Surreal, metaphysical nonsense story about a group of companions who try to find out where they are.
Up ahead, we could see a threshold, which we approached with expanding wonderment.
Several students of ambivalence were lurking around it, unsure whether to go in or out. There was an argument of sorts happening, causing a great deal of puzzlement.
“Come out,” said the Outside. “There is much to see here, places to visit, roads to travel, freedom unlike any you’ll find in there. Be wary, for you might not be able to escape once you are trapped inside.”
“Come in,” said the Inside. “Be safe, secure, and warm. Hide perhaps, rest from the hustle and bustle, stay close and comfortable and smile contentedly to yourself when the time is right.”
“Alluring words perhaps,” said Outside, “but so easily misused. Do not waste your days tucked away behind walls. Come, experience the vastness of Creation. There are horizons in abundance and skies of endless nature, waiting for your dreams.”
“What would dreams be without the inner realm in which they form?” said Inside. “Nurture yourself and your dreams, sheltered from the elements and the influence of others. Be free of the distractions of the world.”
“”Dreams will grow stale if kept inside,” said Outside. “You can only realise your potential outside, so do not hesitate a moment longer. There is no end to what is possible in the vastness of the Outside.”
“You forget that vastness cannot be possessed,” said Inside. “Every inside has a deeper inside. The vastness is endless both ways.”
As they argued, we stepped closer to the threshold, now unsure exactly if we were outside or inside, or both.
In front of us were two nervous-looking travellers, each with large backpacks. When they saw us coming, they glanced nervously to either side, stopped immediately in their tracks, yet tried to keep a steady pace, turning to look behind them as they did so. What was potentially an elegant manoeuvre failed impressively and they landed on the ground in a heap within two seconds.
Merv, a true gentleman, helped them up, and they thanked him.
“Do excuse us,” said the one with a bus timetable hanging from her neck. “It isn’t easy to always know what you’re doing.”
“And what are you doing?” Loomy asked.
“Well,” she replied. “I’m trying my hardest to arrive, much to my brother’s disgust. You see, he hates arriving.”
Her brother nodded. “Yes, it’s a ghastly business. However, I’m very fond of departing. But every time I try to depart, I find myself arriving.”
“And before I can arrive anywhere, I must sadly depart,” said his sister woefully. “Departing always depresses me terribly.”
Yarg understood. He had once been a ticket inspector, and he had worked out that the closer someone got to departing from a place, the more likely they were to arrive at their destination.
“Where are you trying to get to?” he asked.
“Home,” said the sister. “Our mother is unwell, and we have been away for many seasons. We are returning.”
“Which is a shame,” said the brother. “Because we both loathe returning more than anything.”
“Is there anything that you both enjoy doing?” asked Loomy.
“Oh yes! We both enjoy waking up in the morning and having a light, healthy breakfast.”
“Sounds like a lovely hobby,” Loomy smiled. “Why don’t you do more of that?”
“Because, in order to do so, we must fall asleep,” said the brother sadly.
“And neither of us can stand the thought of sleeping. What a waste of time when there’s arriving to be done.”
“I quite agree. So many places to depart from, sleeping really isn’t worth the fuss.”
“Poor idiots,” muttered Yarg. “If only they had a sack of wise men who could guide them.”
And the wise men sighed. They would so have loved to get some sleep, and for Yarg to finally wake up.
“How do we find out where we are?” said Merv. “If we cross this threshold, do we go inside or outside?”
“Depends on where you’re coming from,” said the sister. “I try always to be outside first, so that I may arrive somewhere cosy and warm. My brother, however, prefers to start inside, in order to depart happily.”
“I suggest we go outside,” said Yarg. “I’ve been speaking with the wise men. They say when we’re on the outside of a place, we can look in to see where it was we were,” and Loomy and the Moose agreed.
Noosh, however, thought otherwise. “I think we’d better go inside first. At least then we have a particular location to determine our whereabouts. ” The Avocado Seller and Merv were more keen on this idea. I think Merv didn’t really care either way, but didn’t want to lose the prospect of guacamole.
We argued for a few minutes, but we each ended up crossing the threshold and feeling generally good about our decisions.
“Good luck in your quest!” the siblings called through to us, and we waved them off, continuing further into, or out of, where we had just been.
As we crossed the desert of breadcrumbs, we noticed an exuberant figure who got closer to us the more we approached him. He was juggling seven or eight small bread rolls and had a hat laid in front of him, which displayed some pennies. We stopped to observe his performance, which went on to include some bagel spinning and baguette balancing.
He took a bow, and we applauded, then searched our pockets for some coins to place in his hat. But none of us had any money.
Loomy said, “You gave a fine performance, but we have no pennies to give in return. Is there anything else we can offer?”
The juggler smiled. “To be honest, I care not for money. If it did, I would juggle beside banks, or near crowds of people whose pockets jangle. Not out here in the wilderness. See, I’m juggling out here because what I really want to earn from my performances are questions. The delightful creatures living on these breadcrumbs always come up with the most marvellous questions whenever I juggle for them.”
“Well, thank goodness,” said Loomy. “We do have a very good question for you. But we cannot put it in your hat.”
“No problem,” grinned the juggler. “Just send it straight into my ears.”
So we asked our question, and it pleased the juggler greatly.
“An exquisite and unusual question!” he chuckled with glee. “Most of the time the breadcrumb dwellers come with questions relating to family matters or personal hygiene. Sometimes they give me metaphysical questions relating to time and space and the origin of yeast, but never have I received a question of this standard so elegantly expressed, so deliciously sublime.”
We began to blush.
“It must have taken much contemplation and pondering to come up with such a fine, profound question. I applaud your dedication to the art of enquiry.”
“Well, the question came quite naturally,” said Loomy. “We’re rather lost, you see.”
“But to get lost enough for the question to arise must have taken much time,” said the juggler. “I was once lost in the mountains for five days. The only question that I could come up with by the end was: why didn’t I bring a map?”
“And did you receive an answer to your question?”
“I did indeed. I was eventually rescued by a helicopter. The pilot gave me some tea and a choice of three answers!”
“A choice?” Loomy asked, astonished.
“Yes! He was a very kind man who had many answers. It took me the whole journey back home to choose, but I finally settled on ‘because all the fish had eaten them’.”
“Very interesting,” frowned Merv. “But we are hoping to find an answer of our own. Preferably one that fits the question.”
“Can you help us? Might you have an answer?” Loomy said.
“Oh my, you are so generous with your questions. Sadly, as far as answers are concerned, I’m a poor man. I have very few answers left. But I do have a question I think you might like. When you find your answer, what would you do with it?”
This one left us even more baffled. Merv imagined himself in many years to come, taking it down from the mantelpiece to show his grandchildren. Noosh imagined drawing a map, large enough to include everything in perfect detail, and then adding the final touch – a little red dot that marked ‘you are here’. Yarg imagined himself as a wise man, guiding new lost wayfarers to their destinations.
Loomy spoke. “I suppose we’d use it to put our minds at ease.”
“Not everyone treats their answers well, you see,” said the juggler sadly. “I once knew a young physicist who had so many questions. She loved the questions so much that she set them free, threw them out into the world, allowed them to be heard by anyone. But the answers she got in return were not so fortunate. She’d lock them up, hide them, scrutinise them, frustrated that they did not quench her longing for knowledge. Answers need space to breathe, you see, just like questions.”
“What do you suggest we do with our answer, when we find it?”
“I cannot say, every answer is different. Some like to go swimming, or like to play table tennis. Some prefer solitude, others want to be shared.”
The juggler smiled.
“For a question as fine as yours, I wouldn’t expect to find a good answer without a long search. And if I were you, my search would continue that way.”
He pointed us to an opening in the sand dunes, where tiny footprints ushered our intrigue.
“Many of the breadcrumb dwellers take their questions with them on pilgrimages. I have learnt, from the ones who stop to watch my juggling, that they believe in a place beyond this desert where they are able to co-exist with carrots. It is simply not possible here, but perhaps . . . if such a place exists, your question may well co-exist with it’s answer.”
“Come on then,” called Merv, striding off with vigour, intent at finding an answer to Loomy’s question. “There’s an answer out there, waiting for us.”
We bade farewell to the juggler, who began juggling some doughnuts – a feat much more difficult that it looks, he told us, because they were so sticky!