Tweaking the Recipe for a Fresh Start

Submitted into Contest #126 in response to: Write a story about someone seeking a fresh start after a difficult year.... view prompt


Fiction Funny Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

[Note: mild profanity (one or two occurrences of a-word and f-word);

sharp satire or dark humor at times]

[Disclaimer-1: The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed here are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.]

[Disclaimer-2: Fair use (Parody) might apply in some situations.]


As the clock struck midnight, and the entire world heralded the arrival of 2022 with great pomp, Alan and his new friend turned soul-mate held each other in a tight embrace, their bodies interlocking with one another with great intimate passion, their souls drenched with celebratory liquid (a 30 year old red wine), the resulting intoxication filling Alan with deep warmth. As the clock finished its 6th gong, Alan knew that a difficult, fruitless year was behind him. That he had found the sense of purpose, connection, chemistry, camaraderie and catharsis he was looking for. By the 9th gong, Alan had climaxed with a sense of unstoppable optimism and unbridled ecstasy (Alan Greenspan would have termed it “irrational exuberance”, but then Greenspan was rarely accurate, especially when it mattered, in the big-ticket items, specializing in the fine art of either false-positives or false-negatives). By the 12th gong, Alan was the embodiment of serene tranquility, filled with a deep-seated conviction that he was about to make a fresh start.


2021 was a very difficult year for Alan Watts. It was such an absolute train-wreck of epic proportions that Alan Watts had actually taken to reading the philosophical works of his famous namesake Alan Watts to get some answers. Right from the time Mr. & Mrs. Watts had finished doing the deed in the standard, boring, vanilla “missionary” position (to keep the act of sex consistent with the Zen/Stoic principles they held so dear), and Alan was conceived in the next few seconds as the deposited sperm was accepted by a safety-deposit egg held in the secure bank-vault of the fallopian tubes; they knew what their future child (assuming it was going to be a Son) was going to be named, for they were both card-carrying members of the Alan Watts fan-club, and they assumed (incorrectly, out of a sense of misplaced narcissism which the philosopher Alan Watts would disapprove as being inconsistent with Zen/Stoic philosophy) that their son would be a beautiful eastern-mysticism-hippie copy of themselves.


Reality, of course, has a funny way of turning out. As they say, Truth is stranger than Fiction. Or as Kellyanne Conway once claimed: “Alternative Facts” supersedes Facts. Someone’s best laid plans and idealized vision is no match for the Universe’s mysterious counter-plotting. And thus it was: Alan Watts had turned out exactly antithetical to the Zen, Stoic, Philosopher persona which his famous namesake embodied. Our Alan was a rather gregarious, mischievous little idiot, who grew into a teenage asshole, and finally bloomed into a maladjusted barely-functioning adult. Nevertheless, even as he struggled with “adulting” (which isn’t terribly unusual; let’s face it, we all suck donkey balls at it), he had retained a good dose of boisterous charisma, which served him well in various practical situations, saving himself from his own demented dysfunctionality.


And yet, 2021 was the year when Alan Watts had reached a plateau in his Life, a level of stagnation which he had not seen earlier. He was earlier quite cock-sure of himself (toxic masculine pun intended), but 2021 made him aware of his own “glass ceiling”, and through that, he was in a position to empathize with women who had reached theirs. 2021 was a mountain he couldn’t climb; his back and spirit had been broken. Unable to get (it) up or stand erect, he had slipped into a depressive spiral of despondence and self-loathing, but also of empathetic understanding of how others suffered through systemic structural biases or the randomness of the Universe. Alan thought that reading his famous namesake’s works would illuminate some path out of this deep existential abyss, but it had left him with more questions than answers.


It was 2020’s New Year’s Eve, when Alan had finally reached a stage of self-acceptance and self-actualization, embracing himself for all his complexities and flaws, including the dysfunctional demons in his head. He had resolved to give his inner voice a platform in the coming year. No more was he going to be “in-the-closet” or deny his internal programming, at least not to himself. 2021 was going to be the year when he accepted himself in every shape and form, and put in-motion a plan to develop a sense of purpose, put himself out there, be bold and forthright, form social-connections, seek a sense of camaraderie and mutual-excitement based on this new paradigm, and conquer the world. And yet throughout 2021, his plans had been foiled one after the other, through a variety of random absurd comedy-of-errors. His patience and resolve had been tested in extraordinary ways. Here he was: he had finally come to a stage of self-love, had conquered mountains of self-doubt to make a firm resolution, and yet, reality had other plans for him: a series of catastrophic comical failures that would finally make for a solid follow-up fourth season to “Arrested Development”.


He had met a bunch of interesting people throughout 2021, on a variety of “dates”, and every such encounter started-off smoothly, showed a lot of promise and potential as things progressed, had sparkling intellectual and conversational chemistry, with just a a hint of deep kinship and bonding somewhere in-between (leaving both parties with goosebumps), undercurrents of sexual tension that threatened to explode like a volcanic orgasm, and so on. But all the encounters ended-up in complete shambles, due to some unforeseen ridiculous twist of fate. It was inexplicable, infuriating and discombobulating. It was almost as if the Universe was conspiring against Alan from reaching his self-actualization. It was precisely this comical existential conundrum that Alan was trying to find answers through his namesake’s philosophical writings, but the only thing Alan got out of those was recommendations to just be a good little stoic bitch and take whatever Life threw at you without reacting much, like a good little submissive role-player in a BDSM scenario: 50 Shades of Zen.


Here’s a partial enumeration of the tragedy-of-errors that besieged Alan (note that Alan had resolved to not discriminate based on gender; he had discovered he had equal preference for all kinds of peoples and genders. It's the people, their energies and their ideas that fascinated him, more than their literal anatomy or the specifics of their genital capabilities and limitations):


  • 28 year old Lauren Bacall, a gynecologist resident doctor, whose real desire was acting. Alan had trouble digesting her claims of being an Iconic Hollywood Legend in her previous Life, but the beauty, sensuality and charismatic energy she radiated was definitely consistent with someone with some cosmic connection to Los Angeles. Just as they were about to head out together, Lauren got a call from Warner Brothers in LA to attend an acting audition on short-notice. It was a moment when Alan's self-actualization was cut short, but Lauren's might have been put on speed-dial. It was an “extras” role: literally a gynecologist resident doctor, and they were looking for a “method-actor” who can do justice to the one minute on-screen. And just like that, she was gone in the pursuit of fame and happiness.

  • 42 year old Robert Oppenheimer, a one-hit bestselling author, currently a struggling has-been, failing to produce any good follow-up work, suffering from a particularly acute radiation sickness (ARS) version of a writer’s block. His bestseller was a book about a brilliant nuclear scientist repenting of his participation in the Manhattan Project, drawing parallels between himself and Shiva, the destroyer of worlds. Turns out meeting Alan was all the inspiration Oppenheimer needed to come up with something new and original. Oppenheimer had been clinging onto his bestseller like a Proton inside a Nucleus, and Alan had knocked-off a couple of Neutrons to get the chain-reaction of creative writing rolling in his brain. Unfortunately, just as they were about to head out and brainstorm further at Alan’s place, a sudden strong gust of wind blew Oppenheimer upwards into a pole transformer. At that moment, Death became Oppenheimer, he got to meet Shiva, and he was Gone With The Wind.

  • 32 year old Margaret Thatcher, a bleeding-heart liberal who spoke passionately in favor of Unionization, social welfare safety-nets, strong big government, and who went deep and hard all night long about the evils of laissez faire capitalism and the exploitative unequal power-structures that consolidate and gain more power from unregulated monopolistic enterprises. It was almost as if her vehement passion was an overcompensation for a previous Life spent doing the opposite. Alan, not a particularly political fellow, unsure where he stood, lacking firm convictions of his own, felt like he was in the presence of a fiery preacher, and Margaret was more than happy to have someone listen to her polemic diatribes on a date. After Margaret had gotten things off her chest, she viewed Alan with dreamy eyes for being such a good listener, and Alan could sense that there wouldn’t be a monopoly of him with himself that night. Just as they were about to go to Margaret’s place (at her insistence), a SWAT team of FBI agents from J Edgar Hoover’s paranoid institution arrested her for being a “Commie sympathizer”. Alan stood by mutely, watching her being hooded and whisked away, part of him thankful for being spared the same fate, wondering whether he would hear about Margaret in a CBS 60 minutes documentary about inmates at Guantanamo.


With every such failure (and there were plenty more setbacks than the ones highlighted above), Alan’s self-esteem eroded away, his self-actualization chipping-away, his resolve weakening, and by the time December-2021 came around, Alan had almost given-up on the idea of self-acceptance, on the notion that he could find what he was looking for. It seems the Universe had other plans for him, plans which involved keeping him bound to the past, chained with a leash, unable to express himself in all his authentic complexity. He spent most of November and December reading his famous namesake’s works, but in vain. Just as he was about to give-up completely, and about to burn his famous namesake’s works in a huge pile, his phone beeped with a push notification that he had a new match on the “PlentyOfFlawedFish” dating app.


That’s how he met 30 year old Joseph Stalin, who was a Wall-Street bond-trader, short-seller, unapologetic ruthless capitalistic mercenary, self-confessed destroyer of bleeding liberal hearts, reddit shit-poster, Bitcoin/Crypto Guru, Gordon Gekko worshiper, Milton Friedman devotee all rolled into one. Joseph’s favorite author was Ayn Rand: he loved her ideas on the Virtues of Selfishness, as it came very spontaneously to him, and he effortlessly put that gospel into practice daily in the pursuit of becoming the biggest, meanest capitalistic badass out there. As a side-note: it’s a good thing this Joseph didn’t meet that Margaret, for that would be like the collision between matter and antimatter inside the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Not even the lab coats with double PhDs with a 27 kilometer particle accelerator buried under the French-Swiss border could predict the level of chaos that would have resulted out of that meeting. Anyway, Joseph had a creepy shrine at his home to pay homage to Ayn Rand. Even as a 30 year old man, he was as obsessed with Ayn Rand as a teenage girl hanging posters of the Jonas Brothers.


His childish immaturity aside, Joseph exuded a brazen confidence and charismatic chutzpah, which Alan found very appealing. Alan liked these types of people: passionate, overflowing with energy, oozing with confidence, because he liked to imagine how he would play a role in the future development of all that energy, how he could potentially have some kind of control over it. Alan would have loved to seal the deal and act on his intimate fantasies on the first date itself, but something held him back, some kind of clairvoyance that there’s more than meets the eye. Joseph had another fascinating element to his story, which came out on the second date at Joseph’s house: underneath all the confident bravado, there was a significant degree of emptiness. All the money and success couldn’t fill the sense of Loneliness and Emptiness in his heart, for Joseph sensed that he too was holding himself back, having unexplored desires (perhaps borne out of subconscious vague recollections of a past Life) that he wasn’t able to embrace. That maybe his capitalistic asshole persona was to compensate for the lack of self-actualization in other more personal spheres of his Life. As they both drank at Joseph’s house, with the layers of Joseph’s vulnerabilities peeling like an Onion, there came a point when Alan and Joseph looked at each other with a long haunting pause. Both were spilling out their guts in tiny incremental steps, but were now wondering whether it wouldn’t just be easier to eject the entire truth with sudden volcanic force. And then after what seemed like an eternity, it all spilled-out: Alan and Joseph revealed themselves to each other for who they were deep inside. Baring their souls, completely naked in that moment. They were in a mutual sacred confession, equal parts the guilty person seeking relief and solace through confessing, and equal parts the priest wielding moral authority, listening quietly without casting judgment.


By the time the clock approached midnight, they had both undressed themselves completely in-front of one-another. They had achieved a holy spiritual union, and both had resolved for things to change in the coming year. Joseph made a fresh resolution to embrace himself in more authentic terms, and resolved to make the most of 2022 acting on his newfound sense of clarity and self-acceptance. Alan’s resolution from the previous year, which he had failed to implement properly in 2021, got renewed with slight alterations, a slight tweak which Alan felt made it just a tinge more appropriate and acceptable. Alan and Joseph got up from the dining-table where they had been buried in deep conversational reverie for almost two hours; the music playing in the background lost on them, the New Year countdown and general festivities had become a distant afterthought in their minds; and they raced towards each other to embrace.


As they embraced passionately, Alan and Joseph vocalized their New Year’s Eve Resolutions, the difficult years they had, and the fresh start they were about to make, and just as they finished, the clock started striking midnight: it was the No Man’s Land between 2021 and 2022. The transition from one year to the next happens within a second of time, and time is supposed to be continuous, and yet, at certain key cinematic moments of great drama and poignancy (this was one such moment), it feels like a discrete discontinuous process, quite like being suspended in Inception’s “limbo” for that tiny time-slice. As the clock struck midnight, Alan plunged the knife he was hiding deep into Joseph’s back and twisted it mercilessly, removing and plunging and twisting it again every alternate gong, for a total of six pairs of plunge and twist. Joseph’s blood spurted out, staining his clothes and covering Alan’s hands, while drenching both their souls like the celebratory liquid for the New Years (a 30 year old aged red wine). The murdering embrace filled Alan with a sense of bubbling warmth, but left Joseph feeling blue and cold. Joseph had unfortunately drawn the short-straw, and was at the receiving end of getting fucked, quite like the pension-funds or developing-market-currencies he used to short-sell and price-gouge.


Alan and Joseph had revealed certain immutable axiomatic truths about themselves, including the demented dysfunctional demons inside their head, and their desire to give these darker voices greater control and fluid autonomy over their lives. They wanted to embrace themselves for all their twisted desires and not hold themselves back on a leash; they didn’t want to quell the darker impulses in their heads anymore. Their idea of self-actualization was to throw caution to the winds, and come to a complete sense of self-acceptance about who they were, including any/all real-world actions resulting from their inner deviant monologues. Except as fate would have it, Alan had been trying for the past year to act on those darker impulses, but with no results. Every single time, the Universe had spoiled his plans through some absurd comedy-of-errors. He had come to the conclusion that this wasn’t meant for him; he had taken it as a sign from the Universe. Reading his famous namesake’s philosophical writings fed further into his feelings of accepting that this shit wasn’t meant to be. That he needed to let it go.


And then he met Joseph. And as they revealed everything to each other, a simple idea took seed in Alan’s mind: he had found a way to reinstate his inner desires through a slight alteration: enough perhaps for the mysterious forces of the Universe to relent to his will, enough perhaps for the unlucky streak of the past year to come to an end. His idea was that he was going to target others who had similar darker impulses and [were going to act/acting/acted on it], hoping that this slight tweak would make things marginally less unpleasant, and that his luck might turn. There was only one way to validate this hypothesis. As they both embraced, and Alan plunged the knife deep into Joseph’s back, twisting and plunging with a sense of catharsis, the failures of the previous year washing over him, Alan knew that the spell of bad luck had finally been broken. Alan had finally found his Prince Charming: someone who rescued him from the depths of existential torture. He was on the cusp of making a fresh start.

December 26, 2021 22:20

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