A ride through the Nepali Terrai into India:
KTM to Nepalgung (Indian border) – 508 km
KTM to Gonda (India) – 636 km
Kathmandu to Mugling Bazaar – 110 km
Mugling Bazaar to Narayanghat – 34 km
The story so far:
Mr Felix has just fallen down a mineshaft, but we wind the clock back a few hours for a bathroom interlude.
Part 9: The Tomb!
Just before I fell down the mineshaft, I went to the bathroom.
I was physically drained from the morning’s outing, and reading Dante’s Inferno had somewhat miraculously, and unexpectedly, collected all of the waring parts of myself into a coherent whole, and the coherent whole, I’d discovered, was empty.
I was The Hollow Man, alas.
“How ironic!” I thought to myself. Throughout my adult life, rightly or wrongly, deluded or on-the-ball, I'd relentlessly pushed for content over form. I worshipped the flame, and now the gas supply had been cut-off.
Maybe I'd forgotten to pay the bill?
A year and a half ago I’d walked out on a secure job at a university in Melbourne. I taught in the Creative and Digital Media Department, and what had begun as an exciting and stimulating job had, to my mind, degenerated under new management into a farcical parade owned by the forces of globilisation and ruled by political correctness.
It was the Emperor’s New Clothes, and we were living it.
The new order seemed to be: if it looked good and attracted paying customers, it was ‘in’, if it created waves and scared people off, it was ‘out’.
“But good art naturally scares people!” I said to the director, somewhat naively one day at the end of a rather heated discussion on ‘where we are heading’.
“Yes, we understand that, Felix,” replied the director evenly, "but we've got to keep the doors open and it's a new world blah blah blah blah..." He leaned back easily into his chair, a man in total control, and filled up the room with fine words.
Above his head hung his latest artistic gift to humanity, a glossy oil painting of the Space Shuttle Challenger just before it blew up.
"What's with the new painting, boss?" I'd asked him the week before. (He winced everytime I called him 'boss', so naturally I kept doing it.)
"Well, it's the Space Shuttle Challenger, just like it says on the label!" he said, slightly puzzled, as though overnight I'd turned into a moron, as well as being a pain.
"Yeah, but what's with the numbers?" I asked. Over the image of the Shuttle he'd painted strings of bright green numbers running horizontally across the picture.
"Why!" he said, obviously happy that someone in the department, other than the flunkies and boot-lickers, had finally taken an interest in his beloved art career. "That's the computer code that the Shuttle was spitting out just before the O-rings failed..."
"And the major malfunction happened!" I interupted brightly.
"Exactly!" he beamed.
I tell you, it's great to be on the same wavelength as the boss, especially one as well thought out as mine was.
And everything he said was all very reasonable of course, but you know it's a sham.
It's a bull without balls, a lion without teeth, a woman without a heart - and what's the point? How can you give yourself to something you no longer respect?
It stank and in the end I walked, and now, unfortunately, I was in the same boat as the people I so passionately despised; different path maybe, but same end-point.
I lay back on the bed and contemplated some well worn cliches: there are many paths to hell-on-earth, pride cometh before a fall and how wrong you can be.
But at least I knew I was in Hell and that was something, and the pilot-light on my once beloved (to my mind) roaring flame seemed to be still sputtering with some life - not enough to light a cigarette maybe, but still.
What was it that I’d betrayed so badly? What was it I wasn’t getting?
I lay on the bed without moving for over an hour. Whatever was at issue here, I realised, wasn't going to get solved by my on-board computer. I needed perspective. I needed a gun.
Time slows down. I am alone in a barren room, under a white sheet - a grey carcass of dried bones. Silence descends like a fog, filling every crack and corner of the room. I am suffocating under a sinking weight....
... and I need a pee, badly.
I then realised why God had built the ‘eat, drink and waste product’ mechanism into living organisms. Without it our pilot-lights would simply go out and we would sink inexorably into despair.
“Clever!” I thought. “Who would have guessed!”
Inside the bathroom I lent against the wall to steady myself and after I’d finished at the toilet, I went to the basin to wash my face and hands, and looked in the mirror, and what a sight I was.
It was a face I hardly knew – drawn, pale and without life. “Jeezus!” I said, “I’m dying on the inside!” and a knot formed in my belly and the fear of death rose up like a white sheet and I fainted.
I don’t know how long I was out, maybe a minute or two, but it’s hard to tell when time has stopped.
Slowly I became conscious of lying on the cold floor, and the right side of my head ached where it must have hit the tiles, but apart from that there seemed to be no damage.
I opened my eyes, groggy, and standing together before me in holographic splendour where the only two women in my life I have really loved.
I closed my eyes and shook my head, just to check I wasn’t hallucinating, and when I opened my eyes again, struggling to come awake, they were still there.
And they were radiant. They were the most radiant creatures I’d ever seen in my life, and they were looking down at me and smiling, and the kindness in their eyes just broke me.
And I started to weep great sobs (and I could feel my sinuses clearing up!) and I said, out of nowhere: “I’m sorry I lost you! I’m sorry I didn’t hold on! I just didn’t know how to reach far enough!”
And both of them broke into broad grins, and then they left, so I hoisted myself up off the floor, took a cold shower, went back into the bedroom, lay back down on the bed and fell down a hole.