A Year In Nadada: Week Nine- Life In The Penny Arcade

 The Kandinsky is shrinking. I am not sure why yet, but the windows vanish, and the beams fold in on themselves. Yesterday this was a tower, and now is close to bungalow size.

I am lying on a pavement nearly, propped up against a parking meter, watching my ship disappear. There aren’t any parking charges. If you try and put money in, humbugs pop out the coin return. Nobody minds that I am down here. The pavements are soft in Lozowick, not mattress standard, but at least that of a decent sun bed.

Ten hours ago, Lisa met me where Tzara should be. She showed me the tiny building on her key ring.

‘Don’t worry, there wasn’t anyone inside,’ she said.

She led me down an alleyway where the buildings changed from skyscrapers to thatched cottages. Past a supermarket with nothing on the shelves, a person in a fox suit moving back and forth on a rocking chair in the aisles. The weather changed from street to street. One minute I was scraping mud off my shoes, the next I had to remove my jumper because to stop sweating. so hot and dry. The Butter Mouse wilted from frost and humidity at the same time.

Even at this hour, commuters floated by on their way to ‘work.’  A lady walked a lion down the street, who moved at that lackadaisical pace the animals have round here. They are not real after all.

We fight through a parade, green luminous bones painted on the participants’ bodies. They split around us like a shoal of fish. We stroll past a building the shape of giant ice lolly. So many sights and smells and lights to take in.  A sign says we are heading North, but I cannot decide if this is a genuine notification of direction, or ironic.

I was rather nonplussed when Lisa took to me a grotty black wooden door, a slim line drawing of a robot in cherry red on the sign outside. Cabaret Voltage was written underneath in words like lighting bolts.

Inside was a bar, the ceiling yellow with cigarette smoke. A gold hand rail  ran around the room, near desk lamps carved with bronze elephant heads and fake marble. Red curtains block out the madness of the streets.

Yet arcade machines lined every wall. Bright graphics bounce off the bronze and the gold, and bleeps and bloops echo round the room  Figurines of the robot from the sign were dotted on polished oak surfaces, stuck on with blu-tac and sellotape. A bar man waited to take our orders, dressed in a smart white shirt with black bow tie. His hair was shaven on one side, and gelled on the other. Despite the gloom of the establishment, he wore sunglasses. Apart from the barman, there wasn’t another person in there.

‘Start when you are ready,’ Lisa said.

I am about to ask her what she means, when the arcade machines swivelled towards me, their screens blinking into life. On each were figure sitting at bars, drinking beverages ranging from chunky 8-bit beers, to 3D glasses of champagne with perfectly rendered bubbles.

I soon found living in an arcade game is an option in Cabaret Voltage. You can pop out through the coin slot whenever you want, find a nice virtual nook, and call the digitisation home. Some treat their RAM lined corners as a hotel, other as a permanent home.

We got used to them by the fifth minute of our routine. The only distraction was the difference in the quality of laughter, from the perfectly realised voices of the newer models, a basic sound effect drawl, and the bleeps of delight from the older machines.

We stayed for a few drinks afterwards. I vaguely remember trying to clamber through a coin slot.  I haven’t lived here anywhere near long enough to tackle the intricacies of this manoeuvre. Lisa had to drag me all the way back.

That is why I am flat on my back out here. I will aim to get back on board before The Kandinsky flies, crawls or motors away.

Because next week, we enter the woodland.

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