He woke up late in the afternoon. What made him sleep so long? Sorcery or just tiredness? There was high but spit-covered ceiling above. At first he just stared at the muddy pattern, but it brought only nasty associations or revived bad memories. What is happening… Why is he still alive?
He turned on his side and felt the pain all over the body and a bottle of beer in his right hand. Feeling his body, he at the same time realized that energy is leaving it, life is flowing out. He should have clasped his hands to loop his inner lifestreams, but he had no strength to do that. Then he understood, that the energy is transferred through his fingers to the bottle and is concentrating in the beer. He had enough heroism and will power to pour inside himself the remains of this salutary drink.
Now everything will be fine.
And everything was ok, untill he remembered her. She’s already gone. Gone long ago. Why? Didn’t they feel good together? Yes, they didn’t. She just loved to drink beer, and he had so little money…
The TV turned on in the next room. Somebody was telling a joke about one greedy and sly nation and an other, drunk and dumb. Niels rose and silently cursed. He slid out of bed. The floor was dirty and it helped him to stand up. Niels dropped the bottle and trudged to the sound squeezing his head whith his hands, not to let it fall apart.
Still, why did she leave? And how long ago did it happen?
He managed to walk through the door not right away. «…Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way…»
In the next room, empty and dirty as well, there was a turned on TV on the floor. Someone was hissing out of there: «Are you intolerant to murderers? Then you must be murdered!» And there was a man sitting on his haunches in front of the screen. Sensing the presence of Niels, he stood up and turned around. It was Wilmar. He was dressed in an elegant black cloak, over which shone a smile and a shaved pate.
— What the hell are you doing here again? — Niels wheezed.
The smile became even wider:
— I think it’s time for you to come back. Just look, what you have turned in.
— Come back? Where?
— I only want to say, that you should stop messing with people. They don’t need you, and you won’t stick anywhere. And we have a job for you.
— Who is this «we»?
— You are a good turnskin and an actor, you could perform on stage. Sing them songs. Our songs.
— Oh, you’re one of those… priests? I should have cnown! Wilmy, I though you were from the one…
— Let’s just say, a little bit of those and a little bit from others. So do you want to sing?
— But it’s filthy.
— It’s just a gag. You portray a jerk, and they eat it. In your heart you’ll remain a genius, an aesthetes. And they’ll love you for your turpitude. These are the little people. Isn’t it fun? You spit in their faces, and they thank you and pay you. And we will invest as well… However, there is one more order – to catch one invisible guy…
Niels felt very sick whether of yesterday’s drinks whether of this smile, and he was shaking, again whether from a fever, whether from anger.
— People are not so disgusting.
— You will see.
— Just do not incite and bewilder them.
— Yeah, and they are soft like clay. Now kind and conscious, and in a second they kick each other’s ass. You already decided everything for yourself, just love to argue. And you agreed with me yesterday. Don’t you remember?
— No, I don’t.
— No surprise. Cause of this herb you have completely lost your memory. Should’ve asked me, how it works, before buying. And you’d better take it from me. Today you say one thing, tomorrow – another. And every day consider yourself smart and right.
It was unendurable. Niels swayed and grabbed the Wilmar’s shoulder to keep on his feet:
— You are rong.
Wilmar released his shoulder, Niels fell on all fours. His thoughts were confused, he felt dizzy, and it made difficult to argue and protest, but it was necessary to argue.
— I can create different things. Beautiful and kind…
— What for?
— For people.
— So what? — a smirk.
Niels began to cling to his legs and his vampire coat to get up and look into his eyes: «Don’t you understand, that there must be something good and sincere in the world? That there’s enough of dirt, you know, just enough?» Vilmar’s body trembled under his hands and somehow bended away. Niels’es head went round, and Niels tried to turn his opponent, trying to find his eyes. «I do not want to be evil. Doing good is natural. It’s in human core. And agression, indulging the instincts — it’s far-fetched, not necessary… it corrupts…» He shook his head, looked around the room, some pier-glass caught his eye. A frightened grimace flashed in the mirror. «All kids are initially kind, and what makes us different from them? It is an illusion. Everyone, I insist, everyone is capable of the feat, some internal illumination…» He wanted to catch Wilmar by his clothes, but his fingers plunged into something slippery, and something sticky was drying on his cheeks and his chest. «I remember childhood… Well, who among us would not be glad to a bright, serene day?» He couldn’t feel Wilmar’s body, he couldn’t feel his own body either, he only knew that he is making every effort not to fall, to hold on to this long thin cloaked figure. His hands must have trembled. Everything jumped and rolled before his eyes. Spots flowed, shreds swept. The heart was beating hard and hollow. «We will be pure as the sky … Come on! We are as pure as the sky. We just need to believe it, to spread invisible wings of the soul and…»
Then he couldn’t talk anymore, and a before his eyes again there was a face. Lips didn’t laugh anymore, they screamed something desperately, but not a word could be heard – there was crackle in his ears, because something crunched on his teeth. And Niels tried tried to quickly chew this something to spit it out and continue his monologue about… About what?!
«I will explain to him… I will», — Niels thought, throwing away Wilmar’s left hand. It was his left hand for sure, because it didn’t have a ring. A couple of fingers were missing, but the middle one was in its place. It was getting more and more difficult to hold on to Wilmar. Or were they both already lying on the floor? At least he could feel solid surface through the clothes… The fell down? Or leaned against a wall? Niels looked for Wilmar’s eyes. And found them. And found one. «Blue», — thought Niels. It was useless to look for another in homogenous hash and mash. He put the eye on his hand no to lose it again and wanted to continue the conversation. But words could not be spoken, as if his throat and jaws have changed their shape. He couldn’t stand up either. Then Niels licked the blood from his lips and crept out of the room.
He went out of the house only at dusk but on his two feet. Youth was crouding near the stalls, cars were blaring with music. The night promised to be warm, it ment that the whole neighbourhood would not fall asleep untill morning. He walked past a noisy company. Everything was floating in front of his eyes, blind and broken street lanterns like gnarled fingers clutching at the sky were rocking, and buildings were rocking as well… «We will rock you!» — shouted a party of six throats. The voices merged into a general roar. «People… people…» — repeated Niels, trying to hear his own thoughts through loud voices, the noise of passing and crashing cars. — People… people…»
— Hey, dude! — he heard from behind after turning into some backstreet. Niels stopped and looked back – to guys were following him. One was weraing sports pants, baggy coat and a knitted hat cocked jauntily on the back of his head. The second was in a black security guard uniform. They caught up with him and stood up so that he had nowhere to go. «People … people… — Niels told himself. — They will just ask me for a cigarette or some money».
He raised his eyes to them.
— Hey, dude, give us some money. We don’t have enough for beer, — said the guy in a hat. Niels inwardly named him «cossack». The guard waited and kneaded his fists.
— I don’t have money.
— You don’t? And if we find any? — the guard stepped closer.
— Wait, — Cossack waived to him. — Hey, dude, why are you such a fashion?
«People… people… What is the point to explain to them, how I want simetimes to be remembered by the passersby, how I want to tell about myself by my look, to create a certain image, staying in someone else’s mind, to prove to myself that I still exist. However, this is a difficult task. And I jast have long hair and bought a colourful scarf from one old lady…»
— I simply like it this way.
— You like it this what?! — Cossack pulled his face very close and stared. — And do you know that our lads are dying at the war right now? And you walk in a scarf here!
— I didn’t sent those guys to the war. And if you feel so insulted for them, so ride to their rescue.
— Oh, no, — the pinned him to the wall. — We are here to protect the motherland from freaks like you.
— The motherland must be protected not from colured scarfs but from gangs and morons,
— Niels snarled. And then they saw his face smeared with blood.
— What’s that on your face? You ate jam or what? — Cossack snickered.
— Yes… jam.
— Ha-ha! And how was it?
With these words Niels grabbed his face with claws. The guys even did not immediately realize what was happening. Then Cossack began to wave his arms, trying to hit Niels, but after he felt terrible pain, he wheezed and tried to throw off the enemy’s… when he understood the it were pawns, Cossack started to scream for real. The guard nervously pulled out pepper spray and released the acid in the Niels’es face. However, the aerosol can must have been old: the gas scattered in all directions, getting into the eyes, mouths and nostrils of all three.
Hissing, coughing and cursing sounds.
Niels released scarred Cossack and ducked under the arm of the second opponent. He still pressed the button. A cloud of gas was getting bigger. Tears mixed with acid rolled over in the eyes. The guard felt how animal jaws closed on his left wrist. He looked down and through the pain saw bloodshot round eyes with vertical pupils.
Cossack must not have fully understood, whom this cruel city night brought him with. He pulled a knife out of his pocket and rushed at the enemy from behind. Animal instinct served Niels well. He spun around, not letting guard’s wrist from the teeth, and knocked Cossack down with his pal. Bones crunched – now any doctor would not have saved guard’s hand. He groaned and in semiconscious state began to crawl back to the wall. Cossack helplessly fumbled hands in the snow in search of the knife and turned to run.
Niels caught him with one leap and pinned him to the ground. Claws instantly passed through the flesh and rested in the asphalt. The guy immediately stopped wiggling his holed hands and feet. His teary eyes looked with horror at the fangs of the monster. Hot dark mouth of the beast smelled with death… many deaths.
— So you love your motherland? — said the beast. — So tell me, what is it, your motherland?
— I… I do not know anything! — the guy croacked.
— Answer me! — roared the beast. Against the wall the guard groaned and moved his legs.
— Motherland is… is… — Cossack spoke hurriedly. His eyes roamed around in fright. — It is our land. It is our country.
— Land? — Niels smiled. His muzzle softened and became vaguely similar to a human face.
— And if I dig out all of this land and bring it overseas? And how a land can forbid someone to wear a scarf? And why someone must fight for this land?! I think, this ground perfectly could do without people at all. And country, you say? This country doesn’t need you. What do you know about it? Tell me, what do you know?!
— We… we have the best weapons and… and…
— Read the verses… I like them – I let you go.
Eyes of the guy became even more shifty, hope appeared in them. Sitting by the wall, the guard groped in the snow with his good hand. The knife was laying somwhere nearby. For a long time Cossack could not remember anything, he quickly rolled his eyes, not daring to look at the Niels’es teeth. Hot saliva was dripping on his face. The guard has already found the knife and, holding it by the blade, was aiming for the throw. Cossack started to babble hastily, periodically glancing at his friend:
— Buddy, I’ve something to tell
You must be healthy as hell.
Buddy, if you’ry not gay,
Let’s make a baby today.
Th e guard still did not dare to throw the knife – he was afraid to attract attention. It would be better if the monster eats his pal but forget about him. Muzzle of the beast leaned toward Cossack, and he rattled, choking:
— It’s a song… th-they sing it this way… they… the band… «Wild Fork»… it’s a song…
The jaws closed. There was a crunch. Brains flowed out from the bursting skull. How much was there? Who cared?
The guard almost found the strength to get up, when the beast turned to him. The knife, thrown with a trembling hand, did not reach the target and disappeared in the snow again. Heavy pawns fell on the guy’s shoulders.
— Your turn.
The maw smelled with blood and with something, from which previously consisted Cossack. The guard raised his frightened eyes, his face cramped with fear.
— Now! — roared Niels, and the guy found some strength to whisper:
— Your hands are holding the sky, which doesn’t exist
Your hands are holding…
The nights grew colder, and there’s still something amiss
The nights grew colder…
The beast was waiting, and encouraged guard continued in a singsong voice (it seems it was also kind of a song):
— Oh, oh, my little juveniles
An unfinished lullaby
Childhood laughing in your eyes
As the winter passing by.
— R-rubbish, — snarled the beast and opened his mouth. It has become even darker in the backstreet, as if night has come just at that moment. And then the frightened guy closed his eyes and suddenly for himself said:
We shall build an airplane
We shall fly above the lane
We shall fly above the lane
And to mommy back again
— Did you write it yourself? — Niels asked in surprise. — He moved away slightly, the guy realized that because the hot breath no longer scorched his face.
— My mother long ago… I mean, yes, myself… I mean, my mother… don’t kill me, please. We didn’t know…
The guard opened his eyes. Before him stood a man. An ordinary person, just with a colored scarf and longish hair.
— What you did not know? That I can stand for myself?
Niels pulled out the headphones from his pocket, pressed «play» and put the phones on guard’s ears. Some sort of old music was playing.
— Here, listen. This is your motherland.
At first the music was just like everything that is played by the big orchestras. And then it became unimportant. It had so much in it, and it immediately made him want to meditate and remember. Music became now sad and solemn, then joyful and simple. It all entwined and the guard thought of his own life and the death of Cossack, who was called Dowel and who’s name now, perhaps, no one will know. He thought about how a few hours ago, he himself lost his work. He thought about his father, who died of alcoholism, a mother who was unable to marry for the second time, despite the large number of love affairs. About a girl who does not love him because he is poor. And about another girl… with the same final. He thought about the war, about the aliens, and the fact that it would be nice to go at least once abroad, away from this stinking town, this dull land.
And then he fainted from blood loss, and Niels took his earphones and left.
— It’s all fair, — said Niels, taking Wilmar’s eye from his pocket. — They wanted only pleasures, and I since my childhood wanted to be strong. Strongest of them all. And I achieved it. It’s all fair. I wanted that. And they have lost. You all have lost.
Dmitry Kosyakov, 2007.