Looming, Between Man and Machine

I was standing in the centre of the station. Hands by my sides. Hands in my pockets.

The mass of bodies, growing and moving, made me want to hold myself. It was all I could do to stop and take a gulp, like a mountain climber peering down at their conquest; like an infantryman, peering down the length of his rifle; like a schoolboy, peering through a peephole, voyeur of the first female flesh. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. My imagination popped with the possibilities of each of those I would rather have been.

Then, the roaring start of a train.

It was a big one, and seemed the biggest as I shambled over and placed my palm on its cold exterior. I felt the vibrations from the violent hammer of its engine. I think I smiled.

Mr Ludendorff told me that in order to overcome my fears, I would have to expose myself to them. I don’t suppose he intended to patronise me, but he presented his logic as if it could be met without criticism, as if it could be followed and understood by anyone. He used to bark instructive advice at me from behind his desk. When he was struggling to write, he would throw his pen across the room, and torture me with vivid descriptions of spiders, snakes, ants, holes and death.

I was afraid of many things, and Mr Ludendorff knew how to use them to his advantage. He would shut me in his lightless cellar, where I knew there were cobwebs and spirits of the deceased. My place was a bedded corner. I closed my eyes and shut my ears, and tried very hard to let go of a pounding headache.

Whenever Mr Ludendorff closed the piano lid on my fingers, I would dream of musical notes arranged to perfection. Whenever he pressed his knee into my chest and shouted in my face, I felt myself growing stronger. Whenever I watched him with a woman, I developed a strange sort of respect for his aggression.

The trains’ engines labour like the human heart, fired by fuel and oil. They come, they go, they grind to a screeching halt. Soldiers drop their kitbags to the platform, and hug their darlings. Others take one last look at the journey gone by.

The spider keeps its territory to a corner, gentle and small. It is a passive predator.

The snake adventures for food. Its greed represents a burning desire to survive.

The ant constructs a community with the strength of its back.

The hole is filled with water, the water becomes a well.

In 1989, the Boy stays silent, so as not to reveal his great ideas.

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