o u r o b o r o s

Toby Shearwood

I must be a fiction. I have realised I have no earliest memory, only images I have created to explain what it must have been like via my supposed evidence. My name, written by joining dots together placed by someone else, a teacher or a parent, scribbled out by effectively another person still being made.


I must be a fiction. I have realised I have no earliest memory, only images I have created to explain what it must have been like via my supposed evidence. My name, written by joining dots together placed by someone else, a teacher or a parent, scribbled out by effectively another person still being made. I must have done it, because it is there, on paper, in a yellow plastic file, but I know it is not a memory because I invented it to explain the artifact. That person was me but is not me.

As a child I was a furious inarticulate ball. Compressed anger with no outlet would often leave me, I suppose as much as any other child - redfaced - wincing - teary. I would punch, or kick, or alternatively kiss, or touch, Perhaps words have taken this away from me. Certainly, I go through motions, I do, but I do not do to communicate - I do not really fight, or shout, or touch, or kiss, or fuck - despite my dreams and words and thoughts and writings.

I have decided to write more. There is no reclamation of who I was. Instead, perhaps by examining what I know of him, I can understand who I am.

I do not know what to write about.

I have sat at this desk for a while. A long while. Yet - all these words (and as yet unwritten ones) may well be read without pause. Or perhaps - pause in peculiar places. Once I realise I have ease with my pen, and words are being written automatically, subconsciously, it dries my ink ink up, and my text falters. For example; let me remind you of the fact you breathe and blink unknowingly and in rhythm and once you think about this, you, there, now, it will not be so easy.

I leave and come back and you would be none the wiser had I not mentioned so.

There is one thing I know I don’t think about enough. My dreams.Perhaps I should a little more. Indulge in self therapy. Therapeutic.Dreams. The word feels strange in my silent mouth. I say it with my fingers. Dreams. I suppose it could work. They are the closest thing to honesty I could ever admit to myself. But - they are not, exactly, nice. There is little else I would feel comfortable recording. For now.

I wonder if this will exorcise or exercise some demons. What wit.

I wonder how I shouldchronologise.

At some point, my dreams changed.

Before, they were different different diff diff


When I was younger I kept dreaming the same dreams in different places. Always always about lifting off; taking off, being released from the ground and my hair would float and I would rise up; falling up; swimming in the sky and clouds and I could always feel warm when I woke up from sun above clouds and sun through my windows. Never had curtains. I used my palms up and open to breathe out. If I shut my eyes now I can still feel the exhalation. Slipping through gravity lines I would glide over the fields around my house; through empty dawn streets; above buildings; following streams; and even if I shut my eyes again in my sleep I could still see. I had no support, effortless guile, and no need for anything other than to enjoy that time, in the air, zephyrus. Light, soft, gentle, warm, and I would wake up, I would always wake up and rub my nose into my pillow; and smell the brand of washing powder my mother used and I have never been able to find since.

That smell.

Today was hard. I sometimes wish I had lived in a time where christianity or some other religion was the common truth, so that I could be the voice of reason, shouting, fighting a revolution, breaking people free from their own illusions. Not to say that people now don’t labour under false ideas. After all, even in a supposedly enlightened world we all lie to ourselves every day, just to maintain some semblance of worth, or meaning, or morality. We know every single action performed by every human being is programmed by their past memories and genetics - these themselves ordained only by randomness chaos and chance. Personal choice is an illusion, as brains and bodies, thoughts and minds are owned by no one, least of all themselves. Do you decide to move a cup, or do you simply do it? Is the decision to move the cup yours, or is done by your subconscious and you believe it is a conscious choice to assert the self-control you have been raised being told you have?

If someone does ‘good’ or similarly ‘bad’ - this is only due to a combination of genetics, geography, and societal pre or sub-conscious influences, and most importantly, luck. If they want to do one or another it is the same. Their, mine, your mindset is a product of its foundations, not of choice - even if one believes otherwise. Being ‘good’ is only good luck. I read that last bit somewhere, a long time ago.

So, there it is - the voice of reason, the screaming revolution and it’s not like there is any need to push it any further. Here it is. I won’t force it on anyone. Lives are often lived better in ignorance. There is no such thing as fate, but nonetheless, you do not decide who you are, you are a product of miscellaneous phenomena and chance. When I say you, I mean I, and when I write I, I mean you.

An hour later, reading back, this reminds me of a story I wrote as a boy. I only remember, edges.

It was about - a clockwork man. Filled with intricate mechanics, small like mosquitoes, metal cogs and nuts, all connected and moving, springs and spinning pendulums, tiny infinite bolts, shining thin golden polished brass, enough to let arms and legs and chest plate expand and contract and flex as he moves and bellows worked furnaces the light of which reflected throughout his core. Chain-mail skin, shining eyelids and black, glassy,

empty eyes. Yet. There was always time for that to grow. Tick and Tock, open panels to watch tiny pieces of metal dance and spin. He never learnt to maintain himself. He was so very, very delicate.

I shall leave my word processor on. My computer screen will blue light in my empty room. I will return, and the cursor will be waiting - flashing - demanding I continue - either from where I left of or to fill in the gap with scraps from my notebook. I can’t leave the house without it anymore. I must keep track of my train of thought so that the next me can know where he has been. I must go and switch my brain off. I shall leave my word processor on here, and find people, and chemical mental suppressants, and switch off the word processor in my head.

I see you flashing in the dark cursor. Teasing me. I have nothing to say to you now. In the morning. I must sleep. But I will only lie in bed awake. At least it’s better than to lie at my desk to myself. A Writer! Ha.

I never fly like That anymore. Never never.

I still fly though. Just they changed didn’t they. Or. Anyway. I dream about flying a lot still. They are the dreams in which I am a monster.

Hands down, spread. The skin between fingers stretch and thin; fingers like skin like thin skin between veins on a leaf. Fingers like twigs; moving up arms that are no longer mine; spindly little one like the frog heart on a horse’s calf-hoof; others long too long; panic and relax tense; it forces itself on and surges. Skin spreads out from armpit to forefinger; down back, bumps pop out and ribs widen; stretching out lungs and like leather like tarpaulin taught skin. Thumbs are hooks are claws; eyes roll and wheel; pant; breathe; ragged; lips and face growing hard and jut. Horns that used to be fingertips; neck and back curve curl hunch but larger than I ever was; strong and muscular to pump wings; now pushed out warped shoulders and angled, bent and dark. Neck and nose hook; mouth a beak, no teeth but sharp edges and running tongue around inside; eyes I know are yellow and sharp, at the top of forehead. Legs strong and wiry and thick, and feet that could carry a cow and puncture flesh and pulse and fill with grime and claw. Struggle to hold be person. Look out window. Spread wings. Open. Take to winds. The rest lost in sensation. Tear into night.

I wake up exhausted. I dream I am a monster and perhaps I am.

I decide we are indeed monsters, monsters do not exist. Perhaps we are the closest thing there is. It is as natural for us to scar the earth as it is for bees to make a hive. The real kick, the real bastard of it all is we know in some way we are ruining things, that we are taking the easy or subconscious path when we could make a conscious decision for a sustainable world - but it will still never happen. No one lets a big fat blue bottle fly around their bedroom- we kill them, but everyone wonders why some dogs bite first , or bees are so territorial, or why those animals we don’t want to be near have to get in. We are the closest thing to monsters because we know what we are doing and continue anyway. I know I will. I will continue, and I will continue to hate myself and the rest of my pathetic, hypocritical species, because our collective continued oblivious self-important ignorant mo(u)ld is the only thing I have.

I want to - walk in front of traffic and maybe even jump out of the way at the last minute or drive at wild speeds on the wrong side of the road or get in a fight for no reason and bleed and be beaten and beat others - but never do. I want to do so much but never do. I sit here and elucidate erudite eloquent uneducated self-important pretentious pseudo-philosophical bullshit. Christ I make myself sick. From my pedestal of nauseating contradictory self-worth and self-loathing, I would admit, with a still sick laugh to all those people living under illusions (and I do not excuse me) that the one piece of advice I can truly understand giving is suggesting to kill yourself.

The world is overpopulated is it not? A sick joke yes, suits the sick laugh from a sick man, a monster. I do not say this lightly, however. I say do so, not in fear, or sadness, or despair; for it is the only choice that if done properly and with full conscious and subconscious cohesion and intent, has no return. There is no sin, no morals; yet it is the ultimate taboo that does not involve a decision for someone else (say, murder). I do not endorse murder. Actually I endorse nothing. Other than choice. It is the only choice truly up to you. It is seen as a bad thing - not liberating, a waste, selfish, and hurtful to others - and in that way personal choice is taken away.

All the people you know or love, or know or love you will be tortured by your hurtful act. They will hurt because they could not help you, or because they did not know. But they miss the point. It is selfish, and it is a waste, but it is your waste and life and always your decision to make. No one will ever tell you it is your choice, they will only try to convince you not to, and in practice I would do the same. Perhaps an artificial life form would provide a more honest answer. But you will hurt people deeply. More deeply than they know. Love, whilst an evolutionary and intellectual construct that helps humanity work as an organism to develop and build on knowledge as a whole, to procreate and protect genetic material more efficiently - is an utterly powerful and nonetheless real thing.

A placebo can convince the mind to heal the body, and love whilst only an idea can provide great, wonderful, powerful, and destructive things. The death of a loved one will always hurt, despite what you know. You will dream about them. They would dream about you.

Even if you, like me, have no one like that anymore, or ever, there is more. Nothing happens for one person after death, but everyone else lives on. I want to see what happens to those people. To everyone.

I think about and choose regularly not to die, out of curiosity, and nosiness. No matter how sickening everything else is. There’s enough interesting stuff to keep me alive at the moment. It is the choice that is important, the choice to not kill oneself, that must be acknowledged. You have to recognize that you could, but will not. I had to, and I do every day. It is quite comforting to know that I have a choice.

I may change my mind any day, or night. I used to stay alive because I cared about certain people. Now, I do not truly know why.

You would know more than me at this point. If it happens, there would be no writing on the under-most side of your periphery.

I shall stop typing, and sit here quietly and try not to think. I do not want to sleep because I am scared how much I enjoy the dreams that terrify me.



I cannot sleep or wake up at the moment. From my seat in the window, curtains wide and glass opened the wind blows my hair into my eyes. When I swept it out of the way, only a moment ago, I could see the moon. I sit here, not looking at my screen but staring out, typing using fingers, absorbed by the fat and bloated luna. She turns my skin blue and I am struck by how much she looks like an egg with a crack in it - embryonic yolk pressing at the thin film pushing out sour and swollen on its nest of clouds. If the surface tension breaks for the bubble in that enormous tiny jagged crack it will spill, and pour the moon’s insides to rain upon us.

The split could be as in the split in my head. At the back. Where the skin is thin and skull meets spine. Pressing my fingers down I can tear the skin, digging underneath and stretching, roll my head around and force it through. I have to really wrench it around the ears and forehead. The hair seems to slide off like a sock. The face is a lot more fixed in place. Every sinew and corner has to be individually tugged at, with both hands; a grimace only increased by the flap of skin hanging down the front like a hood; increased by the surging, flaming pain and gore and stickiness that runs like an oil slick with the blood from the crown of my head over my hands down my neck and throat and chest. As I tear the last of the skin from my face I scream, and roar, and cry out without eyelids or lips or nose only tendons and musculature and teeth and the last of my body shakes, and shakes, and shakes, and I knock off and smash my mug on the floor, and stay sat at my desk in the grey morning light and taste blood, from where I bit my tongue in the night, and I sit, and I cry, and I type this now, still dewy.

I have to go and shower. I have things to do.


Today I saw a lot of boats

stuck in sand. The water

had run away. What does

this mean?

Sand, salt, mud, earth.

People that think they are different are nothing new - it is a dislike of what is commonplace that drives the new, not a need to be different.

But then, is that not the perpetual division between derivatively and originality?

Not like it matters. Or that anyone cares. Fuck this bus driver.

Saw a sign warning of slippery consciousness. Got freaked out, realised it said conditions. Still worried, because I SAW the first one. Because it is not real it means it is accurate.

There are so many parts and different sides of me that

I forget what some of them are like and then

someone or something reminds me and I

remember and I don't know if I am who I

was and I wonder if I wouldn't of liked

who I am now, and that both scares me and makes me sad.

Waking unemployed without activity enforced or paid or not, will always result in an ever increasingly late tide, until one morning you wake up and it is already evening and you never see the sun again. I miss him. I need to stop drinking. But, I wont.

I should be writing a CV right now but I cant, I cant, I cant.

I do believe these note pieces are relevant. But, of course, they are only sketches. Half images.Echoes. Perhaps that is why I repeat compulsively.

I have been withholding. Not reticent, but, avoiding. Of course, I haven’t let slip. But, perhaps, now, I could

Now I can. I have to. It churns me up for no fucking reason. Like milk into butter. Only it’s rancid milk and acid butter. I. I recall. I recall an incident

I recall an incident from around the time my dreams changed - I am unsure as to whether it is indeed a memory, in fact I may have dreamed it, or perhaps it is an invention. Was it always there, a point inside my head or have I retroactively created it? I do not know and nor shall I ever. The fact I find it such a sticking point at all is surely more meaningful than any origin. I do not know, but I feel, I feel as if it is important. I wonder if it is truly meaningful, relevant, explanatory, or if I have only elevated it so for a simple answer. I was young, there was a field, one of any of long green pastures or buzz-cut crops that became an enveloping mass only minutes from my town. I was in one of those fields, and it was warm. Late afternoon, early summer, stretched hedges and silent roads. Then it must have been a Sunday. Sundays were always quiet. There would have been a small stream running along the other side of the hedge, because I could smell the water churned sewage and manure that fertilised the fields and drained off into ditches and dykes; a smell that stream would exude in wet sticky heat. I think I ran my hand through the thorns in the hedge to see if they were soft or sharp. I remember the curiosity - but not the outcome. It was in this soft, this muggy heat haze that I saw, or rather, felt as a presence so solid and existent I knew I could become unreal - a beast. A bull, a hulking lump of muscle and flesh and curled horns, a thick and tan leather skinned snorting thrusting animal, a stood stock still and slightly sunken in the mud. A brown and muddy blur, tough mats of dry skin and course hair; with sweat clouded vision the green of my periphery dissolved to leave the beast to my mind dense and pivotal. Only, it did not even look at me. Its eyes, they were small, and red, and watery. On closer inspection, the thick and muscled meat had presence yes - but it’s hocks were lumpy, sagging at the edges, tough aged beef. Horns cracked, hair lank, shit covered, mouth open. The beast had a long string of mucus from its nose to chin; from crisp and crust on the edge of its wide flared and fleshy nostrils to dripping liquid snot stretched across thick lips and dark teeth. The bull did not move.

I thought there was a mist between its legs. I was wrong, it was in fact the air, thick with creatures. An illusion, the truth a halo of mosquitoes hovering and sticking their many needle like straws into its heavy hanging and swollen genitals. They filled themselves up with blood and moved aside to let others their share. I do not wish to describe the shape, or the colour, or the sores, or the scabs, or the pustules on the piece of meat that hung from that piece of meat. I can still see them now. The hum of insects. The placidity, the passive, the aggressive, the unconcerned, the frantic, the beast, the parasitic, the perverse symbiosis, the utter morbidity of it all!

I laugh, at my own transparent symbols. I wonder what Freud would say, and I laugh again, even as I write this, shaking and nervous, ashamed of my own obviousness, afraid of my own consciousness, as if it even needs reading into, it’s pathetic, simplistic, and unnerving because as I know what this means I do not know what this means. Even if it does mean anything! It may not! Am I led to believe it should mean something when it does not really, or does my belief in meaning give it one? I can write what I want and people could tell me all they think, (by christ I am adamant not to rely on someone for that) but by no means are they ever or I ever definitively right. I think I am in need of a rest. I do not know if writing these things is good for me. Perhaps bad things remain buried for good reason.

After all of this, digging and remembering, excising - I still am as lost as I ever was. Perhaps. Perhaps, that is it - if you are perpetually lost, does that not mean there is no nowhere to be found anyway? I’m a spiritual and mental emotional nomad. Ha! A breakthrough, yet, something I have known all along. Not a breakthrough then. A remembrance of perspective.

So those things make me. And others.Made me. Is this learning?

Last night I was not very sober minded. I had undertaken mistakes. It was, late. And it is now morning. Well, afternoon. There is a mess downstairs in the bathroom where I slept. I remember Spending a long while looking back at myself in the mirror. Leant forward and, inebriated, tried to kiss him. Me. I was rebuffed, by cold glass, caught my nose where they should lock together. Then, foreheads pressed together, steam obscuring his mouth, I looked into my eyes. Over time, his eyes lowered and our foreheads did not match. The small lines and dark circles under his eyes smoothed out and retracted. His eyes were the same inside. He shrunk. He got younger. And further back, I stepped too, absorbed in my own youth. Is that what I looked like? I miss that person. Who was he? Younger, I think sixteen, then fifteen, fourteen, twelve, and he looked right at me. I felt, and feel, an overwhelming, swallowing and shame. That poor boy and what I did to him. That poor little boy. I was dirty. I wanted to strike the mirror and smash through, and grab the boy, and eat him. If I killed him he wouldn’t become me and I would not have to kill him, if I could put him back inside and make me him again perhaps I could fly like that again. I could see it in him.

I woke up curled around the base of the toilet, wrapped in the shower curtain. The smell of piss is still in my hair. It complements my wavering vision.

that night

I saw a story in the paper two years ago about a snake that ate itself. It would not last long, so they put it on display at my local zoo. I did not intend to see the miserable thing. I was passing by and remembered the story, and went to see it before it passed. The snake was fully grown, completely normal, and lived as one of a group in a heated tank for the viewing pleasure of the people I lived near. One day, the snake smelt it’s own tail, and latched on, and detached it’s jaw, and began to swallow. It is unknown as to whether the snake realised its error or not. In any case; once its jaws locked on and latched into itself - it could not have been released without a surgical procedure. One which never came.

The serpent kept going. The loop it created became smaller and smaller. It was likely rather painful for the animal, particularly when the tip of his end began to digest. He slowly slid into himself, simultaneously dissolved his bottom half in stomach acids, and bleed out into his digestive system. I saw his small green face. There was no way of reading any expression. Reptilian eyes blink sideways. They all look like they’re smirking. I stood pressed against his tank and steamed up the glass. There were children running by. A small board detailing the rare curiosity. It was titled ‘The Real Life Ouroboros’.

He died several days later as a loop of incestuous meat.

An Ouroboros is what he was. Plato thought they were the first being. A self-recycling machine - perfect and unaffected. Jung thought they were a symbol of something I do not fully understand. Youth.The youth of adults.Eternal unknowing. I do know this; they are alchemy. They are a symbol and an idea. That was a real Ouroboros but it was not the fictional one. He was not a symbol.

I thought I was a wave but I’m not.

Not wave, circle, a wave chasing itself, moving and movement yes but dependent on past 

An Ouroboros that is a circle that ties itself in knots. That’s me. That’s what I am. I can’t write without tying myself into knots within words and paradox’s and contradictions and little hypocrisies. Not to mention the never ending tautology. Why use one word when you can use two? I tend, it seems, to opt for even more. I am an Ouroboros and I am not. The me on this paper no doubt is. There will be when I am done, by definition of having been begun and done, a beginning, middle, end; but will be thought of as a whole, one thing, an entirety, a loop. Unlike a life, or a train of thought. Unlike the me behind the words. One you cannot ever know.

There is the endless return of a story, and there is the endless return of the universe.

I am an Ouroboros; my dysfunction is honestly easily diagnosable from childhood. I exist and am who I am because of my past. I am forever eating my own history. Especially now! With this, self-indulgent mess. I can’t even write without getting caught up, confused, stuck with my own self-conscious as a narrator. Christ, me, a narrator. How self-aggrandising. I always end up writing about writing. I saw graffiti that said question everything. Next to it someone had written ‘why?’ This makes me laugh.

I feel as if it is the end of this part of my life. There is no need for there to be anymore. Once ended, there could never have been anymore. It is a fixed amount, of what always and always will be the same, static piece. I have written this but will it be read? I do not know what I want. There is no intent. There is no plan or point. No trend. My thoughts are not literature. Unless, of course, someone reads them. But then they wouldn’t be my thoughts anymore. They would be the set, self-contained and constant of words. Not a mind, or a person, my life. It’s not like it would be a good read anyway. There is no arc to my story, and no structured narrative, no defined episodes or segments. Just a wave of consciousness that goes away at night and has not yet broken but continues to crash.Events occur but are irrelevant to what I am; it is what and how I experience that effects and makes me. My character, the character of me is not fixed, just a fluid barely aware consciousness shaped by one continually ongoing event. (sliding through time). Yet you will only experience the photograph of that in words. You cannot include me in a dramatis personae for I am no one. The person to be read through this artifact is the person writing and being written by himself as another and as the same. If I was to be included in the aforementioned, it would have to have been written by me. But I won’t. I will not pin myself down. I will not be. I will remain a fiction.


I become frustrated, because I keep repeating myself and never move on, just repeating the same shit in different ways. It doesn't matter though - it's everything. It's nothing. It's sort of, amorfatimaybe. I always get frustrated, then, and then at other times, I do not.

It's all my sentence. Everything I do is another letter. This flow, this doc. file, this cycle is a letter. To you, to me, from this me. It is a letter and a letter of the sentence that is my name. My real name. In that name, everything I write is another letter, another multifaceted multidimensional semi-fictitious pseudo-real unstable letter in the fractured idea that is my name, and my name will not encompass what I am but will be the closest label to that, the closest glimpse as every letter is me at that moment.

I am the fiction, but what I create is only fact, the I that I create, my tulpas and paper thin or digital falsehoods are the fact - they, those, that me is measurable and complete.

My name, as each letter will change, charts the innumerable variances and unstable elements that make up the fragments of me. This letter, to you, is only one letter in my name. 



Toby Shearwood


brightONLINE student literary journal

10 Aug 2012