In this world there are no more patterns. There’s just chaos.
I've watched the stars fall silent from your eyes - R.E.M. - The Great Beyond
Incinerating, the moth caught in the exhaust plume gets a final glimpse of the black jet dancing demonically through the heat haze of the cigarette sky. Even as the burnt flakes of the moth eviscerate into the jet stream, the perpetrator continues to press a cold hard body against the smoky air. Far, far below its belly, far below feathery fragments of a falling Lepidoptera, a wide wave of foam crushes over a sugary shore.
A dark dragon roaring over more waters, the sky around it transforming from stained tobacco yellow to the color purple. Running along the inside of the dragon’s purple painted spine – painted by the light of the sky – was an echelon of people, something like cyclists seen from above in a cycling race, except they had nothing of the organic nature of the peloton. The holidaymakers had placed themselves with machine like precision in columns and rows, like numbers on a spreadsheet. Most of these numbers were asleep. Some were reading, but in Hugh’s case, writing.
Hugh closes the lid of light, with this thought: Most of all, I need a holiday away from myself.. CLICK. The notebook’s peppermint blue is extinguished. He glances at the passenger beside him who opens an eye then closes it to the airplane’s hollow sounding darkness. The ‘Now’ lasts for a few moments, then slips away.
A child could have drawn the deep gashes in Hugh’s forehead. His clenched hands pushed down on the computer’s ceiling. His eyes were closed, but not in an attitude of sleep, such as the Asian man beside him. They were pinched shut. Hugh’s thoughts had focused his face into its present consternation. And his thoughts were the clanging symbols of futility. He had, you see, on a whim decided to open a document he’d been polishing for several years, and after a few final flourishes and finishing touches, he had fiddled and fussed, and somehow lost it all. Now, with the edge of the Philippine’s dark archipelago crawling under the ailerons of the Asiana Airlines Boeing, and his two weeks holiday about to start, his entire being ached with pain and futility. The consequence of confirming to overwrite the file had meant he had lost the original. And with that loss, all the sacrifices, backaches, arguments – the entire retrospective – now amounted to nothing. He had taken a whole, fragmented it, and then lost the fragments. The story of my life.
Already he began to search for meaning in the loss. Already he attempted to find the silver lining. As he did so he realized the full extent of the loss. Daggers penetrated his chest. Images swam through his mind. The breath knocked out of him by the storm of emotional chaos that flushed through him now, in floods, torrents, and monsoons.
And all the while the aircraft continued to descend to the islands. The randomness, now, of his life, begin to scratch at him. The wrecked fragmented-ness of everything began to gnaw it him. An unpleasant emptiness swelled inside him, like a virus. Like a cascading disconnectedness that infected everything with its innate dysfunction…
If your life fails to work out, it must be because you did something wrong? Trouble is your fault.
He opened his eyes. The crude digital airplane on the LCD moved a fraction over a map of the islands. Fragments in the sea. Where these islands once a larger Pangaea? Is this entropic destruction of land a singular process in one direction – decay, crumbling, reduction?
If things always decay from order to disorder, how were they ever ordered in the first place?
The crude digital movements remind him of the graphics on Atari games he played as a child.
He glares at the screen. He finds himself moving suddenly, rapidly, towards a place he no longer wishes to visit. With all his work stolen from him, there is no work to celebrate. He would have to turn back and start again. Start over! Repeat what had already been done, repeat what had been accomplished! How could he convey it all as well once more? There was that one original moment of reflection, and it can never be repeated! (But, it occurs to him…surely…writing is a process of reflecting on an original moment already past and now recollected for the purpose of massive reflection…)
And to suffer those sacrifices twice? To venture through those troublesome memories, to spend the time negotiating the complex narratives again…Once is enough! Too much!
Heartbreak was in the eyes that now blinked in the direction of the notebook.
The aircraft landed, hangars and buildings flashed by the windows in rapid-fire. When Hugh stood up, his body felt twice as heavy. He contemplated leaving the notebook – a burden now – on the seat. He contemplated smashing it on the tarmac under the volcanic nose cone of the plane. He bumped against a passenger and, out of character, did not apologize. He was determined to be miserable. His wretchedness was encouraged by the fact that of the two queues, the one he chose moved half as fast.
He finally emerged in the terminal, utterly defeated, and unwilling to continue his journey. Bored, disinterested, disgusted with himself, he stood as an island unto himself. Disconnected. A fragment of the passengers group falling away, falling into exile. Soon he was one man in a room, with just the silent flashing of computer screens, and mounted on the walls, televisions broadcasting CNN. He looked at the television screens, saw they were showing clowns. He stepped closer to see. The headline script read: ATTACK OF THE CLOWNS. Irritable as he was, Hugh stood as close to the screen as he could, looking up. His eyes followed the rolling script at the bottom of the screen:
…police suspect the clowns' water pistols do not contain water but acid…
Hugh glanced beyond the rolling script; saw the pictures of the G8 summit, the anti-globalization posters, the clowns themselves, and the weapon ready forces marshalling around them.
He walked slowly through the airport. It was quieter, even the linoleum floors shone with a ghostly quality; he felt like he was at a portal, a doorway to another world.
The television images revisited him briefly as he sat down. He placed his backpack on the floor at his feet.
Very clever to dress up as clowns, he thought. Police pushing clowns around doesn’t only look ridiculous, it irks the child inside, it spoils the fun. And Hugh instinctively knew propaganda was being broadcast to crush their protest.
The building was now quite empty except for a few dark shapes already slumbering on nearby benches.
He decided he would also sleep on a bench, here, at the airport, and fly back to his teaching job in Seoul the following day. Perhaps he could stay up extra late and get a few chapters done in the first week. If he worked quickly, it would save him time and effort, for he’d be able to draw on short term memory.
But he couldn’t sleep. The mosquitoes feasted on him. After two hours he was sitting in the dimness, other bodies snoring around him. Whilst searching for chewing gum (chewing loosened the sulking mouth) his fingers found a Lonely Planet. He tugged it out, the rough soles of his shoes wedged in the bag causing the cover to tear in half.
He started with pictures, then jumped around, and finally his reading became more focused, more interested. Fatigue had anaesthetized the memory of the lost file. Now sleep was the priority. And second to sleep, passing the night.
Inexplicably, the motionless shadow, which every few minutes turned a page, and made no sound to disturb those Filipinos sleeping around him, stood up and broke away from the family of sleeping shadows…almost without effort; walked quickly out of the building. A waiting taxi immediately pulled away from a line of other quietly assembled cabs, and drove him away from the airport, and into Manila.