Short story by Michael Botur
Hey u :o)
I appreciate your opening my email. You’ll be glad you did, for I am about to reveal how humanity may end all suffering.
I want you to ring me and listen to my revelations. Read this communiqué and perhaps you will. Remember when you were running that poetry workshop on campus and you said if I stopped screaming at people during the peer critique I could totally become an amazing poet and really blow up someday? I’m emailing to tell you I can, I will and I am.
It’s taken my whole life to realise that the way to end suffering is simply to END SUFFERING. This is the explosive truth. If you’ll ‘suffer’ my explanation, so to speak, then I’ll reveal how you can end your own suffering. You are a critic of art and literature and poetry, and all critics suffer in their desire for better, finer things. Hear me out and you will suffer no more.
I moved away after you and all the little Eichmanns in Auckland started to criticise my poetry performances in online discussion groups. ‘If he is attempting satire, the performance fails for being too sincere; if he is attempting to be sincere, his performance seems a parody of himself,’ said the review written by the reprehensible Gina Liang Guo on Theatreview.org.nz.
She’s a vessel, you have to realise that. A cypher. All of these movers and shakers, these critics who decide what’s hip and what’s not, they’re turncoats, sellouts, traitors.
I fled to Wellington with nothing but a student loan. The city seemed refreshingly liberal at first. I braved a flat in Aro Valley on the third floor of a mansion on a cliff populated by chemistry students. To keep warm amongst the wind, they liked to burn things in a backyard full of weeds and bricks. They showed me how steel wool, when set alight and spun on a washing line until it’s pumped with oxygen, produces a white flame. They showed me how to mix frozen orange juice with petrol to make a sticky concoction they labelled Napier Napalm. They were all bred in the aloof, misogynistic confines of the boys’ high school in Hawke’s Bay, these baboons, tribal, dependent on the hive-mind, unprepared for anyone to swat the meat-lovers pizza out of their hands and inform them that beef farming was destroying the ecosystem. They couldn’t comprehend that for a divine cause a man must starve until his mind evaporates into a gas light enough to float above the earth before it joins the invisible dimension of shared consciousness.
Those good ole boys walked away after I gathered them around the bonfire to experience The Truth – a monologue which had taken me all winter to prepare. Their mockery of my revelation hurt far more than the broken nose I received when I attempted to stop them guffawing as they turned on the barbecue when they trapped a live rat in it, one otherwise-boring Wednesday night. The barbecue was a single spark away from igniting when I threw my frail body upon it. Have you ever wondered why you’re not allowed to use your cellphone on the forecourt of a petrol station? It’s the spark in the basic transistor on the phone’s circuit board. Any chink in the transistor can cause a tiny spark of electricity to leap into the air, igniting the gas.
Everyone in Wellington cooled on me until the entire city felt cold. The anarchists wouldn’t help me topple the banks; the Falun Gong got toey with me when I protested their lack of explosive action over the People’s Republic of China refusing us access inside the embassy. I rescued 18 pizzas from the dumpster behind Domino’s one Thursday night. My flat-so-called-mates wouldn’t even eat it.
In Melbourne, the cabal of ‘established’ poets acted as if my Tuesday night monologues weren’t anything spectacular. The playwrights told me I should come back to ScriptCircle six months from now with stronger material. My ribs jutted out of my belly. Every dumpster in the city was padlocked to prevent people from finding out the explosive truth about the quantities of food wasted in this world on a daily basis.
I joined the tribe of working-class lads unloading containers on the docks. They proved to be closed-minded Luddites and quickly became hostile to me. Dragging my feet along unkind streets I was surprised to find kindness in the men coming out of the central mosque. I came to despise so-called Christians when in kitchen conversations in al-matbakh I heard about what these beautiful, spiritual people endured in detention centres. My Muslim friends never convinced me to hate Jesus Christ, though. Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Gautama Buddha: each prophet speaks for the same central spirit, it turns out. They are the godhead. The godhead wants what’s right. He shakes the earth to get our attention. In the dining hall of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi my Muslim brethren and I conversed excitedly about the Anglo-White-Western Military Industrial Complex. They debated and flailed their hands, bantering in Pashtu and Urdu as they smoked cigarettes. Then, I would lose them to strip clubs where they ate $10 plates of steak and eggs and threw their weekly wages at white women without pride. In the face of temptation, their piety was nothing. I followed them, once, to a strip club, wrapped my arms around an objectified woman, did my best to carry her to freedom. You have to throw your body against the gears and wheels and levers, Mario Savio once said. A bouncer dragged me away while I tried to stop the machine, screaming the truth.
There is a truth out there, you know. It’s a truth ripe and ready to burst. All will be revealed as I end this letter.
I went on a single outing with the Earth Liberation Front because I was starving and the ELFs always promised a bowl of dahl and a quilt to whoever came to them in need. Tearing down the Complex began with a chicken factory somewhere in New South Wales (or was it South Australia?) where I’d been told there were 400,000 chickens. When we got inside the first of four warehouses, I stood amazed as I counted. The aisles of cages were 20 high and 100 wide and there were 54 aisles. There were 108,000 imprisoned chicken souls in each of the four warehouses. 432,000 crimes, each in want of justice.
I was told that night I was too slow, and that it was a sin to take my balaclava and hoodie off and show the security cameras who I really was. My so-called fellow warriors were revealed as cowards, afraid to confront the establishment. We drove through the desert, slowing every few minutes for kangaroos. By showing my face I was fucking up their strategy, they claimed. They opened the back of the van and the last thing I told them was that I would return to annihilate their suffering. All would be flattened so we could rebuild.
I told them I didn’t hate them for dumping me in God’s proving ground. I told them my fabulous weapon of revelation would soon explode and the fallout would land on their brows and they would grasp understanding. They locked the doors of the van and drove into the black, red tail lights like fading embers.
I lay in the road as I’d been told the Wangkamadla people wisely do, absorbing heat from the asphalt, not that there was any heat in this crevasse of night. The road sparkled with ice crystals. I stopped rubbing my body when I felt a pool of warm water spread across me. I stripped off my frosted clothes so my soul could evaporate into the moonlit clouds. A police officer halted with a screech of stinking brakes metres from my body just as my essence was beginning to leak from my mouth in a white mist.
I awoke in an Accident & Emergency waiting room. Two days had passed. Immigration were coming to pick me up, they told me. They gave an English name for the town. I told the nurse I didn’t recognise the geographical naming conventions of the Imperial Caucasian Occupational Force.
I was told my hospital bed needed to be given to another patient. There was nowhere to go but the hospital waiting room where I watched the ceiling fan rotate for 30 hours. Finally I got to talking with a miner who was quite obviously missing three fingers and a good portion of his arm flesh. He explained he’d been injured when a blasting cap had ignited because his cellphone had gone off while he was carrying it. A slight chink in the part of the phone housing the antenna was all it took to produce a spark which ignited the merest fraction of phosphorous gas leaking from the blasting cap. He claimed his injury didn’t faze him much and the mines had forced him to come here as an insurance requirement. He said he was pleased he would now get a couple of hundred extra bucks per week, Workman’s Comp, he called it. “Shoulda blowed me hand off yonks ago,” he said with a wink. He poked the occasional text message on his phone with his two fingered hand as we talked, and I wondered if a cellphone spark could really cause such a change in human understanding. Does it take an explosion and a tearing of flesh to awaken mankind?
Tell me everything, I said to him. Tell me the significance of the mines. Tell me why your psyche drives a man into the desert. Tell me how in the absence of a shaman, a man becomes a shaman.
He was happy to take me to paid work. He needed somebody to roll his cigarettes as we drove for 72 hours. We passed through Aboriginal nations. The miner got me a room in the barracks at Coolmista, southwest of the area he called Queensland between Diamantina and Goneaway National Parks. Orange hills made of dust rolled past the car window like waves. I could feel a divine presence here in the sweaty, honest work, the easy beer and country music, the diesel and sunburn. God lives in sweat and mud, in inflammation and bursitis and tinnitus, in brown teeth, in eardrums bruised from explosions. God was in the good-natured humour of men who blasted the cliffs of a quarry every day on 12-hour shifts then scooped up the rubble and drove it three miles to the largest conveyor belt you’ve ever seen where the rubble went through 200 stages of sifting for diamonds. $60,000 profit for a diamond which costs $47,000 to discover: that was providence to these men. Out here no one criticised their rough, ugly, honest work.
The man who had helped me escape the hospital said he was happy to have a novice on site to share his techniques with. In a life of blowing things up, he and his people had found a quiet nirvana. When they finished their shift, these men would leave with the pockets of their rugby league shorts stuffed with blasting caps. They would raid storage sheds on weekends, making off with wires, bundles of gelignite and TNT and blasters and oxidiser. They all owned sections of unfenced land with desert on three sides and a river on the fourth, land for one thousand dollars a hectare, and here they would gather with their mates on Sundays. Church, for these men, was blowing up patches of rock and bramble while watching from deck chairs in the trays of pickup trucks. When the stones had fallen back to earth, they would pour gallons of acid out of plastic containers to melt through limestone then scour the hissing ground for rubies and opals, kissing the little stones when they found them, and spitting out acidy saliva.
When they couldn’t steal the explosives they needed, they would buy bags of sulphur and nitrogen instead, slit the bags open and pour bleach over the fertiliser. They would soak their fertiliser bombs in diesel or liquid petroleum gas, expose the LED in the circuitry of a disposable cellphones, plant the cellphone in the fertiliser and ring it. If the cellphone’s circuits became wet, it would be unusable, but if the circumstances were right, the spark could set off what was effectively an inside-out bomb, no pipe, no metal housing. The earth would erupt like an angry zit, a geyser of dust, stones arcing through the air. They even found a gemstone, once every few months, which they could sell to pay off their bar tabs.
I worked as a ‘Sifty Cunt’ (the phrase being an example of the humour of this particular subculture), assigned to direct particles to be sifted into the right mechanism. Sending three-millimetre particles into a machine which needed to be fed four-millimetre particles could mean diamonds were lost with the dust and I had cost the company $60,000. I had to be absolutely certain I’d fed the shingle through the correct steps before the rock waste was discarded. Then I would take a rubber hose and squirt acid onto little mountains of rock waste, melting it. The rain would wash the acidic yellow goo into a storm drain. The storm drain emptied into a patch of desert where an area the size of the North Island had been written off, yellowed, ruined, stained. No trees grew there, and when it rained, the earth fizzed and bubbled and if I listened to the sky, I could hear the weeping of Waramurungundi, the earth mother.
I walked off my shift at four o’clock one Wednesday. I’d heard His voice saying my name, telling me not to rest, not to settle, to just walk without a reason. I walked into the lake and my shoes turned purple. I kneeled and I couldn’t stop itching. A helicopter picked me up. My crimson skin steamed. They delivered me to another A&E clinic. I caught up on meals. When I tried to return to work, I wasn’t allowed on site. I didn’t have a visa, they’d suddenly decided. What they claimed was true to them, but not to me. I had declared my independence from the nation-states of mortal minds long ago. The mining executives were jealous that in the desert I had discovered Mohammed and Jesus were manifestations of the same. Yahweh, Zoroaster, Imhotep, Krishnamurti, Jehovah, the Bodhisattva. My scars and discoloured skin were testament to my witness. I discovered we had to push apart the curtains of suffering and see that there is a consciousness out there waiting to address us. It’s upsetting to encounter such an explosive truth, I know, but Jews, Mormons, even the Shintō – they have it wrong. They haven’t been in the desert shaking with ecstasy as the voice of The Next Level invites them to ascend.
From the Coolmista mine I was taken to a police station, held for a day before being driven six hours to Toowoomba before being rushed to a detention centre in an imperial fortress serving the Western military-industrial complex. The occupiers call it Sydney. I refused to recognise the occupiers’ institution by calling it that.
Deportation is an ugly process. There were brawls inside the holding centres between Sunni and Shia, Christian and Zoroastrian. They reacted violently to my advice to unite and worship the One Truth. A fight broke out. A fire extinguisher was used as a weapon.
One morning I was ordered to put down my spoon, mid-meal, and was ushered into a van and driven to the airport. On the plane, federal marshals sat beside me, stiff and immovable as pillars. There was little to no conversation, no farewell as the other deportees and I were dragged off the plane, manhandled and finally pushed through the arrival gates of Auckland International Airport.
This wasn’t home. I hadn’t come full circle. All cities are alike, and my path was headed heavenward. Terrestrial geography didn’t apply.
I received some sort of voucher at Work & Income in Manukau, bought a little food and some warm clothes and rode buses to Kingsland where I caught up with the ELF movement. Over vegan gazpacho I promised to repay their hospitality with the revelation of a profound truth worth billions. I rode with the ELFs through Manukau, past Papakura to the fields of Ardmore where, pushing through white fog under an indigo sky and quarter moon, we smashed all the windows of a pig farm, cut through the cages and released several suffering sows and piglets, then loaded the van with laptop computers and the brass fittings of taps which they could sell as scrap metal. I was paid with sacks of fertiliser. Nobody even helped load them into the van for me. It was a struggle. My body was still slender, all the corruption starved out of me.
I asked them to drop me at Massey University’s North Shore campus. I admired the Spanish Mission architecture as I unloaded my bags of fertiliser at 3am and spent hours dragging the reeking sacks into a shed which housed a tractor, overlooking a rugby field where colonisers and colonised people would in the morning practice their revolting ritualised barbarism.
Dawn was coming and I couldn’t wait to end the suffering of every puppet dangled from the strings of the New World Order-Military Industrial Complex-Cultural Occupying Force.
It took two hours to stack the bags of fertiliser and another hour to slit each bag open and soak the pellets in diesel which I sucked from the tractor until I gasped, writhing and vomiting on the shed’s dirt floor. I turned on the gas of the barbecue, exited the shed and sat on a grass bank, watching the sun come up. Then, when the library opened, I found a computer somebody had failed to log off of and I emailed you.
I won’t deny I was hoping that, after six months, my email inbox would have been full of offers of paid assistance from publishers for my manuscript of critical essays about the persistence of Trotskyist thinking in the Green movement. Alas: no supportive email. No recognition. Being unrecognised for what I’m capable of has been the story of my life.
The story doesn’t end with this email, though. I know you’re in your office because I watched you this morning, through your window, pinning your thick brown hair behind one ear while you squinted at a first edition through a magnifying glass. Studying Victorian romantic poets for yet another postgraduate qualification, I presume. Upholding the tradition of Eurocentric pro-white overlords through the imperial dominance of English language while hypocritically organising anti-racist marches. I’d like to debate you on your lifestyle and outlook sometime. I’m better equipped now, prepared. Armed, you might say. And I’d like more than four minutes to speak. I’d like more than 40 minutes, actually. 40 hours, perhaps. 40 days. I’d like my words to be captured and studied forever. When I have my platform, I’ll reveal to the world how to end suffering.
Nirvana, you see, has the literal meaning ‘extinguishing the fire.’ The fire will burn, briefly – gas and diesel and nitrogen produce the most divine colours, I really can’t wait for you to experience them – and when the fires die down, there will be fewer deluded souls on earth. 100 fewer deluded people, perhaps? 120? Then we will all experience reality free of delusion, free of craving.
End a suffering body and you end suffering. Combust the cells. Let light burn.
My phone number is 021 1278 587. You need to ring my cellphone. It’s in the shed, overlooking the rugby field. I suggest you ring urgently, as people are assembling for morning tea on the field outside the shed. It’s a glorious, crisp spring morning.
Call my phone and tell me that all the indifference you threw toward my creative writing was just an act, just jealousy. Passive-aggressive envy. Tell me you read my blog and touched yourself.
Or don’t call. Don’t acknowledge the voice of revelation. Don’t prevent the preventable.
It’s your call.