• Karim Gamil

The familiar man or the man with the moustache

He feels a river gushing out of his throat before he grabs onto the next wall around him. The water floods the pipes in his chest. It fills every empty space until it finds an exit. At the bottom of his body, the walls begin to leak a slippery substance. The walls are supposed to be closed. He could not remember if he was the one, who opened them or whether someone had betrayed him. It could of course have been that he or someone else forgot to close the walls of his feet. By the time he accepted this, his feet had already lost their form. However, he could still feel his feet. They had bonded with the slippery substance slowly filling the room. For the first time, he noticed that he was in a room and not outside. This gave him an unstable feeling. He did not know which way was up anymore. When he looked to find the nearest exit, he realized there was no door. A room without windows and doors. By that time, the substance had already reached his chest. He did not wonder how he got in if there was no door. Instead, he felt disgusted by the idea that someone would build a room with no windows. No way of looking outside. No way of telling which way was up. “Which way is up?”, he wondered in great distress. “How do I get up?”, he asked again, but sadly he didn’t hear an answer. It was too late to ask again; the substance had now reached his chin and wasn’t going to stop until it consumed him completely. He took his final deep breath and gathered all the force he could and before he could ask, he heard the answer. “This way is up,” said the familiar man. The familiar man held his finger and directed it upwards.

He was very relieved that he finally knew which way was up, that he forgot he was about to drown in a room with no windows a few seconds ago. He did not get to ask himself how long ago it really was.

The familiar man looked very decent. He had a moustache. It was not the kind, which seemed inappropriate. He chose to refer to the man as “the familiar man” or “the man with the moustache”. The familiar man and the man with the moustache greeted him in an introductory manner. As if they had done it a thousand times before.

The familiar man and the man with the moustache’s words appeared to be as clear as glass. There was no time to waste in these games anymore. It was time to get to work before it was too late. The familiar man and the man with the moustache gave their hand and their word, that despite what had happened, or what was yet to happen, there would be no real danger. The familiar man and the man with the moustache spoke the word “real” as if they had practised mispronouncing it in French in front of the mirror. Perhaps the moustache was a bit inappropriate after all. Nevertheless, he decided he was going to trust the familiar man or the man with the moustache. Even trust them with his life if it came down to it. After all, they had revealed to him which way was up.

“Which way is up?” he said as the words forced their way through his teeth. “Which way is up?” he asked again. This time he grew louder. And then he realized there were three people in the room. But when did the third man come into the room?” he asked himself. He did not like the feeling he got when he asked this question. The familiar man and the man with the moustache looked at him in confusion. “Which third man?” they said.

Although he did not like it, he decided to think about it for a second. He thought this might explain things. Sometime after he started drowning, the familiar man or the man with the moustache saved him. Or at least, he thought they did. He recalled the familiar man answering him which way was up. And so, he concluded which was the third man. Before he could raise his arm and point his finger at the third man, he realized he did not know anymore. He did not know anymore which way was up.