My second short novel, How To Kill Time While Waiting To Die follows an alcoholic writer meandering through life with little to no direction. It is dark, existential, and sprinkled with humour to add some light to the otherwise bleak story. A short synopsis and sample chapter feature below, and the book is now available to purchase on Amazon in Kindle and paperback now through this link. It is available for free to download on Kindle up until March 31st.
‘Bryan has just turned 30 and is trying to survive in a world to which he feels he doesn’t belong. He still has no career, no path, no purpose, no partner, and no particular interest in anything apart from drinking and writing stories he expects no one to read. Things get worse as the Covid-19 lockdown sees him moving back in with his parents, quickly causing him to plot his escape in no specific direction other than ‘heading south’. Drifting from place to place, job to job, beer to beer, woman to woman, and failure to failure – all the while seeing no meaning to what he or anyone else around him is doing – Bryan’s life spirals increasingly out of control in this existential and dark-humoured novel.’
“No doubt my writings would never be read by anyone – my manuscript gathering dust in some dark, forgotten corner – but it at least gave me something to do while stuck here on this earth. This was it, essentially, the bargain of human existence. Every man or woman had to find something, no matter how trivial, to give their life some fundamental meaning. Kids, careers, travelling, gardening, music, art, football, vinyl collections…. hell, even something as stupid as taking pictures of trains. The important thing was finding something to do to help pass the days and weeks and years. At the end of the day, we were all killing time while waiting to die.”
One line description: ‘An existential black comedy centred around the misadventures of an alcoholic writer.’
The next day, after a terrible night’s sleep in a field of noisy sheep, I rode into the town of Newquay. It was a place I had been to before on family holidays as a child. Despite how much I had changed in the intermediate years, the place was more or less how I remembered it: a touristic surf town with a rough underbelly; the sort of place where misfits ended up living alongside working-class people on cheap and tacky getaways to the coast. I cycled into the centre along the main street, looking at all the bars and souvenir shops and hotels. I went past families on their summer getaways, as well as the stag and hen parties drinking in the mid-afternoon. Soon the ocean was in view and I carried my bike down a steep series of steps that led to the beach. I walked over to the shoreline and there I was: finally at the bottom of the country, almost as far as I could be from home now that I was trapped on this island due to international travel being banned. I looked out at the Atlantic Ocean, at the waves crashing before me, at the surfers doing their thing. I watched the seagulls circling in the sky above and distant boats sailing along the horizon. For some reason, in that moment, I felt as alone as a man could be. Even though I was in a busy tourist town, I felt that I may as well have been marooned on some distant island. I had nowhere else to go and no one in the world knew where I was – not my parents, not my sister, not Louise, not Ginevra, not Jake or Jorge. It was a surreal circumstance and I let my feet sink into the sand as I felt myself dissociate from my surroundings. I was some sort of ghost, feeling the wind against my skin while wishing that I would disintegrate into dust and be swept away into the ocean, never to be seen or thought of again. My morbid daydreaming was brought to a sudden halt by some excited children running around me. They started asking why I had a tent and a load of bags on my bike. I told them I was on a great adventure to someplace far away. Their questions continued so I decided to retreat from the beach which was unnervingly busy with new members of the human race.
Hearing the kids talk about my bike, I had to stare back at it and realise that I was actually staring at the total contents of my life. Truly, I had nothing in the world at that moment but that bike and the bags attached to the back of it. I also had nowhere else to really go besides backwards. Well, that wasn’t an option so I figured I’d just stay put for the time being. I thought about pitching my tent on the beach until I spotted a ‘No Camping’ sign that warned of the strong tides that occurred in this part of the country. I was drowning in enough ways already, so I figured I’d go get some dinner before working out where I was gonna shelter myself for the night.
I bought some fish and chips from a nearby chippy and ate them on a bench atop a cliff. After that, I walked aimlessly around the streets, pushing my bike along, looking like a hobo beside everyone else on their summer holidays. I was in desperate need of a shave and little kids stared at me while holding their parents’ hands and eating ice cream. On top of my dishevelled appearance, I also stunk given the fact I hadn’t showered in two days while constantly cycling up and down hills. What I needed was to treat myself to a nice Bed and Breakfast – some sort of luxurious abode in which I could take shelter and try to clean the dirt off my skin and soul. I quickly realised this wasn’t going to be possible; ‘No Vacancies’ signs lay in windows as it seemed everywhere was fully booked on account of foreign travel being banned. One place did actually have a ‘Vacancies’ sign out the front, but the woman at reception looked me over and told me it was full anyway. There was a vivid look of dismissal in her eyes – one that deemed me unsuitable to take abode among the clean and civilised people of the world. I didn’t blame her as I walked off sniffing my armpits and looking at the oil stains on my legs. After all the years of lingering on the edge of destitution, it appeared that I had finally tipped over the edge; I was now one of the homeless people on the streets that people went out of their way to avoid. Accepting my impoverished fate, I began eyeing up alleyways and hidden spots to pitch my tent, searching for some dark corner like a rat being driven underground into the sewers.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself when I remembered that I actually had some savings to my name. The whopping £3500 in my bank account gave me a boost of morale as I continued wandering around town with my bike. The search continued until I finally went by a hostel on some rough-looking backstreet. Like the one in Exeter, it was another rundown old building with a look of depression and defeat. The windows were dirty, overfilled rubbish bins lay outside the front, and rotting surfboards were attached to the front wall. I stood there in front of the building which looked like how I felt. It appeared luxury was not to be an option, but I at least had a place to try that probably had space for someone of my calibre.
I went in and spoke to the manager, a 50-year-old, skinny guy who was erratically going around and vacuuming the hallway. “One moment!” he kept saying as flung the vacuum around in a violent motion. When he was finally done, I asked him if he had any room. He didn’t answer me but instead started talking about how he used to be an alcoholic. “Alcohol is the devil’s blood. I’ve been clean for three years now and I don’t like people drinking in this hostel, so if you’re looking to party here then you want to look somewhere else, do you understand me?” I told him that was fine and I just wanted a bed for at least a couple of days. He then checked me in and took me to my room, which was naturally as terrible as I anticipated. It was a four-bed dormitory that probably should have been accommodating more than two people. Clothes littered the floor and there was a young guy with a sullen look sitting with his back against the wall. He had the saddest eyes I’d ever seen – sadder than sad – with a degree of hopelessness that I hadn’t even seen in my own eyes when looking into the mirror. He got chatting with me, mumbling in a deflated tone about how he had just moved to town and was looking for work here but couldn’t find any. He told me how he didn’t like it here anyway and just wanted to leave the country whenever it was next possible. The poor bastard was barely nineteen but already looked like he had had way too much of this life already. I wondered where he’d be in a few years’ time when the true horror of reality had made itself known to him.
Well, at that moment the last thing I needed was another person as wretched and miserable as myself, so I went to shower and finally get myself looking like someone who wouldn’t scare away children. I then headed to the supermarket to get some beers before going back to the spot where I had eaten my dinner. The sun was now setting and I stared at the red clouds while contemplating my situation. This was it: my summer holiday, drinking beers alone, listening to music and laughing at the ever-worsening plight of my life. I determined I was the only person in that vicinity who had zero clue about what the next day or week would bring me. There was simply nothing else to busy myself with at this point: no job, no writing, no cycling, no friends or girlfriend. Hell, I didn’t even have any privacy to masturbate. Naturally, I knew that I was going to fall into the pit of another bender, after barely having sobered up from the last one. I considered that this was to be my lifelong routine from now on – drifting from reckless bender to reckless bender, with brief periods of sobering up in between. It at least gave me some sort of structure and routine, I guess.
Soon I was tipsy and started to think back to the past family holidays. I looked down at a specific spot on the beach and recalled a memory of building sandcastles there with my sister. The smiling photo of that occasion was still hanging up somewhere in my parents’ house – a visual representation of the happiness I had once felt as a child. It was true that there was a time when some joy for life was there, but inevitably it had been blown away. I looked at the children playing down on the beach and knew that the majority of them awaited the same fate. All our memories eventually end up being sad as we grow old, the world no longer holding the same light that it once did as our sandcastles of joy are destroyed by the winds of change. They slowly disintegrate under the weight of all the disillusion and dissatisfaction, the unfulfilled dreams, the squashed desires, the broken promises, the failed romances, the silent struggles, the hopeless situations, the empty days and empty nights that leave you struggling to put your shoes on in the morning. If such a downfall had occurred in twenty years, I wondered where the hell I’d be after another twenty had drifted by. Surely there was only so much desolation a man could experience before his total demise and destruction. Would I even make it to thirty-one? Thirty-five? Forty? At that point just going forward to anything was hard enough. I was a man frozen in time, not knowing what to even think anymore. My brain stalled and stuttered. I could feel the internal sparks flying. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I could feel a panic attack coming on. For a brief moment, I considered ringing my sister and talking through the problems that plagued my mind. Maybe I could try and get hold of the therapist I had spoken to that time? Hell, maybe my parents were even missing me and just wanted to talk without arguing about every single thing we mentioned? In the end, I knew their lack of understanding would only make me feel more alone than what the solitude and silence was offering me. It would be the same old story of people only exacerbating your problems, whether intentional or not, and compounding your misery that inevitably became more and more a part of who you were as the years went by.
Ahhh, but what is a man to do when even the most basic things in life seem pointless? I asked myself. Even things like getting out of bed and getting dressed and showering and eating required some sort of faith in the future. I was now getting to the point where I didn’t even see enough sense to do anything at all. And yet, this is the core necessity of existence: one must see something of some value out there to keep on keeping on; even if they are fooling themselves, the deception is necessary to put one foot in front of the other and carry-on trudging through the swamp of time. The people working terrible jobs did it for their families; the people serving time in prison did it for their freedom; the people fighting in wars did it for the freedom of others – all of these people had something that made their suffering shakeable. But at that moment, however, I couldn’t even bring myself to move or stand up, let alone keep on trudging through the months and years. Where would I go? What would I do? What was the point of it all? The pressure of this meaningless existence was building and I felt as though I was about to implode, to finally break down and scream out loud so this world finally knew of the incurable insanity that ravaged my manic mind.
In the end, I managed to calm myself down the same old way. I simply poured more beer down my throat to drown all the feelings inside that were trying to get out. After that, I got up and went to find a bar to go and make a fool of myself.