The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058


In the Order of Lived Time

By Steve Finbow

1835: If I cannot comprehend my own existence, how can I understand the workings of the universe? From this rock on the cliffs of Gilleleje, I look out onto the sea, watch its surface shift, change, the sun speckle the cresting waves while all below is unknown.

1943: Sound of my own breathing. The townspeople know of the SS’s attempt to round up all the Jews in Denmark. We are smuggled up the coast, past Helsingor and Hamlet’s Castle, to the fishing village of Gilleleje.

2008: Copenhagen – Christiania. I wake up on the floor outside The Woodstock café. Mouth dry, blood on knees, noshoes. A large dog walks towards me. Stops. Looks. Sniffs. Licks his lips. Morethan I can do.

2058: I use the rough stone I find in the snow to abrade my fingerprints. I blink, knowing that I would need to do the same with my retinas. I hold the stone up to my eyes; feel its pits, its asperity. I look across the frozen strait, at the fires that smoke and gutter.

1835: What faith I have founders on the pebble-strewn shore, is picked apart by crabs and hooded crows, taken a loft by gulls and terns, then discarded among the weeds and the rocks. I roll astone between my fingers, watch the boats drift.

1943: During the night, the villagers prepare their boats. Seaweed full of flies that find us in thedarkness, their buzz more terrifying than gunfire. I close my eyes, imagine that strip of land on the far side of the sound, the sand, the pebbles beneath my feet, fear ebbing away in the waves’ lullaby.

2008: I prop myself up against the wall, run my hand through the gravel. People sit on benches drinking coffees and beers. If I could drool, I would do. To my right – dirt, discarded roaches, burned-down spliffs. To my left – a red bucket. Water. I lift and drink. People turn, look at me, shake their heads, turn away.

2058: My snowshoes, made from webbing and scavenged wood, sink into the ice. The sky’s petrol spills carry the smell of burning cities, the acrid stench of torched computers. My belongings, slung across my shoulders, I discard in the yellow melt: a bloodied implant carrying a copy of my DNA, a surgery kit. A book.

1835: It is I who decide what is real and what is not, what comprises the world and what I make of it. Is that thunder I hear in the distance? Like my thoughts, the fishing boats drift out into the seen world. They hang low in the water – what is it they carry? This is my escape. If I look at my reflection, it is not I who I see.

1943: My mouth dry. Huddled together – young, old, men, women – the smell of urine, of faeces, mingling with the reek of fish. Nazi guns bombard the harbour. The Waffen SS direct operations to round us up – almost 1400 from the 7,000 Danish Jews. The local people risk their lives to save us.

2008: A man steps from the café with a cup of water. I drink it down. Pitch forward. Vomit. My body shakes. I try to stand. The dog steps forward, drinks from the red bucket. I vomit. The dog looks, sniffs, walks away. A dreadlocked man sits down, says something I don’t understand, says something in English.

2058: My plan is to head south, to another continent. The strait, frozen for five years, is beginning to thaw. The fires from the cities and towns blacken the air. The clouds speckled with crows, rooks, and ravens.

1835: The truly reflective comes from within. What I am seeing is what others see – the outward self, the object of alienation. I hear the tremulous voices coming from the fishing boats, picture their catch – and it is not creatures of the sea I behold, but men, women, children – a single entity cast upon the world.

1943: Now we hunker among fish blood, guts, the tangling nets, our heads like so many floats. Under cover of night, the boats set out. Are there mines? Are there U-boats waiting for us on the crossing? I can hear the slosh, the give of waves. Gunfire like thunder. We share the same air, the same space, the same time, which is no time until we reach the shore.

2008: I nod. I put my hands in my pockets, shake my head. He walks into the café. The man who brought me the water comes out with a coffee and a beer. I drink the beer. Drink the coffee. He asks me a question, I shake my head. I give him a name, a number. He goes. He returns, motions to a motorbike. I get on. Another man passes me a helmet.

2058: Back through Scandinavia, Germany, through Greece, through Turkey, Syria, Israel, through Jordan, through Iraq. South through Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Others to China, Siberia. And others still down through Borneo and Papua New Guinea on to Australia.

1835: I stare across the sound, watch the almost still surface, think of the crab cases washed up among the seaweed, the tiny white and pink shells containing nothing but the memory of a body – for that, in itself, is the only way for it to know the world. Without there is nothing but falsity – nothing but nothing.

1943: Shouts. The boat slows, pitches against the sea floor, wood scrapes over shingles, fishermen jump into the water, secure their boats on the shore. The trapdoor opens, we are hustledout onto the pebbled beach, it is cold, we all turn, look back at the coming boats, the deafening explosions.

2008: We arrive at a train station. The motorcyclist buys a ticket. Gives it to me. Hands me a slip of paper, a bottle of water. I board the train. I look at the note, it reads, “Don’t come back.” I look at the ticket, it says Gilleleje.

2058: The camp, ringed by men armed with primitive weapons, stands at the confluence of two rivers littered with discarded vehicles and computers. I walk towards them, my white shirt held above my head. They raise their clubs, their sharpened sticks. I walk on. Women and children stand along the banks.

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