I’m stuck in a loop.
Each time it begins, I am running along the Victorian path between Exeter Central and Northernhay Gardens, towards a gate at Auschwitz-Birkenau. There’s someone I have to find, a Canadian called T that I went to school with in the 80s. He was born at the gates of Auschwitz, and if I can return him there, it will close the loop.
I ask for him at the gates of the camp. A German guard calls for him, and a one legged figure, missing an arm, using a crutch, swings his way toward me through the morning mist.
We talk. His shaved head and striped uniform distract me. Yes, he was born here. He shows me the exact spot, beneath the gates proclaiming “Work Will Set You Free”, and he vanishes, shrinking to a pinpoint of light, before the loop begins again.
Only this time it is different. The camp is unmanned, empty. Instead, groups of people follow behind me on the path. I call T’s name, and up he runs, long legs and hair, smartly dressed, no limbs missing. This is the loop I’d like to close, where he is whole, and the death camp of work has no more victims. We enter the gates. Nothing happens. T says he knows the answer. He must adjust the gas flow, to fix the loop. A section of ground rises up. T busies himself with adjusting a huge gas pipe installation. I hear a clicking, and he is engulfed in flames. He kneels as the flames writhe around him. No screaming. Submission to this fate. I shout for someone to help him. I try to call a fire engine, but my touchscreen phone will not respond.
He falls to the side, dead, a pinpoint of light.
The loop begins again. I’m in a Victorian furnished office at work. I kneel on the carpet, T sits in the window, and my boss is looking unsure where to start his explanation. He lets me explain what’s happening in the loop to T. And T agrees that he’d prefer a loop with himself, and work, both intact.
The loop restarts.
We try again.
To find the answer.
That brings work, life and death together.
A way that won’t disable, won’t hurt, won’t kill.
A balancing loop.
My new life’s work.
I’m stuck in a loop.