by Grant Smuts

I think I finally understand the idea of what it means to seethe with anger and frustration. It’s one of those things you don’t realize building in you until one day you’re staring into your sixth cup of coffee at 7 in the morning. Your caffeine-induced muscular spasms has caused your expression to contort, with a certain inevitability, into a look of irritation that most might confuse with a look of undue seriousness, a certain air of ‘don’t-fucking-talk-to-me’, which, to be fair, is actually 80% accurate. The other 20% is usually just my face, which I can’t help.

So, why the anger? It might be with a certain pathos that I say ‘society’. Or perhaps by saying so I might merely induce a rolling of the eyes, a certain long-suffering sigh among the masses. Who cares? In the end, I can’t help but feel that I have been limited in matters beyond my control since my earliest days. Now, as I have reached what might be my creative peak, I cannot help but feel the boundaries of what my intellect and philosophy has become, and sense that my answers and ideals lay somewhere beyond these walls.

It was with a certain resolution that I hoped find what answers I could to the voiceless, nameless dreads that clouded my consciousness with the most nebulous disquiet I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing.

As I sipped my seventh cup of coffee, I reasoned that the limit of my ability is something I can test each and every day, but it is only with painstaking effort that those limits might be overcome. It took me years to become the writer I am, and it might take many more to become the writer I wish to be.

In these reclusive ruminations, I sought the answers to my misery within the depths of my own story – each character is a bit of my subconscious after all, some emotion, persona or desire dragged kicking and screaming to face the horror of natural light. It was in this exercise that I saw how caustic my cynicism can be, and how aberrant whatever desiccated remains of my innocence might appear.

Ultimately, flaws make good stories, and what I dredged up goes beyond the ‘pure fantasy’ I reached for in Where The Gods Lie Dreaming.

Beyond the covers of those pages, the sequels hint at less savoury thoughts. My obsession with death and nihilism, the (failing) dreams of chivalry and pure-hearted heroism and my disappointed awareness of their abject failure in this modern era. My acknowledgement of the continuous jackass-entitlement of the world today, and the mindless desire to appeal to a directionless rebellion. It doesn’t matter what you stand for, just rebel.

That’s the thought process. What the hell’s the end-game? Or has the human race just decided to say fuck the pretenses and admit to destruction for destruction’s sake?

The world barely dreams anymore. It lives in reference to other days, and other times. The 21st century is a catalogue of slow annihilations, embracing the preceding age of post-modernism with the pseudo-intellectualism it encouraged, aided and abetted with a nearly poetic artistry by the facility of the internet.

Knowledge at your fingertips, but idiots abound all the same.

I marvelled at the vengeance of the literary world and how its victory might be achieved by being so completely ignored.

As I stared into my eighth cup of coffee, I pulled from another reclusive rumination an idea of recursive ruination. And from the death and birth it spawned new notions of suffering, new ideas of how small and limited we might be in the vastness of the universe. I thought about the false wisdom of the humanists who believed that the soul of man was the apex of all creation.

At its heart, however, I spied a darkness capable of cruelty and kindness alike. We are set apart only by being the only sapient beings we know of. I contemplated the abyss instead, and wondered what might happen if I reached into it instead of merely gazing. I wondered how small a single human soul might appear in the vast darkness of a moonless and starless night, and wondered if it forgot everything it knew about itself before it was allowed to live in the world of light.

What if that is what death is? Not something experienced once, but time and again, and we did not know it, did not remember it?

For us, each time, it is a new world, never knowing or realizing that it is the same one. That we live the same lives again and again, within this tiny moment in the universe, a bubble of the eternal now that we can never breach. Born into the same lives, into the same history, to walk the same paths, without knowing it, without perceiving any change, without remembering a thing. To feel the same pain, the same heartbreaks time and time again. Recursive ruination.

I emptied the ninth cup of coffee and decided that was enough.
There was no truth that I could find in the end, no comfort.

Just this idea of a world that suffers our arrogance, and in return, it makes us suffer repeatedly.

Surely nothing might be so cruel?

And yet I smiled, because maybe we deserved it.

I won’t deny that there is something of a fatalist in me, if only because it seems to tie in nicely with my misanthropy – this idea that humanity could not possibly be in control of their destinies.

But, as I closed my twitching eyes, I reflected that maybe I had another good idea for a story in the end.