“This landscape reminds me of Hans Werkman,” Zelda said.
“You mean the poem with all these place names,” Marcus replied as he kept looking out of the window at the endless fields on which the grain was harvested. Seeing the horizon was rare nowadays, but so much sky and emptiness was really unprecedented. He knew that tractors did not usually drive around unmanned, otherwise you might think that het Hogeland (the High Land) had been abandoned completely.
“I can understand why Werkman hopes that the new Earth will look like this area. It’s so beautiful,” Zelda said.
“I don’t remember the exact lines of the poem,” Marcus said.
Give us in the Eternity
A renewed Uithuizermeeden to see.
Give us Roodeschool and Spijk
In the bending of the dike.
Zelda recited the text while she kept her eyes focused on the fields of gold. She struggled to pronounce the last sentence clearly.
“If Hans Werkman thinks this landscape is so special, why hasn’t he returned after his retirement,” Marcus said.
Zelda did not reply. She took her phone and made a picture of the corn, half of which was still standing. “Within two minutes we will be in Uithuizen,” she said.
They walked to the balcony where three other people waited to get out. Two girls, one of them asked the other in a foreign language if she knew where to find the local Action-store. And a black man, dressed in sports clothes who uttered undefinable sounds to no one in particular. All five of them left the train. The two girls stayed at the entrance of the station, the black man walked into the extinct village, still speaking in other tongues.
Zelda and Marcus headed to the Menkemaborg, A walk of about ten minutes. They passed a retirement home. From behind the windows some old ladies watched them curiously.
The borg was a beautiful building that had a moat. A country house like this was only for the very rich. Inside the atmosphere was stuffy. The heat of the past days dominated the building. Zelda took a leaflet with information, he preferred to look for himself. The doors to the rooms were open and cords prevented them to enter them. Text signs described what could be seen inside the rooms. He saw an odd organ that was hidden in a cupboard. If the doors were closed, nothing pointed at the presence of the instrument.
Marcus attempted to escape the heat by descending the stairs to the basement. Food in glass jars and luxury wines were stored here. It would be an excellent location for a film in which a maid was brutally raped. A family with two children walked down the stairs. The girls had shriek voices that hurt his ears and he wondered why children shouted so often instead of just talking.
He fled the noise as quickly as possible and stopped in front of a room that exhibited a huge canopy bed. He stared at the portrait of a young woman for a few moments. Her bright eyes could have belonged to a woman of today. She had died in childbirth at the age of 26, said the description on the sign. Presumably this very bed. Even though you were rich, with all the privileges that belonged to your status, you could still die from the consequences of your child’s birth. He walked on and saw a dining table that had belonged to the wealthy family. Through a small door that was half open, a simple kitchen could be seen, where the staff used to prepare the food. The position of the chairs round the table gave him an uneasy feeling. The signs confirmed his thoughts: Two of the daughters of this family had chosen partners other than the husbands that their father had in mind for them. Because of this all their rights were cut off and they were no longer welcome in this house. Marcus needed fresh air. He left the borg and waited outside till Zelda would have seen enough.
They had twenty minutes before the train to the Eemshaven would leave and they decided to buy a snack at the supermarket near the station. When they had found what they needed, they joined the long line before the cash desk. “Why don’t they have a self-scanner here?” Marcus asked. The answer was given before his eyes. The cash girl acted as the local chat box. In a drawling dialect, of which he did not understood much, gossip was exchanged and opinions were confirmed. Multitasking didn’t work in Uithuizen. The line hardly moved and it was far from sure whether they would be in time for the train to the Eemshaven.
The Eemshaven had been on his to do list for more than thirty years. His parents often went to the German island of Borkum by boat, but he had never been there. To his astonishment, his father advised him: “Don’t go to Borkum, it’s boring and you will waste your time there.” But since the National Railways had extended the track to the Eemshaven, he wanted to see the final destination. They were just in time for the train, but when they tried to board, they noticed that it would not drive any further than Roodeschool.
“We can pick up a public bike there,” Zelda said practically. Something was wrong with that idea, he thought when the train started to move. In this way he could have travelled to the Eemshaven years before the train track had been extended. But now the situation was as it was, he accepted Zelda’s plan. In Roodeschool, two other passengers left the train after they had arrived at the windy station. These two people continued their walk in opposite directions.
The station had a few cycle stands, but they didn’t see any public bikes. They looked around bewilderdly.
“Where is the village?” Zelda asked.
On the left side were trees, on the right side a few houses. “I think we should go to the right,” he replied.
“We have an hour before the next train goes to the Eemshaven, let’s try to find a café or a restaurant,” Zelda said. The village had one main street. A small side road led to an area where a company was established that produced pipe organs. Some twenty metres further, they saw a Heineken sign on a wall. The doors of the building, that looked like a Chinese restaurant were locked and the rooms were abandoned in spite of the leftover bottles on the tables. A road worker on his knees didn’t say a word but the eyes of the man followed them closely.
On the other side, they saw another beer sign. It belonged to a building that, if the inscription was anything to go by, was the Village Centre. Marcus didn’t know what to think of it but he had to admit that the building was constructed according modern requirements: a smoothly running slope made it accessible for wheelchair users.
A look inside did not show any activity in this Village Centre. He discovered a showcase that contained the local agenda: ‘29/6 Klaber jass’. That was three weeks ago. He saw no mentioning of opening times. No activities were planned for the month of July. Anyway, there was not a chance that they could drink some coffee here.
Following the road on the right side, because the sidewalk on the left was open for maintenance work, they passed a garage that, for incomprehensible reasons, had the name ‘Garage Garrelsweer’.
“That’s weird,” he said, “Why would anyone give a garage the name of another village?”
“Maybe it’s the name of the owner,” Zelda replied, “You also have people who are called Norg.”
This theory seemed solid. “I think I see another garage,” he said. It turned out to be a show room.
The shiny vehicles in the shop window were oldtimer tractors.
“The local tradespeople focus on the essential necessities of life,” concluded Zelda, “pipe organs and oldtimers.”
“This was the last sign of civilization,” Marcus concluded. “Shall we walk back?”
As slowly as possible, they strolled to the station. Again they came across the road worker, who made a grumbling attempt to greet. They hadn’t visited the village unnoticed.
At the station they sat down on a bench in a glass shelter, where they enjoyed the apples that they had bought in Uithuizen. Without saying anything Zelda gave him his bottle of cola, that made sizzling sound when he opened it.
Their rest was disturbed by a loud bang. Zelda got up to see what had happened and she reported that a small bird had flown against the window of their shelter. It hadn’t survived the crash.
The train rolled into the station. From their compartment they eagerly studied the environment, which was an interesting transitional area. The old dike was not used as a boundary for the water, but it ran into grassland that had been conquered from the sea. A historic mill, which had probably had been a landmark in earlier days, looked very small compared to the modern wind turbines, that were placed there in huge amounts to prevent the soil in this area from further subsiding.
The track rose a little so that they could look across the new dike. The Wadden Sea popped up and near the horizon they saw a stroke of land. Marcus pointed to it and asked, “Could that be Borkum?”
They walked to the exit. The two other passengers spoke German and Marcus wondered if Germans could only travel to Borkum via this Dutch route.
They left the platform. A staircase brought them on top of the dike where they looked over the grey Wadden Sea. The sound of screeching seagulls penetrated the silence. This was the Dutch equivalent of Land’s End. But if someone had told him that this was the end of the world, he would have believed it too.