I ended up in South Park. It was already autumn there, the leaves were slowly hovering towards me, which meant that in North Park must have been spring. I could have animated the leaves for a talk but I wasn't in the mood to chat with old folks, so I just kept on going. Next to the park in the Arrowhead pond a few ducks were swimming, some of them where black and orange, others were white and orange, this might have been a gender thing, although the white ones didn’t really seem at home.
I wasn't sure which way to go next, so I continued to the right. If ever in a dilemma, go right. In this case turning left would have taken me to a walled neighbourhood at the edge of the map; there would be pirates, yikes! I walked past Greyfriars Bar, I distinctively remember walking in a few times, but it was closed now. A saddled cow was waiting in front of the pub as a bearded ladybug flew into me and fell with a shriek, I helped her up, asked if she was alright, then noticing her shiny legs I enquired if she had waxed them. But all she replied was „you pig!” and slapped me with her wing.
I saw a man leave his house, slamming the door behind him and walking slowly down the road with two empty canvas bags in his hand without looking left or right. I thought to myself this must be a lonely bloke, living on his own, secluded from the world and doing his shopping late at night. I instantly reprimanded myself for this limited prejudicial thinking, and to make things right I decided to break into his house. There was no key under the doormat and I had no burglary tools, and even if I had, I didn't know how to use them anyway. So I tried to lift the lock by inserting my bank card between the door and the frame but it seemed harder than in the movies. As I was trying harder and harder, the card suddenly slipped from my fingers and it fell in. With my name and address on it this would be hard to deny. I could have tried to pry the door open with another card, but I didn’t want to leave any more cards inside, so I decided to wait for the guy and somehow get in before him. I sat down on the steps, hoping he would be back soon.
I don’t know how long I was waiting there, but in the end I spotted him coming back with his empty bags. I jumped up and went there to meet him.
’Hello! My name is Azeu, I am from The Rotham: Times and I was sent to make an interview with you,’ and I showed him my press pass.
He looked at me, clearly puzzled and annoyed.
’With me? In the middle of the night?’
’Yes! We were told, that this is the time of the day you are most active and we do everything we can to accommodate our subjects.’
’You’ve been told? By who? I have nobody, nobody who’d care.’
’Well that is precisely why we want to do this interview, to get people interested.’
The man looked at me suspiciously and he carried on walking towards his house.
’Interested in what? My night shopping? Or how I go out and leave my bank card at home?’
’Anything! Everything! The charm of the unknown. Everything can be interesting if put in the proper light,’ I said, though I had no idea how to make these things look interesting.
’Are you sure it’s me who you want?’
’Yes, definitely. You live here, at no. 11, right?’
’Indeed’ said the man already walking up the stairs as I desperately tried to position myself in a way that I would be the first through the door. He unlocked it and looked at me.
’I’ve got nothing to say’ he said and opened the door. ’Oh, there it is! Damn it, I must have dropped it,’ and he picked up my card. ’You can come with me back to the store, but that’s it.’
He set off again without waiting for me and I saw the hopelessness of my situation. I hate using it, but I had to do a Ctrl+Z (for those of you who revel in their uniqueness that’s option+Z). I had to do it a few times until I was standing there again at the door trying to break in with my card but this time I chucked it back in my wallet and left. I was happy that Ctrl+Z worked, I’m uneasy when I have to resort to Alt+Ctrl+Del, that’s always painful (that is command+option+escape for the special ones).
Still, this undo manoeuvre had taken its toll on me; I needed a place to rest. I was vaguely aware of a secret place somewhere around there, a nice comfy, relaxing room. I managed to find the hidden entrance; this was a place where solutions hid from their partners for some downtime. As I walked in, a solution arose, followed by another until finally they all stood up and left and made sure to bump into me on their way out, I must have been a problem then. I lingered there for a while, thinking about this, but as soon as I left the room this theory of mine was shattered by a mirror which was on the corner of the adjacent street. I looked into it, naturally, but all I saw was the mirror, I might be a mirror then, this had never occurred to me, though I had never reflected on that. Or I might be invisible. Or a vampire. After all, I do feel uncomfortable in sunlight.
I felt like getting high, so I boarded the elevated train, but soon got off because it was too noisy even though it was empty and it wasn’t going anywhere. Coming out of the station an ATM winked at me and asked me “how was your day? Busy?”, but I didn’t answer because it annoys me when they ask something and give the answer as well.
Since I still wasn't sure where to go next, I let the tram decide for me. It did, and left me in a place that was completely unfamiliar to me. I started walking nevertheless, and soon recognised two buildings absorbed in a petrified face-off on either side of the street.
One of them was the San Pedro prison where the inmates rent their cells, the more money they’ve got the bigger the cell, you can have genuine flats with rooftop extensions for a better view, and your friends can stay in the prison hotel if it's too late to go home. The streets are dangerous out here. The prison was staring a pyramid in its glass eye. This coloured monster had a fancy name, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. It houses in uniformly sized rooms every major religion in the world. This building has the highest conversion rate in the world, it's easy to enter in the wrong room. If you want to keep your faith you can't afford to get lost. I guess they give you a map before handing out a Bible, a Quran, Tipitaka or a Bob Marley record.
I didn't need a map to know I'm lost, albeit I kept on going like I knew where I was. I caught a glimpse of my old discarded shoes in a corner next to the wall, they were looking at me sullenly, even sad, I couldn’t bear watching them, so I just turned away. Then I saw heavily barred fences, spikes, barbed wire – it was clear that there was a playground behind there somewhere. An empty bottle was laying on the street emanating faint noises, like wheels of a train running on the track, but I was fed up with this balderdash so I just kicked it. It rolled down Mengo Hill, but the sound of the train still persisted. In fact it even got stronger. The innocent bottle was still rolling when I boarded the train, looking at me with accusing eyes, then it swallowed a hazy mosquito still high on the blood of a businessman. The train didn't seem inclined to stop, nor was I to jump, so we spent some time together, riding along. The carriage was almost empty, save for a big smile, but it wasn't an honest one as it travelled without a ticket.
The train finally came to a halt, but my journey continued. As I rounded the station, I stumbled upon a big, slimy, juicy food for thought that lay seemingly dead, probably someone had had a blast but hadn't followed through. It lay between Paddington and Centraal Station, the one with the famed fan behind it, so it was possible that a tired traveller had lost it on the platform and the Rotham: express had knocked it out and out here.
Or it might have just popped out of the invisible head of this Turning Torso building. I wasn't hungry as I had just eaten some fast thought, so I left it there. I didn’t get too far though when it exploded; it burst into tears, millions of shiny teardrops falling on everything except the statue of a crocodile. That’s strange, I wasn’t aware that we had that statue there. I shrugged and headed towards the Empire State Building. I always wanted to climb it but that night I settled with the elevator. It was a nice view, bit cheesy though, sleeping Rotham:, sea of lights and a Zeppelin towing a misspelled banner in the majestic dark sky. I felt like a potted plant in the hall of a cheap hotel, so I left with a bitter taste of fertiliser in my groins. I swapped the lift for the stairs, the scenic route if you will, there’s no better place to clear your mind than going down slowly. Somewhere between the seventh and the sixth floor I realized that a little bit of everything could be as damaging as beneficial, and, more importantly, it could be irrelevant too. That was not much of a revelation, but that’s all I had, and it was still more credible than seeing the word “frog” glowing on a beam written in Sanskrit. Especially if you can’t read Sanskrit at all. Then, between the second and first floor it hit me that based on my newly found disclosure I should have used the lift as well, so I climbed up halfway again, only to find that the lift fell asleep on the roof. So down I went again at the breakneck-speed of one step at a time, and I kept out any unwanted revelations by constantly thinking that I should disregard my enlightened moments and carry on in the darkness. At the exit there was a knob, with bold, menacing red letters: „Don’t press! Emergency use only!” and I lost it. I am a coward and as such I lose my mind when people dare me, can't let them find out. As I left the building, the empire awoke from its state at the protesting sound of a fire alarm.
This noise escorted me to the bus station but couldn’t keep up with the bus which was slowly heaving away from it, like a silent ship in a sea of . . . concrete, I thought, but I found this image feeble, even at this hour. There was no sea, let’s leave it like that, though I could faintly hear the waves as well, must be some intro in a song. I wanted to change the track but, to my surprise, I noticed that I had left my headphones at home. Unheard!! I knew something was out of place tonight, this must have been it.
As soon as I hopped off the bus, I bumped into a couple of policemen, who instantly stopped me.
’Lovely night we have, don’t we?’ one of them asked.
‘Yeah, I guess,’ I replied half-heartedly, though I couldn’t help an inner smile seeing how the tables were turned.
‘That’s not what your HOWDI says,’ said the other one while he jokingly threatened me with his finger.
We all had these displays over our heads called HOWDI, short for Holographic Wireless Display, and they showed a few details about us, like nationality, religion, sexual orientation and other things as well, some of them were mandatory, the others optional. One of the obligatory things that had to be displayed, for public safety reasons, was your mood display. If you were in a foul mood, police would come and try to cheer you up with cuddly toys and legalised drugs. I always resented this as I’m not a fan of legalized drugs. And if you were in a really bad mood, they would take you in to stop you from harming others and/or yourself, keep you in overnight and make you watch Christmas commercials. That way the next morning you couldn’t do anything wrong as you instantly fell asleep. I wasn’t able to see my HOWDI, but judging by their reactions, it must have shown me in a bad state. So I put on my bestest jovial face and tried to downplay the situation.
‘Then it must be broken, officer, as I feel awesome!’
‘These things never break sir. What do you think of this teddy bear?’
Now I got really annoyed as I lost all my trust in the level of human advancement since the disappearance of the MH370. Still I wasn’t picking on the technical prowess of the device any more.
‘There are ridiculously many millions living in Rotham: and you pick on me? That’s discrimination!’
‘How is that discrimination, sir? There is nobody else here.’
‘Exactly! Just because I am here you pick on me!’
‘Now you’re just overreacting,’ said the guy, and I could see on their HOWDIs that both of them were starting to get annoyed. He, nevertheless, persevered and reached into his back pocket: ‘Can I interest you in this pill?’
‘That pill? That’s not even legal!’
‘Of course it is! This is standard issue Chilloutioum.’
‘It’s not! You are trying to poison me!’ I shouted and they got even more distressed.
‘I’m afraid we’ll have to take you in.’ said one of them.
‘You’re afraid?? What about me? I hate commercials!’
‘Sir, now you are being difficult!’
‘I’m not being difficult! I can’t see my HOWDI, but I see it on yours that you guys should take yourselves in, I think you are way over the limit!’ I wasn’t lying as they got quite angry, which strangely made me feel good. They looked at me, then at my HOWDI, then they checked their own displays and blurted out a joint “Damn!”, grabbed each other’s hand and took themselves in.
Despite letting me go, I lost my inspiration, like those who christened the settlements in the USA, so I decide to head home. If there was still time maybe I’d befriend Kafka and Poe on Facebook, possibly even Dostoievsky, if I could get his name down right. I saw on Esther’s Facebook that Kafka shared some engaging stuff the other day. If I write to them I might even get a reply, after all, this is the re generation, though this relation could be complicated.
A pair of nuns were coming towards me, surrounded by a bright halo, they were chatting quietly as they rushed past me. They dropped something; I picked it up and ran after them.
‘Excuse me, you dropped your blessing’
‘Thank you my son,’ said one of them, ‘but you can keep it, we don’t count them’
‘But . . . , but,’ I stammered, ‘it’s not mine’
‘It is now. We are sorry, young man, but we need to get to this church,’ and she pointed to the church at the end of the street, ‘and we need to get there in time for the noon mass. God be with you, my son’
As it was still dark I had to conclude that they must have been misled by their halo. Spirituality must be nice, but you should check the time from time to time. Which they didn't do, so they left me there while a few curious moths circled around them. I turned the other way and from the next street I heard a muffled singing: “yeeeeeeeeah, I'm half way there, yeeeeeeah livin' on a prayer, I'll take my hand and I'll make it - I swear yeeeeeeeah livin' on a prayer liiiiivin on a praaayer wiowa”
I was almost home when in front of the library I spotted the same two figures which were there when I left. They were still absurd, both of them, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to pry, so I politely intruded in their seemingly fascinating chatter.
‘Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude,’ I lied, ‘but what are you doing here?’
Both of them looked baffled, but out of sheer politeness they still managed to throw a few words to me like it wasn’t the end of the world.
‘We’ve just finished work and stopped for a small talk.’
‘But that’s absurd!’ I said and they looked at me, like a dog looks at you when you are barking.
‘I mean, it’s almost morning now, you probably need to go back.’
As soon as I said that, both of them reached for their phones.
‘My God, he’s right! So, we should try it your way then, and send out those e-mails, then after the meeting I could go down and then you could . . . .’
Aaaaaaaalright, I thought to myself and left them there and in 10 minutes I was home, then Esther started shaking me, the night was over, but mostly everything else stayed the same.