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Monday, 23 December 2013

SUICIDE.

If you clicked here to read a how-to guide, you’ve come to the wrong place. Incidentally, there is no right place for that. Stop looking for a one-stop-off-yourself shop. In your worst worthless moments, there are better things worth doing.
Find those things. Crawl across broken glass to reach those better things. They needn’t be major. Eat grapes. Relish the sound of popcorn springing to life. Catch another sunset, or sunrise. Ease out of those shoes. Smell the radio. Listen to strawberries. Mix up your sentences.

*

I was trying and failing to put a story together. (And yes, it’s important to fail. Try again.) The tale? MURDER BOX. A game of murder in the near-dark. I’d absorbed a load of stories in which this or that became legal. Why not write a tale of my own?
A game of murder. Survival against waves of killers. But wait a bit. Not legal. Therefore, hidden away. Not broadcast. What? NOT BROADCAST.
Are you fucking kidding me?
We’ve reached a peculiar point in our technological evolution. The nightmarish dystopian future is no longer one in which reality is broadcast – it is the one in which reality is not.
I hummed and hawed over the notion. There’s an underground murder game. Strict invitation. Recruiting killers. Looking for homicidal participants who won’t sneak transmission devices into the venue, spoiling the special mood.
Add a strip-search. Metal detectors.
Next, add cameras built into press-on fingernails. So we do have a broadcaster inside the secret show. I ran a cheap movie idea. The lead character would give her middle finger to the bad guy, broadcasting his face to the world.
I laughed, and abandoned the notion of some super-twist to the tale. This needed a rethink. Maybe the game was legal. Still not broadcast, though.
Add a strip-search. Metal detectors.
The event was always called MURDER BOX. With the set-up illegal, I decided there’d be shiny plastic posters tied to fences and rails. Showing a red box. Red box wasn’t quite right. Turn the box, and you have a diamond. Welcome to the underground.
A red sign of double danger. What to put inside the icon? MURDER BOX. Too literal. I had my star. Gwendolyn. Why was she going to participate in the hunt?
Revenge. Chasing her sister’s killer. Boring. No guarantee of meeting the killer, just a killer. It’s all secret. How do you find out about this in the first place if it isn’t broadcast – only covertly advertised…
People who participate leave clues. No. People who participate don’t want to lead the cops straight home. No clues. And no covert broadcasting.
I swirled the story around. Gwen ran the whole thing, and decided to feel the experience for herself – revealing her position to other contestants.
Bonus kill for someone, nailing the owner of the franchise. Explains how Gwen knows about the set-up, true. No. I dump the obvious twist.
Swirl, swirl.

*

Okay. This calls for research. So what’s the game to be? Legal thing. The posters are arranged by the government, making the contest a legitimate (taxed) form of homicide and suicide. Suicide is for cowards, it’s often said. This game could be murder as suicide for cowards who are too cowardly to commit suicide. Arrange your own killer? Twisty. Deep. Getting there.

*

Bleak stuff, I know.
Research. Start with the personal, if you can.
I recalled a conversation I had in San Francisco. Then another. Two different talks, connected to the bridge. The Suicide Forest, in Japan, is hinted at in this murder story of mine. (Walking from cubicle to cubicle is a bit like walking through a forest. Patches of light and dark. Spaces in the woods.)
That forest is a top suicide-spot so well-known that running an internet search on Suicide Forest will turn up footage of spooky trees. Trees you’ll find in…
Aokigahara.
The Golden Gate Bridge is another top suicide-spot. In the case of the forest, seclusion is provided. And in the case of the bridge, jumpers have a near-certain fatal drop awaiting them.
Yes. The jump is survivable. Surviving that, leapers may still drown or die cold.
One conversation on dealing with the Golden Gate
A man talked about his time with the coastguard. He found retrieving bodies from the bay difficult. Particularly the corpses of people who left unrequired clothes ashore. (The bridge being considered too conspicuous to jump from, by some.)
When retrieving bodies, you can snag a hook on a jacket far more easily – by an order of magnitude – according to those in the know.
Maybe there’s a heavy psychological aspect to retrieval, too. People employed to deal with that stuff find it easier to snag clothed bodies. Possibly. It’s the tiny details that get lodged in the telling. (Blankness persists. That guy from the coastguard left out as much detail as possible.)
My other conversation was with a man who observed America as an outsider. He looked at the bridge and thought of the people who jumped. The height. Water, waiting. The current, racing to drag what was left away. People rushing in to help – they’d stop leapers if they could.
The observer said suicide was cowardly and brave in the same breath. Ending it all was a cowardly way out. But he was amazed at the courage required to literally take that step into the void – as far as the bridge was concerned.
Then again, maybe he was fixated on the height and the watery landing – hence his perception of courage. His view of cowardice came from another culture…
Having moved to America, he couldn’t see why anyone there would kill themselves. Not in the amazing United States.

*

I almost had my way into the story. Disrespect reared as a theme on the internet. The disrespect for the dead mentioned by people who found footage of spooky Japanese trees distasteful.
How they navigated their way to that stuff on the internet to complain about it, we may only speculate. Perhaps it is disrespectful to run an internet search.
From the internet, I took a great degree of sarcasm and disrespect – as a feature of my story-to-be. The murder game accepts people who want to die and people who want to kill. This is appalling.
Hey you guys, get a room. So. The game is a legal form of suicide and state-sponsored murder. Promoted by posters. Actual physical posters, not internet ones.
The event is not broadcast – to give that truly exclusive feel. Yes, the seclusion of the forest. Throw in a few murderers, and you have the near-guaranteed death usually provided by the long drop from the road-deck of a very famous bridge.
Almost there. Research. What do I look for? Suicide. But if I run an internet search on that, I could uncover suicide-bombers, pro-suicide groups, how-to guides, actual footage of the deed, and a world of hate.
Bile of the JUST KILL YOURSELF variety.
Who would say that? Loads of people. Virtual keyboard warriors, tapping a virtual keyboard on a phone. Thumbsters.
There’d be positive messages, and bile swamping the positive. Almost there. I was going to write a story about legal murder-suicide treated as a game. Unbroadcast – not for reasons of unbroadcastability, for nowadays there ain’t no such thing. But for the snobbier reason of exclusivity.

*

We could broadcast, but, being above all that…
Hey, we choose not to.
This really is something you can’t get anywhere else.
Solid gold status for losers and cowards who want someone to step in and do the job.
No long drop or expensive trip to Japan required.
Or. The ultimate hunt for the killer in you.

*

Sick – because it is taken as normal in the fictional world I created. And sick because the idea is tame, too. There are far wilder stories out there.
I felt the idea needed a slice of mundanity without boring the readers. This was never going to be the be-all and end-all of end-it-all stories. Some of the action had to be tame, to bring it to life.
Matter-of-fact, rather than utterly tedious.
So I looked at the internet and I searched for entries on suicide. If you do that, you’ll be directed to songs, bands, and scantily-clad women. (No, really.)
Now my blog post is out there, you’ll be directed to these words.
Soon the videos popped up. The mistaken news broadcast of a suicide…using the word live. True irony. Tribute movies to those who’d gone. Sadness there. An ocean-sized wave of bile in the comments, too.
What was missing from my story? More sarcasm. Additional bile. Further invective. I added SUCK BLEACH! to the narrative, and the cover. Did I have a message? Yes, and it wasn’t to suck bleach.
How many of these internet movies did I watch? Enough. One came in near the top of my search, and I viewed that with a sense of trepidation.
Okay, I get reality. One day, everyone who posted a video on the internet will be dead.
In this case, watching a film on the topic of suicide, her attempted suicide, I couldn’t be sure the woman was dead or alive. Was I going to scroll through more recent videos and find a tribute to her because she’d gone? This was all a bit spooky – mainly as it was so mundane.
Really casual. What I was looking for, truth be told.
A young woman sits in front of her machine and talks to the screen. Talks to the world. About death. With minimal focus on the attempt she made, and much more in the way of chat dealing with support for others. She spoke of consequences.
Seeing relatives ripped to shreds by her actions. Consequences. This was a very positive film. About the future. Not the past. People make movies, and face that ceaseless wave of bile from thumbsters chanting SUCK BLEACH!
But the insult can easily splash back on those idiots. Splash it back, I say. They tell you to kill yourself – you tell THEM to suck bleach.
About four hours went by, after I created the bleach slogan. Then I discovered a suicide-themed video mentioning bleach. Spooky. But no, not unexpected.
Running a search on suicide as a general topic will lead to specific digital alleyways on methods. Slowest and most painful, as well as the expected entries for quickest and most painless. That set me thinking about different approaches to the subject.
There’s no easy path to outlining my research – I’ve had to turn the dial down on these notes. If that makes me seem impersonal, it only makes me seem impersonal.
You can solve just about any problem in your life, given some time and thought. Slitting a wrist may be the mistake you wish to take back, with little time and thought left to you. Think better of yourself and the world you inhabit.

*

I looked into the male perspective. A guy tried to kill himself when he was much younger. His telling of the tale was more squeamish-sounding than the woman’s story. She was matter-of-fact about the nastiness of it. He really threw the awfulness of his chosen method in your face.
Not graphically. This guy didn’t appear in his video, but he used a really smart non-appearing way to slide his point across. There was a sense of humour to his approach. And a slice-o’-life stint of mundanity. Ordinariness.
Her method was no less awful than his was, and had grim consequences for recovery. Still…
His method was fucking ghastly. How did she survive? Inexperience. How did he survive? Inexperience.
This research wasn’t quite enough. I went looking for the opinion of an observer. That took me off at an angle. I found a guy considering the potential absence of a selfish fucker of a friend who contemplated ending it all.
That observer came across as selfish when he said it’s all about me and how I feel about your stupid selfish wannabe suicide. Which was just a cry for help and not a real attempt. I am so hurt by what you did. Me me me me me me me.
And that went way beyond close friends, relatives, being cut to shreds. It went into the selfish world. Your pain has inconvenienced me. (At this point, I don’t really have the words. Unless those words are fucking and hell.)
What was I building to?
Maybe you should go and kill yourself…
SUCK BLEACH!
Bile floats freely. The woman who made her video was one of many who faced internet vomit. Often, these people were accused of lying. A woman tried to kill herself and failed. Response. Not a genuine attempt, blah, blah, blah. She didn’t mean it, and didn’t even do it.
Yes, because there were Global Conspiracy™ spy-cameras filming her every move and she seemed too upbeat to be a real contender. If it doesn’t happen in front of an internet troll, it isn’t real. And if she smiles once in her life long after the attempt, the attempt didn’t count. Yeah…
Get me started on that one.
The theme of fakery proved popular in many a video’s comment section. Fact. People who discuss suicide in videos – they are all sophisticated animatronic puppets. None of that footage is real. CGI. Vast conspiracy. Trolls are in the same boat, not being real – with sticks up their arses.
I think I found the level of bile I was looking for. As for seeming too upbeat. Look into the concept of the smile as camouflage. It’s only there tryin’ to fool the public.
That woman decided to present an upbeat tone in a video meant to be positive. What do the trolls expect? A live broadcast from Casa Addams, complete with thunderstorm and mascara flooding over the screen?
 
*

Research. I still hadn’t used research from my own computer. Would I consider that stuff? I have received suicidally-themed e-mail. I’ll outline here, keeping some details back. Information was edited, for protection.
In my response, I stated I had no desire to betray a confidence. That’s still true. Is there ever a reason to betray a confidence?
Yes.
To save someone. Or to attempt to save someone – not quite the same thing, I know. To save others. Make an effort to prevent harm. In mentioning my receipt of suicidally-themed e-mail here, I may help people in a general way.
Some have a void in life. What to do about the void? Keep going through it, looking for a way out that isn’t final. I know that advice is boring and conventional. Sounds tedious, but it was the advice I gave in response to the e-mail.
That incoming e-mail was about ending the pain – permanently.
I can’t let something like that pass without comment. You may have a heart of stone. How’s that working out for you? No, that wasn’t a trick-question – it was a sarcastic one. I can’t lighten this text with fluffy humour and clowns – some people are scared of clowns.
#CLOWNS.
#INSENSITIVE.
Well, I did my best to talk the person through some things. And I did that in very different ways, as I saw more casual suicidal comments coming out. The problem with a casual suicidal comment is that there’s no such thing as a casual suicidal comment.
Now the other person I spoke to is getting on fine, and has okayed my chat here in this text. Vast improvement. Getting through to people in an e-mail can be impossible when dealing with that sort of talk.
I was thanked in a roundabout way. Not for that stuff – being thanked for something else looked like a means to avoid talking about thanking me, awkwardly, for the main thing.
Extract from my response. I correspond with Americans for the most part. Why don’t I set the other half of this tale in America for convenience…

*

Okay. America is an ocean and a chunk of land away from here. Anything I say to you is pretty useless. I can’t really help you at all. All I can do is encourage you to think over things and hang in there.

*

On reflection, hang in there isn’t the best phrase to use under the circumstances. I have to file that one under grim irony. Don’t shoot the breeze either. I could go on, but you’ve had the idea ladled to you.
As far as the other person is concerned – I didn’t do the work. All I did was minimal stuff. Maybe I helped tremendously. Perhaps my so-called help wasn’t needed.
The point is – it’s hard to help suicidal people in an e-mail. I know I was thanked, and that was fine. If that person commits suicide in the future, I’ll be upset – but I know I did my bit at the time when things seemed grimmer. You can only do so much from overseas. I didn’t want to let someone down.
What if you came to my blog for other reasons? Only little things can improve your outlook, unless a major event comes along. Don’t wait for a major event. Tackle some of the little things. Not all. Some.
Is it really about wanting to die? Come on. Isn’t it about struggling to live the way you live? Change the way you live, but not THAT fucking much. Not permanently, no-way-back. Find a better way to live. When life hands you lemons, at least they aren’t oysters.
Consider the raw honesty of people who come out with these suicidal statements. That e-mail – I was more shocked by the honesty than surprised by the self-destructive element.
What to do, this time around, for readers who came here looking for suicide and who read this far? Why not take a quick dip into my response…

*

Because I’m half a world away, you made a statement to me that doesn’t come with every incident in your life attached. So there’s a stark nature to the statement, and it can be taken as very severe.
If you are telling me for a while I was afraid and that’s really secret code for I am still afraid, then you need to talk to people on your side of the Atlantic in an emergency. I usually only check my e-mail once a week. If you miss me by a few hours, a whole week goes by before I read something. That’s not useful to you if you send an instant cry for help several thousand miles when you should be calling people nearer you.
I’d listen and respond belatedly, of course. This isn’t about me, and how worried I’d become if I suddenly read an e-mail that said you’d taken drastic action. How worried a person in receipt of news is – that becomes irrelevant next to the safety of the person who cried out. That’s the person who is in trouble. The sender of the message, and not the receiver.
You can talk about suicidal feelings. There’s no taboo here. And there’s NO WRONG here. I admire your courage in speaking out. You don’t indicate that you still feel that way.
So I’m going to ask you. You felt that bad. Do you still feel that bad? If you do, you can vent steam in a gloomy e-mail to me. In fact, if you have persistent suicidal feelings, I encourage you to let rip with the depiction of those feelings. Don’t hold back gloomy thoughts. Write it all down.
Boring advice. Suicide isn’t the answer. Keep going. Yes, I’m a little worried by your roundabout expression of all this. Well, now alarm bells are ringing. Is the crisis over, or not?
Try not to put an exact value on help. Help should be give and take. Not all GIVE on one side and all TAKE on the other. Give and take. Keep going. If you feel suicidal, talk it over with someone. Even if you have to go on an anonymous telephone hotline. That may not be your thing. One step back from that is to have the telephone hotline number built into your phone. Just in case.
Find something wonderful in the day. And if you don’t, there’s always the next day to hunt for something. Sometimes the hunt for something wonderful leads on such an unexpected trip that you stumble on something else.
I’ve read over this waffle. The advice the suicidal don’t want to hear is IT’LL GET BETTER. Well that’s not necessarily true. Shares can fall as well as rise. It goes on. And if you feel grim, you’ll think it goes on and on and on and on…
Depressing, I know.
Right. I don’t know how deep in you are. And I can’t help you from here if you have your head in a guillotine with a phone in one hand and a rope in the other. If you do feel suicidal, yes, talk to me. But talk to people who at least have a semi-decent chance of kicking a door in and dragging you from the guillotine. I think the guillotine image is a bit strong, but I’ll leave it in this message to you.
Astonishingly, I can’t kick a door in across the Atlantic. So have a local contingency if things get bad. And never give up.

*

Okay, I think I should add clarification. For those who don’t know, I’m Scottish. I now check my e-mail more than once a week. Some of you may think I was callous for mentioning a guillotine in an anti-suicide e-mail. Think what you like. Made sense to me.
The bit about give and take was edited out of a much wider context, and has lost a significant amount of meaning here. Just be aware of that, if you were puzzled by it.
There was further discussion. The person concerned apologised for being a burden on me. That was nonsense, and I said so in a follow-up…

*

You don’t have to be apologetic about anything – you didn’t put me through an ordeal. I had a stressed-out day for other reasons, and, strange as it sounds, reading about someone else’s troubles was a temporary distraction from the bad day I had. So I was fine about your e-mails.
The initial comment you made was vague in its suicidal content. So I had to ask the basic question – are you okay? That way, the other person can say yes or no. If the answer is yes, that’s that. And if that depressed person finds the answer is no at a later date, there’s the memory of the questions asking. So there’s always scope for the depressed person to go back and talk to the person who asked. If the situation deteriorates. Or if the situation is the same, but the person wants to leave the vagueness behind.
That’s how I see things, anyway.
I felt it was important to let you know that you can talk if you have to, and not feel bad about hitting out with a whole world full of gloom.

*

Time passed. I stick by what I wrote there. If someone hints that all is not well, how selfish are you going to be in response? You ask the question. Are you okay? Yes may lead to no later, as circumstances shift, and there’s always further opportunity to talk.
Okay. There are failures. People go through with suicide. They become faces in grim compilation movies on the everlasting internet. Behind each face, you’ll find a hidden group of family members grieving. At least, you’d like to think so.

*

What of my murder story? Making light of suicide through sarcasm? Of course not. Noting a trend on the internet. You could be the most amazing person on the internet, kill yourself, and still be hated by people with time on their thumbs. Thumbsters.
Anyway, I wrote this blog post as a means of propelling myself into writing that murder story. No matter how I slice it up, as a topic it’s still rough when fictionalised. This blog post will appear in the notes at the conclusion of my tale.
As for the book’s cover. Remember the slogan is used against those who tell you to kill yourself. They are the ones who should suck bleach. That’s awful of me, I know, thinking that of internet trolls. When thinking of trolls, remember these two entirely unconnected statements.
You should never wish death on anyone.
Patience is there to be tried.

*

If you have suicidal thoughts, type SUICIDE PREVENTION into your search engine and follow every link. Every link.

*

What to say of that blog post? Many sources went into the generation of the piece, and I blurred a world of lines to create a post that might prove useful to anyone who went to read it for all the wrong reasons.
There is no single person, pink-haired or otherwise, who fell off the internet and appeared in this story or the associated blog post.
During a not-so-grim research phase, I discovered an army of women with improbably-hued hairstyles. Most were prepared to talk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and other deep dark disturbing topics.
It’s not all about style-tips.
The research was not-so-grim as these people had a sense of humour. Self-referential. Bleak, true. Too much to take for some observers. The humour was in abundance. Oh, there were tears under the pink and green and blue and platinum coiffeurs.
At times, judging from the opening shot of this or that twenty-minute YouTube video, I didn’t relish the prospect of sitting through a raging gloomfest. Research is research, and I persisted. Those raging gloomfests were articulate, informative, heartening, and not as raging or as gloomy as…
The troll comments. Those people have no, but NO, fucking sense of humour. A troll could watch a ruby-hued woman commit suicide wearing a SUICIDE T-shirt, and declare you are not really suicidal though, are you…
My spelling is too tidy to be trollish.
The MURDER BOX is the internet. People wander in and comment on everything. If there were no acid comments, I wouldn’t have written this story. I’d be a poor defender of free speech if I only concerned myself with stuff I liked.
Yes, I hate the bile. But the bile acts as a sign warning me off those people, so I accept the freedom of speech along with the vile talk. Provided no other laws are broken – incitement to commit suicide may constitute a crime where you are or aren’t. The internet is quirky that way.
Tastelessness is unfortunate. It’s even more tasteless to censor the tasteless. For taste is taste, and varies from mind to mind. Some readers are sure to find my tale tasteless. There’s little to say on that topic, bar the preceding sentence.
If opinion were fact, the world would be a different place – and that’s a fact, or an opinion.

*

The story? I was tempted to write the entire tale inside quotation marks. Direct speech only. But no. With enough contestants to fill the warehouse, I also wanted to avoid…
“Now you die.”
“Come and get me.”
“Fuck you.”
“Eat me.”
“Bite me.”
“The hell, I say.”
“Where’s the exit?”
“Go in through the out…”
“Did you hear that?”
“No. Did you?”
“Depends. What was it?”
“I can see the pub from here.”
“Nurse, the screens!”
How many characters were speaking? Thirteen, or two? The idea of numbering characters made it easier to pull switches. Two plus two is 22.
8Player Seven here.8
This is not a pipe.
After I spent time fixing numerical detail into the story, characters were lost in a mini-maze of boxes that didn’t need to be described again in every single sentence.
I kicked a lot of bovine shit out of this tale as I fixed details to the page.
The action occurs inside a massive warehouse. Time and space bend themselves to accommodate slack writing. Slack writing is spotted and shot. I run a clear view of numbered contestants appearing in ascending order, following a clockwise direction.
So clear that, in slack writing, I mistakenly reversed the order part of the way through. The characters moved across the same map. And they moved in the right order. Except when I threw in an explanation, to clarify.
I frazzled the so-called clarity and returned to a degree of normalcy. Maps with arrows showing direction of travel won over perverse text, every time I strayed.
Atmosphere. Character. Continuity draws the shortest straw and the longest stares. I tried to keep things stark, to set the readers thinking.
If MURDER BOX were real, would it be kept out of our clutches? No TV? Absolutely no broadcast? Nothing on YouTube except fakers and parodies of fakers? Three guys in orange rubber suits, running around a factory during lunch, throwing wet sponges at each other.
I think I’ll stick to my guns. The nightmarish dystopian future is no longer one in which reality is broadcast – it is the one in which reality is not.
Feeling trapped? Exclusivity is prized beyond the lure of making money from broadcasting. Even a public accustomed to gladiatorial combat turns jaded in time. Harvesting estates from dead participants – that never grows stale. I left the conspiratorial side of it off the plate…
People aren’t manipulated into joining MURDER BOX. Except in the sense of being made aware of the situation through posters.
Huge conspiracy? Then you are into the dystopian turf of giving your (male) star a revenge-motive and enough juice to bring down the whole rotten system. Usually with fisticuffs in the closing minute.
Pardon me while I yawn. If the story is about murder, and suicide, then the tale has to be personal to the (female) star. Just as it aims to be personal for many different readers. Despite the gloom, positive, I’d hope.
Once I had the legal idea worked out, I resolved that Gwen went into the box as a participant. I left it to the readers to decide if she went in as an eager killer or a willing victim. As mere author, I hold no view either way.

*

In creating the blog post, I clicked on many a YouTube video. I also called on the services of individuals who cannot be named here. They know who they are, and receive my covert thanks. There are a few unusual suspects I’ll also thank without naming.
Bringing focus to the topic required the assistance of a mental health advocate, and I’d like to thank YouTuber and Moroccan carpet purchaser Melissa C. Water for her comments. She characterised her input as addled from lack of sleep. Only her notion of having addled comments was addled. The comments were fine.
For clarity, Melissa is Canadian. The carpet is Moroccan.
Melissa has posted many YouTube videos dealing with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and other related issues. For those interested in her perspective, here’s the YouTube link: idranktheseawater. Here’s Melissa’s Tumblr link: seawater-is-me.
    I’ll plug Melissa’s involvement with Project Toe – a helpline service for those struggling with self-harm issues: Project Toe. And here’s the project’s Tumblr link: Tap Toe.
*

And, supposing you missed this…
If you have suicidal thoughts, type SUICIDE PREVENTION into your search engine and follow every link. Every link.

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