Every Wall Is a Window

by Henry Heffer

When I lived in desert there was a lightning storm, electricity pounding sand for a whole evening and well into night. When the wind blew the dunes on and moonlight finally made its way through the clouds, a grand straße of petrified glass emerged. Father declared it a divine gift, a shimmering extension to heaven’s estate. So we were never allowed inside. A few days later the dunes had moved on again and it was swallowed up. But I still believe it is out there, my palace, like the princess in a fairytale, just waiting for me to dig it up.


Berlin is a city of glass. When I first arrived it was summer and I lived in the park amongst it. Beer bottles were left everywhere, they seemed to grow overnight like some indigenous rose, and in the mornings I harvested. When recycled at the supermarket, each bottle was worth 25 cents. A mother gifted me one of her sturdy shopping bags made of colourful fibres and I made €5 a trip. However, when autumn came, I had to hunt them. I went all over, seeking the Spätis, scouring the student hovels and digging through the recycling bins of beautiful manors with busty green front lawns. Back then I lived in cardboard and stuffed paper in my clothes.

Winter, when I lived in brick, was the worst. Others were awake constantly, playing their repetitive music and thrashing about in beams of light. It made me sick. I could not sleep. I was so tired that the small amount of bottles I found I dropped and bust into sand and scattered like thieves into the night. A runaway shard cut me deep and the wound kept me awake even more. Then the house was raided and I was taken by police. I lived behind steel for two weeks.

When summer returned I could finally go back to the park. Tying a hammock between two cherry trees, I lived in the air. The bottles returned too: every colour, size and shape, blooming in the sun like bougainvillea. I made €30 a day. Sleep found me again, in fact, better than before. I slept like a caterpillar must in the months before emerging as a butterfly. At night the cherry blossoms fell, splashing their scent over the fabric of my hammock, momentarily overwhelming the urine and marijuana smoke.


This afternoon, at the entrance to the supermarket, a sinister handwritten awaits me: Dienst ausgesetzt. No explanation. No clue as to when it will return. The machines are simply devoid of electricity. Same at the next supermarket I haul my bags to. And the next. The suspension is city-wide. There is nothing for me to do but return to the park and stack the bottles beneath my hammock. I can’t stop collecting; it is all I have.

That night, upon the breeze, the bottles sing for the first time. A hundred voices taunting me. Once again, I cannot sleep.

Two weeks go by. Park dwellers leave their bottles here now and my field of glass grows. They clink the bottles together trying to summon me from my cocoon, before presenting them like offerings. But the wound on my hand is open again; it throbs and oozes, making my head hurt and my body ache, so I don’t leave my hammock. More bottles mean more voices. Sleep has abandoned me.


I have not eaten for a week. Drunk anything in two days. It is likely that I will die here, the bottles my choir for the funeral. I feel as if I’m beginning to crystallise, when a rumble of thunder, far off at first, makes me stir. Rain patters then pools on my fabric roof. As I part my quartz lips to catch the first drops, there is an almighty CRACK! like that of bones snapping and I am smothered by white light.

Bursting forth from my chrysalis, I land with a soft clink. Dazed, at first I’m unable to comprehend why the trees flanking the stadium are warped, as if suspended in a heat mirage. Why the people, their bodies long and thin like stick insects, are staring in amazement? Why it is so deafly quiet?

It is quiet because the bottles have vanished. Turning, I see that the choir has finally departed and in their place is a cathedral. One of my very own, where every wall is also a window.

Henry Heffer hails from deepest darkest Somerset. A place where folk tales and ancient lore smother the landscape like moss on damp wood. He is currently working on publishing his first novel and script simultaneously, both of which are steeped in the uncanny and extraordinary. Stay tuned for details @henry_heffer on Instagram and Twitter.
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