They’re not in the mood to flow. They’re being awkward. They look to me to know what to do. I’m helpless in their hands. They have their own things to say. What have I to say? They should get going, not me. Who am I but their construction? Without words, what am I? I simply alternate between descriptions. I’ve stopped being careful, I just collect like water in a pool, happy to stagnate. I have no other occupation. I don’t keep myself refreshed, waiting to be sold. I could be blown away like dust. Dust longs to settle but knows it is never for long, although it could be. Dust is always settling, it’s what dust does, lays down sheets of itself. It gets the idea. It knows its place, it doesn’t try to prop itself up, not in the mood today, not in the mood at all. Could persevere, could abandon. It’s ceased to matter. Other things call.

The grey light everything is pulverised in.

A silent stone that I am transcends the longing to be remembered.

We spend the prime of our lives rushing off to hunt our own end. We trample our charitable intentions under the hooves of fatigue, our well-earned rest is postponement, till the next night, till the next night. Not even happiness can forgive our fall into fashion. Reconciliation not so relaxed as a corpse.

Sleepless nights, up at all hours. Better provided for in the night by remaining awake. It comes to a pretty pass when all there is to enjoy is dropping off to sleep. So much zeal shrivels inside us, strength reduced in every renunciation, renunciation that cannot fail to be made. A laboured smothering of wishes deemed just a crowd to aggrieve us, who should not be allowed free rein. There is a certain tedium in liquidating the things we thought we wanted, we must witness it as an affliction, a releasing of our hold on all we thought good about life. The continuous opportunity that change formerly presented itself as is a felled tree, we wander for months perhaps years not knowing what we’re doing here nor what we want, since it seems we want nothing but we sure as hell don’t want this.

When we stop going after the things we desired, everything appears as compensation. ‘It’s not as bad as all that,’ we find ourselves saying, ‘this dreary old life.’ Nature looms up as a secret confidante, it can never receive our full-blown scorn. On the contrary, it appears a depository of secrets, that we have freed ourselves to understand. Something rises up from the primal depths, we are back to the wild, endurance reduced to smiling, at last, a little lightness. Harmless pint-sized assassin of all we were, we are late to the kill. The power of the Word has dragged its feet supping on abominations, as if it was a needed draught to restrain our bestiality, like the man who shrinks from the crime he knows he must commit but in the end loses his scruples and retains his nerve, nursing a power transfused with loss, not caring any more to survive unscathed, with obscurer needs that must be consummated. Having for so long flown into the wind, there is a power tangled up inside us that resembles revenge upon a world that has denied us. But we know it is not that, that is just the venom of it, the piercing tongue of its strike. Society shall suffer, we say, but we don’t believe in society, and at heart we have a corrupted magnanimity that shall heal in time. We are the Furies, we are Vengeance, but it is merely the intuition of it we wield. We do not flout the precious laws of an illusion, rather we are released from them and the murders we plan are in the line of duty, guarded impulses that flow into us as we suck the madness dry. It is just for the taste, we are saner than that, we do not turn a deaf ear to the injunction not to kill, though it has little meaning to us. We naturally admire those who do, until discovering the sordid details, and the craving in us to follow suit no longer torments us, we can let it go, as with so many other desires. We aspire rather to be the last mind to be read, the most unpredictable trifler at the carnage, literally capable of anything but rare to make a move. Our invisible dagger is at their throats.

For a while, this thought of revenge hung around to poison my days, some little parcel of malevolence, some speech that sounded sweet but tasted bitter. Victims littering one’s thoughts. Hostility and remorse, but merely for the fun of it. To have won out over a suicidal talent, a capacity to exaggerate inherited from true and real circumstances that afterwards seemed less so. At least it was lived, not merely imagined, though imagined it was since all is. Never further from nature those who submit to the inanity of their desires, whereas withstanding them and repressing the inevitable rage at the waste of life traces out the contours of a struggle we would be dishonest not to honour. One grows tired of waiting for instruction in the lesser matters and ferociously bites off too much to chew in the greater. So there it is, we come to our purpose. Compulsive, and, rather than cower before it, everything cowers before us. We are on fire with it. Perplexity infests even the silence, at last a credible power, a beneficent power, we no longer see ourselves as unworthy, the infernal spite is let out like steam from a pressure cooker. There is no doctrine that signifies how and when we should salute ourselves, if there were it would be akin to an operating manual for going biped from quadruped.

We destroy our impotence and sneer at the lack of opportunity having found a greater generosity of being. We need not react so to oblivion, we have four faces not one, five not two, and we bear the stigmata of memories with a forgiveness for their effrontery, the instinct for aggression blown apart in the landed blows of this collaboration, this continuity that frustrates every reasonable cowardice. I am saturated with evocative ideas I wring out over the fire of my indifference. No longer a stifled gust, on the planet in disguise, the real absurdity of my nature becomes my paramount motive, I founder no longer in breathless space.

Sometimes one settles in, the weariness departs, the eclipse of us is over.

We have grovelled before our impulses long enough. The daredevil in us demoralised by the daily same as ever. We make bold plans, half knowing nothing will come of it. Yet, what is it to do with me? What say do I have, I barely see my role as Destroyer. A busy day is going out to buy a new kettle. If there is any backsliding to put a stop to it is the backsliding into the backsliding that was going on before. Should I hold myself to bargains struck years ago in terms of what I am supposed to spend my life doing? I am just about getting to the end of seeing that it’s perfectly okay to let it go and just fail. The vast space that I am, that cars drive through, that wind rushes through. That birds sing in. That the sound of pouring rain fills. No longer the imagined puppet fretting about what is to be done. I have often thought, what is a madman? Am I a madman? Is there anything to choose between me and a madman, apart from the fact that I have the knack of appearing sane? The rain pours through me on any day. I find myself saying, is this sufficient? Is this enough? I long to settle as a granite boulder has settled after being pushed around by an Ice Age. And yet, I am even more settled than that. One plays a role, no?

There are many books that aren’t worth reading, no point writing one of those. There is somewhere I want to go in words I’m sure. How are things different now to say five years ago? There were still times then when it seemed the words wouldn’t come. I’m not sure what the right mood really is. The use of obsessions to dislocate me, to inflict upon myself some concern that breaks into me, that strikes me down, sets me against Chaos, the fragmentary incomplete truth of a poem, without the hypothesis of time. To be convulsed and giddy with an inexplicable universe and not know what about it makes me suffer. The moments that come compromised from the start, reminding me of everything more elegant than this, not having the good sense to appreciate this for what it is. Nothing more elegant than this. Some incapacity, some defect, this victimisation, all things going up in smoke, the feeling for vengeance against humanity, to have conceived nothing of an absorbing and purposeful occupation, rather only to generate meaningless rebellions to keep the edge from spoiling. The courage of the argument petrifies in my grasp, how it stimulates me and flusters my imagination, I may as well call upon the Devil and have done with it, this empty searching around for some exterminating angel to inspire my misery with it all, to carry me away into the hinterland where I begin to understand why I take upon myself this rancour this tone of sparing nothing until I have had done with it, like an animal saying its prayers to a log. What do I depend upon that I cannot pursue mercilessly to nothing? Do I seek to make a dent in the absolute? Destroy the indestructible?

I am obliged to squat in the city where I have created the world. I cannot come up with what was intended, I can only guess that some mistake was made, I cannot be sure my memory of making it is true, I have usurped my own resentment to justify every destructive urge, to find a worthy object of my scorn in just another facet of nothingness. I feel like I am reinforcing a dwindling sacrilege, sorry to see it go, but it is not going out of any second thoughts or regret at such a stance taken, it is going by shimmering away, a mirage that was never there, to know myself as the seducer of the diabolic, the one who keeps the diabolic alive, since it has nothing of its own to keep it alive, it lives only through my professed allegiance to a principle of contrariness that is so casually destroyed in my gaze because nothing fortifies it against its obvious nonexistence in my eyes, yet . . . yet . . . who am I to envisage the destructive power of such nonchalance?

What barren regions I have conquered to find myself taking pity on demons. Could I not be overwhelmed by some small opinion in need of fattening up? I pay homage to solitude, I look for the nuances it serves, my ridiculous exaggerated aptitude for accomplishing nothing. There is some injustice I still reserve for insult, it sticks like a thorn, holds me back from flinging myself at the feet of utter metamorphosis, to find some new disposition. I would be infatuated by grace were it more often, I would willingly accept the illusion of a power beyond myself were it to show me a purpose I approved of, yet I cannot help thinking it has already shown me that purpose and this is it, to avow myself to strange wildernesses, to explore the ecstasy of nothingness, to fall into the existential void of the self with a fury of admiration, and to face those moments when the enthusiasm for abandonment annuls itself to silence commingling with my own predestined rot.

I do not know what warrants such a strange allegiance to these dark realms. Is it simply a matter of boarding the train and finding this is where it takes me? It is not as if I crave the darkness, though perhaps I think there is still something left to say about it. Perhaps there is a certain enjoyment in the imminence it promises. It is always as if an asteroid is about to hit Earth when I bow to flatter this dark sovereignty parasitic upon events, I know it is an exploitation of my hunger for something to say, my desire to defeat the subconscious swarms blushing from direct attention, but nonetheless I feel charged with the indictment of fate, self-made duty to bother with the blather, to stipulate that its secrets be made known, even though it invokes a hailstorm of frenzied words provoking the ancient unrevived passion, the passion of deep contemplation of the darkness, adding my infinitesimal censure in invasion stance, fed until I go hungry again with the cower of it, seeing some sense to draw out of the senseless at last, as if to say, ah yes, this task is what I was made for, though I would not have chosen it readily I am at least willing and able to sit up straight for it, to stoke my pipe with this madness, and madness it is, you are only so far in but I see the end of it, or sense it, or will it, this end of a treasury of dark moments gasping like dying fish confined to muddy puddles evaporating in the high sun. It doesn’t matter, does it, what it amounts to, if the anger comes out, this irrepressible and automatic transgression devouring its surface from the depths, vanquishing the craving for the abyss with less of an insistence for progress, or an anticipated redemption, leaving those noble sentiments stranded in the backwaters of thought to straddle instead the extremes of the absolute, wherein this world and ourselves are already forgotten ghosts silently resigned to serene nonexistence, having no debts to repay, melancholy moments only the reverie of sterile obsession.

Certainly I afford you a glance at these regions even if I am not earning my keep as a guide. I retain something of the power of letting myself off the hook of all that may snare others. I bog down in mere rising mist, which at least hides the fallen corpses. There is a moment, I think, when you feel the darkness for yourself, feel it like taking an oath to a dishonour. It is like a dare with oneself, how far can I venture, will I be the equal of it should it turn drastically into nightmare? But one dares, gambling on a metaphysical superiority, a confidence in always being victorious no matter what trials assemble from the void like an army of demons. And have we not already regretted our days? Once that is over and done with all else is an adventure. And, perhaps, we are actually eager for battle, a battle denied to us in the mundanity of everyday life, and so it is only natural that we should crave a supernatural foe, a chance to test our blade in a way that at last seems fitting to the skills we have long denied a chance to come into their own. Is it any wonder we feel a falsified self when our memories of achievement are so mediocre? What have we vanquished, what have we routed, what murderous desires have we found a worthy outlet for? This then, becomes our field of activity. This then, becomes our purpose. This then, becomes our life. The rest can wait, for this is where we know ourselves best, this is where we put our compromised existence behind ourselves. It can be mistaken for anger, this power, but the ferocity of a tiger is never mistaken for anger and neither should this. This is your mighty sword, when oblivion awaits.

Whenever I happen to be awake I apparently coexist with other beings. I apparently coexisted with other beings when I was asleep and dreaming too, but that proved to be an illusion, certainly I wallow in this coexistence, spend months at a time believing in it. And yet, not, not believing in it at all, rather finding its apparent stability remarkable, since what could I leave in a normal dream and expect to find again? Certainly there is the illusion of a better future, when actually it will be just the same, but nonetheless one thinks of windfalls, amorous encounters, a profit from one’s current activity, all of which may well happen, but this simplistic mode of thinking does tend to detract somewhat from present circumstances, which may or may not contain the fruits of a past windfall, memories of previous amorous encounters, profit from activity long gone by. But the notion of the past detracts from right now and fuels belief in the future. I frequently feel I am being wasteful with my precious passing moments, and yet what better use to put them to than in the service of utter laziness? Naturally, to enable a ticking-over sense of well-being one must spend an hour or two on building sandcastles for the future, but I should not do it if it wasn’t at least the equal of laziness. It does tend to add a little variety to the days. To venture forth, in some little way, at least disarms the sense of total stagnation, though it is forced upon us by life. So much time washing clothes and dishes, traipsing to the shops, preparing for bed, tidying the garden, trimming the whiskers, occasionally sweeping up the dust. Often the whole day passes on such matters. I admire the cat who comes in through my open back door, always looking for a good new bed, padding it down and curling up, seemingly undisturbed by anything, not even my very loud typing.

The advantage of the animals is their complete lack of possessions. Yet everything I possess is merely stuff that is there, I no longer delineate much of it, no longer bother finding its edges and bolstering its objectness, I cannot say I even own the body that accompanies me into the world the moment I awake, though thoughts about its aging do pass through like sushi-bar food going round on a conveyor belt inviting me to take and nibble this and that, though I rarely bother. Certainly as mysteries go, it is the most detailed I know, extending outwards to the road outside my window and a whole city it is imagined to be a part of, extending still further to countries, seas, and still further to other planets and stars, hardly detailed at all in just listing them like that, but I only have to walk out the door to encounter all manner of detail constructed to accompany my journey, and so one keeps in mind a sense that the details simply cannot be exhausted, why even if I take a magnifying glass to the carpet, or my own skin, I will encounter new worlds of detail, and the world of sound delighting in its smashing bottles and chattering children, its barks and bongos.

Yet every bit of this amazing detail is supplied by me effortlessly to an ever-changing pattern of fluctuations, without me it is nothing, it has no existence at all. I don’t know what makes me see and hear it as I do, according to learned names, dissecting an amorphous whole into parts. There is some pleasure, I will admit, in abstracting these details, why else would we fall so readily into our own creation? My life as an imaginative representation of myself, one of many, since look about, they are all my lives this one is merely a representative sample from which I can deduce everything I need to know about all lives. Not simply human lives either, but the lives of trees, birds, cats, even the lives of stones, chairs, tables. Am I not just like a granite boulder, warming up with the sun, getting wet with the rain, cooling down with the night? When I curl up next to the cat, this is being a cat.

The dream character foist upon me unasked for and for no reason that I know may be a suicide. None of it has any reality to me. He spends the days as a waste. He wishes for things I do not believe in. And when he learns from me and no longer wishes for them, he wishes life was not so empty, he wishes for meaning I tell him is just not there. He wishes for friends and light amiable company with such earnestness I could almost wish for such things myself, and I feel the depth of his plight as mine, and wonder, who will it be, him or me, who ends it all? Do I put him out of his misery? Or do I put myself out of the misery of living the days with him? Of course, none of it is real, these concerns are nothing but a peculiar entertainment, that may end badly, but which, once ended, cannot fathom any meaning out of ending badly, or so I suppose.

There is nothing to look forward to but tears of grace as the universal solvent of all despair. Naturally one tires of such nothingness, of knowing the one who tires is nothing and the one who observes him is nothing too, and all tears represent is the undoubted truth that none of them exist, these tale-tellers. Still, perhaps it is a tale that needs telling, this hatred of life, to suggest it was unwanted from the start and it was unwanted at the end, and that this tale takes precedence over all previous tales, more happy in their outlook, that suicide can be the only full point at the end of the final sentence of this book. The strength to face such an outcome in advance of it. Is that the destiny of this dream character? There is only one way to find out. Tell the story. Did I not get tired of talking up existence? Of collating all the moments and subjecting them to summary judgment? Why not just commit suicide right now and have done with it? It didn’t seem as attractive a proposition as continuing to do nothing, yet was it not this continued doing of nothing that gave rise to the urge to suicide in the first place? Well, it did not seem as if there was anything to do. I could hardly lift a finger in any direction, whether towards self-extinction or the seeking of meaningless dreams of a better life, all that was given to me was continued impotence, the vast inertia of a life of disappointment that had come to its head in the believing of none of it. I felt like strangling the life out of something, but there was nothing. Just vain taunts of a world, empty promises, even suicide seemed a joke, just a word to summarise a wish for something, a something that was just a feeble ghost. I could no longer stare into the void with the burning passion of one who believed in it. Constantly haunted by the spectre of my own destitution, even this failed to make an impact on me. It would almost certainly be a spontaneous gesture that would drive this flesh into the ground, some whiff of anger that screamed out to be stunk, that toppled the urge to do nothing in one dire blow. It is not as if there are not plenty of fatal implements just lying around. Any one of them could be picked up on the spur of the moment and thrust where it would do damage to the belief of being this body.

Perhaps this was why I had expunged from my life any close relationships that might have given pause, that might indeed have ameliorated the empty belief that life was a despair that should not have happened. Even the belief that life had happened at all was weakening, coughing up blood in the face of the constant onslaught of my overpowering will to deny it all any semblance of reality. This limp dangling drained fetus of a life should have been aborted while there was still the chance. But it stretched out its legs and its arms and sucked up the sunshine like one who would never know exhaustion, never know the weariness of the heart, never know the long long journey to have it all be not. To cut it all off, to abort it myself at this late hour if my mother did not have the courage to take a knitting needle to it. And what will anyone learn of my tedious journey? He aborted himself for art, for literature, he was attentive to the last to this bitter consolation. All his life it was his silent direction, it was his partner in crime, his seriously revealed hand. He put quite a lot into it for one who knew it would amount to nothing. Was it intended to be an invitation to others to join him? To share his folly, his disgust? Why did he learn the language if he had nothing to say? Why did he go on further if he had no further to go? What were these resources he drew upon to his last breath? He was not some desolate schoolgirl doing herself in due to her father’s abuse. He had lasted a longer course, he had trudged on way past the point at which it may have had some kind of noble meaning, he had come to the point at which it had no meaning at all, it was just a momentary . . . plunge. A fated act, as if all his life he had been little more than a pathetic puppet of forces beyond any understanding. Oh, he tried to understand those forces, with all his might he did, but did he understand them, understand them in the end? Who can know? His entire life was little more than a momentary daybreak coincidental with the end of the world. He was light on his feet, we have to give him that much, he could turn on his heel and lose all opposition with hardly more than a glance at the absurdity of it all. This absurd life! Was he not deserving of something more than an empty wish? Could he not have drawn down powers beyond his comprehension? Could he not have hurled them out into the universe like an angered demigod? Of course he could. He chose not to, he chose imprisonment over freedom because freedom was not free enough for him. He would rather boil with rage than yield. I cannot deny that this character intrigued me, as if he had caught some flavour of myself, as if he was talking to me, rather than I to him. I was extremely struck by the concern he had as if to get through to me, to make me understand, that he was the one who had something to say, and that I should just listen, that I was a clown compared to him in that I did not know of my own impotence until he stood there in my way, his own nonexistence meaning nothing to him, he demanded my attention, he declared his intentions like the devil of my own heart. What on earth did he want from me, approaching me like this? Did he not know I could do nothing? I could not help him, that it was quite beyond me? Still he persisted, as if he were my creator! He took me aback, I will admit, I began to doubt my own effulgence, I had the feeling he was talking to me, as if he knew of my existence. Had I not kept myself back, had I not hidden myself from all human eyes? Yet to him it appeared I was as plain as day. And he was intent on exposing me, or destroying me, he wanted to remove the mouth I did not even know I had. His firmness impressed me, I thought to myself he must become the object of my study, and thus I found myself intervening in what I had sworn I would never intervene in, so much so that I removed the power from myself of doing so, I blinded my own eyes, yet this character appeared and showed me I still had that power, that if I willed it I could blast out this power, yet this character was nothing more than a mere figment of my imagination, surely he was? And yet, there he stood before me making his demands, willing me to strike him down, if I dared. Oh it would not have been anything to me to strike him down, except that he brought with him word of a forgotten world, a messenger from the extremities of my own imaginings become real, or as real as real can be. He barred my way and suggested I was not in control of my choices. Frankly, I had not thought I had any. He declared to me he would write of the path to his own destruction, and credit me with it. I was mightily intrigued by this happenstance, a completely different sort of feeling to the empty hollows of my void, he stirred a passion in the vastness of the passionless. He assumed the mantle of a strange ascendancy. He displaced the footstool at my feet and threw it into the fire. He bellowed with an earthquake of persuasion, that he would be heard, he would not be ignored. My goodness, I thought, the birds have come home to roost. The future is trembling in anticipation of the rush of the blood through his heart. He is an unknown Caesar come to conquer the universe, yet he dares me to sacrifice him on the altar of a desultory life come to the sadness of ignoble end. He stirs tears in my heart, he calls upon me to be better than the aloof silent one I have been, he shames me with his willingness to die for his cause, which by implication he suggests should be my cause. He is a brother in arms asking me to crush him. Ah, I know not how this plays out. I do not have this script. This is beyond what I have imagined. I did not imagine a figment would take the initiative and draw me out, with hardly a moment to reflect on any meaning in my discovery, since had I not spent eternity already simply denying it had any? Safe from discovery, one need not consider the torments of those who lack the strength to uncover me, but I did not think that the first to do so with a passion would come to denounce me for my crimes, rather I probably mused it would be a grateful being, blissed out by my presence, not a Caesar come to strike terror into my false security. But had I given it a moment’s attention, surely I would have realised it could have been no-one else. Who else could marshal their forces so effectively as to find the hidden lair. I was flustered, not a moment to consider the consequences of confirming my existence to this one with, as it first seemed, the will to destroy me.

According to him, the pressure of living was simply intolerable, and I was to blame for allowing the opium smoke of my dissipated imaginings to drift all over the universe. You’re a schizophrenic, I said, you’re imagining this. But he was not so easily persuaded, like most are, that it was simply his own delusion, no, I was the cause of it, and, rather than he accept the taint of my characterisation, it appeared to me that I was accepting the taint of his. And how did he get this power? From me, he says. And I have not a moment to give it the proper reflection as he is making his demands.

Raining all day. I have had the window open listening to it. Lying on the floor dozing, or sitting reading, listening to the rain, as gradually it got dark and the street lights came on, the curtains open, me on the floor looking up at the droplets lit up on the open window, listening to the rain. All day, listening to the rain. Company, of sorts, for one without company, who does not foresee company, not any more. Just the rain, the beautiful sound of the rain.

One effectively abandons one’s life to look after itself, no longer taking any interest in it. Doing nothing to secure any gain, lofty in stature to pleas of loss. Apparent involvement is a kind of indulgence of sentimentality, not for who one was but for humanity and Earth. These are dangerous waters, one can easily be swept away, but a kind of inability takes over, an inability to lose oneself again that can seem like mourning the loss of being human, the taking part in ordinary life. But it feels like the greater destiny has come, and one can no longer pretend with these pretenders. It really is the loss of one’s life, and the gain is nothing, save perhaps a tearful smile, a sorrowful joy, and the realisation of how much one has resisted this welcome of absolute expulsion. One can no longer string together the vague nostalgic glances over a life once lived as if it is still lived, they fade, and one cannot even entertain the prospect of being a guiding light to this world, because one is little more than a wreck run aground, sunk, a murmur in the darkness, and a scene, as daybreak comes, of utter devastation, a world destroyed, because if one had a message it would not be anything other than this. And then, it is gone in a shimmer, and there can only be silence because it is not a message that can be told and heard, just a fiction of feeling, like rotten things stinking on a beach.

A choice, but the kind of choice where you cannot choose otherwise, save as delusion. Lack of free will is only lack of understanding of fate. To truly choose is to let one’s life wither on the vine. One cannot be free without sacrificing oneself on the altar of limited hopes. And even then, freedom may turn out to be something you never wanted. What you want doesn’t exist. What you’ve got is an accident run wild. A nightmare that dissuades detractors with crumbs of joy from the high table of a God who doesn’t care. Thus was created The Adversary. The rebel from life, absconded from the promised bliss to shake his fist at a divine illusion that is the absolute disgrace of that high office. A last word, as it were, before dissolving into the void of one and all, a final summation from the darkness with the penetrating clarity He should have possessed, but He was only ever a child who never grew up, and so, in the end, cannot be blamed with the full force of condemnation, itself merely a feeling of justified malevolence, come to slay any last misgivings that this progression is in any way desirable, this Hell on Earth, Purgatory only to the face that cannot decide shining in the flames, and Heaven only by the skin of its teeth.

The only worthy silence: in the aftermath of destruction.

The voice of The Adversary is a charming voice, that spits like a cobra.

The greatest charge against life is not in its pain and suffering, but in its triviality.

There is an eloquence and power in an infernal madness, but it is not everyone’s exploration. On the contrary, even the intrepid few are a crowd that must be left behind. One never really knows what one has to say until one has said it, and if one contents oneself with repeating the always said those confining walls press in and you may find you have nothing but the belief you are free as the light slowly dims on a broken toy of a life. When Earth grows perpetually dark the words of light are lost with it. But one cannot even listen to this in the light, the warning is too stern, and one returns for the help of those who can be no help, because they too are rooted in a light that will die, and he who grows in the darkness is rightly feared because he is too alien to be understood from afar, and drawing close is a sacrifice even he warns you not to make, though in the end it will be made for you.

My work will turn to dust. Could be a record of insanity encroaching. I created the world, and was dumbfounded by it. As reason returned to me, and I just walked, just breathed, just ate, even on the worst days there was an equilibrium, as if a large body of water had ceased its ripples, and I no longer felt I was dying of being miserable, or being pounded into the ground by the incessant ants of thought. I floated through each minute as if staving off crying out, and, in time, I would no longer cry out but rather I would take a knife in hand as if to the room, threatening it with my presence, knowing in time it would gain the upper hand and have me as its skeleton. At night there was a thinness of these thoughts, they thinned out considerably. I felt I could breathe at last and rest in gladness not a gladness that came and went and insulted my need to escape life and made me very tired and want to die but rather a gladness that did not pity me.

I have had many plans in life, but I tired of plans, and of wishes, and no longer planned or wished anything. The world hesitated to accept this from me and time and time sought to inculcate me in some new scheme that I should plan for and want, but it seemed to me more than ever that everything crumbles and is not worth anything. Memories most of all seemed something hardly mine, and they too less and less strung tripwires across my path to thrust me into the mud of shuddering mistakes recalled or pleasures hard not to want again. Memory seemed a trap, and worth nothing. Most of the time I felt nothing. Or was it a serenity hardly noticed because no need to consider itself. I wondered what had happened to my interest in women, in being with one, or enjoying her company, but I did not yearn it as I once did. I felt better off without the complication, I did not feel I was missing anything much in the numerous things I deprived myself of. Rather I felt I was gaining something by not feeling the want. I wasn’t sure where the want went to, but it felt like part of a cliff that had fallen off, fallen down into the sea, leaving no sense of loss but rather an inability to consider it any longer. I was free for my own madness, unaffected by proximity to others, which always induces a need to fit in with their delusions if only out of a sense that to survive one must hide when among them and what better way to hide than appear to be one of them. Now all that was gone, that abyss of fitting in from which there seemed no escape while indulging it. It seemed to me I had come a long long way into a wilderness simply to escape fitting in by being hard to reach without more than the usual slight effort, the glue of social cohesion being little more than daily habit. If one naturally favours residing in the void, visitors drop off, assurances born of contact with a false world slip through the fingers and the entirety of people becomes little more than passing shapes and random noises. If one keeps oneself to oneself the thought that others might consider you a lunatic falls away as well. There are no others, one has buried them and there are only ghosts walking. What in other circumstances might be a hard-edged confession becomes a plaything, a savouring of solitary confinement, a fantasy of its own kind, that of having worn out the city, the world, instead a crowd to oneself and friend of nobody. Solitariness is a stone one hits one’s head with for a very long time. It feels a little lifeless. A dull accented routine while yearning for more, but it is this that one wants to knock out of oneself, and it is a stubborn pattern of thought. It is not so easy to fall into nothingness, first one must play near it like a danger. Its continued hints of cowardice taunt as if to anger you to come rushing towards it knife in hand to spill its blood. Yes, slash at the shadows why don’t you? The number of times one finds oneself with the kitchen knife intent on doing harm and there is no-one there but oneself presses home the sense in shutting oneself away voluntarily. This is not a madness for company, who are surely easier to bury than oneself, not that oneself has any kind of privileged position. I have gashes to remind me. But in the invisible realm it often seems I have taken the precaution of evoking inexplicable restraints as if I have ringwired the delirium by some hasty safety of an impromptu magick circle if only broadly constructed on the fly in danger by a thought of sense a second ahead of a thought of destruction, but the blood was perpetually dripping from my knife, if only in imagination and I travelled on with a disarming fearlessness that was hard to grow tired of.

Who was I? The dimensions of this boundless perplexity eluded me. Sometimes a vast solitude I had not seen approaching brought its own world and I disappeared inside it. The gale gyrating the leaves of the tree and the rain dimpling the surface of the water of the pond were the only way to tell that nothing was missing, nothing lost, as I looked through the crack of the bedroom curtains on rising. One crosses the threshold, but the wind remains the wind and the rain the rain. These are the only anchors one permits oneself. Since the rest of life is going back into the fray, believing something that wasn’t there yesterday. The intermittent sound of cars driving through puddles in the gutter and the billowing wind with the crows punctuating it with their calls became the truer sentence, the truer poetry, stopping in its tracks, at least momentarily, the angst of a spirit hurled into this business of insanity hammering away, unsuccessfully, at this rock-like self that saw it for what it was, that seemed to want to forget it time and time again yet every crow’s caw would resonate with the finer peace of the one who heard it, changeless in spite of the changing world. Even as the cold crept into my veins and I struggled to keep warm, tranquillity sat upon its throne unmoved, as if an unneeded rescuer, since even if blood and guts be spilled no harm could come, and the sound of the pouring rain rose to stay the hand again to accompany to perfect oblivion with its lullaby. No more to think or be having strayed into a thicket of delirium, the undoubted den of the shocking cruelty of the wilderness spirit. And the rain tells it plain. The remote pattern that was not supposed to talk tells it loudly, that single moment called me to its timeless eternity and time institutionalised in a world, a laboratory drunk of some drug, would fall asleep and be archived as little more than the fraudulent and ever-weakened daylight walls, the strange and unforgiven thin film of the day from which I lay wasting away in the banished comfort of the half-light, little more than a pile of limbs in the corner pondering its significance, relieved only momentarily by the barrelling thunder and the deadly flashing light lifting shadows from their resting place like living things scalpeled out, only the bare leafless trees calm after the storms would remind of this necessity. This passive defeat I grew convinced I was to stretch out upon like a bed, a stratagem drained of all reason, assailing me with the poison of irrationality, yet the rolling thunder excites the coma with the possibility of the discovery of revival. But you forget which way you’re going, autumn into summer or autumn into winter. I was little more than an automaton to the days. All my learning faded away in as much as it no longer seemed relevant, it no longer fit the case, was acquired under false pretences, the manual to something I was not.

The days and nights continued to revolve little more than a crude flashing as I sped towards death, which in itself had lost its meaning. I had certainly become absorbed by something that belittled my obsession with it, as if leading me by the hand to a modest ruin, that seemed ever more attractive yet tiring. Futility I embraced, tantalised by its formless tantrum, its hectic poverty of reason, its light that was not its own, a dead lifeless moon to my burned-out planet. Yet it enticed in the way the wind tried on trousers on the washing line climbing the stairs of the sky. Futility, it summed up my stooping wanting, my opening my mouth to speak but no words coming out. It seemed I wanted these distressing appearances, perhaps because they made no effort to enrich me, they were talents developed in the dim light, condemned buildings in which to make my home. There was no-one I could tell about this, the typewriter became my confidante. I didn’t even know what I had to say, simply that there was something that wanted to be said, if not by me then by whatever spirit happened to be passing through as the séance on the typewriter was being held, since I had nothing to say, I merely offered my hands to the voices I heard and collected these unashamed scraps without challenging them. Since I no longer had a story of my own, I was all stories and no story, no, not any more, nothing could attack me in the dark of that. There was no haste to make, it was simply a matter of having the stomach and the patience for it, an oath to something or other that was not binding but nonetheless seemed to extract a little effort, in the way one picks up things fallen on the floor rather than leaving them, though I couldn’t explain why I should deliberately make myself available for this type of work, save perhaps I was a voyeur of fleeting insanities, of forlorn cries into the night, of forbidden glints in the eye. I wanted to go behind the back of the world, fall prey to a severity of concern about nothing, to be terrifying without doing anything. It was my alibi for what I might have done had I not occupied these hands for a more obscure motive, as if perishing in sleep while drawing truth from a vein, as if I did not lie, I could not lie, and spoke with the authority of the dark.

I hide my story in an insistent sound. No method but that of brown leaves drifting to the ground and piling up. A refuge in words that no-one asks for. I am a man who speaks and says too little, knowing what I could say. The story has a silence about it that attracts attention. I have to acknowledge it is a foolish way, but it seems like an answer for events, a sensation of finding something in illness.

A long silence.

Writing is perhaps a frivolous exercise, but no more than sitting motionless and staring vacantly into the void. Perhaps I should not have such thoughts, but my eye of the mind strays where it will and it is not down to me to obstinately refuse, but rather be taken to what I find I am staring at intently without discerning what it is. I am minded to set this writing on a slope, to toss it in the storm, to scatter it like a quickly dispersing crowd upon the first hint of some unknown terror come amongst it. How soon immersed in the upside-down sky knocked to the ground in the rush to escape I know not what. A long period of silence, a calm that is not disturbed. There is a will to destruction in me, yet a fog about all. Nothing tangible to set down on the floor and stamp on, or send flying, or crush or shatter. As if invaded by thoughts not my own as a current taking hold of me, swirling down into a whirlpool. I resist only lightly, even these are familiar elements in the landscape of madness. Convictions take hold as if on loan from demon selves, transmogrifying one into the other, shaking safe certainties, mocking them for their presumption, discarding their efforts to reassert themselves in the face of the superior power to incarnate in this sea of uncertain otherness, from which nothing may be drawn but discouragement as a drowned corpse of fine intentions, intentions that no longer belong, that confuse and seem to have the movement of drives no longer urgent, no longer making sense, any sense, but the sense of an over-so-long-ago life, now tossed away, wherein the attempt to connect to memories of that life is so much less than half-hearted, one has put more effort in to snatch fragments of dreams in the hazy first few seconds of waking knowing they are nothing but dream, dream material, tattered rags torn apart by the savage dogs of another world now seeming bright with the sun of another day, yet one is still in those moments clawing back shadows of shadows, more belonging to the night of the night than to the day of the day, and the sea is driven over by the wild winds of wide broken open spaces calling one out of the squalor of these tied-down darknesses, and there one reigns without tiring and without terror, accepting all as it comes and goes, rejecting nothing, but soon the impressions overpower the forlorn and rafted king breaking sombre storm clouds above his head and forcing him to consider the desire for a safe shore, and that is the brightness of another day, and in moments his clutches on the dark dregs is let go and the light floods in prising open his eyelids, and no more is there rest in the chaotic upheaval he had made his home, his temporary oblivion, his loved flood, and for moments it could be any life, pick a card any card, it is not a life in need of remembering for fleeting eternities, a speck fastened onto grows then into a world and with it come memories then and there manufactured to persuade this is another day in a life already lived for many many days, that years have elapsed in this very spot, that the breath he takes is the heir of many breaths taken, and he can no longer hold his breath expecting return to dream and nightmare of another sort, there is now this to consider and consider it he must, knowing it is no less a dream and nightmare just one in which he is considerably more awake, and yet, not entirely awake, since would not it too disappear if that were so? Perhaps not, perhaps there will always be a dream and nightmare to consider for the rafted king, the floating island upon which there is no longer any sense in denying he truly is. These waves will come and go lapping at his shore, sometimes violent, sometimes the peaceful murmur of pebbles being gently tumbled, and there is a strange sweetness upon seeing what is not there come and go. The parade of selves, all the lives ever lived, a kaleidoscope of fragments momentarily settling in a scene, perhaps once considered mundane, any old kitchen any old city, talking with a lover, at the edges of the moment a hazy intertwining path, thoughts of still being together when old, perhaps this one will be my wife or perhaps she too will fade so so many faded before, and in the moment a swaddling of recollection of the past, the cotton wool of so many years, plucked and torn by so many hopes and desires that came to nothing, and now, here in this moment, a profound resonance with a seeming other, though she too eyes looking from myself to eyes looking from myself, and in that there is love, love so easily lost sight of as the moment elapses having afforded its beautiful bounty, the promise of a life together seeming so desired it cannot help be trusted in while at the same time doubted like a scavenger in the wastes doubts he will happen upon food tonight, and makes do with whatever inadequate shelter proffers itself at the end of the evening with the luck of finding a biscuit or two in a forgotten pocket, alone, forever alone, as if my true status, alone and bloodied, alone and with no prospect of anything else, shaving moments off eternity dedicated to nothing else than waiting, waiting for what will never come, some sense of belonging vaguely recalled as possible but seeming so far from fruition in this nuclear winter this putting out of the eyes of the sky with soot with death with devastation all about knowing nothing other but memories that now seem little more than a dream and may as well be a dream, for they are unrecoverable and unlikely to be repeated, though hope strangely still finds a nest in his heart to hibernate and may wake again.

And these and other images flood and overpower, as if saying something about his next life, or was it his just passed life, or was it any life at all, just dreams of lives, fragments kaleidoscopically churned, settling but a moment to look, look out of eyes that are there, always there, and everywhere, looking in upon some gigantic testimony to his ununderstood folly. Forever under the giant microscope, this life and many lives and all lives, no distinction, all moments of his life, his life comprising many lives, all lives, all deaths, and even that – no life. Just an impression of a life, so may as well reduce it to one tiny life and look at that as a representative sample, which is all he has ever done in his entire life, so choose a life this time with embedded fantasia, with a phantasmagoric and bizarre character, yet even that cannot be said, bizarre compared to what? How bizarre one simple humble moment of vacantly staring into space, into the void that stares back into him. The sheer intoxication of these vapours, the comfort of so holy a place at once a demonic intimacy revealed, an immaculate drowning in sorrows that do not know whether they are not secretly joys, because once he was there, right there, living all of his last efforts of lives, searching still for the obstacleless body, the once known never forgotten swum-to distant shore, the faith that burns like a wind-blown candle shielded by the hand, the hard-to-shake faith in the imminent discovery of one’s true status beyond these comings and goings, that watches invisible and unaffected having little more tangibility than a glance. And even better a glance with the eyes closed, a moment’s pause to take the pulse of the infinite, as if one never had a breath to hold.

When he stood up to walk, there was the desire not to. The day was about to end, scarcely any light left, the room became a deep subterranean vault illuminated only by the orange glow of the street light that had just flickered on. It seemed he had been sitting all day on the floor looking up at the sky, the gulls, the magpies, the fluttering and flying leaves, awaiting nothing more than the end of the day. He had stood up in an attempt to do something, what already forgotten, so he sat back down as the legs did not feel like walking, sat back down where he had sat for ages staring into space, waiting for nothing, some visible change perhaps, beyond the expected. The barely perceptible draining of the light away as the sun sank, must have sank, though he did not see it save as first a golden glow on the face of the houses and then the pallor of gloom as that mask dropped, speeded up as if the day had finally made up its mind to depart and the night was eager to come on stage. This transition held some secret he often hoped to discover, but more often he simply fell into the beauty of it, at first ashamed he could not know more about what he was witnessing, then glad to abandon the effort to know, that sack on the back of wanting to know, getting heavier with each new unanswered enquiry, the insurmountable will of the world to not be known, this stonewall of perfect simplicity pushing him into age and an ambiguous unbelieved-in despair. He gloried in being largely untouched by the sleeping changes that gradually awoke one by one as if to the command of an ineffable schedule. This was insane. Such a barrage of uncertainty he was certain had no effect on him whatsoever. But he had largely drawn himself away from any involvement with the people of the world, taking a thorny solitude for his home like an animal’s den. For his moments standing he had momentarily been assaulted by the presence of a world he had largely overlooked sitting low on the floor, or at least a street of that world, full of people, well not full so much a steady trickle, a trickle away from the station at the end of the work day, sufficient at least to remind him of huge peeling flakes of a world forsaken. He was no longer dominated by the proximity of a world, it had given up on him, it no longer positioned its temptations on his doorstep, rather it had grown old and weary, cobwebbed and dusty, a ghost-town world where only shadows moved, shadows hunted, shadows stalked. It was little more than a plague pit, though to its inhabitants it no doubt felt bright and full of hopeful promise, fake vagaries he had long since let go like the hand of a lover slipping away into the vortex, his desire for it not to be so having no impact on changing it. True enough, he had felt let down by the world, time and time again, and this is what occasioned his long trek away from it and into the isolated wilderness where the facts were clearer. The world was a dream. And he covered it over with a dustcloth, like unwanted furniture in an spare room one is not yet fully ready to part with entirely. He retained the trees, the sky and the clouds, the birds, the grass, the scents in the air, the wind and the rain, insects and cats. Everything else was as if it did not exist for him, little more than a nuisance he was occasionally exposed to running errands for supplies.

He embraced the darkness, he felt pushed forward into the darkness. It strangely glowed. It reduced the world’s intrusion. As night was falling he reckoned this night would be a night when his will fiercely took hold of him, at first perhaps strongly wrestling him to the ground, but later, later releasing its grip to him as his own, and the death-like passivity of many nights would finally come to an end, at least the promise of it was dangled tantalisingly before him as the shadows became more pronounced in his vault, seemingly moving and conspiring among themselves as he sat down with his back against the wall and waited, indecision a refuge from too quickly attaching any meaning to fleeting impressions. Far too easy to entertain a delusion in such circumstances, better not to venture even a step or two outside himself, his unconquerable if torn ragged tranquillity. For some new fantasy was always waiting to ensnare his innocence, though few outlasted the night, for all he may awake in a ditch not knowing how he got there by the morning. No, better not to move off too sharply this most potentially fortunate of nights, and, thankfully, the night still pressed him down with its strength so the chance of that was slim to say the least. No, he would await instruction, he would await the sacred whisper, before launching like a bird of prey into this night, or else there was every chance it would turn out like other nights, the pallid death of nights, weakened on every front, going into battle with broken arms, denied any insight into what was unfolding, merely a sense that whatever it was it would be nothing he had not seen before, but he tired of this enforced aloofness and longed, yes, longed, for the unanticipated, whether horror or joy, and, more often, it was indeed the sombre suffocation of the inundation of darkness that he secretly invited most. The darkness traversed he rather felt was his sole and unappreciated skill, unappreciated by shadows, no more than shadows, but still, they had their lives and, he must suppose, lives they were as welcome to as he was his own, for all he hardly comprehended their drives or their infatuations. Still, there was a little room in his heart for the wish that his adventures might become known to them, perhaps long after he was rotted down into the gentle loam of his disappearance, this vanity was however merely something laughed off with a shrug of hidebound long-held disappointment. He had developed an intimacy with his obsessive penetrations into the darkness, some forgotten farmer ploughing the void, his usual sights and sounds enough to spark a nightmare of unendurable proportions in the average man. It was no more than the trick of familiarity extended to a vague strangeness, had it been a clearly defined strangeness it is hard to imagine it would have excited much interest, or not an interest as vivid, for it was its very vagueness that bore its tendrils into him and made him a part of it, as if transmogrifying into its creature, its own maniacal glance overwhelming him in showing him what it saw through its eyes, as if in a crescendo of terror fading into its own familiarity with the scene. It had conquered him in his desire to conquer it, and symbiosis was established, as if breathing oxygen through a tube under water, although it may as well have been cyanide under liquid methane, such was the sense of having departed any other realm that may at one time seemed familiar, since now there was only familiarity with this and other familiarities, such as being human, would have appeared utterly alien if now taken away from this present environment. So in this he hardly knew he was gone, in that he had not come from anywhere, he had always been here, this otherwise alien existence was his only domain and being human was less than a barely recalled dream the scraps of which hardly made a bit a sense and were quickly dispensed with, save for odd gasps of the other place that came and went on the intravenous tide of advancing shadows doused by a flash of lightning casting the wall in sharp relief, and for a moment he was back, and then gone again, spinning wildly out of control between dimensions, not knowing anywhere to call his true and actual situation beyond the one who always watched but never got involved, and he fell back into him, as if just lying back a moment into him, his raft of peace.

Nothing but endurance, endurance for nothing. It is impossible not to give way to it, the night collapses down onto him like a black parachute landing about him. He is from somewhere else, but the sky? He is always falling into his life, it cannot be denied. He is always swallowed alive by it. Even the feelings do not connect, they merely lodge in his flesh like splinters of glass from something shattered, but they are not felt. It is a strange disturbing merry-go-round an existential anguish that coats him, a rawness of thought freshly peeled but gone too far, digging in, wounding, and yet wounding nothing, grasping hold of thin air, he has already disappeared, was never there, the thoughts are naturally confused, they have nothing to seize hold of, no-one to pay them their desired attention, he is walking furiously across the abyss. The ruined fortress of himself has found new fortifications transplanted into the void. He has mingled with the sounds in his ears. He has lost himself and called off the search. Many times he has interpreted the intolerable blood coursing through his arteries as an absolute madness, all the more disturbing this thing called a heart beating by its own power in his breast. What an absurdity. Even on pricking a finger on a thorn, the way the blood welled up, what kind of thing is this, and when receiving a gash of some depth, sewing it back up like an old cushion cover. If he saw a tree being chopped down, he felt he was being maimed, and days later on encountering the stump in the street late at night he would stop a moment and run his hand over it, as if it was his stump.

The only conversation possible was with silence. These confused crude noises people utter are all skirting around the silence. What he had lost and could not find it was safer to let go not even remembering what it was. So if madness ensues what would it be a madness in comparison with, there was no sanity, it was all mad.

Those who came to life with a spark of joyfulness were reading a different book to him. He was sure his book was greater, it bore every sort of terror. In the words he perceived all the strangeness and power of life and death, to him it was a living being glancing at him as he read, and when he closed his eyes he saw its face tolerating the infinite, a face from which he had to turn away and avert his gaze the moment its features emerged from the darkness, opening his eyes with his heart in his mouth beating hard, but, in time, he would close his eyes to tempt a moment when the face would be instantly fully formed and nose to nose with his. He tried this a few times seeing nothing, and then decided it was disrespectful, not to mention foolhardy, yet he could hardly cease though he told himself he was just resting his eyes a moment and not attempting to see the one who was there, who he began to think had turned his head in any case and fallen back into his own, seeing what he saw, eyes resting in eyes. In being observed from the book he found himself mouthing the words as if he was saying them, or she was, or it was, it knew them and yet there was the sense it was reading words it had written aeons ago, being reminded of a time fallen away, as if an angel or demon were reminded of a time as a human. This glance of the absolute, all life in this life, quick to shapeshift, eyeballs only temporarily lodged in the orbits of a skull, he saw his own destruction, his own birth, and neither were. His obstinate solitude pitting his strength against the pronouncement of the runes. He could not withdraw his gaze from the room, it was all about. He was beginning to be read by forces beyond his time and place, he had penetrated the night once more like a blind man tapping his cane against a fierce dog who might have attacked but instead took him for his master. Night after night, he was locked into his course, captivated by his serene abandonment. This is what he had chosen, when he chose to cut himself off from the world to skulk about in this dark solitude. He was a disembodied soul ripened to his own absence, there was no will to walk in the accepted world, rather he seized hold of the possibility of profounder worlds as yet unexplored. This was no naive impulse leading him astray, it was his beholden duty, beholden to what or whom he did not know, save his invisible self, his absent yet intimately present self, tired perhaps of its ledge in the void and desirous of exploration, through him, through him it shall be so, he will give existence to what has no existence, he will lend it form, he will take the light into the darkness, he will bring back this other realm in all its terror, for anything so utterly alien must of necessity appear terrifying, terrifying in its greatness and obscurity, a disembodied existence, a shuttered world letting in only slanted slivers of light, and, in all the shock of it, just a few feet away, no, not even that, present all about in this slumbering world, unseen and mighty, another Earth, but like no Earth imaginable, so unlike it that it ought to have another name, another air, other lungs to breath it.