By Declan Tan

There is a constant and infinite realisation of this over and over and over: What it means to be in such a position. Trapped. All of us. Unable to break free for reasons created by outsiders.

But it seems a sentiment lost forgotten erased only for some to begin the Clutching. Horrific tones that deny, and viscous inks that resist, sliding down the opaque glass of reason thundered by rain and a compulsive need for escape.

A tree cut in the urban forest. Not everything on these hills and climbing mountains desires to be taught, automatic, leaning toward these machines swallowed in dust.

The sands and winds have time for neither and will become as hollowed and dead as the marionettes strung by all of the above. As dead as these words. These symbols. These flapping doors of connotation, definition and malleable meaning, left barely on their hinges. Melodramatic orchestrations do not slice the chords of cynicism, of truth, of the back-stages of this Theatre. ‘Enlightened’ intellect with fingers crawling as spiders’ legs over the minds of some committee, some idea of their reconciled desires as emaciated as the hands that could have very well destroyed them, after creating them.

The days designed, what you do and what they are made of.

A blanket of mist penetrated by one eye all seeing all knowing – no feeling. Amongst invisible vines the confidence handed to them (those few) convinces the carnival and the farce of the city (spitting) hum (drum), intoxicated in taverns and cathedrals and stadia and living rooms – a violent requiem for the dripping mirrors that walk among us, occasionally saying ‘Hello’. A fantastic non-fiction in flesh. The barbarians are no myth to opened eyelids and there is no reflection in their matte black pupils. There are more frightening images than running shadows from trees and walking walls.

So in your belief of etiquette and customs generated by archaic tradition, I am that choking indifference.

I thought back to the concrete room where the flower of this day had grown from. Or was it a weed. If I hadn’t been so attached to that Old Man, to thinking that he had something to tell me, something to teach me, then I may still be out on the street. No, that wasn’t true. There was no If. No Why. I cast my notes into the steel bin. I had gotten it all out now. The final bile.

My breathing and my blood flowed along the river into the ocean beyond ours. There was only one way it could move. The striving and the struggle meant nothing.

We were picked up and carried without us knowing any different.

* * *

To begin somewhere. Yes. Training. 

To begin with, there was no inherent meaning to the language.

Where there were supposed to be numbers or names there were blanks we left space for, to be filled in later. The rest seemed like perverted cliché, hyperbole and exaggeration. Building illusions of supposed truth, of enlightening reality, when all was dark, electricity removed.

There were a few varieties of template, we would work one for an hour then switch, then back to the first one, and so on. We would alternate all day. The white pages kept coming. Over a week we covered about ten different formulae, learning them by heart until we typed them without the post box morning sheets.

Our rooms had become homes, our prison became security. No one struggled with the work, it was quite mindless, and in fact we all thought a machine could have done it. But they wanted us to do it. We wanted to do it. And they required a human face for the machine. So at the end of every article we would have to sign our names, followed by Code.

At first we protested, our work slow and ponderous, our typing laboured, eyes leaving screens. We wanted back our glorious freedom of expression, but we soon learnt. It was for the better. The formulae spoke for us, and spoke through us. It delivered everything concisely and included all of the information the readers required.

Tell the story, direct, get the quotes, get the angle, if you haven’t got an angle then work one, slot the events into a narrative, then leave the last line for balance, if there is space. If there is time.

Keep it short, concise. That’s what they want. Beware complications. Leave out complexity. There’s no space for it. No time for it.

We burned off the fat. Of our verbose and effusive writing, narrowed our thoughts and removed all doubt. Our history of miscommunication forgotten. Here we unlearnt all of the unnecessary habits we had indoctrinated ourselves in, and now we delivered words along a line, a direct communication of meaning from one to another. Gone was the frustration. Gone was the feeling that everything I wrote had been said before, during my foolish years. As long as the meanings of the words never changed, I would be a grand communicator. But I worried that the meanings were shifting too much already.

Still, I felt rewarded by the Corporation, I was one of them and truthfully, that was all I had ever wanted. Days of trembling behind the page and the pen, waiting for validation, had been worth it. Now I had paid my dues. I welcomed the rewards with open arms. And I cursed wickedly the days I had lost at the hands of that Old Man.

Over and over we signed our names and began new templates, slightly altered each time but consistent in their meaninglessness. It felt familiar. Interchangeable events made to appear crucial to the Reader. The anyone.

We repeated a detached but lofty voice, I was beginning to dissolve into it. Written with esoteric knowledge hidden from the masses, but of the masses for the masses. Our works were desolate of any ‘information’ in its truest sense. Mechanical, like digital sex. It was data without context, and told the people nothing. We were self-regulated and out of control. The things we wrote were like raindrops in the sun. And we didn’t expect anyone to know any different, or to Think.

We heaved over news articles on a handful of subjects. They revolved around crime, business, shootings, bombings, stabbings and State Visits. The rest swept across Entertainments, celebrity, names. The television listings on the same unchanging page. Full sheets of large colour photography that our budget slid into, and away, and back in a cycle. A cycle of commercial media, without a voice for the bottom two-thirds of the broken ladder. But we hung on to the top rungs.

Hidden images behind the amplified speaker of modern news. We’ll never touch the lives of these people, instead we’ll divert. With trivia of varying degrees, and gossip. Or the latest diatribe in the wars of perception. And get paid.

Then there were foreign policy updates. Someone was supposed to have been visiting somewhere (all blank) to promote (blank):

(Blank) visited (blank) today on an unexpected state visit to boost support for growing (blank). 

(Blank) arrived in (blank) today, pushing forward the (blank), which has seen staunch opposition by militant supporters of (blank) in the (blank) region. 

(Blank) cruised over the city of (blank) targeting (blank) with laser-guided (blank), closing in on the (blank) insurgency lead by what some term the militant (blank) group. 

(Blank) insurgents reportedly killed (blank) civilians, in new statistics drawn up by the (blank) department of the (blank). (Blank) disputes the (blank). 

(Blank) coalition forces were alleged to have targeted a base for (blank) insurgents earlier this morning. (Blank) were injured in the raid. 

The international community has condemned last week’s attacks by (blank) in the (blank) region of (blank). 

A victory for the growing campaign against human rights violations in (blank) today, as democracy forges itself in (blank). The people of (blank) rejoiced in the streets, waving flags and banners, announcing ‘Welcome, (blank)’ and ‘Thank you, President (blank)’. 

(Blank) state TV has aired what it says is a confession by a (blank) soldier under threat of execution for (blank). 

In the interview shown on (blank), (blank) purportedly admits conspiring to assassinate (blank) and indiscriminately targeting (blank) civilians. 

Thousands queued over night to get their hands on the latest (blank) from (blank), released in the early hours this morning. The release of the new (blank) saw fans gathered outside the (blank) headquarters for a view of the next generation (blank), which offers new (blank), updated (blank) and improved (blank). 

A (blank) teenager has been shot dead close to (blank)’s border, (blank) says, as at least five other (blank) were wounded elsewhere. 

(Blank) was killed in (blank) by (blank) fire near (blank), the (blank)-run (blank) said.

The (blank) peacekeeping force said it was not aware of any (blank), but military sources said warning (blank) had been (blank) in the area. 

A shocking (blank) struck the (blank) today as (blank) extremists targeted (blank) headquarters. 

A (blank) cruiser was attacked and sunk today. The (blank) deny any involvement but the (blank) Prime Minister condemned (blank) for what the (blank) community are calling a “blatant act of aggression.” 

(Blank) Generals are reporting a troop surge today in retaliation to the (blank), following their attempt to take hold of the (blank) province. Security forces have now secured the militant (blank) stronghold. 

A spike in violence in (blank) today as (blank) targeted (blank), seeing at least (blank) (blank) personnel killed in what (blank) officials are calling an “unwarranted attack” and “a clear act of war”. 

(Blank) merged with (blank) today as progress was made in the reform of the new (blank) as (blank) called for new sanctions against the (blank) regime. 

The number of civilians killed or injured in (blank) has rocketed to (blank) per cent, despite a fall in the number of casualties caused by (blank) forces. 

More than (blank) civilians were killed in (blank) with another (blank) civilians injured, the latest (blank) report showed. 

The (blank) and other paramilitary forces were responsible for (blank) per cent of the casualties, jumping from (blank) per cent last year. 

A spokesman for the (blank) rejected the official (blank) estimate. 

The (blank) figures for civilian casualties were the worst in (blank) years of conflict.              

The radical (blank) group alleges the (blank) settlements are (blank). 

More casualties and (blank) deaths today as (blank) agitators surrounded the (blank) embassy in what officials said was “an unnecessarily violent protest”. A spokesman for the (blank) administration said (blank), adding that (blank) was the reason for tension in the region: “There is still hope for the peace process. It all depends on the (blank) group’s willingness to negotiate.” 

Peacekeeping (blank) suffered yet more casualties today as (blank) attacks struck in (blank). 

(Blank) officials announced today that all combat troops will be withdrawn from (blank) as early as (blank).

The (blank) administration is yet to comment on the figure for non-combat troops remaining as a security force during the hand-over period. 

We went over and over until (blank) had done everything possible in the (blank) to prevent the (blank) from stopping the (blank) process. 

Data without context. Normalise violence. Normalise horror. All about perspective. The correct perspective.

* * *

Officers, here begins your real training. Those first ones were easy. We want you to knuckle down now, grind out the real data. We want officers able to pick the right facts, pick the right quotes, go to the right sources, ask the right questions. And we need it fast and consistent. Carriages on the track, all connected, all toward the same destination. Let’s go.

That was the second week. A quick week. Filtering out the unready, unprepared of us. We were energised from the practice. The unwilling were left behind. We congratulated ourselves as we punched out sentences and lines and stories in the new language. Anyone not wanting to jump on the rope was left hanging.

Gradually, we all began picking the same quotes, the right quotes. Intuitive almost. Untaught. But none of us seemed to notice anything strange about that. In fact we were rewarded. We were encouraged to build up weak narratives, fitting events into other events as if somehow related, as if somehow one led directly to the other. Order out of the chaos. No mystery to life, no pondering. Un-scientific streams.

We were encouraged to put events side-by-side in a teleological path that put things down to cause and reaction. Bees in the wind. Anyone coming away from the line was put back with some gentle words from a mentor. Some friendly suggestions. We were promised the chance for reward and prestige. We idolised and hoped we too would become the idols. We’d be fools to step out now. The brink of success awaited, only a door away. We’d come too far to squander our rights now.

The following week the templates became more intricate, more developed in their description of the (blank). But ultimately they all portrayed the same simplistic image, over and over. Legitimacy on one side, cruel (blank) on the other.

With every word of the new language, renewed hope trickled down our eyelids.

At the end of the day, after eight hours of knocking at the keys, we went back to our canteen and sat, awaiting our meals, bunched up next to each other, even though that didn’t seem necessary as we all just sat there re-imagining the templates when we weren’t at our machines, consciously or not. Blank, blank, blank, went our minds. Our lips forming the ‘B’, as we thought-wrote it out in the air.

I ate, shovelling the fuel into my mouth, my fingers quivering as they held the spoon. They continued typing on invisible keyboards, knocking away absentmindedly at the machine that wasn’t there. Blank blank blank, tap tap tap. We worshipped the new language they had given us.

We automatically discussed the meal afterwards, at the end of our break. Heads up from the kowtow.

But today: Would you care for a cigarette, Sonntag?

Yes, thank you, officer. I’d be delighted.

Stearns lit my cigarette. He was a senior editor, but he was kept in data to show us the ropes. He usually just let us get on with it. We took to the work quickly and after a fortnight, without question. He also smoked my brand of cigarette, which gave me some sense of dubious privilege.

Good meal today. Real, traditional grub.

Yes. Very hearty indeed. We pulled deep on our cigarettes, letting the smoke whisper out as we spoke.

You don’t get that everywhere.

You certainly don’t. Agreement was key.

Too much obsession with fancy, haute cuisine out there. Stearns said, plainly. His voice taking on the deep tone of some learned professor.

I agree.

Can’t go to a restaurant and get real, traditional grub anymore. He swept his hand through his thick, red hair.

You certainly can’t.

I like you, Sonntag. I think you’ll go far. He said without really looking at me.

Thank you, sir.

D’you know why I think you’ll go far? Stearns turned, all his features directed straight into me. The creased face of middle age, the freckles and the smug estate agent expression.

No, sir, why is it?

Well, for starters, you don’t ask questions. Well, let me rephrase that. You only ask the right questions.


And secondly, you’ve got a keen memory for the templates. I’ve been watching your work. Very nice. I was like you. Eager. Just keep at it and you could be in my position not long from now.

Yessir. I became aware of my subservient responses but didn’t want to break Stearns’ generous mood. He had a way of ignoring us in the data room, often he sat at the head, face down tapping away, writing up new ones. But today he seemed glad to be here. Stearns looked around at the others smoking in the rooftop garden. Leaning in, he confided quietly.

They’ll never get it, because they’re slow and can’t take orders. Code isn’t the same to them as it is for you and me.

I nodded, glad in my heart that he had decided it appropriate to tell me of his pleasure working alongside me.

Thank you, sir.

He leant back. No, that’s not flattery, Sonntag. It’s the truth. You have no one else to thank but yourself.

And Metropolis. For the opportunity, I thought, but held back, not wanting to sound too fanatical or sycophantic. I’m very grateful for the compliment, sir, I said finally.

Now let’s finish up our cigarettes and head home. My wife is waiting for me downstairs. Works in Human Resources down there. Taking her out for dinner and a show. A smile. A show of teeth.

Very good, sir. I replied, not quite knowing how to reply to his casual conversation. We put our cigarettes out in the tray that sat on the tall silver stand. I let him go back inside. Goodnight, sir. I said, as his reflection disappeared into the closing door.

You too, Sonntag. You too. He said morosely.

I stood atop the roof, putting off having to go back to the toilet. I lit another cigarette and watched the other interns. I would show Stearns what we were capable of.

There was a rebellion growing here. We would overturn the monsters, for to overcome them first you must become one.

Life continued for me most vividly within dreams. Work had overtaken my waking moments, but sleep had strongly reclaimed the ideas of my previous life. I kept it a secret from my superiors and the others, not wanting them to think me some romantic, falsely poetic wretch. My waking conscience accepted the freedom. Yet the night and its subconscious were different. I laid back deep onto the steel grate that was bed, and I slept.

* * *

Deep into black, I dreamt.

Here. Here is …

Here is the hall,

Here is the aorta, walking through the building and gliding over the paving outside. The row of chairs and dogs, the breaking glass and subsequent screams. Here is hell in a nightmare. White sheets above the pitch black, and falling. Here are the unfinished spirits. Here is the heart poured down drains, full bottles and ghouls – ghosts in glass, emptied or smashed. Here is the world, here are the poems here, the brushes of paint. Here are the songs, the sung, the yet to be, the lung. Here is an eye, a lip, a new way to embrace. Here is the water breaking on the beach. Here are parasols shielding the sun’s fighting rays. Here are the days and coming morning. Here is the bed we share the coffee you make the food you prepared. Here are the clothes and the changing fashions. Here is consistency. Here is the way a man is taught to live. Here is the broken pencil. Here is distance growing with age. Here is pretending. Here is power and the way it lays, where it lies and how it thinks. Here is faith. Here is penetrating. Here is the population, expanding and dying. Here are apologies and bathtubs, falling water hot and made for steam. Here is liquid, here are the lakes, rivers the seas and the ocean and the journeys they make inland. Here is ferocity. Here are the stoics. Here is Empire. Here is the darkness. Here is the light, the sun and how one day it will all shatter. Here is the beginning. Here is the middle. Again, Here is the beginning. There is no end. You wrote the end. Here are cold stoves sitting crisp in the night and firing the days. Here are the ways we sat the ways we lay the ways we lie. Here is disaster – crackling treetops of jungle and dying hopes, breathing faiths. Here is time and the way it speaks and the way it could speak only one truth. Here are the spaces we filled and the way it all fell. Here is vision. Here is sight and warm reflection in your eyes. The way you moved. Here are the sighing waves, foam and salt. Here’s to forgetting. Here is the burnt petrol the refined oil. The waste and the use. What is the use. Here are the hills in valleys. Here are snowy peaks – crashing mountains, talking volcanoes. Here are deep pockets filled with short fingers. Here are the pinstripes and straightened glass, their false majesty. Here are the words and how you meant them. Here are the windows and the sills and the eyes that stared out. Here is the shade and here is the tree. The eyes staring in. Here is relief. Here is reward and coming plunder. Here is the warm breeze and easy slumber. Here, the walking feet and talking heads. Here is ego. Here is right and there is wrong and all we have made up in between. Here it is all alike. Here is possibility here is truth here are the roofs and ceilings the shacks the favelas the slums the mansions and palace we built over it all. Here is desire and riches inside. Here are the guns laid on and the chosen handshakes. Here is gold, where did it fly, here is choice, here is destiny here is wavering beauty in the wind. Here is the sand the glass the wood the table, here is the dust we will all leave upside. Here is to circling and turning. Here are your hands your wrists. Here is galloping anger. Here is thundering vanity and how it’s sometimes called rain, sometimes called drizzle. Here are the chains we had, the jewels. Here is personality. Here are repeated actions. Repeated words. They still have them. Here’s to lost expression and unrequited dreams – longing and wanting. Here is the repaired machinery. Here are the billboards, posters, advertising. Here is manipulation. Here is art, here is the condor. Here are all the things I have never seen. Here is more. Here are all the hours I will miss. Here are all those things we never see and never will see. Here is nothing. Here is the single grain of sand. Here is the printed and the unprinted word. Here are screens and screams and the dead eyes that molest them. Here is stumbling. Here is the nightmare, here are the curtains that stood between. Here are climbing walls. Here is ink. Here is the paper and here are the olives. Here is convenience, held in storage. Here is the ash. Here are the fast breaths, and the last one. Here are the black beds. Here, the white sheets. Here, the carnivals and ice. Here is the soil. Here is the imagination of many and the actions of few. Here is government and all the words. Here is (God). Here is restraint and here is anarchy. Here are the walls falling and the fields left open. Here are the herds, the wildebeest. Here is the innocent spear dipped in blood; man caked in iron. Here’s to the mud. Here is the dirt. Here is pristine appearance and shined shoes on crumbling toes, sharp feet. Here is fruit, its changing sweetness. Here is strolling grass, here are bored families. Here are the housewives. Here is all the food they eat. Here are all the things they think. Here are the bowls of rice, bowls of soup. Here are the ones who sleep in streets. Here is their lost hope. Here is hope as a lie. Here is the world as owing to one man, and one man owing to the world. Here is humanity and all it has forgotten. All it will not remember. Here are the rocks that surround us and the cliffs that tempt them. Here is temptation. Here is the abstract. Here is the sheet. Here is the concrete. Here are the streets, the gates the doorways. Here is dropped money and flagrant tips from vacant eyes. Here is the beggar, the pauper, the coins in his hands and the nails in his feet. Here are the dog’s sad eyes. Here is sunscreen and rain. Here are dried swimming pools here are factories here is the smog and death inside. Here is the clock and all it wants. The slow burning it churns up inside and out. Here are the pages turning and books closing. Here is the opposite. Here are the smashed plates of unfinished meals. Here is tension climbing across a dining table. Here is the silent church, the stupefying tavern. Here are the louts and their desperate cries. Here are closed doors. Here, the dripping ideas. Here, the institution. Here is asylum. Here is escape and sometimes there is none. Here are stories and realism. Here is pure invention. Here are newspapers, the tabloids the broadsheets, all the associated press. Here are untruths and freedom on a key. Here is what it is to be free. Here is what it is to run scared. Here is delight and here are dashed cigarettes. Here are the things we keep and the joys we smile and often cry. Here is dead skin and the dirty necks we hold. Here is the cowboy, the cheat and the empty hat. Here are the hours and the days. Here, the moon moving silently. Here’s to looking up. Here are running minds. Here are the heaps growing and moss from the undergrowth. Here are the caves. Here are the symbols they use. Here are unbroken horizons. Here are the swaying sails. Here are the souls without sleeves. Here is wonder and happiness. Here is the rest. Here is the stolen horse. Here is unkempt hair. Here is pillage. The rapine. Here is the sword and here is honour. Here is disgrace and the words I have written. Here are the silent hordes and even quieter voices, words, sentences they have strung. Here is the penal colony. Here is hanging. Here is drowning. Here are all the tunnels the clouds the changing opinions; fashion. Here is dusk and how you felt. Here are soft glows and switched off lights. Here is the colour of darkness. Here is yawning, humming. Here is the Rapture. Here is falling. Here is awaking, awakenings. Here is neon. Here are moonless nights. Here are debilitating boils and desperation. Here is stepping off the bus, people sitting behind. Smiles and sorry. Here are rocked heads. Here is somewhere else. Here is sadness and charity. Here is what It means. Here is Bakunin, Kropotkin. Here is the final vanguard the last stand. Here is change here it is all the same. Here is revolution. Here is torn flesh and blood lust. Here is hatred. Here is the present, the now. Here is the journey. Here’s returning. Here is the opening riff. Here is harmony, perfection. Here is Keynes and blind wisdom. Here is the sage. Here is the shaman and his place on this earth. Here is the balance and ideals of egalitarianism. Here are changing winds and eternal voids. Here is Maslow. Here is Laing. Here is Bernays. Here is Huxley. Acrid revelation. Here are the wondrous females, slinking movements and sheer passion that all make such sense in a flash. Here is contentment and resting on laurels. Here is self-certainty and self-righteousness. Here are Bukowski, Fante and soaring birds. Here is you. Here is film and rolls of it. Here is Christmas in Trafalgar Square. Here is warm embrace, bellicose clutching and short goodbyes. Here is never goodbye. Here is how they will destroy it all. Here are the options they have and the holes they live in. Here are the lost forests. Here is opium. Here is mistaken glamour. Here is the syringe and loosened arms. Here is the random gesture. Overwhelming smiles. Here’s to wrapping around it all and killing it. Here are the graveyards and their shifts. Here are flanks and eager bombs. Here, none of it is worth saving, here’s to letting it live. Here is strategy and its futility. Here is understanding and non-acceptance and refusal. Here are lines of blue and seas of a darker shade. Here is confusion and panic. Suspended principles and neglected justice. Here are the courts of law and the weak hammers inside. Here is the space between your toes and when I was wrong. Here are the bouts of strength and lingering weakness. Here’s to better, for worse. Here is matrimony and monogamy. Here are the legislators. Here is dance and imposed movement, thought and action. Here is rhyme and meticulous workings. Here are reins, puppets, marionettes. Here is philosophy and meaning and the cracks in the pavement. Here is miscommunication, satellites and hands in hearts thumping. Here are fits and comfort. Here is self-improvement. Here is muscle. Here is controlled laughter and the shy warmth held back. Here are cold wet feet and meeting hops. The tips of fingers wrapped around claws. Here is inquisition and small talk, the filler we never touched. Here is meaning. Here is sometimes and some times. Here is what we gave and what we thought possible. Here are quietly crossed legs and things we thought we could take back. Here is peace and relative peace and nothing like peace. Here is the insult. Here are the wars we experience and the lands left to wilderness. Kneeling, watching dead graves. Here is existence and life from death and death from life. Here are the flies and their rules. Here is the coming day soon when I will be forgotten and names and numbers ride on breezes out to nothing. Here are the lines in the air and words unspoken, men un-hanged, un-quartered or alive. Here are jet engines and concentrating eyes. Here is the taxi. Here are ages and epochs, invented dates of birth. Here are famous last words and famous first words. Here are washed minds and cleansed bodies. Here is paradox. Here is how sometimes we are allowed and sometimes we are not. Here is improved vision and stabbed eyes. The colours we see through and lights we turn on. Here is Epilogue. Here is the last wave, the last poem, the final insight and the ultimate illusion. Here are perfectly spelt words and perfectly formed legs. Perfectly uttered words and perfectly translated feeling. Here are goals and objectives. Here is why. Here is the way it would be and the way it was. Here is sun falling into sea and rising once more. One more time. One last time. Here are constant reminders to injustice and streaming channels under flesh. It is easy to cry for them but their relief will be the same as the rest. Here is a welcome. Here are the dogs that have lived too long. Here is the crying night. Here is fidelity. Here is the pregnant sky. Here is holiday. Here are deep, controlled heaves in our chests. Here is the wild bison. Here are clenched walls and falling shards around it. Here are grim realities we build. Here is depression, imposed suffering. Here is the unhatched egg. Here are feathers floating through ether. Here are the mystics, the big answers and short questions. Here are the crusades. Here is wisdom in ignorance. Here is the sail tied to the mast. Here are the tipped hats and requiem. Here are the 24 hours. Here is a move. Here is a checkmate. Here is falling down stairs. Here are open doors, opening-hours, and reflex glares. Livid eyes, through the heart and resistant to soul. Here is the W. Here’s to grafted steel and iron mined from mountains. Here’s to collided great gray stars. Here’s to the scolded coffin laid in live soil. Here’s to the rot in chambers. Here is heaven. Here is moving to places in the valley of the mind. Here are the trees that have grown from seeds we stole and made our own. Here are the inexplicables. Here is the nihilist. Here is the signature and abused exclamation mark. Here are the needs and unholy meetings. Here, tall towers and hidden arches. Here, mis-created minds, species unevolved. Here is the all of everywhere. Here is the hall plastered with prison breath, turning and smashing rosewood doors. Here is poesy. Here is meaning taken form at the root and reality. Here is blankness. Here is chalk. Here is the state of mind. Here is offering nothing, but all of it. Here are the strays. Here are unpaid tabs. Fresh fillets of beef, sunken wine chalices. Here are prizes and reward. Here is arrogance, here is self-satisfaction and small pieces in room-sized jigsaws. Here are the spies. The repeater shotguns. Chopped hogs and morning eggs. Refused requests. Mood swings in epic shapes. Swinging arms flying in carnal anger, at air, at nothing. Here is he who invented the Dragon. Here is non-believing. Here is the way they form. Here is the photograph and unobtrusively written stories. On walls, half-full half-empty beer bottles insisted upon the beachfront. Here is sifting necessary and unnecessary words, here is one added and why it is so denied. Here is judgement of unnecessary, here it remains judgement. Here are honest gestures mistaken. Here are close calls in the world they are perceived. Here is salt in the wound. Here are answered doors and ones left alone. Waiting. Lighting a cigarette and riding the bus. Here is style, and grandeur. Here is mundane opportunity, movement etched by severity. Here is the mud. Here is throwing heavy vomit. Here are peers. Here are planned journeys and expectancy, of what has been done, its reasons and insignificance standing tall on pages. Here is if feeling and emotion exist. Here is wet flow, littered fumes of ash in bottles. Here is sheer masquerade. Here are winners in competition. Here are arm wrestlers, playground fighters. Here is the noise. Here is the silence. Here is black mutilated laughter.

When I woke each morning I kept my eyelids held shut. Edging toward the darkness for more, I tightened my lids pushing back the eyeballs. I searched for the dark in there. I searched for my stigmata. I hunted the complete and pitch black night, but found only colours and light, shapes and shadows formed and blurry, but the optic silence never showing.

Could it be possible for man to invent some kind of drug that allowed every man and woman and child to experience lucid dreams, conscious dreams that meant all we wanted to achieve could be done so in an instant and in our sleep? It would be real and the waking life would whisper away. All the struggles would mean nothing because when we lay down and shut our eyes, all our phantasies would be under control, lived and tangible. We could all have our successes, all have our moments, and it would be real. For those hours everything would be real.

I would get up still hoping for a new world outside of this, but that never took. I thanked my work for giving me the opportunity to try and make a better one.

I wondered what it would mean for me if the world really did change overnight, and that all my complaints were fixed. What then would be my purpose?

The darkness of society needed me as much as I needed it, to thrive, to survive and have something to rile against. Without it I would have nothing or would turn back and start again, fighting the other way, always assuming the role of underdog.

It absolved me of expectation and seemed always to be the right way.

Declan Tan


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