Desensitised by Chris Gaskin

Chris Gaskin's philosophical confession of evil, expressed with such rage and disillusionment it is frighteningly believable.

Sentimentality makes us weak. That conclusion I arrived at while still a young boy and I suppose it was a contributing factor in my voluntary moral decline. I saw sentimentality as leading to a number of society's problems, including love between incompatible people, obesity, the decline of our Empire and bad pop music.

Without sentimentality, everything is permitted - or at least every thought is permitted. A non-sentimentalist such as myself never reproaches himself for suddenly deciding that he feels absolutely no respect for one of his closest friends or relatives. The best we can do is skulk around, wide-eyed and with gritted teeth, using every last drop of energy we possess to try and keep our disgusting thoughts internalised and hide the fact that we feel nothing except resentment, derision and the numerous complexes that accompany a belief in our own superiority as an organism.

This is fine, most of the time; no-one gets hurt, they attribute our scathing looks to introversion or social retardation. The problems arise not from considering other people's actions as sentimental, but from reproaching your own thoughts as being sentimental. My own experiences are a useful testament with which to illustrate my hypothesis; after sixteen years of holding silent contempt for my parents and my lifestlye I came to believe that my own toleration was weak nostalgia.

I needed a change. A drastic, exciting change. At my age, this could only stem from a single action that would propel me from sentimental ennui into a totally new scenario of freedom and individuality.

To go back to a tabula rasa I needed to completely erase my past history.

Very few other aspects of my upbringing or personality contributed to my sudden desire to indulge in parricide. Besides, to dwell too much on my motives implies a certain degree of determinism and, I feel, cheapens things. I guess a lack of sentimentality on my part made my parents seem like fairly irrelevant people; which, I suppose, they were anyway in the grand scheme of things, compared to important absolute truths like cogito ergo sum or the Will to Power. My father, Frank, was a first-generation Irish-Catholic immigrant who spent his formative years hurling stones at British Army tanks in Creggan before being dragged over to the mainland by his earnest mother. Since making the largest single achievement of his life, an economics O-Level, he casually drifted between various low-profit business opportunities. His last ever venture was selling disposable cigarette lighters from a box that hung around his scrawny neck. I heard his '15 for a pound' offer was the best deal this County has seen for over six years, bringing him in over £60 profit, but it may have been hyperbole. As for my mother, Tracey, she is best described as a low-grade civil servant with an attitude problem, a predisposition towards gluttony and a tedious outlook on life, the kind of woman who lacked an opinion on anything deeper than the fundamentals of her own name and age. However, what I will say in her credit is that she inherited a very impressive collection of Penguin Classic books from old uncle John, a lecturer at St. Martin's, which provided some source of entertainment and enlightenment throughout my adolescence.

The only time I ever felt any love for these two strangers was as I stood above them watching death make its presence felt through their irrational twitching. The sweet smell of my father's involuntary bowel release filled my nostrils. Shame I wouldn't be around for the grand finale; the odour of corruption and the danse macabre of rigor mortis. Still, this was a moment of meditation, a veritable Nirvana of murderous ecstasy where I was the supreme shaman who had the power over life and death. I was entranced for a couple of minutes by the process whereby the flowing of blood began to transform the colour of my mother's pretty hair from blonde to a dark maroon. Slowly I averted my gaze to meet my poor father's startled eyes, wide as lamps. He seemed caught in an emotional crossfire between fear, anger and remorse; a cold omega point of transcendence which he could never leave for I had imprinted my existence indefinitely into his now inactive brain.

The moment of contemplation couldn't last. I shook my head rapidly, put the gun down and, coming to my senses, began to laugh nervously. 'The past was yours, but the future's mine...' I offered as an explanation to the deceased.

This may all sound slightly exaggerated, but I think I deserve the right to be poetic considering I had the courage to destroy the two people supposedly dearest to me and thereby change the entire direction of my life. As you can see, the actual reasons for committing an act so steeped in significance and drama are overshadowed by its own immensity; for this reason I will proceed forwards in due haste and begin to describe how I used the moment to start from scratch with a blank slate, limited for the time being more by finitude than facticity.

I was well prepared, having packed a bag and being already dressed in my emergency fugitive gear, which made me look like a cross between a skinhead punk, a hobo and an SAS sniper. I won't go through my inventory in much detail so as to avoid making this too reminiscent of an Enid Blyton adventure story, but it included extra bullets for my dad's illegal pistol (his own refusal to comply with national gun laws ironically paved the way for his demise; did this make me some kind of moral vigilante?), some health food, water, a book each by Nietzsche and Rimbaud, a Discman and some CD's. Of possibly even more importance was a tin containing a quarter of hash and a well-packed bag of speed, just in case any traditional chase scenarios should happen to occur. After planting an ironic kiss on the forehead of each parent, my final act of sentimentality before embarking upon a future untainted by emotion, I left, not bothering to lock the door.

I'm sure the average person my age who found themselves in a predicament whereby the law would soon be chasing them on account of making themselves a homeless orphan would probably get on a bus or train to the nearest city, adopting a new lifestyle of smack addiction and prostitution and winding up happily deceased with their dirty secrets locked away forever within their own minds. But no, I was really more the naturalist type, so with a duffel bag on my back and the sun in my squinting but contented eyes I set off hiking into the great English countryside, planning to live as a lawless rebel who stole from farmers to provide for himself while drifting from place to place.

For a while I was satisfied and self-sufficient and lived a kind of puritanical, monkish existence. Whenever I felt tired, I took a dab of speed. Whenever I felt sentimental or remorseful, I stopped and read for a few minutes. I was cleared of all thoughts and lived according to my whims.

The countryside of Lancashire is as dirty and soiled as it is splendorous and refreshing. It's basic structure is that it is made up of a series of valleys, each one seeming from a great height like a huge atomic crater in which life-forms have built small mill-towns right on top of the nuclear fallout. While outside of the towns there is a substantial amount of natural flora and fauna, it is hardly utopian in its appearance. The rivers are fast-flowing yet dirtied by pollution, the trees are tall yet their bark is rotten and their trunks are bent, and the animals are all either sheep or cows being reared for the sole purpose of filling a few fat, omnivorous stomachs. Add to this the fact that everywhere is fenced off as farmland and you begin to feel dismayed with your fellow-man and eager to kill a few more of them to avenge Mother Earth, the only womb you never experience leaving unless you work as an astronaut.

It was in this varied landscape that I spent my time as a fugitive. After spending the first night sleeping in a hedgerow next to a canal, I managed to find myself a ruined stone house left over from a forgotten age, which had only a partial roof and walls, no flooring except overgrown grass and which was decorated only by a disgusting cow skeleton stinking away in the corner. My new home was situated on the top of a gently sloping grass hill, which gave me a view of the town where I had spent my life cultivating my misanthropy, as well as a few other nearby settlements and the circle of surrounding hills. In a couple of square miles I could see factories, church steeples, rows of houses and some incongruous mosque minarets.

Before long, the beauty of my new life began to dissipate. I used up all my food, dope and speed in four days of indulgence and had eventually become too paranoid to move away from the derelict building. My only company had been the rotting cow, the familiar books and music that was beginning to make my eardrums weary. My perception of myself as an embodiment of mental and physical strength and independence was beginning to appear flawed. I was starting to come down from the high of the drugs and of the kill and didn't know what to do next.

My solution to restlessness had always been to walk and so I reluctantly said goodbye to my deceased bovine friend and starting trekking over the top of the hill into the next valley.

I stumbled upon a rambler's path and followed it through the next valley, which took roughly three hours. It took me through sparse woodlands and across stream bridges and eventually I came to a large looking farm that reeked of noxious gases and manure. In my pocket I could feel the iciness of my late father's pistol beckoning me to pamper myself with merciless slaughter one more time, to see if it still gave a buzz. Nothing else was entertaining me anymore, especially not drugs or the environment. As I'm sure you've noticed, what I was hoping wouldn't happen was happening; I had been acting according to reasoning rather than primitive instinct, and I felt this was undermining my success as a fugitive and general übermensch. I took a deep breath, hoping to suck some kind of bitter resolve out of the foul air around me, and strode towards the farm with clenched teeth.

The door opened not long after I rapped upon it, and the bearded old man in Wellington boots looked startled even before I drew my gun. I don't think I need to describe the death process of someone so unimportant to me, let's just say it was instantaneous and generally less interesting than I was hoping. Desensitisation often leads us youngsters to desire more interesting gore from each kill, whether in films or in reality. In that case, I probably should have aimed for the groin rather than the forehead, but you can't change the past, unfortunately.

After stepping over him and into the delightfully quaint living room I discovered why he had been surprised to see me. My face was on television, the BBC 6 O'Clock news to be precise. I couldn't hear what was being said, the words of the presenter became blurred as though I was underwater as I fell to my knees. What I did hear clearly though was 'Little bastard!' from behind me and the thudding sound of a cricket bat slamming against my head as I began spiralling into a warm black void.

So, a vengeful, insipid farmer's wife brought my life as a daring, lawless fugitive to a halt. Some killer I was. Still, when I mentioned my life changing after the monumental act of killing my parents I was right. Maybe I wasn't going to live as a bandit but I had still forged a new existence for myself as a prisoner of the law. They ran loads of tests on me while I awaited trial and had some difficulty working out whether I was schizophrenic or sociopathic. This was the worst thing that could have happened - they were trying to alleviate responsibility from me and put it down to deterministic causality within my own psyche! Personally, I don't believe that either medical science or psychology are sufficiently verifiable to be able to judge the significance and motives of a person's actions in accordance with their 'mental state', but I wasn't really in a position where I could call the shots. Besides, the more I protested my sanity the more they became convinced that I had a problem. After a lot of messing around, instead of prison I was sent here, to a white-walled retreat for the criminally insane under-21's, out in the beautiful rolling hills of inland Devon.

Do I have any regrets? None that haunt me, but to even consider having regrets I guess must have some subconscious feeling that I didn't act appropriately. Was what I did acceptable? It is impossible to say, for morality is not a science. The only thing I miss about my old life is humour. I used to be able to laugh at everything for each act was equal to another and therefore absurd, but ever since I pulled the trigger things changed and my existence became too serious and urgent. Perhaps it is better to live safely in the knowledge that at any moment you have the power to totally change your life than to act upon that knowledge and find yourself in a situation that may be uncomfortable and restrict your potential for future action. As Nietzsche said, 'it is the thought of suicide that gets us through many a dark night'. If I hadn't gone through with that one monumental act, I would have been free to spend the rest of my life acting rather than sitting here contemplating the value of actions.

But to hell with it... sentimentality makes us weak, right?

1 comment:

  1. One good turn deserves another. May God show up in your life, and puff on you the lightest of winds as you fall off the top of Mount Everest, so you may climb a higher mountain to see and understand more. Life has even more unassailable plans for you.

    Your words of courageousness without constraint and your undefiled honesty, in how you tether out of your brain, the part of you that is not at all elementary to others, was architecturally extravagant. A sliver of de sade's vast vocabulary.

    The only relevant question is, where are all the books you have written? You're a genius, yes? You could educate people. It's like Tolkien giving someone just one page of his writing and then never writing again, it's immoral. What if you conquered their attention? Dig deep into yourself to see what lies dormant even from you. How nostalgic a story, and deeply sentimental.