Here’s a scene that didn’t make it into Dream Paris.
I wrote it early on in the process, back when I was shaping Anna’s journey to Dream Paris itself. There was much that I liked about the scene. It reintroduced the way that numbers where different in the Dream World, it was also the first mention of the Scientists and the Integer Bombs.
I liked the conceit of the beetles, but in the end I had to admit to myself that’s all they were: nothing more than a fanciful conceit. They didn’t add anything to the story. Also, they made the train journey longer than was necessary.
Kill your darlings, as the saying goes.
Still, the story was set in the Dream World where, as someone said, “Everything makes sense so long as you accept that nothing makes sense.” The beetles are still there in the fields in the final draft, even if the reader never got a chance to see them. And here they are now….
The train resumed its journey. The passengers were getting bored now. I had a sense that the journey was drawing to an end. People always get irritable at the end. There’s no point in losing your temper when there are hours to go, only when the end to the torment is in sight.
And now I was fed up with the shaking, the smell of stale food and sweat, of the toilets and the bundled nappies of the children.
On we rode. And now the landscape was soil again. Corrugated dirt fields, rolling on and on to the horizon.
“What’s that?” I said.
“It looks like a beetle,” said Francis. “A beetle the size of a Volkswagen beetle.”
“Ah yes, little spy.” The man who spoke was small and dirty, he coughed a phlegmy smokers cough.
“The beetles. They root through the mud of the fields, searching for bells. They each have a bell on their rear that tingle lingle lingles. They follow each other in beetle trains at night, their bells ringing. Where do they come from, where do they go?.”
“Searching for bells?”
“Yes, they search for bells.” He coughed as he laughed. “Sometimes the scientists of Dream Paris put bells in humans and send them into the fields to be torn apart by the beetles. These people, these scum, these sons and daughters of the earth who travel on the train with us, they find that amusing. Not nearly so amusing as the scientists though!”
“The scientists of Dream Paris?”
“That’s what they call themselves. I call them worthless arrogant worm ridden scum. I despise them!”
“I can see why.”
“No! You misunderstand me. Not because they cause a few peasants to be put to death! No! The scientists of Dream Paris are trying to impose order upon this place. They are people who attempt to measure the Dream World, they try and bend it to their minds, but the Dream World cannot be bent! It is the minds that must adopt to it shape. Try too hard in it will send you mad! Just like the scientists! They sit in their towers and they look down at the poor innocents who are left to die, bleeding and in pieces, and they laugh. They laugh at them!”
“No! It’s the measurement that is despicable! Like the filthy Germans and their Integer bombs… ”
I looked at the dark plain, at the colourful beetles. Far off, near the horizon, I saw the shape of a tower. Was there a scientist sitting there now, I wondered? Watching someone dying? Or maybe standing looking up at the stars?
“But why are they searching for bells?” asked Francis. “Why do that?”
The man coughed.
“They are looking for the chief beetle that will lead them to their home. He is buried and they’re searching for his bell. They think that if they find his bell and ring it. He will come trundling out of the mud and they will form up into a train and follow him as they leave the Dream World.”
“Is that true?”
He gave a shrug.
“How should I know, little spy? That was what my mother told me. But look, the fields are passing. We are almost there.”
And it seemed true. The passengers were gathering together their things. Blankets were rolled up, packages collected, coats were put on, papers were found and put in order.
I felt a hollow, cold feeling. This was it. Soon there would be no going back. But of course, there had been no going back for sometime now….