On the edge of the earth, as west as you can go without falling off, there, next to the stream of Okeanos is a mythical isle known as Elysium. A place for Gods and heroes to retire and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Here the inhabitants gather on the banks of the Okeanos and look out across the sea, they await their new King.
Control was something Steven was finding more and more difficult to hold on to, so when his vintage E type Jag aquaplaned at 70 mph and crashed into the central barrier of the M32, it was, he thought, to be expected.
Once the car had finished somersaulting, perhaps taking a bow or two, accepting the plaudits of admiring fans and settled into a position not conducive with escape, Steven exhaled.
He was upside down squashed against the roof, the seat belt cut into his ribs and his legs pinned into the foot well, he could hardly move. Through the driver’s window he saw headlights pass by, not slowing, not caring, not wanting to be delayed.
Sound came back, he hadn’t realised that it was absent until he heard it. ‘The Doors’ were telling him that, ‘this is the end’ he thought about that, not so much the irony but what if they were right? Right or wrong he had no control over it, he’d come to the conclusion recently that there was little point in taking control anyway; life just didn’t like it when he took control.Life wanted to fuck with him and there was little he could do to prevent it, no matter what he did, how assertive he tried to be, how sneaky he was, how he kept life in the dark for weeks not allowing her access to his plans and motives she still scuppered him. Life had other plans, life had an agenda that did not correspond with Steven’s own plans, he was, he believed, totally screwed.
On the other hand despite the situation he figured that life was having too much fun with him right now, he amused her, she liked the game they played, it kept her on her toes.
He had been an actor all his life, whether or not he got paid for it, sometimes he accepted a fee, other times a twisted gratification. The pleasure of a job well done, of ‘getting away with it’ and he’d ‘got away with it’ for most of his life. Then, one day, he woke up not knowing who he was or what he wanted. He took a long look at himself in the mirror, the mirror he’d shared with his wife and children for years. He decided that he needed a new mirror, one that didn’t just stare back at him with that dumb, ‘I can’t help you’ face. So he bought a new mirror and nobody liked it, everyone just wanted the old mirror back, they liked the dumb, noncommittal look of the old one, the new one had attitude; no one liked the attitude.
So Steven was left with a mirror that no one liked the look of and with nowhere to put it; that’s where it all started.
Once he saw himself, the real him, there was no turning back, no change of heart. It wasn’t pretty, not all of it at least, he needed to make some adjustments, needed to be the new image, needed to be himself. Being you, as it turned out, was not easy, it wasn’t popular either!
He started by trying to be honest with his wife, he wanted her to know how he felt, who he was and how he wanted to be…it didn’t work.
Steven fumbled for his phone but it was no longer in his pocket, the phone had flown. Who would he call anyway, no one spoke to him anymore, he’d flown the nest, he’d rocked the boat, been made an outcast because he simply had the nerve to look for something real.
For his ‘friends’ or ‘their friends’ it was all about taking sides, and they were quick to do so. How dare you seek happiness, how dare you embark on such a journey and leave us behind? We are in this together, no one leaves the quagmire, and no one is supposed to change! Look at you, being yourself, pursuing happiness…fuck you…we are all unhappy but we don’t just wake up one day and buy a new mirror! No we stay with the old one, the one everyone can agree on, the one everyone knows. Yes some of us have toyed with the idea from time to time! But, and this is important, none of us have been stupid enough to actually follow our hearts! To find happiness elsewhere! I’m sorry (not really) but I’m going to have to play the ‘holier than thou’ card. Call me a hypocrite if you like, but it’s the only way I can live with myself. I’m jealous but I won’t admit it, you actually did it and I never will.
His children hated him, ‘how dare you see yourself, how dare you be happy, your job is to make us happy, fuck you, fuck your happiness, it’s not about you! You are Dad and only Dad, you have no right to pursue happiness; we are happiness, we are all you need! All these years you have devoted to us, worked like a dog, loved us, counselled us, and protected us means nothing. Just stay the same, be unhappy for our sake.’
He was really unhappy
Finding yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds, some of us do, and some of us are too scared of what we might find, of what the mirror might tell us. What if finding yourself means crawling out of the thick, comfortable soup you have immersed yourself in? I don’t want to be myself, I want to stay here where it’s comfy; I’ll ignore the elephant in the room and so will my wife, together we make a team, both of us pretending, both of us ignoring…only I can’t ignore it anymore, the elephant is eating my soul… our soul!!
Why didn’t anyone stop to help him? Why were they just driving on by? Why, over the last few months had no one stopped to help him?
Just seen Stevens Jag overturned on the M32…probably dead, such a shame; it was a lovely Jag.
The actor Steven Duke has been involved in a serious accident, pronounced dead at the scene.
OMG I knew him quite well before his indiscretion, he was a good man, made me laugh, life and soul of the party, what happened?
What happened? He decided to live his life, wanted to be himself, wanted to know how it felt to be him!
What a wanker!
He should have just tried to make others happy, pleased people, gave them what they wanted, pretended to be happy. His ego got the better of him, worshipped his own image above God. Now the lord has decided, made the right call, rid us of scum.
I was his friend for thirty years; we were even best men to each other. We played in a band together, watched our children grow and become young adults. But then he betrayed us, played a blinder mind you, none of us saw it coming! Had no choice in the matter, had to tell all in the end; fucking low life worm.
‘The Doors’ gave up on him; now the only sound he heard was his own breathing and the occasional car drive on by.
Well this was as good a time as any…
Steven decided to have a word with God.
Hello God, you there?
I’ve been meaning to call you for a while now but, well you know how it is? I’m busy, you’re busy too, I don’t like to bother you normally, but recently life has got it in for me, I guess you know that.
Yes I know everything and nothing.
My problems are nothing in the grand scheme of things, what with Ebola, Aids, the Arab spring, those Jihadist bastards and UKIP; not to mention all these bloody paedophiles on the loose! You must have your work cut out, bet you wonder why you ever bothered in the first place really.
Yeah I don’t have much to do with all that now.
Yes, what’s the bloody point, no one listens do they, and I just got tired of the whole thing. I mean I tried to tell people what to do and how to do it but then they went and misunderstood, decided I meant this and that; I got tired of what other people thought about me. To be honest it hurt me, I got quite upset and ended up having a bit of a breakdown.
God I’m sorry to hear that.
No don’t be, it was the best thing that ever happened to me really. I thought, fuck it, I’m going to do what I want to do, be a little selfish, go find myself.
Oh and did you?
Yes I did, it wasn’t easy, and this lot up here were all against me of course, bunch of pious busybodies. Rumours started to spread, people made stuff up about me, said things that were simply not true. Others, spineless morons, believed the naysayers and gossipmonger’s, I’d had enough so…
I posted this message to them on Facebook
Whose fucking business is it anyway? What right does anyone have to dictate how someone else lives their life? Why are you all making this about you? You have your own lives to lead, get on with them and stop judging others. One day you might find yourself in need of a friend and I can only hope and pray they are nothing like you, you bunch of backstabbing hypocrites.
Seriously I think I’m gonna throw up!
What do you know? Really ask yourself what you know to be true? You’d be hard pushed to give me one single truth about yourselves let alone anyone else. Oh I’m sure you gain some kind of inner reward from allowing yourself to believe that you are morally superior, by turning your back, by refusing to look, what a bunch of cunts you are. So the king is dead, you held him on a pedestal, err you put him there actually. Now he’s gone, now that the king is but a man, fallible and real, how does that make you feel? Disappointed? Come on get real, did he give you what you wanted, did he dance the dance, was his friendship real? Was his love for you genuine, was it sincere? Has he told you otherwise? Thought not.
All that time, you took from me, you pilfered, and you stood in the glare of my brilliance hoping to take a little bit of it away with you, hoping some of my charm would rub off on you. You relied on my humour to lighten the mood, my wisdom to enthral and my generosity to inebriate you. Well now it’s time to give, to wish me God speed and you haven’t got the balls.
Shame on you
The king is not dead.
And when he returns anew, fixed and fit and healthy he will probably forgive you all, because, after all, he’s better than you. The King is a force of nature, a kind man, a bright man, an honest man. Just ask him, just ask him what it’s like to be real…and while you are at it you can tell him how you have been manipulated and poisoned against him, it wasn’t your fault, you don’t have a mind of your own or the ability to seek truth. Truth hurts doesn’t it, truth changes everything and you don’t want change do you? You just want people to stay as they are…in the box marked, ‘just like me’. That’s pride for you; pride won’t allow you to admit to making a mistake, a bad call, an error of judgement. If you do that your world may flip on its head.
So what happened?
I just got down with my bad self, like it or lump it really. I took up fly fishing, bought a new chariot and studied evolution, all very interesting stuff actually. So I moved out of the palace, built a cabin in the woods and now grow my own produce, Cain would be proud of me. I do the odd pantomime and attend christenings and stuff but other than that I keep out of it all. What about you?
I thought I was being punished. I’m terrified of making the wrong call, so I end up doing nothing, I spend my life analysing my options, I don’t want to go back and yet I don’t know how to move on.
Who do you think is punishing you? Do you think I would punish you, or are you punishing yourself?
Are you punishing me?
Then it must be me then
What’s the point of that?
I don’t know!
Why won’t the past stop judging me?
You are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of others, you can’t control that, believe me I should know. Stop beating yourself up about it, learn from mistakes and move on, the past cannot be changed and the future is unknown so live for the moment.
People search for peace, people search for love and understanding, people, those that dare to put their heads above the parapet fuck up, they make mistakes, sometimes they can be crippled with indecision and doubt; crippled means that they can’t move, they can barely breathe. Even so, when you have seen the truth, when you are tired of the lies, of the pretending, of the denial you will inch forward, you will climb no matter how many times you fall back into the soup.
Thanks for the chat God. I’m feeling a little tired now but I really feel that we made progress don’t you?
Progress, bloody progress, why are we all obsessed with progress, I want peace and quiet, to stop time in a happy place and just enjoy it. My vegetables and orchards, my fishing rod and hot rod and my collection of heavy metal LPs, that will do me for now.
Speak to you soon God
You can call me Elvis
Ok Elvis and thanks
Steven found a cigarette packet and his trusty Zippo near his face, he pulled out a cigarette and put it in his mouth, pulled on a finger, another finger and then a…
Light blinded him, made his eyes weep.
After the mirror fiasco Steven realised that coming out was not easy, that being true to oneself was not something many people understood or had even considered. So he agreed, with himself, to lead a double life. He could be himself privately, alone, away from prying eyes, from disappointed faces and pointing fingers. He could do it and at least be partially happy. He was a very good actor after all.
Then one day, out walking his dog, who was not judgemental in the least, he met her!
He met someone else who, to be herself, left the house, left the overbearing neediness for her to fit into the box that had been made for her. She didn’t like the box, it didn’t feel right so she bought a new one but nobody liked the new one, it just wasn’t the same. Her high-handed, morally superior, intellectually challenged husband took it personally.
Why do you want to be someone you are not, you don’t need to better yourself, not on my account. I like things just the way they are. You can’t go off and do something for you, you must stay here with me and the kids, feed us, clothe us, do as we say, as I command.
She told him that she no longer loved him.
He told her that she did.
Two lonely people agree to meet again.
After a while both Steven and his new friend feel that they can at least cope as long as they have each other. They can go home to their respective families, play the part, be whoever it is that they are supposed to be, needed to be, in the knowledge that at least one other person out there knows them for who they are.
This all took a great deal of deception.
Deception was his middle name.
It’s what he did best.
But, now he was honest with himself, he understood that all his life he’d been trying on different masks to see if one would fit, and now he’d found himself, he no longer needed to. Steven was tired of the acting; he no longer wanted to be someone else.
Sooner or later the shit was going to hit the fan.
Sooner or later he would start to feel like he’d lost control.
Sooner or later friendships would be tested and left wanting.
Steven, still holding his trusty Zippo, felt shards of glass graze his face then he heard a voice, it came from behind the light.
‘I wouldn’t light that cigarette if I were you mate, petrol, it has a habit of igniting. We are going to get you out of here. Is there someone we can call?’
The man was a human being, why can’t people just stop judging, he who cast the first stone and all that.
But he led a double life, made a mockery of mediocrity and fooled us all.
Steven is not who we thought he was, we don’t want anything to do with him.
To think you pride yourself in your apparent scepticism and yet base your conclusions on one side of the story, that and tittle-tattle; the ever-present peddlers of scandal.
The trust is gone; there can be no excuse, no reason behind this insanity, other than…err…insanity itself. Bloody nutter, to think he used to baby sit my children.
I’m getting too involved, what’s the fucking point? No one ever sees sense. Just get on with being you, when, and only when you have mastered that should you feel remotely qualified to pass judgement on others. Amen
When the whole affair came out, came flooding into lives and living rooms, around dinner tables, bar tables and beds it just felt like a bad dream. All this time Steven had convinced himself that, in some twisted way, he was actually protecting those most vulnerable, his wife and children, from a shit storm and by saying nothing, by being himself, albeit partially, he could pretend for their sake that everything was normal; that he was happy. Why put his family through torture, through something they could never understand? He never hated them; he loved them for who they were.
The shit storm came.
He wasn’t being himself.
He must be having some kind of breakdown.
A midlife crisis.
His brain must have dislodged itself and been replaced by his dick!
He was a heartbreaker, a scoundrel and a liar.
He was left adrift.
He began to doubt himself, lose control, found it impossible to make the simplest decision. He lost entire days to deliberation; deliberation had never been so busy. The new him, only recently born, new to the world, found life to be cruel and unhelpful. But the new him was determined to survive, determined never to return, to give up. He knew that some bridges needed to be burned and others rebuilt. He knew that somewhere he would find his place in a new world, that there would be love and music and wine.
His new friend scurried away and hid, couldn’t cope, hunkered back down into the old box, became unemotional and detached. The old box was killing her but she felt that she had no choice. She must make others happy and forget about the new box with its mountains and rivers, its canyons and fjords. In the new box she could run and jump and sing, she could swim naked in the rivers and lay basking in the sunshine. In the old box it was glum, damp and cramped and lonely with nowhere to go, no room to stretch and dance and grow. Slowly she withered; slowly she died buried in a box long before her death.
Steven opened his eyes…
‘You had a lucky escape, a few minor cuts and bruises; life is not finished with you yet’
‘Get some rest; is there someone we can call?’
‘Your phone is busy; someone out there is worried about you.’
Steven checked his phone
I hope that this has been a lesson to you and that you give up being you and come back. We can put all this nonsense behind us now. I have given you a second chance, a chance to return to order, to be whatever it was you were before. Why are you fighting it, what is it with people like you, why don’t you just give up and die?
Look life, we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, I’ll give you that, but really what’s the point of living if you can’t be yourself? I’ll admit I’m no expert on the matter, but isn’t that what you are all about…living?
I’m about making living as hard as it can be; I’m about injustice, survival of the fittest and the slaying of the weak. I’m like a sadistic Sergeant Major. Life is hard, life is cheap and if you want to tame me, master me, then you have to come after me, take me down and tether me, I don’t give up easy, I make it real hard for you.
Heard about the accident, you coming home now?
Can I bring my new mirror?
And so it was that from the wreckage of his past life, Steven Duke walked away from the billowing smoke, the fire and debris. His long hair damp from the rain, his trench coat billowing in the breeze of an autumnal night he strode head high and proud into a new dawn. He never looked back, he carved a new life for himself, and in time those that cared for him the most followed. Where he is now, no one knows but the fields of Elysium await the new king. The King is not dead.