Drowning in a Stream of Consciousness

Drowning in a Stream of Consciousness

Flash Fiction

James Riley



Winter is coming, but discontent is ever-present. That encompasses my worldview pretty nicely; we are derivative, cross referencing cyborgs addicted to culture and our own pitiful sense of unfulfillment.

The children of the most fruitful period in human history are overeducated, underwhelmed and underwhelming. Did we have it too easy growing up? Did we inherit a society passed its zenith? Are we just conditioned to accuse and excuse? Raised in the bright bubble of the boom and let loose to wonder the dark recesses of recession, finishing school was the start of a free for all in an economic wilderness. Or, rather, an economic dystopia. An Economic Dystopia where you need a qualification to get a job to pay off your student loans and the rest of your wages to live near and/or travel to work. Education has moved from a means to an end. It’s an industry. Degrees are a perquisite and are, therefore simultaneously devalued and more expensive, and we are encumbered by entitlement and exploited by expectation. Anxiety has become commonplace, yet so has sharing private thoughts on public platforms.

Everyone’s a critic. Everyone’s a writer. Everyone’s a photographer when the lens is that good. Everyone’s a social commentator and everyone travels. No mere holidays now that everyone’s an academic. Everyone is too fucking cool for everyone else. Everyone’s a comedian too. And fit. Everyone’s dancing the protein shake. Everyone’s a socialist, and everyone’s an entrepreneur. Everyone’s depressed. Everyone’s moving ‘onwards and upwards’. Everyone’s a model. Everyone’s a poser. Everyone’s a singing, song-writing, beat making, sound engineer. Everyone is blurry.

Everyone is screaming into the digital abyss, but no one has anything valuable to say.

The price of free speech is the rise of mediocrity.

My minefield mind is engrossed only when enraged. The rest of the time it’s a black hole on the verge of collapsing in on itself every time I close my eyes. My body doesn’t feel much better.

I’m stranded somewhere in the space between lethargic and catatonic. People mistake it for laziness or indifference, but that’s not it. I want to shake it. I can’t shake it. Years of abuse and stress have made my stomach a bloated, rotting pit, but deep within it lie what I once imagined to be the embers of a furious fire. There is so much that I want to do that I don’t know where to start. Instead, positive feelings take a left turn.

I hate people I don’t know. I hate people I do know. I hate my family. I hate my friends. I hate myself. I hate when other people do well. I love when they fail. I hold long internal monologues that question and condemn, but do not answer or solve. I waste time sitting around worrying about how all I do is sit and worry about how I’m sitting around and wasting my time.

I take pleasure in imagining pitiful scenes. I see myself haggard and homeless, lying wide eyed on a street corner surrounded by filth and blankets, unable to speak through my self-inflicted daze. It ruins my ex’s dates as she walks arm in arm past my diminished frame. I hear the doctor’s voice as I am diagnosed with a terminal illness that explains my lifelong lack of ambition and elevates me to modern sainthood. I visualise my own funeral; overflowing and tragic, and contemplate all of the different people I could have been.

For the most part though, I indulge in visions of violence:

I lie face down in bed while a shadowy figure hacks at my body with jagged razor wire.

I break through a mundane family meal by sticking a dinner knife through my chest and straight into my heart, and hold eye contact as I bleed out all over the tablecloth.

I inject myself with hard drugs and/or tainted blood down rancid alleys and on public transport.

I jump in front of oncoming trains, buses, important looking cars, cyclists, station wagons and taxis.

I smash my head against the wall until my skull cracks open and I can scoop out the dark goo that weights me from within.

I open my window one long sleepless night and dive head first onto the black concrete beneath.

I burn, drown, kill, destroy, obliterate, twist, shout, cut, shoot, crack, slice, suffocate, etc. I do loads of nasty shit, basically, to myself, in my mind, all the time.

Of course, I’d never act on any of these fantasies. I’ve found a much more acceptable form of self-harm;

My name is Jim and I’m an alcoholic.

James Riley got a first-class honours degree in college. He then spent a number of years on the dole, and is now working as a musician and writer in Dublin. His work is an attempt to engage with life and the people who live it.

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