Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I'm falling. How far can I fall before I reach the bottom? I'm falling. At some point, I lose consciousness.


Something cold slithers across my face, leaving a trail of slime. I'm awake, but I can't move.

I'm lying flat on the ground, no telling where, but on the bright side, I can feel all my limbs, and nothing seems to be broken. And then I hear it. Harsh, ragged breathing, off to the left, and directly above my head. I turn my head to look, but all I can make out through the shadows is a humanoid shape, squatting over me. What the hell..? I try to stay very still but it's too late, the thing seems to sense that I'm awake.

With a flash of crooked, rotting teeth, the creature says, "Welcome to denial", its voice dripping with malicious glee.

"Wh..where am I? What is this place?"

"I'll give you one hint, it's NOT a river in egypt!", the thing replies and cackles, the sound echoing off stone walls, raucous and obscene.

I prop myself up on an elbow, and take a look around. I seem to be in a cavern of some sort, judging from the way the sound echoes in here, but it's too dark to see anything clearly. I try to get up, but my head starts to spin almost immediately, and I fall back to the floor.

"Now now cully, that won't do.. make an effort. Come on." I can almost see the cruel, mocking smile on its lips. "I dare you to move!" I fall back into oblivion, peals of laughter following me all the way.


I'm falling again. Deeper still?


I wake up. I'm in a chair. I feel too lightheaded to try getting up, so I stay where I am and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The smell registers first. The strong, sharp smell of hospitals. Disinfectant and blood. The room is strangely familiar, and then I realise I'm sitting next to a hospital bed. There's a bottle of IV fluid suspended next to it. Deja vu. I've been here before. Recently. I don't want to know who's in the bed. I don't want to look, but I can't turn my head away.


What's happening now? My arms are so small, my fingers are so tiny. I can't move again. I think I've wet myself. Oh fuck, I think I'm a baby again. There's a lot of noise coming from the next room. People yelling. Things breaking, crashing to the ground. I don't want to cry. I want to be brave, but this.. thing.. is welling up from inside me, like a dead weight rising to the surface, pushing it's way up out of my stomach and clawing its way out through my windpipe. A scream. But not mine. There's a loud sound, louder than anything I've ever heard before, and then suddenly everything is silent. I can't even hear the blood in my ears anymore.


I'm in the back of a car. Bigger now. Older. And I'm scared. I can hear someone crying. Was that a gunshot?


The crying gets louder. But it's not me. I'm lying very still. I don't know this house. This is not my bed. Someone I love has just died. Maybe if I just lie still like this, the cancer will pass me over, leave me be.


I'm at my desk now. Bombay. Every square inch of wall and ceiling is covered with posters. Newspaper clippings pinned up on one wall, a veve on another. The sea is right outside, I can hear the waves smashing against the rocks. The blade feels so cold against my skin. The blood that leaps out is hot. But I can't feel anything else. I'm just.. numb.


The sun is so bright against my eyes, I have to shade them with my hand. I'm at the Lakdikapul MMTS station. The 8:17 to Hi-Tec city is just turning the bend. My eyes are still red from last night. How could she do that to me? I'm not thinking straight, this is a bad idea, maybe I should reconsider, but by then it's too late. I've already jumped, and for one awful moment, I'm living in suspended animation, the train inches away, and I don't want to be here. The train hits me anyway, smacking into my side with a sickening thud.. and miraculously depositing me back onto the platform with three broken ribs, a mouthful of blood, and a lifetime of regret.


"Had enough, cully? No? Don't worry, there's plenty more where that came from!"


Something horrible has happened to someone I love. And I couldn't do anything to stop it, or take it back. It wasn't my fault. And yet, the guilt. Another bottle of wine, more booze to beat back the gnawing pain. No matter how far down I push it, it keeps coming back, biting its way back to the surface.

"Oh aye, I'm gonna eat you ALIVE boy. Eat you from the inside out."


I need to stop. I've been falling too long. "Ha! As if it's that easy. You're in MY world now, boy. I DARE you to move." And he's right. I can't. I can't move an inch, I'm paralysed. I'm stuck. I can't move forward. I can't do this anymore. I just can't fight this awful gravity. I can't keep running away from the past. But I have to make a stand, break free from all this. I struggle to get up, but its useless, my body won't obey me. I decide to confront my antagonist "Who are you! Show your face, you coward!"

"I'm me, who are you?", accompanied by more cackling. I'm getting sick of this. I've just been made to relive some of the worst moments in my life, and to this ..thing.. it's all just a joke? All I can do is howl in rage. So I do that. Until I'm hoarse.

And he just chuckles. "There, there. Your anger is useless here." A pause, and, "You really don't know who I am yet? All right then. Here." he says, stepping into the light.

And its a trick. I know it is. It has to be. Another sick, twisted illusion designed to confuse and frighten me. Because the face he's wearing, is my own.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Fear Itself

I came home completely plastered last night. I had intended to quit drinking with such frequency, but on my way home from work, I'd run into an ex-girlfriend. The encounter left a bad taste in my mouth, and the only thing that would get it out was a lot of alcohol. I made a detour and headed over to the Undertow. There's something about a seedy bar that puts my mind at ease. There's something about the cheap whiskey that puts my wallet even more at ease.

Flashcut to my apartment, three hours later. I'm struggling with the keys for what feels like an eternity before I finally let myself in. Two steps to the hatstand, sharp turn left and I'm in the kitchen. Kitchen sink, water, waterspout, bump, headache. I press a palm to my throbbing skull and stagger into the living room. The cleverly placed couch prevents my arse from making contact with the floor, where several splinters lie waiting, sharp, and hungry. I can sense their resentment through the haze of liquor. I'm waiting for the room to stop spinning so I can get off the couch. It doesn't show any signs of slowing down, so I time my jump, and leap for the hallway when it swings past.

I hit the bathroom door head-first. Ow. But this is actually a stroke of good luck, because I feel the sudden urge to vomit. I manhandle my way in somehow, and hunching over my old friend the toilet bowl, I let the bile out. Five minutes later and my whole body is racked with chills, my stomach feels like its sticking to my spine, and my spine feels like it wants to crawl out of my back and run across the streets, kicking and screaming like a spastic on steroids. My brain feels like its melting out through my nostrils and my liver feels like my heart, small and hard and cold like a piece of shattered stone at the bottom of the sea. I wait for the shivers to subside, and when I'm sure there's nothing else left for me to expunge, I flush the lot, and slump back against the cold porcelain.

My bleary eyes fall on Jeff Goldblum, who's been watching the whole thing. "Er, you need to uh, run, you know." he says, looking right at me. "Oh fuck off Jeff Goldblum, you don't know what you're talking about." "Um, actually, I'm quite certain that they're going to uh, be here any minute now. You'd better erm, haul ass if you want to er, survive this." This is insane. This is batshit crazy. Cockroaches, squirrels whatever, but Jeff 'the fly' Goldblum? No way. Even I'm not that crazy. "Dude, what the hell are you talking about? I'm just drunk aight?" "I KNOW that!", Jeff splutters, eyes bloodshot, "But that's what makes you so vulnerable right now, you're not completely in control, its easier for your subconscious mind to take over, don't you see? My god man, you've left the door wide open, ANYTHING can come through!" "Whaddayamean, anything?", I ask, and just then, I hear a terrible keening sound, like nails being dragged across a hundred blackboards. "What the hell is that?" "My god, they're here already!", Jeff exclaims, as the sound increases in pitch, and complexity. I can hear a wailing now too, over and above the nails. The sound is awful, and the images it's invoking are even worse. Like a thousand mutilated babies, all crying in unison, as the world burns around them, like a dog being whipped mercilessly, and howling at the injustice of it all, like the yowls of a cat being skinned alive. I have no words to describe that awful sound. And it was getting worse. And it was getting closer.

"You need to get the hell out of here.", Jeff Goldblum yells over the horrifying clamour. That's easier said than done, the bathroom window is too small, and the bathroom door is shaking like a leaf in a storm. He jerks his head toward the commode, "Quit wasting time, and go!" Into the commode? What the hell, this isn't trainspotting, how the fuck am I going to fit into the shitpot of all places? Despite my misgivings, there's a frenzied look in Jeff's eyes, and just then, the sound is right outside the bathroom, and something starts to batter against the door, each bang accompanied by a horrible, sick, squelching sound, like ruptured flesh. "All right, but how do I get in there?" "The world is malleable enough. As long as your will holds out, anything is possible. Now GO!" The door begins to splinter, cracks appearing like magic in the sturdy wooden frame. With no other options presenting themselves, and my heart beating against my chest like a ferret on crack, I take a deep breath and jump into the crapper headfirst, just as the bathroom door smashes open, woodchips flying into the air.

[To be continued...]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In which I meet Stella

So I'm on my way to class last Thursday. It's already five past six, and class started at six. I need to file my candidacy form for graduation, today's the last day, and in a classic display of reckless brinksmanship, I haven't even looked at the form yet.

I'm walking fast, smoking furiously, and thinking how it probably wasn't such a good idea to skip lunch and still get loaded right before class. I'm out of breath by the time I reach the event center, so I slow down to a more human pace, giving my lungs a chance to catch up. There's a stitch in my side the size of Texas, and my bum knee hurts like a bastard. I really need to quit smoking and start running again, I think to myself for perhaps the thousandth time. I lean against a tree, and set my bag down for a breather. It doesn't help that my laptop weighs about as much as a small elephant with low self esteem and an endless supply of comfort food. I'm just about to leave when I notice a squirrel at my feet, watching me intently. Now there's a lot of squirrels on campus, and most of them are pretty fearless and upfront about their territory, but this one's wearing a leather jacket. A tiny little leather jacket and Audrey Hepburn wayfarers, raised over its head, between its ears.

"Er... can I help you?" I venture, remembering Phil from a few weeks ago.

"Oh I'd say you could. This is MY territory bub, you better getchyer ass offa that tree there."

Now I'm not used to taking shit from just about anyone, least of all talking squirrels, so I overcome my trepidation and counter with,
"O rly? Well I don't see your name on it." (Juvenile, I know, but how else are you supposed to talk to an unreasonably confrontational squirrel?)

"On the contrary, mon frere, my name IS on that very tree which you are currently leaning your bony little arse against", the squirrel says, pointing at the base of the trunk, right by my left foot. I crouch down, incredulous, but sure enough, there it is, like miniature jungle graffiti, gnawed into the bark in letters three inches high, a single name, "Stella".


"Like I said. MY turf, bitch."

"Oi, First of all, I'm not your bitch, and second, I was just catching my breath." I can't believe I'm getting talked down by a squirrel. A SHE squirrel! Called Stella, no less.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." She says, with a dismissive flick of her tail.

A moment of awkward silence follows, while the evening sun moves toward some conveniently placed mountains, and a chill breeze blows through campus, bending the grass and shaking the leaves off trees. Fall is here.

"Stella. That's uh..a nice name.." I attempt, trying to defuse the tension.

She affixes me with a blank stare. "For a squirrel. Go on. Say it."

"Wha..? Of course not. I mean, in general. That's a nice name."

"Well, my girlfriends call me the Seeker", she says, relenting, and winks, with a smirk.

"Ha! That's cute.", I blurt out. Well it IS cute! A squirrel called the seeker!

"Not really. You know how it is."

I don't have an answer to that. I do know how it is, and it's not exactly a barrel of laughs.

"That constant hunger in the pit of your stomach, makes you want to grind your teeth, to gnaw the mask off the face of the world, just to see what lies beneath, days when you just want to set it all on fire. Days when you can't sit still, when you have to get off your feet and just go. Somewhere, anywhere, just to see what's over the next hill, to see if there's any meaning to it all. It's not fun being a seeker. And you know when it really hurts? When you meet someone who distracts you from your constant seeking, and you settle down, take a breather, think 'hey, this is it, I'm done looking, I'm gonna settle down with this girl, and I'm gonna concentrate on making her happy' and right then, just when you decide to chuck it all and settle for a life of contentment, she ups and leaves, 'cos she's seen right through you, and knows that you're one of 'em. A seeker, a ramblin' man, and for people like us, the search is never over. That's what sucks about this job."

I'm speechless. Mostly 'cos everything she said hits very, very close to home. And then something occurs to me, and I can't help but ask.

"Wait, so you're saying you're a lesbian??"

"Oh I'm a boy, I'm a boy, but my ma won't admit it", says Stella in a sing-song voice.

"Ah." Now I'm just confused.

"Well, it can't be all bad, being a seeker..", I try to sympathize, both for her sake, and mine.

Stella smiles, wryly, "It's a dirty job, but like they say, someone's gotta do it."

"I guess that's true", I say, wanting desperately to agree, to accept that sometimes you have to lose something to gain something, but my heart's not in it.

"There are perks. You don't sleep at night because you're busy searching, but you get to see the sun rise every morning. You search for miles and miles without finding anything, but along the way, you meet a lot of interesting people. Some of them, you might even come to call friends. And when you find the smallest hint, even a tiny clue, heck, any piece of the puzzle, it feels absolutely incredible. There's no rush on Earth that compares. But then again, you know how it is.", she smiles, and since she's absolutely right, I smile back.

"Here, d'you have a smoke on ya?"

"Um, lemme check", I flip open my pack of cigarettes, but there's just one cigarette left.

"Yup, the last one, you want it?"

"Oh no. I just wanted to know if you still had that last one. Do us a favour, hang onto that one eh?
You're going to need it soon." she says, with a sincere look, but then again, how do you know if you can trust a butch dyke squirrel in a bomber jacket?

"Er.. so I don't smoke it then?"

"No. You don't. You should quit 'em altogether actually. Fuckin' things will only end up killing you. Just.. hang onto that last one." this last was almost an imperative, such was the urgent sincerity with which she looked at me. Stella seemed to realize that I had noticed this minor break in character, so she recovered quickly, and slid her shades back over her eyes.

"Well, this was nice, but I'd best be getting back to the search now, aren't you late for class?"

I look at my watch and she's right. It's 6:30, I'm a half hour late! When I look up, she's scampering off across the grass, her tail flashing in and out of sight, like a furry periscope rising through the verdure.

"Hey! Wait up! What if I smoke that cigarette?" But it's too late. Stella the Sapphic Seeking Squirrel has spoken, and split the scene.