The Purpose = A short Story about isolation


Diary: 12th January 2011, James Anderson

Everybody needs a purpose in life – some have a clear idea what theirs is, some spend their whole life searching for one. Me, I tend to rely, not on the luck of the draw, but seek to find purpose day by day. I don’t like distractions – idle watching of television, playing video games, even reading, they all just distract from the search for a purpose in life.

Some people find it in philosophy, some in religion, others in madness. What I realised is that these are all umbrella terms that disguise the real point of life, so Lets be specific – self improvement, that’s one reason for living. Making people laugh that’s another. Like any good ‘measure of success’, you need to be specific and I am sorry, terms like “god” and “morality” are too vague for me – no grey areas here.

I am looking for my own purpose, and I think I found it. See, I just started believing in something – I started believing that I could control not just my own life and destiny, so to speak, but also the plans of others. My purpose has become just that – to influence & survive. The interesting thing for me is not the outcomes per se – it is the ability to influence at all – there is no morality here – I am only interested in cause and effect.

What caused this? I was watching a TV show, or was it a movie, about the end of the world or some sort of zombie apocalypse or other and I found myself fantasising that it would happen to me – I wanted society to end so that those who are driven to succeed and survive can do so. I thought about the brutal reality and how reductive the fall of society would be, and how wonderfully liberating it would feel to have as clear a purpose as simple survival.

I am not a bad person – I don’t plan to kill or physically hurt anyone, but I do plan to bring about a situation where my purpose is clear and I am free from the rules and definitions that most people tolerate and allow themselves to be chained by. This is,my diary, my manifesto and record of achievement.


Diary : 13th February 2011, James Anderson

I began by cutting my family out of my life. I live in Edinburgh though am from Dublin originally. I told them that I was moving on – changing my life. My parents found it hard to take – I told them I didn’t expect to see or hear from them anymore, that my mail was redirected and at some point in the future I may get in touch with them, but for now this was it. My mother cried – I said nothing except “good bye”. They asked “why” – I did not explain. I wanted them to learn for themselves. Sometimes shocking someone is the only way to learn – sometimes you need to do something extreme to change things. My father offered to fly over and see me – I told him I had changed addresses and would soon be leaving the city. I told him I didn’t want to see him again. These are my terms and my purpose was isolation and survival.

I think it hurt my sister the most of all. I understood why, but it had to be changed. Lina, my younger sister still lived at home and had tried to look out for me. I told her that this was down to her – she taught me to be strong, independent and decisive. She said she didn’t mean like this. I said good-bye, from a payphone in Glasgow and before I hung up I could hear her crying and asking what she had done wrong. I let the receiver drop and walked home.


Diary : 18th February 2011, James Anderson

My mobile phone rang relentlessly for 2 hours so I turned it off and put it in the bin. It hasn’t stopped over the last 5 days. I closed my email accounts, walked out of my job and packed my bag. I will be leaving my house at the end of the month. I have nowhere to go, but this is not causing fear in me – quite the opposite. I want the isolation and challenge to survive and I know that the shock i have caused my family is a good thing – they have been happy with the status quo for too long and sometimes it takes the sacrifice of one person to stand up and make things change.

Leaving my job gave me satisfaction – it was more than mere relief, it was also the feeling that at least I was making a decision – it is too easy to just not decide and so many people do this. I can’t stand it. Coasting through life is not what I want – i want to survive and live and change people through my actions.

I told my girlfriend I was leaving. She asked if I was breaking up with her and started crying. I said I was leaving. She asked me question after question. I told her not to be so dependant on someone. She asked if that’s all she got after 4 years of being together. I just said I was leaving – I wanted to change people. She didn’t understand and kept asking why I was breaking up with her. I just said I was leaving and it was up to her how she interpreted that. She said she didn’t know what to do. I told her that was good – now she too has a purpose – find out what to do and learn to how live independently and not to rely on others.

She just cried.


Diary : 1st March 2011, James Anderson

I have left my “home”. It wasn’t my home, not really. It was a place I slept in. I don’t think my housemates noticed. I had 3 housemates – all more obsessed with their jobs than living life. It was a house share – people move in and move out all the time. I didn’t tell them I was leaving. They asked me why I was burning my clothes in the back garden. I told them that I no longer needed them; I told them that I was free. My packed bag includes 1 knife, a small selection of food (mostly fruit with some non perishable) and 3 books. I brought “Let the Right One In”, “The Road” and “The Republic”.

I am on the streets of Edinburgh.


Missing Persons line (842pm); 2nd March 2011, Lina Anderson

Operator (female): Hello, you’re through to the Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders missing persons line, how may I help?

Lina : Hello, I… I need your help – I need to report my brother missing… I don’t know where he is and we’re all so worried about him…can you…

Operator : Slow down, try to stay calm and I will do what I can. Start by telling me your name… and then tell me, when was the last time you saw him?

Lina : Well [deep breathing]… I’m Lina and James is my older brother… I’ve not actually seen him for months – since Christmas actually, but I live in Ireland, he lives in Edinburgh and we got a phone call from him last month and we’ve not been able to get in touch with him since then…I’ve spoken to his housemates who have said he left the house yesterday evening with a bag but he didn’t say where…

Operator : Okay, so he was last seen yesterday evening… around what time?

Lina : umm….6pm I think they said… but i spoke to his girlfriend and she hasn’t seen him in 2 weeks which is so unusual for James…

Operator [interrupting] : Okay, I know this is stressful, but there is not going to be much we can do at the moment – its just been 24 hrs, I can’t action a police response until the person has been missing for 48 hours.

Lina : [hysterical] but wait, you don’t understand, this is so unusual for James! He has been acting very strangely – he’s…. he’s barely spoken to us for a month and he said he was “leaving” but didn’t say where. We don’t know what to do, we just…

Operator : Lina, I need you to calm down – I can’t escalate this as a missing person yet, but what I can do is take down James’s details so we have it all on file and then, if you still haven’t heard from him by tomorrow, call back and we can immediately raise it as a missing person for the Police to Look into. Does that sound okay?

Lina : Yes… [deep breathing]….yes… okay, I…understand…

Operator : My name is Ada – I’ll do everything I can to help you, it may be that James just needed some space, that’s not uncommon, but I’ll collect some information from you, flag it as a potential missing person and give you the direct number to call tomorrow if you still haven’t heard anything…does that sound okay?

Lina : [sniffs] Yes… yes…okay… [deep breath]

Ada : Lina, can you start by describing James to me – first his physical appearance…

Lina : James is, well, he is 5 foot 9, weighs around 13 stone, not overweight buta little stocky. He… has beautiful brown eyes, hair that’s tied back into a short ponytail and stubble. He…

Ada : Lina, does he have any distinguishing features?

Lina : Yes, he does. He has one tattoo – on his left arm, umm….upper arm… It’s just a small one, it’s a phrase actually… it sounds so silly as I never really understood it and he never would tell me what it meant

Ada : What is the phrase Lina – is it in English?

Lina : Yes – it is and it says “I live and love in a house of leaves”… it sounds so stupid now I say it but he’d never tell me what it meant… just that it was important to him somehow…

Ada : Okay Lina, thats fine, now, I’m going to ask you some more questions about James’s appearance, do your best to stay calm and answer them as accurately as you can…

Lina : Okay…

The call continues for a further 5 minutes before ending at approximately855pm.


Diary : 4th March 2011 : James Anderson

I realised that I had to leave Edinburgh. I wanted to give my friends and family a purpose and to do that I had to get out of their lives. They will look for me and not find me but that’s fine. In fact, that is part of my plan – in looking they will have a drive – it will make them feel alive again. In some respects, Trauma is good; trauma awakens the senses and can change everything. Emotional trauma, physical trauma, two different faces to the same coin.

I thought about my tattoo and what it meant to me – no one ever got it, but for me it was so simple. My life is a house of leaves – its temporary and insubstantial, but it is all i have. I do my best to live with it but I want more – I don’t want idle distractions, I want purpose. And purpose cannot be given, not really, it has to be taken. I can give my family the opportunity for purpose, in fact, my disappearance will put things in perspective for them, but it will be up to each of them individually to seize their purpose and do something about it. I leave them no notes, I don’t intend for my body to be discovered and I don’t intend for anything to be found after this, save one thing.

This is my last attempt at finding my own purpose and influencing others.

My purpose is to not accept the house of leaves that I’ve made for myself, but to strive for more – undertand that some things are more important than others. Having fun, enjoyment, being distracted, they are all temporary, just like my life – the house of leaves.

Legacy is permanent – having a legacy is a purpose.

My legacy will be to have inspired change in my family – the emotional trauma wont be easy for them, but it will be good as it will inspire change.

The house of leaves that is blown away in the wind will be replaced by the intangible – an idea that lasts. Ideas are not concrete, but they are real. My idea and my purpose are one and the same.

I don’t want to live and love in a house of leaves – I want to escape it.

The final pages of the diary are blank with droplets of blood.


20th March 2011 – Extract from Edinburgh Evening Standard (Final Edition (page 11))

Local residents in Currie, a suburb SE of Edinburgh are said to have been shocked at finding a small scrap of what appears to be human skin attached to a tree.

The skin, bloodied and dried out appeared to have been cut from a humans upper forearm and contained a tattoo. While police have yet to release significant details, they have confirmed that they believe the find is linked to a missing persons reported in Edinburgh at the start of the month. The following statement was given by Detective Inspector Archie Leech: “If anyone has any information relating to the incident, please get in touch with your local community law enforcement officers immediately. We believe that the skin may belong to a Mr. James Anderson, who was reported missing by his family at the start of March.”

It is not known how long the skin was left there but the eye-witness who found the skin said they could barely make out the words “house of leaves” on the skin as it was so badly discoloured and weathered. The investigation continues…”


20th September – 2011 – Press release from Anderson family – Extracts from the Edinburgh Evening Standard (Final Edition (page 17))

The Anderson family have released a press statement regarding the disappearance of James Anderson. The statement was read aloud by Lina Anderson, James’s younger sister at a press conference held today in Edinburgh following the official announcement from the police that the case was being put on permanent hold following no new evidence or leads regarding the location of Mr. Anderson for 6 months. An emotional Lina read the following statement out :

Lina : “It is with great sadness that we respectfully accept the decision of the Lothian and Borders Police Force that the search for James be put on permanent hold. We would like to place on the record our heartfelt thanks for their dedication and support in looking for James. While the family remain heartbroken at his shocking and sudden disappearance, we fully understand the position of the police.

This has been an incredibly tough period for our family, but we firmly believe that adversity and challenge help us grow – both as individuals and as a family. We’ve changed – we understand now how special a person James was, and how much we miss him. It was difficult for us to see this initially – but now we realise that your disappearance has taught us what its like to miss something…to miss someone….someone you love….[breaks down]…

We will go on living – we will continue to grow as a family and James will always be part of that, even if only as a memory… we never meant to drive him away, but we see now that if we’re not growing and changing we’re not really living at all. We’ve all changed because of this – and we will continue to do so…[breaks down again]

Finally, I would like to make another appeal to James, if you are listening – please come home. Whatever it is that is driving you away, we can work on it together. Come home – big brother…its the not knowing that makes this so hard…”


Diary Entry 21 September, 2011, James Anderson

I watched my sister on TV tonight, from a B&B in the Scottish highlands. I was alone, more so than ever. I saw my beautiful sister one last time. What she said made me both happy and sad.

Happy, because I could see the change that had come over her – she was now leading the family, she was taking control and was even talking about her own purpose and ability to go on living.

I was sad however, because of the last thing she said… “It was the not knowing that makes this so hard”… My sister had shown me one sign of weakness – the weakness that she wouldn’t be able to change until she had closure.

I must give her that closure.

Lina – I love you – you even managed to change me. I planned to disappear without a trace but you’ve shown me that to have a new purpose, you need to have closure on the old one sometimes.

Goodbye Lina. Dont live in a house of leaves like me.


30th September – 2011 – Extracts from the Edinburgh Evening Standard (Final Edition (page 9))

The Missing persons case for Mr James Anderson has formally been closed following the discovery of a body in Aviemore, the Scottish Highlands. Mr. Anderson’s body was discovered in a Bed and Breakfast after guests complained of a bad smell. The death is not being treated as suspicious and the Highland police confirmed that Mr. Anderson had been identified initially by the missing skin on his upper forearm where he had removed his tattoo. His sister, Lina Anderson, formally identified the body, which is being flown back to Ireland to be cremated.

A spokesperson for the Anderson family gave the following statement after it was confirmed that Lina Anderson was too upset following the discovery of her brother’s body to comment:

“The family are both relieved and saddened at the discovery of James body. We are relieved that we now have closure, but saddened that we will never understand why he felt the need to take his own life. Our family will mourn James’s death before moving on with our lives – its what he would have wanted after all. We are all thankful to the police and our friends and family during this incredibly difficult time and would appreciate it if the media could respect our privacy while we mourn James passing”.


30th September – 2016 – Extract from the Edinburgh Evening Standard – Lina Anderson speaks out about her battle with depression and how her brother inspired her to become a writer

Critically acclaimed writer Lina Anderson has spoken out about how her late older brother inspired her to become a writer to be able to explore her own reasons for living. Mrs. Anderson’s books became best-selling teenage fiction, with many critics celebrating her approachable take on what are traditionally seen as complex and adult issues.

Mrs Anderson, speaking at the launch of her new book made the following statement:

“My brothers suicide and death was the biggest turning point in my life – it taught me not to take what I had for granted and it made me want to help other people who were going through what he was. James was an inspirational person and he’ll always be with me, there is a bit of him in all my books. Above all else, he helped me realise that it was up to me to find my own purpose in life – I want to help other people who may be feeling what he was feeling and give theme the help and support he didn’t have.”

Lina Andersons new book, entitled “How to live outside a house of leaves” launches on 31st October and is said to be a celebration of youth and liberty.