262. Splitting apart (IV)
In a large London department store, I found myself trapped in a maze-like path to the tills. The set-up was, I suppose, a deliberate ploy to keep a person’s progress around the shop nice and slow—it forced each customer to browse the tables next to them. On the tables next to me were piles upon piles of the same book: a book written by a Muslim girl who had been on a game show broadcast on a state-sponsored channel a few years ago.
The media made a big fuss about her, and, in fact, her victory had been arranged by the state to make a propaganda point at a time when Muslim terror attacks were severe: here was a perfectly nice girl, a completely domestic and peaceable Muslim girl who could bake English cake recipes and win a prize for doing so. The girl was then cultivated to present the Islam the state wants to see, nothing to do with Islam itself—as naïve neoconservatives think—but rather progressive liberal views clad in Islam’s veil; and so the girl promoted the state’s important propaganda points, and those citizens who conform to the state ideology applauded, “You see, the Muslims are just like us. They just want to shop, too.”
This book was not a cookery book: it was decorated in red and gold—as I examined it, I found it was a general manual for life itself. It was not to do with Islam, exactly. It covered everything; and yet I took umbrage at it, for it represented Britain’s trajectory this century. A Muslim girl in a niqab stood next to me and examined the book. I said to my girlfriend: “This is all pushed down our throats by the state to rub our noses in diversity.” At this the girl shot up and said to me: “What’s that? What’s that? I’m a second-generation immigrant!” Her point was that she belonged here. I said to her: “That’s what I think: Britain for the British.”
I exited the store with some difficulty and, on the street, a man in a suit and bowler hat swooped from the sky; he had claw-like talons and I struggled with him; after a few moments, the scene went dark. Then I was in a long-abandoned multi-storey carpark; it had been built in the 1960s and the concrete had rotted. I exited via a ramp and found I was in a valley formed by two multi-storey carparks. There was a high concrete ceiling above me, and it dripped water—at the heights there was straggly orange beard-like growth that hung down, the suggestion was chemical.
I walked to the tunnel’s end and found it shrunk to a small square entrance. There was a female reporter there and she explained that this was the long-lost entrance to a tomb. I squeezed through the square and found myself in a tiny antechamber. I had to crouch into a ball. I was completely hunched over. Above me was a golden hatch decorated by two representations of Anubis. There was a circular protrusion, not unlike a miniature colosseum in shape; and I twisted it to open the hatch, but it would not open. I had the impression there might be compacted earth behind the hatch.
“It was his life’s work,” said the female reporter; and we were joined by an older man, an archaeologist. I realised he had worked all his life to uncover this hatch; and I was sure there was a great boon on the other side. Suddenly, I felt that I had to leave the antechamber; the older man would shut us inside. I tried to squeeze back through the door, but it was too tight. The more I tried, the harder it became. I felt the air stifle me and it grew hot. I pushed my body halfway through the opening, but it tightened around me. I was trapped and I was sure the archaeologist would seal me inside the antechamber.