So this is a product of the night I discovered Salt Publishing’s Modern Dreams and after I dragged myself away from the internet for a while. The last couple of paragraphs are a little intense and, therefore, meaningless, but I like the way they sound. I’ve always been a sucker for angry, polemic prose! You can find the actual submission site by clicking on the image, if you so feel the need. Enjoy!
‘We want issue-led works that tell the truth about what life is like for the young in these islands. Crime, drugs, fun, hope, immigration, integration, joblessness, laughs, love, loss, loyalty, music, sex, surviving and tragedy in modern Britain. We want to hear the stories that will make us sit up and stare in wonder. Lie awake at night. The stories that will break our hearts. Make us laugh out loud. Make us cry. The stories that tell the truth.’
My finger twitches on the trigger again. The page disappears in a sudden blur of white, the purity of nothing behind a screen marked with my consumerism. My thin, greasy fingertips having left long-streaks on the monitor, my apathy overriding my self-designed obsession with cleanliness, my discontent hidden behind the teeth of my luxury.
The corner of my laptop flickered, a small rectangle invading my desktop, blending against the background of sheets of Tom Waits lyrics piled atop each other in some calamitous heap. I knew what it meant, though I waited for it anyway. The seconds drew out as it began to fight its way through the dust and dirt thriving within my computer’s shell, the message stretching long, desperate arms from that technical nightmare until it formed the eponymous shapes which, passed through the veil of my education, metamorphosed into the words;
18% Battery Life Remaining!
I stared down the warning until it flickered away again. It didn’t matter.
Few things did.
But still, the webpage reloaded. MODERN DREAMS! Sensible, some Sans-serif typeface in white against a dark cityscape, all half-lit apartment complexes and the distant glimmer of a motorway, or a freeway of some kind. Hovering in the sky above it came the thunderous announcement, one desperately grappling at Polemic.
It cried in its desperate font, no doubt someone’s idea of literature after it had spent a few weeks in the ‘real’ world of drugs and drink and used condoms plastered across the floor. The literary equivalent of some homeless drug abuser, no doubt. Fingers beginning to blue from the onset of winter, emerging from ripped, worn gloves which did little to keep out the sudden chill and the numb flesh. The thick coat, rescued from a rubbish bin, stroked with grateful motions and told that it was beautiful, that the tear from the hip to the armpit could not mar the grace it had managed to maintain, buried as it was beneath cigarette ends and cheaply-produced chap books filled with the half-arsed poetry of Creative Writing students, supposedly supporting one charity or another.
Covering its thin hair, squatting atop the skin drawn too tight around the skull was a thread-bare cap, woollen and heavily worn. A child’s accoutrement, taken from the marked pavement or some ignorant mother’s pram, as simple as the babe it had once adorned. Trainers and socks along the same vein, beginning to peel back at the toes as though the mouths of dead things prised open by the hands of desperate men in search of golden teeth.
It was a font which spoke of fantasy disguising itself as reality, the imagined existence of a world much promoted, though barely existing. It screamed of patronisation, of the creation of something aimed at a people the man holding the sights steady could not hope to understand, with his education and the gleam of wealth in his eyes.
I clicked at the refresh button again. Still, the blank screen purported more honesty to me than the slowly loading image ever would. But there it was again.
I allowed myself the luxury of reading those words aloud, though I could barely hear them over the laughter I forced to circulate in my head. I heard the same canned sound travel on unused circuits in my brain, I could taste mockery on those abandoned tracks, on those half-built pathways before the education ran out as though currency, or some weak metaphor of wooden bases and iron rails. I hear the steam whimper out its punitive objections as modernisation thunders past.
* * *
You want Dark Cities? We don’t need to throw the facts of teenage pregnancy your way, we don’t need to advertise knife crime or hate crimes or the inability of a young person to get a job. We don’t need to wait until night to show you this youthful ‘underbelly’ you so desperately seek. You don’t need to hunt down the dark alleys for the homeless poet, nor haunt the steps of a busker to find some romantic hovel in which he thrives, some reddened flower amongst a field of weeds. You look in the buildings filled with council flats, you scour the stairwells which stink of piss and blood with the texture of piss and cider which probably has a higher concentration of piss than the piss itself, you stand on the rooftops with the wind battering at you, and you narrow your eyes to seek the victims of domestic abuse cowering behind the door, the prostitutes going about their business, the drug dealers like gods in their domains and the thieves and looters cackling like harpies as the ride their bikes in self-intimidating circles around a McDonalds.
You want Urban Dreams? You hope to find poets, writing amidst the squalor of your imagined city, furthering the destruction by creating literary masterpieces which scream of anarchy in a way the Sex Pistols wish they could have? Or do you hope to find them rebuilding? Lamenting the state of their homes, pretending to a geographical pride one cannot feel in the modern age of transport and innovation? Every utterance they string together, in their quaint little accents, proof that the animals are capable of learning to act like men, even if they cannot speak like them? You want the artists and the dreamers to emerge from the looters and the filth they surround themselves with? You want them to ascend from our discordant ranks and into your own? The only dreams we see are the simple ones. The ones that hope we won’t get stabbed on the way home, that the figure walking towards me is as terrified of me as I am of him, that he won’t assume the pose of a modern day Highwayman or, worse, that he won’t turn into some reflection of myself, some phantasm from the depths of my own psychosis.
You want Young Lives? There are none to be found. We’re all already dead, though few of us know it. You go to these worthless night clubs, you watch the corpses grinding against each other, feigning pleasure through their thickly-plastered makeup. You see them raping each other behind dumpsters, arousal in a youthful marriage with rage, just like they’ve seen in the porn they watch to stop them thinking. It isn’t love, or life you’ll find there. It isn’t even sex. It’s the dead trying to convince themselves that they can still feel the sun. That the moonlight reflects from more than broken glass, that the pavement would miss them, were their over-priced trainers made by starving children to suddenly carry them away.
You will not find the narratives you seek in the real world. Your narratives are a fantasy. Contributions to a fetish site, one dedicated to the ephemeral, one which achieves gratification through the promotion of an idealised universe.