Existential Terror and Breakfast: 10

Epiphanies taste better with toast.

Malcolm Steadman will dial the suicide hotline in 62 days.

Malcolm Steadman was ignoring the aggressively symbolic nature of the plain bagel he had just bought as a mirror to his personality with an abrasive sort of misanthropy that he and only the British had perfected. As he had no hands free, Malcolm desperately tried to ignore the default ringtone on his phone and how that reflected on his lack of creativity as he trekked home. He started to whistle now in a fatal attempt to both drown the electronic buzzing out and to counter the rising self loathing that was feeding off of his inadequacies. Mr. Steadman did not get the job he had interviewed for. This blow to his self-esteem was entirely his own fault. He was unprepared to deal with the fact that the constant existential terror that he felt might suggest that he was going mad. Now unemployed, Malcolm carried a plain bagel with cream cheese and a black coffee home to keep some semblance of routine now that his main responsibility was gone. That is when he saw it: sitting in a shop’s display was a plastic dinosaur that was brightly colored. It filled him with a powerful nostalgia for his childhood. He believed strongly that whimsy would brighten his day and bought the toy. He had not learned his lesson on his whimsical self prescriptions, apparently.

Once he was settled home, and had begun to devour his cheap breakfast, Malcolm began to turn the toy dinosaur in his hand and contemplate it affectionately. He had owned this same type of toy as a boy and fondly remembered playing with it and the joy that it had brought him. The aforementioned existential terror that was possibly driving Malcolm to madness? It was coming. The bane of Malcolm’s existence now was that without a job he was running out of ways to distract himself with the gained time he had in his day. When Malcolm isn’t distracted he begins to contemplate the things around him, and as we have previously seen this typically results in a philosophical disaster for him. He figured that this toy would be a slight reprieve from this. Oh how he was wrong.

Even alone Malcolm was too self conscious to actually play with the dinosaur, though that might be the exact sort of distraction he needed. Instead, Malcolm noticed through his close observation of the toy a slight seam where some plastic had seeped out during the molding process and had hardened. His nostalgic sense of wonder was wearing thin. Malcolm knew that plastic was forged from crude oil. Malcolm’s “flight or fight” sense was triggered suddenly as the expansive length of time for this toy to have taken form attacked his delicate psyche.

Malcolm had failed to distract himself.

Crude oil is the culmination of dead plants and animals spread across the millennia. An uncounted amount of life, with all of its fallacies and wondrous miracles, would be born, live, and die to create just a small amount of this organic deluge. From the time humankind had first stood upright, to the moment that a select few got to tour the moon was but a fraction of the time it had taken for the amount of oil that was necessary to make this toy to culminate underground. Whole species would mutate off to create a new branch of evolution and go extinct, leaving behind the sludge that ultimately became this colorful plaything. Oil, at its most basic level, is a graveyard for the mass amount of failed life and potential that graced the earth for only a whisper in time…and Malcolm had played with this graveyard.

In a panic, Malcolm dropped the toy and began breathing heavily. He was not going to do this again. He was not going to go down this path to frightening epiphanies. He simply did not have the constitution for it. The fact that his moods and that his sanity had become so frail and that they were so suggestible to these panic attacks made him feel incredibly impotent. When had the slightest of events or the smallest of objects become such a powerful catalyst to set him off? When had things become so overblown? If he had explained these episodes to someone else would they understand, or would the minuscule nature of these catalysts make him seem crazy?

Of course, Malcolm was going to think about the toy, he was ABSOLUTELY going to follow the winding path to frightening epiphany.

It was in his most basic nature.

The toy that was now on the floor was a perverse monument to the massive amount of time and life it contained in its form. The crude oil it was made up of, through the wonders of chemistry was morphed into an inaccurate visage of the life it was made up of. This dinosaur toy that Malcolm had bought to cheer him up through misguided nostalgia was made up of dead dinosaurs. Here on his floor sat a false idol to the dead and through humankind’s modern alchemy took the form of a creature that merely resembled the complex animals it once was in only the most basic sense. The punchline? It would likely stay in this form longer than humankind would be around. The earth would be littered with these plastic monuments long after humans were forgotten and their temples ruined.

Some day, Malcolm’s remains would add to the pools of crude oil, and maybe it too would be turned into a plastic toy.

Malcolm could not bring himself to throw the toy away, and not just because it had cost him money. Though this toy dinosaur had become the bane of his morning, and although it had added to the weight of his anxieties, he kept it. Throwing it away just seemed like such a waste considering the origin of its chemicals. Malcolm calmed himself down and finished his breakfast and considered seeing a psychoanalyst.

During his existential terror Malcolm failed to notice that when his phone had buzzed earlier, a company had called him to set up an interview. They will not call back and he will not get a second chance.

When he was done with his coffee he threw the plastic cap away.

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Rev. Fitz
Michael Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz) is a writer, illustrator, and amateur Electrical Engineer who lives in Seattle.

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