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A Short Fantasy

Dmitrii Emets

Translated from Russian


Jane H. Buckingham

©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


“Doctor, please wake up!” Yawning, Doctor Barannikov sat up on the couch. The tall curly-haired orderly from Admissions was standing in front of him. “They brought in a new patient!” he reported. “So? Couldn’t it wait till morning?” “This isn’t quite the usual ones. Seems to be some scientist. He demanded the head doctor to go to him. I said the head doctor isn’t here, and then he called for the one on duty.” Doctor Barannikov approached the mirror and, looking attentively at it, ran his hands along his face, smoothing out the wrinkles. “A regular paranoid,” he said. “Who is he?” “As I said, some scientist. Either a lecturer or a prof. Last name Koptin. They caught him at the TV station trying to force his way into the live broadcast studio. When they detained him, he bit the cop and someone else there,” said the orderly. The large luminous clock in Admissions showed five to three. The delivered patient, a small, dishevelled person with a bruise on his right cheek, was sitting in a chair. He was in a straight jacket. The young policeman next to him examined its tied sleeves with interest. On seeing Doctor Barannikov, the patient jumped up impatiently. “You’re the onduty doctor? At long last! I’m completely normal! Order them to untie me!” he shouted. “We’re all normal. Please sit down on the chair! Let’s sort everything out!” “I’m Koptin, a scientist! You don’t have the right to hold me here! I’ll complain! I’m completely healthy!” Barannikov frowned. All mental patients consider themselves healthy. For this very reason, grilles and unbreakable glass are installed in psychiatric hospitals. “May I go?” asked the policeman. “Sign here, please!” After taking the paper, the policeman took off. The man in the straight jacket watched him leave. “Well, what next?” he asked tiredly. Without answering, Barannikov sat down at the table and glanced through the copy of detention report attached to the referral for psychiatric examination. “Why did you have to go into the live broadcast studio? Were you aware what this would lead to and where you’d find yourself?” he asked. The patient moved uncomfortably in the straight jacket. “I knew what risk I was taking, but I wanted to warn as many people as possible. Two days ago, I asked them to give me airtime, but these fools refused! Blockheads, soon they’ll be sorry for everything!” “Did you threaten someone specifically?” the doctor asked quickly, throwing a penetrating look at the patient over the papers. Koptin shook his head in negation. “Where did you get that? I’m a scientist. I don’t resort to violence at all.” “But from the accompanying report it says that you do. During detention you bit Senior Sergeant V. Mordenko’s hand and insulted by action assistant director…eh-eh…name illegible.” “What assistant director? Probably that fellow whose button I tore off the collar. Indeed I didn’t know it’s considered insult by action,” the patient was surprised. “See, you yourself confess!” the doctor said with authority. “Think of it, I tore off a button. I hope it’s not a secret how they detained me? With a baton on the neck, a pistol on the cheek. Naturally, I was outraged and I started to resist. But it doesn’t mean that I’m dangerous.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


Having read through the report, Barannikov put it down. “You’re a scientist?” he asked. “Doctor of biological sciences. Senior researcher at Michurin1 Institute of Plant Industry,” Koptin said with pride. “And you were working…eh-eh…until recently?” Koptin’s face became insolent. To the doctor this was the sign of a hothead – a small full-blooded man, nervous, flies quickly into a rage, and, by and large, more prone to mental disorders. “What? Are you hinting that they could throw me out because I’m bonkers?” “I’m hinting at nothing. I’m simply asking. It’s you jumping to conclusions.” “You’re asking?” the scientist flew into a rage. “Would you only listen to yourself! You’re used to dealing with psychos, but not with normal people! It won’t work! And do you know what you are? An idiot! A nitwit! A blockhead!” And Koptin burst into a stream of swearing. The doctor patiently waited until he ran out of steam. Finally, the patient stopped exhausted. “Okay, ask your questions and let’s end this,” he said. Barannikov turned to the entry form. “You don’t drink? No? Are you registered at an addiction or psychiatric clinic? Any of your family prone to alcoholism? Insanity?” Koptin again began to redden, but kept himself under control. “No,” he said. “Take this into account, it’s useless to hide, inquiries will be made all the same,” the doctor warned. The man sitting opposite unexpectedly snorted, and on his face was reflected a kind of malicious joy. “Make any inquiries you want. All the same you won’t get any answers,” he said. “Why?” the doctor was astonished. “Because, if nothing is done, humanity has exactly a week left. And then that’s it! Curtains!” “If we put down ‘maniacal delirium’, no one will dispute this diagnosis,” Barannnikov thought in a business-like manner. “Couldn’t you describe everything in more detail?” he asked. The patient smiled distrustfully. “Are you sure that you’ll be able to grasp what I tell you? Or is all this only necessary in order to put me in the funny farm?” “We don’t have a procedure with respect to psychiatric patients. If you convince me that you’re healthy, I won’t keep you here,” promised Barannikov. The patient looked searchingly at him and obviously decided. “Fine, I’ll tell you! I consider it my duty to. But if you don’t believe me, then you only have yourself to blame. I’m not scared of finding myself in a loony bin, because soon there will be neither loony bins nor cities nor people, nothing at all.” “And what awaits our Earth? An alien invasion?” Barannikov asked ironically. “Alien invasion? No, I don’t think so. At least not in the near future. Our enemy is much closer. In another word, it has always been with us. I know that they’ll take over our planet, and this will happen in a week. Possibly give or take a day, although I don’t think that they’ll change their plans.” “And who’ll take over? The Americans?” “No, The Americans will suffer together with us,” Koptin shook his head and, after lowering his voice, whispered, “Vegetables and fruits will take over!” Out of surprise Barannikov drew forward and then burst out laughing. “Are you serious? Fruits and vegetables? But why not insects?” The patient looked at him almost

Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855-1935), Russian botanist, one of the founding fathers of scientific agricultural selection, also made a major contribution in genetics, in the field of pomology. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


with hatred and the doctor immediately stopped laughing. “I beg your pardon, I didn’t mean to,” he apologized. “Doesn’t matter. You’re not the first. They also laughed.” “Who’re they?” “The Defence Ministry, the FSB,2 the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations, and other similar departments. Blockheads! They laughed, didn’t even listen to me, and showed me the door. No one even looked at my calculations.” Barannikov looked up at him. “What’s this? You even have calculations?” “An entire notebook. They took it away at the police station. I beg you, please phone them, get them to give it back to me. It’s the only copy.” “Everybody is asleep there now. I’ll phone in the morning,” promised the doctor. “And for the time being let’s do it this way, without the calculations.” Koptin looked sullenly at him. “I hope you’ll understand. These aren’t the ravings of a lunatic, these are facts. I really hope that you’ll believe me.” Understanding that the story would be long, Barannikov with a gesture sent the bored orderly away. Before the patient started talking, he looked around Admissions. “What do you have in the fridge?” he asked suspiciously. “Medicines. Phials,” not surprised, the doctor answered. “That’s all?” Koptin asked with special persistence. “I don’t know. Probably.” “No fruits or vegetables?” “Maybe. Sometimes the relatives bring them for the care packages.” The patient’s eyes lit up with a special fire. “Open the fridge!” he demanded, leaping up. Understanding that it was useless to argue, Barannikov went to the refrigerator and opened it. Koptin looked cautiously over all the shelves. “Here are apples and bananas. Can leave the bananas. They’re rather stupid and will understand nothing, but please cut open the apples and crush all the seeds! Come on! Either do this yourself or untie my hands.” After delaying a little, the doctor cut open the apples one by one and, having cleaned out all the seeds from the middle, crushed them on his table. The patient watched him intently. “Very good!” he said. “You did this very decisively, now they won’t eavesdrop. The seeds are their sensory organs; without them, they neither hear nor sense anything… You would never think that the structure of fruits and tubers resemble a human brain? Please take a look at the apple and you’ll discover two hemispheres, a core, and the central column of the nervous system. I’ve long studied this resemblance and came to the conclusion that the entire matter here is in the original genetic program of a cell. If we delve deeper into the beginning of history, then it’ll become clear that fruits and vegetables are our evolutionary brothers who hate us as strongly as Cain hated Abel. And their hatred can be understood, since, using fruits and tubers as food, we devour the thinking cellular essences just barely inferior to us!” “Really barely inferior!” not able to hold back, the doctor interrupted. “I assure you that it is so! Possibly, in some ways they even surpass us, especially if we take into account that their life is considerably more transient. I’m sure if an apple or a pear were

FSB is the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, the main successor agency of the KGB. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


to live not three or four months but ten to fifteen years, it would put any earthly genius to shame!” The doctor picked up a pen to write something down on the form but did not write anything down; instead, he only started to draw something mechanically in the margins. “Must admit that the hypothesis advanced by you is quite unusual. Frankly, I just didn’t have to hear anything but the absurd assertion that plants can think…” “Not plants in general, namely vegetables and fruits!” the patient corrected him. “Deciduous trees not bearing fruits, algae, and grass don’t count. They aren’t given a personality, and their seeds don’t emit microwaves.” “And what’s this about microwaves?” Barannikov asked with an easy smile. “Variable thermal and infrared waves of weak intensity. With their help, the fruits communicate with each other and weave their conspiracies, their vile intrigues! The waves serve them as speech just like the vibration of air for us.” Koptin became silent and swallowed. The doctor looked politely at him, waiting for him to continue. “You probably want to find out how I came to all this?” continued the crazy one. “It was simple. Many scientists have observed these infrared waves, but they considered them radiation, which any material body emits. Well, the processes of cellular metabolism, splitting, light reflection and all such things. I first assumed that these waves are in reality the speech of plants and deciphered them.” “Bold enough. And how did this assumption come to you?” “By chance. I immediately ran a test on several apples, putting them in a lab dish. I was surprised that the apples emitted microwaves in turn, i.e., as if they were exchanging words between themselves. While one apple was emitting, the rest paused the infrared waves. You’ll agree, this in itself is improbable. I’m a dreary and persistent person and I don’t appreciate unsolved riddles. I began to study this whole problem, did experiment after experiment, and soon I managed to isolate the specific combinations of frequencies… I began to dig further, uploaded the frequencies into the computer, made several bold assumptions, and in half a year… I know, it’s hard to believe this… I was already able to understand the speech of apples. Furthermore, it turned out that not only apples have intelligence but also almost all fruits: bananas, pears, plums, figs, peaches. Their languages differ, but not as much as human speech. Knowing one language, one can master the others very quickly. After fruits, I tackled vegetables and also discovered that they have reason, although on a much lower stage of evolution…” The curly orderly looked in at the door, but Barannikov waved at him with annoyance, and the orderly’s head disappeared. Koptin looked around interrogatively and was interrupted. “Eh? What is it?” he asked absent-mindedly. “Please ignore it. You compared vegetables and fruits and said that you’ve mastered their language…” the doctor patiently reminded him. “Yes, so that was all. I bought fruits and vegetables, increased the memory in the computer, sat down in the lab by myself, fortunately, no one disturbed me, and for several months running listened attentively to their conversations.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


“Did you share the results of your studies with anyone? Colleagues, friends?” Koptin looked downcast. “The first time I did, but then I gave up. Useless. I said that deciphering the pulses, I made several bold assumptions – almost insights, which could in no way be confirmed scientifically, neither logic nor formulas. But then to science what cannot be confirmed by formulas is only a hypothesis.” “And the record of your interceptions did not produce any impression on them?” Koptin made a face. “Alas! There was nothing remarkable in the conversations intercepted by me. In essence, these were squabbles, petty gossips, or empty chatter about which was watching the rind, which pistil was touched by which stamen, which was eaten, and which was drilled by a worm. Though I understood that with random castings, it’s hard to come across something interesting, after all, people don’t always talk about scientific discoveries, religion, or art, more often they chat about all kinds of nonsense.” The phone rang. Doctor Barannikov let it ring once or twice, then picked up the handset and put it back down. “Everything you’ve said is very interesting, but I don’t understand, how does it follow from this that destruction threatens humanity?” he asked. The insane one leaned towards him and whispered, “I found out about this by chance. Five days ago, I overheard the conversation of two oranges. They were discussing the preparation of plan ‘A’ and were very excited.” The doctor raised his eyebrows. “What plan ‘A’?” “Plan ‘A’ is the plan of annihilation of all biological forms on Earth and the arrival of botanical forms to replace them.” The doctor whistled slightly. “Well, some scope you have, my friend! For what reason will the fruits do this?” “As I understood it, the matter here is living space. Plants need soil to let the roots spread, they need oxygen and a regular, predictable climate. They hate us, people, hate us fiercely, even at the level of ordinary consciousness. Not enough that we take away their soil, but we also went in for selective breeding, in other words, we make freaks out of them, which we then devour. This alone is already enough for them, once and for all, without experiencing pangs of the conscience (especially since they don’t and can’t have the conscience of our understanding), free the planet from us.” Feeling that he had involuntarily been caught up in the lunatic’s confidence, Barannikov shook his head. “What, do you think that vegetables and fruits are actually capable of having the upper hand?” he asked. “I fear so. Vegetables and fruits have a strict hierarchy. There are clans and castes with rigid boundaries, which can never be crossed. The highest caste has tomatoes, apples, and pears. This is the aristocracy. They are the think tanks, the scientists, diplomats, officers. They manage everything. Oranges, mandarins, lemons, and some other citrus fruits is the middle tier. These are the bureaucrats, sergeant majors, managers, junior officers, judges, police. Of course, I name the professions with analogy to human ones, theirs are all somewhat different. The last link of the chain is the vegetables: carrot, potato, cabbage, radish, and others. Vegetables are the model executors: fighters, soldiers, unskilled workers, in short, the bottom of the pyramid. Their intellect is not developed beyond a certain level, but their main virtue is the ability to carry out orders without question. As for the grass, broad©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


leaved trees, and other ‘irrational’ plants, in the opinion of the highest castes, they’re needed only to fertilize the soil.” After propping up his head with a hand, the doctor snorted. “But what infallible logic you have! How do the plants think of annihilating people? Perhaps they charge with bayonets in an attack?” Koptin excitedly moved his hands under the straight jacket. “Bayonets? Of course not! The ability of plants for motion is limited, but they won’t be required to move,” he said. “All important officials, members of governments, defence ministers, even presidents have already been infected with slow poisons, which the fresh raw fruits they eat secrete. These poisons aren’t tested and don’t let themselves be detected, but they’ll enter the blood stream hour after hour regularly in a week. Before the people come to their senses, there won’t be a significant number left alive. This will lead to chaos: shut off electricity, gas, TV, and chaos will start. And then, in the flame of anarchy, the fighters – potato, onion, cabbage, and others – will be put to use. They’ll sacrifice their life, and every gram of them will be saturated with poison. Fungi and flagellate will be up in arms. The start of an epidemic.” “The theory of parasitism?” the doctor recalled. “Precisely. Biological forms, in essence, parasitize on the botanical, eat them, at the same time getting energy from the basic components: trace elements, water, and light. Biological forms can’t exist without the botanical.” Barannikov touched his cheek in a preoccupied manner. “And in your opinion, plants knew how to keep their plot a secret from people? Till now, not a single one of them let the secret out, well, besides these oranges, of course?” Koptin frowned. “Are you joking, Doctor, how? In order to understand their speech, one needs the cipher code, which only I have. Besides, they’re a united front. Their personalities are uniform, and desires similar. There can’t be traitors among them. They differ from us, people, in this.” “Extremely interesting!” said the doctor. “What do you propose to do? How to fight this…eh-eh…threat?” The patient’s eyes began to sparkle. “I do have a plan. As the first order of business, we have to create immediately a united world commission to fight this disease. Of course, the present governments already can’t be saved – they’ve been poisoned, but we can still create reserve structures! Next, we must urgently withdraw all raw vegetables and fruits from use. We must not eat even one raw fruit! The third step is to destroy all major green grocers and warehouses, especially those that store fruits.” “Why fruits?” “I already said, precisely they run the show. Without fruits, the vegetables are incapable of independent action. They’re too stupid and undeveloped. Have to set them apart, to make it as less dangerous as can be. If some warehouses aren’t destroyed, must fence them off from each other by at least a thin layer of foil. I’ve already checked, they can’t communicate through foil. At worst, hot canning will help. I carried out analyses, cooked fruits are harmless as food. In addition, must start work right away on the selection to degrade vegetables and fruits.” Suddenly the face of the deranged acquired a conspiratorial expression and he leaned towards the table so that his face almost touched the doctor’s face. “Only one
©Jane H. Buckingham 2011


thing I still didn’t understand! Perhaps the most important!” Koptin whispered. “What’s that?” “As I said, fruits and vegetables have a strict hierarchy, based on unconditional subordination. The bottom of the pyramid is known to me, the middle also, but here what’s at the very top? Till now I was certain it’s apple, but now I’m thinking, what if it isn’t? What if it’s some other form, devilishly smart, even brilliant, which planned all this? What is it? What heads everything?” “Hmm… And you, of course, have hunches what this can be?” the doctor asked with a smile. “The whole point is that I don’t. My research is still not complete!” Barannikov got up and stretched. Everything that he needed to formulate the diagnosis, he had already found out. Typical schizophrenia aggravated by maniacal delirium. “Very sorry, my dear, very sorry. This is what I think: perhaps you go into the ward for the time being and rest a bit? At the same time think over this riddle,” he said in a friendly way and stretched his hand to the button for summoning an orderly. The patient’s face turned pale. He understood everything. “No!” he yelled. “I beg you! I’m not crazy! Let’s agree: I admit that everything I said is complete nonsense, a bad joke, fiction. I don’t believe in any of this! In that case, will you let me go?” Barannikov shook his head. “Can’t. I don’t have the right to do so, if only you were actually normal. We’ll observe the process of…eh-eh…your recovery, carry out a course of treatment, and, if everything goes without complication, you’ll be released.” “When?” Koptin almost groaned. The doctor looked searchingly at him. “Well, perhaps in a month or two. Even with very favourable prognosis I won’t be able to do anything for you sooner than five weeks.” “Idiot! You don’t understand what you’re doing! You’ll destroy humanity!” With a loud scream, the patient jumped up and rushed at the doctor, trying to extricate himself from the straight jacket. Barannikov pressed the button. The curly orderly ran in with another one, rather bald, with a neck of a former classic boxer. They picked up the wriggling Koptin and carried him from Admissions to Treatment, separated by an iron door. “Sedation! In a private room and set up regular watch!” the doctor ordered, pensively tapping his fingers on the table. Having been left alone, Doctor Barannikov behaved quite strangely. He set off to his own office and locked himself in, leaving the key in the door. Then he approached the mirror, anxiously touched his face, and with one energetic jerk pulled it off. The face turned out to be a mask, under which was a medium-sized watermelon.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2011