[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 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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[Novel] The Ways We Follow (blurb)

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 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 ambitious. 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.

This is the first novel of a futuristic urban duology. It’s the story about freedom of creativity, about freedom of expression, and freedom to be yourself. It’s the story about the search of the right way to follow, the way of your heart.

Life Performance at Off the Shelf Novel Slam 2015

In October last year, Sheffield Novelists hosted Novel Slam as a part of the annual  Off the Shelf literature festival.

  For some authors, it became an opportunity to meet agents and publishers, for others–to introduce their creations (or the final drafts of them) to the public, for me…Well, I’ve decided it as my first experience in reading and “performing” my novel in front of the potential readers.

I wanted to challenge not only my writing skills, but myself as well.

Reading in front of the audience of 25-30 unknown people and judges was scary, I must admit. I was the only one non-native English speaking participant out of eighteen authors, so the pressure was high.

In the first round, every writer should have read the blurb–a one minute short synopsis of his or her novel. This was the most complicated part, because it’s almost impossible to tell the whole story in a few sentences, “to hook” the audience and judges, to say everything about your book without saying anything, to convince the reader to pick the book of the shelf.

For me, the main thing here was to make the blurb as “visible” as possible, to turn the words into action, to perform rather than just to read. The audience should “watch” it like a film trailer. I’m not afraid of public speaking, but my last public presentation I’ve done…eh, I think it was at University.

I felt my throat was getting dry like a desert and I was out of breath in the end of each sentence. My voice sounded strange and unnatural.

I’ve passed through the second round though together with ten other authors. The audience and judges voted for me. I felt like I have already achieved something great. It was like a recognition for me that I was able to create something which was interesting not only for me, my family and friends, but for the readers as well. Something unique, something unusual…

I stuck into the second round, where the novelists should have read three minutes’ extracts from their first chapters. I haven’t progressed further, but for me it didn’t really matter. My performance ticked all the boxes.

The language was my biggest concern and fear. The key thing here was the judges and the audience understood it and even gave me positive feedback in the second round.

The plot was unique for everybody. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have voted for it.

And finally, my performance…

I think, the personality of the writer is crucial, because this (together with the plot) is the main “building material” of the novel and a huge part of the marketing plan.

The author, without any doubts, put into writing not only his or her life experience, imagination and skills, but also his or her character and individuality is reflected in it. Well, my writing definitely has got it all.

Novel Slam is a great opportunity for writers to check whether or not their plot will be potentially interesting for the readers and publishers/agents, and also to listen how their stories sound.

And they do sound completely different, when we read them to ourselves and when we read them aloud.

I was quite satisfied with “the sound” of my novel. So, it could be good material for the script in the future ;))))

Overall, if I have an opportunity to do it again, I won’t hesitate. I study on my own mistakes and gain the experience. As I have already mentioned in my blog before, this is not only a story, not only a novel…It’s an experiment, a performance, some kind of a linguistic show.

So, the show must go on!