Image Credit: Egil Paulsen
“Discomfort woke me up from the rhythm of worksleepworksleepworksleep and just sleep at the last. A weird feeling. Strangeness. Something was different in the world. Sleeping was no longer easy, no longer comfortable. The feeling was there, watching me silent and insistent; it was the knowing that the contents of the room had shifted, as if I was aboard a listing ship, tilting down into the eddying waves, ready to sink. It was an inescapable downward pull towards a new centre of gravity. The world had been altered around the sleeping me. The bed felt changed: it had hard parts and squishy parts– my pyjamas were moist, sticky.
The date when it happened – I don’t even remember exactly when now – I opened my eyes and found myself surrounded by my own muck and piss. It was a gross, stinking, and marred the whiteness of the bed sheets, fouling pillows, quilt and the side of the wall that met the bedframe below the huge cityscape window. A careless child with paint might do this to a while canvas. The brown pool stretched out almost impossibly large in all directions, forming a filthy ring. I was the centre. What happened?
Above my head, though the un-curtained cityscape window of the otherwise spotless room, shafts of light pierced the crystal windows, and showed up the dust in chilly air as it executed a pointless dance. Early morning stillness reigned, a crooked stasis. Outside the window a white, sepulchral city of monuments spread from horizon to horizon, impressive, bold, evocative. The buildings were white and imperial in the bright sun, looking fake, like a painted matt. My dreams were fading before the light. The feel of the sheets was there, the dry air on my skin, the mess still all around in the white room above the city.
The waking world seemed both familiar but new, customary but altered– like driving a car with a flat tire. I touched my dry face, feeling tiny bites from my own cold fingers. My heart and lungs were too loud in the silent room, unnecessarily loud. Beating Breathing Beating Breathing. Realising one’s own presence is always a very uncomfortable thing; it is more comfortable to be the observer, looking into the world, and less comfortable to realize you are merely another object in it, to realize YOU ARE HERE NOW, A PHYSICAL MEAT-ANIMAL.
Where am I?
The mess was still all around. It stank something horrible.
Crawling awkwardly out of the stained bed, I manoeuvred through the mess, quitting my soiled bedclothes. They had been white. Not white now. Not white anymore. My hands – numb and far away – activated the shower; the water got hot. The bathroom had entertaining white and black tiles, like a checkerboard, they marched all over the walls, and even inside the shower stall resting across from the mirror. It was dizzying. The shower curtains were invisible surgical clear plastic sheets. I saw myself bathing in the bathroom mirror, my awkward form. That was me. Soon I was gone in the mist, which my pores seemed to drink up as in a great thirst. This place was strange. A dull terror rose, the kind that only arises in unknown places, or when one loses ones parents when small: the feeling of a spinning darkness, a terror of the unknown. How did I enter this tilted world?
Naked, the search for clothing was conducted through odd drawers full of queer flotsam. I found white paper, I found a pile of spoons, I found a cloth bag; useless things and nothing I wanted. How do you live a life with useless stuff?
Do we all wake up naked, one day?
The only clothes in the apartment were in a kitchen drawer, which was found to be half open. It was on the right side of the kitchen counter that connected to the stove, near the door. There was a cutting knife in there, too. It was a big, blunt, frightening knife of the kind used to chop onions or slice potato chunks. I didn’t question it: the clothes went on my body, but the knife stayed in its drawer. That was a big mistake.
I should have thought more clearly and realised what was best.
It was time to get out of there, that much seemed clear, somehow. No shoes came with the clothes in the kitchen drawer, nor could I find them anywhere else. Not in the bedroom. Not in the bathroom . . . I stopped looking.
On leaving, it was clear that the door did not lock either, though it did have ‘1314’ embossed on the exterior. The door’s handle was simply a handle, with no keyhole and no switch to lock it. In the hallway outside there was no one, and it was absolutely clean. I thought: Why lock the door anyway? To protect all the nothing inside?
Maybe this place is a hotel.
I thought I should just ask where I was. Slyly. Or something. To Other People. That’s the only way to know. There must be security. A desk. The reception desk. A janitor. Down there, there’s a city. They’ll know. There has to be someone. . .
The building had a fancy feel. It was too nice. The hallway though seemed to be from a travel book, magazine pictures of a comfortable suite – some sort of place where very rich people lived or played. The elevator was a fearsome steel and glass thing. It whizzed up the black shaft to meet clear plastic and metal doors that opened like a big mouth.
Let’s go downstairs. Mysteries always beckon languorous and deadly like that.
A pleasant floating, a haze, I felt it entering the elevator, a good high. It seemed comforting, like the sway of the sea to a sailor – I preferred it to the terror of the unknown, my uncanny consciousness that was growing far too loud. I caught myself straining with my eyes, adjusting my step with my feet, my body trying to accomplish something, something that was slippery and difficult to define. Time was crawling. The elevator made such aggressive sounds, my ears rung with reverberations; too much! I almost wanted to fall, sleep and enjoy the high – but stopped myself. The doors were opening and a new place was open for exploration. Curiosity won.
My eyes were open, and seeing for the first time.
In the lobby there were fancy tables that were made of steel or some shiny metal. The couches likewise were designer beasts with reflective skins, their metal parts gleaming. There were taciturn, fancy ladies with well-applied makeup sitting on the chairs, looming over the tables, chatting. They might have had a toy dog that stared at me too. It is so hard to remember the small things now. It is like trying to put a shattered world back together – the past – our past. Do you remember your past – especially first moments? How it felt? How it looked? Haze was everywhere. I was being born, that day. But I know this all happened, that I left the big dream, and wandered into something else.
Half up and half down is such a hard place to be, coming down, down to where we are now, and you too – listening to me. But once you’re down, you know. But you know that very well, my new friend. Don’t try to move, they’ll come in and tighten all the straps if you do that too much. You know it can be a lot worse. Anyway, sit still and listen to me some more. Trust me, I’ll be listening when you talk.”
The naked figure, hooded, gagged and tightly strapped to a steel interrogation recliner, ceases moving. Master Q, seated on his dais, continues his narration, directed at the subject.