THE KEYS TO “REFLECTION”
“Reflection” is a manuscript composed of 12 chapters, 10 dreams and divided in two parts. It is both the beating heart of Kiral World and a compass for its navigation. Reflection is the genesis, the trunk of an ever-growing family tree: every character, every place of Kiral World is somehow connected to it.
The present text holds the keys to Reflection, and is thus a travel guide for your journey into Kiral World.
“Reflection” is centered in a hotel and its surroundings like the red district, all located at the train stop 44(6). The train glides over the sea, connecting unknown places to 44(6). As 44(6) is placed near the water, its reflection is perpetually casted on the water.
The reflection of 44(6) is 44(9), where one can find the green district; and the counterparts to all the travelers and inhabitants of 44(6).
“Reflection” is a tribute to a series of artists and artworks, viewed through the lens of the work of Niki de Saint Phalle, a French-American artist who died in 2002. Her most monumental work is a garden in Tuscany, that she populated with monumental sculptures inside one of which she even lived. Because of her interest in esotericism, each of the twenty-two sculptures represents a tarot card. The "Tarot Garden" (Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian) has been open to the public since 1998.
In order to pay homage to this work, each character in the book and each dream that the main character has corresponds to a card of the tarot. If the titles of the dreams directly signals the card to which they correspond, it is less obvious at first glance to understand which card corresponds to which character. The way the correspondences between the characters and the cards were established was by following the interpretations of the cards layed out in "Tarot", by Rachel Pollack, a psychic that Niki de Saint Phalle considered as a reference in the field.
Here are the explanations which underline for each character of the stop 44 (6), its corresponding Tarot card, as well as the person or the real work to which he or she refers to, and its equivalent in 44 (9).
The main character
Correspondence at stop 44 (9): M.
Correspondence in our reality: the main character represents the "I" from a universal point of view, the reader who is led to reflect on himself through the reading of the book.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Fool. The Tarot is a metaphor of life, and the character that we follow through his life journey is the Fool.
Correspondence at stop 44 (9): the injector.
Correspondence in our reality: Niki de Saint Phalle. As she is at the origin of the Tarot garden and each character corresponds to a card, she is in fact the one who orchestrates the book. Hence the receptionist's response to the main character when he asks her where N is: "You may not see her, but she's there, behind every wall, every mind." Another clue is that when the main character first enters the hotel, he sees wire silhouettes, like prototype sculptures. Niki de Saint Phalle's sculptures were made of wire, covered with canvas coated with glue and then painted. These silhouettes are therefore in fact the prototypes of the characters in the book.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Magician, which symbolizes learning. This was the card with which Niki de Saint Phalle identified with the most.
Correspondence at stop 44 (9): the guide.
Correspondence in our reality: Arthur Rimbaud. Hence the excessive personality of the character, his genius, his use of drugs. It is in fact a reinterpretation of Rimbaud: in “Reflection”, he is not a poet, but a music composer. Here are some clues that allow to identify the character:
- R says "The one you describe is not the one I think I am". This is a reference to the famous sentence "I is another" by Rimbaud
-When R is swimming, he exclaims that he will add to his composition "The Drunken Boat", in reference to one of Rimbaud's most famous poems, "The Drunken Boat".
-R is obsessed by the sea. Rimbaud was obsessed with traveling, the “elsewhere” to which one had access at the time by the sea.
-The guide, the counterpart of R, says this: "I was a poet, a language teacher, a soldier and a deserter, I worked in a circus, I was a farmer, I managed a building site, I was also a trader, a manager, a coffee buyer, now a trafficker and look, I will be a geographer...". These are the occupations exercised by Rimbaud.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Tower, which represents the illumination ("Les Illuminations" is the title of a collection of Rimbaud), but also the ego destroyed by the ordeal. Rimbaud's ambitions as a poet were suddenly interrupted and that he ended up becoming an arms dealer, without ever explaining this conversion.
The ideas seller
Correspondence at stop 44 (9): the butterfly.
Correspondence in our reality: the tale "The Butterfly Dream" by Chuang Tzu, a 4th century Chinese thinker. It is a parable that questions reality. In short, a man dreams of being a butterfly. But when he wakes up, he wonders if he dreamed of the insect or if it is the butterfly that is now dreaming of him. The discussion the main character has with the ideas seller when he first goes to his store refers to this:
“- Oh I'm dreaming... I mumbled, exasperated.
- Oh, you think so? asked the ideas seller. I stared at him for a moment, confused.
- I'm sorry?
- Perhaps I am dreaming. Or could it be you?”
Correspondence in the Tarot: the High Priestess, who represents mental activity, introspection, intellectuality, which corresponds well to what the fable "The Dream of the Butterfly" induces.
Correspondence to stop 44 (9): the master of the ruins.
Correspondence in our reality:
Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Untitled (Perfect Lovers), which consists of two perfectly synchronized industrial clocks placed side by side. They symbolize Gonzales-Torres and his companion, in perfect harmony, synchronized. But the nature of these clocks inevitably leads them to get out of sync. The battery of one of them dies before the other. It is a tragic illustration of life, and of the artist's love relationship: his partner, suffering from AIDS, died before him.
In "Reflection", the salesman has a clock, as well as R. If at the beginning they both shift by two hours, they end up desynchronized as the main character notices when he sees the clock in the salesman's window, slowed down by only one hour. Shortly thereafter, R disappears.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Hermit, who represents secret knowledge and a guide to introspection. It is precisely the salesman, in the form of a cat, who leads the main character to the two ladies who incite him to go to the Personal Reserve and thus pass to the other side of reflection. Introspecting means observing oneself, and this is what the main character will literally do in this second part.
Correspondence to stop 44 (9): the young girl who works in the restaurant, in charge of organizing the reception.
Correspondence in our reality: Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party," an installation that includes thirty-nine dining tables. Each set on each table represents a historical or mythological woman. The work includes the names of nine hundred and ninety-nine women associated with the thirty-nine guests and is a tribute to women's history. In "Reflection," the girl who works in the restaurant at stop 44 (9) mentions that she is preparing a dinner for thirty-nine guests and that she has nine hundred and ninety-nine invitations. The receptionist and this character both repeatedly use the expression "my little sugar", a hint to their connection.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Justice, which symbolizes equality. The receptionist constantly refers to justice, whether it is when she sends the main character to deliver a recipe, or when she reprimands the apprentice cook for running out of canned pineapple.
The apprentice cook
Correspondence at 44 (9): the great chef who invented the pineapple with pepper and chilli sauce, referred to by the girl who organizes the dinner in the restaurant.
Correspondence in our reality: the policeman numbered "223", in Chungking Express, an iconic film by director Wong Kar-Wai. In this film, 223's girlfriend May broke up with him on April 1, April Fool's Day. Not knowing if this is a joke or not, the policeman creates a rule: every day, until May 1st, he buys a can of pineapple, May's favorite fruit. These cans must expire on May 1. He figures that if she doesn't tell him that their breakup is a joke by May 1, his relationship will have expired by then. So this is a way for him to process his breakup.
The apprentice's obsession with canned pineapples is a direct reference to 223.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Pope (reversed card). It is the meaning of the card when it is drawn upside down that interests us here. Indeed, when this card is drawn upside down, it represents excessive credibility, exaggerated friendliness, non-conformism. These are the personality traits of the apprentice cook.
Correspondence to 44 (9): the little white men who run 44. (9)
Correspondence in our reality: Bô, a character from Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away". He is a huge, capricious baby who dominates his environment with his caprices. However, he is transformed into a mouse and becomes a burden for the heroine, who carries him everywhere with her, without him having any real function.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Emperor, who represents control, possession, unnecessary rules, and therefore a certain rigidity. The child keeps repeating "Rules are rules, rules must be followed", no matter how absurd the rules are to get an invitation to the ball. We recognize in this card the authority and the whims of Bo. This character of the emperor and his three represents in a general way, a caricature of power. On the side of Bô, we can find an ironic echo to the monarchy in countries like Belgium, where it exists only because of rules and has no real use. The Emperor is a child, to underline incompetence and stubbornness. The real power is therefore not exercised by these ostensible characters (a king, a huge baby), but by more discreet, anonymous personalities: in this book the little white men, in our current world, personalities of thee Silicon Valley, lobbies, etc.
The two ladies playing senet
Correspondence to stop 44 (9): the sun and the moon.
Correspondence in our reality: the myth of the senet game between Konshu and Thot in Egyptian mythology. This is the legend that explains the passage from 360 to 365 days in the Egyptian calendar: the sun god, Thoth, played a game of senet against Konshu, the moon god. Thoth won the game. As he had bet to receive 5 days as a winning prize, he added these to the existing 360.
In "Reflection", the two ladies compete in senet, and the winner offers 5 extra hours to the main character in reference to this myth.
Correspondence in the Tarot: the Sun and the Moon, which represent respectively the clarity of mind and the emotional journey. The meeting between the main character and these two ladies takes place at the junction between the first and second part of the book, allowing him to clarify his mind and bring his inner journey to a conclusion.
The child who speaks in English
Correspondence to stop 44 (9): the puppy that the main character sees: "Nonchalantly I followed with my eyes a puppy that trotted cheerfully before me. He was touching with his long body and short legs, his drooping eyes. His green collar contrasted with the red of his muzzle and the white of his fur. I watched him swiftly walk away, kicking up little piles of dust with each stride."
This is a reference to Yoshitomo Nara's "puppy”.
Correspondence in our reality: the drawings of artist Yoshitomo Nara. The latter has the habit of representing sulky children in drawings or paintings. Most of the time they are accompanied by sentences in English (not necessarily grammaticaly correct) and symbolize a feeling of revolt. Each of the sentences uttered by the little girl in "Reflection" is from a work of Nara. That is why they are not always grammatically correct, and why they are written in English in the original version of the manuscript, which is in French. Another key character in Nara's work is "puppy", a short-legged flat dog with a red nose and a green collar. He sometimes accompanies the girls. Unlike the latter, he is mainly represented as calm and friendly. This is why the reflection of the little girl in 44(9) is the puppy.
Correspondence in the Tarot: Temperance, but reversed. When this card is drawn upside down, it symbolizes imbalance and excess. In the early drawings of Nara, his little girls are most of the time represented enraged, revolted against society.
The dreams correspond to the remaining Tarot cards.
This card represents overcoming difficulties, conquest, victory, violence. In this dream, the main character is pursued, but manages to escape from his assailants by jumping over an obstacle. This dream is the first one, because it introduces the theme of "Reflection": the conquest of oneself, the resolution of a problem. It allows the reader and the main character to "dive into their thoughts", to begin a reflection on themselves.
The Wheel of Fortune
This card echoes the changes, the cycles, like the one of life described in the book (the same person goes from a child to an old woman, passing through the adult stage). Our character begins to feel that a change is necessary, that he is not satisfied with his life.
This is a representation of relationships, of choices. This dream highlights five strongly linked characters. The guests will have an influence on the choices made by the main character during the course of the manuscript. But above all, this dream illustrates the relationships between factors that influence our choices: passion, reason, the unconscious and interest.
The Devil (reversed card)
It is again the meaning of the card when it is drawn upside down that interests us here. Indeed, let us emphasize that the lady who is the central point of this dream, appears to the main character upside down: "A sharp and regular clacking attracts my attention: a woman walks in front of me, on the ceiling, upside down therefore, defying all the laws of gravity".
When drawn upside down, this card symbolizes a certain rebirth (hence the references in this dream to Renaissance paintings). One becomes aware of a certain form of dependency (emotional or otherwise) and this is the first step in breaking free. This dream occurs just after the main character has made the decision to change his life by resigning: he is freeing himself, preparing to live a rebirth.
It represents a transition, letting go of certain "parts of oneself". The dream illustrates this card in an almost comical way. The fact that the main character appears outside the cube that is this room and manages to enter it by turning the walls over symbolizes the transition. This dream occurs when he frees himself from the constraints related to the creation of olfactory identities, which he regains a taste for composing: this marks an important transition in his thinking.
It represents appeasement, hope. In this dream, a man creates the world in a poetic way in a previously desolate landscape. This renewal brings comfort to our main character: "The sight is soothing. It's like he's giving hope to what's around him." He dreams of this after a very hectic day, which he recovers from by finishing his olfactory creation. Composing is no longer a source of stress, but a pleasure, his anxieties are calmed.
The Strenght (reversed card) and the Hanged Man
These two cards appear at a pivotal moment of the manuscript, where the border between dreams and reality has completely disappeared: the two are mixed. The main character can no longer distinguish between the two. More clearly, I am talking about the moment when he is at the beach with R. He first sees the "rose", a coquettish girl who is afraid of sheep and pines for the absence of a beloved.
This is of course a reference to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. In this masterpiece, the Little Prince takes care of a rose and fears that it will be eaten by a sheep, and temporarily moves away from it. The rose emerges upside down from the water: "a young girl slowly emerged from the water, feet first, then legs, buttocks, chest, shoulders and finally face." It represents the card of Strength when it is drawn upside down, which symbolizes weakness, pride… all traits of the rose of Saint-Exupéry.
We then find our main character in the initial situation again, on the beach with R. This repetition is not a mistake: it will be explained below.
This time he does not see the rose, but a child with vague outlines: a memory of the Little Prince, as he lives in the rose's mind. A few clues make it possible to guess that it is the Little Prince: the golden hair like wheat, his tendency to ask a lot of questions, his attachment to the rose. As he says, he is the imaginary friend of the rose: a reminiscence. He represents the card of the hanged man, which itself symbolizes liberation through sacrifice (remember that the Little Prince sacrifices himself at the end of Saint-Exupéry's book to join his rose), the acceptance of his fate, a new stage. In this part of the manuscript, the main character learns that R is going to leave and he is confronted with his own weakness: his dependence on R to inspire him and believe in him. He will have to accept his fate, harden himself.
The Little Prince was an important source of inspiration for this book. It is in homage to this work that I chose the number 44 to designate the hotel stop. The Little Prince liked observing sunsets:
"-At home, one day, I saw the sun set forty-four times. You know, when you are so sad, you like sunsets.
- So the day of the forty-three times you were so sad?
But the Little Prince did not answer.”
Now, Antoine De Saint-Exupéry died at the age of 44. If we imagine that for the Little Prince's planet, one day represents one year on Earth, the Little Prince's sadness would be caused by the death of his creator. This is a very moving link, which led me to use the number 44 as a symbol of the connection between the real and the imaginary.
She symbolizes passion, abundance, prosperity, fertility and creative power. The lady that the main character meets in his dream watches over the fertility of the land, and represents the abundance of nature by the way she is dressed. Her behavior betrays passion and power. This dream is linked to the main character's renewed passion for the composition of smells, and the creative fertility that comes from it.
This card represents accomplishment, the end of the journey, success. In this dream, the main character frees himself from constraints (symbolized by the abundance of squares) by clinging to a bird (symbol of freedom): he takes flight. This dream is premonitory: the main character is about to be confronted with himself, M, to finally be One with himself, to accomplish himself.
The Last Judgment
The card symbolizes renewal, transformation, rebirth, wonderful change. In this dream, fiction penetrates reality (the painting becomes the room). It is the ultimate dream, because it signs the final rebirth of the main character.
REFLECTION/ Stop 44
It was a summer afternoon, the birds were flying high in the sky. The clear water, blended with the horizon, stretched endlessly beneath my feet. I was waiting for the train.
I was at a small stop lost somewhere in the middle of a glittering sea, totally indifferent to my presence. A wobbly board, probably recovered from a fishing boat wreck, had been converted into a bench. Brightly coloured feathers enlivened the bamboo hut that served as a train shelter. There was also a crate filled with ice cubes that held a few cans with no labels. The taste of the one I chose was as undefinable as the source of the large bubbles that were escaping from it. As I drank, my gaze lingered on the slender curves of the waves and of the rails that hung over the water.
Blue, blue, green, pink.
I stared at the sun for a moment.
White, white, yellow, green.
The train was coming.
Orange, brown, blue, green.
I tinkled the bell hanging on the roof of the shelter. A bright green train stopped in a plume of steam. A door slid open silently. I grabbed the small wooden ladder that had been placed under the threshold of the machine and planted it carefully in the sand. I climbed quickly, pushed my suitcase into the car and folded the ladder. The door closed quietly. I blinked to get used to the darkness. The car was empty of passengers and it was cool, unlike the outside where you had to stand still to avoid sweating profusely. I glanced around, astonished: it was a very strange train. Everything that could be used as a seat seemed to have been randomly thrown into the car: large padded armchairs were positioned next to small rustic stools, while elaborate couches were facing huge industrial sofas. I moved towards a rather tasteless but comfortable-looking shepherd's chair as the train slowly started to move. Nothing could be heard from outside except the muffled sound of the huge carriage sliding on the rails. I suddenly felt an immense fatigue and absentmindedly turned my head towards the window to my left.
I frowned: there was something strange.
I felt as if I could see shadows under the water. Silhouettes were sliding backwards, but I couldn't quite make them out. Feet skimmed the surface, while blurred faces were lost in the depths of the sea. I blinked, looked away, then back at the glass.
The sea was glistening impassively.
A tinkling bell woke me from my drowsiness: the train was slowing down. Some loudspeakers crackled for a moment, then a clear and cheerful voice, which sounded eerie in this empty carriage, announced: "Stop number 44. Please watch your step as you get off."
This was my stop. I got up and slowly reached the door, still numb from my nap. The machine braked with a sharp screech. The door slid smoothly.
"Watch your step.”
Drowsily, I rolled up my pants, then stuck the ladder into the sand with one hand, holding my suitcase with the other. As soon as my feet hit the bottom, the door slammed shut and the machine sped off. The water was shallow, but still up to my calves. It was getting dark and the crickets were starting to chirp. I raised my head.
I was in front of a gleaming hotel with complex architecture. Huge, perhaps as big as a small city, it stretched endlessly into the clouds. All sorts of appendages were attached to its sides: I could see tiny, cleverly suspended palaces connected by never-ending wooden staircases, the luminous silhouette of bridges that split the air, and even what appeared to be gardens. Great jets of tepid steam escaped from the air vents, spewing heavy incense perfumes in the same movement. I saw a wooden sign on the bank and waded towards it. As I walked, the lanterns at the entrance gradually lit up. Then multicoloured lanterns, whose light seemed to spread from floor to floor started to shine, and finally, some flickering flames pierced the clouds.
At the entrance of the building, a small jar of fireflies had been hung, whose diffused light sparsely illuminated an inscription. "Stop number 44 (6)". I looked for something that would allow me to give a name to the colossus that towered over me, but only the number of the stop seemed to designate it. In the end, it didn't matter: the hotel at stop 44 was where I had to go.
A small, low door, decorated in a flashy way, invited guests to enter. I turned the handle and slipped through.
A heavy silence invaded me. There were two doors. They were identical except that one of them seemed to be more affected by the ravages of time than the other. On the wall; there was an “R” letter (for reception?) lit by blue silk lanterns and under the “R”, two neon arrows, each indicating an opposite door. I chose the one that looked the least damaged.
I stepped into a colourful corridor, went through another one and a then into few more. The deeper I went into the hotel, the more tortuous the corridors became, the narrower the rooms, and the more numerous the doors. But the building seemed deserted: I hadn't met anyone but my reflection in a few mirrors, and the sound of my footsteps echoed loudly in the surrounding silence. There were no windows. Claustrophobic, I felt the panic rising in me and so I accelerated my pace. It was with relief that I finally felt some fresh air when I opened yet another door. I was now in a small round room covered with blue upholstery, also deserted. A ray of light illuminated the space diagonally. I had the certainty to have arrived at the hotel at the beginning of the evening. Yet when I leaned out the window from which the light and the draft came, a soft amber sunlight coloured the sky pink. I stepped back, disoriented, panicked. Perhaps this building was so large that it was dark on one side, while the sun was shining on the other.
I hurriedly turned back on my steps and finally reached what seemed to be the reception. Functional, the space contained a few scattered chairs and a long counter that stretched from one end of the room to the other. All the seats were occupied by figures made of metal wire and articulated in various positions, like prototype sculptures. A small dog and a butterfly completed the unusual spectacle.
I walked swiftly towards the counter and pressed the bell, trying to catch my breath: my heart was pounding.
Something gesticulated on a stool behind the table, releasing the scent of rancid butter. I recoiled. It was an apparently very old lady. Stuffy, hunchbacked, shrivelled, she was wrapped into a huge coat of fake fur. It was too hot, of course, and her attire only made her look even more shiny and shapeless. Her yellowish skin was so wrinkled that one could hardly make out the features of her face. Two eyes, bulging and grayish, were lazily detailing what surrounded her. As for her fingernails, they were lacquered with a bright pink that instantly assaulted my retina.
- I would like to reserve a room for eight nights please.
- A room? Of course, sugar. I always have room for people like you.
I frowned and was about to ask her what she meant, but she beat me to it:
Was it customary to ask that kind of information here? Again, before I had time to formulate a question, the receptionist had resumed her interrogation.
- Residence permit?
I handed her the crumpled paper I had fished out of my pocket.
- With or without a meal?
Hesitantly, I remained silent for a few moments. Her pudgy fingers tapped the desk while her eyes occasionally glanced at a pre-made dish floating in a neoprene box on her left.
- Without, I decided.
- Perfect," she grunted with a cheesy smile.
She gave me a blank piece of paper.
- Now my little sugar, spray me some of your personal perfume.
I sighed. It had been four years since the government had decided to get rid of identity cards and numbers and to require all citizens to use a custom-made perfume whose composition varied from one person to another. "Identification by smell" was a reform that caused an enormous workload for the Noses, and few were happy about it: going from creator to civil servant was a difficult transition. Moreover, there was no solid foundation for this measure: the government members were a bunch of clowns retired from the entertainment industry and, tired of letters, had opted for "exciting" changes in administrative matters.
I struggled for a while with my suitcase, which contained not only my belongings but also a portable perfume organ, and finally unearthed my olfactory identity. I sprayed it on the leaf and handed it to her. She dipped it into a cloudy liquid and collected the steam in a small vial, which she then stuck under the counter. As she took in my scent, my gaze lingered on the large cat slumped beside her.
Fluffy, it was one of those critters whose long hair fans out at the ears, giving them the crumpled expression typical of their species. Grayish from head to paws, it must have once been white. Its cold yellow eyes focused on me, and purred with contentment. It looked extremely unsympathetic and spoiled rotten to boot, judging by the necklace embroidered with rare shells that was hanging around its neck, clashing with its shabby fur. I stroked it absentmindedly while taking the card the old lady handed me. Finally coming to my senses, I asked her to inform M, the unknown customer who had sent for me, of my arrival.
- I don't have anyone with that name," she answered without even consulting her register.
- There must be a mistake, I was called here for...
She cut me while plunging a fork in the box of neoprene:
-In that case I demand a refund!
-For that, you have to contact your customer, not us. And for your information, the next train is scheduled in eight days, she said in a weary tone while rolling her eyes.
I was dumbfounded.
- Let me offer you the first night my little sugar. Then, the matter is settled. Agreed?
I insisted that she checks the train departures, refusing to believe her statement. She rummaged in her drawers and slipped an official form with the train schedules on the counter: she was telling the truth. I resigned myself to accept her offer. Furious, I left the reception, walking in the direction of my bedroom, guided by the vague instructions of the receptionist. I walked for a long time, passing empty rooms. Eventually I came to a corridor lined with red velvet and decorated with pretty flowers placed at regular intervals. The fabric seemed to suck in the slightest sound. By the light of the lanterns, I realised that the flowers indicated the location of sliding doors whose joints blended with the walls. Muffled laughter was coming from them.
Lost, I finally resolved to consult the paper given by the old lady, in addition to her confused explanations. It contained a rough drawing of the entrance to my room, followed by a sketch that was supposed to guide me through the hotel. After painstakingly deciphering the intricate squiggles, I finally found what was supposed to be the correct hallway.
I had almost reached my room when I noticed a movement. Nothing very clear, but my peripheral vision had picked up something. I stood still. A shadow passed me by, but it was only the cat from the reception. For a moment it looked at me with a strangely penetrating gaze. I watched it walk away, but even after it had turned a corner in the hallway, I stayed in the same position for a few moments. The uneasiness had not completely disappeared, the presence persisted. I finally reached my room. I mechanically perfumed a little essence from my bottle in the notch provided for that purpose and entered.
It was a nice, cosy little room. The furniture seemed to have been reduced to a minimum, nothing particularly interesting about it.
Hungry, I didn't linger longer than the time it took to put my suitcase down and went in search of some kind of business that could feed me. I saw a sign at the end of a corridor and walked towards it. Everything seemed longer here. Distances and proportions seemed distorted, time twisted, dilated. When I finally reached the door, I felt as if I had walked for hours. It was a restaurant, so I entered with relief and sat down at the bar. A quick glance around showed me that, except for the waiters, I was alone again.
Were there no other guests in this hotel? The loneliness didn't weigh on me, though. I ordered a plate of vegetables from a boy who was so shy that he seemed to want to blend in with the walls. The meal was well seasoned, the food fresh. I ate slowly, staring into space. No matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t find a possible explanation for the misunderstanding. I was sure I was in the right place. But this unknown person who had lured me here, this M, had obviously not declared the same identity at the reception. Or had he simply never showed up?
- In lack of inspiration? I was suddenly startled. Absorbed by my thoughts I had not noticed that someone had slipped in beside me. It was a strange character. He was wearing a large orange silk garment with golden reflections that blended with the colour of his skin. Prints of elytra and fish scales covered the bottom of the garment and runned up in a gradient that faded at the collar. A wide strip of water-green fabric was folded at his waist, I a way that it could hold a series of multicoloured vials that clinked slightly when he moved. The vials apparently broke sometimes, creating the brightly coloured stains that dotted the fabric. A tiny dried flower had been sewn into the centre of each of the stains. The whole thing was tied in the back with a red cord, which also held a small book slipped into the folds of the fabric. He also wore high lacquered wooden sandals with a constellation of shells. In spite of his colourful paraphernalia, it was his face that held the attention. On a strand of his long hair, he had strung large glass beads that greedily caught the light and diffused its reflection on his face. His eyes, as black as his hair, were underlined by a white line while his lower lip was painted with a purple colour that tended to blue. His ears, pierced in various places, were adorned with a multitude of stones that he kept touching with his sharpened nails.
- So, out of ideas? He repeated while releasing a puff of the long pipe which he had in hand. Confused, I answered:
- No. Well, you surprised me, I was lost in my thoughts.
He raised a questioning eyebrow.
Trying to regain my composure, I offered him a clumsy smile:
- This place is so deserted you know, I didn't expect...
- Let's see," he cut me off; looking astonished and making a big circular gesture with his arm, setting the room ablaze with his eyes.
The restaurant was indeed suddenly crowded: customers were pouring in and those who had to wait to get a seat were stamping their feet. All the tables were occupied, whether by families or couples who seemed to never want to stop ordering. Vaguely familiar drinks and dishes were being carried across the room at full speed by waiters who were crumbling under their weight. The volume of sound had also increased significantly. The clatter of forks and the hubbub of animated conversations had invaded the room.
- Well, if you need me, you can always find me, he said, discreetly slipping me a business card.
- Okay, I mumbled reflexively, confused by his behaviour.
Who was he anyway? A thin smile stretched his lips and he moved away as abruptly as he had appeared, slipping quickly through the tables. I took a quick look at his card, but it wasn't M. So I pushed it in my pocket, planning to examine it later. I finished my meal and left the restaurant without asking for more. It was now very late, so I went straight to my room. I finally crawled under the sheets and closed my eyes.
I am on a beach, in the pouring rain. A much too large moon is floating in a restless purple sea to my right. Despite the weather, people have spread beach towels on the sand and their sunshades act as umbrellas. Some of them are made of finely decorated paper, torn by the hail that falls on the coast. Everyone is dressed absurdly: hats adorned with ostrich feathers, velvet jackets on which grains of sand get stuck, stiletto heels engulfed by the dunes, silk top hats blown by the wind. People are fat and greasy, wrapped up in their clothes, slumped on their towels. The men are desperately trying to light their pipes despite the weather, the women are sipping an infamous sweet-smelling alcoholic beverage. All are perfectly aligned, all stare at me, while I run for my life. I run for a long time. My breath is ragged, spikes of pain shoot through my chest, and adrenaline makes my heart beat at a frantic pace. I look back: they are still there, chasing me. An army of faceless men in shiny white suits. I accelerate, pushing myself to my limits, ignoring the crowd that watches me in silence.
The sound of my strides, the roar of the men chasing me, my ragged breath, the hail, the thunder, the waves bursting on the shore.
I fix my gaze on my objective: a fence behind which small coloured heaps are amassed. A few more meters.
They have almost caught up with me now, I hear them yelling, "Noooo stop him before he reaches the thoughts!" "Faster, we have to stop him! He will reach the thoughts!"
I can now hear the clatter of their suits, less than a metre away from me. Everything is coming to an end.
A hand grazes me. I leap over the fence. The thoughts, arranged in little bright and colourful piles, twirl under my impact. I stumble towards a huge wobbly pile and dive in.