Thursday, 27 September 2012

Running With Zombies

When I was very young, my teachers said that I needed to develop a wide range of interests. That these would make me happy and nourish my existence. 
    And I have done my best to heed this advice, only gradually becoming aware of how right my teachers were!
Boredom is a killer, just as sure as loneliness is too. In many countries millions of people are spending every waking moment striving to make some sort of a living, just trying to survive. They don't have the time to get bored and, despite having so little leisure time, they seem more developed as human beings---more empathic, more appreciative of the little things in life, More of a community united in its struggle to afford itself the basic necessities of life.
We in the West, by and large, are very lucky. Prosperity and abundance brings with it the time for aesthetic pursuits and sport, wherein can be found so much pleasure and food for the soul.
Except for those who have not taken the trouble to develop a wide range of interests.
They indulge in company/workplace politics, backbiting, serial relationships, crime, you name it; they are prey to depression, feelings of negative self worth, and yes, the more intelligent of them dream up scams and cons---not forgetting excuses for waging war, for verily there is much truth in the saying that an idle mind is the devil's workshop.
This is so sad, because this world of ours has so much to be interested in, and to take pleasure from, without having to hurt other human beings. So now I understand why my schoolteachers exhorted me to develop a wide range of interests, and I am so thankful to them. Because I never, ever get bored. There just isn't the time to get bored. I think we must revel in every moment of respite from when natural calamities enter our lives, for our lives are so short----and can be made even shorter at any time through illness, accident, or the loss of a loved one. In every spare moment that we have we must enjoy ourselves and appreciate just how lucky we are to be alive, in one piece, with our faculties intact. Why, oh why, do we ever need to get bored?
It was thoughts like these that prompted me to write my thriller for young adults, an e-book called Running With Zombies. I have reproduced an extract from it below. It has nothing to do with zombies, the word in the context of this story being only a metaphor for the sub-conscious self---our real self---that propels us through our lives even though we are rarely aware that it is taking care of us. No one can fool our 'zombies'. Our conscious self can convince itself of anything that it suits us to believe, but our zombies know the truth, deep down in our hearts where our real self and conscience lies.
So, if you have the time, do please read the extract below, and if you are fortunate enough to have few real problems at the moment, make the most of these moments to appreciate just how lucky you are. But whatever you do, please, please, do not get bored!
     'What's up, Matt?' Mr Carter, his PE teacher had asked as the rest of his class kicked energetically at an over-inflated football.
     'It's pointless running around trying to get a ball in a net. It's boring, that's what,' Matt muttered.
     'Um….It's good for you, you know, the exercise. The teamwork. No?'
     'No.' Matt kicked at the grass. 'There must be something else.'
     Mr Carter thought this over.
     'What, like going on a moonlit hunt with some primitive tribe, armed only with a spear? Jumping off cliff-tops into roaring streams to catch fish underwater with your bare hands? Shinning up a tree to escape a mad wild boar only to come face-to-face with a panther?'
     Before he could stop himself Matt burst out, 'yeah. That would be so cool. If only!'
     Then he shot Mr Carter a hostile look, sure that he was taking the mick. But Mr Carter's face was serious as he gazed off at some invisible horizon.
     'Funny thing is, I  too get bored sometimes,' he murmured.
     Matt's eyebrows shot up. Blimey, the man was a hero! Only a week ago he had chased after a car which had knocked one of the boys down. Mr Carter had outraced it on foot and, lunging in, had wrestled it to a stop. Fit and tanned, with his quick charm and movie star smile, Mr Carter was already popular. But after his heroic endeavour he had become a living legend. And a man of mystery. Not much was known about him other than he had lived most of his life in South Africa.
     'You're having me on, sir!'
     'Nope,' Mr Carter insisted. 'It's true. At the end of term, whenever I can afford it, I take off to somewhere wild. Places where no laws exist. Where I survive on my wits, my strength, and the ability to talk myself out of tricky situations. Often I'm only a heartbeat away from death. I can't help it. I need it like a drug.'
     'Wow!'  breathed Matt.
     'So I know how you feel,' Mr Carter went on. 'No worry, one day when you're old enough, yes?'
     Matt shook his head.
     'I doubt it. I wouldn't know where to start.'
     'Well, who knows….'
     With this Mr Carter winked and sauntered off.
     Later Matt told his girlfriend, Annie, about this conversation.
     'You what? He said that to you?' she had demanded. 'But how can he get bored? He's got everything.'
     'Yeah, yeah. I know," Matt replied. 'Anyway, what really got me was the way, just for a moment, I felt as if we really understood each other in a kind of deep way. I've never had that happen with anyone else before.'
     Annie had looked away and started twirling her key ring around her fingers moodily.
     A week later Mr Carter had stopped Matt in the corridor and taken him aside.
     'Look, Matt. Here's the deal,' he had whispered. 'I've found three other lads like you who are bored. How about a safari trip to Kenya in the summer hols – – – well, at least that's what we would tell people. But I know where there's much more exciting stuff to be had out there. Expensive, though. You interested?'
     Matt's jaw dropped open. Was he serious? The man could lose his job, maybe even get prosecuted. In that instant Matt's respect for Mr Carter soared to a near religious devotion.
     'I've got some money saved. My parents will help,' he had whispered back.
     'Right, not a word to anyone.'
     That evening Matt returned home as if walking on air. Thoughts about the trip had left him giddy with excitement.
     'Kenya? Isn't that rather dangerous, dear?' had been his mum's reaction.
     'It's a long way away, isn't it?' his dad had chimed in as he looked up from his laptop.
     'Well, we're flying there actually, not walking,' Matt had patiently pointed out.
     'You could catch something dreadful. And malaria – – – you can keep getting the fever for the rest of your life,' his mum had added as if he hadn't spoken.
     'I don't care. I want to get out. I can't stay in this this piss-boring village forever.'
     Matt began feeling a warning rush of blood to his head.
     'And this Mr Carter of yours – – – do we know him? Maybe your mum and I should have a word,' his dad had suggested.
     'There you go again,' Matt had exploded. 'You just hate seeing me happy. Straightaway you want to spoil it all. Do you want me to look a bloody fool? Sometimes I wish I wasn't born. Go on, admit it. Nothing I do or say ever makes you happy.'
     His parents glanced at each other and some coded message passed between them.
     'You're our only child now, Matt,' his mother had said in a trembling voice as his dad returned to his laptop. 'We want you to be safe, that's all. We worry about you.'
     'That's your problem, not mine.' With this Matt had slammed out of the room.
     But his parents needn't have worried. The trip never happened.
     Because a week later Mr Carter was dead.
     He got run over by a bus as he cycled to school. He had been cycling so fast that  all the bus driver had ever seen was a blur in his nearside mirror.
     'He's dead. I hope you're happy now!' Matt had shouted at his startled parents before running upstairs and burying his face in his pillow.
(Reproduced from Running With Zombies by John M W Smith, Amazon/Smashwords) 
Thank you for staying with me this far. I look forward to being with you next Friday, 5th October );


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