Woe, woe, comes the call, silky undercurrents coasting along still tiles.
Woe, woe, and here come all, to sleepwalk through sorting process.
Men and women, stepping out of time. Everyone must choose which door to walk through. Men and women, hesitating, alarmed. This is the decision of a lifetime.
The division is painted firmly across doors, across floors, across foreheads and sweaty palms and fluttering chests. Walk through one door and the world is yours. You step into a room of riches, of power, prestige. A crown placed on your head, sceptre in your hand. You will rule the world and only see the scurrying little fingers of servants who do your bidding.
Walk through the other door and you’ll find yourself with scrubbing brush in hand. Your hair pinned back with soft disposable white netting, the smell of disinfectant rising from stuffy clothes. Reach your arm out, open your hand. Yes, just like that. Drop your jaw slightly. Now remember that position. That is the posture of servitude. Get used to it.
Woe, woe, comes the call, a precious hum that coasts the walls.
Woe, woe, and here come all, to sleepwalk through their destiny.
There is no middle ground here, there is no middle way. You have to choose left or right, one or the other. There is no going back.
They say that no one ever returns. No one has ever met someone from the other side. The doorkeepers have their mouths stitched shut. As a warning, perhaps. As a lesson, maybe. They preside with their clipboards and ball point pens, the scars across their lips bulging and fruitful with secrets. The rest of us do our dreamwalk dance along flickering corridors, exchanging small glances where we can. But most people can’t bear to lift their eyes from their shoes, afraid of what their eyes will reveal. Hope and ambition, fear and condemnation.
No one has ever simply stood there, in the middle. No one has ever walked straight into the wall. The human seas will part, the river will trickle into two separate streams. No one knows if we will all meet each other again somewhere on the other side, or if this is it. The last steps you take as equals. The last steps you take as one.
There are myths of ones who have tried to change their destiny. Last minute runs to the other door, frantic grasping at a handle that won’t turn, the firm grip of the mouthless ones, their clipboards paralysing as they slice through vertebrae, their ball point pens blinding, and one who was walking suddenly falling to the ground, only to be mashed into the tiles by the millions of other feet that must pass through.
But the ground here seems clean, the scuff marks innocuous. There is a tranquilised air to the procession. Perhaps they placed something in the water they gave us, perhaps it is only the resignation of those who know that in order to live you must continue to step forward regardless of the consequence. But the idea of running in this place is a travesty. The idea of betraying the mouthless ones is unthinkable.
There will be the haves, there will be the have-nots. Maybe on the other side we will resent each other. Maybe on the other side there will be anger. But for now, there are only the steps of solidarity we all take with one another. The ones who win, the ones who lose, it all seems arbitrary and beyond us.
There is music in this breathless air. They say the mouthless ones still sing.
Woe, woe, comes the call.
Woe, woe, and here come all.
I stand before the doors. The pen is wielded, a fate is dealt.
And there is no time for me to ask – who makes the choice? And there is no time for me to ask – was this the life that I sought or the one that was given to me?