Writers on the storm….writers on the storm…into this world we’re born….into this world we’re thrown…
You used to love listening to the Doors on a rainy day while working on your freelance articles, always appropriating the lyrics to writers on the storm….how romantic!
For three decades you commentated on every kind of natural disaster, epidemic and moment in time that shook the world, including the outbreak of AIDS, September 11, the Boxing Day Tsunami and the passing of Princess Diana. You always wrote from the comfort of your own home or a nearby café, analysing the grief from a safe distance, trying to make sense of the shock and hysteria surrounding these episodes. Sometimes you cried hysterically too, but in time you gave that up to becoming a serious, respected journalist. Every work morning was punctuated by two slices of toast smeared with your favourite peanut butter (gourmet high-grade, organic) which you munched over while composing your thoughts, embellishing your stories with your articulate prowess on where the world had gone wrong.
It’s raining men! Hallelujah it’s raining men! Hey hey hey!
The music changes and so too does the tone of your articles. As the new millennia slides in you find jargon slipping into your vocabulary as easily as a coin might fall into a vending machine, jarring it to life. With the rise of social media you find readers becoming more and more agitated by prolonged injustices, everything from the lack of accessibility for people with special needs through to the widening gap between the rich and the poor. You agree with most of the sentiments you read about (you have to); it’s now your job as a writer to be the voice of concern.
There’s a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad…
Back to the Doors, a classic vintage band you used to listen to on the bus on your way to your first cadet job. You learned a lot in those early days; how to be cutting edge and provocative whilst drawing public sympathy in world affairs. It was an exciting time to be alive. You relished your part in observing - and shaping - history, and culture, and fashion.
Nowadays it seems social commentators are popping up everywhere, expressing intellectualised rants on just about everything: masculine toxicity, white privilege, feminism, #metoo, #cancelculture, plastic pollution and so on…you find that with each new outrage, your readers are hungry for articles to be shared and debated, to rip their teeth into the jugular of anti-social perpetrators, to draw blood out of every situation considered fair game. Your poison pen can make or break a career. Thank God for Michael Jackson. At least he’s dead and can’t sue for the terrible things you’re saying about him.
Speaking of hunger, now is a good time for a big bowl of pasta. You heat it up in the microwave, and devour it like a beast while chipping away at the reputation of those you loathe.
I can’t stand the rain, against my window, bringing back sweet memories….
In the last few months there’s a new call to cancel anything that has a remote whiff of prejudice, even if it’s in the context of a tasteless joke (which your countrymen are renowned for). You relate everything back to A Handmaid’s Tale, drawing parallels between Atwood’s dystopia and the one you are horrified is being created. All conversations are on the table, even those you really know nothing about, such as abortion, fertility, rape, abuse, suicide, and gun ownership. You furiously write, trying to keep the flame of your audience’s heated anger alight, hoping they will keep pay money for your content instead of downloading it for free. You like being known in social circles, yet ironically, also love the mystery of being a recluse, just a smug bespectacled face in the top right of a blog article. The Internet is flooding with opinions, and people are just not buying your content as much anymore, though they recognise your name.
After a particularly bad stretch of struggling to pay the rent for three months, you make a very difficult and heartbreaking decision.
You decide to buy a cheaper, inferior brand of peanut butter.
Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a tragedy, tearing me apart like a new emotion.
Bushfires rage across the Great Southern Land of Australia, with no end in sight of the crippling drought. It is reported by the media that half a billion animals have been lost in the blaze. In a knee-jerk reaction there are calls to ban new year’s eve fireworks altogether, as it is seen as offensive and inappropriate to pollute the smoke with more air, and a terrible insult to those who have lost their homes and loved ones in the tragedy. You agree with this in your articles. Privately you watch the fireworks on TV, beguiled by the opportunity to write down a list of new year’s resolutions. You decide you will save up to go travelling in 2020. You also decide you will buy a cat.
Reach out and, reach out and, reach out and touch somebody!
There’s news about a new strain of virus that is evolving in Asia, which garners little of your attention. You’re still arguing about toxic masculinity in your articles and whether boys and girls should be allowed to change their gender before the age of six. People have lost their minds; you’re not even sure what kind of writer you are now. You stroke your cat a lot, wondering which side of the debate you fall under. Are you pro or anti-choice? In the end you decide you can’t endorse such monstrosities, to say it’s okay for a six-year-old girl to have her genitalia mutilated because she acts like a tomboy. You also plea to halt #cancelculture, arguing it’s unjustifiable that people who are easily offended should dictate what the rest of society can enjoy. Your readership dwindles, with people labelling you as ‘out of touch’ and an ‘old fuddy duddy’.
You stagger to the fridge to make dinner, having not been very productive for a few weeks. These days you’re down to having just plain pasta without the meatballs.
All by myself, don’t wanna be, all by myself….anymore…
This morning you read about people doing weird things in some countries like emergency buying a whole bunch of supplies. You laugh and chortle at the silliness of it all. Thank God that problem doesn’t exist here.
Two days later you go to the supermarket to buy the essentials, and discover the shelves are empty.
You write an article to express anger and disgust that vulnerable members of the community are being grossly affected by the shortages. Stop being so selfish! you screech. But then you come across a supermarket that has a handful of stock available, and without thinking too much about it you buy four packets of 12 toilet rolls just to cover yourself during this unknown period. Then after sitting in your car for 20 minutes, you go back and buy four more, just to be sure.
Don’t go out tonight, cos it’s bound to take your life….there’s a bad moon on the rise…
And now there are massive shortages of pasta too. You have to make do with packets of powdered soup and some day-old bread rolls on special, which is all you can afford anyway. You witness fights breaking out in the supermarket and you shake your head sadly. What is this world coming to?
Now it’s the norm to sanitise your hands every time you walk into a venue. You can’t pay cash for things anymore, or even have someone pack your groceries. It’s unhygienic you lecture on your blog, keeping up your role in delivering PSAs.
At least you have a spread of cultural events coming up to review, which you are very much looking forward to.
There must be some way out of here…said the joker to the thief…
Well that happened fast.
People are being ordered by the government to stay at home rather than walk around the city like parasites, spreading the disease with whomever they get in contact with.
Your cat slides along your lap, brushing your face with its bushy tail.
You were really hoping to go to the library to borrow some books, but now libraries are shut too.
You start re-reading the book you previously borrowed, even though you can’t stand the author at all. You only borrowed it for inspiration as there is a short story competition coming up that is named after them. If you win, you’ll be able to keep feeding your cat for another month.
The cat bulges in your lap, purring.
Where has that cat been all day, you wonder.
Imagine there’s no country…I wonder if you can…nothing to kill or die for, or brotherhood of man...
It’s now three years, two months and sixteen days since the pandemic began. The world is empty and deserted. There’s no more music festivals, no schools, no art galleries, no playgrounds and no Tinder dates. No one wants to hold hands; if they do, the militia arrests them and issues the severest of penalties. Your country initially shied away from such drastic measures, until the affluent people started succumbing in the hundreds, then thousands. The only time you are allowed outside is to water the plants. But the plants are all dead.
My hands are bleeding and my knees are raw. Now you’ve got me crawling, crawling on the floor.
These lyrics hum in your mind from a song you faintly remember, as you lie on the couch, shaking and coughing, gasping for breath like an emphysemiac. Which is strange, because you gave up smoking a long time go. You’re craving that peanut butter you used to love, but they don’t make that anymore, and besides, you barely even have enough strength to get to the kitchen.
I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying, and I’m losing, control….
Your cat is hungry after not being fed for so long. She’s been mewing for seven hours straight for you to wake up and feed her. She savagely takes a bite of your hand. This time you don’t flinch or scold her or smack her with discipline. Your arm is limp, dangling off the couch, eyes black as stones. She jumps on your caving chest, catches a whiff of your decomposing odor and recoils. It’s not particularly pleasant to her, but she doesn’t care. She takes another bite, her stomach rumbling with pleasure.
Outside your window the rain is softly falling again.