Chapter 2
Illustration: James St Findlay

But Colin wouldn’t be going home for a while. He’d just received an email inviting him to Berlin to cover the end of Gallery Weekend. He rescheduled his flight and found the cheapest ticket possible to Schönefeld. After half a dozen changes, he found himself outside a gallery near Checkpoint Charlie. Inside the gallery, conveyor belts hummed. He’d have to step up to mount them if he was going to see the show. Steeling himself, he jumped and made it—just. On screens mounted on the gallery’s north wall, the bodies of dead animals appeared, falling in imperious slow motion. He gave himself time to take it in. He was careful to keep pace with the movement of the belt, but then his mobile pinged. It was Rosaline in London, no doubt typing from behind a Bellini in some cafe in Fitzrovia.

   “It’s all gone tits up” was all it said. 

Colin closed his eyes and sighed. The next thing he knew he felt his shoulder crashing into the gallery’s wall. He tried to right himself, but ended up falling off the belt into the hallway outside the gallery.

Colin’s next memory was the gallery attendant fanning him with press releases, speaking in German to a towering man with brown hair who was dabbing at his forehead with a handkerchief.

   “Alles in ordnung,” the man said, “nichts schwer.” 

   “Are you okay, sir,” the gallery attendant asked. 

Colin’s vague nod was enough assurance for her, and she disappeared back into the gallery. 

The man helped Colin to his feet and held out his hand.

   “Urs”

   “Uh, Colin.”

   “Yes,” the man said, “I know. I’m a fan of your work. Come, let’s have lunch and you can get your bearings.” 

They ate at a cafe across the street from the gallery, truffled mayonnaise on white asparagus, leaf salad, and a glass of Riesling.

   “This is Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse. There are many galleries here, Mr. Clout. Do you know Rudi Dutschke?”

   “Not personally, no.”

   “Let’s take a small trip if you have the time. There’s a space you might enjoy just outside the centre of Berlin, it’s very restful.” 

They took the U-bahn, then the S-bahn, then a bus down a long avenue lined with trees. 

   “This area is called Dahlem,” Urs said as they exited the bus, “Do you like it?”

Colin took in the view, tall trees, gated villas, and CCTV everywhere. It reminded him of London. 

   “An oasis of calm in an urban asylum, Mr. Clout. This place is very special to me. It is the site of my greatest triumph and my bitterest defeat. Near here, I displayed the work that saw me exiled from the art world. ‘Floccinaucinihilipilification’, it was called. I had a flock of sheep herded into an abandoned building which I then hit by a drone strike. The year was 2008. Philistine critics excoriated me. I was a ‘savage’, a ‘murderer’. The fools! I tell you Colin, those sheep, they understood my project. They wanted the strike to happen. They told me so! Not with words, but with their eyes. Your pieces, Today’s Barn, Tomorrow’s Gallery: The New Agriculturalism in Art, and Tech-Tractorism: Tilling the Field of Cultural Production, so beautiful. If only you’d been here to see it.”

   “You’re not making art now?”

   “Today, no. I’m afraid I’ve given up on what passes for art. Now, I work for a start-up, across from the gallery in which your unfortunate accident occurred, integrating wearable tech with edible tech.”

   “Edible tech?”

   “I’m afraid it’s proprietary. You will forgive me. But this reminds me, I must return to the office. I hope I will see you again. Are you staying in Berlin for long?”

   “I’m not sure.”

   “Please, take my business card. I’ll see you to the station.”

Colin took Urs’ card and waved him farewell at Hohenzollerndamm. He was on the Ringbahn now. As the doors closed, his thoughts raced: he couldn’t write up the show. He was too traumatised. And, then, the thing with Rosaline…. As he lay his head against the train window and watched a rank of trees pass, he realised that he had another pressing issue to deal with: where was he actually going?  

Immer noch der Laufe der Dinge, Julius von Bismarck (2018) Alexander Levy, Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse 26 10969 Berlin, 27 April - 9 June 2018

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William Kherbek is the writer of the novels Ecology of Secrets (Arcadia Missa, 2013) and ULTRALIFE (Arcadia Missa, 2016) and the epic poem, Pull Factor (2016). Kherbek’s poetry collections, Everyday Luxuries and 26 Ideologies for Aspiring Ideologists will be published this year by Arcadia Missa and If a Leaf Falls Press respectively.