where the writers are
Goodnight Horses Chapter One - the first chapter of my recently completed novel

It’s Monday afternoon; I am in my psychotherapist’s office. I am telling her about December 2002, when I could see the black shadow spirit forms of animals walking around near me, at least once everyday. I don’t know if she believes me, but I’m trying to explain to her that I understand the difference between what I see and what I think I see; I understand that perception is perception no matter what so it doesn’t really make any difference whether what I saw was real to anyone else. I want to tell her that trying to define between reality and perceived reality is like pulling your turd apart and trying to see which bit was ice cream and which was pot noodle. I don’t tell her this because I don’t want to appear vulgar in front of her: she is very attractive and this makes me censor certain subject areas, words, feelings. I believe she is Hindu, and her surname means “erect penis”, as well as being a general term for divine power. A creative force, pro-generative.

I, however, do not feel creative, or powerful, or generative in any way. I feel less and less of all things as time goes on. I do not know how long I have been coming here, and have no concept of how long I will keep coming. My mind might as well be wiped blank between each weekly session. I retain no memory of what I talk about, and feel like I start over from a different point with different problems every time. I don’t know if this is my fault, or her fault, or no-one’s fault. I no longer feel degrees of blame, or measurements of good or bad, in relation to myself. I am numbed, and I am like this because it feels like I have been broken so many times that all that remains is the glue that I tried to stick myself back together with.

I talk for a while about my relationships with women, or the current lack thereof. I try to explain that I cannot trust them anymore, because I feel as if they are like everybody else in the world, trapped in a self inflicted delusory state, talking endlessly about craving affection, emotion, closeness, openness, when all they really desire is empty gestures which suggest to them that these concepts may exist and apply to them. They are scared and lonely, and try not to be by attempting to empower themselves with words or excuses. Men and women function much the same as they have always done, but now each one has learnt to excuse their tired, repetitive weaknesses with hollow words and stock phrases. They believe now that strength can come from verisimilitude, but this misses the important point; strength is not the thing. Despair should be the thing that everyone accepts and treasures as the only hope for the future. Do not fool yourself that you can ever find the thing that you only imagine you are looking for; instead, strive to be inadequate.

Let your ego shatter into the fragments that make it easier to live in a world where people’s main concerns are the personal lives of strangers. It is January 2004, and tens of thousands of Americans continue to abdicate their personal moral responsibility in favour of following the orders of a few multi-millionaires who are proven, obvious and clumsy liars. The rest of the world allows this to happen, as they are more concerned when a fat woman wins a television singing contest, or when a man says the word “cunt” on television than they are when men, women and children are ripped apart by pieces of metal fired from projectile weapons paid for with percentages of their earnings.

It is late January, and memories turn over quickly like freshly tilled soil. Not so long ago the British public salivated daily over the details of the deaths of two children, but they soon forgot and moved on to celebrities living on a small space of land. At the start of the month the government whitewashed itself at the cost of further media freedom (what little there was), but once the news is finished on television, something else follows it, and our minds are whitewashed too, ready for something else to shock them for a couple of days. Liars and cowards run our lives and spit and lie in our faces every single day and we don’t care. In fact we act as if we are grateful for it.

I leave my psychotherapist appointment. Fifty minutes into every session I am just building up to some point of possible catharsis, only to be met with the phrase “we have to leave it there”. I will start over again next week. I am a goldfish receiving mental health treatment for problems that may or may not exist. I think I’ve paid enough taxes by now to compensate for this.

It's cold outside, having recently snowed. My flatmate commented on how much nicer the city looks under snow, but by now it’s just a filthy, pollution stained mess of mush and hard ice. Frozen water and grit, white and black mixed at such a minute level that it's difficult to distinguish. I live in a large city in the north, a mostly dull and stupid place, run by a corrupt and lazy local government, filled with mostly dull and stupid people. Hardly anyone is capable of seeing outside of themselves. I would move, but do not know where to, and don’t really understand why. I am dull and stupid too.

I walk into town, with my iPod on shuffle. I am halfway through putting all of my music collection on there, and have about 2000 and some songs on it. I do not listen to songs in full, but spend my time listening to the first ten seconds until I recognise them, and decide I am not in the mood for that particular song and skip forward. This way once my full collection is on there I will never have to listen to a full song again, whilst still having the comfort of an eclectic and impressive mix of music to hand at all times. The actual act of burning all my compact discs to my PC hard drive, and then converting them to iTunes is more pleasurable. I enjoy relentless and repetitive tasks that make me feel I am reaching towards a goal or conclusion. For the last few years the purchasing of items has been more pleasurable than their retention and use. This has led to an escalation in debt, which worries me constantly, a worry only helped by the purchase of more items. I believe this can be classified as being trapped in a “vicious circle”.

I check my watch, and it is 12:12pm. I am hungry, and I'm craving sugar. I eat food and drink liquids, all the while paranoid that I am being watched and laughed at by young girls. If they are unattractive young girls, the paranoia is less acute. I have not been sleeping well, and this combined with the sugary food and liquid and the post-psychotherapy down state makes me feel more and more uneasy. I start sweating, even though the temperature is very very low, and there is a damp patch at my right temple that the wind chills. A long line of cold then cuts down my face, past the corner of my eye, and I self-consciously wipe it away, feeling like people will think I am wiping away a tear. I would like to stop them individually, grasping their shoulders and staring them hard in the eye telling them that this is certainly not the case as I am unable to cry and have been for some time. I bury my fear, hostility, guilt and sense of rejection deep down inside, and the anti-depressant medication helps maintain a wall of numbness around it. On the odd occasion any of this is released I am completely alone with no fear of being discovered, and it is let out in horrid sobbing chunks of pain and self-pity that feel like pieces of meat and ligament wrenched from a still living thing. It is akin to the reaction of a tired child refused a treat in a supermarket, suddenly crying in that awful, heartbreaking way they do. Whenever I see children actually doing that, I always want to punch their parents in the face and hug the child until they feel okay again.

I spend fruitless amounts of time wandering around the city centre. I purchase some items which may or may not ease the passage of time until my eventual death, and head home, feeling a desperation and tiredness which will only be cured by lying still. A homeless man in front of me suddenly blocks my way, and begins to sing “Get Happy” in a way I imagine Judy Garland would have at 4:00am in the morning after an unsuccessful suicide bid. He dances a little jig, which helps to free up his stench of dirt and failure, so it can waft over me, filling me with an urge to puke. I am used to this happening. Years ago a friend called me the “weird magnet” due to the ridiculous number of times that I was followed or confronted by odd or “mentally ill” people, usually shouting or singing, or dancing, or occasionally urinating or masturbating. I have gotten used to it, and it still happens regularly. I just presume that like finds like.

It is now the next day, and I am sat at work. I check the time. By the clock on my telephone it is 2:21pm, by the one on my mobile phone (what the Americans refer to as a ‘cell’ phone) it is 2:22pm, and by the incoming call display on the wall it is 2:23pm. I sit uncomfortably with my legs crossed in what I think is some kind of clumsy Yogic position, which is no mean feat on a cheap office swivel chair. I have short legs. I wish my legs were about 2 inches longer. I think this would make me happier.

I am reading websites. They are mainly conspiracy websites, detailing what people believe to be the hidden reasons for events in the world, or the hidden reasons for upcoming events which will end the world. A while ago I chose to stop believing anything in particular, as I considered it only stopped me from learning. This is a difficult task, especially when you are a clinically depressed hypochondriac paranoid with a crippling fear of death and change. However, over time it has become easier to practice, and I now feel that I can retain information about a wider array of subjects than before, and have become increasingly adept at dismantling people’s arguments when they are based on self-delusory information. This covers virtually every belief in the world, so I find myself doing this a lot.

Reading the websites causes me anxiety. Although I am determined not to believe the contents, there is a period of absorption in which I initially do, and I take on board personally all of the worries associated with having that belief. So far today I have worried about:

The continued military occupation of Iraq, the constitutional change to ban gay marriage in the US, the next general election in the UK, male hair loss, cancer, the possibility that Jupiter may ignite and become a small star, the possibility that Planet X may be heading back into the path of the Earth, the price of compact discs, a possible Zionist conspiracy which may or may not rule the world, the possibility that George Bush has Osama bin Laden secreted away in order to produce him shortly before the US presidential election in November in order to ensure victory, the asylum process, unemployment, the extinction of the cod, Jade Goody’s health, music, whether I should go forward with my plans to be tattooed, whether I should cut my thinning hair off or dye it blond, whether to contact my ex-girlfriend, whether I will ever have sex again, my seeming numbness to personal interaction, who will play Superman in the upcoming Warner Brother's film, missing television programmes, updating my iPod, winning/not winning the lottery, the death of JFK, the death of RFK, the death of Martin Luther King, the death of John Lennon, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, the thought that millions of Catholics in the world believe the word of an old man with Parkinson’s disease, advanced senility and the inability to stop himself shitting his own pants is the infallible conduit of the immortal spirit who created the Universe, library funding, missing out on tickets for Morrissey’s upcoming Manchester gig, George Lazenby only getting to do one Bond movie, the possibility that the end of times may actually happen as recounted in religious scripture, the holes in all my socks, owning too many items, killing myself, wishing I’d never been born, the purchase of the Muppets by the Disney corporation, drinking too much Coca-Cola, the Sars virus, avian flu, the death of the actor who played Father Ted and the death of Natalie Woods aboard a yacht carrying herself, Christopher Walken and Robert Wagner.

Well, technically, she was not on the yacht when she died, but aboard a dinghy, according to the coroner. This has all been since I started work at 10:30 am. I am currently reading a new conspiracy site that wants me to believe that the Soviet Union never really went away, and that since 1990 it has been an underground organisation which will soon team with communist China in an attempt to destroy America and the UK, and take over all of Europe. The author of this site identifies the American Empire as Faction One, the supposed free-world. The hidden Soviet Union and its many allies make-up Faction Two. They fear that these two will destroy all of us if unchecked, but I can see no real way of stopping then if this is true. I wonder if there is a Faction Three; if so the author may not want the fact to interfere with his very polarised view of the world as he sees it. I wonder for a while what a third faction would be; maybe the Knights Templar, or the Bavarian Illumaniti, or maybe a coalition of Third World countries plotting to turn the world upside down. Soon I move on to a website containing stories of supernatural and miraculous happenings, authored by right-wing Christian Americans. One tale is about a man at large in the world who can change reality with a word. He is reported to have changed a man in Kansas into the petals of a flower.

It is now the weekend and I am drunk. I am in a gay bar, with my female friend who I shall call Friend. We have been close friends for years, although she is over ten years younger. There is also her girlfriend, who I will call Her Girlfriend, who is closer to my age, and another girl who I will call Tease, because she is 17, sexy and flirty and messing up Friend’s mind by constantly blowing hot and cold. Friend and Her Girlfriend recently split and got back together, and Tease was there all along, a subversive element. There are some more people with us too, friends of the others.

All night long I have felt increasingly frightened and panicky. I can sense something bad coming, some event which will be painful and unpleasant. I cannot sense whether this will happen to me or to someone else, but the feeling is smothering and overwhelming, and being drunk both numbs it and at the same time heightens it. I am talking and laughing, and I am enjoying myself as if in a normal fashion, but the shadow of the feeling is always there. There is also the added sexual tension between Friend and Tease, and a new one building between Her Girlfriend and Tease. Still further I can feel more tension between myself and Tease, though cannot identify why. I am attracted to all the girls I am with, though have recently been ambivalent to pursuing any sort of relationship with any girl. And besides, they are all lesbian or at the least mostly lesbian. It is nice to be in a gay club and not worry that girls are creeped out by me as I am in mixed clubs. And I get to stare at women kissing and touching other women. It is an embarrassing and obvious fact that this is sexually arousing for most heterosexual men, usually in a way that leads to high-fiving between friends. I am hopefully more subdued and subtle.

Now more time has passed. I have recently drunk some awful mix of Aftershock and the burning sensation in my mouth matches the burning sensation I already had in my throat from drinking cheap pissy lager. I look out the window at the bright and clear half moon in the flawless winter sky, framed by bright dots. The feeling truly overwhelms me now, and I lean in to tell Friend about it. I tell her that whatever was going to happen is happening now. At the same time Her Girlfriend suddenly begins freaking out, saying that she does not think we should remain in this place, and displays paranoid and depressive feelings. I look at my watch, and the time is 23:27. I have Friend’s mobile phone in my pocket, and when I pull that out the time on it is 23:23pm. The feeling washes over me and passes. I tell myself I am full of shit.

Even more time has passed now, and I am standing on the dance-floor, watching as Friend, Girlfriend and Tease dance on a small podium, gyrating against each other around a metal pole. The sexual tension is so thick now that to cut through it you'd need one of those £19.99 super sharp knives they sell on TV which can allegedly cut through a soda pop can, or, if you wish, one of your own shoes. Across from them, three topless gay men do the same on the opposite platform. It is hot, and broken glass crunches under my feet. Drunkenness ebbs and flows, and I have the urge to leave. Soon we all do, and I am happy when the cold air can be felt all over my bare skin. The three girls leave in a taxi, and the next day I will be regaled with stories from all 3 of the drunken, stoned threesome that ensued. All three accounts vary wildly in detail and emotion, and I sense someone in the future carving trouble out of the situation with one of those soda pop can knives.

By now I am walking home alone. Along the way I walk past the University campus, and I watch many physically and culturally similar people acting in very similar ways. I pause when I find some guys loudly questioning a timid Chinese student. I am worried that there will be violence, and hang around to make sure there is not, but at a safe distance of course. Have no doubt that I am as much a physical as I am an emotional coward. Whilst I stand there a guy in his early twenties approaches me with his hand outstretched, saying ‘Put it there mate’. He has that look in his eyes of someone who finds themselves funny because they can humiliate others. I just stare at him. He now says ‘Okay, be like that, you’ll regret it in the morning’. And begins to walk off. I leap forward and grab the hair on the back of his head, and he lurches back, legs splaying underneath him. I slam his head into the flagstone floor and kick the small of his back, making him scream like a girl. I then kneel down and begin punching him in the face until bubbling blood covers him and drenches my knuckles. I am aware that I am growling so hard that my throat is constricting and cramping painfully.

I don’t do this at all. I watch him walk away, then look back to see if the Chinese student is okay. A homeless guy comes rushing up to me with a paper cup that looks like it’s had the edges chewed off. He shouts ‘You! You!’ and the sense of dread from earlier rushes up my spine in a wide straight line of prickling cold. ‘We only appear solid because we are interacting with other objects of similar density!’ he cries.