“Look around where you are right now. Describe this setting – but do so in the words your viewpoint character would use.” This was the exercise I was set in the book I’m currently reading. So I tried, in the words and from the point of view of a 6th century peasant boy from Elba!
What on earth is happening? Or is that the wrong question? Am I, perhaps, no longer on earth? Have I been translated into another sphere or another life in a different world? I’m sitting; sitting on one of many unnatural-looking seats in a colourful house of some sort. It’s warm and light in here, although it feels like night-time. But the house is moving! It’s noisy and I feel it shake and vibrate. There are other people in here, too. At least I think they are people: men and women, dressed very strangely; many with unusually fair hair; many with something strange in front of their eyes, supported by their nose and ears; some have thin strands of something hanging out of their ears, which disappear among their clothes. Would their heads fall off if they weren’t tied on? They don’t seem to be able to talk, nor see very well, because they take no notice of me or each other. Many of them have something like a bundle of thin parchments on their lap, which they seem to be looking at all the time.
I jump as a musical tone sounds from nowhere and a loud voice shouts something. My heart starts racing, but no-one else takes any notice. I suppose they can’t hear or don’t understand what was said any more than I do. But then the house stops and it seems some people leave; others come in from lower down and climb up to where I am, then sit down near me. Occasionally, there are other sounds: something like music or someone indeed trying to talk to a little box they hold to their ear. Why don’t they talk to people, who can answer?
But the weirdest of all is that I can see through the walls in places. I see things rushing past at a fantastic speed, and then slowing down as the house stops moving: huge, grey, box-like structures with coloured marks on them; shining lamps; smaller things on wheels that also have red and white lamps and move around without even a horse pulling them, as far as I can make out. The only things I recognise are the occasional trees and the sky above, with clouds turning red…
To see oursels as others see us!”