Friday, March 09, 2007

Jungle Fever

DISCLAIMER: The Crack Team over at the Sternberg Think Tank have been hard at it with the graphs, projections and international forecasts, and have come up with yet another writing assignment for Bloggers everywhere. The drill this time is as follows;

RENEWAL..just make an emotional statement. Have something to say. Reach into the creative pool and bring forth something inspired or something to inspire. And do it all with a limit of one thousand words.

So I’ve had a stab, let’s see how we go…


Renewal

I look in the mirror, and I do not see the man I once was; the man who walked the dusty streets or muddy bush tracks, who waved to his people, and stopped to discuss the heat, the rain or the sinister, nocturnal movements of foreign soldiers as they moved through the jungle each evening, sure in themselves that they went undetected, and completely oblivious that the women’s’ gossip sped hours ahead of them.

In those days, not all that long ago, I was a huge man. My chest was like a gigantic wine barrel, my arms like the knotty bows of the great pulu trees which shaded us from the intense midday heat, and like that bright, white spirit who was worshipped by the jungle folk, back in those days, my smile was intensely radiant. It was not a smile that was only lips and teeth, back in those days, my smile was also bright, sparkling eyes; it was a great, glistening meadow of forehead; a raucous, convivial laugh; a spine shattering slap on the back. Back then, my smile was bigger than the ocean … bigger than love itself. Back then, I was a great man.

What has happened to that great man? When did he die … and why? Who … what killed him? For he is surely dead. In this filthy mirror, inside this cold, impersonal concrete prison, the man before me is not big. He is tiny, stooped … he is disgusting. The skin hangs from his puny limbs like soaking laundry, and his flabby breasts droop from protruding ribs. His eyes are sunken, and his lips have retracted into thin, humourless membranes, stretched tight across a prominent jaw. It couldn’t be the same man, could it? This could not possibly be the same, great man of the jungle. Such a change could not occur in only one short year. It must be another man.

But with the final, angry flicker of flame left in my horrible, hunger-distended belly, I know that it is me. A year of imprisonment has done this … a year of torture, equally successful in its ability to kill, as to keep me alive in order to prolong my suffering. This is what has made me this way … this is what has turned me from the massive, powerful being of a year ago, into this hideous, pitiful creature. I know what has made me like this … and as that internal flame begins to kindle slightly, I have to admit that I know who has done this … it was me.

Yes, I have done this to myself. It was I, with a drive fuelled by na├»ve idealism, and stoked with raw arrogance, who left the jungle for this harsh, inhuman existence. It was I who told my people that I was leaving to contribute to a greater good, and it was I who allowed myself to be captured and imprisoned, not in a cell of stone and steel – these can be breeched. From those cells, a man can escape; can steal back his freedom with brute force and cunning. No, my prison is far more impenetrable, because my prison remains with me, wherever I go. It cannot be left behind or outrun. My prison is a prison constructed of my own lies.

And it has been in this hall of horrors that I have dwelt for this year past; this eternity. With brutal irony, I realise that my captor and torturer is paid and fed by my own self-loathing and disgust, and not surprisingly, the weaker I become, the stronger and keener his lash.

I am what I have become, because I have denied what I once was. I am a scourge; an apostate. I have succeeded in convincing those around me that I am both content with, and proud of my decisions, but I have not been able to hide the truth from myself. With the passing of each day, my lie has eaten me away … my muscles, my smile, my energy, my love. I began to mirror my surroundings; I became a horrid, angry, disgusting thing. I turned against those for whom I was once a champion, and as surely as the deadly poison flowing through me, I began to waste away.

“But it is for the best”, I told myself. “It is temporary, and once my task is complete, I will return to the wonderful place - the wonderful person - I once was.

But as I look in this mirror now, I am starting to forget. Was that great man real? Was he really me? Or am I simply dreaming about someone I once read about? That fire; that agony in my cold heart is scorching me now … it is telling me what I know to be true. I must break free from this prison if I am going to escape this excruciating death.

The lies must stop! I must be true to myself. I must return to myself.

I did it today; a lie was swatted from the sky in full flight like a hapless parasite. Many more will follow. Already I notice some colour in those thin, tight lips, and my chest is filling with deep, oxygen-filled breaths, not the rapid, shallow undulations of yesterday. My skin is ripening and my stoop is reducing.

My captor has not left me. He is a wily old wolf, who, with the scent of blood having been so recently before him, will dog my trail back towards the jungle. He will do all he can to block my way, but as I get closer to that lush homeland, I will grow larger and more robust. Soon I will outrun him, and as I approach that living canopy, my friends will hear my laughter … they will remember and they will come to the rescue.

They will shout, “Big fala man, hem arrive finis!” - The Big Man has returned.

18 comments:

david santos said...

Hello!
This work is very good, thank you
have nice wkend

david santos said...

very good work, thank you
have nice wkend

Susan Miller said...

I do so love this story. Not only because of the great writing, the good description, the following of all the grammatical rules but mostly because of what you say.

We as humans being our own worst enemies is one of my favorite themes.

Thank you for sharing that, Donkey.

BV said...

I feel very much like the person you just wrote about. Sometimes I feel dead inside. Maybe it's contentment. I'm not unhappy...I'm actually really happy, but the happiness brings with it a void that I am not used to.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I loved this paragraph: In those days, not all that long ago, I was a huge man. My chest was like a gigantic wine barrel, my arms like the knotty bows of the great pulu trees which shaded us from the intense midday heat, and like that bright, white spirit who was worshipped by the jungle folk, back in those days, my smile was intensely radiant. It was not a smile that was only lips and teeth, back in those days, my smile was also bright, sparkling eyes; it was a great, glistening meadow of forehead; a raucous, convivial laugh; a spine shattering slap on the back. Back then, my smile was bigger than the ocean … bigger than love itself. Back then, I was a great man.

The story is fun and sad at the same time. The introspection and honesty on display here raises the bar a notch or two. Donkey, this is the best thing that you've written.

I am not going to do a critique of this, instead, accept this general impression.

I will publish the link with the others on Wednesday. Anyone else here who reads this can send me a link for RENEWAL at satori@arenet.net

Kate S said...

Wonderfully well done.

DonkeyBlog said...

Susan - thanks for your kind words - I was wondering, do you think it might be immature writing to always follow the grammatical rules? Perhaps it could be evidence of limited imagination?

Susan, Cakey and Mr Sternberg - it's great to be able to read (and even better to write) a story that is both sad and fun, or happy and sad. It's a much more realistic window into people's lives. Black and white is so passe!

Mr Sternberg - I had quite a few scribbled ideas for this story, but interestingly enough, kept getting "renewal" all mixed up with "redemption". Crazy words! Your words, however - much appreciated ... but I do hope that someone gives me some constructive criticism over the next week or so.

Cakey - the best part about your writing is the blurred lines of human emotion. It makes your characters so rich.

Kate - Ta.

Jay said...

Good for you - it's so great to just start somewhere and go.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Wow! No constructive criticism here. It's a great story.

I kept thinking of Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein in the beginning, but the excellence of your writing quickly distracted me from those distractions.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Renewal from within.
Very good....

gugon said...

This was very well written. The character comes alive - there are so many little details that just bring it to life.

We don't even know what his "prison" is exactly - I'm assuming drug addiction - but it doesn't even really matter. It's an almost universal scenario you are describing.

My only criticism - and it's not even really a criticism - is that this is more of a setup than a story. I wanted to know more. I wanted to follow this character on his journey. This should be the beginning of a longer story.

etain_lavena said...

Soooo nice...we often make our own prison:)

Travis said...

This is very impressive. I love your use of language. There are so many meanings here, in addition to the one you intend.

I think there is something in this work with which many can identify.

Very well done.

Lucas Pederson said...

I enjoyed this very much. Your description is magnificent! I could help being sad and happy for the man in the story. I really liked this.

SQT said...

This guy represents all of us as some level I think. Being willing to look at our own shortcomings is hard enough but being willing to change is even harder. To me, the theme here is that renewal is possible for anyone who can be introspective and honest enough to change. This makes you think, but it also makes you like the main character.

DonkeyBlog said...

Jay, Hearts, Etain, Gugon, SQT, Lucas, Travis - thanks to you all for taking the time to read the story - when Mr Sternberg gets such an overwhelming response, it's a big ask to sit down to potentially 8-9000 words! Thanks also to you all for your very positive, and most welcome feedback. Some specifics;

Gugon: I haven't yet reached the stage where I'm writing all the time and have lots of stories going on. I agree that this could be an intro chapter (or sales pitch) to some larger story which goes on to explain the minutae of the narrator's trials - not sure if it would be gripping enough, though. Sometimes it's what leaves the reader guessing that is what makes the story engaging.

SQT - you're bang on the money there! If only many of the people in our lives had the ability, and willingness, to look critically at their conduct once in a while, I think we'd all be better off.

Travis - I remember studying texts in English at school, and I could never believe that all the various symbolisms and subliminal meanings that we investigate as students are actually deliberately included by the authors. Now that I'm writing a bit - I tend to lean towards what I always suspected - these symbols and hidden meanings are a reflection of reality, and are simply coincidence. They are the investigations of readers, not the intentions of authors. I wonder what others think about this? My old English teacher would be writhing in her grave at that comment (if she's dead - you know what I mean!).

Susan Miller said...

Yeah, who said "We do not see things as they are but as we are."

I always liked that.

HopScotch said...

Renewal. Wow, I'm in awe, when is the book coming out? I am reading and learning and can see I have a long way to go.