short stories

~ The Ones That Get Away ~

~ The Ones That Get Away ~

      Out travelling the road of life, lost in the night of some foreign country, roaming the cobbled streets of the old town, kissing her under the moonlight. She was a lawyer, seven years older, with hazel eyes, brunette hair and the sort of Mediterranean look that made you think of fancy restaurants overlooking sparkling blue waters. She wore a flowery summer dress that shown off her hourglass figure; her ears adorned green jewelled earrings and she carried an expensive-looking designer leather purse under her left arm. I of course knew that usually these creatures of luxury were out of reach for a no-good, drifting nomad like myself, but for some reason the gods above had backed me this evening. Perhaps they were just having a laugh amongst themselves, but they had backed me and I had lured her in.

      We had met about one hour before in a smoky traveller’s bar where our eyes had crossed paths as we both sat on bar stools staring wistfully into time and space. I smiled, went over and asked if she too was also bored with existence. She looked up at me with piercing eyes and, after a second of awkwardness, the tension was cut with a friendly smile. From there on in we got talking and shared a drink: two whisky cokes with ice.

     It was a few minutes into drinking and chatting that I first began to realise she was slightly more upper-class than the girls I normally went after. As we chatted she told me of the human rights court cases she had been working on; she told me of her education and how she owned her own apartment. She was too charming to be snobby about it or anything, but I quickly concluded that she was definitely a little more sophisticated than the girls you normally met in these traveller bars. With this in mind I tried to come across as a regular, upstanding member of human society. I talked about politics and economy; I talked about theology and philosophy. I tried and tried my very best, but after five minutes my cover was blown.

       “You’re a little strange aren’t you?” she said with a wry smile.

       “Well you’re the local lawyer sitting on your own in a backpacker bar.”

       “Yeah, and so what? We all have our moments of madness. Besides I’m not alone; I’m waiting for my friend behind the bar. She finishes in an hour.”

        I looked over where a blonde girl was mixing a cocktail behind the bar.

      “One hour?” I said. “Why don’t we go for a walk somewhere else, to another bar, or perhaps you can give me a private tour of your town? You know, teach me the history and that? I am a tourist in your country after all.” She took a long sip of her drink while staring into my soul, making me wait – making me guess. The look in those hazel eyes told me that she knew I was full of it, but finally she agreed anyway. We finished our drinks and went off out into the night.

      After exiting the bar, we wandered through the winding streets of the old town with no particular destination other than the present moment. We passed busy bars and restaurants; we walked along the waterfront of the harbour. We made small-talk about my travels and she told me how I was brave and how she had always wanted to travel alone. It was something I had heard from many people while out on my travels. Damn near enough everybody in society wanted to quit their job and travel the world – like always, I didn’t understand why so very few actually did it.

       Eventually we stopped under a streetlight in one of the side streets. With no one around, we finally embraced and shared a kiss in the silence of the night. We then stared into each others eyes and I made a comment about whether she always went for guys seven years younger than her. She let out a little laugh and suddenly – for about the fifth time that year – I was hopelessly in love with a stranger. At that moment all I wanted to do was to swim into her eyes and drown myself. It was a feeling I knew all too well. Not just then, but I regularly had this feeling – an overwhelming feeling of total reckless abandonment to something or anything or everything. Often all I wanted to do was to abandon myself to the world, to the wonders, to the women. I wanted to get lost in those foreign countries, lost down those old cobbled streets – lost again and again in the eyes of those beautiful strangers. I was reckless, I knew, and possibly insane.

       Even if we somehow formed some sort of relationship it wouldn’t have been long before she realised I was completely incompatible with the regular life she wanted. Women like this wanted structured and stable men. They wanted men who could be husbands, men who could be fathers – men who could stay in one place and raise children and talk to their neighbours about the weather over the garden face. The problem was that I was none of those things. I was a wayward wanderer, a restless dreamer with itchy feet – a piece of trash caught in the wind being whipped around by the pull of my gypsy heart.

       Looking further into eyes I thought about the alternative to the mess and madness that was my life. It was true that somewhere inside a part of me wanted to be a regular human-being sometimes, but the problem was to do that you were supposed to solidify things. Houses were supposed to be cemented down; relationships were supposed to last; job positions were meant to be held for years and not months. It’s not like I didn’t understand what was to be done in order to be a functioning member of the human race, it’s just that I couldn’t seem to do it even if I wanted to. Something had gone wrong in my DNA or upbringing. My mind was possessed by a great fire; my soul was caught in a wild storm. This woman was beautiful, stable and deemed successful in society’s eyes as a lawyer. She had a chance – she had a strong chance at a normal life. But what chance did someone like me have? I was a nomadic fool who couldn’t even stay put in one place or job position for a full year. I couldn’t fit myself into anywhere. I couldn’t even drive a goddamn car. The gods may have backed me tonight in the short-game, but long distance I was sure they wouldn’t have touched me. The game was a fix and there was no chance – there was just absolutely no goddamn chance.

      After a while we carried on strolling around through the lanes and streets. We petted a stray cat and followed it down an alleyway; we kissed again against a beaten old wall; we kissed once more around the back of the town church. Eventually we moved into a small, secluded square where I twirled her around and watched her flowery dress dance in the midnight breeze. The moment was damn near perfect, but it was sad – it was so sad for some reason I couldn’t quite say.

     “You know, I have to work this weekend, but I will be free on Monday. If you’d like to hang around town then maybe we could spend some more time together? We could take a boat to one of the islands. I’d like to see you again.” She smiled and stared into my eyes. I smiled back, stalling, my mind exploding with a million and one thoughts.

     “Yeah, I’d like that” I said finally.

     “Good… I like you. Even if you are a little younger, and a backpacker.” She gave that same wry smile that just about knocked me out on the floor. I looked at her then looked up toward the night sky, wondering why the gods liked to inflict such bittersweet pain upon us all. Was there a purpose to our pain? To our impossibility?

      Eventually she checked the time and saw that she had to go back to the bar and meet her friend. They were going to the gig of a friend and she asked me if I’d like to join, but it didn’t feel right so I said no. She gave me her contact details and we’d said we’d talk again, and that she hoped that I would wait around town to spend some time with her, and then I gave some phony agreement and immediately hated my own guts. I said that we’d meet again, knowing that I already had a bus booked out of town in two days time. It was an empty promise I’d made with many women out there across the world. I’d said it to women in South America. I’d said it to women in Asia. I’d said it to women in Australia and New Zealand. But the reality was always the same: I never saw any of them again. They drifted out of sight forever like ghosts into the mists of mind and memory. They went on to forget me and sit entwined together on sofas somewhere with other men in suburban neighbourhoods of stability and sanity.

       Before going I gave her one last kiss, said goodbye and watch her skip away like some deer into the night. She rounded a corner and just like that she was gone forever. Drenched in the silent solitude of foreign lands, I stood alone in the night once more. I would have thought that I’d have gotten used to this scenario by now, but for some reason this night the thought of what just happened consumed me. As I walked back to my hostel under those flickering street-lights, a sad feeling filled my flesh and bones. There was just something different about this time – about this woman. It was in her eyes. Deep down in those hazel eyes I could really see the alternative life so many other men my age would go on to live. I could see myself being a settled soul with a steady job, coming home to a loving wife and kids. I could see myself going on summer vacations and walking in the park together. I could imagine the polka dot dresses she would wear to our anniversary meals. I could imagine the way she would smile at me on a sunday morning. Such thoughts weighed heavy on my mind and I gradually got lost in all of them – entertaining them, playing with them, toying with them – but I knew deep inside of me that it was a reality out of reach.

        On sunday I was heading further down the coast, leaving her behind like all the others. I already had my ticket and hostel booked and I wasn’t going to change my plan. After all, what would actually happen? ? It was nothing more than a slip of character and in a moment of clarity, I allowed myself to retreat back to the acceptance of who I really was. I knew deep down in my bones I didn’t belong with  woman like that. I was still just a piece of trash caught in the wind whose fate was to keep getting lost in those foreign countries, lost in those strange towns – lost in the eyes of those beautiful strangers. The world she resided in was never meant for me. Instead I belonged to the wind, hurtling over the horizon, swept by gusts of curiosity that left me staring out of bus windows in foreign lands knowing that I was doomed and destined to never to step off and belong to one place or person or particular community. It was a chaotic life, and it was my life. My own personal disaster.

   It was two days later when I boarded my bus and watched the town drift out of sight. I pressed my head against that familiar bus window and stared out at the passing countryside. As I watched the towns and farms go past, I reflected on the night with the girl and thought about what it would have been like to see her again. Many thoughts went through my head but as I sat there and stared out the window a bit longer, I gradually felt my mind begin to shift back to its familiar state of being excited for what was over the next horizon. Maybe I was a bad guy or even just mentally disturbed, but whatever it was I knew that this was a sickness that couldn’t be cured by any drug, job or pretty woman with hazel eyes. It was right there and then that I realised with a sense of horror that I may never find the cure to whatever madness it was that consumed me. If a beautiful woman like that couldn’t get me to change my plan then I just had to accept I was doomed. If a beautiful woman like that couldn’t get me to change my plan then I just had to sit back and accept that no matter where I went in this world, or how many years passed me by, I would always just be that young boy out there exploring the world, wide-eyed and curious, moving from town to town, drinking in smoky bars, falling in love with strangers, wandering through old cobbled lanes, staring out of bus windows – eternally and hopelessly lost in the dream of what it is to exist.

 

short stories

~ The Voice Of Insanity ~

~ The Voice of Insanity ~

“Back again from the road, looking out at that grey, grey world. That concrete world. That mechanical world. At another crossroad of life, once again it seemed like I had all but two choices: to join the herd, surrender myself to the system and let the normality of everyday life slowly suffocate my soul, or to just let go further and go more and more insane. It was true that by now I was sure I was in some strange minority of the human race. Sure, I had done all the personality tests and tried to psychologically analyse myself, but it really wasn’t necessary. The fact that I was allergic to every cultural task, to every bit of small-talk – to every social expectation and tradition that surrounded me – meant there was absolutely no chance for me to ever fit into my surrounding society. The searing pain I felt at even the smallest task of convention told me that trying to be a part of that world would probably leave me as a future suicide case. I didn’t want that to happen, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. A haunting voice whispered inside my ear and told me to keep on going on my path – to keep on wandering towards some sort of personal salvation and nirvana out there in the wild. Perhaps it was the sinister voice of madness trying to lure me over to the other side of sanity, but at times it seemed that voice was the best friend I had – the only one to reliably guide me through the dark swamps and forests I so often found myself in.

It was funny when I thought more about it – those voices you followed; those voices that guided you; those paths you walked. When I also looked at my idols – the writers, philosophers, adventurers and artists – and thought about their story, it seemed like they too had followed that same voice through the wilderness. Perhaps that’s why those souls had appealed to me from such a young age. In many ways they were just like me. In a species that requires individuals to conform and lose their adventurous spirit and creativity in order to uphold the mechanical system of society, the ones who are possessed by the need to express themselves and perpetually explore their inner and outer worlds were destined to lose their minds among the static masses. When walking those concrete streets and facing out at the grey absurdity of it all, I understood why they chose instead to go insane. It made sense why they chose to sit in dark rooms and write until their fingers bled, to try every drug and meditation under the sun, to climb the mountains, to live in camper-vans, to play the blues – to create great works of art and then blow their brains out with a shotgun. This is what had to be done; for some this was the only way to save oneself from the pain of a scripted life, to escape the automatic life on the cultural conveyor-belt – to fiercely protect the wild soul inside of them from being captured and killed by the mundane requirements of everyday civilian life.

Yeah, maybe they were madmen, or masochists, or simply deluded – and maybe I was too – but for me they were the only people I truly understood in the core of my heart. No matter how many years passed me by, I still couldn’t stomach or accept the life society expected me to live. And coming back again from the road once more, it was clear that I probably never would. My basic realisation each morning was always the same: I was a conscious, living organism riding a spinning rock through a universe full of exploding stars, black holes, and infinite horizons. The possibilities to life should have been endless, but mostly you we were subjected to a life of routine and monotony and trivia. Why was it like this? Was it all some kind of cruel prank? Maybe I had I got off at the wrong stop, or the gods had made a mix-up in the planetary warehouse when sending me here?

Whatever the case, it was clear that the only thing for me to now do was to keep on following that voice through the misty wilderness. For me this is what had to be done; for me this was the answer. I was to continue on my path. I was to abandon myself to art and adventure. I was to keep on following that voice through the wild. And yes, maybe it would lead to me madness, but I simply no longer cared. For some that place of madness is the last refuge of freedom from the machine. For some that place is the only realm in which the free spirit can survive. For some – in a world where sanity meant a life of slow suffocation – going insane is the gasp of fresh air that keeps them alive.”

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(taken from my book ‘The Thoughts From The Wild’ available here)

short stories

~ Alone With Everybody ~

~ Alone With Everybody ~

Back alone in my chamber of solitude once again: the small bedroom in my apartment with only a bed, a backpack, a set of drawers and a looming sense of existential dread that now filled every crack, crevice and dark, cobwebbed corner.

    I sat in silence on my bed and looked around at my surrounding lair. On the walls sat some photos of my travels out in the world – good times with people who were now out of sight, some of them no doubt also sitting alone in a small apartment room in somewhere on planet earth. I also had my laptop beside me from where I been pouring the contents of my mind onto a blank page never to be read by anyone except a few random strangers on the internet. It was an act of release and many words had been typed the last few days. Whenever I felt most starved for human interaction, I often found my fingertips scratching and clawing at keyboard keys in a desperate attempt to reach another out there in the wilderness. I sent my words out into hyperspace like a flare of my own madness, hoping to attract another one of my kind roaming somewhere in the far reaches of human civilisation. Sometimes people responded, but still I was left stranded in front of a keyboard, staring into a screen with nothing to do except to keep on typing more words onto that all-too familiar blank page.

   In a moment of realisation, it struck me how alone I was. My head spun around and I felt like I was stranded faraway on another planet in another galaxy; I felt like I was stuck in some kind of void of nothingness where no person, animal or god could reach me. It was true that normally I sought solitude for a decent amount of time in my everyday life – my introverted mind demanded it – but like most things there was a limit to it all: a boundary where a real danger of genuine insanity lingered on the other side. Us humans were inherently social creatures who needed some kind of occasional interaction to stay sane, however despite a few electronic messages across that virtual wilderness of the internet, it had been almost a week without any significant form of human contact. Consequently I could feel the walls around me closing in; I could my own aching isolation eating me alive from within. Before I was consumed totally, I crawled out of my lair and ventured up to the roof of the apartment block to get some fresh air – that was usually one thing which I could rely on to help clear my mind when the storm inside got too fierce.

    I climbed up the stairs and reached the rooftop. I opened the door and ventured over to the edge where I stood and stared out at the surrounding city landscape. There it all was sprawled out before me: the concrete jungle in all its chaos and madness and urban sadness. From the edge of that roof I looked out at the mazy streets; I looked out at the houses with their windows all illuminated like Christmas tree lights; I looked out at the parks and the bars and the restaurants where so many couples would be dining together in love and companionship. I thought being out the room would do me good, but the sight of civilisation only made me feel worse. It just didn’t seem to make any sense. How could loneliness exist when thousands of people surrounded you? How could we be so close but so far away at the same time? And how did it all end up like this? What had gone wrong in our species for us to develop technologically but not as beings capable of true connection and community for all?

   Alone as I was, I looked out at that city and knew that there were others far worse off than I. Often in my life I spent large amounts of time travelling in foreign lands with fellow wanderers, but I knew how many souls out there were constantly dwelling in lives of inescapable loneliness and isolation year after year. The homeless people. The old people. The disabled. The alcoholics and drug addicts. The depressed and the anxious. Even on the apartment block below my feet, I wondered how many people were sat alone scrolling on their phones, desperately aching in their flesh and bones for just some basic form of human interaction. What made it worse that so many other souls close to them but separately by some shoddy walls. It was a strange situation. The thought of it made my mind wonder with possibility. Maybe there was someone like me sleeping just a few metres away in a vertical or horizontal direction? Maybe the girl of my dreams was just a few rooms away? Maybe there was a chance? A chance to connect with someone or something?

    The more I thought about it, the more absurd it all seemed – the scenario of being so united yet so separated simultaneously – of being together under one roof but segregated alone in private rooms of darkness and isolation. It seemed that our society at its core was constantly stuck in that apartment block where everyone was so close and so far away at the same time. It was just innate of our species in the modern world of hectic cities and so-called civilisation. Everyday we were separated into offices, into cubicles, into traffic lanes, supermarket queues and apartment blocks. And not just physically; the strongest and most rigid barriers of separation were usually lined up within people’s skulls. If it wasn’t religion, race or social class, then it was that people put barriers up because they were simply sick of or scared of each another – of what people would say and do and the sudden sight of their unfiltered souls was revealed to the crowd. Mostly that fear was justified; people often didn’t react well to seeing the gritty contents of someone’s genuine self. In a society where superficiality and conformity called the shots, such an uncombed sight often caused people to be rejected, hated and sometimes even murdered depending on the culture. Because of this we kept the mask on in the crowd and let our true thoughts linger in the dark apartment rooms inside our skulls where our deepest secrets and desires lay gathering cobwebs and dust in dark, forgotten corners.

    I thought back to when I myself had shared the contents of my heart with the crowd. The times I had opened up myself up to others I had been rejected and cast out from the group; I had been looked at like an utter madman and a lunatic. There were a few who delighted in what they saw, but mostly people were concerned, disinterested or even resentful towards me. Over time I came to the conclusion that generally people didn’t want the raw and rugged face of someone’s true self. Such an image was an unwelcome sight and instead so many wanted lives dressed up in pretty fonts and filters; they wanted people pretending on social media that their lives were wonderful and great; they wanted people insincerely asking people how they were before giving the generic ‘yeah okay you?’ response. At the very core of it, it just seemed the majority of people had no time for anything that wasn’t clean and polished. It was just more convenient for us all I guess. I would have liked to think that I was as open as possible to another soul, but I also knew there were times where I too had distanced myself from someone trying to connect with me at a deeper level. Like most people in these cities, I was overcome with a fear that left us afraid and unwilling to let someone slip under the walls we put up inside our own minds.

    Such a nature lead to the loneliness that afflicted so many dwelling in towns and cities and apartment blocks far and wide across the world. Right now throughout the urban landscape that lay before me I knew that people sat alone in rooms watching the clock tick slowly towards their death; I knew some already had died alone and were waiting to be found in an old house no one ever visited. Elsewhere some of those in the peak of their youth scrolled through internet forums and blogs hoping that there were others like them somewhere out there in the chaotic mess of society. Throughout our modern civilisation were so many lost souls dwelling alone, starving, dying, decaying in modern isolated lives of sedentary comfort but spiritual pain. They were the lives where people had followers but no friends; the lives where people’s greatest moment of connection was being served by the cashier at the supermarket; the lives where people screamed out through bloodshot eyes and internet blogs because their physical voices had been silenced out of fear of judgement from the crowd.

   Looking out at the convoluted mess of houses, streets and apartment blocks, the thought hit me that perhaps we had just simple gone too far? Humans who once lived in close-knit tribes on the plains of the wild were now living in gigantic, industrial cities where underground tubes transported us robotically around like electrons around a circuit-board. One could sit in a tube of fifty silent people and watch everyone look away from each other’s eyes and down to phones, floors and newspapers. It was a strange situation: the more the population continued to grow, the more separated we seemed to all become as individuals. Often the moments when the loneliness hit you greatest was when you were sat on those packed tubes, or stood in the crowds that momentarily formed at the traffic lights, or waiting in a long queue at the supermarket. There you’d stand and look around at that sea of faces, scanning and searching the eyes for another of your kind, yet you would always end up sailing on alone back to your dark apartment room. I guess I speak for myself mainly here of course, but I am sure for many other souls dwelling somewhere out there within the concrete wilderness too.

     Thinking back to my travels, it struck me that the greatest moments of connection I had with another human were usually with complete and total strangers out hiking a mountain trail in foreign lands. Whenever you were out on that trail, all the barriers and shoddy walls of society disappeared. Being in nature without the crowd surrounding and suffocating you allowed our true nature to shine as individuals. Amongst the hills and lack of civilisation was a haven for the soul – a paradise of mental freedom where the social masks could be tossed away into a ditch and we could finally just be ourselves in all our gritty messiness and madness.

      I recalled hiking in the French Alps with a young Israeli guy in the summer of the previous year. I was walking towards a mountain pass when I came across him sat on a rock in the shade eating some nuts. After asking if I wanted some, we began walking together toward the pass. While walking it quickly became apparent we were of different cultures, of a different theological belief, and of a different age – yet none of those things mattered on the trail. Instead of distancing ourselves, we spoke from the heart about what lead us to travel; we shared our hopes and aspirations for life; we cooked and shared food with each other in the shadow of the mountain. As we continued walking we met other hikers including an American girl and an old English nomad who lived in his campervan. Again, despite all our obvious differences in backgrounds and demographic, there was nothing but community and connection between us all. We sat around our campsite at sundown eating dinner, drinking wine and discussing life, adventure and philosophy. We looked into each other’s eyes and spoke freely from the heart with no shoddy walls to separate us. It felt good; it felt strangely like how it should have been.

    But those times on the trail were a long way away I realised as I stood alone on that rooftop edge in the middle of the concrete jungle, hearing a distant siren wail out into the night – the sound of another ambulance on its way to retrieve another life which had ended. The mountains of freedom were out of sight and I was back on the stage of society where masks had to be worn, scripts had to be recited and anyone who deviated from social convention or normality was seen as an outcast or a hippy or simply crazy. Thinking about the absurdity of it, I looked up to the skies above, staring out into the few visible stars shining through the light pollution, dreaming of something ineffable – some kind of home that I could never seem to find for any more than a short period of time here on planet earth.

   Eventually I decided to retreat back down to my lair to pour all my thoughts onto that blank page yet again. Enough air had been breathed in for now. I crawled back down the stairs, entered my apartment and sat in solitude before a computer screen, sending out that flare of my mind’s madness via some some words typed on a grubby keyboard. A raised voice shouted out from the room beside me and I knew I was back where I belonged: in my small space, cornered by society, alone in the dark, my mind filled with madness as my fingers scratched and clawed at those keyboards once more.

    If this is to be my continual fate and someone does happen to find me one day in this apartment room as another old person who watched that clock tick slowly towards their death, know that I truly wanted to connect with you all like I did with those people on that trail. Here in this society there are just some shoddy walls in my skull and yours that I can’t knock down. Hopefully these words at least let you know that behind my social mask was somebody who wanted to unite, but was too consumed by a society and system that lead me pour these words onto this page. I am alone with you all, lost in a concrete jungle, afflicted by the human condition, floating through space on this rock towards an unknown abyss. If these words don’t help anyone else out there, at least they helped me momentarily escape this dark room. If these words don’t help anyone else out there, at least they let my heart sing out in all its truth – if only for a brief moment – the spirit bird fluttering free in the sky before returning to its rusty cage of isolation and separation and segregation.

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short stories

~ The Fighter ~

~ The Fighter ~

“I sat alone in my room with the grenades going off inside my head. Another day of stupidity and absurdity had been endured. Stupid people with stupid comments ran rampage in my mind. They rioted against the walls of my skull. Out there beyond those windows was a society that didn’t understand me – a society that didn’t want to understand me.

So often in my life this world had me up against the ropes. It cornered and attacked me. It beat me to a bloody pulp until I found myself back in the same old spot: sat alone in a dark room with my fingertips over a keyboard. It was true that that spot was my personal nirvana. When I faced into the eyes of the humans out there, I could never quite express or get my words out to them. My mouth was simply too small to vent everything I had going on inside my chaotic mind. I was like someone trying to drain an ocean through a bath plughole. And so, unable to respond, my voice was continually drowned out by everyone else around me. But when I was at the keyboard suddenly I had the ability to speak my mind – suddenly I had the ability to respond against the madness of it all. When my fingertips touched those keys, I felt strong enough to fight off entire armies and hordes of haters. Each word I typed was like a great punch back against the idiocy and stupidity of the world. The act of writing was an epic battle and eventually I realised this was what I would do until the death. This is who I am; this is what I do.

     I am a fighter and these fingertips fight for freedom. They fight for truth. They fight for the voice of the outsider which has been drowned out by an insane society. These fingertips fight for the stray dogs, for the misfits, the eccentrics, the wanderers – for the ones who don’t try and fit into a world that doesn’t fit into them. And long shall they continue to fight. Yes, as the concrete of this world pours down, as stupidity rules the airwaves, as the politicians plot – as the idiots bark and mindless crowds conform to mindless convention – these fingertips fight for the fact that no matter how much idiocy society produces, there will always be the truth of the outsider fighting its way out from the darkness – untamed and undefeated forever.”

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(taken from my book ‘The Thoughts From The Wild’ available here)

short stories

~ Toward The Keyboard ~

(taken from my upcoming book: ‘Scraps of Madness’)

~ Toward the Keyboard ~

It was true. Oh god, oh god: it was true.

    The opening years of adulthood had passed and my conclusion had been drawn: I was an alien – an outsider – an outcast. I had tried to a reasonable degree to slot myself into the paradigm of human society, but I gradually realised that there was just no place for me amongst those stern-eyed creatures of culture and convention. Each attempt to fit myself in had lead to the usual bout of alien anxiety and staring up existentially into skies above. I stood still on those concrete sidewalks of life with my hands in my pockets knowing that I just simply wasn’t compatible with any of it: the jobs, the paperwork, the contracts, the football teams, the small-talk, mortgages, Ikea – Ant and Dec. Even everyday simple things like supermarket shopping somehow made me sad. Those cold aisles had a still sadness which made my heart ache for something which couldn’t be made in any factory, or purchased in any store, or stored in any house.     

     People with good intentions encouraged me to mix myself in but I was hopelessly allergic to it all. A life of comfort and security was okay for a few months at the most, but after that my restless eyes lifted once again to that horizon of adventure and anarchy and chaos. That possibly explained why I had spent at least three of the last five years on some sort of travelling expedition out somewhere in the world. Expedition makes it sound like I was climbing Mount Everest, although I did trek to the base camp twice, but too often I was bumming around, getting drunk in hostels and attempting to seem like a normal, functioning member of the human race so I could hook up with some young German girl who was about to become a lawyer and begin the middle-class existence in the suburbs.

     People back home said that there was something wrong with me – that I was immature – that I was out of my mind – that I was running away from life and or something like that. Maybe they were right, but in my head I wasn’t running away from life, but rather running toward it with wide arms, a heavy heart and a weathered backpack full of dirty clothes and a couple of books on esoteric philosophy to boot. It was just a different perspective and all that, you know? I guess truthfully I just saw no thrill in a life of bill-paying routine, in a steady career, in promotions, parking spaces, weddings, television sitcoms, shiny cars or that all-inclusive holiday once a year to somewhere in Spain. Was that really what human existence was all about? Was that my destiny as a sentient organism in an infinite universe? Was that to be my fate whilst briefly incarnate in this transient cage of slowly decaying flesh and bone?

      It was an interesting situation to say the least. I truly and genuinely wanted to understand their way of life so I did the usual things. I watched TED talks; I listened to Jordan Peterson lectures; I spoke to career councillors, to parents and work colleagues. I argued with strangers on the internet in YouTube comment sections. I tried and tried and tried, but in the end I just didn’t understand how the majority could do it so easily. What they called ‘growing up’ and ‘the real world’ to me seemed like a weird sort of bubble of unnatural behaviour. After all, what was natural about sitting in an office in artificial light all day, only to drive home in a gas-guzzling car and eat processed foods while watching a blinking box until you went to sleep? That wasn’t what the real world was. To me the real world was out there among the trees and fields – the wolves; the monkeys; the sunset beaches and mountain wildernesses. That’s where the life and adventure was at. Even better was what was out there in the cosmos with the shooting stars and black holes. It felt so cruel to be able to see that endless universe on a clear night above me. I wanted to go out and explore it all, but I had been subjected by gravity and government to instead exist in a world of monotony and mediocrity. Instead of sailing through the cosmos, we’d stutter through traffic jams; instead of exploring other solar systems, we’d explore supermarket aisles. Why was it like this? Which cruel god had created this circus? This pantomime? 

    Okay, so I guess I was a little bit jealous and bitter of the others being content with what they had – at actually managing to make the journey from the maternity ward to the crematorium in some sort of steady and orderly fashion. I envied their contentment about neatly fitting into system without any friction. They peacefully rode the cultural conveyor-belt through the education system, the jobs, the mortgages, the family life, the Christmas holidays and retirement before arriving safely into a wooden box to be duly buried six feet under the ground. It was a simple and smooth procedure. But me? I was a chaotic mess waiting to move perpetually on to the next adventure. I just couldn’t stay still on that conveyor-belt; I had an itch that couldn’t be scratched – a madness that couldn’t be cured. I was just so excited to even exist at all that the 9-5 routine seemed impossible to do for more than a year at the very most. I needed frequent adventure but travelling all the time was tiring and most notably: expensive. It was true that I needed to find something else to help me kill the time in between the maternity ward and the crematorium like the others had done. There must have been something that fulfilled me other than travelling? Something that I could do while I was living in one place? Something? Anything?

    There was: writing. Switching on some ambient music at a computer and letting myself lose my mind at a keyboard was a very fulfilling thing indeed. It reminded me of being a young kid again, picking and piecing those Lego bricks together, building structures, creating things and images – only with words and ideas instead of bricks. It was an act of joyous play which never ever felt like a chore or job. Even the essays in school were somewhat enjoyable as long as there was some sort of agency and creativity involved. In a society of rigid and concrete systems, the act of writing allowed me to create an alternative reality where I was the archetype of whatever world I wanted to create and momentarily migrate to. Quite simply it took me to a different place. A separate place. A better place.

    Yes it was clear to me that being a writer would have been something to solve my problem. So naturally I looked at the realistic and sensible options available and decided to start studying journalism at university. I guess I thought that the role of a journalist would provide a way to make money while joyfully strumming away manically on those keyboard keys. However, about midway through that three year course, I realised that sitting in an office and typing up a news story I had no interest in didn’t really interest me either. What I wanted to do was to WRITE – creatively and expressively that is. In a world where you were slowly suffocated by sanity and sensibility, writing was my personal opportunity to go insane – to explore the spaces down the rabbit hole and create my own wonderland of words and bizarre and unexplored ideas. 

      So after finishing my journalism course with gritted teeth and a damaged liver, I went on to study creative writing at masters level. The thought of the situation made my heart pump with excitement. This was my chance to explore my passion with like-minded creatures. Finally, my tribe: my place with people who wanted to create with words, who wanted to explore their imagination – who were also driven to write out of the total incompatibility with absolutely everything else in society. 

     I was certain I had found my place of belonging but soon after starting I realised I was out of luck once again. I sat in a room of middle-aged marketing executives having a mid-life crisis, trying to write the next War and Peace or Wuthering Heights. One guy read out some story and I watch as about five different people from different demographics weigh in with their conflicting opinions, to which he then butchered the essence of his piece apart to make it sit in the middle of the road and please everyone. For some reason it made me sad and I decided there and then to quit. Maybe I wasn’t a writer, but these people weren’t definitely weren’t, so off I went again – quitting the course, flying one way to Mexico, travelling around, staring out into sunset skies – getting drunk and hitting on German girls who were about to qualify as lawyers and begin the middle-class existence in the suburbs. The usual.

     The more I traveled the world, the more I started to appreciate the wilderness of planet earth. The party and the girls and the foreign cultures: those sorts of things were definitely fun while travelling, but the best parts were always getting out the cities and hostels. It was those little camping trips or hikes into the wild. The mountains, the forests, the fields and volcanoes – the sunset beaches and rugged plains devoid of any substantial human civilisation. From the volcanoes of Central America to the untouched, empty wilderness of Iceland, to the isolated Buddhist temples of the Himalayas – it was all a great magical wonderland to me. Like writing, it was a beautiful escape from the concrete world of clocks and calendars and citizens and contracts – a place where the soul and spirit could rest peacefully without being disturbed by a traffic jam or deadline or some boss belittling you over something trivial.

     Recalling being a little kid, I remembered that I always found a great joy in the time I spent in nature. Even if it was just a field or something: there was a sense of life and adventure in a simple field which had more life than any buzzing city could ever hope to achieve. The average field mouse had more adventure in one day than many humans had in an entire year. And it’s not just that the animals’ lives were more thrilling, it often seemed like they were smarter than us too. Take the birds for example: instead of bulldozing entire rainforests down so that they could use the materials for cosmetics and tabloid newspapers, they instead picked up and recycled fallen branches and used them to build homes integrated with the world around them. The animals understood that they were interconnected with nature and that rather than trying to rape and destroy it, it was better to work with it. Dogs too. They didn’t chase the stick because they saw an advert on the television for it – or because they thought they would get some sort of promotion. They just did it for kicks. They knew existence was playful not political, and they knew not to stress and strain and waste away their lives working for trivial things or the opinions of other dogs. And cats, well, they knew what life was about to the absolute core. Just look at them sitting there doing nothing. Total zen masters. Godlike geniuses and gurus – every goddamn last one of them.

    Yeah, so I guess maybe I was a bit jealous and bitter again when it came to the animals. I felt sad that I was spawned on this planet as a human-being and not a mouse or something. Since childhood I had often felt that I was born into the wrong species. I stared out into the eyes of the humans thinking that perhaps there had been a mix up back at the soul distribution warehouse. Perhaps my soul had been wrongly delivered to the human department instead of the cats or the dogs or the birds? Probably that was it: some incompetent god not doing his job properly in the depot centre. For a while I tried to be like a cat – a total zen master, meditating and sleeping and eating and staring into space with no excitement – just total acceptance of the here and now. But after a while I realised I was still actually human and needed things like money and companionship and hobbies and purpose. As usual I was out of luck: I was a human-being and nothing was gonna change that. Sex changes had just about hit the market, but species changes must have been a few centuries away at the least.

    And so with a heavy heart and a broken bank account, I retreated back into human society. I flew home, got a day job in a bar and tried to get back into writing. By now I had realised it was the one and only thing I enjoyed at home, so naturally I had to pursue it ferociously and uncompromisingly in an attempt to stay sane. I had been writing for a while, but I had never really had anything read by anyone else. I wanted to find my audience and so I started considering the possibilities. It was the 21st century I had realised, so maybe online was the way to go? Okay. Online I went into the virtual wilderness – to the lands of trolls, porn, junk mail and depressed people trying to make it look like they lived lives of  happiness to strangers on the internet.

      Firstly I went onto Instagram to check out the hotshot authors: the ones with thousands of likes on every post – the ones who somehow managed to actually make some money off pounding some keys on a keyboard. As I read, I realised that there was some sort of trickery taking place. Everyone on Instagram seemed to post bland comments about life or love and then dress them up in pretty fonts and filters in an attempt to make their words look more meaningful. Even worse was the way people had to like and spam comments on each other’s posts in an attempt to get more followers and views on their own pages. It was a strange situation; it was like watching those suited marketing executives in the city network with each other in swanky bars after work. Confused as ever, I decided to carry on my way.

    Stumbling further through the virtual wilderness of the internet, I came across Facebook. At least on Facebook you could post lengthy pieces of texts, I thought. I logged in and started a blog called ‘The Thoughts From The Wild’ where I posted images of people walking in nature with some sort of internal dialogue about travel or life or society or something. It was a simple concept and it worked! My blog took off within a few weeks and people, real people (hopefully), somewhere out there in the wilderness of planet earth were reading and interacting with my writings for the first time ever. I felt like Shakespeare or Hemingway back from the dead, armed with a grubby laptop, hopelessly and poetically alone with everybody on the internet. The pen had moved on and here I was: hiding my face behind a pseudonym online while being read and digested by a few hundred people sporadically scattered somewhere around planet earth. 

    As I carried on sharing my words and thoughts, a quiet flame of joy began to flicker in my heart. I wasn’t even adventuring and I was still finding some fulfilment by just bleeding my brain dry at a keyboard and sharing the bloody mess that was the inside of my mind. What a joy it was just to have your stuff read by others somewhere out there! One woman even messaged me saying she had quit a job and was about to drive around Australia because of something I had written. Another young painter told me something similar – that I had given her the courage to pursue her ambition to become an artist.

     Yes, oh yes! I sat back delusional at that keyboard like a man of importance – like a man of purpose. I was content knowing that I was helping to spread some colour and madness into this grey world. I looked out at the window with a sort of smug grin. Soon those streets outside would have mad men and women crawling down the sidewalks, eyes full of fire and saliva dripping from their mouth as they quit their desk jobs and chased their passions with a demonic sort of possession. The revolution was coming over the horizon, I knew it. I just needed to keep writing away and helping the side of the crazy and disturbed. 

    Of course I still needed money while I was toiling away in this endeavour, so naturally I toiled in the monotonous jobs in the meanwhile. Jobs like bartending, factory work and customer service came and went in short bursts. They were always the easiest to get for an inexperienced and introverted creature like myself. Some were bad; some were awful, but they all helped pay the bills I guess – and I could even find inspiration for things to write about while daydreaming the hours away as I stared wistfully into time and space of the universe around me. 

     This state of existence went on for a while. It would be a day of menial work followed by an evening of losing my mind at the keyboard. Somewhere in there I would find time to eat a basic no thrills meals, and maybe even treat myself to a bottle of red wine. Occasionally I would go out and walk the streets while listening to some zen philosopher’s podcast through headphones. With the sound of existential philosophy in my ears, I looked out and observed the humans like I was on some strange kind of safari. I wandered aimlessly through the city neighbourhoods and watched the way they all walked and talked while taking mental notes for my writings. Situations like standing in the crowd that momentarily formed at the traffic lights, or waiting in the supermarket queue, would turn out to be schools of ethnographic observation. Maybe it was a little strange I guess, but such an undertaking added to whatever it was I was striving for in a way I couldn’t totally explain to myself let alone others. There was some burning desire inside me that told me I needed to observe, to learn and understand the absurdity of the human condition. To what end? That wasn’t clear, but I just I needed to know what made them tick.

      After doing this for a while, I realised I had substantially segregated and closed myself off from the rest of my species. As the months drifted by, I realised I was living dangerously in a world of isolation and bad diet habits. I was somewhat used to keeping myself away from the masses out there on the streets. I liked it that way mostly – the situation of being content with your own company – but my hermit-levels had slowly reached castaway proportions. Everyday I went to work and avoided any significant interaction with my co-workers before going home to sit in darkness and empty my brain at that keyboard to random strangers on the internet. It was an extreme situation and carrying on at this rate would almost certainly pave the road toward the madhouse. ‘Venture down the rabbit-hole just enough to find the magic; hold on to normality just enough to avoid the madhouse’ – something I remembered I had scribbled once into my diary. With this in mind, I decided that I would go out and have a drink with a friend.

     By now my circle of friends and acquaintances had shrunk considerably, but luckily I had came across a few other outcasts and outsiders out on the road during my travels. I remembered one who also lived in my city and got speaking to her online. Her name was Emily –  an anxious girl who also lived in Brighton who didn’t have any idea how to fit herself into this world either. I recalled her telling me how she also listened to ambient music to escape normal life. She seemed the ideal person to befriend. We spoke for a while online and then arranged to meet up for a drink down the pub.

      “So your life sounds interesting” she said, sipping a glass of wine across the table. “I do worry about you though.”

      “Why?” I asked.

      “Humans weren’t meant to exist in solitude all the time. Too much time alone sends you crazy. That’s what happened to my ex”.

      “Don’t worry about me” I said. “I’ve got it all figured out. I am just gonna write my books and start the revolution this world needs.” She looked at me like the madman I was.

     “I’m glad you are enjoying writing now and not feeling like you have to run off to a foreign country every month. But what are you planning to do for work in the long term? Do you have any plans for the future? A career? It’s so hard to make money from writing these days. Everybody with a laptop and internet connection wants to be a writer you know.”

     “I don’t know” I said “I just want to write and maybe have a few more adventures here and there. I guess I’ll work whatever job I have to along the way. I’m not sure. I stopped planning too much.”

     “Come on. You know I love that about you – your adventurous attitude – but realistically you can’t just continue living like this forever. You need to spend some more time with people and learn to live with others. That’s what I did. Sure, I have to bite my tongue from time to time, but it beats being lonely and isolated and depressed. That’s what being alone all the time did to me.”

     “I’m sorry Emily but I like it this way. Maybe you do, but I just don’t understand this species. I am just here to observe and write about these creatures of conformity and convention before I return back to whatever place it was that I came from.” She rolled her eyes.

     “Oh please just stop. I hate when you speak like this. You say all these things but I know you don’t mean them. I saw you were happy with those people when we were travelling. You do like people and you are human – just accept it! You have to face up to it and learn how to be happy in this society. You can’t just hide away on your own forever.”

      “I can try.”

     “No! No you can’t! You need a way to make money, some security, a way to stay sane – a place to call home! You need friends and you need family. We are all social creatures and you’ll go insane if you just keep secluding yourself in that apartment of yours. I know you are working hard on your writing but why don’t you go out and see some of your friends some time? The ones from school you told me about?”

      I sat back in thoughtful silence, pondering her words. Some of the things she had said did ring true. I couldn’t deny she was right in many regards. Human-beings are social creatures and often the suicides and the mental asylum patients were the people who had been subjected to years of isolation. It was true that I felt pretty good in my own company, but maybe she was right with there being a limit to it all? Maybe I did just need to spend some more time with the humans – try and see things from their perspective? Enjoy the camaraderie and gregarious nature of my fellow man?

    In the end I decided her fiery and feisty words were right. I had gone too far; been too audacious in my behaviour. I had wandered too long over the fences of normality and it was time to return to the farm of social sanity to braze and touch shoulders with some more of the others.

    The next week I decided to go to a birthday celebration night out of one of my friends from school. It had been an arranged date on the social calendar for a while. A large group of people were going and naturally I had planned to avoid it at all costs. A lot of people consequently meant a lot of small talk – a lot of small-talk meant a lot of explanation about what you were actually doing with your life. Such a situation was never appealing but, with gritted teeth and a determination to cling on the ledge of sanity a little while longer, I booked my bus ticket to London and went and met everyone in a pub somewhere deep within the concrete jungle.         

     I arrived late into the bar where all my friends were sat around a table already on their second and third pints. The jolly laughs and banter was flowing in full steam already. That camaraderie of my fellow man was blossoming right in front of me. I breathed in, composed myself and headed over to join in the circus. As I approached, they looked up at me with their big eyes and smiles. “Here he is” one of them said enthusiastically. “The stranger! He’s still alive then.”

    I forced a polite smile and sat down among them. I got comfy and began getting through the formalities – reciting the socially-approved script of small-talk and making sure everyone felt I was happy to be there and see them all. After a few shaky minutes, I went up to the bar and ordered myself a beer, along with a sneaky double whiskey coke to steady my nerves. I returned to the table and carried on mixing in with the crowd. The conversation flowed away and soon came the inevitable questions I so feared – the questions the normal people used to categorise everyone and everything – the questions that determined whether or not you were an accepted member of human society.

     “So what are you doing now mate?” one of them said. “We haven’t heard from you in a while. Last I heard you started a masters in creative writing. You still doing that?” I sipped my beer slowly, mentally sifting through preparing my answer in the messy office inside of my skull.

   “Nah I quit that after three weeks and flew one-way to Mexico” I said. “I didn’t like the course so I decided to save my money and do something I actually enjoyed.” He looked at me with curious eyes.

    “Fair enough… I guess it’s better to do that than to pay thousands of pounds on something you don’t enjoy. How was Mexico?”

    “Great” I said. “It’s a great country to travel.”

    “That’s cool. I’d like to go there sometime.”

    “Yeah you should.”

     An awkward silence briefly lingered; I still hadn’t answered the original question.

    “And so what is it that you’re up to now?” Boom. The justification of my madness had begun. I sipped my beer slowly again before beginning to explain away. I wasn’t even sure how to answer that question by this point. Often I felt that I was simply too insane to justify myself anymore. My life was like being stuck in a car on fire speeding toward a cliff that dropped into the abyss of the unknown. It was seriously difficult to justify to myself, let alone others, but I began bumbling away anyway, talking about my job, about my blog – about adventure and some vague writing goals for the future. I of course knew that vague goals for the future were a key thing when justifying what you were doing with your life; if you didn’t have some sort of plan and long term targets, then the looks of concern were thrown your way in the bucket load. 

    Fortunately, this round of small-talk went better than expected. I explained away my job and writing, and, as I got more comfortable, I began opening up and speaking a bit more from the heart. I began talking about the things that actually interested me – about the universe and art and consciousness and esoteric philosophy. But I soon felt them dissecting me with their eyes. I was pushing the limit of social acceptability and naturally the conversation began to stall. I could see the sparks flying in their eyes; the buffering taking place in their heads. I realised I had gone to far and panicked. They were onto me. It wouldn’t be long until they figured out that I wasn’t one of them. That I was an intruder of the human race.

      Naturally I responded to this problem by drinking faster. Over the last years I had discovered that alcohol could act as a temporary bubble of warmth in which to nestle oneself in whenever the humans and their society were swarming too loud around you. This blur of drinking went on until the world faded away and I entered into the black void of nothingness I knew too well. The next morning I awoke in a friend’s living room before dragging myself back home on a two hour bus with a hangover great enough to make the devil weep. I was still alive though, and looking forward to returning to my lair of solitude where I belonged locked up alone with my own madness. 

     After that occasion, I realised that there simply was just no returning back to that world of social normality. I had jumped the fence and got lost in the woods with no chance of ever returning back. I was no longer one of the regular humans capable of being considered an upstanding, regular member of society. With this in mind, I sat in silent solitude and decided that the only thing left to do was to abandon myself recklessly to the one thing that set my soul on fire: writing. Writing, writing, writing. If human society was the army of zombies closing in on me, then writing was my way of fighting them all off – my way of blasting away the darkness and keeping that flame of joy flickering forever bright in my heart. I opened up my laptop and stared at that familiar blank page. I rode into war once more with words as weapons to fight my battles. My fingertips fought for freedom. For life. For sanity. For my own alien spirit.

     In the meanwhile life went on as it normally did. I worked those low-paying, menial jobs while staring into space and daydreaming about things to write down when I got home. As soon as I finished work each day, I marched through those concrete streets toward the keyboard to pour the thoughts from the day onto the page. It had all become some sort of private religion of madness. Writing was the only thing I truly understood – it was the only time I felt at home when my fingertips hovered over those grubby keyboard keys. As human society buzzed on outside my window, I sat alone in my room and wrote and wrote my way into oblivion. Other than that, I didn’t know where the hell I was going or what I was doing. I was at the point where I didn’t even care anymore. I was out of the farm of sanity, over the fences of normality, running with the wild horses barefoot and bewitched into those woods of madness. As planet earth continued spinning and rotating its way through an infinite universe, I just sat alone in my apartment hitting those keyboard keys, listening to ambient music, dreaming of exploring distant star systems, chained down to the earth by gravity and government, writing words and smiling to myself in the dark while sitting back and knowing that life was absurd.

Life was totally and beautifully: absurd.

 

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short stories

~ Undefined ~

~ Undefined ~

“It had been a day of chaotic adventure and now we were back in the hostel, drinking beers and wine around a table in the courtyard. The drinks and good times were flowing along as the air was filled with the sound of Latin music and hearty laughing. We spoke of the day’s exploits; we spoke of travelling and adventure; we spoke of Wim Hof and Zen Buddhism. Suddenly came the question I despised so much. “So what is it that you Do?” one girl asked another across the table. The other girl looked up at her. “You know for work and that back home? What do you do?”. I sat back in my chair and swallowed a sip of my beer. Immediately I felt the atmosphere change. The ‘do’ question was out there and I knew it was time to categorise ourselves – to justify ourselves as functioning members of human society.

The girl answered how she was a marketing executive back in Sydney. She explained a little about her role then sat back and smiled. Her box had been ticked off: she was an accepted member of the human race. The girl carried on asking the others on the table. One guy was an accountant, another was a nurse – another a public relations manager. Tick, tick, tick. As the question crept around a table, I breathed an internal sigh of frustration. I knew I was about to be judged. I didn’t have a box to place myself in or label to slap onto myself. I was twenty-four years old and had never held a job for more than a year. I had spent the last few years post education going from job to job; from adventurer to adventure. I was officially unlabelled – a wanderer or vagabond in their civilised eyes.

The question went around the table until finally the spotlight shone down on me. They asked me and I began explaining about my life. I explained how I had worked about twenty different jobs for short periods to fund my adventures – of how I took part in medical research trials to afford those plane tickets. They all stared at me strangely. “But what is it you DO?” the girl said again. “Or what is it you want to DO?”… Their steely eyes fixated on me as they internally dissected me with a calculating look. It was a look I had experienced many times back home, but one I thought I was safe from when out on the road amongst apparent free-spirits.

I took a deep breath and tried to explain how I didn’t want a career. I explained that my only aims and ambitions were to see the world, to climb the mountains, to try and create art through my writing. I tried to explain that I wanted to delve down into the depths of the human psyche and explore what it is to exist as conscious creature in the universe. But as I rambled on I realised it was of no use. The looks of dismissal shown my cover was blown; I wasn’t a functioning member of the human race like the rest of them. I didn’t have a box of economic employment to place myself in and for that I was the weird one. My label of seclusion had been slapped on me. I was an outcast – an outsider – an alien.

 “Oh well that’s cool” one person said half-heartedly after a few seconds of silence. I sat back and sipped my beer as the question awkwardly skipped onto the next person. The conversation carried on flowing; I tried to join back in but I felt that something had changed in the dynamic of the conversation. As everyone bickered away, I suddenly noticed that I was a bit segregated from the group. I couldn’t get a foothold in the conversation so I just sat there listening in, dwelling in my own ideological exclusion. Eventually I got a bit sad about it all and walked off to go drink my beer alone down by the beach – at least solitude was a reliable old friend who understood me.

As I sat there I reflected on what had just happened. The more I continued through life, the more it became clear what was required to be an accepted member of the human race. One had to fulfil some sort of title – to fit themselves into an easy-to-distinguish role. It seemed that the fate of a sentient human-being was to ‘grow up’ and become an ‘accountant’, a ‘teacher’, a ‘project manager’ – a ‘marketing executive’. Integrated into society, it was hard to avoid becoming defined in a box of some sort. Whenever people met each other for the first time, one of the first questions asked was always that merciless ‘what do you DO?’. It was a question that saddened me greatly. The context of it being the go-to question when you first met somebody implied that a human-being’s identity was primarily a job role. What made it worse was that when you answered the other person categorised and judged you on what sort of person you were, how much money you likely had, what sort of car you drove and even what politics you followed.

Unlike the other humans though, there wasn’t a singular job role out there that interested me. All I ever wanted to do was go on adventures and write here and there. People said: “oh you like writing: why don’t you be a journalist?”. I did follow my passion of writing into the profession of journalism, but my introduction to that world only left me disinterested and disenfranchised. I wanted to WRITE, not be sat behind a desk in an office typing up some press release or news story I had no interest in. That wasn’t what writing was in my eyes – that wasn’t really what living was in my eyes either.

As I sat there drinking my beer and staring out into the sunset sky, I decided that I just had to accept that I was an undefined being. I was a man without a label; a citizen without a box. I was a person who belonged to tribe or had no particular trade. As I rode down the highway of life, I was destined to continue being undefined – a wanderer with no role other than to rescue my own truth and bliss from the wilderness. I wasn’t compatible with society, so instead I roamed the earth, I stared up into the skies – I drank beers alone and waited for words of wisdom to pour down onto the page. In all the madness of human existence, I was a solitary gypsy spirit doomed to forever wander with that wild wind. That – it turns out – is what I did. That is what I do. And that – I guess as I sat alone scribbling on a piece of paper for the rest of the evening – is what I would always do.”

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short stories

~ The Art Of Getting Lost ~

~ The Art of Getting Lost ~

“I always remember the first time I got lost. It was on a Saturday in the market downtown, and I was about five years old. I had momentarily wandered off from my mother and suddenly found myself sailing alone within a sea of busy shoppers. Amid the bustling stalls and scary strangers, I remember looking around and realising how utterly alone I was. As my stomach sank and I felt the fear, somebody came up to me and took me to a room where they announced over a speaker for my mother to come and collect me. Consequently, I was saved from that intimidating wilderness, but I never forgot the feeling – the feeling of being totally and helplessly lost.

As my life went on, I got lost a few more times until I suddenly found myself doing it willingly. One day I found myself travelling alone to Africa; one day I found myself somewhere in a foreign country without a map and a plan; one day I found myself again becoming that young child in the market, engulfed in the immensity of a big and scary world. And the more I got lost, the more I realised that it isn’t such a terrifying thing after all. In fact, it may well be the truest sensation there is – the thing that is rooted to the core of our very being.

When you thought about, we got lost all the time. We got lost in the movies we watched; we got lost in the books we read. Perhaps, most commonly, we got lost in our relationships with each other. Whenever people fell in love, they essentially threw themselves into the wilderness of another human-being. To go down the rabbit hole is a beautiful thing; it is something which takes us away from an old and safe familiarity, and into the wonderland of our magical universe.

So, don’t always see the act of getting lost in a negative way. Sometimes see it as an opportunity. Sometimes, within reason, leave the map and the plan at home, take the road less travelled, wander away from the crowd, fall in love with a stranger – explore what’s beyond the horizon with a child-like curiosity. As many people young and old will testify, you just never quite know upon what treasure you will stumble.”

hidden wonderland