[Non-fiction. Art] The Virgin and Child by Masaccio (1426)

Created in traditional for Gothic technique, using panel and egg tempera, this work, however, represents a turning point in the artist’s career.
In 1423 Masaccio travels to Rome, and from this point his painting frees from the influence of Byzantine and Gothic elements.
The golden background, the round halos of angels and the Virgin Mary refer to the traditions of old masters. Nevertheless, Roman and Greek influences prevail here. The pattern at the base of the throne is a replica of a design found on a Roman sarcophagus, its sides incorporate the three orders of columns from Roman architecture. The figure of the baby, naked and plump like a Roman putto, wears an elliptical halo and feasting on grapes, defines his position on his mother’s laps.
Mosaccio uses a single-point linear perspective, so the figures of Madonna and Child become the focal point of the painting.
(145 words)
 

 

 

 

 

[Short story]: The Son of Immortals

 

First Papyrus

I am the King of the kings, I am the son of the falcon-headed Horus, I am the beginning, I am the end, I am the one who will live forever, I am the personification of the King of Gods, Amun-Re, I am the greatest warrior who defeated the armies of thousands, who put the barbarian princes of Kush and Wawat[1] on their knees, forcing them to accept the law of Kemet’s gods. I am the one who is raising the biggest temple in honour of my divine father in the sacred city of Abdju.[2]  I am the ruler of ancient Niwt-Imn[3], the house of Amun-Re. I have hundreds of names, but only three of them can be pronounced by mortals. I am Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun, the live god of the land of Kemet[4].

The golden boat of Re has finished its way in the waters of sky’s Nile and submerged into the darkness of Nun. I found myself wandering around the tombs of deceased kings who have already met Osiris in the Afterlife. I try to remember what I’m doing here in the middle of the night, but fails. The night is dark and quiet, Khonsu’s crown is shining brightly and lighting my path by its cold silver light.

My thoughts are interrupted by quiet voices. They sound from the one of the tomb. Coming closer, I can see the dim light of torches, the voices sound louder. There is no doubt; I’ve met the tomb’s robbers.

Disgusting thieves, sons of dishonoured Seth, doomed to be punished in the Afterlife; their ba[5] will be eaten by Apophis, the gigantic serpent, and will be condemned to eternal death. They are who dare to steal from the kings, deserve nothing, but a miserable death without a burial.

There are three of them on the doorstep of the underground tomb, ready to enter, to disturb the king’s eternal peace, ready to touch and grab, and smash everything, taking gold and jewellery and all other of the king’s belongings, throwing the mummy out of the golden coffin in their disgraceful passion for profit.

I’m going to call my guards to arrest the robbers. Instead, my mouth produces a weird, heart-stopping scream. This scream can belong neither to a man, nor to an animal. What is wrong with me? I can’t recognise my own voice.

One of the robbers turns around. His face becomes pale like linen, his eyes stares at me in horror; he drops his torch and runs, leaving his peers and screaming like a lunatic. His friend shouts at him, but noticing me just petrifies.

‘The king….The spirit of the king,’ he mumbles in shock.

‘How dare you, the son of a jackal, to touch the royal tomb?’ I shouts full of anger, trying to grab his shoulder, but my hand goes through his body and catches the air.

I see the thief falling down, his eyes are wide opened. I lean over him, trying to have a closer look. He doesn’t breathe anymore…He is dead!

I have no chance to stop the last one as he disappears in the darkness, following his friend.

I sit down on the ground in front of the tomb, examining my hands and wondering what has happened to the robbers, where my guards are, and what, for all gods’ sake, I’m doing here at night.

Struggling to follow the flow of my own thoughts, I start to read the writing on the tomb, guessing whom it may belong to.

It is a traditional plate with the name of the pharaoh on the door’s seal.

Oh Thoth, the Adviser of the kings, give me all your divine wisdom and knowledge! The king’s name on the plate is…. Userkaf Smenhkare Meriamun, the name of my brother.

And straight away, I see the face of Userkaf in front of me. He is the exact copy of me. Even our mother, the Great King’s Wife, queen Nefriru couldn’t recognize us. We are the same height, the same short black hair, the same big black eyes, the same straight long nose which we inherited from our great father.

We were born together, but still I was the first who came out of the queen’s blessed belly. I was the one and the only heir to the throne. My brother, Userkaf, was brought up to become Chief Priest of Amun-Re, but he always desired more…Always jealous, always despising me, always wanted to be the first.

He’s been waiting, waiting for the whole life, for twenty five long years, when finally his time has come.

I remembers his face, but it’s blurry…it’s under the water. I feel the cold water fills my ears and mouth, I can’t breathe, I try to break free, but my brother’s hand is squeezing my throat tighter and tighter. I try to push him, to call for help, but my efforts are getting weaker and weaker. I’ m not a good swimmer. I’ve never been.

The grimaced face of my brother, like an agonizing blurry reflection of myself…and then…here I am. I am dead.

I’m crying, I’m cursing Userkaf who, like a shameful Seth, killed his own brother to usurp his power.

Oh immortal gods, I call on you! Let me take my revenge, let me free the throne of Isis from the usurper, let me be judged by Osiris in the Underworld, let me travel together with Amun-Re in his golden boat in the skies and let the name of my brother, the cold-blooded murderer and traitor, be forgotten forever.

Second Papyrus

This is very late in the evening. The light of oil lamps and torches is shading, and the whole palace is going to fall asleep. Only the heavy steps of the night’s guards in the corridors and the quiet murmur of the fountains in the gardens break the silence of chambers.

I don’t remember how I appeared here. I think I just wish to come back home to my palace in Niwt-Imn, to see my wife, young and beautiful Mutnefert and our son, my only heir, Senenmut. I wish everything that has happened to me was a dream, a bad nightmare sent to me by the demons of the night. I wish to wake up. I wish….to be alive.

Unnoticed, I enter my chambers and…oh Seth, pull my eyes out as I can’t bear to see my beloved wife in the arms of my brother, the murderer Userkaf.

Using our similarity, he took my throne, my name and now…he’s lying in my bed with my wife! She has been fooled as all others; she believed that it was Userkaf who drowned in the river, not me. It was an accident, the will of Hapy, the river god who took Userkaf to his underwater palace. That was a lie she’s been told.

My Mutnefert, my great queen, my little sister, my only love… I always loved her. I’ve been in love with her since I was ten and she was only eight, but our brother desired her as well.

When our mother, the Great King’s Wife, died, our divine father took Mutnefert as his new Great Wife. The crown of Kemet should have been secured within the family, but he was too ill and too weak. As soon as he joined Osiris in the Underworld, I and Mutnefert got married.  Userkaf, the crafty son of dark demons, couldn’t control his passion though. He tried to seduce our sister a few times, but she loved me, she has always been my most loyal wife.

I see her now, kissing him, embracing him, petting him, groaning in passion, giving him pleasure she used to give to me.

Oh Atum, the creator of the world and all people who arose from the waters of the chaos, give me a body and I will claim everything back from my brother. I will take my revenge!

Third Papyrus

  I’m only ten, but I can read and write fluently. I’m short, but strong quick and agile. My father always took me hunting lions and panthers. I’ve even caught one for my own little zoo. My father told me that I was born to be a warrior, I was born to be a king, but…I’m preparing for the life of a scribe.

The almighty gods have sealed my voice inside my throat, so I never could speak. I never could tell the truth. I never could tell that my uncle, nasty and crafty Userkaf, drowned my father and took his name and his crown.

I’m only a boy now. My life is under threat. I’m scared to death. Why, oh almighty gods? Why have you given me this body?

I’m sitting now at the reception chamber amongst three other pharaoh’s scribes and writing everything that is said at the king’s presence.

‘…And you are informing me about that only now, Great Vizier…’

The king is sitting in his golden throne. His head is crowned with a high fancy headdress. Tiny golden bees, colourful butterflies and lotus’ flowers made from lapis lazuli with agates and emeralds move with each head’s movement. Long golden earrings shine in his ears; heavy wide bracelets are on his wrists and ankles. A golden balm is on his lips; he smells of lotus and rose’s oils, he is wearing my long robe and richly decorated sandals. He doesn’t hesitate to take everything from me.

Ineni, the Great Vizier and the major of Niwt-Imn, is on his knees. He is leaning lower and lower until his forehead touches the floor. Ineni is fat, old and coward. His bald round head is shining of sweat. He is afraid to make his lord angry, but he believes in rumours.

‘I didn’t want to bother my king with the information that hasn’t been proved yet. I just wanted to wait to be sure that…’

‘To wait? To wait for what? When the prince of Kush and his allies will summon a new army? When their barbarian soldiers will stay at the city’s gates?’

The pharaoh is furious.

Ineni crawls on his fat belly, coming closer to the king, kissing his toes with gold covered nails.

The ruler only grimaces. The smell of sweat irritates his majesty even more than the bad news from the boarders.

‘Do the prince and his chieftains remember that their sons were brought in Kemet by my father during his last campaign and have been living here since? Does he remember that his oldest daughter is one of my wives?’

‘It is something else, my lord, you should know,’ the vizier whispers barely audible, looking behind his back at me and other scribes.

‘What is it? Speak!’

Userkaf is impatient as usual.

‘I’ve heard that the rumours were spreading out in the city, Your Majesty. The people keep talking…’ Ineni stammers.

‘What? Speak! Your king orders you.’

He presses his sceptre to the vizier’s head and then raises his chin, looking into his eyes, looking for the answers.

‘My sources reported me, oh ruler of two worlds, that some of the high priests are involved as well. I’ve been informed that the kushite’s prince has offered a deal to the priest of Sobek, the governor of the South who believes that…that you, our divine Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun who shall live forever, have been killed by your own brother, the Great priest of Amun-Re.’

The pharaoh only laughs, but I see his face is getting paler.

‘Tell the priest of Sobek, honourable Hapuseneb, that his suspicions are absolutely baseless, and that I would like to talk to him regarding all these nasty rumours he dares to spread out about me. As for Beja, my kushite’s father-in-law, I think I need to remind him to whom he should be grateful for allowing him on the kushite’s throne.’

He smiles, and I feel a chill running down my backbone.

Forth Papyrus

I’m following the king to his private chambers, trying to be as quiet as possible. Nephthys, the goddess of the night, covered me with her dark veil, and I became almost invisible, hiding behind the wide lotus-shaped columns of the halls and corridors.

Tiyu, my kushite wife, has already been brought here and waiting for him. He comes into the room and nods to the guards to leave them alone. I have no choice, but to cringe behind the nearest column. If somebody notices me, I will be beaten fiercely, but I don’t hesitate.

‘Ah, my gorgeous wife,’ the pharaoh grins, making circles around her like a kite around its prey. ‘I’ve never been with you after our wedding. I think that must be changed… ’

She looks different from all other queens. She’s got very dark skin and deep black eyes. She’s taller than women from Kemet, and her long hair is curly. She was brought here during my last kushite’s campaign as a guarantor of peace between my country and Kush, and I took her as my wife.

I’ve never met Tiyu since the day of our wedding. I love my Mutnefert and I’m not interested in other women. I’m not like my lascivious brother who’s obsessed with sensual pleasures. He has lots of women, spending almost every night with a new one…or sometimes even with two.

Tiyu has been living peacefully in her part of the palace, always quiet and shy. She doesn’t know the language very well, so she doesn’t talk much. I neither like her, nor dislike. Sitting here, behind the column in the corner of the chamber, I feel really sorry for her.

‘Life, prosperity and health to Your Majesty, shall you live forever. I’m happy to serve you, my lord,’ she whispers barely audible, all her slim body is shaking.

‘If so, you need to give me the heir, a child who will sit on the throne of Kush instead of your father, the traitor!’ he shouts these words in her face.

She closes her eyes; her body starts to shake even more. Userkaf rages as a panther, blind and deaf in his hate and fury.

‘My lord, my divine husband, I’m sure you’ve been mistaken. Whoever told you this about my father, told you lies,’ she’s falling on her knees in front of him and starts to cry. ‘My father is the most loyal servant of yours.’

He doesn’t want to listen to her anymore. He grabs her long curly hair and almost drags her to the low sofa in the corner.

She screams and jerks, and cries, and begs him for mercy, but he’s determined. She tries to break free, scratching his naked back to blood, but he’s unstoppable.

It’s unbearable to hear her screams. If only I could help, could stab a sword between his shoulders’ blades…But I’m only a little boy and I’m scared to death. I hold my breath, trying not to cry, not to show my presence.

He slaps her face, when it’s all over.

‘Now, you can write to your father how women in Kemet’s villages felt, when kushite’s soldiers raped them,’ he puts on his clothes ready to go.

She’s lying on the sofa without a movement, ashamed, wishing to be dead.

I’m leaving my hiding place and hurrying to my chambers.

Fifth Papyrus

I’m lying in my bed and staring into the ceiling. My private chamber is richly decorated. There are colourful paintings on the walls with the scenes of hunting. There are ducks and fancy pheasants in the bushes, there are fat hippopotami and crocodiles in the river, there are spotted leopards on the trees behind the branches.  The lotus-like columns hold a ceiling painted with golden stars.

It seems like everything is moving and breathing, and the chamber is filling with the sounds of the nature. My mind is emerging into these sounds and smells, and feelings. I can’t think of anything else apart from this magical forest, it is swallowing my mind, and I can’t move or get up from the bed.

I can’t feel my body. It disappears as well as my bed, my chamber and the magic forest. I find myself in the pharaoh’s dinner chamber.

I can see the whole scene very well, but it seems like nobody can see me. I’m a spirit, an incorporeal being, something that doesn’t belong to the world of men.

It’s an evening, and the king has his dinner, surrounded by his cupbearers, musicians, half naked dancers, fan bearers and all kind of other servants and slaves. Ineni, the Great Vizier, is also presented.

Userkaf half lies on a low sofa, a golden band in a shape of a cobra crowns his short black hair, smothered by coconut oil. He wears a long white kilt. One of the slave’s girls is massaging his naked shoulders and neck.

The Great Vizier is filling his goblet with wine instead of a cupbearer, whispering the latest gossips in the king’s ear. I know what is in his mind; I can read this shameful plotter’s thoughts.

My father, the divine impersonation of Amun-Re, gave the title of the governor of the Southern Land to Hapuseneb, the man of the greatest wisdom, experience and honour whose family has been loyal to our house for so many years. Ineni couldn’t bear such a turn. Addicted to limitless power as well as my brother, he’s been trying to overthrow Hapuseneb many times, but failed. He feels like his time comes now.

The musicians are playing a simple quiet tune, and the half naked dancers are twisting and bending in their fancy dance.

The pharaoh is stroking his favourite cat, a live personification of love and joy. This image of the great goddess Bast is purring happily. Its huge ears are decorated with golden earrings; golden bracelets are put on its all four paws.

Ineni tries to say something else to the pharaoh, but the appearance of the guard’s chief interrupts him.

‘Life, prosperity and health to Your Majesty,’ the chief starts, kneeling in front of the king.

‘Speak in the presence of the immortal god,’ Ineni waves to the guard, waddling and puffing on his sofa like a hippopotamus on a river’s bank.

‘Forgive me my intrusion, my lord, but Harmachis, the chief of Your Majesty’s chariotery, begs to see you now.’

‘Harmachis? Harmachis, the son of Hapuseneb, my wisest and the most loyal governor?’ Userkaf chuckles mockingly.

‘His Majesty is relaxing, don’t you see?  How dare you to interrupt the rest of the god?’ the vizier gets up from his low couch. ‘The audience time is tomorrow in the morning. You know that…’

‘Bring Harmachis to me,’ Userkaf doesn’t let him finish.

The vizier only grimaces, but comes back to his couch.

The guard bows and opens the door, letting the young man in.

‘Speak in His Majesty’s presence!’ Ineni proclaims loudly from his place to kneeled Harmachis.

‘Life, prosperity and health to Your Majesty, shall you live forever,’ Hapuseneb’s son starts barely audible.

Userkaf makes an impatient gesture, ordering him to be as brief as possible.

‘I beg you, my lord, for my father, Hapuseneb. He’s been ordered to come here, to the capital. He is kept under home arrest in his villa on the west bank. He’s…’

‘Your father is accused of treason and sabotage. Tomorrow, he will be questioned by my chief of security, and this shameful case will be investigated. If you believe that he hasn’t done anything wrong, if you don’t question his loyalty to the throne, why are you so worried? I’m sure if his heart is clean, he will be able to prove this to my investigators,’ the king is making a circle around the young man and gestures him to rise from his knees.

‘My lord, I don’t question your fair judgement. I know that Maat herself advises you, your voice is the voice of Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. She can’t be mistaken; she can’t accuse an innocent servant of Your Majesty in treason. But there are so many people, my lord, who are jealous and sneaky. They are pulling a veil of lie in front of your divine eyes, trying to distract you from Maat’s wise advising…’

All Harmachis’s wordy speeches are in vein, my brother doesn’t listen. He circles around the young charioteer, staring at his longish golden hair, his pale skin, being bewildered by his big blue eyes.

‘You look different,’ he says finally, paying no attention on Harmachis’s words.

‘My mother, my father’s second wife, was from the Sea People’s country. I inherited her features, my lord,’ Harmachis looks completely confused.

‘I hope you inherited from her such features like loyalty and honour, and integrity, because none of them I can see in your father.’

‘My lord, I…’

‘It’s enough speeches for today,’ Userkaf interrupts him abruptly. ‘I question your father’s loyalty, not yours…at least, at the moment. Take a seat, have a dinner with us, tell us how dedicated you are to your duties and your king.’

A mysterious smile appears in my brother’s lips, I know this smile very well.

Harmachis takes a seat on the floor, next to the pharaoh’s sofa. Userkaf makes a gesture to his slaves, and they fill a goblet with wine for the king’s guest.

The fluffy servant of Bast, unhappy of being disturbed, jumps on its previous place next to his owner and starts to purr again, begging for food.

Userkaf smiles again, giving the cat a piece of a roasted duck. It’s purring even louder, enjoying the bit, licking the king’s fingers in gratitude.

‘You see, he knows who is in charge,’ the pharaoh nods to his favourite. ‘He’s loving and loyal to his owner, but sometimes he’s like my people—forgets his place and starts to bite and scratch the hand which feeds him, strokes him and gives him shelter. When he does it, I need to remind him who is his owner…and he becomes pleasant again.’

Harmachis swallows his wine nervously; his eyes look at the pharaoh’s with hope, ready for everything to save his father’s life, title and the honour of his family.

‘Why don’t you eat your meal? These duck and figs are delicious,’ he takes one of the baked figs and offers to Harmachis.  ‘Try it. Don’t upset your pharaoh even more.’

‘I’ll do everything to please you, my king,’ he whispers barely audible, taking a fig from the pharaoh’s hands with his lips and licking king’s fingers.

Userkaf raises his eyebrows.

‘Leave us alone,’ he orders loudly to everybody, waving to slaves and musicians.

One by one, the servants leave the chamber. Ineni is puffing disapprovingly, but doesn’t move from his low couch.

‘You’ve heard me, the Great Vizier,’ the king doesn’t even look at Ineni, he stares at the young charioteer like a snake at a rabbit, being amazed by his eyes which are blue like a lapis lazuli, by his golden hair, by his big lips…

(The last part of the Firth Papyrus is ripped off which makes it unreadable.)

 

Sixth Papyrus

I’m sitting on a low bench together with two other scribes and watching the pharaoh, reinstating the priest of Sobek in his duties.

Hapuseneb is on his knees in front of my brother, his Chief of security and Ineni, the Great Vizier. His body is shaking under the long white robe, all his jewelleries were taken from him in the first day of his home arrest and given to the king’s treasury, and his shaved head is covered by ashes in a tribute of grief and obedience.

‘His Majesty the king, shall he live forever, honours you with his forgiveness,’ Ineni proclaims loudly, and the scribes starts to scratch on their papyri, trying not to miss anything.

I’m starting to write down as well, but instead of words I’m drawing. I’m drawing what I can’t say, I’m drawing my plan…the plan of my revenge.

‘The mercy of our lord is truly endless,’ the vizier continues. ‘He deigns not only to save your life and honour of your family from the greatest shame, but also he leaves you to perform your duties as a priest of Sobek, the lord of all waters. However, taking into consideration all the charges against you, His Majesty orders to suspend you from the post of the governor of the Southern Land for the time being…’

‘Remember, Hapuseneb, I’m watching you,’ Userkaf nods in support of his words.

‘I’m grateful to His Majesty for his mercy. I know that Maat, who always judges fairly, advises my lord that there is no guilt on me.  I know, oh the greatest of the kings, that the Eye of Re guides you through the darkness of lies to the light of truth, that it shows you, my king, that my soul is clean and my loyalty is undoubted,’ Hapuseneb raised his eyes to the pharaoh.

Userkaf gestures him to rise from his knees.

‘I’m very pleased that you finally understood the seriousness of the accusations against you, wise Hapuseneb,’ my brother smiles his crooked smile. ‘Try not to disappoint me again.’

He makes a step closer to the priest.

‘Next time, even your son who is very sweet to me won’t be able to save you.’

He turns around and leaves the chamber. The Great Vizier, the Chief of security, scribes, fan bearers and all other servants are following their lord.

I look at Hapuseneb. He stands without a movement, his head is bowed, his eyes are full of tears. He’s humiliated and ashamed.

I’m coming to him and taking his hand. I’m giving him my drawings; I’m looking into his eyes.

I’m showing him how I was killed by my brother, how he took everything from me. I’m showing him the future. He knows now that love of the pharaoh will cost dear to his son, he knows the country will be at war, he knows what to do…He accepts his fate. He is ready for revenge as well as I am.

Seventh Papyrus

It’s a big feast in the palace. My brother loves such type of entertainments when he’s partying till very late night, getting drunk with his generals and chief officers, surrounded by half naked dancers and musicians.

I’m supposed to be in my chambers, sleeping, but I’m here, hiding behind the column. I’m here, because I feel the future. I don’t know, but I feel what is going to happen.

The music plays louder and louder, drunken guests are trying to dance, they are shouting and laughing, falling down on the low couches. Userkaf is half lying on his low sofa, embracing one of the slave’s girls. He is tipsy and bored. It seems like his usual entertainments doesn’t amuse him anymore.

‘Where is Harmachis? Where is my favourite and most loyal friend?’ he turns to one of his guests. ‘Why doesn’t he celebrate with us?’

The officer sends one of the servants for Harmachis, but after a long time he returns alone.

My brother frowns. He doesn’t like to wait, even less he likes to ask for something twice. He sends the Chief of security to bring him Harmachis as soon as possible from wherever he is now.

A couple of hours passed before the Chief of security has come back. The pharaoh is drunk and absolutely furious, but doesn’t want to show it to the guests.

‘My lord,’ the officer kneels in front of the king. ‘We’ve found him.’

‘Where is he? Where has he been? You make me wait…again…’

‘I didn’t mean to disappoint you, my king, but…’ the officer doesn’t know how to tell the truth. ‘Harmachis has been arrested today in the morning together with Your Majesty’s wife, queen Tiyu, when they tried to cross the border with Kush…’

‘What?!’ my brother jumps from his couch. ‘Why? How? It is…It is…’

He stammers, unable to find the explanation to what has happened.

‘It is treason, my lord,’ the Chief of security bows his head even lower.

‘Why haven’t I been told about it earlier? Why did you hide it from me?’

‘I didn’t want to upset my king until we would know the details of their plot. I know, oh my lord, how Harmachis is close to Your Majesty…’

‘Where are they now?’ my brother doesn’t want to listen to any reasons.

‘Queen Tiyu is under arrest, locked in her private chambers. It was the order of the Great Vizier. Harmachis is in prison, waiting to be interrogated.’

‘Question them, torture if needed, send my treacherous wife back to her father with greatest dishonour, make Harmachis suffer as he makes me suffer from his treason!’

Eighth Papyrus 

    The pharaoh’s army like a cloud of dust is moving south-east to the land of Kush. The king is in a chariot of fine gold, adorned with his accoutrements of a combat like Horus, a lord of action, like the war-god Montu, like mighty Sobek, the lord of the waters and river’s sands. The royal serpent on his crown spills fire. Trumpets sounds, troops start their march down the hill to the kushite’s army.

Hundreds of thousands of kushite’s soldiers are killed; hundreds of officers and aristocrats are captured; Beja, the lord of Kush, and all his family are following the pharaoh’s chariot as slaves, as the most precious trophy of the king’s victory.

The battlefield is covered with dead bodies, abandoned without burial; the rivers of Kush are turned red, filled with blood; the cities are in ruins; the moan of kushite’s wives is spreading all over the endless desert. Sekhmet, the ferocious mother of the war, has got a rich harvest of soldiers’ souls in these lands.

My brother took his revenge. Surrounded by his officers and generals, he is coming back to Niwt-Imn to worship the gods who granted him with this prosperous victory…

(This part of the Eighth Papyrus is ripped off which makes it unreadable.)

…The king disembarks from his royal barge at the quay on the river bank and looks up at two obelisks of red granite with golden pyramids on the top. This is the threshold of the house of deities. This is a gateway to another world that is accessible only for the pharaoh and the priests.

Userkaf, crowned with the double crown and carrying the ceremonial flail and the sceptre, with an artificial beard made from fine golden threads, he sits on a golden throne on a long pole supported by bearers at such a height that the big fans are on the rods twice as tall as a man.

The procession is passing the main gates and entering the first square court. It’s moving very slowly through the endless gateways, roofless courts with sacred lakes, and halls with columns, where the light shades gradually, preparing the king and his retinue for the meeting. The pharaoh with his eyes half closed looks focused.

His body has been cleaned by the waters of a sacred lake; the two priests purified him by burning holy oils and giving him special salts to chew and so to make his mouth clean and ready for the uttering of his prays. His body is fully prepared for the conversation with the gods, but his mind is as dark as the waters of the great river, full of hate and revenge, his heart knows no mercy.

I’ve assisted priests in purification as it was the will of the king. My crafty uncle-brother wants to get rid of me as soon as possible, seeing me as a threat, knowing that sooner or later I reveal the truth. He wants me to become a priest of Sobek now, he wants to lock me in the temple forever…

It is time to worship the river god, Sobek-Re, who gives mightiness to the king, who makes the king’s heart fearless, who makes the king’s body unreachable for arrows and spears, who protects him in a battle.

The king is entering the shrine, and I’m following him as that is what he wishes. There are only me, Userkaf and Hapuseneb in the room.

I’m carrying a richly decorated casket—the offering to the god. My hands are numb, I feel dizzy; I want to get rid of the horrible content of the casket as soon as possible.

The first words of a hymn have started from somewhere above the ceiling, and Hapuseneb started the service in the presence of the king.

There is a big pound in the middle of the chamber. In this sacred pound, the personifications of the god are having their banquet. The pharaoh offers the first bloody piece of meat, and the divine creature is opening its massive mouth with sharp fangs. Its brothers and sisters, feeling the smell of blood are hissing and gnashing their teeth impatiently.

The spicy fume of the lamps is filling the chamber, the hymn sounds louder. Userkaf is on his knees in front of Sobek’s statue. Only the pound separates him from the deity.

He takes the casket from my hands carefully and, slightly turning it to Hapuseneb, pronouncing a short prayer.

‘Oh great father of all the waters, oh mighty Sobek-Re, please, accept this offering from your obedient son,’ saying that, the king opens the casket.

Poor Hapuseneb screams in blind horror.

The head of his only son, Harmachis, is in the casket.

My insidious brother smiles mockingly.

‘I’m sure that my lord, mighty Sobek, enjoys the taste of the traitor, because these pieces I offered him belonged to the body of your handsome but disloyal son,’ Userkaf is mocking the priest.

Hapuseneb’s eyes are full of tears. He has seen this scene in my eyes long ago, he knows the truth, but…how hard is it to accept it?

I open my mouth, and for the first time in my short life the sound as loud as thunder comes out: ‘Murderer! A murderer and a usurper!’

The pharaoh is shocked, he tries to rise from his knees, but I push him forward and…

The powerful and bloodthirsty servants of the god are ready for the new portion of the offering. My brother is screaming and shouting, but the heavy wooden doors are too thick, nobody from the outside can hear his scream.

The pond is turning into bloody pool. Userkaf is reaching his hand, covered in blood, trying to get out of the pond, but Hapuseneb has no mercy to the murderer of his son. Without saying a word, he’s stepping on the king’s fingers and pushing him down.

A few minutes later, the crocodiles have finished their meal. Sobek has satisfied his hunger.

Hapuseneb looks into my eyes with the greatest sadness and hope. I give him the casket. He kisses Harmachis’s forehead and turns to me.

He falls down on his knees and proclaims loudly:

‘Long life and prosperity to the king, shall you live forever!’

… I am the King of the kings, I am the son of the falcon-headed Horus, I am the beginning, I am the end, I am the personification of the King of Gods, Amun-Re, I am the greatest warrior who defeated the armies of thousands, who put the barbarian princes of Kush and Wawat on their knees, forcing them to accept the law of Kemet’s gods. I am the one, who is raising the biggest temple in honour of my divine father in the sacred city of Abdju. I am the ruler of ancient Niwt-Imn, the house of Amun-Re. I have hundreds of names, but only three of them can be pronounced by mortals. I am Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun, the live god of the land of Kemet. I am the son of immortals. I will live forever

_________________________

[1] Kush and Wawat-countries situated on the south-east of Egypt. Kush- ancient Nubia.

[2] Abdju- an Egyptian name for Abydos

[3] Niwt-Imn- an Egyptian name for Thebes

[4] Kemet-an ancient name for Egypt

[5] Ba-in Egyptian mythology-a soul of a deceased

“The Iced Asylum” is in “Stories in Colour” Collection.

It is arrived…finally! “The Iced Asylum” is going international :)))

The story has been shortlisted for the Eyelands 6th International Short Story contest and published in “Stories in Colour” collection by Strange Days Books. The collection was released in November, 2016 and available on  http://www.amazon.co.uk  and https://paraxenesmeres.gr/books/english/.

 

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It looks pretty good in print;))))

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With the letter from editors.

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[Short story] The Imp’s Chronicles

The enormous stained-glass windows were illuminated with the last lights of summer. The rays created multicoloured patterns on the mosaic floor and the elegant slender pillars. Golden yellow, scarlet red, lapis-lazuli blue, deep purple, and cold violet—colours were everywhere.

The air felt cool and damp. The church was closed to the public due to renovation works in its crypts.

Bella enjoyed the tranquil splendour of the place.  She took her seat on one of the benches, opened her laptop and started to look through the scans of the documents and photos.

The crypts were in complete disrepair. In fact, 85 percents of the church’s underground space had been flooded for decades, causing not only the spreading of damp and mould, but also erosion of the basement’s structure.

This project promised to be troublesome. Bella had already known it, familiarizing herself with the conditions of her employment contract, but she couldn’t miss the chance to prove her theories she had been working on for the last few years.

The working day was over. The team of builders, engineers and divers had finished their work and left the site.

‘You’re still here. I brought you a meal.’

She jumped, being caught unawares, when somebody’s hand touched her shoulder.

‘God! Julian, you scared me to death,’ she sighed, shuffling up the bench and giving her colleague a space.

‘You’re obsessed with this project,’ Julian continued, unwrapping his takeaway.

She smiled warmly.

‘You know how much it means to me.’

They’d always been not only colleagues, but also good friends. Well…sometimes it seemed to her that Julian would like to become more than just a good friend, but she didn’t want to question his friendship. He had never shown his feelings towards her either.

She was an adventurer; she travelled all over the world on expeditions, research and excavations. Julian preferred the silence of libraries and archives. Bella was very surprised, knowing that her colleague was going to join her.

‘You’re a dreamer,’ Julian only waved his hand, making a sip of his coffee.

‘Look at these photos.’

‘Ah, I’ve seen them hundreds of times. A few photos of very bad quality that have been taken of a manuscript which never existed can’t prove any of your crazy ideas. They have the same value as the photos of, let’s say, the Loch Ness Monster. What evidences apart from these pictures do you have? Just your speculations. You’re an archaeologist, not Lara Croft the Tomb Raider.’

‘“The Imp’s Chronicles” existed,’ Bella nodded stubbornly. ‘I’m going to prove it. That’s why I came here.’

‘Even if the manuscript existed and had been destroyed in flames,’ Julian only chuckled. ‘Nobody would have believed in your theory of aliens who came here and taught medieval architects how to build the church.’

‘According to “The Chronicles”, this church replaced the old roman basilica around the end of 8th century. Why?’

‘Because it was struck by lightning and caught fire. This information can be found in every document that belongs to the building,’ Julian shrugged.

‘The manuscript clearly shows that the old basilica had been destroyed by highly intelligent extraterrestrial beings,’ Bella turned the screen of her laptop to the colleague. ‘Look at this photo. This image here at the top. It looks like…’

‘This is the image of a stormy cloud with lightning and angels above. I can’t see anything else.’

‘It’s not a cloud. It’s a spaceship which destroyed the church, when she had landed.’

‘…And they came here to test biological weapon of mass destruction on humans,’ Julian continued mockingly, turning around from the screen. ‘That’s what you’re going tell me about the plague which killed 80 percents of the town’s citizens.’

‘Damn! It wasn’t the plague!’ Bella lost her patience.

Julian was the only person she could trust her theory, but he didn’t even try to listen.

‘The first plague came to this country in 1348; you know that better than me. The symptoms of the disease were described in “The Chronicles” in all details, and they had nothing in common with the plague. In fact, they don’t look like any other disease known nowadays. ’

A creaking noise distracted them from their conversation. The large metal door, which led to the crypts, opened. Bronson, the civil engineer, dressed in a safety jacket and a helmet appeared on the doorstep.

‘I thought I was the last one, who was left in the building,’ he greeted the archaeologists.

‘We thought we were,’ Julian smiled, shaking the engineer’s hand. ‘What are you doing here on a Friday night?’

‘I’d rather leave and have a pint with the guys in the pub, but this damn pump…Have spent ages, waiting for it to be fixed, and then needed to wait again till the water has gone completely. Somebody has to stay here to look after the bloody thing. But…I’m glad I’ve met you,’ he nodded to Bella. ‘I thought you’d like to have a look at it.’

‘To have a look at what?’ Bella frowned.

‘Follow me,’ Bronson gestured to the crypts.

They went down the narrow spiral staircase and stopped at the fist platform. They put on safety boots and high visibility vests, and Bronson handed them out special gloves and masks.

‘God knows, what kind of germs we could catch in this stale, damp air.’

They started to descend again and finally arrived at a spacious hall with the low arched ceiling. Bronson was right. The walls, the ceiling, everything was wet, damp and covered in mould. Metal girders supported the arches and columns, preventing the ceiling from a total collapse.

‘When the water had gone, I realized that the crypts are much bigger than we thought,’ Bronson gestured to the archaeologists to follow him.

They passed the central hall and turned to the right. The corridor was much narrower than the central hall, and it seemed like it had a slight gradient.

‘It looks like this corridor is descending,’ Bella shared her thoughts.

They had been walking for another ten minutes, when the corridor made a turn again.

‘Strange…There are not any corridors on the building plan,’ Julian murmured more to himself than to his colleagues.

‘Look at this bad boy!’ Bronson, who walked in front of them, stopped and raised his torch.

The wall looked higher than the walls of the crypts and much older as well. The dark beams divided its entire surface into some kind of polygonal cells which created an intricate pattern.

‘There shouldn’t be any wall,’ Julian took off his backpack, taking out the building plan.

‘Here shouldn’t be any other corridors either,’ Bronson nodded.

Meanwhile, Bella was completely swallowed by the wall’s pattern. She walked along it, peering into its surface.

‘This wall is much older than the church,’ she said finally.

‘It might belong to the old basilica,’ Julian took a laser scan and a camera out of his backpack.

‘I’ve never seen such stonework before,’ Bronson shared his concerns. ‘Look at this.’

He touched the wall and showed Bella his finger;

‘What is this shit, guys?’

His rubber glove was covered in some sort of greyish mucus.

‘Maybe some sort of mould,’ Julian shrugged, continuing to examine the wall with his scan. ‘I’m not surprise to see so much of it here.’

‘I’ve been working with flooded buildings for thirty years. It’s everything, but mould.’

‘What does the scan show?’ Bella turned to her colleague.

‘Strange. It seems like it doesn’t want to work.’

Julian looked confused.

‘It identified that the wall is constructed from metal, not stone,’ he pointed to the scan’s screen.

His colleagues gathered around him.

‘What kind of metal?’ Bella gripped his sleeve, trying to see the screen under the torch’s light.

‘Oh, it’s unable to identify it…Weird, the scan worked ok today in the morning.’

‘Doctor, I’ve found something else,’ Bronson drew Bella’s attention. ‘Actually, this mucus preserves the wall against moisture.’

He wiped one of the “cells” with his hand, and the images, slightly faded but just visible, appeared.

‘God! This is it. The exact copy of “The Imp’s Chronicles”,’ Bella gasped, not believing in the reality of this moment.

Julian frowned, but she started to wipe the wall with such determination that he had nothing to do but to help her and Bronson.

Five minutes later, the entire picture became visible.

Each “cell” consisted of a complete scene. The top bit presented the evil angels with shining halos, who came down from the sky, throwing lighting and fire to the basilica. In the next one, the group of angels were meeting the clergy with the dean in front. Two of the angels attracted Bella’s attention. One of them held a red and white rose symbol in his hands; another one—the richly decorated casket with some kind of crystals in it.

‘Look at this symbol here,’ she pointed Julian to the rose. ‘The same symbol repeated in “The Chronicles” many times.’

‘It looks like the Tudor’s rose, but…I mean the white rose in early Christianity traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary. The red rose was a symbol of Christ, and its five petals are supposed to…’

‘I didn’t know we came here to listen to a lecture about early Christian symbols, Doctor,’ Bronson interrupted him.

‘It’s not a rose,’ Bella continued to examine the wall’s painting, without paying any attention to Julian.

‘What is this then?’

‘I don’t know. Not yet…’

‘I don’t like it, guys,’ Bronson frowned. ‘We’d better come back here on Monday with the others, bring all the necessary equipment, make proper photos…’

‘My scan is going crazy,’ Julian didn’t notice his remark. ‘It’s showing that there is a void behind the wall.’

‘How big is it?’ Bella distracted from her examination.

‘Well, according to the scan, very big…bigger than…than the church’s nave.’

‘Guys, maybe I’d better go home,’ Bronson made an attempt again. ‘You may stay here the whole night if you wish, but I…’

‘We need to cut through this wall,’ Julian interrupted him impatiently. ‘Could you, please, go back to the crypts and bring us a laser saw. I’ll try to cut this metal or whatever it is.’

‘I just wanted to show you this corridor and the wall. I didn’t plan to spend the whole evening here…’

‘You’ll be paid double overtime,’ Bella supported her colleague. ‘Please, Bronson…’

The engineer rubbed his grey moustaches. This damp dark place wasn’t his idea of a perfect night. The guys, probably, had already finished their pints and left the pub, but…double overtime…

‘Ok,’ he nodded finally. ‘I’ll be back with the saw and the other stuff we may require.’

‘Look,’ Bella pointed to the wall, when Bronson disappeared in the darkness of the corridor. ‘This picture here, it shows the angels and the imps. The imps attack the citizens, and it looks like…The same pictures of imps are in “The Chronicles”, the same symbol of the rose repeats there many times.’

‘How does “The Chronicles” explain it?’

‘It says that the city’s authorities and the higher clergy were so corrupt and mired in sins that such behaviour enraged God, and he sent his angels here. The angels came and brought their devastating power with them. “The Chronicles” calls this power the darkness of beasts.’

‘It sounds like these beasts are the imps who served the angels…’

Bronson’s appearance interrupted their conversation.

‘I brought the laser saw, the bigger torches and some other tools.’

‘We need to have a look, what is behind this wall,’ Julian grabbed the saw from the engineer’s hand.

Bella didn’t recognize her friend. Julian had never been an adventurous person. No way, he would have worked overtime.

Meanwhile, he progressed very quickly with the saw. He looked excited and impatient. Bella must admit she had never seen him being like that before.

‘Ready?’ he asked, kicking the part of the wall which had been cut with the saw.

A piece of unknown metal fell down, and the colleagues came into a huge tunnel. Surprisingly, the air didn’t smell of damp and mould. It seemed much fresher and cooler. The same strange greyish mucus covered the walls of it. The tunnel had a very high ceiling. It was so high that they barely could see it in the unstable light of torches. The roof was supported by some sort of curved beams.

The guys held their breath.

‘Something is not right here, guys. I feel it,’ Bronson looked scared.

‘I can’t believe you’re afraid,’ Julian grinned. ‘We’re on the threshold of the greatest archaeological discovery, my friend. When was the last time anything exciting happen in the archaeological world? Do you remember?’

‘The bones of Richard III have been found under a car park?’

‘Exactly. It was ages ago. Now, we discovered the whole building under the church. This,’ he gestured to the walls, ‘is more valuable than a couple of boring crooked bones.’

He continued his way into the darkness of the tunnel. Bella followed him, still being surprised by such an unexpected change in his attitude.

The tunnel seemed endless, and had a few other smaller corridors which went in both directions. The group decided not to turn anywhere and followed the main corridor.

Finally, the tunnel widened, and they found themselves in front of a gigantic door. It was all covered in unknown writing (or something that looked like writing). Julian switched on the scan again.

‘The door is constructed from the same metal as the previous wall.’

‘And again this symbol, the double rose,’ Bronson pointed to the middle of the door, where the huge, about five metres in diameter, schematic picture of the rose sealed it as a lock. ‘Actually, it’s not a rose.’

He came very close, touching the petals.

‘It’s…’

He hadn’t finished his thought, when the door slid open quickly and almost soundlessly, as if it was used only yesterday.

An enormous hall appeared in front of them. It was twice, if not three times, bigger than the church. Two endless rows of thin columns on high pedestals formed lancet arches which divided the hall into three parts. The centre looked like the nave of a gothic church; the two smaller arcades were barely visible in the light of torches.

‘It is much taller than any other gothic building, where I’ve ever been,’ Bella raised her head, trying to have a look at the ceiling, but the arches went higher than the light of her torch could reach.

Julian made a determined step forward.

‘The scan can’t even detect the approximate era, when it was constructed.’

‘If your scan isn’t broken, do you know what it means?’ Bronson frowned.

‘It means that the church was built much earlier than we thought.’

‘It also means that all the documents, all medieval texts… everything is just one big fake.’

‘It also means that the gothic period in Europe had started significantly earlier,’ Julian nodded.

‘I’d rather finish our research for today and come back on Monday morning,’ Bronson started the old song. ‘Who do you think you are? Indiana Jones?’

‘I found something,’ Bella’s excited voice sounded somewhere in front.

She stood on some kind of a round platform in the middle of the nave. The platform was covered in unknown hieroglyphs, similar to the ones they had seen on the hall’s door. It was the rose symbol in the centre of the platform. The double rose, again…

Julian made a few photos of the hall and the platform. Bella squatted, trying to have a better look at the writing. Probably, she pressed some hidden button, as in the next moment the whole platform lit up, and a 3-D hologram filled the hall with its dull bluish light.

‘I didn’t touch anything,’ she jumped in surprise.

The stars, the planets, the suns of other galaxies, fiery and frozen…The hologram in the shape of the double rose moved, unfolding its “petals”.

‘This is the galaxy, where they came from. This rose is a map, their map,’ Bella nodded to the hologram.

‘What? Who’s map?’ Bronson still couldn’t believe in the reality of what was going on.

‘It looks like I’ve started to believe in “The Imp’s Chronicles”,’ Julian walked inside the hologram, trying to make a shot.

Their conversation was interrupted by a scream. Julian dropped his camera, and they turned around, staring into the darkness. Bella felt panic. She saw Bronson’s whole body was shaking.

The bleak light of the torches snatched some movement in the right arcade. It was something which looked like a cocoon. It was about two metres long and a metre wide, covered in sticky flagellums. A dark liquid trickled out of it. On the top of the cocoon, some kind of dark crystals grew. The low scream repeated again. No doubts, it was coming out of the cocoon.

‘What the fuck?’ Bronson lost control.

He had no time to finish. The next moment, the cocoon had been ripped out, and a creature, screaming and spilling dark liquid around, came out of it.

It was about a metre tall. Its dark, almost black skin without hair was covered in horn-type excrescences, the longer excrescences crowned creature’s head, creating a crest. Its reticulate eyes were positioned at the sides of the head; the mouth was huge with several rows of fangs. The beast constantly sputtered, screaming and hissing.

It looked at archaeologists, turned to them one eye then another one, making a few steps closer.

Bronson wanted to drop all the equipment and run, but looked petrified.

‘It’s an imp,’ Julian whispered, backing away. ‘It looks exactly like the ones in the pictures.’

‘Where did you come from? Why? Why do you want to destroy us?’ Bella forgot fear for a moment.

She found them; she needed to know the truth.

The imp screamed again and made a huge jump.

The next second, a gunshot echoed under the vaults of the hall…then the second and the third one.

The imp fell down on its back. Three wounds ripped its chest.

‘Julian! What have you done?’ Bella tried to pull the gun out of her colleague’s hand, but he pushed her back.

Without saying a word, he took the laser saw out and made his way to the arcade. His guess was correct. Dozens of cocoons were there, waiting for the right time to hatch. Bella wanted to stop him, but it was too late. The fire from the laser took them all.

‘What have you done, Julian? Have you lost your mind?’ she stood in front of the first opened cocoon, trying to save at least something.

She turned to Bronson, but he vomited on the floor, barely realising what had happened.

‘Get off!’ Julian grabbed her hand rudely and pushed her away.

He took a square metal container out of his backpack and started to collect the crystals in it.

‘What are you doing?’ Bronson pulled himself together. ‘These crystals, they are…’

Bella felt spasms in her stomach.

‘God! Julian, one of these crystals wiped out the whole town. You’ve seen the pictures,’ she screamed, scared of her own guess. ‘This amount is enough to decimate the population of the entire country.’

‘Now the gun has sense,’ Bronson clinched his fists. ‘Whom are you working for?’

‘Easy, easy, my friends,’ Julian pointed the gun to them. ‘I’m very grateful to you, Bella. You’ve done the whole shitty job for me. I just enjoy the results.’

‘You…You’re a traitor,’ Bella almost cried. The tears burned her eyes like an acid.

‘We’ve been colleagues for so many years. I trust you more than myself, but you…’

‘Everything has its end, darling,’ he grinned. ‘It’s time to say goodbye to your good old friend. You’ve seen too much…’

He fastened his backpack and raised the gun, pointing to Bella’s head.

The low howl filled the hall from all directions. The walls and the floor started to crack.

‘The water is coming!’ Bronson shouted and turned to run to the door.

Julian shot, trying to stop him, but missed, and the next second, the column behind him cracked in the middle and fell down, burring him under its weight.

There was no time for thoughts and doubts. The water jets fired at all directions—from the ceiling, from the cracks in the walls…A few seconds later, they couldn’t walk and needed to swim.

‘Come on, girl!’ Bronson grabbed her shoulder. ‘Let’s get out of here!’

The hall’s door started to close, but the water’s pressure was so high that it smashed into pieces, flooding the tunnel.

Bella felt the cold water in her eyes, ears and even mouth. Never been a brilliant swimmer, she realised that she started to drown. Bronson’s head appeared in front of her and disappeared again. The water stream carried her along the tunnel.

‘Come on, girl! We can do it!’

Bronson’s loud voice and his hands on her shoulders had been the last things caught by her consciousness before the complete darkness swallowed her.

***

A couple of days later, Bronson visited her in hospital. She felt fine and was ready to be discharge. She asked him about Julian.

‘His body hasn’t been found,’ the engineer bowed his head.

Bella sighed heavily, she still couldn’t decide what was worse— the news that her friend betrayed her and even wanted to kill her or that he died.

They kept silent for a while.

‘What about the ship and everything what was inside?’ she broke the pause first.

‘What ship? What are you talking about?’

‘The ship, the crystals, the cocoons?’ Bella frowned.

‘I think you haven’t recovered yet, girl. You should spend some more time here,’ the engineer only smiled, patting her shoulder. ‘It was a flood. The water destroyed everything. It’s a miracle that the church wasn’t destroyed as well. But it was the water of the river. Just the water, Bella, nothing more…’

 

 

 

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“The Iced Asylum” has been shortlisted for the Eyelands 6th International Short Story Contest

   I still can’t believe it!  What can be better as a gift for the birthday?

   My short story “The Iced Asylum” has been shortlisted for the Eyelands 6th  International Short Story Contest. Eyelands is a Greece-based on-line portal dedicated to art and culture. Most of its content is in Greek language, however, it has got an English section as well.

Despite the editors put the work under my maiden name, I’m not upset about it:)))

Can’t wait to get a copy of the short stories collection in November.

The full details are here: Eyelands.gr English section

 

The question from Mslexia Magazine: Are novels becoming too politically correct?

      An another form of censorship which “kills” freedom of creativity. In every (or almost every) fiction exist bad guys and good guys, and it’s up to the author and readers to take/not to take one side or another. Political incorrectness is just one of many tools for the writer to create the “depth” of his/her characters. And then again, in fiction like in a real life, what is the measure of “good” and “bad”?

What do you think?

All comments can find here: Mslexia Facebook

 

[Short story] Sabotage

Not every dog is just a dog,

Not every man is just a man…

     The day was sunny and bright, with a pleasant breeze coming from the sea. Colourful little flags and flower baskets swayed in the wind on the front of the cafe. The strong warm smell of coffee spread out all over the wide promenade.

It was Sunday afternoon. Despite the weather, the beach was almost empty, and only a few tourists had their late lunch in the cafe.

The national flag on the Town Hall was at half-mast, and only from time to time the police car’s sirens broke the heave hot afternoon air. The town was in mourning after yesterday’s event. In fact, the whole country felt horrified and distressed.

A smartly dressed gentleman of an uncertain age was sitting at one of the tables at the small café on the seafront. His very dark hair contrasted with his very pale, almost white eyes. His pale face without a hint of suntan looked apathetically.

He nodded to the waitress who brought him a cup of latte and beamed his perfect white smile. At that moment, he looked very satisfied and even happy that didn’t fit in everybody’s mood of fear and grief.

He switched on his tablet and started to read the latest news. The web-pages were full of scenes of yesterday’s terror-endless views of the place, where two suicide bombers killed themselves taking with them a couple of hundreds citizens’ lives, the debris of glass from nearby shops and bars, witnesses’ interviews, police comments, gossips, etc., etc.

The gentleman made a big sip of the thick, mouth burning latte and nodded again, as if he would have agreed with something.

‘Good! Very good!’ he whispered to himself.

‘It looks like you had a very productive day yesterday, didn’t you?’ somebody’s mocking comment interrupted him from reading.

A tall young man with blond hair dressed in white shabby jeans and a black T-shirt took a seat at his table.

‘Oh, you?’ the gentleman raised his narrow eyebrows. ‘I haven’t seen you for ages, my friend. Your exile here hasn’t finished yet, I’m supposed…’

‘You’re so busy nowadays. I didn’t want to disturb you,’ the stranger smiled his crooked smile.

His big grey eyes stood serious though, the deep dark shadows surrounded them. He was young, but he looked very tired, even exhausted, his whole appearance…his clothes, his hair looked untidy…He didn’t pay much attention on these things.

‘You’ve already done this,’ Death murmured irritably. ‘Why did you come? Don’t you see how busy I am? I got a great harvest yesterday here, a few days ago–in France, last week–in Germany, and it looks like…I will be harvesting for a long time here, in Europe. Don’t even try to get in my way.’

‘Bastard!’ Sorcerer thought to himself, but answered;

‘I came to make a deal with you.’

‘What you can offer me?’ Death shrugged. ‘Look at this beauty,’ he showed him the news on the tablet’s screen. ‘It’s even better than every war.’

‘I need to go home,’ Sorcerer moved closer to his companion. ‘I can’t return to my world without your help, you know that. I’ve been living here, in this dull, cruel, backward world for hundreds of years. It’s driving me crazy, and I need to come back home.’

‘As far as I remember, your exile to this world was one of the most important conditions of peace which your clan had made,’ Death frowned, making another big sip of the already cold latte. ‘Don’t involve me in your shady business.’

‘I’ve been betrayed by my own relatives. We may win our war, and wouldn’t need to make this ignominious peace. If you help me to get to the other side, you’ll receive the lives of these traitors. Think about it, the lives of sorcerers…they cost a lot. A few dead humans? Not a big deal compare to a few dead sorcerers, eh?’

‘Hmm…’ Death bit his narrow lips and looked straight into Sorcerer’s eyes. These grey eyes caught him and dragged into the freezing cold waters of anger and sorrow. He couldn’t bear this look and looked away. He was naïve, thinking that Sorcerer has lost all his magical power, living in the human’s world for so long. He was wrong.

‘Even if I help you and guide you through the bridge to the other side, even if you take your revenge, and I take lives of sorcerers, what will be next?’ He answered finally. ‘Peace will prevail in your world, but what about me? How will I benefit from it? Besides, malachs[1] will be very moody, when they know that I help you. Why do I need all these problems? I’m very satisfied with my presence here.’

‘Oh, I can’t believe you’re scared of malachs,’ Sorcerer chuckled. ‘You became very lazy, my friend. Your life in this world provides you with a prey which is easy to get. Humans adore killing each other for nothing, so very soon you’ll loose your grip and become fat, clumsy and stupid.’

‘Fuck off!’ Death was fed up of him.

He always irritated him and now it seemed like this annoying loser, who was banned from his own clan, turned from begging to offence.

‘I’m not going to help you. Get off!’

Sorcerer gritted his teeth and clinched his fists in despair and helpless anger. Death was the only one who could help him to get back home and take back his status and good name, all other methods he had already tried. He wasn’t going to beg for help though.

‘Ok, I’ll go,’ he rose from the table. ‘But you’ll regret about it. You know, sorcerers never break their promises.’

‘Ah, very scary…Get off, get off!’ Death only waved, starting to read the news again.

Sorcerer left the café and turned to a tiny, very narrow street which went to the old town centre. The street was empty, and he was walking down it, thinking over his plan. The strange mist, white and thick, came from nowhere and filled the street, as if somebody had spilt milk in the air. Sorcerer slowly faded in this thick, milky mist.

______________________

[1] Angel (Hebrew)

                ***

  The town centre was full of people, and the evening was young. A concert had only finished half an hour ago, and the crowd started to move on and gather at the big stage in the Central Park. The town celebrated its birthday. A yacht’s regatta in the morning proceeded to a music festival in the afternoon, and in the evening, citizens and tourists were gathering together to listen to the mayor speech and then to watch the firework display.

The music played loudly from speakers on every corner, from every bar and café. People moved slowly down the main street which had been turned into a pedestrianised zone during the celebration. They smiled, laughed, waved little flags and flowers, some of them sung the country’s anthem. Some were already tipsy, but happy and relaxed.

He came out from under a big bench and had a look around. Nobody had noticed him. He sniffed the ground around him suspiciously. The smell, the sound, the movement…everything became one hundred times stronger for him. The smell…especially the smell! The world seemed like it lost its bright colours for him, but it wasn’t very important. The smell…He relied on it completely.

It smelled of human’s food, the smell he couldn’t bear, when he came to this world, but he got used of it. It smelled of flowers, cars’ exhausts, coffee, the sea air, seafood from a nearby posh restaurant.

He went closer to the crowd, manoeuvring quickly between their legs. It was unusual to run on four legs so close to the ground. Humans looked very tall and even threatening from this angle. All kinds of smell showered his nose—an overcooked hot-dog, cheap beer, humans’ sweat, ladies’ strong and sweet perfumes, cigarettes…And suddenly…yes, that was what he’d been looking for. These two—a man in a jacket with long sleeves and a woman in a long burqa…This smell came from them. He made a loop around them, continuing to sniff.

‘Get off!’ the man shouted in his own language, and he left them alone.

He couldn’t be wrong.

The Central Park became busier and busier every moment. People wanted to take the best places closer to the stage. Despite recent terrifying news, there were only two police cars around, and a police mini-van parked next to the Park.

He noticed two policemen, a blond tall young man and a woman, strolling down one of the big Park’s alley. They both were armed, but looked joyful and relaxed. They discussed something, probably, very funny and laughed loudly.

He came to them, showing his tongue and wagging his curled tail.

‘Hey, buddy!’ the policeman stopped. ‘Where did you come from?’

He stood on one knee and patted behind his ear, trying to read the numbers on the collar.

‘It looks like it ran away and lost its unit,’ the woman said, looking the dog.

‘I’m sure it is from 8th ,’ the man continued to stroke his neck. ‘They took a few dogs recently. It’s probably from a new recruit.’

‘These guys make me laugh, you know. They can’t even train their dogs properly. Why did they bring the untrained dog here? Waiting until it will bite somebody or scare kids, or do something else…’

She hadn’t finished, because the dog started to pull the lead.

‘Hold the lead,’ the woman shouted. ‘It wants to escape again. Let’s go to the van and lock it there till the end of the celebration.’

The policeman tried to pull the dog back, but struggled. It was powerful, and the man felt he couldn’t hold it anymore. The dog started to bark loudly and pulled the lead even stronger, trying to break free. Finally, it jerked and the man lost the grip. It ran and the policemen had nothing else to do, but follow the unruly creature.

‘Damn! Bloody thing!’ the policeman swore on the run.

‘Told you, this dog would get us into trouble,’ his colleague agreed with him, catching up.

The dog stopped in front of the couple—the man in a jacket and the woman in a long burqa. It looked like it didn’t want them to go further. It growled intimidating, showing its white long fangs.

‘Again this dog,’ the man in a jacket frowned, but stopped.

‘Excuse me, sir,’ the police woman rushed to them out of breath. ‘Don’t worry, it won’t bite you. We will take it back.’

Meanwhile, her peer reported the accident by radio.

‘Is it your dog?’ the man continued. ‘It scared us. The police are useless…Look at them,’ he turned to the woman. ‘They can’t manage even their dog.’

The dog barked loudly, and the woman screamed.

‘Shut up your fackin’ dog!’ the man in a jacket tried to kick the animal, but the next second it jumped on him.

Nobody understood what had happened, when the man fell down, and the dog sank its teeth into woman’s burqa. She screamed even louder, but it was too late as the heavy fabric was torn apart, revealing the suicide belt full of explosive.

‘Shit!’ the policeman shouted, trying to stop the man, who in the same moment took out a gun ready to shoot.

‘Don’t move!’ his colleague rudely grabbed the woman with the belt, when a dog hang on the man’s hand, so he needed to drop the gun.

Several heavily armed policemen made their way through the crowd. Noticing the guns and hearing the screams, people started to run to the opposite side of the park, creating panic and chaos.

It was the right time to go.

He left his victim to the police and disappeared into the bushes.

                ***

   Sorcerer walked slowly along the deserted beach. The warm, southern night was dark. Waves rustled over the pebbles. He felt very satisfied with himself. Walking on two legs was much easier. The town couldn’t sleep the whole night after today’s event. The celebration and the firework had been cancelled, however, there were still some people left at the seafront bars which broadcasted the breaking news.

Passing one of the bars, he noticed a familiar figure sitting on a bench in front of the entrance. He recognized her straight away—the same long, brown like old gold hair, very slim body, narrow shoulders…She hadn’t changed much during these years…years, when he tried to come back, to explain everything, but didn’t have enough courage. All these years, when she had been waiting for him, still loving, still hoping, but asking herself every time, what did she do wrong? He decided it would’ve been better to leave her, just disappear without an explanation. She was a human, she couldn’t understand, and…she was mortal, after all.

He hated this world, hated with all his passion; he despised its citizens, but…fell in love in one of them. He thought it would be easier for her just to forget him, and start new a relationship with a human. Maybe she suffered a bit after he left, but these humans have got such short memory.

‘Elena!’ he called her quietly. He didn’t really want to do that, but his feelings prevailed. When he saw her, he couldn’t control himself.

‘You? Here?’ she turned around.

Her eyes, her voice, her lips…He was ready to stay in this horrible world only to be able to see her again.

‘Yes, it’s me,’ he made a step closer. ‘I thought you wouldn’t recognize me.’

‘I’m happy not to, I’m happy to forget you, but I can’t,’ she whispered, cursing herself for these words.

She didn’t want to say that, she didn’t want to talk to him at all. She would rather have slapped his face, but something stopped her. She couldn’t be angry.

‘Why did you leave me?’ she asked finally. ‘This is the only question I have. I know I was terrible. Our break was my fault as well. I behaved like a spoiled child, but…’

The next moment, a group of people came out of the bar.

‘Elena, we’re going home,’ one of the guys said to her. ‘Are you going with us?’

‘Five minutes,’ she replied hastily.

‘Is it…is it your…? Are you…?’ Sorcerer asked confused.

He tried to use his power to know more about these people, but he couldn’t focus.

‘It’s my cousin,’ she interrupted him. ‘I came to the town for a few days to visit my relatives. Good job, we didn’t go to the Central Park. God knows what could happen.’

He nodded.

‘I see, you need to go now. Could we meet again?’ he looked at her with hope, and she felt like his eyes, normally grey and cold, filled her heart with hope and tender.

She couldn’t say no to these eyes.

***

When she left, he was alone on the beach. He didn’t want to go home, and the thoughts about Elena continued to screw his mind. He decided to make a long stroll.

He wasn’t very surprised, when a few minutes later Death made an appearance, walking out from the sea. Despite coming out of the water, his expensive suite and white shoes were completely dry.

‘You…’ Death jumped in front of him, clinching his fists. ‘What have you done? You know the rules, damn bastard! No games with time! Do I look like a fool?’

‘To be fair, you do,’ Sorcerer smiled satisfied. ‘I offered you a good deal, but you refused. What did you expect? I took your prey from you.’

‘It’s not fair,’ Death couldn’t calm down.

‘Who’s talking?’ and he continued on his way.

‘Don’t turn your back to me…’ Death’s voice sounded like thunder behind Sorcerer’s back.

He hadn’t finished as a huge wave hit the shore, and when the waters went back, a strange figure appeared. It was very skinny and tall, with very short white hair and huge eyes like two black round holes. It was impossible to say, was it a man or a woman. No doubts, it was a malach.

‘Don’t touch him,’ the malach turned to Death.

‘He played unfair! He broke the rules!’ Death persisted.

A light, brighter than the sun, pierced the malach’s body, and six enormous wings appeared behind its back. It turned into a pillar of pure light. It was the malach of the highest rank. Sorcerer had never seen them before. He and Death fell down on their knees, not knowing what to expect.

‘Raise up!’ the malach ordered to Sorcerer. ‘What you’ve done today is unusual for the sorcerer from the other side.’

Sorcerer slowly rose from his knees, and Death followed his example.

‘He broke the rules,’ Death tried his last argument. ‘He messed up with time and left me without my harvest. I need compensation. Who will compensate me for my loss?’

‘You risk everything to save these humans’ lives,’ the malach didn’t listen and continued, turning to Sorcerer. ‘I free you from your exile here. You can return to your world.’

Sorcerer couldn’t believe his ears. He had been waiting for these words for hundreds of years.     His wretched existence here, in this miserable, dull world was over.

He looked in the malach’s eyes. Two round black holes stared at him. He could see slight reflections of the stars, the other worlds and galaxies in them; the whole Universe was in these eyes. At that moment, he didn’t feel relieved as he thought he would. The strange melancholy filled his soul, and he felt lonely. And then, the memory of Elena came. If he could be with her, this loneliness, this heavy burden wouldn’t press his soul so much. In fact, he had never been so close to anybody.

She was different, strange, not like other women in this world. Today, he expected from her a scandal, maybe even tears, cursing, whatever…but she was quiet and even melancholic. Maybe she still loved him.

This idea gave him hope. If only he could talk to her.

‘I don’t want to go back,’ he said finally.

‘Do you want to stay here?’

‘Yes.’

The malach nodded.

‘I respect your choice.’

‘What about me then?’ Death sounded very offended. ‘I’ve been fooled!’

The malach put its hand on Sorcerer’s shoulder.

‘Death is right. You broke the rules. You need to give him something back to calm him down.’

‘Take my immortality,’ Sorcerer shrugged.

What?’  Death and the malach asked in chorus.

‘Take my immortality,’ he repeated calmly. ‘I want to stay here, in the human’s world and live like a human.’

‘Are you mad?’ the malach’s stared at him, not believing in what he said. ‘Do you understand what it means to be mortal?’

‘Yes, I do.’

‘Do you understand that you will feel pain, grief, stress…everything? You will be getting older, you will be ill, and you will die in the end.’

‘But I will feel happiness and love as well.’

The malach smiled. This smile was so sincere and warm; it covered Sorcerer like a soft, fluffy blanket, cradling his soul.

‘Ah, love is involved,’ he said, continuing to smile. ‘Are you satisfied with this offer?’

He turned around to Death.

‘Hmm, hmm…’ Death shifted from one leg to another in hesitation. Finally, he decided that this offer is better than nothing.

‘Ok, I will take your immortality…and I will see you very soon. The human’s life is so short, you know.’

He slightly touched Sorcerers shoulder, and then disappeared in the darkness of the night.

Sorcerer didn’t feel any difference. He thought he might feel tiredness or weakness, or any other bad condition, but he didn’t.

‘I can’t feel any difference,’ he shared his thoughts with the malach.

‘But you’re a human now. I’ll call you Adam like the first man in this world. This will be your human’s name,’ the malach smiled again. ‘I wish you all the best. Fill your heart with love and enjoy this world. It’s not too bad, believe me.’

It flapped its wings and disappeared. Adam left alone.

The black sky started to become lighter, and the fist rays of the sun coloured the horizon in pink.

‘It was a long day,’ he thought with relief, enjoying the view and wondering that he had never noticed it before.

The new day was about to start. The first day of his life, his new life…dangerous, but exciting.

 

 

 

First Feedback. The Difference of Perception.

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It is well-known that summer is not the best season for writing. It’s a hard job to focus on the novel. I’m not an exemption; the soul wants the sun, the warm sea, new adventures, impressions, and new sources of inspiration for the next story. I planned to write the blog at least once a month, but it has been quiet for ages.

It doesn’t matter that I forgot my favourite characters, and left my manuscript to dust somewhere in the far corner of my desk’s draw.

I’ve even got a few updates on it :)) First of all, I completed it! YES, I DID IT! As soon as the first chapters have already been proofread, I’m not going to change anything.

Second and the most important update-my two Russian-speaking friends have read the whole manuscript, and provided me with very detailed feedback.

It is amazing how different the same plot can be interpreted by English-speaking and non-English speaking readers; how different the characters look like for people, who live in the country which I described in my novel, and for people, who have never visited Russia.

For example, for my friends, the beginning of the story sounds quite frightening, and the futuristic totalitarian society that described in it looks doomed and even gruesome; whereas, my English-speaking peer writers (https://sheffieldnovelists.wordpress.com) found it rather sarcastic. All the characters’ troubles with the authorities look a bit ostentatious and sometimes even funny.

If my Russian-speaking readers see in the novel lots of hidden political motifs (despite I didn’t want any politics in it at all), for the English-speaking readers it looks more like a futuristic urban soap-opera with four friends, their stories, and the big city’s life as the main feature.

I found it incredible, how the language and the place where the readers live can influence the understanding and the impression of the characters in particular and of the novel in general.

For my Russian “critics”, the main characters represent the middle class, whereas the English readers tend to classify them as representatives of “slightly higher than the middle class” citizens.

Completely different or very similar, positive or negative…The importance of feedback can’t be overestimated. Thanks to my friends and peers for helping to improve my writing….

[Short story] The Iced Asylum

The day was cold, grey, and dull. Huge snowflakes were dancing outside, covering everything with a white fragile veil. It was just another day, just one of hundreds of thousands of days she had spent in this world.

She looked gorgeous with her long platinum hair and big grey eyes, cold like the ice which covered the river, canals and everything in the city till the next spring. She came to this world from the palace of the star’s light. Her soul was cold like it walls, like everything that surrounded her there.

She lived alone in her small apartment in the outskirt of the city. In the interior, as well as in her wardrobe, clean and cold shades of white prevailed. The walls, the furniture, the curtains—white was everywhere. Even the roses in a vase (a gift from an admirer) were also white. And the white, white, white snow outside…

Her cat, her fluffy loyal companion on the roads of deserted worlds, jumped down from a sofa and floated to its owner like a huge cumulus cloud in the pale grey city’s sky. It started to purr and tried to snuggle on her laps. The cat languished, remembering the light of the stars.

Its owner languished as well. She felt emptiness in her soul; she was lonely in this world. She had got friends though. They all were beautiful and free, with shining eyes and cold hearts like these huge snowflakes which were dancing in the frosty air. They spent lots of time together…meetings, endless parties in fashionable places.

Romances also happened in her life, but they all fleeted very quickly and faded away in her memory. It didn’t upset her much at all. She snuggled more and more in her tiny world of hopes, debris of memories, dreams which never came true. Did she want to come back to her past, to the light of the stars, to the cold palace? She didn’t know. She had been waiting for something. It should come to this world and change it…change it for her.

She knew witchcraft. In her dreams and visions she saw the world, where she came from. It had started to collapse, the darkness swallowed it, and she felt that the palace of stars’ light was about to disappear. She felt that the darkness could reach her, could cover her with its black veil.

Wherever far away her visions took her, she hadn’t seen the main thing, the vision she would’ve liked to see the most.

One day she met HIM. It was just another random party at her random friends’. Her feelings couldn’t lie; she realized straight away that he came to this world, looking for an asylum as well as she did. He tried to escape from the darkness of chaos and non-existence and from himself after all.

He came from the world, where the wind was blowing over the valleys and rocky deserts, where the landscape was so dull, where the heart was full of grief, where two suns changed each other on the dark sky and never rose in their zenith, just stood above the horizon. This was the world of sorcerers and wizards, to the house of one of which he belonged to.

She recognized him as a sorcerer straight away. His hair was as black as a crow’s wing, in his dark eyes reflected the flames of the fires in the desert which extinguished millions of years ago, his voice was quiet and purring, delicate as black velvet.

They became good friends, but had never asked each other about their guesses.

She felt more and more attraction towards him. She was afraid of it. Her cold heart knew no more affection than her cat.

They used to talk and meet a lot, but then less and less often. She didn’t want to, or better to say, she couldn’t stay in this world without him. Finally, she decided to tell him the truth.

She didn’t know how he felt. She had heard that the sorcerers had no feelings at all. They wander all over the Universe, looking for the shelter, and normally never can find it. What kind of feelings such creature may have at all? But she had made a decision.

He listened to her without saying a word, only bowing his head lower and lower.

When she’d finished, he looked into her eyes. His look was full of sympathy and grief. She didn’t hide her eyes though.

…And then he told her that they couldn’t be together for many reasons. He told her how dangerous for her their relationships could be. He was a lonely wanderer doomed for endless struggle. He had been banished from the house of sorcerers and he never came back. He had been shadowed and followed. His magic was getting weaker, and very soon he should have left this world.

She said she was ready to follow him wherever he was going to go, she wasn’t afraid of anything and anybody. Despite this, she realized that her words didn’t mean anything to him, but she continued to talk and talk.

He only smiled bitterly in reply. He gently touched her chin, and when their eyes had met, they realised everything. There was no need for words anymore.

They hadn’t seen each other for a while. Her life came back on track. It seemed to her that very soon the pain from her burned heart should have extinguished, and everything should have been as it always been—cold and quiet.

One night, the loud noise outside woke her up. She got up and came to the window. The cat meowed nervously, trying to jump on the high window sill. She opened the curtains. A huge black raven was tapping the window. One wing looked like it had been broken; a few feathers had been ripped out, opening bleeding wounds. The bird flattened on the sill outside, leaving bloody stains on it.

There were no place left for panic or fear in her heart. She opened the window and tried to take the bird. It jerked, flapping its wings and trying to fly away, but fell down on the floor in the room.

The cat hissed, arching its back, but she hashed it to another room.

The bird looked horrible. It seemed like some kind of predator attacked it. It lay on the floor without a movement. She turned the bird and wondered how big it was. The raven opened its eyes and stared at her. There was no doubt anymore.

She quickly examined the wounds, brought some clean water, antiseptic and bandages from the kitchen. She placed the bird on a pillow, cleaned its wounds and put bandages on.

The raven didn’t move, only watched her with its round black as glass beads eyes and gasped heavily. She finished and wanted to say something, but the words stuck somewhere in her mind, creating the vacuum of untold.

She calmed down a bit and hadn’t even noticed as she fell asleep. When she woke up, the sun stood high in the sky, and the bird had disappeared. The window was widely opened.

She took a shower and went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for herself and her cat. The door bell rang shyly. Her heart was bouncing, she came to the door with uncertainty, but the bell rang again.

She opened the door-it was HIM. She knew that, she felt him coming…His left arm was bandaged, there were a few bruises on his face, his eyes shone. He swayed on weak legs. She invited him to the living room, made him coffee. They kept silent.

‘You saved my life,’ he started quietly.

‘I don’t want to know the details. I don’t want you to be obliged,’ she interrupted him.   ‘I would’ve saved a bird, even if it had been just a bird.’

He chuckled bitterly.

‘I pushed you away at our last meeting. It was my biggest mistake, but I tried to protect you from my persecutors. What has happened last night was only the beginning. My time is up in this world, now I need to find a new asylum. This is the fate of the expelled sorcerer. This world wasn’t that bad…and, the more important, it gave me YOU. Now, it is your turn to decide.’

She didn’t allow him to finish, there was no need for further questions or explanations. She took his pale hand and looked into his eyes. First time in her life, her eyes were full of tears.

The next second, a strong blast of icy wind broke into the room, the wind from another, new world. It hit them with its cold fury…they didn’t belong to this world anymore.

 

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“The Ways We Follow” Blurb for The Novel Slam 2015

 

How do you imagine Russia? Cold, dull, endless forests of Siberia? Red Square? St. Basil? Lots of vodka?

Forget everything you’ve heard about this country! I’ll give you another Russia which you’ve never seen before.

Near future. Charming, majestic, but cruel city of St. Petersburg.

There is no place for good guys in a totalitarian society where people’s minds are under control of the powerful, ever-present organisation.

Four best friends meet again in the city of their childhood. They are young and ambitions. They want to live, they want to create and they want to love. The story which started like a comedy is turning into a tragedy.

The friends go through many challenges- love, betrayal, break-ups and even a murder. From the cold granite embankments of Neva River in St. Petersburg, to the sizzling hot ground of the Holy Land, from Paris to Cyprus. They’re following their ways, their dreams, their passion, their ambitions…because they’re just like me, they’re just like you.