Creative Nonfiction

Button Mashing All My Troubles Away

8 August 2016

Listen to Gabriel read “Button Mashing All My Troubles Away”.

There’s this caterpillar crawling up my fence. Halfway down its body is a cocoon that looks like it’s made of bark and twigs. I figure that it’s fallen from the branch halfway through its metamorphosis and it’s struggling to get back up.

There’s something about this caterpillar that terrifies me. It’s been there for days. Sometimes I stare at it and curse. I tell my housemates to burn it. I wish it away or demand that it completes its transformation.

I’ve been dreaming about this caterpillar among other things. Like parasites, insects and microorganisms. It’s like they can smell my fear because I’m constantly attracting them. After visiting Thailand, I came home with a hookworm in my big toe. I go out for dinner and a cockroach appears on my shoulder. I look in the mirror and there’s a spider on my crotch. Something is always biting me. Half my time is spent on all fours in my bedroom, searching.

I miss the days when I could pin all my fears on the supernatural. The irrational and impossible. Freddy Krueger once scared me. Pennywise the Clown luring children into the gutter with balloons. Girls with black hair emerging from television screens.  

But now I worry about other things. Like caterpillars. Or dying with a bunch of dirty porn on my laptop. I worry that my Xbox is watching me when I brush my teeth. I worry that one day I’ll wake up and I won’t know who you or anyone else is and I’m part of some grand, simulated reality.

I can deal with Doom, Dark Souls and any kind of deformity born from Hell with my shotgun. But what really scares me is walking around in circles lost and confused. Like those people that walk into the same coffee shop ten times a day to ask what the soup is.

There was this game I used to play called King’s Quest – a point-and-click adventure game. I was stuck at one particular section of this game for about six months. I would traverse the desert, forests, walk into vans and across orchards looking for a monk. I clicked on the same faces over and over again looking for a different reaction. It was insanity. On and on my character would walk, dutifully from the left to right of screen, back straight and determined glint in his eyes. But I sat in front of him terrified.

Who the fuck am I? Why is no one helping me? Am I part of some larger, ascetic conspiracy?

Open-world, sandbox style gaming is very much the style right now but honestly, give me a little direction, some signage. Give me a fucking flashing arrow if you need to because I don’t want to end up like Ben Cousins, pointing three different directions at once on Canning Highway.

I need some form of clarity and linearity.

I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we all had our own Navi, the spirit helper from Zelda, to guide us on our path and dispense advice:

Woah dude, don’t date that Catholic, her parents will put a restraining order on you Forget art school, those kids will hate you  That that’s a man.

The new Zelda game shown off at E3, Breath of the Wild, is of course being promoted as a huge, open world. ‘Go anywhere’, they say. Great, so now I can head off into the snowy mountains and devote my life to side-quests:

“Oh, dear adventurer! My Sherpa lost her pelts, will you help me find them? Papa has forgot to set the clocks in his cabin, can you wind them? My feet are cold, massage them?”

Honestly, I’d just end up laying waste to them all, staggering from the mountains drunk on adrenaline and still half-looking for somebody’s misplaced hiking gear.

Because in a linear world, that caterpillar on the fence becomes a butterfly. It wraps itself in a cocoon, transforms and soon flutters from my life forever. But in my world, this half-metamorphosed thing somehow ends up in my bed. And one day I wake up inside a hot, earthen tomb, cursing whoever it was that decided to build a world without signs or directions dictating the way for us to live.


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