Travel Log Pt 1
Note: This post is a transfiguration practice post. I’m taking an piece of literature, and re-tell it in a different style. In this case, I’m taking a 19th century German poem and transpose it into a travel log. The source will be added once somebody guesses the original or a week after publishing (or when I remember). This is the first quarter. No guarantees that I’ll continue.
Imagine: November, everything’s cold and depressing already, and I decide (dumbass that I am) to travel to my home country. I know, I know. This will be my travel blog, collecting impressions and memories. Danger: snark ahead, and politics, and all that. You’ve been warned.
Approaching the border, I suddenly felt apprehensive. Or sad. Those invisible ninjas cutting onions, y’know? And then, hearing my mother tongue, I suddenly felt like I had died and was transported back into my childhood. Some street musician was butchering a song with sincerity and fervor, some cheesy country song, and it honestly touched me. Wat. Can’t have been the content, because you know the stuff: Big feelings, all ends well, blah, blah. All sung and sold by folks making a ton of money of other people’s feelings.
So here’s a counter to all that cheesy pop drivel: How about we work for a better world now instead of drowning ourselves in hopes and dreams? How about not letting people starve so that absurdly rich people can get even richer? There’s enough food to go around, and yet we just shrug and accept the starvation.
Phew, sorry. Going home has woken my teenage enthusiasm, clearly.
So while I was busy having feelings because some punk was murdering country tunes, the border guards inspected my luggage. And by “inspected” I mean “tore it apart”. They looked at my shirts and underwear, looking for valuables and forbidden books.
Poor silly lumps, you won’t find anything there. All the important contraband is in my head, you see. It’s valuable, for sure, and forbidden, too. Just you wait until I get in – Satan’s library couldn’t shock you more than the stuff I’ll bring into your precious little country.
Another passenger was standing next to me and felt the need to preach (like, wtf, don’t do this?!). He told me how the border guards were a sign of a strong nation, and were showing unity to the outside, while censorship was providing unity on the inside, and how urgently we needed unity and strength and blah blah terrorism. Seriously.
Close to the border, there’s a huge cathedral where some old important king is buried. Founder of the nation, for some interpretation of “nation” and “founder”, of course. I don’t envy him – the city is so lame even the dogs are bored.
I walked around a bit, and honestly, nothing has changed. Police everywhere, heavily armed. They are orderly, they are precise, and – oh how conceited they are. Walking around stiff as a flagpole, like no time had passed since a hundred years ago. Some of them had new uniforms – very conservative ones, I think they were going for Good Old Times-y vibes.
Oh, also, our heraldic animal everywhere (yes, I’m still going for anonymity here, bear with me). I hate that stupid beast, and it hates me right back, glaring at me down from the sign at the post office. Just come at me, bro, and I’ll tear you apart. If somebody shoots the damn thing down, I’ll give them half my kingdom, as is tradition. (I have no kingdom, so that’s an easy promise, but you never know!)
Okay, next city. Bigger than the last, close to the, uhm, Big River. Yes. Let’s call it that. I was super hungry, and since the food was way too salty (home sweet home), I just had to drink some wine. I have missed the wine. It looks golden in the traditional green glass, and it’s so easy to drink just one more glass. And one more. And then you feel magically compelled to walk the city, especially the old town.
The old stone houses are looking at me, as if they were itching to tell me of old legends, of knights and monks and betrayal and victory. People and books were burnt at the stake here, while the church bells urged them on. Stupidity and maliciousness used to compete here, and I wish I could say that much has changed since then.
Coming to the humongous cathedral while drunk was, uhm, intimidating to say the least. A huge beast, squatting over the city, witness of centuries of religious strife and war against reason. It’s very much a work in progress, they’re always adding or repairing some corner of it, which honestly makes it way more intriguing and relatable. But also: wow, imagine us puny humans trying to finish a monster like that. A vain pursuit if I ever saw one. All the fundraisers seem to run dry from what I can tell, and at a guess, in a century they still won’t be done.
To be quite honest, we’d be better off using the building for more practical purposes. Idk, as a glorious escape room, or for livestock, or whatever. Screw the sanctity of the church, the Three Wise Men can find some other place to stay. We could put them up in the old dungeons. Just sayin’.
(Yes, I wasn’t entirely sober while writing this, shaddup)
Still in that night, I came to the big bridge over the Big River. I missed this river, truth to be told, and when I said as much (look, I didn’t have that much wine, stop judging!), I could hear its answer, like an old man grumbling at the bottom of the river:
“Welcome back, my boy, it’s nice to hear you didn’t forget me. Oh, oh, you’ve been away for thirteen years, and those were not kind years. This guy has made up songs about me that imply I’m some sort of pure maiden, and they are so stupid that I’d like to drown in myself. How can I pray for our neighbors to return here now? I couldn’t look them in the eye. Hey, you’ve been staying with them – how are they anyways?”
I tried to comfort him a bit, telling him nobody would dare laugh at him, and finally took my leave. Rivers, man. I really should reconsider my relationship with this wine.
You know how many important people throughout history have seen (or imagined they saw) some supernatural companion? Paganini had a familiar that appeared as a dog, Napoleon saw a red man before every important event, and Socrates had a demon. I have sometimes seen a dark hooded figure behind me when writing at night, carrying a hatchet, with impossibly bright eyes. He always stood quietly far away from me.
Well, I hadn’t seen him in years, but suddenly I saw him again, when I was walking the streets that night. And no, the wine has got nothing to do with it! 😒
He followed me around, stopping when I stopped, walking where I walked. When I came to the cathedral I was suddenly more annoyed than scared or awed, so I stopped and asked him what the hell he was doing following me, and appearing to me whenever I had big thoughts and ideas and feelings?!
And he actually answered! I was so surprised I nearly sat down right then and there. He was very dry, and basically said (I don’t remember the exact words) “Dude, would you calm down, please? I’m no Ghost of Something Past, and not a philosopher either. I’m naturally silent and pretty chill. It’s just that … what you think of, I make come true. It might take years, but I won’t stop until your thought has become reality. You’re the judge, I’m the obedient executioner, no matter what I think of your commands.”
So yeah. I went home and slept like a brick. No beds are like home, and while in exile I often longed for this kind of bed. They’re so soft and so warm! You feel safe and free from all constraints, and can have perfect dreams. Your soul can soar everywhere, and even the gods will avoid you when you draw near – that is how good our beds are!
So obviously, my strange journey through the city continued in this dream. I was super tired, but the hooded man continued to follow me. Suddenly my heart was cut open, but it didn’t hurt, and I sometimes absently marked a door with the blood by walking past. And every time I did that, a bell rang, and in the dream I knew that somebody had died. Creepy, ikr?
So we walked around for a while, and it got darker and darker, until we got back to the cathedral. Its doors were wide open (of course), so we stepped inside. Apart from some candles it was extremely dark in there, like Death and Night and Silence had turned up for a meeting. After walking around in this monstrously huge church for a while, we found a chapel that was bright and shining, and the Three Wise Men (who might be statues in there usually, I think?) were alive and sitting around.
Their movements were stuttering, and they were smelling of mould and incense. One of them would not shut up about why I had to respect them, but I just laughed at them and told them that they belonged to the past, and that I’d have the military commandeer their treasures! And if they wouldn’t part with them willingly, … my companion took the hint and proceeded to smash them to bits, and suddenly I woke up.
So you see why I say our beds are superior? The money I’d have to spend on dreams like that in exile!