By Stefan Petcov
The dread shot up his spine with an expression usually reserved for crabs scrambling at the walls of a bucket. Freshly caught, clawing at the last dredges of life they may ever experience. Last gasp, testing the resolve of reality’s final curtain.
Does your life really clatter past in those final moments? Frame by frame, with memories flooding into your consciousness like spilled ink blotching and blackening, coagulating and forming swirls of memory that reveal your truth only to juxtapose it with inherited notions of what is right and wrong? Or do the lights get turned off as unceremoniously as a janitor would the gym on a Tuesday?
Either way, he thought to himself as he danced along the train tracks with a wavy grace which belied his inebriated state of being, nobody could ever come back to tell that story. He had never believed in light-tunnel revival; that very particular type of reincarnation that seemed to be reserved for protagonists of regional news stories.
It turns out gossip was instrumental in the development of human communication and all its subsequent consequences. Or so he had read in a book. It always fascinated him, this idea of truth, the will of history or the future.
It was the kind of personal philosophy which stopped him from deciding whether he wanted a Big Tasty Bacon or whatever seasonal burger was on offer at Burger King before he got to the cash register. That first bite was a sensory experience, so surely the run-up to it should be too. The foreplay is the sex. More emotion, less cognition. He wanted it to feel real. Even when tearing through a plastic bun with his maxillary canine.
It was this thinking formed the basis of the ritual which had brought him to Loughborough Junction every night that week. There was something Shakespearean about it. Or maybe not. There was probably less depth involved. It was merely a test. Black and white. 1 or 0. Pass or Fail.
The game was simple. Think of it like Russian Roulette. The same end-result but the power lay firmly in the hands of his own instinct.
In his solitude and insignificance the search for meaning had lost it’s meaning and all he wanted was to unplug. If we truly are stardust, then we must be free to float. Free to choose.
Not only do we spend our lives being told what to do or who to be, we are also told that we must enjoy it. That we should be grateful for existence itself. Sniff a rose, close your eyes and you’ll forget about the time you got the shit kicked out of you in seventh grade for wearing the wrong band’s t-shirt.
But nobody had ever asked him if he wanted to play. Becoming a parent is the most selfish thing you can do. Bringing life into this world, exposing it stinging nettles and Neo-Nazis just so you can attend brunches without feeling like you’re riding the short bus. Avocado on toast tastes just as good at home. Plus, no one charges extra for the Tabasco.
It’s all masks anyway. You aren’t who you think you are. You are who you think other people think you are. Unless you don’t care what other people think, that is. And I mean, truly don’t care. Like, you choose to be Tom Hanks in Castaway, and not because of the fantastic beard. There are no mirrors on that island and it’s super itchy. Also really hot. You want to be him because you want to become best friends with a volleyball. That kind of no fucks given.
And here’s the secret: that’s what everyone looks for, that’s what everyone wants to relate to, but when they are faced with what that really means, they can’t hold the gaze. And so concentration has become a luxury. Yes, people meditate, but mostly so they can buy a new yoga mat. Elevation through money spent? Levitation through time spent. And it’s free.
It was never about him. Not really. I mean, he certainly knew to rue the missed opportunities, the lost chances. But he hadn’t come to terms with them in a healthy way. Finger-pointing was like a sport for him.
Maybe that’s why the train. An iron symbol of all that is wrong with society. Yes, a wonder of civilisation, but also often late. And the glances. Or should we say lack thereof. And how many people help the mothers lift their baby carriages out of the goodness of their heart, not out of obligation? Observe the instinct and you’ll know. They say don’t judge people too quickly, but first impressions are a biological reality. Now what does that say about fate? How can we not be locked into reactions to the chemical reactions which fire away in our brains? What interjects? Who drives?
There should be some sort of handbook for life. I mean, I hear the voices. Screaming about commandments and virgins. But what relationship do those words of old have to lives lived and told through a 12-megapixel camera? All that freedom, all those experiences, oh how alive we all feel. Oh how worth it it all is. Oh how unlucky the peasants were, oh how grateful we should be. Oh, oh, oh. Oh no.
Naivety really is a blessing. What’s the point in knowing more than you can handle? If you never listen then you don’t know what it’s like to miss out. Be good, be bad. Be everything. You are everything, all at once. And that includes nothing. Where does it start, where does it begin? And when does it end?
The final thoughts of his book, or the prologue to another chapter? He couldn’t remember which it was to be as he saw the chugging lights turn the corner. As they approached with medieval ominousness, we return to the beginning. The dread, the crabs. The curtain may call but whether you choose to answer or not, that is your knife. Until next time, he thought as he leaped into the darkness.
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