13th March


From an early age I was conscious both of my own insignificance and of the infinite nature of the Universe. One source of this sense was a game that my brother and I shared. It consisted of a road layout around which you had to manoeuvre a plastic vehicle without striking any objects, such as a pillar box, telephone kiosk and bus stop. There were also some pedestrians whom you were supposed not to knock down.

Each vehicle had a metal band on its base. By means of a magnet under the board, controlled by a joystick, you could jerkily negotiate your car or motorcycle round the corners and through the junctions of the roads. The idea was to avoid hitting any of the objects or pedestrians, but the cars and especially the motorcycles (which tended to fall over and travel on their sides) were difficult to control, so my brother allowed two collisions or one fatality per round before elimination. It was a good game, but it required concentration, which my brother had more of at eight than I did at five.

I found the box it came in at least as fascinating as the game itself. On the lid was a picture of two boys playing the game, and next to them lay the lid of the box, on which was a picture of the same two boys playing the game. Logic persuaded me that within that picture, though too small to see, must be another lid with the same image on it. Extrapolating outwards from this progression, I speculated (aloud) that my brother and I might be portrayed on the lid of a box larger than ourselves, and that somewhere outside our sphere of consciousness two enormous boys were playing the same game . . . and so on.

My brother did not like my theory. He grabbed the lid from me, accused me of always spoiling his fun, and punched me in the face. He then pointed out that the smaller boy on the lid did not look like me, nor did he have a bleeding nose. I admitted through my tears that this was true, but secretly I knew I was onto something.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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