A Cut-up Life By Patrick McDermid [PREVIOUS PAGE] [Texts Index]


Part 9: A Hole in the Void


The window begins to admit a cold grey light. We decide to go outside and check out the sunrise. We walk all the way downtown, streets deserted, our footfalls reverberating against concrete buildings.

We wander into the lobby of The Pan Pacific, a monstrous, opulent giant of a hotel, built to impress international businessmen during the upcoming world exposition. We are greeted by cascades of water, giant wall murals, and endless amounts of glass and chrome.

Lewis remarks on the carpet: a pattern of black mandalas on a deep red background. We hunch over to examine the detail. As we are doing so a wave of paranoia creeps in. I look up and notice the desk clerks are staring in our direction. In my imagination I see numerous security guards scurrying about, mumbling into walkie-talkies. I feel conspicuous dressed in my regular shabby attire, out of place in this environment of decadence and luxury. Lewis insists that I quell my paranoia long enough for us to sit down and have some coffee in the cafeteria.

I feel relieved as we are leaving the building half an hour later, but I am convinced that our presence has been recorded by hidden cameras.

"Do you guys think I'm being paranoid?" I ask, after voicing my suspicions.

"Most definitely, yes." replies Don. "Why would they waste valuable video tape recording a bunch of Losers like us?"

Walking now into the chill morning air through blocks of office buildings. We stop at a large fountain adorning the front of an older building. The fountain itself has been turned off for the winter, but the small pool underneath is still full of water. The floor and edges of the pool are covered in faded blue tiles.

Lewis starts splashing around in the water with his hands. For some reason we find this activity particularly engaging. Don and I stare on with rapt attention. After a few minutes the humour of the situation becomes apparent to me:

"God we must really be burned out to be so easily amused." I say.

"No, this is an interesting phenomena." counters Lewis. "Look at the interference patterns where one wave collides with the other. If you get the timing right, the two waves will cancel each other out. The peak of one wave cancels the trough of the other and vice versa. It's the same with light waves. This causes a real problem for physicists. If two light waves interfere with each other and cancel each other out, where does the light go? Because energy can't be destroyed, only converted to a different form, right?"

For some reason I am beginning to feel intensely uncomfortable. I have this feeling like I have forgotten something important, and all of this nonsense is getting in the way of remembering what it is.

We get up and start walking again. The streets are full of traffic now, soon it will be rush hour. We are approaching a transit station. A train must have just arrived because a crowd of grey figures emerges from the stairs onto street level, every face set in the same expression of sourness and ill-will.

This scene freezes into a still frame in my mind's eye and suddenly I am scanning over other images of the night's activities. A dark oppressive force looms below the level of conscious awareness. It gathers strength and then breaks through into a flood of Realization.

"Hey! I know what Insanity is!" I shout excitedly. A couple of passing businessmen cast disapproving glances in our direction.



"Wait. Stop walking. I've got to explain it now before I forget." Don and Lewis stop, waiting to hear what I have to say. A split seconds is all it takes to think up an analogy:

"Imagine you are surrounded by chaos: A whirling vortex of perception you have no way of understanding. Into this void of chaos has been built a small oasis of order. Imagine this Oasis to be a small room, with furniture, rugs, wall paintings etc. It is your home, the only home you've ever known. But the room is incomplete. Ever since you have inhabited it there has been a crack in one of the corners. You go about your business in the room and occasionally your attention is drawn to that small crack where the two walls do not meet. Through this crack you can detect a flicker of peculiar movement, you get a glimpse of something that is foreign and frightens you. So you simply force yourself to forget the crack and look elsewhere, get back to your regular business around the room. But then one day, when your not doing anything in particular and your mind wanders you find yourself again looking at the crack, only this time it is larger. Behind it mysterious terrifying figures are scurrying about, all sorts of torrents of strange forces. Something must be done. You pick up a floor mat and nail it over the hole. A few days later there is a loud noise. It sounds like a sock being sucked up a vacuum cleaner. The floor mat has be sucked into the void. You panic, grab all sorts of odds and ends and stuff them into the corner, again blocking up your vision of that ghastly hole. This works for a while, but the expanding progress of this hole is unstoppable. You pile chairs, tables, pots and pans, everything against that one corner until they are all sucked out into the void and eventually you with them.

Our culture as a whole responds to this natural condition of chaos by building all these comfy theories, imposing an artificial order where really none exists. Scientific theories, political and religious ideologies: they are all desperate attempts to fill in that gap, to quell the existential angst which is actually the Natural Condition of Humanity.

Those few brave individuals who stare into that gaping hole and tell others what they see are quickly whisked away to a padded cell. We psychologists say they have lost their coping strategies. We say they have suffered a breakdown. They haven't broken down, they've broken through: Through to a higher stage of development..."

Don and Lewis stare at me for a few seconds after I have finished pontificating, then start glancing around at the steady stream of passers by. I am amazed at my strange ability to have been able to articulate exactly what I was thinking right there on the spot. My mind's eye flips through imaginary scenarios, awards ceremonies, honorary degrees, all in recognition of my brilliant new theory.

"Well, what do you think. Am I right?" I ask.

"I think your motor-home is double parked." says Don.

The End


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