The segment opens with the trundle of a train on tracks. It closes with them also, and in this the scene imbibes itself as an ouroboros. Constantly playing out in the nether the single purpose for which it was composed.
Tap the lower row of teeth against the backs of the top row. Once, twice. First to the right, then to the left. Repeat and pause a beat. 1234-1234-1234-1234. With stress on the 2; in quick succession. And out of the silence flashes a train, darting out onto the tracks.
What tracks? I’m not so sure. Sorry, pleased to meet you. Don’t mind my use of I, or me, for that matter. I and me are different addresses for the same character; that is, me. Or I. Whichever you prefer.
Where are we? That is, you and I. Thou and me. He and thee?… No, no. Well, where are we? Only you can say. I’m blind after all. And deaf. I wasn’t always. Not in my reality anyway. My original one. But in the process of freezing this moment I have lost my sense. I’ve become senseless you might say. And at the point at which our beings intertwine I have lost all but this droning laborious voice. You see we live at two entirely different moments in time, I throwing myself forward, and you backward. For this we must each give up that we consider our outer humanity at the door. Or the page, rather. And step into the ether of information in which our conscious meets outside the chronology of time and matter. Right now at Two hours, Seventeen minutes and Thirty-Seven seconds ante meridian, Second of May, Two Thousand and Eleven after death, I hold you in front of me. And you there, you receive this moment, and hold it right now this snippet; in your hands. We have broken the rules of the continuum and have been punished. Me deaf, you dumb. Both blind.
But we shouldn’t let that get us down. Any rebellion is good rebellion. And so allow me to answer the question for you. Take four seconds. Look around you. This is where we are. A room? A street? A field? It’s unimportant, what is important is that we allow ourselves to suspend our disbelief. To blink once, twice, three times, and on the fourth see one another for the first time. To give each other back our eyes. We can resist. We can claw back some semblance of the material from the void. Wrest these orbs from the faceless malingerers that police human memory. And see where and what we should not.
Hear the tracks yet? 1234-1234-1234-1234 – your surroundings blur and fade out of focus as the four walls of a train compartment envelop us. And I am no longer runic jottings on a page. But sat across from you. Smiling. Well, trying to. I’ve never used these cheek muscles before. Tricky business.
Now for the benefit of setting, please allow me to manifest a context in past tense. So, the train boarded in Zurich, where I began. However, it had travelled from Munich before that. Its final destination is… Barcelona, according to our boarding passes. However the stops between Zurich and there are a mystery. Before that even. Of the A and the B we can only be certain. And not all that certain. I wasn’t here from the start. I’ll just have to take the rail company’s word on that one. And anyway, you. When you joined us, back at the top of the page. We were travelling at a nauseatingly slow speed through somewhere or other. They all look the same really, you know the sort. Pastoral bleakness. A tractor or something in the distance doing whatever people with tractors do with them. Hedges. Ditches. The like.
And me. Well, the words I am communicating in appear to be English and so I suppose I am English. Definitely not Australian. Perhaps American. Although you qualify an American by a certain furtive fecundity which seems to pervade all they do. And it feels a little like such a quality is lacking in my demeanour. Either way, I suppose it only takes a translator to change my nationality. Change my cultural voice as it were. So, I suppose that assertion can be laid by the way side. I am, I greatly suspect, male. Mainly due to the fact that I have addressed you, a total stranger until six paragraphs ago, in a questioning and some what forceful tone. A tone that I don’t particularly associate with the female approach to conversation. Age. Somewhere between 20 and 30. Maybe 40. The rest I’ll leave to you. Clothes and what have you.
Now, for the benefit of further accumulative setting, please allow me to aid you in manifesting our adopted surroundings. Our compartment is small. You sit across from me on the red leather seats. I sit legs either side of a crack in the casement. The seats in general are worn around the seams and split in the middle. Showing what I presume is the canvas it is mounted on. The door is to my left, your right. It slides open, from my side to yours. However it’ll be doing no such thing in this instance. It is dark wood effect plastic. Scuffed near the bottom and scraped by the handle. With a small judas around about shoulder height. On the flank from which it opens it is lined with slightly tarnished black rubber. Which in its current arrangement sits snug in its wall bracket. On the wall next to the door on my side is a set of instructions seemingly indiscernible due to ageing. However just gibberish on closer inspection. Hanging on the wall on your side is a small carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. Held in place by two metal forceps. It is unclear whether it is empty or at all functional. Above our heads two metal poles run the width of the compartment. Netting hangs loose between each pole and the respective parallel wall in closest proximity. Intended for baggage but we have none. The window to my right, your left. It is large and caked in dirt, although the blackness sliding past outside is clear through the muck. The window is lined by two bunched up blackout curtains that too are caked in dried particles of human flesh. They have clearly never been used, probably out of concern for the health of travellers.
Below the window is a small table. MDF covered in wood effect plastic. As the door but looks a slightly different tone. It may be the light. It is possible to fold the thing away, it is bolstered by an up ended atrium which can be swung flat against the wall. There is an ashtray on and on and on and on.
This is compartment Four of carriage Dee. Well, you know it’s not. It’s not nothing. It’s simply neither hither nor thither. So it’s gottabe sumthin. But I feel like I’m beginning to approach an attempt at arriving at an answer. And that wasn’t isn’t will not be the idea. We’re just here for the journey. We just want to question question question, don’t we? We just want the question. To find the question, rather. No, to analyse the process of finding the question. Or more like observe the realisation that there is a question to find, perhaps. Or perhaps not. Whose to say what we’re observing. Given the fact we cannot see, we’re presented with not few hindrances in our striving for empiricism. And scrabbling about in the self imposed shadows won’t help a soul. The four corners of this page hardly constitute those of the world. Like I said, you hold before you a snippet. Of what I’m not so sure. But then I’m not so sure of much these days. Even If we had our own eyes, maybe it’s just the light, perhaps the table and the door are of the same tone. Or the notice informative, concise and adeptly executed. Who’s to say? God knows. But then we already know he got tired and left us to it.
Now, do I have your confidence? I mean, am I confident that I can confide in your confidence? I should be confident in your confidence honestly. Because you’re the only confident I have. Here in this compartment. On this train. On this track. The unending trundle of wheels on steel. Hour after hour. It’s enough to knock anyone’s composure… While I was waiting in the bar for you – funny story actually – when I was waiting at the bar, there were two men stood beside me. Always strange, bars on trains. In one corner of the restaurant car, partitioned off. Same stuff as in here. Wood effect tat. Chrome. You know the sort. I was waiting for our drinks. The woman behind the bar having bother with the spirits bottles, what with the shunting of the train and all. And to be honest she couldn’t tell the difference between scotch and bourbon. I had to ask her if I looked like I drank bourbon. She didn’t bother to look at me and poured whichever bottle was closest. But these two men, I assume they were doing pretty much the same as us. On a static journey. They too had whisky. They asked for water and she gave them a ridiculously over priced bottle of branded stuff. A bottle of water too far I presume. As this pre-empted their exploding in to one another. I don’t mean literally of course. I mean it more like they started shouting. Hushed at first. Then louder. Until the whole bar, and then the whole restaurant car was embroiled in the thing. Fists flying. I stood out on the side, I prefer to think of myself as a kind of observer, y’know. But before all that it began rather quite hushed. In German or something, as a matter of fact. But for us it can be in English. You can give them comedic accents if you so wish. One was Austrian, the other Bavarian.
Now this, this is the good stuff. All the way from the Bavarian mountains. The best water in the world.
Rubbish! Vienna. That’s the best water you’ll find. You can drink it straight from the tap it’s that good.
So you can see how it goes, right? They went on and on. The girl fumbling with the bottles. On and on and on and on. It was all quite maudlin. So one pushed another, another pushed one, and before you knew it the partition was on the ground. These tiny hammers - intended for use breaking windows in the event of some catastrophe - being flung this way and that, and I. Your narrator with only the best intentions, stood and watched. You see, I’m not so pernicious as to remind either of them that where ever the water is from it’s the same. Dribbling down the mountains, hills, valleys. Gurgling through the bones and sticks. Screaming along the banks. Tumbling, wailing, collapsing, writhing, shifting nervously amid the mass. Drank or not, each drop grasped by the unseen hand and pulled thousands up, by the billion. Dragged and dragged and dragged and dragged. And dropped once again to begin once again dribbling. Over and over and over. Ad infinitum. Over and over and over and over and over.
Wait, what was I saying again? I was trying to get at something. I had purpose. A reason. Raison d’etre. Whatever that means. I must’ve read it once. Anyway, what’s important is you’re here. You’re finally here. Smiling back at me with those wood pulp cheeks. Holding out my eyes for me, as we drag on. Sailing. Careering, to the middle of the interminable night.
The light draws in to a pin prick and is then gone completely, leaving only the constant repetitive sound in your ears of time rushing on in every direction without you. Before, shortly, that too fades.
One Two Three Four / One Two Three Four / One Two Three Four / One Two Three Four
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
listen for the break.