(the following text is a draft chapter from a novel I am working on called ‘Alien Nation: The Diary Of An Existential Millennial’)
The dream faded from sight as my eyes opened to the reality of my room. I didn’t bother to check the time, but the light penetrating the small gap in between my curtains made it clear once again: another day of existence had begun.
I lay flat and limp on my bed, casting my eyes outward toward the window. Suddenly I felt a shudder go through my body. Out there beyond that glass the human race was preparing for another day of battle. Right now alarm clocks were bleeping, ties were being tightened, ignitions being turned and traffic jams forming. Soon the workstations would be manned, fake smiles would be cast, hands shook, lies told, deals made – economic and political doctrines successfully enforced and followed. On the streets the pedestrians would be marching along those grey sidewalks, pulled along by some vague meaning and purpose for life. Their hands would be clutching and clinging onto briefcases, or shopping bags, or lottery tickets, or holy books, or beer bottles, or prescription medicines, or something – anything. Throughout the course of their day advertisements would be consumed, newspapers read and lies believed. Meanwhile the politicians and businessmen would be sat above in skyscraper offices plotting and conspiring the latest activities of corruption and self-interest.
Such ferocious absurdity was not just taking place in this city, or this country, or this continent – but across this entire goddamn planet. The thought of what was out there was enough to turn my face into my pillow and retreat into my own dark cave of isolation. Humanity and its strange ways were as relentless as the english rain, and burying my head in the sand often seemed like a good alternative to going out there and joining in with the madness. Unfortunately my existence on planet earth was subject to the concept of money. My temporary peace and solitude was afforded by the few remaining pounds I had in my bank account, which had been continually dwindling down and down to the last three digits. A gradual realisation had been dawning on me and I knew that there was no avoiding it any longer. It was time. My name had been called; my letter of conscription typed. I knew it was time to go out there and join the war, to face the firing squad – to let myself be beaten and bludgeoned by the companies and bosses and executives.
I got out of bed, got dressed and headed into the kitchen of my flat. There my Hungarian roommate Csaba was cooking breakfast with his usual erratic nature that plagued him from head to toe.
“Good morning Alex!” he said cheerfully. “You want some breakfast? I cooked too much again.”
I looked down at the pan, where overcooked strips of bacon were drowning in oil – a merciless fate he seemed to impose of whatever piece of food he was cooking.
“I’m good thanks” I said.
He carried on twitching around the kitchen as bits of greasy fat sizzled and spat out from the frying pan.
“So what are you going to do today?” he asked. “Have you starting looking for a job yet my friend? You know that our rent is due tomorrow?”
“Yeah I started looking a few days ago” I lied. “I should have something sorted out for the end of the week.”
“Ahh that’s great, but you have the money for rent right?”
“And also for the bills – the internet and electricity?”
He nodded in satisfaction and carried on moving erratically around the cooker. I grabbed my cereal from a cupboard and began pouring a bowl, trying to avoid further conversation with him. I didn’t really have anything against him, it’s just that talking to him was a strained affair for all parties involved. To be honest I often wondered how I ended up cooped up with this creature in a small flat. He was a strange one. For one he happened he was the only gay person I knew who opposed the gay marriage (on account of his Christian faith). When I moved in he had claimed he was a people person but that started to seem dubious when he came home everyday angry and sour-faced from his bus driving job telling me how much he hated everyone in this town. “Those fucking people!” he would curse as he recalled his day to me – “I want to kill those fucking people!”. He once devised a grand plan to escape to Austria to live a quiet life in the mountains, but that had failed and had left him come crawling back to England with sad and bewildered eyes. I kinda felt sorry for the damn guy to be honest. Here he was: unhappily single, balding, thirty-five, and had already spent his entire youth stressing and butchering away his best years. Despite this, still he hadn’t learnt the futility of his ways, or even how to fry bacon for that matter. It was obvious he was lost, but that was okay – everybody was secretly lost in some way, it’s just that some people hid it a little better than others.
I finishing making my cereal and retreated to the lounge to eat my breakfast alone at the table. I sat down with my laptop beside me. I opened it up and went on youtube to play some ambient music while I ate. In the last few months, ambient music had been a medicine to calm my mind when the grenades were going off inside of it. When I slept, I played ambient; when I wrote, I played ambient; when I sat on the internet plotting a way to escape this planet, I played ambient. Ambient, ambient, ambient. It was the cure to sailing smooth through the stormy seas of my mind. With ambient music a man’s mind was at peace, free from the demons of overthinking and anxiety that were currently chipping away at my the inside of my flatmate’s skull. With it the voices of society faded away and a man was delivered to a new place, a different place – a better place.
After a few minutes of mindlessly staring into the vacuum of space and time, a thought entered my brain. I decided that I better search the latest job adverts – I did need a job after all. I went onto google and entered ‘jobs brighton’. The search gave me access to a few job websites, so I selected the top one and began scrolling through their menu of economic employment.
For a moment I was quite optimistic; I imagined that maybe there would be something out there that interested me – perhaps working in the local national parks outside the city, or working down along the beach, or maybe working somewhere in solitude. Precious solitude: yes, yes that would be enough! But there was nothing of the kind. The majority of jobs were commission-based sales jobs which were designed for excitable extroverts who could bark their way to scamming some senile elderly person out of their retirement savings. I could imagine some goblin-eyed boss putting his hand on my shoulder and telling me “good job kiddo” after conning some eighty-year old out of her rainy day fund. Besides the sales jobs there were also some retail and bar vacancies, which of course meant interacting with hordes of humans throughout the day.
In the end I gave up. I decided I’d just go to the employment agency and see what grool they had on their own menu. I closed my laptop, slumped back into my chair and stared outward toward the window.
As I stared outward into the skies above the surrounding apartment blocks, I suddenly started to feel a bit down. The whole thought of going out there and joining in with the human race started to dampen my spirits. Why couldn’t life just be a fun adventure, I wondered once more. It was a thought that went through my mind at least twenty seven times a day. Often I’d find myself getting philosophical about everything and lamenting in the banality of everyday life. I mean, you couldn’t get away from it. Everyday you were awakened by an alarm clock to again face the absurdity of citizen-based existence. Here you were: an intelligent being that floated through space on a twirling, organic spaceship in a universe filled with black-holes, shooting stars and infinite horizons. And yet you were subjected by gravity and government to live in a world of monotony and mediocrity. Instead of sailing through the cosmos, you’d stutter through traffic jams; instead of exploring the earth, you’d explore supermarket aisles; instead of writing poetry, you’d write up tax-returns. Why was it like this, I wondered over a bowl of sugar-free, low-fat cornflakes.