I was taken
Not by men
But by nature
I took refuge in the abandoned wartime factories
[Audio, voiced by Dean Bowen, 2017]
Chapter 1. Finding of something missing
I am drifting in dark deep waters. I feel no discernible temperature. It is dark except for a small spot of light passing through the muddy waters. The light casts a silhouette. The motions of her curly red hair moving along it. I try to swim closer but she feels ever so distant. With every push of my arms and legs it feels like the current is pushing me back even stronger. I try to reach out with my hand towards the beckoning movements lit-up, the contours of her face and figure become clear. I miss a kinship
He opens his eyes.
The man taps the breast pocket of his disheveled old coat with the back of his thumb. Through the old worn out textiles, he feels the contents of his pocket. A folded piece of paper and he hears the rattle of something metallic. Reassured he still has his items he continues walking through the dense forest, axe in one hand, the other in front of him pushing branches out of his way. His thick red leather gloves protect him from the thick thorny branches in front of him. Surrounded by huge lumbering pine trees slowly swaying in the wind, he feels his feet sinking in the fresh snow with every step he takes. He tries to focus on the sound of his boots, sinking in the snow, distracting him from his thoughts of home. With every step he takes the forest becomes less dense. No longer protected by the trees he feels a sharp wind on his face. He looks out onto a lower hill, white with snow. In the backdrop he sees large mountain tops with rows of pine trees leading up to them.”Wedge! Wedge! Think of your wedge! Cross your legs!”, he hears his father say. He thinks back to skiing trips in the alps when he was a child. A break in the cloudy sky beams a spot of light onto the snow covered hill below him, on top of the hill a great big oak tree. “That is the one” he thought to himself whilst firming the grip on his axe. He slides down towards the oak tree. Hears the wind whistle quietly through its branches as he removes his gloves. He touches the bark of the tree. It felt less cold than he expected. He decides where to make the cut and marks it with the top corner of the blade of his axe. He readies his footing, grabs his axe firmly with both hands and starts chopping.
It is afternoon, roughly 2 hours have passed he guesses. The tree, teetering on a small sliver of wood connecting the stump with the rest of the length of the tree. He takes aim and delivers the final blow. With a deafening crack, the tree collapses backwards away from the man. Lands with a satisfying thud on the frozen ground covered by snow.
He opens his canteen. Takes a few big gulps of water and sits down taking a moment to rest. As he unbuttons his tattered coat and reaches inside the breast pocket, he takes out the folded up piece of paper and a old worn out passport. Opening it, it reads: Jan van Aartsen, born in england. “Oh yeah, that was my name” he thought. He couldn’t remember the last time he heard anyone call out his name. Jan puts the passport on his lap and unfolds the piece of paper. A poster for a show at a dance theatre with a message written on it in lipstick. “See you there at 17:00”, in lipstick an imprint of a kiss. He looks at the message, “I never made it there”, he thought regretfully. He looks at the lips at the bottom of the poster, stands up unwilling to let these thoughts in further at this time, firmly grabs his axe and starts hacking away at the felled tree, cutting a smaller more manageable piece. He ties rope around the log and starts dragging it towards his shelter, still too heavy to be carried for long durations.
After a long trek he reaches a marked tree. Red cloth wrapped around one of its branches. He had marked several trees in the area like this. It wouldn’t be much longer before he reached what he now called home. In the distance he sees familiar silhouettes pop out of the mist. A structure that mostly resembles an enormous concrete cinder block with a garage door slapped onto its front. If brutalism was a movement during the time he was alive Jan would have defined this building as such. A huge brutalist cinderblock. An avant-garde architectural design almost, if it weren’t for the fact this was just the outside of a metalworking factory, constructed as cheap and simple as possible. He grabs the crowbar sitting next to the garage door and pries it underneath. A mechanical click is heard and the door swings open, upwards. Relieved to finally get out of the blisteringly cold, he throws some coals and a few pieces of firewood in the smoldering blacksmithing furnace. The furnace was meant for smithing metal, but now it served primarily as a central heating unit.
He approaches his desk, next to the furnace. It smelled of metal dust and cigarettes in here but Jan was glad that it did. It almost started to feel like home if he didn’t miss home so much. He hangs his coat on the chair and places the freshly cut log next to his desk; imagining the different shapes he could carve out of it. His desk was littered with several sketches and technical drawings. Some described just technical details, some looked like he was trying to figure out some mechanical inner workings and others seemed to describe just forms and compositions. The drawings were held down by steel offcuts that he used as paperweights. Behind the drawing table was a corkboard with several drawings and designs pricked on. These bigger and more elaborate drawings seemed to depict a rifle.
Chapter 2. The birdsong of manhood
I am walking through a corridor, there are only closed doors surrounding me. They look like storage units. They feel like they’re part of an old hotel. There are dim lights every few meters on the ceiling, with industrial tubes running alongside them. I touch the doorknob of the closest door, try to wriggle it. The doorknob seems frozen shut. It appears to be made out of steel but feels neither warm or cold. The door itself appears to be wooden which had been carefully painted black. I hear the soft playing of a violin, I can’t decipher whether the song being played is sad or not. I try to get closer to the sound, all the doors I pass look identical. The corridor is getting narrower and narrower. I hear my mother’s voice. I pause for a second, then keep moving towards the song.
He opens his eyes.
It is late winter. Snow is slowly drifting in the air. He feels the snow melting on the tip of his nose. It does not distract him from his current task. He looks down the sight of his rifle, taking aim at a tree a few meters away. Jan hears the rustling of the tree, sharpening his focus. He gently moves the tip of his finger from the trigger guard and slowly rests it onto the trigger without hesitation. Jan adjusts his stance, shifts his left leg in front of him and slowly sinks it in the fresh snow cracking under his boot. The tree rustles again, more violently and a flock of orange parakeets come flying out chirping loudly. Unbothered by their frantic chirping Jan follows the flock through his sight. It doesn’t take an expert marksman to make the shot connect. He tensions his trigger finger ready to fire.
”Wedge! Wedge! Think of your wedge! Cross your legs!” He hears his father say.
Jan releases the trigger, disgusted. He did not want to hold power like this over nature. He lowers his gun, disappointment in himself for not taking the shot. Not sure about what he felt, he takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “What the hell are parakeets doing here in this cold weather?” he asks himself, too focussed on the task at hand a few moment ago to notice the oddness of the situation.
Jan throws the rifle over his shoulder and starts the familiar trek homewards. He passes over a frozen riverbed and catches a glimpse of a reflection of himself in the frozen water. His face looked gaunt and malnourished.
Having returned to his industrial safe-haven he sets the heavy selfmade rifle on the frozen soil, barrel pointed towards the sky. Hears a mechanical click followed by a deafening boom. Scared out of his wits, Jan looks at his hands, then at his body. Having established that he is not shot and thus not yet dead, a duck falls right in front of his feet. The bird shows no signs of life.
He looks at his pocket watch, it is precisely 17:00.