This is a true story.
Once upon a time, in a hostel in Reykjavik I found myself with a problem. I was hastily gathering all of my belongings for an impending hijacking of my friend’s washing machine, searching through all of the side pockets of my backpack for those stranded items which either had not enough of my attention or time to make it into my washing bag; damp socks from a mountainous hike in the snow, t-shirts of questionable odour and hiking pants still crusty from a slip in the mud when I suddenly realised I hadn’t prepared for my trip in the morning. I paused for a moment, taking a breath, trying not to let the thoughts of the quickly approaching kickoff for the Iceland vs England soccer game I was eager to watch from central Reykjavik, only so I could gloat to all of my English friends as little old Iceland kicked them out of the tournament, and, pushing these thoughts aside I created a mental checklist of everything I needed in the morning. My mobile informed me the weather would be cold, but clear, so I scurried around, trying to decide if my clothes would dry in time after being washed and if not, what I could use instead to ensure my comfort. I found myself a big hoodie, a pair of long pants, underpants, a t-shirt, hiking boots, a rain jacket (because it was Iceland), a scarf, a hat and then dug around in my backpack for a pair of socks to complete the outfit.
After a minute or so of panicking I found something amidst the cluttered essentials in orbit around the bottom of my backpack. I clutched onto it with my fingers and yanked up fiercely and pulled free a beautiful, clean, thick, warm soft sock. ‘Great’ I thought, knowing that my feet were sure to be warm in the coming excursion. I dived back into the bag to try to locate the other sock. I pushed aside the camp cooker, the tent, pushed my fingers painfully around my stuff sacks but to no avail. I dug deeper and deeper, forcing my head and my upper body beyond the threshold of the canvas material and into the depths below. I clawed between clothes and cutlery, first aid kits and socket conversion units until my whole body was submerged in the various objects I deem essential to survive. I swam down until I suddenly realised I had swam too far and I could not see the light above me anymore. My heart skipped a beat as I frantically tore at the darkness around me, trying to find an escape until I realised I was falling into an endless abyss. I screamed, only hearing my voice lose itself in the infinite darkness with no walls to echo back the sound. A chill worked it’s way into my every cell and I felt my body begin to go limp. That’s when I hit the floor.
I looked up and established I was all alone, but it didn’t stop me from calling out. “Hello? Can anybody hear me? I’m stuck in my backpack and I can’t get out!”. I banged my fists on the ground, and slowly, but surely, began to give up hope. Then, in the distance, a dim light caught my attention from my peripheral vision and I looked up. It was coming towards me, but I wasn’t scared, in fact, I found it quite comforting. As it got closer I realised that in fact it was a collection of lights, like a tiny solar system.
“Welcome,” it beckoned, “to the inside of your backpack. I am the higher being that exists within these blue, treated canvas walls. I am all knowing, and I can answer all of your questions”. I couldn’t believe my luck; there I was searching for a stranded piece of cotton and I had unknowingly stumbled upon the secrets of the universe, right within my very own backpack. I had so many things to ask about, so many unanswered questions, so many loose ends, so many unearthed nuggets of wisdom… But there was one question burning brighter than any other thought that I had swimming around in the maelstrom of my conscious. I opened my mouth and spoke to the being.
“Where is my other sock?”
“It was here once,” it began, “but backpacks actually transcend the laws of space and time beyond even my understanding and now that sock ceases to exist.”
“So you don’t know?”
“Don’t be stupid, nobody does.”
I kicked the floor. “Piece of shit higher being you are.”
While I knew this was an expression, I was both annoyed and hungry and so I charged the pulsing light with my teeth barred and when I opened my eyes I was back in the hostel room, clutching a single sock and weeping at the imminent discomfort in my delicate toes.
The moral of my encounter with the higher being is this; backpacks are black holes where physics die. If you can’t find something inside it, there is nothing on this planet that you can do. Maybe, one day, if the gods are feeling generous, it will re-materialise but it will be at a time when you have completely forgotten about it and probably no longer need it, yet you will still find it surprisingly pleasant to hold the object you deemed lost forever again. I was not so lucky, at least not yet. I still lie awake at night, wondering if my warm blue sock is in a better place and if the limb that graces it’s comforting cotton cocoon is more pleasant than mine.
– written by Tom