American Genius

I just picked up a story I started writing nearly ten years ago. There were a few aspects I liked, so I’ve decided to give the concept a rewrite:

The unnamed narrator is ostensibly a Henry Chinaski type character on steroids.

The story itself is set in a dystopian 2009. The world is a miserable vast abyss of cities which are all *exactly* the same. Huge shining shimmering skyscapes of drollness. ‘The last great literary novel has been written; and has been replaced by the self-help book (and travel guides).’

Our hero wants to destroy those who have kidnapped his girlfriend. He hopes to achieve this by seeking out his hero Charles Bukowski. Who he considers to be the last great American genius. Our narrator’s dilemma is: is Bukowski still alive? While conventional wisdom states Bukowski has been dead since 1994, a mysterious woman says that she has seen him being thrown out of several bars and hanging around a local bookshop. On top of this, our hero is having to contend with problems at work, and a strange warning apparently emanating from out out of space indicates ‘the world is going to end in two days.’

This is all set in glorious panavision in an over-the-top world of deserts, beaches, jungles and cities with huge skyscrapers that blast through the stratosphere and block out the sun, aswell as dirty terrifying streets with gangs of chodes who will kill you as soon as look at you.

Can our hero save his girlfriend?

The lesson may very well be, can the girlfriend save our hero from himself?

Or has the magic of life been drained through the bleak miserable purple sky?

As our hero later muses, ‘Maybe just one sociopath wanting to rennovate the world into a nasty deserted pulpit of skulls, bones and slave women like an overcompensating Chinese sweatshop owner isn’t the biggest threat to humanity. Maybes humanity is the biggest threat to itself.’ Quite. Our hero is very succinct. Of course, with this kind of attitude. It’s only a matter of time before our hero wonders why he’s bothering to risk his life for a lost cause, anyway.

Our hero notes, that this may be down to a religious upbringing. He wonders whether hope is truly the human condition. Perhaps, despite his cynicism that it’s only hoping for something better that truly gives us the feeling of being human, and putting yourself on the line and offering something back, may be the most supreme of all human acts. The suffering in the face of adversity is perhaps the only thing that keeps us grounded. ‘Maybes it’s because at our core, we are hopeless and afraid, and the thought of telling someone you love the truth and being hurt in the process physically or emotionally makes us want to hide for all of eternity. All we have is the hope that somehow, just somehow we will work up the strength tomorrow to be a little bit braver, a little bit stronger than we are today.’

He then muses that for all people are stupid, he always had a strong belief in himself. ‘With so many people always trying to tear you down, why should you tear down yourself?’ Of course this makes little difference to our stoic and angry hero. He is terrified by the thought of going into battle against the person who has kidnapped his girlfriend, he believes this person may be immortal and is intent on destroying the planet so he can transcend into a being of consciousness. He is also terrified by the prospect of having to truly put himself on the ‘line’. The ultimate test of his character. He tries to gain the requisite confidence from looking at himself in the mirror and at his beloved ripped abs. For once, this doesn’t work.

It’s only when he finally cries himself to sleep. That Bukowski comes to him in dream. There is a stream of conciousness diatribe on human consciousness and ego. Our heroes ultimate realisation is that for all he is an ego-maniac and has always been somewhat arrogant and deluded, he understands that the ego is merely a story you tell yourself. For all he ultimately tells himself that he is better than everyone in the world, which he believes to be ‘confidence,’ as Bukowski makes him aware that he is still deluded. He tells our hero that he is ‘worse’ than many of the people whom he disdains. He then leaves our hero with a message ‘True confidence is there at the very core. Your self-esteem. Your soul. It’s not in your head. Your ancestors survived and replicated for millions of years just so you can be here now. You can survive. You can even overcome. You have to lose the ego first. Unleash your soul.’ Our hero wakes up before he can hear the last of Bukowski’s words. He is even more confounded by thoughts of how he can ‘unleash the soul’ of which Bukowski speaks.

He has to come to the realisation that ”it isn’t until he can stop thinking and just act” and that he is wasting ‘his life’ away.

The mysterious woman appears to him one last time, he demands an answer on whether Bukowski is still alive. ‘You know the truth’ she tells him. ‘Bukowski died in 1994 but he lives on in your cynicism. You will die tomorrow, because the old man must die, but he will discover to his inexpressible joy that he has never existed. You are fighting against nature itself. It is time to undergo the process of reorder. It is not possible for two beings to come into contact and not be changed by it.’

Our hero after some contemplation approaches the final battle. An ominous scene is set. In the most underwhelming climax of all time, our hero effortlessly takes down the chode’s army of warriors, before our heroes girlfriend kills the kidnapper by strangling him. ‘I was told I was going to die.’ As the planet begins to explode, they watch from the rooftop the end of days. They hold hands. ‘Don’t go, stay a little longer’ she tells him.

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