My heart is pounding, my body is numb, my head is melting. We near the end game: I spy my delight. Our purpose is real. There, nestling behind the counter of the gift shop, camouflaged alongside other sodium-based godthings, stands the crucifix - just one inch tall. I leave the Professor who goes for a slash and power over there, forging a good spot in the queue. I ask the girl behind the counter how much. She says "15 Zloty" as though the value she was disseminating is millions. I hand over the strange notes and when the small salt-made item is finally in my palms I feel exactly the same. Yet a little bit warmer.
The Professor returns from his shit or whatever then we move off once more: continuing along bronze-bruised labyrinths, skin only lit by miniature lights at short intervals. And then the epicentre. The jewel in the crown. The feather in the cap of this place. It hits us from nowhere. The angle we come in at intensifies the greatness. Here, 135 metres below the surface of the earth, a breathtaking palace of god. The salt stairs - big weatherworn texture - roll down towards the salt alter, golden-white walls bristling with odd grandeur. It's all housed by intricate carvings of some famous scenes, most notably Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper'. The chandeliers are also constructed from salt and they smash my face up in brilliance: radiating glorious magnesium. Stop for a quick pray in this underground cathedral. Hope once more I can get the balance right, tip it in my favour, keep up with the unravelling zeitgeist.
So we trample on. Gradually rise, then trapped in a box-lift with five Germans. Me and the Professor can't contain our giggles. My stomach is vibrating and this thus signals to the wobbly middle-aged lady pressed against me that I'm in laughter mode.
Outside we sip Liptons and coffee. This bloke called Ray - golden face and film-star teeth - sits down at our table. I'd noticed him earlier on the tour and I think he even tried to spark conversation with me then, something about the saved Chilean miners. This time he lets loose. I can tell from the beginning that the Professor hates Ray for no apparent reason. Ray seems a nice guy - yet the Prof does this sometimes, gets in one of his obscure moods. He's now ushering us to leave, although Ray keeps talking anyway (he's staying in a little lodge, in the countryside, a proper little retreat, only eight Zloty a night, great value for money etc etc). We edge away, he's still attempting to continue the conversation, and is probably still there now, sat there, talking to himself about Wigan.
Overland. Graphite cloud. Concrete shopping centres. Wyclef posters. Re-enter the hubbub. Feel shell-shocked. Home is getting nearer. Final night. More Martin Solveig. More J.Lo. Shower. A cool one. New shirts. Tea? The Mexican restaurant. Big chicken and something. Girls in skimpy tops. Food slightly weird. Next: RnB club, and a climactic wander around.
We're given flyers to this club, Prozac, which tickles our fancy. Ample jam for the Professor's impending birthday. Tequilas drilled down the neck. Good DJ this as well: no-nonsense early-noughties fun-house sprinkled with garage. Further mash-ups, not quite in the same premier league as Kitsch, but with Madonna and Shakedown's 'At Night' stirred in, why complain? He fucks it up occasionally - I can hear him crumple down on the crossfader. I look 'round the black, padded room and see it's just us two. So we're scrambling, back on the route, overland future-furnaced.
Back to the RnB club to gloss it, me and the Professor in a padded booth, Black Eyed Peas slaloming into all time.
© Copyright 2016 John Maher