Be Not Afraid - Teaser

This is the opening to my soon-to-be-released novella Be Not Afraid. It is a fictionalized conversion story of an atheist turned Christian. Caught in the depths of the bakery, and with only his boss Ollneek for company, a young man begins to question the repetitions of his life so far.

~

(This is from part 1, The Bakery)

It had been some time since reason had called for me to look upon that profoundest chaos; where nothing ever settled, and not even brackets screwed to the wall could discover rest. And yet, grievously, it was here where this young man found himself, unsure as to the length of his sentence, nor how he had enrolled, or to the cost of such deepness; in fact, he was quite unable to locate himself at all. For a time, this young man existed - or so he had recursively taught himself to believe - as simple clothing atop life, subsisting alongside material as something which only is, and not as a being with the potential for fullness.

In truth, that is, in speaking for reality, he found himself in a place quite transparent. I know, for I kept a keen watch of this young man for some time, a task which must be accepting of various wills. He entered where I had hoped for him to not, and yet still did. And so, ‘twas my divine task to simply observe, waiting upon such hopeful moments where one is called to a divine duty.

~

Don’t know how I got here, or how long I’ve been here, couldn’t really tell you. Not the best job in the world - some dull retail store in the middle of nowhere - not the worst though, far from it…and there are plenty like me. No one ever comes here, no one visits, no one bothers us. Anyway, none of this matters; boring town, empty people, all just forgettable, pointless. Could do better things, but it’ll do. All this achievement tripe…success, failure…needless; just need to forget. People used to say I could do better, that such a place wasn’t for me, whatever any of that means. Others have interests, hobbies and the like, some acquire habits and vices, myself? Even an addiction or an illness would be a reprieve from this lethargic disquiet.

~

I drifted, I guess, you know? That’s how they like to phrase it, and I suppose it makes sense. But what’s wrong with drifting? I’ve seen people with roots, succumbing only to routine and boring lives; such value-laden lines adhere to the earth in a spindled panic, clawing at the dust in fear of ever letting go. Anyway, like most normal people I hadn’t a clue, did what I was told; bits and pieces here and there, stayed in education until I had to pay for it or it was too much effort, occasional parties, having fun, ups ‘n downs as they say. Mostly a blur now, snippets of various things I did a while ago, all out of order and confused. And then one day you end up in a place like this, a friend only to yourself, distrusting trust due to its definition alone. And it’s like a sort of sentence, but in reality, you get used to a place like this after the first couple of days, understanding you’re the kind of person who’s meant for it. Some are privileged, ‘get all the luck’, as they say…you know the type. But most, they’re like me and you, dragged and dragged. Been a while since I spent any time thinking about this place; there’s no detail here, the arrival is lost to time; a caring amnesia. It’s all besides the point, it’s not like I’m here and could be elsewhere, I am here. There is one thought which is of no help here, and that is of difference.

~

I ask myself if it’s worth the effort to describe such a job, such a place, and yet the reason escapes me as to why I have even bothered with this line of thought at all. It is…whatever it is. In fact, no, it isn’t worth my time to describe it, but then, what is worth the time? Nothing I’ve yet to find. Caught in my own trap. If it’s not worth it to explain this to you for the fact of its nothingness, then it’s equally as pointless to not explain it to you. So it comes down to whether or not I can be bothered.

Such places, such jobs, such times, they developed organically with people like me and you in mind; the most persuasive nihil awaits the eventual hordes of indifferent apathists - but at that point, it hasn’t a need to persuade. You and I shall end up in these vocations, they have a draw and pull which is itself inescapable, best to just lean into it. Did that a while back and time doesn’t bother me anymore, it just passes; impossible to squander the seconds of your life if you never allowed them value in the first place.

So, yes, the job that I do. I am a baker, but truly that is a glorified name for someone who reheats some artificial mixture. It’s thrown into the oven, a certain setting is clicked on, a while later you’re left with a mass of dull, tasteless stuff. I pay no attention to the food. Has it ever been in anyone’s job description to care? But it is this, day-after-day, a repetition so perfect it clouds each day with the next; work becomes, and has been for time immemorial, a drawn-out vacuity, empty space taking up empty time.

~

But I admit, as my mind is drawn from its preferable slumber, in this head full of perpetual fog, I ask myself how it was I got here - but no! Of more importance, what could it be which spurs on such thoughts? It needn’t matter, hometime soon enough, and then another day awaits. Tough to notice the transition between here and elsewhere; I can’t say here is detachment from reality, for I cannot recall ever abiding by such groveling notions as partiality or…fondness, but one is pleasantly severed none the less; bombs could fall, cities crumble, the end times arrive, and here, here would be safe, it would remain, I just know it.

And as one is severed, I notice that we here are severed from all illusions, and all lies, and from all those who won't admit to what is within them; there is no reality to elude here, for we have a monopoly on it. I say ‘we’, but it truly is just myself and the boss down here, I speak of we as to include those who are here with me in absent idleness. Every thought of some or other place, this is tyranny, a deceit of self. It is to cheat oneself out of what is before one’s very eyes in a vain attempt at allowing imagination to rule.

Here is where I am to be, meant to be, was always to be - and here I am, all in its right place. It is with such clarity that I cease to bother, it is absolute for me that this is the case, and so I have no need to prove it to you, nor qualify anything at all, for I am not asking for anything; depression would denote the desire for happiness, and anxiety the lust for calm - but what if you have given all over to nothing, becoming an agent of pure-disinterest? I know my place in this world, it was decided, long ago, I - unlike some others - simply accept it; here I am to be, all else is existential-fraud.

~

Within such times, it is to one’s benefit to become an aristocrat of apathy, entirely in flux, one who has ceased to care for any laying of roots. One needs to be able to move from all to all without question, else be left to the tyranny of values; to be knighted by the relative, an honor which is not even itself.

~

As should be known by now, this place isn’t all that bad once you get used to it, sort of just disappears. But I assume you’re wondering what it’s like, how it looks and feels, there isn’t much to tell…but a guide, I suppose.

At a guess this building could have been an old post office or something of the sort. Maybe an electrical store long since renovated, patched over and held together many times, still here though, trembling at its foundations, never able to collapse. Nothing fits right, the ovens jut out into the walkway, the uneven shelving always knocks your brow, steps shift, and the temperature brings a fever never shaken. As to see the oven monitors, a thick tape covers the only window which the heat once used as its escape; it’s sweltering, and yet my limbs don’t know warmth. Nothing stands out, it takes years before you begin to notice any differences between the decor, and even then, it’s a strain which quickly dissipates. Everything merges into everything, and so, everything becomes nothing. My dramatic perspective aside, it’s a bakery section below a generic chain-supermarket. That’s it really, ignore all I’ve said.  I rarely spend time upstairs, couldn’t tell you the last time I was up there or had anything to do with them; I arrive by a side-door.

In fact, outside of the bakery, I couldn’t tell you anything about the rest of this place, my work is here, and it keeps me busy enough. It doesn’t bother me anyway, it takes a certain person to deal with customers, and I can’t stand them. It’s a fairly large room down here, however, I can’t think of anything to measure it against. You lose your focus and attention, and the space appears to expand and contract. Me and the boss once joked about it expanding forever, that made him laugh more than I’d ever heard him laugh. As it’s a basement, there are no windows, except for the one above the side-door I mentioned before, but as I have already said, that needs to be taped up, boss’ orders, lest I mess up my work, but I don’t mind. It’s no matter anyway, everything I want is across from the door, I have no need to turn that way.

As for the rest of the place, your imagination is probably close to reality, most people know this place well enough already - it’s pretty filthy, the brick is old and dry, and yet there is a dampness to the air. There’s two ovens, some cooling racks, and a huge work surface along the far side wall. I have never reached the end of it. My work takes place amidst old mortar, the endless whir of ovens, and a wet-heat which protrudes into your cells. That is about all I can grasp for now, for if you know of this places’ minute details you would understand that it doesn’t allow such limits; it’s endless in all directions, each, as I have found, leading nowhere. And so, you keep your head down, and exist.

~

It doesn't matter what state it’s in, no one comes down here, and as I think I already said, we don’t get visitors. When I say we, I am speaking of myself and Ollneek, the boss. In fact, that I can mention, it slipped my mind before - I often forget he is here at all. Ollneek’s office is to the left of the ovens, at the end of a corridor, I’m not sure how long. His office is to the right, and across the hall is a huge walk-in freezer, though I haven’t had use of it for a while…which, thinking about it now, makes little sense. I don’t know. Anyway, I imagine there is stuff in there from the beginning of time.

This reminds me, though I haven’t thought of them for some time, there are other tunnels off from this other corridor, the one which leads to the boss’ office. They tend to blend into your peripheral vision as you walk by, you can only catch them; much here is caught, as if trapped, within the cracks of basic connection. I think this place must have originally been built during a war, I intuit tunnels below spiraling in all directions. Ollneek knows I’m not too keen on talking about them, teases me about them, I think he’d love to see me down there, set me on my way, as he says. I haven’t had the need to explore them as of yet, my job is here, and if such is without value, then I do not hold out for elsewhere.

I haven’t recalled any of this in some time, but there was a young trainee down here a while back, to be taken under my wing. He arrived early, I recall, and by lunch Ollneek had teased him so much about those tunnels that this kid, very proud and quite young, ventured without hesitation. I think I told Ollneek at the end of the day that the kid hadn’t returned, but Ollneek said simply to go home and not worry about it as it wasn’t my concern, and so I did.

~

I may have to think upon home in a while as something there eludes me, but for now I think I need to clarify what I mean about this place, to…articulate it, that is. I am sure you are imagining the brick and the gloom, adding in spider webs and masses of dust, the detritus of a labyrinth. Physically, such corrosion is close to the truth, and yet it seems only to eternally decay and yet never change. It is not abject horror, and yet is not close to anything I can grasp; such extremities cannot exist here, for as springboards they allow contrast and thus a compass, here there is only disorientation; definition dissipates upon entry. It has been my home for some time, I don’t know how long. As for what you might consider my real home, I go there often, but also cannot remember the last time I was there, nor even walked close-by.

But my place, really? It is here. My place is exactly this place. My childhood simply was, then the usual amount of booze, drugs and sex, a good amount; some ‘education’, blustered around for a while, and now I’m here. There’s no need to kid myself, this was a foregone conclusion. I’m not complaining, all men lead such lives, and very few complain. No time for anything else anyway. I know this is me.

This place is for me, and I am for this place. The work here won't do itself.

~

Overhearing the young man’s melancholic prelection, Ollneek - as he was then known - coyly arose from office, protruding hue into hallway and observing a posture bolstering his nature, he stood leant against oven, facing into the cold brick expanse; the young man’s eyes to his work, Ollneek began again.

‘Young boy, I can hear you squawking, with the wherewithal for talking down here, loud ‘n proud, as they say - what of it and what say you youngster of a worker’s breast?’ - Ollneek had a way with language, a self-proclaimed master of oration, he could transform the most mundane of wants into a terminal requirement. In a moment of pause one time, he commented on his manner, and said that you need to try and control such a place as this, ‘Lest the order descend into chaos, and we become like animals.’ or something of the sort.

‘Was just talking to myself as I work, Mr Ollneek, sorry to disturb.’

‘Not at all, not at all youngster!’ As the Old Goat spoke, he stretched the final syllable of a sentence to a destination unintended. ‘It has been quite a while, has it not, since me and you and you and me have had a chance for an ol’, as they say, chinwag. So, indulge me indulge me, what was it you were muttering about, so, by the sounds of it, passionately? For, and do not let this concern you, but I must admit, I did listen in, just a little. I was sure it wouldn’t bother you, and these walls are so indiscernibly thin that one hears it all.’

He collogued and wheedled, but ultimately, above all, waited with the patience of his opposite for a chance again to unreel his views.

‘Oh I see, well I’ve been here so long I was simply thinking over my situation, I’ll keep it down.’

‘Not at all young’n, not at all young one. Do tell, do tell. What sort of situation are we talking about here, good? Bad? Exciting? …an escapade?’ I had known Ollneek long enough to know exactly when it was he was about to reel you in, especially if he began with sarcasm or irony, he loved to tease without foundation. ‘Come, come, I shall be serious for you my ol’ friend, ‘olde chum’, as they love to say-’

Ollneek let out a shrill hiss, a laugh void of humour.

-you are a dear, dear worker, and yet foremost you are a friend, a comrade, a compatriot, and we are all together in this. You have a situation which I shall assume is a problem. If you cannot talk to me, your nearest and dearest, then who, exactly, could you talk to?’  I have to give Ollneek his due, he knew you well, almost better than you knew yourself, and could make you feel comfortable in an instant. ‘I have been down here some time now Ollneek, that is all I was thinking about-’

‘Ah! I see, I see, I understand exactly the situation of the sort you are waxing about. The Grand Vision! You have quite the desire to be - and I mean this my friend not in a way which is cruel - but you wish to be…Mr Great! Mr Known! Mr Something-More!’

Prancing on hoof of pitch black, Ollneek mimicked men of shadowed-allegiance; the noise of below split asunder, all cut off aside from suggestive whisper.

My back was to Ollneek, yet I sensed he was appropriating the prideful and the go-getters, revealing their pretence; in his mimicry Ollneek had the ability to reveal that the humble were loudest, and those who sought desires were most honest, and it could not be any other way. Despite the didactic nature of these comedic tirades, I must admit, it makes this place so much better. ‘Are you not going to turn around and fix a glance at those oh-so-grand-men who wish for the greatness of their meekness to be adored! Indeed, you think me a cantankerous old fool, but you know as well as I, that all is not meant for all, there is nought which is infinite, and it’s best to not try in vain for a hope which shall never be and already is not; imagine a life spent in a search which has no conclusion. Far better never to rise to such a search, and accept the reality before you, for it is all there is - and what’s more, it truly is not bad. I haven’t the foggiest where you got such an idea.’

‘I was only taking stock Ollneek, nothing more.’

‘The only stock you should be taking is from the freezer at the end of that there hall!’

He was quite the quick-witted old fool, I had to give him that.

Ollneek said all that he needed to say, paused for time, assessed the situation, and stared dead into the back of the young man’s skull.

‘Ollneek, I have been here…I do not know how long, truly, I haven’t a clue, and that’s fine…I’m not pondering anything in particular, just reminiscing of a strange form.’ All this time my head had been in my work, but Ollneek’s presence was drawing me away from doing anything; it seems like years since I have even seen him; admittedly he has had little reason to be around, I’ve just been getting on of my own accord. However, it would be good to see how he is doing.

The young man spun slowly on heel; dropping momentary tasks such as to look upon Ollneek.

Alas, Ollneek’s out of sight, somewhere at the end of the corridor, just beside his office, nothing to discern; something there I can’t quite make out, perhaps he has returned to his office entirely; he usually likes to tell me what to do from his position of comfort - I seem to be able to hear his voice anywhere and everywhere.

‘Well, I guess the thing is Ollneek-’

‘Oh my dearest young boy, there is nothing and there is also no-thing, trust me. There never has been. Plenty have passed my way in the elusive search of some such supposed thing; they all had - and still have, for I assume they are still searching - oh-so-many things which they sought after in some illusory hope of conclusion. They shared the common thread which pertains to a magnanimous full-stop! Heed my advice young’n, for such searches are fruitless; the only harvest one can hope for is that which is immediately before them. In such a way, in this practical act of revealing, you have it all, a secure job, good friends, a good home, and productive work in a great company; try not to seek the invisible privilege of those who don’t respect this world; the only real revelation is the one which draws back the curtain into nothingness itself, and from there, well, one can become anything. Can you imagine being king of such a domain? What an honour that would be, the mass…the mass of material before us all…anyway, I digress young one, but you are thinking past and beyond all limits, and they are limits which never were. Do not sulk on such facts that there is no other, no ‘something else’, for you now - thanks in part to my wisdom - find yourself within the elusive few who are willing to accept, and to admit to such truths, and that in itself shall be your liberation. Who needs something more to exist for, when you can accept the bare fact that existence is only ever lived for oneself?’

‘I was just thinking-’

‘Oh my young boy, I do understand such thoughts, trust me, I do. Such questions have been around as long as I have, and let me tell you, that is quite some time! But as I have said, there is no thing out there. I know what it is you are after, they, out there, all usually call it more, as I have already said. ‘There must be something more…’ they say, as they stare point blank into all there is, ignoring all its intricacies and complexities; before them all, the world, and yet they place their bets on something…more, ‘tis all folly!  I’m not speaking for you here, I’m speaking of you, dear friend. And even if I was to ask what is so bad about everything down here - as I assume you are referring to this grand bakery of ours - I know full well you would not be able to give a satisfactory answer. It’s a simple job, rewarding, great company…great boss, and you know where you stand. Anyway, enough of such nonsense, I have heard these repetitions a thousand times before from many others like yourself, and I am certain this is the place for you. But I won't hold any of this against you, I know how alluring such ‘other things’ may seem, but I’ve yet to meet someone who could actually produce such an ‘other thing’, someone who could produce for me this something more, but as of yet, in all my years, not one has been able to show me such.’

I hadn’t even time to reply before Ollneek was gone, leaving an answer set in the brick before me. Never knew what to make of him, up and down, all over the place. He never spoke of his past. But yet, he did keep an eye on me, making sense of things for me. Without his guidance, I sense a desert of the mind; Ollneek tells me very few are strong enough for such places.