Spoken word: Werewolves

Every week I read out some poetry and prose at this open mic place.

Recently I’ve tried to perform some spoken word. Which I think is more memorized than read. I still haven’t quite gotten it down, so this next piece isn’t really a story, or a poem, it’s meant to be read out loud.

There is a video of me doing it but I won’t share that because embarrassment.

I am toying with the idea of uploading a voice recording though.

Anyway:

Werewolves 

In highschool I rarely manifested as a werewolf except inside the toilet and when trying to talk to girls.

My werewolfness actually helped sometimes, boy those bullies ran, when I howled at them, or grew enough white hair that I could bypass the age restrictions on roller coasters.

Still,
If I could get away with I’d get a sicknote from Mom, I’d paw at her with my long claws early in the morning: “HEY MUM I’m a werewolf today, Write me a note..”

“Okay, just could you cut your nails?”

Couldn’t, they were claws.

Couldn’t go out when the moon was full. Kids didn’t didn’t like my long, loping stride, or the way I howled at the moon way past the point when everyone else was passed out. “CALM DOWN!” They’d say. Couldn’t, couldn’t stay as a man or wolf or werewolf it drove the girls crazy. I wanted to hunt them sometimes, wanted to run with them otherwise in a pack as a wolf and as a man was mostly embarrassed.

Never stayed the same shape.

Got on great with ghosts, ghouls, wizards, hated vampires because they always got what they wanted- at a touch, a dominating glance, they always managed to get invited in, practiced routines till it worked whilst I chained myself outside, just in case.

After high school I went to Europe for university because I saw in the corner of a campus brochure the green peaks of a real forest. Figured that would be perfect for me. It got worse and better. There were other shape shifters, trolls (I’d already met those online) and nymphs. Few werefolk though. Couldn’t get close to a nymph without going blind, though at least I could regenerate my eyes when I changed form so they didn’t have to cover up so much around me, thought nymphs were perfect for me, and me for them, and I was, I was the perfect friend. Getting friendzoned usually triggered a change so I tried to stay away from nymphs after that.

I got bitter.

Tried to find the others in London but it turned out the song lied.

No longer leashed, I would roam the cobble streets at all hours, but during lectures it was hard to hold a pen in these shaggy hands. I met a lot of people that had bad teeth, silver fillings, would bite me with their words, drew blood, the blood faded when I changed, invisible except for the memory of the hurt- that remained.

“You’re invincible.” They’d say.

‘So lucky to be a werewolf, most of us can’t change.” And they were right about how it didn’t seem like I was vulnerable.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

After university I was screwed. No werewolf looks good in a suit! I had to get three, one for man, wolf, werewolf and still I could turn on a dime, when someone’s mouth became a crescent moon, the werewolf would come out and ruin another jacket. That got expensive.

They blamed me for it. They always did. Just like the non-ghosts who accused ghosts of being transparent and ephemeral on purpose. That walking through walls and howls, were the same, were just cries for attention. They never blame the moon, or the blood I never chose. Even my family got tired when I’d change mid-dinner, break another plate and sometimes the chair. You can only own so much ikea furniture. “What did we do this time?” They’d ask. Tried to tell them it wasn’t them, it was the moon, I just change.

“Learn to control it!” They’d say.

“We can!”

It was a revelation.

“So wait, you’re all werefolk too?” They’d say they felt like wolves, that they thought of howling at the moon too, and then they’d do a poor impersonation of me. Frankly, it was kind of insulting.

They never grew claws. Never ripped apart objects, never tore apart relationships, get fired, get chained to their beds, how could they say they know what it’s like to be a werewolf? How could they say they knew what it was like to be me? How could they say I’m not strong enough to control it, that they were better than me, how could they claim to even be werewolves when they’ve never transformed into one it made no goddamn sense.

“Well, that’s because we can control ourselves honey. You should too. Cheer up. Go outside more. Get your mind off things. Look on the bright side. Ignore the moods, I mean the moon, ignore the moon, calm down, stop turning into a werewolf, stop it, it’s impolite, it’s awkward, of course she didn’t love you, of course you failed, you turned into a werewolf, just stop. Being. You.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

There aren’t that many of us. Most people only meet a few in their lifetimes. Or an occasional vampire to whom they recommend sun tan lotion. Ghosts who ought to stop talking to and hearing other ghosts because ghosts aren’t real despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that ghosts are real but most people don’t understand ectoplasmic chemistry or have even heard of ectoplasmic chemistry they just see Frankenstein monsters that need to learn to be human and not all the myriad, beautiful, frustrated, terrible creation that look like people.

But are like themselves.

They don’t like them they are scary and distracting and out of fashion. Sure the laws have changed. You can’t burn them at the stakes anymore so they’ll burn themselves burn off their hands their claws tear off their skin try to undo the costume everyone says they wear to find the human inside.

They never blame the moon. They claim to know the silver bullet and they shoot werewolves with it.

It’s a good thing therefore that werewolves don’t exist.

Just gays, obsessive compulsives, schizophrenics, lesbians and the chronically depressed

My Captain

Too often and like too many others I have

suffered silently choked by your words your callous stares,
Your ‘cheer up cheer ups’ your verdicts of self indulgence
Your condemnations of angst
But no more, not for him,
For the man who made me laugh,
Made me smile,
I will not stay silent for Peter Pan.

Oh captain, my captain,
I’ll say it plainly.

Robin Williams fought every day and today he lost. There is no comfort for him, no afterlife, just robbed time, just broken hearts, today the devils win. The shadows that asphyxiated him, the black that paid no heed to success, fortune, or fame. The invisible illness, the change within his mind. They took my hero and strung a noose around his head, they dragged him, beaten and bloody to the stocks and placed the rope around his neck and gave him no chance to speak, no dignity, no solace, they only promised that life was worse than nothing, and nothing is what they offered.

So many of us will not look into that abyss, will not dare allow it to rise and up fill us, and chill us, and gape at our mortality, our fragile happiness, that is why you call us weak, self-indulgent, liars and losers because the alternative is horror. Yes I will bend and buckle and break, I will kneel my head, avert my eyes, hold my stuttering tongue, will allow the heat to suffuse my face and your words to echo on my bed, and the tears to leak from my face, I will let you tell me I am not enough, but I will not let you tell that

To him.

To Robin Williams.

My first Peter Pan, you cocked that mobile phone before I knew what lawyers were. Stood bewildered among children, you were like the adults who crushed me till, you flew, you fucking CROWED, saw bright balls of goo where no food was threw it around never in my life have I seen a meal that looked as tasty as that.

You remembered how to fly again, bangarang my friend. The pan arises, the hook sinks. I saw hook at least ten times and love it still.

So you look Peter Pan in the eye and tell him he isn’t ill.

I never had a friend like him. Never had anyone who could be there all the time, who could take it. Who could stay the night, it was too much, day after day when I didn’t recover, hour after hour whilst I still cried. He never had a friend like me.

They taught him between jabs, between trips to the bar, between white lines and whilst he cried the demons taught him what matters, that people lie, that old men think they know what’s important, what life is made of; money, exams, rules and regulations, what to wear and say and do and when lest you become different. Robin took all that darkness and within it he found hope. Maybe he couldn’t be happy himself but he’d be damned if he did not try to make you laugh instead.

So when Robin whispered the dead men’s words and said, Carpe Diem, he knew you had to seize the day because those days when you can, they won’t come all that often, and when they do when you beat back those snarling fucking demons you gotta leap up, gotta make them all laugh, and all those lines you wrote in tears you’ll unleash them on the rest. The despair in their eyes inside their heads, the depressed we can see them, can smell the enemy on you, and Robin fought like Peter Pan, his sword, his sword was laughter, he was a knight, a bright white ball of happiness man that man burned away your misery because he knew, he knew, how bad those days could get.

Oh captain, my captain,

Carpe diem.

I will not say rest In peace because you did not die at peace, you were killed, you were murdered and me and mine will not rest either. Will not pretend we did not lose a brother in arms, a friend, will not bow our heads in shame, will raise our fists, not our glasses, will do the best we can; we’ll make ’em laugh, we’ll make ’em sing, we’ll dance our dances, write our plays, we’ll swing with the best of them, we’ll take it on the chin and get back up, one more time, one more time, again and again Robin. I promise you I’ll write a bit harder, I’ll try a bit harder, I’ll get up one more time more because I cannot let the demons know they’ve won. They don’t get to win, not anymore.

Carpe Diem.

The father on screen. You made Will Hunting love. Made him feel human, because despair and loneliness can make one kind, makes one brave, makes one bold enough to stand and speak and laugh and joke because those that live in darkness, know the value of the light and the secret to create it. You said it’s not your fault till I believed because it isn’t our faults dear friends. We lost one of the best today. So I will not say:

Raise a glass,
Rest in peace,
I will not claim
It is now easy,
Bow your heads,
Mourn and walk away.

No.

That is not our way. It never has been. We do not move on. We do not forget. And maybe we will never be whole, never be healed, never know peace and too many of us will die too early in this war we fight, we fight every day so to all the ignorant, selfish rest, to all the others too afraid to face someone else’s suffering, that do not accept what this is like, that do not know how daily despair tastes, to them I say laugh on, laugh on, laugh at our jokes that is what we do, but to you my brothers and sisters, captains and comrades, you know who you are, you that forget you are legion, today or tomorrow or right now you are surrounded but to you I say in my hero’s name:

Fight on, fight on, fight a  bit harder for him.

The demons do not get to win.

Show them what we are made of. Put on your red noses. Throw on the clown shoes. Hell forged, battle born, our smiles are scimitars, our bright eyes shields. Sing your soul out. Cut out pieces of you. Fling your pain upon the canvas, take the shadows and make balloon animals out of them. Dance to wake the light, burn brighter, to make up for the star we’ve lost today. Fight on, fight on, for the fallen, the fallen, for our

Captain, our captain,

Carpe Diem

Do not let him die in vain.

Short story: Afterwards

Afterwards

The room I was in was for waiting, and the person that stood over me was saying: “Ray Gupta, Peter will see you now.”

I said “Oh.” and accompanied her through a glass door that I could have sworn was from work. On the other side was a maze of cubicles. The sounds of phones ringing, of hurried typing, so much of it was recognizable. The hundreds of cubicles were not. “What office is this? Did I make an appointment or…”

She interrupted by stabbing my shoe with the tip of her heel. I screamed and no one seemed to care. She explained: “Sorry but I have to hurt you if you ask me questions.”

I almost asked why.

She motioned me to follow, so I did to a cubicle with a man inside and a single chair.

Peter said: “Sit!”

I held my foot and again the question pulsed: Why?

Peter said: “It’s your head! You tell me! Maybe it’s a metaphor- think of it as pain guiding you here, or something. All questions lead to suffering. Etcetera. Besides you’re dead, literally, so don’t worry too much.”

He had a point.

Peter said: “Actually, you still have a little bit you have to worry about, or at least some choices that need to be made, concerning your severance package.

Before I could phrase another question he answered: “Look, just go with it. Focus on how comfortable this environment is. How familiar. Don’t ask questions, it’s too late for all that. And don’t worry about the people you recognize. It’s perfectly normal.”

Peter got down on his knees, on the computer brought up a spreadsheet. “Let’s see now.” He said. Over his shoulder I saw tiny black marks, thousands of words in a too small font. I croaked: “Peter…can I…leave…please?

Without looking back he said: “Don’t worry you’ll be gone soon. You just need to go through your review, and poof, you’ll be done.”

“What do you mean…gone?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

So I was going to die, or I was already dead, or oblivion was next. Peter said: “Exactly! Here, we’re going to start now, so you understand why you get what’s coming to you next. Unless you prefer we skip this?”

And expedite my non-existence? Fuck that. Peter said “Typical” and brought up Youtube.

“You have internet here?”

“No it’s an illusion. We have something better.” He typed: Lowest point before 30.

One hit only. In the screenshot I saw myself lying on a bathroom floor, two plastic prescription bottles in one hand, a Gideon’s bible in the other. Peter pressed play and I beat my head bloody with the bible. I watched myself tear out random pages, terrified of Peter witnessing me committing what was probably sacrilege. I tried to explain: “I didn’t know, okay? Sorry, so sorry, I didn’t know the bible was…I mean I’m not even Christian!”

“Just watch. We’ll turn up the sound.” He did and we heard a voice speaking, though the high-definition image of my mouth remained shut. I heard my voice, the way it sounds normally, inside my own head, say: “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get up again. No reason to. No one to see me rise. No point in doing anything.” Then the tears started. “Fucking lonely stupid loser. Fucking FAILURE of a man. Deserves nothing. Deserves to die.” There was a murmuring sound then, too quiet to make out.

Peter said: “Ah, need to turn this part up, it’s a background thought, very hard to hear.” And he fiddled with the controls till we could make out what I thought, which was: “Beccy cares. Arjun cares. Other people suffer too. Don’t give up on them.” Then blasting out, so loud I covered my ears:

“JUST TAKE THE PILLS AND SLEEP THE GOOD SLEEP REST FINALLY REST FINALLY FUCKING REST…” and Peter muted it.
With the volume down I looked like somebody lying on a bathroom floor, clearly miserable, but seemingly doing nothing for an hour or so. Then with the volume up I heard myself find hope and choose to flush the pills down the toilet. Peter showed me other scenes after, and how they all linked, one into the other. He watched me watch myself being decent to strangers, showed me how I affected then, how their lives were indirectly improved by the hope I had found on that cold floor. He showed me how my kindness had been kindled by suffering, and how with my everyday actions I saved people- for eons he showed me videos of them remembering what I’d done or said and thus finding the strength to get back up themselves.

He showed me all the ways I’d suffered and the empathy inculcated by years of torment.

Afterwards I was ready. I told Peter I could die now.

He told me to wait, that we had to go into his office. On the way I overheard someone say “Sex is good, fuck, sex is GREAT, but the money, it’s empty- so let’s try having less.”

Inside Peter’s office I wondered: Do I get heaven now? Or is this it?

He said I would be gone, one way or another. I thought I was supposed to be Hindu, and that this was not the karma I had been taught about.

“Don’t worry Ray!” Peter said. “All that’s left is this…” And he produced a blank paper pad and a pen. “Now Ray, in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, you did good. As far as this department is concerned you did good with what you had.”

“So I won then?” I asked, the tears finally pouring out in this absurd and twisted version of the afterlife.

“Yeah you did great Ray, real super. So, here’s the deal.” He put the pen next to the paper, pushed both towards me.

“Write your own cheque Ray. You decide the circumstances of your next life. Completely up to you! For example…that…ah…K-pop guy you heard outside- you want to be like him? Sex, all the sex you’d ever want, or money, security, fame. You want it, you got it. A soul mate maybe? Meet her, or him by the time you’re say…twenty-three? Done and done. You get the idea. Write it out Ray, and your next life, that’s it.”

So I stopped crying and wrote something down.

Handed Peter back the paper.

He stared at the three words I’d written:

One more time.

I explained: “I want to suffer the same way.”

“Ray? I don’t think you understand how this works…”

“No, I do.”

“You people…Okay. You’re the boss”

We left the office and I wandered the cubicles for awhile, watching others, hearing their last requests.

Questions came whilst we walked back to the front door, which Peter held open for me. Will I remember any of this? Is this real? Does it matter? I looked in front of me at the darkness, said “Goodbye Peter.”

“Only for now. But I have to ask…why are you choosing pain, again?”

“Because I think it’ll make me kind.”

It was the last thing I said to him. Never got to hear what he thought about it.

Flash Fiction: A man unchanged

(Tomorrow the 6th continues.)

A man unchanged

I knew someone, once, briefly. We lived together for some months. I would go out with this man and people would ask,  “What’s he drinking? Soda water?” and I would say yes. That’s all he ever drank. They’d ask “Hey, why does he always wear the same thing? Doesn’t he own other clothes?” No, he does not. They couldn’t believe it. They wondered- what does he do for fun? Nothing really. All he ever did was read this book. The same book, over and over again. Some book on philosophy, in Greek. I cannot read Greek. They thought my friend was the absolute definition of boring. I disagreed.

I admired his rigor and wondered at what forces were at work behind those unchanging eyes. He always woke up at the same time, every day, without an alarm. He always went to work on time, never missing a day. I never saw him get angry or hear him raise his voice. He even ate the same three things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, day after day. I once went into his room and examined his wardrobe on a suspicion. Copies and copies of the same set of clothes. I noticed how he never spent his money on anything for himself, no little indulgences whatsoever. He did not change.

I tried all those months to figure out what it was that made him so disciplined. How could he not get bored? How did he not yearn for more? In contrast to him I wasted all my time and money on failed relationships, mistakes, clothes and food. I spent my earnings on variety, always seeking something. Never finding it.  The unchanging man was fine in comparison.

When I finally moved away and resolved to enter the monastery I explained to my new master why I wished to join. How I had already glimpsed enlightenment, in the form of the most boring man on earth.

Years later, when I was much older, my hair grey and chin wrinkled, I visited the old city and chanced to spot a familiar face. It had been half a century, but still I recognized him. His clothes were different. The food he ate at the cafe were manifold and varied. His habits and manners all changed. Everything different except for one crucial thing. He had not aged a day. He saw me then, and I proceeded over to him, crushed by the embrace of revelation.

He said to me “On your path to enlightenment, did you find what you’re looking for?”

“No.” I said.

There was a pause.

I asked him “And you, did you succeed on your path to eternal…”

“…Clearly.”

Signed Arjuna 

(Transcription of the suicide note of the head abbot of Yaatra Ashram )