“Do not go gentle into that good night” ~ Dylan Thomas
“A man dies not for the many wounds that pierce his breast, unless it be that life’s end keep pace with death, nor by sitting on his hearth at home doth he the more escape his appointed doom.”
It was a simple but effective weapon. At least for what he had in mind. A matte black, .45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol. A Glock 21 in the parlance of enthusiasts. The gun lay in his lap as he sat in the driver’s seat of an old companion. The maroon, 96’ Toyota, Land Cruiser had seen better days, but she had always gotten him where he needed to go. And for one last time, she did not disappoint. He disliked the idea of staining the interior of such a loyal friend with blood, but it could not be helped. He had laid his plans. And now the loaded pistol dimly reflected a ray of sunlight as if reminding him of the task at hand. This is what he had to do.
The Georgia back country was full of red dirt roads but he had chosen this one with the care and precision of a criminal mastermind, planning his escape. The comparison wasn’t that far off in fact. His life had seemed to be a series of willful sins. He hurt people. People close to him. He felt like a cancer in their lives. He knew the only way to deal with a tumor was to remove it, to kill it. At first he feared an act of this kind would appear cowardly, the sign of a weak constitution. But not to pull the trigger would prove to be the more craven decision. He was convinced of this.
And he had planned for the derogatory, post mortem observation of weakness. He decided to aim for the heart. Destroy the one thing that kept him going. Suffer as he had made others suffer while he lay dying, ensuring it would not happen again. He also thought this would make it easier on his wife and children by not making the scene grotesque. The coffin could be open and he would call the police before he fired. The family would not have to deal with aftermath of the act in so far as the gruesome nature of his death.
This was the right thing to do. He couldn’t stop hurting his family and those around him if he couldn’t stop drinking, and he could NOT stop drinking. He had tried. The allure of the bright red LIQUOR signs that seemed to appear everywhere overnight was more than he could bare. What they signified was the only thing that seemed to ease his guilt and grief. Emotions that were only compounded with every drink as his inhibitions were thwarted and he took out his frustration on the only people left who cared about him. This was the only way to alleviate the constant ache in his heart. The only way his family could salvage their lives from his diseased influence. I made certain he was assured of all of these things.
I am sure you’ve heard of me. We may have even met in the past, although I care little enough to remember any particular moniker. I am known by many names. The ancients called me Thanatos, Sekhmet, Kali, Nergal. A demon of renown. Destruction, misery, self-loathing, fate. I am the inner monologue that disguises itself as your own and strives to undermine any self-worth you may have. I will admit, adulterating the soul of a man has proven difficult at times. Some of your kind are simply immune to my seductions. At present however, the act of demoralization seems easier than it has in the past. Modern humanity is simply more receptive to the idea that they don’t merit the ability to rise freely with the sun and greet the day in peace and joy. Much less that the measure of their value to others is at all significant. That they should warrant the affections of family and friends, or deserve love, respect, and dignity is relegated to a characteristic of celebrity. This shadow over the general human psyche has been long in the making. It is my greatest triumph and the casualties mount with increasing frequency.
As for the miserable drunkard mentioned earlier, the shadow I cast has enveloped him for years. I came into his life while he was still a young boy at the age of five. The conditions were ripe for my arrival as his father exited the family home on a cloudy November night. The man was clad in dirty jeans and the blue collar button down of an American proletariat. His name was stitched in red on the left breast as if harkening back to a time when his infidelity would have been denounced in scarlet metaphor. We were well acquainted. I had been working to convince him that satisfaction in this life lay in his genitals (an easy gambit for some) and he succumbed to the wiles of another woman. Earlier that night, the man and his wife had fell into a passionate argument about his whereabouts that evening amid the scent of a stranger’s perfume. Finally he exploded in rage, resentment and frustration fueling every word that spewed from his mouth. He had had enough. He couldn’t tolerate this life any longer. The man filled a garbage bag with the only things in the house that had any meaning for him anymore, slung the bag over his shoulder and left without so much as a word. The message was clear to an impressionable, five year old boy. You are not worth bringing with me.
This was the start of my battle against the light of hope and love that fills the heart of young children, such a detestable characteristic and typically challenging to overcome. Given the situation however, it proved a fairly simple matter. I began instilling beliefs that the boy was insignificant, mediocre, lacking in potential and unworthy of love. I flooded his dreams with visions of pain and loss. I suggested reasons for his father’s actions which caused questions of the boys culpability to flourish in his young mind. And in a stroke of genius on my part, I paved the way for the boy’s dog to be stripped from his life at the hands of a rusty, Plymouth station wagon. It is interesting to note the effect of a dog on the type of procedure I am attempting to illustrate. Your kind has a seemingly impervious kinship with these menial creatures and it is beyond my ability to comprehend how an animal that uses its forend to sanitize its rear end can appear to love unconditionally. Even to “kiss” with the very tongue used to wipe itself clean. It is however, a very disconcerting fact that the simple act of a mutt lying down next to one of my victims has the singular effect of obfuscating my persuasions. So I have no doubt you understand why I had to destroy the animal. You might consider it an example of collateral damage. And damage was the intent.
On a night not long after his father’s departure, the boy and what remained of his family were sleeping on a mattress in the downstairs living room. Most of their furniture had been moved to storage. The house had been sold and the family’s sleep was restless as they prepared to depart the next morning. Suddenly, the boy woke up screaming in terror with an overwhelming sense of doom and I smiled, impressed that the light had already began to fade.
This event portended the next two decades of the boy’s life as I methodically wore away the edges of his esteem day after day, year after year with a simple whispered phrase, “You are to blame.” There was little reason to identify any particular issue for which he was culpable. People are inherently wired to seek answers for things, to solve the problem or find the guilty party. For some this is a matter of looking externally because their ego does not allow for the possibility that they are responsible. This is not within my realm of expertise. There are others for that. Where I excel is in providing evidence for the conviction that guilt rests with the guilty. Once the victim is beleaguered by my incessant voice in their head placing blame, their self-perception identifies with it and fault becomes the paradigm through which they view the world. This was the deleterious effect that had over time, brought my victim to his knees. Eventually as you have seen, my influence would cause him to question the value of his own life. Let the reader understand, this is a very precarious moment indeed, and not merely for the individual in question. When a victim has reached this point, the success or failure of decades of arduous toil on my part, lay in the balance. And the slightest gesture imparting existential worth, whether intended or not, can tip the scales in favor of a continued struggle. Kindness has proven an intolerable antagonist.
It is my experience that the human species is unique in its ability to imbue an object or creature with value regardless of inherent significance or lack thereof. The affect of this attribute is what theologians and caniphiles call “unconditional love.” It is an incurable condition as a whole but individually remedied through tendentious suggestions that love is not freely given. That there is no such thing as unconditional love. That all love is predicated on a mutually beneficial arrangement, i.e., security, sex, material gain, etc. This premise has become all the more acceptable in light of modern man’s preoccupation with scientific explanations and reason. As an example, I offer the following plausible interpretation of a parent’s emotional attachment to their offspring.
Imagine the evolutionary development of a species has resulted in a conglomeration of proteins expressed in sequence that generate chemicals in the brain which give rise to a mental state advantageous to the progeny and furtherance of its kind. Does this sound familiar? Let me provide you with an abstract of the concept in order that you may understand. Your genes produce substances that create a desire to provide for, protect and preserve your issue. As if your very DNA were a virus anchoring its existence to the survival and procreation of its host. Your parents love you because they are obligated to do so as a function of biology. Love is a symptom favorable to the contagion that manipulates your kind for its survival. It is not what is articulated in ancient fables of martyr kings and divine influence. God does not exist. You are a product of natural law. And love is nothing but chemistry. That is the narrative. If you doubt its efficacy, I challenge you to repudiate this account sans philosophical or religious rhetoric.
Even the concept of monogamy can be exposed as a misogynistic fallacy. For example, the idea of marriage can be perceived as a relic of a bygone era when the female counterpart was considered property. Given scientific development, the future of the species is contained in a test tube while sex is consigned to an exercise in selfish entertainment and love no longer has a purpose. Epicureanism is the overriding principle.
The brilliance of this ploy is in the individualism its espouses. Shouldn’t you be happy? Shouldn’t you feel satisfied? Loved? Respected? Frustration and resentment then set in as the victim’s desires go unfulfilled and they begin to grasp at straws searching for a scapegoat.
For myself, a particularly amusing illustration of this lies in the typical cases of serial murderers and rapists. Those who demand life or love for no other reason than they feel deprived of it themselves. Although this is not my stage on which to perform, I am often astounded by the similarities in approach used by my fellow supernal dramatists in character development and climactic build.
Consider a young man. His mother did not love him. Could not love him. He was the product of her attempt to purchase the affections of men who saw her solely in light of their prurience. A temple prostitute worshipping at the shrine of their own egos. Consequently, her expectation of love was sacrificed, along with her capacity for kindly expression. She retreated within and could not find it in herself to attest to the artifact of her failure, much less embrace it. As a result the boy reaches manhood only to view women as objects, incapable of love. Priestesses in his own temple, merely existing to satisfy. When reality does not meet expectation however, a price must be paid. The shattered specimen that emerges from the boy’s maturation in exile seeks restitution for unfulfilled expectations through violence and domination. The value of his own life was forfeit long ago and so it goes for the rest.
When searching for a liable culprit, the individualist’s mind seeks superficial suspects as is the case with the boy mentioned above. However, in my production the antagonist is synonymous with the star. After my victim has undergone extensive rationalizing and justification, I ensure no other suspects remain, except one. And guilt bares the guilty to their grave. To the barrel of a gun.
The protean nature of this conviction is sublimely illustrated in examples throughout the life of my subject. In order that the reader may appreciate the burden of my responsibility, I shall describe in detail a few of my undertakings pertaining to this particular victim’s fall, beginning with the boy’s domestic and educational experiences in the years that followed his father’s departure. The essence of his adolescent development was bound to a quest for accomplishment. For that one special trait that might convince others he was worth loving. The nature of his parents divorce left the boy with a seed of doubt regarding his significance. This was the basis on which I proceeded to build the oppressive structure that would crush the boy and ultimately lead him to consider suicide the only viable option.
However, through the course of my operations I often run into obstacles that cause deviations in planning. A striking example of this is a search conducted on the part of the victim for something meaningful in life, a higher power, some evidence of the divine. For the purposes of this story, the boy I spoke of experienced a spiritual awakening intermingled with his quest for significance. I simply morphed the experience into a tortured struggle.
The idea that human love had to be purchased lead the boy to consider the existence of a being that could love him despite his meaninglessness. A god in human form. The alleged manifestation of a divine pantocrator who willing died a martyr’s death and loved all beyond human capacity. It is deplorable! Even derision drips from my tongue like scalding oil when provoked in its memory. The loathsome legend of the Nazarene provided a refuge for the boy amid the despair I had created around him. But it did not matter. I have advanced to take even this precarious step in stride. You see, this concept of “unconditional love” that beguiles so much of the human race is truly beyond comprehension for the meager faculties you possess. It is the nature of your race to be toyed with by those of us who deign to consider your existence at all. Your perceptions of a divine father figure are contemptible. Laughable! You have created a god in your own image, who loves as you do, feeding on your pitiable worship like some maleficent sovereign who grows strong on the backs of his obsequious chattel! But no matter. It serves our purpose, considering that is not the nature of light. And as a direct result of your corrupt concoction of a not so omnibenevolent being, the boy’s definition of love was not able to evolve in view of his new found solace. Now he had obliged himself to earn the love of God, I shudder at the thought. To light the candle in his soul he needed flint and tinder. Substance. Something to spark the flame. He spent many a day searching for kindling, all the while the light in his soul grew dim.
It is the nature of light to drive away darkness. It is the sole occupation of my kind to extinguish that light and flourish in the extant abyss. And persuading my victims that the light does not exist, or that they need to create it by some personal effort has proven an excellent strategy. A wick needs to be tended. A man’s heart is the same to the extent that it serves as a substrate for the flame. But the light I describe does not consume a man’s heart. It merely illumines those that seek to destroy it.
To be continued…