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A Bad Dream.

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Nexus
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Posted 05/18/12 - 8:50 PM:
Subject: A Bad Dream.
A Bad Dream.


Newbent's particulars: forty three year old father of two, divorced, living alone, estranged from his brother and divorced parents, a self employed builder by trade. This parade of facts echoed in his cool cool mind before sinking into sleep. Soon - when he was gone - they would play in the media like his last cries to the world. People would look at the facts and see him; they would stare at the photograph, into the eyes, trying to picture thought processes, even a soul. Whatever it was, whatever, in the end, was the light that ran the Newbent machine; this something, he was more sure than he'd ever been sure, would soon flicker out like a pilot light. Gone. No more guilt, regret, tears, no more hope, pain, thought, fear or love. And he had control; Newbent finally had control.

The morning came and he didn't click into it, the machine wasn't running like it had been the night before. He rose and went through the usual rituals but still the chunk of dream that had clogged his workings during the night hung heavy within him like lead shoes. He couldn't explain the obstruction or think it away and it was getting in the way of what he had to do. Newbent sat down on the sofa and stared at the wall but it wouldn't fade, his new habit of blocking out everything except that one idea - the pattern that had been working for the previous few days - didn't work as it had been doing. Emotion had entered his life again and it was a horrible sensation.

"Fuck!" Newbent shouted.

He was pinned now, as if a giant hand was pushing him back into the seat. He realised that the only thing that would get him going again would be to go over the dream that was still so vividly alive in his mind. Newbent could, in that way, deactivate it, neutralise its strange power and get on with his day.

First, as planned, he had driven in his van to Butler's yard. Butler and the other lads all used to work for him but they'd gone off and started their own concern. Newbent had been offering increasingly lower quotes to keep work coming in and had cut everyone's pay but eventually they'd turned on him and gone off on their own. It had been a malicious stab in the back; it was Butler he blamed, Newbent had taken him on when he'd still been a teenager and taught him everything he knew and that was how he'd decided to repay him. Now, on his own, he'd been forced to do bits and pieces of work and the money wasn't coming in and the mortgage payments weren't being met. Pulling into the site early he had known, in the dream, that Butler always arrived first to get things ready; he'd sat in his van watching - soon the other man's truck would pull into his yard to load up for the day. He had felt the gun in his hands and he had held it firmly and with an overriding sense of purpose; Butler wasn't going to be alive for much longer. Then, from the back of the van, somehow, came the voice of his stepmother. He hadn't seen her for years, she'd been the only one who had shown he and his brother kindness and her voice always melted something in him - even now, even after the machine had taken hold.

"What are you doing Bill?" went the voice.

"Janet? Where have you been, you went away.."

"You know I had to Bill. It was your dad. Your mother had warned me but he was too much to live with, that temper of his."

"But what about us? You were the only one.." the emotion had started to get hold of him, this had been where it had begun.

"I'm sorry Bill."

He'd looked in the back of the van but nobody had been there. Then he was standing behind Butler in the yard, he'd been carring a bag of cement. It had been - like now - a dark winter morning, he had followed the man's head with the barrel of the rifle like in a computer game. The only time he'd ever shot anything was on the range and on a few hunting trips he'd been on. Man hunting was going to carry more baggage, he knew, unless he could keep the machine in motion. He'd pulled the trigger but nothing had happened, he'd tried again, then again.

"But he's your friend Bill,"

"This is none of your business Janet."

Then, after clicking on the trigger madly for what seemed like minutes, it had gone off and the body had fallen forward in slow motion, the back of the head blown away. It had gone into spasms and an outstretched arm tried to drag the rest of the it toward the van like a children's toy on low batteries. Newbent had felt things working again and there had been a form of cool pleasure in his man hunting. He'd turned over the body and found his former friend's face - to his surprise - had still been in one piece. It had looked desperately back at him trying to say something but Newbent had discharged the rifle coldly into it at point blank range.

He had to pay maintenance to his ex and the horses weren't running like they used to. He'd extended the house to make it more attractive for a quick sale he planned to pay off the money he owed but the council had said - after a year of work in his own time - that it contravened the planning permission he'd been given. His kids didn't love him any more, their mother had seen to that, nobody loved him any more. The world had made him into what he was, the world had destroyed what was good in him. He'd been drinking more and more and had lost many of the little jobs he could get because of it. Newbent had been successful, everybody used to show him that bit of respect that had kept the wolves at bay, that had made him feel like a man. She had loved him and given him two healthy boys. She had never understood him and had said, before she'd left, that she was scared of him and for the kids. How many times had he actually hit her - or them?

Outside the house he had built he'd looked up at the windows. The kid's bedrooms were round the back, she was sure to be in the double up front. He'd felt all the homely instincts again coursing through him as he'd quietly took the stairs and the house's silence had made it feel like a comfortable tomb. The machine had whirred despite these surface emotions, still he'd known he'd be able to brush them aside like flies, they wouldn't trouble him when it came to performing the deed.

"You did well for yourself Bill."

"Why won't you leave me alone? You left us, this is your fault you know.." his voice had left him in an alienated way.

"Don't say that Bill. You were such lovely boys, none of it was your fault you know. Look at what you managed to do for yourself...."

"No. You won't stop me..."

He'd begun moving faster and gone quietly into the double bedroom. The body had been lying facing the ceiling with eyes closed, he'd known there was a good chance she'd still be awake as she had always been a light sleeper. He'd got close enough to get a decent shot using the hand gun and home made silencer. Then through the half light, blue now insinuating into the room from behind the curtains, he'd seen the face of Janet, his stepmother. The eyes had opened and she had stared at him.

"No Bill."

"You can't stop me, not now, nobody can stop me."

"No Bill."

He'd pulled at the trigger but again the thing hadn't worked. He'd tried the mad clicking as he had with the rifle but nothing had come.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat you know.."

"No Bill. No. I won't let you."

He'd gone downstairs and found a sturdy kitchen knife but had known he wouldn't be able to use it.

"You're no killer Bill," came her voice from the living room.

He'd turned on the gas and gone to get some petrol from the van. He'd walked around the house sloshing it as his stepmother had carried on calmly trying to tell him who he was.

"I built the place, they're my kids, I'll finish it."

The house had gone up and he'd driven away without saying goodbye to the kids. He'd felt them to be like expensive possessions he'd decided to let go of. Still the way had been clear, the fire had been burning furiously and it was unlikely anyone would be able to get out, very unlikely. 'The trail of destruction' they'd call it, he even pictured a computer generated map on the television screen now, sitting on the sofa, going over the dream. Still the heavy weight was within him, it hadn't been deactivated; it was her, Janet, she was stopping him now. Though he'd see it through; once he'd got the bad dream out of his system he'd see its significance and be able to get moving, get on with it.

In the dream he'd been aware that it was light and things were going to start getting more difficult. Councillor Thompson, the one who he'd bitterly fought with over his house extension, lived on the other side of town in a dignified old detached. Newbent assumed he had family - he'd already reconnoitred the place and thought about the other man's life - but this possibility didn't move him. The man had fought a crusade against him over a few feet of built over land and he would regret his little part in destroying William Newbent before his life flickered out. The other man left home at nearly exactly the same time every morning. He'd pulled up in the van and decided to go with the rifle again as it was a busy street and the councillor would be found quickly however much noise was made. Newbent had watched him leave his front door in a rush - he'd had the same emotionless, cruel expression he'd held throughout their association. Blocking the drive with the van he'd stepped out of the driver's seat surprised at the lightness of his movements - it had felt like it was all going like clockwork again and the voices had gone. The other man had been clearing his iced up windscreen with a scraper. For some reason he'd looked up without surprise as Newbent approached.

"You can't kill me I'm afraid Mr Newbent."

"Really, we'll see about that." Newbent had pulled the trigger after pointing the rifle at the man's head. Nothing had happened.

"It's Janet, she says there's to be no more killing I'm afraid. Don't shoot the messenger," he'd giggled in his supercilious way. "Or rather, you are unable to."

Newbent cried out in exasperation still pinned to his sofa.

"Fuck! What's wrong with me?" He dug his fingers into the cushions, his body was sweating and his throat dry. For the first time in a long time he felt a palpable sense of fear.

What had happened next? He searched for the tail end of the dream. He'd been unable to do anything, Thompson had sat down in his car patiently and waited for the killer to go. Newbent had found himself back in the van unclear as to where he was going next. Then, pulled by a magnet of some kind, he'd found himself heading for the new shopping centre on the edge of the town. His company had been contracted to do work on the place years before and he knew the layout well. He'd known it would just be opening, that the artificial atmosphere inside, the fake plants, glass ceiling and trivial music would provide a strange final setting for it all. He'd felt it would be the final flourish - he still hadn't been quite sure what he was going to do in there. Despite the setbacks the machine had been running and he had known it needed feeding with more acts. Newbent hadn't felt angry as such. The guns needed to be emptied, the world needed to know; Butler had gone down easily and he'd known the man. With others it was likely to be equally effortless and there would be that pulse of pleasure he'd felt and always sensed would accompany it all when it got going. Newbent had been in control and the world had been suffering. Newbent had been back in control and everybody possible was going to suffer now. Children might suffer, old women, old men, pregnant mothers. He had been no longer making distinctions and had found the place within himself where the civilising force failed and dwindled - it had been revealed for what it was: a series of cortical pathways forged by social systems that could, with the right pressures and traits, be eclipsed. Then the world would throw up its arms and ask 'why?' Soon, however, the veil of illusion would fall back over things, real violence confined - for most - to scenes of its aftermath on the television screen.

The guns in a bag he'd strolled around the centre watching the shop assistants busily preparing for the day's business. People had been dotted around; he still hadn't been sure what he was going to do so decided to get a coffee from Starbucks. As he'd sat sipping a Latte the flow of bodies had gradually increased and he had sensed the usual mild alienation felt in shopping centres reach a new level. He'd begun to feel excited, perhaps with the help of the large coffee he'd been slurping. Newbent had started luxuriating in a novel sense of choice. All of them were in his power now, whatever he was going to decide in the coming minutes would have immense consequences for a large number of people close by him who knew nothing of his life and troubles - the latter fact only heightening his sense of pleasure. Before he had sworn at the terrorists, those idiots that had blown themselves up to get a bit of glory but then had felt at one with what they had sacrificed; he'd known what it felt to be a lonely man in a disbelieving world and to be clinging violently to your own monolithic concept. Whatever it was they believed in what they had felt in the final moments couldn't have been much different to what he had been feeling then. Only the images were different.

Casually, he seemed to remember, he'd joined the procession of shoppers - mostly mums with young kids - milling around the centre. He'd leant against a railing admiring the fountain he'd helped to install. The bag had dropped on the floor, he'd knelt down and rummaged inside and found the cool steel. He'd swivelled around, grimacing, ready to let loose on anybody that was around. Yet he hadn't been able to find the trigger. A little girl had looked his way with a smile and then begun giggling. The mother had even joined in but had moved on quickly sensing Newbent wasn't quite with it. He had looked down and realised, in his hands, he had been holding a piece of piping. That had been the point where he had woken up and felt himself pinned to the bed, totally at odds, on some deep level, with his project.

Tears came now, he bent and sobbed more than he had since childhood. The thaw had set in irreversibly, Newbent wasn't going to be able to go through with it. The phone rang. He left it for a while and it stopped but then started again. He picked it up.

"Bill. It's Janet."

Silence. Newbent stared at the wall feeling, now, a regular progression of emotions passing through him.

"Are you alright Bill? I'm sorry I haven't called in such a long time. I suppose I was waiting for you, it always seems like I have to make the effort. I had this feeling, I don't know, it must sound silly but I know you've been having troubles and I was worried you didn't have anybody to talk to."

He choked back his tears. "No Janet, don't worry about me, I'm coping, business is just a bit slow that's all."


Edited by Nexus on 05/18/12 - 8:55 PM
libertygrl
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Posted 06/21/12 - 3:17 PM:

clap

Nexus, I wonder if I must be your biggest fan, I just love your stories so much. I feel honored that you continue popping in now and then to share them. hug

I lament that it's taken me this long to have the time to sit down and properly take it in - it's been a crazy month with work madness and migraines, culminating finally in a much needed vacation. In any case, here I am and loving it as always. This one is especially dear to my heart, dealing with themes which are of keen interest to me - one being, as you may recall, the significance of dreams. Another matter of interest to me is the psychology of the serial killer, and more specifically, those triggers which take us past the point of no return. Not uncommonly, as you're probably aware, it is that one act of compassion that turns a potential tragedy into an opportunity to mourn and heal. On the other hand, one straw can break the camel's back and turn a bad situation into a pile of homicide. The story gives me the impression, though, that Janet's compassion and candid nature was holding him back from the edge all along, or at least much more than he realized before the dream called it to his attention. I love that.

I hope you're working your way toward making an anthology of all these great stories. If a book comes out of it, I will surely buy it and recommend it to all my friends.

Cheers,
heartlib

Edited by libertygrl on 06/21/12 - 3:27 PM
Nexus
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Posted 06/25/12 - 1:19 PM:

Thanks for the positive response.

I the UK the last outrageous shooting incident was in summer 2010, see link: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ar...s-victim-twin-brother.html

This is the story that inspired the story. What is it that drives a seemingly normal man to become a monster? The good aunt voice came more or less unplanned. She represents, I suppose, the civilising voice in us all. I'm sure you've read 'American Psycho'. In that novel nothing holds back the protagonist, I think he is meant to represent the cool heartlessness that hides behind the thin surfaces of our consumer cultures. Newbent, however, is, I think, a 'victim'. He is a victim to the extent that he has not been allowed to get to the level of self-awarenes that would give him an adequate perspective on his life. Derrick Bird was also such a fugure. That his actions were a 'cry for help' can't be right; he'd gone beyond the place where a therapist or indeed any kind of human helper might have helped him. Newbent just makes it. Bird and Newbent represent something abhorant, you could analyse it endlessly I suppose but I find it hard to understand the impossibly alienated place that they and those like them find themselves. Still, I am afraid we could still say 'there, but for the grace of God, go I'. We all sail on this ship we call modern society and are all, in some small way, responsible for its many ugly moments.



Edited by Nexus on 06/25/12 - 1:24 PM
libertygrl
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Posted 06/26/12 - 11:42 AM:

I haven't read American Psycho, is it good? The main character (as I see it from afar) seems to be one far beyond any sense of empathy, "nothing holding him back", as you say. Perhaps a born sociopath? As such, it seems it would make for a much less appealing story to me personally than those who have been made monsters by circumstance (hence a moral to the story). I was a big fan of Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs, et al).

Indeed, we are so inextricably connected in the thousands of ways we all interact with each other.
Nexus
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Posted 06/27/12 - 12:58 PM:

I'm not sure if I 'recommend' it. American Psycho is probably the most gruesome book ever written, Ellis goes to extreme lengths to depict the dismemberment of victims. The reason he does this isn't really clear, it seems to be an experiment in just how far it is possible to go. He knows his audience is literary, the books intentions seem to be a serious critique of the 1980's consumer culture in the U.S - he probably just wanted to push the bounderies of taste, to shock for the hell of it. Watch the film, it's pretty nasty but nowhere near as far out.


He stated somewhere that the book was a response to his father's influence upon him - he was a stock broker completely driven by money and seemingly unable to deal with intimate relationships. The need to make great deals of money in an extremely competitive environment where the ruling law is 'dog eat dog' is a highly aggressive way of living in the world. That it is not explicitly violent does not mean that violence is not implied. That it is a kind of cathartic means of living out drives that might otherwise given full expression lead to violence. I don't think Ellis is much of a philosopher but his unconscious may well have understood this. That at bottom our way of life that has proven so fragile in its underpinnings in recent years is actually bound to drives that are violent and one dimensional.

Again, I don't advise you to read the book unless you have a strong stomach.
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