---0 When they found Gus dead, his computer had a web browser open. The browser had three tabs. Tab 1 - Aokigahara, Suicide Forest in Japan. A documentary about a forest where 100 people commit suicide every year, on an average. Located at the base of Mt Fuji. Tab 2 - Brahms, Symphony no. 3, Poco Allegretto. A youtube video. Tab 3 - An instructional video of how to painlessly embrace death with the help of a normal safety pin. Not for the faint hearted, maximum precision and tolerance to physical and mental pain for (what seemed, outside it's sphere of influence at least) a short amount of time. Unlike other people who pick out information about suicide, contemplate a lot and eventually after planning it so thoroughly in their own head till it seems like an alternate reality, and by the time when they're already part of the living dead, Gus had actually thought of suicide in a very alternate and elaborate manner. To him, suicide was the grand culmination of his steadily ascending position in self-awareness. She remembers the conversation they had then. "I've always thought David Bowie has the perfect voice for post punk." "Yeah, he sometimes does come across as post punk being played in a prog manner. You know, less of relentlesss repetition and more of light hearted improvisations. Like if Curtis had been singing about planting trees instead of urban alienation." "To call that over-analysis would be an understatement." "Sure, so what are you doing on Friday night?" "Nothing, most likely rent a movie. Stay inside." "Good plan. Think I'll work it the same way." "Sure." Awkward pause. Who gave a fuck anyway. Who cares about some crap lovey dovey couple separated by a distance in their understanding, one's headspace is located in Norway and the others in Brazil, who gives a crap about what is essentially just another pointless exchange of views, and maybe if things go as planned by either party and do not fuck up in the million and a half ways in which they most likely would, exchange of bodily fluids and real live emotions that respond to the body's temperature, and go just beyond body language and mental predispositions and neurons firing wildly to the ultimate arbiter of human desire.. Gus wondered if she had the same thoughts as he did. Gus wondered if he cared. He definitely did not want to waste his time, but some things were more of involuntary responses. "I'm popping myself off", he says.
"Heh, you don't have the balls." she replies. ---00 "What the fuck are these guys saying?" reaction of someone whom I told about this scene I was writing. A man and a woman on the phone, the man threatening suicide in a playful way, just because he can and he will. And he has, already, at the start of the story. There is no real need to read on. There is no real curiousity to be satisfied. You know he gets fed up of it all eventually, so why read what went behind the scenes? The range of human fucking drama? That's because as carnivores of fresh, living bits of emotional sequences that we dream up in our head as contexts for this seemingly cold banter, we need this drama. If we can't create drama in our lives, we want it in our head. And so she imagined her own drama, sensitive, largely outside the realms of logic, while he saw possibilities, liaisons, and on and on this duality of thought continued, thus warping them into an imaginary universe which was as strong a possibility as much as genghis khan riding to another camp-slaughter (sorry for cultivating the cliche, the Khan was a great man). Gip, reading the story, slightly bored by it for now, but still slightly intrigued, sticks a finger up her nose to the silent disgust of her subconscious. Her subconscious wishes it could leave her body and smell a few good flowers. Gip doesn't care much about her subconscious, communication with which is an extremely rare occasion for her simplistic state of being. "This is definitely crap", she tells me. Nothing near the kind of stuff this magazine would want. As your editor, I command you to redo the whole thing. You can't have these bozos continuing the suicide drama six months backward from the point where the man commits suicide?" "But...but it's like poetry!" I protest meekly. "You miserable hag, you know nothing of good literature." "I've read every book you've read, and some that you haven't, or have forgotten and hence unread. So stop being a sore loser and give me a re-write in two weeks, no later." "You know, I liked writing before I met you." "Stupid bastard." "Ignorant cunt." I don't know if my relationship with my editor is representative of the general relationship of writers with their editors. Do writers even have editors? I just got myself one because she was good at correcting all the spelling and grammar stuff in my stories, and she provided rather rude, but extremely honest feedback. Plus I had some extra money, and the kid needs it to get through college. Genius, but slightly misplaced. Drugs. That kind of stuff. ---000 Maybe I'm inventing a story about her to keep you interested. But I'll tell you a real story. It really happened. I was there.
I was sitting in a restaurant, set near a river which is called a river just because calling it for what it is, an unofficial open and extremely stinky sewer would be hugely demoralizing for all the people currently reading these lines and residing in its vicinity. Anyway, I sat with my parents, aged...seven? Eight? Somewhere between 7-10 most likely, on the lower side. Either way, we'd ordered some food. As we waited for it, a loud scream jolted everyone out of their seats. Seconds later, as I did not leave the table, too hungry to be curious and having just been served piping hot, good food, I saw a burning figure enter my view. Figure as in man. He was screaming, and people were trying to douse the fire with water, sand. Wasn't helping. He couldn't stay still because of the pain apparently, but he must have been really desperate to jump headlong into the water. Quite a fall. And he kept burning anyway. I don't remember feeling anything for the man. It was strange, my parents who were usually quite attentive as to what kind my 'influences' were, did not seem too bothered by the incident. Now I wonder if what I saw really happened, or it was something my brain conjured up images that entertained. Somewhat like what I tried to do with my story. "And what is it about these so called rockers calling themselves Alice and Marilyn? Downright shameful that is.", the old man said before emptying the can of kerosene all over his body. I'm suddenly jerked back to reality by this conversation. I've been having these bizarre dreams about editors and novels and diaries and whatnot. I compose myself and look into the mirror. ---000 ‘I’m slowly losing track of time. My dreams shall raze reality into the formless dust And my nightmares shall populate this world ‘ Prophetic, nonsensical, grandiose in the extreme and needless pain devoted to studying the art of inflicting pain upon oneself in lugubrious conditions. Why was I inventing multiple characters and relationships between them when the end result is a cipher? How is fiction going to serve any useful purpose? I should include some hard facts to bolster its longevity. For instance, did you know that one can smoke an entire cigarette in less than sixty seconds in just one drag? And that though most people believe that DMT and LSD are the be-all and endall of recreational substances, there’s a drug called quinuclidinyl benzilate, or BZ for short, which has you tripping for three days, stuck in a limbo between reality and imagination, where the hallucinations, unlike the seemingly transcendental ones caused by LSD and DMT and shrooms, not the geometrically obscene and astral ones, but the ones that are frighteningly real. You might hallucinate your dead mother (or the ghost of your mother who’s still hale and hearty), your childhood friend who’s currently one thousand three hundred and forty two kilometres away from you, as the crow flies, but manifests his presence and you have no choice but to accept it, because your brain has lost touch with reality...you get the drift.
Of course, these facts are irrelevant for most people, most of you who won’t even bother reading this bizarre piece of writing which is but an attempt at exercising the powers of stochastic creation given to the brain, the inherently complicated machine with billions of parameters that in themselves have noise which keeps magnifying till you don’t know which ones the signal and which ones the noise, till you keep staring at the television screen and find patterns in the dancing dots of the cathode ray tube that alternate rapidly between black and white, till the age of modern televisions dawns and all you see is a uniform shade of blue and a few inbuilt games to keep you busy while signal reception is restored. ---00 Gip is staring at my re-write. “That’ll do”, she says. I wonder if anyone is going to read this. I changed the thing quite a bit. I made it a plot where he murders her because though she loves him, she fails to understand his creative impulses. So his creative impulses slowly assume a voice in his head which tells him to murder her for betraying who he truly was, a misunderstood artist. “Everyone loves you as a fucking human being, Gus. No one appreciates your immortal creations though.” Quite a tried and tested idea. She seemed to like it. This kind of stuff appealed to the masses. As long as it was a man killing someone else and not himself, it was perfectly acceptable violence. Violence directed at the self however, no matter how justified, is seemingly an alien concept. “Well, I think I know what you’re thinking. You’re hating me for butchering your work and your ideas. Well, you have to sell boy. There’s no point in attempting ground-breaking stuff now. If someone picks up on it, fine. But if no one does, your career ends before it has begun. Sure, you might be like Kafka, people might consider you a literary genius after your death, but you’ll be dead before receiving and/or enjoying all that adulation. I’m not telling you not to write what you want. I’m just telling you to keep those stacks of notebooks and word files and scattered piles of papers neatly in a box and write something that these goddamn fucknuts want to read. Don’t make it too cheesy, else you lose the cautious critics who are quick to dismiss the egregiously offensive as well as the overtly timid, but who keep an eye out for stuff that in spite of its inherently mainstream appeal possesses a certain amount of dignity and class, and that is what you should be aiming for, because when you drop the real bomb on these cantankerous piss-pots, they’ll lap it up like the sorry buggers they are.” “But...” “Now before you start countering this, let me tell you a story. This one’s about this writer, you see. Brilliant command over the language and ideas that gushed forth quicker than money out of an ATM machine. He had so many ideas that he used his 8 gigabyte memory phone just to record them. Know how the compression works on the arm file format that stores voice notes in most standard cell phone units? 10 seconds worth of recording is 20 kilobytes, so if you backcalculate from 8 GB (roughly 8 followed by 6 zeros bytes), that comes out to more than 16 million seconds of recording ideas. Which is 194 days worth of talking, non stop. When he was too poor to buy more storage, or food, or pay the rent, she had to sell his phone and a few of his
belongings, and write a column for a newspaper about some upcoming rap artist. Before he finished it, and before someone bought that phone on ebay where he’d put it up for sale, he disappeared. No one knows where. The guy who got his phone, with memory card et al, was freaked out. Didn’t want the thing. Came into my possession. Along with the story behind it.” At this point, she rummaged in her desk for something. She took out one of the Nokia ‘N’ series models. I remembered it back from my teenage days. Good piece. She held it out. “What do you want me to do with it?” “Take it, and listen to it you fool. That man was a genius. Way ahead of your time. Much better and articulate than you’ll ever be, I’d guess. I’ve heard a few minutes worth, and that was more than enough for my liking. Should be a novel experience for you, a brush with the unattainable. Don’t try to plagiarize though, I doubt you’re up to the task.” “As if I’d even dream about doing such a thing.” “You might find yourself in a different position once you start listening to what’s on there.” “I don’t need the cell phone though, yeah? Just gimme the memory card or something.” “Can’t, you’ll have to transfer the recordings via bluetooth, then feel free to throw the phone away if you want.” “He’s dead though, right?” “No one knows for sure. I got this through sheer luck, I doubt even he knows of the tremendous impact it could have on literature as we know it now. I doubt more than a thousand people in the entire state recognize its worth. I’m giving it to you because you’re a nobody, and have nothing to lose, and know nobody except me. Use that for your ideas and give me something not as obscure and unreadable every month - that should keep the boat afloat for a few more years till you’re a bit more well-known. Don’t waste your time dreaming up your silly plots with the thousand holes I’ve got to try and keep filling. Use the plots he has, impose your style on it, develop even one of those properly and you have some seriously good stuff.” She was right. This made more sense. But back at my place, as I listened to the recordings, the voice started getting more and more familiar... ---000 I looked into the mirror as she dissolved into nothingness and my bathroom shifted back into focus. I looked at my lather laden face, and looked at the razor in my hand, stained red. Had I cut myself while shaving? I looked close, but couldn’t find a wound. I finished shaving, washed off the lather and rinsed my mouth. As I spat out, a frog fell into the basin. I spat again, and another frog fell out. I spat a third time, and a third frog dislodged itself from my oesophagus and projected itself neatly into the sink. Where were these frogs coming from? Were they establishing a society inside my stomach, immune to gastric juices and antibodies and everything else designed to either eradicate or assimilate or excrete them?
Well, I had managed to excrete them through my mouth by pseudo-vomiting them out. I was puking frogs. I wondered why I was daydreaming so much, and what these names and faces meant, the ones I was continuing to hallucinate, the ones that seemed so familiar. I looked at the frogs. They seemed real enough. They looked at me as if I was their mother. I didn’t create these. I’m not responsible, I swear. I’m not the father. I’ve never had sexual intercourse, especially with frogs. I don’t eat them alive either. And I don’t think I can manufacture them in my belly. These must be hallucinations from the time I can’t remember anything about except that even at that point I wasn’t too clear about some things that were in the past of what was present then...which effectively means that I’ve lost my memory twice, and the only memory I have about my first lost memory is that I was already deprived of many memories back then as well...to summarize, the only preserved memory was the existence of another lost memory.” I looked at my face. I don’t remember when it was I last shaved, but it looked smooth. Maybe I shaved yesterday, or a few minutes ago. I can’t remember. I don’t know what I’ll do in the near future. I look at the coffee I have in front of me, the billows of steam rising from it, spreading its essence in my bedroom. Maybe five minutes later, when the coffee is finished and I look at the empty cup, the aroma of coffee beans in the air will jog my memory and indicate that I had coffee in the recent past, and not tea, or milk, or any of the other beverage alternatives. I look at the article that’s open on my laptop.
Attention collapse causes an inability to imagine future satisfaction, Harvard Gazette, Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012 “Researchers have identified a key reason why people make mistakes when they try to predict what they will like. When predicting how much they will enjoy a future experience, people tend to compare it to its alternatives — that is, to the experiences they had before, might have later, or could be having in the present moment. But when people actually have the experience, they tend not to think about these alternatives and their experience is relatively unaffected by them.” Alternatives. Interesting word. ---0 “Hello Ma’am, we’re here to call about a certain Mr Gustav Hesse. Do you know anyone by this name?” “Yes, I do...is this important? I have to meet someone, in a bit of a hurry, so if you could please make it quick.” “I don’t know how to break it to you Ma’am...was he close to you?” “Well, in a way, we’re extremely close friends. Is he hurt or something? You keep saying ‘was’” “He’s ...he’s dead Ma’am. Committed suicide apparently.”
“Gus..committed suicide?” “Seems so. There’s a suicide note, handwriting matches. We found a thesis too. Titled ‘On the laws of thermodynamics as applied to societal interactions and energy exchange.’ Its dedicated to you, it seems. We found your phone number in his address book.” She wasn’t feeling sorry, or bad, or sad. She was just very confused right now. A thesis? Gus didnt have patience for theses. He never wrote anything he thought of. Said his mind was too sharp to lose any of it. He created a theory a day, never bothering to write or test or formalize any of his findings. “Do I need to come over there right now, Officer?” “Not urgent Ma’am, but it’d be a great help if you could come to the station sometime in the evening once you’re done with your work. The case looks like an open and shut thing.” “Yeah, I’ll do that. Thanks.” “Sorry for your loss, Ma’am.” “Its okay, bye.” I need pathos, she thought. Tons of pathos. Several beer jugs filled with pathos flavoured beer. ---00 “Hey kid, how’ve you been?” “Could’ve been better, old tosser. Got anything for me today?” “Yeah, this. Should fit in your description of almost average but not quite. A little something of my extended poetry.” “Your extended poetry sounds like badly written rap, no thanks Anything else?” There were times when I wish I could hurl Gip physically, out of the window. Since we were located on the ground floor, she wouldn’t die, but I relished the idea of her trying to untangle her lazy body from the bushes and stand up covered in earth and associated bits and pieces of things that are randomly found in hedges Like condoms, wrappers, burnt out transistors and so on. That was the extent of my violent fantasies...watching people get mildly irritated was payback enough for me. “Well I have this thing I wrote..called Textbook.” “Textbook huh. Sounds preachy.” “It isn’t. Can you give it a try at least? I promise it isn’t too unreadable.” “I’ll try. You have it with you I guess?” “Yeah. You want a pdf/epub as well? For your kindle?”
“Yeah sure, send that over.” “Okay...and seriously, clean up your apartment, it stinks of rock.” “Keep your opinions and poetry to yourself, old man. I can take care of myself.” ---000 Who is Gustav Hesse? Why is his name cropping up so many times in my head? Seven times in the last sixty seconds. And then there’s this blonde woman whom I remember seeing sleeping in the moonlight on a bed somewhere on...I can’t remember the street, but I can remember smelling flowers. Not just roses, or lotuses, or daffodils, or whatever dainty flowers most gentlemen and ladies are used to. An image and a smell was all I had. For the rest of my past, I didn’t even have smells. I remember smelling petrol for the first time a few minutes ago. I decided to visit a florist and find out which flower it was that I had a vague olfactory recollection of. ---0 She opens the shutters and unlocks the door. Her partner is late today. She remembers her conversation with that detective as she mindlessly goes about setting things up for the day. “It might not have been a suicide though. He was a very strong-willed man.” “I’m sure he was...but there’s no evidence that there was any struggle, or an external presence. Everything points towards a suicide. The tabs open in his browser, his thesis, his notes...he seemed to be suffering from an almost intractable form of melancholy.” “But how did you identify him?” “He had a photo-identification. A driver’s license.” “Can I see his body? Or is it too..disfigured?” “His work was very..er..subtle. No blood, nothing grotesque. He even wore..er..additional underwear. Seems like he wanted as clean a suicide as humanly possible.” She accompanied the detective to his car, and from there to a basement somewhere in the middle of the western district, where everything seemed to smell of formaldehyde and a bunch of assorted chemicals. They opened up a drawer. “That’s not him!” she cried out. The detective looked puzzled. “But that’s the man who goes by the name of Gustav Hesse.” “No it’s not..I’ve known Gustav Hesse for the past five years. This is definitely not him. Where did you find the body?”
“In his apartment, on Clement street. His cleaning lady complained that he wasn’t opening the door, nor responding to telephone calls.” “He does live there, but this isn’t him. Must be a different person with the same name...” “Is it that common a name?” “Well, not really.” All she remembered of the rest of it was pure relief. Sure, he was missing, he wasn’t answering her calls, but there was no corpse, and the suicide note was nothing like him...almost as if he’d changed overnight, or split into two. ---1 “Hey Gip. You look tired.” “Do I? Can’t keep up with this work and college and all that partying. Need a break.” “You should look for some writing or editing job. God knows we need better written newspaper articles. Most of them are lowering themselves to tabloid level credibility these days.” “Yeah well, let’s see.” The door swung open. A man with wild, tangled hair entered. He was looking intently at a card he held in his right hand, and was sniffing incessantly. It was an unsettling combination of activities coming from that outlandish figure. He went straight to the counter, reached for his pocket, and placed a cell-phone on it. “Take it”, he said. “Give it to me when I return...won’t be like this. Most probably won’t remember anything either. You’re Gip though right? I’ll find you somehow. Just return it to me. Keep it till then. I won’t be like this. Sorry to have scared you.” All this time, she stared at what remained of Gus, who was still sniffing incessantly whenever he paused in between words. “Gus, is that you? Don’t you recognize me?” Gip was quite freaked out. She was used to mind-altering substances, but nothing had prepared her for what was about to happen next.”Charlie..is this the Gus you keep talking about?” “I’m not GUS. I’m not Gustav. God, stop bothering me. I’m no one you know, or will ever know. All I remember is your face and the fragrance of that one flower. Everything else has so far been a bunch of insipid hallucinations. Frogs, for fuck’s sake.” “...” “Please, can you do me this one favour? Can you bring me all the flowers you have? So I can test them individually? Maybe that scent is the key to all my missing memories.” “You don’t remember anything?” “ARE YOU DEAF WOMAN! I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m upset, and out of control. I can’t remember why I’m here so I have to keep staring at the card. It says ‘scent’. I remember a scent.
I remember nothing else. Are we good? Why are you...is that crying.” He looked towards Gip, “Why is she crying?” Gip went over to Gus and grabbed him. “Calm down, fool. She knows who you are, so stop babbling. Let’s go out for a smoke, yeah?” Gus didn’t resist. Gip lit a cigarette. Gus sniffed. Suddenly, he burst out laughing. ‘This is it...whats it called..tobacco! That is the smell. I wanted to give up cigarettes yeah! So I dissociated myself from the chain smoker in me, and let him die. I think he took my memories with him. I think that expains it. I think all of that is very self-explanatory.” Gip looked at him in shock. She wondered what to tell him. She decided to improvise. “It’s all a fantasy Gus. You’re a good writer right? You’ve made this all up. You’ve been stressed, Charlie’s been telling me about you. You have a knack. But you can’t quite get your stories to complete right? I’ll help you. I’ll be your editor. “ “An editor, huh. Do writers need editors?” “Sure they do Gus. Sure they do. Now let’s go call ourselves a doctor.”
---2 Below is an excerpt from Gustav Hesse’s Textbook, Phase II, Chapter 8 “The omens are adverse; what good can come from the slaughter of my people on this battlefield” Arjuna Uvach(Arjun says), Bhagvad Gita, Adhyay(Chapter) 1. While I still have something to feel, let me feel. While I still have something to say, and not just spout sterile words, let me say. I am witnessing my own deconstruction. I am witnessing my decay into a thousand philosophies, a thousand different ways of life. Philosophy has sadly now just come to mean something as meaningless as a metaphor for universal sadness, a disjoint union of several absolute isolations that were once referred to as souls. But here I persist amongst these monstrous constructs, here I survive the plague amongst these pitiful diseased denizens of the house of the human, the society of the sane, the memoir of the meaningful. I have let go of the last line of defence. I have betrayed the Book of Disquiet, and the greatest literary figure to have survived the gaze of my scrutiny, the tempests of my unfettering and immaterial criticism. I have given all of it away, till I have nothing. I have confessed my undying lack of ambition, and yet here I choose to write till I can get sick enough of my own mediocre form of literature, till I begin to finally acknowledge the fact that this music ringing in my ears that simply asserts that nothing can amount to more than a certain degree of nothingness, a lack of love, a lack of understanding, a lack of human traits and affection, of reality, of all things that would make your heart beat faster and make your fingers respond faster to the inner uncontrolled impulses that make you write something, anything, maybe devoid of ambition, devoid of structure, devoid of form and flamboyance, of hope and the belief in one’s own ability towards happiness. But here I check myself. Here I restrict communication, here I re-ventilate the air in the room I’m sitting in so that I don’t fall asleep, not because I don’t have newer ideas, but because the oxygen in the room is slowly but surely getting thin. I contemplate going back. I contemplate walking the stretch of isolated land at this time, and returning tomorrow as if nothing happened, as if no one had been here or typed here or polluted this sacrosanct hall, as if I had not descended to the level of these bow legged and claw swiping, fang baring animals. Without involvement, without a care and without much effort, I will leave this scene as not a scene of murder, but a scene of silent and peaceful death, as a scene of unlikely and supposedly tragic events. I’d come to share my concern and my knowledge, instead I share my insight (which is painful) and my experiences (which are visceral and sharp). I share a part of my soul, and that is enough to poison any sane man. Godspeed. This is the end of my textbook.
Published on Nov 26, 2012