ANOTHER WORLD: FIVE

As Barry steps onto the platform, he feels a lightness of being. The man with the pencil mustache and knee-breeches is not to be seen. At the other end of the station, the young woman is getting off the train. He’s not sure if it is the same woman. She looks older, but he can’t be sure. She beckons him to follow, and he does.

A black taxi is waiting. The illuminated sign reads Taxi for the Galaxy.

They get in. The padded door closes with a satisfying thunk, and the taxi driver turns and looks at them.

“The Sofa Club at the End of the World is it, governor?

Barry gawps.

“The sofa club will do nicely,” interrupts the woman. She is dressed for it with elegance, comfort, and pearl earrings. Barry can see that this woman is much older, maybe 40, and self-assured.

It seems no time has passed before the taxi makes an abrupt halt at The Sofa Club at the End of the World.

People on a sofa: International Institute of Not Doing Much

The woman gets out first. She walks up the steps, past the doorman, through the open doors, and down the long marble antechamber toward the vast window of stars. Sofas are tastefully arranged at the base of columns supporting the glass ceiling. Aspidistras and potted palms abound.

And then the indescribable happens. As Barry walks up the steps to follow her, he stops and turns around. For an instant, Barry sees into the nature of Being and Time. He merges with the cosmos and perceives time and creation in its entirety, the birth and death of galaxies, universes, the rise and fall of species, civilizations, and the tiny atomic worlds within worlds, the spark of the quark. And he feels the pain and pleasure of every creature that has ever existed.

Then it’s over.

A white-gloved hand stops him at the top of the stairs. The doorman tells him there’s been an administrative error. He puts Barry back into the cab and hands a note to the driver.

As the taxi pulls away, Barry looks over his shoulder at the diminishing splendor of The Sofa Club at the End of the World.