I was awakened this morning by the not so distant sound of something banging, banging, banging, banging, banging, BANGING … then a brief pause, then … banging, BANGING, again. My heart was pounding, pounding, pounding in true shell-shocked fashion, maintaining a difficult counterpoint to the banging outside: three mighty heartbeats to every bang. I thought at first that what I was hearing was someone in a van sorting parcels and packets, tossing them vigorously against the sides of the van, turning the vehicle into a super-large tympanic instrument, and I fancied I could hear a furious voice fuming, ‘Where the bloody hell is the packet for number sixteen?’ But then I wakened further, and I realised that wasn’t it at all. Someone just round the corner is having a long and complicated renovation done, and what I was hearing was the builders tossing debris and rubbish into a skip … still a mighty tympanic booming, but this instrument had no wheels, and no one was searching for anything.
I am usually awakened by something of the sort breaking into my nightmare-riddled sleep, and my adrenal glands react like that man who suffered so awfully in the trenches who, ever after, jumps in panic at the slightest sound, who trembles under the bed with their head pressed hard against their knees, convinced that the postman’s knocking portends violent death at any moment. There is no knocking here, but an electronic doorbell that enthusiastically and in piercing, strident voice shrieks out some famous melody or folk song, mangling every harmony ever discovered. They play heavy rock music at super-loud volumes to victims being brainwashed, I hear. They should try my door chime device at ordinary volume. Success is guaranteed.
Some imposition always intervenes before my natural, or even unnatural sleep concludes. If I try to trick the world by retiring an hour or two early, with the intention of wakening before the day’s external activities break into my interior world, I always lose the game, and some idiot will perhaps raise and lower, raise and lower the bonnet of his car at 5 am. Or a door will slam, and heated voices will each try to shout down the other in tones by turn furious, frustrated, ferocious, infuriated, indignant.
And so the acrimony of the world fragments right across the globe, and these little shards of trouble and disturbance trigger my shell-shocked brain into telling my heart to go, go now, go like the clappers, for danger is here, and death is near, and these must be our last moments on earth, so beat out your final song until the beating breaks you, for that is all we can do. We have fought this foe, you and I together, for all these years, and we must cease soon. If not today, then soon, so beat until you burst. You sound out my terror as the percussionist beats out the composer’s anguish. Between us, we can bring a rhythm to The Scream, the painting by Edvard Munch. We can make the swirling colours of his sky and ocean throb and pulse with a universal hatred of all that vexation that need not be vexation but for the selfishness, stupidity, thoughtlessness of others. We will beat out the self-destruction of civilization, for that is our only song, now.
And every morning I waken to a fresh hatred of the world which is so stupid, so insistent, so repellent. Of course my heart objects to it. Its beating is like the beat of a war drum, but I have no idea how to take this war to my enemies. Just pounding and pounding and pounding.