Image: My Beautiful Apocalypse (detail) by Catherine Forsayeth
Sometimes I experience a disorientation on waking, not knowing where I am. If something wakes me in the night or pre-dawn, I’ll lie there in the dark for a long moment, listening for cues and trying to arrange my surroundings around me. Where is the window in relation to the bed? What sounds can I hear and from which direction? Am I in my old apartment in Amsterdam, or that tall skinny house in Saigon, or my luxury apartment outside the city, or that farmhouse in Normandy, or my room in Red’s house in Isan? And I enjoy them, those lost wakings, because it’s the feeling of the traveller, and I’ve nothing to fear being lost; I always have been; it’s just the feeling of being me. Then the reticular stem tunes in, anchoring my location on the face of this planet, and I know where I am. But since this shit-show started, I’ve lain there with another, darker, more loaded question on my mind:
What fucking planet am I on?
As I said to Kite, you’re in a movie now, get used to it. And it’s science fiction, a dystopian science fiction horror movie if you like those, and these are just the opening credits. Walk away from your normalcy bias, Kite, there is no normal now, new or otherwise.
I don’t think she gets it. I hoped she would bite on the rebel status every natural human has now acquired whether they like it or not; the glamour of it. But no, she just looks confused and goes quiet when I talk like that. And it’s easy for me, of course. At my age you have less to lose and can afford to look reality in the face. At hers, you’re crippled by expectation and desire. It’s not easy to break out of it. It’ll take a really big shock.
I still have some hope for my real daughter, though — only a sliver, to be honest, but you never know. She is extremely bright, and brave too, and I hope and pray for something to get through, something to help her understand that what her crazy father is trying to tell her, horrifying though it is, is close to the truth, and she’s going to have to call on all kinds of unrealised qualities to survive.
“I feel guilty,” I tell her. “I’ve always gone easy on you with the lethal texts. You understood the concept, and I understood that it’s not possible for someone in your position to allow such texts into your mind. But things have changed now. My world has somehow invaded yours; I never wanted that to happen, but it has. It’s like a bad dream.”
“If I was starting from where you are,” she says to me, “then I’m sure that what’s happening would look like confirmation of everything I believed. But I’m not starting from there. I’m not.”
“Sweetheart,” I say to her, “nobody starts where I am.”
The last thing I want to bequeath her is the dream-tone of my own personal nightmare, but it’s not personal any more, it’s everybody’s. And I feel guilty for that. I wish the enchanted land of normality could last a little longer for her sake, so that she could have the life she has made, and me stay the crazy one forever; that would be fine. But now, whether she accepts it from me or finds out later, all that is gone. Only an illusion is left, and that will quickly fade. Rags and shreds of the map rotting here and there across the terrain, stirred by the wind, scavenged by birds for their nests and beggars for their blankets.
I thought I’d been through all the stages of grief, but I keep going round the cycle. I need to break out of it. The five stages, they say, are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Since I cannot accept what is happening, I rebound into depression and anger. Never denial — only the unbegun do that, before they begin their pathetic attempt to bargain: if I just comply, perhaps I can have my life back, or most of it, or some of it, just a little bit, please, please… but I’m not going to negotiate, I’m not going to participate in this satanic New Normal in any way. I know what it is and where it comes from and I will have nothing to do with it, regardless of consequences. Show me a gun in one hand and a syringe in the other and I’ll choose the bullet, every time, and I’m not trying to look heroic, just opting for the easy way out. It’s not even a conscious choice I had to make, coming as it does from the depths of my being, the very cells of my body. You want me dead? Then be honest, come with guns — and take the karma. It won’t be on my head. I will not do it for you, as so many have.
Why should I? By some miracle I’ve made it this far and I’m not about to trade my soul for a few miserable years of slavery under the electronic lash. I’m probably destined to end my life in one of these huge quarantine facilities — concentration camps by any other name — which are springing up in my homeland and all over the Commonwealth countries. OK, so I don’t get to be an old man — who gives a shit? I hadn’t exactly provided for a comfortable old age, in any case, and I’m a little surprised to still be here, to be honest. I’m someone, you see, who has wasted — and shared, to be fair — so much of his resources that now that I can’t work I’m staring right down the barrel. I’ve been living off my savings, and there’s not much left, especially after all the help I’ve given Red. But now? It doesn’t matter because everybody’s fucked. Even if I’d been wiser, I wouldn’t be in that much better a position. So all that worrying about money I’ve done, about my future, is all irrelevant now, and I have to celebrate that, give gratitude and take joy, exclusively for the possibility of liberation it entails.
So fuck it, maybe I judged it right. I’m going to live out what’s left with every ounce of intensity I can summon, in this still viable body and passionate mind; I’ll embrace the qualia and let quantity go fuck itself. And that includes the pleasure of resisting, in any way I can, this New World Order riding in on the back of the Covidian cult. It doesn’t matter if resistance is doomed to failure — that’s not for me to say, and doesn’t make the slightest difference. I’ll die human, and if that means my end is in the gulag, then so be it. Millions have gone before, so why not me?
I have to get to the point of acceptance — not submission, but detachment, so I can take this moment, use it, loot it, mine it and make it mine. There’s a kind of consummation in it, after all, a coming full circle: my life at least making sense in the end; my vision, my prison (yeah Joe), my malaise — something was coming, I kept saying so, and I wasn’t wrong. I didn’t know it would arrive in my lifetime. I should feel privileged to have lived to see it and to resist it and know I wasn’t crazy. That the stuff I thought mattered really fucking did. That the world of kitsch I pushed against turned out to be as fragile as I always knew it was. In this knowledge I must find liberation and energy. If I didn’t have so much skin in the game it would be easy.
I’m all right where I am for the moment, more than all right. I have my little tribe of unvaccinated friends, and music and laughter, leaves of marijuana and kratom, a wide terrace where I can sunbathe naked, this vast view of headland and ocean to where it curves away over the horizon. A motorbike… these curving, dipping coast roads… a laptop to write on, and plenty to write about, oh yeah — what more could I possibly want?
I pray for that detachment, that ruthlessness with self, an amor fati to cut away everything that holds me back. Can I achieve that liberation? If I can just make a break with the past, free my spirit and go into this last phase of my life without encumbrance, then who knows what I can do, how I can serve?
Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24.