Dead moods

‘Dead’ moods – yes, all his life he had had ‘dead’ moods, but in those days he had slowly slipped into and out of them – they had not been so frequent, so sudden, so dead, so completely dividing him from his other life. They did not arrive with this extraordinary ‘snap’ – that had only been happening in the last year or so. At first he had been somewhat disturbed about it; had thought at moments of consulting a doctor even. But he had never done so, and now he knew he never would. He was well enough; the thing did not seriously inconvenience him; and there were too many other things to worry about – my God, there were too many other things to worry about!

And now he was walking along the cliff at Hunstanton, on Christmas afternoon, and the thing had happened again. He had had Christmas dinner with his aunt, and he had gone out, as he had told her, to ‘walk it off’. He wore a light raincoat. He was thirty-four, and had a tall, strong, beefy, ungainly figure. He had a fresh, red complexion and a small moustache. His eyes were big and blue and sad and slightly bloodshot with beer and smoke. He looked as though he had been to an inferior public school and would be pleased to sell you a second-hand car. Just as certain people look unmistakably ‘horsey’, bear the stamp of Newmarket, he bore the stamp of Great Portland Street. He made you think of road houses, and there are thousands of his sort frequenting the saloon bars of public-houses all over England. His full mouth was weak, however, rather than cruel. His name was George Harvey Bone.

It was, actually, only in the few moments following the sudden transition – the breaking down of the sound-track, the change from the talkie to the silent film – that he now ever thought about, or indeed was conscious of – this extraordinary change which took place in his mind. Soon enough he was watching the silent film – the silent film without music – as though there had never been any talkie – as though what he saw had always been like this.

A silent film without music – he could have found no better way of describing the weird world in which he now moved. He looked at passing objects and people, but they had no colour, vivacity, meaning – he was mentally deaf to them. They moved and looked like passing objects and people, but they had no colour, vivacity, meaning – he was mentally deaf to them. They moved like automatons, without motive, without volition of their own. He could hear what they said, he could understand their words, he could answer them, even; but he did this automatically, without having to think of what they had said or what he was saying in return. Therefore, though they spoke it was as though they had not spoken, as though they had moved their lips but remained silent. They had no valid existence; they were not creatures experiencing pleasure or pain. There was, in fact, no sensation, no pleasure or pain at all in this world: there was only himself – his dreary, numbed, dead self.

There was no sensation, but there was something to be done. Emphatically, most emphatically there was something to be done. So soon as he had recovered from the surprise – but nowadays it was hardly a surprise – of that snap in his head, that break in the sound-track, that sudden burst into a new, silent world – so soon as he had recovered from this he was aware that something had to be done. He could not think what it was at first, but this did not worry him. He could never think of it at first, but it would come: if he didn’t nag at it, but relaxed mentally, it would come.

— Patrick Hamilton, Hangover Square

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