The Common Waste Land

The Common Waste Land

A Story by Kevin Anthony

He do the police in different voices.


The Wasteland sky was grey and empty. There were no buildings, or trees, or water. There were no people. Except for him. He was alone, bewildered, and more than a little terrified. Who was he? Let’s call him John. He started out like every other human being: He was conceived in a moment of passion, his mother bore him, and he was born, without consent - red and screeching and already tired. Mercifully, he remembered nothing of that trauma.

            Now, John was a young adult. No longer was he red and screeching for the most part, but he was still tired. Added to this were new, equally distressing emotions; like bewilderment and terror. But I already told you that, didn’t I? I also told you that he was alone in a Wasteland, with empty grey sky and no buildings or people. And so, John did the only thing that he could think to do. He began to walk.

            John walked blindly. He had no idea how he came to be in this place or where he was now going. He already knew that he would likely never truly know the answer to either unknown, even if he did not know it yet. He decided it would be best if he focused all of his attention on the horizon, for that really was all there was, all there ever would be. That infinite point, ten or so miles from everywhere, was John’s destination. He glanced numbly down at his wristwatch, which he wore at all times. The second hand flicked clockwise as it always had - John was a little surprised to see that it actually seemed to be in good working order.

            He walked.

            And walked.

            He walked.

After an indeterminable period of time spent walking, John noticed that a small figure had appeared in the distance. Was he mistaken? Why should something be happening now of all times? But he wasn’t. The blurry outline of a human figure, growing more and more defined as he drew nearer, was now directly ahead. John felt relief wash dizzily through him, for human company always anchors one to reality - willingly or unwillingly. It is only when you sever the grounding weights of your fellows that your mind truly ascends to nowhere.

            John reached the person at last. He was giddy and self-conscious now for he realised that this person was a young woman - a girl. She stood uncertainly before him, dressed in bizarrely standard clothing, and possessed of a ludicrously ordinary expression. The only things that stood out were her big breasts and slender hips, and puckered rouged lips. Her hair had colour. She seemed at home with the Wasteland. John forced himself to remain calm, and said, casually,

            “Hiya. Uh, what’s goin’ on…?” He detested himself, for he knew that he was capable of far greater eloquence than that. The girl, of course assuaged, smiled awkwardly, and said in a plain voice,

            “I dunnah but it’s f****n’ weird anyway whatever it is.”

            “I know yeah, haha.” John felt something precious die inside, quietly. “Do you have any idea how you got here though, or…?”

            “Nah, do you?” the young girl asked nonchalantly. John stole a glance. Of course, he shouldn’t have had to steal anything. At least, that was the way he saw it.

            “Nah,” he answered back, before continuing with the usual, “Oh by the way my name’s John.” As always, this necessary divulgence was vomited out as a nearly unintelligible slur. His face was red now.

            “I’m Mary.”

            Why should I care?

            John nodded with a forced smile. All the while a million honest thoughts roared in his mind, screaming with outrage and hurt. His unfaltering restraint was a betrayal of what God had given him. It was just so hard. Here’s what John really wanted to do: Entirely avoid any and all meaningless conversation by talking to Mary honestly, ask her various open and forthright questions, demand certain concessions of her, and then have prolonged and heady sexual intercourse with her. Rape her if necessary. He was just an animal, after all. And yet, John was also so much-

Mary was gone. John blinked. That was a record.

“Wretched females,” he whispered. Then he fell dramatically to his knees. He bellowed, and bayed, and imagined that he was a muscly bull snorting and spraying hot steam from his flaring nostrils. He found his fury intoxicating.

            “I AM MALE!” he roared, and then he burst into distraught laughter.

             Soon John was calm again. Still kneeling in the dust, he decided to begin removing his clothing, one garment at a time. Hoodie - burn it. T-shirt - shred it. Sandals, the one honest piece of apparel to his name, were unstrapped and carefully put to one side. Jeans - bury them. Briefs? He actually had nothing against those, but nevertheless they had to go as well.

            John’s hateful clothes lay in an ugly mound on the Wasteland. Only the sandals were reequipped.

            “Wristwatch…” John murmured, as he suddenly remembered the adornment. He gazed at the timepiece. Holding stubbornly onto his left wrist, it gazed back. The flimsy second hand flicked forward, relentless as ever. But the minute and hour hands were in exactly the same spot as they had been the first time he had checked. John frowned. Impossible. It must have been broken. In any case, time was pointless here, he conceded. And so the watch too got consigned to the pile.

            Naked now save for his brown leather sandals, John rose slowly to his feet. Automatically, he craned his neck in order to study his physique: Thin frame with wiry muscles that lacked definition, milky skin, tufts of hair that grew lackadaisically under his armpits, and a thick brush of black fur which sprouted brazenly above his penis. John tilted his head at the latter appendage. It dangled complacently, bored by the attention. Finished, John returned his line of sight to the flat horizon. That was the routine.

In weary silence, John started walking again. He did not feel cold or hot, happy or sad, proud or ashamed, thirsty or hungry even. He felt honest - accepting of the knowledge that nobody would ever notice him, for he was himself. He wondered carelessly whether the Wasteland would ever end.


At this point I feel it necessary to inform you that John was in this Wasteland through his own design. Yes, he was bewildered and terrified - as I’ve already twice told you - but it was in actual fact all his own doing. It was also his doing that could get him out of there. But I digress.


As John continued to walk mutely through the desolate Wasteland, his attention was drawn to something new. It was a second figure, and like the last, it rested at a point straight ahead - an insignificant silhouette in the distance. How bountiful was this horizon!         

            John smiled bitterly as he wandered closer. At this stage, there seemed little point in attempting to make sense of the situation. It felt more natural to react to what came his way instead of trying to be proactive. That was, after all, how he had been living his life for the last eighteen or so years, and it seemed a reasonable way to expect things to operate in the Wasteland as well.

John had now almost reached this new figure, and was beginning to make out the details. It wasn’t a girl this time. It was a lean man of about forty, dressed in dark navy trousers and wearing a neat grey V-neck jumper. He was clean-shaven with dark hair, and bore a smarmy, irritating expression indicative of self-importance. Was he a teacher? Two large furry black eyebrows hung haphazardly above each beady eye, as though a pair of gorilla’s thumbs had been slapped carelessly onto the man’s forehead. He stood sneering in incredulity at John as he approached.

            “Haven’t you any clothing, lad?” demanded the man, by way of greeting. John froze mid-step. Somehow he had forgotten.

            “Uh, no.”

            There was a pause, as John stood before this imperious stranger; naked and humiliated and unable to remember exactly why he had taken his clothes off to begin with. But the man, with a disinterested sniff, had already moved on.

            “What’s your name, lad?” There was no mistaking the drawling British accent, complete with all of its ridiculous connotations of pompousness and high-spirited military conquest. John snapped out of his temporary stupor and forced himself to look the other in the eye.

            “My name is John,” he said, loudly and clearly. “What’s yours?”

            The gorilla thumbs ascended slightly in mild surprise as the man raised his head stiffly.

            “Why, my name is Foyle of course. Just Foyle.”

            “Of course,” replied John satirically. This verve would have likely served him well back with Mary. He no longer even cared that he was wearing nothing but sandals.

            “I presume… John… that you are Irish, yes?

            John's eyes narrowed warily.

            “What of it… Just Foyle?

Foyle’s lips curled upwards in an amused smirk.

“Oh, nothing. No, I was merely remarking upon it.”

            “Have you a problem with the Irish, Foyle?” John asked carefully. He was feeling the familiar stirrings of passion, intermingled with anger. John bore no real love for either country or countrymen, but if ever a call to arms came in the form of a slur from a foreigner on the land in which he was born, or on any of its people whom he had never met, John was always there to answer it with gusto. Foyle must have sensed danger, for immediately the smirk translated to a frown - the gorilla thumbs descending until they all but obscured his small eyes. He raised his hands in a placatory gesture.

            “Steady on now, John-lad. I meant no offense.”

            “Of course you didn’t,” snapped John sarcastically. Then the angst left him as suddenly as it had arrived, and John sighed, and relaxed his sinewy muscles. Foyle stared at him in wonder.

            “What’s your game, anyway?” said John impatiently. “Why are you here? What is this Wasteland?”

            But Foyle did not answer John. Instead he let his arms hang limply at his sides, and began looking left and right, backwards and forwards, as though he were examining his blank surroundings for the first time. His face creased into an expression of grim resolve.

            “Hello...?” said John, perplexed. “What’s wrong?”

            Foyle continued to ignore him. His eyes were fixed intently on something which John could not see, and his mouth was folded shut. Then, without a word, he began to walk purposefully back in the direction from which John had come. He strode with harrowing independence. By simply departing, he had done something unforgivable: He had reminded John of his impotence.

            “Bloody Brit…” John mumbled. Then he turned, wiped his eyes, and continued on his journey.


John walked.

            He was not surprised when a third figure loomed in the distance. Indeed, he had been expecting it. With an irritated sigh, John hastened his step and marched quickly towards the new arrival. Whoever this next person was, he thought savagely, he would be getting answers from them.

            “Hey!” John yelled, approaching quickly, intent on establishing his authority from the onset. Then he stopped. The person was wearing no clothes.

            “No…” John whispered. Then he screamed accusingly, “NO! You cannot be me! You cannot! You have no right, I am me! Why would you do this? You have… You…” John’s voice had become a croak, and before he could control himself, he buried his face in his hands and began to moan.

Great, soul-raising sobs wracked the young man's exposed frame as the enormity of his predicament overwhelmed him. He thought of his life, of the lives of others. He realised that things were not at all as he had expected them to be. Nothing had happened the way he had wanted. He remembered the time with the fold-out knife and the shame and the guilt made him cry yet harder. Salty tears pooled in the gullies between his fingers until they could no longer be held, whereupon they dribbled to the cracked earth like feeble raindrops. It wasn’t the Wasteland, he realised. It was him. It was always just him.

I do not flinch. I look at John, standing pathetically: Crying, naked, ashamed, bewildered. Terrified. Why should I care? Nothing changes, it seems. But perhaps someday.



© 2012 Kevin Anthony

Author's Note

Kevin Anthony
Dedicated to my parents, who I hope will never read this.

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I'm glad you wrote another story; I've been waiting for it. It's acceptable,but not as good as your first. Try again.
This sentence is wrong:
But yet, John was also so much(The last word is apparently cut off. Never use "but" and "yet" together, and you don't need a comma here.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


I'm glad you wrote another story; I've been waiting for it. It's acceptable,but not as good as your first. Try again.
This sentence is wrong:
But yet, John was also so much(The last word is apparently cut off. Never use "but" and "yet" together, and you don't need a comma here.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Magnificent writing! I enjoy your style. Glad to gave met you and to have read your writing :)

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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2 Reviews
Added on June 1, 2012
Last Updated on August 16, 2012
Tags: torment, trauma, conflict, confusion, identity, anger, sadness, despair, false, hope, God, frailty, the, common, waste, land, authority, racism, tension, hatred, Ireland, Great Britain, boy, girl, man


Kevin Anthony
Kevin Anthony

Cork, Ireland

I'm currently 18 years old and a student. I love reading and writing, it's been my passion since early childhood. While writing is for now merely a serious hobby, I've always been drawn to it as a p.. more..