It all starts in the back streets of my mind where the cracks harbour half-thoughts, faded images, and stimuli to which I have not yet reacted. In these streets, perennially shrouded in twilight, sustainable creativity is so scarce only the strongest and the most ruthless ideals can survive. Even the elementals refuse to stay here for long; the light visits occasionally in the early hours. But it makes itself scarcer as the day wears on. The wind, more finite than the bleak light that attempts to illuminate this world, slithers into the small chinks between reality and fiction, out of sight and memory. It, too, tries not to tarry here lest it becomes trapped by some hungry thought.
This is where it all starts.
Something moves as it wakes deep within a hidden lair. It stretches and flexes. And then it shakes itself, dislodging slumber from its deformed body. Its aura spreads out and puts everything near and far on high alert. Everything waits with bated breath to see if the thing will go back to sleep. History, or whatever memories can be collected from this place, shows that the waking of such a thing rarely ends well for the inhabitants of this world at the back of worlds. Every stray thought, dream, and wish cowers in fear, dreading what the countless seconds will bring. The thing opens its cavernous mouth and yawns. And then it roars.
No happy endings today. The thing is awake. And worst of all, the thing is in a violent and hungry mood.
The thing crawls out of its lair. It emerges onto the barren streets, surveys its surroundings and yawns again. It has a gnawing hunger in the pit of its stomach. It must feed.
It prowls the endless streets, preying on smaller and weaker thoughts, extinguishing fragments of light bulb moments that are too feeble to fight against it. The thing ferrets them out of their burrows and consumes the small morsels whole. As it feeds its form changes, it grows legs and arms, a head, a pair of eyes and ears, and a smile that scars across its face. It is still hungry, but this desert land of incomplete thoughts and echoing buildings cannot sate its hunger. It needs something more substantial than a long forgotten phantasm of times gone by. Steered by its gnawing hunger it turns its direction to the leafier suburbs of my mind, escaping the thought-eat-thought world of its origin.
It marches down the streets from its lair in the ghettoes of my mind to the cleaner, cohesive suburbs where I keep my happiness and childhood dreams to raid them for a commodity that cannot be found in the unknown lands of its birth: words.
Meticulously collected from books, films, conversations with friends, and general life, words are the only way the creature can silence the rumblings of its stomach, it is the only way it can keep its shape and form—it is the only way that the thing can prevent its own disintegration and gradual fading back to the twilight world that it has just escaped. Words. It needs them. It wants them. It looks for them. And it finds them. First in scarce quantities in the industrial outskirts of my being where creativity has been mechanised and made routine to provide power to the busier and frenetic hub at the centre of my mind. Here it finds the words it needs to concentrate its thought; it devours and adopts itself to my artistic style. As it feeds its desire becomes more focused. Its vision, once murky, comes closer and closer to articulation. At this stage it is nothing more than a collection of desire and various rules. It needs something more. It needs a name.
Stronger, now, and more cunning, the thing casts its eye afield once more and marches upon the City.
Its march brings war.
To cover more ground the thing clones itself and splits into riotous, pillaging mobs. They come shrieking and howling, biting and scratching, burning and looting into the City. They ransack houses and libraries, they eat feelings and thoughts, and, wherever they find words they steal and kill their previous owners. Soon the streets are filled with the remains of discarded wit, humour trickles down the gutters. Smoke rises from burnt and shellacked homes where summer thoughts and spring memories used to live. Autumn has come to City; the winter is going to be a bitch.
The mob grows as it pillages, each individual part becomes bigger as it feeds on music, or musings on art. The things learn what a cool, seaside breeze feels like; they taste home and become intoxicated on travel. They experience the painful transition from we to the singular and solitary I.
The war rages on. The mob becomes ungovernable and uncontrollable. The thing is here and there at the same time. It becomes more self-aware by the minute. It walks down the streets, a tattered flag in one hand and a Molotov cocktail in the other. Every few blocks it stops and gives the world a generous sip.
Fire. Explosions. Carnage. The City burns.
The mob collects things that it might need. Long slave lines of metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech are pulled and whipped along cracked streets to the cynosure of the City where the thing awaits. The best ones will be consumed by the thing; the rest will be put to hard labour, constructing a name not of their choosing.
Nothing is left unscathed. Everything burns.
Eventually, as the mob has its blood-lust sated the thing collects itself together. It has fashioned itself an identity from all the stolen words. It now knows what it wants and how to get it. It has a name. From its first awakening in the dingy back streets of a place without a name to this final moment on the grassy knoll in the City’s mecca the thing has grown in power and bends everything to its will. It surveys the mayhem that has shadowed every step it has taken since its conception. It smiles to itself. With the passage of time life will return to the City. The thing knows it is just the latest conqueror of this world, it knows it cannot stay. There is no throne to sit, one thing comes and another one goes.
The mob morphs into the thing. The many become one again. It is time to be leaving this internal place of words, of music that the rest of the world cannot here.
The thing looks up to the sky and takes a deep breath. It summons all of my being, pulling all of the necessary muscles at the right time, uncapping my pen and scratching the words it dictates onto the paper.
And then I will write until the thing tells me to stop.
Author’s note: This piece had various titles until I settled on No Church in the Wild, borrowed from Jay-Z and Kanye West, which has been the anarchic soundtrack of the past two months.