The Subtle Thing That No One Sees

The Subtle Thing That No One Sees

Posted on May 3, 2022 at 4:00 pm by Jeffrey James Roberts

”Whoever would rise, must first descend, for only then can the bottommost rise to the top.” – Gustav Meyrink


I was sitting here just now, looking at my shiny new belt and thinking, how odd it is, this… life, we call it. Unpredictable. One moment you’re deep in a hole, on the verge of being buried alive, the next you’re up above ground and you’re the one shoveling the dirt onto the next one.

Things are changing.

I’ve been given access to books again also. A wonderful thing, the way that, with a touch of a small tablet screen I can retrieve the endless knowledge of a thousand civilizations. I can consume as much as I wish. No late fees.

All great teachers, philosophers, and prophets have a source of knowledge beyond their own. This is what you must seek to make a difference, knowledge beyond your own.

I know myself all too well. And knowing myself, I know that I cannot trust myself, and am not worthy of trust. I am exactly what the good detective said I was, a dog chained to a wall, an untrained mongrel whose head you can’t risk petting, lest I bite your hand off.

I take it as a compliment when somebody calls me crazy. I would be offended if I was one of the sheeple, one of the sleepwalkers in the matrix, or part of the collective hallucination we call ‘normal’.

Do you seek to understand me as much as I seek it, Steve Harrison? Are you a wise man, intent on finding out everything you need to know, or are you sauntering through your life dependent upon the kindness of better men? Do you think that beating Arthur makes you invincible, or does it make you a lamb set out in the middle of a field waiting for the wolf to charge in and sacrifice you to the fleeting history of that lovely belt?

I have my own belt. I had another belt. And I’ve been down as low as a person can possibly be, and this makes me immune to it, you see. You can’t scare me, can’t make me nervous.

I read a poem recently by a man named Zubair Ahsan.

‘Child of shadows, once born of flesh
Un-winged, amidst fear and agony

‘Fraid of the lurking and yet to come
Oblivious, to the code of chivalry

Voids in his desire were unveiled, as
Love taught him; death with dignity

In desire to be and in wanting to live
His wretched soul began to purge,

As he wept at the beauty of the night
He commenced to sing his own dirge,

Then born again of fire; ascended,
Like Phoenix must burn to emerge.”

Do you know what it means, Steven? It’s a statement on the soul’s need to cleanse itself of failure in order to re-emerge as something bigger and better, newer and stronger. That’s what I’ve been doing, cutting away the fat, sanding away the imperfections, bigger, better, newer, stronger.

It’s funny, isn’t it?

It is very impressive to notice that whatsoever you make a person believe about you, that person will rush to represent within his role as if he or she was mentally programmed to play the drama being offered. People are so trapped within their minds that they end up always acting inside a theatre, in which their part has been foreseen long before they entered the roles they represent.

Likewise, they become easily predictable, programmable, influenceable, manipulated and played like a string puppet. And these puppets become funnier when mentioning mental programming, fearing mental programming and attacking mental programming, while not realizing that they are doing it, using the words and gestures, and even phrases, that they were programmed to do, by those who program them.

The one with a poor conscience is always a poor actor within his own life. He perfectly represents it, without any awareness. If he had any, he would probably not do it. But what else could he do? As prisoners in a cell with an open door, they ask when presented with freedom: ‘What shall I do if all I know is this?’ And so, they remain inside of it, waiting for someone to tell them an answer they cannot ever understand before they see it for themselves.

The big picture is lost, and I understand it all too well. I was contemplating this the other day, about how I once found myself alone in my dorm room, already a killer. I heard the sound of police cars, and all I could think of was that the teachers must’ve found the illegal stash of candy I’d been selling out of my dorm room. Or maybe they’d realized I got my essay on Tom Sawyer from the internet without ever reading the book and now they were going to take away my grade. Or worse, they were going to make me read the book.

We often can’t see the forest for the trees, Steven, and that’s usually when the end comes.

All of this, I’m sure, is too deep for you. You’re a simple man. Most people just make jokes about milk when they see you, but it’s all so stupid. Not even the milkman anymore, but yet you still have to hear it. The milkman, the jokes about the milkman. All so very, very stupid.

But I don’t think you’re stupid, my friend. I think you’re more, and I think you’re champion for a very good reason. These things don’t happen by accident, and I want you to know that I know this. Take nothing for granted, Mr. Harrison, for I certainly will not.

I know it all too well. How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me. I mean, there are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster’; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do.

If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees.

But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.

You live in your delusion and you are not innocent of your own past, any more than I’m innocent of mine. It is my delusion that whispers in my ear that I am destined for a greater purpose when it’s quite possible I’m destined for nothing at all, nothing but desperate, violent, chaotic madness and terror. My own. My victims’. Yours.

You suffer from the delusion that it’s the thought that counts.

When enough insane people scream in harmony that they really are healthy, they can actually start to believe themselves. Or put even more simply: people with overlapping delusions get along wonderfully.

So maybe we don’t have to be enemies, Steven. Once this nasty business is over, maybe we can be friends.

The facts remain. I am evil incarnate. I do not wish to be blithe, but it is the most direct, most factual phrase to describe it. And you may be uncomfortable with that, but facts do not fall in the face of discomfort.

Permanence is an illusion. Attachment is a delusion. The only thing that is real and everlasting is nothing at all. The only permanence is impermanence.

You know, I just realized, I’m holding a belt you never lost, and I’m trying to take the one you have. How does that make you feel? That must be disheartening. Everything seems to be going right for the one person who does not deserve for things to go right, and you are stuck with the same shitty luck that has always doomed you to a life of being ‘almost’ good your entire career, propped up only when the boss needed you for something. On that point, I can relate. I’ve been there, but now things are starting to change. Things are looking up. But the more I think of it, it’s a sickness you have that needs to be addressed, Steve. That’s what I’m really here to help you with.

Death is the cure for everything.

I guess we can’t be friends. Pity.

Empty promises and pain will have to do.


”Life is a useless passion, an exciting journey of a mammal in survival mode. Each day is a miracle, a blessing unexplored and the more you immerse yourself in light, the less you will feel the darkness. There is more to life than nothingness. And cynicism. And nihilism. And selfishness. And glorious isolation. Be selfish with yourself, but live you life through immoral acts, acts that engrain your legacy onto humanity. Transcend your fears and follow yourself into the void instead of letting yourself get eaten up by entropy and decay.” – Mohadesa Najumi


Gainesville, Florida.
Department of Corrections.
April 23rd, 2022.

“Oh, how exciting.”

Jeffrey James Roberts is being led into a room without windows. Steel bars make up the one wall, creating an inner sanctum for a little privacy, and of course, to minimize the potential for disaster.

Roberts stares at Detective Burns as he sits at the small conference table set up in the center of the room.

“I hadn’t expected I’d see you again so soon, detective. Did you bring me any goodies from the outside? A pardon perhaps? Or maybe just some chocolate chip cookies. I miss chocolate chip cookies”

Burns smirks. “I could probably get you some cookies.”

Roberts smiles slightly at the comment, then looks around the empty room, three sides of white walls and the bars now behind him. He sets his shackled arms up on the table in front of him and tilts his head down just a bit.

“So what are you doing here, detective? Didn’t you already catch that young man who killed those poor people out in California?”

“We did,” Burns responds. “So we thought.”

Roberts’ eyes light up.

“I see. Tell me more.”

“Well,” Burns leans forward on the table. “There was another murder, female, same M.O., same general area in San Francisco, but our boy is safely locked up.”

“Are you sure?” Roberts stares at him, expressionless.

Burns nods. “Had a guard on him the whole time. We learned our lesson, and also, he’s not quite as smart as you are.”

“Tsk tsk tsk,” Roberts holds up a finger slightly and wags it back and forth. “This is not time for flattery, detective. A poor girl has been killed, and the killer is at large. No time for dilly dally. And you arrested… heh heh… excuse me…”

Roberts stifles laughter.

“You arrested the wrong man. You arrested the wrong man! That’s amazing. Did you let the poor boy go or is he still rotting away in that jail cell?” Roberts leans in and whispers. “Were you man enough to admit your mistake and let him go?”

Burns holds his stoic stare on the prisoner. “He’s being processed out.”

Roberts chuckles. “Processed out. Oh yes, so sorry we arrested you for a long complex series of murders and abductions, here, have a free pass to the Gainesville Pancake House for your troubles. Is that about how the process goes?”

Roberts’ grin unnerves the detective, but he’s more disgusted than bothered.

“I didn’t come here to banter with you, Jeff.”

Roberts sits up straight.

“Then why did you come here, detective? This is always my favorite part when you finally get to telling me what you actually want. Go on… go go…”

Detective Burns looks at him, sighs, and sucks on his teeth as he looks down, then back up again. “I’d like to give you a look at his file. Maybe you can put your eyes on it and see something we haven’t seen.”

“You mean like pretty much everything?”

Roberts grins again and laughs.

“What if I’m involved?”

He says it so matter-of-factly that it catches Burns off-guard.

“Are you?”

Roberts rolls his eyes. “Oh come on, Burns. What kind of an idiot would I have to be to come right out and say something like that to you? Obviously, I’m joking…” He looks up slightly, then back at the detective. “As far as I know.”

Burns reaches down into a satchel on the floor near his feet and pulls out a thick manila binder, and slams it down on the table, then pushes it over to Jeffrey. Roberts looks down at it, then opens and runs his fingers over the photos on top, the gnarled and unclean fingernails tracing across the top of the image of a young girl’s bloody face. He closes his eyes slightly and breathes in deeply as a sense of calming peace washes over him.

“Everything we have on him is in there. I’ll be back to talk to you in a few days, give you a little time to go over all of it.”

“Of course detective, of course.” Roberts looks up at him. “Of course, I’ll help you with your little case. I have always endeavored to be nothing if not helpful.”

Roberts smiles his best smile, and Detective Burns rises to his feet, picking up his satchel with his left hand. Roberts keeps staring at him.

“I’ll be looking forward to our next visit….”

Burns walks past, toward the door just opened by a guard. Roberts doesn’t turn his head but calls out over his shoulder.

“Oh, detective?”

Burns pauses but doesn’t reply. Roberts smirks.

“Next time, don’t forget the cookies. Homemade, if you don’t mind.”

Roberts smiles and listens as Burns walks away behind him and the steel door slams shut. He closes his eyes and listens to nothing.


”The same feeling of not belonging, of futility, wherever I go: I pretend interest in what matters nothing to me, I bestir myself mechanically or out of charity, without ever being caught up, without ever being somewhere. What attracts me is elsewhere, and I don’t know where that elsewhere is.” – Emil M. Cioran


I had a moment the other day.

I had come to that moment in my own thoughts when there occurred to me, with increasing intensity, a question of such overwhelming simplicity that I had no means to face it. I found myself wondering if my life were worth the living; if it had ever been. It was a question, I suspect, that came to all men at one time or another; I wondered if it came to them with such impersonal force as it came to me.

The question brought with it a sadness, but it was a general sadness that I thought had little to do with myself or with my particular fate; I was not even sure that the question sprang from the most immediate and obvious causes, from what my own life had become. It came, I believe, from the accretion of my years, from the density of accident and circumstance, and from what I had come to understand of them.

I took a grim and ironic pleasure from the possibility that what little learning I had managed to acquire had led me to this knowledge: that in the long run all things, even the learning that let me know this, were futile and empty, and at last diminished into a nothingness they did not alter.

It is a human characteristic, which has been richly exploited in every era, that while hope of survival is still alive in a man, while he still believes his troubles will have a favorable outcome, and while he still has the chance to unmask treason or to save someone else by sacrificing himself, he continues to cling to the pitiful remnants of comfort and remains silent and submissive.

When he has been taken and destroyed, when he has nothing more to lose, and is, in consequence, ready and eager for heroic action, his belated rage can only spend itself against the stone walls of solitary confinement. Or the breath of the death sentence makes him indifferent to earthly affairs.

All social orders command their members to imbibe in pipe dreams of posterity, the mirage of immortality, to keep them ahead of the extinction that would ensue in a few generations if the species did not replenish itself. This is the implicit, and most pestiferous, rationale for propagation: to become fully integrated into a society, one must offer it fresh blood.

Naturally, the average set of parents does not conceive of their conception as a sacrificial act. These are civilized human beings we are talking about, and thus they are quite able to fill their heads with myriad less barbaric rationales for reproduction, among them being the consolidation of a spousal relationship; the expectation of new and enjoyable experiences in the parental role; the hope that one will pass the test as a mother or father; the please of one’s own parents, not to forget their parents and possibly a great-grandparent still loitering about; the serenity of taking one’s place in the seemingly deathless lineage of a familial enterprise; the creation of individuals who will care for their paternal and maternal selves in their dotage; the quelling of a sense of guilt or selfishness for not having done their duty as human beings; and the squelching of that faint pathos that is associated with the childless.

Such are some of the overpowering pressures upon those who would fertilize the future. These pressures build up in people throughout their lifetimes and must be released, just as everyone must evacuate their bowels or fall victim to fecal impaction. And who, if they could help it, would suffer a building, painful impaction?

Quite a few people make gardens because they cannot stand the pressure of not making a garden. Others commit murder because they cannot stand the pressure building up to kill someone, either a person known to them or a total stranger.

Everything is like that.

Our whole lives consist of metaphorical as well as actual moments, one after the other. Releasing those pressures can have greater or lesser consequences in the scheme of our lives. But they are all pressures, and overpowering pressures go on governing our lives, and the release of these pressures may once again come up for praise, congratulations, and huzzahs of all kinds.

You keep trying the same things over and over, waiting for a different result. But futility is what you are, Steve Harrison. You are fleeting moments of success and praise, followed by complete failure and abandonment. I think maybe an attempt at something new is in order for you. As is well known, beating a dead horse doesn’t bring it back to life – it simply makes its death louder and noisier.

I’m willing to help you release the pressure that’s been building up, to free you from it, because I want you to do better. I want more, and I’ll have it, even if I have to tear through you to something else entirely.

Sometimes it is more useful to look for new horses than to beat dead ones.