I pass a church each morning on the way to my office. It does not have a name and does not appear on any maps of the area. I cannot find any reference to it anywhere. Someone suggested to me that it may be a Russian Orthodox church, but the gravestones, some of which are hundreds of years old, all bear English names. The huge doors are always locked, and the windows are too high to look through. I once saw a light coming from inside the church, but was afraid to go nearer. I know someone has a key for those doors.
The church is surrounded by modern buildings. I cannot get close to the graves or the far end of the church because they are behind a locked gate.
The church is not of this world, it is dark and eerie. The style is Gothic, with a battlement around the top, and tall arch-shaped doors. The stone is dark, dirty and worn. And the grave yard is overgrown, the graves themselves are overly ornate.
I will never know who has the key to the place, or who was in there that night.
The notion of a building or city which does not obey the normal laws of geometry appears in H P Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Lovecraft describes a city where none of the angles add up and it is possible to walk endlessly in circles, even is you just walk straight ahead. It evokes a sense of being lost, or trapped in some kind of maze, where you cannot even use your own power of logic to escape. Lovecraft also uses this theme in The Music of Erich Zann. He does not name the city, but I always imagined it to be Paris, as the phantom street- the ‘Rue d’Auseil’ is narrow and steep, and the houses have that glamorous slum quality, which is found in parts of Paris. The protagonist rents a room on this street, but after he leaves, can never find the street again, or any reference to it.
Jorge Luis Borges (always a bit trippy on the geometry front) describes an infinite villa, in The House of Asterion. There is no ‘outside’ as such, and all lies within the villa. It is essentially a prison, but none of the doors are locked. The villa is an endless maze of rooms, it is not clear if there are identical rooms or if you loop back on yourself. Rather antidotal to this, is the villa of Triste-le-Roy in Borges’ Death and the Compass, this villa is real, and displays perfect symmetry and order. But it is unpleasant because of its symmetry, like a computer generated picture which is ‘too perfect’. (oxymoron alert!)
These stories have a dreamlike quality. I was haunted for many years by a recurring dream about a narrow house. It was a terrace-house, several metres deep and high, but only a couple of feet wide.
The London tube map is famous for its topological layout, which completely ignores distance. Some of the places you think are very far apart are actually very near……….