It's like a set from a Victorian drama. Pawnshop baubles, a marketplace of indeterminate goods. I was born upstairs, a setting like gilt edged photograph, grainy, an early morning bleariness about it. Across, square and empty, a building filled with unmoving sawdust and crates, ropes and bags. If you open the boxes, there are more bags, and if you open the bags, there is more sawdust.
I only came to know it later, but near the cliff edge, there was a restaurant with windows that let you sit and marvel at the ocean. It was wonderful. If you looked down the coast, you could see our church. It was darkness and light, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Passageways that went on forever, with bright colours and dark motives. I died there many times, or at least so I felt.
Later, there was a street that coiled round a dusty hill. Many people lived in houses that were slanted and straight, somehow at the same time. They were horribly empty houses for empty people. Inside there was no light or darkness, only a kind of dim midway.
Sometimes on the country roads one could sense the ghosts of objects out in the wooded areas. Runaway spirit trains moving along nonexistent tracks, looming houses that seemed to leer at you as you passed. There was never anything there, but it always seemed there was.
In the other direction, a beautiful lake that sparkled and had green grass all around. That is, until they drained it and all the grass died. But we had the lake for years, and it was a great comfort for us.
Before that time, we lived around a different lake. I cannot remember living there, only visiting, but they tell me I lived there. A rectangular lake, like a pool. The place sparkled almost, it had a magical environment, much unlike the chaos of the cities: all tall buildings, ramps, and sharp angles. It was only once you passed the lake and went to the senior buildings that it was dark. I had two grandmothers, and they were both the same. One lived in a house on stilts, inside it was glamorous, but outside it was always night. The other place was worse. It was a seniors building that felt like a hospital without lights. Walking through, I felt as if the pipes along the walls were IV tubes. The people were all grey and dead looking, as if the only thing keeping them alive was the occasional stirring of visitors.
To the north, there are cities. One is only vertical, it is a single tower that goes up past the clouds and into the sky, based in a crater. The other is like a hallucination. All plastic bubbles and multicoloured corridors, a giant supermarket that never ends.
If you go all the way, to the end of the peninsula, you can see the beachhead. Sand that extends as far as you can see, and at the edge a blue metal structure. It is nothing but a set of spraypainted metal beams, rusting from seawater and the hot sun. I can remember something ever further, but it's cloaked in a Siberian winter and feels a million miles away, on a journey full of strip malls, dark buildings, and vast stretches of cold, forbidding nothingness, a road cutting through an endless stretch of taiga. I don't know where it is, it's somehow disconnected from everything else.
There is another place like that, a black dot in the North Atlantic that fills me with horror every time I think of it. There's something there that's unknown to me in every way, except that I know it exists. It came to me in a dream, a dream full of unknowing, and when I woke up I looked for it on the map there was nothing. It's also separate, it doesn't belong with the other places.
I don't think there is anything pure in this world, anything devoid of that tinge of darkness that connects all these places and dreams. It fascinates and terrifies me. When I'm in it I want to be out of it, when I leave I want to be there again.
How can a place be real and unreal? It's vividly there, recurring and changing, just as in all places I know in all worlds. They all connect, I can plot a course between them, but I cannot visit them by will. No, I'm always dragged to one of them without knowing, on any given night I could be in any one of them.
All except one.
I can't describe how warm it was. How welcoming and full of love it was. It never returned and it never will. It too, does not belong.
I do not know who I am or who bore me. I only am what I have seen. There is no me.