Exciting news about my new book. In case you have been wondering why I have written only a few blog posts over the last months… first, I was very busy with my fundraisers, which managed to raise more than 2500€ for charity through my paintings and books. Then, I was giving several interviews to newspapers about my books, which took up some time time. And next to that I am now working on my FOURTH NOVEL… which will be the final book in the TWO JOURNEYS Trilogy – the grand finale!
TWO JOURNEYS (2010), and the second novel in this series FIELDS OF FIRE (2015) deal with the aftermath of a corona pandemic; high-rated post-apocalyptic adventure novels. The third and final installment has the provisional title REBOUNCE, and I hope it will hit the (e)book stores before the end of 2021. Research has been taking up considerable time; I had to study the geography of the areas where the novel is situated, spanning two continents, as well as new technological developments – the Internet-of-Things/IoT, Artificial Intelligence, space travel, robotics, and more. In 2010, TWO JOURNEYS made a prediction about the danger of pandemics and corona virus. My new novel tackles the risk of artificial intelligence for mankind. I don’t want to give away too much at this stage, also as the plot is still developing – let’s see where it will end.
For all of you that can’t wait until the book is available, below is the first chapter & prologue. Mind, it still has to go through several rounds of editing, this is the raw initialtext.
Here we go… strap on your seatbelt.
REBOUNCE / Prologue
First draft. Copyright Clemens P. Suter 2021
Every beginning has its challenges. Every ending too, but at least good endings happen quickly. I stare at the paper in front of me, the handwriting contrasting black against white. A tear, which must have fallen out of my remaining eye, has deformed a written word, like a lens enlarging a crucial yet long forgotten detail. Five pages finished. If I continue writing at this speed, I will have died long before I reach the end.
Over the years I often toyed with the idea of writing down my story, which is exciting by any man’s standards. But there were numerous reasons not to do so. For one, my life left little time for scholarly work. More cynically: an author needs an audience, and is there any audience left? Who will ever read my notes?
The darkness surrounds me like a cloak, only disturbed by the flickering of the candle. I adjust the blanket around my shoulders. A fire roars in the woodburner, but it doesn’t help against the cold. Outside, a snowstorm tears at the walls of the cabin. I tilt my head to listen for sounds. It is deep in the night, early morning almost, hardly the time for any creature to be about. Did I hear something, a distant shout? I chose this hide-out on purpose, far away from any predator’s path. My many years of experience always keep me on full alert; I’ve had too many unhappy encounters with four- or two-legged hunters. I look at the dogs at my feet, but they seem unalarmed. I shrug off any fear and try to retrace the thoughts that passed through my head a few moments ago. Why did I survive so long, while so many died? All my friends and most of my enemies – long gone. The hand that holds the pen is gnarled and covered with the spots of age. I have lost weight and muscle and the hair on my scalp. My back is stooped, my joints hurt in the morning. But I am still here, going like an old clock.
The pandemic devoured humanity, the fallout sterilized the planet: but neither managed to kill me. Was I chosen? Or was I punished? I never was a religious or superstitious man, and deep inside I know that no miracle or lucky star is needed to explain my survival: it is just freak coincidence. I am like the single bacterium that has picked up resistance against an antibiotic, the last tree that remains standing after a forest fire.
For a few moments, my thoughts continue to wander, until they uncomfortably home in on the events of that singular winter, so many years ago. They always do. With all the drama of my past life, those events stick out like a sore thumb, impossible to ignore, blotting out many other memories of my eventful life.
I stand up from my chair, shrugging the blanket from my shoulders and the bad thoughts from my mind. The dogs raise their heads towards me, their eyes gleaming in the dark. Although I feel the need to write down my story, in the hope of expelling the bad taste that it leaves in my mouth, I cannot continue.
Restlessly I pace the cabin. I tilt my head to listen. Finally, I remove the bar open the door. The storm is astonishingly strong, and snow immediately sweeps in. I feel the sting of the cold as the air hits my face. Visibility is low; at the most a few meters. I cannot even sense the valley that lies in front of the cabin. The flame of the candle is blown out, and in the semi-darkness, I see how the papers from my desk are blown out of the cabin and into the white landscape. I laugh madly. The dogs cower close to my legs, tails between their legs. Together we stare into the darkness.
I listen. The wind blows loudly, but I am now convinced that I can hear a sound, far off, irregular and organic. Something is moving out there, something or someone is shouting. Friend or foe, I cannot tell. I grab for the rifle that stands against the wall and I check that is it is loaded.
I remain in the doorframe. Closing the door and putting the bar back on isn’t an option; it never is. The enemy doesn’t rest, they never give up the chase. They continuously circle, pounce, bite and kill without mercy. Likewise, friends are unceasingly in need of help, faltering and hopeless, they lose themselves in the darkness of the night. Fear or compassion; I’m forced to confront any obstacle, to handle any challenge, swiftly and if need be mercilessly.
I slip into my coat and I put on my moth-eaten woolhat and gloves. I stuff a torch into my pocket. The wind picks up speed. The darkness is now complete; no sign of a rising sun, stars nor moon.
The snow stings in my eyes as we step from the door into the wild white vortex, gun raised, dogs barking. I feel how my teeth bare themselves in a menacing grin. No matter how old I get, no matter how much these old bones hurt, by everything holy and unholy, throw it at me, life.
During my many stays in the Middle East, I also visited Doha, capital of Qatar.
Some background: Qatar is tremendously rich from the abundance of natural gas. As a result, it’scapital Doha hasdeveloped into abusiness and conferencing hub. It is a very strict islamic state, leaving little space for fun and games. To everybody’ssurprise they will hostthe 2022 World Cup (I always wonder about thethings money can buy). Soccer fans best bring a book.
The movie below I made on my way from the airport to the hotel. The links direct to photos I took and more details about country and capital.
Doha has been hailed as one of the most boring towns in the world, and there is considerable truth to this rumor. The town has very little history left, it is new and fully focused on business. There is no extensive historic center. The town is very car-centric (many, many SUVs) and as a pedestrian you quickly feel very lonely on the broad boulevards; you do not meet many other people on foot, and windowshopping is severely hampered by the absence of, yes, shopwindows (there are many malls, if you go for that sort of thing). The Souk is a tiny market, completely new and unwelcoming, with stores that sell tortured exotic animals and mini-dogs. The climate is hot and humid: a stroll is only possible after sunset. As an Islamic country, there is no (or little) alcohol for sale – but even I as a teetotaler can only say that the town is absolutely underwhelming; I can’t blame the absence of alcohol for that deep feeling of loneliness and despair. I was visiting on business with a calendar full of appointments and I was preoccupied enough, yet during my quick tours through the city I was, well: disappointed. Perhaps some of you readers have different experiences to share. Perhaps an interesting museum or cinema that I missed? Pole dancing? A hidden bar? Table tennis tournaments?
The boycott by Saudi Arabia was in full swing, but it didn’t seem to have affected the Qatari much. They even imported 4000 Friesian cows from Australia and put them in an air-conditioned hall, to make sure enough milk could be produced, which they got from Arabia up to that point.
Women stay mostly at home (probably playing with the mini dogs), and the men tend to take their SUVs out for a spin at night; driving endless circles through the town. I got bored just watching them occupied with this non-activity.
Citizens (men only) giving the four wheels a lackluster spin. At least the weather is in their favor.
A few days ago I stumbled over an intriguing site: Prometheum Wastes Chopshop, which describes the story (as the creators put it) of a “dry and dirty landscape and the challenges that you are going to have to face to be able to survive here”.
As the author of TWO JOURNEYS, the 2010 adventure novel that predicted the Corona Pandemic ten years ahead of time, apocalyptic and SciFi landscapes continue to intrigue me.
However, what makes Prometheum Wastes Chopshop particularly interesting is the “sustainable creativity in the new normal”. In these times it is hard for all of us to come together, and with a looming economic crisis, money to spend may be running scarce too. But challenging times lead to innovation, as demonstrated here. In this project, young individuals from different parts of the world came together virtually. They share a passion for painting gaming miniatures (such as Warhammer and Dungeon & Dragons), but realized their means were significantly reduced to buy pre-fab miniatures from the stores. So, they created a community that jointly developed the story of a waste planet somewhere in an apocalyptic future. In addition, they ran challenges where actual waste materials (plastics, such as empty and discarded deodorant containers) are used to create the elements of the story – which include for instance the vehicles, transporters, buildings, and landscape. At the links below you can see how this is done, as well as the end result.
This crowd-initiative reminds me of the concept of the circular economy, which is currently being discussed at all levels of society and industry, with the objective to build a more restorative and sustainable society. The core team of this group consists of students and young professionals. For now, the team may well be mostly focused on growing a community of like-minded folk, being creative and inventing a story together – with no direct monetary intentions. But rest assured, such a virtual, high-quality effort will get noticed and may well kindle the interest of either film or game industry. Why am I impressed? These professionals demonstrate what the new normal in pandemic times could look like: 1.digital, 2.global, 3.sustainable, 4.creative, and 5.delivering value.
Here’s another five star review for TWO JOURNEYS, this one is by “St. Louis Cards”. You can find it here at amazon.com: LINK.
Here’s the full text by this reader
Book Review: Two Journeys
Author: Clemens P. Suter
Publication Date: April 1, 2012 (NetGalley Archive Date: August 30, 2019)
Review Date: August 21, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.From the blurb:
“During a routine business trip to Tokyo, Alan finds himself to be the sole survivor of a global pandemic. A viral disease wipes away all of humanity… and Alan’s past life. Fearing injury, sickness and hunger, he sets out to travel back to his family in Berlin, straight across Asia and 10,000 miles of hardship and adventure.Suter combines post-apocalyptic elements with an adventurous road novel in this book about a man left alone on earth. The hardships and landscapes (the Gobi desert, Siberia) are described in all ferocity. A few other humans have survived as well, some eager to use the disaster for their own advantage. Electrifying chapters describe the encounter with Somerset, a charming yet psychotic warlord, who is assembling an army to conquer Moscow, if not the entire world.”This is a first-class apocalyptic thriller. I find most self-published books to be absolutely dreadful. The exception is often science fiction/apocalyptic thrillers and other books of this type category.Two Journeys is no exception. What a fantastic book! Better than I expected. It is written in the first person, and I often felt that I was reading a memoir of events that actually happened. Suter’s style is very easy to read; I couldn’t put the book down.
A caveat: it is a fairly long book, 551 pages. It took me 3-4 days on nonstop reading, which is much longer than it usually takes me to read a book.
The character of Alan, the protagonist, is well built, as well as the few other characters encountered during his journey. The plot is perfect; I appreciate how slowly Suter built up the story and all the details of the journey he included. The settings were well written and an important part of the book, as horrifying as they often were.
There were a few mysterious elements that added to the depth of the story.
I highly, highly recommend this book, 5 stars! The author has written a couple of sequels to this book that are available as Kindle books, for only $1.99 each, so I plan to finish out the series.
Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. Outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again. Are we prepared?
Over the last few months I have blogged extensively about Corona. Today, it looks as if this disease will be continue to be with us for some time. It may become a virus hat remains “in parallel” to all the flue and common cold viruses out there. There is even some speculation that the appearance of novel viruses may become more common.
Although some countries are opening up again from complete lock-down, other countries haven’t yet reach the peak in the pandemic. The hunt for a vaccine is in full swing, but with my background in biology I agree with some experts that that this may not succeed soon, or even at all. On the other hand, Dr. Fauci is optimistic.
In any case, for the foreseeable future, it is key for all of us to protect ourselves, but especially vulnerable people around us. One of the ways to do this is the use of a face-mask. We would be wise to continue their use also in the future; even when the pandemic should quiet down. People in Asia wear such masks, on a regular basis,and that is good health practice.
Even though such masks are non-medical, they have several advantages. For one they provide (and this has been proven) some basic protection from distributing the virus should you have been infected. They also provide some minor protection against catching the virus (although this protective quality should not be exaggerated). In addition, such masks keep you from touching your face, and they also alert people to keep their distance from you.
Just take a quick look at these 5-star reviews by readers of TWO JOURNEYS. Need we say more? If you like a highly unusual, exiting and thought provoking adventure novel, make sure to get your copy today.
How to get a copy? Just visit your favorite internet store, for instance amazon.comLINK, on iTUNES LINK, or you can even ask your favorite bookstore (anywhere on the globe) to order a copy for you.
Great review by Sharon, many thanks! The sequel FIELDS OF FIRE is already available today.
The sequel is available in the same store where you got your last copy: FIELDS OF FIRE
“… another survivor is traveling the Armageddon road. Clemens P. Suter’s apocalyptic thriller grabs you in the first couple of pages and never lets go. The reader feels real empathy for the main character’s plight as he begins a seemingly impossible 9,000-mile trip to learn his family’s fate. […] clues are uncovered along the way causing tension to build until we reach the shattering climax. Two Journeys is not to be missed.”– G Dedrick Robinson
Peter came home at eight p.m., determined to solve the issue once and for all. All day long, the voices that he had been hearing over the last weeks had been on his mind, and now he was going to put an end to it.
He placed his keys and wallet on the kitchen table and walked into the garden. It looked inconspicuously enough. About 60 feet deep and 40 feet wide, on the south side bordered by his house (the kitchen to be precise) and on the other three sides by the gardens of his three neighbors. He had inherited the place at a relatively young age, his parents had unexpectedly died in a car crash on the New Jersey turnpike; actually just a few miles away.
At the end of his garden was a small shed in which Peter stored some gardening tools, but he knew the voices didn’t originate from there. He could stand with his back against the shed, or the kitchen, and in both cases he could, with almost absolute certainty, pinpoint the origin of the voices to the center of his plot of land. They either came from beneath the ground… or from his imagination. Had he been living alone for too long, he wondered? Was he going insane?
It was cold out; winter had come early. He could see his breath. Stars speckled the dark sky.
He walked over to the shed, retrieved a spade and carried it to the center of his plot. He listened, but all was quiet. Yesterday evening he had heard the voices: two men talking to one another. Like always he hadn’t been able to understand the words; but they had been there, in deep conversation. One voice seemed to belong to a curious young fellow, asking a lot of questions. There was some uncertainty in his voice. The other sounded elderly, and more experienced, providing answers.
Peter grimaced. It was all too ridiculous! Where could these voices come from? He was smack in the middle of a suburban area; the houses of his neighbors were at least a hundred feet away. He hesitated. Should he return the spade to the shed and make an appointment with a psychologist? Or go to the police? Ha! They would only laugh at him. Peter scowled, and the spade entered the wet soil. He lifted the first load of wet, dark earth and threw it to the side. Another followed, and another and one more. He kept on digging and digging. He didn’t find anything; it was just earth. Soon he was standing in a 3 feet deep hole.
“Ahem,” said the voice of his neighbor, Mr. Schaper. Peter looked up, and saw his neighbor standing on the other side of the fence. “Digging a hole, are we?”
“Well yes,” said Peter. He didn’t interrupt his work and kept on digging.
“Going to make a pool?” asked Mr. Schaper.
“That’s the plan,” said Peter, deciding that this was as good an excuse as any.
“Do you have a permit?” asked Mr. Schaper. Just what was to be expected. The nitpicking Mr. Schaper immediately homed in on a possible complication. Peter hesitated. He didn’t know whether a permit was a prerequisite for digging a pool. He cleared his throat. “Uhum. Well, not yet naturally. I am first checking whether it makes sense to create a pool in this spot. You know, whether the ground allows it.” He realized this didn’t sound very convincing, and as he glanced at Mr. Schaper’s face he could recognize skepticism. He continued digging, but Mr. Schaper didn’t give up. “You will need a permit, that’s for sure. And that must be passed by the neighbors, we have a say into this as well, just that you know it. Anyway, why do this in the dark? You can’t see a damned thing!”
Peter kept on digging, hoping that Mr. Schaper would simply turn around and go inside. Sometimes he did just that, if ignored, but not this time. After a few more minutes, Peter paused and wiped the sweat from his brow. “I say, you could do me a big favor. If you have a spade and some boots, you could perhaps help?”
Mr. Schaper’s face darkened. “No way, old man. No way! I have a hernia, not allowed to do that kind of thing.” With that, Mr. Schaper turned around and went back inside his house.
Peter’s spade went into the ground. Clang! He hid something, a piece of metal, located at the side of the hole. What was it? Peter used his spade to free up the object. It was a metal tube, perhaps 2 inches wide, and it came almost to ground level. He freed it further and could see that it went straight down into the ground. At the top was a bend and some sort of mesh, preventing the earth from falling in. Was this the origin of the voices? Peter moved his ear to the mesh and listened. Nothing, no sound. He scratched the back of his head. Perhaps his father had attempted to drill a well, and this was the remnant? To looked inconspicuously enough. Still, this tube was the only tangible possibility for the origin of the voices. Peter decided to carry on. He glanced suspiciously at the houses around him, but all his neighbors appeared to be inside. One, two, three; he removed the earth around the tube. The digging was heavy work, and soon he was sweating hard. He took off his sweater and threw it on the grass. Deeper and deeper he went, and after half an hour or so he had laid bare about seven feet. It seemed to consist of pieces of about three feet each, welded together.
He estimated that he had been digging for about three hours. Should he continue? He had to get up early tomorrow morning, it was a regular workday at the physics lab. He decided to press on. Another hour passed, and one more. The hole was deep by now and the walls very steep; Peter concentrated on freeing as much as possible of the tube, without making the hole overly wide. Again, he paused briefly, and listened. No sounds, no voices. He couldn’t see the houses anymore, only the sky above, littered with stars. It was cold and he scrambled up to get his sweater. He put it on and jumped back into the hole. The ground gave away and he slipped down into the earth. In panic he threw his arms around and hit the tube with his left hand. Ouch! He cursed and slipped further. He feared that he would be buried alive and tried to get a hold of the tube. Earth fell on top of him as the hole collapsed, and the mountains of earth that he had created on the surface slipped in and blocked the hole from above.
A few minutes later, Mr. Schaper came into the garden. With chagrin on his face, he looked over the fence and at the hole. “Building a pool indeed! He doesn’t even manage to dig a decent hole. Glad he decided to go to bed. Young fool.” Mr. Schaper disappeared into his house and turned off the lights. The entire village seemed to sleep. Far away, in the center of town, the church bell clanged the first notes of the star-spangled banner.
Peter dropped through the ground and fell onto a concrete floor. He almost twisted his ankle in the process and limped around in a circle. “Damn, ouch, damn!” Some dirt trickled on his back, but the ceiling seemed to hold. Peter stopped and stared. He found himself in a brightly lid corridor, about five-foot-wide and seven high. The walls were made from concrete, painted white, with a grey stripe three feet from the floor. The corridor turned to the right twenty or so feet away and was joined by another corridor that came from the left. The ceiling consisted of netting and concrete slabs but wasn’t very massive in appearance. Peter closed his mouth slowly. In his mind he tried to connect his house, his neighborhood with this underground tunnel system, but he couldn’t. He had never heard that a subway passed through this American village or that the military had build any facility in the area. There was no heavy industry for miles around!
It was quiet, but he could hear the echo of his own movements resonating in the distance. What to do now? As became obvious after a quick inspection, there was no turning back. The ceiling was too high to reach, and even if he could have reached it, there was a great risk that he would be buried alive underneath his own garden…or the entire neighborhood. He found the metal tube; it entered the corridor along the left wall, made a 90 degree turn and followed the wall for 30 feet, and then disappeared into it, out of sight. Peter speculated that the voices had been carried by that tube to his garden; the voices had most likely not even originated from the spot where he was standing now.
It didn’t make any sense to stay here, he had to return to the surface some way. He could go left or right; he decided on the latter. Quickly, and as silently as possible, he started walking down the tunnel. It didn’t go straight; it had bends and weak curves, sometimes to one side, then to the other. He could never see farther than a few hundred feet. Overall, it did seem to go in a single direction, east he thought. And it went very slowly down.
There were strong lightbulbs overhead, and occasionally he passed doors, all painted grey and locked, without number or any distinguishing marks. Taken together, the tunnel looked very purpose-made, without any frills. This went on for three quarters of an hour, when suddenly, voices became audible. He stopped and listened. Undoubtedly: two men. Peter moved forward, soundlessly. The tunnel curved again, and he entered a large space. It was an intersection of multiple tunnels, four, five, running off in different directions, some going down, others going up. The conversation continued but frustratingly he could not determine from which tunnel it came; it seemed to come from everywhere. He entered one tunnel and followed it for a while: the voices disappeared. He returned to the intersection and tried the next tunnel, with the same effect.
He couldn’t understand what the men were discussing, it could have been some foreign language. Suddenly the voices became more aggressive. The two men seemed to have entered an argument. Soon they started shouting at each other, and then a struggle seemed to ensue. Gasping, grappling, muffled cries. Peter listened, his anxiety increasing. One of the men seemed to have broken free, his feet pounding on the floor as he started running. The other man started to chase him, cursing. A shot ran out!
To his shock, Peter realized that the sounds were increasing in volume: the men were coming in his direction. Another shot sounded, and loud cursing and hollering. Peter stood in the middle of the intersection, quickly weighing his options. He realized that waiting was not an option. He had to move away from the men, and by choosing any of the five tunnels, he realized that he had a good chance of doing so. He decided to take the tunnel to his left as it ran slightly upwards. He dashed into it, never minding the noise that he made. After about a hundred feet he realized that he had made a terrible mistake, as the tunnel suddenly started to drop down steeply. But he couldn’t turn back; the voices of the men had changed. For a few seconds they stopped running and didn’t shout at one another anymore. Peter guessed that they had heard his movements. And yes, they seemed to orchestrate their actions again, rapidly conversing with one other. Then they ran again, without speaking. No doubt they were in pursuit!
Peter increased his speed, at the same attempting to reduce the sound that he made. Nevertheless, the feet behind him could be hear without interruption and he realized that they had by now entered his tunnel. Peter thanked his guardian angel that he went jogging so often, as at least he could keep this tempo up for some time. If only there would be another intersection! Instead, after about 15 minutes of running, Peter entered a hallway. There was a small platform in the middle, and next to it was a small-track railway, on which stood a low locomotive connected to several train wagons. He now had two options: he could continue running down the corridor or attempt to figure out how the locomotive worked. Peter bent down and looked at the controls: a key in the ignition, what looked like a single handle to adjust speed, and a possible brake pedal; that was it. Quickly he lowered himself into the driver seat and turned the ignition key. Immediately the train lurched forward, and he fell back, hitting his head on the back of the seat. Not a moment too early: a loud bang sounded, and bullet whizzed by, leaving a hole in the side window. The train shot into a dark tunnel that almost immediately started to drop down. The acceleration pulled at his stomach. The ceiling of the tunnel was just above the train, obviously the two had been designed in conjunction. Faster and faster the train went. Wind came in from the sides; but Peter figured out how to pull close the sliding door. It was almost quiet now, although some noise came in through the hole in the window. There was a small light in the front of the locomotive, and he could see the tracks whizzing by.
He didn’t attempt to control the speed. The further he got away from those two maniacs, the better. Besides, he was certain that this dark and straight tunnel would very soon turn towards the surface and reach its destination and would enable him to return home.
But the train traveled on and on, and down and down, by now at a terrific speed. He tried to relax. After a while he got out of his seat. The locomotive had a low flat roof and he had to crawl on all fours towards the back. He opened the door and stared into the next compartment. On the left were cans of food, on the right bottles of mineral water. He couldn’t continue; the stored goods blocked his way. He returned to his seat and investigated the controls. Or the absence of controls: there was no transmitter, no speedometer, or any other indicators. No clock; he had no idea what time it was. Peter sighed. After a while he became tired and his eyes started to close. He fell asleep.
He woke up with a shock. He was certain that he had slept long and deep. He felt hungry. The train continued its path, uninterrupted and at neck breaking speed. He went to the back and got some food and a bottle of water. He inspected the train again: it was spotlessly clean, and futuristic looking. Although; that was the wrong phrase: it looked different and unusual, with its curved surfaces and beige plastic. No design that he had seen resembled this. Time went by. Without anything to do, he just sat in his chair and slept a little. At some point he considered to try the brake but decided against it. The narrow tunnel was just wide enough for the train. He didn’t see any exits, the walls of the tunnel appeared uninterrupted. If the train stopped, where could he go? He shuddered at the thought of being stuck in this seemingly endless and claustrophobic tube and being forced to continue on foot. Where to? He fell asleep and had a nightmare: he felt as if he was submerged in liquid, his lungs filling with water. Shoals of fish chased him, and a kraken tried to catch and crush him with its giant tentacles.
Time and place merged, his brain grew more and more confused. Then, at some time, he noticed a difference. The train appeared to be climbing – or was it just his confused mind? Oh, Peter, he said to himself, oh Peter, why can’t you never develop a plan – or do something drastic? But in his delirious state, the thought slipped away, and never returned. He slept some more and had some food. There was a small toilet behind his seat that he used. He freshened up by throwing some water in his face.
Then, much later, a loud screeching! Suddenly, the train decelerated. The force pushed him forward, he had to hold on to the chair. Finally, the locomotive came to a halt. Peter listened for a few seconds, and when he heard nothing but silence, he opened the door. The lights of the train dimmed, then went out. He let himself slip into the darkness and down to the ground. With his hands outstretched he took a few steps. Slowly his eyes became adjusted to the dark. He was at a small station, but not the same one as where he had started out. He searched the platform with his hands, it was wet and slippery, sawdust and an oily substance. After a while he found a box. He rummaged through it. Some cloths, some tools. He got hold of a lighter, pulled it out and flicked it on. The light didn’t reach the walls; the hall was apparently very large. He inspected the contents of the box: no electric torch alas. But he found a metal bar, and some oil. He sat down on the ground and tore some of the rags to pieces and twisted them around the bar. He poured the oil over the rags and ignited them. Now he had enough light to investigate the hall. It was mostly empty, a few crates in a corner.
He didn’t know how it happened, but some sparks from the flame must have fallen on the ground, as suddenly the sawdust and oily residue caught fire. Peter cursed. The flames spread at a very disturbing speed: either somebody had spilled some highly ignitable substance between the crates, or a container had leaked. Peter pulled away from the hungry flames, and they chased him towards a corner. The flames licked at his clothing and suddenly his trousers started burning. He ripped them off and pulled his burning shirt over his head. By the light of the flames he could recognize a man-high tunnel in the opposite wall. He jumped across the fire, the flames liking at his naked body. He entered the tunnel and ran forward. His biggest fear was to suffocate in the smoke; the main risk of any fire. He hurried on for several minutes. Smoke started to fill the passage.
It was dark, and unexpectedly he ran into a wall. He groped around and fell a metal ladder, embedded in the wall. He got a hold of the bars and started climbing up, as quickly as he could. It was hard work. He climbed and climbed, bar after bar. The metal started hurting his hands and bare feet, but he was so afraid for the fire overtaking him that he pressed on.
Then: sounds! He could hear voices above him, and cars, traffic. He climbed faster. Suddenly he hit his head against a solid object above him. It dizzied him for a second and he almost let go of the bars. He rested a moment, trying to catch his breath. Then, with his last power, he slung his arms over a bar and pulled himself up. With one hand he felt above him. On the sides: concrete, but just above him a circle of cool, heavy metal. Peter climbed up one more bar and pushed against the metal with his shoulder. Yes, it was a lid, a duct cover! He was able to push it up. Bright daylight gushed into the hole, blinding his eyes. With his last remaining power, Peter climbed out of the hole and onto the pavement of a busy street, naked. Pedestrians looked at him in shock, but continued their way, passing by, staring back at him. The street was lined by sycamore trees, and shops and cafes with red canopies. In the distance: the Eiffel tower. This was Paris.