Journey to Schaafenstrasse 8

Patrick White

I woke in the early hours of the afternoon with a feeling of vertigo even though I was lying on the floor. It was not long before I had to fulfil my obligation for that day but I was already dressed so that saved time. From where I live I stepped through the threshold. It was a door. I had painted it orange which is my least favourite colour. Recently I had had the nous and courage to design my own sub-terranean digging machine which had allowed me to tunnel in a more or less straight line an underground way which led me to the bus stop at the end of the street. A bus driver allowed me to board the vehicle he was controlling. A woman who had hair on her head and under her nose deliberately moved ahead in such a way that left no doubt in my mind that she had previously been thinking of something highly personal.

I decided not to imagine what that might have been. I found the only seat left which was at the back of the bus. It was wrinkly, and there was a smell of some kind of combustible material in the air. I noticed that the bus driver only ever turned the wheel that he was using to control the bus to the left, before he would then turn it to the right. Because the bus driver was so good at his job I never felt any pain during this particular stage of my journey.

The bus ceased its movement at exactly the correct time that I wished it to, as I was at my destination. In the ground a hole opened up which led to something that was similar but inferior to my own tunnel at home. A pod, crudely and slowly, transported me in a more or less horizontal fashion towards that place where the air vehicles allow people to board.

My mouth was dry; I had had no tea for an extraordinary amount of time. The pod kept stopping all the time and I had already been in it for many minutes. A woman, probably less than five feet tall, was standing on one leg at the end of the pod. Occasionally she would change legs but she would never use both simultaneously. Something about that led me to feel slightly humorous inside.

I was at my temporary destination. The doors to the pod opened of their own accord which was clever. I temporarily lost my ability to read and so I asked a man who had hair on his head: ‘In which direction is the place where they allow air vehicles to pick up passengers?’ ‘Certainly not over there,’ he replied. Narrowing down the possible directions in this way I set off towards the correct location, which turned out to be from where I was left left right right along with some straight bits in between.

At this point I have lost all memory of a small series of events. I am sure that something happened between the last bit and the following.

After many minutes of waiting for no particular reason the controller of the air vehicle must have pressed something because we changed velocity quite considerably. I felt as if a large man in heavy Wellingtons was standing on my chest. Also, my hearing began to be less reliable than I had previously supposed. All this thankfully disappeared and a lady with a hat on her hair on her head asked if I would like some tea. ‘That would be magnificent, for I have a dry mouth,’ I told her in exalted tones. Then I fell asleep.

I touched at Köln Bonn with a peculiar feeling in the pit of my stomach, the source of which was completely unknown, as was the country. I took the train which was very long. The train headed in an unknown direction but I think it was south. I fell asleep.

I woke minutes later with the peculiar feeling completely gone. I wanted to read a book but I had not brought one. I had no money to buy a cup of tea, realising as I did that I would miss it so dearly. What on earth would I drink? I wished that I was in Munich. I was filled with trepidation with this new thought. A man who had hair only underneath his nose brushed the elbow of my jacket as he sidled past. Bastard. I wished that I could have shouted at him but I couldn't, my mouth was too dry. The train had slowed. I had arrived in the centre or wherever it was.

I left the train which was very long standing where I left it. I left the station and the sound of the train disappeared round the corner. I did not know in which direction to point my body, so I span round twice and set off to where I ended up facing. I think it was south. I began to walk, but a strange idea occurred to me at that time. The idea was to walk left right right right left. Back home they called this middle part 'hopping'.

My mouth had ceased to be dry for reasons unknown to me at that time. This was the most beautiful ugly city in my experience of life thus far. Everything was orange because it was dark and the electric lights were on, and my orange sunglasses were on. I removed them but the colour did not change. A strange idea suddenly occurred to me concerning my direction of travel. I went right left left left right before continuing in a perfectly straight line, ignoring earth rotation and velocity of course. I found a near empty packet of peanuts on the ground not far from my left foot. I opened it and rustled the bag continuously until I successfully extracted the last peanut. A man who only had hair underneath his nose and around his mouth said to me, ‘that is a lot of work for a peanut.’ By happy chance I had arrived at Schaafenstrasse 8, exactly where had intended to arrive upon setting out.

The door was locked. By happy chance I had brought with me my personalised socket set and crow bar which facilitated my entry perfectly. My mouth was dry, inexplicably so as only moments before it had not been. I laid down my tools at the bottom of the stairs which had a total of 23 steps. I ascended the steps in left right left left right right fashion, which made life difficult only for a moment. Upon reaching the top of the stairs I fell over in the most embarrassing way imaginable. I got up again however and regained my composure, thinking to myself that such an incident was insignificant in comparison to many world events. But I still felt perturbed. Walking in ordinary fashion I approached a doorway that was the same size as many doors I have seen in my lifetime.

There was light of many frequencies shining through it - the orange colour had all but disappeared. A strange thought occurred to me: it was to go through the door more than once, to go in out in out in out as the saying goes. I then proceeded to touch all surfaces within the room, for in doing so I felt more familiar with my surroundings.

Within the room was a pair of special ear muffs. A sign on the wall assured me that they conveyed information in some way. Information at one time was my lifeblood, my friend. I felt like reacquainting myself which such an ally. I put on the ear muffs. What emerged from the ear muffs was perhaps the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. A chorus of angels poured into my brain, knowledge and insight rained down on my head as if it were a fresh spring day in England where the rain had turned into knowledge and insight. I could have stayed there my entire life. I could not: the music stopped and did not come back again.