trench becoming supermarket

prectaution The concept that there is a tree you can climb, at the top of which there are other worlds. For instance, this week there might be the Land of Do-What-You-Like, where all your desires are catered for. Next week there be Topsy Turvy land where the ground constantly shifts and quakes.

I climbed the tree to see what was at the top of it. When I crept through the hole I came into a thin trench from the western front of world war one. A soldier stood on a platform with a rifle poking over the edge of the trench. The trench stretched away perfectly straight in both directions as far as I could see.

 

the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.

 

prec Where’s this place? This place is not a place I know and I don’t know where it is.

soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the Hun.

prec You and who else? Where’s the rest of the army?

soldier Twenty metres that way up the trench there is another Tommy. Down that direction about twenty metres there is another Tommy. This is my strip of trench. No-Man’s-Land is this direction. On the other side of No-Man’s-Land is a trench with a German soldier in it. He is my foe. I fight him without retirement or replacement for more time than there is in my memory.

prec What about behind? The other direction to No-Man’s-Land. Towards home.

soldier Diffficult.

prec You don’t know.

soldier It’s difficult to know.

prec All right, that’s enough exploration for me. Wait, where the fuck has the hole gone? The land’s moved on. I’m stuck here.

 

the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.

 

prec All right, do you know which direction is home base?

soldier Know?

prec Know. Know. Possess knowledge of. Know?

soldier No.

prec This way, then?

soldier I don’t know. It’s difficult to know.

prec For you, clearly.

 

prec walks down the trench and leaves the soldier behind.

 

prec Now twenty metres down the trench is another soldier.

 

the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.

 

soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the Hun.

prec It is in fact the same soldier I just met.

soldier Twenty metres that way up the trench there is another Tommy. Down that direction about twenty metres there is another Tommy. This is my strip of trench.

prec It looks like the other strip of trench.

soldier No-Man’s-Land is this direction. On the other side of No-Man’s-Land is a trench with a German soldier in it. He is my foe.

prec Then why don’t you try to kill him instead of just standing there taking pot-shots?

soldier I fight him without retirement or replacement.

prec Good luck, then.

 

prec walks down the trench and leaves the soldier behind.

 

prec Now twenty metres down the trench is another soldier.

 

the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.

 

soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the Hun.

prec Every twenty metres is the same strip of trench, looped over and over. Every twenty metres a British soldier facing a German soldier opposite. All the same features, all identical clones. I gave up trying to get any sense out of them.

 

prec climbs up into No-Man’s-Land.

 

soldier It’s dangerous in No-Man’s-Land. No man is supposed to be on that land.

prec Good luck to me, then. No-Man’s-Land is some generic looking barbed wire, some mud and some broken tree branches. Stumble across twenty metres of that, and…

 

prec falls into the German trench.

 

soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the British.

prec You look like the British.

soldier We are fighting the British.

prec You’re speaking English to me.

soldier Twenty metres that way up the trench there is another German soldier. Down that direction about twenty metres there is another German soldier. This is my strip of trench. No-Man’s-Land is this direction. On the other side of No-Man’s-Land is a trench with a British soldier in it.

prec Is he your foe, by any chance?

soldier He is my foe. I fight him without retirement or replacement for more time than there is in my memory.

prec I am starting to feel more than a little bit concerned. I keep walking down the German trenches this time. Same situation – a strip of trench with repeated German soldier motif every twenty metres. But I keep walking. And gradually, very gradually, over hours or maybe I think days, the trench starts to turn into a supermarket aisle.

It’s very subtle, there’s no point where you could say it definitively stops being a world war one trench, but after a while I am clearly walking down a supermarket aisle packed with grocery items. I even start to see other shoppers. There’s still the occasional soldier guarding against his opposite number in a different supermarket aisle, but they’re few and far between. I’m walking through Muesli and Cereal. If I wanted I could buy the home brand equivalent of Kellogg’s Special K, known here as Special Flakes. I do want some Special Flakes. It’s been too long.