By Kai Mansberger
Key Themes: prose, poetry, philosophy, mental health
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The short stories and poems in this volume form part of the literary legacy of Kai Mansberger (1980-2004). They are representative of the period 2000-2004, when Kai, as a university student and young adult, began seriously applying his skills and imaginative creativity to the art of writing.
Each short story or poem contains a particular narrative theme that expresses a verified philosophical reaction to existence within the boundaries of a real or imagined world. These seven narrative themes are: Love; The Rimbaud Factor; The Faustus Factor; The Meaning of Life; The Philip Dick Factor; The Kafka Factor; and The Final Frontier. This body of work also embraces narrative structures and philosophical explorations of postmodernist, cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk literary tradition.
Like a graffiti artist uses a wall, Kai also uses his writing to express his presence in, his engagement with and his indifference to the world around him, and as a vehicle and a vocabulary to other visceral, wonderful and imaginary worlds.
About the Author
Kai Mansberger was born in 1980 in Kathmandu and spent his early childhood in Nepal and Hawaii. He received his formal secondary education in Oxford and studied English Literature and Film at the University of Wales, Bangor. He was a gifted musician and actor and also studied martial arts, Japanese language, philosophy, quantum physics, higher mathematics and computer programming. Intermittently, he travelled to The Netherlands and remote areas of Italy, France and Greece in search of alternative modern day utopias and immersed himself in the music and street subcultures of Oxford. All of these interests and life experiences are reflected in his writing.
In 2002 Kai was arrested and admitted to hospital under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. In the ensuing 23 months until his death at the age of 23, he was repeatedly arrested for “irrational,” “delusional,” “strange,” “bizarre” or “suspicious” behaviour, sectioned, misdiagnosed and mistreated: he always maintained that he was just an “eccentric philosopher.” He subsequently endured incarceration, detention, solitary confinement, mental torture, extreme mental suffering, psychological pain and debilitating side effects induced by the continually enforced medication of 16 different mind-altering psychiatric drugs. This episode in his life has been documented in The Rape of Psyche (Chipmunka Publishing: 2010). It undoubtedly affected his creative output as a writer.
It’s always endless, lasting forever. Time becomes like a pattern with strange interconnecting parts that never make sense. Wind is ice cold, and cars rumble faintly. It was quiet, not much to hear. He was ready to go, he was ready to jump. Greg checked the harness and the ripcord. A siren warbled in the distance and some faint shouts from below. Greg wanted to jump, he wanted to feel high, he wanted to float − drop down through the sky, pull the ripcord and hang there for an instant, as everyone cheered and he floated down.
Gusts of wind continued to search him out. His purpose, why Greg was alive, this is what he was born to do. Fingers felt numb, an icy wind chilling him. The rooftop was bare and empty, just burnt grey concrete, with bits of paper rolling around on it. Some cigarette butts. How they got here he didn’t know. Maybe someone came up here to relax and smoke. It was a really fine rooftop.
After a while, maybe ten seconds or so, he looked at the sky and just lent forward on his toes and spread his arms like a bird. Greg’s head dipped forward at a slight angle to the rest of his body, and he just let it come towards him. He imagined that he was going quicker, everything sped up and slowed down and sped up. Then he pulled the cord and his shoulders jerked up into his neck. But it felt good though, pain always did to Greg. The chute opened and filled with air and he floated like he was there forever, and he kept floating. Earth came to meet him, to touch and hold him again. His feet dangled fifty feet from the ground and he watched as people scattered from his descent. The parachute had opened seven and a half seconds after Greg had thrown himself off the building. Seven and a half seconds of pure adrenaline.
Base jumping is one of the most dangerous sports in the world, with the death toll growing every year, outlawed all over the world with strict punishment of fines and imprisonment. Security guards on the fifth floor had been fooled with the electrician routine, having copied it from a rerun of an A-team episode. One of the hotel staff, an insider, had been paid to leave Greg’s pack hidden under a stairwell on the top floor. Usually tipping off the managers by mobile when he was ready to jump, word always leaked out and the crowds would congeal on the pavements below waiting for him to fling his hapless body into empty space. To be watched as he transcended fear and leapt.
Greg always performed a ritual before jumping, consisting of a variety of yoga poses, chakra chanting and quiet reflection. He never thought about dying, it just never occurred to him. Reincarnation would prove its worth and he had little to lose in his view of the world.
Since the sport had started, parachute collapse had become the primary killer due to unpredictable updrafts at such low altitudes. Greg had his own ways of checking the air. He had felt slightly distracted for an instant but the wind remained calm and the billowing fabric held its shape. For another three seconds he was suspended in the pleasure zone and was already counting this off as another successful jump.
Only when the ground smacked his feet did he release the smoke bombs, a homemade variety. Greg had messed around with an old Vietnam recipe till he had developed something that dispersed quickly and wouldn’t cause respiratory irritation for any onlookers. It billowed out from the canister strapped to his chest, a red blanket of protective secrecy.
Aware that police were searching for him, Greg grabbed both smoke bombs and placed them on the ground. Frantic body movement would attract infrared eyes that probed the mob for his heated form. He knew blending with the gentle sway of the crowd would mask him completely. Anxious faces sweaty in the feverish London summer invaded his vision and bodies jostled against him. Many a time he had been mistaken for a suicide jumper and of course the parachute had a tendency to perplex people. Rumour networks of small communities often achieve unbelievable speeds. One lone dog walker spying a man-shaped figure thirty stories up and seconds later half the block has come to watch, orders left unattended and memos left fluttering. A man is going to leap.
The harness was the most expensive part of the gear and he had grown attached to it over nearly three years of jumping. Various titbits had been attached to the Kevlar straps: small bells, a lock of hair, human rights badges, and safety pins. The rest of the apparatus was worth about a hundred pounds he had bought cheap. With this in mind he used a small blade to slice through the bridles and strands in quick succession. Once detached he forced his way into the confused crowd, stripping off the harness and bundling it into the now empty chute pack.
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