On Rubber Soles

Timothy wants to escape. Not that he doesn’t like it here. No. He just wants to escape. His friends tell him there is nothing there, outside. But Timothy does not believe them. He thinks that every time the circle opens and the eye looks in, there is something more going on outside. A different world we do not see.

When Timothy walks to school in the dark – it’s always dark – hands in his pockets, looking at the dark round sky, he imagines how it is to be out there where the light comes from. He imagines a world where the shiny dots are all around. Where people dance with them in circles.

When Timothy gets to school, hands in his pockets, he does not understand what’s going on. The other children are playing, but they do not seem to enjoy it that much. They seem to be fighting for something, but there never is a prize. When there’s a ball, they all want the ball. When there’s no ball, they chase each other back and forth in the dark. If there’s a pool, they push each other in, but no one likes to get that wet.

When class starts, Timothy thinks the teachers are making fools of themselves. They talk about molecules they have never seen as if they were true as their left hands. When Timothy asks them how they know, they answer no more than: ‘some wise men made that up in the past’. And everybody believes they are right.

There are patterns in the occurrence of the eye, they say. Mathematical regularities. They heaven’t learned to predict them yet, but they believe that one day, a brilliant mind will stand up to capture the pattern of the eye. Timothy’s parents tell him he should try. That’s what all parents tell their children. It’s the ultimate challenge of this time to know how to foresee the eye. The one who does will be richly awarded. But Timothy believes it makes no sense. There is no pattern, Timothy believes, just frictions of collective imagination.

So Timothy wants to escape. He is fed up with fleabread and bugbites. He thinks there’s better food outside. Sometimes, when the eye peaks in, he smells warm hominess enter. He would not know how else to describe than “the scent of delight”. Others don’t like it. Think it is too strong. A curse from the eye. A warning to tell them that if they don’t behave, they will be suffocated to death with poisonous gasses. Timothy thinks they’re nuts.

He’s fed up with collecting moist from the air with brushes of flea hair. He finds it smart, though, to hang the brushes out and wait for drinks to collect themselves. Very bright, his people, but out there there must be an easier way. He knows, because sometimes when the eye appears, the water just runs in. They think it’s a warning. Behave, or I’ll flood you, they hear it whisper in their heads. But Timothy doesn’t believe the eye is that bad. Besides, he likes the taste of that water better. But no one else dares to try it.

Timothy’s parents are mostly blind. They see the eye as a vague blur. They don’t admit it, but Timothy knows. He can tell by the way they walk. Bumping in the dark.

His little sister is dull. She keeps a mite as a pet. She calls it Henry. Cuddles it. Strokes its hairy legs. When she takes it out on a walk, it pulls the rope very hard, as if it wants to escape. But Timothy’s sister loves it too much to let it go. She’d never let Tim call him the mite. ‘He has a name, you know?’ Sometimes they’re adorable together, and Timothy is moved.

But Timothy wants to escape. He has a plan. One day, when he feels the time is right, he will walk up towards where the eye comes out. Then, he waits until the eye takes a look, and he will walk into the other world and dance between the dots of light. When walking up, he will wear rubber shoes so that he does not slide of the slippery slope. He will wear his black coat so that others will not see him walk away. After all the penalty for walking up is high.

“Look there’s Tim!” say the boys of the class. They run towards him and surround him, but Timothy does not care. He just walks on. “You’re in my way” he tells one. They just want to play with him, but Tim’s not in the mood. The boys are astonished while they see him walk away.

When the teacher talks about the eye’s gaze, back in the days when the Grand Timathon still inhabited this place, Timothy listens with just half of his brain. Today’s the day; he feels it now. “The Grand Timathon was chewing on his fleapie when suddenly, the sky opened and the eye looked in. The Grand Timathon shouted: ‘who are you?’ But the eye did not reply. That’s when it dawned upon him that the eye could not hear. Otherwise he would have been an ear. We now take this knowledge for granted, but it was the Grand Timathon who discovered it. A genius, wasn’t he?” All children agree. “Timothy, as his descendant, would you agree?” “I’m not sure mister Wrats.” “See, class, this is how intelligence can be lost over generations. Timothy doubts that something as plain and clear as an eye cannot hear.” Now Timothy’ sure: he wants to escape.

He has to be quick. When school ends his parents wait for him at home. He cannot be home before dark, it is already dark. Impatience is not uncommon in the world under the eye. He should not be seen by the crowd. When school ends, he walks at the back of the line. “If I play this well, they will not miss me” so he thinks.

Thus, when the whole group passes the slope, Timothy hides in the dark. It goes unseen, there goes the line. On and on towards their homes. He cannot see them, or smell. He can only see white dots and smell warm hominess. So he walks up. He doesn’t slide because of his rubber soles. Step by step he walks. It is a long walk up. Very long. If you’d ask him, Timothy would not be able to say how far it is up. But he walks, step by step. He can not go back now, he has to go on. He cannot get tired, but he will.

By now, Timothy has no clue how long he walked. It has been a while. He’s breathing loudly. His heart beats with force. But he sees nothing. He cannot go back. The bells are ringing, down there. They wouldn’t appreciate his adventurous return. Nail him to a pole and ignore him for a week or so, until dim Tim would wonder if he ever existed at all. It is said at school that in the past, some have ceased to be. By now, there is no way back. Timothy has to escape. So on he carries on his rubber soles.

He thinks back. There was little fun down there. They were strange. Insane. He misses them. He loved them. But he doesn’t think they’ll miss him. Now they do. But they’ll forget Timothy like they forgot all others when they talk about the past. No. They never cared. Timothy disappears in the dark.

So he goes. On and on. Every step as slippery. He cannot sit, that would take away the effect of the rubber soles. He’d slide back down to them, faster and faster, unable to stop he would. End up in their claws of vengeance. Ignored, rotten. Fading. The slide itself would be cool, though. But he has to step on. Stands still when he’s tired, but not for too long. You never know when the eye turns up. If Timothy wants to escape, there is where he’ll need to be. He must be almost half way now, but what does he know in the dark?

He pictures the white dots around the eye. They shine and spark in the dark, with all the colours of the rainbow. They speak to Timothy. Ask him to come and spark along. They have been nice to him. He is getting closer to belonging to him. Closer by the step. Wondering what’s behind that occasional gaze into the depths of the abyss. He cannot slide.

As the bells sound further away, Timothy feels alone. There is nowhere left to return to. His home is no more. Timothy’s step to escape has made him orphan of the prison that is society. He’s loose into thin air, except for his rubber soles on the slippery slope. Soles he inherited from his grandpa Timathon the third. He fabricated them just before he passed away. “Take good care of these soles, Timothy” he said. “One day they may hold you on to places others dare not go.” Timothy misses old Timathon. He wonders if maybe he could be found near the eye or the sparkling dots.

It seems like the longer he walks, the slowlier he goes. But Timothy has no watch, nor can he see any progress. He feels like spurt has left him, wonders if it is for good. He’s calmer now, supported by his rubber soles, there’s no more need to run from his thread on the slippery slope. Old grandpa walks along.

“Am I there yet?” he wonders sometimes. And sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he hears the fading far away of the panic down there. Sometimes he doesn’t. He pictures the eye and forgets how it looked. It will show. Will it show? Timothy’s mind plays tricks while his feet take steps in the dark.

But – clunk – his forehead hits the edge. No more walking. He takes a few steps back. Now what? Now wait. No, wait! He sings a song of the darkness with a mellow voice. OoooOoooOoooO OoooooO, the song goes a, the song goes e, the song goes i. His voice trembles and can be straight as a line. But nothing happens.

Timothy dares not move as he stands here at the edge. No dots to be seen. His legs are tired as he stands. Now he knows. There is nothing to be done but wait and see. Timothy thinks that is not doing something. So he fights within. He wants to sit but can’t: he’ll slide. Back down into the dark. Back into the arms of those who must panic by now.

The gate opens. Timothy loses his balance. One step back, two steps. He falls and slides. O dear. There he goes back down. But Timothy doesn’t want to go down. Timothy wants to escape. The name of his grandpa echoes down the Tube, while Timothy presses his rough rubber soles on the slippery slope and gets his grip back.

Now that the eye beholds, Timothy notes that the shiny white dots call also from below. Is it a trick? Are they luring him back? But how? They see the eye now.

Dots down and up. Now what? The hesitation is brief. A wave of euphoria crosses his sense. This is it! Don’t thread to quickly, step at the time. Step-step, step-step on his rubber soles. Timothy stands on the edge.

This is new for Timothy. He’d never seen an edge nor space nor proper light. He’d never seen ground nor roof, or eternal air in all sides. The shiny white dots are all around now, but far away as ever before. What to do with this world all around? Timothy cannot go back, he should go, and he’d better do it soon.

Timothy on the edge. The step out of the dark is a step in the unknown. It smells good, but there will be no way back. He sees the unknown. Feels it breeze on his face. There is no way back.

And so he goes.


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