[Better Title Pending] – Book Extract

So, unlike my other posts this one is neither a rant nor a rave. Instead I am hoping to receive some feedback on a small extract from a book that I am beginning to write. This is the only scene from the book that I’ve started writing up in any sort of great capacity. I would delve into the content of my book to explain the background but I couldn’t possibly explain it in the detail I would like. Anyway, this scene is pretty self-explanatory and I’d appreciate any sort of advice or feedback regarding its content. This wouldn’t be the final edit of this particular moment but some direction on what I’m doing right or wrong would be great.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the character referred to as ‘H’ in this extract will have a full name but that hasn’t been decided on yet.


“How was it that we could sense the ice underfoot? The snow covered all in both texture and sight, and for all we knew it was dirt or ancient road or grass that we slowly crept across…but no, something about this moment echoed ice. It was impossible to tell how thick the frozen film of water was across this vast loch. There were no cracks, no sudden noises, no sinking feeling  to suggest that we could soon feel the ice cold grip of the water below, possibly to never resurface. The image was in my head and no matter how hard I tried, I could not force it to leave. “Maybe we should just go around” I suggested to H, although it came out as more of a plea than a suggestion and his lack of a response was in itself as unnerving as his continued path forward. I looked in either direction and came to terms with the sheer size of this loch. I didn’t remember it being quite as big but as I kept telling myself; it had been a long time since I was last here. My bag weighed the same as me, if not more, and the clothes I had been wearing would soak water up like a sponge. If I fell into the water my lungs would be full of water almost as quickly as the air would leave them. Falling in would be game over. My mind compared each step to taking a turn in a game of Jenga: the first few are ok; in fact they seem impossibly easy. Soon it becomes more challenging and eventually it isn’t a case of ‘if’ the tower will fall, but is instead a matter of ‘when’. H was far off into the distance and his carelessness seemed to be working out well for him so far. The logical thing therefore would be to walk where he walked. Where were his footprints? I looked around but there were none to be seen. I would have let out an anxious laugh in that moment, were it not for the groan that erupted from below my feet as I began to walk in the same direction as H. It sounded like an old wooden door as it creaks slowly open in the wind. My mind was telling me to stand completely still and balance my weight out as evenly as possible on the ice…my body, with its circling overflow of adrenaline had other plans. I wouldn’t describe what I was doing as a run. Instead, it was almost as if I were trying to ice skate but without the skates. What was I doing? I would wonder to myself as the sound of cracking ice seemed to chase me like some sort of monster, snapping at my ankles as I began to increase my pace. The ice was similar to a playful dog: if you stand still and stay calm, it barely reacts. If, however, you sprint in the opposite direction, it will undoubtedly chase after you, catching up in seconds. I could no longer even see H and rather than try and find him, I simply began to aim for the nearest bit of land. The constant white colour made it very difficult to say how far away I was from safety but my lack of fitness, both physically and mentally, was beginning to take its toll. Have you ever been running and you become overly aware of you movements in such a way that you throw off your rhythm, causing you to misstep? If not, it’s a bizarre sensation that in most situations simply results in you taking an odd step before getting back into the swing of things. In this instance I was less fortunate, and due to the arguably impractical shape and size of the boots I was wearing I went from running one moment, to sliding (somewhat)on my stomach in the next. After my initial impact on the ground, the ice seemed to calm down instantly. The loch became eerily quiet as I lay perfectly still. The numbness of my face due to the snow it was resting on felt insignificant in comparison to how cold I would be if the ice decided I was too heavy a burden, although arguably I would probably feel cold for a much shorter amount of time. I slowly lifted my face up and took a glance at the distance I still had to cover. I still had at least 200 yards to go before I made it to certain land. Part of me began to wonder where H was; had he fallen in? Then the selfish side of me kicked in and couldn’t actually care. I knew I could deal with H when I’d sorted my own crisis. My plan was simple: slowly stand up…and then run! As the plan went through my head, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with myself before slowly beginning to stand to put it in practice. The ice didn’t agree on the successful outcome of this operation and soon began to voice its disagreement with growls and groans. I could feel each crack like a vibration. Maybe a plan B would be necessary. Looking at it from a logical standpoint, my options seemed clear: lose some weight. Of course at this stage cardio and dieting wouldn’t give me the immediate results I needed so instead I began to take off my bag. I slid it slightly away from myself which actually moved me more than it moved the bag but it separated the weight and seemed to appease the ice god that was judging me from below. I opened the top and slid my gloved hands down the side of the bag to try and grab the rope. When you’re trying not to move it becomes surprisingly difficult to pull one particular item from a stuffed bag. I knew the rope wasn’t going to cover the entire distance but at the very least it would reach shallower levels of water. I untangled it all and tied one end to the bag and one to me. My next move probably wouldn’t have been advised by, well, anyone: I began to take my boots off and used the laces to attach them to the side of the bag. I knew I could run faster and lighter without them on but it also removed the possibility of me tripping over them again. The socks The Third Eye had been kind enough to provide where warm and comfy but not much use against standing in snow without any footwear on. I stretched my arms and legs out and began to slowly raise myself up from the ground. Just as I put all my weight onto my feet, I felt that familiar vibration accompanied by the sound of the ice beginning to crack again. I took a few seconds to pause and think this time but ultimately the decision was the same as before: run! As I sprinted, I felt a lot less at risk now without the bag and the boots on. The sound of ice cracking sounded fairly distant behind me and as quickly as a foot touched the ice, it was off again. For a moment during my sprint I completely forgot that I was tied to a heavy bag and a pair of boots and realised I would have to slow down before the rope ran out. Sadly, my slowing down was not as speedy as was necessary and the rope tugged hard on my waist. This in turn caused me to put more weight on my feet and led to quite a significant crack in the ice. It was the first time I could actually see the crack through the layer of snow that covered the loch. My right foot sunk through the ice and the water grabbed at my ankles like the thin, sharp fingers of some mythical ice creature. I fell down to the ground once more but rather than lie still, I began to crawl. My knees were sinking into the ice more than I cared for but I only had a few more metres to go. I figured at this stage that falling in would not be fatal or even lethal so I decided to stand up and walk the rest. Rather comically to anyone who would have witnessed it, this marked the moment where my left foot sunk through the ice, getting drastically wetter than its companion. I could only shake my head in disbelief both at making it across and at the rather frustrating sock incident but as I sat down I couldn’t help but grin. I grabbed the rope and began to drag that bag towards land, or at least, solid land. Despite how uncomfortable my feet had felt in the boots initially, it was nothing in comparison to sliding my wet, cold and sore feet into them now. Keeping the wet socks on wasn’t wise but it would have to do until we got a shelter set up somewhere. It was at this point that I remembered that I didn’t know where H was. The wind was beginning to pick up and the thick, grey clouds were only making darkness seem to descend faster. I was going to shout on him, to search and try to find him but part of me knew that it would be a waste of time. I’m sure he was probably thinking the same way I was and had simply gone to find somewhere to set up a shelter. There was a small, woodland area near the top of the ridge in front of me so with wet feet I picked up my bag and began walking.”


Thank you for reading!


Facebook: The Blue Pill Of Our Generation

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.”

– André Berthiaume


We often gaze in amazement at the latest piece of technology to be announced across every form of media we have access to. Apple release a new phone and for whatever reason that is now deemed worthy for being broadcast on news channels. 10 year olds are now playing Angry Birds instead of hide and seek. Apps and games designed for phones allow a new level of social interaction and gaming to take place. We, as a society, are reliant on technology for almost every single aspect of our lives and I won’t begin to argue that this doesn’t have its benefits…but what happens when our personality is dependent on our access to technology?

Have you ever seen The Matrix? Great! Let me use Neo as an example here: There is the Neo in the real world and the Neo within the Matrix (the virtual/programmed world). I’d argue that within our society today we have two versions of ourselves: we have the personal version of ourselves that people get to know through actual interactions; and we have the alias version of ourselves that the internet has access to. This version of us is an avatar or mask. I’m sure some would argue that social networking sites such as Facebook actually provide a more personal insight into who we are…but this isn’t true at all. Before I deleted the infamous information gatherer, I began thinking the exact same thing whenever someone posted a status or picture: “That person wants us to see that”. When you take this train of thought, you start to become fully aware of the real purpose of such sites: Ego-boosting. Facebook is a mask that people use to hide behind while giving the impression that they are being transparent. I can’t help but think of a scene from The Dark Knight Rises where Bruce Wayne when asked by Selena Kyle “Who are you pretending to be?” replies “Bruce Wayne, eccentric billionaire”.

Glancing back at The Matrix momentarily, you’ll no doubt remember when Neo first enters the training programs. Morpheus explains that it isn’t real: “Your appearance now is what we call residual self-image: It is the mental projection…of your digital self”. Neo in this virtual reality has his hair back, he no longer has plugs in his body and later on in the film he is dressed in sun glasses and crazy attire. The real world Neo is practically bald at this stage, his muscles have barely been used and he has rather grotesque looking holes all over his body. While Neo projects his digital self, is Facebook (for example) not our projection of our desired self? It is tailored to reflect the person we want people to see us as. Very little of what makes up our profile on Facebook is the same as who we are in person. This became all too apparent during the unfortunate attacks in Paris. I’d already amputated the little blue ‘F’ from my life but I still managed to hear about the trend where Facebook users were adding a French flag as a filter to their profile pictures. Now you could argue that it was for support or to show sympathy or a way to increase awareness but you’d be wrong. Ultimately what this trend boiled down to was just that: a trend. People weren’t interested in the deaths of innocent civilians; they just wanted to make use of the new function to update their Facebook page further. I watched as people commented on how many ‘likes’ they’d received from updating their profile picture with the French flag which in itself shows the true and ugly nature of this trend. This, I believe, is insulting to not only the people of France, but actually to our society as a whole. What sort of world do we live in where atrocities spark trends amongst the youth rather than discussion? I am generalising, of course, as not every young person is prone to such insensitive behaviour. We need only look as far as the various “challenges” that have graced their way onto our social networks. Remember the Ice Bucket challenge? This of course was meant to raise money and awareness for a really good cause (ALS Association) and I couldn’t possibly argue that awareness was not raised…however, what this largely boiled down to, was the opportunity for people to become part of a trend. If that works to help a charity, then great, by all means make use of such a technique. Let us not forget though, that far more moronic “challenges” such as The Cinnamon Challenge also created quite a following. The slightly disgusting aspect of charity trends is that people donate money as a form of social altruism i.e. they give to charity, post evidence of doing so, in the hope that it earns them favour amongst their peers. It becomes another way of showing your place within the social hierarchy because for whatever reason, simply donating money without people knowing about it just isn’t rewarding enough. This takes us onto the privacy issue…

Relationships, which were once relatively private, suddenly became another way to define who you are to acquaintances and strangers. Facebook’s “relationship status” ultimately led to the term “Facebook official” which came to be the defining moment in the modern day relationship, leading to likes and comments from people who were probably unaware that such a relationship existed in the first place. After a couple became “Facebook official”, friends were often exposed to nauseating photos of couples doing far from noteworthy activities or the regular expressions of love by couples who drunkenly met only a few weeks earlier. The worst of all these cringe-inducing acts was the lovey-dovey status updates where a couple, rather than share their emotions privately, would make announcements of love to the other through status updates which would often to lead to a reply from the other half. There is (as you’re probably well aware) a reason why this takes place publicly rather than privately: how is everyone going to know that you’re in a relationship if you don’t constantly remind them? It is nothing but another tool to make your friends envious and your ex’s jealous. Of course the relationship status (and all that entails) of an individual isn’t the only thing you can learn about them via their profile. Being able to “Facebook stalk” someone (another unfortunate term that is used far too often) also becomes a fairly normal thing to do. Prior to social media, if you learnt that someone had searched for you on the internet, you would probably feel somewhat unnerved. Now, it is seen as part of our society. Actually, not having a profile to be stalked through is seen as less normal that doing the stalking…what the fuck?

Facebook is just the hard-drug of our technological age. Its users are isolating themselves from the real world, while exposing themselves in the virtual one. All this in pursuit of that next dopamine rush when they hear that infamous notification noise or see the symbol appear on their phone screen. Rather than taking the next toke of a joint, users sit and wait for the pleasant and exciting sensation of being told that another person ‘liked’ their status or photo or comment. We’ve turned our lives into a human version of Pokemon, where the goal is still to “catch ‘em all”. Of course instead of fictional creatures, we instead round up as many strangers as we can and label them “friends”, often speaking to them a grand total of zero times. We force our private lives onto the screens of others like children making noise to get attention from their parents. Have we become such a self-obsessed culture that we can’t enjoy the company of those we are with, without sharing evidence of us doing so? Is social acceptance within a virtual platform really that important?

Who am I to judge the next step in human socialisation? Perhaps I’m just an old man in a young man’s body. Personally, as I’m sure you are now aware, I can’t stand this screen attached generation. I mean do we really need so many connections to apps? If we break it down very quickly, we have our virtual selves (Facebook); somewhere to share random thoughts as well as seeing what our favourite celebrities are thinking (Twitter); somewhere to share photos of our food and pets in an attempt to look like photographers (Instragram); We can hook up and find relationships via our various other profiles (Tinder); Share brief pictures with people, usually consisting of ugly poses or crude drawings (Snapchat); our messenger apps now tell you when someone is online and keeps you updated as to whether or not they’ve read your message (Whatsapp/Kik).

As I mentioned earlier on, I’d be crazy to try and argue that these do not serve some sort of purpose. My issue is not with the ideas themselves but more with the amount of time we dedicate to them. We use them like personal billboards or in some sort of weird attempt to feel like we’re on the Truman Show: a reality that I’m sure far too many people wish they lived in. So I won’t argue that social media in its entirety is a negative thing. Being able to organise events, share photos, contact people effortlessly and receive updates from groups/pages that you follow, is of course useful. The issue arises when the virtual world begins to step over into the real world. Social gatherings are often scenes of people using Facebook messenger or taking selfies to try and get a new profile picture. You’ll see people pulling out there phones to check to see if perhaps they just didn’t feel the vibration and might have a notification. We can’t go on a night out without sharing it with the world. My one, small, slither of hope is in the fact that we ditched text talk early on (at least for the most part). I have to admit with a great deal of discomfort that I am part of the generation that for many years missed out vowels and replaced letters with numbers (Wuu2? Was the famous one).

If the choice was as straight forward as being offered the same choice as Neo (the blue pill or the red pill), I feel that Morpheus would be shocked to discover that most of us had already swallowed another blue pill long, long ago. Why choose the real world when the virtual one has so much to offer?

This moment in family guy pretty much sums up the overall attraction that people have to sites such as Facebook.