ANOTHER WORLD: SIX

The cabbie looks at Barry in the mirror and shrugs.

“Sorry, governor, I have to take you back.”

Barry grunts. He’s not listening.

“You’ll be all right,” says the cabbie, “nothing to worry about at all.”

“Worry! Worry about what?” Barry is fully alert now.

“I don’t know anything, governor. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.”

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know if I should say anything. This note is official.”

“I’m going to know when I get there!”

The cabbie is silent for a moment while he considers this.

“That’s a good point. Look at the view! It’s magnificent!” says the cabbie trying his best to distract him.

“I want to know…”

The cabbie hands Barry the note. It bears the official Department of Mistakes embossed letterhead together with a misspelled tagline.

Barry slumps in his seat as the taxi pulls up in front of the Customs Shed at the End of the World.


Captain Pudding sits behind a large desk in a wing-back chair. At his side, a scowling Sergeant Thump stands before a row of bags on a table.

“ARE ALL THESE SUITCASES YOURS, SIR!” barks Sergeant Thump.

Barry startles.

“Now, now,” says Captain Pudding in an attempt to calm his sergeant down.

“YES, SIR!” yells Sergeant Thump with a parade-ground stamp.

“Quietly, sergeant!”

“BUT IT’S LUGGAGE, SIR!”

“I can see that, sergeant. Try asking him nicely.”

“YES, SIR!” yells the sergeant.

“Softly, softly, sergeant,” says Captain Pudding.

With great effort, the sergeant modifies his voice. But the captain, now twiddling the waxed ends of his handlebar mustache, addresses Barry.

“I’m awfully sorry to drag you away like this, old chap. Shame, really.” He consults the paperwork in front of him. “Right on the steps of the Sofa Club, too. Now then, we just want to clear up a tiny detail.”

Sergeant Thump bristles. “LUGGAGE, SIR! AGAINST REGULATIONS!”

Captain Pudding ignores his sergeant.

“Have you seen these bags before?” asks the captain.

Barry tries to remember. He can’t be sure of anything; he remembers arriving at the Station at the End of the World, but he didn’t get off with any luggage. And then he remembers the boisterous man and throwing the bags out of the window.

“Yes, I think so.” He moves forward to inspect the bags more closely. Barry can read the labels now: Regrets, Desires, Sorrows, Affections, and some labels he can’t read. He reaches for one, but he’s restrained by Sergeant Thump.

“DON’T open those up in here!” says Sergeant Thump, failing his best effort at civility.

“I’m afraid the sergeant is right,” says Captain Pudding. “That would never do, you see, there appears to be some unintentional mix-up. We take that sort of thing very seriously here at the Department. We have to make sure our mistakes are crafted properly and they’re evenly distributed.”

Barry scratches his head, and his lightness of being has almost disappeared.

“Clearly, you’re not ready.” says the captain indicating the side door to his sergeant.

And with that, Barry is ushered (with an additional shove from Sergeant Thump) through the exit. He steps out into nothingness and has the sensation of falling.