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Billy hated his name, with a passion.
It was the name of a young man who wore a baseball cap backwards. A boy with plasters on his knees and dirt smudged on his face like a birthmark. Someone who rode bikes up mountains and into forests in search of adventure.
It was a name that refused to let him grow up. He could never hold down a serious job with a name like Billy. He had been doing the same paper route for 42 years. He couldn't find a girlfriend. People called Billy thought that all girls came with cooties.
I had to write a letter to my college children.
I still don't know who they are. So the subject of the letter was a faceless mass. White sand pushed into piles and balanced precariously into the image of a body.
We had to give them advice. Advice. I haven't lived long enough to give advice. All I can give is vague suppositions and empty cliches about how to survive the first year at university.
I've sent it off. They can read it, whoever they are. I hope they do survive the first year. Surviving is always the hardest thing.
Margaret hated her name.
It was much too old. Margaret was a name for a woman who wore sensible cardigans. A grandmother who rattles around the house, chatting to ghosts. Someone who didn't quite have all of their own teeth anymore.
Her childhood had been non-existent. She was the one who would pick up the other children after they had fallen over and kiss their scrapes. Her voice always had a scratchy, faintly whiny quality that slowly but surely came to grate on the nerves. And of course, she was far to sensible to ever get involved with boys.
'So what does this device do?'
'Ah, well, this one is actually rather clever.'
'That's what you say about everything you invent.'
'That's because they're all rather clever. Because I'm rather clever. Therefore, it stands to reason, that anything I create must be rather clever.'
'So tell me what it does.'
'Well, you attach the electrodes to the subjects temple...here and...here. The device then proceeds to interfere with the processing pathways of your sensory information, resulting in a muddling of the senses. For example, one might start to hear light, or smell touch.'
'So what's the point?'
Sometimes I get startling moments of clarity, where I'm full aware that the time where my consciousness and my body are fully connected is finite. That there are a certain number of times my cells will divide, a certain number of times my immune system will work perfectly, a certain amount of time where I can move and think and feel and do.
This tends to make me scared. It makes me want to smash everything I own, go and kiss a stranger and travel forever.
Other times, I'm able to ignore this fact, and busy myself with youtube clips.
Jenny hated her name.
It was just a name. It had no connotations, contained no meaning, no prophetic predetermination. It was just a syllable, a meaningless set of vibrations.
It gave her nothing to go on. If she had been called Rose, she would have been sweet and delightful, with a ready smile. If she had been called Jasmine, she would have been exotic, with a knowing, sultry glance and a deep, money-clinking laugh.
But no. She was Jenny. Just Jenny, who had to face each day without a blueprint of the person she should be. It was horrific.
'This one looks like a hand made of paintbrushes.'
'Ah! Yes, yes, yes. Quite right. You see, you hook this part up to the subject's brain...'
'You like hooking things up to brains.'
'And then you get the subject to concentrate on an image in their mind. The machine then deconstructs and translates the brainwaves, and perfectly replicated the image in the subjects mind via the hand of paintbrushes.'
'So what you've done is create a more laborious process of painting?'
'No! How often is the image in one's mind perfectly replicated onto a page? I'm providing much needed clarity.'
'The reality we see is...well...not true. We have sensors all over our body that interacts with and attempts to interpret the world around us. And we assume that the information that we obtain from them is correct. But it's not. Change our sensors, and you change how we perceive the world. Add more photoreceptors with different pigments into our eyes, and we would be able to see whole new colours! So which reality is correct? Is it stable, or dependent on the quality of our sensors?'
'I don't know. Why do you keep asking me these things?'
sometimes there is a little voice in my head that tells me that I hate me and that I am useless and other such things and this voice will show me pictures of people who I failed or pictures of people who I want desperately to love me and it niggles away like an itch an itch of sadness that gets more raw and deep with each scratch and it makes me want to cry but do not worry the voice will go away and I will be happy again and it is much quieter than it used to be
I wonder what insects think when they get trapped inside houses.
For example, how would the brain of a spider cope with being trapped inside a bath? How would it be able to summon its mental capacities and derive a solution to an unfamiliar and artificial setting?
Or what about a fly, who got in through the small gap in the window, but can't find it again, and just bumps endlessly against the glass? How does it deal with the invisible force field determined to stop it from leaving?
Maybe they give such things no consideration. Rather, they just accept.
From the journal of Sir Aranchid the III.
Day two of my captivity.
I was sent by my spider brethren to explore beyond the boundaries of our kingdom, learn about the natives in these new lands, and report back. However, in my eagerness, I fear I may have leaped before I looked.
Whilst exploring the inside of what seemed to be a large, square beehive, made of a curious stone, I came across a most interesting contraption. It was made of a material I had never before touched or climbed. Well, naturally, I chose to climb it...why wouldn't I?
Once I had made it to the summit of this great construct, the first thing I noticed was the sheer drop. It seemed that, rather than being solid, the construct had steep sloping walls, ending in a large, wide valley at the bottom. In the valley, I spotted a material that glinted and gleamed in a most amusing way.
Natural scientific curiosity grappled and subdued the rational part of my mind and, with a heady abandon, I threw myself down the slope to discover the nature of the gleaming material.
Looking back, I tremble in anguish at my unprofessional actions.
Having successfully slid down to the base of the valley, I proceed to traverse its length in the direction of the material, which I shall now refer to as gleamium.
The object made of gleamium was of a most intriguing nature. Uniform in nature, it seemed to contain holes at regular intervals. Gently probing it with one of my legs, I ascertained that it was cold to the touch, and exceedingly smooth.
I could not for the life of me determine its function. Perhaps it was purely decorative? Maybe it was some sort of new web design? I didn't know.
I spent several hours examining the object made of gleamium, but to no avail. Deciding that my time and energy would be better spent pursuing other projects, I felt that it was time to leave.
It was then that I encountered my first problem. Well, to be perfectly honest, this first problem has been so large, that I was never able to progress onto a second problem.
Whilst wonderful to slide down, the sides of the contraption are too damn high and slippery to climb back up.
And thus, I have been trapped in here for the past two days.
The summer made him smile. He remembered the warmth of his youth, when he would stroll out into the sunshine, blissfully unaware of time, unresponsive to the inevitability of the future.
He had enjoyed it when the girls started to wear skirts. There was something about a skirt that suggested that the wearer should be twirling around in a field, laughing like a bird during the morning chorus.
Time, that greatest of runners, caught up to him, and his strolls turned to shuffles. The future grew shorter. As did the skirts. But the sunshine was the same. Always the same.
It had been a perfectly lazy day. They had decided that it would be nice to walk up to the fields and have a picnic.
The path, being a favourite of dog walkers, had been covered in mess. Flies had hummed feverishly around the piles of excrement, and the smell had stalked them for minutes afterwards. Like the person who no one remembers inviting to the party, and keeps making inappropriate jokes.
They'd eventually settled on a spot under a tree, where there eyes could easily tumble down with the hills, rolling along with them, borne like bubbles in waves.
He wiped his hand against the grass, a faint smile landing on his face as he felt the gentle tickles of the blades.
Stretching, his bones cracking, he glanced down at her lying on the picnic blanket, eyes closed, hands resting on her stomach.
His smile blossomed, vines climbing across his face.
'Tell me a story.' He asked, carefully brushing a leaf from her hair.
'What sort of story?' She murmured, wriggling against the blanket, as if her shoulders were trying to dig into the earth.
'A sweet story. With a happy anything. None of this existential rubbish you like.'
'A happy anything?' She frowned.
'You know...something happy. Anything happy. But a happy ending, especially.'
She sighed, like the sun at the end of the day.
'There's nothing wrong with existentialism.' She continued, eyes darting open and homing in on his. 'It's not as bad as you think it is.'
'Still...' He replied. 'I want something happy, this time.'
She snorted, thumbs tapping against her stomach.
'So...a fairy story, then? With a prince and a princess and a completely safe, predictable plot?'
'Well, if anyone could make it more interesting, then you could.'
'Hah...once upon a time...'
Eventually, he settled down next to her, letting her voice fold itself around him. It was like being immersed in hot water, right up to his neck. It stole away his small aches, stewed his bones and rifled through his nerves.
He watched her as she knitted the story. Her hands became more animated, as if drawing in and crafting the various plot strands, weaving them together, manipulating them into a tapestry of words.
She gave words colours. Painted with them. She gave them music and composed. She was a master at her craft, and he listened in pure rapture.
Day...Day...I can't remember any more...
Time seems to have no meaning in this hellish dimension. The sun flickers on and off constantly, seemingly at the whim of a great beast, a giant anthropoid.
Could...could it be that I stumbled upon the lair of God...?
No! No, I say! I refuse to give in to superstition! I am merely becoming mildly hysterical through lack of food.
Food...my God, I miss food...
I fear that this shall be my grave. And I still haven't figured out what the blasted gleamium device if for!
I don't want to die...
I...I barely know what to write.
I'm free. Free from that accursed place. I'm pausing for a mere moment to document my escape, before I immediately head home, and seriously contemplate retirement.
My hope had dwindled like the final sputtering fire on a candlewick. I had decided that I would end my life on the object of gleamium. At least I would die on a worthy monument.
Having finally settled down, I took one last look upwards towards the heavens. Which is when I noticed that the heavens were looking back at me. It was, quite simply, disconcerting.
There was an almighty scream that tore through the air, ripping it to shreds. An anthropoid had spotted me, and lumbered out of sight, soon to be replaced with another, larger specimen.
This one leaned down and placed me in a clear force field. I tested my strength against it numerous times, but was unable to penetrate through. I was then borne up through the air, and thrown back out into the world, the wind whipping my body, lashing it mercilessly.
Eventually, I landed in a patch of grass, unable to believe what had happened.
Now, finally, I'll return home.
I made an origami rose.
I was tired of not being able to make anything physical with my hands. Not being able to make something that could be touched, interpreted through the fingers.
I'm rather proud of it. It actually looks like a rose. I'm not used to things that I make looking like I image that I had in my mind.
Sometimes, writing 100 words is far too little. Other days, it's just too much.
Do you ever get the feeling that you should be running as far, as fast as you can, but you're not sure where to?
'You know what I get tired of?'
'What do you get tired of?'
'I get tired of people on the internet posting life-affirming messages. You know, the ones that tell you to 'dance like no one is watching' and to 'climb trees'.'
'Well, what's wrong with them?'
'Because it implies that my life as it is at the moment is uncreative, dull and morbidly normal. They judge how I live my life without ever taking into consideration that I might be happy.'
'I assume they think you're the wrong kind of happy.'
'Is there a wrong kind?'
'It's just like philosophy.'
'I thought you liked philosophy?'
'I do. But what is essentially wrong with all philosophy is that each individual school of thought assumes that their ideas are the only means through which one can obtain happiness. They fail to recognise that human experience is unique. Each person finds happiness through various means. There is no one path, one set of ideas that will bring joy to everyone.'
'So what do you think people should do?'
'Whatever they want. As long as it's consensual with the people involved.'
'Will it ever happen?'
'Could do...it could do.'
A nice day
I was a naughty pirate. They kept chopping off my legs, and I had to hop to the park.
And then, I had to pretend to be fire. I made a hissing and crackling sound, then screamed in pain and fury as they put me out.
And then, I had lots of fun (probably too much fun) make a train track for them to play on.
And then, we had to use a police helicopter to rescue a man on top of the lampshade.
And then, we made steps out of lego.
It was a good day.
'Do you ever...I mean, do you think...have you ever thought that, like, maybe, there's just this guy, you know?'
'I'm pretty sure there are lot's of guys, man.'
'Shut up. That there's this guy, right? And, and, and he's just sitting in a room, right...'
'Lots of rooms too.'
'And he's writing this big book.'
'...E-e-enormous. And that, right, we're all just characters in his book, you know? That we're just figments of his imagination.'
'Wh'da'ya mean, nah?'
'I mean...stupid idea. Book'd be too boring.'
For about five years, I've had the same face.
Most people's faces undergo various transformations as they age. Sometimes it'll take months, sometimes a couple of years. But they always generally look around the age they should.
I've looked 18 for the past 5 years.
I would very much like to look slightly older than 18. I would have grown a beard, but it doesn't fully meet up around my face. It looks like someone drew it on with a pen, which ran out of ink just at the very end.
So I guess I'm stuck looking 18. Ah well.
It seems that I have developed a symbiotic relationship with my laptop.
My time spent on it had been increasing by incremental amounts. This hadn't seemed strange; my online presence was growing, I just had to spend more time on it. But what I hadn't realised were the meals I was skipping, the sleep I no longer needed.
It slowly dawned on my that I had more energy than usual. That my laptop was giving me energy. It was charging me up.
I'm afraid of what will happen if I stop typing. I can't stop typing. I can't...can't...stop...
'You know what would be a nice idea?'
'A muppy. A motivational puppy. It'd tell you that you're pretty, or that you can finish that essay. You know, whatever...'
'When did you come up with that?'
'In the shower.'
'Of course. You know, when I first asked you, it was a rhetorical question. I already had something in mind.'
'Oh...sorry. Do go on.'
'It'd be really nice if people's eyes changed colour depending on their mood at the time.'
'You mean like, red when angry, blue when happy...all that?'
'That would be nice.'
Seamus Heaney died.
He was the very first poet that I ever studied. I still remember being frustrated by his constant themes of digging and potatoes.
Looking back, Heaney's work made me realise that poetry didn't have to be as structured, as stuffy and grandiose as I thought. He wrote about things he knew, and had an uncanny ability to perfectly pick the right words and plant them in the correct place.
And now he's going to return to the earth, which he wrote so extensively about. Goodnight Seamus Heaney. Thank you for your words, all those long years ago.
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