As soon as I exit to outside, the coldness of the air engulfs me from head to toe. I zip my big jacket right to the top and bury my chin in my scarf. Hands dug into pockets, I make my usual route to the station. A group of young school girls ahead of me chatter away excitedly about various topics I don’t feel compelled to eve-drop in on. I’m too tired, too out of touch with the surrounding world, and generally too uninterested. It sparks a memory of my school days, conversing joyously with peers about books, places we’d visited at the weekend, films, sports, girls. Usual boy talk. Goodness knows what 12 / 13-year-old girls spoke about on Monday mornings nowadays.
The train is packed as ever. Full of businessmen and women, parents with schoolkids, students, babies, elderly people, the whole lot. Even one fella with a dog. Packed so tightly you could feel the person behind you breathing down the back of your neck. The air is filled with a chilling bitterness mixed with the smell of coffee and morning breath. Sandwiched between a fat middle-aged man reading his newspaper, and a overly serious-looking woman, maybe in her late 40s, I grip the overhead bar while the train persists on its regular route.
I feel overwhelmingly tired and numb. My head is elsewhere in some unknown dimension. Nothing feels real and my ears are deafened to my surroundings. I give the train a vague once over. When I crouch my head back down, hand still on the bar, I get a strange sense as though I am being watched by everyone on the train, everyone or someone, I’m not entirely sure. But I can indeed feel that I am in at least one person’s deliberate line-of-view. I raise my head again to check if this is true. And it’s not. Everyone on the train, from what I can see anyway, is going about their business, minding their own.
I release a heavy nasal sigh and close my eyes, trying to get my mind, body and soul back in touch with the rest of the world. An aura of alienation shrouds me, and I suddenly feel as though I am in colour, and the rest of the world is black and white, but I’ve always thought of myself as being in black and white, then the rest of the world in colour. The sensations of indifference refuses to renounce, so in a slightly paranoid manner I look up at my right hand on the bar then at my shoes to check if there’s anything ‘odd’ about them. I also give my face a quick wipe down with my left hand in case there’s something on my face of which could be the cause of me feeling as though someone is watching me. Not a thing.
The train makes its first stop since I boarded, and a few people get off. Given more space, I feel a little more at ease. Maybe my stalker got off, too. The train starts to move again. I adjust my backpack and lean against the doors of the train. My head feels hazy and weightless; my mind is floating into some grey abyss. Deeper into my mind, perhaps. I close my eyes and travel to a solitary cosmos located in the innermost of my being.
There, I wake up to thin, ominous clouds stretching across a grey sky. I slowly angle my head to my left. I see a road, a long, perfectly straight road. I realise I’m lying on the ground at the centre of some unknown forest. I turn to my right only to see the same grey road stretching to an imperceptible end. Just forestry on either side of the road, and me lying in the middle of it. My legs evenly spread apart, and my arms extended across the road, I return my head back to the position I woke in.
“Lets go”, I hear a voice say from a direction I cannot depict. I swiftly raise my head and give the area an intricate scan to try see where the voice came from, and whose it was. Nothing. I lay my head back gently and ignore it.
After some 20 seconds, I get up. My backpack’s gone missing, but I’m in the same clothes as what I’d left in this morning. I make my way down the long road. For a good 15 minutes, the scenery remains unchanging; the air is a perfect balance of humid and cool, the sky still grey, the atmosphere easy, and the scene tainted with the smell of timber mixed with a familiar scent I can’t make out, but familiar nonetheless. When I reach the end of the road, I look back at the forest. The other end appears increasingly black and uninhabited. I carry on walking down a short path where the ground is not as perfectly straight as the grey road, but however, still level. I end at the forefront of an old gate, no more than 4-foot high. I give it a push and it makes a piercing creak. It’s on its last few months, maybe even weeks. I carry on walking and I hear, “Wait”.
The same sounding voice as before, this time it seems to come from somewhere within, as if from an undiscovered vocal cord which I am not in control of. After surveying the setting, I decide to amble left. I find myself on yet another road, this one not so desolate; there is an ambiance of life and existence. There are other life-forms about and cars and shops and houses. Now, there are ordinary people on this scene, going about their ordinary affairs.
I am then accompanied by a settling feeling, although I am not entirely sure where I’ve ended up, I feel somewhat placid and at great ease. As though I’ve come to a place which I am very much familiar with, which, ironically, and rather curiously, I am not.
I tour casually down a street, and in the distance I see a figure approaching my direction. When the figure and I come at better visible distance, I see that the figure in fact a man, who’s covered in a big coat which glides down to his shins. He has a black top hat, and his hands are in his pocket. I think to stop him and ask where or what this place is. I halt and call out excuse me, sir, but the gentleman walks directly passed me and gives no response to my pronouncement. He carries on walking not even noticing me, I watch him as he walks away for a moment, fading off into the distance. Puzzled, I continue strolling down.
A faint misty fog starts to build up in the air. With no wind brewing, it looks as though a gathering of ghostly souls are accumulating in the atmosphere, joining hand-in-hand all ’round the place. A small car a few yards ahead of me pulls up outside a laundrette. A DAF 44? In this day and age, I could barely bring myself to believe they really existed. They were only very popular in the early mid-60s, a good two decades before I was even born. The colour of the automobile was a very light, faded teal, and out of it came another man, this time maybe in his early 30s. He goes to the boot of the car and takes out a fair sized black sack. Full of laundry, I presume. A few seconds after this, a woman, also in her early 30s, withdraws from the passenger side of the DAF 44. They exchange one or two words before the man shuts the boot. The woman then retrieves the black sack whilst the man locks up, and they both enter the laundrette. I observe this brief happening from a short distance away.
Across the road a little further down I spot a cab service station. I decide to go there and ask for possible directions back home, or even just where I am for starters. At that, I hear my stomach heave a frustrated grumble. I clutch the poor guy and try to commemorate my last meal. My mind’s blank. Very blank. I can’t seem to recall a thing since… Well, I don’t even know. My brain is refusing to focus on anything; in my head, thoughts are dashing all over the place, like an elastic bouncy ball being tossed around an empty room constantly. I lean up against the nearest wall, feeling my pockets for my cigarettes, which also seem to have disappeared.