The man I was sent to replace was named Charlie. His full name: Christofer Littleton. He was born in Liverpool, England, but hadn’t been back there since he was a kid. After his mother abruptly died on his twelfth birthday, his father, who was an engineer for the British army, packed up everything and the two went to India. Charlie finished growing up in Bangelore where his father was a consultant to the Indian Government. After completing compulsory school and utilising contacts from his father, Charlie took a job as a tool-man in Hong Kong. When he departed India, it was two days before his eighteenth birthday. It was 1953.
A “Tool-Man” is another name for a train engineer.
His idea was to work in China and help that country develop its metro system. To start, though, Charlie worked with the digging crews that would eventually lay the first rails of the Hong Kong MTR. During his second year, right after his contract was renewed, Charlie met Marry. Marry was from Korea. Marry moved to HK just after North Korea tried to invade South Korea. Marry and Charlie never had a family. One day Marry went to Charlie and told him she was unhappy with their lives in Hong Kong and that her unhappiness had nothing to do with being barren. She then said that she had a big family back in Korea and she was ready to go home. Charlie had worked ten years. The HK MTR was flourishing.
Charlie quit his job at Hong Kong MTR. With in a few months he and Marry took a boat to South Korea. Once there Marry revealed that her family wasn’t in the South but instead in the North. This revelation had little impact. Charlie joined his wife and the two entered North Korea. It was 1965.
I met Charlie in 1989 in a small office in the south-east corner basement of The Pyongyang Great Hall. The door to Charlie’s office was labelled “Tool-Man” and below that was the Korean translation. After greetings and other formalities, Charlie immediately took me to the train station that was directly at the rear entrance of The Great Hall. It was during this walk through the building that I realised my situation. I was living a dream. Yes, dear worst-reader. Some live dreams through the physical universe, some do not.
I tried to question Charlie about his decision to live in The North. Other than the following, Charlie withheld elaborating about his life decisions. He said, “Do your job.” His other remark was: Not unlike where you come from, everything here is not a dream.
We exited the rear of The Great Hall and I found myself standing directly on the train departure platform. Something was waaaaay out of whack. I couldn’t place it, though. My watch read nine forty-six. The morning air was fresh and crisp, unlike the air in Seoul–which I had no recollection of traveling to. The grey sky dimmed my view somewhat of the train grounds behind The Grat Hall but below the platform was a single narrow gauge track. The track was just as out-of-whack as the departure platform. In fact, according to my limited knowledge of trains, the gauge of the track meant that the train could not be a real train. But none of that mattered because, regardless of train here or there, I would command it the rest of my life… in North Korea.
During the first few moments of this passing of the baton, Charlie voiced soliloquies about his endeavours and when he was done he continued with songs of glory-interludes, adding tales of privilege while driving Dear Leader around the grounds behind The Great Hall. There was also a small buffet of goose-shrimp, tackle-butter and confused-gender bread but only attendees with a special badge could take from it. I did not have the special badge.
I kept one eye on Charlie and the other on the people gathering around us. As each person recognised Charlie and then me, the reason for my presence became clearer. Oh, dear worst-dreamer, I was indeed there for a reason. The reason goes beyond the metaphysical of my never having laid one foot in either South or North Korea. As best as I can surmise, the only reason I was there–in reality or not–was to relay Charlie’s message. For I am, in fact, a chronicler of a dream’s dream.
Being a tool-man wasn’t Charlie’s only purpose in life. His life was the two sides of all coins. First there was Marry. Second there was his message. Together these two purposes served a power higher than even the most giving and willing humans have ever attempted. I speak, of course, of the great messengers Jesus, Mohammad and, perhaps, #Trump. (I use the word “perhaps” because purpose remains to be determined. Or?)
Upon my arrival Charlie had already surpassed his time on earth. His extension or continuance, if you will, was granted by Dear Leader. The cause of this grant was a mistake in life and was not unlike mistakes from other infamous messengers: He failed to get the message out.
I’m wondering if the whole idea of message-delivery is that which brings me to my greatest fear: Not having enough time to debate the error and misfortune of the only son-of-God, born to this foul-able coil, like so many others, of mortality, and thereby stuck with the impossible. But I’m off subject–perhaps.
No matter where Charlie stood during the ceremony there was a descending sun-glow around his head. He had no remorse in saying goodbye to the facility that had him trapped for so many years. Is his face just like that of Jesus? Was his a face of disappointment? A face of misguided rage? Forgive me father for we have sinned?
By-the-buy, asking The Father for forgiveness of your sins was once a translators interpretation of pre canonical text. The reason it is still used today, even though it has nothing to do with biblical forgiveness-seeking, is because it’s what JC said either before or after “Father why hast thou forsaken me.” In fact, JC mumbled no-nonsense for hours before his final light went out.
But Charlie’s remorse was something else. In fact, I’d go so far as to claim that he knew all along that I would get the baton. He might not have known my face but he knew someone would be there. He might have even known all along that he wouldn’t be able to get his message out. So I also wondered if he was enjoying the suffering in my face. Yes, I think he was enjoying it.
After elegantly praising his time as Tool-Man and extolling the joy of marriage, he turned to me and put a hand in a coat pocket. Out of his pocket he pulled a lone key attached to a six inch diameter stainless steel ring. He handed me the ring and key and told me to be gentle but also firm… with her. Then he added: she will determine your time. He stood at attention as the small gauge train rolled around the small gauge track and came to halt before us–on the small departure platform. It was the first time I had seen the down-scaled train.
The underlings of the train exited from one of the three cars attached and they all shook hands with Charlie first. Charlie responded in Korean to their gestures and when all was done, the underlings turned to me and offered salutations anew. As I began to shake hands and reciprocate, Charlie entered the last train car and the train drove off towards the west corner of The Great Hall and I would never see him again.
Just then I woke up.