Matthew Scurfield I COULD BE ANYONE, all rights reserved.
He wrestled the cut and thrust on the inside, clinging to a heightened sense of what was going on outside, until the tears drained from his eyes. In an assumed and accepted vacuum of obscurity, chained to an ever-
Nobody hears a word, no one cares.
Trust the present, with its loops of déjà vu, dishing up the same old wilful annihilation, pulling strings of self-
Looking to the never-
Was he knowledgeable, wise enough, to exonerate and bury those ongoing persuasions this time around, or would the psych police, with their tight-
Needing more time than most to think things through, to catch up on an answer, he was marked down as distracted from the get go, slow, a dud squib… by the warden’s account, more trouble than worth.
Forgotten, but not forsaken... the future slowly evaporated into a faded dream, while the past, misplaced in time, got diverted and detained, before he had a chance to understand the duplicity. Saving any remaining self-
Familiarity with his surroundings saw the regime, with its candid routine, including the sarcastic and violent jibes become sanitised, normalised; a known and acceptable, daily, reality… as if it were peculiar to be otherwise. With a wary and pronounced awareness, for what might sneak in behind, he engaged with an occasional documentary, or fictional spectacle, at least the ones they allowed him to watch. On guard, yet somehow deeply unconnected, (who wants to be normal anyway?), inertia and boredom set in, enough for his eye to wander over words in a book.
Honing his literary skills, from eyeballing comics, tabloids and hardboiled narratives in the rooms and corridors of the lifer, his curiosity gradually caught the better of him. The bindings thrown in his direction, any number of pages, from any book, saw the hunger for information and knowledge increase and the prospects of confinement diminish. Despite the company continuing to label him a cretin, not a day went by when he didn’t thank the lord for the basic understanding of the alphabet he’d picked up in a previous life.
The more he read, the more he saw how ill-
Eventually a stack of books came through and he ended up buried in the pile, out of sight and mind. With a lack of interest in his whereabouts, his angst dissipated, tensions diminished enough to ease into cruise control; only then did the tale really begin to pull into focus and the characters and places engage his imagination. It wasn't all honey and roses, a lot of the material was ridiculously bad, or just way above his head. Some works were so difficult to get his faculties around, he’d end up throwing the book at the wall, or ripping the pages free of the binding, in a fit of frustration and anger, chastising himself for his lack of patience, his ineptitude.
From the myths and legends of the underworld, he recognised his father and his father before, going rounds with a monster, inside the seventh circle of hell. Outside the lair, he too feared and fought the beast… attacking the sun, howling with jackals at the moon… he looked upon a torturous unholy end, until logic in the stories unleashed understanding, a mighty strength, that brought empathy, reason, and calm to the wretched creature suffering the trickery and shadows of his mind.
A fish, new to the block, badgering him for stuff to read, asked him one day, how he wangled his way into working the library and why he spent so much time there. He pondered the question and kid awhile… a tapper on the ear’ole, you’re playing me for a fool he thought and said nothing. The tenderfoot, seemed awkward, hurt, rebuffed by the silence and in a fit of frustration banged him up against the shelving… books and papers flying! Who the fuck do you think you are Einstein? You’re no better than me… speak to me, or I’ll make your time in this joint seem like a pushover, compared to what I’ll leave you with….
The old boss who’d been eyeballing them from the other side of the room vanished like rat up a drainpipe.
Catching a glint of feral kinship in the rookie’s eye, he let the pain drift, as a distant call to arms filled the room, adding more weight to the space between them. oh fuck you!… the recruit said releasing his hold… I don't need you or this to survive in here...
The kid was halfway to the door, when he divulged the answer… told him how he felt like a guest at a gigantic table, with some of the greatest minds in human history… and who on God’s earth could grumble at that. He identified with them, he added… heard the author’s voices, tied into their tensions, delighted in their joys and wept at their losses… if you want'a see some change, I’d come back here, do as I do and don't open your mouth, ‘till it’s clear.
By the time the cavalry turned up they were tidying away the remaining books, confiding to the letter, the kid played along wisely, in reading room quiet… I plumbed the depths, clambered dizzy heights, reached into the landscape of the page, until it seemed as if I were lost forever…
He gave no leeway to the guards, who eyed them down at the doorway with suspicion, in disbelief… this man does not come tutored by our sister; he comes to view our punishments.
In other words, he was eloquent enough… enough to understand they’d been rooked by a system, like slaves to a ruse…
From the written word, a pathological acknowledgment for the humanities, social sciences and biophysics, a need for understanding the wider implications of why we are here, engaged his imagination and lifted his spirit. Passing over the threshold, between life and death, he torched a fabled spark, lighting up the cosmological path. On the back of the dragon, spiting fire and fury, he ascended a rigid, tangible, environment, this realm of concrete and waste and took flight.