About the size of a packet of cigarettes, the cheap plastic of the Buddha machine fits snug in my palm. It is simple- a speaker, a volume wheel, a switch, a red LED, a headphone port. A few basic circuit boards sit encased in what was once pristine white. I turn the wheel of the Buddha machine to its full volume and a loop begins to play in my ears. I close my eyes. Thirty seconds of gentle tones expanding and contracting, and then it repeats. I could turn the switch and another loop would come, but I am lucky. My breathing synchronises effortlessly with the ebb and flow of this first loop. I open my eyes.
It’s close enough to winter that the trees past the train windows are gilded with ragged leaves. People are wearing jackets, but not yet scarves or gloves. Everyone is too hot in this carriage. Past the noise of the Buddha machine, I can feel the train vibrate, I can almost hear voices. The loop is ambiguous- every noise that sidles past the headphones is incorporated until the train is breathing with me. Across the aisle men gesticulate and smile and talk. A girl is reading a book. A grey haired man looks pained as he casts his eyes around, oppressed by the weight of life pressed into the carriage. Beyond him in the gloaming I can see lights burning in office buildings.
We stop. We accelerate. We continue. We decelerate. We stop. We accelerate. We continue.
It feels as if there is a larger pattern, as if the loop is changing, as if it draws out – there is not. The change is in the train and in the passengers. This loop is thirty seconds long. The man next to me is reading a free newspaper. I am tired.
We reach my station and I step out onto the platform and the train keeps going, and the loop repeats.
Tony Thorne’s illustrations, sketched while in London, travelling the iconic underground rail system will feature throughout the upcoming publication Islands and Cities, a collection of short stories by Tasmanian and London based writers. To celebrate this cross-cultural exchange, writers from the publication have each been assigned an illustration by Tony Thorne to respond to, for publication on our website.