Locked in Syndrome (three parts)

I used to see people in wheelchairs, drooling and twitching, and I used to think what a waste. I used to wonder why they were kept alive. Why people wanted them around. I mean, it’s not as if they were going to recover and become rocket scientists. They would never do anything but nothing. Just nothing. Just a drain on resource. I used to think all of that until I woke up one morning like this.

Locked in syndrome. That’s what they call it. Stupid name. I mean, everyone’s locked into a body when you think about it. Apart from those that are dead that is. And even then, who’s to say they just haven’t moved on to another body; like what the Hindus and Buddhists believe. Yeah, I’m locked in a body and so are you. The only difference is that you can move yours about. And you can talk.

I was never much for talking anyway. At parties, when someone was stupid enough to invite me to one, I’d stand on the edge of the room and watch other people do all the talking for me. And dancing. And fun. I wasn’t really up for fun either. Best that I watch everyone else making a fool of themselves rather than the other way around.

I’m not sure that I’d want to go back to that. As I am now, there are no expectations for me. I don’t disappoint if I don’t go out there and get on in life. Get a good job. A beautiful wife. And kids. You know what I mean? I can just lay here and read, watch movies, browse the internet and write on my blog. It’s kind of the life I always dreamed of, to be honest with you. Some stroke of luck.

Rock a cage a bye baby. No treetop. No fall from grace. She left me. Woke up day one in none. Thought. Was. Dead. Not. The screaming wasn’t there and never a twitch. Not the lids. Not the toes. Wherever he goes, he’s gone.

Came back in a black limo. Not in a casket, not in a bar. Old rhyme, new words. Took ’em shook ’em ages to find me locked in in the old body old chap. Ages. Time. Old never young never old never shouldn’t. Long. Long. Bloody long. Like stretched taffy. Like dark and light and dark. Mostly dark. Sleep eludes. Runs away. Itch no scratch no nails no fingers no …

Tried to move. Mind and matter. No matter. Mind inside. Funny the dreams come faster in the day. Daydreams. Ha. Nightmare in the day. Hit the hay. Open casket. Watching me like a sick man. Pity party. Only one in the bed and the little one said. Am I the little? Me? How!

They told me. They told me the news but something broke in me. Not out but in. Broken line. Trains not running. The man throws himself. Blood. Pieces but not many. A foot in a shoe. A shovel. Full. Bin full. Bag me up and where’s the key. You see me? See. See!

Wake-sleep. Snake-sleep. Hot rock and slow day.

My eyes? Blink and stop. Blink, blink and stop. Dots and stops. They know. See me in here. Know I’m in. At home. Never out until I go out. Candle flame. Where’s the wind, mother. Blow. Blow, Mother – please. But not enough. Not enough to say to stop or stay. Stop. Stop. Please, mother – make them stop. Plug out. Unplug. Off. I’m ess oh ess but not to be saved. Blow, mother, now.

Head hoppin’ be-boppin’ couldn’t stop it if I tried and Uncle Ernest has a lover lady on the side and I see him thinking about her with Aunty Ruth at his side the sly sliding out old dog and she don’t suspect nothing and he ain’t stoppin’ and neither am I ‘though it’s sad to see the face of the old gal in her sloppy shoes tattered trews on the table when the nurses ain’t looking and they’re never looking ’cause I don’t say nothin’ to no-one not never and I can blink and wink all I like but they don’t hide their pity pity party.

‘Nother day another nothin’.

God’s not home today they say and who’s to say they’re not right ’cause I can’t find his face in the sun neither and when you can’t find a face that fits under the hat or the sun then hun there’s none to say he ain’t gone to the big house in sky where by and bye we’ll all go soon and I know ’cause I see them slip away into the bay on their ships of silver and gold thinking they’ll keep them with but they won’t and that’s never the way with gone and some stay but not so many as they say.

Inside the face is the eye of the never seeing the sky that’s blue more like the sound of you saying look at that guy on the bed with the locked in head and he can’t say a thing and what’s the point of that might as well put an end to that and I see you say switch it off but I’m he not it and I see you that says this and you can’t even see me now and dry my invisible tears.

Stream-of-Consciousness – Resources

I was looking for useful web pages about stream-of-consciousness (soc). Here are the ones I’ve found so far. I’ll add to this list as and when I find more:

  • How to Master Stream of Consciousness – this is a blog post that gives a nice, simple overview of soc that gives a little potted-history, explains the distinction between first-person soc (direct interior monologue and third-person soc (indirect interior monologue), goes through different ways that text can be marked up to indicate soc (italics, tags, nothing) and then gives three tips to get you started writing soc (think about your thinking, use soc as a tool for controlling the pace of your story, read widely)
  • Stream of Consciousness and Chafe: A coupling of Classic and Modern Assessments of Stream of Consciousness Techniques in Trainspotting – a quasi-academic paper that just about does what it says on the tin. Has some good examples and gives an in-depth history of the genesis and development of soc thinking. Not such a good analysis of soc in Trainspotting, but it’ll do

Michael/Imago (New Middle – Scene One)

Mother Cake stole ate cake mother lock shed overnight at seven cold freezing comfort food belly warm love and there’s only me there in the dark with all my cake enclosed never leaving the shed freezing my balls shrivel to nothing noises in the corner that rustle and pop and the light from the moon under the cracks of the locked door never mind the light shiver in the dark and I never told anyone but the cold came like sugar frosting on the cake that lived an breathed love in me when I shivered and loved and suffered and loved and died without and lived and loved within

Ruth Returning striped arse shorts at ten ran street never coming back past her house a face pale in window pang heart turned almost no never return ran to hills only cold but hot from fire belly fast then a door slams behind and she’s taller legs longer faster catching me faster no side by side fierce looks game not playing still we were together and ran out of breath colt tamed barely but oh her skinny body heat inches apart collapsed on ground she knew me fierce words never holding back from passion or love or understanding a spark of fever never forgot her always loving her within

Ruth Leaving only mother only empty house behind the fifteen me window pane cold against hand and cheek collapsed heart blurred vision of the van the table chair wardrobe stream and the better past of slow summer with tennis play bikini heat dens of nothing but old and must with young heat inside and touching but not landing take love from my eyes know it feel it and she did but too late for ever to take down never in fight against tears now you’re strong boy you don’t need her need her feel her on my skin in my heated heart but the doors slam and her face pale sad sorrow mine going engine rough running don’t run don’t go gone


This is all connected to anything you see on this blog about Michael or Imago. Here are some links for you to investigate further (one of them leads to this post):

Hypotaxis, Parataxis and its Applicability to Stream-of-Consciousness

When you make one of  your clauses master and the other servant, you are indulging in hypotaxis. It’s like saying ‘I am only happy because you are reddening my bottom.’ The actual truth of the statement is the not the issue here; you might well be getting spanked as part of your research into a ground-breaking new novel about the S&M scene rather than to get your rocks off (so to speak). The point here the relationship (because) between happiness and hand-marks on your derriere. That’s what makes it hypotactic.  Here’s an example from Fifty Shades by E. L. James: “”I’ve never discussed this with anyone.” He pauses. “Except Dr. Flynn, of course. And the only reason I’m talking about this now, is because I want you to trust me.””

When there is no relationship between your clauses; marked by the absence of a connecting word, then this is called parataxis. So, if you were to state: ‘my pants are decorating my ankles; your hand is raised above my bum like a cobra’ then this would an example of paratactic writing. In this kind of prose, the reader is left to guess the relationship between the two clauses; but it would probably be the sign of a good writer if this were made somewhat evident by other means.  Here’s another example from Fifty Shades by E. L. James: “…  he grabs me, tipping me across his lap. With one smooth movement, he angles his …”

Parataxis might be useful for rendering stream-of-consciousness in that it has the capability to render the type of staccato thinking that comes about when people are under stress or in the middle of action. Thoughts tend to bounce quickly from one subject to another without recourse to the niceties of linguistic connecting tissue. On the other hand hypotaxis could be used when recording the conscious stream of a mind as it burbles through a problem or puzzling situation (so long as we’re not at a life-or-death point) with the aim of finding a solution. In this kind of thinking, there is the time to leisurely peruse connections and side-avenues in order to explore the mental territory.

Stream-of-Consciousness Described

I read these (again):

  • The section on stream-of-consciousness from Josip Novakovich Fiction Writer’s Workshop (chapter 5 ‘Point of View’, 2008, pp. 99–100)
  • Nabokov, Lectures on Literature, (1982, pp. 295–7), glossing James Joyce’s use of stream-of-consciousness in Ulysses (1922).

And then I wrote this:

The main characteristics of stream-of-consciousness are: the phrase was invented by William James (brother of the author Henry James) for the purposes of describing the thought process. The technique is capable of recording and describing what a character is thinking, feeling, doing, desiring and so on. It is a first-person pov which shows (rather than tells) the inner state of a character’s mind. Take care not to overuse this technique because it will slow your story down due to the lack of focus that can come about when swimming deeply into a mind rather than surfing on the action in the scene. If you have to use it, make sure that there is something interesting going on in that mind in terms of powerful imagery and/or interesting thoughts.

Then, from Nabakov: “the technique of this stream of thought has, of course, the advantage of brevity. It is a series of brief messages jotted down by the brain. But it does demand from the reader more attention and sympathy than an ordinary description” and “inner thoughts rising to the surface and prompted to do so by an outside impression lead to significant word connections, verbal links, in the mind of the thinker” and the rest is just a summary of what Joyce is saying in that scene.

That’s all there is.

How to Not be Bored in a Library

The astute among you (everybody reading this) will notice that libraries are like a good many other places:

  • Aunt Joanne’s 90th birthday party after she gave up drinking
  • Sainsbury’s at four am in your pyjamas after a sleepless night
  • Your house when the kids have gone out and the library’s shut.

This means that reading this might be useful to you in all kinds of situations other than that which is in the title of the article and so you can keep on reading even if you never intend to visit a library ever.

Okay, obviously you can write stuff down in a library. If you like you can pretend I’m there now and that I’m writing these words. Pen and paper will do, or you can use your phone if you don’t have fingers like thick sausages, or you can even use the computers in the library, but only for two hours per day with a library card unless, like I’ve watched the homeless people do, you take the next card from the rubber band holding together a dozen of those wee beasties, in which case – you can go at it all day and night. Except that you can’t, because the library shuts somewhere between five and eight depending on where you are, and then you’re on the streets, in the cold, wondering why that person is watching you and what they’re writing about with their pen and paper.

The other cool thing you can do in a library is to listen to the babies screaming over in the children’s section in the corner. If you’re feeling particularly brave you can go over there and make helpful comments to the mothers, like perhaps his nappy needs changing, or slap her on her back and she’ll burp and maybe barf down your back. Do not just sit and watch children crying; this will get you into the kind of trouble you don’t want. The staid among you might just want to sit where you are and wish that the child will stop crying. If you’ve ever read a book about meditation, you can pretend that you’re sending vibes into the air that will connect the child with moksha or nirvana or some such peaceful place so that they will be quiet. Then, when they pause for breath between screams, you can tell yourself that it’s working and that the meditation book was worth every penny of the fifty pence you paid for it at the charity shop.

People-watching is another popular activity in libraries. A constant stream of people come in and out of such places to escape from the biting cold and sit for a minute or two wondering how they’re going to stand the boredom for much longer without joining the children in a good old screaming match. There are many types of people to see:

  • Fake homeless people who use the library as a kind of warm(ish) office to connect quietly with their clients in order to sell them drugs
  • Real homeless people who have collected enough money from their sponsors to be able to afford a few minutes out of the biting cold
  • Mommies who are sick and tired of sitting at home with their screaming toddlers and so venture out in order to share their boons with others
  • Geeks on a break who have walked there to sit and play with their phones whilst trying not to think about going back to work
  • Business people who can’t afford an office and can’t stay at home for a moment longer because the damp is bothering them and they have no internet connection there anyway and so can’t do any work
  • There are other people worth watching too, but these are the most interesting ones.

There are lots of other things you can do in the library too, but these are the best ones.

And if all else fails – you can always read a book.

Call Paul

Oh, sweetie, I just don’t know where my head’s at these days. White rabbits have stolen it and taken it down the hole to where the mad hats live, and now and can’t get it back no matter what I do. Well, here’s the thing: here’s a place I need to go and I have no idea where it is; can you help me? Of course you can’t; don’t even bother to answer. You’re just a silly bus driver, who only knows where the bus is going. Yes, yes, I know you’re not silly and that I’m the one who is silly, but you can spare a little slack for a confused old lady can’t you? Ha-ha, yes, for one pound eighty. Okay, I have some change here in my pocket; can you count it out for me? But I still don’t know where I’m supposed to go. Further down the bus, you say? Well alright then; there’s no need to be rude.

Hello, dear; is this seat taken? No? Then I’ll sit with you. We can have a jolly old sing-along. Do you know this one? The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round, ’round and ’round, ’round and ’round. No? That’s alright, dear. It’s not possible to know everything. I’m living proof of that. Look, there’s a doodle. There, walking alongside that man. A what, you say? A poodle? Well, fancy that. Say, does this bus go where I want it to go to? Well, I suppose it does depend where I want it to go to. But if I knew that then I wouldn’t have to ask you would I? Oh, you have to change seats do you. I can be quiet you know.

Quiet, quiet, quiet. It’s not fun being … being what? I can’t remember. It’s a funny thing is memory. Its only when I try to remember that I can’t do it. If I just look at the birds and the trees then I can think anything I want about them. Even when I look at the cars whizzing by I can remember what they are and what they’re called and when I look at the people sitting inside them, driving then down the road; even then I can remember that they’re people and that they’re driving. So why can’t I remember my own name? What time is it anyway. I really must be getting back. Someone must be getting worried about me. That is; I hope that there’s someone somewhere being worried about me. It’s getting quite dark out there now. Where is that watch of mine! I’m sure it was on my wrist the last time I looked.

What’s this? A message! Now why would someone go and write a message on my wrist? Very strange. Hmm; LOOK AT YOUR PHONE. I wonder why it says that. My phone is at home and it’s fixed onto the wall. How am I supposed to look at that? Ooo, something’s tickling in my pocket. Ha-ha – that’s a nice feeling. I wonder what it is. A little, flat box with writing on it? How odd. And such tiny writing.

Give this phone to someone and ask them to call Paul.

Hello again, can you help me? Yes, I know you moved to get away from me. No, I don’t want you to sing a song with me. Please, there’s no call for rudeness. It’s just that I have this and I don’t know what to do with it and it keeps making a noise. Can you help? Oh, you’re quite the little expert aren’t you. What is it? So that’s a phone? Well I never! Who would have thought it! That’s okay, my dear, you take your time. By the way, what’s sea mile dimension?