Last week I visited a town in The Netherlands, and it has changed me ever since.
My family and I came from London, and visited The Netherlands for vacation. It was a nice and warm summer day when we arrived, with the plentiful trees and other foliage beautifully illuminated by the afternoon sun. The vacation park was just outside a small town, and before we would go and obtain the keys to our apartment in the park, we went for a walk trough the town, 'to get the lay of the land,' as one might say.
The town, although old, had a very modern centre, and was built around a shopping mall. Two floors high, it was a rather large mall for such a small town. My mother and father wanted to have a look around inside, but my sister and I were reluctant. To help persuade me, my father promised that each of us could buy a toy, or video game, as long as it wasn't too expensive. The first thing we noticed when we entered, was that it was almost empty, and seemingly under construction. There were quite a few shoppers, though most only seemed to be interested in the fish stand. Both father and mother, as well as my sister, wanted to eat the legendary Dutch raw herring, and they got in line too. I detest fish, so I went on ahead to find a store that sold video games.
None was to be found on the ground level, so I took the grand and luxurious looking stairs to the next floor. Some more shops where located here, instead of the empty corners and locations of shops to be. Still, most where clothing or fashion stores of some kind. It was then that I noticed a brightly painted green door, tucked between two empty stores, which drew my attention in a strange way. I wondered what would be behind the door, and since nothing indicated that I couldn't go there, I twisted the doorknob, and slowly pushed the door open. Instead of the toilets I expected to be behind it, there was quite a broad, brightly lit hallway, with another green door on the other side. A man was standing more or less in the middle, smoking a cigarette.
"I'm sorry, I don't speak Dutch."
"Oh, that's alright. Good afternoon. I don't suppose you came here by accident?"
The man did not look out of the ordinary at all. He wore plain clothes, was clearly an adult, but not someone you would call 'old'. Still, something made me feel uneasy. I had heard how easy it was to get drugs in The Netherlands, and I was afraid that he now mistook me for a buyer.
"I'm sorry, I'm just exploring. I did come here by accident. What is behind here?"
"The shopping mall, of course. The real one, with plentiful stores and cheap prices!"
"Oh, so the part I came from is still under construction?"
"No, no, don't be mistaken. It won't be anything more than that, ever. That's just a shopping mall. Behind the door over there, is THE shopping mall. You should check it out."
I walked past the man, and got the feeling someone was staring at me. Uneasy, I turned my head, to see the man busy lighting a new cigarette, and not paying any more attention to me. After opening the door on the other side of the hallway, I stepped into what I presumed to be the other side of the shopping mall.
The first thing I noticed was the feeling of being watched. An overwhelming, incredibly present feeling, as if hundreds of people were staring at me, waiting for me to say something. Of course this wasn't the case, since nobody could be seen far or wide, which struck me as rather odd for what I then still presumed to be the other half of the mall, the finished half.
I could not have been more mistaken. Slowly, I walked over to the middle of the pathway, and noticed that indeed, every store was occupied now, but not by any brand I recognized. Behind the windows, all the shops were completely dark. Some of the store's doors had windows too, but those had pictures of stores placed behind them. The pictures looked old, and all seemed to display rather old fashioned shops. Cautiously, I kept walking around, with the dread feeling that for whatever reason, I was not supposed to be here.
Human feelings are a strange thing. Had I not felt being watched, or felt scared out of my mind by the absolutely black glass of the shops, I might have done it all off as a strange curiosity, and then turned back to the other half of the mall. But because of the strange feelings the place awakened inside my head, I felt like I had to walk on for a bit, if only to ease my fears of the place.
I slowly walked around, looking for the stairs to another floor, hoping to find a fellow shopper, or at least someone that could explain to me that this was all an absurd Dutch version of an amusement park. With every pitch black window I passed, the sensation of being watched became stronger. Finally, I spotted a window on the end of one of the hallways. At first, I didn't know what upset me so much about the view outside, since it had exactly the same view as the windows in the other half of the mall, only the angle slightly differed, just like you would expect.
Then I noticed that it was raining and storming really hard outside. This made me decide to turn around, and get back to the other side of the mall as soon as possible. The sensation of being watched had grown so strong at this point, that I dared not run. My legs trembled with fear. Slowly but surely, cautious for just about anything, I made my way back to the green door. Just before I was about to open it, I noticed that the picture behind the door of the nearest store was coming off. In a sudden moment of bravery, I decided to look inside, to see what was inside the store.
Inside, was a shop reminiscent of an old photographer's store, filled with example pictures, and a stage for taking pictures.
Most pictures where of people I didn't know, but my eyes where immediately drawn towards the pictures of my family, and then finally, to a rather large picture of me, with SOLD written over it in bright red. Before I time to react, a warm hand touched my shoulder.
"Boy, I told you that you hadn't strolled in on accident. You done looking around?"
"I don't understand, please, please explain."
It was my final attempt at putting myself at ease.
"Your soul has been sold to the highest bidder. Didn't you realize the moment you felt being watched by your new master?"
Half-crying, shaking everywhere, I rushed back through the door as fast as I could. The man was nowhere to be seen, he didn't appear to be chasing me. Rushing on, I ran to the other side. The moment I touched the doorknob, I heard the door behind me, on the other side, opening. I didn't look back. I rushed trough the door, slammed it shut behind me with my eyes closed, and ran back to my parents as fast as I could. Just before I reached them, a faint whisper reached my ears.
we will be in touch
They never knew what happened to me. I told them that I was feeling terribly sick, all of a sudden. They bought it, and we went outside for fresh air. The experience shook me for days, but slowly it faded away like the memory of a terrible nightmare.
The feeling of being watched, however, never went away.
After about a month worth of time, I was home alone, back in London. While walking to the bathroom, I suddenly spotted a brightly painted green door that had never been there before.
The doorknob twisted open, and my new master invited me in.
Perhaps when you yourself end up being sold, you will know that something really is amiss in this world.
Written by Sorasloots