Clockwork (Based on a true experience)

«We desire to be, we are terrified by not being, and we make up pleasant fairytales in which everything that we wish for comes true. The unknown purpose awaiting us, the eternal soul, Heaven, immortality, God, reincarnation – these are all illusions, ways to sugar-coat and mitigate our mortality.»

Sigmund Freud, as paraphrased by psychiatrist Irvin Yalom.

I lift my gaze from the page. It’s 8:58 a.m., the platform is starting to crowd. The chatter of fellow passengers is drown out by the music playing through my headphones: Вдаль улетают мечты, it laments. “Dreams fly off into the distance”. I consider turning up the volume another notch or two. Some 5 meters away, hanging above the fare boxes , a digital panel is displaying the latest news – headlines running across the screen in bright red pixelated words.

Horror, is what I read. Horror in Damascus. I’ve already heard about Aleppo, earlier this morning: reports of the city’s evacuation being put on hold due to an unexpected reprisal of hostilities were coming through the radio, in the background, as I went over the content of my luggage. Later, I heard about the explosion that hit a group of Turkish soldiers.

Now, all I can think is: what else?

“Else” – uncanny as a shadow tracing back to no-body, as a clockwork doll with lively eyes – is the child. She was seven. They strapped an explosive belt around her and set her off via remote control. They watched the carnage while safely burrowed into their parasite-holes.

Sunlight feels like a scorn. In my hands, which are tingling with a familiar numbness, Freud’s sentence casts its icy sneer upon every bystander. Don’t you see?, comes the whisper, straight out of a book entitled “The Meaning of Life”. We are beyond help.

Of course. Haven’t dreams flown away – so far away?

The train approaches. I observe its steady winding, that of a hunting snake. My brain unfolds a scene in shades of sepia and grainy texture, as though it were taken out of an experimental 19th century motion picture. I contemplate it.

A friend’s father works as a railway security guard. He’s seen a fair share of gruesome incidents in over twenty-five years of service; he’s had to help scrub the remains of someone’s desperation off the tracks and gravel. I hesitate.

It’s messy, my friend told me. Blood sprays everywhere, including all over other passengers.

… Drawing closer by the second…

It’s also quick and, mostly, painless.

But the train slows down as it nears our stop. You must rely on the combined effects of high speed and crunching iron wheels to save you from your dread. This won’t do.

«You always kill yourself too late.»

As the clanking engine comes to a halt in front of the pressing knot of groggy, moody travelers, I close the book and stuff it inside my backpack. The newsfeed has switched to a holiday-themed advertisement. I hope I’ll manage to sleep through most of the journey.

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