Wednesday, 25 September 2013

World building

 World building exercises are possibly my favourite way of developing a story. You can create tiny snipits of information in any way that you like, and when you put them all together you have created a world in which you can base your latest story! Here is an example I did for uni, it has my commentary at the end explaining my ideas!

A Future Utopia/Dystopia

“The Police”
“Sorry mate, you know the rules, you can’t come up here.”
“But please, my ball rolled under the gate, I just want to go and get it.”
“No mate, you know the rules, you’re a middle dweller, no one goes up, and no one goes down. Middle class, middle levels, middle dweller. Upper class only through ‘ere, and they have the same rules, they aren’t allowed down here to your level. It’s for the best, I'm a middle dweller too, as soon as I finish duty I have to leave the no go zone, I have never even see any of them upper tiers.”
The small, wide eyes child stared at the man before him, a small diamond shaped tear drop forming in his eye. He knew it was pointless arguing, even at the age of nine. Every child that could speak knew the rules; no one goes up, no one goes down. Class boundaries had become physical rather than hypothetical following the uprising two hundred years ago. There was nobody left alive that remembered the conflicts, but the upper echelons still lived in fear of rebellion, and knew that the best was to prevent this was to ensure people stayed with their own. If you couldn’t leave, and you never came in to contact with the powers that be, you could not fight against them. His eyes scanned across the logo emblazoned on the officer’s top. SPOC-B; Special Police Of Class Boundaries. “Preserving Order, Preventing Chaos”.

A special report by The Level Two Weekly.
The fad known as “black holing” is becoming more dangerous by the day. Popular amongst young boys and girls, the life threatening sport involves climbing down the rubbish disposal chute; with the further you descend bringing you more respect and reverence amongst your peers.
This potentially deadly sport involves no safety equipment and has led to the disappearance and assumed deaths of over a thousand teenagers, with them falling down the disposal chutes.
Some may have survived the terrible fall, but there ordeal would be far from over, as every citizen knows the chutes come out in the underlands, where savages will inevitably murder them; this newspaper is anxiously waiting for the day that we see one of our young people, whom has fallen during one of these dangerous stunts, appearing on our screens, on the popular show “Underwars”, though we hope this day will never come.
Your favourite TV show is back! And it’s better than ever!
With more blood and gore, higher quality cameras inserted by our brave reconnaissance teams, and a new war ready to begin, this season promises to be our best ever!
Tune in every night as we bring you live images of the Underlander’s as they fight for power!
Don’t miss it.

Everyone knew the story, but it still fascinated her to read it. She dreamt of what lay above at night, dreamt of what lay outside the walls of the gigantic citadel. No one really knew, not on her level anyway. There were rumours of course, but no middle leveller had been outside for centuries. Not since the wars. She knew the structure though, the people that lived at the top made sure they knew. There were four levels in total; two above her and one below her. The middle, where she lived, was the city. An enclosed metropolis with shops of every kind. Then above her were the Upper Classes, in the Upper Levels. They controlled trade, and gave raw food and materials to the city in exchange for worked goods. Having a skill was important here, without it you couldn’t trade. Then at the top, oh how she longed to know what lay at the top! The rumours were various, but most agreed upon was the spire. One individual spire that apparently stuck out of the top of the citadel, in which one person lived. He, or she (she liked to imagine women ruled the world), controlled everything. They were the only people that could leave the city. The only people that saw what was outside. They brought in the food and the materials. They traded with the Upper Classes, and they provided for the city.
But what scared her most was what lay below. The Underlands always frightened her. It was a cesspit of decay and debauchery, with gangs of mutant like men and women fighting for power and living off the scraps of waste that were tipped down the chutes. It was the only level that other classes could see, with the TV show Underwars being broadcast daily. It disgusted her, the way the crowd leered and watched people tearing each other apart. But she would never speak out, and she would never try to save them. That wasn’t how it worked.
OFTCOP report citadel 3245
Laws currently in place; please revise and agree before implementation in other citadels.
·         One Newspaper per citadel, to be viewed for editing purposes before distribution.
·         Cameras in every causeway or corridor for protection and security of Middle Levellers.
·         Weapons prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death.
·         Narcotics prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death. (exception, Criqtonic.)
·         Alcohol prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death.
·         Religion prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death.

All trade controlled by OFTCOP, monopolisation on Upper Level, but advertising and competition allowed on Middle Level to provide incentive for quality in goods.

All healthcare controlled and provided, free of charge, by OFTCOP (excluding Underlands). Illness of an infectious type treated in quarantine. Illness of a terminal type treated by euthanasia. Anyone found hiding someone with an infectious illness punishable by removal to labour camp.

Please review these laws; they are currently fully implemented in citadel number 3245 with complete effectiveness. Dissent is not apparent in any faction.

OFTCOP; Organisation For The Care Of People.



He had heard so many rumours about the camps. He knew the elites, ghosts that they were, paid your family a reasonable wage if you went there. He also knew it was an effective way to avoid poverty. But more than any of this he knew that no one ever came back. It was rumoured that you got to go outside, which to a Middle Leveller is like being told you can go to El Dorrado. But with no one returning this could never be confirmed. Despite this he left. He tried to acquire a skill but apprenticeships were scarce with a growing population and he wanted to make sure his family was properly provided for. He signed up, and a week later they came to take him. He said his goodbyes, and left his family for ever. He didn’t feel sad, he knew they would be better off without him; one less mouth to feed, one more income to feed them with. He had no idea where they would take him, nor how long he could expect his life to last; he had known families to receive money for ten years, but he had known some to only get a few months. And when the money stops coming there is nothing you can do. But on that day, two years ago, he got in to the back of one of the SPOC-B vans, and there he sat for hours, waiting to find out what he had signed up for. Then he felt the van stop, and he looked at the doors, willing them to open. Slowly the handle turned down, and a slither of light penetrated the dark and dingy van. Then suddenly the door was thrust open, and his first experience of sunlight nearly blinded him. His eyes adjusted slowly, and before him were great plains, flat and dotted with plantations. These farms were, he later found out, the source of food for the citadel, and were run by the Elites. It was hard work, especially with the blazing heat, and people rarely lasted longer than a few years, but it was better than nothing.


“The Great War”

Data log 1278.

Archive Records; Citadel Library

A long time ago, when people lived outside, and war riddled the world, there was a class structure. But this class structure was not set in stone, and people could transcend their class boundaries, rise up, and take power. There was a rebellion, the poor and the weak rose up and tried to overthrow the rich and the powerful. This was a war of new proportions, a civil war with catastrophic consequences. Armies and families and friends were split in their loyalties, and the war ravaged the land. But the upper classes prevailed and maintained their power, crushing the lower classes. The worst of the suffering came for the middle class, who lost trade and civility amidst the treacherous war brought by the ungrateful bottom classes. To prevent a war like this ever happening again, and to protect the interests and safety of the loyal middle classes, the Citadel Project began, and the treasonous bottom classes were cast in to the Underlands to fight amongst themselves for all eternity. Class boundaries became set in stone, and war and crime were virtually eradicated. The upper classes and elites took care of, and still do take care of, those who show loyalty to the preservation of order and decorum and the right way of things.


In this collection of articles, advertisements and stories I wanted to create a fictional, futuristic dystopian society. My aim was for the society to be totalitarian and be run by a complete dictatorship, with class boundaries being present in a physical form. To do this I created citadels, and focused on one specifically, although the idea was for them to all be the same in structure.

The Citadels are roughly the size of a small city, and are completely enclosed and windowless. The citizens live in the section that reflects there class status, with the citadel being a pyramid shape with a spire rising from the middle. As the levels get taller they become less densely populated, with the spire in the middle rising above everything else and housing no one but the most elite one or two people in the city.

To prevent movement between the different class levels I invented a police force, the “SPOC-Bs”. These guard a three storey layer between each class level and stop people from being able to visit other class levels; this works both ways, so the elites may control the other levels but they can never visit them. My first piece, “The Police”, is supposed to reflect this complete no go zone and show how the inability to move from level to level is integrated into society.

The piece entitled “The Great War” is effectively a history of why this totalitarian dictatorship came to be. The idea I wanted to portray was that the ruling classes had narrowly squashed a rebellion from the working classes, and that this had caused serious social and financial difficulties. To prevent this happening again they invented the physical class boundaries, relying on the idea that they could monopolise and control a society that was not able to ever see them. They turned themselves in to fictitious gods, never being seen and nobody ever really knowing what they are like. I wanted to draw on the idea that rumour is so often more exaggerated than the truth, so rebellion against something that nobody knows or understands is much more unlikely. But on top of this, the Elites have made it their job to, through the upper classes, completely support the middle classes (or middle levellers). The original working class are the ones who rebelled, and as a consequence they are forced to live in the Underlands, (I will go on to explain about these later). But in order to make sure people don’t speak out against the awful treatment suffered by the working classes, the Elites have ensured that the middle classes are completely provided for, whilst any dissent is dealt with immediately.

My objective was to create a dystopian society that examined how dystopian societies really worked. Dystopia is so often the result of people aiming for a utopia, but not realising that what makes one set of people happy may not benefit or please another, and thus they are forced to use violence and constraints to make people “see things their way”. Here I wanted the Elites to actually be creating an idealistic society for the “middle levellers” whilst also benefitting the upper classes and themselves. The monopolisation of all trade I think is a good concept, as it means they can set the price that best suits the economic state of the city at any one time. Money being abolished prevents people being rewarded unjustly (within the middle levels obviously) as they trade with the skill they apply to goods. The laws set out in the OFTCOP report reflect the aspects of free will that I feel would have to be removed from society in order to create a perfect dystopia/utopia balance; in the drug ban section I even included a fictional drug as being exempt so as to give the Elites more control and power (being the only ones that can distribute this drug) whilst also giving the citizens a vice or way to de-stress. The removal of religion is important, and the punishment of death that is applied to anyone found attempting to practice organised religion sounds severe, but religion is the cause of so much war that any dystopian dictatorship that was trying to avoid an uprising would inevitably ban religion with severe penalties.

The newspaper report about chute climbers was an attempt to show teenage rebellion and the impossibility that comes with trying to prevent it. My theory was that the rubbish and waste from all levels is ejected down a chute that ends up in the Underlands. The teenagers in the middle levels, unable to find thrills in drug fuelled stupors and alcohol binges like modern day teenagers, look for thrills in seeing who can climb furthest down the chute. These “Black holers” play a very dangerous game as they run the risk of falling and dying, or possibly falling and surviving, only to be trapped in the Underlands.

The Underwars is a fictional TV show I have created that is simply a series of video feeds that run from the Underlands. The old working classes that live down there have become mutated and twisted due to mal-nutrition and incest, and constantly fight each other for power. Food is scarce in the Underlands so they fight to survive, with rival gangs slaughtering each other daily. This is the futuristic bloodsport that all the middle levellers watch, and that the Elites allow them to watch in the hope that it shows them the punishment for treachery, whilst also showing the rebellious people to be monsters not fit for civil society.

With regards to the resources, they are obviously completely controlled by the Elites. They are the only people who can leave the Citadel, or at least that is what most people believe. But inevitably labour is needed to work the miens and the farms, so people can sign up to work, but will never be allowed to return. If you sign up to work, then your family will be paid in bread and food as well as materials with which they can try to make a living, but only for as long as you live. But if poverty ever befalls a family then they are supported, as poverty leads to dissent, which in turn leads to rebellion.

Creating this dystopian/utopian contrasting world was interesting, as I wanted to be apparent that the dictators in many ways have the masses best interests at heart, but that they feel people need controlling, and ensure that they prosper first and foremost.

Sci Fi is great (just saying)

Science Fiction is one of the best genres to use when learning to write. This is simply because limitations are scarce and possibilities are endless. There are very few rules, (although my Sci Fi tutor told us obscurity is a sin) and consequently you can relax and let the ideas flow! Heres a little piece from my third year!

The Gaia Principle.
“It’s strange; I really haven’t ever seen anything like this. Their behaviour is incredible, united on one focus, a single entity without individual thought-stream, simply understanding.” The scientists stood in a brightly lit, brilliantly white lab. Their spotless jackets stretched down to their ankles, eyes screwed up against the bright light. The tank they were staring at was enormous, a wall of glass behind which tunnels and caves of every shape and size created a vertical labyrinth. Hoards of insects occupied the tunnels and chambers, insects of every type and nature. There was even 3ft of space atop the maze to allow flying insects to move around freely. “Notice how the Solenopsis Invicta work so effectively with the Atrax Robustus, using its size to block off the mice, and then swarming over them! They are incredible; this truly is a miraculous discovery.”
The scientist remarking in such a surprised tone was Dr Stuart, an acclaimed researcher in to animal behaviour. His speciality was insects, with particular attention to the way in which ants work as a whole unit, as a colony, instead of working individually. His protégé, Dr Golding, was young, handsome and intelligent. He had, over the past five years poured hours of research in to a thesis entitled “The Gaia Principle”.
“What we have proved here is that the nervous system style structure of an ant colony, in which without any direct communication an entire army can work in sync, with complete cohesion and complete effectiveness, is a much smaller realisation of the apparent nervous system that runs through the metaphorical backbones of every insect on this planet, allowing them to also act in complete unison, co-ordinated and coherent.” The young man’s voice brimmed with confidence, he was a visionary in his mind, this was the discovery of a lifetime, it was science and religion mixed, a supernatural. He thought back to his school days, studying myth; this was a Gaia like entity that allowed a connection between insects, and allowed them to be a unit, move as a single being. “Yes, Dr, you are right, you have proved it though my boy, not me. I am old, and I have had my success, this work is yours and I will accept no credit for the hours you slaved over this. Return to your farm, enjoy the sun, I will arrange for a press release in a few weeks, and there we will show the earth your genius.”

“I heard his body was really badly rotted.” The whispers glided to her ears, she was no longer soft enough to let them affect her mind. Cecilia was still in mourning, the body of her late husband had been found many weeks previous, but she could not move on, not here with all the gossip. “Yeah, insects got to him apparently”. She couldn’t stand it; wandering through the morning’s crisp air she stopped and sat down. The bench was cold, but she was numb with icy thoughts running through her head. So the body had been a mess, they all end up that way, the Lord has a purpose for everything. His death was unexplained, and no evident meaning had become apparent to her, but she was sure that God had a divine purpose, a reason for his actions. Her husband’s soul must have been needed for some greater purpose. God had taken him. She watched the world go by for a few moments, alone in her thoughts, until a handsome young man sat down next to her.
“Hello there madam, you are Cecilia Davis, I believe?”
“Yes young man, and who are you?” She looked at him in surprise, unsure what to make of his smart suit and immaculate appearance.
“I am Dr Golding madam, and I am also your new neighbour. I bought the farm across from you, I was hoping to make your acquaintance more formally but as I saw you here I thought I would introduce myself.”
“Such manners in a man are rare these days, thank you, it’s a pleasure I am sure” She felt flustered, it had been a while since she had been so properly greeted, with such good class and standing. “For now I must be on my way, but do pop by and say hello when you are free sir. God bless you” She walked away, smiling, having seen nothing but a good and kind nature in that man’s eyes.
Dr Golding walked away down the street with the coolest of expressions, never betraying the vicious tangle of emotions that swept through his body. He could not stand religion, no matter how hard he tried to be sympathetic, how much understanding he gave, he could not abide it. And now he had proof, word against the Christian fallacy of the “Mighty Lord Above!” The Gaia principle would show these pompous, self-righteous ignorant fools some reality. He braced himself as a cold wind blew straight through his jacket, tilting his head against the stinging air. Below him he saw something strangely familiar, but somewhat surprising. Spiders, walking together and in file, purposeful and united. Spiders, as he very well knew, are solitary creatures, except on very rare occasions, and never associate in such a way as this. In fact he could only remember one occasion when he had seen this replicated, and that memory worried him greatly.
“I heard he had beetles and such crawling out of his mouth, and his flesh had been devoured by the insects”
Dr Golding listened to the two women beside him. They were middle aged, middle class and the height of gossip, but he knew exactly what they were talking about. Cecilia Davis’ dead husband. He struggled to catch his breath, bracing himself against the cold stone wall. Surely it was just coincidence. Bodies decay, they rot with the help of insects and bacteria, this was a fact that even elementary school children could understand. But seeing this behaviour, outside of the lab, without coaxing or specialist set ups. He was concerned, and as he rushed away to investigate further he grabbed his mobile, typing in a number with the utmost urgency.


The forest at the back of his farm was cold and dark. Dr Golding had never been afraid of darkness; it comforted him sometimes to be in a natural gloom. He spent his life in synthetic dark rooms, analysing insects in their perfectly manufactured habitats, and to be out here, in nature, a part of an ecological system that stretched around the world, he felt content. He ventured deeper, checking every step. The intelligence required to re-create a computer system that could mimic the actions of an ant colony is, even with computer advances being made every day, impossible. That being said, to create an infrastructure that would incorporate more creatures, different species with different needs and different abilities, is truly beyond human capabilities. So how could the insects be conforming to this evolutionary theory? How could it be that the Gaia principle, a thesis he himself had invented, using generations of breeding and evolutionary exploitation, be a reality in a far from perfect habitat with no coaxing or aid what so ever. He thought he had played God, manipulating evolution in a way that was impossible in the real world. But here he saw it happening, or he saw the beginnings of an evolutionary procedure he never expected to witness. Dr Golding’s night vision was surprisingly good, a benefit of his research, and he opted to keep his torch off as he wandered through the forest. He hoped to find more evidence, something decisive. Although he was afraid of the ramifications of this find, he was excited. Adrenaline rushed through his body at the thought of the fame this could bring him. He was going to be a star, a genius, creator of a thesis that was then proven to be real, and could be watched unravelling in the natural world.
He found a place he felt suitable and stopped, looking around the clearing in which he stood. The trees on either side rustled with the gentle wind, but other than that there was complete silence. He sat on a tree stump, conveniently located in the centre of the clearing, and turned on his high power torch, hoping to see something incredible over the next few hours. But what he saw was more than incredible, it was terrifying. His torch was aimed upwards, against the leaves of the trees, in the hope that he would see something moving on the trunks, but he saw nothing, no movement but the wind. As he lowered the torch he felt a cold, tingling sensation running down his spine, a primitive sense of fear that’s cause he could not place, but as the light struck the ground he realised what he sensed. Silence, not the quiet of a wood at night, with only the faint sounds of bats and birds and bugs, but true silence. Nothing but the wind, when there should be noises. And the floor showed him something which chilled his blood, freezing it in his veins as a sharp pain shot through his chest with the panic that was rising through his body. On the ground in front of him lay many creatures; birds, rabbits, bats, mice, all dead, and all being tended too. The creatures that dealt with the bodies, and the creatures that he could only assume committed this natural genocide, were insects. Thousands of them, every type and every size, any insect that he would have associated with the forest was present. They were regimented, and they were effective, stripping the carcasses and carrying parts away, with smaller, sharper mouthed insects biting through decaying flesh as larger creatures carried parts to piles, which were in turn attended too by different species. Dr Golding stared in amazement, each pile was a breeding ground, with flies silently spawning maggots in each. He waved the torch around frantically, noticing that even where he had stepped the creatures had not ceased or stopped, even now they were dealing with their dead, giving them the same treatment as the dead animals.
Dr Golding could see no method of communication, the insects worked as a unit, and as he stood again he saw that more and more creatures were being carried, dead and rotting, out of the forest to the clearing. His torch finally reached his own feet, where only a few paces away he saw the nearest groups of insects. But their actions troubled him further; they were not participating in the gathering of food, as all the other insects were. Instead they all stood, lacking any animation what so ever, like statues. They stood, and as far as he could tell, they faced him. Not a single insect within a five foot radius of him moved, and as he stared closer and closer, looking at the inanimate beasts, he saw a movement, out of the corner of his eyes, in the trees above him. It was at that point that he realised his mistake. The thing he hadn’t noticed, that had been clawing away at his mind, the thing that felt least right about this situation, above all the strangeness he had already seen. The lack of spiders and no wasps. There were insects of every kind, but here he could see neither spiders nor wasps. And as he turned his torch towards the sky once more he realised why. The branches were lined with arachnids, of every type. They all stood, for just a second, and then they jumped, in complete unison, towards the ground. He had never seen such huge acts of suicide in an insect species before, but as they all fell to their deaths he realised he was wrong. Each spider had a strand of web flowing behind it, which it used to swing to the next tree. This was repeated again and again as Dr Golding watched in awe, the silvery threads creating a thick net between each tree which shined in the pale moonlight. As he span on the point, watching the trees begin to glisten with the fine webs, seeing the spiders weave their webs, he heard a noise, a buzzing, “the absent wasps” he thought as he carried on staring, stupefied. He saw that only one gap was left between the trees, and saw the first black and yellow wasp fly through and begin to circle. More and more came and he began to realise their intent. The creatures on the floor were workers, they build and they breed, but these flying, stinging monsters that were swarming in a cyclone around the clearing were soldiers, designed to hunt and kill. He glanced at the less decomposed creatures and saw white threads stuck to their feathers or fur, and raw stings covering their bodies. He gasped, finally realising that he was being hunted, and turned to run.

Story time

Playing with the idea of the imaginary poet in my Poetry blog, I decided to write a little short story, with a similar character but more focused on him personally than on his literature. Enjoy.

He was at home in the darkness. Where others saw it as oppressive and unrelenting he felt a sense of comfort; the blackness enveloped him like a blanket, the shadows protected him from the world. He hated light, it was stark and revealing. There is no hiding in light, be it the natural burning light of the sun or some other artificial glare. Light displays people for who they really are, laying bare all their flaws and faults. Light is reality, and reality is terrifying.
Sam was always the odd one out, the black sheep, the ugly duckling, as a child right the way through to his older years, but unfortunately he never had the good fortune of developing in to a swan, or finding the usefulness that Rudolph discovered amongst his reindeer colleagues. His levels of oddity never really changed, but people’s perceptions of it grew increasingly apprehensive; an eccentric or strange child is cute and interesting, an adult is dangerous and to be avoided, such is the nature of our society. His eccentricities began around the time he learnt to speak; incoherent as babies most often are, his words contained certain intonations that set people on edge. He pronounced every syllable, an unsettling quality in a child, and displayed no apparent accent, talking in a flat and monotonous way. As his vocabulary grew so did the nervous whispers that surrounded his every mention in conversation. There were rumours of his literary genius, how he might grow up to be a distinguished linguistically talented author, but these were few and far between in the raptures of gossip that he generated. He was evidently oblivious to his effect on others, too young to understand the complex and unreasonable workings of the adult psyche, but this lack of realisation did nothing to draw away from the fact that he had, to say the least, a troubled childhood.
His primary school years were the beginnings, and probably the makings of his emotionally scarred life. He went from being an instinctively slightly odd toddler, to a socially manufactured introvert, all before the age of ten. He enjoyed being alone from a young age, taking pleasure and comfort in the silence and tranquillity that can only be achieved through solitude. Naturally this appearance of a damaged youth, despite the fact that he was probably still not damaged beyond repair at this stage, had a mirror effect on his parents, damaging them in equal measure. His disconnectedness and love for isolation developed not only a rift between him and his parents, but caused an unstitchable tear in the fabric of their marriage. It has always seemed unfair to blame children for their parents’ divorce, or at least that seems to be the status quo, but in this story Sam was the catalyst and antagonist which brought about the untimely end to an otherwise happy union. They had considered “staying together for the kid”, but as he was the direct cause for the break up, although neither of them would ever openly admit it, they could see no good coming of prolonging the inevitable.
His parents’ divorce was a difficult time for Sam. Aged only twelve, he was armed with just a child’s comprehension of the concept of love, an emotion that at that age is usually reserved for direct family. Relationships, their development and their breaking down, were as much a mystery to him as the entirety of space is to the most minute amoeba. Even with the standard issues of age and lack of understanding aside, Sam was an unusual child and reacted to his parents break up in an unusual way. He didn’t rebel so to speak, he was never capable of such an emotionally charged and forceful action, but instead became more reserved, drawing further in to his metaphorical shell. He began to isolate himself more and more from the pressures of society, opting out of reality and creating a fictitious parallel in the safety of his mind.
His degeneration in to an almost completely solitary child, discarding what few friends he had acquired before his parents’ divorce, caused them to fret and worry more than they ever had. The divorce had been traumatic for them too, but they retained the good grace to be civil for the sake of their child; as is so often not the case in these situations. With this being so they jointly agreed to send him to see a psychiatrist, a difficult trip to explain to a twelve year old, but one that they felt was necessary and so they persevered. Sam never forgot his frequent trips to that office; the lying on the sofa as the safety of his mind, with all its barriers and blockades specially designed to keep the cruelty of reality out, being bombarded and probed. He always left feeling exhausted, like a battle had been waged, but he inevitably won every war, such was the strength of his mind. His most vivid memory of that place was always the light; a single, stark bulb veiled by a mauve shade, almost directly above his head, one foot to the left. That bulb glared down at him as the psychiatrists tried to breach his walls, lighting the way in to the dark and private recesses of his mind. It was a symbol of attack, a flare fired above the field of conflict, illuminating the soldiers as they charged towards his defences. He would stare at that light as he evaded questions; imagine the beating of the drums as the armies began their march.
It was this single bulb that brought about the beginnings of his aversion to light. He would lie in his room as his teenage years began, desperately trying to avoid looking at the light, forcing his mind to shut out the incessant beating of the drums. His parents asked him if he was lonely, and on the rare occasion that he offered up a response he would always reply in the negative. They thought he was lying, simply hiding the fact that he was socially awkward, but the reality was that he was alone through choice. He had, by the age of fifteen, developed in to an interestingly attractive young man, lithe and toned as he would often sneak out at night, running long distances through the comforting intensity of the darkness. He could clear his mind as he ran, focusing on himself, becoming as physically introverted as he was emotionally, and as the night enveloped him he knew he would not be seen. He could be outside, and he could be alone.
His aesthetically pleasing appearance was both matched and marred in equal measures by his angst and mystery. The boys generally ignored him; he was never really the target of bullying because provocation provided no response. But the girls were suitably interested, he was an enigma and his indifference towards them provided him with yet more un-surreptitious flirting and provocative touches; a hand placed on the arm whilst the eyes meet the absent gaze of the target, a few evocative words whispered in the ear. All of these made him uncomfortable, the affection and emotion was too personal, and the intentions to real. Their words that seemed to others to be so silken and laced with charm were, to him, the poison flowing in to Hamlets ear, they were sirens trying to lure him from the safety of his mind, to take from him the individuality that he kept for himself, and he saw them as the harpies that they were.
Despite his love of solitude, or perhaps due to this love, he achieved exceptional grades. He studied hard, but only when the subject matter suited him, choosing to only pursue topics which sparked an interest. His teachers were constantly filled with disdain, upset that he wasted so much of his potential whilst utilising some of it in such an effective way. They had quickly grown exasperated with him, but persevered in the hope that one day he would find some solace in the skills he had learnt. Literature was his favourite, he was fascinated by the power of linguistics and saw great authors as craftsmen, creating a beautiful image of fictitious worlds and concepts in which he could immerse himself completely. But this love of great authors brought an equal level of contempt for authors that lacked skill and talent. He saw bad literature as offensive, a scar across the breast of a woman whom without an exterior influence held the potential to be so beautiful.
His A levels were, to him, a breeze. He took them as he took all other exams, with good results churned out after very little effort was ever exerted. His intelligence was obviously a massive factor, but he was blessed with the luck of his subjects being interesting, if rather unchallenging. The teaching was, as ever, underwhelming; an anticlimactical ending to his school life, but nevertheless he achieved outstanding grades and had the opportunity for university. By this point he was completely without companion, with even the most auspicious girls halting their repeatedly unsuccessful advances, and he inevitably lived a life that was completely devoid of friendship. The night of his results he lay in the pitch black darkness; since school had finished he had slowly become more nocturnal, preferring more and more the blanket of obscurity that nightfall cast across the days reality. As he lay there he pondered his future, attempting for the first time in his life to make a decision that affected his real life, rather than withdrawing from its complexities in to the simplicity of fiction and darkness. He liked the idea of university, the academic challenges that would be presented were his primary, and probably only motivation for applying, but despite this he felt that the need for sociability was too high. It wasn’t that he was afraid of being surrounded by people, more that he felt such a distaste towards reality and all it entailed that human contact, on any sort of emotional level, made him feel physically ill. Even the great authors, whom he revered beyond anyone else on the planet for their exemplary skills, gave him no desire for any face to face meetings. He respected and possibly loved, if he could feel love, the personas he had created each author, they had become to him a part of the fiction that they wrote, and any physical manifestation of them would simply serve to shatter the illusions he had shrouded them in; reality can never live up to the magic created by prolonged fantasy.
As he lay there, his body filled with turmoil, desperately trying to refrain from a hasty retreat in to the safety of his mind, or plunging himself in to one of the numerous fictitious worlds that scattered his shelves and floors, he wrestled with the decision. His life without education would be monotonous and unfulfilling, he required challenge so as to thrive in his solitude, but he kept falling back to the same question; could he maintain his isolation in an environment so full of sociability? The night drew on, and as he writhed in the gloom he made a move that at the time was brave beyond what he imagined possible of himself, and would shape his life for the entirety of his future.
With his candle flickering, for that was how he now opted to do his reading; it seemed to him to be the least invasive source of light, and light, however distasteful, was a necessity if he wished to read, he collected up his favourite books, neatly pilling them beside his bed. He then, very slowly, walked over to the light switch, a button he had not touched for months, maybe even a year. He stared at it in the dancing light, watching the shadows as they played across the gleaming plastic. His hand reached out, physically shaking, as he pushed against the plastic button, hearing the dreaded click as he exerted pressure, instantly shutting his eyes against the unadulterated glare. He took a deep breath, opened his eyes and walked robotically over to his bed. He sat down, already regretting his decision. He was going to sit there in the intrusive light until his choice had been made, and as soon as it was decided he would turn off the light, reverting back to his darkness, and seeing in the dawn once again from the safety of candle light, lost in a world devoid of the pressures of authenticity and realism.
It didn’t take him long to come to a conclusion, within an hour he had thrashed out all the issues he felt towards university, and ultimately decided that he could not possibly go. This decision was in no small part down to the constant pressure the bright room exerted over him. He had hidden in his own darkness, shielding himself behind the thin, translucent layers of skin that formed his eyelids. Upon reaching his verdict he opened them again; facing the light as a gunman does, a standoff between him and the bulb. It inevitably won as he hurried to the light switch, casting the room back in to the blackness that he craved. He lit his candle, and he wrote; he now knew what he needed to do.
He typed out a letter, his bitterness at the world and the ways in which it had failed him reflected in every word, every key stroke. He poured his anguish and his despair into his letter, his offering to the world and his explanation for what he was about to do. His feelings had never been so raw and his perception had never been so clear, he felt a sense of calm tranquillity, an easiness with life that washed over his body. His words were stark and harsh, but as the cacophony of emotions filled the page he felt them leave his mind. With a final tap of the keyboard he felt the serenity of emptiness and knew that he was ready. He hit send, and softly stood, making his way downstairs. His slippered feet padded through the house, soft thuds in the silence of the night. Sam reached the kitchen, taking a glass out of the cupboard. He then turned to the cocktail bar, adding measures of every strong liquor he could find to the rapidly filling pint. The mixture resembled a weak whiskey, a pale brown colour, and the smell burnt his nostrils. He had never been a fan of alcohol, not enjoying the way it removed his sense of clarity. He replaced the bottles, reaching next in to the medicine cabinet. He took out a new box of his mums sleeping tablets, crushing methodically every pill from the box and adding it to the strong liquid. Sam stirred the cocktail, allowing the white powder to dissolve, and then without a moment’s hesitation tilted his head and drank every drop.
He walked back upstairs, instantly feeling the unsteadiness that comes with being drunk. He sat on his bed, knowing the alcohol would kick in much faster than the tablets. He was not afraid, much the opposite; he felt free. His life had been a series of obstacles designed to slow down his ascension to this one perfect moment. He stared at his candle, his blurred mind beginning to transcend time, his sole focus the perfect form of that tiny flame, vivid against the darkness. His mind was getting hazier, so he picked the candle up, pouring the molten wax on to his arm. He felt the rush of pain travel through his nervous system and relished its singularity. He focussed on that feeling, not regretting his actions but wanting to prolong this sense of absolute calm. He could live for an eternity in any one of these moments, once again staring in to the flame as his mind began to drift. The tablets were taking hold now, and he lay back, accepting their control. His mind was still empty, no regrets, no second chances, no desperate longing for someone to come and save him, just complete acceptance of the now inevitable reality. He allowed the waves of tiredness to wash over his body, stroking closed his eyelids, and with a sigh he slipped in to a dreamless sleep.
Sam’s letter – sent by him to every major newspaper in the country
I believe that I am mad. My life has been nothing but a nonsensical carousel of hapless emotions that I have slowly managed to quash. Maybe I am a sociopath; I don’t regret anything that I have done, and I don’t think any of it was wrong? But I have never been the violent type. I am far more the introvert, relishing my isolation that you so gladly gave me. I am not sane, I am not conventional, I am not what you want me to be. I am discarded.
But maybe madness is the medicine that this world needs? What if our perceptions of reality are so warped, so twisted and manufactured that this madness is simply a way of breaking out from the sociological prison created by the indoctrination of every youth, with the rejection of difference being labelled as abnormality? What if we were all a little bit mad, would we be happier? If each of us were really individuals, different from the next because of our eccentricities? What if each of us was loved because of our differences, rather than in spite of them; would this make the world a better place?
Misery is a poison, it is a virus, it is a disease, and it is infectious. So as you live your life avoid people carrying it; for they will infect you. But if madness is the cure to misery I am afraid that I may be insane. Insanity is the overdose to madness’ healing qualities; it is the addiction to madness, the reliance on it. I plunge myself deeper and deeper in to books in a desperate attempt to severe myself from reality. I hide in the dark shunning artificial light simply because the glare pierces the mask our skin attempts to create. I cannot bear to live in your reality, I need the fictitious parallels created by these authors, I dive deeper in to them, using the darkness to block out the oppressive reality that smothers my being. But I know I cannot function, I have been moulded by this world, shaped by society in to a person unable to survive. I have my addictions, this lucid obsession with the fallacy of fiction, and I believe that my addictions have me; the medicine of madness cannot fix me for it cannot free me from myself, instead it forces me deeper in to the clutches of my fixations.
Blood is thicker than water, but both trickle off the umbrella that I hold above my head, sheltering me from the sympathies of the good Samaritans that cry tears over my life, or the slit wrists of my parents as they weep drops of blood on to my disturbed mind. Family always seemed so foreign to me, a distant concept perpetuated by people with nothing else in this life to cling to. Family cannot be chosen, but family can be removed, they are disposable and they will dispose of you the minute it becomes worth their while. They will love you right up to that moment, they will care for you right up to the moment at which they do not, everyone is capable of selling their soul because everyone has a price, we buy each other with emotion and deeds, a capitalist psychological economy in which those who have the most to give away receive the most back for their investment. I have bought and sold friends, a long time ago, but quickly realised it is easier to keep what you have than bargain for what others want; especially when no one wants the twisted, dark contents of your wallet.
I lost myself to this world, but in my death I find myself again.